A Principle Without Limits, Jamming, 21/05/2018

So I read this fascinating and very sad article about Alan Dershowitz. He pretty much single-handedly invented the political theory and ideology of civil libertarianism, the activist path of the principles in John Rawls’ liberalism of ideal fairness.

Very short version – because I actually want to keep today’s post short. The article is a pretty detailed argument, based on Dershowitz’s history and approach to his career, that his natural ego is leading him into a substantive mistake. He doesn't want to leave the media limelight yet, and so he’s continuing to advocate for the rights of a prominent individual against government scrutiny.

Trouble is, that individual is Donald Trump. Now Dershowitz’s rhetoric has gotten pretty slippery, probably because the atmosphere of his more frequent conversations on FOX News* will tend to push you into more heated casual declarations than you’d make if you were able to think for a second.

* If you're going to defend Donald Trump, then this is the only American network that’ll have you on quite so regularly.

Consider for a moment what kind of person would think intuitively
that civil liberties are always of absolute importance. It would be
someone who never had to question seriously his access to the
material grounds of all the other liberties he needed.
Read the article as Dershowitz becoming an example of the limits of his own ideas. Ever since the brief flowering of open naziism in the United States last summer, circles on the left have been talking about the paradox of tolerance.

If you're going to allow free speech for all perspectives, that has to include perspectives that all those who live differently than me deserve no rights. So the liberal, taking his views to the absolute, can allow people to destroy liberalism. People can elect a dictator at the ballot box who will never allow them to exercise democracy again. And they’ll want it.

A liberal can’t conceive of someone who would want to be enslaved, or would want to enslave others. They’re unable to conceive of enemies.

The nationalist right can definitely conceive of enemies. I see it every day in the everyday talk of nationalist circles online. Their entire political agenda is based on identifying the enemy and purging it from their society.

So we on the progressive side have to overcome both problems. We can’t think of the nationalist as an enemy on the racializing terms that they do – that would make us nationalist. We also can’t accept the liberal paradox of tolerance – that would leave what social freedoms we have open to attack.

Our answer is that we recognize our enemies in those who would define politics as eradicating enemies. And instead of eradicating them, we neuter them. We block them from building power. Instead of a strong leader, show them a greasy criminal. Mock their dehumanizing rhetoric as the bullying it always was.

Always encourage people to conceive of the power of their own potential, their own ability to reshape the world if they join in the effort even a little. Let society become revolutionary.

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