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Yes, it is time for the American Right to be terrified.
The other side is out for blood, and they have academia, the media, corporate America, and one of the two major political parties on their side.
The Left used to frame its mission in the culture wars as trying to end the stranglehold of religion and traditional values. Now it is obvious the Left wants to drum the dissenters out of the public square using whatever tools it can, including state power.
Under this threat, the Right has begun debating just how we should fight. The debate is happening because at an alarming rate, the other side’s intolerance of us is accelerating.
Just a few years ago, as the Left moved from “let us live our lives how we want” to “you must live as we say,” it began to cloak its own intolerance in rhetoric about bigotry. They suddenly asserted or pretended that everyone who opposed gay marriage was a bigot. They stated that bigotry has no rights, and therefore it was fine to force all dissenters out of business as bakers or wedding photographers.
Then it went further: The Democrats joined with the very biggest companies to declare it unacceptable for states to even allow individual small businessmen the freedom of conscience. Not only was traditional Christian (and Muslim) teaching on sexuality deplorable, but even mere tolerance of it was bigotry.
At that point in time, as the CEO of America’s largest corporation was blasting the idea of “religious freedom” (using the scare quotes), conservatives commented that the Left had won the culture war, and their forces were now prowling the countryside, shooting the survivors.
We didn’t realize how quickly things were going to get worse.
While claims of “bigotry” had been wielded before, the Left was already forging new branding irons with which to stamp ideas they didn’t like as intolerable. Conservative speech became “violence.” Articulating a conservative view became “denying some people the right to exist.” These extreme and false characterizations of conservative views allow the Left to not merely oppose these views, but to punish anyone who holds them.
Almost as if to flex their muscle — to demonstrate their strength to bend language in Orwellian ways — liberals use this phrase to attack pro-lifers. They posit, with great unintentional irony, that those opposing the termination of an unborn child’s life are the ones trying to deny another’s right to exist.
Disney and NBC Universal, the parent companies of ABC and NBC, have threatened to boycott Georgia if the state’s new law restricting abortion goes into effect. These incredibly powerful firms have concluded that the pro-life position is beyond the bounds of acceptable debate. Twitter has consistently rejected pro-life advertisements as inappropriate, according to pro-life groups, while accepting ads from the abortion lobby without thinking twice.
Kamala Harris, the former prosecutor who is positioning herself as the most punitive Democrat in the presidential field, has declared that in a Harris administration, pro-life legislation would be treated like Jim Crow. Throw into this the Daily Beast, a left-leaning website, unearthing the identity and past misdeeds of some random working-class Trump supporter because he was, in some way, involved in a doctored video that made Nancy Pelosi look bad. The investigative reporter got the meat of his story by asking Facebook for private user data.
Facebook, which knows a whole lot about you, will now share your info with reporters who want to whack you for having bad politics, no matter how insignificant you are.
Facing this massive enemy, conservatives like Matthew Schmitz, David French, Ross Douthat, Sohrab Ahmari, and others are debating just how nice conservatives should play.
Maybe the principles of small-l liberalism don’t apply when the other side hates you, wants to outlaw your very being, and has the support of the largest corporations in the world on its side. Those corporations are increasingly willing to use their power — often monopoly power — to drive you and everyone who shares your beliefs out of the public square.
Often this debate has boiled down to a false dichotomy. It’s either “liberalism” or “illiberalism.” But this oversimplifies the choices. America has always worked according to the principles of pluralism, localism, and federalism. In a system of truly diffused cultural and political power, the stakes in the culture war would be much lower. The parents of Greenwich Village could treat their children to drag-queen story hours, while the people of Dallas could do differently.
The more stages there are, the less we need to either regulate access to the stage or enforce our own moral code on it. And the more power is vested in the local and voluntary, the more control we have over our own lives. The story is the same with business.
The problem with Facebook isn’t that it’s doxxing its Trump-supporting users and creeping closer to barring conservative arguments. The problem with Facebook is that it’s too damn big and powerful. The threats from Google, Apple, Amazon, and Twitter are the same. In a healthy economy, it doesn’t matter if one tech company won’t bake the proverbial cake for Pat Buchanan. In a monopolistic economy, it matters.
So there is a tough question for religious conservatives. It isn’t should we let Facebook ban us or should we force Facebook to bake our cake. The question is, can our society function when there are two or three gatekeepers to the digital public square?
Does the Right need a robust reaction to the illiberal Left? Yes. And that response isn’t to beg them to let us exist. The right response is to smash what’s big, whether it be government or business.
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