We’re trying to get back to Maths Ed, or just plain Ed, but Matt Taibbi‘s most recent post is well worth highlighting. Taibbi has written about the marginalising and ridiculing and outright censoring of presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (paywalled). The point is not that Taibbi is campaigning for Kennedy or that he regards Kennedy as above criticism, but the whole point is that that’s not the point. The point is that any concerns about the treatment of Kennedy are automatically labelled by the Right Thinkers as the foolish support for a conspiratorial nut. One can think Kennedy is a conspiratorial nut, however, or even not give a damn what Kennedy is, and still be horrified by his treatment, and be deeply concerned with both its intended and unintended consequences.
Here are a couple excerpts from Taibbi’s post:
We’re now into about the 5,000th iteration of a phenomenon that’s dominated campaign journalism since 2016. A candidate who previously would have been dismissed as fringe shows well in polls. Hit pieces are rushed out the door, pathologizing both candidate and supporters as loons. Voters respond to seeing themselves described as deplorable or irredeemable by hardening their support for the protest candidate. Editors double down on hit pieces.
This approach got Trump elected in 2016. In the 2020 cycle it first infuriated/alienated a lot of Bernie Sanders voters, then nearly re-elected Trump. Now in the 2024 cycle, reporters are again hunting the pathological, incorrigible voters, this time within Democratic Party ranks, and again they’re trying to cast them out like evil spirits, instead of making any real effort to understand where they’re coming from. They seem determined to push the line that distrusts institutional authority = MAGA to the point where national media will soon see the world as one DC dinner party hosted by Anne Applebaum, surrounded by a sea of fevered Trump supporters. If they’re not careful, they will create that reality.
Hillary Clinton kicked off the “deplorable” era in 2016 by saying “half” of Trump voters were “irredeemable” and “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic and Islamophobic.” The quote at first was seen as a political unforced error, it being unwise normally to insult so many potential voters. Since then the “half” has been removed, the idea that it was a mistake has been rethought, and now, a person can have the honor of joining the MAGA ranks for offenses ranging from not believing Russiagate to opposing mandates or Internet censorship. Are we all deplorable now?
Australia is not America (thank God). The Australian Labor Party is far from great but it is predominantly principled and sane, unlike the Democratic Party, which is, and has always been, dominated by grifters and liars and performance artists. The idiotic Republican shtick is, and is thus, easily bought by Americans, whereas currently the Australian Liberals’ are, rightly and unfortunately, simply a laughing stock. But things can turn.
Australia has always been third rate on the principles and protections of free speech, and the current efforts are as third rate as ever. This is bad not simply for the crystal reason that truth and good ideas will inevitably be censored. It is bad for energising dangerous political and social forces. Angry people may be angry for either objectively right or wrong reasons, or a confusing and indecipherable mix. But whatever the merits, the groupthink shouting down and attempting to silence such angry people is a very bad and very dangerous mistake.