Bryan Griffin: Three Dangerous Trends In Our Politics
It’s time to speak plainly about some of the most dangerous trends of our current political climate.
First and foremost, moral equivocation gives evil a scapegoat.
The Uighurs are a Muslim minority living in the western Xinjang province of China. An estimated 2 million Uighurs have been forced by the Chinese government to live in horrific internment camps. The Chinese government calls them “vocational centers.”
In an interview, a Uighur who escaped China reported that she was subjected to abuse, torture, gang rape, and forced sterilization.
Last week, President Biden was asked in a townhall about his recent call with Chinese leader Xi Jinping. He was pressed on whether he brought up the topic of the Uighur people and their treatment.
The President gave a long-winded explanation as to why he won’t be rebuking the Chinese government for these horrors.
“Culturally there are different norms that each country and their leaders are expected to follow,” he explained.
This moral relativism is a dangerous trend.
Whatever the President’s motive for taking such a stance, it’s the wrong one to take. It’s outrageous.
Feelings shouldn’t be spared in foreign policy. And while it isn’t wise to quarrel with the world in every instance, an affront to human rights as egregious as this must be plainly rebuffed. There should be enormous international pressure on China, right now, to end this horrid practice.
Explaining away genocide as a difference in cultural norms paves the way for other abuses to be swept aside or selectively ignored. It is equivocation of this sort that dulls the moral compass of international bodies, such as the UN, and enables the international “Human Rights” council to be populated with abusers themselves.
Number two: the developing cancel culture disincentivizes political accountability.
There are certainly plenty of examples of truly wrong statements or actions that have been in the crosshairs of cancel culture.
But the cancel culture crowd knows only the most extreme reaction – to cancel – a most severe and final penalty. This ultimate political execution sentence is now the go-to response for any level of offense, and is problematically being used against ideological opponents, who are guilty merely by virtue of their opposing viewpoints.
Because of this, society has set an impossible purity test upon anyone in the public eye—a standard that likely no one can meet. Politicians aren’t incentivized to admit their mistakes because they face cancelation. With no forgiveness available, leaders will always seek to excuse their wrongs, not own them. Even worse, covering up one’s errors is incentivized above self-accountability.
And, weaponizing “cancelation” suppresses free speech.
Which leads to dangerous trend number three: selective free speech is thought control.
The public square is filling with eggshells. This Robespierrean approach to politics won’t root out the bad—it will mean that only the most cunning and devious can survive: whoever can shift their blame most artfully or else control the dominant public narrative. Either outcome will stifle the accountability that good governance needs and will allow bad ideas to fester, unchallenged, so long as they are endorsed by the right group of people.
Cancel culture has succeeded in lumping together bad ideas and actions with conservative ideology. It’s been a politically expedient maneuver for a cancel culture that stems largely from the left.
However, the consequence of this type of duplicitous equivocation is equally dangerous for everyone.
Instead of hiding an idea or viewpoint from the public, the public should be exposed to the rigorous testing, examination, and durability of an idea.
In fact, this isn’t just the best policy for modern politics, but it is a right dearly held by each and every American. It is the first among the Bill of Rights, and a guiding principle in American society.
Speech should be free.
Selective speech means ideas are no longer tested in the crucible of public opinion. The ideas that survive will be those allowed by the decisionmakers—whoever they are--which is no reliable moral standard.
Each of these dangerous trends is working against a noble virtue, to which our attention and collective aspiration as a society should focus.
True justice, in foreign policy and at home, requires a clear morality that cannot be changed with public opinion. America came together in a clear and defined morality to defeat fascists in World War II and Communism shortly thereafter. We must come together again over some truly universal right and wrongs.
Politicians should be statesmen and women. Political work should be service to the country. It should be expected—praised even--for a politician to be the first to own their mistakes or errors. Let’s make humility and self-examination popular again. This is what political legacy should be built upon.
And finally, free speech is the greatest defense we have against bad ideas. Bad ideas should be met with more speech, not less.
Talk about these trends and virtues. Compare and contrast them and take a stance to friends, families, neighbors, and in the ballot box. This isn’t a conversation for Twitter, it’s a debate for the ages. It deserves our time, attention, and voice. Speak to it.
Bryan Griffin is a lawyer, author, and policy analyst at the London Center for Policy Research. He advocates for the causes of freedom and limited government.
The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.