I am listening to Yascha Mounk interview Emily Yoffe* (Slate: Dear Prudence) on "The Good Fight," the first and last podcast I will listen to in that series. They have been deploring the rise of populism, and how that means the world is less free over the last ten years. Biden being re-elected is a victory for democracy, and one that they hope signifies a change in the world.
The most concerning trend they identify, however, and one that they think is somehow related (I don't know... popular = populism or something?) is the lack of freedom people have to say what they really think on social media and college campuses. They both have noted at "dinner parties**" that others are going sotto voce on some topics, which their friends who have lived under tyrannical regimes suggest is a bad trend. The Harvard Crimson takes a survey every year, and this year 75% of graduates report they are afraid to say what they think in class. (I actually find this a little encouraging, that they are thinking things other than what they have been told to think. Still, worrisome.) They are observing things very well and providing some new insights. Except they are playing around at the 10% on the margins and missing the elephant in the room.
Who was it that told you fifty years ago that this was exactly what was going to happen, and has been saying it yearly since?
Yes. Right wing crazies. But somehow you reflexively think that they must still be the problem. Because Hitler or something.
*OMG, from Newton. And Wellesley 1977. How did I not see this before?
**I think dinner party, the modern version of cocktail party is a clear signal that "These are not my people." We have occasionally had another couple over in the last twenty years, and there is always family on holidays, which can get large when you have five children. But i can't remember the last dinner party. We might go to an annual one in Manhattan some year, of an old classmate of my wife's at Notre Dame Academy. I can imagine Texan99 putting in a major effort to make that happen, maybe even twice, and then saying "Screw it. Let someone invite us for a change." Anyone else?