Part 1: Against Throat-Clearing
I was already glad you’re back, but now I’m really, really glad you’re back. This post addresses my deepest concerns about current free speech discussions. Your conclusion citing the ACLU debacle must get more publicity. Far too many people still think the ACLU is the same organization they’ve cherished for years.
Oh, BTW, I love the gorilla story. It could help people grasp the sadness of situation we’re in.
I recently encountered another new (to me) argument against throat clearing, although it's only really applicable in certain scenarios.
It was this reply by Scott Alexander to a comment on his Substack blog: https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/against-that-poverty-and-infant-eegs/comment/4692065
The ACLU's drift away from free speech is particularly disheartening.
Freedom of speech is the freedom that safeguards every other freedom. Can you imagine how much worse Trump would have been without the first amendment? Or worse, if there were existing hate speech laws, and he got to decide how they were interpreted?
As someone who holds and often offers up my heterodox views in a very left wing city, I disagree with your first point. I don’t say anything like “I am a progressive, I swear” but criticizing Trump and the Republicans alongside anything I say against left wing orthodoxy does help. No, it won’t always save you, but a lot of people who might wrongly write you off as a right-winger will hear you out.
I see this with public figures too: Sam Harris attacks left wing sacred cows all the time and is still invited into establishment spaces (Vox’s Code conference for instance) in ways that Ben Shapiro never would be. Maybe your first point is true on Twitter but Twitter isn’t real life.
I do agree strongly with points 3 and 4: one’s beliefs should not be part of one’s identity. But being tactical about which beliefs to talk about when goes a long way.
I haven't made up my mind about what to describe myself as, even though I know what my opinions are. I'm in the expanding category of "would have been called a liberal 20 years ago" and now I'm not sure if I want to anymore, or if I would be accepted as such if I did.
I certainly have considered the social benefit of calling myself a conservative even though it's clearly a "low-status" signal. As a "conservative" I feel like I can say, for example, that biological sex is real while probably generating less anger than if I was insisting what a good liberal I am.
It may be better to just not label myself at all as you say. But people can view a reluctance to accept labels as dishonesty or vacuity so that has it's own drawbacks to consider. It might still just be seen as throat-clearing behaviour and that you're really just hiding what a evil conservative you really are.
In regards to your last point, it reminds of a post made by Freddie Deboer about how to stand out as a writer:
One of the things he said is that the field of generic progressive writers was overcrowded and that being like everybody else is a bad economic move. You need to stand out and build a distinct personal brand.
Isn't that true of charities like the ACLU too? It seems like a number of charities have gone from being famed narrow-issue specialists to party political generalists. The field of "charity that generically promotes progressivism" is becoming crowded. Not only is it a moral issue in that it deprives people who really need what those charities used to stand for, but it seems like bad economic sense in the long run to be competing with so many people to be more or less the same thing as them.
But then as you say, the ACLU seems to be doing just fine. Maybe it's because the economy and politics is increasingly becoming oligarchal due to wealth inequality and so that the donations of billionaires and political action groups is worth just as much (or more) as donations from many smaller donors, leading to the leadership and donor structure of charities becoming democrat-aligned rich people talking to each other and for each other.
If that's the case then I doubt this sort of behaviour will change any time soon as long as the big spender bucks are rolling in from Bill Gates et al. The charity sector will disappear up it's own ass to the detriment of society, while the new gilded age socialites that run the charity sector will congratulate each other for their identical opinions on everything.
Your use of Jane Goodall's findings is perfect here (not at all a stretch). This is exactly how religious apostates are treated, and it's now being seen in the reaction to various detransitioners emerging on social media. I'm writing about female adolescence and peer pressure, and the chimpanzee observations are going in, thanks for sharing!
Great take, it touches on our tribal tendencies and how it tends to always poison out efforts to have better conversation. Pascal Boyer wrote an evolutionary psychological take on this subject in his excellent book "Minds make societies" that I can wholeheartedly recommend.
This leaves the question, are all collective efforts ultimately doomed to fall prey to these tendencies? Will people who oppose it always be outsiders in some sense? I suppose this issue goes all the way back to Socrates. At least I can say it is commendable that you keep standing for what you think is right and true despite knowing it has a price.
"While this has been great for the coffers of the ACLU (which has experienced massive growth since its turn to boilerplate progressivism) and great too for the Democratic party, this is very, very bad for civil liberties, which no longer have a true champion."
For what it's worth, FIRE has taken up the mantle the ACLU threw down, in actually trying to defend the liberties themselves, rather than a particular political perspective: https://www.thefire.org/
Did you ever do Part 2?