The new left is intellectually flabby because it refuses to debate

The new left is intellectually flabby because it refuses to debate, by Janet Albrechtesn.

A recent discussion on Slate’s DoubleX Gabfest podcast … Slate is a left-wing publication and its podcast features, unsurprisingly, three often entertaining left-liberals, Noreen Malone, Hanna Rosin and June Thomas. The three women invariably discuss various issues along a safe left-liberal spectrum.

Last month when one of the hosts was away, Ross Douthat from The New York Times was invited on. They discussed whether it was appropriate for a private Christian school in Maryland to refuse to let a pregnant student take part in its graduation ceremony. Douthat is the NYT’s resident conservative. A Catholic, he is also anti-abortion. What followed was a terrific conversation between three people about women and abortion and the role shame and judgment play in a society. Malone and Rosin were sceptical of shame. Douthat explained that shame and judgment can play an important and positive role.

When the three regular female hosts were reunited a fortnight later, something cool happened. Before delving into the latest Gabfest topic, Rosin said: “Dear listeners, and I love you all. We got complaints about having Ross Douthat on the show and I have say … it’s just not a way to live. If Ross doesn’t count as a person you can talk to about alternate views, who does? I guess I don’t believe in a space where you can’t debate people who have even very different views than you do. And Ross is not outside the pale to me. Noreen, you have thoughts?”

Her co-host agreed: “I was a little surprised by how upset people were just by the fact of us having him on. I think what really upset people more was the abortion discussion and the fact that we didn’t push back more against him. And I will say, at least for me, I’m not used to debating people on things like that really intensely, and Ross obviously was. He seems to spend a lot of his life debating with liberals and so I understand listeners wanting us to have done better but I kind of feel the same way, that I don’t think the Gabfest is actually a safe space, and I think I would be better in my opinions if I debated them more often than I do.”

Rosin again: “I hope to have him again, actually … I love debates like that, it’s like, it makes you sharper.”

There, in three short minutes was an important insight into, and a rare admission about, the intellectual bluntness that comes from not sharpening your mind by exposing yourself to outside forces.

Think of areas where intellectual deviation is verboten on the left: same-sex marriage, indigenous policy, hate speech laws, climate change, border policies, Trump, feminism, domestic violence, Pauline Hanson. Listen to the audience on ABC’s Q&A routinely cheer quips and one-liners that reinforce left-wing orthodoxies. There is a sense of the satisfaction that comes from having your views reinforced. …

Those on the right also get a warm glow of belonging from hanging around like-minded people. The difference, as one of the DoubleX hosts pointed out, is that those on the right are often forced to spend more time debating their views and that can yield sharper, better articulated arguments.

hat-tip Stephen Neil