Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

End of Discussion

Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

End of Discussion

Article excerpt

End of Discussion Mary Katharine Ham and Guy Benson Crown Forum, 2015

The authors' subtitle gives a good summation of this book's central thesis: "How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun)." End of Discussion cites chapter and verse about a phenomenon that has become a major part of American life - the incubus of ideological conformity that is insisted upon under the rubric of "political correctness." We see that the suppression of non-conforming thought is by no means static, but is rather a dynamic, ever-changing ideological campaign that has many nuances and permutations. This is a subject of major importance that deserves a full-length book.

This is not the perfect book, however, for someone who wants an in-depth discussion of the problem. It gathers abundant information about recent cases of suppression, and will be an eye-opener for those who are not aware of the latest subtleties in the ideology of victimization and outrage such as the idea of "microaggression." The authors, both of whom work for Townhall Media,1 leave it at that, though, providing no historical background or insight into the ideological roots and cultural context.

Oddly, the authors, who are very much "conservatives,"2 accept without question several of the core attitudes of the Left. In doing so, they are likely unaware that their own and American society's general acceptance of those attitudes has come about precisely because the mental incubus they decry has so long been present, demanding and receiving conformity. Favorable uses of terms like "sexism," "red scare," "McCarthyism" and "homophobia" denote an acculturation to the left. They don't represent ideas that come naturally to American conservatives.

We are puzzled, in particular, by one aspect of the book. We don't know whether there is a personal motive behind that aspect, or not. One of the co-authors, Guy Benson, makes the book an occasion for his "coming out" as a homosexual. He does this in a footnote, which he accompanies by a long and intelligent "libertarian" justification for "gay marriage." The reason we say we are puzzled is that readers have no way of knowing whether the gay marriage discussion is just what it appears to be: an incidental part of the book as digressions are made into several subjects only tangentially related to the main "political correctness" theme. The self-revelation seems altogether too personal to be taken passingly. This suggests that the coming-out and apologia for homosexuality may be a primary purpose, with the other material, though sincerely presented, providing a thick coating of conservative camouflage. We think, though, that this ambiguity about motive should not detract from the fact that End of Discussion examines several "issue-based" topics, among them homosexual marriage, gun laws and campaign finance. The discussion of each is worth considering on its merits, and can be seen as a plus by those who don't insist that a book focus entirely on a single theme.

Main theme: the "outrage culture"

Before his retirement as a professor, this reviewer spoke as part of a panel on "racism in America." This provided his most striking confrontation with "outrage culture," one he is sorry to say he didn't handle at all effectively. An impishly cute, vivacious woman who introduced herself as a "black activist" came on volcanically with an angry flow of vituperation. She was a master of frenzy, rising in an instant from a congenial calmness to draw upon a deep reservoir of pain and resentment. It seemed impossible to say anything by way of disagreement that would be considered inoffensive in the face of such anguish. The audience was a summer workshop of high school "merit scholars" from around Kansas. From their reaction, it was obvious they felt great moral satisfaction, even personal virtue, in embracing her rhetoric.

She was the perfect example of what Ham and Benson refer to as "outrage culture. …

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