How Fundamentalism Fails

(Stock photo via Getty Images.)

I’m going to type a sentence I’ve never typed before. A few days ago a panel discussion profoundly moved me. Yes, a gathering of political wonks and nerds (sorry y’all, but we are) turned into a moment of catharsis and solidarity. I can’t give many details because the gathering was under the Chatham House Rule (“share the information you receive, but do not reveal the identity of who said it.”)

I can tell you that the attendees spanned the ideological spectrum. This was no gathering of “moderates.” Our common purpose, however, is the preservation of the United States of America as a pluralistic constitutional republic. One of the first morning panels was a discussion of illiberalism. There was of course (as there has to be) a discussion of illiberalism from the right, but one of the panelists brought up the ordeals on the left. 

Virtually every person had read Ryan Grim’s now-famous piece in The Intercept describing how ideological “meltdowns” had “brought progressive advocacy groups to a standstill.” The combination of “call-outs” and cancellations had rendered people fearful. Managing staff had become almost impossible. People didn’t know who they could trust. 

Could any conversation, even one conducted in the utmost good faith, destroy your career or reputation if one of the participants found it offensive, according to rapidly-shifting standards of offense?

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