Culture / Society

“If there’s any historical development over the past few years that has reinforced the new allergy to devil’s advocacy, it’s the ascent of actual fascists…”

If there’s any historical development over the past few years that has reinforced the new allergy to devil’s advocacy, it’s the ascent of actual fascists — people who exploit liberal norms in the interest of one day ending them. The A.C.L.U., once admired for its principled defense of even neo-Nazis’ speech rights, now meets with fierce criticism and internal dissent over it. This attitude feels like part of a culturewide push toward a kind of wartime moral clarity and passion — a desire to cut through all the airy deliberation and sophistry and “for argument’s sake” considerations of a seminar conversation. It urges us to treat beliefs and opinions not as hypothetical comments on the world but as pieces of the world itself, and thus always in need of corrective action.

Nitsuh Abebe, “Necessary Evil”, The New York Times Magazine (8 April 2018), 13.