Airbnb’s Pandora’s Box

For the record, I believe Airbnb has the right to decide who gets to use their service. I would never open my home or property as an Airbnb place precisely because there are all kinds of people I would not want staying in my home (like, for example, neo-Nazis, but also no doubt some people who would pass muster with Airbnb corporate). That said, the idea that a company would search out the political opinions of those wanting to buy its services and blacklist people over them is scary as hell. Where does it stop?

Source: The Airbnb Blacklist | The American Conservative

In a well-intentioned effort to do good (or, perhaps, just to pander to what it sees as its core users), Airbnb has opened a brand new Pandora’s box.

I oppose and reject without qualification the entire white-supremacist political complex that I am now dubbing the “alt-Reich,” because they have no business being legitimized as “conservatives.” They have proven themselves, as a group, to be aught more than neo-fascist thugs.

That said, Rod Dreher raises a good question: if Airbnb is allowed to refuse service to someone because of their political opinions, where does this end?

Here is another question: if a progressive believes that Airbnb is allowed to refuse service to people on the basis of their political affiliations, is the progressive’s opposition to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or, more specifically, the right of a shopkeeper to refuse to offer a service that violates his political beliefs, pure hypocrisy?

Soapbox: The Safe Space Issue

UC Berkeley ‘identity’ groups protest for safe spaces, block passage to white students
The College Fix
October 25, 2016

[Stepping onto soapbox:]

Attention students of the University of California, and, by extension, students of all public institutions of higher learning across this great state:

If you need a space free from debate, from intellectual challenge, and from viewpoints that you find objectionable, I am sorry, but you have come to the wrong place.

As a California taxpayer and a UC alumnus, I am more than happy to pay my taxes to ensure that you are safe from physical harm on campus, and will not tolerate violence against you from any source as long as you do none to others or their property. I will also not tolerate racism, threats of violence, or any form of coercive pressure upon you to conform to a point of view or ethos, whether that coercion is social, physical, or academic. You have every right to expect that there is room for you to state and defend your ideas.

But I will not pay one red cent either to protect you from ideas, opinions, and images you find objectionable, or from having your ideas intellectually manhandled, disproven, and perhaps even ridiculed. You are adults, ostensibly with the discernment and maturity to handle the intellectual challenges that are an integral part of the university experience.

Neither will I support you being sheltered from poor grades, providing they come not because of the opinions you hold, but because of your failure to defend them in accordance with the accepted standards of Socratic debate. Nor will I pay to protect you from poor grades if they are the result of your failure to support your argument to the academic standards that are the foundation of a liberal education.

That is not just my selfish opinion: it is stated differently, but that’s the fine print that comes when you sign your name to your enrollment forms.

An American university is not a four-year vocational school for entitled, sheltered, pampered members of the managerial class. It is a program to inculcate in you the intellectual rigor you require to take on positions of responsibility and leadership. That program is conducted via the time-honored means of adversity, challenge, debate, growth, and learning.

So if you lack the requisite discernment and maturity, if your own opinions and self-image are so fragile that you are unable to handle intellectual challenge, may I suggest, with love and respect, that maybe you are not yet ready for a university experience, and that perhaps you should pursue a different path until such time as you are ready?

So leave.

Or, better yet, get over it. Go back to class/your dorm/the library/the coffee house. Stand up. Shout your opinions. Make yourself count. Voice your anger. Fight injustice. Go to class. Learn from your professors and your adversaries how to make your voice not just heard but persuasive. And grow.

Because you may not have noticed it, but the world is not a safe place. In fact, it is getting more dangerous by the minute. The only way you will save it is by learning – and learning early – to live in a world filled with people who think, do, and express things that you find personally execrable. More important, you will need to be able to discern between someone who comes to those believes honestly, sincerely, and thoughtfully; and those who espouse their beliefs out of fear, greed, and/or ignorance.

Hail, California, and have a nice day.

[Stepping off of soapbox.]

Save

Is Trump a Neo-Nazi?

I had a good friend send me this article today that draws a direct line between Trump’s messaging on immigration and the rhetoric of the most notorious neo-Nazi and white supremacist websites. After reading it he asked me:

Could the candidate truly be neo Nazi and not know it? That would confirm the power of delusion and clinical megalomania… But do we really believe he’s actually unhinged?

My response was essentially this:

Without doubt, there is sufficient semblance between Mr. Trump’s rhetoric, tactics, and mannerisms and those of the Adolf Hitler to trouble anyone familiar with the German elections of 1933. But pegging Trump as a neo-Nazi seems to be going a bit far. Several analysts, many even more disenchanted with Mr. Trump than I, have explained in detail why Trump is neither a fascist nor an American Schicklgruber. Instead, they say, we should see Trump as an American Marie Le Pen or Frauke Petry rather than old Adolf: they are shrill, they play to a small yet fanatical audience, and lack a Dr. Goebbels to help them.

So these nationalists are not yet a Nazi-like threat – not yet, anyway, if polling is any indication. Fourteen days before the US election it seems that the only thing that could change that anytime soon would be election fraud on an unprecedented scale.

Still, the right-wing populists are accelerants for the thuggish undercurrents that too often surface when nominally civilized societies are wracked by change. For Europe and America, Islamism is today what communism was for much of the 20th century: a force threatening to upend the social order and political institutions upon which the West is rooted. Hunting’s clash of civilizations is upon us, but it is playing out in our cities rather than across remote global geopolitical fault-lines.

That issue is real, and it terrifies people. The right is riding that fear, and addressing it in the most rodent-level manner possible. But the blame is shared. The populism of the right is abetted by the haplessness of the Left. Liberal admonishments to tolerate Islam and sympathize with the refugees are no substitute for policies that could address the real security challenges accompanying a wave of migration from West Asia or the integration of groups who live according to rules that challenge the precepts of liberal democracy.

Until the left – and in America, I mean the full spectrum from Hillary to Bernie – acknowledges the threat of Islamism to free societies even as they underscore that Islamism is not Islam, you’ll have people voting for the Trumps and Le Pens of the world who are smart enough to know better but too scared to care.

And if the left does not, and if the right continues to cleave to white supremacy and xenophobia as guiding principles, then it will fall to those of us at the center to craft a wiser path to the future.

Identity and the Naked Emperor 

A 5’9″ white guy goes onto the University of Washington campus and asks students to explain why he isn’t a 6’5″ Chinese female child in first grade. They can’t do it. They are so afraid of being judgmental, and offending against the sacred dogma of Self-Definition that they are unable to deny anything he claims about himself.

Source: Dictatorship Of The Dimwits | The American Conservative

The insanity must end. We have gone too far down this road and need to turn back.

It is time for us to begin debating the limits of self-definition, or we make a mockery of the important progress – and the critical work yet to be done – in the civil rights movement.

The point of identification in the first place is to mark the individual as a possible target for systemic discrimination, and to enable the process of ameliorating that discrimination. To take physical attributes out of the identity discussion is to render identity meaningless, and at some point renders efforts to redress discrimination meaningless, wasteful, or both.

So I open it up: I posit that there must be limits to self-definition, and that in all cases where physical attributes are relevant, that physical attributes make the determination of gender, race, and disability. End of story.

The Future of Harvard

In a true meritocracy, whites would be a minority of the student body. That worries some people.

Source: Is Harvard Unfair to Asian-Americans? – The New York Times

From The New York Times:

“The real problem is that, in a meritocratic system, whites would be a minority — and Harvard just isn’t comfortable with that.”

If what is being written about Harvard in this article is true, we can either rail at the university, or we can take an approach that would get the entire Harvard community to sit up and take notice.

We should make clear that it is Harvard’s right to allow itself to become a rich man’s club if it so chooses, within the letter of the law. But if it persists in its efforts to select students on the basis of something other than academic excellence, the University must understand that it places its academic reputation and ranking in danger.

No longer should we simply assume that Harvard is deserving of its place as an academically elite institution. As a finishing school for legacies and the well-to-do, I am sure it will contine to serve. But it cannot keep rejecting the finest American minds and cling to the myth that it remains the nation’s finest university.

Hate Speech

From my point of view as an American, a Jew, and a conservative, somebody should be allowed under the First Amendment to hurl anti-Semitic slurs at me from the street, on the Internet, or on television. But when those slurs cross the line between mere pejoratives and the incitement to discrimination or violence, a crime has been committed.

The law may be different, but we must always be conscious that restrictions on hate speech walk a very fine line between the civil rights of multiple groups. I prefer – even at the risk of exposing my family to some ugly – that we walk that line with extraordinary care, erring on the side of deference to the freedom of speech.