I once had some respect for David Palumbo-Liu. Sure, we mixed it up at Facebook, but I never doubted his intelligence or his good intentions. Now I have to question both because he’s written a response to THE LETTER that is stupid and malicious. It’s pasted below.
DP-L makes three moves. Each carries equally ugly doses of malice and stupidity which are in turn amplified by his own pedantry. First he says the signatories are “celebrities thoughtlessly piling on to sign a ridiculous, ill-conceived, attention-getting ‘Open Letter.’” Thoughtless, ridiculous, ill-conceived, attention-getting. Oh, and, like dumb jocks in pads and helmets, they’re “piling on.” They’re not people on the other side of an intellectual divide, they’re brutes. I went through the signatories, and didn’t recognize half the names. These are celebrities? More to the point, they’re quite diverse by any measure, race and gender to be sure but also by their political positions.
Second, DP-L claims that the letter has no cause–there are no “real events” here, he announces, no “solid facts” that would allow for genuinely open debate on the cultural crisis the signatories cite as their motive in writing. He says this immediately after quoting an entire paragraph of worrisome incidents that any reader of Harper’s–any sentient being who doesn’t rely on FOX News–would recognize, and might well have endured.
Third, most maliciously and most stupidly, DP-L turns the letter-writers into mirror images of Trump, who congratulated the “very fine people on both sides” of the catastrophe in Charlottesville. And how does that moral equivalence get established? By suggesting that when the letter-writers note “intolerance” on “both sides” of the political spectrum, they’ve “simply flipped” Trump ‘s logic.
Also by suggesting that when you’re fighting fascism, why then tolerance, comity, or civility, indeed any search for commensurability, is an obvious betrayal of Justice. After all: “Appeasement of an authoritarian figure has been shown not to work.” C’mon, David, do you really mean to invoke the specter of Munich, just like Dick Cheney did when he was babbling about Islamo-fascism, fomenting war on Iraq?
I guess so. “To argue for polite debate with a fascist regime seems at best illogical, and at worst reckless, for it places the emphasis on the value of conversation for its own sake and not the harsh reality of the inhumane actions taking place [sic], acts that demand to be curtailed and stopped by even ‘uncivil’ means if ‘Justice’ is to have any real purchase.”
As if any of these letter-writers has endorsed Trump’s policies or person. As if their letter were addressed to Trump, or designed to appease him and his fascist constituencies. As if Professor Palumbo-Liu had quit his tenured position at Stanford, thrown down with Antifa, and taken to the streets full-time.
Get a grip, David. Nobody is arguing for polite debate with a fascist regime. I disagree with many of these signatories. So what? They aren’t hoping to reach across a non-existent aisle and invent a bipartisan liberal polity–they know it’s too late for that. They’re just trying to protect the public sphere from authoritarians. Like you.