The Closed Imagination of the Online Liberal
Glenn Greenwald, Eric Adams, and other oddities
American politics has long been tribal, as has its intelligentsia. These days, though, it can feel like the internet has a bred an overriding conformity among those who think about politics all day. If you disagree with one tribe, you are coded as belonging to the other, even if you claim no membership in it. Conservatives will cast out those who criticize Donald Trump or don’t believe that critical race theory is the single greatest threat to American civilization. Liberals will censure anyone who offers sustained critiques of Democrats or the pathologies of the college-educated set.
Twitter is Twitter, but this recent tweet was endlessly fascinating to me.
Will Stancil, a liberal policy researcher, demands a category for these public figures, some of whom are quite disparate. The idea that we haven’t found one yet is dangerous. He adds that all of these figures are “ginning up reactionary resentment of traditionally weaker social groups as somehow imposing on everyday Americans.”
I’m wary of making Stancil something of a synecdoche for contemporary liberal thought, but this is the kind of sentiment I see all the time, especially in political circles. It is, funnily enough, not so different than the slapdash analysis employed by the people Stancil despises—the right-wing, the fascist-friendly, the ardent Trump supporters. The analysis takes a deeply complex, multifarious world and furiously flattens it; it makes existence fit for consumption. Individuals are like soft drinks that must be immediately sorted. Are you Coke or Pepsi? Mountain Dew or Fanta? Are you good or bad? Please tell me, because I want to know what to think.
Stancil begs us to herd Eric Adams, Glenn Greenwald, and Pamela Paul, the former editor of the New York Times book review and now an opinion columnist, together as quickly as possible and name them. The very republic is at stake, you understand. Do it now before they come for you.