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Jim Verhulst - Deputy Editor of Editorials
Here’s what to read from the left and the right | Column
Here’s some interesting commentary from the opposite poles of the political spectrum.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, left, sits with his wife Virginia Thomas, as he is introduced at the Federalist Society in Washington on Nov. 15, 2007.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, left, sits with his wife Virginia Thomas, as he is introduced at the Federalist Society in Washington on Nov. 15, 2007. [ CHARLES DHARAPAK | AP ]
Published Feb. 5, 2022

We live in a partisan age, and our news habits can reinforce our own perspectives. Consider this an effort to broaden our collective outlook with essays beyond the range of our typical selections.

FROM THE LEFT

From “Is Ginni Thomas a Threat to the Supreme Court?” by Jane Mayer in The New Yorker at bit.ly/3GhgpYV.

The context, from the author: Behind closed doors, Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife is working with many groups directly involved in controversial cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The excerpt: The claim that the justices’ opinions are politically neutral is becoming increasingly hard to accept, especially from Thomas, whose wife, Virginia (Ginni) Thomas, is a vocal right-wing activist. She has declared that America is in existential danger because of the “deep state” and the “fascist left,” which includes “transsexual fascists.” Thomas, a lawyer who runs a small political-lobbying firm, Liberty Consulting, has become a prominent member of various hard-line groups. Her political activism has caused controversy for years. For the most part, it has been dismissed as the harmless action of an independent spouse. But now the court appears likely to secure victories for her allies in a number of highly polarizing cases — on abortion, affirmative action, and gun rights.

From “The Inside Story of the Banning of ‘Maus.’ It’s Dumber Than You Think,” by David Corn in Mother Jones at bit.ly/344NZEJ.

The context, from the author: I read the minutes of the McMinn County, Tenn., school board so you don’t have to.

The excerpt: That decision of the board of education of McMinn County — located in the southeastern part of the state — generated headlines. Maus was the anchor text for an eighth-grade module on the Holocaust, and the reason for knocking it out of the curriculum was that the book includes a few “cuss” words, as one county school board member put it, and depicts nudity (that is, illustrated animal nudity). ... Of course, it’s ridiculous to object to an account of the mass murder of 6 million Jews and millions of others because of salty language and (animal!) nudity. But that’s what happened.

From “Oil Is Killing the Planet — And Driving Inflation,” an interview with Matthieu Auzanneau by Harrison Stetler in Jacobin at bit.ly/34gVN66.

The context: Today’s inflation isn’t just caused by a post-pandemic rebound in fuel prices, but a long-term exhaustion of oil production. We need to end our dependency on fossil fuels without it becoming the pretext for another wave of austerity.

The excerpt, an answer from Matthieu Auzanneau: We’re at the end of intact and easy resources. We’ve reached the end of “easy oil.” Now we’re entering the era of hard oil, and therefore it’s going to be increasingly difficult to compensate for the decline of easy oil with tight, deep, Arctic, or whatever oil. For us, this means something very simple. It’s not just because of the climate that we have to get out of oil. The party’s over.

FROM THE RIGHT

From “Whoopi Goldberg’s Suspension from The View Is Illiberal and Irrational,” by Charles C.W. Cooke in The National Review at bit.ly/3rmKcv8.

The context, from the author: Whoopi Goldberg is being suspended from ABC’s The View. This isn’t just illiberal, it’s irrational. What Goldberg said was factually incorrect, yes. But so what?

The excerpt: ABC insisted that “the culture at ABC News is one that is driven, kind, inclusive, respectful and transparent.” Okay. And Goldberg violated these principles how? Presumably, ABC does not think she’s actually an anti-Semite. That would be absurd. Nor, I assume, is she being accused of hostility or disrespect in the workplace. So what’s the infraction? Once again, it seems that Goldberg’s only crime was “being wrong in public” — an eventuality that is all-but guaranteed to arise when we televise spontaneous political debate. ... Bit by bit, and mob by mob, we are destroying our open culture and the organizations that we have constructed to serve it. Historians who look back on this era will presumably be shocked when they learn that, somehow, the institutions that were supposed to be the most tolerant and resilient — the media, the universities, the entertainment industry — were, in fact, the least tolerant and resilient of all. We can add ABC to this growing list of shame.

From “Class Contradictions,” by Matthew Schmitz in the American Conservative at bit.ly/3IZamu0.

The context, from the author: A guerrilla war has broken out on the right. One side has institutional support; the other, intellectual energy. At stake is the future of the Republican Party, and perhaps the country.

The excerpt: Whether one supports or opposes the various ideas on offer from the new right — and it is impossible to support them all, for their internal divisions are real and deep — it would be foolish to dismiss them out of hand. Theories like integralism and post-liberalism may at times take on fantastical form, but they track the movements of real bodies.

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From “Both the Right and Left Have Illiberal Factions. Which Is More Dangerous?,” a quantitative analysis by Thomas J. Main in The Bulwark at bit.ly/3L6ugF6.

The context, from the author: America is having an illiberal moment, with parts of both the right and left flirting openly with illiberalism. Both are dangerous. But which danger is more clear and present?

The excerpt: Illiberalism is dangerous in whatever form it takes. But not all dangers are created equal. And in America, right now, it is clear that the size and influence of right-wing illiberalism dwarfs that of left-wing illiberalism. Those of us who seek to conserve and defend American liberalism should act accordingly, which involves recognizing that the illiberal threat comes overwhelmingly from the right.