I'm troubled by your characterization of Andrew Sullivan's recent posts as anti-trans. I think they take a fully liberal position with regard to people who identify as transgender. His concerns, as I understand them, are with (1) the ideology that some highly visible trans advocates have adopted and the impact it has had on the gay and lesbian communities (and I have heard from members of those communities that they have indeed begun to feel marginalized in this way); (2) the element of that ideology that denies the relevance of child/adult and family/non-family distinctions. I don't know whether the issue is that you are reading Sullivan differently than I (in which case I may have missed something), or whether you are listening to Sullivan selectively (I think that would be a problem).

But I want to focus on a more general aspect of left illiberalism, which I (like many others) see as the power of articulate progressive activism to simultaneously alienate natural allies and so weaken the Left, and strengthen the far Right, which I, like you, see as far more dangerous, both in ideology and in the tangible threat to our society.

In the midwestern college town where I live, a dark blue spot in a red sea, there was four years ago an inflammatory incident concerning the doxxing of some local farmers as white nationalists, affiliated with a now-defunt organization called Identity Evropa (or American Indentitarian Movement). The news generated a large and well organized response in the form of an anti-hate group that adopted both strident progressive rhetoric and a no-tolerance stance towards the white nationalists. The details aren't relevant, but the effect of the well-organized, aggressive, and relentless activism by this progressive group (full of bright and talented people) was actually to alienate a large segment of the liberal population (including the all-Democratic city government) and to create a startling and alarming degree of sympathy for the white nationalist individuals (as well as providing their organization with terrific grist for national recruitment). The substance of the issue--the dark natureof white nationalism--was overwhelmed by the social form of the encounter, which fit the narrative of marginalized individuals being persecuted by a powerful group. It was political theater that completely misunderstood the dynamic of audience perception. (In our case, the curtain was brought down suddenly by the pandemic, so we were spared several acts and what was likely to have been a bad resolution.)

This on-the-ground experience--not a reaction to illiberalism in the abstract--makes me alert to the warnings that Damon Linker has formulated in his discussion of how best to respond to the issues of transgender rights and the dangers of conflating opposition to transgender ideology and positions on responding to transgender issues of minors with opposition to transgender rights.

I don't personally know what to think about transgender ideology (as I understand it) or proper treatment for gender dysphoria, and I don't think I ought to know--the entire set of issues is very new, based on a first-draft of ideas and relatively sparse and conflicting medical/sociological data. I feel it's a given that the basic rights of transgender people should be as robust as those of cisgender people, there are also sensitive and complex issues that seem to have no simple resolution (gendered sports being an example), and I'm suspicious of anyone who claims that solutions are simple and obvious. What is obvious to me is that these issues have provided a powerful platform for those who view the Left as an enemy, those who wish to return to sexual puritanism, and those who wish to control or destroy public education--all part of the toxic threat to the American liberal tradition that has become our everyday political environment.

As a final note, I'd like to add that as a veteran of 1960s activism, it seems to me that the most ideologically strident aspect of that was not the civil rights movement but the anti-war movement. And while I was part of both and hold the same view of the war I did then, I also recall that the manner in which we went about our activism brought us Nixon, five out of six presidential elections with GOP wins, the end of the long era of Democratic dominance in Congress, and the Rightward shift of working class voters. If I could go back to, say, 1968, I'd be telling those I was marching with that we were right, but needed to rethink our approach because we were not actually doing good.

Sorry to be so longwinded as a visitor to your blog. I've been reading you on Notes and today's just hit me the wrong way.

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I've always believed that professional "social commentators" are so far removed from the actual-personal-on-the-ground reality of the societies on which they are commenting, as to be essentially worthless. For them, it appears to be nothing more than a academic game, an exercise in debate in which they have zero skin in the game... in fact, it rarely seems as if they have ever even been in the stadium. Of course, they are free to expostulate as much as they'd like, but I choose not to buy what they're selling.

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Mr. Eno's response is very thoughtful, and I'd be interested to hear what you have to say.

I think Andrew Sullivan gets carried away with his (emotional) critiques of leftist ideology, such that he isn't sufficiently concerned about the fascism brewing on the right. However, I personally don't know what to make of some claims made at the leading edge of the left, and trans issues seem to be a particularly rich vein for this. In many cases, skepticism is warranted, though it need not express itself stridently.

I'll offer an example. It has become popular for many young people to consider themselves "non-binary". Frankly, I'm not sure what this means. I've always been persuaded by the idea put forth by Carl Jung that each person has within a psychological complex of their opposite gender. Men have a feminine side called the "anima" and women a masculine side called the "animus". This "opposite" complex tends to be unconscious and subsumed in all the aspects of the personality which buried from conscious view. Jung didn't have a lot to say about the difference between sex/gender, in this formulation, in biological or physical terms, versus social terms, and there's a refinement of this idea that could be elaborated if anyone cared to delve into the matter. But if you accept this basic idea, then a few things fall out:

a) Gender (or sex) is intrinsically a binary concept. Masculine and feminine are a pair of categorical complements, admitting of a spectrum, but no third member.

b) Psychologically, *every human being* has both masculine and feminine aspects to their personality, and these can express themselves (or be repressed) in a dizzying variety of ways.

Calling oneself "non-binary", therefore, is nonsensical on its face. Perhaps the "non-binary" person wants to indicate that he/she is especially flexible in switching between a masculine or feminine orientation in their personality, having a much better-than-average ability to mediate with the unconscious. But this isn't really "non-binary" -- it's just higher gender mutability within standard human psychology. Or has the "non-binary" person transcended the normal boundaries of human personality? That sounds more like narcissism than a new category of gender. When people talk about these issues, they're usually framed as social problems, not as exponents of complex human psychology, and so to simply swallow what any random person wants to claim, without further intellectual justification, is a sign of credulity.

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active awareness of systemic injustices and prejudices, especially those involving the treatment of ethnic, racial, or sexual minorities: STAY WOKE!!!!!

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Nicely done. Looks like we had similar ideas. Mine is called The Psychology of Woke - Part I - Propagandizing the Rorschach Test. Great minds something something... https://samray.substack.com/p/the-psychology-of-woke-part-i

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So how exactly are classical liberals supposed to engage with arguments of the explicitly anti-liberal woke (see: Delgado)? Besides being often illiberal, the largest issues with woke-ism are that it inculcates weakness (everyone is a victim) and divisiveness (oh, you are a member of X group). 'Coddling of the American Mind' was so on point in so many ways even though it was explicitly not a commentary on social movements. The past may influence the future, but the past does not determine the future. Meritocracy has lots of flaws. But equality of results ends up making for a less productive society that wipes out opportunities for non-preferred groups of people, even if that is an unintended consequence. Sullivan's fear for LGB people is a reasonable issue to discuss. As is Mandel's fear for Jews. And on and on. It's hard to see how pitting people against one another in what is often viewed as a zero-sum battle is a good thing.

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