On Sunday, I attended the Battle of Ideas (BoI), the annual UK festival which features debates between famous intellectuals; this year, Peter Boghossian, Matthew Goodwin and Kathleen Stock spoke. BoI is predicated on the view that mainstream politics and media excludes important perspectives, related to problems with freedom of speech. Let us call this the heterodox movement, though others call it the intellectual dark web or anti-wokeism.
I see this a lot in Substackistan. Someone writes something quite familiar, which doesn't conform to a liberal progressive paradigm, to much applause for their brave truth-telling. In fact you're more heterodox, in the true meaning, than any of the people you mentioned, for questioning all sides.
It's an issue. You can see that the Daily Sceptic has gone the same way. Despite starting in 2020 as Lockdown Sceptics and now literally calling itself a sceptical publication, it has drifted from its original position of arguing with the ruling classes to now just strongly agreeing with them (on Israel/Palestine). The owners don't seem to know if they want sceptical takes, or just to be another right wing newspaper.
Nonetheless I suspect the problem is quite simply that the liberal left would refuse to turn up if invited. They aren't fans of debate, to put it mildly, and being associated with people they think of as evil, even less. Their tribe routinely cancels them just for not damning such people strongly enough on Twitter, what do you think would happen if they "legitimize" these views via civilized debate? Nothing good! And anyway, the liberal/Remain "case against populism" would be what exactly? A first-principles defense of dictatorship? Such people do exist (e.g. Moldbug) but they aren't going to be classed as liberal remainers. Someone demanding a second referendum? They all gave up already. I'm trying to imagine what sort of person and position would be taken there, but it's tough.
> Whilst causes such as Brexit and lockdown opposition can have libertarian rationales, support for them is associated with authoritarian values. Famously, support for Brexit is highly correlated with support for the death penalty. Historically, authoritarians are intolerant towards different viewpoints
This paragraph suffers from several issues:
1. It claims that opposing lockdowns "is associated with authoritarian values", a claim that is absurd on its face - lockdowns were textbook authoritarianism! - and then supports this claim via a reference to a different political issue. So it's just a totally unsupported claim.
2. It is strongly viewpoint dependent. It could also be written like this and mean the same thing: "Famously, support for the EU is strongly correlated with tolerance of violent crime".
3. "Historically, authoritarians are intolerant towards different viewpoints" is a tautology.
4. I don't think Brexit supporters believe that people with different viewpoints should be executed, although this passage could be read that way.
A couple of points, since I get a mention!
1. I agree a genuine argument would have been useful at times. I was on another panel, on net zero, where John McTernan provided actual opposition. It was a good discussion and it turned out we both agreed that there had not been enough honesty about net zero costs and that nuclear power was a big part of the solution. We wouldn't have learned that if we had all been of the same mind.
2. On the populism panel, I took the debate as being as much about populism's different manifestations in different countries as about populism v elitism. I'm certainly well aware of the voluminous and usually extremely dull academic literature opposing populism and Brexit, but in a 5 minute intro one can't cover everything!
Good article. Very fair. Goodwin's descent into silliness is a shame. Although at least he hasn't gone mad like James Lindsay etc.