Letter on Denialism

Anastasia Berg and Jon Baskin in The Point:

In  November, Politico published a profile of Claire Lehmann, the founder of the web magazine Quillette, which it hailed as the “unofficial digest” of the intellectual dark web. While acknowledging that many of the arguments on the site will never be considered “mainstream,” Lehmann presented her project as a well-intentioned effort to escape echo chambers and engage in intellectual risk taking. “We just want to capture the highly educated but open-minded, curious, heterodox audience,” she claimed, “wherever they are.”

For more than a few liberals and leftists, this will sound like a false advertisement for Quillette, which they view, and not without justification, as a reactionary force in the media landscape. The site has been a magnet for attacks on social-justice activism, and it returns with conspicuous regularity to “uncomfortable topics” like race science. But given its rapidly expanding readership—according to Lehmann, up to two million visitors per month—it’s worth examining what exactly Quillette’s readers say they are reacting against.

Quillette’s suggestion that our intellectual media stifles “open-minded” discussion is dismissed by its detractors as being made in bad faith. If anything, they say, there is too much “open discussion” these days; we have a president who will say anything at any time, neo-Nazis marching through university towns, and have you been on Reddit? Here, too, it’s fair to be skeptical: many calling for open-mindedness simply want to be able to say contemptible things with no consequences or criticism, and there are certain ideas that we refuse to countenance for good reason.

But which beliefs exactly should be judged as “out of bounds”—and who gets to be the referee? How wide is the circle of ideas that are not even worthy of discussion?

More here.