Writing at New York Magazine, Jonathan Chait relates the story of a young data analyst named David Shor. Shor is apparently a social democrat, i.e. someone from the left wing of the party who is more likely to be a Sanders supporter than, say, a Joe Biden fan. Last month when protests were starting to get more violent, Shor tweeted this:
Post-MLK-assasination race riots reduced Democratic vote share in surrounding counties by 2%, which was enough to tip the 1968 election to Nixon. Non-violent protests *increase* Dem vote, mainly by encouraging warm elite discourse and media coverage. https://t.co/S8VZSuaz3G. pic.twitter.com/VRUwnRFuVW
— (((David Shor))) (@davidshor) May 28, 2020
The research isn’t his. He’s citing Princeton professor Omar Wasow and, according to Chait, he’s citing the conclusions of the research accurately. Simply put, this is a data driven argument that riots hurt Democrats at the polls while peaceful protests help them at the polls. That observation didn’t go over well with a lot of people. One of the people who complained accused Shor of “anti-blackness.”
Ari Trujillo Wesler, the founder of OpenField, a Democratic canvassing app, replied, “This take is tone deaf, removes responsibility for depressed turnout from the 68 Party, and reeks of anti-blackness.”…
Trujillo Wesler repeated the accusation of racism (“YOU need to stop using your anxiety and ‘intellect’ as a vehicle for anti-blackness”), and then tagged Dan Wager, the CEO of Civis Analytics, the firm employing Shor, “Come get your boy.”
At least some employees and clients on Civis Analytics complained that Shor’s tweet threatened their safety.
Shor issued an apology for not being an “effective messenger” but couldn’t really apologize for the research since a) it wasn’t his and b) no one had claimed it was wrong. Despite the apology, after a review of the incident Civis Analytics took the side of the mob and fired Shor. Here’s Chait’s conclusion on the incident: “The preconditions that permitted these events to go forward are the spread of distinct, illiberal norms throughout some progressive institutions over the last half-dozen years.” He argues that the right is still a far greater threat to liberalism than the left but says that doesn’t mean the illiberalism of the left should be ignored.
I would disagree with Chait that the illiberalism of the left is less of a threat. Historically that’s certainly not the case when you look at the death toll associated with far left states (Russia, China, Cambodia etc.) The usual excuse offered is that those states were authoritarian and therefore not real socialism. This refusal to acknowledge reality is a way for the left to avoid the obvious truth: Left wing extremism is dangerous and often ends in authoritarianism precisely because it concentrates power in the hands of the state even as it downplay the importance of the individual. It’s a perfect recipe for authoritarianism.
And that’s why, as the left is having another national moment in the wake of George Floyd’s death, you’re also seeing an outbreak of cancel culture. In fact, Chait looks at two more examples of this in his piece. There are many more examples he could have cited in just the past two weeks. Illiberalism isn’t a bug that crops up coincidentally when the left is ascendant, it’s a feature. Harassing and firing people for wrong opinions is what the far left does. We’ve all seen it play out on campus, now we’re seeing it in the broader world.