By Steve Kelman

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Guest blog by Thomas J. Main: 'All men are created equal'

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Note from Steve Kelman: Tom Main is an old friend whom I met decades ago when he was working for a foundation that was supporting some of my research. Politically, he is considerably more conservative than I am, but we both share a strong commitment to respectfulness and tolerance in political discussions. In this blog, Main takes on those on the far right who disdain the principles of the Declaration of Independence. It is more political than blogs I write, but coming on the heels of Independence Day, it is a real pleasure for me to share Main's views as a guest blog post. It honors the principles we celebrated this weekend, and I like people who are willing to dissent from the conventional wisdom of their tribe.

This past Saturday was the 4th of July, the day that all Americans celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence and its most iconic phrase "all men are created equal." But do all Americans still revere those immortal five words? Unfortunately, many do not and have formed online political movements aimed at repudiating Jefferson's world historical idea.

One such movement is the Alt-Right. American Renaissance, a key Alt-Right site, declares: "[W]e ought to laugh out of town every goofball who claims the Declaration proves everyone is equal to everyone else. It's a form of insanity," and "No phrase in history has done more harm than 'all men are created equal.'"

Vox Day, one of the original Alt-Rightists, insists "…[T]here is no such thing as equality, the grand rhetorical flights of Thomas Jefferson notwithstanding…. The assertation is not a self-evident truth, it is nothing more than a logical and empirical falsehood, and easily proven to be so by every possible standard."

Chateau Heartiste, a viciously misogynistic site banned by its original web host but still available elsewhere, insists: "…. To say that anyone can become an American because 'all men are created equal' is a shameless lie…." Occidental Dissent, which is Alt-Right with a Southern accent, reports: ". . . nothing is less self-evident to us than the notion that all men are created equal."

It is a mistake to think that after the disastrous Charlottesville, Va., demonstration in 2017 the Alt-Right died. Using data obtained from the web traffic analysis firm SimilarWeb, I've found that, for the first 11 months of 2019, Alt-Right sites received about 4.1 million visits on monthly average. Compare that to mainstream progressive outlets such as The New Republic and The Nation with 1.6 and 1.7 million such visits, respectively.

But the Alt-Right is not the only movement to repudiate Jefferson's words. There are hate sites operated by neo-Nazi, Klan and related groups. There are neo-confederate sites that spurn the Jeffersonian equality that guided Lincoln. There are neo-reactionary sites that insist "Equality Hacks the Human Brain" and hyper-orthodox religious sites that teach "The principal being used today is that there is a standard of complete equality. That all men are created equal. But this has no validity." And then there are anti-feminist "Manosphere" sites that will not include women: "feminists have created a whole philosophy and ideology that insists women and men are equal. We are not equal. We do not need to be equal…. We can't be equal."

Combined these sites receive on monthly average about 29 million visits. These sites have more such visits than do MSNBC (about 20 million visits), Slate (about 26 million visits), and Newsweek (about 27 million visits).

But perhaps these rightist illiberal sites are counterbalanced by equally radically left-wing sites? But no. The sites of the radical left receive about 2.5 million visits on monthly average, which is vanishingly small relative to all the right radicals. The attack on the cornerstone of American political philosophy on the web comes almost exclusively from the right.

And then there is Trump. On several occasions before he became president Trump explicitly repudiated the Declaration of Independence. "'All men are created equal,'" he said. "Well it sounds beautiful….But it's not true." After his election when these embarrassing episodes were widely circulated, Trump, as he does, reversed himself and embraced the Declaration's phrase. Do you believe Trump is sincere?

What to do? Let the American people make a new declaration of independence. But this time from politicians and movements that denigrate our foundational principles. Anti-democratic ideologues should be banned from mainstream web services. And Trump, our latter day George III, should be democratically overthrown in the fall election. Let us again pledge, as the founders did, to uphold -- and update for out time--their main principle, that all people are created equal.

Posted by Steve Kelman on Jul 06, 2020 at 6:50 AM


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