What better occasion than the Fourth of July, nominally about freedom and independence, to welcome the good news of a truly ambitious publication’s launch in the name of open debate, rigorous critical thinking, and human rights? The arrival of Persuasion is an inspiring addition to public dialogue at a time of heightened false equivalencies, hidden biases, unhidden biases, and the bullying and bigotry particularly pungent on the far right (but not limited to it). The new site aims to persuade. Whatever you think of its full list of core contributors, there are brilliant treasures, namely Sarah Haider, John McWhorter, Thomas Chatterton Williams, Jonathan Haidt, and Garry Kasparov. And the outstanding Maajid Nawaz gives a ringing early endorsement.
Haider is especially thoughtful at challenging ideas, institutions, fallacies, and pathologies that harm human rights. Read her. McWhorter is profoundly insightful as a linguist and cultural critic, with no aversion to hard debate. Persuasion hopes to avoid the trappings of mere point-scoring, and the decoys of the day, by engaging with bedrock questions about what can produce the most justice and equality.
Speaking of justice, David Frum, another Persuasion contributor, is long overdue for history’s judgment. Or did I miss his mea culpa for the harm he helped cause as George W. Bush’s speechwriter? Frum is long on criticism of Trump but short on accountability for Bush. Doesn’t it matter? I’d like to persuade at firstname.lastname@example.org, if Frum is open to discussing it, but on balance, Persuasion deserves support for trying to change minds, including those of some of its contributors. The project’s pledge is inspiring. All manifestations of illiberalism, injustice, illogic, and inequality need contesting.
Here’s a challenge: Persuasion should offer to waive subscription fees for anyone who asks. Why not? If money shouldn’t be the sole obstacle for those who can’t afford it, how persuasive can the project be? Here’s rooting, but offer it? It’s worked before. Above all, let Kasparov know that his 1996 blunder against Vishy Anand is forgiven and forgotten. (How could you miss Qxg4? We all slip up, Garry. You are still king, capable of crushing even the great Hikaru and Fabiano.)