Elon Musk Tweeted My Cartoon


Colin Wright

I went for a walk last Thursday when Elon Musk tweeted a political cartoon I created in August 2021. It has received hundreds of thousands of retweets and over 1.5 million likes. The stick figure in the center depicts me, a center-left libertarian in 2008 and how the ground changed beneath my feet in 2012 and 2021.

From the very beginning, I happily stood next to “my liberal friend” who leaned slightly to my left. In 2012, he darted to the left, dragging the left end of the political spectrum and pulling the political “center” closer to me. By 2021, my freelance colleague is an “awakened” progressive, so far on the left that I am now at the center, even though I have not moved.

When my cartoon went viral, it resonated with many people — and caused discord in the left-wing media. The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent called it a “silly chart” that had been “cruelly exposed”. His colleague, Philip Bump, described it as “simply false” and “clear exaggeration”. Mr. Bump even provided a series of silly factual graphs showing “average ideology scores (using a measure called DW-NOMINATE)” and “ideological assessments measured in the biennial General Social Survey (GSS).”

Writing a cartoon with a diagram is like responding to a love poem with one syllable. Politics and culture, like most human reality, cannot be reduced to data and abstractions without losing much of their essence. And the self-styled progressives, who like to talk about the importance of “life experience,” greatly despise their critics.

I created the cartoon to help remove my sense of growing political alienation from the left. I’ve been a lifelong Democrat. I turned 18 in 2003 and have never voted for a Republican. But over the past decade, and especially the last five, I have watched my party drift away from the values ​​and principles I hold dear.

Those on the left once considered free speech sacrosanct and supported the power to tell the truth. Now, they despise open expression as a danger to democracy and minorities. The desire to judge individuals by the content of their personality rather than the color of their skin has given way to identity politics and “fairness” initiatives that prioritize group interests over individual rights. Women’s rights, previously understood to relate to their oppression on the basis of gender, are now viewed by the left through the lens of gender identity, favoring men who claim to be women. . Today’s advancement can’t even tell you what it’s like to be a woman. The right may be inconsistent in its support of free speech, individual rights, and women’s rights, but the left is consistently opposed to all three.

It is important to keep these changes in mind when assessing the “accuracy” of my cartoon, because the most common criticism is that it depicts rights that have been preserved since 2008. A similar drawing Self-describing specific issues like abortion, climate change or immigration can tell a different story. But for the important cultural values ​​I hold dear — freedom of expression, individual rights, and women’s rights — my caricature is consistent with the life experiences of many libertarians and centrists. .

It is also based on my own. I am an evolutionary biologist, and from 2008 to 2020, I worked to become a university professor. But while doing my postdoctoral fellow at Penn State in 2018, I found myself ostracized by my scientific colleagues and people who I thought were my close friends because I didn’t want to promote claims that weren’t true. scientifically accurate to avoid offending those who identify as transgender.

Suddenly, simple facts, supported by both science and common sense – such as “male and female are real biological categories defined by reproductive anatomy” – called taboo. . Because of my great sin of stating simple biological truths and upholding civil discourse, I have endured unrelenting slurs as a “cannibal”, “speak the truth”, even a “white supremacist”. Similar experiences have taken place for millions of people across the United States and abroad.

I hope more people on the left will resist the urge to destroy or remove my cartoon and instead use it as an opportunity to understand why so many people feel it describes their experience. . Something has happened in the past decade that has left many libertarians politically homeless, and a lack of curiosity as to why is a recipe for more than just political failure. but also social conflict. It contributes to our growing inability to have reasonable, compassionate discussions on issues of great importance.

I was delighted to observe that among many of the biggest voices on social media, my cartoon generated a huge amount of discussion. People have created and shared their own versions, which are both entertaining and educational. I encourage everyone to take the time to draw their own caricatures as a reminder that political parties are not static entities and that it is best to build yourself on enduring principles. instead of red-green tribal thinking.

Individuals also change, and this is often a healthy sign of growth and maturity rather than evidence of radicalization. As long as we remain curious and open to civil discussions, our differences will become our strengths.

Mr. Wright, an evolutionary biologist, is the founding editor of Reality’s Last Stand.

Review & Outlook: The $44 billion acquisition of Twitter is a gamble that could disrupt Silicon Valley’s progressive culture of compliance. Image: Reuters / Getty Images / Billboard Composite: Mark Kelly

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Appears on May 3, 2022, print.

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Alley Einstein

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