Sarah Haider on why you shouldn’t emphasize your liberal bona fides

February 11, 2022 • 9:45 am

I’m busy today with paperwork, letters of recommendations, and winter ducks, so I’ll probably just highlight some articles that you might want to read. Who cares if I didn’t write them?—I’m professor, not a professional writer.

Sarah Haider‘s new Substack column, “Hold that thought“, promises to be a place to bookmark, as she’s published two good pieces in a row. Like many of us, Haider won’t embrace the full-on principles of “progressive” liberalism, but remains a liberal nonetheless. She is, of course, an ex-Muslim, co-founder of the Ex-Muslims of North America, and is quite critical of her old faith. That alone makes her unacceptable to the Woke, who valorize Islam in the face of its extreme regressive principles, ignoring this regressivism because Muslims are seen as People of Color.

Well, so is Haider, so she has both the ethnic and political bona fides (she’s a Democrat) to give her credibility. But of course she hasn’t accrued as much as she deserves simply because she’s an apostate.  To counteract this, Haider has, in the past, peppered her talks with those bona fides: “I’m a liberal so you can take what you’re about to read or hear seriously.”

In this new piece she’s decided to give up this “throat-clearing”, as she calls it, and will just give her argument.

I, too, have been wont to “clear my throat” here and in talks, but Haider’s piece makes a convincing case that it’s useless to try to get on the liberal audience’s good side by touting your liberal views and accomplishments. In fact, I’m going to stop doing that myself because her piece is so persuasive.  I think this would be a good policy for readers, too, and I especially urge them to work on creating an atmosphere here where you don’t need to tout your background before advancing an idea. One thing I will no longer tolerate is people who dismiss an argument or an article simply because of where it appeared (usually in a Jewish or conservative publication) or who makes it. That is the equivalent of an ad hominem argument. I can’t stand hearing words like “I’m not going to read this because it’s from the National Review, and the whole enterprise is garbage.” That’s the sign of a closed mind.

Click the screenshot below to read, and subscribe if you like it. I have a feeling she’s going to develop well as a “blogger”:

Here’s her version of throat clearing:

Before touching on any perspective that I knew to not be kosher among other Leftists, I tended to precede with some version of throat-clearing: “I’m on the left” or “I’ve voted Democrat my whole life.”

I told myself that this was a distinction worth insisting on because 1) it was the truth and 2) because it helped frame the discussion properly – making clear that the argument is coming from someone who values what they value.

But there was another reason too. My political identity reminders were a plea to be considered fully and charitably, to not be villainized and presumed to be motivated by “hate”.

The precursor belief to this, of course, is that actual conservatives should not be taken charitably, are rightfully villainized, and really are motivated by “hate”.

But I’m done sputtering indignantly about being mischaracterized as “conservative”, or going out of my way to remind the audience that I really am a good little liberal.

Here is why.

She then gives four reasons, explaining each, but you can read the explanations for yourself (indented stuff is hers):

1.) It doesn’t work

2.) Throat-clearing is a tax on energy and attention. 

3)  Throat-clearing is bad for you

4.) It is bad for the causes you care about

So I’ll join Haider in a resolution to stop doing this stuff; let’s see if I can stick to it.

At the end of her piece she decries the secular community’s embrace of Islam, and also criticizes in the American Civil Liberties Union’s conversion to a “progressive outlet” that’s “surrendering its once most cherished  cause–free speech.”

Which brings us to the next reading. .

21 thoughts on “Sarah Haider on why you shouldn’t emphasize your liberal bona fides

    1. I’m in agreement with our host at least about 90% of the time — and I’d guess both Jerry and I are in agreement at least about 90% of the time with the Americans for Democratic Action, the organization that, especially back in the day, provided the percentage ratings that served as the gold standard for the (anti-commie) Old Left and even the old New Left.

  1. It’s funny but I just looked up “bona fides” about an hour before this post – I thought it meant something like credentials, but it is [ looks ] :

    “credentials that authenticate a person’s standing or reputation”

    So “she has both the ethnic and political bona fides (she’s a Democrat) to give her credibility.” makes this clear.

    But also, it can be “good faith”, and a few other things.

    Source :

    Just sayin’ – I learn something new every day.

    1. “Bona fide” is an adjective meaning genuine or legitimate, and “bona fides” is a noun referring to the basis (such as credentials) the underlies the making a genuine or legitimate claim.

      At least according to what remains of my law-school Latin. 🙂

      1. I actually thought “bona fide” meant “genuine”, so I looked it up – finding “bona fides” instead…

        Still looking for a good Latin phrase for “genuine”,… not “veritas” (true), but “genuine”… or good…

        Something with “eu—”, as in “eukaryote”… sounds Greek to me (said Caesar…)

        Maybe its the same – “eu—” and “veritas”…,

        but there I go, ramblin’ again…

        1. “Bona fide” is the best I can do in Latin.

          But a good loan word from German for authentic or genuine is “echt.”

      2. Mine also, but I don’t think I’ve ever used Bone Fides in a legal setting. Or any setting actually.
        I’ve lived a quiet life in the calm.
        D.A., J.D.

  2. Worse – in all likelihood, as a dissident you will be treated worse than if you simply were an actual conservative.

    True. Just look at how Liz Cheney or Kristen Sinema have been treated by their respective parties. People seem more willing to accept those who have always been their opponents as opposed to allies whom they now see as turn-coats.

    1. I know what you (and Haider) are saying, and it’s a simple human trait: we feel more betrayed if the perceived betrayal is by someone we trust than by someone we don’t trust, or don’t know. But your comparison of Cheney and Sinema misses the mark. Cheney hasn’t changed who she is, she’s still the same staunch conservative she’s always been; she just happens to care about the truth of Jan. 6- the truth that is being obfuscated or outright denied by her own party and Trump. The mainstream GOP is wedded to the Big Lie, and they can’t abide someone in their ranks who is honest- a faux turn-coat if you will. Sinema, on the other hand, has done a complete 180 on who she was when she ran for the Senate and who she is today. Mainstream Democrats rightly (imo) consider her as someone who is dishonest- a true turn-coat.

  3. This is very prescient, as I was just thinking about this last night. I am finding it increasingly tiring to write and read these “throat clearing” gestures (what a great term for it!). We really ought to be able to argue the virtues of any particular issue or policy without the constant need to assert that we aren’t one of “them,” whomever the them is.

  4. For myself I just do not worry about all that stuff. I have never been in a tribe and do not worry about what others think. If I were a journalist or popular writer I would likely be different. Spending lots of time criticizing everything in the party I might disagree with is a waste of my time. The democrats have always been a large tent of people. I think the party shoots itself in the foot and loses many elections fighting with those who are on their side. The republicans just laugh.

  5. Talks are one thing. But if I want to determine if someone is likely to have a similar political or worldview to my own, the first question I would ask is, are they Republican. A “yes” would be the clearest indication they most likely do not. (Is there a better choice? Sadly, I can’t think of one. And this may not have been true 20 years ago.)
    One the other side, I would ask if they are a scientist. If they answer is yes, that is the best first question to ask for which a “yes” will give the highest probability that they share my views on the whole. (But it’s much less efficient than the first question since a “yes” is comparatively rare.)
    I come to these conclusions simply by thinking of all the people I know, and also how I view the various well-known people in the world.
    To be sure, regardless of the answers, I would want to follow up with more to test the hypotheses, and not make unwarranted assumptions. But it’s interesting to me how much the answers to these questions say about people.

    1. Good point KD. They’d be my filter questions also and I think we’d have the same answers in mind.
      I agree with the host 90+% of the time.

  6. I confess it is harder to read or listen to an opinion I don’t agree with. I say harder because I stick with what they are saying. I love the truth. The evidence. Sometimes, like that old joke with the rabbi saying you’re right to everyone, each person has a point. I’m old enough to be skeptical of everything and a big fan of Michael Shermer. I listen and listen and then reflect on what was said.

    What does it mean when he says words, they said about Trump with his documented tens of thousands of lies, which the press couldn’t say were lies. He’s a great liar has boxes of lies, all shapes and colors. My point is those people just live and say what they want, so why can’t I? No apologies or throat clearing, and who cares if they don’t listen.

    I just listened to myself. I am bending myself into a pretzel and these others go from point A to B without any throat clearing.

    I’m happy to hear about throat clearing stuff, I respect your effort to stop it, why not? I think it is like the endless apologizing I have to do with people who have no sense of humor. On Twitter once, someone wrote, if they tell a joke I don’t laugh on purpose because they just want to be liked.
    I have been thinking about that for almost a decade now! I checked. Am I funny only because I want to be liked or am I just funny? I am happy to say, when I stand alone in the forest, I am still funny. Tough beans.

  7. In 2020, complaints about me were made to the HR office of my old department: complaints about my satirical Email about personal pronouns, and moreover about a satirical book I had co-authored (which nobody had read), and a free-form, non-commercial FM radio station I had been connected with many years earlier. The complaints led, I learned, to such exciting developments as solemn meetings of the DEI committee and the involvement of a Dean’s office. The departmental HR busybody Emailed me to suggest an interminable “conversation” about these earth-shaking issues, and she invited me to defuse matters by a ritual of throat-clearing. I wrote back to her as below, and then heard nothing more.

    ” One phrase in your note gave me pause, and I trust it was no more than a slip of the keyboard: “I’m hoping that you actually hold similar opinions to those of the younger generations within GS”. First of all, since I do not fly into a snit over books I have never even seen, let alone read, I share nothing with that kind of opinion-formation. 2nd, the FBI’s 17-page file on me in the ’60s-70s should not serve as a qualification any more than as a disqualification: the GS Department’s subject is Genomics, not ideology. Finally, I do not consider it a summum bonum for everybody to have similar opinions. This was the ambition of a place called the German Democratic Republic, also known as East Germany, of which you may have read. …There seems to be a fairly commonplace desire on campuses today to convert every university into a little replica of the GDR. That is an opinion I most definitely do not share with any of the younger or older generations.”

    1. … the FBI’s 17-page file on me in the ’60s-70s …

      Was this part of J. Edgar’s salacious private stash? COINTELPRO? Top Hoodlum Program? Or what?

      C’mon, Jon, give with the deets; inquiring minds want to know. 🙂

      1. Sorry, Ken, if I told you all the details, I’d have to shoot you. However, I can reveal one item. Just before a campus anti-Vietnam War protest, I published a letter in the paper announcing my plan to film the demonstration for something that might rival “Battleship Potemkin”. I expressed hope that
        SDS would find enough people to play “The People”, and asserted that we were already test-casting baby-carriages for the scene of a stroller bumping down a flight of steps on campus. To my great delight, this entire letter was reproduced in my FBI file.
        [Parenthetical note. Robbie S., the campus SDS leader, had a sense of humor and enjoyed my letter about filming. After he graduated and went to Law School, Robbie became a lawyer for ACLU. That is, the old ACLU.]

        1. I doubt the FBI agent assigned to the investigation got the joke, Jon. The Bureau is notoriously humorless — and was worse in the tight-assed, button-down days under Hoover (though it wasn’t above pulling “black bag” jobs when the Director took a fancy).

  8. We’ll, wokeness is all down to Intersectionality, which on its campus home court is black studies, gender studies, Middle East Studies, Post-Colonial studies and variants and subsets. Who’s left out of all this? Well…

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