The Dream of the '90s? Jon Chait on P.C. 2.0
January 27, 2015 8:44 PM   Subscribe

Today’s political correctness flourishes most consequentially on social media, where it enjoys a frisson of cool and vast new cultural reach. And since social media is also now the milieu that hosts most political debate, the new p.c. has attained an influence over mainstream journalism and commentary beyond that of the old.
posted by batfish (381 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
 
Judy Berman: Jonathan Chait Doesn’t Really Care About Free Speech
What Chait is really angry about — as his vast, weird, and otherwise inexplicable underestimation of the philosophical threat posed by conservatism also betrays — is the fact that social media, the Internet in general, and the current, identity-driven climate of progressive politics have given his formerly voiceless critics a platform from which to challenge him. This defense of his own right to pontificate without being held accountable for the assumptions his position in society might lead him to make isn’t about Enlightenment liberalism; it’s a fundamentally conservative insistence that the rabble remember their place, remain meek and disempowered. Sure, they can speak their minds, but not in the numbers and with the anger it takes to be heard above the din of well-funded media, business, and government voices. Too bad for them, but that’s just how free speech works!
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:48 PM on January 27, 2015 [71 favorites]


From The Nib: Chaiters gonna Chait
posted by Going To Maine at 8:51 PM on January 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


Delegitimizing people is bad and that should be delegitimized. Especially when I don't like your response to my writing. Don't you people know your place? In conclusion, here is a string of anecdotes.
posted by PsychoTherapist at 8:51 PM on January 27, 2015 [34 favorites]


Also, I have a really hard time being concerned about "too much political correctness" in a post-gamergate world.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:52 PM on January 27, 2015 [49 favorites]


Political Correctness is the word people use when they're upset that everyone who isn't them is saying "hey, you actually need to take our feelings into account."

Heterosexual white guys with money aren't the default of the human race so just STFU and get used to it, ok? Thanks.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:55 PM on January 27, 2015 [81 favorites]


He's got a shovel and someone should take it away from him already. I know that Coates tried last year, but I guess Chait found another one.
posted by rtha at 8:56 PM on January 27, 2015 [14 favorites]


I think it's a very weakly written piece which comes mostly from a place that is real and not entirely invalid, said place being "there are a whole bunch of liberal people on Twitter who use their membership in marginalized demographics as a rhetorical wrecking-ball, and that is annoying as shit," but while that may well be true, it doesn't really change the fact that it doesn't justify the article or, frankly, even addressing it beyond the length of a sentence, because people everywhere have their own rhetorical wrecking balls to dismiss opinions they don't like and this is not particularly special or noteworthy behaviour.
posted by mightygodking at 8:58 PM on January 27, 2015 [23 favorites]


Rule of thumb: whenever anyone uses the phrase "political correctness" (or associated phrases) do a mental find and replace with "being kind". Then see what a total asshole they are.
posted by dry white toast at 8:59 PM on January 27, 2015 [93 favorites]


"those of you just coming in to #ChaitLiberalism, this is what I was referring to" (tweet with link to Medium)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 9:02 PM on January 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


People have opinions I don't like! It's a crisis! [rinse, repeat]
posted by wuwei at 9:03 PM on January 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


I read this and thought that he could articulate what the difference was between over-restrictive control of speech along thought control lines, and respectful speech that recognised a consensual tone setting... but then he had no idea what this actually meant.

To write something like:

Trigger warnings aren’t much help in actually overcoming trauma — an analysis by the Institute of Medicine has found that the best approach is controlled exposure to it, and experts say avoidance can reinforce suffering

and not realise that the trigger warning allows sensitive people to control their exposure is either astounding lack of reflection or a dark kind of mischief.

As always, the rise of political-correctness seems to be more reported than actually observed. I work in a traditional "roughly-Ivy-equivalent" University and we have a lot of guidelines about not being an obviously racist or sexist idiot but very little that appears to mysteriously flourish in the mossy cracks one finds between angry libertarians.

Of course, the shortest distance between two libertarians is a straight line that draws itself.
posted by nfalkner at 9:03 PM on January 27, 2015 [23 favorites]


This piece prompted John Hodgman to write this series of tweets.
posted by glhaynes at 9:03 PM on January 27, 2015 [31 favorites]


Also.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 9:04 PM on January 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


It was a pretty fantastic article that got to the heart of a lot of the toxicity the online left is frequently engaging in right now, usually for ends justifying the means reasons which often strike me as just excuses for bad behavior. Not surprising it isn't being widely embraced by the online left, they are the subject of the criticism after all.

That said, Going To Maine absolutely has a point there. Too much PC is not close to the top of the list of social problems we have online right now.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:05 PM on January 27, 2015 [32 favorites]




> Political Correctness is the word people use when they're upset that everyone who isn't them is saying "hey, you actually need to take our feelings into account."

Yep. Increasingly I see "anti-PC" statements as "I want to spew hatred without consequences or pushback of any kind… just like the good old days."

> Also, I have a really hard time being concerned about "too much political correctness" in a post-gamergate world.

To put some words, numbers and faces to that: what one week of harassment on Twitter looks like for Anita Sarkeesian [ Major content and trigger warnings, obviously ]
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 9:09 PM on January 27, 2015 [29 favorites]


and not realise that the trigger warning allows sensitive people to control their exposure is either astounding lack of reflection or a dark kind of mischief

Or?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:10 PM on January 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the Hodgman link, glhaynes.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:10 PM on January 27, 2015


From the Gawker article:
Chait, like many liberal commentators with his background, is used to writing off left-wing critics and reserving his real writerly firepower for (frequently deserving) right-wingers. That was, for years, how things worked at the center-left opinion journalism shops, because it was simply assumed that no one important—no one who really matters—took the opinions of people to the left of the center-left opinion shop seriously. That was a safe and largely correct assumption. But the destruction of the magazine industry and the growth of the open-forum internet have amplified formerly marginal voices. Now, in other words, writers of color can be just as condescending and dismissive of Chait as he always was toward the left. And he hates it.
I'd never quite formulated that in that way, but I like it a lot.
posted by jaguar at 9:11 PM on January 27, 2015 [87 favorites]


> whenever anyone uses the phrase "political correctness" (or associated phrases) do a mental find and replace with "being kind"
The entire premise of the article is that what 'PC' is at the moment is not kind, but a framework to legitimize aggression, control, and vindictiveness. Agree or not, but calling people who are not entirely agreeing with you 'evil' makes his point.
posted by Spanner Nic at 9:15 PM on January 27, 2015 [18 favorites]


Dear lord, that Gawker piece eviscerates Chait. Go read it.
posted by emjaybee at 9:18 PM on January 27, 2015 [14 favorites]


Oh really, marxists oppose free speech?

"The free press is the ubiquitous vigilant eye of a people's soul, the embodiment of a people's faith in itself, the eloquent link that connects the individual with the state and the world, the embodied culture that transforms material struggles into intellectual struggles and idealises their crude material form. It is a people's frank confession to itself, and the redeeming power of confession is well known. It is the spiritual mirror in which a people can see itself, and self-examination is the first condition of wisdom. It is the spirit of the state, which can be delivered into every cottage, cheaper than coal gas. It is all-sided, ubiquitous, omniscient. It is the ideal world which always wells up out of the real world and flows back into it with ever greater spiritual riches and renews its soul." - Marx

Freedom only for the members of the government, only for the members of the Party — though they are quite numerous — is no freedom at all. Freedom is always the freedom of dissenters. The essence of political freedom depends not on the fanatics of 'justice', but rather on all the invigorating, beneficial, and detergent effects of dissenters. If 'freedom' becomes 'privilege', the workings of political freedom are broken. - Rosa Luxemburg
posted by phrontist at 9:19 PM on January 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


I went to Harvard in the early 1990s, back when Dinesh D'Souza and Roger Kimball and the good old gang were telling everyone who would listen that all us helpless students were being force-fed Dworkin, Marx and Malcolm X, and commanded to swear off Shakespeare, Homer, and the Founding Fathers under threat of being slapped silly with a burning bra. It was a crock then and it's a crock now. I teach college, and if somebody is actually trying to impose hard-left orthodoxy on today's college students, they are literally the worst imposer in human history.
posted by escabeche at 9:21 PM on January 27, 2015 [60 favorites]


Scott Lemieux of Lawyers, Guns & Money had a decent round-up of progressive responses. Also has a good aside: Citing events invoking Catharine MacKinnon from the first Bush administration to pad out the list of anecdotes is a tell here, like a conservative culture scold still basing arguments around “Piss Christ.” Which, given that it happened more than 3/4s of my life ago, is pretty convincing to me.

That being said, his co-blogger Erik Loomis said it much more concisely: "Some essays are better left unwritten. Jonathan Chait’s essay bemoaning the “political correctness” supposedly defining and dominating modern American liberalism is one of those essays."
posted by Lemurrhea at 9:22 PM on January 27, 2015 [10 favorites]


Prolly the meanest thing that the gawker article said is that Chair thinks of himself as a political thinker. LOL. The guys a total moron and that has been pretty clear for a long time.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:22 PM on January 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Rule of thumb: whenever anyone uses the phrase "political correctness" (or associated phrases) do a mental find and replace with "being kind". Then see what a total asshole they are.

I always just remove "political".
posted by Lemurrhea at 9:23 PM on January 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


"Politically Correct" is a dismissive term used by bitter people. Move along...
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:24 PM on January 27, 2015 [2 favorites]




It has been plausibly suggested that the current form of call - outs was influenced by New Left groups if a certain kind, like the Sojourner Truth Organization.

Historically, identitarian ideology is a product of the failure of the Left. The various forms of identity politics associated with the “new social movements” coming out of the New Left during the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s (feminism, black nationalism, gay pride) were themselves a reaction, perhaps understandable, to the miserable failure of working-class identity politics associated with Stalinism coming out of the Old Left during the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s (socialist and mainstream labor movements). Working-class identity politics — admittedly avant la lettre — was based on a crude, reductionist understanding of politics that urged socialists and union organizers to stay vigilant and keep on the lookout for “alien class elements.” Any and every form of ideological deviation was thought to be traceable to a bourgeois or petit-bourgeois upbringing. One’s political position was thought to flow automatically and mechanically from one’s social position, i.e. from one’s background as a member of a given class within capitalist society.
posted by phrontist at 9:28 PM on January 27, 2015 [8 favorites]


A straight white dude has some concerns about the social climate adjusting to the nation's actual demographics and the dignity of all citizens? FASCINATING AND IMPORTANT, EVERYONE GATHER ROUND

I got off the train when he put "triggering" and "microaggressions" in scare quotes. Oldest story in the universe: if something isn't real to privilege, then it isn't real at all.
posted by EatTheWeak at 9:29 PM on January 27, 2015 [36 favorites]


" Trigger warnings aren’t much help in actually overcoming trauma — an analysis by the Institute of Medicine has found that the best approach is controlled exposure to it"

This proves the opposite of his point? Trigger warnings give victims the opportunity for controlled exposure. What an embarrassment.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:30 PM on January 27, 2015 [39 favorites]


From the New York article: The historical record of American liberalism, which has extended social freedoms to blacks, Jews, gays, and women, is glorious.

Well. Not quite. Here, then, is a lesson in safe logic...
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 9:31 PM on January 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Chait makes a very important point that will likely fall on deaf ears. As the right in the US morphed so rigidly into the axis of assholes, the left countered by solidifying into the coalition of finger waggers, self sabotaging any effort to appeal to middle of the road folks with endless eye rolling rap sessions, ironing out proper terminology and issuing trigger warnings. The American left is toothless, unwilling to mount political contests across huge swaths of territory across the country, preferring to retreat to ideological armchair battles that end up satisfying its most strident supporters, even if it costs sympathetic folks.

The right continues whittling down their side with anger and absurdity, but doesn't shy away from chasing political power. The lefts flirting with its own anger and absurdity doesn't even see value in building coalitions with those disillusioned on the right, unable to see the similarities it shares (or futility) with its polar opposite. America gets the left it deserves.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:31 PM on January 27, 2015 [29 favorites]


Chait was the person who was totes cool with taking a New Republic paycheck when it was putting out racist and misogynistic shit, but when a white dude lost his tasty sinecure it was the Worst Thing Ever, right? And he's been whining about it every since, especially since people who aren't white males have dared to point out he's a hypocritical fuckhead?
posted by tavella at 9:32 PM on January 27, 2015 [12 favorites]


You can take my "mansplaining" when you pry it from my cold, dead, fingers, Chait.

(I have also seen "whitesplaining" and "straightsplaining" online; I think they do the job admirably.)

The thing is, in lots of spaces and on lots of issues, it really is time for privileged people (white, straight, wealthy, etc.) to sit down and shut up. No really. It's time. There are lots and lots of voices that need to speak, and white people need to let them.

I don't mean "not be able to speak" but I do mean "let others speak when they are better qualified than you and present in the conversation." Which still leaves lots of spaces online and off where you can speak your mind about whatever whenever freely. But it is long past time for the most privileged to stop being the spokespeople for everyone else. Let someone else have the mic. In fact, when applicable, take the mic when it's offered to you and give it to someone who is actually living with the issues under discussion.

This is misinterpreted as censorship, but what it actually is is removing censorship from others. They cannot speak if we keep shouting over them.
posted by emjaybee at 9:33 PM on January 27, 2015 [57 favorites]


On Jonathan Chait, ‘Politically Correct’ Speech and the Social Media Left:
Far too few social media activists recognize this, in part because their participation in the Internet outrage cycle is a form of therapy or part of their membership in a faddish in-group. Their activities are divorced from the difficult realities of offline political movement building and uninterested in kinds of resistance that actually change things. Whatever that is, it is certainly not radicalism, and opportunist liberals like Chait shouldn’t be allowed to conflate the two.

The problem with Chait’s essay is not that he’s wrong about the absurdities of the Social Media Left; in fact, he couldn’t be more right about them. The problem is that he has turned that critique into a sweeping, self-righteous parable about the philosophical superiority of his own brand of liberalism—the kind of liberalism that, like many of Chait’s political positions, is functionally indistinguishable from conservatism.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:34 PM on January 27, 2015 [26 favorites]


Andrew Sullivan: The Left’s Intensifying War On Liberalism
To say I stood up and cheered as I finished reading Jon Chait’s new essay on the resurgence of a toxic political correctness on the left would be an understatement. There’s some great reporting in it that really helps put into context what the new guardians of the identity politics left are up to.
It has been difficult for me to take Chait and Sullivan seriously since they got the most important and obvious foreign-policy question of the last two decades spectacularly wrong.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:41 PM on January 27, 2015 [23 favorites]


That In These Times thing makes some nice observations. The appeal around "enlightenment values" in this hornet's nest always strikes me as a misdiagnosis, and just hollow.
posted by batfish at 9:52 PM on January 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm smack dab in the middle of reading this and, wow, there's just so much . . I don't even know where to start... His kind of dickish dismissal of microagressions and the "searing trauma" they cause (uh, no one microagressive act is "searing," but rather it is the cumulative effect on a person over a lifetime that is the problem - sort of like complex trauma); his inability to see how it is impossible for any two different people (no matter how similar or different) to express an idea "identically" and, more importantly, have that "identical" idea received by others identically. Ugh!... I could go on and on and I'm sure it's all covered in some of the critiques I have yet to read, but damn, I haven't read something as clueless as this article in a while.

Oh preview: This is misinterpreted as censorship, but what it actually is is removing censorship from others. -emjaybee

Couldn't agree more.

Also:
Liberals believe (or ought to believe) that social progress can continue while we maintain our traditional ideal of a free political marketplace where we can reason together as individuals. Political correctness challenges that bedrock liberal ideal. While politically less threatening than conservatism (the far right still commands far more power in American life), the p.c. left is actually more philosophically threatening. It is an undemocratic creed.

So, essentially let's just maintain what's given Jon Chait and his kind (although, you know, they are totally all only individuals, not members of any kind of group/identity) the upper hand in practically goddamn everything. God guys, why are you being so mean??!?...

And he's so blind to this, he can't even see why folks have a problem with it. And if they do, they must be wrong.
posted by the lake is above, the water below at 9:56 PM on January 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


He comes off as someone yelling at kids to get off his lawn, only he's not actually yelling at the kids, he's yelling at his elderly neighbor or maybe a tree instead, because he's not actually sure who or where the kids are who he thinks are on his lawn.

(Also, for the record, I saw that Binders Full of Women Writers discussion Chait references unfold in real time, because I am a member of that group, and he is ridiculously misrepresenting it by taking quotes out of context.)
posted by BlueJae at 10:08 PM on January 27, 2015 [13 favorites]


It's interesting how conservative media use oxymoronic language to reduce and mock complex concepts. When was the last time you heard a right-winger actually define any of the bolded terms below? I think they've just become little signifying buzzwords to tell the audience how to think whenever a certain issue comes up (offensive speech as protected speech, intersectionality, negative reactions against shittiness respectively are the main ones.) The absurdity of the oxymoronic language allows the people who use it to forget there are actual human beings with feelings in conflict against each other, and just think in terms of 'my side' vs. 'stupid contradictory lefties.'

political correctness
identity politics
the Internet outrage cycle
posted by Quilford at 10:08 PM on January 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


Andrew Sullivan: The Left’s Intensifying War On Liberalism

Ha! I used to enjoy Andrew Sullivan. Then, Gamergate. My earlier comment stands.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:13 PM on January 27, 2015


> The entire premise of the article is that what 'PC' is at the moment is not kind, but a framework to legitimize aggression, control, and vindictiveness. Agree or not, but calling people who are not entirely agreeing with you 'evil' makes his point.

But his premise is based on the idea that there is some sort of organized club of politically correct leftists forcibly suppressing people. No-one is being suppressed. You can say whatever you want. But you're more likely to be challenged over it than you were in the past, because unlike times past, it is no longer as socially acceptable to literally or figuratively bludgeon people if they object to language that they feel to be demeaning.

It's deeply and sadly self-involved to feel "silenced" by people stepping up to claim the right to open their mouths and express their own opinions about how they want to be treated.
posted by desuetude at 10:31 PM on January 27, 2015 [42 favorites]


from the Gawker link: "Excessive speech-policing by overzealous campus activists certainly happens."

Seems kinda weird to me that the Gawker writer concedes this. Was the UC-Santa Barbara anti-abortion vs professor incident an example where the consensus on the Left (?) went against the professor?
posted by mullacc at 10:42 PM on January 27, 2015


How dare we call out shitty behavior when we see it. Yes, let's just march lockstep with mainstream straight white liberalism, who cares if some people get left behind? Can't let any powerful "allies" be uncomfortable now.

People like Chait and Sullivan seem so apoplectic at the idea of microaggressions... hey, maybe they should take some of their own advice and chill out?
posted by kmz at 10:48 PM on January 27, 2015 [11 favorites]


There's a set of conceptual tools at the center of this discussion: broadly speaking you could probably invoke the label "privilege."

To the extent that Chait is attacking these conceptual tools themselves I suppose he deserves the heat he's getting, but it seems to me that's not what he's doing at all.

Rather he's describing the reality that these concepts can be used poorly and violently, like other moral conceptual tools have been in the past and continue to be (interesting how empathetic christianity can transform in the hands of an average overenthusiastic evangelical christian to resemble antagonists such as pharisees from their own canon, right?).

If you, your crowd, your heroes aren't doing that, he's probably not talking about you and you don't need to worry about defending anything.

If you are -- if you might be sometimes more zealous than thoughtful or human with the people you talk with -- then either you have something to think about... or I guess if you're sure of the righteousness of your cause, by all means double down and rock on.
posted by weston at 10:56 PM on January 27, 2015 [11 favorites]


Imagine a dystopic future where the Radical Left (tm) takes over and forces all online content to display trigger warnings under penalty of death. If you're the kind of person who's not triggered by anything, why, you'd have to spend tens, maybe even hundreds of milliseconds skipping over each one. Multiply that by the many dozens of posts/articles you read in a day, and by golly, that could add up to the length of an entire television commercial every single day!

And let's assume that 99% of people reading trigger warnings don't need them. Under these circumstances, what kind of asshole would you have to be to think that the seconds each day you spend skipping over trigger warnings isn't worth helping those people?

The bit about discourse somehow being stifled or poisoned by these warnings is absurd. The only place they're commonplace are places where people expect them to be commonplace. If someone tells Jon Chait he has to include trigger warnings in his tweets, he can tell them to fuck off. This whole thing is based on this idea of some kind of massive groundswell for trigger warnings everywhere, something that really doesn't exist.

And, as some have said above, you can't have controlled exposure unless you know what you're about to read. In other words, every single point Chait makes about trigger warnings is total horseshit.

On protesting commencement speakers, etc. the LGM post linked above has it right: "People expressing disagreement with who gets chosen to receive a hefty check to express platitudes before a captive audience, for example, are not actually attacking on free speech; they are engaging in it." Why do you hate free speech, Jonathan?

On Chait's references to so-called call-out culture, I want to know what important insights folks like Chait himself, Andrew Sullivan, Rebecca Traister, Michelle Goldberg, and Hanna Rosin aren't sharing with us because they fear a fucking Twitter backlash. These people have all have very large platforms with which to explain their choice of wording or detail exactly why their critics are misguided. So what if the mob's tweets gets more retweets than your tweets in self-defense? Your next book will be read by many times more people than will ever see that pithy takedown with a sarcastic hashtag, and the advance you get for writing it will be sure take the edge off of the pain of your fellow citizens having the audacity to voice their opinion on a platform built for exactly that purpose.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:59 PM on January 27, 2015 [21 favorites]


"How dare we call out shitty behavior when we see it. Yes, let's just march lockstep with mainstream straight white liberalism, who cares if some people get left behind? Can't let any powerful 'allies' be uncomfortable now."

Yep, that's exactly what's going on. I was right there during the height of the anti-"PC" mania and it was bullshit then and these complaints are bullshit now. Every one of these people -- including those here in this thread -- are versions of some self-important patriarch accustomed to holding forth in a genteel manner all their predictable self-justifying and exclusionary opinions and becoming absolutely fucking stunned and affronted that someone would tell them that they are self-important fuckwits who ought to shut up yesterday.

I'm a cisgendered, straight, middle-class, educated white male and I know exactly what being defensive about your privilege looks like because I've felt and behaved this way myself. I ran out of patience for this a long ways back and I am especially sick of the utter refusal to even stop and consider the mere possibility that your good-intentions and self-image and your minority friends and your belief that you're one of the good guys doesn't fucking mean that you can't possibly ever be part of the problem and that your hurt feelings is what we need to talk about right now. No, my being rude isn't the worst thing ever and no, it's not most important to avoid alienating white guys who think of themselves as allies.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:07 PM on January 27, 2015 [55 favorites]


As Lemurrhea pointed out above in the quote from Lawyers, Guns, and Money, the biggest tell in Chait's screed is his furious takedown of Catherine MacKinnon, a long-despised bugaboo of the right because of her "man-hating" philosophy and activism. But MacKinnon hasn't been all that frequently in the public eye since the early 1990s, which is when Chait was at the University of Michigan and (evidently) burned under the yoke of her scalding "radical feminist" oppression. If he has to go back that far to dig up grievances, it really is a case of him dumping virtually every imagined slight dating back to his undergrad years in one long spasm of polemic retching, in the guise of a masterpiece manifesto about the tyranny of political correctness run amok.

If you are -- if you might be sometimes more zealous than thoughtful or human with the people you talk with -- then either you have something to think about... or I guess if you're sure of the righteousness of your cause, by all means double down and rock on.

Those words might be equally addressed to Chait. Double down and rock on, indeed.
posted by blucevalo at 11:10 PM on January 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


Oh man, yes, yes, yes. There's a good handful of centre-left to centre columnists here in the UK, maybe even left-left - that were absolutely goddamn spiritually t-boned by the arrival of Twitter. These writers had long been used to their columns being a one-way channel of communication, but of course after establishing themselves on twitter suddenly found themselves open to the criticism of the hoi polloi 24/7, perhaps most notably in terms of intersectionality. And they handled this extremely badly, almost as if these social media comments were somehow equivalent to their massive platforms in print and on the Web. Very interesting to see how people can react to even the slightest rebalancing of privilege.
posted by ominous_paws at 11:22 PM on January 27, 2015 [28 favorites]


Honestly, I'd say the thing that turns most people against trigger warnings is that they often treat people like idiots. I've seen tons of trigger warnings on articles that were about the specific thing the trigger warning was for. Trigger warnings should be for unexpected triggers; if the content of an article can be easily inferred from the title or description, you shouldn't use one! It's just condescending and annoying.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:33 PM on January 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


"I thought I was spiritually t-boned once for an entire year. It turned out I was just really bored."
posted by tonycpsu at 11:42 PM on January 27, 2015 [11 favorites]


Don't forget that Chait posted out of context private communication in the article too. Wonder if he learned it from Nero? (Who am I kidding, he's always been a hack.)

Would be funny if it wasn't so sad and predictable... Amanda Palmer and Richard Dawkins are both on the Chaitrain. GGers angrily defending Chait against the mean mean folks of Black Twitter using Dawkins was a sight to see though.
posted by kmz at 11:49 PM on January 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


I am especially sick of the utter refusal to even stop and consider the mere possibility that your good-intentions and self-image and your minority friends and your belief that you're one of the good guys doesn't fucking mean that you can't possibly ever be part of the problem

This seems to be a restatement of one of Chait's underlying points.

Humans being what they are, it is likely enough that, as you say, the author could do with more reflection on it himself.

As for me, I'm not sure I'm discerning enough a reader to tell from the text alone whether he would be aware of that. But people seem very confident Chait is not, and that advice about that kind of introspection is most definitely best directed at him.

Given the gap between my uncertainty and everyone else's confidence, perhaps it's best to let the point stand on the latter.
posted by weston at 11:55 PM on January 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


weston: “As for me, I'm not sure I'm discerning enough a reader to tell from the text alone whether he would be aware of that. But people seem very confident Chait is not, and that advice about that kind of introspection is most definitely best directed at him.”

Chait has a long history of this. He's been writing 'I'm totally a liberal, but...' articles for years now; last year it was in the context of defending Barack Obama (and Bill Cosby) from Ta-Nehisi Coates' charge that black 'social conservatives' are playing into racist hands by urging personal responsibility on poor blacks. He can be an interesting guy, but lately I tend to believe he sees himself as the resurrection of the Old Left, or something like that. At the very least, his bitterness toward McKinnon seems to say a lot about him and his particular intellectual pedigree.
posted by koeselitz at 12:23 AM on January 28, 2015 [8 favorites]


Also, I have a really hard time being concerned about "too much political correctness" in a post-gamergate world.

Speaking of, guess who loves Chait?
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:37 AM on January 28, 2015 [6 favorites]


Over the years, one of the things I've written and talked about quite a bit is the very revealing bias in public discourse about sexual violence. It's all about strangers in dark parking lots and strangers abducting children in the park when, in fact, these kinds of things account for only a small portion of sexual violence against women and children and, really, the vast majority are acquaintance rapes and incest by family.

We talk about the former and don't talk about the latter because the former crimes seem both much more solvable and much more remote. Confronting the latter crimes mean confronting a much larger problem that mostly exist in our own workplaces and homes and families.

And there's a sort of unholy and unwitting alliance between most of us and the folk that want to protect the status quo of sexual violence -- they don't want us thinking and talking and doing anything about the stuff that make up the majority of the problems (or especially what that severity and ubiquity imply about the underlying causes) and we don't want to think about those things, either. So basically almost everyone has strong incentives to focus on the exceptional.

I mention all this because this is what has been long happening in our society with regard to social issues like sexism and racism and the like. We've focused on the most egregious and exceptional problems and identified them as essentially encompassing the entirety of these isms. Again, most everyone has had a strong motive to go along with this, because the people who want to protect the status quo of these isms are willing to give up the headline, most obvious things while keeping the vast majority of their everyday privileges otherwise. And the rest of us naturally really want the most obvious and horrifying stuff to stop while feeling pretty overwhelmed by that ubiquitous background noise of everything else that we don't even know how we could eliminate and it makes us tired to even really think about it.

And so as we've made big strides in eliminating these most obvious examples of these isms, our culture has done two things in response: it's declared that these problems are solved and, consequently, it's exoticized them in a way that means that saying that something is racist or sexist or the like is understood to be asserting that someone is some sort of monster for saying or doing that thing. So all this background stuff that we don't want to acknowledge or talk about anyway has become almost impossible to talk about because admitting it exists means waking up from the dream that all our problems have been solved and (supposedly) claiming that a whole bunch of people are like mustache-twirling villains. And the people who really are fairly villainous, the ones that are pretty active in maintaining and defending these isms -- this situation suits their purposes very well.

But of course there are people who won't go along with this. And in some environments, those people have a voice.

A big thing that's happening is that these voices are making it more and more difficult to pretend that all these problems have been solved and, even more to the point, these voices are speaking up alongside and sometimes in opposition to the establishment voices -- usually white men -- who have been telling us how great things are, really, and how it's not actually a problem that white guys still basically run everything and also, hey, it's racist and sexist to criticize them because they happen to be white and male.

The fact of the matter is that we've hardly solved any of these problems at all. The very fact that liberal white men -- that progressive white men -- are lecturing from on high about civility and the problems of PCism and such is proof that we've hardly solved any of these problems. For that matter, when people who lack privilege on one axis get all defensive about criticism of their privilege on another axis -- and this happens all the time, including on MetaFilter -- it's proof that we've hardly solved any of these problems. Because all of us -- all of us -- simply don't want to see the ways in which we're privileged and we are mostly deeply unwilling to even imagine that we're part of the problem.

For liberals and even progressives, this has its own particular expression. We have the prominent examples of Fox News and Rush Limbaugh and the like who are so self-evidently culture warriors protecting these traditional privileges -- these are the bad guys, we're the good guys. Being the good guys, it's just not possible that we could be part of what's wrong, too, that we could be saying and doing things everyday that reinforce and defend these traditional privileges. Because of this, in some ways we are even more defensive than the conservatives, and we are at least as certain in our righteousness.

And our refusal to be self-critical in some ways is more damaging than the similar refusal on the right -- because we have more credibility on these topics than the right does. Chait's defense of privilege is getting vastly more attention and sympathy among the very groups of people who otherwise are more likely to want to try to avoid being racist and sexist and such. His article is a big pat on the back saying, no, it's okay, you've not done anything wrong, you don't need to be self-critical, it's those other rude people who are the problem. And the conservatives get to point to Chait and say, see, even liberals admit there's a problem with these awful "social justice warriors".

I knew people in the early 90s who I thought were pretty nutty and aggressive in the ways that Chait criticizes. And being a twentysomething white guy, it seemed to me for a while that they represented a problem that I should speak up about. But, over time, what I began to notice was that they really represented only a tiny minority of the larger movement, all political movements and groups include assholes, their influence was ultimately negligible in comparison to the racists and sexists that they were fighting, and by spending my time and effort opposing these folk I was placing myself in bed with racists and sexists. I'm sorry, but at some point you need to look around yourself and go oh, shit, this is not where I want to be, these are not the people with whom I want to be making common cause.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:57 AM on January 28, 2015 [54 favorites]


As someone with PTSD, trigger warnings don't silence discussion. They are an accessibility tool that help me navigate and use the internet, and having to ask for them, or saying even here on metafilter that "hey, putting trigger warning jokes in your FPP is shitty, hurtful and upsetting" gets deletion at best and memail/email at worst calling you "oversensitive".

It's worse on the wider internet, and makes standing up for one's self and one's needs nerve-wracking, anxiety inducing and then, after ebing worn down, not feel worth the bother.

"I am especially sick of the utter refusal to even stop and consider the mere possibility that your good-intentions and self-image and your minority friends and your belief that you're one of the good guys doesn't fucking mean that you can't possibly ever be part of the problem"

See fellow white liberals going apoplectic over pushback to "jesuischarlie and the like.
posted by ShawnStruck at 1:21 AM on January 28, 2015 [8 favorites]


Every one of these people -- including those here in this thread -- are versions of some self-important patriarch accustomed to holding forth in a genteel manner all their predictable self-justifying and exclusionary opinions and becoming absolutely fucking stunned and affronted that someone would tell them that they are self-important fuckwits who ought to shut up yesterday.

This is a pretty great example of the sort of mentality Chait is getting at. "Everybody in this otherwise civil thread who disagrees with me about the magazine article a fuckwit who needs to shut up."

-A movement that is definitely NOT about trying to silence people.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:30 AM on January 28, 2015 [15 favorites]


It's only okay to silence people if you do so via the means available to privileged people.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:31 AM on January 28, 2015 [15 favorites]


It was a pretty fantastic article that got to the heart of a lot of the toxicity the online left is frequently engaging in right now

Which is why it leads with an example from 199 bloody 2.

Jonathan "I helped propagandise for the War on Iraq" Chait is just unhappy the hoi polloi can now disagree with him in public.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:39 AM on January 28, 2015 [13 favorites]


And what's really an affront to freedom of speach is NYMag's consistent refusal to pay me for writing a column telling the world what a dumb sack of shit Chait is.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:41 AM on January 28, 2015 [8 favorites]


Most of the online left criticizing the article right now is going to vote for a Democratic nominee who voted for the Iraq war as the next President. It was pretty dumb, but it doesn't disqualify a person from ever having a good idea again.

It's only okay to silence people if you do so via the means available to privileged people.

Calling people fuckwits is also a tool available to the privileged. (I'll get you back one day, Soros!)
posted by Drinky Die at 1:43 AM on January 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


Most of the online left criticizing the article right now is going to vote for a Democratic nominee who voted for the Iraq war as the next President.

Considering most of the online left chose the explicitly anti-War on Iraq the last time out over Clinton, I'd not be so certain about this.

Also, yes, some things are so dumb that I can't take anything you say after that seriously, if it turns out you were stupid enough to support the War on Iraq (and used your privileged position in the media to propagandise it).
posted by MartinWisse at 1:47 AM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also, for Chait and other confused individuals, this is what actual harassement for your ideas looks like on Twitter. Trigger warning: basically everything from rape and death threats to inducement to suicide.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:49 AM on January 28, 2015 [10 favorites]


He can be an interesting guy, but lately I tend to believe he sees himself as the resurrection of the Old Left, or something like that.

Chait's the voice of the status quo and always has been, liberal only because the sort of people who have columns in NY based magazines identify that way, interesting only because he's the sort of person who gets a column in a NY based magazine, his greatest ability to coat essentially rightwing flimflam in liberal sounding waffle.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:01 AM on January 28, 2015 [7 favorites]


When leftists start getting speakers cancelled - and you know, actually shutting down public debate - is about where I tend to step off. It's really not a good idea to bet on "surely my side wouldn't abuse power if we had it," or "[currently relatively disempowered group] can't abuse power in situations where they have it" for that matter. Protest right outside the door is just great, though, and I understand that there are situations where there are more complicated dynamics - if my university had tried to hire Thomas Friedman as my commencement speaker I would of course say "don't you dare waste money on that boot-licking hack" and hope others respond the same way. And wringing hands about how undemocratic it is that people - they're not even trained columnists, don't let them have a keyboard! - are calling you and your friends fuckwits on Twitter is the height of absurdity. Chait's take on the "Binders of Women" seems especially slimy - yup, this non-incriminating out-of-context quote from a close discussion must be way over the line, because you say so Jon. Whoever said he feels his punditly air of authority slipping away is probably right on.
posted by atoxyl at 2:04 AM on January 28, 2015 [7 favorites]


How about GamersGate is fucking evil poisonous bullshit, society's attitudes toward historically disenfranchised groups continue to fail horribly at meeting the standards of basic decency or respect, and making a deliberate attempt to silence someone else, ever, for any reason is always the wrong choice?

If people want to voice hate, let them - you know who to avoid, who to ignore, and who else they're influencing. The scale and scope of the problems remain in plain sight where nobody can pretend they don't exist. When people finally realize their error, admit it and publicly repent you don't need to worry about them continuing to hold separate but related bigotries they're now afraid to give voice to.

If people are making an effort but are still early in their development, embrace and educate them. Good intentions are the essential seeds that need to be nutured. Shutting people down or dismissing them for being insufficiently far along the path only entrenches them further, and is the preferred tactic of ideological dead-enders fighting a losing war. Social justice *must* be on the winning side of history - it is so close to achieving permanently sustainable momentum and lasting change - and winning requires building bridges and patient education. It is hard, exhausting, and absolutely vital work for actually transforming our fucked-up and toxic little society.
posted by Ryvar at 2:05 AM on January 28, 2015 [6 favorites]


Liberals who jump off the justice bus the instant their precious feefees are hurt were never on the bus for any reason other than their feefees to begin with.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:11 AM on January 28, 2015 [31 favorites]


I mean, come on, you can be nice all you want, but ultimately being nice and refusing to offend people who are wrong prevents you from ever addressing the wrong. Just shutting up and smiling and not making a fuss at best pushes back the date when the liberal jumps off the bus and decides that their feelings are more important than justice and at worst justice never happens because a lot of liberals, ultimately, do not want it and were only saying they wanted it because it felt good to say and it felt good to be the sort of person who says they want justice.

Or to be short about it, fair-weather friends who get upset about being called fair-weather friends aren't really your friends.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:19 AM on January 28, 2015 [13 favorites]


Ok, this is a total derail, but the Gawker response posted upthread compares Chait to George Foreman in this outrageous spectacle that can't possibly be real but totally is. Foreman takes on 5 challengers in 3 round bouts in order to prove...something.

Wow. I just watched the whole thing, and it's beyond insane. Foreman is just deranged from wounded pride, lashing out at anyone and everything, guys in his opponents corner, guys in his own corner, whatever. Ali's color commentary is predictably shit-talking Foreman, giving advice to his opponents, and in between rounds leading the crowd in chanting his own name. Howard Cosell is there to call it like it is, unafraid to label what he is announcing a "charade". The crowd boos the sneering Foreman, throwing his arms up in victory after failing to put away his last two opponents like he boasted.

Still, I come away from it feeling more sympathy for Foreman than I thought. Which is more than I can say for Chait after this turgid froth of entitled whining.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 2:19 AM on January 28, 2015 [7 favorites]


When leftists start getting speakers cancelled - and you know, actually shutting down public debate

And no, I don't mean that this is only something the Left does. The fact that I've seen it from the other perspective doesn't make me want to do it right back, though, it makes it clear that it's not something I want to escalate.

What I'm really saying is I believe there are probably thoughtful columns to be written on the basic topic of the reasonable limits of action against speech that you find offensive. This isn't one of them.
posted by atoxyl at 2:20 AM on January 28, 2015 [6 favorites]


Yeah, it's so bizarre people treat that as if it's only something the left does. I mean, imagine a Christian Church invited a Satanist to speak at a service. I have nothing against Satanists, but there is such a thing as the right time and place for a particular speaker. The pastor's flock would not like this move. This is not abridging free speech. A commencement doesn't need Bill Maher. He has said very offensive things and he ultimately does not have a lot of substance to bring to the table anyway. Wrong time and place.

I do worry that the left might need to pull back from taking all that too far though. Ayaan Hirsi Ali can go blow for blow with Maher for saying and believing offensive shit, but she also has an incredible life story and a lot of substance. Condoleezza Rice is similar to me. She is a brilliant person who has been a leader of this country. She has something to bring to the table as a speaker who is an incredibly successful woman of color. I think a university that isn't going to welcome them is probably a little poorer off, even if it is going to lead to some people feeling offended and having to protest the move.

Making these sorts of events more participatory might be a good thing to consider for the future. Invest some serious time in discussing and debating the person and their views ahead of the speech so everything is in more of a context.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:36 AM on January 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


The column referred to in the first two paragraphs of his article is fairly awful, sneering bullshit.

Of course the somewhat overly aggressive response referred to of people turning up to leave rude notes and splatter eggs at the authors residence seems a bit over the top (although I note that it doesn't say anyone threatened to rape him, or kill him, as happens to the female authors of even the most mild mannered feminist statements).

Really though, the column is shit. It's boilerplate "LOLfeminists, with their made up genders and constantly looking for offense where it doesn't exist" straw manning. Maybe it seems "more Charlie Brown than Charlie Hebdo" in the absence of any awareness that this sort of dismissive crap has been the standard discourse for decades, and still is pretty much everywhere but a few small spaces and some yelling on Twitter.
posted by Dext at 3:19 AM on January 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


When leftists start getting speakers cancelled - and you know, actually shutting down public debate

See, this is somewhat disingenious because it's not "leftists" that get speakers cancelled, it's students objectiving to their university spending way too much money to let some rightwing blowhard drone at them in a commencement speech.

And to be honest I have no problems if people are disruptive when godawful monsters like Rice get to speak for $$$ or object with more than a polite letter to the editor if torture apologists come to their uni. We always object to the occasional violence of the powerless, but let slide the everyday damage the powerful do.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:21 AM on January 28, 2015 [23 favorites]


Thinking about it further, what we have here is the overriding fallacy when talking about politics in America (and probably everywhere else): that it's a game played on a neutral playing field with neutral rules and that some actions are beyond the pale regardless of who does them.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:23 AM on January 28, 2015 [6 favorites]


Why are we supposed to feel sympathy for Condoleezza Rice over a cancelled commencement speech? She obviously, transparently conspired to wage an aggressive war on false pretenses. She's a war criminal who will likely never have to face justice. How many countless lives did she help ruin? Where is the sympathy for the Iraqis who died, or who will yet die for the war that will remain the most enduring achievement of her brilliant career?

Hey Chait, you pompous, incompetent fraud: Iraq is still on fire. People are still dying.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 3:24 AM on January 28, 2015 [23 favorites]


And to be honest I have no problems if people are disruptive when godawful monsters like Rice get to speak for $$$ or object with more than a polite letter to the editor if torture apologists come to their uni. We always object to the occasional violence of the powerless, but let slide the everyday damage the powerful do.
-
Thinking about it further, what we have here is the overriding fallacy when talking about politics in America (and probably everywhere else): that it's a game played on a neutral playing field with neutral rules and that some actions are beyond the pale regardless of who does them.


Not trying to push your buttons or push forward any particular debate point here, just want that to be clear because we have already had a little back and forth. I would be interested if you could expand a little more on what you mean here. I feel like obviously you think SOME actions can't really ever be justified so this is a more focused point on common protest tactics and how much they might be justified. There was an incident a while back where somebody pulled a fire alarm on a campus when there was a particularly vile MRA speaking in the building. As an action, that can't be justified in my view because it endangers innocent people.

Then we have stuff like the shoe being hurled at President Bush, and the only shame I see in that event was that he missed. Bush deserved to have it planted right on his nose. That's really the summation of my issue with how the online left is handling itself lately. It's not that I disagree with the tactics necessarily, but that I've found there is a somewhat excessive amount of friendly fire/collateral damage sometimes. The only people who really care when you hurt their "fee fees" are people who value your opinion. It's worth keeping in mind that the only reason you can hurt them is because they, at least in some small way even among the scummiest of them, think that you might be right about them.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:48 AM on January 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


Then we have stuff like the shoe being hurled at President Bush, and the only shame I see in that event was that he missed. Bush deserved to have it planted right on his nose.

Man, this times a thousand. As stated in my comment above, I believe in the inviolability of speech as a political act, but that doesn't mean it has to be permitted outside legally-defined public space or guaranteed free from consequences...

I guess what I'm proposing here is Dubya, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Condi working a speaking circuit consisting of fruit crates on street corners, and after each round of horseshit the audience is required by Constitutional Amendment to collectively throw their shoes in lieu of an applause.

This could be what heals America, people.
posted by Ryvar at 4:05 AM on January 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


The fact that he still thinks that Clinton's "Sister Souljah moment" wasn't just a transparent stunt to pander to racist southern whites and was some great turning point in Democratic politics says a lot. He's really stuck in the nineties when the DLC was the future of liberalism and alleged centrism was the Democratic Party's path out of the wilderness.
posted by octothorpe at 4:22 AM on January 28, 2015 [11 favorites]


I keep saying this but it's because it's true. Racism will only be solved by white people. Black people didn't build this edifice of subjugation and we (for the most part) are not responsible for maintaining it by our active support or passive acceptance of it. White people do that. So when would-be allies are silenced, we lose. My suburban standard midwestern-speaking self would be a fool if I tried to silence e.g. Taylor Branch because he's white and therefore doesn't know what he's talking about. That's the Ouroboros that identity politics leads to.
By the same token, me calling out Jon Chait when there are people who literally think anytime a cop shoots someone like me is legitimate is part of how we have the weakest left in the developed world. There are real enemies, a navel-gazing columnist isn't near the top of the list.
posted by Octaviuz at 4:51 AM on January 28, 2015 [15 favorites]


Shorter Chait: I don't like having to think about what I say.
posted by edgeways at 5:06 AM on January 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


Shorter Chait's Opponents: I don't like having to think about what I say.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:08 AM on January 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


Chait makes a very important point that will likely fall on deaf ears. As the right in the US morphed so rigidly into the axis of assholes, the left countered by solidifying into the coalition of finger waggers, self sabotaging any effort to appeal to middle of the road folks with endless eye rolling rap sessions, ironing out proper terminology and issuing trigger warnings. The American left is toothless, unwilling to mount political contests across huge swaths of territory across the country, preferring to retreat to ideological armchair battles that end up satisfying its most strident supporters, even if it costs sympathetic folks.

The right continues whittling down their side with anger and absurdity, but doesn't shy away from chasing political power. The lefts flirting with its own anger and absurdity doesn't even see value in building coalitions with those disillusioned on the right, unable to see the similarities it shares (or futility) with its polar opposite. America gets the left it deserves.


What a crock of shit. If anything, voting patterns from the last couple decades have told us the exact opposite. For instance, the politically-motivated left shows up to vote as much as the right does. However, far too often, large marginalized groups are turned off by the centrists, who hold in check activism that would get them motivated to vote. Also, the right has managed to hone messaging into succinct messages and concepts, as stupid/discriminatory/100% false as they may be. "Killing 'job creators'" is far easier than "raise top marginal tax rates on high earners," "death panels" is easier than "reducing per capita and overall health spending while providing better outcomes for patients, especially those with low income," and "bomb ISIL" is easier than "help build a two-state solution in Israel." Even when people disagree with the concepts of the right and agree with those of the (center-)left--Obamacare being a prime example--by the time it's gone through the complacent press, it comes out as something completely different. And finally, America just isn't a particularly leftist nation. Far too many people find GLBT icky, PoC to be some combination of scary and stupid, women's bodies too uncontrollable, Islam too terrorist-y, and the poor too coddled by Uncle Sugar. They vote more, they complain more, and they have far more resources at their disposal to block progress.

Combine all of that with old-fashioned voter shenanigans from the days of Jim Crow (sanctioned by the highest courts in the land), a press that swallows and amplifies almost every falsehood of the right, and the growth of public enforcement becoming an arm of the private elite, and the problem isn't as simple as "armchair liberals" not doing anything. Hell, I'd guess that well over 90% of Americans haven't even heard of Tumblr (where many users are too young to vote), or GamerGate, or "hashtag activism," let alone let it affect their political motivations one way or another. This concept, and Chait's pushing of it, are as stupid as so many have pointed out, and deserves the mockery it's getting.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:08 AM on January 28, 2015 [23 favorites]


By the same token, me calling out Jon Chait when there are people who literally think anytime a cop shoots someone like me is legitimate is part of how we have the weakest left in the developed world. There are real enemies, a navel-gazing columnist isn't near the top of the list.

But the same could be said to Jon Chait - there are real enemies to liberalism, and the people who are prodding Chait to check his privilege, or to pass the mic to someone with actual first-hand experience on an issue - those are not the great threat to liberalism Chait thinks they are. Getting your feelings hurt =/= getting your philosophy hurt. Criticizing Chait or other proponents of liberalism does not destroy liberalism, it attempts to improve it.
posted by sallybrown at 5:08 AM on January 28, 2015 [16 favorites]


For example, I think Coates's critique of The New Republic was extraordinarily valuable - it showed loyal followers of the magazine a legitimate view of TNR that they had apparently never considered or seen because their status meant they never had to see it. That critique would not have unfolded or been propagated the same way without Twitter. (And to be honest I think Chait's piece now is a reaction, consciously or not, to that TNR critique, because you could tell he felt it deeply.)
posted by sallybrown at 5:20 AM on January 28, 2015 [13 favorites]


When leftists start getting speakers cancelled - and you know, actually shutting down public debate - is about where I tend to step off.

Condoleezza Rice is similar to me. She is a brilliant person who has been a leader of this country. She has something to bring to the table as a speaker who is an incredibly successful woman of color. I think a university that isn't going to welcome them is probably a little poorer off, even if it is going to lead to some people feeling offended and having to protest the move.

Let's remember that the person who cancelled Condoleeza Rice's speech at Rutgers was Condoleeza Rice. The university didn't disinvite her. She didn't want to be protested. Robert Birgenau, same thing. Do you think the universities secretly pressured them to "quit rather than be fired?" I don't. When I was in college, our commencement speaker was Colin Powell. There were protests. He showed up, gave his speech, and collected his fee.

Steven Salaita, that's another story. He really was disinvited from the university for having noxious beliefs. The hard left claims another victim -- oh, wait....
posted by escabeche at 5:21 AM on January 28, 2015 [27 favorites]


She was protested and she didn't want any more. I think it's kind of dismissive of the folks who opposed her not to give them some serious credit and respect for that by saying it was her own move. I don't agree with their protest goals. but they nailed it and won.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:30 AM on January 28, 2015


See, this is somewhat disingenious because it's not "leftists" that get speakers cancelled, it's students objectiving to their university spending way too much money to let some rightwing blowhard drone at them in a commencement speech.

Um, I gave that exact scenario as a counterpoint in my comment. What I was talking about was pressure against and disruption of events, generally hosted by student clubs and societies, at which attendance is not remotely compulsory. This is real but to be fair there almost certainly aren't as many "outrageous" occurrences as certain commentators like to imply.
posted by atoxyl at 5:30 AM on January 28, 2015


I guess what I'm proposing here is Dubya, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Condi working a speaking circuit consisting of fruit crates on street corners, and after each round of horseshit the audience is required by Constitutional Amendment to collectively throw their shoes in lieu of an applause.

I would have preferred prison sentences.

This could be what heals America, people.

Is this our first concern? You can't heal people who aren't interested in being healed, which is how I interpret a lot of the poison vitriol in cable news, internet commentary, and church pulpits.
posted by aught at 5:38 AM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Increasingly I see "anti-PC" statements as "I want to spew hatred without consequences or pushback of any kind… just like the good old days."

And I see anti-anti-PC statements as "I want to spew hatred while feeling super righteous about it."

But his premise is based on the idea that there is some sort of organized club of politically correct leftists forcibly suppressing people. No-one is being suppressed.

Unless you're, say, Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Or a Muslim writer who finds it untenable to continue writing when people show up at your house to light fires and demand you get out of their community, as in the first paragraph of the essay.

It's not surprising that Gawker, or Metafilters more devoted online nasties hate this– they are, after all, the targets. Upthread, MartinWeisse explicitly says it's a liberal fallacy that "some actions are beyond the pale regardless of who does them," which is basically restating Chait's point while yelling "NOT!" rather than refuting it.

That said, I do wish he'd been more explicit about right-wing political correctness, particularly the demands to fire professors and other public figures who criticize Israel. He could have actually made some good progress on understanding the connection between the control freaks of the right and left.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 5:41 AM on January 28, 2015 [16 favorites]


So... Wait. People are seriously holding college kids up as the soul and totality of what 'the left' is all about?

You know cherry picking a subset of a group and demanding that it represents the totality of the group is always pretty tricky.
posted by edgeways at 5:42 AM on January 28, 2015 [11 favorites]


escabeche makes a good point that I shouldn't ignore the "back out at the first sign of dissent and say I was censored" factor.
posted by atoxyl at 5:44 AM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


When leftists start getting speakers cancelled - and you know, actually shutting down public debate - is about where I tend to step off.

My god! Are you telling me leftists are violating the god-given rights of people to get 10 grand for a speaking engagement! Everyone is entitled to an audience!
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 5:47 AM on January 28, 2015 [12 favorites]


jaguar: "Now, in other words, writers of color can be just as condescending and dismissive of Chait as he always was toward the left. And he hates it."

I assume the whole thing is because he's been writing about "affirmative consent" laws as if they're the end of the world, and getting called out on it. I mean he was literally writing like he's a 19-year-old dudebro who likes to have sex with drunk women and is afraid he will never have sex again because the drunk women can't, like, actually say YES, because they're too drunk, and that doesn't really seem like something he should get in trouble for.

I more or less enjoy Chait (having not been reading him during the Bush administration, so my experience of him has mostly been him taking swings at Boehner, et al), but he's been wildly, grossly, appallingly wrong and out-of-line on affirmative consent, in a way that shows he literally can't think beyond the experience of privileged white male college students, to the point that he suggested that being wrongly accused of rape was worse than actually being raped.

It's like he can't quite believe that women care so much about not being raped (especially that they would go after good liberal men, or that they would disagree with good liberal men who don't consider it their top priority) -- and he just can't leave it alone and stop telling them that they're wrong to care so much about it when we have more pressing ideological concerns to address and by the way all of your solutions inconvenience men.

Anyway it's been super-gross.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:53 AM on January 28, 2015 [34 favorites]


I mean not the WHOLE thing ... but within the past couple of months he's come in for some pretty furious criticism from those quarters, and unlike when Coates called him out, he hasn't really had a venue for a formal back-and-forth, since it's been more "every female reader of NYMag online posting in the comments that he is wrong."
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:59 AM on January 28, 2015


It is interesting, Eyebrows McGee, how these bursts of anti-"PC" whining from the center left used to be so focused on race, but now speak a coded story about gender in a very emphatic way. The locus of guilty conscience has shifted.

Not that race isn't still a huge submerged theme too. Privilege is a complex beast.
posted by spitbull at 6:14 AM on January 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


I was at college in the 90s, and what I see in social media is that the high-minded, theoretically-driven, my-trauma-is-more-traumatic-than-thou type of discourse somehow escaped the ivory tower, got an internet connection, and threw a party.

Every day on Twitter is watching someone graduate from Oppression Studies 101 and how shocked -- shocked -- they are that life is unfair, and a lot of folks have it really rough. It would be totes adorbs if it wasn't so desperately uninformed, and 18 year old level naive.

So, the discourse about oppression got out, and was followed more slowly by the bitter, uniquely academic style of tribal in-fighting: toe the ideological line or you're a traitor/unbeliever/heretic/kitten hater.

This is a borrowed revolution, and not a terribly useful one.

I mean, I already lived through all of this for 4 years. It was fun and exciting because I was a kid. Now? Tedious.

In short, #teamChait.
posted by gsh at 6:20 AM on January 28, 2015 [15 favorites]


That said, I do wish he'd been more explicit about right-wing political correctness, particularly the demands to fire professors and other public figures who criticize Israel. He could have actually made some good progress on understanding the connection between the control freaks of the right and left.

That's just a false equivalence argument, seeing as how the control freaks run the right and in many casese seem to make up a majority of their constituency. In the last election, among the notable figures the right elected were people who claimed that ISIS was working with Mexican cartels to smuggle terrorists over the border and that Obama was working with the UN to take over state/local governments and steal Americans' land. Practically their entire caucus (and therefore half of the federal legislature) went on the record as emphatically denying anthropogenic climate change. Every single congressional district in the United States supports employment protections for GLBT Americans, and yet it's not even close to being passed. I could go on and on, but the idea that the "PC control freak" crowd on the left is in any way equivalent to their counterparts on the right is laughable.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:23 AM on January 28, 2015 [14 favorites]


Man alive, but that Gawker article is devastating.

Concern trolling about "civility" is a more subtle but no less insidious and widespread attempt to control political discourse than the phantom "political correctness" Chait whinges about.

You know what's uncivil? Arguing in bad faith is uncivil. Obfuscating one's motives and goals is uncivil. Refusing to recognize one's privilege is uncivil. And Ford knows launching a disastrous war under false pretenses is uncivil. Condoleeza Rice, for one, wasn't a victim of political correctness; she, like Chait, is a moral coward who can't stand the suggestion that incivility is the least they deserve.
posted by Gelatin at 6:26 AM on January 28, 2015 [23 favorites]


The beauty of pieces like Chait's is that everyone can read them and feel persecuted. Those who feel identified with "the left" can read it and feel attacked. Those who fear or wish to fear or who are somehow troubled by this "left" can read it and feel attacked too. Everyone's a martyr! That's the genius of the phrase "political correctness."
posted by octobersurprise at 6:27 AM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


center left

American politics is so irredeemably stupid that otherwise intelligent people are forced to say things like "center left." It's one of those things which, like "lower middle class", is literally is an oxymoron, but more importantly stands in for some idea which everyone thinks they know but, if you actually could think outside of the stupid box US politics puts on your head, would realize rests on a stupid understanding (i.e. not understanding) what "left" politics means and what "class" means.

of course, your can't understand what left politics actually is if you don't understand class...

all of this dates back to the fracturing of the "left" in the US with the election of Nixon. but, specifically with how the Schactmanite and emphatically right-wing labor unions abandoned McGovern in 1972. "Social Justice" was the wedge which split both the "new left" from the non-Stalinist old left (over solidarity with Stalinist north vietnam i.e. solidarity with the vietnamese as "victims") and the feminists from the new left.
posted by ennui.bz at 6:34 AM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


It is constantly interesting (and by interesting, I mean laughable) that the people who constantly threaten to take their ball and go home on Twitter are white privileged people who get challenged by POC or LGBT folks. There's the tone of "how dare you question how I choose to be an ally to you!" in their exchanges. Again, the beauty of Twitter is that people who did not have a platform to talk about their lived experiences have one to do so. And it's telling and upsetting to see people you would generally think were on your side get really pissed off that they are being called out for being, as someone put it upthread wonderfully, a fair weather friend. One of the best things about Twitter IME are following amazing people like Mychal Denzel Smith, Mikki Kendall, Ta-Neisi Coates, because I get to learn. I shut up and learn. Though it's white dudes that come off as very horrible in a lot of these exchanges, it's been equally unhappy to see a lot of white feminists double down on usage of trans slurs and then just be absolute assholes to trans activists who are like, "Uh, hi? Can we not use that term to describe me? It's kinda gross."

All across the board: Intersectionality or GTFO.
posted by Kitteh at 6:36 AM on January 28, 2015 [21 favorites]


I swear that I have a more nuanced response to this (not that anyone asked), but all I can ever think of when this topic comes up is that great moment in Peep Show with the catch line:

IT'S POLITICAL CORRECTNESS GONE MAD!!!

I think there is more to Chait's argument than his incredibly misbegotten essay would make it seem and that the contemporary left needs to undertake a careful examination of its philosophical foundations, strategies and tactics. Because it's in a damn tailspin of failure to achieve any worthwhile policy objectives and has been basically since LBJ left office.

But instead all he seems to say is that IT'S POLITICAL CORRECTNESS GONE MAD!!
posted by dis_integration at 6:37 AM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Chait makes a very important point that will likely fall on deaf ears.

Oh no, my ears work fine, I just think Chait is a whiney concern-troll.
posted by Greg Nog at 6:44 AM on January 28, 2015 [28 favorites]


The beauty of pieces like Chait's is that everyone can read them and feel persecuted. Those who feel identified with "the left" can read it and feel attacked.

I feel neither persecuted nor attacked. I think that the whole piece is silly, that Chait is completely out of touch with most people's reality, and that his examples do not in any way support his argument. It's more of a grumpy high-school English teacher feeling, really.
posted by jaguar at 6:46 AM on January 28, 2015 [8 favorites]


The beauty of pieces like Chait's is that everyone can read them and feel persecuted.

I feel hopeful. It means the power structure is being forced to hear people who just a decade ago would never have reached a major magazine columnist. I think the ivory tower comparison is inapt, because a lot of what Chait is talking about are young people on Twitter and other social media sites who would not necessarily be the privileged college students of the 90s/00s.
posted by sallybrown at 6:53 AM on January 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


A lot of this needs to deal with two, not easily reconciled, facts.

The first is that mainstream liberalism has been of late a remarkably effective as a transmission belt into policy of what start out as far-left-wing ideas. There are no more than a handful of Democratic officeholder left in Washington who publicly oppose gay marriage, or abortion or a $10 minimum wage, or support coal.

The second is that the Democratic Party as presently constituted is utterly dependent upon the support of upper-class elites that is probably economically more aligned with Republicans but just finds them unpleasant. Obama's State of the Union was an hour of leftish policy ideas that Obama knew Congress would reject but wanted to inject into the conversation. The only one he's been forced to disclaim has been taxing 529 accounts, which overwhelmingly benefit high-income people who send their kids to expensive private schools -- the heart and soul constituency of his liberal suburb-and-cool-city-neighborhood. If Twitter and Tumblr actually ever get this elite to pay enough attention to feel threatened, this elite will abandon the liberal-left coalition in a second flat, and use their immense social and economic power in favor of Republicans. Not going to end well for the left at all.
posted by MattD at 7:01 AM on January 28, 2015 [7 favorites]


Every day on Twitter is watching someone graduate from Oppression Studies 101 and how shocked -- shocked -- they are that life is unfair, and a lot of folks have it really rough. It would be totes adorbs if it wasn't so desperately uninformed, and 18 year old level naive.

This is really the sort of discourse that I see a lot of, and is far more damaging to discussion than the occasional "check your privilege."
posted by maxsparber at 7:04 AM on January 28, 2015 [9 favorites]


Also, I have a really hard time being concerned about "too much political correctness" in a post-gamergate world.

Speaking of the 90s and the "PC crowd," GamerGate is a perfect example. In the 90s, the press and a whole bunch of people absolutely lost their shit over violence in video games. It was front-page stuff sometimes, and yet it all turned out to be much ado about nothing. Nowadays, not only is the representation of women in video games almost completely ignored outside of the groups Chait complains about, but the overwhelmingly nasty and violent response to it has as well, especially in the US. And when it is, the same dismissive and minimizing quibbling and false equivalence arguments being made here and elsewhere always get trotted out. To people like Chait (many of whom are also pundits), it's just a bunch of hysterical PC SJWs getting their panties in a bunch over stupid video games, not real news. They're the real villains, what with their thought policing and unwillingness to meet dangerous psychopaths halfway.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:05 AM on January 28, 2015 [7 favorites]


mainstream liberalism has been of late a remarkably effective as a transmission belt into policy of what start out as far-left-wing ideas. There are no more than a handful of Democratic officeholder left in Washington who publicly oppose gay marriage, or abortion or a $10 minimum wage, or support coal.

I don't see it the same way -- supporting abortion rights is hardly radical lefty politics, nor are supporting a livable minimum wage (not a ten-year-old setting that's been utterly degraded by inflation) and opposing dirty fossil fuels. Only gay marriage has moved in from the far end of the Overton window.

What I see is the kind of thing that Chait truly fears, that milquetoast centrism has had to compete with actual liberal -- not "far left" -- ideas, and in response tries to brand those ideas as radical just like movement conservatism has worked for years -- no, decades -- to do. That's why I have regarded the "even-the-liberal" New Republic as a joke for much of Chait's tenure there.
posted by Gelatin at 7:08 AM on January 28, 2015 [6 favorites]


Since no one in support of Chait is making a coherent argument on their own, here is an outline:

Please tell me what is wrong with the concept of trigger warnings.

Please tell me what is wrong with trans*/gay/nonwhite/poor/women having a louder voice in public discourse.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:10 AM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's like he can't quite believe that women care so much about not being raped (especially that they would go after good liberal men, or that they would disagree with good liberal men who don't consider it their top priority) -- and he just can't leave it alone and stop telling them that they're wrong to care so much about it when we have more pressing ideological concerns to address and by the way all of your solutions inconvenience men.

There are guys (maybe a lot of guys) who have never been able to get past the idea that they would have the best time in the world if only they were a good looking woman. That they would have nasty and fabulous sex all the time, that the world would be their oyster. It's a view totally divorced from the reality of being a woman. In many ways, I think it's the most objectifying possible view of women. Whenever I see a man downplaying the consequences of being raped, I think they are probably one of those guys. "Rape may be bad, but it's sex after all, and if I were a woman I'd want to be fucking all the time."
posted by OmieWise at 7:11 AM on January 28, 2015 [15 favorites]


I feel hopeful. It means the power structure is being forced to hear people who just a decade ago would never have reached a major magazine columnist.

Me too! The latter sentence is a perfect encapsulation of what he's so upset about.

These guys are just loudly panicking after being confronted with the idea that their own viewpoint might not always be out front and center at all times, and I just can't get mad about it because it doesn't sound like anything but a series of embittered last gasps issued by a slowly dying hegemony. I feel like every time I read an article by a pseudo-liberal dude complaining about political correctness gone maaaaad, an intersectional angel gets its wings. I also enjoy imagining myself waiting at the bottom of their woefully impotent screeds, holding out a big coffee mug labeled Angry Rich White Guy Tears, from which I will always quaff with great delight.

Dudes like this are used to having their voices ring out the loudest in every single conversation about everything, including (especially?) conversations involving issues they have absolutely no personal stake in whatsoever, usually gender or race with a side order of class. You see it here on MeFi ALL THE TIME. But with the advent of social media, historically marginalized populations have given themselves a variety of platforms from which their voices can also be heard. Jonathan Chait and his cohort are naturally devastated by this development, since they are only truly comfortable living in a world that vociferously mirrors their idea of themselves as the true arbiters of What Really Matters -- spoiler alert: it isn't race, class, or gender. Thus they are moved take to their much further-reaching platforms to complain about the fact that anyone with a different viewpoint has the gall to access to any kind of platform at all. These marginalized voices have always been so quiet, just the way God intended, but now they're getting all loud and uppity! Who do they think they are?!

I'm a lifelong Democrat who's super-annoyed and regularly infuriated by the impotence of large-scale liberalism, too, but not for remotely the same reasons Chait is. Broadly, he thinks 'our' side pays too much attention to historically marginalized voices; I think we're hamstrung because we don't pay nearly enough.
posted by divined by radio at 7:12 AM on January 28, 2015 [29 favorites]


The first is that mainstream liberalism has been of late a remarkably effective as a transmission belt into policy of what start out as far-left-wing ideas. There are no more than a handful of Democratic officeholder left in Washington who publicly oppose gay marriage, or abortion or a $10 minimum wage, or support coal.

I find it odd to refer to gay marriage as a far left-wing idea. It's straight Mattachine Society assimilationism, came up via liberal-not-leftist institutions like The New Republic, and was won through the standard liberal approach of court battles rather than the leftist approach of street protests. And as for support for coal, that handful has been pretty effective in keeping it in place.

This is sort of the underlying issue below these battles that Chair alludes to at the end. The social left in America has an unbroken record of failure to influence policy. Trans people can still be legally discriminated against, but a sex columnist won't say "the t-word". If you think the latter is as important as the former, the online left looks pretty good, but it not, it's self-regard seems comically misplaced.

It's like he can't quite believe that women care so much about not being raped

This is wildly untrue. He has said in his opinion, affirmative consent laws will make more people vulnerable to legal threat who have not committed rape (and given America's racial history, that's a valid fear) while doing little to reduce rape. You are making a bad faith argument.

Please tell me what is wrong with the concept of trigger warnings.

Personally, I have no problem with putting a trigger warning notice on a syllabus, but when the administration urges professors to consider removing works that require trigger warnings, there's a problem.

Please tell me what is wrong with trans*/gay/nonwhite/poor/women having a louder voice in public discourse.

When everyone is yelling, then no one can hear.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:26 AM on January 28, 2015 [10 favorites]


The internet has shrunk the distance between p.c. culture and mainstream liberal politics

It's hard for me not to read this line as "Ta-Nehisi Coates had the temerity to argue with me"
posted by Greg Nog at 7:26 AM on January 28, 2015 [20 favorites]


When everyone is yelling, then no one can hear.

That doesn't actually answer the question.
posted by OmieWise at 7:29 AM on January 28, 2015 [14 favorites]


Please tell me what is wrong with the concept of trigger warnings.

I don't support Chait's essay in the slightest, aside from the general fear that something is awry in contemporary liberalism. I think he feels that itch and is misplacing the blame in a pretty dramatic way, one that reveals his biases.

But trigger warnings: as Judy Berman puts it in her criticism of Chait, and expands in a longer piece, trigger warnings are infantilizing of adults and in any case fail to be backed up by any evidence that they're effective. Most importantly, they only allow people to control the most overt expressions of what might induce a traumatic episode, and therefore give a false sense of security. It's just as likely, if not more likely, that something like a smell, a sound, or a combination of normally innocent words will induce a reliving of trauma than explicit references to the trauma itself. I know exactly what it's like to be traumatized, and to have that trauma come rushing back all at once in an overwhelming punch to the gut. But it's usually oblique things, like the smell of hospital disinfectant, or discussion of the opposite of the trauma (like the idea of someone living healthily into old age) that get me going, less than explicit discussions. In my case, it's come rushing back even when I should have expected it, like in the middle of teaching a class on material I'd already read through and prepped for, and so should have noticed beforehand whether it would be difficult for me to discuss. Trauma is caught up very closely with the specific details of the situation in unpredictable ways. So if we make trigger warnings mandatory, we risk getting into situations where someone starts to read/watch/experience something that they think is going to be safe for them, only for it not to be safe for them in ways that the creator of that content could not possibly predict. Which could perhaps be more harmful than if they had kept their emotional guard up. But that being said, do voluntary trigger warnings really do harm? Not really. There's nothing wrong with saying: this article will discuss violence, sexual assault, death, abuse, etc., in a way which might make you uncomfortable or worse.

I don't know how anyone could object to giving a louder voice to marginalized groups of people.
posted by dis_integration at 7:30 AM on January 28, 2015 [9 favorites]


Andrew Sullivan: The Left’s Intensifying War On Liberalism

Well, if Liberalism didn't look like 1980's conservatism, we wouldn't have to fight it.

Sincerely -

A dirty fucking hippy.
posted by eriko at 7:34 AM on January 28, 2015 [13 favorites]


When everyone is yelling, then no one can hear.

So basically, women shut the fuck up and let the white men doing the talking.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:36 AM on January 28, 2015 [21 favorites]


No one claims that trigger warnings protect someone from any of the sights, sounds, or smells that may possibly be associated with a traumatic event. The whole point of trigger warnings is to reduce the total number of incidents that people are re-traumatized, while being realistic that we can't prevent all harm.


The social left in America has an unbroken record of failure to influence policy. Trans people can still be legally discriminated against, but a sex columnist won't say "the t-word".

I wonder if it's because central and right America push back at any modicum of progressive progress in the legal system, but we can - at the same time - fight on other popular battlegrounds that aren't dependent on the law?
posted by nicodine at 7:40 AM on January 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


ThatFuzzyBastard, I know know know this is absolutely not how you meant it to sound, and I think I understand what you meant, but yeah
When everyone is yelling, then no one can hear.
in this context does sound an awfully lot like "keep quiet" to all the non white/male/"normative" members of the internet.
posted by edgeways at 7:41 AM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think "trigger Warnings" may be overdone but when done correctly they are just fine.
posted by edgeways at 7:43 AM on January 28, 2015


I mean, people who want trigger warnings say the warnings are effective (not just effective - necessary) for them. That is good enough for me. Why is it so hard for people to be kind when it is a completely harmless solution (trigger warnings, not removing readings that would require trigger warnings)?
posted by sallybrown at 7:43 AM on January 28, 2015 [10 favorites]


what I see in social media is that the high-minded, theoretically-driven, my-trauma-is-more-traumatic-than-thou type of discourse somehow escaped the ivory tower, got an internet connection, and threw a party.

I think I must be on another Internet; my social media is filled with pictures of grumpy cats and weather updates.
posted by jb at 7:47 AM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


This piece prompted John Hodgman to write this series of tweets.

My reaction is similar to John Hodgman, probably because we're about the same age. We're both like, "You realize we're both guys that went to liberal arts colleges in the early 1990s? Political correctness? Not too worked up about that, 'cause I've already been there, done that, bought the T-shirt." Asking me for my opinion on political correctness is such a 1990s thing, like expecting me to have an opinion on Better than Ezra.
posted by jonp72 at 7:50 AM on January 28, 2015 [6 favorites]


He comes off as someone yelling at kids to get off his lawn, only he's not actually yelling at the kids, he's yelling at his elderly neighbor or maybe a tree instead, because he's not actually sure who or where the kids are who he thinks are on his lawn.

Old Man Yells At Cloud
posted by jonp72 at 7:52 AM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


No one claims that trigger warnings protect someone from any of the sights, sounds, or smells that may possibly be associated with a traumatic event. The whole point of trigger warnings is to reduce the total number of incidents that people are re-traumatized, while being realistic that we can't prevent all harm.

That's perhaps a more reasonable reading of trigger warnings. That they're like film ratings (which incidentally has to be the prior art for them, it occurs to me). But it's hard to get on the bandwagon when lists of possible triggers include snakes, spiders, insects, vomit and slimy things. It really sounds like the attempt is being made here to cover absolutely everything.

Suppose trigger warnings are made mandatory for me in my syllabi. If snakes, spiders, insects, vomit and slimy things are included as triggers, just what is not? I know people with a great fear of dogs. Should we put trigger warnings before adorable dog videos? This is not a facetious question. If snakes are included, why not dogs? And so on.

I try and use both common sense and compassion in preparing my students for difficult material. That should be the standard. When my common sense fails, and compassion runs short, I hope that someone corrects me, and that I can correct myself on the basis of that. But beyond that I don't know what else I can do.

I assure you I'm never going to put a trigger warning about insects before I teach Kafka's Metamorphosis. It's undignified, and students should be insulted by it.
posted by dis_integration at 7:52 AM on January 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


So, the discourse about oppression got out, and was followed more slowly by the bitter, uniquely academic style of tribal in-fighting: toe the ideological line or you're a traitor/unbeliever/heretic/kitten hater.

Not "uniquely academic" (translation: leftist whiners) at all. For my money, the biggest tribal in-fighting and ideological purity purges I've ever seen are the ones going on for the past five years within the Republican Party and the Fox News crowd. Talk about toeing the ideological line or else.

Conservative funders with deep pockets have been hard after universities as a target since at least the late 1970s and the John Olin Foundation's drive to mount an "counterintelligentsia" to counter perceived liberal dominance, and on forward to the days of Lynne Cheney decrying universities as "re-education camps" and the publication of Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind and Dinesh D'Souza's Illiberal Education. People have been well-trained by think tanks and the mass media to resent the mythical Leftist University PC Radicalism Hotbed for decades now, and the latest incarnation of that is the fanciful notion that somehow university sleeper cells of indoctrinated PC agents are hatching out of their "ivory tower" confines and infecting the larger discourse and the Twitterverse with their paranoia, entitlement, and defeatism. William Simon's idea that persistent and pervasive conservative influence over knowledge production would "trickle down" into the public arena has had a far wider effect on the discourse in the past 40 years than any perceived leftist infiltration. A look at the well-established presence of Olin-funded courses, curricula, and thought centers at campuses like Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Berkeley, Columbia, the University of Michigan, the University of Virginia, the University of Chicago, and so forth bears that out.
posted by blucevalo at 7:53 AM on January 28, 2015 [14 favorites]


Whoa whoa whoa. I know things can get heated in here but let's not post anything about Better Than Ezra we're going to regret later.
posted by kmz at 7:56 AM on January 28, 2015 [19 favorites]


The fact that he still thinks that Clinton's "Sister Souljah moment" wasn't just a transparent stunt to pander to racist southern whites and was some great turning point in Democratic politics says a lot. He's really stuck in the nineties when the DLC was the future of liberalism and alleged centrism was the Democratic Party's path out of the wilderness.

By the way, whatever happened to Sister Souljah? I'm just a white guy who listened to some rap in the 1990s, but even I thought that Sister Souljah moment was lame. She had no credibility with anybody who listened to rap at the time, and she was a marginal member of Public Enemy's entourage, even back then.
posted by jonp72 at 7:58 AM on January 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


"That Gawker article" or "the Gawker piece" or "the Gawker link" has an author. It's written by Alex Pareene.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:01 AM on January 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


all of this dates back to the fracturing of the "left" in the US with the election of Nixon. but, specifically with how the Schactmanite and emphatically right-wing labor unions abandoned McGovern in 1972.

Sometimes, I think that the whole unraveling of the New Deal/Great Society hegemony can be traced to the mundane fact that George Meany of the AFL-CIO thought antiwar hippies were a bunch of "faggots."
posted by jonp72 at 8:03 AM on January 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


let's not post anything about Better Than Ezra we're going to regret later.

I'll just leave the Better Than Better Than Ezra EP here.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:04 AM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Use of on-line and off-line harassment to enforce political orthodoxy is a problem. The recent smear campaign against Charlie Hebdo, which Chait alluded to several times, but made no attempt to dissect, is troubling and would be worth discussing if that's what we were discussing.

However, Chait mostly seems to be upset about Asian-Americans venting about being asked the same dumb questions over and over again, the use of 'trigger warnings' as a courtesy on some websites, black people speaking up for themselves in political discussions, and feminists disagreeing with each other about stuff.

There's a difference between harassment and spreading lies about people, and engaging in discussion, criticism and dissent. Chait seems to equate the two, at least when the wrong kind of people are doing the discussing and dissenting.
posted by nangar at 8:04 AM on January 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


That Chait piece really is disingenuous. Even his cherry-picked anecdote about mansplaining contains unwarranted and untrue assumptions about the definition and scope of mansplaining (yes, an answer to a question can be mansplaining even if the question is asked by a man; answers from a White House press secretary can and should be intended for an audience of more than one).

Chait is being so intellectually dishonest in his piece, I can't and won't finish it.
posted by infinitewindow at 8:07 AM on January 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


At a growing number of campuses, professors now attach “trigger warnings” to texts that may upset students

Anyone have an actual number for Chait's "growing number of campuses"? Also, how many professors at each of these increasingly trigger-warning-happy campuses are attaching the warnings?
posted by ndfine at 8:14 AM on January 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


Anyone have an actual number for Chait's "growing number of campuses"? Also, how many professors at each of these increasingly trigger-warning-happy campuses are attaching the warnings?

As far as I know, the two places that have made the news about this are Oberlin and Rutgers. There are vague references to "requests being made at other campuses" although I don't really know how serious those requests are. Within my own intellectual orbit, the topic has never seriously come up as something that would be imposed upon us. I suspect the fear is overblown, which I say even though I just ranted and raved about how distasteful I find some of it.

I will say that among my cohort of PhDs and ABDs, i.e., far and radically-far-left liberal arts scholars in their late 20s and early 30s there is a not insignificant feeling that one really ought to be including trigger warnings. Which I do do in my syllabi, except I never use the words "trigger warning", but rather some variation of "Be aware that this reading will discuss the topic of suicide, etc., if you feel that this material will cause you discomfort, come to my office hours and we can arrange for an alternative assignment" etc. To me it's the same as dealing with students with anxiety disorders: you make the accommodations necessary to ensure that the student can have a productive college experience.
posted by dis_integration at 8:23 AM on January 28, 2015 [12 favorites]


I see them a lot. But I study war. And there are a lot of veterans in my classes, so it's entirely reasonable to warn them that some of the texts they may read will contain graphic depictions of war, which is an obvious trigger for PTSD.

Notably, none of the anti-trigger warning people say jack shit about how veterans who have been through war are whiney babies who never want their feelings hurt. It's only if you are a woman and have been raped that reliving your trauma is not a big concern.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:24 AM on January 28, 2015 [45 favorites]


I still maintain the very term "political correctness" is just a tricky rhetorical device meant to make being polite into something esoteric and academic sounding so it's easier to dismiss, because in essence, "politically correct," defined as being careful not to offend a disadvantaged group, is just a special case of being polite (being careful not to offend anyone who might be offended).

"Political correctness" has become a rhetorical technology for helping people justify and rationalize away impolite behavior. By relabeling rudeness as "political incorrectness," a politically controversial idea while rudeness is not, people conceptually trick themselves into thinking what they are doing is somehow defensible as an intentional political stance. It's not.

When a person says they are being politically incorrect, that's really just another way of saying they are being deliberately rude but only to a subset of people. All the politics around PC are just an elaborate ritual to give people a pass on observing basic social decorum in certain circumstances.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:24 AM on January 28, 2015 [21 favorites]


You know GROWING NUMBERS!!!!

Surely just as many as who edited out (pardon me) "nigger" from Huckleberry Finn. A short lived but oh so fraught moment in our long national obsession with lesbians with guns er .. ebola oh wait I mean undocumented children, um black panthers? Communist sleeper cells surely? wait I mean MuslimsTHE FLU THAT WILL KILL US ALLLLL.
I guess it was Politically Correct language and Trigger Warnings that turned out to be the scourge of all civilization. I mean seriously kids these days don't know the value of a dollar and never worked a day in their lives amiright?
posted by edgeways at 8:24 AM on January 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


A lot of this discussion brings to mind a salient quote by MLK (who was involved in a few street protests in his day), from Letter From A Birmingham Jail:
I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
The letter, BTW, was written in response to a group of white "allies" who nominally agreed with King's views but thought his actions were too provocative. But I'm sure they meant well.
posted by kmz at 8:25 AM on January 28, 2015 [29 favorites]


Nobody complaining about the protests against commencement speakers has made an affirmative case for why controversial speakers disliked or despised by a large segment of the student body (e.g. Condi Rice) are entitled to or should be given a platform to talk to a captive audience without any chance for a rebuttal.

These speeches kind of a dumb tradition to begin with, but assuming they must continue to exist, would you want your graduation day tarnished by a speech from someone you believe is a war criminal? Alternatively, let's say you have a neutral or even positive opinion of Condi -- would you want your ceremony interrupted by heckling and booing?

I can already hear calls of "heckler's veto", as if a commencement speech is an open exchange of ideas. It's never been that. It's a chance to have people hear some lame motivational speaking platitudes from some generally widely-respected somewhat notable person who has nothing better to do on a Saturday afternoon in May. That's all it's ever been.

Nobody's entitled to receive these speaking engagements or honorary degrees. The students have a say in who their university extends those invitations to. The idea that this is somehow indicative of a mass silencing of dissent is ludicrous. Condi Rice and Ayaan Hirsi-Ali would be given a chance to speak at nearly any college in the country as long as there was a chance for other points of view to be heard. That's not what commencement addresses or honorary degree ceremonies are. If you want to be the kind of person who gets those gigs, maybe try not doing things that anger a large portion of the student body at the schools you want to speak at.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:26 AM on January 28, 2015 [16 favorites]


Personally I'd be fine with Rice being invited to speak by a university, with the stipulation that she'd have to deliver the speech she planned to give on September 11, 2001.
posted by Gelatin at 8:34 AM on January 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


You know what? I'm so glad that yet another non-Asian has decided to tell me what I, an actual Asian, should be offended by.

Fuck this gweilo. In the ear. I know that's not PC, but Chait? You didn't want PC anyways. Go eat mayonnaise and try to hit on Asian women like your kind does.

I can say this shit. Some of my best friends are white. Or liberal. Or whatever it is you are. Stupid?
posted by qcubed at 8:35 AM on January 28, 2015 [7 favorites]


Greenwald: The Petulant Entitlement Syndrome of Journalists
Let’s acknowledge some valid points among this strain of commentary, including Chait’s article. Certain groups of writers – racial and religious minorities, women, LGBT commentators – are subjected to a particularly noxious form of abuse, even when they have prominent platforms. The use of social media to bully kids or other powerless people is a serious menace. [...]

But the general journalistic complaint about uppity online hordes – and certainly Chait’s epic whine – is grounded in a much more pedestrian and self-regarding concern: anger over being criticized in less than civil and respectful tones by people who lack any credentials (and thus entitlement) to do so. This genre of journalistic grievance, in most cases, is nothing more than unhappiness over the realization that many people dislike what you say, or even dislike you, for reasons you regard as invalid. There’s just nothing more to it than that, no matter how much they try to dress it up as something lofty and profound.

I empathize with the experience (though not with the grievance). Literally every day, I come across online attacks on me that are either based on outright fabrications or critiques I perceive to be fundamentally unfair or inaccurate. [...] All of that can create a disincentive for engaging on those topics: the purpose of it is to impose a psychic cost for doing so, and one is instinctively tempted to avoid that.

Of course, all of that can be unpleasant or – if one allows it to be – worse than unpleasant. Like everyone, I’m human and hold some of my critics in contempt and view some attacks as malicious if not formally defamatory. I’m not exempt from any of those reactions.

But that’s the price one pays for having a platform. And, on balance, it’s good that this price has to be paid. In fact, the larger and more influential platform one has, the more important it is that the person be subjected to aggressive, even harsh, criticisms. Few things are more dangerous than having someone with influence or power hear only praise or agreement. Having people devoted to attacking you – even in unfair, invalid or personal ways – is actually valuable for keeping one honest and self-reflective.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:43 AM on January 28, 2015 [21 favorites]


I went to U-Mich at the same time as Jon Chait and we had friends in common. I very well remember the Carol Jacobsen incident. I was in the room when Dr. Catharine MacKinnon was shouted over by raging libertarians as she tried to explain her position. I find it ironic when people who try to drown out others with whom they disagree claim they worship free speech. I just saw Jon's article as more of the same type of thing.

(And boy, is he ever long-winded! When he wrote for the Michigan Daily before the Internet, the physical layout of the paper necessitated word counts. Now people can just ramble on forever.)

I don't have time to read all the links and comments. But I read the article, and what strikes me most is that he's been grinding the same axe for more than two decades and he's sort of sounding like a sad old man. He hasn't grown beyond college ideologies. I guess those ideologies were really working for him until writers of color and other genders than male started comparing notes online and going public with their outrage. And outrage is a perfectly appropriate response when you realize that the water torture-like daily drip you experience has a name (microaggressions) and it's about your race, class, or gender, rather than just that you're kind of dumb and not worth listening to...and no one told you because it serves the powerful to pretend that racism and sexism are things of the past.

I used to sympathize much more with libertarian ideas-- when I was much younger, and more naive to my own privilege (white) and my own oppression (female, poor) and how they intersect. Understanding what microaggressions are was an empowering revelation to me. Jon seems to be displaying a lack of empathy here, one which I encountered a lot from other libertarian men I knew. I dated one of them for a while, and it was his lack of empathy for me and blindness to his own privilege that made me end up leaving him, although at the time I couldn't articulate my discomfort.

Jon has built a career on being a libertarian journalist. The so-called "PC movement" (a quaint term, now it's "SJW") is a perceived threat to his livelihood and I think that, more than anything, is why in early middle age he is still tilting at the windmill of "PC oppression." He's a professional ideologue. He's been groomed for this since college. It's his schtick. To examine his privilege would dismantle where his bread and butter comes from. I think this will always keep him stuck in the 90s and for me it's just kind of pathetic.
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 8:49 AM on January 28, 2015 [24 favorites]


Jon seems to be displaying a lack of empathy here

And more than that, asserting a right not to be criticized for it.
posted by Gelatin at 8:55 AM on January 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


Please tell me what is wrong with the concept of trigger warnings.

Please tell me what is wrong with trans*/gay/nonwhite/poor/women having a louder voice in public discourse.


1. If, as noted above, everything from rape to snakes (snakes?) and things in between can all be "triggers," how in the world can a curriculum - can a society - be designed in order to allow individuals to avoid topics that might "re-traumatize" them, given that every human being in the world has been traumatized by something?

2. There is **nothing** wrong with allowing historically marginalized groups to have a louder voice in public discourse. The problem comes when we assume that, due to prior discrimination, they now deserve to have the LOUDEST voice, the controlling say, in public discourse; and that anyone who dares disagree with them or argue their points self-evidently does so from a position of bad faith or attempting to hold on their "privilege."

The assumption on the social justice left seems to be that when a white/male/cis-gendered person engages with a historically marginalized group in the public sphere, that "privileged" person or group now has a moral obligation to stand down and accept that their view is incorrect, and likely immoral.

This is public discourse as a zero-sum game.
posted by kgasmart at 8:56 AM on January 28, 2015 [14 favorites]


You do realize that people who design curriculums for a living have no problem at all letting their students know about potentially triggering content in their course. I assure you they can handle it

And no, not everyone in the world has been traumatized by something. How can you not get this? Not everyone has been raped or bombed. It's not about 'offending' anyone, it's about AVOIDING TRIGGERING SOMEONE'S PTSD.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:02 AM on January 28, 2015 [10 favorites]


1. If, as noted above, everything from rape to snakes (snakes?) and things in between can all be "triggers," how in the world can a curriculum - can a society - be designed in order to allow individuals to avoid topics that might "re-traumatize" them, given that every human being in the world has been traumatized by something?

But that's not what trigger warnings are in a vast majority of cases. The "snakes" thing is a total red herring cherry-picked to caricature the actual use of these warnings, which are actually very rare on the internet, and virtually nonexistent in print. When they are present -- mostly in places that aim to be safe spaces or cater to readers who prefer to err on the side of caution -- they're usually for things that trigger a much larger proportion of the population.

The problem comes when we assume that, due to prior discrimination, they now deserve to have the LOUDEST voice, the controlling say, in public discourse; and that anyone who dares disagree with them or argue their points self-evidently does so from a position of bad faith or attempting to hold on their "privilege."

You put privilege in scare-quotes, so I now realize I'm wasting my time by responding to you, but be honest -- who do you think really has more of a voice -- Jonathan Chait, or someone retweeting something nasty about Jonathan Chait?
posted by tonycpsu at 9:03 AM on January 28, 2015 [18 favorites]


1. If, as noted above, everything from rape to snakes (snakes?) and things in between can all be "triggers," how in the world can a curriculum - can a society - be designed in order to allow individuals to avoid topics that might "re-traumatize" them, given that every human being in the world has been traumatized by something?

I think you betray your misunderstanding here in two ways.

1) Including a trigger warning somewhere does not mean that everyone who might be triggered can or should avoid the topic, it just provides fair warning so that people can be prepared and govern themselves accordningly.

2) "Every human being in the world" may have been traumatized by something, but that does not mean that all traumas are the same. No one is arguing that we include trigger warnings on packages of dark chocolate to soothe the psyches of people who have previously been traumatized by mistaking it for milk chocolate. Reverting to a stance that essentially dismisses the relevance or damage of the kinds of trauma people are actually talking about, by pretending that no one has any sense and everyone is trying to put one over on you, does not make your argument seem particularly engaged with the issues at hand. To put it another way, people have been arguing for a long time that marriage equality is a mistake because allowing two men to marry will mean we have to let people marry their dogs. Those people are bigoted assholes.
posted by OmieWise at 9:06 AM on January 28, 2015 [23 favorites]


If, as noted above, everything from rape to snakes (snakes?) and things in between can all be "triggers," how in the world can a curriculum - can a society - be designed in order to allow individuals to avoid topics that might "re-traumatize" them, given that every human being in the world has been traumatized by something?

To clarify, "noted above" is from some random Tumblr, right? Are there a large number of curricula that have trigger warnings about snakes?
posted by ndfine at 9:07 AM on January 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


To clarify, "noted above" is from some random Tumblr, right?

Yes.
posted by GenericUser at 9:09 AM on January 28, 2015


Also, I apologize for using cap locks. We know that if a member of the PC brigade shouts, a white privileged male loses their sinecure.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:09 AM on January 28, 2015 [7 favorites]


The problem comes when we assume that, due to prior discrimination, they now deserve to have the LOUDEST voice, the controlling say, in public discourse

But that seems like less a characterization of anything that's happened in practice in the general public discursive sphere and more a huge extrapolation from the fact that some of these voices are now becoming at all audible. A lot of people who have been accustomed to being the loudest voice in the room are distinctly uncomfortable when other voices start breaking into the conversation and can't just be talked over; a whisper is treated as fair as long as its not too insistent, and more than that is a clamorous intrusion.

Ceding some ground on a platform you've previously by sheer circumstance been allowed to unreasonably monopolize is not a great big thing to ask of a person or a group. If you're concerned its going to make things more crowded, think about how it must feel for all the folks who have been jammed into the corner this whole time.
posted by cortex at 9:09 AM on January 28, 2015 [43 favorites]


But it's hard to get on the bandwagon when lists of possible triggers include snakes, spiders, insects, vomit and slimy things.

Dang, that tumblr is a really striking example of the rarefaction and internality of so much of this discourse. You have to already be on board with so many antecedent ideological and cultural commitments to even understand what's going on here, let alone "try on" these prescriptions in any kind of a psychologically real way. It is very much conversation about the rules of the local sandbox, as is this whole thing...
posted by batfish at 9:12 AM on January 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


The way I always heard it, being the privileged party in a conversation doesn't require me to be quiet, but it does mean I should listen carefully.
posted by LogicalDash at 9:15 AM on January 28, 2015 [13 favorites]


Is it really controversial to assert that "trans*/gay/nonwhite/poor/women" should have the loudest voice in discussions about them? Traditionally, they have not. Currently, they still usually do not - remember the contraception hearings in the House that featured an almost 100% male panel? What's changing is that social media is ever so slowly leveling the playing field, so that people who have not lived the "trans*/gay/nonwhite/poor/women" experience but have traditional platforms like opinion columns and like to use those to speak out with authority on that experience are forced to deal with people with first-hand information, who *actually do* know better. Twitter allows for instant mockery of the sort of person who goes "Well, I might not be black, but I majored in African-American Studies, so this is why, you, black person, are wrong about what it's like to be a black person in America." How is that anything but a good thing? And why are some people so wildly unable to look at themselves and realize they're sometimes wrong?
posted by sallybrown at 9:19 AM on January 28, 2015 [25 favorites]


I just found out what a sinecure is a now I want one.
posted by Gor-ella at 9:26 AM on January 28, 2015 [7 favorites]


GUYS. A WHITE MAN IS TRYING TO TELL YOU SOMETHING IMPORTANT. A LITTLE RESPECT PLEASE.
posted by Enemy of Joy at 9:27 AM on January 28, 2015 [10 favorites]


. If, as noted above, everything from rape to snakes (snakes?) and things in between can all be "triggers," how in the world can a curriculum - can a society - be designed in order to allow individuals to avoid topics that might "re-traumatize" them, given that every human being in the world has been traumatized by something?

You don't know what "trauma" means. It is a clinical term in this context.

You don't know why people are asking for warnings.
posted by PMdixon at 9:31 AM on January 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


> he's been grinding the same axe for more than two decades

Dinesh D'Souza and Laura Ingraham both graduated from my alma mater, a few years before I got there (lucky me). They have both invested heavily in axe blade companies over the years, I hope.

By contrast, the most dedicated lefty loudmouths that I knew and worked with - the ones I took over administration buildings with, planned trustee meeting disruptive actions with, slept in uninsulated shanties on the Green with, etc. - have become things like: a labor organizer; a human rights lawyer; a founder of an organization for educating girls in South Africa; a sustainable fisheries expert.
posted by rtha at 9:32 AM on January 28, 2015 [16 favorites]


Well, when the best rebuttal to Chait's article is the quote mkz posted from Martin Luther King's Letter from the Birmingham Jail over 50 years ago, I would say that #TeamChait loses by retroactive default.

I'm over 50 years old, and as I've said many times before, I've lived the cis white male privilege, and all the arguments of Chait and the "center left" no longer do anything for me but hold the conversation back. I wasn't even particularly impressed by Obama's latest State of the Union Address. Yeah, dude, you won your two elections, but you're the quarterback of a team with a losing record over the years you've been in charge. And if women under a Hillary Clinton administration fare as well as blacks under the Obama Administration, we're going to enter a Golden Age of Rape. (And I'll save my lengthy argument that Obamacare and Same Sex Marriage are both major victories for Nixon-Era Conservatism later, because I'm digressing)

And having known and been close to people who have gone through real trauma, some before the term "PTSD" was ever invented, "trigger warnings" are a thing that we needed decades ago. Yes, let's all laugh at Indiana Jones' fear of snakes, then go hide in the fridge while the nuke goes off...
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:38 AM on January 28, 2015 [8 favorites]


The way I always heard it, being the privileged party in a conversation doesn't require me to be quiet, but it does mean I should listen carefully.

I have no problem with that. But see the above comment from sallybrown - there is indeed a school of thought that says for previously marginalized groups to be heard, the priveleged should zip it. It's not about making room for everyone at the table - it's that, "We've been denied access to this table in the past, so now we are seizing it, and you can like it or leave."

Don't be surprised when society as a whole fails to acquiesce, morally superior though you may believe your case to be.

Indeed, Chait's invocation of Clinton's "Sistah Souljah" moment is interesting because it suggests he believes that Hillary Clinton might gain from publicly repudiating the social justice left, as a way of demonstrating her moderation.
posted by kgasmart at 9:51 AM on January 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


Don't be surprised when society as a whole fails to acquiesce

Don't be surprised when society as a whole fails to acquiesce in making room at the table for everyone, no matter how nicely you ask or how deferential you try to be. When have the forces of reaction ever given anything up willingly?
posted by asterix at 9:57 AM on January 28, 2015 [7 favorites]


But see the above comment from sallybrown - there is indeed a school of thought that says for previously marginalized groups to be heard, the priveleged should zip it. It's not about making room for everyone at the table - it's that, "We've been denied access to this table in the past, so now we are seizing it, and you can like it or leave."

Where did I say that? Saying someone should be the loudest voice is not telling everyone else to zip it. I don't understand why people hear "your voice should not be the dominant one in this discussion" as "shut up" - not being in charge shouldn't cause anyone to take their toys and go home.
posted by sallybrown at 9:57 AM on January 28, 2015 [18 favorites]


there is indeed a school of thought that says for previously marginalized groups to be heard, the priveleged should zip it.

Did you bother to read the comment? Did you miss the part where she says that minorities should have the strongest voices IN CONVERSATIONS ABOUT THEMSELVES AND THEIR RIGHTS.

see i wrote it big so you wouldn't miss it
posted by poffin boffin at 10:01 AM on January 28, 2015 [23 favorites]


Indeed, Chait's invocation of Clinton's "Sistah Souljah" moment is interesting because it suggests he believes that Hillary Clinton might gain from publicly repudiating the social justice left, as a way of demonstrating her moderation.

Yeah, but this kind of concern-trolling bullshit has been Chait's stock in trade for years. And it's worth noting that one of the advantages of the diminishing relative influence of Chait and his ilk versus actual liberal members of the Democratic coalition is that "demonstrating moderation" by adopting right-wing frames tends not to be looked on as favorably, particularly by those being thrown under the bus.

Hillary Clinton would be an utter fool to take Chait's advice (yeah, in general, I know) and dampen the enthusiasm of women voters by adopting policy positions and rhetoric hostile to them.
posted by Gelatin at 10:04 AM on January 28, 2015


By the way, whatever happened to Sister Souljah?

She became a pretty successful writer of "urban romance".
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:05 AM on January 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


If you have to lie about somebody's argument to refute it- and do so in a space where everybody witnessing the discussion can flick their middle finger against a little gadget to review that argument- it might be time to chill out and listen for awhile.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:12 AM on January 28, 2015 [9 favorites]


"Chill out and listen"?? Sounds like SILENCING TACTICS
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:14 AM on January 28, 2015 [6 favorites]


I assure you I'm never going to put a trigger warning about insects before I teach Kafka's Metamorphosis. It's undignified, and students should be insulted by it.

No, that would be kind of silly, but, if you were teaching a course on art films of the 60s/70s, I hope you would warn students about the intense strobe effects in some of the films. In case, you know, they are prone to seizures.

It's not too much beyond that to identify intense descriptions of common triggering things like rape, violence, incest, and so on. You know, so your students can brace themselves or talk to you about it before just wandering into that minefield.

I have been emotionally triggered once that I can remember (by a pretty obscure thing, so warnings would be excessive), and it was unpleasant enough that I can't blame anyone for trying to avoid that.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:15 AM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Rod Dreher, as is his wont, takes Chait as a jumping off point to compare the canceling of a production of The Vagina Monologues to the Reign of Terror. No really.
posted by PMdixon at 10:22 AM on January 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


Dreher:
the feminist agitprop play The Vagina Monologues, because it did not include "women" who have no vaginas
That's as far as I could get before rage-closing the tab. Abandon hope all ye who dare to keep reading.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:25 AM on January 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm struggling to find a way to say this that doesn't make me seem like I endorse Chait. Because I don't. But I have a kid that hangs out Tumblr and his friends hang out on Tumblr. They are all very invested in counting up their disprivileges and triggers and policing discussion of, in particular, sexuality. Not just online, but in the cafeteria. My son was severely chastised for being "acephobic." Meaning he is hostile to asexuals. Because he asked a question about asexuals. A group of these kids wrote him an email enumerating the things he is not allowed to say. He was forbidden from talking about his mental illness because it is triggering to other people who are mentally ill. He was absolutely devastated. He's a politically progressive queer mentally ill kid who thought he had found people he could hang out with in a sports oriented conservative town. But he didn't pass the purity tests.
These kids are 14.
Their hearts are in the right place, but their execution leaves a lot to be desired. Their online environment absolutely encourages this kind of thought. Are they going to outgrow it by the time they get to college? I hope so. But these are kids who are stifling discussion with the people they have the most in common with. How are they going to deal with people who oppose them completely?
I realize this sounds like a bunch of straw Tumblrites, but I swear to you, these are real kids. I think the straight white men of the world should get used to being challenged, but I also worry about a coming generation that is so ideologically rigid that they eat their own.
posted by Biblio at 10:33 AM on January 28, 2015 [29 favorites]


Those are kids, a demographic generally known for being dumb as hell about everything and not knowing a got-danged thing. I wouldn't worry too much that kids don't know what the hell they're talking about but don't let it stop them, since that's kind of the natural state of most kids.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:36 AM on January 28, 2015 [15 favorites]


Seriously, the term "Political Correctness" was turned into an oxymoron almost from the beginning, with the Right telling the Left "you can't tell me to restrain my bigotry, I have too much support". So by it's purest, most accurate, definition, what Chait and his defenders here are advocating is POLITICAL CORRECTNESS.

If it is not clear, I have checked my privilege plenty and have come to two conclusions: (1) I probably would not be alive today without it and (2) my lack of success comes primarily from not taking advantage of it MORE. And, yes, I am ashamed of myself and my entire tribe.

And I just want to say that if when I was 14, my environment had "purity tests" at least as severe as Biblio's kid. And the 'kids' who enforced them never outgrew it because they had Privilege on their side. Unlike the "lefty loudmouths" rtha noted.
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:47 AM on January 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm afraid all of the speech-policing young people are doing these days is a distraction from more important activities, like CodeAThons, HackAThons, and MakeAThons. They are missing out on the chance to become their generation's Makers and will just end up being Takers.
posted by fraxil at 10:51 AM on January 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


And I just want to say that if when I was 14, my environment had "purity tests" at least as severe as Biblio's kid.

Yeah, it might be a different language (that of social justice), but pressure to conform to peer group norms is pretty much standard issue American adolescence.
posted by ndfine at 10:51 AM on January 28, 2015 [7 favorites]


Biblio: I realize this sounds like a bunch of straw Tumblrites, but I swear to you, these are real kids.

Yes, and the only differences are that (a) "kids today" have more of a chance earlier in life to develop a refined vocabulary to discuss these things, whereas when you and I were kids, it was pretty much "you're a fag", "no I'm not", "yes you are", "it takes one to know one", and so forth, and (b) these conversations documented quasi-permanently online instead of taking place in a treehouse or at the playground. I think the latter part is what makes people think there's more of it going on than there was Back In The Day, when in reality, there's just more tangible evidence of it.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:55 AM on January 28, 2015 [9 favorites]


Biblio: "I realize this sounds like a bunch of straw Tumblrites, but I swear to you, these are real kids."

I totally believe you, and they are not, in substance, different from the "PC brigade" on college campuses in the 90s or whatever they were called in the 60s and so on quite a long ways back. Kids are experimenting with their identities, their ideologies, and the ways to be an adult in conversations. One of the ways that always, always appears is by this rigid insistence on various orthodoxies; another way is by overzealous attempts to control how others can express themselves. (They're all tiny little fascists when they think they know everything!)

I always roll my eyes when people act like college students protesting a particular speaker or whatever is The End of Free Speech As We Know It. College students overreacting to something? O RLY? You don't say! (I mean, any college president worth their salt will tell you a key skill is the ability to thread the needle between taking student concerns seriously and realizing that they are frequently overreacting; making sure they're heard and can influence their college environment, while trying to moderate some of their worst ideas without actively saying "your idea is stupid." You have to be both a peer-to-other-adults and a grown-up-who-keeps-teenagers-from-catastrophe to them, it's tough!) I mean, literally one of the reasons we send them to college is to think about being a grown-up for four years so they can grown-up better.

This is why I can't really take it seriously when someone (such as Chait) uses examples from tumblr and college campuses to bitch about "the PC police" or "SJWs" because, dude, those are teenagers. Of course they're overenthusiastic to the point of fascism! They're also not serving in elected office or writing for major news outlets or pontificating on CNN. This isn't an important power structure oppressing you (the talking head); this is extremely passionate young people learning to express themselves, who mostly do not have the kind of institutional power to create any actual oppression. To the extent that they might be winning any arguments against you, it's because their arguments are good and persuasive, because the only reasons they usually get mainstream traction are a) they make an excellent reasonable point or b) they're a convenient illustration of What's The Matter With Kids Today. To the extent that teenagers being angry with you hurts your feelings ... rethink your priorities maybe?

(And Biblio that sucks for your kid, and I definitely click away from parts of tumblr because, while I love teenaged passion and encourage their political participation, I definitely do not need to relive the more toxic parts of it, having lived through it once and outgrown it!)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:58 AM on January 28, 2015 [33 favorites]


That Tumblr anecdote sounds a lot like how when I was 14 my peer group listened to outsider music and wore outsider clothing, and felt oppressed by the mean misrule of the popular. But God help you if you listened to the wrong outsider music or wore the wrong outsider clothing. At least these kids are concerned about real things in their cliquey junior high way. And I'm sure some of them won't grow up and will continue to bully others using the language of social justice as a weapon. Hopefully the New Republic won't be around to give the insincere bullies of the phoney left free column inches any more.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 11:00 AM on January 28, 2015 [8 favorites]


Every day on Twitter is watching someone graduate from Oppression Studies 101 and how shocked -- shocked -- they are that life is unfair, and a lot of folks have it really rough. It would be totes adorbs if it wasn't so desperately uninformed, and 18 year old level naive.

It's awesome that you were born with an advanced level of political consciousness. Cool story.
posted by Enemy of Joy at 11:02 AM on January 28, 2015 [7 favorites]


I don't think minorities having a louder voice in conversations about their own group in any way counts as an outsize or unfair seat at the table.

If the conversation turns to physics, and I, as a white male physics PhD student tell them that they have no clue what they are talking about, they will probably shut up and listen and no one thinks that's out of the ordinary.


But if the conversation turns to gay people, and I as a queer man, tell someone they have no clue what they're talking about, there's a good chance that they're going to argue with me. I have to be prepared to fight for the same share of conversation I'd get on darn near every other topic where I happen to know more than the other person.

And that's because one of these social roles carries a lot more privilege than the other. A fair voice in a conversation doesn't mean equal time, it means equal respect for knowledge and experience.
posted by Zalzidrax at 11:04 AM on January 28, 2015 [8 favorites]


These kids are 14.

Well, there's your problem right there.
posted by Enemy of Joy at 11:07 AM on January 28, 2015


the feminist agitprop play The Vagina Monologues, because it did not include "women" who have no vaginas
Ah ha ha. I'll bet that kills 'em in the stix. But if we can't rely on Rod Dreher to predict reigns of terror whenever something gives him the heebie-jeebies what can we rely on?

I also worry about a coming generation that is so ideologically rigid that they eat their own.

Mmm, flesh. Tasty as it is, tho, and contrary to Rod Dreher's fervent desires, I think this is unlikely. 14 year olds are shitty to everyone. If it wasn't over the language of "social justice," it would be over clothes or music or favorite movie stars. (But what do I know? I'm a Gen Xer. We never believed in anything.)
posted by octobersurprise at 11:07 AM on January 28, 2015


I wish to aver that anyone getting bent out of shape over trigger warnings that in no way impede their ability to just move the fuck on and read the rest of the thing that had the trigger warning, should just move the fuck on and read the rest of the thing that had the trigger warning.
posted by Enemy of Joy at 11:13 AM on January 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


there is indeed a school of thought that says for previously marginalized groups to be heard, the priveleged should zip it. It's not about making room for everyone at the table - it's that, "We've been denied access to this table in the past, so now we are seizing it, and you can like it or leave."

The thing is, in a lot of cases, it's THEIR table.
posted by mudpuppie at 11:21 AM on January 28, 2015 [15 favorites]


This is why I can't really take it seriously when someone (such as Chait) uses examples from tumblr and college campuses to bitch about "the PC police" or "SJWs" because, dude, those are teenagers. Of course they're overenthusiastic to the point of fascism! They're also not serving in elected office or writing for major news outlets or pontificating on CNN.

That's what's so funny/amazing to me... the sort of ultra-stridency-spilling-into-toxic-drama thing was very common when I was a teenager in the 90s, but it was also completely different because the entire world couldn't see it on the Internet! Not only that, but we also lacked the knowledge that plenty of adults were stuck in this exact same frame of mind. We had all these weird barriers because of the limited informational windows of newspapers and the Evening News and our parents/teachers. That's just kind of all gone now. I have no idea how my kids are going to interface with this stuff, and I'm both fascinated and a little worried.
posted by selfnoise at 11:22 AM on January 28, 2015


Looks like the Radical Left (tm) has silenced that scoundrel Andrew Sullivan!

I kid, of course. Sully seems like a pleasant enough bloke, and was certainly one of the most important founding fathers of political blogging. He also comes off in that post as genuinely needing a break from the day-in day-out blogging treadmill.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:23 AM on January 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


The thing is, in a lot of cases, it's THEIR table.

That, and, most of the time the intent to 'take the table' was never real.
posted by lodurr at 11:24 AM on January 28, 2015


I wish to aver that anyone getting bent out of shape over trigger warnings that in no way impede their ability to just move the fuck on and read the rest of the thing that had the trigger warning, should just move the fuck on and read the rest of the thing that had the trigger warning.

But what if I'm triggered by trigger warnings!? Reductio-ad-absurdum, QED! My three credits of deductive logic have defeated you silly SJWs! Here's a reddit thread that explains how my whiny privileged ass is the real oppressed minority!
posted by [expletive deleted] at 11:29 AM on January 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


Somewhere in Texas there's a man genuinely confused as to why you wouldn't give a fellow a fair warning before pulling the trigger on him.
posted by Enemy of Joy at 11:32 AM on January 28, 2015 [8 favorites]


It's a pretty well documented phenomenon that men perceive that a group has an even gender split once it hits 17% women, but that women have to be 60% to 80% of those present in order to take up half the conversation time. Given that, all these hilarious* requests for women (and people of color, and non-straight people, and trans* people, etc) to stop shouting because our voices are making it hard to hear people talk become ever more grindingly depressing.

*not actually hilarious
posted by KathrynT at 11:37 AM on January 28, 2015 [40 favorites]


When everyone is yelling, then no one can hear the white men.
posted by Enemy of Joy at 11:39 AM on January 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


I've never understood why people take Sullivan seriously; my interest in even attempting to do so stopped during his post-9/11 bloviatings. I mean, seriously, this is the guy who put out shit like this:

The middle part of the country - the great red zone that voted for Bush - is clearly ready for war. The decadent left in its enclaves on the coasts is not dead -and may well mount a fifth column.
posted by tavella at 11:39 AM on January 28, 2015 [7 favorites]


KathrynT: do you have an academic cite for that? I've seem Geena Davis' org talk about it repeatedly but never found the study(ies) driving it. I find it entirely believable but want to know how they measure it (also some folks trust an academic cite more.)
posted by R343L at 11:48 AM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'll admit it: sometimes, I'll see trigger warnings that I think are completely ridiculous and are the product of people hopping on some kind of weird more-sensitive-than-thou bandwagon.

But in those cases, I roll my eyes and move the fuck on without writing frothy opinion pieces about it, because it's not for me and it doesn't affect me in any way whatsoever.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:53 AM on January 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


things like "center left." It's one of those things which, like "lower middle class", is literally is an oxymoron

Are you confused by the idea that a direction can be both "north" and "east?" This is a pretty weird point to get hung up on. I'm guessing what you're really mad about is how far right the "center" is assumed to be in American discourse. Though if we could figure out "left" versus "liberal,"- I will give Chait credit enough to note that he does seem to be aware of a distinction - we might not have to say "center left" so much.

There's probably a whole lot to unpack about what makes Americans choose to say "lower middle class" versus "working class" versus "poor" but the lower middle was arguably a legit sociological distinction when there was more to the middle..
posted by atoxyl at 11:54 AM on January 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


The 17% number comes from the average percentage of women in crowd scenes in TV and films in the US. I believe that the observation that men experience that skew as being 50/50 was one of Davis's own observations in discussing those scenes with men, and wasn't part of the study itself as that kind of interpretation was outside the scope of the project. You can find more information about the "60-80% representation needed in order to approach time parity" statistic here.
posted by KathrynT at 11:57 AM on January 28, 2015 [8 favorites]


I've never understood why people take Sullivan seriously

Many conservatives took him seriously precisely because he needled the left with lines like that, and a fair number of liberals took him seriously because he was a somewhat heterodox conservative in that he didn't want to totally dismantle the government, and didn't want gay people to be stoned to death. He also benefited significantly from first-mover advantage, starting his blog in 2000, before most other people knew what a blog was. It also helps that he's actually a decent writer, and though many better writers have started blogging about politics since then, someone in 2000 with professional writing credentials who was also blogging had name recognition that helped them bring traffic to their blog.

Of course he's been exposed as a total fraud on many issues, particularly on foreign policy, and most actual lefties stopped reading him a long time ago. But back in the day, before there were so many bloggers to choose from, I understand why folks might want to keep him bookmarked to see what the "non-insane conservatives" are thinking.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:58 AM on January 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


Of course he's been exposed as a total fraud on many issues, particularly on foreign policy

Not to mention his obsession with Sarah Palin's pregnancy, which he cited as one of his signature moments in that swan song post.
posted by Gelatin at 12:03 PM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


I understand why folks might want to keep him bookmarked to see what the "non-insane conservatives" are thinking.

Well, and also, being gay, British, Catholic, HIV Positive, a two-time Bush Voter and a two-time Obama voter, he has an interesting perspective.

It was his repeated entertaining of the "What if black people really are genetically inferior" racist pseudoscience bullshit that drove me away, but his appeal as a writer makes total sense.
posted by Myca at 12:14 PM on January 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


It was his repeated entertaining of the "What if black people really are genetically inferior" racist pseudoscience bullshit that drove me away...

This, this, a thousand times this. The Iraq War was just the nail in the coffin as far as his credibility went. Also, let's not lose sight of how this poor maligned ally of the left Jon Chait took a staff job under Sully at TNR literally right after that 10,000 word cover story from Stormfront's favorite "social scientist".
posted by [expletive deleted] at 12:33 PM on January 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


I find it entirely believable but want to know how they measure it (also some folks trust an academic cite more.)

Who are these reactionaries?! What type of cites do other folks trust more, scribbles on toilet doors?

Seriously, I have, with mine own two eyes, seen someone post something to the effect of "asking for citations is just a sign of your privilege". I don't think it was here, but it was a good chuckle. And it was wonderful to realize that if that this sort of thing is privilege, I'm so glad that the people in charge of things like cancer research and power plants, and satellite launches etc are so damn privileged and I hope everybody gets privilege soon.

The p.c. style of politics has one serious, possibly fatal drawback: It is exhausting

"The p.c. style of politics" ... come on Chait, you're showing your age here, it's "social justice" these days. But he is correct in that the movement is exhausting for its adherents, due the ratcheting-purity mechanism that is fundamental to the movement. That is, it will exhaust itself unless there's a continuous supply of younger ever-more-pure inductees, but from what biblio recounts, the thinning of the herd commences at a younger age these days.
posted by amorphatist at 12:38 PM on January 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


I've never understood why people take Sullivan seriously

To me, Sullivan's chief appeal as a blogger is/was that he's a voracious consumer of media on a variety of topics who can write entertainingly about what he believes at the moment he's writing. Sullivan's great topic has always been Andrew Sullivan and his opinions at hand. Something's great—it's the best; something's bad—the worst. And the best and the worst is subject to change with very little notice. This impulsivity makes him an unreliable partisan and often enough a less than reliable analyst, but a perfect blogger. Add to that, as remarked, that he's smart and not obviously a hack. In fact, I suspect that it's his very love of burning bridges that's kept him from really capitalizing on his early fame and success.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:41 PM on January 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


Gah - I'm so late to this thread, but someone linked some charnelhouse blog, and the one idea about "PC speech" being a form of self-criticism is interesting and I'd not thought of it in that way before, but I can certainly see how that would have evolved in some ways.

And just like Mao's rabid mobbery of self-criticism can end up in a state that is antithetical to actual justice, I do think occasionally that there is a form of mobbery within the social justice milieu, and I won't deny that there is a possibility that some people take things too far at times.

But that doesn't mean that the core function or purpose of this movement is invalid. It's essentially an a strawman fallacy (or is it an ad hom attack?); These extremists, they 100% invalidate anything you have to say!

Someone up thread mentions Chait defended the wars. Well, Chait, how many people have feminists actually killed? I suppose, you know, Warhol was shot by SCUM, or whatever, but he survived. How many people were killed for a war you cheered on? Now - who is more extreme and "evil"?

But here's what I found funny (eye-rollingly so) about that charnelhouse bullshit.
I see [identity politics’] origins in confrontational New Left styles of the late ’60s through the early ’70s (when lots of feminists were reading Mao’s little red book, believe it or not (emphasis mine)).
And yeah, that is interesting to think of that way. But "believe it or not"? As if, somehow, a revolution that had attempted to make the social order more equal for women than what it had been before. To, as NYT put it:
"Under Communist rule, educational opportunities for women have opened, particularly at universities. Forced marriages were banned. The one-child policy has helped erase the age-old idea that girls are not as valuable as boys. Birth control is readily available to women who want it.

The advances have been huge when compared with the pre-Communist era, when Chinese women were generally subjugated to men, marriages were arranged between families, some women were forced to become concubines, females could not inherit land and a woman’s sole job was to produce male heirs. The Communists also were able to stamp out the practice of binding women’s feet." -- Source:this WaPo article
While women in the West were being told to sit back, shut up, make babies, get me a beer, etc etc etc...

While women in the West are STILL being told this bullshit, and when they dare to question this, they're called "PC" or "Feminazis" or whatever any other slur or rhetorical attempt to marginalize them for asking for equality.

Yeah - I wonder why the feminists were reading it, sure, ok, guy.
posted by symbioid at 12:42 PM on January 28, 2015 [8 favorites]


I suppose, you know, Warhol was shot by SCUM, or whatever, but he survived.

SCUM was also pretty much the one-woman operation of Valerie Solanas, extremely marginal to the radical feminist movement as a whole. When Ellen Willis read the SCUM manifesto, she thought it had to be a Jonathan Swift "Modest Proposal"-style satire of patriarchal rhetoric with the genders switched.
posted by jonp72 at 12:49 PM on January 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


The one-child policy has helped erase the age-old idea that girls are not as valuable as boys. Birth control is readily available to women who want it. [...]

Yeah - I wonder why the feminists were reading it, sure, ok, guy.


And while the one-child policy might have seemed like a wonderful idea to those feminists, what happened was actually disastrous for women, at least in the sense that female embryos are selectively aborted at a massive rate in China. Human societies are obviously complicated and dynamic systems that often result in unintended consequences, and that's a thing to bear in mind today wrt the social justice movement.
posted by amorphatist at 12:53 PM on January 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


And I just want to say that if when I was 14, my environment had "purity tests" at least as severe as Biblio's kid.

And the "purity tests" from when I was a teenager asked questions like, "Have you ever done the nasty in a graveyard?" Good times... good times...
posted by jonp72 at 12:54 PM on January 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


Seriously, I have, with mine own two eyes, seen someone post something to the effect of "asking for citations is just a sign of your privilege". I don't think it was here, but it was a good chuckle. And it was wonderful to realize that if that this sort of thing is privilege, I'm so glad that the people in charge of things like cancer research and power plants, and satellite launches etc are so damn privileged and I hope everybody gets privilege soon.

Way to take "something that you saw somewhere" and try to use it to tar an entire discussion that you could have just as easily participated in without lobbing that little turd in there. What a loathsome little piece of drive-by snark.
posted by KathrynT at 12:55 PM on January 28, 2015 [16 favorites]


When Ellen Willis read the SCUM manifesto, she thought it had to be a Jonathan Swift "Modest Proposal"-style satire of patriarchal rhetoric with the genders switched.

I had not heard about this interpretation of the SCUM Manifesto until recently, and it was actually really interesting to rethink it. It also made it very apparent to me that I was blind to my own cultural misogyny and how the blatant misogyny in the culture I grew up it assumed that because it was written by a woman, it could not possibly have been satire.
posted by daq at 12:59 PM on January 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


...when lots of feminists were reading Mao’s little red book, believe it or not...

Oooh, this is where I get to quote from my $1.00 Bantam Extra edition of the Little Red Book:
A man in China is usually subjected to the domination of three systems of authority [political authority, clan authority and religious authority]. . . . As for women, in addition to being dominated by these three systems of authority, they are also dominated by the men (the authority of the husband). These four authorities—political, clan, religious and masculine—are the embodiment of the whole feudal-patriarchal ideology and system, and are the four thick ropes binding the Chinese people, particularly the peasants.
That's Mao writing about the patriarchy in 1927. There are a few quotes about equal pay for equal work, which was a hobby horse of his in the 50s.

No, I have no idea why that kind of thing would have been appealing to Western feminists in the 60s and 70s.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 1:02 PM on January 28, 2015 [11 favorites]


Please tell me what is wrong with the concept of trigger warnings.

If you include a context-less link in a post, absolutely, include a trigger warning. If you say, here is a video about Auschwitz - people should be able to handle the choice themselves. I know someone who taught a Philosophy of War class and was reprimanded for not including a trigger warning on some of the readings! What were students doing taking a philosophy of WAR class if they were concerned about being traumatized by readings about war? It was in the title of the class before they even signed up. That is their responsibility.

Please tell me what is wrong with trans*/gay/nonwhite/poor/women having a louder voice in public discourse.

These categories are not univocal. THere are gay people who preferred representing an alternative lifestyle and don't like the idea of marrying and assimilating. There are trans* people who don't understand themselves to be internally the opposite gender, but to be creatively becoming the other gender. There are feminists who don't consider themselves just like men and equivalent in all ways but rather powerful as mothers and nurturers and deserving of respect for a different set of capacities. These voices do not match the current "politically correct" stories and tend to be shunned if they speak up.

But it's a complex world. Not every oppressed person goes through it the same way or has the same perspective. It's good to get information out, but, everything in moderation. It's worth remembering that just because your personal experience was a certain way, that doesn't mean every single member of your oppressed group feels identically.
posted by mdn at 1:08 PM on January 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


I may have said this before, but I think we need to take white libertarian feelings into account and attach a trigger warning to so called "PC/SJW/Identity Politics" posts of ours so they know they shouldn't read them if they're gonna be so triggered and angry and traumatized by them.
posted by symbioid at 1:13 PM on January 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


Please tell me what is wrong with the concept of trigger warnings

They are silly and useless and what little comfort they give people is a placebo. Their _primary_ purpose is impose a social tax on certain content by requiring labeling (that is, extra work) so as to annoy people into not using it, which is where curricula discussions come up.

But bitching about them is also pointless. Trigger warnings are a trend and there is no reason to believe it will have any staying power at all. Eventually people will get tired of trying to obtain social cred by labeling everything and/or by wading through these silly, useless labels and the trend will burn itself out. Not unlike any number of previous social signifiers of the left.
posted by rr at 1:21 PM on January 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


when lots of feminists were reading Mao’s little red book, believe it or not

Lots of everybody was reading Mao's little red book back then. My copy came from the Chinese pavilion at some late '60s/early '70s CNE. My dad, a US DOD employee, bought one, carried it back across the border, and read it. "How now, red Mao?" he used to say.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:23 PM on January 28, 2015


Seriously, I have, with mine own two eyes, seen someone post something to the effect of "asking for citations is just a sign of your privilege". I don't think it was here, but it was a good chuckle.

Heh -- that reminds me of the one time someone said something so I judged an entire concept.
posted by Enemy of Joy at 1:28 PM on January 28, 2015 [15 favorites]


rr: Their _primary_ purpose is impose a social tax on certain content

Next time, please include a trigger warning for these evidence-free bullshit assertions of what's in the minds of people who do something you disapprove of.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:28 PM on January 28, 2015 [19 favorites]


They are silly and useless and what little comfort they give people is a placebo.

This universe you come from, where PTSD does not exist, and where someone cannot be reduced to a traumatized quivering mass unawares? It sounds like a nice place.
posted by Myca at 1:30 PM on January 28, 2015 [14 favorites]


amorphatist: "The one-child policy has helped erase the age-old idea that girls are not as valuable as boys. Birth control is readily available to women who want it. [...]

Yeah - I wonder why the feminists were reading it, sure, ok, guy.


And while the one-child policy might have seemed like a wonderful idea to those feminists, what happened was actually disastrous for women...
"

So - well.. First. I don't think you'll encounter an honest to god pro-choice feminist (as opposed to, say, radical environmentalist) who would support the one-child policy, since, you know, that takes away CHOICE.

Secondly, well...
(From wiki):
"The policy was introduced in 1979 to alleviate social, economic and environmental problems in China."

It was introduced 3 years after Mao died. Certainly after the Gang of Four had their trials and the ascendancy of Deng Xiaoping, so to say that this policy was somehow due to Maoist support of women's rights is a bit absurd. At the very least, I don't think you could argue that there is a direct line between Mao's thoughts and these later policies. I could be wrong and you might be able to show that, and that's fine.

But right now, to say that either the one-child policy would sound wonderful to women who believed in the right to bodily autonomy (whether to have or not have a child) or that it was something that Mao came up with or had as a policy, is either ignorant or obtuse, (not willfully so) or deliberately muddying the topic with a generalization of one concept onto the other.

If anything it sounds like something the pro-life movement would say regarding pro-choice movement (I know, because the pro-life movement and conservatism was the environment of my upbringing; to the point my mom staffed pro-life booths at the county fair and I went to various RtL meetings with all the Abortion is Genocide propaganda). I'm not saying that's your motive, or that you're conservative or liberal or what your agenda is, I don't care, I'm more saying that my interpretation is how I see a sort of distortion of liberal ideals based upon a caricature.

That said, I think it IS important in terms of an example to show that good movements and ideas CAN be co-opted and end up doing more harm than good (as I mentioned - people who end up doing extreme things in the name of social justice - and I do think a certain amount of bullying can and does take place, and that does bother me, no doubt)...

The solution isn't to throw out the baby with the bathwater, as we're so often told to, but rather to ... well... self-critique the movement, its aims, our place in it, and to see if it still aspires to the ideals it claims to hold or whether it is ending up subverting that. That's a whole different topic, though.
posted by symbioid at 1:31 PM on January 28, 2015 [7 favorites]


If you say, here is a video about Auschwitz - people should be able to handle the choice themselves.

They are silly and useless and what little comfort they give people is a placebo.


What would we do without these wise souls to define our realities for us.
posted by Enemy of Joy at 1:34 PM on January 28, 2015 [12 favorites]


Seriously, I have, with mine own two eyes, seen someone post something to the effect of "asking for citations is just a sign of your privilege". I don't think it was here, but it was a good chuckle. And it was wonderful to realize that if that this sort of thing is privilege, I'm so glad that the people in charge of things like cancer research and power plants, and satellite launches etc are so damn privileged and I hope everybody gets privilege soon.

I have seen social theorists write some *stupid* things about scientific concepts - you know, the kind Alan Sokal was making fun of - but when I saw "asking for citations is just a sign of your privilege" it was in reference to the kind of exchange that goes:

A:"As a [minority] in [situation X] I experienced discrimination."
B:"Do you have citations to prove to me it's a problem?"

Which is not only a misdirection and misapplication of scientific standards but basically a thought-terminating cliche for people with STEM backgrounds.
posted by atoxyl at 1:38 PM on January 28, 2015 [10 favorites]


(I actually have read people who seem to take the epistemological implications of privilege theory to extreme and ill-thought-out places. But the kind of exchange I described is incredibly common, especially on the internet, so I think it's pretty unfair to cite the "citations... privilege" line out of that context)
posted by atoxyl at 1:48 PM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


but when I saw "asking for citations is just a sign of your privilege" it was in reference to the kind of exchange that goes:

A:"As a [minority] in [situation X] I experienced discrimination."
B:"Do you have citations to prove to me it's a problem?"

Which is not only a misdirection and misapplication of scientific standards but basically a thought-terminating cliche for people with STEM backgrounds.


I agree entirely with you wrt those sorts of exchanges.
posted by amorphatist at 1:50 PM on January 28, 2015


If it is not clear, I have checked my privilege plenty and have come to two conclusions: (1) I probably would not be alive today without it and (2) my lack of success comes primarily from not taking advantage of it MORE. And, yes, I am ashamed of myself and my entire tribe.

@ProfJeffJarvis: "I check my privilege very often, several times per day. Incredibly frustrating when people won't acknowledge that."
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:52 PM on January 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


It only wanted this: Amanda Fucking Palmer has written a poem for Jon Chait. (TW: copious amounts of AFP and Jezebel.)
posted by octobersurprise at 1:54 PM on January 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


Allison Kilkenny of Citizen Radio has said re: AFP's poem, "Amanda Palmer has completed her transformation as Girl You Wish You Hadn't Started a Conversation With At a Party."
posted by Kitteh at 1:57 PM on January 28, 2015 [17 favorites]


The asking for citations thing is often employed as a passive-aggressive derail tool -- a particularly effective one, because it's virtually no-lose. Either you accomplish your objective, or you make the other person look insane for objecting to your "innocent question."
posted by Enemy of Joy at 1:59 PM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Asking for a citation is just good practice as a human being these days, though, because sending bad information along to everyone else just because you can't be arsed to verify your sources can cause real social harm. There's no good excuse for being so careless and lazy in your exchanges with others that you can't even be bothered to care if you can demonstrate what you're claiming is actually true. We live in a new age in which bad information can be promulgated more rapidly than ever before. So we have new responsibilities now. Deal with it and quit whining about it.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:03 PM on January 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


You're both right. It is often used in bad faith, but it also is often necessary to call bullshit on someone who's just parroting something truthy that someone from their Facebook feed posted. It's often hard to know where honest request for confirmation / sourcing ends and nasty bad faith derailing tactic begins, but "prove to my satisfaction that you experienced discrimination", however it's intended, probably isn't going to lead to a productive exchange.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:07 PM on January 28, 2015 [7 favorites]


Holy shit. From the comments of the AFP/Jezebel article... How is this a thing a real person thinks.
posted by kmz at 2:08 PM on January 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


Of course it's a good thing. Did someone say "abolish asking for citations"? It's just sometimes asked in a hostile, bad-faith way, so a person isn't automatically wrong for objecting to that question.
posted by Enemy of Joy at 2:08 PM on January 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


saw "12 years a slave" last night (wept. a lot.) thought about recent macklemore/grammys drama. and felt really, deeply sad for america.

Wait, I thought Delirium was based on Tori Amos.
posted by Enemy of Joy at 2:13 PM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


There is a major difference between asking for a citation when someone makes a factual statement versus asking for a citation when someone says "I feel [X]." Asking for a citation for the latter is often in the form of "Justify your feelings because I don't believe you / don't think you deserve to feel that way."
posted by sallybrown at 2:15 PM on January 28, 2015 [6 favorites]


I see [identity politics’] origins in confrontational New Left styles of the late ’60s through the early ’70s (when lots of feminists were reading Mao’s little red book, believe it or not (emphasis mine)).

Heh. Marxism doesn't fail in theory, it fails in practice. Who cares if someone wants to read about it? Some day we have to figure out how to live without exploiting each other.

Human societies are obviously complicated and dynamic systems that often result in unintended consequences, and that's a thing to bear in mind today wrt the social justice movement.

Yeah, that's kind of something essential people on the American left should keep in mind about our conservatives. A lot of the time when they are freaking out scared about some change it isn't really because they think they know how it will end up, but because they have no clue. Changes like Obamacare were too big to be understood, and they pretty rightly knew that most liberals didn't (and still don't) grasp how complicated a change it was.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:15 PM on January 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


There was a metathread a few months about how people were so meaaaaan to Amanda Palmer. And sure, I'd agree that she probably gets more shit than similarly self-absorbed men of an equivalent minor fame level... but the shit itself is usually well-deserved. Because geez does she live in her own All About Me and My Feels zone.
posted by tavella at 2:17 PM on January 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


There is a major difference between asking for a citation when someone makes a factual statement versus asking for a citation when someone says "I feel [X]." Asking for a citation for the latter is often in the form of "Justify your feelings because I don't believe you / don't think you deserve to feel that way."

Oh sure--absolutely.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:28 PM on January 28, 2015


A note on Chait's mention of the Mount Holyoke Vagina Monologues 'cancellation', because I haven't seen anyone pull him up on this and because it encapsulates the whole ridiculous PC-thugs-under-the-bed genre: this was a decision by the student-run theatre board, members of which are described in their statement as having "grown increasingly uncomfortable presenting material that is inherently reductionist and exclusive" while performing the show. As far as I'm aware there has been no attempt to pressure or threaten the board and/or college into cancelling it. This was simply an organisation whose members have come to their own conclusions, perhaps been swayed by advocacy, exercising their right to stand by their principles and choose which work they perform; in this case an alternative, original set of monologues by Holyoke students.

And, of course, this gets recast by Chait and his ilk as the jackboot coming down. I can only assume they find it impossible to believe anyone could choose to prioritise a group of people as inherently Bad PC Left as trans women, or feel that representation has material consequences and act accordingly, without Mean Twitter pointing a gun at their head from the shadows.
posted by emmtee at 2:29 PM on January 28, 2015 [17 favorites]


And sure, I'd agree that she probably gets more shit than similarly self-absorbed men of an equivalent minor fame level...

I like how you brought it back to Jon Chait!
posted by Enemy of Joy at 2:30 PM on January 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


A lot of the time when they are freaking out scared about some change it isn't really because they think they know how it will end up, but because they have no clue. Changes like Obamacare were too big to be understood, and they pretty rightly knew that most liberals didn't (and still don't) grasp how complicated a change it was.

Neither side knew how complicated a change it was, but liberals don't believe that knowing for certain how a policy change will affect a complex system is a prerequisite for trying, especially when the status quo is doing harm. You don't get to say "changing things could cause negative consequences" without acknowledging the negative consequences of doing nothing. Many public policy problems involve changing very complex systems, and we're not going to get anywhere if we're afraid of trying new things.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:32 PM on January 28, 2015 [15 favorites]


If Andrew Sullivan started beating his drum about the sky being blue I would probably have to start checking that hourly.
posted by PMdixon at 2:39 PM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, no disagreement there tonycpsu. Just again reiterating that we should understand what they fear. It isn't always "The past was perfect, let's go back to that," but more about conserving systems that are at least "good enough," when compared to a potential unknown change. Then you get into issues where the system is good enough for some (the white population that is the Republican party) but not so much for everybody else and you get into the discussions of privilege that those people really need to learn to hear some day.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:41 PM on January 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


Then you get into issues where the system is good enough for some (the white population that is the Republican party) but not so much for everybody else

Isn't this every issue currently live?
posted by PMdixon at 2:45 PM on January 28, 2015


I guess on some level. Virtually every government service, even if it is guaranteed to everybody, can be harder to get access to if you lack the resources to do so. Even as a white guy with time and resources I'm still having severe issues getting access to a health plan under Obamacare. It would be a lot worse if I didn't have those resources.

In my search for my birth certificate I managed to persuade my Republican Dad that requiring that sort of thing to allow people to vote is indeed an undue burden. :P But for the most part, these services generally work and should be conserved, just adjusted to make them work better and be easier to access.

But I'm not sure I put that on the same level as things like the ridiculous relationship law enforcement has with black men. That's something that just needs to be destroyed and rebuilt from the ground up, not conserved. I think there is a distinction there.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:56 PM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think there is a distinction there.

In the sense that you don't think anyone views that (cops killing black dudes on the reg) as a feature not a bug? I, unfortunately, have to disagree with you.
posted by PMdixon at 3:09 PM on January 28, 2015


Eh, don't think I said that. May have implied it. Not my intention.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:16 PM on January 28, 2015


Sorry, I guess I took you as speaking more generally/diagnostically than you apparently were.
posted by PMdixon at 3:19 PM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


They are silly and useless and what little comfort they give people is a placebo. Their _primary_ purpose is impose a social tax on certain content by requiring labeling (that is, extra work) so as to annoy people into not using it, which is where curricula discussions come up.

Again I note that no one railing against trigger warnings dare do so in the context of warning veterans about possible triggers in order to avoid triggering their war-induced PTSD. Its always, always about women and rape.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 3:22 PM on January 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


symbioid: "I wonder why the feminists were reading it, sure, ok, guy."

Ross Wolfe is (to judge by the blog) avowedly Marxist, with some political affinity for Left Communist/Trotskyist/Communization-theory writers. So, not big on Mao, but not the type to object to Mao for the reasons you describe.
posted by phrontist at 3:41 PM on January 28, 2015


"But that seems like less a characterization of anything that's happened in practice in the general public discursive sphere and more a huge extrapolation from the fact that some of these voices are now becoming at all audible. A lot of people who have been accustomed to being the loudest voice in the room are distinctly uncomfortable when other voices start breaking into the conversation and can't just be talked over; a whisper is treated as fair as long as its not too insistent, and more than that is a clamorous intrusion."

When I saw that, my immediate thought was the same studies that KathrynT linked to. It really does feel like people who are used to dominating the floor against the rhetorical equivalents of the Foreman chumps get into a fit of pique if they're challenged.

I dunno, I work in progressive politics, and I've been called out over things that I didn't think were fair but I've also been called out over lots of things that were fair. Having an atmosphere where I sometimes take some unfair knocks is worth it to make sure that I get to hear the fair ones.
posted by klangklangston at 3:50 PM on January 28, 2015 [12 favorites]


Please tell me what is wrong with the concept of trigger warnings

They are silly and useless and what little comfort they give people is a placebo. Their _primary_ purpose is impose a social tax on certain content by requiring labeling (that is, extra work) so as to annoy people into not using it, which is where curricula discussions come up.


No. The primary purpose of trigger warnings is to give people a heads-up that what they are about to read/see/hear may bring up issues that for them are painful to process. For example, as an often suicidal person I am rather thankful for trigger warnings about suicide; if I'm having a bad day I'd rather avoid immersing myself in someone else's suicide attempts, because that can lead me to brooding upon my own. Which isn't healthy for me, in a very literal that-spiral-can-lead-me-to-self-harm sense.

What trigger warnings do is allow people to decide whether reading this or watching that is a good idea for them, and to mentally prepare. That's all. In a limited sense, they're no different than "this TV show contains nudity." Some people would prefer not to see naked people on their telly, some people don't care, some people don't mind seeing naked people on their telly but perhaps not during dinner, etc.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:55 PM on January 28, 2015 [13 favorites]


Yes, it's about time to do away with "trigger warnings", like those ones the MPAA puts on movies? How can you truly be entertained if you already KNOW there's going to be violence and nudity? Spoilers!

Yes, it's the exact same thing, except these were lobbied for and pressured into existence by the "not-politically-correct" conservatives.

Maybe we can also do away with those alarmist warnings on medicine bottles and food packages. "Contains nuts." So, 99.9% of people who eat it have no life-threatening allergic reaction, so why are we letting a tiny minority dictate to us?

Yes, it's THE EXACT SAME THING.

We need MORE warnings, not less. It's called COMMUNICATION as an ALTERNATIVE to CENSORSHIP.

But then, what Jon Chait and his supporters want is not to hear the cries of those they step all over. Trigger Warning: You're stepping all over people!
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:00 PM on January 28, 2015 [12 favorites]


Oh, and re: Trigger warnings

I push back hard against the milquetoast calls for NSFW around here, and as part of that I try to make sure that I give enough context for people to be able to make their own decision on whether or not they want to engage with that content. I tend to feel the same way about trigger warnings — I think that they're kind of a lazy short-hand for giving more descriptive context. But I'm not 14 anymore, so I don't need to send anyone to blind links to Goatse.
posted by klangklangston at 4:03 PM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Of course it's a good thing. Did someone say "abolish asking for citations"? It's just sometimes asked in a hostile, bad-faith way, so a person isn't automatically wrong for objecting to that question.

Also, nobody in this conversation objected to the question. I made the uncited statement, someone asked me for a cite, I provided one. Then amorphatist came along and introduced the idea of people who claim that asking for citations is a form of privilege dominance, solely for the purpose of mocking those people, and then segued into a weird reference to all kinds of STEM professionals. It had zero relevance to the conversation prior to that moment. If it had a purpose other than to poison the discourse and create a false dichotomy between "social justice warriors" and scientists/engineers, with all the associated crappy innuendo about race and gender the implication of that dichotomy would entail, I can't think of what it would be.
posted by KathrynT at 4:24 PM on January 28, 2015 [12 favorites]


I almost certain that everyone railing about trigger warnings knows what they are and how they can be useful and help people who have PTSD.

But, as always, its about hippie punching.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 4:27 PM on January 28, 2015 [7 favorites]


Fuel for the fire: graduate students protest hire for offensive views.
Graduate students in a philosophy department somewhere in the English-speaking world did some online sleuthing about a job candidate for a position in their department, and learned that the candidate seems to hold views they find offensive. In particular, they found reports (including alleged quotes) that the candidate had expressed in online fora the view that homosexual acts and premarital sex are immoral. The candidate’s original postings on this matter were not found, and were presumed to have been deleted or made private.

In advance of the candidate’s campus visit, the graduate students met to discuss the matter. Some students expressed the view that hiring the candidate would create a “hostile atmosphere” for gay and lesbian students. One proposal on the table was that the students boycott the candidate’s job talk. This proposal was rejected in favor of an alternative: writing the faculty to urge them to withdraw the candidate from consideration for the position. Some such notes have been sent, I am told; they include links to the relevant sites and say something along the following lines: “I am concerned about evidence showing that [the job candidate] has defended the view that homosexuality is immoral. If the candidate has in fact defended this view, I would not be comfortable having this person as a member of our community.” Not all of the graduate students support this initiative, I am told.
What to think? If a candidate was a racist there would be no question in my mind. But this guy is probably a conservative Christian? Somehow that changes things.
posted by dis_integration at 4:35 PM on January 28, 2015


How is homophobia excused by religion any different than racism?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:40 PM on January 28, 2015 [7 favorites]


What's the problem here?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 4:40 PM on January 28, 2015


Yeah, let's not overlook the fact that what these people did was have a meeting and write a letter. That's not suppression of views, that's EXPRESSION of views.
posted by KathrynT at 4:43 PM on January 28, 2015 [10 favorites]


Also, people with absolutely no power.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 4:46 PM on January 28, 2015


I don't like the insistence on "trigger warning" or "TW" because it's jargony (and in some communities it can be used as a stick to berate people with: You didn't properly format your trigger warning, you hate America!). But I totally and wholeheartedly support the contextualization of potentially upsetting material, and this is something that mainstream media has done for a very long time. It's not something new because people are now hypersensitive; Brian Williams and Tom Brokaw and Walter Cronkite have all said things along the lines of, "Now, some of the footage we're about to show contains graphic depictions of [whatever]. It may not be appropriate for children and might upset more sensitive viewers." When NBC aired Schindler's List uncut (but for one F-bomb) and with no interruptions, they spent a week in advance warning that while the movie was extremely important and educational, it was probably not appropriate for children because of the material.

I probably won't ever use the specific phrase "Trigger Warning" myself, but I have said things like, "Warning: This link contains pictures of dead bodies" here or when posting to parent-friends on Facebook, "Probably make sure your kids aren't listening before clicking, there are a lot of F-bombs." Providing people context is a normal part of media consumption. When people object that warning people about intense or upsetting media is some sort of restriction on free speech, I always picture them running into work at a cube farm in the morning and shouting, "I FUCKED MY WIFE LAST NIGHT! MY PENIS IS FOUR INCHES LONG!" because apparently they do not understand the idea of context or filters.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:50 PM on January 28, 2015 [21 favorites]


For one, because it's not clear that having a position on the moral status of some sexual behavior has anything to do with whether or not one would be discriminatory or hostile towards the people who engage in those acts. Catholics often teach: judge the act, not the person. Nor is it clear that such views have any effect on the ability of this individual to do their job? And surely we're more sophisticated than the Dawkins of the world and realize that religion is a prevailing source of normative value?

But at the same time I sympathize. I wouldn't want to be friends with such a person, but I'm not sure that has any bearing on whether that person is qualified to teach.

I'm not saying they're repressing anyone, but I think they're skating close to the wrong side of things.

Why should we judge this person based on their private views?

Why is racism different? In short: morals are not the same as prejudices.

To be clear, I'm 100% in favor of homosexuality and premarital sex. Hell, I highly recommend both. But I'm not so arrogant as to think that my views are not open to question, or that the conservative Christian and Muslim etc people who disagree are just plain and simple wrong, and not just wrong but maybe ought to be disqualified from say a teaching job for that reason. I think there is a kind of inviolable dignity to a person's faith, even if I am utterly without faith...

Anyway I thought this was a propos to the discussion
posted by dis_integration at 5:03 PM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


For one, because it's not clear that having a position on the moral status of some sexual behavior has anything to do with whether or not one would be discriminatory or hostile towards the people who engage in those acts. Catholics often teach: judge the act, not the person.

You don't see how saying what I do in bed is wrong causes an atmosphere where I and people like me are unwelcome? You don't see how it's discriminatory?

Why is racism different? In short: morals are not the same as prejudices.

Using the fig leaf of 'morals' to cover up prejudice doesn't change the fact that it's prejudice. Some people think it's immoral for people of different skin colours to marry. Is that not prejudice?

But I'm not so arrogant as to think that my views are not open to question

I'm easily that arrogant. It's okay to be queer, and that is not open to question.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:07 PM on January 28, 2015 [13 favorites]


Nor is it clear that such views have any effect on the ability of this individual to do their job?

In a philosophy department? For what is presumably a tenure-track position where the school will be permanently associated with this person's intellectual output in peer-reviewed publications?
posted by Greg Nog at 5:10 PM on January 28, 2015 [8 favorites]


you'll also notice that the grad students were simply like, "dude rumor has it that you said some nasty stuff about gays on the interwebs. did you? care to clarify?"

Don't really see what wrong side of what they are skating close to.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 5:11 PM on January 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


In a philosophy department? For what is presumably a tenure-track position where the school will be permanently associated with this person's intellectual output in peer-reviewed publications?

Don't forget, be charged with attracting and training graduate students.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 5:12 PM on January 28, 2015


Honestly, it depends on the specialty. If he works on modal logic, or medieval Arabic philosophy, then no, his private moral positions are not relevant so long as he treats students and colleagues with dignity and respect. I mean, I've mostly been employed by Franciscan and Jesuit colleges. I know what the friars and SJs and sisters would think of my private life, but I don't think that it creates a hostile environment, no, and it also doesn't mean they aren't excellent professors. Hell, do you mean we shouldn't employ Christians at all? Because they all think that not accepting Christ is a sin, even if they're progressive about lgbt issues. That's just the kind of conflict we have to negotiate in the contemporary west. Should we ask Christians be ghettoized into their own institutions? One of my favorite professors in grad school was a former nun with some rather conservative views, but she was also a brilliant scholar, teacher and mentor.

These things are not really that clear cut. Especially in philosophy! Which is my specialty
posted by dis_integration at 5:22 PM on January 28, 2015 [6 favorites]


Hell, do you mean we shouldn't employ Christians at all?

Are you reading the same thread as me? Grad students wrote a letter asking about some hateful comments about gays attributed to a prospective coworker. That's it.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 5:26 PM on January 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


I don't think that it creates a hostile environment

For you. I would find working with an outspoken homophobe to very much be a hostile environment.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:27 PM on January 28, 2015 [9 favorites]


Hell, do you mean we shouldn't employ Christians at all?

Yes, that was clearly the subtext of what I wrote. I approve of drinking their blood and gaining their strength
posted by Greg Nog at 5:40 PM on January 28, 2015 [17 favorites]


Wow. I was hoping this article would get posted here, and there's some great comments here. It really was like a little flashback to the 1990's. I glanced at Chait's essay last night after a few cocktails, and it felt like way back when I first started reading Bloom's 'Closing of The American Mind'..."oh, this sounds kinda reasonable... oh wait, no it's not!"

When the 'political correctness' thing first appeared on campus in the 1980's there was a fair bit of initial confusion. Controlling people's language seemed controlling? But wait, it's just basic courtesy, along the lines of "Don't say things that are racist or sexist, okay." This was a bit of a learning curve for people who grew up being taught in grade school a few years earlier that white heterosexual masculinity was simply the way to go, but that's what education is for, dealing with change.

The fuss against trigger warnings is silly. It's also just basic courtesy. My friends who are humanities lecturers are reasonable adults who let their seminars know in advance when they deal with difficult material, and they have alternate options available, and it's just not a big deal when everyone involved has a basic level of respect for each other.

Chait's examples are crappy, but there is a nagging hair of discontent woven through it. Anyone who has been involved in progressive politics knows that well-meaning allies often get unfairly snarked, and the leftist circular firing squad is old history that we all know, while right winging demographics obediently turn on cue like flocks of birds. That's just the nature of things. Groups that value conformity have the advantage of strength in numbers, but only for as long as the environment that they live in supports their ecosystem.

The Metafilter Community is a complex left leaning organism. I'm not always down with some of the echo dynamics involved. Once in while a provocateur/contrarian will wander in and be chased away, but I don't really love the 'yay we toasted the heretic' vibe when that happens. I don't feel comfortable about it. You may ask why I don't just step in to defend them, but like many humans, I crave conformity, even when I don't love it.
posted by ovvl at 5:44 PM on January 28, 2015 [9 favorites]


dis_integration, as an excellent object lesson in what I was trying to say, please go read DrMew's comment here.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:52 PM on January 28, 2015


Its a logical extension of the claim fffm was making. I'm an atheist. I reject Christ. That means a Christian doesn't just disapprove of my Bacchic, bisexual promiscuity, but also me in general. I'm living in sin even if I'm celibate. Does this mean the Christian is hostile towards me? That he hates me? That he can't be a valuable teacher and mentor and treat me with respect? The answer here also applies to his view on my sex life. Hell, I'm also a Marxist. Should I militate against libertarian faculty who think socialism implies an immoral violation of the sanctity of individual rights? What if they specialize in Leibnizian metaphysics and treat me with respect?

Anyway, that's my last contribution here. I think it is a matter of toleration, and that we have a duty to avoid exclusionary factions. And these sorts of moral-viewpoint litmus tests run contrary to a spirit of toleration.

The real question for me is: is there really not a qualified woman who applied for this position? I guarantee you there was, and the grad students should be complaining that it isn't she who is the top candidate.
posted by dis_integration at 5:59 PM on January 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm an atheist.
I'm a Marxist.
I'm gay.

Which one of these things is not like the other?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 6:01 PM on January 28, 2015 [7 favorites]


I'm not always down with some of the echo dynamics involved. Once in while a provocateur/contrarian will wander in and be chased away, but I don't really love the 'yay we toasted the heretic' vibe when that happens.

The specific words you've chosen here -- provocateur and contrarian -- have connotations of bad faith on the part of the poster. If someone is posting in bad faith -- simply trying to provoke others or take the counter-majoritarian position simply for the sake of doing so -- why shouldn't the community celebrate them leaving?
posted by tonycpsu at 6:03 PM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think it is a matter of toleration, and that we have a duty to avoid exclusionary factions.

My whole thing is that I am actually really happy to exclude people who don't think I'm a person. I'm funny that way.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:05 PM on January 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


This fucking thread is the definition of a circular firing squad. If you want to know why we can't win elections, this is why. So many people here making petty, personal vicious attacks on people who are supposed to be our political allies. I'm not even picking sides here, it's just an embarrassing clusterfuck top to bottom to watch unfold.
posted by empath at 6:08 PM on January 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


"I know because I won both of them" - Obama, last week.

Anyway, who is fighting who?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 6:12 PM on January 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


dis_integration: And these sorts of moral-viewpoint litmus tests run contrary to a spirit of toleration.

I know you said you're done arguing this, but if you do come back, you might want to have a coherent answer as to how you judge the merit of the specific religious belief in question. If I tell you my God commands me to steal your wallet, on what basis do you argue? I mean, obviously that's absurd, but I would respond that believing someone's private sexual activity is immoral is also absurd. How do you differentiate between my transparently bullshit article of faith and someone else's article of faith about homosexuality, which is, in my opinion, just as transparently bullshit?
posted by tonycpsu at 6:18 PM on January 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


On the topic of One Child Policy, I'd just like to point out that when you combine with with the extremely pervasive attitudes towards progeny, there is a lot of pressure on youths to secure a good standing and heterosexual marriage. A massive amount of money and time is spent on education. It is also very common for at least one sibling, usually female, to take care of the parents in person as they get older, meaning they will likely always live either with the parents or in the nearby vicinity. This also works the other way, where grandparents will maintain close relationships with grandchildren in youth. Divorce is a thing. There is still in practice a huge disparity between income and opportunity between the sexes, and even in college graduate fields comprised overwhelmingly by women, the men are highly sought and well paid. Non-heterosexual romantic relationships aren't talked about, as well as changing from birth genders, and there are many rainbow-colored logos that have nothing to do with LGBT equality. There are definitely a lot of new tech and patterns moving in, though, both good and bad.

Please note that I grew up in the United States, and have spent at most 20% of my life in Asia, so these observations could be incorrect or overgeneralizing. China is a lesson in a controlling dictatorship which has made sweeping programs and changes that have created huge culture shocks, that would not be possible with the extensive debate you see in the US. It’s an extreme jump to link an ethical platform to a political action decades later. You build a society by having a lot of these ethical platforms and building upon each other.
posted by halifix at 6:19 PM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Anyway, who is fighting who?

Yeah, really, this is a pretty mild discussion as these things go. I don't understand the circular firing squad allegations at all.
posted by tonycpsu at 6:19 PM on January 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


As for people like Chait... I think of three broad classes of people.
1) There's people who think everyone already gets exactly what they deserve, and do not deserve help.
2) Second are those that see and try to remove inequality, but only within the mechanisms they accept as valid.
3) Lastly there are those that realize how complex every single action is, and accept critique that expands their views.

To think there is only one right path is to have never considered the automatic, learned, leaps of logic that we've been exposed to since birth. Toddlers have not yet learned that pouring liquid into a wider, shorter container does not mean there is less liquid, but any adult who could not identify the conservation of mass as it happened in front of them would be looked at strangely. Chait is a person who has not realized that when the outcast gets the teacher to tell him and his gang to stop being bullies, he really should stop. Just because there’s other bully groups that willingly fight his gang does not mean that everyone wants to act like that. We’re perfectly happy considering others and how complicated human communication is, thank you.

As for that candidate, I’d say it’s up to the school/graduates to consider whether to remove them from the hiring pool. Who knows, maybe if you let the candidate give an explanation, you’d learn that their views have changed. I’d definitely support being allowed to consider offensive views… although at the same time, there’s bigots using the same tactics without transparency. Knowing how to interact can be quite hard. Thanks for having all these arguments, although the personal attacks and bad-faith-like sarcasm can be disheartening.
posted by halifix at 6:20 PM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


"If you want to know why we can't win elections, this is why."

Isn't it more likely that the left comprises a smaller portion of the electorate generally, and particularly a smaller portion of the oligarchy that largely determines U.S. elections, c.f. $900 million Kochbucks?

Also more likely:The left doesn't win elections because everyone's always saying that the left doesn't win elections, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy endemic to first-past-the-post election systems?
posted by klangklangston at 6:27 PM on January 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


I argued with a (now) ex once because he complained that I should be able to ignore misogyny in some piece of classic literature he was recommending and just enjoy it. What I realized in that argument is that I already had to ignore misogyny in so many pieces of literature that I had hit a point where, no, I really couldn't "just enjoy it" anymore. I see people complaining about trigger warnings in college similar to the position of my ex: There's a weird assumption that somehow each individual reading is the only thing a student has ever read and if that student doesn't learn how to deal with difficult issues, they'll be sheltered and ignorant for the rest of their lives -- which ignores the reality that all of us deal with shitty triggering awful stuff all the time and it would just be a nice break to be respected enough to be warned in advance.

Critics of warnings portray those who want warnings as weak, without acknowledging the immense strength it takes to deal with constant aggression.

I also think it would be wonderful if the convention of including trigger warnings caused professors to really consider what readings they are assigning. I doubt trigger warnings would cause anyone to cease assigning works that are complicated and rich and worthwhile; I suspect it would, in positive ways, make professors think twice about assigning works that are casually racist/sexist/homophobic/exploitative/etc. for no real reason.
posted by jaguar at 7:43 PM on January 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm an atheist.
I'm a Marxist.
I'm gay.

Which one of these things is not like the other?


I was trying to sleep but this kept bugging me.

Marxism is more complicated. But I can't choose to believe in Christ anymore than I can choose to not be queer. There is something involuntary about both one's faith and one's sexuality. It would be a crime to try and reeducate a Muslim out of their faith just as it would be to try to reeducate a gay man out of his love.
posted by dis_integration at 8:10 PM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


But it's okay to use one's religion to excuse prejudice?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:12 PM on January 28, 2015


I don't want to reeducate anyone out of their faith. I would really like it if they don't make me obey their rules. Their rules are for them, and I shouldn't be required to live by them in order to avoid being discriminated against. We aren't living in a theocracy yet.
posted by rtha at 8:14 PM on January 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


Their rules are for them

And, unfortunately, the queer kids they drive to suicide.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:16 PM on January 28, 2015


The left (meaning the Marxist/Radical type left) doesn't win elections in the United States for a pretty wide variety of reasons. One is that leftist revolutions in the past have been disastrous, and there isn't really a great success story to point to as a counter. Any revolution can go bad no matter the ideology, but Marxist revolution has been pretty much a consistent strikeout with benevolent dictatorship being the best possible outcome. The US is still growing out of defining itself as a land of freedom standing alone against the USSR, it's gonna take a few more years until we can move on and accept that Marx actually had quite a few things right and was one of the greatest thinkers in history.

The path forward for leftism in the United States is persuasion, not revolution. That's where the temperament issues can be a bit of a burden. Some leftists are often profane and dismissive of people who disagree with them. It's a minority of them, but there isn't really a culture of disapproving of that when aimed at ideological opponents so the people who do it kind of feel empowered. It can be extremely frustrating to watch, I feel empath on that. It's absolutely correct that some portions of the "center left" especially in media seem to think that believing the right thing is all that matters, not working to always DO the right thing. The issue, for me, comes with framing that "center left" as an enemy rather than an ally in need of a kick in the butt to get more involved. These issues are often treated far too black and white. Good or bad. On the bandwagon or off it. I don't really think most people's heads really work that way.

Chait's article has really made me think about the distinction between "leftists" and "liberals" in the US. Generally, the words are considered one and the same in mainstream US media. If you are to the left of Joe Lieberman, you are basically a communist and there isn't much need for more distinction. I've honestly become more and more confused with where I fit in with politics. There is no party I am 100% on board with and no labels that seem to really define me. I'm just kind of, "Treat everybody with equal respect and give them equal rights, stay out of their private lives, and don't let our fellow citizens suffer without food, medicine, and shelter. When you have to make laws that restrict freedom, make sure they are pragmatic and effectively enforced. Oh, and avoid unnecessary wars." The closest to my views seems to be Libertarians but I can't really live with avoiding the "Don't let our fellow citizens suffer," part. Maybe the Democrats are that party and I'm just too reflexively anti-authoritarian to go along with it, but they are a pretty frustrating bunch at times. I honestly can't tell if I'm more of a Chait or a radical or something else entirely.

(I'm probably just a crank.)
posted by Drinky Die at 8:22 PM on January 28, 2015 [7 favorites]


escabeche: I teach college, and if somebody is actually trying to impose hard-left orthodoxy on today's college students, they are literally the worst imposer in human history.

This. (BTW, I'm a naive leftist.) I had one "Marxist" prof in university in the 80's for an anthropology class. At least we were told he was a Marxist - I think he was plain incompetent and using Marx to excuse his inability to hold a coherent thought. My one regret is that they fired him after the end of term and I didn't have the gall to ask for my money back.

Years later I saw an article about some kind of oddball (paranoid, fantasist) political movement in a ranching community in the US, and there was a picture of him amongst the assembled whackos.
posted by sneebler at 8:38 PM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


dis_integration: It would be a crime to try and reeducate a Muslim out of their faith just as it would be to try to reeducate a gay man out of his love.

One of these things is not like the other, indeed.
posted by sneebler at 8:40 PM on January 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


Some leftists are often profane and dismissive of people who disagree with them. It's a minority of them, but there isn't really a culture of disapproving of that when aimed at ideological opponents so the people who do it kind of feel empowered.

You've just described much of the Republican party, and certainly their pop culture mouthpieces.
posted by rtha at 8:42 PM on January 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


There is something involuntary about both one's faith and one's sexuality.

One of these things is not like the other. [on preview, snap, beaten to it]

It would be a crime to try and reeducate a Muslim out of their faith just as it would be to try to reeducate a gay man out of his love.

On the first item, it would only be an actual "legal" crime in some fucked up country where Sharia law prevails. But assuming we're in a non-utterly-fucked-up country with a somewhat secular legal code, why would it be a (moral?) crime to attempt to change a person's beliefs, including their religious beliefs? I try to change people's beliefs on things all the time, that seems to be what we on MeFi spend half our time here doing. Holy shit that's some fucked up thinking you got going on there.
posted by amorphatist at 8:43 PM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


You've just described much of the Republican party, and certainly their pop culture mouthpieces.

Yeah, that's true. Sullivan, for all his many many flaws, made a good point in one of the articles linked above.

The right has its own version of this, of course. Many of us dissenters were purged and rendered anathema years ago. But look where that has actually left today’s GOP. It’s turned into this.

The GOP’s New Year
posted by Drinky Die at 8:51 PM on January 28, 2015


"The issue, for me, comes with framing that "center left" as an enemy rather than an ally in need of a kick in the butt to get more involved."

The problem is that no matter how light a kick, Chait'll claim it's exactly why he's the real victim.
posted by klangklangston at 8:52 PM on January 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


Digby reminds us that this is nothing new for Chait (back then it was the "Netroots").

(In addition to his wrongness on the war questions that mattered most.)

Great career, though!
posted by notyou at 8:52 PM on January 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


"This. (BTW, I'm a naive leftist.) I had one "Marxist" prof in university in the 80's for an anthropology class. At least we were told he was a Marxist - I think he was plain incompetent and using Marx to excuse his inability to hold a coherent thought. My one regret is that they fired him after the end of term and I didn't have the gall to ask for my money back."

I had a poli sci prof that helped organize the Zapatistas in Chiapas and even he wasn't a Marxist, though we did read Marx.

Part of the problem with railing against Marxists is that basically zero people identify as orthodox Marxists, and 90 percent of people complaining about Marxists have never read Marx. Pretty much anyone left enough to consider themselves a Marxist has also had roughly a century and a half of critiques and responses to Marx to wade through, including the nominally Marxist revolutions (and Maoist and Castrismo and Sandanista and etc.).

But what, 20 percent of people have a college degree? Of those, how many take a class where they need to read Marx? (And of those, how many read more than a couple excerpts or skim a few chapters?)
posted by klangklangston at 10:09 PM on January 28, 2015 [7 favorites]


I had a philosophy prof. who was supposedly a Marxist. He definitely loved Hegel as well. I wonder if it is possible to really understand Marx without understanding Hegel. And how many people on the planet understand Hegel?
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:29 PM on January 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


So many people here making petty, personal vicious attacks on people who are supposed to be our political allies.

Allies who stop being allies the instant they're forced to consider that maybe they are not the sum total of the cause are not allies.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:42 PM on January 28, 2015 [9 favorites]


Allies who stop being allies when you have minor disagreements about magazine articles are similarly worthless.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:37 PM on January 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


Looks like the Radical Left (tm) has silenced that scoundrel Andrew Sullivan!

About fifteen years too late

I kid, of course. Sully seems like a pleasant enough bloke, and was certainly one of the most important founding fathers of political blogging.

Sully was and is an utter shit, a bigot with no qualms to accuse all liberals of being traitors after 9/11, whose operating motive always was "I got mine and I'll kick the ladder out behind me."
posted by MartinWisse at 12:58 AM on January 29, 2015 [10 favorites]


The candidate’s original postings on this matter were not found, and were presumed to have been deleted or made private.

I'd also note that if -- and please note I said if; the article is thinly sourced -- the candidate did delete or make private formerly public postings on the subject, it's an indication that he himself believed, in advance of whatever the students thought or did, that those opinions would be relevant to his getting the position.

There's also a huge difference, when it comes to a hostile work environment, between someone presuming someone else has an opinion -- that person is Catholic, so he or she must disapprove of gays! -- and someone actually sharing those opinions publicly. One might presume a dude is sexist; one might be wrong about that, but if said dude plasters his cubicles with objectifying pictures of women, it's a positive action that does create a hostile environment.
posted by Gelatin at 5:55 AM on January 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


Sully was and is an utter shit, a bigot

While I've disagreed with Sully on many things, I didn't know that the hard left considered him a 'bigot' per se. Who is he bigoted against?

And if Sully is a bigot, and Chait a war-mongerer, what ad hominem is available for Michelle Goldberg, whose recent post (Feminism's Toxic Twitter Wars) is as condemnatory of the social justice self-destruction as the other two?
posted by amorphatist at 6:35 AM on January 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


Speaking of ad hominems, one of the tells I often notice is characterizing anyone to the left of, say, Herbert Hoover as "hard left." If memory serves me correctly, Sullivan himself was known to pull that one with some regularity.
posted by Gelatin at 6:43 AM on January 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


> And if Sully is a bigot, and Chait a war-mongerer, what ad hominem

Only one person in this thread has described Chait as a war-monger. Is it ad hom to say Chait suppported the invasion of Iraq?
posted by rtha at 6:52 AM on January 29, 2015


While I've disagreed with Sully on many things, I didn't know that the hard left considered him a 'bigot' per se. Who is he bigoted against?

Black people and non-white people generally. Back in the '90s he used his platform to promote the hell out of The Bell Curve and IIRC he has never backed down from his support for Charles Murray's caliper-clicking dishonesty.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:00 AM on January 29, 2015 [8 favorites]


Speaking of ad hominems, one of the tells I often notice is characterizing anyone to the left of, say, Herbert Hoover as "hard left."

Well, if Chait is supposedly center-left, who are people much further to the left of him? Far left? Extreme left? What's wrong with "hard left"? Also, why would that be an "ad hominem"?
posted by amorphatist at 7:05 AM on January 29, 2015


Black people and non-white people generally.

Ah yes, fair enough.
posted by amorphatist at 7:13 AM on January 29, 2015


What's wrong with "hard left"?

What's wrong with just "left"?
posted by octothorpe at 7:40 AM on January 29, 2015


if Chait is supposedly center-left, who are people much further to the left of him?

The word "supposedly" carries a lot of weight here. Given that the standard Chait / New Republic tactic is to adopt right-wing framing in the name of "moderation," there's a whiff of rhetorical bad faith in attempting to paint actual, mainstream liberal positions (for example, as mentioned above, support for reproductive choice, a living wage and support for clean, sustainable energy sources) as radical or out of the mainstream.

Since all of those positions are bog-standard Democratic positions (some of which, also, used to be shared by liberal Republicans, when such things existed) it's a transparently dishonest attempt to move the Overton window to the right (which, again, does more to cast doubt on the perpetrator's claim of "centrism" than anything).

It's an ad hominem because characterizing positions to one's left as hard left portrays them as radical or out of the mainstream and therefore inherently not worth consideration, and I contend it's a bit of dishonest rhetorical sleight-of-hand that Sullvan, Chait and their ilk pull all the time. Though a necessary one, if one is basically attempting to convince one's audience -- in the name of "contrarianism" or whatever -- to adopt right-wing framing or positions.
posted by Gelatin at 7:50 AM on January 29, 2015 [8 favorites]


Black people and non-white people generally. Back in the '90s he used his platform to promote the hell out of The Bell Curve and IIRC he has never backed down from his support for Charles Murray's caliper-clicking dishonesty.

You can read his most recent posts about race issues here. He seems to be unapologetic about his support for Charles Murray's ideas, but he rarely posts about it, and I think other than that awful and stupid thing, is mostly unobjectionable.
posted by empath at 7:56 AM on January 29, 2015


"Apart from being viciously bigoted against people who aren't like me, he's totally fine!"
posted by tavella at 8:06 AM on January 29, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'm not sure the current distinction between "left" and "hard left" makes sense – and it certainly doesn't apply well to this case. It may seem archaic, but it really makes sense to describe Chait as "Old Left," as opposed to "New Left." We are not really used to talking this way anymore, but since his chief bugaboo in this article is Catharine McKinnon, well, "Old Left" vs "New Left" is probably the best descriptor. He is an "Old Leftie" who feels that liberalism went off the rails completely in acceding to the "New Left." Now it's crazy-time! Feminism and such can go too far, you know. Whatever happened to that old style of leftism that really cared about equality, but didn't go after old white guys?
posted by koeselitz at 8:10 AM on January 29, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm not sure the current distinction between "left" and "hard left" makes sense – and it certainly doesn't apply well to this case.

Which is why the habit of characterizing differing opinions as "Hard Left / Far left/ Extreme left" is so dishonest. I might add that it's yet another rhetorical frame adopted from conservatism.
posted by Gelatin at 8:14 AM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't classify him as being viciously bigoted.

He has bad and stupid beliefs, but he tends be on the progressive side of race issues in many ways, regardless. He did a whole series of posts on 'walking while black' during his Ferguson coverage, for example, where he let his readers speak for themselves. He's a complicated person and just slotting him as a villain because he has some stupid and even evil beliefs, seems to be kind of wrong-headed.
posted by empath at 8:17 AM on January 29, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'm not sure the current distinction between "left" and "hard left" makes sense – and it certainly doesn't apply well to this case. It may seem archaic, but it really makes sense to describe Chait as "Old Left," as opposed to "New Left."

"Old Left" as opposed to "New Left" works just fine for me if that's a less contentious terminology here.
posted by amorphatist at 8:18 AM on January 29, 2015


And if Sully is a bigot, and Chait a war-mongerer, what ad hominem is available for Michelle Goldberg, whose recent post (Feminism's Toxic Twitter Wars) is as condemnatory of the social justice self-destruction as the other two?

Well, "tone-deaf" is the nicest most charitable one. Considering that her hit piece focused on only one demographic (and past pieces like the hand wringing over Justine Sacco), her one-sided article about TERFs, etc, there are several more I can think of.
posted by kmz at 8:33 AM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Re: race & sullivan.

Keep in mind he is a brit, so that should explain some of his tone-deafness regarding race in the US. Its a hard thing to grasp for foreigners, doubly so when you are vulnerable to being stupid.

Anyway, Sullivan believes that black people are genetically inferior to whites, which is like the platonic ideal of racism.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:54 AM on January 29, 2015 [6 favorites]


Chait's a liberal whining about leftists, guys. The Old Left/New Left frame doesn't work either because A) it's anachronistic and B) if Chait were Old Left he'd be at least a committed labor unionist or at most a Communist.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:34 AM on January 29, 2015 [5 favorites]


A couple things that popped up in my RSS reader today -- file under "searching for a nugget of truth buried in the mountain of excrement":

Bell Waring @ Crooked Timber, while mostly of the opinion that Chait is full of shit, concedes:
The second thing on which he might have a point is campus culture. He claims that professors are cowering in fear, unwilling to express banal views lest they be given an intellectual beat-down, some horrible pile-on where their words get re-tweeted a million times as evidence of rape culture, or something. This sounds…dubious to me. Also, however much political conservatives like to claim that universities are the vanguard of inevitable social changes (for good or ill) the fact is that campuses are strange, insular places that don’t have a very big impact on society outside them. But could well-intentioned political correctness ever run amok on some college campus and have it be the case that for six years it was a weird place to be? OK sure maybe.

[UPDATE: commenter JM Hatch reminds me that Chait cites examples of straight-up vandalism in which people’s signs were torn from their hands b/c they expressed the wrong views. This, plus the dude in the opening para, merits one full argumentative point.]
Freddie de Boer, known mostly in blogging circles for occasionally guest-posting at Sullivan's Dish and being kind of a gadfly / iconoclast / all-purpose leftier-than-thou pain in the ass on many issues, begins by excoriating Chait:
So, to state the obvious: Jon Chait is a jerk who somehow manages to be both condescending and wounded in his piece on political correctness. He gets the basic nature of language policing wrong, and his solutions are wrong, and he’s a centrist Democrat scold who is just as eager to shut people out of the debate as the people he criticizes. That’s true.
but then outlines several examples where he claims to have personally witnessed the kind of on-campus ideological policing / "politcal correctness gone amok" thing:
I have seen, with my own two eyes, a 19 year old white woman — smart, well-meaning, passionate — literally run crying from a classroom because she was so ruthlessly brow-beaten for using the word “disabled.” Not repeatedly. Not with malice. Not because of privilege. She used the word once and was excoriated for it. She never came back. I watched that happen.

I have seen, with my own two eyes, a 20 year old black man, a track athlete who tried to fit organizing meetings around classes and his ridiculous practice schedule (for which he received a scholarship worth a quarter of tuition), be told not to return to those meetings because he said he thought there were such a thing as innate gender differences. He wasn’t a homophobe, or transphobic, or a misogynist. It turns out that 20 year olds from rural South Carolina aren’t born with an innate understanding of the intersectionality playbook. But those were the terms deployed against him, those and worse. So that was it; he was gone.

I have seen, with my own two eyes, a 33 year old Hispanic man, an Iraq war veteran who had served three tours and had become an outspoken critic of our presence there, be lectured about patriarchy by an affluent 22 year old white liberal arts college student, because he had said that other vets have to “man up” and speak out about the war. Because apparently we have to pretend that we don’t know how metaphorical language works or else we’re bad people. I watched his eyes glaze over as this woman with $300 shoes berated him. I saw that. Myself.

These things aren’t hypothetical. This isn’t some thought experiment. This is where I live, where I have lived. These and many, many more depressing stories of good people pushed out and marginalized in left-wing circles because they didn’t use the proper set of social and class signals to satisfy the world of intersectional politics. So you’ll forgive me when I roll my eyes at the army of media liberals, stuffed into their narrow enclaves, responding to Chait by insisting that there is no problem here and that anyone who says there is should be considered the enemy.
Extrapolating from these few personal anecdotes is fraught with peril, but as hostile as I am toward Chait and his overall thesis, it's been 15 years since I was an undergrad, so I'm willing to at least consider the idea that there's been a change in recent years in how college students are exercising their right to speak up when offended, and that there are times when some individuals take things too far. I do think it's incumbent upon people like Chait and de Boer to acknowledge that there are also benefits that come along with these downside risks, and many problems associated with the status quo of keeping marginalized groups marginalized. It's not necessarily a zero-sum game, but it's certainly not obvious that the people cited in these anecdotes would have been receptive to the underlying message if it had been phrased more diplomatically, or that the people involved didn't try to deal with things in a more patient and civil manner before the more bombastic / accusatory responses that these people happened to witness and add to their "SJWs being meanies" file.

Anyway, just trying to be charitable to the one piece of Chaitsplainin' that hasn't been thoroughly demolished yet.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:06 AM on January 29, 2015 [7 favorites]


Keep in mind he is a brit, so that should explain some of his tone-deafness regarding race in the US.

He's also lived as an openly gay man in a majority black city and was on the receiving end of quite a bit of black homophobia while there (he's written about it, but I can't find the posts now), so I think that probably feeds into his bigotry, as well.
posted by empath at 10:06 AM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Jeet Heer, The New Republic's Legacy On Race
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:21 AM on January 29, 2015


I am so incredibly tired of the way the whole "we're on the same side, fight THEM not ME" shtick is always tossed out as a way to declare moral superiority. Discussing political views is not a competitive sport. We are not playing Red Rover where our only goal is to convert conservatives over to liberals and to avoid losing people on our "side". It makes no sense to reduce all political views into two giant binary umbrella categories. Just because you view politics as such doesn't mean you are automatically exempt from having your views subject to scrutinization, discussion, and criticism, just because you perceive yourself as being in roughly the same giant umbrella as the people who you're talking to. I don't understand why the slightest bit of disagreement instantly gets tarred with war metaphors such as "fighting" or "firing at your allies". This is not a blunt, two-sided war. The point of discourse isn't always to "win". Do people even understand what they mean when they say "winning" - and if so, do they realize this definition likely changes from person to person and viewpoint to viewpoint - or are they just tossing that around blindly?

What is with this highly militaristic, nationalistic, and binary reduction of discourse?
posted by Conspire at 10:28 AM on January 29, 2015 [10 favorites]


Seriously, if I could purge one word from the world forever, it would be the word "ally", because it seems to do nothing but make people act dumb once they've labeled themselves as such.
posted by Conspire at 10:31 AM on January 29, 2015


but then outlines several examples where he claims to have personally witnessed the kind of on-campus ideological policing

I was in college in the 80s at a politically conservative campus. Things I witnessed and experienced included: Regularly being called a Communist; having flyers ripped out of my hands; having signs/posters/flyers on my dorm door ripped down or defaced; receiving mayonnaise-smeared condoms in my campus mailbox; students from the off-campus conservative paper sledgehammering shanties we had built on the Green to protest apartheid (they did this in the middle of the night, on the eve of MLK day); my friend Carol - who had recently talked at rallies about sexual assault on campus - being punched in the face by a guy who ran out of a frat, who also yelled at her to shut up like a good bitch.

But god, all everyone ever wants to talk about is the terrible effect that "political correctness" has on human existence, and how stuff like what I experienced and witnessed is not somehow systemic or deeply built into our culture, it's just random assholes.
posted by rtha at 10:32 AM on January 29, 2015 [20 favorites]


I have seen, with my own two eyes, a 33 year old Hispanic man, an Iraq war veteran who had served three tours and had become an outspoken critic of our presence there, be lectured about patriarchy by an affluent 22 year old white liberal arts college student, because he had said that other vets have to “man up” and speak out about the war.

WHAT. ARE YOU KIDDING MY. STOP THE WORDPRESSES!!!!!

Are you telling me, for totes serious, that in a politically correct gulag re-education camp (aka a UnIvErSiTy), someone lectured someone about something???!?!?!?! The horror. Political correctness has gone too far.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:00 AM on January 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


I have seen, with my own two eyes, a 19 year old white woman

I have seen, with my own two eyes, a 20 year old black man

I have seen, with my own two eyes, a 33 year old Hispanic man


...and he didn't speak up, because...what? Fear they would come for him next?

Of course there are cases when individuals take things too far. But to extrapolate anecdotes of individuals going too far into some kind of trend of pervasive existential threat to white male liberal privilege -- and I speak as a white male liberal -- which Chait does, is risible. I agree that it should be incumbent upon people like Chait and de Boer to acknowledge that there are also benefits that come along with these downside risks, but the core of Chait's whole screed is that the benefits aren't worth whatever sacrifices his privilege has to make.
posted by Gelatin at 11:08 AM on January 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


From Waring's Crooked Timber post:

Or maybe you heard that a previously moderately well-regarded author has gone to the #slatepitch side of the Force.

Wait, since when has #slatepitch not been Chait's forté?
posted by Gelatin at 11:11 AM on January 29, 2015


Nice response to Chait from Matthew Yglesias in Vox today: All Politics is Identity Politics.
The implication of this usage [of "identity politics"] (which is widespread, and by no means limited to people who agree with Chait) is that somehow an identity is something only women or African-Americans or perhaps LGBT people have. White men just have ideas about politics that spring from a realm of pure reason, with concerns that are by definition universal.
...
This is where the at-times tiresome concept of privilege becomes very useful. The truth is that almost all politics is, on some level, about identity. But those with the right identities have the privilege of simply calling it politics while labeling other people's agendas "identity."
posted by aka burlap at 11:19 AM on January 29, 2015 [14 favorites]


I have seen, with my own two eyes, a 33 year old Hispanic man, an Iraq war veteran who had served three tours and had become an outspoken critic of our presence there, be lectured about patriarchy by an affluent 22 year old white liberal arts college student, because he had said that other vets have to “man up” and speak out about the war.

Lotta questions associated with that. Define 'lecture' for one.

But, uh, seriously, when talking about the military and in this age of women serving in the military and now even potentially officially in combat roles yeah... a little redirection from the term 'man up' does not seem terribly remiss. One doesn't have to go nuclear about it, but it is a very valid point I think. the military has had a hell of a long history of infantilizing and demeaning women (even women on the 'home-front') I can see why some may be quick to jump on it.

I would even say if you are offended or incensed over being called on the carpet for it you just may be a thin skinned whiny assed wuss.
posted by edgeways at 11:27 AM on January 29, 2015 [6 favorites]


These criticisms are fair, and I share them, but I don't think that de Boer's point is that these exchanges are a threat to cis/white/hetero/male privilege, but that the burning of bridges (as he sees it) turns away people who could be useful, if imperfect partners in advancing shared interests:
What do I do, when I see so many good, impressionable young people run screaming from left-wing politics because they are excoriated the first second they step mildly out of line? Megan Garber, you have any suggestions for me, when I meet some 20 year old who got caught in a Twitter storm and determined that she never wanted to set foot in that culture again? I’m all ears. If I’m not allowed to ever say, hey, you know, there’s more productive, more inclusive ways to argue here, then I don’t know what the fuck I am supposed to do or say.
He's oversimplifying by assuming that the people lashing out and the people being lashed out at would necessarily have enough common ground at the outset to be partners even if the exchanges were more educational and less combative, but with the stakes so high, it'd be a shame if lefties were leaving points on the field by turning away people who come in with their heart in the right place, but maybe with only an inch-deep understanding of privilege, intersectionality, etc. Certainly, the examples he cites are more compelling to me than Chait's ridiculous "my Big Media friends have sads because they can't lecture their readers without hearing from them" examples.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:35 AM on January 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


If I’m not allowed to ever say, hey, you know, there’s more productive, more inclusive ways to argue here

I completely agree that individuals can be overzealous and alienate people who might otherwise be sympathetic. The question, though, is does that kind of thing happen on the margins, or is there the kind of Grand Oppressive Conspiracy Of Silence that Chait imagines there to be?

If it happens on the margins, as I'm sure it does, I would imagine that saying "hey, you know, there’s more productive, more inclusive ways to argue here" would be perfect, as a matter of fact; using the words "more inclusive" in particular are a winner. I didn't read the link, but there was nothing in the section quoted to indicate that he did try saying anything like that and got shot down.
posted by Gelatin at 11:49 AM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


He's also lived as an openly gay man in a majority black city and was on the receiving end of quite a bit of black homophobia while there (he's written about it, but I can't find the posts now), so I think that probably feeds into his bigotry, as well.

you are literally making excuses for racism here.
posted by KathrynT at 11:53 AM on January 29, 2015 [12 favorites]


If you say, here is a video about Auschwitz - people should be able to handle the choice themselves.
...
What would we do without these wise souls to define our realities for us.


I feel as if you have gotten this exactly backwards. Telling someone that something is a trigger warning is far more an attempt at defining someone's reality than describing it and leaving the choice to them. Again, if you are reading or watching material about Auschwitz, or about war, do you need a trigger warning? Doesn't the subject matter give away the fact that the content will be difficult to handle?

Anyway, perhaps the solution would be to introduce a more standardized system, something like what's used for movies & TV. As it is, there is a lot of guessing and sometimes warnings given for material unlikely to be triggering only because 'you may as well play it safe'.

I was in college in the 80s at a politically conservative campus...

But god, all everyone ever wants to talk about is the terrible effect that "political correctness" has on human existence,


THe point is that there used to be politically liberal campuses where open dialogue and the exploration of ideas was the goal. The worry about politically correct vocabulary and categories is that students come to class with their beliefs already entrenched, and ready to reprimand anyone who doesn't agree.

The most important part of education is understanding - if you learn how to say the right things due to peer pressure and not because you actually reached those conclusions yourself, it's meaningless. That's the point of the socratic method. Don't tell someone they're wrong to say "man up" - ask why they're using that language. If you just make it socially unacceptable, you aren't really changing anything anyway.
posted by mdn at 11:54 AM on January 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


I have seen, with my own two eyes, a 33 year old Hispanic man, an Iraq war veteran who had served three tours and had become an outspoken critic of our presence there, be lectured about patriarchy by an affluent 22 year old white liberal arts college student, because he had said that other vets have to “man up” and speak out about the war.

All I get from these stories is that some people can't handle criticism.
posted by maxsparber at 11:58 AM on January 29, 2015 [6 favorites]


I completely agree that individuals can be overzealous and alienate people who might otherwise be sympathetic. The question, though, is does that kind of thing happen on the margins, or is there the kind of Grand Oppressive Conspiracy Of Silence that Chait imagines there to be?

Bingo. Thing is, nobody has a wide enough cross-section to answer this definitively, so we have to make the best judgement calls we can. My gut tells me de Boer has either experienced a distorted sample or is ignoring other less-GRAR-y interactions that went just fine but didn't align with his priors, but if I assume that, then I'm (to some extent) making the same kind of assumption that people make when they say that any one or two particular instances of someone marginalizing them can't possibly be indicative of a broad societal problem.

My usual approach to resolving this ambiguity when there's so little signal to be measured is to side with the less privileged, and nothing about these essays changes that, but there seemed to at least be something worth talking about there.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:01 PM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


See, here's the thing about that "man up" anecdote -- we don't know if the veteran was told he was "wrong", in so many words, to use the phrase; we only have a second hand paraphrased anecdote in which he was "lectured about the patriarchy." Obviously it rubbed de Boer the wrong way, and presumably, by his telling, the veteran (although de Boer doesn't actually say the veteran was offended, only that he, de Boer, was on his behalf), but someone actually could be an outspoken critic of the Iraq war and also steeped in a form of military tradition whose "metaphorical language" comes off as sexist.

We don't know what she said; we only know that de Boer didn't like the way she said it, or at least saw the opportunity to cite her as an example to the readers of Sullivan's blog. I'd still hesitate before accepting that anecdote as an example of political correctness run amuck.
posted by Gelatin at 12:02 PM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


THe point is that there used to be politically liberal campuses where open dialogue and the exploration of ideas was the goal. The worry about politically correct vocabulary and categories is that students come to class with their beliefs already entrenched, and ready to reprimand anyone who doesn't agree.

The most important part of education is understanding - if you learn how to say the right things due to peer pressure and not because you actually reached those conclusions yourself, it's meaningless. That's the point of the socratic method.


Are you an academic? Is Chait? Shouldn't this be the concern of academics? Given that this politically correct oppressive atmosphere actually exists, shouldn't academics be seeing it and complaining about it and dealing with it?


Don't tell someone they're wrong to say "man up" - ask why they're using that language. If you just make it socially unacceptable, you aren't really changing anything anyway.

Uh, whatever fuck it.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:03 PM on January 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


> THe point is that there used to be politically liberal campuses where open dialogue and the exploration of ideas was the goal.

When? Where? I mean, this was systemic, and not just "this one place I went/worked/heard about"?
posted by rtha at 12:06 PM on January 29, 2015


Because I'm positive that at the same time I and my friends were being harassed and assaulted outside the classroom, people were complaining about being afraid to say the "wrong" thing inside the classroom.
posted by rtha at 12:08 PM on January 29, 2015 [6 favorites]


this woman with $300 shoes berated him

That stands out to me. The thing about the online left driving our discussions about privilege is that the majority of them are white American men and women. Even with personal intersectionalities accounted for, they are the most privileged people in the history of human civilization. That's to be expected, they have satisfied their basic hierarchy of needs and have the mental bandwidth available to address stuff like how people sit on the subway that others might view as trivial, but it can lead to some whacked out priorities for activism at times.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:57 PM on January 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


The question, though, is does that kind of thing happen on the margins, or is there the kind of Grand Oppressive Conspiracy Of Silence that Chait imagines there to be?

I very much doubt the Grand Conspiracy. Most of the anecdotes I've seen sound simply like people—usually young people—being, to varying degrees, overzealous, tactless or shitty. While the people complaining about it often sound oversensitive, tactless, or tendentious. Honestly, it's amazing how much of all this sounds like the bickering of an unhappily married couple. OH MARTHA YOU LAUGHED YOUR ASS OFF ...

Back in the '90s he used his platform to promote the hell out of The Bell Curve and IIRC he has never backed down from his support for Charles Murray's caliper-clicking dishonesty.

Re: Sullivan, the Murray thing is the most embarrassing bee in his bonnet, a fixation that he's apparently unwilling to be argued out of. It's crank territory. Despite that, I've profited from his writing on other less shameful, more thoughtful topics in the past and it won't surprise me if I do so again in the future. Sullivan's not the first person with objectionable opinions in whose work I've found some value and I'm sure he won't be the last.

I wouldn't presume to tell others not to be offended by him, however, and I wouldn't blame anyone for passing him by on that account. He's not that important. Besides, the question was "would I read him" not "would I marry him."
posted by octobersurprise at 1:12 PM on January 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


Re: Sullivan, the Murray thing is the most embarrassing bee in his bonnet, a fixation that he's apparently unwilling to be argued out of. It's crank territory.

His designation of Democratic-leaning states as a potential fifth column during his cheerleading for the Iraq war, cited above, runs a very close second with me.

I will grant that, at least, that Sullivan publicly recognized what a disaster Bush the Younger was, some time after the second time he voted for him.
posted by Gelatin at 1:22 PM on January 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


His designation of Democratic-leaning states as a potential fifth column during his cheerleading for the Iraq war, cited above, runs a very close second with me.

No, that's just bog-standard Andrew Sullivan hyperbole. I'll bet he really believed it at the time. And then he didn't believe it just as strongly.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:29 PM on January 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


that's just bog-standard Andrew Sullivan hyperbole

That's just it, though, isn't it? On the one hand we have a mythical conspiracy of political correctness, and on the other a political clique whose "bog-standard hyperbole" is to accuse a little more than half the country of being potential traitors.

And it's the former that Chait and his ilk choose to whine about.
posted by Gelatin at 1:34 PM on January 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


No, that's just bog-standard Andrew Sullivan hyperbole. I'll bet he really believed it at the time. And then he didn't believe it just as strongly.

Now that's a voice I can trust!
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:53 PM on January 29, 2015


Yeah... after all the bluster all I'm seeing here really is the tendency to attribute isolated incidents to be indicative of the whole.

Same
As
It
Ever
Was


Don't tell someone they're wrong to say "man up" - ask why they're using that language. If you just make it socially unacceptable, you aren't really changing anything anyway.

Two counter points to this: the first, asking someone why they are using this language can just as easily be seen as condescending as any other approach where you are taking an adversarial stance. We are all not the Dali Lama, especially college students (who again I seriously question the ongoing need to place the responsibility of representing the whole of any socio/political gestalt on their sholders) who, dog love em, are... well often times more eager than thoughtful.

Secondly, there is a lot of argument that language and word use can affect thought and action. I suspect everyone who decry 'Political Correctness' believes this or fears this to be true. So... possibly, making some language socially unacceptable could actually change things. In the 1970s the word 'nigger' was used quite a bit socially and on television. Go back, watch certain sitcoms like Soap, Archie Bunker.. or SNL. It gets used pretty casually. Nowadays it'd cause a major shitstorm. Are we less racist then we where in the 1970s? I don't know. We definitely are not not racist, and there are still some pretty big problems, but we also have elected a man who is black as president, twice. And... I do think we are better off now that that term is not bandied about nearly as casually. Likewise 'faggot'. I'll go further and say I think 'retarded' should also get axed, it really is not a medical term at this point. I think those terms, and some others, are perfectly ok to retire from everyday usage. We don't lose any vital important free thought for letting them drop. Language changes, it always does and it seems pretty reasonable to actively question and try and direct it.
I think really when people get all huffy about free thought or the flow of ideas by castigating people who are actually doing that very thing (challenging "man-up") they end up being the ones who are trying to limit new ideas and thoughts by clinging to the way things always have been done. Chait et al does not like PCness because it challenges him . It challenges him to think about his language. Exactly how is this any different then that one family member at Thanksgiving going on about colored people? Not much... oh wait I know. They don't get paid to write/say it.
posted by edgeways at 1:58 PM on January 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


"I had a philosophy prof. who was supposedly a Marxist. He definitely loved Hegel as well. I wonder if it is possible to really understand Marx without understanding Hegel. And how many people on the planet understand Hegel?"

Even Hegel didn't understand Hegel. He just threw up two streams of bullshit and counted on them canceling each other out.

I wouldn't classify him as being viciously bigoted. "

No, he's aloofly, arrogantly bigoted.

"Extrapolating from these few personal anecdotes is fraught with peril, but as hostile as I am toward Chait and his overall thesis, it's been 15 years since I was an undergrad, so I'm willing to at least consider the idea that there's been a change in recent years in how college students are exercising their right to speak up when offended, and that there are times when some individuals take things too far."

So, I was in undergrad eight years ago, and I can say that while there were a handful of students playing more-left-than-thou at my third-tier state school (right down the road from Chait's alma), there were just as many (if not more) Upright Warriors for Capitalism, preening theocratic apologists, and oblivious white dudes being affronted by having any challenges to their moral superiority in the texts. I had a Contemporary Journalism class where one student said that he didn't think that a fellow black, female student deserved to be at the school because affirmative action meant that she was less likely to be up to his snuff. I had a classmate flatly refuse to consider any of Rousseau's criticisms of Locke re: private property because the government should never be allowed to tax anyone. I had a professor seriously claim that white indentured servants were worse off than slaves, and that the Civil War wasn't about slavery. I had more than one classmate walk out of classes over purported affronts to their fundamentalist worldviews (including one who thought that our IR prof — a practicing Catholic priest who had previously been a Vatican ambassador — was encouraging abortion). I know that I showed my ass at least once as the only white guy in a couple of classes about African Americans and hip-hop (mostly about Afrocentric history, some of which I was wrongly dubious of).

And not only that, we had a regular student preacher who would declaim outside the big classroom building at least once a week, and regular visits from the aborto-phobes handing out foam fetuses.

This is aside from all of the pompous philosophy students, pretentious art students, moronic journalism students, sexist recording arts students, and just general boors, yobbos and clods that had no compunctions about subjecting the class to whatever blather they had on their minds at the time. So maybe elite campuses have become hotbeds of Maoist self-criticism and social justice purges, but my general hunch is that you have a bunch of earnest, strident morons of all stripes and that the fallacy of misleading vividness is in ample supply.
posted by klangklangston at 2:33 PM on January 29, 2015 [18 favorites]


He's also lived as an openly gay man in a majority black city and was on the receiving end of quite a bit of black homophobia while there (he's written about it, but I can't find the posts now), so I think that probably feeds into his bigotry, as well.

This is such a weird thing to say, I'm not sure what it's supposed to mean. Does it mean that using anecdotes to excuse highly damaging political investments is ok? Does it mean Blacks are more homophobic than Whites? Does it mean that Sullivan experienced Black homophobia but not White homophobia? Does it mean that Sullivan was even around significant nbers of Blacks? (DC is a very segregated City. I have friends here who are almost literally never around African Americans.). Does it mean that Black members if DC's gay community are homophobic? Does it mean that all of the Black reporters and political operatives that Sullivan hung out with are more homophobic than all the White reporters and political operatives he's been around? Does it mean that living in a "majority Black city" has allowed Sullivan to see something about the nature of Black people that other Whites (say, anti-racist Whites) might not see?

It's pretty extraordinary to pack so much ambiguity into such a short statement meant to justify racism.
posted by OmieWise at 3:14 PM on January 29, 2015 [6 favorites]


OmieWise, i means nothing more than that he was on the receiving end of black bigotry against gays in dc (might have been his first interactions with african americans at all), and he possibly directed his anger at the group instead of the individuals. His bigotry is still stupid, wrong, evil and unjustified.
posted by empath at 4:24 PM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


David Frum, The Atlantic: Liberals and the Illiberal Left
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:56 PM on January 29, 2015


Perfect! I was just thinking "boy, I wonder what David Frum thinks about all of this!"

Wait, no, that's not right -- no one was thinking that. No one at all.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:21 PM on January 29, 2015 [6 favorites]


From Frum's Atlantic piece, in reference to the CUNY graduate centre issuing a policy memo banning the use of 'Mr' and 'Ms' from salutations in communication with students:

"The inability to say “no” to transgender activists at a graduate school (...)"

No evidence whatsoever that 'transgender activists' had shit to do with this. No evidence that 'transgender activists' would even want gendered honorifics banned across the board, most having spent so much energy fighting for trans people to be gendered correctly by institutions. No evidence whatsoever that the school was in any way unable to say no (and to whom?) rather than simply making a decision Frum doesn't like. Just another example of the scapegoating of trans people by the brave boys in the anti-PC resistance, and another instance where there are some decisions it is, apparently, literally impossible for these people to conceive of anyone making without being forced into them.
posted by emmtee at 7:36 PM on January 29, 2015 [8 favorites]


The third- or fourth-most depressing thing I read this year:
Obama "reads the daily news ... both print and online," said Pfeiffer, singling out The New York Times as a daily read for the president.

"He reads a lot of sort of opinion writers online, including a lot of people he thinks are smart, including [Vox's] Ezra Klein, [The Dish blogger] Andrew Sullivan and [New York's] Jonathan Chait," Pfeiffer said.
Obama’s media diet: heavy on print/online news, light on TV
posted by haltingproblemsolved at 9:48 PM on January 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


We get blamed for pretty much all this stuff whether we do it or not, it's A Thing.
posted by Corinth at 10:18 PM on January 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


Samuel Goldman, The American Conservative: Yes, Political Correctness Really Exists
Marcuse undertakes this inversion, worthy a black belt in dialectical reasoning, in the 1965 essay “Repressive Tolerance“. In it, Marcuse argues that the marketplace of ideas can’t function as Mill expected, because the game in rigged in favor of those who are already powerful. Some ideas enjoy underserved appeal due to tradition or the prestige of their advocates. And “consumers” are not really free to chose, given the influence of advertising and the pressures of social and economic need. Thus the outcome of formally free debate is actually predetermined. The ideas that win will generally be those justify the existing order; those that lose will be those that challenge the structure.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:01 PM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Belle Waring, Crooked Timber: But Wait, There's More! - "Since the thread is long now and it’s hard to respond to everyone individually, I thought I would post instead."
People like Chait also don’t merely want to be allowed to say whatever they wish about whomever they wish for the sake of debate itself. Because he can already say whatever he damn well pleases! Look at him go! What he wants is the right to both say things which are offensive to some people and remain a liberal in good standing once he has said them. This is a stupid right which no one should have.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:11 PM on January 29, 2015 [12 favorites]


Twitter's guattari2600 wrote a pretty good response to Chait, deBoer, and Mark Fisher's "Exiting the Vampire Castle."
Part of the tooth-grindiness of this for me, as a guilty member of the Twitter lefty crew, is that once you start to pull apart those discomforts, there are some valid concerns. As I discussed in an excellent Twitter thread today, some of the ways that politics happen on Twitter really aren’t useful. They can be counterproductive and alienate people on the left - not just white guys with hurt feelings, but also members of less privileged populations who aren’t versed in the discourse and aren’t offered an opportunity to learn. In that way, Fredrik deBoer’s piece offers a really excellent point - we can’t expect people to be perfect, we need to offer them space to learn and grow. My departure from deBoer (much of which has already been articulated in an excellent way by Student Activism) is that I think something has gone dreadfully wrong if students are storming out of classrooms because they feel threatened. Classrooms are precisely the place where educators have an opportunity - and, I think, a responsibility - to be prepared to mediate those kinds of questions and disputes.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:48 AM on January 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


interchangeable?
-political correctness/being kind
-microagression/insensitivity
-identity/tribe

Chait Speech: "When the constraints are on the order of 'don't use sexist or racist language', probably nothing of value is lost. When the constraints include 'under no circumstances express any skepticism about any claim of sexual assault', to pick a salient recent example, you may end up with bad journalism that hinders the ultimate goal of getting society at large to treat survivors' stories more seriously and respectfully."

Argumentation-from-identity: "The problem with identity politics—in this particular manifestation, anyway—is that it assumes that just because a person claims a certain identity label, that person is necessarily empowered to be judge and jury on all issues pertaining to that category. The truth is, identity grants experience (and experience should be valued to a point); but it does not automatically grant wisdom, critical distance, or indeed, unassailable righteousness. To forget this is to turn individual people who possess a range of intelligences, backgrounds, self-interests, and flaws into two-dimensional avatars for the condition of humanity in which they happen to share. And, by corollary, to assert that it is impossible on some fundamental level for those who don't share that condition to ever relate or speak to that person as merely another human being with ideas and opinions."

i hope/guess as MLK says: "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." but it's up to us to make it so.
posted by kliuless at 7:21 AM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]




kliuless: When the constraints include 'under no circumstances express any skepticism about any claim of sexual assault', to pick a salient recent example, you may end up with bad journalism that hinders the ultimate goal of getting society at large to treat survivors' stories more seriously and respectfully.

Fuck Julian Sanchez for this disingenuous horseshit. He offers no such "salient example" -- just an oblique reference to the Rolling Stone / UVA sexual assault allegations, but neglects to mention that for decades, and to this day, colleges investigating these claims have been not just skeptical to these allegations -- but actively hostile toward them. The tide of public sentiment has slowly been turning thanks to increasing recognition that neither the schools nor the police are interested in a thorough investigation, and that victims are often afraid of reporting, etc. and now Sanchez tries to blame the people who are simply pushing for a fair hearing for victims for the fact that a Rolling Stone reporter desperate for a story decided to go over the victim's head and manufacture one?

Christ, what an asshole.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:08 AM on January 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


a Rolling Stone reporter desperate for a story decided to go over the victim's head and manufacture one?

She lied to the reporter and lots of other people and her claims of victimhood have close to no credibility left. The reporter did not manufacture the story, she just didn't think she needed to fact check it.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:18 AM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


She also ran with the story over the alleged victim's objections, and even if we assign most of the blame to the alleged victim for her changing stories, Sanchez's argument is still bullshit, because there was no shortage of skeptical reporting about the incident from day one. Nobody was silenced. Rolling Stone retracted the story and distanced itself from the author. The system worked. Where is the problem?
posted by tonycpsu at 9:31 AM on January 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


I don't see any problem with your argument, just pointing out that one line is completely false.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:41 AM on January 30, 2015


Yeah, I cede the point that the reporter didn't literally fabricate the entire story.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:44 AM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Does Political Correctness Work?

(posts are not an endorsement). I hate that they are using the word "political correctness" so vaguely, if there is any good in what Chait is saying, it is nothing to do with "political correctness" as as I see it, which is just a word bigots used to complain about being called bigots.
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:41 PM on January 30, 2015


you're right tonycpsu, sanchez set up a false dichotomy, which i guess i'm just susceptible to... like for me it was mike daisy.

anyway, i think there is something to be said about the cognitive load of assessing truth claims, the seduction of eliding complexities in favor of 'mood affiliation' and signaling and then the misunderstandings that can result, which can lead to further polarization and raises the question about how much of any of this is intentional -- was sanchez being purposefully (if obliquely) disingenuous? -- like if the goal really is cognitive overload and polarization to obscure and manipulate... and for what?

guessing motivations and trying to identify false positives/flags/consensus can be taxing on top of filtering out all the background noise we find ourselves in that limits our attention. as jeff bridges says, i'd like to think we're all in this together (how can we be not?) but obviously there are lots of (groups of) individuals who don't see things that way. what do you do about 'them'?

thankfully, arthur chu "desperately trying to find an 'angle' for his post-viral-celebrity writing career" maybe helps provide a question an answer:
The more common and more accurate Internet-age jeremiad is “polarization”—that it’s not just that the Left has gone further Left in the Internet age, but the Right has gone further Right, the libertarian fringe has gone more libertarian fringe, the racists have gone more racist, and the disaffected nihilistic trolls have gone more nihilistic and disaffected.

But Chait doesn’t seem to think that’s the top priority, even though right-wing rage is terrifyingly violent, has led to the pointless defunding of charitable organizations, the firing of public servants, and the occasional mass murder.

No, he’s most worried about the stridency of people on the Left who disinvite speakers from college campuses—worried about their ability to flood the mentions and inboxes of guys like him and make him feel bad about their liberal cred.

And he’s profoundly uninterested in the fact that there are tons of aggressive, angry factions online other than the one he dislikes—and that he himself is part of a faction, the “Reasonable Liberal Who Thinks Toxic Feminists Need to Shut Up” faction, and that his faction floods inboxes and mentions just as readily as they get flooded.

As many have pointed out, Chait’s response to “calling out perceived microaggressions” is an example of calling out perceived microaggressions. Chait’s resistance to condemnatory discourse that chills free expression is condemnatory discourse that chills free expression. Chait isn’t stuck in hostile, combative, online traffic. He is traffic.
how do you solve traffic? how do you prioritize (where you fall in the pecking order)? that's what we're finding out -- sort of (orthogonal to?) an inversion of DFW's 'this is water'; in an earlier piece chu invokes the "punch up, don't punch down" principle, which i think is a good way of aligning interest groups into some kind of moral force/coherency.
posted by kliuless at 1:23 PM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Arthur Chu, The Daily Beast: Welcome to the Internet: Jon Chait and the death of false consensus
The most audacious point Chait makes is to try to claim that the famous Bill Clinton “Sister Souljah moment” was some kind of grand gesture of neutrality to suppress hostile political rhetoric. It was nothing of the kind—it was a response to hostile political rhetoric with hostile political rhetoric. Sister Souljah fired a shot at moderate liberals, Bill Clinton fired back, and Bill Clinton won.

The reason left-wing activists come out swinging, the reason they seem so “mean,” the reason they make bingo cards and “block on sight” and otherwise hurt Jonathan Chait’s feelings, is that they have a history of losing these battles. The reason Chait’s faction of the Left gets to act genteel and polite and reasonable is they have a history of winning these battles, usually without much of a fight.

All that’s happening with “polarization” now is that these battles aren’t so easy to win anymore—you can laugh the radical feminist out of the room and freeze her out of your publication but she can now take to Twitter, start her own blog and generally refuse to be silenced. A sizable fraction of black Americans shouted “This is bullshit!” at Clinton’s Sister Souljah moment to their TVs and were ignored; when Obama repeated the act with Jeremiah Wright, they shouted it into “black Twitter” and were heard.

The “fracturing of the Left” doesn’t seem to me to be a real shift in political opinion, just a shift in technology preventing a small minority of privileged consensus-makers from steamrolling the loud, diverse, opinionated set of factions that makes up the actual Left without a fight. Same with the “radicalization of the Right”—the Tea Party is nothing more than ordinary Republicans saying things ordinary Republicans have always believed without the benefit of “respectable” country-club Republicans filtering them out.

What we end up getting is, yes, an ugly, messy landscape where Reasonable Men like Chait can’t talk without being called out, put down, hammered with attacks or simply ignored—sometimes fairly, sometimes unfairly.

In other words, we get a landscape exactly the same as what “extremists” of all kinds—Left, Right, and Other—already lived with.

Welcome to the Internet Age, Jonathan, where respectability matters little and everyone has to fight to be heard. Your side still, routinely, wins in the end—Colbert didn’t get canceled, #JeSuisCharlie beat #JeNeSuisPasCharlie by a huge margin, and you get to write for New York magazine while your hashtag detractors toil unpaid on Twitter.

But you don’t get to win without a fight anymore. None of us do. Get used to it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:45 PM on January 30, 2015 [10 favorites]


Arthur Chu wins.
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:53 PM on January 30, 2015




Jonathan Chait and the New PC, Michelle Goldberg, The Nation:
At one point, Chait describes a torrent of online derision directed at his friend Hanna Rosin under the hashtag #RIPpatriarchy. In Chait’s version, the hashtag is a reaction to her book, The End of Men, which, he writes, “argued that a confluence of social and economic changes left women in a better position going forward than men, who were struggling to adapt to a new postindustrial order.” In fact, the hashtag was spurred by a related Slate piece with the trollish headline, “The Patriarchy is Dead: Feminists, accept it.” The patriarchy not being dead, feminists did not accept it. That’s not stifling political correctness. It’s responding to speech with more speech.

Yet that’s not the end of the story. Sure, Rosin was wrong, and Giraldi wrong-headed. But the sheer volume of the rebukes, the loud public ostracism, probably felt hugely disproportionate. When you’re on the wrong end of one of these things, it can seem like your identity has been hijacked, rendering you a caricature of yourself. “Her response since then has been to avoid committing a provocation, especially on Twitter,” Chait writes of Rosin. He quotes her saying, “The price is too high; you feel like there might be banishment waiting for you.” Part of what Chait is describing as political correctness is the way social media has dramatically raised the psychic cost of voicing unpopular opinions, whether they have merit or not.

To which, I suspect, many on Twitter would reply boo-fucking-hoo. Indeed, the milieu Chait has imperfectly described has developed a whole lexicon to mock those who admit to feeling bruised by it: they have the sadz, they’re butthurt, they’re crying #maletears. For Twitter’s guardians of righteousness, if privileged journalists feel more inhibited about bucking lefty pieties, so much the better. If a certain sort of skeptical, contrarian liberal intellectual style is being endangered, they won’t mourn it.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:13 AM on February 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


The piece infuriated me, in no small part because my husband’s very progressive employer had recently instituted a generous paternity leave policy, and without him at home, I’d have been drowning. I don’t really care that Giraldi’s marriage isn’t similarly egalitarian, but I couldn’t believe that the staunchly pro-labor Baffler would run an essay casually mocking paid family leave, a crucial worker’s rights issue as well as a feminist one.
That's funny, because rest of us wonder why your "very progressive" magazine continues to run your shit.
posted by Corinth at 11:17 AM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Jon Chait: Secret Confessions of the Anti-Anti-P.C. Movement
Some of these replies quote the headline to the story — which, in the print edition, asked, “Can a white male liberal critique the country's current political-correctness craze (which, by the way, hurts liberals most)? We're sure you'll let us know.” This was my editors’ playful way to provocatively anticipate the firestorm the piece would set off. It was not a summary of the piece itself. And indeed, nothing in the story actually expresses any sense of victimization on behalf of myself or of white males.
Henry, Crooked Timber: Belle-ing the Chait
It’s certainly theoretically conceivable that Jonathan Chait is capable of completely compartmentalizing his mental life to keep his personal circumstances entirely separate from his intellectual output. Perhaps there was absolutely no connection between his obvious bitterness and anger a few months back at having been accused of racial insensitivity by a prominent African-American writer and critic, and last week’s indictment of a culture where:
If a person who is accused of bias attempts to defend his intentions, he merely compounds his own guilt. (Here one might find oneself accused of man/white/straightsplaining.)
If so, God bless him. I certainly couldn’t maintain that level of disinterestedness myself, and don’t think I’d even try. But even if he’s telling the truth, the piece is at best an exercise in trolling.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:16 PM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Not only is there a great deal of potential heuristic benefit to good, competent trolling (Socrates’ eironeia is no more and no less than trolling turned to philosophical purposes) but the work of cognitive psychologists like Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber suggest that trolling is ubiquitous. Our human capacity to reason has evolved not to figure out the truth, but to win arguments.

so on the mistaken concept that vaguely defined ideas can be imbued with meaning by attributing them with mathematical properties :P

this is water = matrix
this is bullshit = inversion
he is traffic = orthogonal

oh and how is mike leigh's _mr turner_ trolling? i haven't seen it yet, but i've been wanting to!
posted by kliuless at 4:26 PM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]




Political Correctness Is More Reasonable Than Jonathan Chait
I think the root of Chait’s discomfort—and the discomfort of people like him—lies not in the political power or philosophy of PC criticism, but in the kind of criticism it is. Criticism comes in many varieties, but here I will divide it into two broad groups: (a) criticism that engages with an argument, refuting its content with counter-argument, like this essay does with Chait, or (b) criticism that says an argument is outside the realm of reasonable discourse, its content so flatly unacceptable that it need not be refuted by counter-argument. PC criticism, generally, falls into category (b), and that is what Chait and others find so galling and confuse with totalitarianism.

The Overton Window is a well-known theory in political science which suggests that only a narrow window of ideas are politically acceptable to policy makers at any given time, and ideas too far outside the window are immediately dismissed as unthinkable. Enacting unorthodox policy requires more than converting the audience on a single issue—it requires moving the entire window of acceptable debate to the left or the right. For dealers in centrist ideology like Chait, being outside the acceptable range of the Window is essentially impossible—by definition, a centrist makes it his business to remain within the politically safe area, never diverging too far from current policy. This pays dividends; it helps one get published, get paid, get taken seriously by elites and policy makers, exert influence over public discourse, and gain status. A centrist works and thinks within a relatively narrow range of ideas with the expectation that in return they will be rewarded with respectful engagement, even from those who disagree.

What social media has done to Chait and those like him is upend this entire paradigm.
White male temper tantrums: What the “political correctness” debate completely misses
After losing the Great Race Debate of 2014 to Ta-Nehisi Coates, Jonathan Chait has decided to begin this year coming for “the feminists,” under the guise of a screed about the tyrannies of “political correctness.”

Lest, I, black feminist, appear too combative, let me start with a different kind of assertion, a response to an unspoken assumption that hovers just under the surface of many of the most strident critiques of the tone and tenor of popular political discourse.

Black women thinkers in the public sphere labor under an age-old set of stereotypes that reduce us to emotion, and embodiment, exempt us from the intellectual, and prevent us from being taken seriously as thinkers and theorists on large-scale questions. Those stereotypes, all of which Chait employs in his recent piece, characterize black women as violent, emotional, unreasonable. For instance, Chait references the arrest, while pregnant, of black feminist professor Mireille Miller-Young, after a protest on her campus, in which she snatched signs from students holding up pictures of aborted fetuses. Then there was the obligatory jab at black twitter feminist Mikki Kendall, current white liberal whipping girl, via reference to her hashtag #solidarityisforwhitewomen. Then, Chait quoted my essay in response to a column from Michelle Goldberg last year, in which I called out the problematic invocation of terms like “reason” and “civility” on the white liberal left.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:08 AM on February 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


Alyssa Rosenberg, Washington Post: Jonathan Chait, radicalism and the future of the left
It’s easy, for example, to mock trigger warnings as a sign of what Chait calls “a central tenet of the first p.c. movement: that people should be expected to treat even faintly unpleasant ideas or behaviors as full-scale offenses.” But in a world where members of marginalized communities do experience regular slights and hostilities, there is really something quite modest about the hope that a few spaces can be made to feel predictable. What should make us anxious about the proliferation of requests for trigger warnings is the possibility that these requests signal a deep pessimism about the prospect of making the rest of the world a kinder and more just place.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:04 AM on February 10, 2015




Round Two: Is Political Correctness Good for the Left?
One of the more contentious problems surrounding my story on the return of political correctness concerns how we should think about the connection between the ends and the means of the p.c. left. Does this movement favor the same goals as most liberals but is simply a bit more rude and aggressive in the methods it uses to achieve them? Or is there something more fundamental about its character that distinguishes it from liberalism? A number of responses to my piece have brought this question to the surface, and a more considered explanation may be in order.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:26 PM on February 12, 2015


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