Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Have You Read Jonathan Chait's Newest Entry in the White Male Victimology Olympics?

Jonathan Chait wrote this laughably unreflective and dim series of sentences in New York magazine:
Political correctness is a style of politics in which the more radical members of the left attempt to regulate political discourse by defining opposing views as bigoted and illegitimate. Two decades ago, the only communities where the left could exert such hegemonic control lay within academia, which gave it an influence on intellectual life far out of proportion to its numeric size. 
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. 
It also makes money. Every media company knows that stories about race and gender bias draw huge audiences, making identity politics a reliable profit center in a media industry beset by insecurity.
His "left" can easily be replaced with "right" or "conservative"...and resonate with more bass and timbre.

Several years ago, a young man wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the slogan "straight rights" was supposedly waylaid and beaten upon in the streets of New York.

His effort at resistance via "truth-telling" was met with the most direct and transparent type of political action--a swift punch in the nose and a return to a state of affairs in which life is nasty, brutish, and short...except for the fact that he was not dispatched from this corporeal existence.

Of course, I do not support violence as a means of resolving disagreements over political speech.

Political speech is a call to action, an effort to channel emotion, and a type of claim on the nature of reality that is often both descriptive (how the speaker sees and understands reality) as well as normative (how the world ought to be).

Those claims and assumptions can be explicit or implied.

In contemporary Western society, white men, heterosexuals, the "able-bodied", Christians, the middle and upper classes--and of course the plutocrats--constitute the "in-group". This is not an exhaustive list; it is complicated by the fact that being a member of the in-group is often contingent, relational, and circumstantial (see for example: white women are privileged by virtue of race but are disadvantaged because of their gender. However, white women are still advantaged relative to women of color).

The in-group, by definition, is not oppressed. Their complaints and cries of disadvantage are often just hostility towards how how their unearned advantages--the very definition of privilege--are spoken against or marginally limited by the Other and the consensus bargains made by elites in a multicultural, somewhat "liberal" in its cosmopolitan values, corporate, neoliberal, democracy.

As is my standard response to libertarians who happen to be white, male, and class privileged, their "right" to act in a manner, one for example not limited by civil rights laws, does not trump my inalienable human right(s) to life, liberty, safety, security, happiness, and positive (or negative) freedom.

After his defeat last year in a feud with the Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates, New York magazine's Jonathan Chait has pinned another boo-hoo white male victimology essay.

Chait's (recent) writings about race and the colorline are wholly bereft of value and critical insight--except as examples of aggrieved Whiteness. They are instructive but ultimately empty.

Have you read Chait's "Not a Very P.C. Thing to Say"?

Does Chait, as a member of the white grievance and victimology industry actually believe what he is writing in "Not a Very P.C. Thing to Say"?

Or is that essay (and the others in Chait's white victimology oeuvre) just a way to bait folks into giving him the spotlight in an American media and political game that is closest in form and substance to professional wrestling?


Andy said...

"Political correctness" or, as I like to call it, "Being polite."

KissedByTheSun said...

God forbid people should demand that you speak to them with dignity and respect. Cry me a river already Mr Chait.

Werner Herzog's Bear said...

I think your last idea is the best one to explain this.

Shady Grady said...

It is just a bookend to Noam Scheiber's latest piece in which he argues that it is needlessly divisive for black people (and only black people) to put forth their interests in justice system reform, among other things.

Scheiber and Chait are the literary descendants of people like Norman Mailer and Todd Gitlin among others. They are the kinds of people MLK was addressing in "Letter from a Birmingham jail" and "Why we can't wait".

joe manning said...

His guarded assumption is that equal opportunity and justice are irrelevant. He denies that political correctness refers to civil rights, rules of fair play, reality testing, and peer review. He equates value objectivity with valuelessness and amorality. His is a defense of political incorrectness.

James Estrada-Scaminaci III said...

I fall on the side of academic freedom of expression and the constitutional right of freedom of expression. I find the idea of "trigger warnings" for university courses to be downright insulting to professors and inherently stupid. The idea that a protest, even an anti-abortion protest, could "trigger" some professor into taking their sign and destroying it, is wrong. The professor was guilty of vandalism and attacking freedom of speech on a university campus in a free speech zone. What is the complaint here? I'm reading the speeches and writings of Martin Luther King Jr. in the edited book The Radical King. If you take the left-wing proponents of political correctness seriously, then MLK would have been shut down--as white supremacists wanted. In his "Letter From Birmingham Jail" he writes of the need to use non-violent protests to create a crisis situation leading to political-legal decisions righting a (or more than one) deep injustice(s). But, those non-violent actions can only occur under a political-legal system that honors freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. There may very well be speech you find abhorrent. I certainly do. But, I'm not about to suppress it because my feelings are hurt or your feelings are hurt. I think Chait's piece is more about protecting freedom of speech than defending white privilege, male and female.

chauncey devega said...

I agree on the foolishness of trigger warnings. I have run into complaints in my classes that I talk about subjects in a way that make students "uncomfortable".

Eugene Genovese used to put a disclaimer on his syllabi that he is going to challenge students and make them uncomfortable because that is his job. He was/is also uber famous so he had that leeway.

Your points on the radical King are very instructive.

The white male victimology angle operates here because it is directly about "people like him" feeling "silenced". He hides that under his concern for "free speech" and "open discourse".

chauncey devega said...

Tell me more about the Mailer connection.

chauncey devega said...

There is a whole history to the word "political correctness" here that is often not discussed. The Right-wing used similar language to talk about their own political orthodoxy. Interesting how that has totally been shifted to "liberals" as something they should be ashamed of.

chauncey devega said...

Always follow the money?

Werner Herzog's Bear said...

Always. It looks like it worked this time, too.

Shady Grady said...

I was thinking of a piece in "Rolling Stone" where Mailer attacked a reviewer for being Asian and female and claimed that she had it out for white males like him.

joe manning said...

Yes, the right wing would have us believe that their political correctness is a given while that of the left is suspect. Among other things this is to distract attention from their unpopular agenda i.e. austerity, privatization, income inequality, tax cuts for the rich, endless war, white supremacy, anti-science, vote suppression. Their version of political correctness looks pretty incorrect.

OldPolarBear said...

I struggled through Chait's pathetic "essay" (oops, guess I'm revealing what I thought about it right up front) because the Rude Pundit talked about it and encouraged readers to read that first. A couple of things. For one, he stirred a lot of different things into the stew, some of which were sort of on point and a lot not.

He gave exactly two examples of actions that went beyond speech that could be considered criminal to some degree. He made a huge deal out of an incident involving Mireille Miller-Young, a UC Santa Barbara professor who stole a sign from some pro-life demonstrators and cites a handful of people and groups who supported her after she was charged criminally for it. Why doesn't he mention even in passing that she was, in fact, found guilty in court and legally sanctioned for it? Probation and community service may not seem like much, but I'll bet Chait would be crying if he was sentenced to that for some offense.

Almost all the rest of his examples were people engaging in speech against other speech, including his. It may have been very rude or coarse speech, but that's what it was.

I admit that firing Omar Mahmood from the Michigan university newspaper was pretty problematic, for reasons that are probably too long to go into right here and now. I have mixed feelings about the "trigger warning" thing, too. Universities definitely should not require faculty to use them, but if an individual faculty member wants to put something in the syllabus about something possibly being upsetting, isn't that an exercise of academic freedom?

I'm just not impressed by Chait or his writing.

Gina said...

As to "white male victimhood", it's simply a further degree of insanity.

Let's bother about reality, i.e. double standard:
Florida Domestic Abuse Survivor Marissa Alexander Freed After Three Years in Prison
She is a mother of three children & has given birth to her youngest child shortly before the incident. She was convicted, although her husband admitted that he had challenged her.

Let's just imagine what the conviction means for the children: the mother taken away, being in jail. Are they with relatives or in a home? How is the financial situation? .........

Miles_Ellison said...

It comes down to this: no one is stopping you from saying anything offensive. The whole "anti-P.C." movement derives from the desire to say racist, sexist, homophobic, or misogynist things without being confronted or responded to. Like the old days.

kokanee said...

Jonathan Chait is a self-described liberal hawk which means he's no liberal or leftist at all. I can't stand to read him, so I won't.

Sen. Barbara Boxer was on Democracy Now yesterday. She was against the Keystone Pipeline and against the Koch brothers but she was for giving over full authority over the "war" on ISIS to President Obama. Sen. Boxer, being from California, is a faux progressive. There is no real left in this country.

For free speech advocates, the antidote to bad free speech is more free speech. But free speech in the hands of the elites amounts to propaganda. Now one can try and change the laws but the elites control how the laws are made. US propaganda used to be a lot more subtle and thus more effective. These days, the mask of empire has fallen off and the propaganda is pretty overt. But it's working just like it did in Nazi Germany.

I have no answers, only questions.

Dan Kasteray said...

Over on the website we hunted the mammoth they use trigger warnings for people who need them, especially when the discussion is rape, domestic violence and incest.

Theres a time and place for everything

Dan Kasteray said...

After numerous internet battles with racists and every stripe of bigot, bring on the political correctness. It can't come soon enough. Come down on the straight pride, white pride clown show that defines oppression as not being able to kill transexuals with immunity.

I've said some stupid racist and sexist things in my life but unlike these moron's I'm not proud of it. Bring on the cultural Marxism and white genocide if it means I never have to hear from whiny shit weasles like chait

joe manning said...

Agreed, to paraphrase Voltaire I may disagree with what you say but I'll defend to the death your right to say it. A salient point is that the right wishes political correctness to be popularly perceived as the exclusive province of the left? But the right has its own political correctness in the form of, among other things, trigger warnings opposed to sex ed, abortion rights, multicultualism, climate socialism, pacifism. atheism, abortion rights, sociology, the general amelioration. One suspects that the right casts political correctness as a liberal bias because its own version of it can't stand the light of day.

James Estrada-Scaminaci III said...

I may have missed that angle. I have always tackled a person's ideas rather than them. I'm cognizant of privilege (several kinds) and one can very easily upset or insult someone without intending to do so.

Wild Cat said...

Alex Parnee destroys Chait:

Plus racist bell-curve pimp and Iraq War hustler Andrew Sullivan is retiring from the pressures of blogging---and making the world worse. Good riddance.

Veri1138 said...

Barbara Boxer may be against Keystone, however - there may be (as their usually is) juuuussst enough Democratic Congress Critters to cross the aisle. That always seems to happen when opposition needs to be portrayed, right before the betrayal. Besides, with oil at these prices - Keystone makes no sense.

Buddy H said...

So I guess Sullivan will have no comment on the latest New Republic article, the one where they address the questionable editorial decisions made by him (and others)?

kokanee said...

I read the Robert Singer articles and I found them to be anti-Semitic conspiracy theory nonsense. As Cornell West said, "We can be opposed to occupation of Palestine and still love our Jewish brothers and sisters." {paraphrased}

Gina said...

Robert Singer's article isn't anti-Semitic. He sees the Jews to be equally victims of Rothism as the rest of the world. Lately a commentator suggested that it isn't limited to the Rothschild family, but that it is the 1%.

An enlightening & comprehensive video:
JFK to 911 Everything Is A Rich Man's Trick

Wild Cat said...

I came across that article just yesterday by chance and scanned it.

I was glad to see some mea culpas, but it may be too little, too late.

OTOH, someone made a great point that although The Atlantic is a cesspool of chicken hawks, they do serve a valuable purpose by keeping Coates on the roster. So by losing TNR, we may be losing another potential Coates.

Wild Cat said...

Did you see Boxer go insanely War Hawk for Israel on Democracy Now the other day? I found her to be frightening.

Wild Cat said...

Gina: Your link leads to a dubious website that takes "FEMA Concentration Camps" seriously. This isn't an Alex Jones sort of site; it's a site that deals for the most part with the horrific African Americans have to deal with in an openly hostile society.

Gina said...

Wild Cat just informed that the link in my comment doesn't work for her correctly. I've copied it anew in my comment, but in case it doesn't work either correctly , I give the keywords for the Google search:
Thepeoplesvoice org Robert Singer World War I, II: Providence, Miracle, or What Really Happened, Part 2

Gina said...

Thx a lot, Wild Cat!

For me it works. I've put in my comment above the keywords for the Google search. Here they are for you:

Thepeoplesvoice org Robert Singer World War I, II: Providence, Miracle, or What Really Happened, Part 2

I've copied the link again into the comment, could you please check whether it works for you now? Thx in advance!

joe manning said...

I meant to say "climate science" but I like the sound of climate socialism too.