Jonathan Chait: Political Correctness Gone Mad OMG I’m Scared

by Belle Waring on January 29, 2015

By now you’ve probably heard that Jonathan Chait has written an article for New York magazine decrying modern liberalism for becoming little more than a series of Twitter-based convulsions of outrage. You may have heard that he has a point there. Or maybe you heard it was an argument against Political Correctness—a dragon from 1991 who has reared up wearing a crop top, ‘70s jeans and 14-hole Doc Marten’s, and is taking the pain of her infected belly-button piercing out on others in inappropriate ways—and the reign of terror this dread P.C. has engendered in liberal academia. Or maybe you heard that a previously moderately well-regarded author has gone to the #slatepitch side of the Force. Or, perhaps, that Jonathan Chait has a skin so thin that he cries when someone gets the butter knife out of the drawer anywhere within six blocks of his apartment, and is also so allergic to his own tears that he then needs to use his EpiPen and ARE YOU HAPPY NOW BLACK FEMINISTS1/1//! Unfortunately for Jonathan Chait, modern liberalism, the state of the publishing industry, feminism, concerns about racial equality, the extent to which previously marginalized voices can now pipe up and be heard in critical discourse, and all of us, it’s actually that last thing.

But what about his maybe having a point? The thing is, Chait has about 75% of perhaps two points, but the wheat/arsenic-laced chaff ratio is bad. Very bad. How so? The article is actually about how his feelings got hurt by people who say mean things on the internet—in the sense that this is the actual motive for writing it. ‘They claim to be too sensitive to take criticism or even hear discussion of sensitive topics, and that shuts down debate!’ whines sensitive man whose feelings have been hurt by criticism from the internet. ‘They are destroying our political project and they won’t even listen to my concern trolling crucial critique because I am…a white man!’ [Faints on couch.] How did New York Magazine tease this article? “Can a white, liberal man critique a culture of political correctness?” Spoiler alert: YES.

Chait claims that modern liberalism has devolved into outrage farming Saturnalia. Hierarchies have been inverted and whoever can claim membership of the most marginalized group automatically wins every debate. “I’m a queer Latino. I win the internet.” “Not so fast! I’m a black trans woman. Hahahah look upon my works ye mighty and despair! I have so much actual power right now, compared to some chump straight white guy who pens 2500 word hymns to objectivity in New York magazine! It is literally impossible to overstate how many physical resources I control now, and to what degree society is being molded by black trans women like myself!” If you re-frame this more charitably you can get most of a point in there somewhere, probably. There is some element of pulling rank in questions about privilege.

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.]

What about the rest of Chait’s article? Reader, it’s bullshit. But why is it the way it is? Well, last year Jonathan Chait and Ta-Nehesi Coates got into an extended, very polite, back and forth in which Chait was offering up a bland yet poisonous Moynihan-report “black people suffer from cultural problems” line and Coates was just not having any of it. At all. Coates won the argument. Handily. But good friend and former colleague Andrew Sullivan saw things elsewise. It caused him to lament how Ta-Nehesi had just taken that Trayvon Martin stuff too personally and had gotten to be all negative, had taken, indeed, a “recent turn toward profound gloom.” It even caused Andrew Sullivan to do something so breathtaking that I have never really recovered my composure with regards to him. Via the passive snark of a reader, Sullivan’s page boasted an approving comparison between Coates and Bell Curve author Charles Murray.


“I know Ta-Nehisi would fume at any comparison of him to Charles Murray, but “intractable” and “until this country passes into the dust” are two sides of the same coin – a coin sharing a bleak, unchanging view of race relations, with white oppression and black inferiority the permanent state of things.”

Yes. It said that. On Sullivan’s blog. You can just, sort of, go pour yourself a tumbler of gin or something, I’ll be right here.

Anyway, this leads me to the second well-spring of Jonathan Chait’s whining about “Political Correctness gone mad,” or, as I like to call it, “people criticizing me forcefully, in such a way as to call my liberal bona fides into question, and pretty much just calling me racist, when actually I was only adjacent to racists, and people should look into these things more carefully before they say something that might hurt someone’s feelings.” And that is the shutting down last year of the storied magazine The New Republic, aka “The Even The Liberal.” When the magazine folded, Jonathan Chait wanted everyone to dab at their eyes with folded, clean linen handkerchiefs and mourn the death of A Higher Journalistic Calling. Instead, many writers reminded people that Marty Peretz more or less called for genocide against the Palestinians, whom he regularly called animals and savages, every issue. Every issue tho. Also, remember The Bell Curve? Remember how then-editor Andrew Sullivan pushed that to the forefront of American political discourse more or less single-handedly, and then claimed that the vigorous debate about the book was retroactive justification for the choice, and proved that Murray was one of the most prominent social scientists of his day, rather than the racist loon he was? Remember how the magazine never retracted its articles, howsoever much people offered statistical debunking of every kind, which would have offered the magazine a graceful exit on scientific and internal consistency grounds, not just “wow that was a bunch of racist tripe we published” grounds? Ta-Nehisi Coates was at the forefront of those chronicling the unlamentable history of The “E.T.L” New Republic. So Chait didn’t get the glorious send-off he wanted. He got a lot of fully deserved hits coming his way. So what lesson has he learned from this? That people should stop saying mean things about him on Twitter, and that the fact that you might ever hear a trans woman’s voice loud and clear in the noise of public intellectual life means somebody is letting those bitches get way too loud. Letting them talk just because of who they are. Letting queerness count for something. Letting being disabled count for something. Letting someone’s being politically weak and historically silenced be a reason for others on the left to react with, “hey, let’s be quiet for a minute and see what this person has to say.”

98% of what people angrily claim is “Political Correctness” is just manners. Politeness. If something I were saying at a dinner party offended another guest and my host explained why, I would stop saying that thing, in all likelihood. I myself used to call things “retarded” all the time when I was a kid, and I carried it into adulthood, and then people on the internet made it clear that they found this hurtful and demeaning, so I stopped. I explained to my children, I have a left-over bad habit in that I will occasionally call something retarded and it’s not an appropriate thing to say; will you please correct me when I do it? Thinking about what I wanted my children to say helped me here. Likewise, although I don’t know that I said anything particularly unpleasant about it ever, I was comparatively ignorant about issues facing trans people until some years back. Does this make me angry because the word “cisgender” exists now? No, because I’m not an asshole. Jezebel has very recently promoted its former commenter sub-blog to a whole site, ROYGBIV, and I recommend it highly. (It’s intended for LGBTQ issues in general but the woman who was the former author and now (I imagine) edits is trans. Check out this article for why individual unisex bathrooms are crucial for her safety as a trans person.) I read but don’t comment, because I don’t have anything that valuable to offer there, and other people do. Is this killing me? No. Chait brings the hot take: “Under p.c. culture, the same idea can be expressed identically by two people but received differently depending on the race and sex of the individuals doing the expressing.” Yes. That’s correct, Jon. Can we help you out any more here? I’m sorry your point maps so perfectly onto mysteriously huffy conservative complaints about ‘why can black people say nigger and I can’t? No fair,’ but you made your bed and you can just lie right down in that. Oh god, re-reading I see I haven’t addressed like 12 other weaksauce points, such as that outrage farming is a moneymaker (that’s why everyone’s always hiring queer disabled minority men to…wait, WTF?) And also the complaining about trigger warnings AAAAAGH. Just don’t read Shakesville, no one’s making you! Chait says SCIENCE has proved trigger warnings don’t work and people should be re-exposed to traumatic things. I, personally, have wanted and needed trigger warnings at various times. I’m a rape survivor who can normally read about rapes just fine. Sometimes I realize I shouldn’t have clicked through on an article about Congo, but since that happens to everyone who reads the article… But at times in the past when I was actively depressed I have wanted John to tell me in advance about a book, whether there’s rape in it or not, and then I won’t read it right then. My home did not suddenly become a den of feminist groupthink in which John was forbidden to speak. I just maybe didn’t read this one graphic novel until a year later one time. Seriously, fuck right the fuck off, Chait.

{ 288 comments }

1

JM Hatch 01.29.15 at 11:54 am

Er, I thought he started the article mentioning acts of vandalism. I was thinking to go back and check, but then life got in the way.

2

Belle Waring 01.29.15 at 11:58 am

Yeah the acts of vandalism were legit. OK one full point.

3

In the sky 01.29.15 at 12:17 pm

Belle, I think you’re being unfair, in that you pick a fight with a coherent point that was poorly argued.

But your prose makes up for it. I don’t care whose argument you pick. Please just keep writing. Could you write a book, please? Something along the lines of a PJ O’Rourke thing, but for grown ups.

4

Bruce Baugh 01.29.15 at 12:38 pm

Belle, I can’t smoke, so there’s a category of writing that makes me smile because it feels like someone had a victory smoke on my behalf. This is one of those.

I notice that in this ranting about the power of political correctness, Chait has precisely zero to say about the career of Steven Salaita. So much for the power of political correctness.

5

Val 01.29.15 at 12:50 pm

I think you have covered it all pretty thoroughly, thank you, Belle, but I would like to add a minor side point.

The article by Chait was also both long and boring. So not only wrong, but also wrong in a long-winded, boring way.

6

George de Verges 01.29.15 at 1:05 pm

Ms. Waring, this was the funniest, most accurate piece I have read in years. So many nice touches it is impossible to pick a favorite, although the image of someone finding the perfect handkerchief to dab their eyes at the death of New Republic was very, very nice.

7

Mike 01.29.15 at 1:06 pm

Excellent post in just about every way, but I really want to thank you for saying the 98% of political correctness is just politeness. That has always seemed obvious to me. Objections to PC are usually fairly shallow defenses for “my right to be an asshole.” And I’m not a constitutional scholar, but I don’t find that right anywhere in the constitution.

8

Harald K 01.29.15 at 1:06 pm

For people who feel that Chait’s article was an attack on their ideology and/or basic common decency, I have some suggestions: How about you go on over to tumblr, find the people who are talking about “truscum” and “transtrenders”, and try to negotiate between them.

Or a little closer to home for you left-oriented academics, maybe you can go over to twitter and have a little chat with Sarah Kendzior, Joshua Foust, Sarah Jeong and (if you’re especially confident) Suey Park. Ask them about that Jacobinghazi stuff, what was that all about? Try to negotiate between the parties in that old dispute. I’m sure a reasonable and no-nonsense person like you can do it in a heartbeat.

Maybe you can try googling the name of chait’s article + Chait. Unless Google is sadistically personalizing my search results, the second hit ought to be a blog giving a fairly moderate internet-flavored feminist response, summed up as “Jonathan Chait discusses how hard it is to be a white man these days.” Is there anything you disagree with there? The slightest thing? Try arguing it with the author.

Or oh, oh, I have another one! Maybe you’re familiar with Model View Culture, the progressive Silicon Valley publication? Try to interview the founder. Maybe you can do better than the last (extremely ideologically sympathetic) person who tried.

If you do that, and can still hold on to the idea that “political correctness” is mostly just about politeness, then I can take it seriously. Right now, this post is written from the perspective of someone who doesn’t have a clue what they’re talking about.

9

P O'Neill 01.29.15 at 1:12 pm

I’m so old I remember previous iterations of people saying mean things about The New Republic. This vintage Daily Howler even involves a couple of the same players in the latest imbroglio.

10

marcel proust 01.29.15 at 1:13 pm

I’m going to repeat a comment that I made at unfogged (not that it generated much response there, but it pleases me). My sense, not from reading Chait but from reading blog posts about his statement, is that he’s asking “Why don’t they love me, I’m a liberal?”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bLqKXrlD1TU

Shorter comment: there’s nothing new under the son, grasshopper.

11

Bruce Baugh 01.29.15 at 1:16 pm

Harald: So these uppity types. Are they making so the police are now as likely to gun down unarmed straight cis white guys as they are other sorts of people? Are they pushing straight cis white guys into disadvantageous financing for real estate, or getting them hired at slower rates and fired at quicker ones? Have they made it so that the institutions of government are top-heavy in all sorts of people other than straight cis white guys and likely to take longer answering any kind of contact from straight cis white male constituents? Are the ranks of pundits and commentators now filled mostly by people who aren’t straight, cis, white, and male? Are straight cis white guys losing access to the contraception they use and being subject to more legally mandated harassment for prescriptions of medications moralistic twits fancy must be all about immoral sexytime adventures?

In short, is this about anything other than people talking back?

12

Harald K 01.29.15 at 1:23 pm

My sense, not from reading Chait but from reading blog posts about his statement, is that he’s asking “Why don’t they love me, I’m a liberal?”

Well, that says a lot about the blogs you read. If you had gone one step out, and read only those writing blog posts based on the blog post, probably your sense would be that he’s saying “Why don’t you pity me I’m a white man!”. The further you get out, the more of a caricature you’re seeing – believe it or not marcel proust, but it isn’t just in the right-wing echo chamber that happens.

So this Chait guy is a right-winger is he? Or a fake liberal? That doesn’t matter. Henry Kissinger himself could have written this piece, and I’d still be glad he did, because the piece makes a good point.

13

Minnow 01.29.15 at 1:35 pm

“Harald: So these uppity types. Are they making so the police are now as likely to gun down unarmed straight cis white guys as they are other sorts of people? “

Chait isn’t denying that there are not still gross injustices being endured by people in the US or elsewhere, often because of prejudice over race, sexuality, class or sex. He is just saying that endless, vicious online bickering over whether those ‘unarmed straight cis white guys’ (or whoever) should be labelled ‘unarmed cis white guys’ or something else is not the best way to stop this happening.

The wildly intemperate, sliming personalised responses seem to me make his point for him.

14

The Modesto Kid 01.29.15 at 1:38 pm

>Sarah Kendzior, Joshua Foust, Sarah Jeong and (if you’re especially confident) Suey Park

Who are these people? What establishment do they represent? I am fine with not knowing wtf I’m talking about in regards to Kendzior, Foust, Jeong and Park.

15

Barry 01.29.15 at 1:44 pm

Belle Waring 01.29.15 at 11:58 am
“Yeah the acts of vandalism were legit. OK one full point.”

Not really. Notice how he had to reach so far and hard for his one point. Meanwhile, as has been pointed out, the police shooting black men is treated as normal work by prosecutors and the (overwhelmingly white) print/broadcast media. And that’s this past year (and will be this year, as well).

16

novakant 01.29.15 at 1:44 pm

The larger question seems to me:

Why should someone who was completely and aggressively wrong on the Iraq war be a major columnist today? Why should we listen to this stupid little twit at all? He should be stacking shelves at Walmart or something.

17

Minnow 01.29.15 at 1:45 pm

“Politeness. If something I were saying at a dinner party offended another guest and my host explained why, I would stop saying that thing, in all likelihood.”

Well, that is what living in Singapore will do to you. Some of us are used to the idea that we can express our opinions freely and without fear, though, even if other people disagree with them, and that is important and should be protected.

Leaving aside whether we really want to conduct all political discourse as if it were a dinner party. A ‘dinner party’ tho!

18

Belle Waring 01.29.15 at 1:47 pm

Harald K: political correctness isn’t only about politeness. It’s also about actual moral issues. If I were using racial slurs at someone’s house, and they wanted to tell me to shut up, that would be in part a matter of courtesy. And under ordinary standards of even the most politically conservative stripe, I as a guest would be obliged to shut up at that point, and if I didn’t wish to my host would be fair in showing me the door. But we think that situation is more than ‘mere’ ordinary politeness in that it isn’t like me using the fish fork to eat salad. It’s more like pissing into the flower arrangement. It’s morally offensive to hear people get called ‘wetbacks’ or whatever.

People on the left are ‘progressive’ in that we think actual progress is (sometimes agonizingly slowly) made; one way to comfort ourselves on this front is to see what class of slur we have slowly pushed beyond the pale in the past, and turn our attention to further progress. I mean–my grandfather used to make ‘dumb Polack’ jokes when I was a kid. When was the last time anyone heard anything like that? It’s possible to use political correctness to convince people that some things are part of respectable discourse and others aren’t. And what freedom was lost here? It’s not like the jokes were very funny, or that refraining from telling them would have imposed some burden on my grandfather. Indeed, he was needling his Polish gardener.

I’ve spoken here before about how white people in the South will sometimes bust out with some stuff you really didn’t expect when there’s only white people in the room. It’s startling. Part of the surprise is just…you think that’s not only an OK sentiment, but something you’d say in front of a relative stranger? WTF is wrong with you? I thought we didn’t talk quite like that anymore? Conservatives are right to fear the power of the left when it comes to just this particular issue; we will straight-up change the rules on you two-thirds of the way through your life. Nope, you can’t call that gay guy whom your drunkenly berating “a cocksucker,” even though you might use the word elsewhere as a Deadwood-style generalized curse-word. Just that time, to that guy and his husband, no. We will jump down your throat about it. Certain people can say certain things and have it come out differently; you all can call me a cocksucker in this thread and I’ll be hella pissed but I won’t think you hate gay dudes. Context matters, and the rules about context–to whom are you speaking, in front of whom, where?–are rules that mirror codes of politeness more than anything else. This doesn’t stop them from being of political value, or real.

19

AB 01.29.15 at 1:48 pm

Saying that PC is just politeness is rather like saying that the burqa is just about modesty: true, but it begs the question. Politness, modesty, decency are always political matters. Feminists in particular have always quite rightly made a point of breaching politically offensive standards of politeness.

20

Yastreblyansky 01.29.15 at 1:55 pm

Modesto Kid: Where have you been? Suey Park maneuvers the strings from her secure location that govern everyone’s career, from tenure at Flyweight Elementary School to the chief justice of the Supreme Court. Most major publishers won’t move on a book unless they have her approval, and she can also break up your marriage if you cross her.

21

Vladimir 01.29.15 at 1:58 pm

I think Belle is spot on to say to equate political correctness to manners. In fact to do so doesn’t really diminish Chait’s concerns. I first read A Room With a View in the early 90s when these debates were prominent. It occurred to me in early pages of that novel – the inappropriateness of a man offering to swap rooms with a young woman – that political correctness was a like a new propriety and as going to be given to the same excesses and absurdities of the older , say, Victorian version. Besides the fact that Chait’s use of anecdotes has the effect of overstating the frequency of the kinds of incidents he cites, he focuses merely on what people say and now what we’re allowed to ask/study which I think may be more important.

22

Kent 01.29.15 at 2:00 pm

I found the piece by Chait quite interesting and have been chewing it over (even though I’m on vacation and really be out walking in the waves some more).

The thing is, he is right that there is a basic philosophical point at stake. Are “we” (however we describe ourselves, anybody even vaguely left of center) committed to free speech and free exchange of ideas, or are we committed to equality? Normally the answer is, of course, “both!” But then the radical critique hits home, that free speech in any real world context is always more free for some of us than others, and that existing power imbalances are (sometimes) reinforced rather than challenged when all are “free” to speak. And then we may have to think very carefully about where and when to take a stand, and on which side, and why.

The answer is very easy for Chait. It is much less so for me. But I do appreciate the force (if not always the good sense) with which he puts the question.

23

Belle Waring 01.29.15 at 2:02 pm

Minnow: it’s not my goal that all political discourse be conducted at a dinner party or in footie pajamas at a sleepover with hot chocolate. There was a lot of dinner party conversation going around at The E.T.L. New Republic, for example, and it wasn’t any good at all. No one needs to conform for conformity’s sake. My point is rather, what happens when some people try to shut down other people on the same political side on the particular issue of calling Ann Coulter Mann Coulter and a tranny all the time, for example? Is it because some leftists secretly love Ann Coulter? No, it’s because some leftists think that being a trans person isn’t a bad, shameful thing that amounts to a slur, and they want their fellow leftists to recognize that, and to recognize that young trans people who haven’t come out to their parents yet aren’t going to feel welcome in any political coalition that thinks they are jokes or freaks. So, I would say, we should be kinder to an enemy in order to become better ourselves, and to be kinder to people who we are talking to right now in some comments box at Slate, who may be trans themselves. It’s not like it costs us anything to be decent about it. When I put “existing racial and sexual and anti-anything-but-cis-straight bias in real life” on one side of the scale and on the other I appear to have an Atrios commenter who wants to call Ann Coulter a tranny and not be criticized about it by his fellow leftists then I look at the scales and go…why are we even having this conversation again? There is nothing on the other side. No actual masses of straight, white, cis men suffering at all. And did you look at the one side of the scale with the sexism on it?

24

Minnow 01.29.15 at 2:08 pm

“So, I would say, we should be kinder to an enemy in order to become better ourselves, and to be kinder to people who we are talking to right now in some comments box at Slate”

You would argue that and Chait (and I) would agree that you are right and that certain things are better not said. But that is not at all what Chait was complaining about.

Personally, though, I would prefer that the kind of people who call Ann Coulter a ‘tranny’ (and I should confess I don’t know who Ann Coulter is) do it in front of me so I can see who they are. It is an example of what Kingsley Amis called a useful ‘wanker detector’.

25

Belle Waring 01.29.15 at 2:09 pm

FFS: what happens when you are impolite? People criticize you and don’t invite you back for dinner. They don’t beat you to death with an axe handle and bury you by the sump pump. Dudes like this whining about PC want something very particular indeed: not just the right to say things others find offensive but the right to say offensive things and then not be criticized for saying them. No. Political discourse is open and free, you may say what you wish, we will mock as we choose, may the best woman win. Really, what are the actual bad effects here? White men worried about people being silenced just because they’re white men–I can’t even with this shit.

26

Minnow 01.29.15 at 2:11 pm

“FFS: what happens when you are impolite? People criticize you and don’t invite you back for dinner.”

Life, most life, just isn’t like a dinner party. That is heartbreaking for some but a huge relief for others. Butwe are talking here not about ‘impolite’ in the way it is usually used, but ‘impolite’ as in ‘does not accept the truth of my argument or statement’.

27

MPAVictoria 01.29.15 at 2:12 pm

Great post.

/I can’t wait until J Thomas and Brett start commenting. I predict much stupidity.

28

Belle Waring 01.29.15 at 2:14 pm

I’m going to bed now; y’all sort this out amongst y’alls’selves. And thank for the kind words George de Verges, in the sky, Bruce Baugh and others, I appreciate it!

29

Trader Joe 01.29.15 at 2:14 pm

Unfortunately we’ll never know how many “cis liberal white males” were afraid to speak up in defense of Mr. Chait because their voices have become too marginalized and they fear the reprocussions. Can you not hear the silence of their screaming voices of dispair?

(said with a smirk)

30

Minnow 01.29.15 at 2:14 pm

Don’t be so passagg Victoria. It’s not good for you.

31

Harald K 01.29.15 at 2:16 pm

But Belle Waring, that is not the kind of political correctness Chait is speaking about. He’s speaking about a case where a writer got fired and had his front door vandalized, all for writing a piece of satire about people’s touchiness. His concrete examples are all of an entirely different sort, of direct attacks on free speech (and even violence) justified by being on behalf of the less privileged.

Are there some people who use “political correctness” about dumb Polack jokes and the like? Yes. And if Chait doesn’t admit that, pursue him for it by all means. If he’s unwilling to draw a line in that direction, that’s bad and he should feel bad. Maybe he didn’t do it clearly enough in this article. But then again, I have never seen you being willing to draw a line on your side either – against, say, the wild accusations leveled in the Jacobinghazi affair (a “political correctness” dispute closer to home for Crooked Timber).

Whether you like him or not, whether you want to or not, this is a culture conflict that’s brewing. It’s not just something he’s imagining. It’s not just straight left vs. right either (again, read up on Jacobinghazi). It’s coming to the surface in all sorts of subcultures I follow, independently, and if you haven’t already I can pretty much guarantee you’ll lose friends over it.

32

Minnow 01.29.15 at 2:17 pm

“Unfortunately we’ll never know how many “cis liberal white males” were afraid to speak up in defense of Mr. Chait because their voices have become too marginalized and they fear the reprocussions.”

Very few I am sure. But how many non-cis black men and women who agreed with Chait have felt unable to say so aloud for fear of the inevitable anathematisation? I know at least one.

33

harry b 01.29.15 at 2:34 pm

It is, as most have said, a great post. I just wish I’d spent the (very small amount of) time it prompted me to spend reading Chait’s drivel doing something else. Next time, Belle, I’ll just enjoy your post and trust that the piece you’re linking to is as bad as you say it is.

34

MPAVictoria 01.29.15 at 2:40 pm

“Yeah the acts of vandalism were legit. OK one full point.”

Way, WAY too generous. It happened once, was not part of any systematic program and it happened to pro life assholes. Fuck those guys anyway.

35

Haftime 01.29.15 at 2:41 pm

This is my favourite routine about political correctness, I guess a lot of people will have seen it before.

36

alkali 01.29.15 at 2:43 pm

Chait’s essay suggests a lack of capacity on his part to imagine that the positions he rejects might at least be worth considering. For examplke, I don’t think The Vagina Monologues is transphobic either. That said, if a college theater group has some concern about that play, their expressing that concern doesn’t do me any harm, and perhaps their position has more merit than I suppose.

The catalogue of persons whose invitations to speak at colleges have been protested is likewise strange. I assume Chait agrees that there are at least some people who shouldn’t be invited to colleges to speak, including persons who are personally odious or have little of value to say or both. Is it so inconceivable to Chait that following the Iraq War, someone should object to Condoleezza Rice as a campus speaker? Chait also notes that “former Berkeley chancellor Robert Birgeneau … was disqualified by an episode in which the school’s police used force against Occupy protesters”: the irony of that example in the context of this essay appears entirely lost on him.

For what it’s worth, I generally find Chait’s writing insightful and valuable, but someone should have talked him out of this one.

37

MPAVictoria 01.29.15 at 2:48 pm

“Don’t be so passagg Victoria. It’s not good for you.”

Bite me!

38

MPAVictoria 01.29.15 at 2:49 pm

That aggressive enough for you minnow?

39

Minnow 01.29.15 at 2:55 pm

“That aggressive enough for you minnow?”

I can feel your chi unclogging from here.

40

Abigail 01.29.15 at 2:55 pm

Minnow @16: “Some of us are used to the idea that we can express our opinions freely and without fear”

And as far as I know that is the case. But none of us are free to express our opinions without consequences. To extend Belle’s dinner party metaphor, if you said something rude at a party and was asked not to repeat it, and your response to that was to start railing about freedom of speech and how you would damn well say whatever you wished, I think the host and other guests would be perfectly within their rights to draw conclusions about the kind of person you are. Maybe you wouldn’t get invited to other parties.

What Chait is complaining about is the fact that he said things and people drew conclusions about him based on the things he said. Which is whiny in itself, but given that the consequences he experienced are impossibly mild – compare them with, say, Anita Sarkessian’s random sample of the violent tweets she receives – I don’t see any reason to take him seriously, much less embrace him as a standard-bearer for free speech.

AB @18: Yes, and there’s absolutely no difference between a person with less privilege breaking the standards of politeness imposed upon them by the more powerful class, and a person with the highest level of privilege complaining because those with less of it have criticized them.

41

MPAVictoria 01.29.15 at 2:57 pm

“I can feel your chi unclogging from here”

Touch my chi again and I will break your finger.

42

MPAVictoria 01.29.15 at 2:59 pm

“And as far as I know that is the case. But none of us are free to express our opinions without consequences. “

Bingo. You are free to say something and other people are free to mock you for it. If you think they are wrong to mock you, then you are free to continue saying what you want.

Basically he is arguing that marginalized people now have TOO MUCH free speech.

43

Harald K 01.29.15 at 2:59 pm

Yeah, MPAVictoria’s attitude of “Fuck those guys anyway” sums up the problem nicely. Do the bad guys deserve any rights?

By the way, that wasn’t a pro life asshole guy, that was a pro life asshole gal. And she wasn’t the only target of vandalism and reprisals Chait mentioned, there was also the Muslim satirist, and a feminist who had the temerity to be SW-positive, to name a few. The programs to shut them down and shut them up seem quite deliberate to me, and also part of an overall tendency, and a wider movement that is quite organized.

It’s not a question of left or right, it’s a question of tribalism vs. universalism. Oh, there are people who want to make it a question of left vs. right all right, and Chait may even be one of them. But in that case he’s far too stealthy about it, and you could defeat his sinister plan by just refusing to engage in tribalism yourself.

44

Minnow 01.29.15 at 3:00 pm

“What Chait is complaining about is the fact that he said things and people drew conclusions about him based on the things he said.”

No, that really isn’t what he is complaining about. Really. You need to read the article or read it again. He is quite happy for people to argue with what he or anyone else has said.

And the dinner party analogy is still not doing anyone any favours. Political discourse just isn’t like a dinner party and, more importantly, shouldn’t be like a dinner party. What is it with dinner parties? Do people really still go to dinner parties? Did the 70s sneak back while I wasn’t looking?

45

Adam 01.29.15 at 3:05 pm

I’ll go personal.

I am a liberal straight cis white male with a great job that includes lots of freedom to say what I think. Since I get involved in all kinds of conversations (real and virtual) with all kinds of different groups, I inevitably say things that other people disagree with. Sometimes I get yelled at by people who hate my ideas, but have run out of rational arguments. Sometimes I get yelled at by people who I agree with, but misunderstood what I said (or, thats how I see it). That sucks! Sometimes I can’t fix it, and the person makes an indelible judgement about me. I feel bad.

My point is … I am still a “liberal straight cis white male with a great job that includes lots of freedom to say what I think.”

BW’s point about the balance is exactly right! There are people like me who suffer real consequences from aggressive PC fire … occasionally … you can find some examples. It amounts to a hill of beans. Not to them individually, of course! But how much suffering and measurable damage are you prepared to accept on the other side to guarantee NO bad consequences for anyone like me?

P.S. vandalism is a crime.

46

MPAVictoria 01.29.15 at 3:05 pm

“By the way, that wasn’t a pro life asshole guy, that was a pro life asshole gal. “

Notice how you didn’t respond to my other points……

Interesting and revealing.

47

Ze Kraggash 01.29.15 at 3:05 pm

Chait’s piece is tl. And, judging by the first few paragraphs, he’s way too soft on pc-zombiism and too serious. Surely it could be made funnier; it’s begging for a satire.

48

J Thomas 01.29.15 at 3:15 pm

Belle, you make some good points and make them very well. I get the impression Chait made some good points poorly. These are issues that I don’t see any good solutions for yet.

…. Letting them talk just because of who they are. Letting queerness count for something. Letting being disabled count for something. Letting someone’s being politically weak and historically silenced be a reason for others on the left to react with, “hey, let’s be quiet for a minute and see what this person has to say.

Yes. I think it’s good to listen to everybody, particularly when they say something new.

But then if they say “You can’t disagree with me because I’m an oppressed minority” I start to wonder. Particularly when I suspect it might be a 30-year-old white-guy trolling from his mother’s basement. Everybody deserves a respectful hearing, and nobody deserves to shut up other people except the moderators.

Similarly with trigger warnings. It’s polite to warn people about things that might be unpleasant to them. It’s an unfair debating tactic to take something that is not in fact a trigger to you and use it to stop a discussion entirely and change it to one about what a no-good-shit your debating opponent is because he said something you couldn’t answer on its merits (but that you could accuse him of insensitivity about).

I’d prefer to avoid debates anyway. Better to explore issues and find out what we can about them. But bringing rational, polite, pleasant discourse to a debate is like bringing a handful of flowers to a gunfight. If the other guy has decided it’s a debate then you can leave or debate him (or find somebody else to talk with and ignore him).

I just don’t have it worked out. People deserve special privileges for being unprivileged, but they don’t necessarily deserve every privilege they demand, particularly when they have done nothing to show they are actually unprivileged. It’s polite to provide trigger warnings and it’s rude to castigate people at length when they fail to do so to your satisfaction.

If we were all reasonable people we could work this stuff out, but it seems to be the most unreasonable people who game the system to get outcomes that would be harder for them to achieve otherwise….

49

Minnow 01.29.15 at 3:18 pm

Careful now Victoria … Karma!

50

alkali 01.29.15 at 3:18 pm

@44: And the dinner party analogy is still not doing anyone any favours. Political discourse just isn’t like a dinner party and, more importantly, shouldn’t be like a dinner party.

Relative to Kristallnacht or the bridge at Selma, I for one would prefer that political discourse be more like a dinner party.

51

Minnow 01.29.15 at 3:19 pm

Happily, alkali, the options aren’t so limited.

52

Val 01.29.15 at 3:22 pm

Oh for crying out loud. I should be asleep but people are being wrong on the Internet again. Belle’s explained it but just to try a little more, let me get to specifics. So – the example Chait starts with. The guy in question didn’t write a gentle Charlie Brown type satire of people who take offence too easily, as Chait says. He wrote a really stupid article making fun of feminism. That’s what it actually is. So Chait is being dishonest right from the start.

Then four – presumably – radical feminist students retaliate by scribbling rude things on his article and leaving it on his door step, and possibly, although this is a little unclear, throwing eggs at his door and “posting” a picture of a demon (?what) (through the letter box? Pinning it to the door? Not clear). These four later transmute into angry mobs, etc, but this is enough for the time being.

Now I’m not defending throwing eggs at people’s doors, etc, but the whole thing sounds like an undergraduate battle to me, rather than some whole social movement of political correctness warriors persecuting some innocent Charlie Brown. And possibly some people commenting here have been living in a hole in the ground for the last decade, and aren’t aware that there are whole hordes of people who write endless inane boring articles and comments about how wrong feminists all are, but take it from me, there are, and sometimes you just get fed up.

I’m sure everyone here is aware that feminism is an important social movement that has made enormous contributions to the way we live and think now, but you know there are seriously thousands – probably millions – of men (and some women) out there who just know that all feminists are wrong and stupid and should be ridiculed on all possible occasions (and I’m not even talking about the vile threats and abuse some feminists receive). And again, I’m not saying eggs etc is right, but maybe try to offset these crazed mobs of people (ie feminists) who are trying to police what people think – in Chait’s mind – against the reality that there are actual mobs of people threatening and making fun of feminists (and sometimes just women) every day on the Internet, and you might see that Chait’s ideas about political correctness are just a little bit dishonest.

I’m not trying to comment about people of colour, but you know I hope someone else might do a demolition job on Chait’s position – or maybe people could just have enough sense to weigh “political correctness” against hundreds of years of oppression, slavery etc. Yeah, people get steamed up about stuff, they argue, they take offence. It’s not a big deal. You could even say it’s part of free speech, if you weren’t the kind of person who thinks free speech means you being able to insult others with impunity, and them just having to suck it up, because you’re privileged and they’re upstarts.

53

Minnow 01.29.15 at 3:26 pm

“Now I’m not defending throwing eggs at people’s doors, etc, but the whole thing sounds like an undergraduate battle to me”

And if the positions were reversed? If a woman student had written an article in defence of a certain feminist position and four students had come to her room in masks, thrown eggs at the door, posted a picture of a demon and a defaced version of article through her letter box? Still comfortable with it?

54

J Thomas 01.29.15 at 3:29 pm

I mean–my grandfather used to make ‘dumb Polack’ jokes when I was a kid. When was the last time anyone heard anything like that?

I thought some of them were funny when I was a kid. Kind of mean, but mean jokes can be funny.

Here, I’ll tell the best one now since it’s probably been a long time since you’ve heard it.

This polish man was talking to his grandmother, who had finally come to the USA, and she asked him about Polack jokes. He was embarrassed but she insisted that he tell her one, and finally he did. She laughed and made him tell her another one. She laughed again, and said, “I’ve probably heard all of those. At home we call them Ukrainian jokes.”

55

MPAVictoria 01.29.15 at 3:31 pm

Have you noticed that the people defending Chait never respond to a whole argument. Take Minnow’s response to Val. He completely ignored most of what she had to say.

Very, very revealing.

56

Mr Punch 01.29.15 at 3:32 pm

Chait is boring, and good riddance to TNR (if it’s gone). PC is in fact all about free speech: it’s the principle that the feelings of some people trump the rights of others (presumably more advantaged). A recent very obvious example is defense of the Charlie Hebdo attack because they shouldn’t have run those insulting cartoons. The appeal to “manners,” I think, is a copout; my southern relatives would have considered it rude, in 1965, to invite them to share a swimming pool with black people.

57

Minnow 01.29.15 at 3:34 pm

“Have you noticed that the people defending Chait never respond to a whole argument. Take Minnow’s response to Val. He completely ignored most of what she had to say.”

I don’t think comment sections are good places for detailed arguments most of the time, but I don’t see what is ‘revealing’ about selecting particular points of interest to discuss. After all, that is what the article we are commenting on (inevitably) does with regard to Chait. And you didn’t address any of my points at all. What should I read into that? What does it reveal about you?

58

Foster Boondoggle 01.29.15 at 3:35 pm

There’s a tremendous amount of deliberate misreading of Chait going on here… (1) Everyone’s acting like his handful of examples are the sum total of all the cases of left-censorship going on. They’re not. They’re just notable examples. (2) His own personal experience of being censored is not part of his complaint. He’s not complaining that he, a cis-blah-blah-blah guy can’t say what he wants. That would have been colossally stupid.

His largest objection to the left-language-police is at the end of the article, and it’s this: politics is about creating change, and you don’t create positive change by bludgeoning your potential allies into fearful silence. You create change with a coalition of like-minded people who are prepared to collaborate and to compromise with each other to work towards shared goals. The left-language-police isn’t bad because people’s feelings have been hurt. It’s bad because it makes it harder for the left to accomplish its goals. Unless the real goal is just dominance in the insular social hierarchy.

59

Ronan(rf) 01.29.15 at 3:37 pm

I think Chait is making too much of this. His perspective in that piece was more or less my own but then I just decided to stop using twitter and reading anyone with an Ivy league education with a job at a major American publication between the ages of 25-37 and my blood pressure dropped dramatically.
I think PC as good manners is largely correct, and a good thing. People should *try* to be mannerly and not purposely use language that offends. Also they should try and remain attuned to the fact that they might be privileged in a number of ways. This is also good, and something taught to almost everyone by their parents, I would hope.
I think the problem is identity politics tribalism. As a political phenomenon identity politics* is in the place where the unions were under Arthur Scargill, or where nationalist movements end up when they’ve won the major battles but are stuck in the difficulties of governance. Caught in an endless loop of vitriol, self pity, ideological policing, good/evil dichotomising and triviality.
The problem is that a demand for manners in this context is backed up by an extreme rhetorical obnoxiousness, which decends regularly into public shaming and bullying.
Personally this brand of identity politics is not my thing, any more than die hard Irish nationalists or identity politics socialism is. It essentialises individuals so as to manufacture an extreme sense of solidarity that doesnt exist, destroying the liberal idea that individuals are, at the end of the day, individuals, with a complicated set of alliegances, identities and interests, embedded in specific social contexts but also more than just the one arbitrary identity some political huckster wants to put on you.
But I dont think this represents anything more than a small group of Leninists who want to burn everything to the ground.

* identity politics here is a type of politics that occurs in all ideological movements so is not reducible to socialism, or feminism, or black politics, or nationalism, or Islamism, or neoconservatism, or Zionism (or even liberalism) or what have you. Just to be clear.
And like all of these things, when the ruling class incorporates a previously oppressed group into their coterie (at Georgetown cocktail parties) they utilise the succesful political tactics of their prior adversaries to copperfasten their position. This is why some people (like myself) sometimes see ‘PC’ as a bullying’ tactic, because it is regularly enough used against people with no meaningful power or privilege, by people with considerable power and privilege, all the while the second group claims that in this situation they are the powerless and underprivileged (which is empirically incorrect)
Also, I will admit that I rarely live up to my aspiration to be uber mannerly, so I feel like a bit of a hypocrite here. Perhaps I’m just engaging in overwrought excuse making.

60

MPAVictoria 01.29.15 at 3:37 pm

“And you didn’t address any of my points at all. What should I read into that? What does it reveal about you?”

Evasive. I remain unimpressed.

So what is your response to this?

” Yeah, people get steamed up about stuff, they argue, they take offence. It’s not a big deal. You could even say it’s part of free speech, if you weren’t the kind of person who thinks free speech means you being able to insult others with impunity, and them just having to suck it up, because you’re privileged and they’re upstarts.”

I believe it is the key part of this issue.

61

Minnow 01.29.15 at 3:40 pm

you don’t create positive change by bludgeoning your potential allies into fearful silence. You create change with a coalition of like-minded people who are prepared to collaborate and to compromise with each other to work towards shared goals.

Or, as W.E. DuBois said:

Do not … make the all too common error of mistaking names for things. Names are only conventional signs for identifying things. Things are the reality that counts. If a thing is despised, either because of ignorance or because it is despicable, you will not alter matters by changing its name. If men despise Negroes, they will not despise them less if Negroes are called “colored” or “Afro-Americans…” It is not the name – it’s the Thing that counts. Come on, Kid, let’s go get the Thing!

62

Minnow 01.29.15 at 3:42 pm

“So what is your response to this?”

My response was the one I posted. I wanted to know if s/he would feel the same way if the masked strangers throwing eggs and posting pictures of demons through the door were attacking a woman feminist rather than a man satirist. The answer to that makes all the difference to the point.

63

felonious monk 01.29.15 at 3:46 pm

Hmm.. Let’s see. One dude gets his stuff vandalized for writing something stupid and offensive. At my very small, liberal college, the spaces used by the LGBTQ club were routinely vandalized, multiple times a month.

And, hmm, I guess there’s some spaces on the internet where saying ‘un-pc’ things will have people tell you you’re a jerk an unfriend you. Anita Sarkeesan posts somefeminist critiques of video games and gets constant, repeated rape and death threats, some of which are specific and detailed enough that the police take them seriously.

OK, I agree with Chait that there is a systematic campaign to harass certain people to remove their positions from the political discourse. It’s just not the one he thinks it is.

64

MPAVictoria 01.29.15 at 3:47 pm

“The left-language-police isn’t bad because people’s feelings have been hurt. It’s bad because it makes it harder for the left to accomplish its goals. “

Nope. By using more inclusive language the left actually becomes better at building solidarity not worse. Why would a gay man want to be part of a movement that regularly refers to homosexuals as “faggots”?

Also I really would ask people here to remember that LGBTQ people/PoC/Women are much more likely to be bullied, discriminated against or be silenced then rich white male authors. Here are some cold hard facts:

– An Ontario-based study of trans people found that 20 per cent had experienced physical or sexual assault due to their identity, and that 34 per cent were subjected to verbal threats or harassment
– Trans people in both Canada and the US report high levels of violence, harassment, and discrimination when seeking stable housing, employment, health or social services
– LGBT youth face approximately 14 times the risk of suicide and substance abuse than heterosexual peers
– 77% of trans respondents in an Ontario-based survey had seriously considered suicide and 45% had attempted suicide

So why the fuck are we worried about someone saying mean things about Chait on twitter? Why aren’t we worried about how we have created a culture so toxic to LGBTQ people that kids are being driven to suicide?

65

MPAVictoria 01.29.15 at 3:47 pm

“My response was the one I posted. I wanted to know if s/he would feel the same way if the masked strangers throwing eggs and posting pictures of demons through the door were attacking a woman feminist rather than a man satirist. The answer to that makes all the difference to the point.”

Evasive.

66

Minnow 01.29.15 at 3:51 pm

“So why the fuck are we worried about someone saying mean things about Chait on twitter? “

We’re not, that isn’t the subject anyone is discussing. People should be free to say what they like about Chait or any of us.

“Why aren’t we worried about how we have created a culture so toxic to LGBTQ people that kids are being driven to suicide?”

I think everyone here is concerned about the problems faced by (for example) LGBTQQI people and I know Chait is from his journalism. I don’t think that you characterise the situation accurately though, the position of LGBTQQI people is massively better now than it was only a few years ago and seems to me to be improving all the time.

67

Minnow 01.29.15 at 3:51 pm

“Evasive.”

Not.

68

MPAVictoria 01.29.15 at 3:55 pm

“Not.”

Way.

69

J Thomas 01.29.15 at 3:58 pm

#60 MPAV

“And you didn’t address any of my points at all. What should I read into that? What does it reveal about you?”

Evasive. I remain unimpressed.

You can dish it out but you can’t take it. You were entirely 100% evasive about his own questions of you.

Why would any reasonable person care whether you are impressed? In my time here you have revealed yourself as a little bundle of judgements and prejudices, and you have mostly not revealed anything else.

70

Minnow 01.29.15 at 3:58 pm

“Way.”

Not. (!)

71

Minnow 01.29.15 at 4:01 pm

Relax J Thomas, this sort of back and forth is just part of the scene. Actually, I tend to think of it as flirting.

72

MPAVictoria 01.29.15 at 4:02 pm

“We’re not, that isn’t the subject anyone is discussing.”

Please. That is exactly what Chait is complaining about! Go back and read the article.

“People should be free to say what they like about Chait or any of us.”
True. I believe in free speech and in consequences.

“I think everyone here is concerned about the problems faced by (for example) LGBTQQI people and I know Chait is from his journalism.”
Apparently he is concerned about their challenges right up to the point where someone might say something mean about someone else on twitter.

” I don’t think that you characterise the situation accurately though, the position of LGBTQQI people is massively better now than it was only a few years ago and seems to me to be improving all the time.”

I supplied cold hard fact. Seems accurate to me. The situation, though better, is still pretty fucking dire. And how come it is improving? Because groups of people made the effort to change our culture. No it is not okay to call a teenage gay male a “faggot” or a “Fairy”. And if you do, people will come down on you like a ton of bricks. As they should.

73

MPAVictoria 01.29.15 at 4:05 pm

“Not. (!)”

Way!

/The response is back in the original quote. No one is defending it.

74

Minnow 01.29.15 at 4:06 pm

“And how come it is improving? Because groups of people made the effort to change our culture. No it is not okay to call a teenage gay male a “faggot” or a “Fairy”. And if you do, people will come down on you like a ton of bricks. As they should.”

It is changing because it was argued for, long and hard, and arguments change minds. As for the rude words, they have lost their sting as the fight for real change has been won.

75

Chad Horne 01.29.15 at 4:09 pm

I can’t believe that you and I read the same article. Let’s distinguish two claims:

(1) It is worthwhile to point out/criticize/problematize/satirize etc instances of non-PC behaviour.

(2) It is worthwhile to use intimidation and coercion to silence those who engage in non-PC behaviour.

You seem to think that Chait rejects (1), and pillory him for it. In fact all the critiques of Chait I have read from the left seem to read him as rejecting (1). But as I read the article, Chait is fine with (1) (as any sane person should be, liberal or not) but was keen on rejecting (2). Read just the concluding paragraph, for instance.

You might think “Oh , then Chait is criticizing a straw man; no one actually believes (2).” And yet people do. Indeed, the article is full of examples of people engaging in (2) (something you actually had to be reminded of by JM Hatch! Did you even read the article?). More shockingly, the article has examples of members of the Professoriate DEFENDING (2) and those who engage in it. Sheesh.

Anyway I dont know anything about your personal history of being annoyed with Jonathan Chait, but I think your criticism of this article, like all of the leftist ciriticisms I’ve read, are based on a pretty tendentious reading of it.

76

John Garrett 01.29.15 at 4:10 pm

All this makes me sad for the loss of face to face discussion (confrontation, if needed) with the confronting and confronted forced to take clear responsibility for their words, and add whatever they need to be clear, even if the disagreement is more intense afterwards. Disagreement is good, name calling isn’t. But we live in a society of tools, like twitter, which eliminate both accountability and reflection. When was the last time you or anyone you know, asked a question, responded “Give me a couple of days, I have to think about that.”

JG

77

MPAVictoria 01.29.15 at 4:10 pm

“As for the rude words, they have lost their sting as the fight for real change has been won”

Tell that to the teenage kid who committed suicide….

78

MPAVictoria 01.29.15 at 4:11 pm

“Why would any reasonable person care whether you are impressed? In my time here you have revealed yourself as a little bundle of judgements and prejudices, and you have mostly not revealed anything else.”

And you believe in conspiracy theories about Jewish bankers….

79

Bruce Baugh 01.29.15 at 4:12 pm

Oh, as a footnote to any assertion to the effect of “Harald K is playing the part of an unmitigated asshole in this thread’s comments”:

He brought up, though he did not name, Shanley Kane, founder of Model View Culture. This is what people have been saying about and doing to her. I invite people who, like Harald K, feel comfortable maligning her to undergo the same for a few years and then tell us about what they felt to appropriate responses.

I’ve long subscribed to the general principle: look at what people are living through and then get back to us. But it is impressively vivid in Kane’s case. I don’t think that someone like Harald K could live through that and still come out with the basic courtesy and self-respect strong enough to keep admitting errors and vulnerabilities that Kane does, any more than someone like Chait seems able to even begin to grasp what others’ lives are like.

80

Minnow 01.29.15 at 4:19 pm

‘Are losing their sting’ would be more accurate. Of course there are still many obstacles faced by LGBTQQI people and especially the you often face emotional battles that can be horrible. But I would say, and I think that this would be Chait’s position, that we should work with like-minded people to improve things rather than waste our energies fighting battles over terminologies and ever-finer ideological boundaries. For example, you forgot, or didn’t know, to designate this group as ‘LGBTQQI or LGBTQI but used the outdated ‘LGBTQ’ designation instead. There are many people who would consider this an act of aggression and label you a bigot because of it. Your ignorance (if that is what you want to plead) would be no defence. It is easy to imagine the situation when, if you had any public profile at all, this would be escalate into a Twitter storm and worse with your reputation smeared as a person who despises the intersex community and seeks to eliminate them from view, to literally erase them from debate as you erased the ‘I’ from LGBTQI. Your only hope would be an abject, public and fulsome apology, probably admitting your subconscious bigotry. . That is not remotely far-fetched (look up Jacobinghazi as recommended upthread). But it would be stupid and a waste of time and energy. Which is Chait’s point. Better we keep arguing the substantive stuff.

81

MPAVictoria 01.29.15 at 4:25 pm

I reject your assertion that most of what “P.C.” culture is is arguing about things like “LGBTQ” vs “LGBTQQI”. Most of it is, “hey you probably should call women sluts.” and “your portrayal of gay men was offensive.” or maybe “Rape jokes aren’t funny. Maybe you should make them.”

You are taking outlying cases and trying to make them the main topic. Instead of focusing on the fact that we live in a culture that values certain voices over others. Now what can we do to change that?

82

MPAVictoria 01.29.15 at 4:27 pm

Maybe you shouldn’t make them i mean

/My kingdom for a copy editor!

83

Minnow 01.29.15 at 4:29 pm

“I reject your assertion that most of what “P.C.” culture is is arguing about things like “LGBTQ” vs “LGBTQQI”.”

I didn’t make that assertion, I am not sure what it would mean. I said that there is plenty of that going on, and that is true and easily observable, and it is the bit that Chait seems to me to be objecting to.

84

Harald K 01.29.15 at 4:33 pm

MPAVictoria, I’d address your points if I saw any. But it looks like you are busy knocking down strawmen and smashing open already open doors. I’m not calling anyone trannies or cocksuckers, and I don’t think “minorities have too much free speech”. Neither does Chait as far as I can see.

But you obviously think that”pro-life activists have too much free speech, if you just gloat and say “fuck them” when people try to shut them up with force.

I’m not defending Chait. I’m defending Chait’s argument as I best can understand it, which is something else.

If you wish, you can restate whatever your point is with regard to Chait’s article. Or you can explain why I’m reading him wrong, or why anything else I’ve said is wrong. I’ll do my best to not evade.

85

Nine 01.29.15 at 4:38 pm

Minnow @44 – “What is it with dinner parties? Do people really still go to dinner parties? “

Yes, plenty. No one invites you ?

86

MPAVictoria 01.29.15 at 4:39 pm

“Yes, plenty. No one invites you ?”

Ha!

87

felwith 01.29.15 at 4:39 pm

“Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that person by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that othering language is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through Hir appointed time, Xe now wills to remove, and that Xe gives to both Left and Right this terrible social justice war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Xem? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of tmblr may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the privilege piled by the oppressed’s two hundred and fifty years of unheeded lived experience shall be sunk, and until every discriminatory epithet shouted in the street shall be paid by another posted to Twitter, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

88

Minnow 01.29.15 at 4:40 pm

“Yes, plenty. No one invites you ?”

No. And no I realise I am missing out on all those cheese boards, I feel desolate.

89

bob mcmanus 01.29.15 at 4:40 pm

59: This is why some people (like myself) sometimes see ‘PC’ as a bullying’ tactic, because it is regularly enough used against people with no meaningful power or privilege, by people with considerable power and privilege, all the while the second group claims that in this situation they are the powerless and underprivileged (which is empirically incorrect)

Very good comment, I would only add…

The problem (if it is a problem) or tactic or strategy here is to shift settings and situations and levels from the local and immediate to the global and historical for tactical purposes. Just as Waring said that the same statement can have different meanings depending on who says them, so certain subject positions can be viewed differently depending on environment, community etc. Gayatri Spivak is all over this shit, as an woman feminist academic Indian American Brahmin etc with hybridity and mobility interacting with the subaltern and the privileged.

So we are reading Chait here as a privileged other, outside our global and varied communities, and Chait might be positioning himself, seeing himself at a moment as embedded in some particularly virulent twitter stream.

90

Nine 01.29.15 at 4:45 pm

“No. And no I realise I am missing out on all those cheese boards, I feel desolate.”

“cheese boards” ? It’s confirmed then, no one invites you.

91

Harald K 01.29.15 at 4:47 pm

Baugh: The incident I was referring to was how she told a journalist to fuck off because that journalist wanted to talk to her employees. And that journalist was miles over on your end with regards to political sensitivity to underprivileged groups.

Nothing else about Kane was implied, than that she has an immense “you’re unconditionally on my side, or else” attitude. Why she has that attitude, and how much we should have sympathy for her for other reasons, is not relevant IMO. Let’s talk about attitudes, not individuals, OK?

92

Sam Dodsworth 01.29.15 at 4:48 pm

Coming in very late, but this seems like a good time to say I like this piece very much, and also and particularly belle’s follow-up about politeness @18.

The only other thing I’d say is that when people complain about the decline of civility, or respect, or standards of argument, what they’re generally worried about is losing control of what can be argued about and it what terms. And I think it’s this, even more than not being listened to, that worries Chait.

93

bob mcmanus 01.29.15 at 4:49 pm

Privilege and power are always dynamic and situational and local never static fixed permanent irrevocable.

George W Bush alone in a group of Saudi royalty or NBA players is subaltern. Neither really would give a damn what he thinks of them.

94

Minnow 01.29.15 at 4:50 pm

“cheese boards” ? It’s confirmed then, no one invites you.”

No one invites me, no. The straw of comfort I cling to is that most of my acquaintance seem to be wide awake and thoroughly pre-senile, so they are able to leave the house once in a while for other kinds of entertainment. Now, where did I put those after dinner mints?

95

CJColucci 01.29.15 at 4:52 pm

I’m old enough to remember four decades ago when “political correctness” was a term used by the left to put down fellow lefties overly concerned, so it seemed, with ideological purity. It escaped many folks’ notice at the time that many of the lefties then using the term differed from dick-swinging frat boys only in their politics, grooming, and willingness to fuck women of color openly rather than covertly, and that a good part of the criticism from the “politically correct” faction — annoying as it truly was — made exactly that point. We now have the good grace to be embarassed by the recollections of our former selves.

96

TM 01.29.15 at 4:53 pm

“Dudes like this whining about PC want something very particular indeed: not just the right to say things others find offensive but the right to say offensive things and then not be criticized for saying them.”

Exactly.

97

William Berry 01.29.15 at 5:00 pm

Belle writes one of her typically brilliant posts about (mainly) gender relations and the usual MRAish suspects come a-crawling out of the woodwork.

Predictable and sad.

98

bob mcmanus 01.29.15 at 5:05 pm

94: Nah, both Chait and most in this thread want the default criteria for manners to be global, universal and ahistorical cause you’re all liberals. You just have different rules.

It has its points but it tends to erase and weaken local, particular, and historical power positions that may actually have utility for those (even those we empathize with!) holding them and we may not really be in the best position to decide that they are regressive, useless, and immoral.

99

William Berry 01.29.15 at 5:08 pm

Partly for the benefit of those poor souls who are so outraged by the PC mafia, here is a case of real gender outrage:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/29/transgender-migrant-detention_n_6566604.html

100

William Berry 01.29.15 at 5:11 pm

And, fwiw, I am just multi-cultural enough to agree (for the most part) with bob mcmanus’s points about locality and a-historicality when it comes to these issues.

101

William Timberman 01.29.15 at 5:11 pm

I suspect I’m as old as CJColucci, since I also remember the days he recalls here. But having done my obligatory three-score-and-ten, I admit I’ve given up hoping for any last-minute ante-mortem reprieve. Each of us has to make his/her/whoever’s way through this slough of despond. Twitter ups the ante, I suppose, in that it can penetrate even the bullet-proof glass which hitherto made Jonathan Chait’s life enviable to the wanna-bes, but honestly, making the world safe for his ruminations should be the last thing on any genuine democrat’s mind. You wanna mingle, you gotta take your lumps. Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper….

102

Val 01.29.15 at 5:11 pm

Minnow @ 53
Your example doesn’t work. Meaningful analogies might be: a straight person writes an article ridiculing gays; a white person writes an article ridiculing people of colour.

The so-called innocent Charlie Brown of Chait’s imagination is not actually an innocent individual making a harmless joke, but one example of much broader patterns of discrimination and ridicule. That’s what the ridiculed groups are objecting to. Whether or not you agree with their methods of protesting, you can’t ignore the systemic discrimination and ridicule they are exposed to. The fact that you don’t understand this, or won’t acknowledge it, is your problem.

103

bianca steele 01.29.15 at 5:14 pm

bob m @ 96

I know mine is a minority perspective (from which a large part of what’s posted on this blog is impossible to understand) but there’s nothing in liberalism that insists on universality, anti-historicism, and so forth. Centralizing state power, yes, for the most part, but centralizing power doesn’t mean centralizing culture, because liberalism separates government from culture. Encouraging local cultures to evolve, yes, but that’s not erasing them. (You’re imagining the Borg Collective when a possible alternative is Starfleet. Whether Chait does the same is another question, I think it’s quite possible he does, but the problem is not that he’s a good liberal, unlike the people who are criticizing him.)

104

Val 01.29.15 at 5:20 pm

In fact one of the things I frequently find surprising in these discussions is that you rarely see – or I don’t – articles and comments ridiculing gays or people of colour outright these days. But you frequently see articles and comments ridiculing feminists. Why is that, I wonder? Why are feminists considered fair game?

Well – answering my own question – I suppose, Gerda Lerner, whom I am currently reading, seems to suggest that oppression of women is the original form of oppression on which all other forms of systemic oppression were modelled. So by that token I guess it will be the last to disappear.

105

bianca steele 01.29.15 at 5:21 pm

And if, as Harald K @ 8 suggests, the only way to properly appreciate Chait’s article in New York Magazine is to get on reddit and read the internal debates of far-left groups, that isn’t exactly a +1 to the article.

106

Foster Boondoggle 01.29.15 at 5:22 pm

@63: “Nope. By using more inclusive language the left actually becomes better at building solidarity not worse. Why would a gay man want to be part of a movement that regularly refers to homosexuals as “faggots”?”

I don’t think the left-language-police of 2015 is concerned about people using the word “faggot”. That battle was fought and won 25 years ago. The word is manifestly a slur, and everyone understands that using it is impolite or worse. But what about using “disabled” or failing to use “zhe”? The left-language-police stands ready to bust you instantly for such errors, which seems completely idiotic to the 99% of the population that isn’t part of this circular firing squad. So my response to your “nope” is “yup”, this is exactly how the left loses its ability to make and keep allies.

107

js. 01.29.15 at 5:26 pm

Until this morning, I thought that Parrene had written the definitive Chait takedown. I have now changed my mind. (The less said about the thread, the better.)

108

J Thomas 01.29.15 at 5:32 pm

#76 MPAV

“In my time here you have revealed yourself as a little bundle of judgements and prejudices, and you have mostly not revealed anything else.”

And you believe in conspiracy theories about Jewish bankers….

See, you set fire to this strawman over again no matter how many times I correct you. You don’t read.

I repeat, I have not seen any conspiracy theories about Jewish bankers that I thought were worth much. If you have any evidence about Jewish bankers then show me, I’ll decide whether I believe it. I won’t decide what’s true or false based on what stupid people believe. People who believe conspiracy theories about Jewish bankers with no evidence are being stupid. People who believe there is no conspiracy of Jewish bankers based on no evidence are just as stupid.

You however appear to be so stupid that you can’t tell the difference between “I haven’t seen it disproven” and “I believe it”. You have repeatedly used the approach “Bad people believe X, therefore X is not true”. It bugs me. I hate to see people do this variety of stupid, which you repeat often. I want to believe that you are not actually this stupid but that you think you are cleverly manipulating stupid people by repeating it. But I have seen no evidence of that. If you are that sort of person you have maintained the disguise so cleverly that I have never been able to find the slightest evidence that you are a mean clever person disguised as a stupid person, and not a genuine stupid person yourself. It bothers me.

I will repeat a basic logic lesson. When asked a yes-or-no question, there are four different answers which work even without conditional probabilities.

1. I believe X is true.
2. I believe X is false.
3. I don’t know about X.
4. Somehow when I look at it one way I am sure X is true, but when I look at it another way I am sure X is false. Something is wrong somewhere in what I think, and I can’t trust my judgement until I find out what.

When you say “Unless you agree with me that X is false, it must be that you believe that X is true and I will tell the world that you proclaim that X is true!” you are being stupid and malicious.

Stop lying about me. It is rude. It makes you look bad to anybody who notices.

109

bob mcmanus 01.29.15 at 5:36 pm

103: Yeah. The level of analysis, where you choose to see yourself standing, is all-important.

I think most might agree that if Chait showed up in this comment thread, he would not exactly be the most powerful and privileged commenter here, say relative to Waring.

Whatever level of analysis Chait and his critics are arguing on, I can’t really understand or relate to. Chait’s more local examples make more sense, but I am not there and not then, and I suspect it is polite to let those immediately involved handle it themselves, considering helping if asked. Was Ferguson my business and my problem? Am I bad for being unsure? Maybe better to look for something to do around these parts.

And this is important, maybe the most important thing, because ethical behavior is not enacted with people 5000 miles away and out-of-sight.

110

Val 01.29.15 at 5:44 pm

J Thomas @ 106
“People who believe conspiracy theories about Jewish bankers with no evidence are being stupid. People who believe there is no conspiracy of Jewish bankers based on no evidence are just as stupid.”

I’m sorry to say that a lot of the time I just don’t read what you write. But sometimes it just gets to me. I guess I’m just not able to sleep and therefore in a mood to start correcting random people on the Internet, but tell me, can you honestly not see what is wrong with that statement?

111

Anderson 01.29.15 at 5:45 pm

Belle Waring, queen of the blogosphere. Because she rules.

112

AcademicLurker 01.29.15 at 5:46 pm

107: I think most might agree that if Chait showed up in this comment thread, he would not exactly be the most powerful and privileged commenter here, say relative to Waring.

This is where social media is qualitatively different from the earlier blogosphere: the definition of “here” is less clear. Back around 2008 I discovered Shakesville (still called Shakespeare’s Sister back then I believe) and concluded after a month or so that it was a bizarre fever swamp, with the result that I haven’t visited there since Obama was elected.

Because twitter is crap at allowing you to filter your interactions (as gamergate is demonstrating), febrile environments like that can follow you around if you post on certain topics.

113

christian_h 01.29.15 at 5:50 pm

No time to read the comments so just a thank you so much for a brilliant post to Belle for now.

114

e abrams 01.29.15 at 5:50 pm

queer latino most marginalized ?

come on, you can do better then that:
two NAMBLA members who get a sex change and are in a gay S and M relationship 3some with young women….
now thats marginalized

115

Nine 01.29.15 at 5:52 pm

Minnow@92 – “my acquaintance seem to be wide awake and thoroughly pre-senile”

What’s this ? You freely & fearlessly ( and anonymously) express your contempt for old people and no one has placed a hit on you ? The dreaded PC oprichniki are not the force they used to be.

116

J Thomas 01.29.15 at 5:52 pm

#104 Foster Boondoggle

…. The word is manifestly a slur, and everyone understands that using it is impolite or worse. But what about using “disabled” or failing to use “zhe”? The left-language-police stands ready to bust you instantly for such errors, which seems completely idiotic to the 99% of the population that isn’t part of this circular firing squad. So my response to your “nope” is “yup”, this is exactly how the left loses its ability to make and keep allies.

Yes, but you’re talking about a fringe group. If there’s 1% of the population, more like 1% of the left that does that to such an extreme, OK they make it harder for anybody else to be their allies. But then when it comes to elections or whatever they can decide which way to vote and be somebody else’s ally whether that somebody else wants them or not.

If somebody came on to Crooked Timber and insisted on ridiculous PC language they would get laughed at, right? If they aren’t strong enough to shut down the substantive discussion, why should they be an issue? Chait doesn’t need to argue with them, you and I don’t need to argue with them. Let them have their circular firing squad all by themselves, they’re pretty much harmless.

And it’s true that we don’t suffer from that here, right? We have our substantive discussions about the issues, and we don’t get sidetracked by arguments about who used the wrong word or expressed the wrong concept. When somebody appears to channel bad people we don’t vilify them, right?

Like when dsquared recently described the greek situation from the point of view of a german banker, we didn’t get off on telling him he was an evil person for understanding their point of view. And earlier, when Belle talked about her experience in the Far East where a modest dollar income could afford servants, we didn’t vilify her for exploiting poor people to be personal servants instead of just giving them the money. Because we don’t vilify people like that. It’s only a tiny fraction of the Left that vilifies people for saying unPC things. An utterly unimportant fraction that the Right uses for propaganda.

117

felonious monk 01.29.15 at 5:54 pm

Oh, sweet christ, I actually went and googled jacobinghazi.

For those who don’t follow the MRA sites, here’s how it went down: Jacobin publishes a hippy-punching article about how feminists are so stupid for rejecting math for being traditionally masculine. Really, I guess, about the author’s willingness to slander mainstream feminist thought to signal to the Very Serious People that she knows how the game is played and is willing to play along. The article takes a light, mocking tone, the argumentative style of the stand-up comedian, and trivializes everything it touches.

One of the things it touches is rape threats directed at another woman, which it links to. She objects, asking for the link to be removed. Although the link is removed, the woman is then subjected to harrassment, by a circle of people that widens as she speaks out against it instead of staying quiet and taking it like a good little girl.

You people citing this– I do not think it demonstrates what you want it to.

118

Harald K 01.29.15 at 5:55 pm

Val: There’s also the thing that skin color and orientation are things outside your control, whereas the ideological labels you apply to yourself are not.

But whatever the reason it happens, I’m not out to do it. I do not have a beef with feminism. I may not even have a beef with political correctness, depending on what you put into it. But the attitude Chait describes, and the attitude of “fuck our political opponents, their rights don’t matter”, that I have a beef with, whatever you label it.

119

J Thomas 01.29.15 at 5:56 pm

#108 Val

“People who believe conspiracy theories about Jewish bankers with no evidence are being stupid. People who believe there is no conspiracy of Jewish bankers based on no evidence are just as stupid.”

… can you honestly not see what is wrong with that statement?

It looks true to me. Do you say it is not true, or do you say that there are times when it’s wrong to go with the truth? Something else?

120

CJColucci 01.29.15 at 6:00 pm

By the way, it is probably a function of age, but I don’t do Twitter or other social media, I don’t know how to do Twitter or other social media, and no one has explained to my satisfaction what they are supposed to accomplish or why I should give a shit.
And get off of my lawn, while you’re at it.

121

bianca steele 01.29.15 at 6:10 pm

I think I still have a copy of “Politically Correct Fairytales” that was given to me as a misguided gift in days of yore. I’ll happily dig it up and mail it to anyone who promises to write 5,000 words explaining how each and every story really is about “political correctness,” and also wires me $100.

IOW, what CJColucci said.

122

J Thomas 01.29.15 at 6:16 pm

#43 Harald K

And she wasn’t the only target of vandalism and reprisals Chait mentioned, there was also the Muslim satirist, and a feminist who had the temerity to be SW-positive, to name a few.

I have trouble keeping up. What is SW-positive? When I did a search on it the main thing I found was Schoolwide Positive Behavior Support which I can see could be controversial but I completely missed the controversy until now.

123

Anon. 01.29.15 at 6:28 pm

A fantastic application of the motte-and-bailey doctrine, congratulations!

124

J Thomas 01.29.15 at 6:29 pm

#108 Val

I’m sorry to say that a lot of the time I just don’t read what you write.

My curiousity acted up — why did you say it?

I’m sure you’re here for enjoyment and you don’t have time to read everything, of course you’d try to cut out things that are less likely to be funny etc, it’s perfectly understandable…. But why say it and why be sorry to say it?

125

chairman 01.29.15 at 6:31 pm

I’m trying to find anything particularly objectionable in the article linked to and I’m also trying to find substantive criticisms in the blog post. Instead all I’m finding is an angry screed written in exact imitation of a Gawker post, railing against someone for insufficient adherence to the orthodoxy and in sum saying “he must be wrong — look how much he’s being mocked.”

126

MPAVictoria 01.29.15 at 6:33 pm

J Thomas:
Anyone who wants to can go back and read your comments and then decide if I am lying about you or not.

Harald K:
I was semi kidding with my comment @34. I know, intellectually, that what happened is “bad”. I just can’t get that worked up over pro-forced birth people complaining about others using force on them when they literally want to force women to give birth. I mean talk about throwing rocks in glass houses. But yes that it happened is wrong.

127

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© 01.29.15 at 6:34 pm

“If you people weren’t so PC…”

Then TPTB (and people they pay, like Chait) would find some other excuse to dismiss and ignore you.

It’s not that Chait doesn’t have a point. All people and groups have some behaviors that are not perfect. But what is the context, and what is the significance?

E.g. (exaggerated. gratuitouly.) :

Dear poor, powerless people. It’s too bad that your kids get shot by the police too often, but here are some instances of jaywalking. Go eliminate all those before you go complain about it again!
~

128

MPAVictoria 01.29.15 at 6:37 pm

“Belle writes one of her typically brilliant posts about (mainly) gender relations and the usual MRAish suspects come a-crawling out of the woodwork.

Predictable and sad.”

+1

129

MPAVictoria 01.29.15 at 6:51 pm

Transgender women of color were the victims of 67% of all hate-motivated homicides against LGBT people in 2013. But the big problem is really political correctness…..

130

TM 01.29.15 at 6:52 pm

JT 114: “Like when dsquared recently described the greek situation from the point of view of a german banker, we didn’t get off on telling him he was an evil person for understanding their point of view. And earlier, when Belle talked about her experience in the Far East where a modest dollar income could afford servants, we didn’t vilify her for exploiting poor people to be personal servants instead of just giving them the money.”

I guess I’ll have to bite. I don’t remember Belle being “vilified” for her remark about servants although I do remember some polite criticism (I didn’t follow the whole discussion and maybe I missed what you are referring to). And for the record (and here I’m sure I haven’t missed anything): nobody “vilified” DD for presenting his view (or the view of German bankers, channeled as if it were his) on the Greek situation, although there was some heated and mostly on-topic disagreement. Your examples of “PC police” misdeeds on CT are laughable and most tellingly you omitted to mention that the esteemed host DD banned no fewer than four commenters from his thread (although he didn’t actually enforce all of the bans), none of whom had violated CT’s code of conduct, merely for disagreeing with him. And yet it is the critics who supposedly are the PC police, endangering sacred free speech rights by insisting that victim-blaming is not ok. Your PC police fairy tale is exactly as fact-based and consistent as the old self-serving right-wing BS.

131

TM 01.29.15 at 6:56 pm

And also JT 116, your statement is idiotic. In case you really haven’t noticed.

132

lurker 01.29.15 at 6:58 pm

@119, J Thomas
SW=Sex work? Haven’t read Chait, just guessing.

133

Val 01.29.15 at 6:59 pm

J Thomas @ 121 and elsewhere
Oh well I got myself into this I suppose so only polite to reply, but I think this is going to be really difficult and I might just have to stop at some point. Also it’s going to be a bit off topic, hopefully that can be excused for a bit.
So easiest first – SW positive is sex work positive, they see it as a legitimate occupation and form of work for women rather than as degrading/ patriarchal oppression. (I think both sides of that particular argument are right).
Why am I sorry for saying I don’t read your posts usually. Because it’s a bit rude, but I guess what you write annoys me quite often and tends to be long and boring. So I can ignore it or I can tell you. Sometimes it’s less polite but more caring to say something, I think.
Re Jewish bankers – there is a whole context around this which you should be aware of particularly at present because there have been two posts about International Holocaust Day recently. If you just ignore this and treat it only as a logic problem, it’s insensitive to the point of being uncaring. It’s no good saying you’re on the autism spectrum or something (as I think you have suggested elsewhere) because if you’re self aware then you can respond to something of that magnitude.
Next – the source of information is relevant. If “bad people” are promoting a particular message, it is relevant and you need to take it into consideration. I suggest you do some googling around objectivity and construction of knowledge, I’m not going to go into that, take too long.
Finally the logic – no one has to believe or disbelieve in every possible thing. If you want to advance something as a hypothesis, you can provide evidence to support your hypothesis or disprove the null hypothesis, and there are two types or error (believing x is true when it’s not, and believing x isn’t true when it is), but you can’t prove or disprove anything without evidence. No one has to believe or disbelieve assertions such as ‘there is a conspiracy of x persons’ if there is no evidence one way or the other. I have no evidence that Martians do kidnap people, or don’t, but just because I don’t have evidence that they don’t, doesn’t mean I have to believe that they do.
I think that’s enough as it’s off topic.

134

Doug Weinfield 01.29.15 at 7:02 pm

Amanda Marcotte nails it:
http://talkingpointsmemo.com/cafe/jonathan-chait-pc-thought-police-irony

“While the article purports to be a lambasting of “the culture of taking offense” and censorious attitudes, it quickly becomes clear that the only speech Chait is interested in protecting is conservative or contrarian. When it comes to people saying uncomfortable or provocative things from the left, Chait comes across as just as censorious and silencing as any of the leftist prigs he attempts to criticize.

To be clear, Chait has plenty of examples of what has become a genuinely serious problem of liberals who react to uncomfortable ideas by turning to censorship: Harassment campaigns against conservatives, canceling plays or art shows because of political incorrectness, tearing down anti-choice posters.

But outside of those few examples, most of Chait’s article is not a defense of rowdy public discourse at all, but the opposite: Most of the piece is little more than demands that liberals silence certain forms of discourse that make Chait uncomfortable. For a piece that mocks the use of “trigger warnings” to alert people about disturbing content, it sure seems Chait has no problem trying to silence anyone who says something that might hurt his feelings.

The list of ideas and articles Chait thinks should disappear is dizzying. “A year ago, for instance, a photographer compiled images of Fordham students displaying signs recounting ‘an instance of racial microaggression they have faced,’” he writes contemptuously. “BuzzFeed published part of her project, and it has since received more than 2 million views. This is not an anomaly.” Chait doesn’t explain why we should be offended that Buzzfeed gave voice to people explaining their experiences. Perhaps Buzzfeed should put a trigger warning on the next article they run about subtle racism, so that easily offended people like Chait know to steer clear.”

* * *

“The irony begins to collapse in on itself and form a black hole from which no self-awareness can escape with this sentence: “It is likewise taboo to request that the accusation be rendered in a less hostile manner. This is called ‘tone policing.’” Got it. Demanding that someone adopt more P.C. language to step around the sensitivities of liberals is unconscionable, but demanding that lefties on Twitter adopt a softened tone to step around the sensitivities of Jonathan Chait is just good sense.”

135

AH 01.29.15 at 7:03 pm

Chait and commenters here are conflating two different phenonon. The first is 90s style Political Correctness, which is basically white dudes pissed that they can’t tell racist and sexist jokes anymore. I would think most people here would agree that it is ridiculous to complain about this.

The second more contentious issue is the rise of a call out culture in activists circles, which rewards preformances of victimhood and oppression. There has been lots of good things written about this and it is a complicated issue, this piece is particularly good.

Unfortunatly, Chait conflates the two issues and doesn’t have much interesting to say about either of them.

136

bianca steele 01.29.15 at 7:04 pm

The left-language-police isn’t bad because people’s feelings have been hurt. It’s bad because it makes it harder for the left to accomplish its goals. Unless the real goal is just dominance in the insular social hierarchy.

This is irrelevant. Chait isn’t interested in the left accomplishing its goals, not in the sense that he shares their goals and whinily feels that they’re keeping him out of the club. Chait, at best, sees his role as a gatekeeper. The next wave of left-progressives has to persuade him–as a designated TNR-trained guardian of the neoliberal–that they might have some small good points. He might take them on as his own, maybe continuing to pretend they have nothing in common–or he might stick to his guns until the day he gets knocked off his pedestal (or voluntarily retires). He doesn’t think the left might expand or have allies: he thinks they might hone their argument so as to appeal more effectively to Jonathan Chait, himself.

137

js. 01.29.15 at 7:07 pm

So… someone’s sign got ripped and someone’s door got egged. Not cool, shouldn’t have been done etc. But seriously, these are the “rights violations” we’re talking about? Can anyone point to even one serious rights violation committed by a member of the fearsome P.C. police (qua member of said police, obviously)?

[Meanwhile, barely suppressing urge to make way off-topic response to way off-topic comment. … Ok, done!]

138

Kiwanda 01.29.15 at 7:11 pm

I like Popehat’s discussion of related issues better than Chait’s.

He brought up, though he did not name, Shanley Kane, founder of Model View Culture

You mean co-founder of MVC.

The article is actually about how his feelings got hurt by people who say mean things on the internet

As with John and his deep personal knowledge of the motives of any and all men who sit with their knees apart on public transit, you have a remarkable knowledge of what Chait was really thinking. This is a common rhetorical dodge: don’t address the particular arguments or examples, attack unstated motives that you impute. Even Greenwald, who says that he is concerned with issues and not individuals (and generally is), does a similar thing for Chait’s post.

Amanda Marcotte has made a career of this kind of dishonesty: for example, “Comment 171” wasn’t a description of a troubled adolescence; what Scot was really thinking was “Having to explain my suffering to women when they should already be there, mopping my brow and offering me beers and blow jobs, is so tiresome.”

Other shitty rhetoric, visible here and elsewhere:

“If someone is my group is doxxed or seriously threatened, they are immune to criticism, and anybody who criticizes them is in league with their attackers. When my group doxxes or threatens, it’s only righteous justice.”

“If someone in the “other” group is criticized in hundreds of tweets, that’s just righteous free speech, and saying otherwise is tone-trolling. If someone in my group is criticized in hundreds of tweets, that’s stalking and harassment”.

“The “other” group is identical to its worst elements and actions. My group is a set of individuals, and anything wrong a member does is an isolated incident”.

“Your group’s problems are not important compared to my group’s problems, and therefore not even really problems. My group’s problems may be unimportant compared to other problems, but that doesn’t matter, because reasons.”

139

Foster Boondoggle 01.29.15 at 7:24 pm

Shorter MPAV: “This problem over here hasn’t been solved, so you’re a scumbag for even mentioning that other problem over there.”

J Thomas: Chait provided several examples that weren’t quite so fringey. And you can read F. deBoer if you’re looking for more. Or you could take my wife (please!) for example, who got hounded out of a mental health agency where she was working at absurdly low pay trying to help disadvantaged, mostly POC youth overcome various traumas, because she had the temerity to approach the work by considering each of her clients as individuals, rather than entirely as members of an oppressed class. So yes, I think the circular firing squad problem is not just on the margins.

140

J Thomas 01.29.15 at 7:25 pm

#127 TM

JT 114: “Like when dsquared recently described the greek situation from the point of view of a german banker, we didn’t get off on telling him he was an evil person for understanding their point of view. And earlier, when Belle talked about her experience in the Far East where a modest dollar income could afford servants, we didn’t vilify her for exploiting poor people to be personal servants instead of just giving them the money.”

I guess I’ll have to bite. I don’t remember Belle being “vilified” for her remark about servants …. And for the record (and here I’m sure I haven’t missed anything): nobody “vilified” DD for presenting his view ….

You are agreeing with me. Good. I agree too.

141

Lenoxus 01.29.15 at 7:30 pm

So, one possible problem with political correctness which has been raised here in a couple forms is that insistent terminology can alienate potential allies,not to mention that the terminology keeps changing all the time and who can be expected to keep up? On the surface, perhaps a reasonable point. Why scare away people just for using the wrong words?

Let me try a metaphor for how I think lots of people tend to approach these situations: the Christian evangelical model. Everyone who screws up in even the smallest way is doomed to Hell. But there’s a way out! Commit to faith in Jesus and you’re saved. Hence, even though the existence of Hell is problematic, at least there’s a system granting the possibility of success, of being “saved”, and of symbolically being one of the good guys. (The evangelists may say “not perfect, just saved”, but it’s hard to swallow that in full; there’s an unavoidable implication of what God thinks of the people he sent to Heaven as opposed to Hell.)

So what does this have to do with PC? Only this: Many of us are looking at an apparent set of rules — something that looks like an etiquette, as has been discussed — and we say “Hey, I should try understanding this in full”. But our deeper motive is to win the game. We want to know what we have to do to be in the system’s good graces. And is that too much to ask? Any fair court system has the possibility of the defendant being found not guilty, right?

Well, here’s the thing. It’s not aways like that. You’re not going to find enlightenment and then be One of the Good Guys and you’re done. It’s an everyday struggle. Good guy today, bad guy tomorrow. It involves a core insight, one that you will still fight even after accepting it, amounting to: Suck it up. My privilege can take it. Just suck it up.

This isn’t like salvation/damnation. It’s more like the Kobiyashi Maru.

So why the hullabaloo about using this word or that one? (By the way, I’m pretty sure Foster Boondoggle is wrong about “disabled” — is usually preferred by disabled people themselves, and phrases like “differently abled”, which does indeed come out of PC, are often seen as condescending.) How can that be a dealbreaker, at least for some liberals?

Because the principle isn’t about words. It’s about able to take the criticism, and do something with it. And also, recognizing when you’re seeing a progressive consensus (for example, not to call a trans man a “she-male” or something equally awful) and when you’re seeing an internal battle (like whether “trans” should have an asterisk).

142

J Thomas 01.29.15 at 7:40 pm

#130 Val

SW positive is sex work positive, they see it as a legitimate occupation and form of work for women rather than as degrading/ patriarchal oppression. (I think both sides of that particular argument are right).

I agree with you. Done well, it’s a legitimate occupation for women who do not feel degraded by it. Done badly it is degrading. Forcing women (or men) into it is oppression and could often be patriarchal oppression. So it depends.

Re Jewish bankers – there is a whole context around this which you should be aware of particularly at present because there have been two posts about International Holocaust Day recently.

I cannot take responsibility for MPAV slandering me about that today. That is MPAV’s insensitivity.

If “bad people” are promoting a particular message, it is relevant and you need to take it into consideration.

If bad people provide true evidence, then I will disregard the source. If I suspect they might falsify their evidence then I will look harder than usual for that. How else should it go?

No one has to believe or disbelieve assertions such as ‘there is a conspiracy of x persons’ if there is no evidence one way or the other.

That’s what I say. I said I have not evidence that it is true or false. MPAV repeats that I believe it’s true. MPAV has repeatedly libelled me about this and I am getting tired of it.

143

mbw 01.29.15 at 7:45 pm

I’m not interested in Chait or his feelings but rather in winning big political battles, because their outcomes count. (global warming, income inequality, war and peace,…) To the extent that hyper-sensitivity around narrowly-defined identities blocks robust participation in broader efforts, it’s a problem for all of us.

144

MPAVictoria 01.29.15 at 7:45 pm

“MPAV has repeatedly libelled me about this and I am getting tired of it.”

Again, anyone can go back and view J. Thomas’s posts on this and see if I have libeled him.

145

MPAVictoria 01.29.15 at 7:53 pm

“Shorter MPAV: “This problem over here hasn’t been solved, so you’re a scumbag for even mentioning that other problem over there.”

I don’t think that is what I said but let me try again.

Do you think that the problem in our public discourse is that oppressed and disadvantaged voices are heard from too often?

Do you think that when marginalized people here something that they find offensive, inaccurate or demeaning they should just shut up and be quiet?

146

js. 01.29.15 at 7:58 pm

People who believe in the existence of unicorns without any evidence are stupid. People who believe in the nonexistence of unicorns without any evidence are also stupid!

147

harry b 01.29.15 at 8:01 pm

MPAV — pretty much no regular readers need to go back and check, because they’ve encountered you often enough that they know they can trust you. Keep it up!

148

js. 01.29.15 at 8:04 pm

Fuck! Couldn’t help myself, sorry.

Back on topic: I really don’t anything needs to be added to Belle’s piece (which—I just reread it—is so excellent), but if I were to pick a few sentences from elsewhere, I would go with the last paragrph of Pareene’s piece:

In Chait’s narrative, left-wing political correctness threatened American democracy once before, in the 1980s. But it was vanquished by a brave man from a place called Hope:

Bill Clinton’s campaign frontally attacked left-wing racial politics, famously using inflammatory comments by Sister Souljah to distance him from Jesse Jackson.

That Chait, in 2015, is still praising Clinton’s “Sister Souljah moment” as a heroic victory in the war against political correctness is telling. What was that moment but the drawing of a party line against expression deemed offensive? Bill Clinton attacked Souljah for her speech. He performed outrage for the sake of identity politics. The attack on a rapper most Americans had no familiarity with was simply part of Clinton’s cynical scheme to signal to aggrieved whites that he was not beholden to the black community. The culmination of that scheme was the execution of mentally impaired black man named Rickey Ray Rector. If that’s the variety of American liberalism that political correctness threatens, please direct me to the local thought police recruitment center.

149

Bloix 01.29.15 at 8:04 pm

#135 –
“Amanda Marcotte has made a career of this kind of dishonesty: for example, “Comment 171″ wasn’t a description of a troubled adolescence; what Scot was really thinking was “Having to explain my suffering to women when they should already be there, mopping my brow and offering me beers and blow jobs, is so tiresome.””

The problem is:
– some people really do make arguments in bad faith, and if you argue against them they just hop to a new argument that’s also in bad faith. You can’t win and you feel like a chump for trying, AND
– Marcotte and others who take on certain subjects (e.g. feminism) are confronted with a LOT of bad-faith arguers and get awfully tired of arguing against them, AND
– it’s important to recognize and call out bad faith when it exists, BUT
– attacking someone for arguing in bad faith is MUCH easier (and quicker and snarkier and more fun and less boring) than engaging in reasoned argument, and therefore sometimes people made the bad faith accusation in order to avoid real argument.

What you’re arguing, Kiwanda, is that Marcotte jumps too readily to the “Bad Faith!” accusation as an excuse to avoid addressing rationally held positions.

Which might be right, but calling it dishonesty isn’t called for. Everything she says is right out on the table – there’s nothing underhanded about it.

150

The Temporary Name 01.29.15 at 8:07 pm

How about you go on over to tumblr, find the people who are talking about “truscum” and “transtrenders”, and try to negotiate between them.

This is an excellent example of people who have an outsized effect on the landscape of American free speech and politics. Will Hillary Clinton’s campaign survive it? I await Chait’s next article.

151

Anderson 01.29.15 at 8:10 pm

135: “Amanda Marcotte has made a career of this kind of dishonesty ….”

Says you. I follow Marcotte, and you would have some ways to go to be more convincing than she it.

133: “a designated TNR-trained guardian of the neoliberal”

The campy imagery this summons is the 2d-best thing I’ve seen today, after Belle’s OP.

152

Anderson 01.29.15 at 8:11 pm

148: “she IS,” duh. #whereisthefuckingeditbutton

153

adam.smith 01.29.15 at 8:11 pm

This:

Chait isn’t interested in the left accomplishing its goals

by bianca steele @133 is really quite important, I think.
Chait doesn’t care for leftist goals. He’s a neoliberal centrist. To the extent that he uses anonymous quotes and “reporting” it should be mistrusted.
I do think it’s conceivable that hypersensitivity about language might be a real issue among activists. I’m not currently involved enough to tell and I don’t get that sense among the people I know who are, but I could see that happening. But to the extent that that’s the case, Jon Chait is only a marginally more credible reporter of such problems than Charles Krauthammer.
Digby pointed out that Chait&friends had very similar concerns about the blogofascists (Lee Siegel, his then TNR colleague’s words) of the Netroots (including, and I’m not making this up, Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias), linking to Henry’s take down of that iteration of Chaitish gatekeeping: http://crookedtimber.org/2007/05/04/chait-on-the-netroots/

154

J Thomas 01.29.15 at 8:14 pm

#138 Lenoxus

Well, here’s the thing. It’s not aways like that. You’re not going to find enlightenment and then be One of the Good Guys and you’re done. It’s an everyday struggle. Good guy today, bad guy tomorrow. It involves a core insight, one that you will still fight even after accepting it, amounting to: Suck it up. My privilege can take it. Just suck it up.

This isn’t like salvation/damnation. It’s more like the Kobiyashi Maru.

So why the hullabaloo about using this word or that one? (By the way, I’m pretty sure Foster Boondoggle is wrong about “disabled” — is usually preferred by disabled people themselves, and phrases like “differently abled”, which does indeed come out of PC, are often seen as condescending.) How can that be a dealbreaker, at least for some liberals?

If your church goes in for intensive self-criticism meetings, that’s fine for you. You can show each other how your enlightenment has farther to go all year, and I won’t mind at all.

But when you choose random commenters on public blogs and treat them like they are members of your church who should know better than to believe what they believe, that’s rude.

I figure it’s fine for you to proselytize particularly when people have shown some interest. And particularly if you stop bothering individuals who say they aren’t interested.

But if you get all upset about people for being themselves, what good is that? Maybe some of them will come into the fold but probably more will prefer not to.

155

MPAVictoria 01.29.15 at 8:17 pm

Wow harry b. Thank you. That really does mean a lot.

156

MPAVictoria 01.29.15 at 8:26 pm

Matty Y gets it:

http://www.vox.com/2015/1/29/7945119/all-politics-is-identity-politics

“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.””

157

Harold 01.29.15 at 8:26 pm

I still really unclear exactly in what way “political correctness” impaired Jon Chait’s ability to function as an intellectual gatekeeper.

158

MPAVictoria 01.29.15 at 8:27 pm

“But if you get all upset about people for being themselves, what good is that? “

Shorter J: “Don’t get upset at a commenter for being himself. His racist, homophobic, sexist self.”

/Oh I think I will J. I think I will.

159

Cian 01.29.15 at 8:28 pm

This http://fredrikdeboer.com/2015/01/29/i-dont-know-what-to-do-you-guys by Freddie de Boer is excellent.

Jonathan Chait deserves everything he gets for such a disingenuous, whiny, self-absorbed argument. And Belle’s right – interpreting PC as basic decency and politeness is totally the right thing to do. Anyone who’s arguing against that deserves all the hostility that they receive (hey – criticism is free speech too, you muppets). Chait’s article was awful. No surprise there.

However, the whole language police/check your privilege thing is awful. It’s used by people who care more about being ‘right’, than righting oppression (or god forbid building alliances). And it’s mostly used by people who have considerable class privilege against those who haven’t. Freddie has been banging on about this for a while and people need to listen to him.

If you want an example of how stupid the language police thing is, take Benedict Cumberbatch. He was recently attacked for using the word ‘colored’ on a US chat show. What doesn’t seem to have occurred to any of his attackers was:
+ He was attacking an example of British racism that does not get nearly enough coverage. So probably not hugely racist.
+ He’s British. Maybe the word isn’t as offensive in the UK (*), because different cultures/histories.

But obviously mindlessly attacking somebody makes the liberal zombies feel better about themselves. So that’s what they did.

(*) I actually have no idea if it is offensive, as it’s such an old fashioned term. Does anyone know?

160

Flemming 01.29.15 at 8:28 pm

I think it’s interesting how frequently the point that Chait is a straight white male crying about the arrows shot his way when 1) at no point in the article does he make that case, or even anything close to it 2) would the legitimacy of his case be different if he was a trans black woman? If you yes the point number 2, I think that is getting us somewhere about how we ought to disentangle the arguments and how we ought to evaluate them and what the core of the difference between Chait’s worldview and his critics are. Note: this is not about perception of experience, where that stuff does matter (obviously) but about what the effects of the norms of argument culture are.

Ok, attacks on strawman arguments aside, the other important aspect to Chait’s case concerns whether the (sometimes physical) attacks on protestors and controversial writers are really all that prevalent. I don’t know, I suspect not. But what the article shows that is of concern to me is how these were *defended* by members of the left using second grade French postcolonial theory.

I think this comment by Frederik deBoer is on point about the prevalence, and having been in higher education in America for 10+ years, I recognize this. Maybe others don’t, but I think dismissing it is counterproductive and perhaps intellectually dishonest.

http://fredrikdeboer.com/2015/01/29/i-dont-know-what-to-do-you-guys/

161

William Berry 01.29.15 at 8:35 pm

Bianca @133:

That was a (pardon the expression) kick-ass comment.

You have Chait and his ilk (including some of the commenters here) down cold.

162

dn 01.29.15 at 8:41 pm

Leaving aside the question of Chait’s motives, I think the issues with his actual argument can be summed up as follows, and I think the summary is pretty damning:

1) He never actually offers up an explicit definition of “political correctness”. In fact, he explicitly admits that the term has become so diffuse as to have lost most of its meaning.

2) Nevertheless, he is very confident that all of the phenomena he criticizes are examples of “political correctness” and suffice to define it implicitly. He feels no need to actually defend this, of course.

3) Furthermore, he is very confident that “political correctness”, whatever it is, is always and everywhere a “system of repression” that has no part in any authentic liberalism. This isn’t just implied, it’s explicitly stated – complete with red-baiting explanations of how “political correctness” derives from the academic critiques of “the Marxist left”, which have infected the authentic liberal tradition like some sort of virus.

4) Chait sees himself as a part of this authentic tradition, which according to Chait can pretty much be defined as “everything that’s good in American history, and nothing that’s bad”:

The historical record of political movements that sought to expand freedom for the oppressed by eliminating it for their enemies is dismal. The historical record of American liberalism, which has extended social freedoms to blacks, Jews, gays, and women, is glorious. And that glory rests in its confidence in the ultimate power of reason, not coercion, to triumph.

In an essay full of dubious points, I think this one may be the most shocking. Any man who has been as many rounds with Coates as Chait has ought to know better than to write this sort of Whiggish nonsense, and yet there it is. It’s like he’s learned nothing at all.

163

Flemming 01.29.15 at 8:59 pm

@dn,

So if he had explicitly defined political correctness as a norm in which the identity of the arguer trumps argument and which trucks no dissent and is enforced through exclusion, how do you see that changing the legitimacy of his case?

The origins of the phenomenon (which according to Chait was not from academic critiques of Marxism, but rather Marxism itself) is rather beside the point, or how do you think it changes the case about the consequences to the norm of the argument culture?

164

MPAVictoria 01.29.15 at 9:01 pm

“I don’t think the left-language-police of 2015 is concerned about people using the word “faggot”. That battle was fought and won 25 years ago.”

Hahahahahahahahahah.

/Sob

165

J Thomas 01.29.15 at 9:17 pm

#141 MPAV

“MPAV has repeatedly libelled me about this and I am getting tired of it.”

Again, anyone can go back and view J. Thomas’s posts on this and see if I have libeled him.

I deny that I have ever claimed there is or was a conspiracy of Jewish bankers.

#76 MPAV

And you believe in conspiracy theories about Jewish bankers….

This is a lie that you have told. I challenge you. You. Find a post where I said that. Show evidence that your lie is true.

Don’t evade it as you usually do questions challenging things you say. This is your claim. Your calumny. Your slander. Back it up or admit you are a liar.

I have repeatedly denied it, and you continue to claim it’s true. If I had said something that sounded kind of ambiguous, so you could have gotten the wrong impression, you should have quit when I denied it and cleared up what I really meant. Instead you continued, you stood behind your lie.

The burden of proof really and truly is on you, now.

166

MPAVictoria 01.29.15 at 9:25 pm

I stand by what I said and I encourage anyone with questions to go back and look at J Thomas’s past comments on the issue.

However, if you want to tell me J that you do NOT believe that there is some sort of conspiracy of Jewish Bankers then I will apologize, chalk it down to some sort of misunderstanding and drop the issue.

*Note, this offer is not valid if you say that “Hey, I am just raising the issue, maybe their is a conspiracy, maybe their isn’t. It would be irresponsible not to pose the question”

167

MPAVictoria 01.29.15 at 9:26 pm

there not their.

/Goddammit all to hell.
//PROOF READ BEFORE POSTING!!!!

168

parse 01.29.15 at 9:27 pm

Chait brings the hot take: “Under p.c. culture, the same idea can be expressed identically by two people but received differently depending on the race and sex of the individuals doing the expressing.” Yes. That’s correct, Jon. Can we help you out any more here? I’m sorry your point maps so perfectly onto mysteriously huffy conservative complaints about ‘why can black people say nigger and I can’t? No fair,

Chait’s point doesn’t seem to map perfectly to me, because in my experience conservatives who complain about why black people can say “nigger” and conservatives cannot do not typically want to use “nigger” to express the same idea that black people who say “nigger” use it to express.

169

Ze Kraggash 01.29.15 at 9:31 pm

“Chait isn’t interested in the left accomplishing its goals”

Who cares what Chait is or isn’t interested in? They guy is describing fascinating and wacky rituals of some, what sounds like, rather bizarre tribe. Juicy anecdotes. Treat it as anthropological research, if you wish. But he isn’t a good writer. Too bad Alexander Cockburn is dead.

170

Gator90 01.29.15 at 9:32 pm

J Thomas #106: “People who believe there is no conspiracy of Jewish bankers based on no evidence are … stupid.”

I believe, based on no evidence, that J Thomas does not engage in sexual congress with goats. Does that make me “stupid”?

171

The Temporary Name 01.29.15 at 9:33 pm

Bianca @133: That was a (pardon the expression) kick-ass comment.

I agree.

Officer Chait complains about zealots policing the boundaries.

172

Ronan(rf) 01.29.15 at 9:48 pm

re the Freddie de Boer link. I have to disagree with his take, and don’t want to be overly nasty, but ….it’s a little overwrought. Does it matter that a group of people in their late teens early twenties are a little dogmatic in their politics ? I don’t see why. It’s built into that time in your life. You’re finding yourself etc
My only problem is with what I will vaguely call the twitter/DC mafia, professional blaggards and miscreants who signal their tribal loyalties through shaming rituals and public denunciations.
But I will leave it vague on the specifics. For effect. And to make my argument stronger.

173

dn 01.29.15 at 9:49 pm

Flemming @160:

If he wants to argue that, great! Let him name names. Find someone of actual influence who expresses such a position, and argue it against them. Attack an actual argument, not an ill-defined social “phenomenon”.

The origins of the phenomenon (which according to Chait was not from academic critiques of Marxism, but rather Marxism itself) is rather beside the point, or how do you think it changes the case about the consequences to the norm of the argument culture?

This is a misreading. I mean that Chait identifies the source of the PC “norm” in arguments (i.e. critiques) propounded by Marxist intellectuals. I am sorry for the ambiguity. In any case, the point is that Chait’s “argument” here is mere red-baiting: he attacks not the critique itself, but its source. PC is a commie idea, with intellectual roots among the enemies of “liberalism” (another ill-defined term), therefore it is incompatible with “liberalism” and hence illegitimate.

174

novakant 01.29.15 at 10:13 pm

Could one of the moderators please create a post just for J. Thomas and MPAVictoria, so that they can sort out their tiresome little tussle once and for all in its comments section and won’t pollute other parts of CT any further. Thank you.

175

Kiwanda 01.29.15 at 10:20 pm

@Bloix 146: By “dishonest” I mean “intellectually dishonest” in some broad sense: using shitty, unfair arguments, such as attacking people not for what they say, but for the terrible motives you know they have.

Sure, arguments are made in bad faith, but also there’s self-sustaining cycle of suspicion that I think may happen: if I decide that everyone who disagrees with me is arguing in bad faith, because of my prior bad experiences, then your disagreement is just one more bit of evidence of all that bad faith in the world.

176

dr ngo 01.29.15 at 10:29 pm

Because I went to and taught at the University of Michigan – Back In The Day, long before Chait attended, which was in turn long before the current kerfluffle – I tried to sort out the Omar Mahmood incident(s) a bit, which turned out to be a bit more complicated than I thought.

The Michigan Daily is an independent student-run newspapers that has been around forever; it is generally perceived to be left-leaning, but more accurately seen as simply inconsistent (which student papers, with their regular staff turnover, tend to be, and more power to them). Some twenty-odd years ago rightists established the Michigan Review as an (independent) counter to the MD; fair enough. (Curiously, Chait does not mention the MR by name, which contributed to my confusion.)

Mahmood wrote for the Daily, but in this case the article that got him in trouble was published in the Review. It caught a lot of flak – a bit much, for my taste, but then I’m old and YMMV. One aspect of this was the vandalism and verbal abuse from unknown perpetrators: reprehensible, but not way out of line of campus exuberance, I fear. Far more damage is done in general after a big football win. At about the same time the Daily called Mahmood in, and, as we have the (incomplete?) story, fired him when he refused to apologize. They cited a bylaw (“obscure,” say his defenders, but that’s probably redundant, since most bylaws are obscure) prohibiting anyone writing for both publications at the same time. My guess – and it is purely that, I stress – is that either the editors of the Daily didn’t know he was also writing for the Review, or didn’t think it was a big deal until he made it a big deal by his provocative essay.

All of which, IMHO, makes him much less of a martyr than he has been portrayed in some quarters. He wrote a piece that made some people unhappy, and they “criticized” him forcefully (and presumably illegally, but not dangerously). He also called attention to the fact he was straddling two camps, against the rules (the obscure bylaw), and lost his place in one camp because of that. The University, as such, does not seem to have played any part in this; we cannot rule out the Hidden Hand of Devious Deans, but the Daily has such a reputation for outspokenness over the many years that I can’t believe in any larger conspiracy remaining hidden.

So – he offended people, and suffered the consequences from his peers: some excessive, some just in the way the world turns. (Surely many of us have lost assignments or possibilities – it wasn’t like an actual “job” – for as little reason.)

Move along, folks. Nothing to see here.

177

dr ngo 01.29.15 at 10:31 pm

FWIW, the italics in the first sentence of my third para were not supposed to extend from “Daily” to “Review.” I.e., it was an HTML blunder, not my trying to emphasize that point.

178

Flemming 01.29.15 at 10:31 pm

@dn

“Find someone of actual influence who expresses such a position, and argue it against them. Attack an actual argument, not an ill-defined social “phenomenon”.”

But he does! Over and over again. MacKinnon is just one such example when he quotes her as saying freedom of speech is zero-sum and political opponents of the left should not have freedom of speech. You can say the phenomenon of policing politically incorrect speech is ill-defined, I think it is very, very clear in the article from the examples he cites and quotations he draws from what he means.

Again, none of these are arguments in response to his central thesis, none of the stuff in this thread is. Chait is a straight white male, Chait was wrong about Iraq, Chait complains too much, Chait advocates censorship of the far left, etc. All of this is either completely wrong or totally irrelevant. Why not engage with the substance of his argument?

“the point is that Chait’s “argument” here is mere red-baiting: he attacks not the critique itself, but its source.”

No, he actually gives warranted arguments (that you may disagree with) about why the phenomenon he describes is detrimental to a public argument culture. He then describes a parallel between the two treatments of political opponents (Marxists and “the modern far left”). He then cites advocates making that plain. He doesn’t even say they are the same, and even if he did, he most certainly warrants the argument he is making in ways that are completely unconnected to that.

179

Sebas 01.29.15 at 10:32 pm

Yeah, that act of vandalism pissed me off quite a lot when I heard about it… 15 years ago! Are we seriously using a one-time event 20 years ago that invited universal approbrium as evidence that right now in 2014, we are somehow facing an imminent threat to our very ability express ourselves (us white dudes, that is) ?

180

bob mcmanus 01.29.15 at 10:33 pm

127: most tellingly you omitted to mention that the esteemed host DD banned no fewer than four commenters from his thread (although he didn’t actually enforce all of the bans), none of whom had violated CT’s code of conduct, merely for disagreeing with him

Since this is being repeated enough to become history, for the record and I was involved in that thread each of these comments contained something more than disagreement but something that could be construed as a personal attack on DD. I paid attention because I wanted to participate and believe DD might ban me for saying “boo.” Or not, sometimes I think I have been grandfathered in at CT as house crank.

John Halasz ended his comment:”I’d rather take my commentary on Greece’s economic condition from Yanis Varoufakis, who likely got elected yesterday, than from Daniel Davies.” and got banned. The other banned commenters were worse.
So no, I would not say “banned for disagreeing.” I leave other things I could say unsaid.

181

J Thomas 01.29.15 at 10:36 pm

#167 Gator

I believe, based on no evidence, that J Thomas does not engage in sexual congress with goats. Does that make me “stupid”?

Yes, of course.

It would be reasonable to predict that J Thomas probably does not have sex with goats very often. Mostly it is hard for people to have sex with other people’s goats, and the large majority of Americans are not able to keep goats for reasons of zoning etc. You have heard nothing from J Thomas indicating a rural lifestyle. (And in truth I would not be allowed to keep a goat in my small back yard. I have a cat, and a tank of guppies.)

Why would you have definite beliefs about someone you know only from blog comments, about something that is at best indirectly connected to those comments? From my posts you might notice some things I have some expertise in. Microbiology and evolutionary theory, statistics and optimization theory, cybernetics and control theory, and some expertise in negotiation, diplomacy, military strategy, history, economics, psychology, computer chip design and programming, etc. That I know a lot about the culture of the US south and rather less about the northeast, midwest, plains, and mountain regions.

You might have noticed that I strongly prefer negotiated solutions to conflict, and you might have noticed from my behavior that I have a strong sense of BATNA, that I don’t compulsively insist on agreement.

You might have noticed I have discussed some details about negotiating mutually pleasant sex with women, but have not discussed how to do that with men. Or goats, cows, mules, bears, deer, dogs, raccoons, porpoises, etc.

But it would be silly to conclude much with certainty from what someone doesn’t say.

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bob mcmanus 01.29.15 at 10:39 pm

And the Tiger Beatdown discussion linked at 132 is very instructive and recommended.

Can we use “call out culture” instead of “Political Correctness” for the remainder of the thread? It would make it more relevant and I hate nostalgia.

183

J Thomas 01.29.15 at 10:43 pm

#163 MPAV

I stand by what I said and I encourage anyone with questions to go back and look at J Thomas’s past comments on the issue.

You are lying. You will not find that in my past comments.

However, if you want to tell me J that you do NOT believe that there is some sort of conspiracy of Jewish Bankers then I will apologize, chalk it down to some sort of misunderstanding and drop the issue.

I have never said I believe there is a conspiracy of jewish bankers.

*Note, this offer is not valid if you say that “Hey, I am just raising the issue, maybe their is a conspiracy, maybe their isn’t. It would be irresponsible not to pose the question”

Maybe there is a conspiracy, maybe there isn’t. I have seen no evidence for one. I would consider it irresponsible to hush up the issue given convincing evidence. In the absence of evidence it looks like sheer prejudice on either side.

184

The Temporary Name 01.29.15 at 10:46 pm

“Find someone of actual influence who expresses such a position, and argue it against them. Attack an actual argument, not an ill-defined social “phenomenon”.”

But he does! Over and over again. MacKinnon is just one such example when he quotes her as saying freedom of speech is zero-sum and political opponents of the left should not have freedom of speech.

Can you do me a favour and list the persons in their order of influence? Is MacKinnon at the top of the heap?

185

Bramble 01.29.15 at 10:55 pm

The patronizing tone of much of the left-wing response to Chait turns me off. I wish his critics (i.e., the ones that I have read) were a little more charitable towards him. The dude mostly does the boring work of defending health care for poor people, and I think that should earn him a little lefty gratitude. But I maybe I missed the articles where he told (or at least intimated) that marginalized people should keep their traps shut when the VIPs are speaking. Could someone share links, if any. Or is this more of a Psychic Friends Network type thing?

186

Lenoxus 01.29.15 at 10:55 pm

dn:

PC is a commie idea, with intellectual roots among the enemies of “liberalism” (another ill-defined term), therefore it is incompatible with “liberalism” and hence illegitimate.

One funny thing about this argument is that among liberals, Marxists and their kin are esepcially likely to deride “identity politics” (which is usually a key part of PC, if anything is) as a distraction from the important causes that should unite the proletariat. There’s an insult for them, crafted by more identity-minded liberals: “brosocialists.” (As in, frat boys are “bros”.)

J Thomas:

But when you choose random commenters on public blogs and treat them like they are members of your church who should know better than to believe what they believe, that’s rude.

As long as we stick with the church analogy: Maybe the so-called PC attitude which is said to be so off-putting should be understood as a core doctrine of sorts. One can negotiate some things but not others; Paul took circumcision out of Christianity mainly to get more converts, but he wouldn’t have dropped to monotheism requirement so that polytheists could comfortably join. (Of course, there are plenty of polytheist Christians and there are plenty of liberals who think PC is a bunch of baloney, but this doesn’t mean gatekeeping is inherently bad.)

And the truth is, way more of us do approach conversations in good faith. Heck, that Cumberbatch example mentioned by Cian has a perfectly happy ending: He apologized reasonably well and that’s it. He’s not consigned to months in Thought Police Prison. Should no one have said anything about it in the first place? Just let it hang in the air? That would be unfair to him, like not alerting him to a smudge on his forehead.

Howeer, people just get tired by the same repeated bad-faith (or more often, totally-uncaring) lines of argument about this stuff, so sometimes they vent. And those of us without privilege (which doesn’t really include white male me) are especially entitled to that venting.

The seeming damned-if-you-do-or-if-you-don’t phenomenon I’m describing, which looks so unfair to someone on the brunt of wrong-language-policing? That’s what it can be like to live in an underprivileged group. Whether it’s women are told to blame their lower income on insufficient aggressiveness and then to blame their lack of promotion on being pushy, or black men who are shot for not complying with police or for complying too quickly, or trans people who have to either conform perfectly as their assigned gender, or pass perfectly as their true gender, no in-between allowed.

And don’t just say that’s life. Yes, everyone has to balance things, but the need to do so is not remotely evenly distributed.

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Flemming 01.29.15 at 10:58 pm

Influential though MacKinnon is, I think ISIL might actually exercise more power. Melissa Harris-Perry, Bettin Aptheker at USSC the people at the Feminist Wire and I guess whoever has editorial control at Buzzfeed would be the first that come to mind.

188

TM 01.29.15 at 11:05 pm

bob 176, this is just grotesque. You are seriously saying that “I trust A more than X as an authority on the topic of Y” constitutes an impermissible personal attack on X? And then there are people here complaining about the “PC police”. Can it get any more grotesque? Also, you are free to explain how I “personally attacked” DD.

The comment didn’t really warrant a reply but it’s actually on topic. Witness the work being done by the wording “could be construed as a personal attack” . That is precisely the point – it apparently doesn’t matter whether there was in fact a personal attack, nor does it matter who attacked whom (for example is the attacker powerful enough to actually harm the attacked). Now the beauty of the PC meme is that when women and minority people make that kind of argument – certain speech isn’t legitimate disagreement, it’s an attack on the dignity of actual people who tend to be on the low end of the social power spectrum – then that is derided as PC run amok. But then Chait et al. turn around to claim that the PC discourse (“public shaming” etc.) itself is impermissible. So from the premise that “they try to suppress speech” Chait et al. manage to get to actually calling for suppressing speech. But the illiberals are always the others.

189

William Berry 01.29.15 at 11:11 pm

Cian @156: “Freddie has been banging on about this for a while and people need to listen to him.”

No, they really don’t.

190

Flemming 01.29.15 at 11:14 pm

No, they really don’t.

Because coalitional purity > political power. Ralph Nader 2016!

191

bob mcmanus 01.29.15 at 11:19 pm

bob 176, this is just grotesque. You are seriously saying that “I trust A more than X as an authority on the topic of Y” constitutes an impermissible personal attack on X?

No, I’m not saying that. I did not do either the construing or the banning. I did watch very carefully and am inordinately and perhaps unjustifiably proud of surviving that thread, as those who know my history with DD might understand.

This is marginally ontopic and somewhat interesting, as an example of local power and privilege and conciliatory practices that negotiate with them, more interesting to me than Jon Chait who I give fuckall about, but fraught, dangerous and even real. MPAV and JThomas are playing.

But it’s called “taking the thread meta” and is generally impolite. Probably one should remain on the topic and level of analysis that has been agreed appropriate, at least publicly.

192

William Berry 01.29.15 at 11:22 pm

Well, just to expand a little, when “Freddy the Bore” is being cited as a worthy source, we know the shark hath truly been jumped.

193

TM 01.29.15 at 11:25 pm

Bob, you gave that quote as evidence of jch “personally attacking” DD and clearly suggest that DD was justified in his construing that innocuous statement of disagreement as a “personal attack” ( “The other banned commenters were worse.
So no, I would not say “banned for disagreeing.””
, your words). I’m not inclined to let that level of BS stand.

194

Ronan(rf) 01.29.15 at 11:30 pm

All Bob is saying is they were banned for slightly aggressive/confrontational tones, and were rude. To a point. Which is correct.
He’s not adopting any position on the rights or wrongs of the banning. Afaict.

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AB 01.29.15 at 11:36 pm

Chait begins with some examples of clearly illiberal behaviour. (Violently sabotaging exhibitions etc) If he had wanted to, he could have gone on either to explain why he disapproves of these particular cases, or to make a hardline liberal case against ALL against all forms of coercion.
His funny-if-it-weren’t-so-sad closing paragraph

demonstrates how easy it is do declaim this case in windy cliches, how hard it is to argue to argue it in detail to anyone who knows history.

So he doesn’t argue it. He rambles about all the different things he doesn’t like about trends in young-bolshie-thought-on-the-internet. It’s all the same. It’s all terrible. You young punks are ruining it for everyone, you are embarrasing me in front of the other grownups who (unlike you) I am desperate to impress. And so on and son, mood-affiliation to kingdome come. What a doofus

The response is mood-affiliation in kind: he’s attacking our kind of people, so there can’t be anything to what he says. Political correctness is great, and anyway it doesn’t exist. Worlds-smallest-cis-white-man-violin for Jonnie Chait.

So far, so not unilluminating.

Here’s a point to think about instead. Many left-liberal activists have sought (not entirely without success) to create a climate in which certain views, and those who have ever promoted them, are excluded from the public sphere and decent society. They are subject to no platform policies, should not be employed by universities or newspapers, etc. Possibly a good idea. BUT: if this is to be the case, it does follow that calling somebody a homophobe/transphobe/racist is not a piece of “tough criticism” like any other. If the accusation is true, columns must be pulled, speeches cancelled, tenure lost. So it is disingenuous to say we are not silencing anybody, this is just free speech, cis-white-man can dish it out but he can’t take it. It is more akin to an accusation of a crime. There is a good reason that people are more afraid of their article being accused of racism than of Maoism or imperialism or neo-conservatism. Only one of these sticks indelibly to the person, as a taint for which they must be cast out and silenced.

I believe that this, unlike Chait’s overseasoned souffle (made with eggs long past their sell-by-date), is a real problem. All the more so when we confuse mere
microaggressions, which is to say that heedless toe-stepping of which the most decent comrades are every day guilty, with the brutal and deliberate stamp of the bully’s boot.
.
It is a poor solution to promise forgiveness to those who repent sufficiently humbly. I have thought better…will reconsider my privilege…will strive to listen to the stories told by women of color…. If we do this we are planting the seeds of hypocrisy, which grows so fast and so thick that it soon blocks out the light. Coerced confession has been tried, from time to time, as a method of moral education. It has been found wanting.

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dn 01.29.15 at 11:39 pm

Flemming: No he doesn’t. He names MacKinnon, yes, but he doesn’t argue against her. He merely offers a few selected, decontextualized quotes of hers (which appear to say nothing I would disagree with), mentions some actions taken by a few of her students (with no evidence that she ever told them to do so or was associated with their actions in any way other than being their teacher), mentions that she taught at a university that tried to implement a speech code more than 20 years ago (again, with no mention of any actual specific role she took in support of this) and acts as though this suffices as a refutation. It does not. It’s guilt-by-association at best, and it’s bullshit.

By the way, since we’re talking about Freddie DeBoer, I would just mention that the classic DeBoer vs. Sady Doyle exchange from a few years back makes an excellent case study on precisely this issue. Doyle was extremely cruel to Freddie, and said a lot of things I would never endorse – nevertheless, if you ignore all the nasty jokes and invective and focus on her actual substantive critique, I think any honest observer familiar with DeBoer’s online record would find little to disagree with. The lesson: “being right” and “behaving appropriately” are two different things. People should strive to do both. But people should also strive to recognize that failing at one doesn’t say anything about your success at the other.

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AB 01.29.15 at 11:40 pm

ARGH. I apologise for the bad formatting. Also for the accidental overnegation (“not unilluminating”).

198

J Thomas 01.29.15 at 11:42 pm

#181 Lenoxus

Maybe the so-called PC attitude which is said to be so off-putting should be understood as a core doctrine of sorts.

Yes, I think so. If you’re having a service in your church and somebody barges in and starts saying that obviously there are many gods, it makes sense to show him the door.

But if you’re trying to get signatures for a political petition in public — say about net neutrality — and you won’t talk to him until he agrees that polytheism is only for poopyheads, that’s one signature you probably won’t get. Maybe there will be a separate petition for polytheists.

The time to enforce public PC standards is after you have more than 90% support. Then you can just sort of loom over people and they’ll get the idea. When you don’t have a solid majority, then you mostly just reduce the number of people who’re willing to talk to you. Which doesn’t help you get to 90%.

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The Temporary Name 01.29.15 at 11:44 pm

200

bianca steele 01.30.15 at 12:01 am

Anderson, Adam, William, Temporary Name, thanks for the compliments. I kind of think Val @ 5 is the best comment in the thread though.

including some of the commenters here

Maybe (I’m sure it might describe a lot of people, in one way or another, but I’m not certain which ones here you have in mind. Anyway, it wasn’t my intention.

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bob mcmanus 01.30.15 at 12:03 am

189: I tried to be careful but apparently made some errors in phrasing because of a desire to remain neutral. Would “banned for no reason” have been any better as a starting premise? Everybody has reasons. Basically in that context and time, I was trying to discern DD”s reasons and mood, not because I found them justifiable, but because I found the game amusing.

202

J Thomas 01.30.15 at 12:05 am

#192 DN

The lesson: “being right” and “behaving appropriately” are two different things. People should strive to do both. But people should also strive to recognize that failing at one doesn’t say anything about your success at the other.

“It is not enough to be wrong, one must also be polite.” Niels Bohr

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bianca steele 01.30.15 at 12:07 am

The thing about De Boer is that as far as I could tell (and I’m old enough to tell him to get off my lawn so who knows) he wanted to be part of that free-for-all and only recently turned against it. So, what is it, he was okay being part of that movement as long as it 100% agreed with him, and once he got criticism from inside the movement, he had to conclude the “social liberal” movement (I think the term is his invention) wasn’t for him? Realizing that someone who guest-blogs for Andrew Sullivan is not going to look, quite, like someone who’s fair-minded to both sides, isn’t what convinced him? I admit I don’t get the De Boer cult (yes I know that’s an exaggeration). He used to post things I found interesting, with some regularity, and then looked again, and I was much less impressed. But AFAIK he got his start as a commenter on McCardle’s blog, and agreed with her often enough to hang around for a pretty long time.

204

TM 01.30.15 at 12:07 am

Ronann 190: “All Bob is saying is they were banned for slightly aggressive/confrontational tones”

No, that’s not what he’s saying. He’s saying what I quoted, do I need to quote it again? What for? We wouldn’t have to discuss this if it weren’t for Bob himself bringing it up but if we do have to discuss it, can we at least discuss what is being claimed and not something else.

205

bob mcmanus 01.30.15 at 12:23 am

But as I said, the Flavia Dzodan post in 132 was just flat out beautiful, and may even be improved by Sady’s comments.

Be it patriarchal heteronormativity, or racism or anti queer hatred, or transphobia, xenophobia, misogyny, sexism, ageism, bigotry, fatphobia, misandry, or any of the hundreds of possible prejudices: all of them are potentially within me. And within you. Because we cannot escape the structures we are part of, we cannot avoid being at once oppressed and oppressors. But it is not all doom and gloom, there IS a way out of it and it is by remaining actively aware of these potentials within us. By being conscious of them. However, I contend that this performative culture that has taken hold of us, be it in blogging or participating in Social Media at large has also obscured this awareness of our potentials. Because we are supposedly “the good guys”. We are the ones “fighting oppression!” So common wisdom dictates that we are “the heros!” in this narrative and the villains, the “bad guys”, are the ones who stand against us. And we buy into this narrative because it is comforting, it is reassuring, it makes us feel good about ourselves. However, the perversity of it is not readily apparent: while we position ourselves as “the good guys”, we necessarily need an antagonist, someone who needs to be positioned as “the villain”.

Has Freddie DeBoer moved into sight as current pinata?

206

afeman 01.30.15 at 12:25 am

#202 b mcm: Qwertyist.

207

Lenoxus 01.30.15 at 12:27 am

J Thomas: I love that bit of that movie, and it is indeed relevant here. However… meh. I think I’ve said all I need to.

208

PatrickinIowa 01.30.15 at 12:31 am

Flemming at 175 asks us to engage with the arguments. How about we engage with empirical reality? For example, from Flemming:

“[Catharine] MacKinnon is just one such example when he quotes her as saying freedom of speech is zero-sum and political opponents of the left should not have freedom of speech. You can say the phenomenon of policing politically incorrect speech is ill-defined, I think it is very, very clear in the article from the examples he cites and quotations he draws from what he means.”

So here’s reality. Catharine MacKinnon is a tenured professor at Michigan. Interestingly enough, one of her fiercest opponents over the years, Gayle Rubin is…wait for it…a tenured professor at Michigan. They’ve said harsh things about each other over the years, but apparently they can’t prevent each other from getting really good jobs.

If Chait is claiming that leftist/feminist call out culture is silencing other leftists and feminists, preventing them from expressing themselves, he is, by and large, with some notable and lamentable exceptions, wrong. Whether he’s wrong because he doesn’t move in those circles, or because he’s lying, or for some other reason is immaterial. What he says about the observable world is not true. (Personally, I think he’s engaging in bullshit, and he doesn’t really care whether what he says is true or not as long as it satisfies his sense of grievance and gets clicks, but I can’t see into his heart.)

I’m a 61 year old white middle class guy from stinking rich stock who hangs out with younger campus feminists working on some problems we care about. There are a couple of of the young people who love calling people out. But most people roll their eyes and get back to work, trying to make things better for women, gays, trans people and others around here. My admittedly limited experience tells me that what Chait says is a major problem is not a major problem, and not nearly as big a problem as, say, liberals whining about not being able to say things like, “Charles Murray is onto something, don’t you think, Ta-Nehisi?”

209

Cian 01.30.15 at 12:35 am

Okay, let’s say somebody uses a non-PC term for a particular group. Not because they’re malicious, but because they really don’t know better. Do you:
1) Villify and attack them for being insensitive/racist/sexist/etc.
2) Respond, and gently point out that that particular group find the term offensive and explain why.

If you do (1) do you think they will have any interest in further political involvement, or any desire to express (or even think about) these issues. What have you achieved here? Other than to have scared off a potential ally.

If you did (2), congratulations not only have you increased general civility, but you’ve used it as an opportunity to educate them about something they had probably never considered.

Now maybe I mix in/observe the wrong circles, but 99.99% of the time I see (1).

I know several people in their mid to late 20s who are completely turned off politics, despite having fairly leftish views, because they got fed up of ‘check your privilege’, or being shamed for using the wrong damn term when they were in college. Yeah it’s only college, but it’s also when people’s life time perspectives are formed. Shame is not an effective recruitment tool.

And it doesn’t just happen at college. It happens outside college too. Plenty of expensively educated activists are guilty of this too.

210

Cian 01.30.15 at 12:39 am

Bob at 202’s quote is spot on. It’s narcissistic posturing, but very damaging nonetheless.

211

PGD 01.30.15 at 12:40 am

Take the example Chait starts with. The guy in question didn’t write a gentle Charlie Brown type satire of people who take offence too easily, as Chait says. He wrote a really stupid article making fun of feminism. That’s what it actually is. So Chait is being dishonest right from the start.

Ummm, no. If people are curious they can take a look at the article itself — it’s not particularly witty but it’s a satire on over-the-top identity politics sectarianism, not an attack on feminism, and it’s not abusive:

http://www.michiganreview.com/do-the-left-thing/

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William Berry 01.30.15 at 12:41 am

bianca @197:

Sorry, I didn’t mean to impute any particular intention on your part. That was just an observation I happen to think is incidentally true.

To bob mcm @202 in re Freddie de Boer:

Not on my part, really. The guy just gives me the fantods, so-to-speak. Was only having a bit of fun.

213

Val 01.30.15 at 12:44 am

Thank you Bianca @ 196
Dr ngo @ 173 – I thought it would turn out to be something like that. Chait is misrepresenting it for his purposes; something mentioned ethics, I’d say that’s clearly unethical/dishonest.
(js @ 143 – unicorns – I love it! Just have to add for J Thomas: I’m sorry I don’t have any evidence to provide to you that there isn’t an elephant in my living room. But that doesn’t mean there’s not not an elephant in my living room. Promise I’ll stop now.)

214

J Thomas 01.30.15 at 12:49 am

#205 PatrickinIowa

If Chait is claiming that leftist/feminist call out culture is silencing other leftists and feminists, preventing them from expressing themselves, he is, by and large, with some notable and lamentable exceptions, wrong.

How could you know?

How can you know who is intimidated into silence?

On any side?

215

cerebus 01.30.15 at 12:51 am

http://slatestarcodex.com/2015/01/01/untitled/

Just going to leave this here.

Why yes, I am a white cis male nerd, thanks for asking.

Carry on.

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Cian 01.30.15 at 12:52 am

@200 – Bianca

Well if there’s a cult I’m not part of it. I read him because I often disagree with him, and he occasionally forces me to examine my beliefs. I get why people dislike him, but the exaggerated hate seems ridiculous.

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dn 01.30.15 at 12:52 am

Cian @206:

This is not meant as disagreement or as an endorsement of mean behavior, but I just want to point out that, judging from the exchanges I have witnessed, a significant contributor toward response (1) is that the people who are most active in opposing racism, sexism etc. are, you know, fed up with it. They are just extremely tired of having to deal with this shit. The point of microaggressions, after all, is that they are aggressions; if they didn’t upset people, they wouldn’t be a problem in the first place. Thus, while the ability to respond with (2) is a useful and admirable ability to have, it seems to me that a certain amount of sympathy for (1) is in order. Speaking as a straight white male who took several years to come around to this point of view, I acknowledge that this sympathy is something I, too, had to learn.

218

PGD 01.30.15 at 12:52 am

Many left-liberal activists have sought (not entirely without success) to create a climate in which certain views, and those who have ever promoted them, are excluded from the public sphere and decent society. They are subject to no platform policies, should not be employed by universities or newspapers, etc. Possibly a good idea. BUT: if this is to be the case, it does follow that calling somebody a homophobe/transphobe/racist is not a piece of “tough criticism” like any other. If the accusation is true, columns must be pulled, speeches cancelled, tenure lost. So it is disingenuous to say we are not silencing anybody, this is just free speech, cis-white-man can dish it out but he can’t take it. It is more akin to an accusation of a crime. There is a good reason that people are more afraid of their article being accused of racism than of Maoism or imperialism or neo-conservatism. Only one of these sticks indelibly to the person, as a taint for which they must be cast out and silenced.

AB, this is a great comment and spot on. As you imply, it also relates to why Chait’s article isn’t all that great — it conflates 1990s ‘PC’, which really didn’t do this to nearly the same extent, with contemporary internet identity politics which from what I can tell is considerably more toxic and different from PC in all kinds of ways. I think a lot of the things that Belle is saying regarding civility and so forth apply better in the 1990s PC case.

219

dn 01.30.15 at 12:54 am

PGD @208: I guess YMMV. I personally found the article’s tone to be mocking and rather offensive, not Schulz-esque at all, and I find it says something about Chait and his defenders that they see it the way they do. Of course, “satire” is in the eye of the beholder.

220

Val 01.30.15 at 12:58 am

PGD @ 208
If you honestly think that article isn’t a stupid attempt to ridicule feminism (aka “womyn’s studies”) and intersectionality, then there’s nothing much I can do for you. Like he’s having swipes at people of colour (I guess it would be, he’s a person of colour but not one of those silly ones who cares about womyn’s studies and intersectionality and is always getting offended) and disability, but the basic conceptual framework is “womyn’s studies”, hence “left handydness”.

It wasn’t funny when he wrote it! It’s excruciatingly painful when I have to explain it to you!

221

J Thomas 01.30.15 at 1:01 am

#210 Val

I’m sorry I don’t have any evidence to provide to you that there isn’t an elephant in my living room. But that doesn’t mean there’s not not an elephant in my living room.

You probably know whether there’s an elephant in your living room. It takes a whole lot of washing before the smell won’t give them away.

As for me, I don’t really need to know. If you post a photo of the elephant in your living room I will tentatively suppose it was there, since why would you photoshop that? On the other hand most people don’t have living rooms they can get an elephant into, and maybe you would photoshop it. If you say there’s no elephant there then that’s good enough for me too — you could be lying but it really isn’t my problem.

Actually I find that image kind of pleasing. You have an elephant in your living room, and you casually bring up the topic, and then don’t say. Maybe later you tell me it isn’t true. You pet Elmo on the trunk and giggle. “He’ll never know. He’ll just never know, Elmo.” And it’s true, I’ll probably never know.

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bianca steele 01.30.15 at 1:04 am

bob, Cian, I’m certainly not asking for anything that would mean I have to read him. But I don’t think it’s “hate”–much less some kind of continuing hate campaign–to say something mildly negative about a person who’s been praised very frequently here on CT and never, that I can recall, spoken of critically to any real degree. (If there’s some kind of social media thing going on, I’m tempted to suggest that he could avoid it by being nicer to the commenters at his own blog.)

223

Cian 01.30.15 at 1:20 am

Bianca, there are a number of influential writers and bloggers who hate deBoer. Lawyers Guns and Money for example. I don’t care enough to find out why, but it’s definitely a thing. Honestly I feel a bit weird defending him as I probably disagree with the majority of what he writes, and find his style overwrought. I just think he’s right on this particular topic.

224

js. 01.30.15 at 1:20 am

Many left-liberal activists have sought (not entirely without success) to create a climate in which certain views, and those who have ever promoted them, are excluded from the public sphere and decent society.

Could we have, like, one example? Or is that too much to ask?

225

Cian 01.30.15 at 1:20 am

dn @214

Yeah I’m not saying that (1) is always wrong. I get why people are on the receiving end of micro-aggression are overly sensitive. But all too often I see (1) from people who are either not on the receiving end (i.e. ‘allies’ policing the boundaries ), or being ludicrously over-sensitive. I think there’s a section of the left (usually from fairly privileged socio-economic backgrounds) who are addicted to victimhood.

226

Collin Street 01.30.15 at 1:21 am

DN@214: in any sort of real-world case, the only people who genuinely “really don’t know better” are children, teenagers, and particularly naïve or otherwise-unusual young adults. And, yeah, they get treated pretty politely, as you’d see.

But, y’know? If you don’t know that, say, members of the [ethnic] community dislike being called [epithet] … well, no. You aren’t a real person, you’re a figment of a fever-dream.

People claim to genuinely not know, but, y’know? They’re lying.

[I expect that variations on the phrase “how can people be expected to know what other people are thinking” will get banded around, btw.]

227

dn 01.30.15 at 1:27 am

AB @192, PGD @215: “There is a good reason that people are more afraid of their article being accused of racism than of Maoism or imperialism or neo-conservatism. Only one of these sticks indelibly to the person, as a taint for which they must be cast out and silenced.”

I pointed this out upthread, but I’ll do it again, since hardly anyone seems to have noticed it: Chait, for one, seems to think that the “Marxist” pedigree of “PC” ideas is a good reason to cast them out of the conversation. In this I think it’s safe to assume he has the support of every conservative in America.

228

Cian 01.30.15 at 1:27 am

@217 Val –

It’s a pretty awful piece of satire, but his targets all seemed like fair game to me. Certainly the reaction was a bit over the top – though no worse than anything else that goes on most campuses.

229

PGD 01.30.15 at 1:30 am

dn@216 — of course the article’s tone is mocking. Satire has a strong component of mockery. All Chait said was that the article’s tone was closer to Charlie Brown than Charlie Hebdo (not the same as saying it was actually all that similar to Charlie Brown). That strikes me as accurate. Others can judge for themselves. It’s not a great or particularly witty article but it’s very far from hate speech or a savage attack.

val@217 — encompassed within the article’s mockery of identity politics and callout culture is mockery of a particular brand of campus feminism. That’s hardly the only form of feminism there is, nor is the article attacking the fundamental notion of women’s equality.

And I don’t doubt you found the article excruciatingly painful, because you politically disagree with it and probably have been strongly influenced by the culture it mocks. The question is how much weight others should assign the excruciating pain of those who are offended by a piece of writing, and what kind of behavior the offended group is entitled to by virtue of their pain.

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PGD 01.30.15 at 1:33 am

js@221: see e.g. http://dailynous.com/2015/01/28/students-protest-job-candidate-for-offensive-views/#comments

agreed that this is somewhat of a fringe thing at the moment but it is the direction things seem to be going.

231

Cian 01.30.15 at 1:35 am

Collin:
Yeah, but you also get the situation where people are humiliated for believing that there’s such a thing as innate gender differences. Or for using gendered/racist metaphorical language (‘man up’, ‘mighty white’).

And honestly, you have to be fairly clued up to know what the correct term is for some groups. Good luck keeping up with the PC term for ‘disability’, appropriate language for transgender, mental impairment, etc. To pick an example – to know the appropriate term for ‘persons with impairments’, you’d have to be familiar with the social model of disability. A highly theoretical and arcane model to the average person in the street.

232

dn 01.30.15 at 1:50 am

PDG @226: All I’m going to say is this: Charles Schulz never punched down.

233

Val 01.30.15 at 1:50 am

PGD @ 226
I didn’t find the article “excruciatingly painful”, I found it stupid. I found it – supposedly – “excruciatingly painful” having to explain the bad joke about left handydness to you. And you know what, that was hyperbole, for comic effect. I do take all these issues seriously, but I also like to joke, and use rhetoric, and you know, have a bit of fun.

(This is why expressions like “head desk” and “can’t even” have come about. What is this awful, heavy handed, ponderously missing the point stuff about.? Is it meant to put us misguided lefty feminists in our place? Or is it, as I sometimes suspect, that some men get so defensive about this stuff that they actually are incapable of reading and understanding what I’m saying?)

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AB 01.30.15 at 2:01 am

@224 dn
You may have a point. I don’t know much about this Chait fellow. And being a Brit living in Europe, I had forgotten about the strength of the paranoid anti-marxist tradition in American conservatism.
But there is a distinction betwen seeking to exclude *an idea* by association, and the exclusion of *an individual* because of something they once said.

@221 js
Are you seriously asking for an example of an indiviual who has lost their job or media platform due to having expressed a racist opinion? I didn’t cite examples because I didn’t think it was controversial, and I’m not against it.

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J Thomas 01.30.15 at 2:02 am

#230 Val

What is this awful, heavy handed, ponderously missing the point stuff about.? Is it meant to put us misguided lefty feminists in our place? Or is it, as I sometimes suspect, that some men get so defensive about this stuff that they actually are incapable of reading and understanding what I’m saying?

All of us instinctively feel like what we say is obvious and clear.

It takes a lot of friendly feedback to find out otherwise. Many people never get that.

Really and truly, mutual comprehension is not the default state for humanity. It seems like it ought to be, but it just isn’t.

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AB 01.30.15 at 2:15 am

@val
“Or is it that some men get so defensive about this stuff that they actually are incapable of reading and understanding what I’m saying?”

I’m gonna go with….yes.

Some smart men become unbelievably stupid when the topic of feminism arises (esp in all male company, or on anonymous comment boards.) There’s a lovely moment in “Scenes from a Marriage” when the husband, who is otherwise not unintelligent in his pompous way, suddenly starts ranting about the folly of feminists, all the worst cliches and slurs, “imagine an orchestra all on their periods trying to play brahms”. His wife glances up at him with a look of almost tender condescension. “I’m so glad nobody can hear you,” she says.

The only line in the ‘satire’ I thought was funny and hit the mark was the bit about seeing the white-mans-burden look of condescension the kid’s face. It captures well the self-absorbtion of a certain sort of rich adolescent whose first reaction to reading Edward Said is “poor me”.

237

J Thomas 01.30.15 at 2:19 am

#231 AB

Many left-liberal activists have sought (not entirely without success) to create a climate in which certain views, and those who have ever promoted them, are excluded from the public sphere and decent society.

“Could we have, like, one example? Or is that too much to ask?”

Are you seriously asking for an example of an indiviual who has lost their job or media platform due to having expressed a racist opinion? I didn’t cite examples because I didn’t think it was controversial, and I’m not against it.

Hey, do racists count? Surely everybody who matters agrees that racists don’t deserve to have jobs, much less voices in the media. How could they possibly have a place in decent society when they’re racists? It’s like a contradiction in terms.

I’m sure js was asking for an example of somebody getting excluded who didn’t 100% deserve it.

… create a climate in which certain views, and those who have ever promoted them, are excluded from the public sphere and decent society ….

You made it sound like something that would be controversial, something not completely and obviously good. Racists. Why would we give any rights whatsoever to racists?

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dn 01.30.15 at 2:28 am

AB@231: Racism, too, is an idea.

As for Chait’s red-baiting, it’s right there in the Chait piece under discussion if you read it carefully:

The right wing in the United States is unusually strong compared with other industrialized democracies, and it has spent two generations turning “liberal” into a feared buzzword with radical connotations. This long propaganda campaign has implanted the misperception — not only among conservatives but even many liberals — that liberals and “the left” stand for the same things.

It is true that liberals and leftists both want to make society more economically and socially egalitarian. But liberals still hold to the classic Enlightenment political tradition that cherishes individuals rights, freedom of expression, and the protection of a kind of free political marketplace. (So, for that matter, do most conservatives.)

The Marxist left has always dismissed liberalism’s commitment to protecting the rights of its political opponents — you know, the old line often misattributed to Voltaire, “I disapprove of what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it” — as hopelessly naïve. If you maintain equal political rights for the oppressive capitalists and their proletarian victims, this will simply keep in place society’s unequal power relations. Why respect the rights of the class whose power you’re trying to smash? And so, according to Marxist thinking, your political rights depend entirely on what class you belong to.

The modern far left has borrowed the Marxist critique of liberalism and substituted race and gender identities for economic ones. “The liberal view,” wrote MacKinnon 30 years ago, “is that abstract categories — like speech or equality — define systems. Every time you strengthen free speech in one place, you strengthen it everywhere. Strengthening the free speech of the Klan strengthens the free speech of Blacks.” She deemed this nonsensical: “It equates substantive powerlessness with substantive power and calls treating these the same, ‘equality.’ ”

Political correctness appeals to liberals because it claims to represent a more authentic and strident opposition to their shared enemy of race and gender bias. And of course liberals are correct not only to oppose racism and sexism but to grasp (in a way conservatives generally do not) that these biases cast a nefarious and continuing shadow over nearly every facet of American life. Since race and gender biases are embedded in our social and familial habits, our economic patterns, and even our subconscious minds, they need to be fought with some level of consciousness. The mere absence of overt discrimination will not do.

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.

To summarize: Chait begins by distinguishing “liberals” from “the left”, which is more or less correct as a matter of history. But then the problems start. He associates “liberals” (his team) with the “Enlightenment” defense of free speech, leaving the reader to conclude that those to his left are anti-Enlightenment. He shifts from “the left” to “the Marxist left” – a rhetorical sleight-of-hand that elides the real history of “the left” in America (MLK, for one, was neither a “liberal” nor a Marxist), but has the convenient effect of conjuring up the ghosts of 1968, Vietnam, etc. He then points out that the anti-“Enlightenment” views of the Marxists have been taken over and extended by PC defenders. The cumulative point is to suggest that taking PC ideas seriously makes a person not a liberal, but a dirty pinko. Classic US-liberal red-baiting.

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Sandwichman 01.30.15 at 3:05 am

“But liberals still hold to the classic Enlightenment political tradition that cherishes individuals rights, freedom of expression, and the protection of a kind of free political marketplace. (So, for that matter, do most conservatives.”

Bullshit.

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dn 01.30.15 at 3:18 am

@236 – Telling that he professes to have more in common with the right than the left on free speech, though.

241

Sandwichman 01.30.15 at 3:20 am

@237 professes or confesses?

242

Belle Waring 01.30.15 at 3:53 am

“PDG @226: All I’m going to say is this: Charles Schulz never punched down.”

Truth.

And yes, Chait explains at length that those on the left are overly influenced my Marxism and this is why they are intolerant of dissent, while people on the right retain the mores of the “classical liberal” without being credited for it. Come the fuck on. It’s fine if he wants to jump ship and swim over to the Good Ship “I Once Was a Trotskyite, But Now I Agree With Tyler Cowen About Everything” but he shouldn’t expect people to throw rose petals on him from the side of the ship as he departs.

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Michael Drew 01.30.15 at 5:23 am

Really, what are the actual bad effects here? White men worried about people being silenced just because they’re white men–I can’t even with this shit.

The white men in the article have bigger concerns than being silenced – like not being hit by flying objects as they get the mail and keeping their jobs.

Chait’s examples of people worried about being silenced are mainly (yes, white) feminist women writers and editors. So it can’t really be just because they’re white men.

If the white/not white thing is what makes this a complete write-off for you, or the fact that they are established, prominent feminist women writers and editors, okay. Okay.

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Michael Drew 01.30.15 at 5:26 am

he shouldn’t expect people to throw rose petals on him from the side of the ship as he departs

1) He certainly doesn’t.

2) It’s really sad to see the left just openly resorting to, ‘Well, what side is he on, anyway?’

245

dn 01.30.15 at 5:30 am

“It’s really sad to see the left just openly resorting to, ‘Well, what side is he on, anyway?’”

Tell it to Chait. He’s the one who thinks we’re all a bunch of Enlightenment-hating pinko comsymps.

246

Michael Drew 01.30.15 at 5:41 am

PatrickinIowa

So your view is that the fact that one tenured UM professor was unable to impede the career of another academic that ended up having the chops to also become a tenured UM by itself defines the “reality” of the extent to which “leftist/feminist call out culture [may or may not be] silencing other leftists and feminists, preventing them from expressing themselves”? Because one particular professor who you don’t offer evidence actually sought to silence anyone didn’t in fact do so in the case of one particular other academic?

Notwithstanding testimony from prominent feminist authors that they feel increasingly reticent to speak in a variety of fora.

Sure, there might be “some” “notable and lamentable exceptions.”

Hell, there might be tons! But who cares! It wouldn’t matter! He’s wrong because MacKinnon and Rubin!

247

MPAVictoria 01.30.15 at 6:42 am

“Maybe there is a conspiracy, maybe there isn’t”

Would you be happier if I wrote:
J Thomas, he believes the question of whether there is a Jewish banking conspiracy to be worthy of debate. It would be irresponsible not to pose the question.

?

248

js. 01.30.15 at 7:54 am

Are you seriously asking for an example of an indiviual who has lost their job or media platform due to having expressed a racist opinion?

No. I’m asking you for instances of people who were “excluded from the public sphere and decent society” (your words), for saying some non-PC thing

249

js. 01.30.15 at 7:57 am

PGD @227:

As someone who was a philosophy academic for a bit, that story, which I’d read earlier, is super distressing. I would very much like for that not to be a trend. I also don’t see any evidence that it’s going to be one.

250

js. 01.30.15 at 8:12 am

The white men in the article have bigger concerns than being silenced – like not being hit by flying objects as they get the mail and keeping their jobs.

Once again. Call me simple minded, but I’d like the small courtesy of having one or two actual examples. (I mean, don’t get me wrong. Most of my friends are white dudes, and I do see just how difficult life is for them.)

251

ZM 01.30.15 at 8:48 am

There is an example from Australia late last year that fits. Literature professor and national curriculum advisor Barry Spurr, whose racist and sexist jokes got published and it was a great controversy. He got suspended and at the end of the year he resigned. He was a poetry professor , this is very disheartening since he obviously was not edified at all by all his study of poetry. He claimed he was making very difficult ironic jokes – but nobody believed this poor excuse except maybe the comedian Barry Humphries (Sir Les Patterson, and Dame Edna Everage) who complained Australians didn’t know how to take a joke anymore in a letter to the editor.

http://www.smh.com.au/national/poetry-professor-barry-spurr-master-of-parody-or-bigotry-20141024-11azyf.html

252

Harold 01.30.15 at 8:49 am

Some people would question that Hanna Rosin is a feminist in any meaningful sense of the word. Her calling herself that is analogous to the TNR calling itself liberal.

253

Norwegian Guy 01.30.15 at 10:26 am

Harald K, why are you using the PC, or at least politically loaded, term “sexual worker”, and not the common term, “prostitute”? Reeks of political correctness :)

But anyway, one thing I dislike more than “political correctness” – whatever the hell that means – is complaints about political correctness. I have to say that I found Doug Weinfield (or rather Amanda Marcotte) @131 very good, and AH @132 quite informative. Of course, I had literally never heard about LGBTQQI, call outs, Jacobinghazi, or truscum before today, so I might not know what I’m talking about…

254

areanimator 01.30.15 at 10:29 am

The callout culture debate didn’t start with Chait, nor will it end here. But I think it’s as good startging point as any to identify that there is a structural problem inherent in the design of Internet-based communication platforms to date. Namely, the many ways in which it is possible to rally a large amount of vicious, threatening and overall hostile commenters on any particular topic, and the inadequate ways a target for such an attack can defend itself against it. This isn’t something that’s inherent in any particular ideological corner of the Internet. Rather, it’s a weapon that can be wielded by any group for any reason. A lot of text written on this subject takes the form of “aftermath reports” that catalogue horrible things done to the target of a particular attack (such as the Anita Sarkeesian death threats). Usually, such texts by necessity focus on the details of the attack in question, ignoring instances where “our side” engaged in similar attacks, thus leaving the field open for the opponents to claim “well they’re doing it too”. It seems regulations are in order for governing the use of this weapon. When is it OK to rally an “Internet mob” (as much as I am loathe to use the term, it’s the most common one) to harass, defame or vandalize a target? What kind of targets are valid? How do you minimize collateral damage? These are issues that need to be addressed, otherwise it seems the obvious endpoint is, at best, mutually assured destruction where the only individuals that can have public opinions online are those that can mobilize mobs of followers to defend them, or, at worst, a “post-nuclear war” scenario where people just decide the whole thing isnt’ worth the effort and go silent.

255

Brett Bellmore 01.30.15 at 10:46 am

“/I can’t wait until J Thomas and Brett start commenting. I predict much stupidity.”

Sometimes you want to play at being Dian Fossey, sometimes you want to visit the ape house at the zoo, and watch the scat flying from the other side of a nice thick plate of glass. For me, this is one of those latter occasions.

256

J Thomas 01.30.15 at 11:32 am

#251 areanimator

But I think it’s as good startging point as any to identify that there is a structural problem inherent in the design of Internet-based communication platforms to date. Namely, the many ways in which it is possible to rally a large amount of vicious, threatening and overall hostile commenters on any particular topic, and the inadequate ways a target for such an attack can defend itself against it.

So the problem is that you want to have a conversation, and at any time your conversation can be disrupted by a bunch of basicly spammers chanting DOWN WITH X!. They have the right to free speech in public, and on a private blog it’s a great big effort to stop them while not stopping interesting newbies at the same time.

There are a spectrum of methods here.

1. DDOS attack. With a large botnet, spam them until they can’t function.

2. Spam attack. With scripts to deliver a variety of messages that more-or-less make sense, publish hundreds or thousands of angry comments that bury any real comments.

3. Manual labor attack. With hundreds or thousands of humans who feel self-justified, imitate the spam attack except by hand.

I can’t imagine any way to stop that. You can slow it down by requiring commenters to register. If they have to register some way that discriminates against bots, that will help with #2 but not #3. If it takes a day or two before the registration completes, that helps with #3 (where people are likely to get bored and not bother to come back the next day) but not with #2. (Because bots have infinite patience.)

Any method that prevents random strangers from piling on, will tend to turn it into a closed conversation that can easily turn into another echo chamber.

Didn’t chatrooms come up with something that sort of applies? Something like, you start out with a public chat that anybody can join. Then if you feel like it, you create an offshoot private chat that’s invitation-only, where the members can explore the issues they want to. You could give other people read-only access to that or not.

For something like that on a blog, you could start with an OP who sets up an interesting topic. Then it starts to spin off discussions where some commenters are excluded, and discussions where only a list of commenters are included. Others can follow whichever discussions they want, and can set up their own discussions where they comment on discussions they are excluded from. When it fragments too much, shut the whole thing down and they’ll wander off to other topics.

Similarly, you could have individual spam filters that let readers filter the comments. So you could filter me so my comments are invisible to you. Of course, that means I get to deliver crushing rebuttals to your claims and you don’t notice but proceed as if you think your argument hasn’t been demolished. (Hey, wait a minute, that already happens a lot! Hmmm.)

About the time the blog gets hit by a whole lot of drive-by disrupters, you have the option to switch to filtering out everybody who hadn’t commented before the disruption, and you can continue.

There’s no real solution though. If you make it private the discussion gets incestuous and inbred, and if you make it public then hordes of locusts can wander in.

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J Thomas 01.30.15 at 11:43 am

#244 MPAV

Would you be happier if I wrote:
J Thomas, he believes the question of whether there is a Jewish banking conspiracy to be worthy of debate. It would be irresponsible not to pose the question.

No, of course not.

If you wish you can write:

“J Thomas does not know the truth about any Jewish, Catholic, Hindu, or Scientology banking conspiracies and will not decide any of these questions without evidence.”

If you like you can add:

“He does however believe there are banking conspiracies, and sometimes he thinks the entire fractional-reserve system should be abandoned.”

258

Minnow 01.30.15 at 4:08 pm

I seem to be landing in moderation ,even having comments deleted I think. Is there any reason? Have I broken any rules?

259

MPAVictoria 01.30.15 at 4:11 pm

Eh I like mine better.

260

TM 01.30.15 at 5:18 pm

247, 248: So far, one alleged example. Chait’s own examples are weak at best. Given how assiduously the anti-PC-police is watching out for PC police misdeeds, one would think that it shouldn’t be that hard to come up with actual verifiable examples of the actual harm done by PC. In the real world, it is far easier to find examples of conservatives (or even liberals, in the TNR sense of “even liberals”) trying to silence leftists than the other way round. (See Salaita, Nadia Abu El Hadj, and by googling I just came across another potential case, Samer Shehata (https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/06/14/prominent-arab-studies-scholar-challenges-georgetown-tenure-decision). The El Hadj case is of course dated and she ultimately won but it is a rigorously documented case of right-wing interests openly crusading to have a reputed scholar fired based purely on her views. To my knowledge no “PC police” equivalent to any of these cases exist, not even remotely. At least not in the real world.

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J Thomas 01.30.15 at 5:52 pm

#255 MPAV

Eh I like mine better.

Of course you like your scurrilous lies better. That’s the kind of person you are behaving like.

262

TM 01.30.15 at 6:16 pm

Perhaps slightly off-topic but people wondering whether or not academia is dominated by leftist/PC bias might be interested in this portrait of a University of Arkansas professor, Robert Maranto. You are unlikely to have heard of him. He is professor in a department (Department of Education Reform) that was created with Walmart money specifically to hire right-wing academics in order to attack public education (the Walton millions doesn’t mean it’s not also financed with public subsidies though). Maranto’s own quote: “Without the Walton money, I’m not sure the people on the far right would be here.” No definitely not. Affirmative Action for right-wing academics is increasingly common.

263

TM 01.30.15 at 6:17 pm

264

Daniel 01.30.15 at 11:56 pm

Let’s take your own example of using the word “retarded” in your past. Clearly, you’ve since adapted your language to be more polite and considerate. The premise of Chait’s piece (as I read it) is not that you should go ahead and keep using the word “retarded” because eff all who may take offense. The entire point is that if you stopped using it, it’s likely because someone or some people kindly and maturely let you know that it was hurtful, and they explained to you why. And that allowed you to absorb and reflect and then alter your behavior in a seemingly minor but meaningful way. Maybe I’m wrong, but I hope you weren’t made to feel like an awful, worthless human being at your core because of a word you used. I hope you weren’t driven out of a classroom for it, taunted, or humiliated online. Hopefully nobody attacked you personally and maliciously the way you did Chait in the piece above. Because that is exactly the type of reaction, Chait is arguing, gets us nowhere.

265

Zora 01.31.15 at 2:07 am

I read Chait’s article and thought it had some good points (mixed with stuff that put me off). It is true that ravening net mobs can descend on you if you are charged with misogyny, racism, homophobia, or cultural appropriation because you used the wrong language, or were not sufficiently submissive to the self-appointed defenders of the oppressed.

It is also true that there are ravening net mobs who descend on you if you confront misognyny, racism, etc. Gamergate. Anita Sarkeesian.

It’s groupthink. It’s showing your buddies (or folks you want to be your buddies) that you too are properly outraged. I’ve watched the process snowball in just one LiveJournal thread, in which a discussion of Marian Zimmer Bradley’s alleged sexual abuse of her daughter morphed into a condemnation of anyone who had ever read Bradley, anyone who was a member of Bay Area fandom at the time, all fandom, and anyone participating in the thread who was not sufficiently outraged at everyone and everything.

SFF fandom has its problems. It is painfully morphing from a group that was just too male, too white, and too oblivious of anyone else. We’ve had huge kerfluffles over a chainmail bikini magazine cover and couple of elderly male columnists who praised their female colleagues as great gals who looked good in bikinis.

It also had Racefail and the recent Winterfox/Requires Only That You Hate online explosion. An explosion in the course of which a vitriolic WOC defender was outed as a serial troll (and abuser of WOC). A troll who helped drive one woman to attempt suicide.

I stayed out of the Winterfox debate but did dip my toe in the Racefail thingie. I left that quickly, after one of the participants accused me of evil cultural appropriation when I said that borrowing isn’t bad; it’s just how people adopt great new things. Why, I wear salwar kameez frequently (sewn by myself in ordinary fabrics) because they’re comfortable. No, that’s not OK, she said; you’re white, so you do not get to wear salwar kameez.

I found out recently that I’m not all white (gene scan) but I suppose African-Americans aren’t allowed to wear salwar kameez either.

266

Robert Sieger 01.31.15 at 5:58 pm

“Seriously, fuck right the fuck off, Chait” — that sure sounds like dinner party politeness to me, Belle, LOL, certainly not an obnoxious declaration of political triumphalism. Anyway, who can imagine Belle attending a dinner party, anyway?

Jonathan Chait, a supporter of the Jonathan Gruber-engineered Obamacare, likely deserves whatever he gets for trying to reason with anyone from the left but his point that political correctness, which is not about “politeness” (as the quote above by Belle shows) but as Chait put it “a system of left-wing ideological repression” is of course entirely correct.

I am proud to call myself transphobic if that means disagreeing with the notion that birth certificates should be rewritten to reflect gender dysphoria decades later, or, in a larger sense, that a miniscule percentage of the overall population (LGBTQ) get to define the vernacular and the social mores that the general public must abide by, under the yoke of academic, mainstream media, Hollywood and blue state Democratic Party reactionaries.

267

PatrickfromIowa 02.02.15 at 3:54 am

Michael at 243: You ask, “So your view is that the fact that one tenured UM professor was unable to impede the career of another academic that ended up having the chops to also become a tenured UM by itself defines the “reality” of the extent to which “leftist/feminist call out culture [may or may not be] silencing other leftists and feminists, preventing them from expressing themselves”? Because one particular professor who you don’t offer evidence actually sought to silence anyone didn’t in fact do so in the case of one particular other academic?”

No, my view is that Chait says that MacKinnon is an example of how feminist silence other feminists, when, in fact, she hasn’t succeeded (and in all probability hasn’t tried) in silencing her most vocal and active critic, or anybody else. And the University of Michigan has not silenced anyone on MacKinnon’s behalf. In other words, with respect to MacKinnon, Chait misrepresents the state of affairs.

Chait offered a piece of evidence, which, like most of the other examples in his piece (including the example from 1992) doesn’t survive scrutiny. In my experience this is pretty typical of these anti-pc screeds.

268

PatrickfromIowa 02.02.15 at 4:04 am

To J Thomas 211: I’m in a lot better to see what goes on than Chait is. Or you, I’ll bet. I don’t see people trying to shut people up in the way alleged.

You’re right, though. I don’t know that it’s never happened. I’m sure it has. But the idea that a person cannot make honest mistakes, or voice dissenting positions while talking to leftists or feminists without being bullied, shamed and expelled is not the predominant idea on the campus I work on. This I know, because I’ve seen people disagree, like,…well…adults.

But no, you’re right, I’m sure it’s happened somewhere. Perhaps in the coven with the unicorns. I don’t think there’s one of those, but I can’t know.

My feminist friends will be delighted to know you’re helping protect them from themselves.

269

PatrickfromIowa 02.02.15 at 4:05 am

“in a lot better position,” Dammit.

270

dr ngo 02.02.15 at 4:47 am

Just want to say, for the record, that I found Brett Bellmore@252 to be succinct and actually somewhat witty, which I’ve never said before. Well done, Brett. (Well done, me, for admitting it.)

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Zora 02.02.15 at 4:51 am

To Patrick at 261–I do not worry about being bullied with PC by my friends, by people I know face to face. It happens online. It happens in online SFF fandom, where I spend a lot of time. RH happened there; Racefail happened there. I have been bullied there; at which point I stopped hanging out in the places where the bullies did (to the extent that I could).

What’s difficult is that the callout culture is a reaction to a lot in SF fandom that is white, male, cis, nerdy, and arrogant. We need it; we just don’t need it on a hair-trigger.

Yes, call out Harlan Ellison for groping Connie Willis onstage, at an awards ceremony. No, don’t call out Elizabeth Bear for suggesting that writers trying to depict other cultures treat their characters as people, not stereotypes, and that the writers then run their drafts past people from that culture, in case the writers got it wrong. That was the evil blog post that sparked Racefail, an online ruckus that roiled fandom for months.

Let’s see if this gets posted. I posted something a day ago that is still awaiting moderation, so I may have been exiled to the outer darkness.

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Daniel 02.02.15 at 5:23 am

Let’s take your own example of using the word “retarded” in your past. Clearly, you’ve since adapted your language to be more polite and considerate. The premise of Chait’s piece (as I read it) is not that you should go ahead and keep using the word “retarded” because eff all who may take offense. The entire point is that if you stopped using it, it’s likely because someone or some people kindly and maturely let you know that it was hurtful, and they explained to you why. And that allowed you to absorb and reflect and then alter your behavior in a seemingly minor but meaningful way. Maybe I’m wrong, but I hope you weren’t made to feel like an awful, worthless human being at your core because of a word you used. I hope you weren’t driven out of a classroom for it, taunted, or humiliated online. Hopefully nobody attacked you personally and maliciously the way you did Chait in the piece above. Because that is exactly the type of reaction, Chait is arguing, gets us nowhere.

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J Thomas 02.02.15 at 5:28 am

#143 js

People who believe in the existence of unicorns without any evidence are stupid. People who believe in the nonexistence of unicorns without any evidence are also stupid!

Since “unicorn” is turning into a thoughtless put-down as witness #262, I want to answer this.

There is some evidence that maybe europeans got the “unicorn” idea from seeing narwhal tusks and hearing about rhinoceroses. Should a rhinoceros count as a land-unicorn, and a narwhal count as a sea-unicorn? Well, but just possibly there might have been a single-horn or single-antler ungulate that was once rare in europe. Rare animals often don’t get fossilized much, we might not have found such a fossil and yet one may turn up this year.

And cryptozoologists find a new reasonably-large mammal every decade or two. If one of them has a single horn would it be reasonable to call it a unicorn?

If you don’t go with rhinoceros (some do, some don’t) then the other possibilities look like long shots to me. Perfectly within the bounds of possibility, but no particular reason to think they will be discovered in our lifetimes even if they are real. But what value is there in taking a stand one way or the other about whether it will happen?

Well but if you try, you could make it less likely. You could decide that a unicorn is not just an animal with a single horn, but it must look like the unicorn on the cover of a fantasy novel, and it must be fiercely protective of virginal human girls, etc etc etc. It’s very unlikely that we will find a unicorn who behaves like a truly chivalrous knight — who with his steed and single lance and tireless quest for justice and noble action is now extinct, and who may never have been any less a mythological fantasy than the unicorn itself….

But a quadruped with a single horn? Why would any reasonable person say it is impossible? Bilateral symmetry is the general rule, but that rule can be obeyed in surprising ways.

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Yastreblyansky 02.02.15 at 1:56 pm

@Robert Sieger: When you’ve learned to spell “minuscule” you will be more successful at pretending to be an intellectual.

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RevMossGatlin 02.02.15 at 5:58 pm

@ 117 felonious monk,

I love how, even here, someone is repeating total lies about Jacobin/”Jacobinghazi” (“they linked to rape threats!”), and indifferent to the fact that said lies were used — by liberals and card-carrying neocons like Josh Foust and Josh Shahryar — to initiate a campaign that ended with so-called “social justice warrior” liberals supporting the outing of a rape survivor at Newsweek (a Jacobin editor).

I suppose the liberal inclination to smear Reds — now with “identity politics”-esque language and charges — is something that never ends.

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PatrickfromIowa 02.02.15 at 6:03 pm

I think one thing is clear: No matter what Chait and some others may think, Chait is not “…a truly chivalrous knight — who with his steed and single lance and tireless quest for justice and noble action” defends the powerless liberal (potential) allies from evil pc identity-mongers.

That’s one mythological fantasy we’re way better off without.

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PatrickfromIowa 02.02.15 at 6:11 pm

@Zora. Fair enough. Hair triggers are almost always a bad idea.

I hang with feminists and academics, most of whom aren’t SF fans, online or off, so I can’t comment on whether occurrences in SF map onto occurrences among activists. Having been a fan of SF for a long time, I imagine they produce very different dynamics, but that’s probably because I engaged with SF when I was a nerdy middle-school boy, and I was a different person–and I hope, smarter–when I engaged with activism.

And, much as I love some of the stories, Harlan Ellison projected a jerk persona long before feminism had the tools to parse it closely.

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MPAVictoria 02.02.15 at 6:19 pm

“I hang with feminists and academics, most of whom aren’t SF fans, online or off, so I can’t comment on whether occurrences in SF map onto occurrences among activists. Having been a fan of SF for a long time, I imagine they produce very different dynamics, but that’s probably because I engaged with SF when I was a nerdy middle-school boy, and I was a different person–and I hope, smarter–when I engaged with activism.”

Well I am a SF fan and you can count me as someone who thinks that the recent changes in the community to become more welcoming to fans who are not white, heterosexual males is a very good thing.

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PatrickfromIowa 02.02.15 at 6:24 pm

“Well I am a SF fan and you can count me as someone who thinks that the recent changes in the community to become more welcoming to fans who are not white, heterosexual males is a very good thing.”

Totally agree.

And Zora, thanks for the links, even if they don’t provide cheerful reading.

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J Thomas 02.02.15 at 6:45 pm

#275 Patrick

No matter what Chait and some others may think, Chait is not “…a truly chivalrous knight — who with his steed and single lance and tireless quest for justice and noble action” defends the powerless liberal (potential) allies from evil pc identity-mongers.

Yes, 100% agreed! Chait is like the boy who cries wolf all the time, who wouldn’t know a real wolf until it ate him.

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J Thomas 02.02.15 at 6:50 pm

#277 MPAV

Well I am a SF fan and you can count me as someone who thinks that the recent changes in the community to become more welcoming to fans who are not white, heterosexual males is a very good thing.

I agree that it’s good to be more welcoming to fans who are not white, heterosexual males.

It bothers me that fandom is becoming much less welcoming to existing fans. I’d prefer it be a bigger tent with room for more diversity. Not that we throw out the indigenous people to make room for the new ones.

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MPAVictoria 02.02.15 at 7:01 pm

“Totally agree.”

I totally assumed that you did Patrick as you seem from your comments here to be pretty awesome.

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J. Parnell Thomas 02.02.15 at 7:02 pm

MPAVictoria, what about what J. Thomas just said???

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MPAVictoria 02.02.15 at 7:05 pm

“MPAVictoria, what about what J. Thomas just said???”

Who?

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J Thomas 02.02.15 at 7:22 pm

#276 Patrick

And, much as I love some of the stories, Harlan Ellison projected a jerk persona long before feminism had the tools to parse it closely.

I read his book about the time he spent with a NYC youth gang. He was projecting a jerk persona before he took up science fiction. He ran with this kid gang and arranged mostly not to do anything illegal himself. He claimed the gang assigned him an official girlfriend, and the gang leader speculated that Harlan was not actually having sex with her.

It was all background research for his first novel about street gangs, and it sold as nonfiction separately. By the time I read it, every sentence fit a stereotype, he would not have had to leave his apartment to write it. Possibly his book might have helped establish those stereotypes, but I suspected he was not actually having interactions with a street gang. He got arrested for owning concealable weapons, and when various people suggested he may have tipped the police off for a publicity stunt, he wrote that he threatened his agent to make him admit that the agent turned him in for a publicity stunt but the agent swore he didn’t do it. Ellison had no clue who else could have.

Then he got into science fiction where he got a sort-of-approving reputation for acting out. Fans who organized cons enjoyed talking about how unreasonable he had been to them — afterward.

He wasn’t the only one. Keith Laumer came to my school and told stories about how it’s important to take initiative. He saw a road-building crew doing something ecologically wrong and he stopped his car and told the crew chief to get that stopped. The crew chief asked why they should pay attention to him and he lied and said he was a senior EPA investigator. He got into some sort of altercation with a trucker who was driving badly, and the trucker started to force him off the road. They both stopped and the driver came to his car with a tire iron. Laumer bluffed and made the guy think that he was a psychotic killer and the truck driver ran away. Then after a long day lecturing and meeting fans etc, at the photo op he said something sarcastic to the camera guy who thought he was joking and said something sarcastic back, and then he was doing his psychotic killer imitation right there in front of us. I hadn’t completely believed his story until then.

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delia ruhe 02.02.15 at 10:36 pm

We used to call it “margin envy.”

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Robert Sieger 02.05.15 at 3:16 am

@Yastreblyansky: “When you’ve learned to spell “minuscule” you will be more successful at pretending to be an intellectual.”

Searing hurtful callout, dude. First of all, according to Google Dictionary, I didn’t misspell the word, but even if I had it’s a pretty pitiful branch to hang your hat on. Too bad you couldn’t address anything else. And why would you think I consider myself or would want to consider myself an intellectual? No evidence of that whatever in my comments.

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Yastreblyansky 02.05.15 at 1:42 pm

@Robert Sieger I really shouldn’t, but I figure nobody else is looking at this thread any more (I clicked the “notify me of follow-up comments” box). Your comment has nothing to address. You speculate for no reason and on no basis on Belle Waring’s social life, suggest that those of us who support the Affordable Care Act should not criticize Jonathan Chait’s pronouncements on any issue because he has supported the ACA too, claim irrelevantly and falsely that Jonathan Gruber “engineered” the ACA, and announce your “pride” in suffering from a phobia, which is a matter for you and your therapist. You’re right that I shouldn’t have accused you of pretending to be an intellectual, I should have said pretending to be something other than a troll.

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