But Wait…There’s More!

by Belle Waring on January 30, 2015

Since the thread is long now and it’s hard to respond to everyone individually, I thought I would post instead.

Objection 1: Chait has real-world examples of PC madness—you don’t even address those!

Counterpoints: In the opening anecdote, a guy wrote a relatively mild, not funny at all anti-feminist satire for the more conservative college paper in which he laughed about majoring in womyn’s studies (LOL), laughed about trigger warnings, and laughed about intersectionality. As if that’s a thing, right!? In response, some college kids egged his door, and the other more left-leaning paper he also wrote for told him they didn’t need his submissions any longer. Also, a thing happened in 1992 with terrifying monster of anti-man towering evil MacKinnon involved tangentially! Look, I’m sorry Chait, nothing in your article should have happened in 1992. (Yes, analogies, I know.)

Then, some people paying $55,000 a year to attend a private college decided they didn’t want one of the architects of the Iraq war to pick up a $100K check to speak at their graduation. Students protested against Condoleeza Rice on these grounds, against the head of the IMF because of its importance as an means of imposing capitalist norms on weakened developing nations, against a man who was most prominently known among the students themselves for a physically brutal crackdown on Occupy protestors at UCBerkeley, and against Ayaan Hirsi Ali, whom many regard as actively anti-Muslim, not just pro-religious-freedom in currently Muslim nations. They may have been neither entirely right nor entirely wrong in all these judgments, but preventing your school from paying money to rich, powerful people is not a form of stifling political correctness.

Also, too, at some schools some professors attach trigger warnings to their syllabi. Uh. I got nothing.

Yet further, a theater group at Mt Holyoke decided not to put on The Vagina Monologues because they felt their trans classmates would feel excluded by this in a visceral way, so they performed an alternative version that solicited first-person-reflections from women who don’t have vaginas also. Yeah, I got nothing here either.

Moving on, Chait reflects that while in the 90s, P.C. merely ruled academia with a brutal hand (thereby casting a long shadow on society to be sure, as we all remember from that dark time) now things are a billion times worse because there is social media. And that means money! Listen to this:

A year ago, for instance, a photographer compiled images of Fordham students displaying signs recounting “an instance of racial microaggression they have faced.” The stories ranged from uncomfortable (“No, where are you really from?”) to relatively innocuous (“ ‘Can you read this?’ He showed me a Japanese character on his phone”). BuzzFeed published part of her project, and it has since received more than 2 million views. This is not an anomaly.

NOT AN ANOMALY. That’s right, 2 million views! Think of the suffering that…ah. The… Well. Mooooving on:

Two and a half years ago, Hanna Rosin, a liberal journalist and longtime friend, wrote a book called The End of Men, which argued that a confluence of social and economic changes left women in a better position going forward than men, who were struggling to adapt to a new postindustrial order. Rosin, a self-identified feminist, has found herself unexpectedly [citation needed—ed.] assailed by feminist critics, who found her message of long-term female empowerment complacent and insufficiently concerned with the continuing reality of sexism. One Twitter hashtag, “#RIPpatriarchy,” became a label for critics to lampoon her thesis.

Her response since then has been to avoid committing a provocation, especially on Twitter. “If you tweet something straight­forwardly feminist, you immediately get a wave of love and favorites, but if you tweet something in a cranky feminist mode then the opposite happens,” she told me. “The price is too high; you feel like there might be banishment waiting for you.”

That’s right. Jonathan Chait’s friend and wife of #slatepitcher non pareil the actual editor of Slate.com wrote a #slatepitchy book in the most intentional fashion imaginable, hoping to sell it with its brave controversial stance. Then, something unbelievably horrible happened, that will make everyone take this PC threat a little more seriously, I hope: someone created a hashtag to make fun of her. Yes. A hashtag. Now, as a result, an intellectually battered Rosin is more careful about what she says on twitter. I will be holding a vigil later in which I hand out candles in dixie cups if anyone wishes to join in.

Shall I make fun of the next bit, where he explains how Marxist politics have taken over the left, and proves this by extensively quoting…MacKinnon from 30 years ago? No, OK? This is all bullshit.

2. Chait doesn’t complain about being criticized on twitter! You are psychoanalyzing him from a distance!

Yes, I am. One must look at this article not in a vacuum but in the context of his very public intellectual life over the past year. When you consider all the points I made with great linkish support below you will see that he is, in fact, crying like a little girl because people have tainted the memory of The “E.T.L.” Republic with their baseless calumny accurate recounting of its many sins against notions of racial equality, economic justice, and human rights for Palestinian people. Also, he got into a very public feud with a black intellectual, and he lost, and he has a lingering sense that people think he lost an argument (in part) about the social significance of racism because he’s a little tiny bit racist. He’s probably equi-racist with me, namely, actively trying not to be racist but sometimes failing and falling back onto unquestioned attitudes baked into our culture. No, see, but he honestly is just a teeny bit more racist in that I would never be presumptuous enough to write a “black people are poor because their culture is messed up” article. (If I somehow got myself there and I were factually rebutted by Ta-Nehesi Coates with rather painful politeness, I would shut up, too.) Chait knows we all think this and it is eating him like acid.

So, I say, again, people who whine like Chait want something special. They don’t want an open forum in which people can say anything they wish, contributing to a culture of free debate. (Re-read the linked article below where he cries about how it’s unfair that supporters of the Iraq War be told to shut up. People saying “shut up” are people saying a thing, surely, and part of a debate, surely?) On the contrary, they publicly lament the days when the lack of the internet meant that white men writing for The “E.T.L.” New Republic were gatekeepers who could shut out any troublesome voices bubbling up from the bottom of society. They think the fact that people can tweet snarky single-sentence takedowns of them is a bad development, and it was better for everyone when we would have had to wait till the next issue and see who made it into the Letters to the Editor. People like Chait also don’t merely want to be allowed to say whatever they wish about whomever they wish for the sake of debate itself. Because he can already say whatever he damn well pleases! Look at him go! What he wants is the right to both say things which are offensive to some people and remain a liberal in good standing once he has said them. This is a stupid right which no one should have. It amounts to calls for lèse-majesté to apply to The Right Sort of Person. He may say, right now, whatever he wishes, and people can say, right now, what they will, and if a great number of people side with his critics this proves they are wrong and are hive-minded Marxists? What if he chances to have said something genuinely offensive or wrong and stupid? Political Correctness would be helpful here surely. Chait wants to say offensive things and not be criticized.

{ 360 comments }

1

Belle Waring 01.30.15 at 3:12 am

OK, this didn’t make it in. If someone would like to write an intelligent, detailed article about stifling political correctness in a specific online milieu of twitter users and feminist tumblrs, or whatever, WITH LINKS, they should do that, and then we can talk about that. But Chait didn’t write anything like that at all and there’s no reason I should extend him so much argumentative charity that I go bankrupt over here constructing his argument for him. It’s like trying to make an Eiffel Tower out of popsicle sticks in Pre-K and my partner on the project uses each stick in turn like a nacho to eat paste off of and then just hands them to me all slimy. I have better things to do.

2

Sandwichman 01.30.15 at 3:14 am

“What he wants is the right to both say things which are offensive to some people and remain a liberal in good standing once he has said them.”

What they used to call “manly warmth.”

3

derrida derider 01.30.15 at 3:39 am

4

Black_Squirrel 01.30.15 at 3:54 am

against a man who was most prominently known among the students themselves for a physically brutal crackdown on Occupy protestors at UCBerkeley

Off-topic, but:

It never really made the press coverage of the situation, but Birgeneau was responsible for escalating the situation, not the “PC patrol.” The students asked for an apology for his actions at Berkeley and an opportunity for a dialogue with students, and he responded with a caustic How dare you whippersnappers criticize me? email.

Coming to a Quaker school having ordered protestors beaten, and vocally defending those actions? You’re damn right that you’re going to be invited to apologize and dialogue about that.

Fun fact: he never declined his invitation! Simply didn’t show up. Class act all the way.

5

Russell Arben Fox 01.30.15 at 4:05 am

Am I the only person left who still uses MacKinnon in lectures occasionally and thinks she got more right than wrong? I’m genuinely curious.

6

Corey Robin 01.30.15 at 4:14 am

When I used to teach civil rights and civil liberties, I taught a lot of her stuff. Lots of interesting things there on when speech is a form of action and so on. And a writer who knows how to seize a reader, who knows what a sentence is supposed to do. Definitely worth engaging with.

7

Belle Waring 01.30.15 at 4:17 am

No, she’s definitely got her good points. I’m just saying that she, along with Dworkin, are pretty tired bugbears to be dragging into an argument that takes place in 2015. They are the evil feminist boogeyman for scary stories about 90s political correctness; surely no one’s still scared now. Or rather, if that’s all you got…?

8

AH 01.30.15 at 4:20 am

I saw this beautiful example of the horrors of Political Correctness from David Frum pointed out on twitter,

“But the Obama administration’s unwillingness to stand alongside the people of France at a march to condemn the Charlie Hebdo massacre does matter. The refusal to pronounce the phrase “Islamist terrorism” matters.”

You hear that you censoring leftists? You better use the termonology I deem to be appropriate to describe world events or you are taking away my freedom!

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/01/liberals-and-the-illiberal-left/384988/

9

harry b 01.30.15 at 4:24 am

Russell — I suspect that most of the people who use MacKinnon as a bugbear have as much acquaintance with her writing as they did with Charlie Hebdo till 3 weeks ago.

10

Val 01.30.15 at 4:26 am

Thanks so much for taking the time and effort to do this Belle. I was getting a bit discouraged down there.

I’m interested in all this fundamentally because I’m interested in how do we move on from the old patriarchal world that you’ve identified so well here – the world where white men like Chait got to decide who could speak – to the newer, potentially more egalitarian and diverse world that we can perhaps see forming. But the discussion seems to get bogged down by people like Chait and some commenters here, who really I think, as you suggest, just want the old world where they were in charge, but can’t actually say so – so they have to make up all this stuff about how all the new people – the feminists and the people of colour and their lefty supporters – just can’t do anything right and just want to suppress people and trample on free speech and blah blah blah.

What can be done about it though? Can we just say, look folks things are going to change around here, so stop all the bullshit and let’s talk properly about this? Or am I kidding myself? Because I’m actually quite interested in their feelings and wouldn’t mind discussing them, but I just get fed up with all the bs and the name calling and misinterpretations and mansplaining and making things up and getting all offended and all the rest of it. (And in my experience, white men who feel they’re being criticized do get incredibly offended, though yeah, feminists can be pretty touchy at times. POC do sometimes seem to get angry, but in my limited experience, don’t seem to go in for the whole “how dare you say those awful things about me” stuff so much, maybe because that is the reaction of privilege?)

Anyway, I’m interested in what you think on how we go forward on this change, if you have time/inclination to answer.

11

Belle Waring 01.30.15 at 4:29 am

Yeah, both MacKinnon and Dworkin are interesting writers and neither deserves the automatic diss. I’m saying rather that I would have expected the right to have been able to conjure up/identify some threats to the liberal project of more recent vintage. That everyone must fall back on uncharitable readings of the same two women–and that, only of things they wrote quite some time ago–seems to indicate the weaknesses of the case for The Evil Feminists Destroying True Liberalism.

12

ZM 01.30.15 at 4:52 am

“On the contrary, they publicly lament the days when the lack of the internet meant that white men writing for The “E.T.L.” New Republic were gatekeepers who could shut out any troublesome voices bubbling up from the bottom of society”

I feel like someone should introduce Chait to our Liberal Prime Minister, who upon getting basically the entire country annoyed/feeling-like-mocking-him on Australia Day for choosing to Knight and Dame for the year just two Knights and no Dames with one Knight being the Queen’s husband – then in the afternoon twice asserted internet comments/twitter etc are merely “electronic graffiti” which no dignified newspaper should report – of course this led only to yet more annoyance and worse

13

Russell L. Carter 01.30.15 at 5:00 am

Matthew Iglesias, (known to be unreliable occasionally, I am aware) does, I believe, drill down most efficiently to the main problem here:

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

I would love an explanation of why his interpretation is inconsistent, if it is, with Belle’s (which I find naturally compelling).

14

Henry 01.30.15 at 5:02 am

I’ve a quarter-finished post on the Frum piece in the pipeline; would happily abandon it though if Belle were to decide to take him on (although how much unhappiness can a single family heap onto the head of a single longsuffering conservative pundit?)

15

Chris Mealy 01.30.15 at 5:20 am

I’ll admit it, I was a Chait fan for a long time. Probably from 2005 to 2010 or so. I even read his book (which was a pretty good imitation of Dean Baker). Was he always dodgy, and I just didn’t notice because he was writing about Republican atrocities? I remember feeling embarrassed for him around the time Martin Peretz started blogging, when Chait would occasionally and always unsuccessfully try to defend his boss.

16

adam.smith 01.30.15 at 5:39 am

@15 Chait is a solid liberal writer on economic policy; on taxes, in particular. I also think he can be a fun writer, especially when he’s snarky, though I’m sure that’s a matter of taste.

But yes, he has always liked to punch the hippies and monitor the halls of what’s permissible liberal discourse. I’ve linked, in the other thread, to Henry’s comparatively gentle takedown of Chait’s handwringing over the fact that “the Netroots” didn’t respect Lieberman enough–no reason not to link to it again here; it’s really a nice piece if you’re interested in Chait as a writer: http://crookedtimber.org/2007/05/04/chait-on-the-netroots/ (you can find Chait’s original piece online easily. The link from CT is dead).

17

Michael Drew 01.30.15 at 5:49 am

People saying “shut up” are people saying a thing, surely, and part of a debate, surely?

Yes to the first; not really to the second. Not really what we have in mind, no.

I appreciate your 3:12 admission that basically what he says is going on in online feminist circles is going on.

18

Roger Gathmann 01.30.15 at 5:55 am

ah, will be interesting to see how TNR alums receive the huge slap in the face delivered by Jeter Heer in the current TNR – which, I think, is a pretty brilliant move, since the whole mooing and crying squadron last month were on about the brilliance and wonderfulness of the mag. Now, the people who own its archive come out to rub their faces in it.
http://www.newrepublic.com/article/120884/new-republics-legacy-race
I love this. And I love how it gives us a meaty context for what Chait’s TNR was doing in the 90s, while supposedly PC ruled.

19

MPAVictoria 01.30.15 at 6:03 am

Jeet Heer is fantastic. You should all follow him on twitter.

20

Jacques René Giguère 01.30.15 at 6:04 am

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is not just somebody whom some rich idiots think as anti-muslim. She is someone who was horribly mutilated by people who think they are and present themselves as muslims and whom the rich idiots think of as muslims and defend their right to mutilate women. As for what McKinnon think of Ayaan Hirsi Ali mutilation, I haven’t heard nothing.

21

Michael Drew 01.30.15 at 6:18 am

“No, see, but he honestly is just a teeny bit more racist [than I].”

This is always and forever where it really is at for white academics. It’s that simple. That’s the fight.

Those were two good, long paragraphs stating what it is you need to be the case about Jonathan Chait.

22

MPAVictoria 01.30.15 at 6:45 am

Michael I would like to ask you two questions. Can you think about them and respond please?

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 hear something that they find offensive, inaccurate or demeaning they should just shut up and be quiet?

Thank you.

23

Michael Drew 01.30.15 at 6:59 am

No, and no.

Thank you.

24

MPAVictoria 01.30.15 at 7:03 am

Thank you Michael.

So what do you think marginalized people should do?

25

MPAVictoria 01.30.15 at 7:05 am

I mean apparently calling people out is unacceptable to you and Chait. So….?

Thank you.

26

Michael Drew 01.30.15 at 7:05 am

Use judgement and treat people with respect.

27

MPAVictoria 01.30.15 at 7:07 am

“Use judgement and treat people with respect.”

And you feel they are not doing this?

28

Michael Drew 01.30.15 at 7:09 am

No such thing should be apparent to you about me. It’s entirely acceptable very often, but I may wish it happened a bit more civilly a bit more of the time, and that a bit more often people would choose to make the point they need to make in a way consciously crafted to draw offenders in and further dialogue rather than consciously crafted to single out, shame, and embarrass them.

But maybe people can’t do that. And that, too, is acceptable.

29

Michael Drew 01.30.15 at 7:10 am

I’m not sure exactly how often they fail to exactly how badly, but in my experience, not always, no.

30

MPAVictoria 01.30.15 at 7:10 am

So do you feel it is the responsibility of the oppressed to be polite?

31

MPAVictoria 01.30.15 at 7:11 am

I mean shouldn’t the onus be on the people with the power?

32

W.T. Dore 01.30.15 at 7:15 am

Belle Waring,
A phrase you might find helpful is “call-out culture,” and I think the piece you asked for is somewhere in the links of these two posts: privilege-checking and call-out culture and Justice does not take the shape of punishment eagerly dispensed

33

Belle Waring 01.30.15 at 7:17 am

Michael Drew: surely is has come to your attention that I am a facetious person? If there is a group of people debating on the topic of US intervention (as it is often sanitarily termed) and a goodly number of those people were aggressively wrong about the biggest American military disaster of the last…um let’s say 15 years but I don’t know that Afghanistan is turning out so nicely–anyway, is it tout court wrong for the other members of the group to say they do not wish to hear anything further from the former? Is this an invalid sentiment? Should people not be allowed to say, “shut up about your great idea for pinprick strikes on ISIL, dude that ‘didn’t think hard about the occupation of Iraq’? Because Jonathan Chait actually thinks people shouldn’t tell him to shut up. Not that he shouldn’t shut up, since by gum he has not shut up one bit, but that people shouldn’t even be allowed to SAY “shut up about Iraq, Jonathan Chait.” That is really a very peculiar view and I am surprised anyone not named Jonathan Chait subscribes to it. I, personally, ‘went a bit Hitchens’ after 9/11 as my husband put it, and thought it would be a good idea to invade Iraq. This was an unbelievably stupid, cruel, malicious and idiotic thing for me to do. I quickly realized this and publicly recanted, as one does. Nonetheless, there it is, and if I were to try to say something meaningful about Syria right now and you were to say, “Belle Waring, shut the fuck up,” I would feel kind of embarrassed and sad, but I would think it was a totally reasonable thing for you to say! Here’s the trick: I wouldn’t have to shut up because you can’t make me. But I would have to acknowledge that as a perfectly legitimate thing for you to say. It wouldn’t be PC silencing. It would be me facing the consequences of my actions. Why should Chait be immune?

34

Michael Drew 01.30.15 at 7:18 am

Yes, it’s everyone’s, up until a certain point that I can’t name. Obviously I don’t expect the oppressed to be unfailingly polite at all times. Hell, I only expect them to barely avoid using violence with great effort at times of extreme stress.

The onus should be on the powerful moreso than on the oppressed, yes. So where someone is being belligerently offensive, I don’t expect anyone to be polite to them. But where someone is offensive out of ignorance or an honest inability to initially understand the perspective they need to take in a given situation, I would like people to be polite about it, yes.

Which do you think was the case in the case of the examples Freddie cites or the examples of things people like Michelle Goldberg or Samhita Mukhopadhyay have seen?

35

Michael Drew 01.30.15 at 7:19 am

Is this an invalid sentiment?

It’s a valid sentiment, but that doesn’t mean it’s debate.

36

MPAVictoria 01.30.15 at 7:21 am

“Which do you think was the case in the case of the examples Freddie cites or the examples of things people like Michelle Goldberg or Samhita Mukhopadhyay have seen?”

I would say that these are BY far the minority of cases and that by attacking the idea of “political correctness” people like Freddy and Chait look hypocritical and self serving. The idea that you should be careful what you say because it might hurt or discriminate against someone is a good thing.

What do you think?

37

Michael Drew 01.30.15 at 7:24 am

Jonathan Chait actually thinks people shouldn’t tell him to shut up. Not that he shouldn’t shut up, since by gum he has not shut up one bit, but that people shouldn’t even be allowed to SAY “shut up

Jonathan Chait may think people shouldn’t tell him to shut up. Or he may just think that doing so doesn’t constitute debate and doesn’t further debate and may hinder debate. But either way, neither of those constitutes thinking that people shouldn’t be allowed to say shut up.

38

Belle Waring 01.30.15 at 7:25 am

Really? “Your past failure of judgment in this precise area means there is no point in listening to you confidently pontificate about it further, especially given that you have never been willing to interrogate the source or nature of your failings.” This is not debate? It is agonistic, certainly, but not to the exclusion of being debate. I am surprised you would go to the mat for this.

39

Michael Drew 01.30.15 at 7:30 am

I agree it is a good thing to be careful about that, but I care about what means we use to promote others sharing that belief. Saying something is a “minority of cases” raises the question of what the denominator is that you are using. I genuinely am unclear on that.

I am more concerned about the kind of harassment people like Anita Sarkeesian receive, but that’s not for me reason not to be at all concerned about the kind of behavior and the feelings they create that Freddie or Michelle Goldberg have seen and written about.

40

Michael Drew 01.30.15 at 7:31 am

“Your past failure of judgment in this precise area means there is no point in listening to you confidently pontificate about it further, especially given that you have never been willing to interrogate the source or nature of your failings.”

I don’t recognize that as debate, no. I’m surprised you are surprised.

41

MPAVictoria 01.30.15 at 7:33 am

Michael do you believe that the “problem” identified by Chait is more or less important than the fact that marginalized voices go unheard in our society?

Do you think that Chait’s article is going to lead to more or less participation of marginalized voices in our society?

Thank you.

42

Michael Drew 01.30.15 at 7:37 am

I think the problem identified by Chait is less important than the fact that marginalized voices go unheard in our society. But I also think that the problem identified by Chait contributes to the fact that marginalized voices go unheard in our society.

I don’t think Chait’s article is well-written enough think to lead to more participation of marginalized voices in our society. I also don’t think it will lead to much less of it. But I do think that effectively addressing the problem identified by Chait, something I don’t think Chait’s article will help do, would lead to more participation of marginalized voices in our society.

43

Michael Drew 01.30.15 at 7:38 am

…would lead to more and more effective participation of marginalized voices in our society, that is.

44

MPAVictoria 01.30.15 at 7:41 am

“…would lead to more and more effective participation of marginalized voices in our society, that is.”
so you believe that being told by a white male writer how they should best engage will lead to more participation? Do you think that is likely?

“I think the problem identified by Chait is less important than the fact that marginalized voices go unheard in our society. “
Thank you. I agree. In fact, I think it is so much less important that I have to wonder why Chait even raised it.

45

Michael Drew 01.30.15 at 7:43 am

so you believe that being told by a white male writer how they should best engage will lead to more participation?

That’s exactly what I made an ostentatious point of not saying.

46

MPAVictoria 01.30.15 at 7:46 am

Ah. So I misread you. My apologies.

47

Michael Drew 01.30.15 at 7:48 am

That’s a pretty elementary misread.

48

MPAVictoria 01.30.15 at 7:53 am

So we agree that marginalized voices are more important than Chait’s or Freddie’s feelings. We agree that “political correctness” has been a social good. Fantastic! I feel we are close to a break though here Michael.

So do you wonder why Chait has to go back to 1991 for examples of political correctness gone too far? And that many of his “examples”, such as the photo montage and trigger warnings, are things that most people would argue are positive not negative examples of cultural change and expression? I mean his list of actual problems seem pretty small when you compare it to the list of positives.

So why write the article? I think he was mad. Mad about other people, people he didn’t think we’re worthy, judging him. Do you think that could be a possibility?

Digby pointed out that he said many of the same things about the “netroots” back in 2007. Maybe Chait just doesn’t like to be questioned by those he considers social inferiors. Are you open to that as a possibility?

Thanks.

49

MPAVictoria 01.30.15 at 7:54 am

“That’s a pretty elementary misread.”

Well perhaps you are much smarter than I. But alas I must do what I can with the resources I have.

50

Soru 01.30.15 at 8:00 am

@40

have you not looked particularly carefully at the list of people on whom those tactics were applied?

Silencing tactics, especially when applied by relatively small and unpopular groups, are fairly weak things. So they are unlikely to do much to the powerful, or their pet columnists.

So, naturally, when something like come to wider attention, it is likely because some white wealthy male guy had sufficient social prestige to ignore them.

But then you take a minute go back and find out who they did work on, then more or less by definition it will be a list of people who didn’t, in fact, have sufficient social power to shrug them off. Which means in general they will be disprortionately non-rich, non-male, non-white.

For example, these guys:

http://laurajmixon.com/2014/11/a-report-on-damage-done-by-one-individual-under-several-names/

51

P O'Neill 01.30.15 at 8:02 am

Chait’s period of reference is striking. The only thing missing is the “water buffalo.”

52

lurker 01.30.15 at 8:05 am

‘I appreciate your 3:12 admission that basically what he says is going on in online feminist circles is going on.’ (Michael Drew, 17)
You mean there are manipulative/sectarian/mendacious/etc. people on ‘your side’? Feminists are people too? The bastards.

53

Belle Waring 01.30.15 at 8:09 am

I agree with MPAV here on the larger question. There is no doubt that if you comb academe you will find some genuine abuse of PC somewhere. But these cases are dramatically outweighed by the fact that PC is, as I said, a rare source of power for liberal causes in society. Slowly, ever so slowly, it is becoming unacceptable to call things that are unsatisfactory “gay.” This seems trivial but I think it matters a lot to children who feel they might be gay. There is a huge world of human interaction in which people say varying terrible things to one another all the time. I got called a cunt about three hours ago by an MRA who disliked my views on whether women owed men attention in clubs if the men bought them unsolicited drinks. I get called that on a pretty frequent basis if I comment with a female handle and argue about feminism. I think that concerted efforts to enforce minimal standards of politeness are much more likely to help than to hurt, and seeing powerful white men struggle to find victims makes me suspicious of their motives. And look, literally not one person addressed the part of my original post where I explained that I’m an actual rape victim who just got told by Jonathan Chait that I was wrong when I thought it was helpful to ask other people to warn me whether a book had a graphic description of rape in it before reading. That is, however much you may hate the word, pretty much the most mansplainy thing he could ever have said to me as his reader and presumptive co-equal. I’m too stupid to know this? I should listen to him why?

54

MPAVictoria 01.30.15 at 8:11 am

Soru at 49.

Belle at 52 pretty much says what I wish I was eloquent enough to say.

So read her and pretend it was me and then reflect on the error of your ways.

;-)

55

MPAVictoria 01.30.15 at 8:14 am

“You mean there are manipulative/sectarian/mendacious/etc. people on ‘your side’? Feminists are people too? The bastards.”

Yeah it seems a bit much to ask of political correctness that it be used correctly and appropriately 100% of the time. Very few tools are used correctly 100% of the time after all.

56

js. 01.30.15 at 8:29 am

Belle,

One small point of disagreement. You keep saying re the Coates/Chait argument that Chait lost. That’s not right. What happened was that Chait got his ass handed to him. On a plate. With his own selected words as garnish.

Otherwise, tho, yes! A thousand times!

57

Belle Waring 01.30.15 at 8:36 am

Yeah, I was being nice about it. It was almost painful to read that exchange. Um, Chait has written plenty of solid things on economic issues, ever

58

js. 01.30.15 at 8:36 am

Re Harry/Belle/Corey, etc.:

Laura Kipnis had a great piece about Dworkin a few years back. I think it was in the Nation and I imagine you all know it, but I’ll maybe try to look it up and post a link tomorrow. It was great, in a very Kipnis-ish sort of way.

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js. 01.30.15 at 8:47 am

It was almost painful to read that exchange.

Yeah, cringe-worthy. But sorta kinda awesome. I loved Coates before that, but I had some whole new kind of respect after.

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Michael Drew 01.30.15 at 8:50 am

I’m open to pretty much whatever as a possibility. But all that about whom he’s mad at really isn;t necessary to assess his arguments, nor is there evidence to support the assertions made in the OP, which contrast strikingly with your modest queries about what is merely possible.

I don’t wonder why Chait has to go back to 1991 for examples, because he doesn’t have to. He revisits some history to set the context for this discussion as he sees it. As is standard practice in an article like this.

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Belle Waring 01.30.15 at 8:56 am

I lost interest after the specific “outrages” I discussed in the first part of this post; do you actually think any of them merits more respect than I showed them, Michael Drew? If so, which? The re-vamped Vagina Monologues? A Buzzfeed post? What?

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Michael Drew 01.30.15 at 8:57 am

Belle,

I don’t dig all of his examples. I don’t see any reason for him to have a problem with requesting, even demanding trigger warnings. There is absolutely no problem at all that I can see with a theater department simply deciding against staging The Vagina Monologues. (I see more of a problem with protesting a decision to stage a play with the aim of and succeeding in preventing it from happening after the decision to (try to) do it has been made. That is indeed silencing.)

But Chait gets to have an opinion. I don’t hate the term mansplainy, I just don’t think it always matters all that much. He has a view of trigger warnings that rankles you for good reason, and that reason is a clear lack of sensitivity to the reason for them on his part. That’s… a disagreement. That’s what that is.

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Michael Drew 01.30.15 at 9:00 am

I’m not concerned with how much respect you are or aren’t showing to Chait. Do what you want; you’re gonna be you regardless. My concern is mostly for people in less secure positions than you or him, like the ones Freddie talks about. And Chait’s piece is presumably targeted toward people who might possibly be a bit more persuadable on some of this than you are. You do you.

64

Pete 01.30.15 at 9:20 am

Nobody has mentioned this blog reply to Chait: http://fredrikdeboer.com/2015/01/29/i-dont-know-what-to-do-you-guys/

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Michael Drew 01.30.15 at 9:24 am

I mention it when I mention “Freddie”; it’s what I’m referring to when I say “Freddie” in this thread.

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dax 01.30.15 at 9:37 am

” preventing your school from paying money to rich, powerful people is not a form of stifling political correctness”

I wasn’t actually aware of this as the crux of the argument. For Lagarde (about the only one of the protests I followed) the question was one of representation – the students understood that a commencement speaker was representing them in some way, and they didn’t want to be represented by her.

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Belle Waring 01.30.15 at 9:42 am

It wasn’t even the fucking theater department! It was the student theater/repertory group who put “The Vagina Monologues” on annually for many years. Some people did object, so the group made a communal decision to put on a performance that included trans women’s voices. They couldn’t just put on “The Vagina Monologues–But Plus These Three Trans Experiences” because Eve Ensler is very particular about it being staged as written. This is literally the most benign, inclusive thing I have ever heard. How weak is Jonathan Chait’s case that when he went searching for cases of Political Correctness Run Amok he had to put this in there? I submit that his case was very weak indeed, Michael Drew. Followed with what, his friend writes an intentionally contrarian take on feminism and the triumph of women in modern society, gets mocked by people pointing out that it appears the patriarchy is alive and well, and as a result–she is ‘more wary’ about what she tweets? Oh boy that sounds like history’s greatest tragedy, doesn’t it. She must look back to those halcyon days when she just tweeted whatthefuckever with regret, huh? I’m willing to separately respond to what Freddie DeBoer has after I read it, but it’s going to be more convincing than Chait. I mean, it would be hard for it to be less convincing.

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Belle Waring 01.30.15 at 9:49 am

dax: the commencement speaker forms a crucial part of your graduation day and does represent you in that way, but there is also the fact that the university is shelling out high dollar for these appearances. When you look at the finances of former political figures you see that fees from universities for commencements, companies holding seminars, and other organizational shindigs of that type are a source of continuous five- and six-figure fees. I think students rightly object that they could give a poor student a full ride for a year, including tuition room, board, books and expenses for the same amount it would cost them to have Condoleeza Rice’s bloody hands draped over the podium.

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dax 01.30.15 at 9:59 am

Obviously we-are-paying-lots-of-money can be an argument used. But that wasn’t (historically) the main argument used by the students.

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/reconsider-the-smith-college-2014-commencement

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Michael Drew 01.30.15 at 10:12 am

It’s not even the fucking theater department! So the fuck what! Everything you say about that example I agree with!

Except one thing. Chait doesn’t say it’s an example of political correctness run amok. As with many of the examples people are saying he says that about, it’s just part of his sketch of growing political correctness, a trend we all seem to concede is happening, just disagree about the balance of gains and harms it represents, and which examples of it are troubling. He views that as on balance not a good thing, which people are entirely welcome to disagree with. But not every one of his examples is meant as an individual example of the trend gone amok. The eggs; the littering; the jobs targeted; I’d argue the protesting of plays that have been elected to be performed with the intent to get them canceled, and speakers heckled away from campus; various feminists saying they aren’t just more careful about what they tweet, but that they are afraid to speak at all in certain forums – those in my view are. YMMV. So what if our mileage on these vary?

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Michael Drew 01.30.15 at 10:16 am

Btw, I’m a weirdo and tend to be up all night anyway. You said you were going to bed. If any of this means you lost a night of sleep over this, I regret that immensely and I’m really sorry. I hope that didn’t happen.

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Belle Waring 01.30.15 at 10:34 am

Oh I was going to bed ages ago and woke up again; it’s been daytime the whole time here in Singapore ;-)

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Michael Drew 01.30.15 at 10:39 am

Right, it occurred to me I had no idea where you were except for a vague sense you probably weren’t on this continent just after I submitted that.

I enjoyed this. I fully understand your position. Or at least, I think I understand where you’re coming from, and respect it. Have a good day.

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Chris Purcell 01.30.15 at 11:11 am

“he is, in fact, crying like a little girl”

Nit: Boys and girls cry the same way. “Little child” would have less unconscious bias.

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soru 01.30.15 at 12:34 pm

MPAVictoria @53:

Can you show you working on how exactly you get from an account of Belle providing an example of herself being (unsuccessfully) bullied into silence to your idea that silencing and bullying are good things?

Sure, First World problems, smaller than climate change, Syria or Greece.

But, nevertheless, bad things, so if you are going to spend time talking about them at all then it seems worth taking the right side?

Presumably it is not that you would need a comprehensive audit of all the targets moral, political and economic statuses, taking all intersectional factors into account, before you would say it was justified to send them a rape threat?

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novakant 01.30.15 at 12:36 pm

$55.000/year – bloody hell!

It’s more like some rich people are telling other rich people that they don’t like them.

And that’s cool, I would rather have liberal rich people than right-wing rich people, but it still seems to me the whole system is pretty rotten to the core, especially since we are talking about being inclusive of minorities / oppressed / alienated people.

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magistra 01.30.15 at 1:29 pm

Soru@73

No-one is defending rape threats: in fact you’re the first person to mention them in this thread. But complaints about ‘bullying’ are essentially already about power: if you’re having very rude things said about you, it matters a lot how much support you’ve got socially and politically. When you have white feminists who have columns in prominent publications, for example, claiming they are victims of ‘bullying’ and ‘silencing’ because of hostile things said by much less prominent and powerful black activists, the power imbalance is significant.

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Val 01.30.15 at 1:34 pm

A feminist pop culture commentator (Lauren Rosewarne) wrote an article on the website of our public broadcaster expressing concern that the female actresses in the all female remake of Ghostbusters are being set up to fail, because remakes of very popular films always disappoint.

This is what one guy wrote in the comments:
“mike j:
29 Jan 2015 1:56:08pm
In reality, the likelihood of women monopolising a hazardous profession like busting ghosts is vanishingly small. Over 95% of workplace fatalities are male, and closer to 98% in the military. Women are too sensible to risk life and limb to get ahead or support their families when they could simply marry well, pop out a couple of welfare babies, or get an easy, low-skilled job as a child carer and then complain about gender wage discrimination.”

I swear to you, he is writing that seriously, not as a joke. I mean it’s hilariously funny, (in a way, although in another way it fills me with hatred and rage) but he wasn’t writing it to be funny.

There was another article on the same site about the gender pay gap. It was an analysis using figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and one commenter said that he or she (it could in fact have been a woman in this case) would like to see a non feminist analysis of the statistics, because it would be different.

They were probably the most ridiculously egregious of the comments, but there were hundreds more that were nearly as stupid. I may be showing up my compatriots as idiots, but I’m pretty certain it’s the same in the UK or USA. If anyone wonders why feminists get enraged, you have to realise that there are these huge steaming piles of stupid everywhere. It’s just too much, sometimes.

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AB 01.30.15 at 1:39 pm

Just want to say, excellent and very persuasive piece, Belle. Thanks. PArticularly agree about how Chait and other writers obviously long for ‘good old days’ when the great liberal conversation could be conducted by white men who agreed on certain ground rules.

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Belle Waring 01.30.15 at 2:08 pm

OK now I’m going to bed again, but OMG val you are killing me with the Ghostbusters thing. I thought I had seen every dumb butthurt reaction from dudes on the internet who are having their childhood innocence torn to shreds by the perfidious machinations of misandrists, but that really takes the cake, there. You have to link to it PLEASE I must see it and show it to everyone; it is just sheer perfection.

Other readers, I will read Freedie DeBoer’s post and respond to it; I’m certainly willing to believe there has been some bad situation somewhere ever. I’m just not remotely convinced by Chait.

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Jacques René Giguère 01.30.15 at 2:19 pm

“expressing concern that the female actresses in the all female remake of Ghostbusters are being set up to fail, because remakes of very popular films always disappoint.”
A producer might be sadly mistaken or weirdly optimistic about his next project profitability. But he will ,on purpose, use his time and money to publicly make a fool of himself just to “set up to fail” actresses?
This is the kind of random synaptic connections that passes for thought in some circles. Is it surprising that no sentient being is tempted to reply and the field is left to other of the same level of electron-killing ability?

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Lynne 01.30.15 at 2:42 pm

I’ve been reading these threads and so far haven’t commented, though I intended to comment on the first one after I’d read the links. Then I made the mistake I often make and read the comments…and had no idea what to say. Everyone was galloping in a direction I hadn’t foreseen.

I still feel a little lost but I will venture this: I first encountered the term “politically correct” in the 1980s while I was in an activist group, and right from the get-go it struck me as chilling, even though my friends used it lightly. But it was like cleaver, it could divide, without nuance, any statements into two groups, the correct or the incorrect. It ended discussions rather than opening them up.

After being an active feminist for a number of years I turned my attention elsewhere and didn’t read about feminism on the internet (when I finally got there) until a few years ago when a younger friend in her 30s was talking to me about feminism and how distressing and off-putting all her encounters on feminist sites had been. I didn’t go to the sites right away, I just talked to her about feminism as I understood it which came as a surprise to her after her online experiences. But when I did go, I discovered that there have been a lot of changes in feminist discussion in the decades I wasn’t paying attention, including some that I really disagree with. And those I disagree with I have never yet dared to discuss online. I really think the left would howl at me, including the leftists and feminists here. I don’t want to get too much into that in this thread, but the divisiveness of discussions I saw was really, really depressing. No mention of sisterhood, no supportive listening to someone’s personal experience to understand it, together, politically. I really couldn’t bear it and haven’t been back.

So one thing I took from the Chait piece was that yes, people can be silenced by the PC forces, and online I am one of them, so far.

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AB 01.30.15 at 2:45 pm

Belle: may I ask, have you been involved in campus-based lefty activism in the US/UK/Europe in the last couple of years? If this is a stupid question, forgive me. If not, can I plead for a little caution before you suggest that Freddie’s examples are trivial and cherry-picked. In my experience they are typical and that stuff is pretty endemic.

I don’t think, as Freddie and many others seem to, that it is simply a matter of a bad culture, or a conflict between those who want to build as broad solidarity as possible and those who want to maintain the purity of the activist nucleus. I think it is a result of real substantive political differences within the left-activist community. For instance the three-way divide between [1] “old-school” radical feminists, anti-prostitution, anti-porn, focused on biological women [2] pro-trans pro-sexworker feminists (many of whom identify as trans or genderqueer) [3] “old-school” marxists (often male) who don’t much care either way and think we should be focussing on something else. A second conflict (very prominent in the UK in the last year or so) is between two factions of the far left who now spend almost all the time accusing one another of Islamophobia and Antisemitism respectively. There is an emphasis not only on trying to completely exclude opponents from one’s own group in order to create “safe space”, but to prevent them from meeting, organising, holding debates anywhere, on the grounds that their very presence on any campus creates an unsafe space. It’s real, and it’s nasty. I’m not sure there is anything to be done though: it’s what happens when there is real deep disagreement among a fairly small group of politically engaged people without much connection to a wider movement.

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J Thomas 01.30.15 at 3:01 pm

#52 Belle Waring

PC is, as I said, a rare source of power for liberal causes in society. Slowly, ever so slowly, it is becoming unacceptable to call things that are unsatisfactory “gay.”

I doubt it will matter much about reforming the word “gay”. “Gay” used to mean joyous. Then it got appropriated to mean homosexual. Then it got appropriated again to mean inferior. By the time we can intimidate people into not using it to mean both homosexual and inferior, the slang will have changed out of all recognition, likely as not to something else we don’t like.

There is a huge world of human interaction in which people say varying terrible things to one another all the time. I got called a cunt about three hours ago by an MRA who disliked my views on whether women owed men attention in clubs if the men bought them unsolicited drinks. I get called that on a pretty frequent basis if I comment with a female handle and argue about feminism. I think that concerted efforts to enforce minimal standards of politeness are much more likely to help than to hurt, and seeing powerful white men struggle to find victims makes me suspicious of their motives.

Yes, people say terrible things to each other sometimes. They hurt each other’s feelings, because as human beings or members of status-oriented cultures or whatever we are, we have this sense that we should not be treated below our station.

It’s perfectly obvious to me that you don’t owe a man anything for buying you a drink you didn’t ask for. He has no business calling you a cunt for disagreeing with him even while you drink it, except that people who disagree about things sometimes call each other names and free speech and all that. It’s crass of him even if he technically has the right.

On the other hand it’s perfectly fine for you to ridicule men who disagree with you. You can call them mansplainers or whatever the word of the day is, and it isn’t really demeaning because … because first off, it’s true. you wouldn’t call them those names unless they really were mansplainers or whatever. And second, it’s OK for you to despise and ridicule people who disagree with you because you’re right and they’re wrong. If they were right then it would be fine for them to do it, but ….

So we ought to enforce minimal standards of politeness, and our methods of enforcing minimal standards of politeness is by being as rude as possible to people who violate them. If we’re mean enough to them then other people will see what happens to people who violate the new social norms and they will be careful. “Kill the sheep so the monkey will learn.”

I’m not sure I agree with all this, but my qualms about it come from moral relativism. When people who think they are right treat people terribly because they think the others are wrong, what if they are in fact not as right as they think they are? I mean sure, you have the moral right to do anything you feel like to people who are objectively wrong, but what if you make a mistake? What if to some extent you are the one who is doing terrible things when you shouldn’t?

But of course there can be no doubt that feminism is 100% right and anybody who disagrees with anything that gets called feminism is 100% wrong, so have at it! Well wait, maybe there are some things that can legitimately be called feminism that are not 100% right. But we have to stand with them against the common enemy until the enemy is defeated. Anyway, even if we do a few little bad things the enemy does much much worse. It’s OK to do anything you want to people who are morally worse than you are, right?

And feminists still don’t have much power, while the patriarchy has lots and lots of power. So if we occasionally do some minor injustice to men who don’t have enough power to protect themselves, it serves them right for not being 100% on our side! Not like we can do anything to the really powerful ones like Chait.

And if they are 100% on our side and we hurt them a little, no big deal. They’ll agree that they deserve it.

And if it’s fellow feminists who have the wrong ideas and we shame them for it? They deserve it for being wrong. As soon as they confess and accept the truth, then all is forgiven.

So I can mostly see it. After all, the enemy is crafty and ultimately cruel. You have to fight fire with fire, you can’t run a revolution like a dinner party. If there are isolated examples of feminists who treat other people as inferiors who have no rights, it doesn’t mean anything is wrong. Their inferiors probably deserve it. And anyway that whole status thing is embedded so deeply in the culture we’ll probably never get it out.

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Minnow 01.30.15 at 3:09 pm

“I swear to you, he is writing that seriously, not as a joke. I mean it’s hilariously funny, (in a way, although in another way it fills me with hatred and rage) but he wasn’t writing it to be funny.”

He was writing it as a troll, Val. That is obvious surely. He (or she) was fishing.

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Brett Bellmore 01.30.15 at 3:11 pm

“By the time we can intimidate people into not using it to mean both homosexual and inferior, the slang will have changed out of all recognition, likely as not to something else we don’t like.”

Yup, Iron Law of Euphemism. If a word has bad connotations, and you replace it with another word, but don’t change people’s opinions, the new word will come to have the same connotations. You just end up burning through the dictionary, rendering one word after another useless for it’s original purpose. Make it awkward to talk about sticks, or people who are cheerful and light hearted, and so on. Substituting words doesn’t change opinions.

At least the lesbians only piss off the people living on Lesbos, who have had a long time to get used to it.

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Minnow 01.30.15 at 3:17 pm

“Yup, Iron Law of Euphemism. If a word has bad connotations, and you replace it with another word, but don’t change people’s opinions, the new word will come to have the same connotations.”

The paradigm example being ‘cretin’.

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Cian 01.30.15 at 3:23 pm

So here’s my take on this, as offensive and mysogynistic as it might be.
1) Chait’s piece was just stupid for all the reasons that Belle said, and more. If you agree with him, you need to reexamine your life because you have made some bad life decisions. All of his examples are bad. Can we just move on… Please for the love of a non-patriarchal god.
2) I think we should all agree that oblivious white males casually using sexist language, or expressing racist thoughts, because they’re incurious should have their butts handed to them. Screw those guys. Basic civility says you don’t get to piss on the sidewalk – same rules apply to discourse. If you want to be part of normal society there are some rules you should damn well be following.
3) Good God, the internet makes it easy for stupid people with sexist views to express them as offensively as possible.

But… I think there’s a difference between that and the kind of stuff that Freddie was talking about. I think it’s a much newer phenomenon, and if you’re 40+ possibly not one you’ve come into contact (unless you’ve done the whole sectarian left thing in the past). And that’s largely about better educated/experienced ‘leftists’ shaming other ‘leftists’ for being insufficiently pure/educated/whatever. It’s almost always directed at people on the left, and it seems to be more about establishing in-groups and hierarchies, rather than achieving any real change.

And good god, the whole ‘check your privilege’ thing just needs to stop. Whatever utility that may once have had, it’s long since deteriated into annoying one upmanship.

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lemmycaution 01.30.15 at 3:42 pm

“Ayaan Hirsi Ali is not just somebody whom some rich idiots think as anti-muslim. She is someone who was horribly mutilated by people who think they are and present themselves as muslims and whom the rich idiots think of as muslims and defend their right to mutilate women. As for what McKinnon think of Ayaan Hirsi Ali mutilation, I haven’t heard nothing.”

Do you really think McKinnon is in favor of genital mutilation? LOL

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Jacques René Giguère 01.30.15 at 3:48 pm

No. Would have like people like her to tell the rich idiots they are rich idiots.

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Belle Waring 01.30.15 at 4:00 pm

Lynne: I would genuinely appreciate your linking to some of the sites where you feel that this forbidding, unpleasant version of feminism is playing itself out online. I don’t see it myself and maybe I am missing an important part of the picture (one which Chait is not even gesturing towards in any helpful way.) And I would also be interested to hear what things you feel you would like to say about feminism but feel afraid to say because you think people would tear you limb from limb here at Crooked Timber. If you’d like my express promise that I won’t say anything harsher than, “wow, that hasn’t been my experience at all and I really couldn’t possibly disagree with you more,” I’m happy to provide it. And, indeed, I would be glad to provide an entire safe thread for people to say things they think about modern leftism but are afraid to say for whatever reason, in which everyone either backs the fuck off harsh criticism or gets banned. I think it would be interesting and instructive. If you, other readers, are also interested then you should say so. Of course, there’s no way to guarantee that people won’t later say, “there’s Lynne the goat-fucker, remember when she admitted to fucking goats in that thread one time,” because people are dicks, but even that obstacle could be surmounted by inviting people to create disposable pseuds to comment in that one thread alone, and moderating it with Mjolnir the Banhammer. And by quashing that later behavior when I saw it, if it happened (the goat-fucking is my imaginary least charitable reading of your comment by some future asshole, naturally.)

AB it is not at all a dumb question and no, I haven’t been involved in activism of this kind while living here in Singapore. The work I would be most interested in doing is with NGOs that help abused domestic helpers, who are dependent upon their employers for permission to remain in the country and so are often trapped here if they want to try to get back wages they are owed. You would think the issue would be that Singapore is not the single friendliest place to political activism. But I am really too ill to have…very much of a life, actually, it’s depressing so I don’t talk about it much. I’m disabled by chronic, crippling pain. Vv. tedious. So yes, I may also be unaware of current realities on the ground in activist communities for that reason, although the specific divides you talk about aren’t as relevant here.

J. Thomas: it absolutely does make a difference whether, say frex, educated middle-class 20-year-olds will call a disappointing show “gay.” I recall in the early aughts Jonah Goldberg mentioned specifically that he had heard from a reader that kids still used “gay” to mean “lame” or “bogus” and that this made him happy. If you don’t think that matters to a gay 13-year-old you are being obtuse. As for the rest I take it that you think I am assuming I am 100% correct on every matter, demanding the utmost politesse from my political enemies, and then being scorched-earth crude to them in return. Well I am totally right, and you are completely fucking wrong and fuck you with a nopales cactus paddle! No, wait, jk. That was entirely the wrong thing to say. Rather, I believe my own beliefs are true just to the extent most people do, which is globally admitting doubt while in individual cases crediting my beliefs entirely, since that’s what they are there for. I am, in the current debate, saying that Political Correctness, both as broadly conceived and as for the very greatest part actually practiced, amounts to trying to educate myself and others on how to speak and act in a way that respects others who have historically been marginalized in our society. I think that’s a good thing. As to your final point, I talk shit about people for a hobby on the internet and invariably hit below the belt sometimes. I try to punch up and not down, and if I do otherwise I try to be educable and admit when I’m wrong.

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MPAVictoria 01.30.15 at 4:20 pm

Wow Lynne. I find it tragic that you felt silenced as you always have intelligent and humane things to say.

:-(

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lemmycaution 01.30.15 at 4:24 pm

That Freddie article made me think about this article:

http://valleywag.gawker.com/douchebags-like-you-are-ruining-san-francisco-512645164

I have never interacted with campus leftists, but I have interacted with SF tech dudes. I am sure there are dickheads in both groups, but most people are pretty polite. I understand why someone who wishes that the culture were a little different may want to cherish little nuggets of personally witnessed dickheaditry though.

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dn 01.30.15 at 4:25 pm

Speaking as one of the younger set here, I find it kind of remarkable how few of Chait’s sympathizers are willing to consider the possibility that maybe it’s just the Internet? In my own experience, people of my age group tend to be rather ambivalent about the Internet in general; it’s simply taken for granted by the young that the web is largely a cesspool, and that anything that rises above a pathetically low level of discourse is the exception. “YouTube comments” have been a running joke for years, long before we started hand-wringing about Tumblr feminism.

To the extent that the conversation really has gotten rougher, well, that’s what happens when a black man goes to the White House and tries to pass health-care reform. You can hardly expect the violence of the right-wing backlash not to prompt greater stridency from the left. We are human. We react to what we see going on around us. The Obama presidency has pushed so-called “identity politics” out of the intellectual ghetto and into the forefront of mass discourse. It is to be expected that things will get messy. There is very little to see here, people. Move on.

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Lynne 01.30.15 at 4:26 pm

Belle, what a generous response to my rather whiny comment. I love the idea of a safe thread for such a discussion. I should say that I could take harsh comments on the one subject I’m thinking of (sorry to sound so coy but I really can’t spend too much time on this right now) if —IF—I had been understood. It can be very difficult to make yourself understood on some subjects. Otherwise, well, I might have to take harsh comments, as everyone does, but I do tend to clam up if no communication is happening.

And of course I should link to the sites I mention but alas, I only remember one, which was Feministing, and maybe when I was there the discussions were not even representative of that site. You read the internet widely, I gather, and I hardly read anything, due partly to my eyes being sensitive to the glare of the screen, so if I read online a lot I end up with killer eye pain. So I imagine you are far more familiar with how feminism is discussed on the internet than I am. And if you like it, maybe I would like some of it, and as for the rest, maybe you and I would agree to disagree. Or one of us might even change her mind. ;)

The one feminist site I loved was Tiger Beatdown.

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Lynne 01.30.15 at 4:27 pm

Aw, MPAV, thanks. Really.

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AB 01.30.15 at 4:28 pm

Belle:I think the problems I am talking about are much less likely to arise in NGOs or for instance, trade unions. I think it arises much more often among (mostly young,middle-class) groups whose activism is consists on taking public stances on absolutely everything, whether through writing, tweeting, protesting or boycotting. (In sweden there is good word: plakatpolitik – “placard politics”). Perhaps part of the problem is that organisation is so loose that it becomes impossible to separate internal debate and discussion (where one needs a degree of freedom) from activism and propaganda (where one might require a degree of discipline).

J Thomas: Belle is right, you are being obtuse. Please, please, speak to some gay friends and ask them how they felt about people using “gay” at school to mean stupid/contemptible, and what a difference it made if/when teachers stood up to them.

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Minnow 01.30.15 at 4:32 pm

“If you don’t think that matters to a gay 13-year-old you are being obtuse.”

It will matter a lot to some and not at all to others. I have tested this by asking the son of a friend who is just starting university how he found getting through school as an out gay man (I was curious because we are thinking about the same school for our boy). he told me (us) that there was still plenty of casual homophobia but he was OK with it because there was no actual physical abuse, bullying or shunning so calling something ‘gay’ for bad seemed to him obtuse and ‘redneck’ (US slang is encroaching fast), but nothing to get upset about. It is just one example but it supports the view, to my mind, that words don’t matter very much, it is attitudes that have to change. Once the attitudes do, the words quickly lose their power and, often, just slip out of use naturally.

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Kiwanda 01.30.15 at 4:36 pm

I was happy to see Belle discussing Chait’s actual article, separate from a discussion of its author.

If it’s links that are needed, two relatively recent examples of malefactors motivated and/or enabled by their idea of social justice:

Michael Nugent thoroughly documents the continuing downward spiral of PZ Myers here.

SJ-excused trolling on steroids in the world of SF here.

These two fusterclucks alone may be sources of grim fascination for hours or maybe days.

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J Thomas 01.30.15 at 4:40 pm

#84 Cian

1) Chait’s piece was just stupid for all the reasons that Belle said, and more. If you agree with him, you need to reexamine your life because you have made some bad life decisions. All of his examples are bad. Can we just move on… Please for the love of a non-patriarchal god.

Agreed.

2) I think we should all agree that oblivious white males casually using sexist language, or expressing racist thoughts, because they’re incurious should have their butts handed to them. Screw those guys.

Agreed. Those guys don’t deserve to live. They are reactionary pieces of shit who have no right to an opinion. Keep a database of them, and whenever you see one of their names pop up anywhere quote them. “On July 12, 2014 you said “X”. You are a piece of shit who does not deserve to have an opinion about anything. Just go away and die, you miserable mansplaining imitation of a human being.”

There’s no reason we should have to put up with people like that. They shouldn’t have any rights.

But… I think there’s a difference between that and the kind of stuff that Freddie was talking about. I think it’s a much newer phenomenon, and if you’re 40+ possibly not one you’ve come into contact (unless you’ve done the whole sectarian left thing in the past). And that’s largely about better educated/experienced ‘leftists’ shaming other ‘leftists’ for being insufficiently pure/educated/whatever. It’s almost always directed at people on the left, and it seems to be more about establishing in-groups and hierarchies, rather than achieving any real change.

Well, but that’s pretty much inevitable isn’t it? You can’t have a picnic without a few ants. Real change is a long-term project, it won’t be completed in our lifetimes. So in the meantime it’s only natural that the best people will look down on the second-best people. Just live with it.

And good god, the whole ‘check your privilege’ thing just needs to stop. Whatever utility that may once have had, it’s long since deteriated into annoying one upmanship.

That makes some sense. But on the other hand, who are you to tell your betters what to do? If they tell you to check your privileges, maybe you’d better check your privileges. If they have less privilege than you, doesn’t that give them the right to decide whether you’re being blinded by your own status? You’re accusing them of one upsmanship, but if their thinking really is purer than yours, you need to humbly listen instead.

It will take a whole lot of effort over a long time to give up your existing doctrinaire ideas. In the meantime it’s probably better that you don’t try to guide the Movement. Let the Movement guide you.

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Bloix 01.30.15 at 4:42 pm

“Students protested … against a man who was most prominently known among the students themselves for a physically brutal crackdown on Occupy protestors at UCBerkeley,”

#4 Black Squirrel has said this already, but it bears repeating:

A man best known for ordering cops to use batons and pepper spray against non-violent student protestors was about to be given an honorary degree by a QUAKER COLLEGE. The administration’s lack of understanding of their own institution’s values was startling.

The students, in the best tradition of their college and the Quaker religion, invited him to MEET with them and DISCUSS what he’d done from the perspective of a commitment to non-violent social change. He declined to do so, and instead decided that he didn’t want the honorary degree after all.

And this event is quoted as an example of PC intolerance toward different points of view.

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lemmycaution 01.30.15 at 4:48 pm

Ayaan Hirsi Ali was not protested against because she was against genital mutilation. It was because she thinks Islam is “the new fascism” and that she wants a “war on Islam”.

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Minnow 01.30.15 at 4:49 pm

2Ayaan Hirsi Ali was not protested against because she was against genital mutilation. It was because she thinks Islam is “the new fascism” and that she wants a “war on Islam”.”

In other words, because she held opinions that some people do not want to be expressed.

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Jacques René Giguère 01.30.15 at 4:52 pm

My muslim family and my muslims colleagues think that the people the rich idiots are helping and admiring are new fascists and need to be warred against so that they can practice their religion in peace.

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MPAVictoria 01.30.15 at 4:52 pm

Kiwanda.

I read the second link and really wonder what you think it proves? Yes, some people are psychopaths. So?

Again no tool is perfect but in general the ideas behind modern p.c. culture are all good ones if we care about what disadvantaged people say.

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MPAVictoria 01.30.15 at 4:54 pm

J is your position that we should just politely listen while people say anything? That there should be no consequences for speech ever?

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JanieM 01.30.15 at 4:54 pm

In case I don’t get time to comment later, I at least want to thank Lynne and Belle. I wasn’t likely to open my metaphorical mouth on these threads (having had experience very recently at CT that would suggest I shouldn’t bother), but Lynne makes me a little ashamed and gives me a little courage. As does Belle’s response. (All aside from the brilliance of especially this second post on the topic.)

My experience has been something like Lynne’s, although my disgruntlement and distancing came long before the internet was ever a factor. There were only so many iterations and variations of “If you don’t see it my way, you can’t possibly have thought it through carefully enough” I was willing to put up with before I concluded that my time would be better spent in other ways.

I hope to get some time today to follow up, but I’m now quite a long way behind in reading both these threads, and I have work to do, so we’ll see. But I didn’t want to let the thread go by without saying thanks.

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John Garrett 01.30.15 at 5:01 pm

Deja vu all over again for us on the left. You want to see real diatribe (although generally without obscenities) try the annals of the CPUSA from the Nazi-Soviet Pact through, say, 1950. They were much better at it, from all their fractured perspectives, than anyone today. And it meant about as little. For all us white guys, the job is not to bitch but to change: what did you do the last time you saw a smaller kid being bullied? What did you do the last time you overheard the boys telling women and gay bashing jokes? What did you do the last time your kid said something was “gay” meaning no good? If you don’t intervene, each and every time, whatever your stated beliefs you are a piece of shit.

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J Thomas 01.30.15 at 5:03 pm

#93 AB

Belle is right, you are being obtuse. Please, please, speak to some gay friends and ask them how they felt about people using “gay” at school to mean stupid/contemptible, and what a difference it made if/when teachers stood up to them.

Of course, we don’t want homosexual students to feel bad about other students’ opinions.

My only real experience with that in a school context, came when I was teaching at a live-in high school for the fine arts. In one of my classes a student expressed her distaste for her gay classmates being too overt in the showers, because she didn’t want to see it. She made a disgusted face. I asked her major; she was a ballet major. I pointed out that apart from writers, artists mostly had to get along with gays because that’s how it is in the arts. A writer can go a long time without meeting his publisher, and then after 20 years if he stops by the office the publisher may or may not buy him a cheeseburger. But everybody else has to live in society with the other artists, so she needed to cope. The next day I got called in to talk to the principal. A gay student had called her parents to complain about me. I was not supposed to let them discuss it. In class that day a student asked me why I had seen the principal, and I said there had been a complaint about the gay talk. The next day I was called in to see the principal again, the student had complained that I told the class I had seen the principal about it. After that the students were very good about never mentioning the topic in any way.

I am not sure what conclusions to draw from this.

Anyway, Belle was saying that we are very gradually getting people to stop using “gay”. I think the short-term benefit of supporting gay students who feel upset that some people disapprove of them can be good, while the long-run effect of attempts to top-down change the slang that kids use will be zilch.

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Alex 01.30.15 at 5:23 pm

Chait wants to say offensive things and not be criticized.

I just don’t know where you’re getting this from. Are you assuming this must be his motivation? I think he’s pretty clear that he’s not against criticism of any argument or idea based on moral, philosophical, logical, or factual arguments. I mean, isn’t he just saying “don’t try to end arguments based on anything other than counter-arguments” and “don’t exclude anyone from the conversation”? Those may be good or bad ideas, but they dont’ strike me as self-pity or a rejection of any criticism. (I don’t Chait particularly needs defending; I’m trying to understand what you’re saying and why.)

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parse 01.30.15 at 5:24 pm

So do you feel it is the responsibility of the oppressed to be polite?

That’s an interesting question in light of Belle’s observation that 98% of what people angrily claim is “Political Correctness” is just manners. Politeness.

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AcademicLurker 01.30.15 at 5:25 pm

MPAV@99: Do you really think that the only lesson to be drawn from the career of the SF troll is “Oh well, nothing’s perfect!”. One person was able to destroy multiple online spaces primarily be exploiting the right language and political positions. Trolls are everywhere, but if you community can be steamrolled that easily, then maybe there’s a problem.

Or how about the implosion of the major feminist group blogs*, which seems to have happened pretty much entirely because their comment sections became so pervasively toxic. You don’t think that indicates something suboptimal about the discourse in those communities? Nothing that could be improved?

Chait’s article sucked, for the reasons that have already been given, but these here comment sections seem a bit too resistant to the possibility that there are actual problems with left/progressive discourse.

There’s a pretty big excluded middle between “Anyone who checks the right boxes on the un-privileged list gets a free pass to behave like a sociopath” on the one hand and “Let’s go back to being totally cool with racists, sexist and homophobic slurs! That would be great!” on the other.

*Yes they’re still around, but they’ve been shadows of their former selves since around 2008 or so.

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LizardBreath 01.30.15 at 5:26 pm

Anyway, Belle was saying that we are very gradually getting people to stop using “gay”. I think the short-term benefit of supporting gay students who feel upset that some people disapprove of them can be good, while the long-run effect of attempts to top-down change the slang that kids use will be zilch.

As the mother of a thirteen and fifteen year old, my anecdotal impression is to the contrary. My kids are in an urban high school in a liberal area, so I certainly wouldn’t suggest that this is nationwide, but “gay” as a general term of disapprobation is non-existent in their peer group (that is, “that’s so gay” meaning something like “bogus”), and accusations of gayness as an insult also don’t seem to happen — the kids who are out of the closet have stress relating to their parents, but not particularly with their peers.

This might be the result of political correctness gone wild, but the result seems to be, at least in the specific school I’m familiar with, a much friendlier environment for a gay teenager than things were when I was a teenager. I’d call that sort of thing a win for political correctness.

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Nick 01.30.15 at 5:37 pm

Belle, I just want to say that I appreciate the impulse to respond to whiny bullshit with dismissal, humour, mockery, scorn, sarcasm, and crocodile tears, too much crap gets by in the world because too many people think the only proper refutation is a polite little thesis. I am working on something like this in my own area, it’s far more pleasurable than full engagement.

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bianca steele 01.30.15 at 5:45 pm

I think it’s important to remember that none of us has personal experience of more than a small part of the big world of feminists and feminism that’s out there–extrapolating from a small sample is an obvious flaw of Chait’s article. But it does seem that in my lifetime, no matter how much it’s affected the way they’re treated by teachers and coaches as teenagers, feminism has become something young women encounter primarily in college.

Am I the only one who finds the Binders of Women example not all that appalling? Someone raised an issue: there are certain threads that don’t have any women of color participating on them. They suggested a cause: women of color are uncomfortable participating on those threads, because of something that’s happening there. What’s wrong with this, exactly? Is this something that should cause those who aren’t uncomfortable to make jokes, about how they can’t help making others uncomfortable? But the default reaction, on the Internet as elsewhere, is to suggest greater “personal responsibility”: if you want women of color on those threads, you (women of color) must work to make it happen!?

The reason suggested is perfectly clear: there may be problematic assumptions that aren’t being challenged. The default reaction seems to be that this is obviously speculation with no basis in personal observation. That’s quite an assumption.

Sure, under some circumstances, saying “e-mail the person you have a problem with, privately” might be reasonable. But in that situation it came across as saying “the rules are A-OK with us, if you’d like to change them, contact us and we’ll negotiate.”

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bianca steele 01.30.15 at 5:47 pm

As for the idea that this is a replay of the situation in the left, over and over again, I don’t buy it. Not all feminists are on the left. Not all these groups have significant representation from the traditionally Marxist groups where those problems occurred. I’m pretty sure I was an undergraduate (on a pretty lefty campus) at the time the left was getting annoyed about “identity politics,” and the feminist, black, etc., groups were getting annoyed about being expected to include “allies” in all discussions. What I’ve seen since then just doesn’t have a lot to do with that kind of dynamic.

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bianca steele 01.30.15 at 5:49 pm

Also, dn made a lot of good points on the other thread (which I assume is over).

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dn 01.30.15 at 5:55 pm

Thanks for the kind words, bianca.

Lizardbreath @106 is right; J Thomas has no idea about the reality of contemporary youth slang usages. “Gay” and “faggot” were common slurs when I was a grade-school lad in the 90s; by the time I graduated high school in the late 2000s I seldom heard them anymore. Not just the slang usages but the actual ideology has changed. Nowadays actual support for the LGBT cause is all but universal among the young. Gay marriage wins something like 80% support from people under 30 nationally. It’s winning conclusively even in deep red states.

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MPAVictoria 01.30.15 at 6:00 pm

“Trolls are everywhere, but if you community can be steamrolled that easily, then maybe there’s a problem.”

I just disagree. Lots of online communities have collapsed for all sorts of reasons.

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MPAVictoria 01.30.15 at 6:01 pm

“That’s an interesting question in light of Belle’s observation that 98% of what people angrily claim is “Political Correctness” is just manners. Politeness.”

Would still love to see your response to the question parse. :-)

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TM 01.30.15 at 6:07 pm

The OP is an immense public service. Thanks Belle.

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J Thomas 01.30.15 at 6:21 pm

#87 Belle Waring

I am, in the current debate, saying that Political Correctness, both as broadly conceived and as for the very greatest part actually practiced, amounts to trying to educate myself and others on how to speak and act in a way that respects others who have historically been marginalized in our society. I think that’s a good thing.

Let me suggest another possible way to view it. Perhaps it amounts to an attempt to develop a new culture, one that is visibly different from the old bad patriarchal culture. The PC language is a signifier that tells people you are with the new group and not the old one. (It might also be good to have special jewelry to show that. Christians picked up crosses and fishes and such for that purpose a very long time ago. Perhaps special clothing and hairstyles would help too.)

I have seen similar things in a variety of contexts. Like, I met a Christian woman who asked somebody whether they wanted to be Christ-like, and when they said yes she yelled at them because sinners can’t be like Christ, it’s unhumble to try, the best we can do is to try to be good sinners and ask forgiveness. Her cult had a bunch of verbal traps like that, and if you didn’t know them it proved you weren’t a member in good standing.

I don’t think that knowing the shibboleths for some group makes you a better person. It just means you care about the group’s approval enough to learn the shibboleths.

I think it’s good to actually listen to people. Not so good to assume you know what they’ll say, whether you approve or disapprove. And people can mostly tell the difference. If you offer marginalized people a lot of approval to say what you expect to hear, it isn’t all that unlikely they will say what you expect to hear. Listening to that is a lot different from actually respecting them. But it’s better than a slap in the face with a wet fish, which is what they’d get from their usual oppressors, so that’s something, anyway. That’s something.

I believe my own beliefs are true just to the extent most people do, which is globally admitting doubt while in individual cases crediting my beliefs entirely, since that’s what they are there for.

I certainly don’t want to single you out about this. I’ve seen nothing to say that you’re worse than average, and I’ve seen you do things I like a whole lot.

You’re just the one who started the topic, and I have some hope you might be willing to look at another point of view. I’ve certainly nothing against you personally. With that in mind, I’m seeing a lot of justification for bad behavior. The behavior is quantitatively not that bad yet. But it’s the same old kinds of bad behavior and the same old justifications.

In one sense, feminism is about equal rights. I absolutely agree with that! I’m solid on equal rights for everybody. But then I look around and I don’t see people offering equal rights for everybody, they want equal rights for the good people who agree with them. If people who do that were to get all the power, would they be so much better than the patriarchs with the power now?

You want to decide what’s polite and enforce it stringently.

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?

There are a lot of people who simply disagree with you. And being Southern they are mostly polite to you about it. They don’t want to make a scene. Then sometime they forget you’re there and you’re all WTF because you assumed they are your kind of people, when they aren’t.

I’m not one of them. I mostly agree with you and not with them. But there they are. Hey, didn’t you grow up in South Carolina? Are you actually so completely out of touch with them? I wanted to say that you might learn about them, and how to persuade them and like that, but likely you’ve seen it all already and you just reject it. How come you’re WTF around them, did you expect they would have changed? Of course they haven’t changed their own shibboleths. Why would they?

So anyway we have these prominent white guys who want to control the discourse. They want to decide what can be said politely. And hey, you want the same thing! Maybe you have more in common with them than you think.

But of course, you don’t get that control because you are not powerful enough. They used to have it and now they’re upset that they don’t have it any more. The most you can do when they say something you think is rude is to rudely punch up at them, below the belt because they tower so high above you. They get a few hundred or a few thousand people doing that and they get all upset about it. They think they’re liberals and then you tell them they aren’t.

Well, but why not go after the real patriarchal assholes on the right? Because they don’t care. Get a thousand women who go onto their blogs and tell them the truth, and they’ll just block a thousand accounts and laugh at you.

I have a bad feeling about all this. Not like you’re as bad as the real bad guys. For one thing I like what you have to say a whole lot better. Not just a whole lot better. You’re a qualitatively better person. But when I listen to the stuff about who to shout down, and who to ridicule, and who to decide has said something rude enough it’s worth being as rude as it takes to enforce community standards — for that stuff you’re only quantitatively better. And maybe the quantitative stuff is because you just aren’t as strong yet.

If I put a whole lot more time into it maybe I could pare this down into something short and clear. I feel like I’m floundering around, it’s hard to say what I want to.

Here’s one piece of it. If I got to vote on who was going to enforce community standards, you or Chait, I’d pick you instantly. But if it was MPAV or Chait it would be a tossup. And I don’t see you disagree with MPAV, I just trust your instincts. The three of you seem to mostly agree on what’s right, you each say it’s right to shut people up for getting out of line, you just disagree with him about who to shut up.

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Kiwanda 01.30.15 at 6:24 pm

Again no tool is perfect but in general the ideas behind modern p.c. culture are all good ones if we care about what disadvantaged people say.

Isolated incident. Anecdata. Broken eggs (well, suicide attempts) that are worth it for that justice-serving omelette. OK, sure. Not emblematic.

So to keep it straight,
Requires Hate: not emblematic of abuse via PC.
Elliot Rodger: emblematic of toxic PUA culture.
The Charlie Hebdo killers: not emblematic of Islam.
Matt Taylor: emblematic of sexist STEM.
UVA gang rape journalism fail: not emblematic.
UVA gang rape: emblematic.

Is that about right?

Also: I think you might be working a false dichotomy there, but I’ll wait for a clearer example.

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Barry 01.30.15 at 6:25 pm

adam.smith: “But yes, he has always liked to punch the hippies and monitor the halls of what’s permissible liberal discourse. I’ve linked, in the other thread, to Henry’s comparatively gentle takedown of Chait’s handwringing over the fact that “the Netroots” didn’t respect Lieberman enough–no reason not to link to it again here; it’s really a nice piece if you’re interested in Chait as a writer: http://crookedtimber.org/2007/05/04/chait-on-the-netroots/ (you can find Chait’s original piece online easily. The link from CT is dead).”

Basically, Chait frequently falls back into TNR roots. One of its many evils was that it acted as a rightward limit on ‘decent liberalism’.

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MPAVictoria 01.30.15 at 6:34 pm

“The three of you seem to mostly agree on what’s right, you each say it’s right to shut people up for getting out of line, you just disagree with him about who to shut up.”

Just a quick correction. I don’t want to “shut people up”. I want to have the right to call them an idiot and tell them they should shut up. And I am pretty sure Belle is saying the same thing.

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William Timberman 01.30.15 at 6:37 pm

I remember a heated debate in 1970 or so with a radical feminist sociology grad student who thereafter became a very prominent feminist academic, with books and TV appearances and such. (I won’t name her, ’cause she isn’t here to give her side of the story, and in fact might not even remember the incident if she were.)

Anyway, I was on about how she shouldn’t confuse all males with our troglodyte brothers, while conceding under her skeptical counter-thrusts that we less testosterone-soaked males did indeed shelter under, and in our own small way benefit from, their patriarchal snorting and hoof-pawing. At one point she said, very much without qualification All men rape their daughters. She probably meant this metaphorically, as a way of characterizing the hegemonic micro-aggressions that present-day activists are said to complain about, but I was too incensed to consider the possibility.

Not me, I yelped. Not ME!

Do you HAVE a daughter? she asked. No, I replied, maybe a little sheepishly. (I’d recently gotten married, but there were no kids yet.) She leaned back in her chair, arms folded, and gave me a bit of a smirk. Well, she said. we’ll just have to wait and see then, won’t we?

Well, we’ve waited, and we’ve seen, or at least my daughter and I have. She’s now nearing 40, married with kids of her own, and therefore presumably safe at last from any evil intentions I was apparently expected to have toward her, but I still remember that conversation, what I learned from it, and also what I learned much later from my daughter’s eloquent descriptions of just what her own struggle with male hegemony had cost her, at least from that moment in pre-adolescence when she first realized the profound subjugation it demanded of her.

The lesson? Listen to people. Don’t dismiss them out of embarrassment, or pride, or shock, or whatever. Go away red-faced and pissed, if necessary, but think about what they’ve said. Ask others wrestling with the same conflicts, who don’t necessarily see things your way, and listen to their answers. With any luck, you may eventually come to understand that you aren’t the center of the universe. Do this often enough, and you might even wind up being a reasonable person. Sainthood isn’t what’s required of us, after all.

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Barry 01.30.15 at 6:37 pm

Bloix: “The students, in the best tradition of their college and the Quaker religion, invited him to MEET with them and DISCUSS what he’d done from the perspective of a commitment to non-violent social change. He declined to do so, and instead decided that he didn’t want the honorary degree after all.”

And from what I understand, Condoleeza ‘Smoking Gun Mushroom Cloud’ Rice didn’t show up not because of threats or harassment, but because Rutgers wouldn’t give her a Bushian ‘free speech zone’, with any contrary voices forcibly removed from the vicinity.

I see a pattern here. These people and their supporters are not complaining about violence, threats, harassment or anything real, but rather that they don’t want to hear contrary opinions, or have them heard by anybody nearby.

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on the other hand 01.30.15 at 6:37 pm

Could you try writing with a more grown-up tone? This drivel is unreadable. There are people trying to find out what legitimate points might be made about this issue from the left perspective, yet we find ourselves having to wade through a juvenile affectation and manner of speaking that doesn’t do you any favours in getting your point across except perhaps to people who speak and think exactly like you do.

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parse 01.30.15 at 6:40 pm

Would still love to see your response to the question parse. :-)

No, I don’t think it’s the responsibility of oppressed people to be polite, but I do think in most cases it’s a good idea, and I don’t think that membership in an oppressed group excuses all instances of rude behavior.

I agree with Belle’s assessment that Political Correctness most often is just manners and believe that, because of this, Political Correctness is typically a good thing. So I believe it would be a better world if oppressors and the oppressed alike were Politically Correct, especially given the fact that most individuals are members of both oppressed and oppressive groups.

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J Thomas 01.30.15 at 6:42 pm

#111 dn

Lizardbreath @106 is right; J Thomas has no idea about the reality of contemporary youth slang usages. “Gay” and “faggot” were common slurs when I was a grade-school lad in the 90s; by the time I graduated high school in the late 2000s I seldom heard them anymore.

Lizardbreath agrees with me. Slang changes pretty fast whether you try to change it top-down or not.

Not just the slang usages but the actual ideology has changed.

Yes, and I think that’s a good thing, and I strongly doubt it had much to do with teachers etc trying to enforce their own language standards. This is word magic. You can’t control people’s thoughts by controlling the literal words they use, because they will change the meanings out from under you.

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Robert Waldmann 01.30.15 at 6:45 pm

“‘Shut up'” he mansplained “is not debate.”

“Your past failure of judgment in this precise area means there is no point in listening to you confidently pontificate about it further, especially given that you have never been willing to interrogate the source or nature of your failings.” is debate.

The conclusion of the two responses to Chait on ISIS are the same. The second makes a case while the first is an imperative.

It is a bit unfair to Michael Drew to object to his taking literally facetious hyperbole about saving time by just telling Chait to shut up about Iraq because he is not stupid and must understand why he should already.

One has to understand how to use the internet for communication (he mansplained to Belle Waring !!! aiming for “I am aware of all internet traditions” status — but really really ironically) and first explain that text was ironic, without making further arguments, unless the other person insists.

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MPAVictoria 01.30.15 at 6:47 pm

Kiwanda I am just curious what you would like to see?

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J Thomas 01.30.15 at 6:47 pm

#118 MPAV

“The three of you seem to mostly agree on what’s right, you each say it’s right to shut people up for getting out of line, you just disagree with him about who to shut up.”

Just a quick correction. I don’t want to “shut people up”. I want to have the right to call them an idiot and tell them they should shut up. And I am pretty sure Belle is saying the same thing.

And what more is Chait doing?

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MPAVictoria 01.30.15 at 6:50 pm

“No, I don’t think it’s the responsibility of oppressed people to be polite, but I do think in most cases it’s a good idea, and I don’t think that membership in an oppressed group excuses all instances of rude behavior.

I agree with Belle’s assessment that Political Correctness most often is just manners and believe that, because of this, Political Correctness is typically a good thing. So I believe it would be a better world if oppressors and the oppressed alike were Politically Correct, especially given the fact that most individuals are members of both oppressed and oppressive groups.”

Thank you. I can sign on to most of this. Though I think it is a bit rich when privileged people piss all over the place and then take umbrage when people call them on it.

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MPAVictoria 01.30.15 at 6:51 pm

“And what more is Chait doing?”
He is objecting to people he considers his inferiors calling him out. I ask that you read digby’s piece on this J.

136

J Thomas 01.30.15 at 6:52 pm

#127 MPAV

“And what more is Chait doing?”

He is objecting to people he considers his inferiors calling him out.

And you have objected to me calling you out. Same thing.

137

LizardBreath 01.30.15 at 6:59 pm

Lizardbreath agrees with me.

No, I don’t, unless I completely misunderstand you. I think that slang changed as a result of purposeful efforts by people who thought using “gay” as an insult was derogatory and damaging to gay people, and I think the result of those purposeful efforts was beneficial. Yes, the ‘actual ideology’ has changed a great deal since my teenage years, but part of what changed it was people talking about what language hurts people.

138

MPAVictoria 01.30.15 at 7:08 pm

“but part of what changed it was people talking about what language hurts people.”

Yes, yes, yes a million times yes.

139

MPAVictoria 01.30.15 at 7:09 pm

J have you read digby’s piece? I really think you should.

140

dn 01.30.15 at 7:10 pm

The point being that narrowing your vision to just talking about “language policing” in isolation is to miss the big picture. “Language policing” doesn’t happen in a vacuum; it’s part of a larger trend. The difference is between teaching kids “be nice to gays” versus teaching them that “gays are A-OK”. Mere tolerance vs. full embrace. This is a subtle difference, but it’s important. And an important difference between the LGBT case and racism/sexism; in the latter cases, the full embrace has been much slower in coming, for whatever reasons.

141

The Temporary Name 01.30.15 at 7:12 pm

I think that slang changed as a result of purposeful efforts by people who thought using “gay” as an insult was derogatory and damaging to gay people, and I think the result of those purposeful efforts was beneficial.

At my daughter’s school I saw posters regarding it. Purposeful effort (in the school and the school district) and her school culture compared to mine growing up is just…well, it can get me teary-eyed with how giving and forgiving those kids are.

142

KittehInATree 01.30.15 at 7:17 pm

If a Neo-Nazi like Shanley Kane can troll a large number of feminist and anti-racist activists into accepting her just by using the right code-words, then it’s a sign that language is being overemphasized.

143

TM 01.30.15 at 7:22 pm

JT 128, you are not getting your own joke are you? The circularity you are pointing out just shows that what is going on IS nothing but debate. There is nothing sinister, no police, no suppression, just people disagreeing with each other and saying so.

144

Robespierre 01.30.15 at 7:29 pm

@William Timberman?

Well then, what did you learn from that conversation? ’cause her statement seams either crazy nonsense if taken literally, or douchebaggy behaviour if metaphorical; as well as an unhelpful muddying-up of anything bad that may happen to a woman as “rape”.

145

J Thomas 01.30.15 at 7:30 pm

#129 Lizardbreath

“Lizardbreath agrees with me.”

No, I don’t, unless I completely misunderstand you. I think that slang changed as a result of purposeful efforts by people who thought using “gay” as an insult was derogatory and damaging to gay people, and I think the result of those purposeful efforts was beneficial.

OK, you don’t agree with me. I believe that the slang used by children and teens is not much affected by adults, and it would have changed by now regardless. Of course I can’t prove that counterfactual, any more than you have any evidence that it changed because teens chose to cater to you.

146

Bramble 01.30.15 at 7:35 pm

P.C. goes beyond politeness. It’s the left-wing version of going coo-coo when someone burns a flag.

I think I agree with what Douthat wrote today, namely, that going coo-coo may sometimes be rather effective way to enforce taboos. Taboos, of course, are much stronger motivators than reasoned argumentation. Since people are going to employ strategies that work, even when high-status people deem them ignoble, Chait is probably fighting for a lost cause.

Maybe Chait should have argued that it is the radicals themselves who are bad, since radicals are the ones generating the p.c. discourse. Why not try to make them an even more hated outgroup than they already are? This is what the right does. Feminazis, etc.

Chait would probably say that would be throwing the baby out with the bathwater, since radicals and liberals can work together for shared goals.

How much p.c. discourse would radicals be willing to sacrifice to meet Chait halfway to work on a shared goal? My guess is if there was a concrete goal that radicals believed in they would be willing to police their tone a bit, but since there is nothing at stake radicals aren’t willing to surrender anything unilaterally. That makes sense to me.

147

MPAVictoria 01.30.15 at 7:37 pm

“JT 128, you are not getting your own joke are you? The circularity you are pointing out just shows that what is going on IS nothing but debate. There is nothing sinister, no police, no suppression, just people disagreeing with each other and saying so.”

Thank you TM. I was trying to figure out how to respond and you did it better.

148

The Temporary Name 01.30.15 at 7:43 pm

It’s the left-wing version of going coo-coo when someone burns a flag.

You can’t prove flags don’t have feelings. /J Thomas

149

Cian 01.30.15 at 7:45 pm

How much p.c. discourse would radicals be willing to sacrifice to meet Chait halfway to work on a shared goal?

I doubt many radicals share Chait’s goal of furthering Chait’s career.

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J Thomas 01.30.15 at 7:50 pm

#132 dm

“Language policing” doesn’t happen in a vacuum; it’s part of a larger trend. The difference is between teaching kids “be nice to gays” versus teaching them that “gays are A-OK”. Mere tolerance vs. full embrace. This is a subtle difference, but it’s important.

That sounds potentially important to me. Perhaps we should have had some sort of public discussion before implementing that in the schools. I can see advantages and disadvantages if it succeeds. Like, cutting down on teen pregnancy would be a plus.

Homosexuality is a lifestyle choice, or maybe it’s something that happens to people. Why should society take a positive or negative stand about it? Should we extend that? Teach kids that nerds are A-OK? Are jocks A-OK? People with autism spectrum disorder? (I think that’s a choice, all it takes is the choice by age 10 to avoid hypocrisy and society will give you all the cues to fit into the autism spectrum disorder role.) Should we teach kids that virginity until marriage is A-OK? Prostitution is A-OK? Islam is A-OK? No, strike that last, we don’t want to promote religion or atheism in the schools.

Somehow I much prefer the idea that we all find ways to get along with each other, more than that we should heavily promote particular lifestyles. That was a minority position when I took it up and for awhile it seemed to be increasing, and now it’s declining and it looks increasingly controversial.

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MPAVictoria 01.30.15 at 7:54 pm

“I doubt many radicals share Chait’s goal of furthering Chait’s career.”
Bingo.

152

adam.smith 01.30.15 at 7:55 pm

Not that I agree with J Thomas’s idea that adults cannot influence the values of teenagers (especially young teenagers) and how they’re reflected in their language, but even if that were the case: a huge chunk of the work of making schools better places for LGBT folks has been done by the kids themselves. The fact that a large number of middle schools (!) now have gay-straight alliances is a game changer. And especially for the younger kids, calling out homophobic language like “that’s so gay” is often the first step.

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Cian 01.30.15 at 7:56 pm

@William Timberman (119)

The most charitable interpretation I can put on that story is that she was really, really bad at communicating, and had an unfortunate propensity for drama.

Ok I haven’t experienced either, but I’m guessing that micro-aggression and rape are not the same thing. In much the same way that structural racism and genocide are not the same thing.

154

J Thomas 01.30.15 at 8:01 pm

#134 TM

JT 128, you are not getting your own joke are you? The circularity you are pointing out just shows that what is going on IS nothing but debate. There is nothing sinister, no police, no suppression, just people disagreeing with each other and saying so.

You say there is nothing sinister going on. It looks sinister to me.

I guess maybe we can discuss it when it’s your turn in the barrel.

“If a man can resist the influences of his townsfollk, if he can cut free from the tyranny of neighbourhood gossip, the world has no terrors for him; there is no second inquisition.”

155

J Thomas 01.30.15 at 8:02 pm

#143 adam.smith

… a huge chunk of the work of making schools better places for LGBT folks has been done by the kids themselves.

Absolutely! Yes! That’s mostly what works.

156

MPAVictoria 01.30.15 at 8:03 pm

“Why should society take a positive or negative stand about it?”

Oh you pompous jackass.

157

The Temporary Name 01.30.15 at 8:05 pm

Society took a negative stand on unicorns, and LOOK AROUND.

158

Bramble 01.30.15 at 8:06 pm

“I doubt many radicals share Chait’s goal of furthering Chait’s career.”

I assume the implication here is that Chait is a member of an outgroup, thus cannot have good or even mixed intentions. I get that. I think the line is “morality binds and blinds.” You feel moral superior to chait, hence it is really hard to credit him with good intentions. I do the same thing sometimes.

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J Thomas 01.30.15 at 8:11 pm

#139 TTN

“It’s the left-wing version of going coo-coo when someone burns a flag.”

You can’t prove flags don’t have feelings. /J Thomas

I didn’t say that, but go ahead, knock yourself out.

You also can’t prove that unborn babies do have feelings, so it’s OK to kill them.

So it’s also the left-wing version of going coo-coo when Americans have a million abortions.

160

William Timberman 01.30.15 at 8:13 pm

Robespierre @ 135, Cian @ 144

She — the feminist I was debating — was really pissed off. In reflecting on the conversation as a whole, I would say that what was pissing her off was what she perceived to be my attempt to wriggle out from under her indictment of patriarchal presumption by disingenuously claiming not to be one of those bad men.

In her view, all men were bad — in the sense of demanding what they don’t deserve — even those who present as mild-mannered and inoffensive. By that yardstick, I was a collaborator at best, and at worst, an outright liar. Frustration at my obtuseness, I would say, made her reach instinctively for the rhetorical H-bomb. I was too bewildered at the time to see clearly what the problem was, but later on, it came clear enough. No harm, no foul, I would say. She did me a favor, even if she was a bit bloody-minded about administering it.

161

Roland 01.30.15 at 8:13 pm

Love your prose style, that is all. (Oh, and never shy away from saeva indignatio we don’t got enough of that…

162

Bramble 01.30.15 at 8:19 pm

I like Chait’s column, but I remember when he defended Joe Lieberman I stopped reading him for a long time. Maybe a lot of Chaitgate has to with the fact that people haven’t forgiven him for past transgressions. A. Sullivan also comes to mind in this regard. I don’t think you can ever demand people forgive another person, because you can’t make yourself forgive someone. I guess I’m saying I do recognize that other people may be emotionally invested in Chaitgate in a way that I am not. There can be no blame in that.

163

dn 01.30.15 at 8:24 pm

J Thomas @141: You misunderstand me. It has nothing to do with “promoting” anything except the truth: that gays are normal human beings and that there is nothing wrong with the fact that they are gay, morally or otherwise. Mere “tolerance” implies that there is something to tolerate. One tolerates right-wingers or religious fundamentalists, despite the fact that they believe objectionable things, in the interests of societal harmony. One does not tolerate, say, short people, unless you’re a character in a Randy Newman song. This is because there is nothing whatsoever that actually objectionable about short people. Being gay, black, female, etc. should be the same way. The triumph of the gay rights movement is that it has succeeded spectacularly in achieving this sort of acceptance.

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William Timberman 01.30.15 at 8:26 pm

dn @ 153

Very well said.

165

Val 01.30.15 at 8:38 pm

Belle @ 78
Hi Belle, here is the link to Lauren Rosewarne’s article on Ghostbusters, with the comments. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-01-29/rosewarne-who-ya-gonna-call-female-actors/6052422

Mike j’s comment is at 1:56:08pm. I warn you, the comments thread is pretty awful – depressing/infuriating to read through, even though that particular comment is kind of hilarious.

Here is the article on gender pay gap btw in case anyone’s interested http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-01-30/gilmore-will-the-ir-inquiry-address-the-gender-pay-gap/6054326
Bev, who would like to see a non- feminist survey, is at 30 January 1:35:36pm. I am not sure if Bev thinks the Australian Bureau of Statistics is a hotbed of feminism.
Having studied the social history of maternity and work in twentieth century Australia at some length, many of these comments make me want to lie down on the floor and howl like a dog.

On the issue of feminist sites, there are some I won’t visit ( and indeed, one that I’ve been banned from) but I do like The Toast and I Blame the Patriarchy. Both of them are funny and self aware.
Btw, the specific reason i got banned from one feminist site was that I had, quite politely, suggested to a regular commenter that her attitude to a woman of colour who had made a comment was patronising. There was a history behind it though, which I won’t go into because it’s so long, and where I wasn’t quite so virtuous.

166

Patrick 01.30.15 at 8:51 pm

Back in law school, my crim law professor taught rape law. There were some detailed questions that arose when it came to rape via intoxication. The laws in many states are very conservative on this issue, but my professor advocated a more liberal approach that didn’t require that the perpetrator have intoxicated the victim by force, or that the victim be literally unconscious, or any of those things. So the obvious question was, if simple intoxication was sufficient, how much intoxication was necessary? This was a question relevant to the students lives for two reasons: first, many of us anticipated having to make professional decisions on prosecution in the near future, and second, because a substantial minority of us spent every weekend getting hammered and sleeping around. (Not me, I was the loser virgin who didn’t drink or even go to parties.) so the questions were both personal and professional.

Anyway- we never got an answer. Not even a general set of guidelines that might help. But we did learn that a substantial cohort of students were willing to do everything they could to vilify you for asking the question. I remember being eye locked with an enraged female student who genuinely believed that asking how to tell the difference between valid consent and mere apparent consent obviated by intoxication meant that I didn’t even understand that having sex with unconscious people was wrong. I obviously hadn’t said that, and her position explicitly encompassed more than that. I had no idea how to even respond.

I gave up pretty quick. I certainly felt like I was being intimidated into shutting up. I never got an answer, but did later learn that the question is a lot less meaningful than I thought because my professors description if rape law was a lot more… Aspirational,.. Than accurate. Real criminal codes tend to answer this for you.

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J Thomas 01.30.15 at 8:51 pm

#153 dn

It has nothing to do with “promoting” anything except the truth: that gays are normal human beings and that there is nothing wrong with the fact that they are gay, morally or otherwise. Mere “tolerance” implies that there is something to tolerate. One tolerates right-wingers or religious fundamentalists, despite the fact that they believe objectionable things, in the interests of societal harmony. One does not tolerate, say, short people, unless you’re a character in a Randy Newman song. This is because there is nothing whatsoever that actually objectionable about short people. Being gay, black, female, etc. should be the same way.

OK, I think I got that and in your context it sounds completely reasonable, better than A-OK sounded.

Thank you!

Speaking for myself, I tolerate people who have eaten a lot of garlic when I have not. It isn’t that they believe anything bad, or that there’s anything morally objectionable about them. It’s just my personal preference about smells. When I’ve been eating garlic too it doesn’t bother me nearly as much.

168

AB 01.30.15 at 9:01 pm

How does one contact the moderator of these discussions?

169

js. 01.30.15 at 9:07 pm

Val,

The mike j comment you’ve quoted @76 is the greatest thing in this thread—it is so amazing! Thanks!

170

stevenjohnson 01.30.15 at 9:25 pm

Conventional wisdom is PC, especially when it’s some cracked reactionary twaddle about how capitalism is the final form of society or Russia is threatening all Europe or Syriza is radical leftist. The assumption that the police are good guys is PC. These are conservative times. Therefore the line that it is politically correct to enunciate is conservative.

As for conservatives’ charge of “PC,” where the left gets symbolic concessions to manners so that polite company will not agree that it’s right to call people names? The problem there is that symbols are not enough. I think it would be better to trade some n-words for conviction for police murder.

171

MPAVictoria 01.30.15 at 9:53 pm

““Why should society take a positive or negative stand about it?”

Perhaps because LGBTQ teens commit suicide at a rate much higher than average? That they are more likely to be homeless? More likely to suffer from depression?

Could these possibly be reasons?

172

Val 01.30.15 at 10:09 pm

Belle @ 87
I’m also very interested in the idea of the safe thread to discuss concerns in feminist and left sites and discussions, and I’d be very interested to hear the things Lynne felt she couldn’t talk about.

173

Brett Bellmore 01.30.15 at 10:11 pm

“Perhaps because LGBTQ teens commit suicide at a rate much higher than average? That they are more likely to be homeless? More likely to suffer from depression?”

I could explain that, but the explanation is decidedly not PC. ;)

Honestly, I really don’t have much of a dog in this fight. Chait has some points, of course, but since the essence of his position isn’t, “Don’t use this weapon, it’s wrong.”, but instead, “Don’t use this weapon on allies, anything goes when it comes to the other side.” I don’t feel much urge to defend him.

But it has been fun watching you folks go nuts over his mild essay.

174

MPAVictoria 01.30.15 at 10:18 pm

“I’m also very interested in the idea of the safe thread to discuss concerns in feminist and left sites and discussions, and I’d be very interested to hear the things Lynne felt she couldn’t talk about.”

I would be interested in both these things as well.

175

A Jones 01.30.15 at 10:19 pm

I do so long for those days where I was in charge.

Wait, I was *in charge*? Funny, it never felt that way. Maybe my father was in charge and I didn’t realize it? Or maybe it was his father? Who knows?

Actually, my five decades on this earth had kinda given me the feeling that no one is in charge and that everyone is helpless and at the mercy of a decidedly un-caring, un-sentient universe that will eventually grind us all to dust.

But maybe I just feel that way?

Of course I don’t think anything as stupid as that other people have the responsibility to be polite or respectful, to me or anyone else. Then again, my experience (in my, granted, white, privileged world) is that I have achieved many more of my goals by being polite and respectful than by other techniques.

Not that effectiveness is everything, but it’s something, right?

And I’m sorry, but most of Belle’s article sounds to me no different than the ranting of a callous Pennypacker, ensconced in his leather bound chair amidst his sumptuous CEO office. “Oh, those people are having a hard time? Well too bad for them. They should have become CEO.” It’s easy to hand-wave away the hurt feelings of your opponents. In fact, it’s what they’ve been doing to you for years, and it’s only going to perpetuate the cycle in my view.

I

176

js. 01.30.15 at 10:21 pm

AB @158:

I take it that the “moderator” is in this case Belle. You could do the sort of thing Val did @162. I’m not sure what else would work.

177

ZM 01.30.15 at 10:26 pm

” I’d be very interested to hear the things Lynne felt she couldn’t talk about.”

I would as well. I don’t think I read enough feminist sites to have a firm understanding of what they are like. But from what I have read I would guess I would have some views that I wouldn’t necessarily feel like sharing on those sites, since when I was an undergraduate one of the areas I found interesting was looking at female agency in traditional societies or in societies undergoing the early stages of modernization or in fulfilling “traditional” female gender roles – both Western and non-Western. There is actually quite a lot of academic work in this area , but I don’t think it gets much discussion in the public realm.

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J Thomas 01.30.15 at 10:53 pm

$161 MPAV

“Why should society take a positive or negative stand about it?”

Perhaps because LGBTQ teens commit suicide at a rate much higher than average?

You have a whole host of unstated assumptions there. You probably haven’t even noticed them.

So is it that depressed teens are more likely to become LGBTQ? If that happens enough, we should try to make sure that LGBTQs have access to therapy (and particularly to the less-addictive antidepressants since talk therapy is often ineffectual). But if it’s an increased rate but not enough to be predictive, then maybe that wouldn’t help.

On the other hand if being LGBTQ is likely to result in suicide, then it would be good to nonjudgementally steer people away from that to the extent it works to, and provide therapy to the ones who go those routes anyway.

That they are more likely to be homeless?

That makes perfect sense. Homeless kids will get shelter where they can, which is likely to involve prostitution and gay prostitution. Better if we can get them shelter that doesn’t involve any implicit coercion along those lines. But it’s only natural to prefer to shelter with people who have an emotional connection versus people who’re just doing a job. And there’s a feeling of security in providing an important service, versus just being a victim who gets charity. I dunno, it’s a hard question.

More likely to suffer from depression?

Again, if depressed people are more likely to become LGBTQ then it makes sense to offer them therapy. But if LGBTQ are more likely to get depressed then it also makes sense to offer them therapy.

Could these possibly be reasons?

Reasons for what? If LGBTQ tend toward bad outcomes then it might make sense to nonjudgementally warn kids about those likely bad outcomes, so they have more chances to make better choices. On the other hand it’s possible that none of them have any choice about it, and then there’s no point telling them about the odds, it would just be depressing. Maybe it would be good to do research and find out how much choice they have before we do things that might affect choices.

But anyway we don’t know yet whether LBGTQ gives people psychological problems or whether instead people with psychological problems tend to go LBGTQ. There’s a whole lot we don’t know.

No, I wouldn’t suggest taking a positive or negative stand on any large scale until we have some idea about the likely results.

But society’s judgemental coercive punitive highly negative stand was clearly unhelpful. In the short run let’s try to get along, and help each other as we can.

What do you think? Do you think we should act based on your feelings?

179

MPAVictoria 01.30.15 at 11:05 pm

I’m out you bigot.

180

ZM 01.30.15 at 11:20 pm

That comment is very low down J Thomas – it is deliberately insulting and provocative and probably doesn’t meet the comments policy. If it does just manage to scrape in – then I hope maybe you and MPAVictoria can be banned from responding to each other.

181

Bramble 01.30.15 at 11:31 pm

Online p.c. is annoying sometimes, but whatever the rhetorical style at 168 is called is no treat, either. J Thomas, give it a rest.

182

PatrickfromIowa 01.30.15 at 11:32 pm

Belle has–as usual–stated a position I largely agree with.

However as someone who spends a lot–professional and off the clock–in academic feminist circles and has every possible privilege, I have to respond to Chait and people who think that pc language/attitude policing is a serious problem, I’m especially grateful to her for this formulation, “wow, that hasn’t been my experience at all and I really couldn’t possibly disagree with you more.” I see some bad behavior, sure, but nothing on the scale alleged.

One possible thing to remind ourselves about is that a lot of this is the internet, which, as has been said, tends to cesspool.

But another thing is that it’s academia, which is rife with point-scoring, vituperation, scorn, status anxiety, point scoring and all the pathologies attributed to feminist and identity activism in these kinds of screeds.

Professors were pissy, self-regarding assholes long before women and people of color got to be professors. But, of course, when women and POC got to be professors, the rules changed, and being a pissy self-regarding asshole (even a little) is no longer “does not suffer fools gladly,” but now it’s “oh my god, you violated the canons of civility that I’m going to pretend used to exist.”

Oh, please.

183

LizardBreath 01.30.15 at 11:34 pm

whatever the rhetorical style at 168 is called

Drawing a foul?

184

MPAVictoria 01.30.15 at 11:39 pm

“MPAVictoria can be banned from responding to each other.”

No need. I am done with Mr. Thomas. His comment @168 is so far beyond the pale I cannot imagine every conversing with him again.

185

J Thomas 01.30.15 at 11:39 pm

#170 ZM

That comment is very low down J Thomas – it is deliberately insulting and provocative and probably doesn’t meet the comments policy.

ZM, I do not understand your complaint. Shouldn’t we use science as best we can to find the truth of things, to base policy on?

There is the issue that the central problem may be that society victimizes LGBTQ people in subtle ways even when the overt ways are either less prevalent or less overt. And in that case it will be easier to change society if we can provide many more victims in the short run. If we could get the population up to say 60% LGBTQ then it would be much harder to victimize them. On the other hand this approach may not work. Individual people who have the choice of aiding the cause by being victims versus living better lives for themselves…. It would be better to live a life without the victimization, provided it really is better. On the other hand people who can never truly get satisfaction from their lives without the kind of sex they want to become accustomed to, might do better as victims.

I am truly uncertain what should be done. My approach in such situations is to try to find out what to do, rather than follow some doctrine that might turn out to be completely wrong-headed.

But I believe that maintaining good will is almost certain to be better than alternatives to good will.

Do you disagree?

186

AB 01.30.15 at 11:40 pm

OK I wasn’t going to do this publicly, since it seems rude as new-comer to the comments section (long-time lurker), but after 168 I’ve had it. As politely as I can:
I find that J Thomas’ comments add nothing of value, and seriously disrupt what might otherwise be an intelligent, sensitive discussion. I think he should be asked to leave.

187

Bramble 01.30.15 at 11:47 pm

“If we could get the population up to say 60% LGBTQ”

Ah man, we’ve been rickrolled. Farewell all.

188

J Thomas 01.30.15 at 11:48 pm

#176 AB

I have to admit that I have found these discussions frustrating also. A whole lot of really crass illogic. It bothers me a lot to see people who have been agile thinkers on other topics shut down here.

I think I will leave for awhile and come back sometime later to see whether I’ve been banned. My work is heating up anyway, it’s a good time to leave.

189

MPAVictoria 01.30.15 at 11:55 pm

From my twitter feed:

“Are you fucking kidding me? First a black karate kid then a black Annie now a female ghostbuster cast leave it alone already! Fuck being PC”

So maybe we haven’t progressed quite as far as a society as we would like to think…

190

JanieM 01.30.15 at 11:58 pm

I haven’t read a comment by J Thomas since shortly after the first one appeared with that handle.

That option is open to everyone, and it would make a noticeable improvement in a lot of CT threads if everyone would consider it.

Or as my old guru Danaan Parry used to say, “Don’t bite hooks.”

191

the other DSCH 01.31.15 at 12:00 am

PC is just a tactic, and like any other tactic, is content-neutral. It’s only a matter of time before reactionaries appropriate it, and use it to say BDS creates an “unsafe space” or some shit. (Actually, they’re probably already doing it.)

192

bianca steele 01.31.15 at 12:04 am

Several years ago, I was thinking that “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” which we’d done in high school, was probably unstageable nowadays. Maybe as with an all-female cast. I thought that would be interesting.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ahqu1nd3Zu8

Then the revival opened on Broadway with Whoopi Goldberg as Pseudolus. I’m not sure how she handled the number. The only cast album I’ve heard has Nathan Lane.

193

MPAVictoria 01.31.15 at 12:04 am

“I haven’t read a comment by J Thomas since shortly after the first one appeared with that handle.”

You know how I know that you are WAY, WAY smarter than I am?

194

js. 01.31.15 at 12:20 am

I haven’t read a comment by J Thomas since shortly after the first one appeared with that handle.

That option is open to everyone, and it would make a noticeable improvement in a lot of CT threads if everyone would consider it.

Indeed. The point could in fact be generalized.

(AB: I called out a couple of people in the recent Charli Hebdo thread for making blatantly racist comments—called out as in, appealed to the mods. Nothing came of it, but I don’t see any problem with ‘publicly’ calling out beyond the pale comments. I don’t think how long you’ve been commenting should matter, tho I do get the point about etiquette. In any case, re the commenter in question, you’re hardly alone.)

195

js. 01.31.15 at 12:29 am

PC is just a tactic, and like any other tactic, is content-neutral. It’s only a matter of time before reactionaries appropriate it

I thought this happened a couple of decades ago, no? I’m not being facetious, or original for that matter. But the whole ‘conservatives are the true victims/discriminated-against-minority,’ etc. has been read as an appropriation of the earlier wave of identity politics. And I do think the reading’s not implausible. So yes, the chances of it happening again, re ‘safe spaces’ etc. are fair. Still, despite the reactionary appropriation, it’s plausible to think that the first wave of identity politics did more good than harm (seriously tho, some days I’m not so totally convinced.) But in any case, if you do think that, mutatis mutandis etc.

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dn 01.31.15 at 12:38 am

Appropriate it? As stephenjohnson noted upthread, reactionaries pretty much invented it. In a religious context, another term for it is “heresy hunting”. The Roman Curia has an entire congregation devoted to it (the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly known as the Inquisition).

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bianca steele 01.31.15 at 12:47 am

js.: has been read as an appropriation of the earlier wave of identity politics

Among other reasons you give, that thesis seems potentially undermined by the possibility that after the New Left took on communitarian ideas, which they expected to be applied in a populist way to white males, those ideas were fairly easily turned to use by minorities. It’s possible there’s a reading of minority-ethnic and feminist theory that isn’t essentially based on ideas from majoritarian communitarianism–I’m not sure.

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bianca steele 01.31.15 at 12:49 am

Or put another way, I’m not sure whether or not communitarian was essentially majoritarian at its inception, or whether it was drawing on feminism and what’s now African-Studies.

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js. 01.31.15 at 12:50 am

Oh, I don’t know. That seems to me a quite different kind of thing. This is where I think the fact that a conception of systematic power imbalances and social marginalization is internal to identity politics is really important (and possibly the best thing about it, but whatever, that’s irrelevant). When the dominant social institution is imposing its own thought and speech codes on everyone else, it seems like a rather different thing.

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js. 01.31.15 at 12:51 am

Last was a response to dn @189.

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dn 01.31.15 at 1:04 am

Oh, the context and the specific form is very much different. As you say, the CDF is an organized institutional force designed for the dissemination of the ideology of the powerful and the establishment and maintenance of hegemony. So-called PC, such as it is, is a disorganized and diffuse attempt to resist said hegemony. I would never advocate for the establishment of a liberal equivalent of the CDF (that would be more like a Leninist vanguard party, and we all know how well those work). I’m just not under the illusion, held by Chait and his ilk, that merely doing away with institutions such as the CDF automatically renders discourse “free”.

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js. 01.31.15 at 1:08 am

bianca steele,

So, the idea is that the historical-causal progression goes from (a) the New Left taking a (majoritarian) communitarian turn to on the one hand (b) these communitarian ideas being adopted by feminism and ethnic minority theorizing, and on the other hand (c) these same ideas being used by conservatives? That may be right, I don’t know. It seems to me tho that the rhetoric of victimization, as deployed by conservatives, has to be appropriated from the discourse of feminism and minority theorizing (for lack of a better term). I don’t see how _that_ could be coming out of a majoritarian communitarianism.

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Cian 01.31.15 at 1:36 am

@154 William Timberman,
I’m not sure she did you (or herself) a favor though. Your self-description would equally apply to me in my 20s, and I was attacked similarly (deservedly I think). But it didn’t work. As soon as I heard someone say ‘all mean are rapists’ I instantly lost interest in anything further that the person had to say (*). It’s easy to ignore bad arguments, even if there’s a deeper metaphorical truth burried in there. Similarly, I don’t think trying to shame people works. You don’t persuade people by making them defensive.

What finally persuaded me was evidence. Several (admittedly pretty patient) women simply gave examples of their experiences in everyday life and growing up.

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bianca steele 01.31.15 at 1:49 am

js. @ 195

I don’t think it lasted long, but IIRC in the 1990s a later communitarianism was contrasted to liberalism–I don’t know whether it specifically set itself up as an opposition to liberalism, as a critique, or something like that, or whether the opposition was observed by other people (and again, I don’t know how much it was a critique of liberal universalism on behalf of the “ordinary majority person” and how much it was a critique of liberal universalism on behalf of the minority)–and that could easily have contributed to later movement conservatism picking up on its ideas.

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AB 01.31.15 at 1:52 am

It’s only a matter of time before reactionaries appropriate it, and use it to say BDS creates an “unsafe space” or some shit. (Actually, they’re probably already doing it.)”

Already happened. At my university in the UK and several others, it was loudly argued that BDS makes Jews feel unsafe on campus. There were regular attepts to prevent talks Palestinians on these grounds. Is this absurd? I thought so at the time, and being Jew-ish myself didn’t feel the need to mince my words. I thought playing the safe space card was cynical and nasty. With hindsight, some of them were almost certainly sincere about feeling threatened by the BDS events. Is that enough?

(@j.s It wasn’t actually so much the beyond-the-paleness of one or two comments, as the relentness dullheadedness which would inevitably snare some reasonable people into weird byroads, derailing the whole conversation. If otherwise intelligent contributors say the odd unpleasant thing, you can just call them on it.)

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dn 01.31.15 at 2:08 am

As a follow-up to 194 – Corey Robin has actually touched on this a little in The Reactionary Mind – in one of the chapters he points out that of all the ways reactionaries have sought to resist liberation movements, they’ve often reserved their greatest vehemence for the sheer possibility that those they are oppressing might have the chance to speak. Slaveholders in the antebellum period tried to prevent testimony from former slaves being heard in Congress, for example. Because of course, this was “politically incorrect” from a slaveholding perspective; chattel don’t get to talk.

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William Timberman 01.31.15 at 2:51 am

Cian @ 196

Yeah, I see how it could affect you that way. I don’t know what it was about this particular attack that, once I thought about it, turned me in another direction. I suppose it was that her anger and animosity were so over the top that it couldn’t really have been about me. There was a lot of pain underneath it, I finally guessed — had to be. Also, she was very, very smart — more than my equal in thinking things through. Whatever it was, when I added it up, I concluded that I was the superficial one, and that in scrambling to defend myself, I had missed something important. The rest came, as it apparently did for you, from observation, and from a lot of less confrontational dialogues over the years, some of them, as I said, with my own daughter. (My wife could have told me the same things, but sometimes husbands and wives are too involved with their own wrestling to see beyond it to matters of principle. I have some regrets about that, but it can’t be undone now.)

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Donald A. Coffin 01.31.15 at 3:04 am

When I first read that piece in the Michigan Review (“Do the Left Thing”), which Belle links to in the first paragraph way back up there, my reaction was (a) it’s really badly written; (b) if he’s making a point, I can’t tell what it is; and (c) as political satire–assuming that’s what it is–this is not funny. Were I the editor of The Michigan Review, I would have declined to print it. Were this typical of this guy’s writing, I would have suggested he try a different extra-curricular activity, because what he’s writing isn’t worthy.

Oddly, I felt the same way about Chait’s piece.

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mbw 01.31.15 at 3:52 am

#184- As others have pointed out, the general use of the tactic (prudish rhetorical hypocrisy) has been shared by the Right forever. Here at U of Illinois, the Chancellor and the Trustees made very specific use of “safe-space” rhetoric borrowed from the campus left to de-hire Steven Salaita based on his tweets about Israel/Palestine. It was entirely foreseeable. It took a particular myopia for campus identity-politics types to imagine that such rhetoric would not end up being used by people with much more power than them, especially money.

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Belle Waring 01.31.15 at 3:55 am

Chait would be well-served by an editor. Perhaps that person could have helped him come up with at least one single convincing example of PC gone mad. It was suggested above that we all agree this “problem” is “getting worse” and I don’t think so at all.

Cian, William Timberman: I think hitting someone with “all men rape their daughters” is stupid and counter-productive. All women face serious challenges in life in virtue of being women, and all men should become aware of these. But some fathers actually also rape their daughters, and this is an horrible crime. Conflating things in this way helps no one. Or, at least, I would have thought it didn’t help anyone, but if it did, in fact, help someone, then great. On the whole I can’t imagine it as anything other than profoundly alienating, though.

J. Thomas: dude, shut the fuck up. [THIS IS SO IRONIC THAT I SAID THAT!]

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Belle Waring 01.31.15 at 4:00 am

mbw: you may have heard recently about a contretemps happening online in which writers and game designers were attacking gamers, a marginalized group who had to fight back by appealing to ethics in game journalism. Gamergaters were all about how they were getting bullied and needed safe spaces and all the rest. This tactic has been co-opted by conservative forces in society forever, but why? Because it’s actually quite a good tactic. We shouldn’t let ourselves get talked out of employing it by powerful white men who are ‘worried’ that we’re unwittingly hurting ourselves in our PC confusion.

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Belle Waring 01.31.15 at 4:14 am

js, AB: if you think people are being really unmitigatedly awful then you should direct comments in the thread to the author of the post. I think you can even email us by clicking on links in the sidebar? Possibly? If that fails, repeating the point a few times should get our attention. I’m little inclined to ban people because I am mildly pro-troll in principle, (it’s hard to articulate why, but there it is), but eventually if people are derailing too much and dredging up homophobic bullshit then I’ll lose my patience. As a group blog we do sometimes bar commenters from one person’s threads but not another’s, but generally we group email and ban generally.

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Zora 01.31.15 at 4:23 am

Two commenters in this thread have brought up the Winterfox/Requires Only That You Hate fiasco and have been ignored. That is a sterling example of a sizeable chunk of an online community (SFF fandom) supporting a vicious troll (who suggested that various writers should have their hands cut off, have acid thrown in their faces, be raped, kill themselves) because the troll professed to be a defender of women of color, and a WOC herself. Psychopaths are all too common, but psychopaths winning supporters because they used the language of militant feminism and anti-racism to do their dirty work … that’s political correctness gone wildly astray.

Yes, it’s the net. There are rightwing mobs too.

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Belle Waring 01.31.15 at 4:29 am

Yes Zora, I haven’t actually read up on what I can see are some actual examples of the thing Chait complained about in his article but was unable to find any support for. I will write about them when I feel competent to do so. Knowing about them only by report at the moment it sounds like some machinating psychos got their hands on the levers of power in relatively small communities and enforced really brutal ideological conformity. The tools they used were probably the tools that could be used more benignly in a positive context. This doesn’t mean the tools are bad, or the levers of power themselves were bad, necessarily–but they may mean that and I’m happy to say they do when I have read varying accounts of them.

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MPAVictoria 01.31.15 at 4:31 am

This is interesting:
http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2015/01/30/382475295/what-research-says-about-the-consequences-of-p-c-culture

“I’m not the first to point out that Chait offers little in the way of hard evidence to back up his warnings. He gives a lot of weight to comments lifted from a Facebook page and an incident in which a feminist studies professor shoved a protester. He also notes the complaints lodged by a few high-profile and well-connected authors that Change.org petitions, Twitter hashtags and other forms of social media pushback have made them gun-shy about opinionating online.

But when we’re worrying over the future of human communication — and the future of democracy — anecdotes and isolated incidents are only part of the conversation. They aren’t enough on their own. And since Chait doesn’t present research on how political correctness may or may not affect the way people exchange ideas, I decided to go looking for it.

Michelle Duguid, a professor of organizational behavior at Washington University in St. Louis, has co-authored one such study, inspired by an offhand debate with some colleagues over whether political correctness hurts or helps productivity. Unlike the rest of us, Duguid and her peers had the means to empirically test their positions. The result is a study published last year by Cornell University.

Here’s how the study worked: The researchers asked hundreds of college students to brainstorm new business ideas for an empty restaurant space on campus. But first, they separated the students into groups and instructed some of the groups to discuss an instance of political correctness they’d heard or personally experienced. They did this to effectively put the notion of political correctness into their collective heads and impose what they call a “PC norm” on the group as a whole. (You can read the study for the science behind this.) Other groups got no such instruction.

The researchers found that groups that had both men and women and had been exposed to the PC norm went on to generate more ideas — and more novel ideas — for how to use the vacant lot than the mixed-gender groups that hadn’t discussed political correctness. (The ideas were graded for “novelty” by an independent panel, based on how much an idea diverged from the rest.)

The researchers’ takeaway: By imposing a PC environment, they had made it easier for men and women to speak their minds in mixed company. They had “reduced the uncertainty” that can come with interacting with someone from the opposite sex.”

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dn 01.31.15 at 4:46 am

What Belle says. Yet another way to state the great irony here is this – concern troll Chait is very, very worried about the idea that liberal “PC” discourse is a threat to our open “marketplace of ideas”. But “PC” ideas are just that: ideas, which are bandied about on this marketplace like any other ideas. And if we do indeed have faith in said marketplace, can we not have faith that in the long run, reasonable people will understand when “safe space” rhetoric is legitimate and when it is not? That they will recognize bogus reactionary hijacking when they see it, and rightly reject it?

How is the concern-troll position not self-refuting, in other words? Either the open marketplace of ideas functions properly to rule out bad examples of “PC” reasoning while endorsing good ones, or else the intellectual free market, just like the economic one, doesn’t actually work very well in the first place. In which case it might benefit from a little “PC” regulation.

I submit that the resort to “marketplace” rhetoric, indeed, betrays something of the neoliberal mindset. One must have faith in this abstract “market” with its invisible hand, because one cannot trust actual human beings. Real people are too complicated, too irrational, to be trusted to regulate their own discourse. For all Chait’s claims of Enlightenment optimism, this seems rather gloomy, doesn’t it?

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William Timberman 01.31.15 at 4:50 am

Belle @ 203

My point, which I kinda buried by my choice of such an extreme anecdote, was that Jonathan Chait is wrong. People who slag you for what you believe to be a minor offense, without any seeming regard for either justice or mercy, will nevertheless have their reasons — reasons which, once you’ve escaped their clutches, it’s usually wise to try and puzzle out.

They may indeed be nuts, but even so, something has driven them nuts, and wittingly or unwittingly, given the way society works, you may be implicated in it. That’s worth knowing about, even if there doesn’t appear to be anything you can do about it in a particular case, or at a particular time, except for ducking and takinng yourself elsewhere ASAP.

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Belle Waring 01.31.15 at 5:09 am

It’s cool William, I see that it was actually a positive experience for you; I just meant that right now at this cultural moment I wouldn’t think it was a helpful approach.

MPAV: that’s super-interesting, thanks!

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Ben 01.31.15 at 5:15 am

Everyone’s tap-dancing around Foucault all of a sudden, so let’s just say it: resistance to oppression always can serve as a site of power for further oppression, that’s the nature of power. Refusing to wield weapons because of that possibility is the same as not fighting in the first place. The inevitability of a Salatia firing or a Chait concern troll or a well-meaning community being manipulated into piling-on by a shyster is not a reason to stop using safe spaces or trigger warnings or deferring to someone’s lived experience as authoritative.

It does mean that those practices, like every other, need to be exposed when used through hegemonies – social, economic, political – as oppression.

Concrete analysis of concrete situations, same as it ever wuz.

(WHY HASN’T ANYONE IN THESE THREADS BROUGHT UP FOUCAULT YET Jesus people y’all are supposed to be pretentious intellectuals)

Belle: if you’re physically able please please please write a damn book already; whether in Drew Magary mode or elegiac description mode (or both!) I would be able to reccommend it to every reader I know.

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MPAVictoria 01.31.15 at 6:32 am

Happy you enjoyed it Belle!

Ben I see her writing some sort of awesome mystery novel with a killer lead detective lady and loads of interesting supporting characters….

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MPAVictoria 01.31.15 at 6:52 am

Going back to Freddie. Someone in the comments at Delong’s blog made the great point that he is hardly one to talk when it comes to driving away potential allies.

“De Boer has made his disdain for liberals fighting for social democracy quite clear. Exra Klein is a sell out in his eyes. Same goes for Lemieux, Yglesias, Delong etc.”

http://www.bradford-delong.com/2015/01/live-from-la-farine-watching-jonathan-chait-summon-a-monstrous-regiment-of-women-from-the-vasty-deep.html#comment-6a00e551f08003883401b8d0cbdc50970c

To that I would add most of the writers over at Balloon Juice, Digby and Atrios. Hardly the guy to be getting relationship advice from.

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dn 01.31.15 at 7:27 am

Hell, DeBoer thinks Erik Loomis is a sell-out. Erik Loomis! He thinks anyone who voted for Obama is a sell-out, because drones and Chelsea Manning, right? That’s what I seem to recall.

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Belle Waring 01.31.15 at 8:51 am

(^_^;) I am blushing from compliments about my writing you guise. John and I thought of a great idea for a novel many years ago, and he graciously let me write it, which I did in a short time up to 85% done, and then abandoned because reasons I have mental problems. I actually think a good setting for a novel would be the milieu of Social Register offspring turned hippies turned/joined up with oh-shit-the-70s-got-rilly-rill drug dealers and bikers in Savannah and S.C. that formed the backdrop of my youngest childhood years. You would…you would not believe some stuff. For all up until I was in my 20s our old wooden garage had “Mao is Acid” on one sliding door which, being permanently open, covered the words “Acid is God” on the other door. Foot-high letters. It’s kind of complicated why my dad put there but it was meant to be funny, of course. We had a DEA wiretap on my home phone when I was little! It was a mistake in that they thought my mom was some kind of ringleader mastermind, but she was actually just the best hostess and our house was the jam, so everybody was always over there for three-day-long parties where my dad would roast a whole hog in the ground overnight and we’d have oysters from the bottom of the bluff and people would play great music. My dad’s a superb slide guitarist who plays a 12-string with the second string removed for the top two notes (so a 10-string really) and bottleneck slide. My godfather was a big bear of a man with a mustache who chewed tobacco and played the fiddle, and they would play folk songs for me and my brother. Other people played the banjo and my mom played the autoharp. Well, to be perfectly fair to the DEA we did have a pretty big mumblegrowoperationsmumble at times. My dad put in hooks and eyes and ran the line that he made shrimp nets out of all back and to along the top of our upstairs screened porch, about a foot from the turquoise-painted ceiling (all southern porches have to have gray floors, white walls, and blue ceilings. They is rules.) forming a lattice, from which plants could hang upside down to cure. That whole damn porch would be like a tiki jungle sometimes and did it ever smell good! We used it for peanuts too. My parents were pretty awesome, really, but unbelievably irresponsible. I was taking care of my two-year-old brother at five and six like some kid in a village in Vietnam. I was on that shit, fixing breakfast for him when everyone in the house was passed out (and damn but there were a lot of people at our house!), making sandwiches, baking cupcakes from the mix in little paper cups, making sure he didn’t fall off the dock and drown (?!). Good times. When I was 11 I could take care of my infant sister too. It was like–babysitting? Killing it. My children regard these stories with skeptical wonder as our helper Malou brushes their hair for them. They for real aren’t that good at brushing their hair.

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Jim Buck 01.31.15 at 9:53 am

” On a hot summer’s day in 1838, when the Reverend S. Baring-Gould was four years of age, he was seated on the box of a carriage as it passed through a bleak and arid plain in the south of France. Suddenly he was surprised to see a host of dwarfs scampering alongside the equipage, scrambling not to the horses’ backs, and sitting laughing on the pole. When he remarked on this to his father, the child was promptly put inside the coach, and the merry little fellows gradually disappeared from his sight. Years later his own son, then about twelve, was in the garden picking peas for the cook, when he was terrified to com upon a little man standing between the rows, in a red cap, green jacket and brown breeches, ‘whose face was old and wan, and who had a grey beard and eyes as black as sloes’. Baring-Gould’s wife, too, when a girl of fifteen, was startled by the sight of a little green man, a foot or so high, staring at her with beady black eyes from a privet hedge.” Bolton, J.D.P (1973) Glory Jest & Riddle

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the other DSCH 01.31.15 at 9:58 am

@204, I agree. And as long it’s effective we should keep using it, but be wary that it doesn’t do all the work we probably want it to do.

Chait, though. He’s a classic dishonest interlocutor. He’s a total outsider to the Left, taking up a topic (without any knowledge, like you point out) that ought to be reserved for internal criticism. The effect is to sow divisions between us. Other people have used the term, “concern troll”; I think engaging with him (and others like him) is stranger danger: https://olaasm.wordpress.com/2014/09/26/stranger-danger-the-infiltration-of-dissident-communities-by-freedom-houses-sarah-kendzior/

Anyway, nice series of posts. They’ve given me something to chew over.

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Bruce Baugh 01.31.15 at 10:46 am

Zora, I’ve been thinking about the Requires Only That You Hate situation. (For those who missed it earlier, a magisterial review by Laura J. Mixon. Summary: one very dedicated person working under several aliases did immense damage to a small and vulnerable part of the sf/fantasy scene for much of a decade.) Personal disclosure time: I was active on Dreamwidth at the time 50books_poc was founded, and remember the Winterfox persona unpleasantly. I have acquaintances with some of the participants running back to the late ’80s or so.

This may come across as making excuses. It might be making excuses. I’m not altogether sure.

First, I have a thought about scale. Benjanun Sriduangkaew has done harm to the careers and well-being of targets whose numbers total up to the low dozens. Chait, the one warning about this kind of thing, was a vigorous cheerleader for a venture that killed hundreds of thousands and turned millions into refugees, shattered an entire secular society and handed it over to warring religious factions, and wasted trillions of dollars. But Chait’s warnings are not framed with anything to the effect of “See, a hundred thousand instances of this might do as much harm as that one that I boosted”.

Second, looking at her targets and at those who’ve done (and are doing) the work of building some safe places within which to work on recovery, I find few of Chait’s idea of good liberals as opposed to those evil threatening PC types. Some of them were on different sides of internal controversies like Racefail, but (unless I’ve missed some) this is a crowd that starts well to the left of Chait and goes to for-true Communist. It’s not people saying “the cure for bad speech must always be more speech” and tut-tut-ing over rich prominent speakers for the war machine losing gigs who did the detective work to put this together and get it out, nor to help with repairing aching souls in the wake of that.

This isn’t to say that folks Chait would approve of wouldn’t do the same if it happened in their scene. Most would be supportive, I’m sure. But just as the harm came about by too many people in a scene letting themselves be used by one determined manipulator, so the good is coming about by people in that same scene working on their collective problem.

Third, I’m not sure how much Benjanun Sriduangkaew says about that literary and social scene in general. Her kind of multiple-identity long-term pursuit is really rare in the left-wing world where that old devil political correctness might be found. There are weaknesses in pseudonymous communication formats she was able to exploit. But it doesn’t appear that many others are busily doing the same thing. Leftie sf/f is not 4chan, essentially; her style of trouble-making flourishes more among people more inclined to be moral sinkholes already.

It’s not that I think what she did should be excused. I really strongly support the effort going on to bring it all to light and help those who got trampled. But I don’t think that she actually illustrates anything particularly wrong with that scene, so much as with human nature in general: people fall for plausible lies and let themselves be led into doing bad things, and must take heed to learn when they’ve been used, stop going along with it, and help those who were wronged, and try to avoid doing it again.

Going for an analogy: she’s like a very successful bank robber in the era of MERS and subprime mortgages tranched and passed off as top-drawer material. People like her aren’t super common in the first place, and turn up in all kinds of contexts. Their specific tactics may show specific points of vulnerability in a given scene, but mostly – I think – they just show that we’re an exploitable species.

Meanwhile, Sriduangkaew’s pawns and people who might have succumbed are working together to do more for each other and the ones who got hurt than, say, Chait is doing for Riverbend.

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novakant 01.31.15 at 11:00 am

#214/5

Considering the fact that a vast majority of Democrats support drone strikes and “targeted killings” and a good chunk are perfectly ok with torture, I for one am grateful for people like Greenwald and deBoer calling out the BS some self-described “social democrats” are trying to sell me and challenging their claims to speak for the left.

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Soru 01.31.15 at 11:05 am

My view if that this stuff is a tactic or a tool, it is one that has the nature of saturation bombing. An effective tactic if you are already overwhelmingly powerful, and have goals that are the consequences of such bombing.

But not at all effective if you are either less than overwhelmingly powerful, or have a goal other than burning down cities.

Forget Foucalt, this stuff all comes down to Trotsky’s critique of terrorism. The fact that a tactic is used by the powerful does not mean that it is a plausible path of history that the weak can simply use that tactic and become powerful. It is not a matter of choosing to punch up or down; it is the fact that stamping on the face with steel-toed boots is a tactic that inherently only works on those already down.

In any case, only the use of different tactics of power can ever lead to an elite that is different in nature, as opposed to mere composition.

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Zora 01.31.15 at 11:17 am

Folks here complaining about Freddie DeBoer led me to look up the fellow. I’d never heard of him (I usually hang in tech-SFF-publishing circles). I liked the essays that he wrote about Chait’s piece. I particularly like the essay about refusing to be an accelerant. DeBoer comments that it’s often not those uppity minorities who are raising the level of rancor in these net dogpiles … it’s the well-meaning allies, many of them white and comparatively well-off, who get to feel all righteous when they join the fray on behalf of the oppressed. ROTYH may be a psychopath, but she (?) could not have done the harm that she did without her allies.

It’s an easy out to say that ROTYH was solely responsble for the mess, thus exculpating fandom, but I would regard fandom as somewhat guilty too.

As I said in a late post to the other thread, I watched this dogpiling happen in real time on a thread on James Nicoll’s LJ. People were discussing Marion Zimmer Bradley and her daughter’s accusations of sex abuse. They were angry at Marion (now dead), at her friends and associates (still alive, for the most part), at Bay Area fandom of the time, at fandom in toto, at anyone who had read and liked MZB’s books, or still liked them, and finally, anyone participating in the thread who was refusing to join the dogpile. If you weren’t widely and indiscriminately angry, you were supporting incest and pedophilia!

I think that was anger for anger’s sake. Which is to be seen in many other net venues, many of them non-political. Ugly primate nature? The madness of crowds?

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AB 01.31.15 at 11:42 am

Well said, Soru. It is often not easy to tell whether a punch is “up” or “down” in any case.

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bob mcmanus 01.31.15 at 12:30 pm

212: Foucault? FOUCAULT?! Damn crypto-normative androcentric neoliberal.

Cause Foucault is mostly about how authoritarian and normative knowledges and institutions and structures are imposed from above and then reproduced and enforced inescapably from below even through resistant practices. Like, pessimism.

And the challenge/problem Foucault posed in the 60s and 70s has been attempted to be met for 40 plus years after him by various disciplines of social science and cultural theory to show how in fact authoritarian and hegemonic structures are not imposed by authoritarians, even in the first instance, but created and maintained and reproduced on the ground level bottom-up democratically. Sociology and anthropology.

Cause only if we are creating our present society can we create the next one.

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Brett Bellmore 01.31.15 at 12:40 pm

” It is not a matter of choosing to punch up or down; it is the fact that stamping on the face with steel-toed boots is a tactic that inherently only works on those already down.”

The basic problem with this analysis is treating “up” or “down” as though it were some unidimensional value, when “up” and “down” are entirely situational and fluid. The powerless are seldom everywhere and always powerless, ditto for the powerful. You’ll always have in society domains where the nominally “down” are “up”, and the nominally “up” are “down”.

Indeed, these assignments are largely nominal, not real, for this very reason.

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afeman 01.31.15 at 1:52 pm

214,215

Deboer is big fan of digby.

For a sampling of the rest:

http://lhote.blogspot.com/search?q=lemieux
http://lhote.blogspot.com/search?q=loomis
http://lhote.blogspot.com/search?q=yglesias
http://fredrikdeboer.com/?s=yglesias

Perhaps this is what is fascinating about him, despite disagreements with his position or argumentation: his work is rarely addressed except in terms of crude caricature or, failing that, to make fun of his name.

234

Ben 01.31.15 at 2:11 pm

bob: ahhh that’s the stuff

I would have thought you’d be more amenable to Foucault’s approach though; I thought neoliberalism’s top-down influence on subjectivity is a theme of yours (might have you confused with another regular).

But I’m more shocked about the expressed preference for hope from bob mcmanus. Glory be.

Belle: oh mercy that sounds like I don’t even know . . . Pynchon doing the South instead of California. Yeah that might make for a good read.

Mental problems restrict my creative output too . . . it’s frustrating having ideas backed up and not being able to express them. Creative constipation is no more fun than the physical kind.

(I feel like kind of a jackass for braying for more of your writing and making you spell out why there’s not more of it; should have pieced it together from the descrpition of your condition in the other thread; apologies)

235

Lynne 01.31.15 at 3:10 pm

Wow, there are many more comments now than when I last looked. Before catching up, I just want to say to Belle that I am so sorry you are sick. This is inadequate, but I am also so very sorry you were raped, and that as icing on that lousy cake you get idiots telling you when you need trigger warnings and when you don’t. Ugh.

Also, thanks to JanieM way upthread for those kind words. Now I’m off to read.

236

AB 01.31.15 at 3:13 pm

One problem, as nicely illustrated by the wrangling over whether or not one ought to être charlie, is that mighty institutions wrap themselves in symbols that are sacred to vulnerable people.
The sanctity of the Koran and the prophet is violently enforced by petro-dictatorships and ayatollahs and crooked ulema and marauding millenarian madmen – but they are also sacred to minority facing the worst wave of race-hate Europe has experienced since the twenties .
The Star of David is the symbol of a nuclear-armed colonial state, and the most persecuted people in history.

Up and down is a matter of context, but context is always itself an interpretive judgement. (What was the context of Charlie Hebdo? Its bougie bolshie readership (not so much punching up or down as waving a fag in the air and scratching its arse)? post-colonial racially-segregated France? are ISIS and Al-qaeda part of the context? It ain’t easy.

Bruce @219 makes the most important point though.
The problem, if it does exist, of PC scolds exercising a little too much influence on twitter, rather pales in comparison to the problem of bloodthirsty imperialists occupying all the prestigious podiums of the liberal establishment. What can’t we do about that?

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William Timberman 01.31.15 at 4:27 pm

Brett Bellmore @ 224

A clever bit of sophistry there in that final sentence. Making us wait for it and all. Maybe we oughta drag Foucault back into this after all, pace bob mcmanus. The thing is, much of what we’ve been to-ing and fro-ing about here, especially the power relationships involved in who gets the shitty end of the stick, is indeed a collective creation, an artifact of human nature, more or less — just as you say, and bob implies.

The problem is, once we get to Foucault, we’re talking about how everything congeals at the top, the top coming in the form of the cultural hegemony that Gramsci was bitching about so many decades ago. Abstract as the concept is, the reality it conceptualizes is real enough, and observable enough if you don’t have an individualist/libertarian axe to grind. And when it comes with shared databases, secret courts, and a well-cowed mass media to help with the witch-hunting, let alone SWAT teams, drones, and, if necessary, Hellfire missiles, it take on a quiddity of its own, one quite different in character from the pecking order at a church social.

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William Timberman 01.31.15 at 4:42 pm

And one more thing…Foucault’s observations — and Marcuse’s as well — benefit from the clarity of a pessimist, bob’s from the passion of an optimist. I fall somewhere in between. I’m up for the fight, even though I know that if you’re born into the wrong time, that fight can consume pretty much your entire life without any observable results on the grand scale you envision. I also know, although I wish I didn’t, that just about any time is the wrong time to be born if you’re expecting justice with a capital J at the end of the trail. Like the sage said, it’s the journey that matters.

239

tub 01.31.15 at 5:30 pm

“Cause Foucault is mostly about how authoritarian and normative knowledges and institutions and structures are imposed from above and then reproduced and enforced inescapably from below even through resistant practices. Like, pessimism.”

Foucault would look at the granularity of contemporary leftist identity politics and point out that, to find a discourse with an equivalent fineness of detail, you’d have to turn to the records of a Nazi death camp.

240

Bruce Wilder 01.31.15 at 5:32 pm

The Conservatives are never the only Party of the Stupid.

241

Roger Gathmann 01.31.15 at 5:49 pm

Hey, I’ve found some censorious PC matter that should be addressed. The link is here, http://academeblog.org/2015/01/30/the-troubling-case-of-professor-stephen-cohen-and-the-american-association-for-slavic-east-european-and-eurasian-studies/ and the scandal is that Stephen Cohen, who has a long and respected record as a historian of the Soviet Union and Russia, is being given the bum’s rush cause he dared to say Un-pc things about the Ukraine. You know, like he didn’t buy the story that the problems there are due to the fact that Putin is Satan on earth.
Ah, but somehow I imagine this is the kind of speech that Chait would love to see shut up. If he makes a stink about this ridiculous decision by the American Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies. My guess – he will, if he makes any comment at all, defend the decision to slap the face of “Putin’s stooge.” That is the way these guy like Chait roll.

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bianca steele 01.31.15 at 5:53 pm

In reply to Zora, and not to take away from Bruce B.’s helpful analysis: I really do think it’s not difficult to tell the difference between a psychopath and someone who’s simply passionate. I also think it’s generally obvious when someone isn’t interested in discussing politics but basically wants to whinge about people who annoy them. Similarly, someone who just wants to rap about, say, J.S. Mill and Wittgenstein is fairly easy to distinguish from someone who’s pretending–they will sooner or later give themselves away.

And the seriously forum-destroying, apparently psychopathic trolls, in my experience, look different from language policing. But they take advantage of the prejudices of the normal people in the group, and they do cause damage.

243

mbw 01.31.15 at 6:01 pm

Belle #104 Maybe it’s just a residue of infantile leftism, now senile, but I still think that there’s an asymmetry. The constricted and fundamentally hypocritical way of thinking that churches and establishments have always promoted works very well in keeping most people down. Sometimes the sense of liberation that comes from facing truths, often chaotic and ugly ones, can be liberating. I think it’s a huge loss, both spiritual and strategic, to huddle in little safe spaces.

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Bruce Baugh 01.31.15 at 6:03 pm

I’m inclined to agree, Bianca. Good stuff.

I hope that I didn’t come across sounding like I’m underplaying the harm done during the Requires Only That You Hate rampage. It’s hideous stuff – I had no idea until recently how much worse it got beyond the fringes I happened to see. I’m concerned only to work out, if I can, what sort of awfulness it is, and how communities can better defend themselves and their vulnerable members against it in the future.

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William Timberman 01.31.15 at 6:07 pm

Bruce Wilder @ 230

I’m betting that after the homily comes the exegesis. Here’s hoping I don’t have to tear up my ticket and slink home with my pockets turned out. :-)

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mbw 01.31.15 at 6:21 pm

whoops, one sentence was messed up, should read: “Sometimes the sense of liberation that comes from facing truths, often chaotic and ugly ones, can be empowering.”

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AcademicLurker 01.31.15 at 6:25 pm

I was encouraged by the SF community’s response to the Requires Hate revelations, because there was an (IME) unusual willingness to consider the possibility that something about the community’s standards of discourse left them peculiarly vulnerable to that sort of manipulation. Generally when an online progressive space implodes the reaction is “We were doing everything right! We just weren’t doing it hard enough!” So this latest reaction was a breath of fresh air.

And just to fend off the predictable response: no, I am not, in fact, suggesting that we should go back to letting people say “faggot” or “retard” without getting any grief for it. I do, however, think that progressives might examine why their attempts to create “safe” online spaces frequently end up doing the opposite (recall it was mostly WOC who ended up getting the worst of RH’s vitriol). I don’t think we should be satisfied with “Well, other things are worse”. We could aspire to something a bit better than “not as bad as 4chan”.

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dn 01.31.15 at 6:43 pm

novakant @220: See, and that’s just the point of the linked Loomis piece, with which I largely agree: Who “speaks for the left”? Who cares? Why do people waste so much time trying to police the boundaries of ideological identity at the expense of addressing other, far more concrete identities, such as skin color or gender, which are the root of far more suffering in the world? Why so determined to impose yet another unnecessary tribal division on the discourse, rather than work to break down those unnecessary tribal identities which already exist? Why not let one’s views speak for themselves?

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dn 01.31.15 at 6:47 pm

I mean, the reasoning that tries to put people into these ideological boxes is the kind of reasoning that leads to just the sort of “even-the-liberal-Jon-Chait thinks…!” discourse that leads us down so many unproductive rabbit holes. It’s a red herring. It doesn’t help anybody.

250

Harold 01.31.15 at 7:15 pm

@231

This is indeed the enormous elephant in the room that the bien pensants are loath to mention — afraid for their jobs, or worse, I imagine. Stephen F. Cohen, incidentally, has won an award from Project Censored.

See “Media malpractice is now the norm” http://www.thenation.com/article/178344/distorting-russia#

A very unsavory development in this regard is the new version of holocaust denial – or obfuscation, the so-called Double Holocaust theory (it should be called the “Doubletalk Holocaust”), endorsed by our government in a Nov. 22 UN vote ( in a move to appease Baltic and Ukrainian right wingers), which has the effect of blaming the Holocaust on the Jews themselves who were, it is held, overrepresented in the Stalinist regime, or who benefitted in other ways. In this version, put forth explicitly by German historian Ernst Nolte in 1980s, and implicitly by Timothy Snyder and his wife Marci Shore, the Holocaust was an merely an understandable reaction to the previous Ukraine famine, in which many Jews were implicated, not least because of their mercantile activities as storekeepers and traders (according to Marci Shore “even during the height of the [1032] famine, special ‘Torgsin stores’ remained—almost obscenely—stocked with cornmeal and other foodstuffs. The Torgsin stores sold food for hard currency. Often it was dollars sent by American relatives that saved the lives of Jews while their Ukrainian neighbors starved to death.” See Marci Shore, “Rescuing the Yiddish Ukraine”, NYRB, April 3, 2014)

The NYRB’s editors fell down on the job, here!

In Central European countries such as Hungary denying the double Holocaust is now a crime punishable by jail.

251

Pat 01.31.15 at 7:22 pm

I’m new to the group so please let me know gently if I transgress group norms.
Something I don’t see addressed above, probably because Chait is who he is, is the effect of callout culture on members of oppressed groups. Though I can’t claim to speak for any such folks, several of the most insightful stuff I’ve read about it have come from them. For example,
https://thingofthings.wordpress.com/2014/12/13/certain-propositions-concerning-callout-culture/
and the famous article by Quinae at http://quinnae.com/2014/01/03/words-words-words-on-toxicity-and-abuse-in-online-activism/.

Apologies if you’ve already hashed this out in the earlier thread. But I see a repeated pattern where what actual minorities write about problems they see with PC and calling-out gets relatively little attention unless it happens to be cited by a white person complaining about PC (as Quinae’s article was picked up by Michele Goldman, IIRC), and then the complaints are dismissed as white people upset about being called out.

252

geo 01.31.15 at 7:27 pm

bianca @232: someone who just wants to rap about, say, J.S. Mill and Wittgenstein

“Just”? JSM and LW are rad to the extreme, gnarly, tubular, totally awesome! We should all (or at least, many of us) rap about them all the time (or at least, a significant proportion of the time)!

253

MPAVictoria 01.31.15 at 7:44 pm

Perhaps a future episode of “Epic Rap Battles of History”?

254

Pat 01.31.15 at 8:24 pm

Responding to Bianca, it is not so easy for someone inexperienced to “tell the difference between a psychopath and someone who’s simply passionate”. I had some interaction with RH and sincerely thought her to be an exemplar of social justice. Other people I respected deferred to her as an authority in the area. Who was I to contradict them, or her, about a movement that I was not familiar with?

255

bob mcmanus 01.31.15 at 9:18 pm

231,240: Thank you. Thank you. I can barely write about this the rage and fear is too great. And look, Chait said stupid things!

New Cold War

Indeed, some people who privately share our concerns—again, in Congress, the media, universities and think tanks—do not speak out at all. For whatever reason—concern about being stigmatized, about their career, personal disposition—they are silent. But in our democracy, where the cost of dissent is relatively low, silence is no longer a patriotic option. (Personally, as an American, I have come to feel this more strongly, to the point of moral indignation, as I watch the US-backed regime in Kiev inflict needless devastation, a humanitarian disaster and possibly war crimes on its own citizens in eastern Ukraine.)

But, I must also emphasize, we should exempt from this imperative young people, who have more to lose. A few have sought my guidance, and I always advise, “Even petty penalties for dissent in regard to Russia could adversely affect your career. At this stage of life, your first obligation is to your family and thus to your future prospects. Your time to fight lies ahead.

If they’re lucky.

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ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© 01.31.15 at 9:37 pm

Roger @ 231, I came here to link something along the same lines.

‘Group-Thinking’ the World into a New War

By Robert Parry

If you wonder how the lethal “group think” on Iraq took shape in 2002, you might want to study what’s happening today with Ukraine. A misguided consensus has grabbed hold of Official Washington and has pulled in everyone who “matters” and tossed out almost anyone who disagrees.

In other words, as the United States rushes into a new Cold War with Russia, we are seeing the makings of a new McCarthyism, challenging the patriotism of anyone who doesn’t get into line. But this conformity of thought presents a serious threat to U.S. national security and even the future of the planet.

It may seem clever for some New Republic blogger or a Washington Post writer to insult anyone who doesn’t accept the over-the-top propaganda on Russia and Ukraine – much as they did to people who objected to the rush to war in Iraq – but a military clash with nuclear-armed Russia is a crisis of a much greater magnitude.
=======
~

257

MPAVictoria 01.31.15 at 9:50 pm

I find it impossible to know what is really going on in Eastern Ukraine and I have no idea who to trust on the issue. :-(

258

Harold 01.31.15 at 10:39 pm

@245, Well, Robert Kagan, and his wife have a long track record you might want to look into. His wife is in charge of Central European policy.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/06/opinion/sunday/are-neocons-getting-ready-to-ally-with-hillary-clinton.html

259

Harold 01.31.15 at 10:40 pm

I apologize for my typos and misplaced commas.

260

Harold 01.31.15 at 10:41 pm

A long track record, not to put too fine a point on it, of being wrong about just about everything.

261

gianni 01.31.15 at 11:11 pm

@246
geez it makes my stomach churn to read people like kagan and boot being praised/taken seriously

262

George de Verges 01.31.15 at 11:37 pm

Ms. Waring, I have read “But Wait…There’s More” and dutifully read (most) of these posts, and although I am sure you wish everyone would relax and find something else to do I just wanted to say:

Everything you said about Mr. Chait was very, very funny, everything;

It wasn’t mean-spirited (that I could tell) but if some part of it was, that is OK, we are adults;

I understood that your piece(s) were not meant to be point-by-point rebuttals, with footnotes, annotated footnotes, of every point Mr. Chait made, or ever made, but a mocking of a certain tone in his article and a noting of his blindness on certain issues; and (finally)

Your pieces are really funny…it took me a bit to get them, but I do now. Please keep writing.

263

ZM 02.01.15 at 12:15 am

“…[Chait] can already say whatever he damn well pleases! Look at him go! What he wants is the right to both say things which are offensive to some people and remain a liberal in good standing once he has said them. This is a stupid right which no one should have…. Chait wants to say offensive things and not be criticized.”

I was thinking of this last night when I was reading After Romulus (this is the sequel to Romulus, My Father by Australian philosopher Raimond Gaita — Romulus was a European immigrant and settled near where I grew up as in order to immigrate he had to agree to do around 2 years of labour digging nearby Lake Cairn Curran for swimming and boating).

I was thinking that in real life if people say things you disagree with or think are wrong you wouldn’t necessarily say it follows then they are no longer people of good standing. Normally you would be more generous and expect more generousity in turn, since you probably say all sorts of things others would disagree with or think are wrong too. Being able to argue more vigorously than is polite in real life can be seen as a benefit of internet forums if you enjoy arguing — but it probably would not be very good for the community if real life exchanges were to become more like internet exchanges, but I guess it remains quite a challenge to be honest and also be kind to others.

“Truthfulness for [Romulus] was a condition of honest human interchange, a condition of conversation as I characterised it in ‘A Summer Coloured Humanism’. In turn, conversation of that kind was a mark and a condition of our humanity. He was, as I say in the book, paraphrasing the words of R. F. Holland, a fine English philosopher, ‘a man for
whom not to falsify had become a spiritual demeanour’. Hora was present at the launch of Romulus, My Father when someone asked him to sign a copy and write some words in it. Though visibly embarrassed he, he agreed. He wrote, ‘Romulus Gaita was the most honest man I have known.’ He meant that my father lived truthfully in every aspect of his life. This is one of the ways I put the point in the book:

‘In one way, my father was a fierce moralists. Not about the big and controversial issues of the day, but about simple moral requirements such as honesty and a concern for one’s neighbour. If he thought you were a liar or a cheat or had acted unkindly, then he would say so to you without a trace of euphemism. But there was never anything in his judgement which implied you should be shunned by decent people. Though fierce and uncompromising, his judgements were not what we now call ‘judgemental’.

Even his most severe judgements were made in many tones. If he called you an incorrigible liar he might do it angrily, scathingly, sorrowfully or, strange as it might sound, matter-of-factly, but never in a tone that suggested he would turn his back on you. You were always welcome at his table, to eat and more importantly, to talk; always to talk. But he believed it was essential to decent conversation that one not pretend to virtues one did not possess — as essential as being truthful about one’s identity. Only then could conversation be true to its deeper potentialities and do its humanising work of opening up the possibilities of authentic human disclosure.'”

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Belle Waring 02.01.15 at 4:05 am

I don’t think ordinary people should be shunned for wrongthink. My rejection of Jonathan Chait’s desires to not be criticized isn’t intended to amount to a pure desire to enforce ideological conformity. Jonathan Chait knows that as a writer at “Even The Liberal” publications there is a great temptation to become the brave contrarian former leftist whom conservatives love now because he understands they are the true inheritors of philosophical liberalism. This is not merely appealing on vanity but on C.R.E.A.M. grounds, what with the dolla dolla bills being thrown your way by the Hoover Institute and so on. I think this means one is probably inclined to sidle up that way when one’s feelings are hurt by fellow leftists who are giving you shit about your stance on the invasions of Iraq, and then shy back away when one realize one will have to believe a lot of stuff about immigrants that is so dumb one will have a forever migraine. It’s fair for readers to say, “hey, enough with the sidling, pal. Piss or get off the pot.” Or “remember that bullshit you wrote before? We remember.” Neither of these things is quite demands for double-plus ungoodery.

265

Harold 02.01.15 at 4:57 am

Thanks, Belle, touché with the “dolla dolla bills” — and don’t forget the junkets, conferences, and “International Institutes.” An ordinary person’s head, even a bright one, could be turned.

266

Ze Kraggash 02.01.15 at 9:23 am

I must say, observing this ‘love for Ukraine’ phenomenon in the western governments and mass-media made me question the common wisdom of ‘Zionist lobby’ as some outside force bullying the western governments and mass-media. Is there, all of a sudden, the all-powerful Ukrainian lobby, bribing and intimidating journos and politicians? I don’t think so. Something sure orchestrates it, on the scale of all of Oceania (US, Canada, western Europe, Australia), but it can’t be a bunch of well-financed zealots. Plain and simple, it’s a system of totalitarian thought-control. How did Orwell know all this? Or did life imitate art? “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life.”

267

Brett Bellmore 02.01.15 at 11:26 am

AB: “… but they are also sacred to minority facing the worst wave of race-hate Europe has experienced since the twenties.”

I guess it’s worth once again pointing out: Islam isn’t a race. Though I’m sure the reminder won’t stick, as “racism” is seen as too powerful a charge to use it only in cases of … racism. I guess “bigotry” doesn’t carry the same charge?

William Timberman, #227 “A clever bit of sophistry there in that final sentence.”

That final sentence: “Indeed, these assignments are largely nominal, not real, for this very reason.”

To be sure, there’s a reason I said “largely”. Obama, for instance, with his Predator missiles and massive security, is unlikely to ever find himself relatively “down”.

But, of course, the vast majority of the population have neither Predators nor Secret Service, and are far, far more subject to contextually swapping places. And so, for most people, the nominal character of assigned power relations is more significant.

My thoughts on PC:

Chait is pissed that a weapon intended for the fight between left and right is being deployed internally by the left. But I think he’s missed something critical here: PC, even in the fight between left and right, is deployed by the left, against the left. Like the machine guns on the Berlin wall facing East Germany, not West, PC is a weapon to police boundaries, and the people deploying it want to prevent escapees, more than they want to create converts.

The language is scattered with verbal mines, intended to trigger during conversations with the Other. If they damage the Other, fine, but they are mostly, I think, intended to prevent fruitful conversation with the Other. Because, if you genuinely talk with the Other, you might yourself be persuaded. Real conversations carry that risk.

But if numerous words and phrases which are likely to come up in such a conversation are assigned emotionally charged meanings on the left, meanings which they do NOT carry on the right, dangerous conversations can’t occur. They’ll get started, and then somebody will call Trayvon Martin a “boy”, or some such, and “boom”, the conversation is safely derailed.

This is not, of course, the only use of PC, but I think it’s a major use, and it’s a use directed by the left against the left, not the right. Though it might seem the targeting is different from your perspective. So Chait should not be so shocked to have PC used internally on the left: That has always been part of it’s utility.

268

AB 02.01.15 at 12:46 pm

@Brett
No, if I mean bigotry I would have said bigotry. The point isn’t that Muslims are in any coherent biological sense a race. But the discrimination they are now facing in Europe takes a clearly racialising form, and it is not a coincidence that the parties promoting it mostly have their roots in old-school racism and antisemitism. It is obsessed with birth rates and breeding, with supposedly innate characteristics which render muslims intrinsically unable to integrate, heritable deformities of the Muslim brain. Atheist brown-skinned people of Muslim ‘descent’ are not spared. It is part of the resurgence of a blood-and-soil definition of citizenship by which those of non-European descent are, however many generations in, considered foreigners. “anti-muslim” attacks and taunts are in practise simply directed at people who look like they come from the middle east and north africa.

269

Val 02.01.15 at 1:03 pm

So Brett’s theory is its the left policing the left, for reasons I can’t quite make sense of, but probably can be traced back to the inherent flaws of the left according to Brett. And Chait sees it as being because the left has abandoned the values of true liberalism and free speech (including the market place of ideas? Did he say that or was it someone else?), for reasons that I also don’t understand or maybe he didn’t explain.

I’ve worked and written and researched in a quite difficult and fraught area over quite a few years, about the relationships between white people/invaders/white Australians/non-Indigenous people and Aboriginal peoples/Indigenous peoples/First Peoples, and as that little list probably indicates, especially to those of you who are anti-PC, there’s a fair bit of “PCness” or being careful with terminology, in that area. And yes, people sometimes police each other, and people sometimes get upset, offended or angry.

I don’t think, though, it has much to do with the left being awful, or abandoning those good old values of free speech that privileged white men held so dear (except when subordinates were trying to speak). In this particular case, I think it’s to do with there being a continent inhabited by people who’d been there for 60,000 years or so, pretty much minding their own business, and then a lot of white people from England turned up with guns and invaded them, and nearly wiped them out. But they didn’t, and the first peoples survived, and gradually started to increase their population again, and are now doing things like being elected to Parliament, while still insisting on the worth and value of their own culture.

So the whole thing – in brief the invasion and dispossession – has left these fault lines in our society, and they go very deep, and there are huge reservoirs of hurt and anger and guilt and defensiveness than can be set off by treading on them. But it’s actually not at all surprising.

Sorry, very long, something I care passionately about.

270

Brad DeLong 02.01.15 at 1:19 pm

Ummmm…

This actually needs a call-out:

Harold 01.31.15 at 7:15 pm @231: “A very unsavory development in this regard is the new version of holocaust denial – or obfuscation, the so-called Double Holocaust theory… blaming the Holocaust on the Jews themselves who were, it is held, overrepresented in the Stalinist regime, or who benefitted in other ways. In this version, put forth explicitly by German historian Ernst Nolte in 1980s, and implicitly by Timothy Snyder and his wife Marci Shore, the Holocaust was an merely an understandable reaction to the previous Ukraine famine, in which many Jews were implicated, not least because of their mercantile activities…”

Even as applied to Nolte, this is wrong: Nolte attributes *some* responsibility for the Holocaust to the Bolsheviks, not to “the Jews”. In Nolte’s (wrong and contemptible) mind, its Lenin and Stalin, not Motel Kanzoil, who are to be blamed instead of “Germany”.

And as applied to Snyder… “implicitly” is a giveaway that this is not what Snyder’s “Bloodlands” says.

Harold shouldn’t have written what he did. And people shouldn’t pay any attention to him. And I think it would be a better world if he didn’t come back here again…

271

Belle Waring 02.01.15 at 1:24 pm

Thank you Val. Again, people do bad things in small politicial-minded communities (just glancing at the links above I see I do know some of the cases and I do think they are anomalous, terrible situations involving psychos who took advantage of other people). This is a real thing that happens. And college freshmen can get hyper about terminology in ways that are more about in-group relations than anything else. But for the most part “Political Correctness” is not a weapon forged by the left to use on the left, and it is not an indication of toxic tendencies towards conformism in leftism. It’s complaints about insulting, degrading language finally ever getting heard and anyone who matters changing their mind. It’s ordinary guys pushing back against prison rape jokes with a “hey dude, that’s not funny.” It’s parents telling their children “I say ‘retard’ sometimes but it’s a bad thing that I’m trying not to do, please tell me when I mess up.” It’s white Australians telling their uncle they don’t want to hear that insulting joke about Abos, thanks very much. Language matters. Again, political conservatives have a lot invested in pushing back against this and saying it’s attempted thought control. They do–because it actually works! Many left political projects are depressingly ineffectual, but language policing is not one of them. We shouldn’t get tricked out of trying to make positive changes. And people in the current absolute top positions of power in our society who kick up a huge fuss about not being able to call someone a retard (let it be so that Chait is better than this; still he has not come up with even a single good example in his mushy 2000 word article) should be regarded with the most extreme skepticism.

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Belle Waring 02.01.15 at 1:27 pm

Hi Brad; I don’t know enough about it myself to know what Nolte and Snyder themselves said but I’m totally happy to trust your judgment. Also just hi! I was thinking it’s been some time since you were here for Christmas.

273

AB 02.01.15 at 1:36 pm

1. I agree with Brad that Harold misrepresents Nolte and Snyder.
2. The injunction to the “left” to stop fighting each other never seems to apply to those issuing the “concerned” criticisms. “We should unite….behind me!”

274

William Timberman 02.01.15 at 1:37 pm

Brett Bellmore @ 257

But, of course, the vast majority of the population have neither Predators nor Secret Service, and are far, far more subject to contextually swapping places. And so, for most people, the nominal character of assigned power relations is more significant.

What you’re missing here is the extent to which the assignation of these power relations is a considerably less than accidental process. To give just a couple of obscure examples from long-ag0-or-far-away-and-therefore-harmless stories told to me: the old busybody on a street in Teheran who gestures toward a stray wisp of hair and informs a visiting Iranian/American woman, “sister, you’re having bad hijab”: the teenage SA members in ragtag uniforms putting little cards under the windshield wipers of seemingly random cars on a Berlin street in 1935, on which is spelled out in very proper Fraktur, “Jew, we know where you live.”

What you miss about engineered social conformity is that it is engineered. The penalty for disobedience is no less real for being implied; there’s nothing merely nominal about it. So tell me, how do you contextually swap places with an informant for the morals police, or a thug from the Sturmabteilung, without becoming one of them yourself. How does Steven Salaita swap places with Alan Dershowitz?

275

Brett Bellmore 02.01.15 at 2:02 pm

” The point isn’t that Muslims are in any coherent biological sense a race. But the discrimination they are now facing in Europe takes a clearly racialising form, “

Pay your words a lot, do you, Mr. Dumpty?

” So tell me, how do you contextually swap places with an informant for the morals police, or a thug from the Sturmabteilung, without becoming one of them yourself.”

It’s a matter of granularity, of how closely you focus, or how much you blur the details. Sure, if an actual professional thug is standing over you with a baton, and the power of the state backing him, that power relationship is pretty well fixed, at that moment.

But I’m not a member of the Sturmabteilung. Hardly anybody is. And mostly power relationships are being assigned to people whose jobs don’t involve much in the way of power relationships.

People will tell you that, for instance, Trayvon Martin was “down”, and Zimmerman “up”. In the moment after Martin slugged Zimmerman, and was sitting on top of him punching his head back and forth? You’d have had trouble making that case to Zimmerman.

I’m told that blacks are “down”, and whites are “up”. But is that the case in majority black cities, where blacks control the power structure?

Are women “down”, and men “up”, in our schools, where women are the teachers, and men the students?

I suppose you can make the assigned relationships look right, if you back off a long ways, and squint real hard to blur all the details. But the details are reality.

276

Val 02.01.15 at 2:13 pm

Thanks Belle @ 261. I thought about acknowledging that people do, as you say, sometimes do bad things in political communities (I’ve experienced the quite punitive nature of some of this) and that story about the woman with multiple trolling identities was pretty awful. However I just thought I’d already written a long comment so I’d better not say more.

As per your previous suggestion, it would be good to have a thread to reflect on some of the problematic judging and policing that does happen in the left and feminist groups sometimes.

277

William Timberman 02.01.15 at 2:40 pm

Brett Bellmore @ 265

A black teenager stalked by an armed racist? The underpaid and casually disrespected women who teach in our schools? The black power structure of, say, Detroit? These are your tightly-focused examples of up? I rest my case.

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Brett Bellmore 02.01.15 at 3:09 pm

A black teenager stalked by an armed racist, in the falsified version of events designed to make the assigned roles look reasonable. Not in real life, though, where the black legal adult was a thug who finally chose the wrong victim.

And, yes, the black power structure, of, say, Detroit, where they had enough power and autonomy to run the city into the ground. Having power doesn’t mean you know what to do with it.

It is actually kind of hilarious that the sort of people who are so determined to assign power relations this way, like using the term “racist”. What, after all, is more “racist” than the determination to think that somebody’s race tells you more about them, than the particulars of their life? Than the determination to think in groups, rather than individuals?

279

Zamfir 02.01.15 at 3:15 pm

@Brett, is it really that hard to believe that part of European anti-muslim sentiment is based in ethnicity? I know plenty of people whose rants are equally aimed at muslims, morrocans, berbers, turks, pakis, caribbeans, brownies, darkies, etc.

When pressured in public, they’ll concentrate on the evils of islam. It’s a religion, they’ll say. How dare they call us racists.

Even in private, some will avoid strict racism. Perhaps thie people are not inately stupid, lazy and criminal, perhaps it’s a cultural factor that makes them all like that. Like Islam, for the muslims. And you’ll be suprised to learn that they know cultural factors for many non-muslim groups as well.

Also popular is the selection theory: plenty of good people over there in Morroco/Egypt/Turkey/Ghana, but the bad ones came here to suck on the benefit tit. Nothing to do with racism, oh no.

280

Consumatopia 02.01.15 at 3:20 pm

“The injunction to the “left” to stop fighting each other never seems to apply to those issuing the “concerned” criticisms. “We should unite….behind me!””

Definitely. I see far more ostracism of leftists from liberals for refusing to vote for Obama than of liberals from leftists for choosing to vote for him. And I say this as someone who chose to vote for him.

There is an explanation, of course. It only makes sense to denounce someone with similar beliefs but a different voting strategy as a traitor if you think that elections are the only political work that matters. So if you’re looking to find tribalism in left-of-center American politics, it’s more about party unity than ideological purity. It’s coming more from the people demanding loyalty than those demanding accountability.

DeBoer isn’t always fair to his interlocutors, but to hold up Loomis as a better example is nuts.

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Brett Bellmore 02.01.15 at 3:32 pm

” is it really that hard to believe that part of European anti-muslim sentiment is based in ethnicity?”

Maybe the anti-Muslim sentiment is based on religion, and poorly targeted due to confusing religion and ethnicity. I guess the test would be whether the hostility goes away after a Sikh explains that he’s not a Muslim

282

Zamfir 02.01.15 at 4:13 pm

I don’t know about that, there are almost no Sikhs where I live. All I can say is that most vocal islam-critics that I personally meet, will also make negative generalisations about ethnic groups or nationalities. Not limited to majority-muslim groups.

Though I say ‘most’, I cannot think of a single exception. At least in my personal experience, people who object to the presence of Islam in Europe also object to the presence of specific ethnic groups in Europe. I am sure there are people whose strong objections are purely aimed at the religion, but they seem to be a small minority.

283

Abbe Faria 02.01.15 at 4:36 pm

“The sanctity of the Koran and the prophet is violently enforced by petro-dictatorships and ayatollahs and crooked ulema and marauding millenarian madmen – but they are also sacred to minority facing the worst wave of race-hate Europe has experienced since the twenties .”

I think you mean sacred to the minority *committing* the worst wave of race-hate Europe has experienced… Of course, if you guys have actually managed to find a significant ‘Islamophobic’ incident where the victims were actually Muslims, as opposed to a bunch of Norwegian socialists, then congratulations! and please, let me know what happened?

Otherwise, the most notable recent race-hate incidents are still CTs beloved Islamist Turkey conspiring with ISIS and their euro-jihadi toadies to commit genocide against the Kurds, and the recent wave of Islamist shootings of Jews. To tie back to idiot SJW speech policing, a good academic example is concerns about ‘Islamophobia’ by the National Union of Students black students’ officer preventing NUS condemnation of ISIS attacks on Kurds – so this fictitious reversal of the haters and hated is certainly politically useful.

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AB 02.01.15 at 5:41 pm

Brett: these questions probably feel clever if you have no first hand expereince . If you do, they are just stupid. In Britain, the people who hated “pakis” in the 70s and the 80s switched to hating “Muslims” in the 90s. In France the people who used to rant about “Arabs” and “Africans” now rant about “Muslims”. It’s a new stick to beat the same people.

Abbe: feel free to consult the French, Dutch, German, Norwegian, Swedish or Danish press, all of which have reported dozens of such incidents in the last months alone. Smashing of shops, firebombing of mosques, heckling and bottling on the street etc etc. All of these countries have major political parties for whom anti-Islam-ism [I won’t use “islamophobia” seeing as you don’t like the word, many of the Scandi parties use “Islamokritisk”] is the central policy plank. Anti-Islam street marches are now a common fixture in Germany and (on a smaller scale) in the UK, Denmark and Norway. By sheer coincidence, most of these political parties and protest groups are led by ex white-power types whose fight for the preservation of the European genetic stock used to be focussed on blacks and jews. They focus on Muslims now, because that has much more traction.
The national secretary of the Sweden Democrats got into a bit of trouble for saying that Kurds and Jews can’t be Swedes. Do you think such a man’s dislike of Muslims is really based on a close reading of the Koran?

Muslim anti-semitism is awful. The behaviour of the Islamists in Turkey is awful. The NUS vote was a good example of PC used as a stick in lefty infighting – (it was all actually a pissing match between two tiny impotent far-left parties, the SWP and AWL who are divided over whether hating America or Isis is more important.) But what has this got to do with anything? If anything you seem to agree with my own complaint about the unhelpfulness of “punching up vs down”.

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MPAVictoria 02.01.15 at 5:43 pm

Is Brett really still defending Zimmerman? The man is an obvious maniac and it is only a matter of time before he kills again.

http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2015/01/30/3617493/assault-charges-dropped-against-george-zimmerman/

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Harold 02.01.15 at 5:59 pm

I am very sorry that what I wrote roused the ire of Brad de Long, whose writings I read regularly and whom I greatly respect. I am surprised that he goes so far as to say my opinions should be banned. Professor de Long should take it up not with me, however, but with with the distinguished historian of the Holocaust and World War 2 Omer Bartov, whose views I summarized (along with those of Dovid Katz), and whom I find very convincing:

A point of departure for this discussion can be the Historikerstreit, the German historians’ controversy of the mid-1980s. The debate was set off by German political scientist Ernst Nolte’s assertion that, apart from the gas chambers, Nazi policies and practices of mass killing were merely a copy of Soviet ones. German genocide, argued Nolte, was a fearful response to the perceived threat of communist violence. The Historikerstreit introduced no new documents; it merely rearranged existing knowledge to reproduce an old argument. The Nazis had already presented themselves as a bulwark against Judeo-Bolshevism; early postwar Germans depicted the Wehrmacht’s war in the east as a struggle to save civilization. Antisemitism was said to have been provoked by Jewish overrepresentation in communism and the professions and by western Jewish leaders’ threats of war against Nazism. And in any case, the argument went, with so many other cases of genocide and atrocity, it was time to stop obsessing about the Final Solution.

A quarter of a century later, Bloodlands seeks to fit the Holocaust into an appropriate historical context by examining the struggle between the Third Reich and the USSR from the perspective of the civilian populations caught in between. The book presents no new evidence and makes no new arguments. Facts and interpretations are culled from established authorities: Christian Streit on the Soviet prisoners of war (POWs); Christian Gerlach on “hunger politics”; Nicolas Werth and Lynne Viola on the Ukrainian famine; Dieter Pohl and Karel Berkhoff on German-occupied Ukraine; Peter Longerich, Christopher Browning, and Andrej Angrick on the Holocaust. Admirably synthesizing this voluminous scholarship, Snyder stresses that most civilians (and POWs) died in the east. While not a revelation for scholars of the period, this argument may appear startlingly new and shocking to nonexperts. Snyder’s designation of this site of mass killing as “bloodlands,” though evocative, lacks any historical existence: none of the protagonists would have recognized it, and it excludes large numbers of victims on both sides. And his penchant for citing vast figures to the last digit cannot be reconciled with the notorious unreliability and contentiousness of such figures. —

The book’s claim to novelty relies on its juxtaposition of systems and events. By describing the sequential or simultaneous actions of the Soviets and Nazis in the “bloodlands,” Snyder suggests the impact they had on each other. The book begins in 1933, thereby implying a link between Adolf Hitler’s “seizure of power” and the mass famine in Ukraine. Yet this single largest mass crime by Stalinist Russia, chillingly described in the book, along with the Great Terror on the eve of World War II, had little to do with German policies. Bloodlands then examines the genocide of the Jews within the context of Nazi crimes against other populations, continued maltreatment of civilians in the Soviet Union, and partisan warfare. Reiterating Götz Aly’s 1995 thesis, Snyder argues that the single-minded focus on the genocide of the Jews came only after Nazi plans for resettling eastern Europe collapsed in the face of Soviet resistance (251–52). But whether one accepts this argument or not, surely a defeat of the USSR would not have prevented the Holocaust. –Omer Bartov, “Review of Timothy Snyder’s Bloodland”, Slavic Review, Summer 2011

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Harold 02.01.15 at 6:01 pm

While my response to Professor de Long (of whom I have been for many years a great fan) is in moderation (because of long quote?) I will merely refer readers to Omer Bartov’s review of Bloodlands in Slavic Review, Summer 2011.

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Harold 02.01.15 at 6:05 pm

See also: Jan Gross, “A Colonial History of the Bloodlands”, Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 15: 3 (Summer 2014)

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Harold 02.01.15 at 6:06 pm

Actually, I think I deserve an apology from Professor de Long.

290

magistra 02.01.15 at 6:09 pm

Abbe – I’m sure the relatives of Mohammed Saleem, the elderly Muslim man murdered in the UK by Pavlo Lapshyn (who also bombed several mosques) will be pleased to hear that Islamophobia isn’t a problem in Europe.

291

Abbe Faria 02.01.15 at 6:11 pm

“Abbe: feel free to consult the French, Dutch, German, Norwegian, Swedish or Danish press, all of which have reported dozens of such incidents in the last months alone. Smashing of shops, firebombing of mosques, heckling and bottling on the street etc etc.”

Exactly my point. In France there’s been a wave a shootings of Jews. A thousand Jihadists have left for Syria to enslave and murder Kurds. But also there’s been some property crime directed at Muslims – and *that’s* the worst wave of race-hate that’s going on.

292

Bruce Baugh 02.01.15 at 6:21 pm

On Islam as a race: races aren’t real. That is, nothing in nature actually corresponds to what people almost always mean by “race”. Given this, it is unsurprising that among the real things stuck with this invalid label are identities and presentations that combine religion, ethnicity, language, culture, and a bother stuff. Islam isn’t a race, but neither are “white” or “black”, and yet racists have no problem treating them as if they were, too.

The form and content of how Islamophobes talk about Muslims, attempt to litigate against them, etc., is the form and content of how racists of any stripe deal with their designated targets.

293

Bruce Baugh 02.01.15 at 6:25 pm

That should have been “a bunch of other stuff”, but I rather like “a bother stuff”.

294

Harold 02.01.15 at 6:26 pm

Belle, I am a nobody, and you are right to respect Professor de Long more than me. But with all his admirable erudition, he is not a historian but an economist. Omer Bartov, on the other hand is a very respected historian with a specialty in this very field, as is Jan Gross, and they are highly qualified to pass judgment on Snyder.

I will say that I was completely taken in by Timothy Snyder and Marci Shore at first and have been very disillusioned to gradually discover the slanted nature of their joint narrative (basically, they over identify with some of the groups they study).

295

novakant 02.01.15 at 6:33 pm

DeLong doesn’t doesn’t know bubkes about Nolte.

296

Ze Kraggash 02.01.15 at 6:38 pm

@280
What “a wave a shootings of Jews”?
Also, regarding those people who chose to join the ISIS: how did you learn that their motivations are “to enslave and murder Kurds”? Did you interview any of them?

297

novakant 02.01.15 at 6:44 pm

oops, accidental double negative, but really, DeLong doesn’t know what he’s talking about

298

AB 02.01.15 at 6:45 pm

The “property crimes”, which include beatings and stabbings, take place alongside a wider political movement, which I discussed in the paragraph following the one you quoted, one which is already strongly influencing policy on immigration, policing and welfare in a number of countries.
If I said that this was “very bad”, rather than “the worst”, would we have anything left to disagree about?
(Might I add, your comment seems to me a prime example of rightwing poltical correctness, HOW DARE YOU TALK ABOUT X WHEN YOU SHOULD BE CONDEMING MUSLIM TERRORISTS, which I had just done at some length,)

299

Harold 02.01.15 at 6:45 pm

An addendum to my comment (@276) awaiting moderation:

See also Amir Weiner, ” Timothy Snyder, Bloodlands “, Cahiers du monde russe [En ligne], 53/4 | 2012, mis en ligne le 01 décembre 2013, Consulté le 01 février 2015. URL : http://monderusse.revues.org/7904 [In English]

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Harold 02.01.15 at 7:09 pm

Excerpts from Amir Weiner review referenced above: … “the argument for the two systems and leaders teaching and enabling each other is not exactly novel and to put it mildly, has not taken root since Ernst Nolte’s debunked argument of Nazism as a copycat of Bolshevism. Repetitive assumptions do not constitute evidence no matter how eloquent and playful the language employed.
*** Creating and celebrating a false equilibrium is the last thing that Poles or any other European society emerging from the disastrous communist experience needs.
***
Falling back on Vasilii Grossman’s oft-quoted insights into the similarities between the Soviets and the Nazis does not absolve the historian from probing the fundamental differences between the two regimes, especially those that accounted for the one being nihilistic and genocidal, and the other not. Long on promises and short on delivery, replete with equations that are often baseless and at times tasteless, Bloodlands ends up as a bloody nose to history.

301

dudley 02.01.15 at 7:52 pm

Very cool to see that Brad deLong, noted for going to the mat repeatedly to defend noxious sexist Larry Summers, and despite treating a commenter so (oddly) rudely, gets such deference and such a warm welcome from our host.

302

lurker 02.01.15 at 8:05 pm

‘Going back to Freddie. Someone in the comments at Delong’s blog made the great point that he is hardly one to talk when it comes to driving away potential allies.’ (MPAVictoria, 214)
Freddie’s examples were total newbies who were driven away by the reception they got. Disagreeing, however violently, with someone who knows what they are doing is something else.

303

bekabot 02.01.15 at 8:18 pm

Late to the party, sorry.

I will be holding a vigil later in which I hand out candles in dixie cups if anyone wishes to join in.

This is the new standard — “I will play you a concerto on the world’s smallest violin” has just been displaced.

They think the fact that people can tweet snarky single-sentence takedowns of them is a bad development, and it was better for everyone when we would have had to wait till the next issue and see who made it into the Letters to the Editor.

It’s a matter of knowing what you’re good at, knowing yourself, knowing your place in the good sense as opposed the bad. Expert tweeting demands a keen feel for the quip, and that’s why I forgo tweeting, and why many other people forgo tweeting, and why even more people should forgo tweeting than do. I don’t tweet because I haven’t got the right skill set. Mr. Chait hasn’t got the right skill set either, and he betrays a rancid envy of the people who possess it, which is cool, not cool at all. Chait still has loads of access to public opinion, and so do the rest of his gang, and what’s he’s crabbing about is that the kind of access he’s got is no longer the only kind of access there is. Once again, so not cool. Thank you for the takedown, which is/was richly deserved.

304

Harold 02.01.15 at 9:07 pm

My comment on Mr. de Long’s blog to the effect that I was merely the messenger of the bad tidings of devastating reviews of Bloodlands from the author’s specialist colleagues in the field of history was speedily deleted. It is they who bring up the comparison to Ernst Nolte and they also state that Snyder’s method is that of implication. I have never accused him of anti-Semitism, by the way.

Such attempts at censorship speak for themselves.

305

Ronan(rf) 02.01.15 at 9:21 pm

Harold, what does any of this have to do with the comment DeLong was responding to:

“A very unsavory development in this regard is the new version of holocaust denial – or obfuscation, the so-called Double Holocaust theory (it should be called the “Doubletalk Holocaust”), endorsed by our government in a Nov. 22 UN vote ( in a move to appease Baltic and Ukrainian right wingers),

(emphasis mine)**which has the effect of blaming the Holocaust on the Jews themselves who were, it is held, overrepresented in the Stalinist regime, or who benefitted in other ways. In this version, put forth explicitly by German historian Ernst Nolte in 1980s, and implicitly by Timothy Snyder and his wife Marci Shore,**(emphasis mine)

the Holocaust was an merely an understandable reaction to the previous Ukraine famine, in which many Jews were implicated, not least because of their mercantile activities as storekeepers and traders (according to Marci Shore “even during the height of the [1032] famine, special ‘Torgsin stores’ remained—almost obscenely—stocked with cornmeal and other foodstuffs. The Torgsin stores sold food for hard currency. Often it was dollars sent by American relatives that saved the lives of Jews while their Ukrainian neighbors starved to death.” See Marci Shore, “Rescuing the Yiddish Ukraine”, NYRB, April 3, 2014)”

again, this bit:

“A very unsavory development in this regard is the new version of holocaust denial – or obfuscation, the so-called Double Holocaust theory… blaming the Holocaust on the Jews themselves who were, it is held, overrepresented in the Stalinist regime, or who benefitted in other ways. In this version, put forth explicitly by German historian Ernst Nolte in 1980s, and implicitly by Timothy Snyder and his wife Marci Shore, the Holocaust was an merely an understandable reaction to the previous Ukraine famine, in which many Jews were implicated, not least because of their mercantile activities…”

Is bullshit. (at least as it applies to Snyder. I dont know about Nolte) Your comment at 289 also doesnt support your comment:

“the argument for the two systems and leaders teaching and enabling each other is not exactly novel and to put it mildly, has not taken root since Ernst Nolte’s debunked argument of Nazism as a copycat of Bolshevism.”

Which in fact supports De Long’s interpretation:

http://crookedtimber.org/2015/01/30/but-wait-theres-more/#comment-606956

you made much too strong a point at 240.

306

Harold 02.01.15 at 9:28 pm

@294 Ronan, Dovid Katz has written extensively about the double Holocaust theory. Holocaust obfuscation is a phrase used by Jan Gross.

http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/ukraine-bonanza-for-upgraded-holocaust-denial/

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Harold 02.01.15 at 9:37 pm

My apologies for not making this clear through formatting, Ronan, the statement you quote:

“the argument for the two systems and leaders teaching and enabling each other is not exactly novel and to put it mildly, has not taken root since Ernst Nolte’s debunked argument of Nazism as a copycat of Bolshevism.”

is not by me but is a quotation from Amir Weiner, professor of History at Stanford
Please take the trouble to read Weiner’s review and also those of Gross and Bartov.

308

William Timberman 02.01.15 at 9:38 pm

Harold @ 292

For what it’s worth, Brad DeLong does seem to me have an unusually idiosyncratic view of what’s acceptable and what isn’t, at least when it comes to addressing him — less so when it comes to his addressing others. For example, he once tried to explain to me in the comments section of CT why he’d banned me from the comments section of his own blog. Because of some syntactical confusion, other commenters got the impression that he was trying to ban me from CT, a blog which he seems to like, but as far as they or I knew he doesn’t own. First confusion, then nervous laughter.

Ah well, it is what it is. I read his blog every day, ’cause he’s an interesting and very smart guy, but I no longer try to trouble him on his own turf with my reactions. In fact, there’s hardly any need to — the Internet being the very large place that it is, the word will get back to him sooner or later, as it has with Chait, but in the meantime, nobody’s hair will get mussed.

N.B. to you and all others concerned: I have no opinion as to the disagreement between you and Brad in the present instance, as I’ve not read either Nolte or Bloodlands.

309

Ronan(rf) 02.01.15 at 9:41 pm

Harold, again. Read what you wrote and what De Lond replied to.

Did Nolte say, and Synder imply:

“the Holocaust was an merely an understandable reaction to the previous Ukraine famine, in which many Jews were implicated, not least because of their mercantile activities”

According to De Long, no :

“Even as applied to Nolte, this is wrong: Nolte attributes *some* responsibility for the Holocaust to the Bolsheviks, not to “the Jews”. In Nolte’s (wrong and contemptible) mind, its Lenin and Stalin, not Motel Kanzoil, who are to be blamed instead of “Germany”.”

According to your @289 also no:

“the argument for the two systems and leaders teaching and enabling each other is not exactly novel and to put it mildly, has not taken root since Ernst Nolte’s debunked argument of Nazism as a copycat of Bolshevism.”

310

Ronan(rf) 02.01.15 at 9:43 pm

“My apologies for not making this clear through formatting, Ronan, the statement you quote”

Sure, I got that. I just think it supports De Long’s position(ie that Nolte puts some responsibility on the Bolsheviks), not:

“the Holocaust was an merely an understandable reaction to the previous Ukraine famine, in which many Jews were implicated, not least because of their mercantile activities”

311

Harold 02.01.15 at 9:45 pm

I haven’t read Nolte, but I assume that Bartov and Wiener have. As I said, they are specialists. Because of the respect in which de Long is held, my comment in reply is being held in moderation here and people are prevented from seeing it.

I respect de Long myself, but as they say, “When you see something, say something.” People deserve to know the facts.

312

Ronan(rf) 02.01.15 at 9:45 pm

” Please take the trouble to read Weiner’s review and also those of Gross and Bartov.”

Ive tried to but cant find them online (links would be appreciated.) Again, Im not disputing any expert criticisms of Synders thesis, just that you misrepresented it (and Id assume the pushback) above

313

Harold 02.01.15 at 10:06 pm

I am reluctant to post links because my comments then are put into moderation http://defendinghistory.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Omer-Bartovs-review-of-Bloodlands.pdf

The link to Wiener is given above.

Ronan, I plead guilty to rhetorical excess in using the word “merely”. That was my indignation speaking. I guess it is an explosive topic. Snyder does actually avoid coming out and blaming the Jews, but he is remarkably sympathetic to those who do. In anti-Semitic propaganda the Jews and Bolsheviks were conflated, as everyone knows.

And you should know that in Hungary and Lithuania it is now a crime punishable by jail to deny that Stalin’s and Hitler’s crimes are equivalent (per Dovid Katz) and that Timothy Snyder’s book is cited in justification of these policies, though he himself has not advocated them, as far as I know.

There is also an interesting recent article on the Ukrainian famine by the Canadian-Ukrainian John-Paul Himka which can be found on Project Muse, often available through library membership.

314

Harold 02.01.15 at 10:13 pm

aargh, Weiner not Wiener.

315

Corey Robin 02.01.15 at 10:14 pm

“I haven’t read Nolte,…”

And there we have it.

316

Harold 02.01.15 at 10:17 pm

What do we have, exactly?

317

Corey Robin 02.01.15 at 10:20 pm

Yet another instance of you arguing about a text you’ve never read.

318

novakant 02.01.15 at 10:28 pm

Well, DeLong sure hasn’t read Nolte either.

319

Harold 02.01.15 at 10:30 pm

I am not arguing about Ernst Nolte. Have you read him? I have read Snyder, Jan Gross, Omer Bartov, Marci Shore, Larry Wolff and Amir Weiner, have you?

It is interesting that this is a discussion about the thought police.

320

Corey Robin 02.01.15 at 10:37 pm

Harold at 307: “I am not arguing about Ernst Nolte.”

Harold at 240: “In this version, put forth explicitly by German historian Ernst Nolte in 1980s,…”

321

TM 02.01.15 at 10:41 pm

I have read Snyder (Bloodlands) and I think this attack on him is totally unjustified, to put it mildly.

322

Corey Robin 02.01.15 at 10:42 pm

Harold, you have a history of arguing about texts you haven’t read — and whose arguments you represent as knowing, based on a combination of Google snippets, Wikipedia entries or, in this case, book reviews. When you’re called on it, you act like you’re the victim of academic wagon-circlers or, now it seems, the thought police. But the issue is much simpler: do the work yourself. Read Nolte, then make claims about him, preferably with textual evidence and quotes. And if you haven’t read Nolte and are called on your claims, just admit outright and upfront: okay, I haven’t read him. If you’ve read Snyder, as you claim, cite Snyder, with quotes; it’s much more persuasive. If you have the evidence.

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TM 02.01.15 at 10:46 pm

BB 265 stands out for its sheer stupidity. BB 268 is pure racist malice. That Belle allows such drivel to be published here only proves how admirably patient the “PC police” really is.

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Harold 02.01.15 at 10:55 pm

Corey Robin, you have no idea of what I have or haven’t read. I am older than you and have read quite a bit and moreover, when I went to school we learned to read, and to enjoy reading, in languages other than English.

“Victim of academic wagon circlers” ?! It’s me who is citing academic writers here. I revere academic writers. “Public intellectuals” not so much.

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Corey Robin 02.01.15 at 11:01 pm

“Corey Robin, you have no idea of what I have or haven’t read.”

Alas, I do. Your reverence for writers — not necessarily a good source for critical reading skills, by the way — is clear. Your knowledge of the texts of the writers you like to make claims about (Hirschman, Tocqueville, and now Nolte): not so much.

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Harold 02.01.15 at 11:07 pm

Hirschmann? I think you have me confused with someone else.

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Harold 02.01.15 at 11:10 pm

The only claim I have made about Tocqueville is that I don’t agree that he was in his heart of hearts a “reactionary” of the same kind and caliber as Joseph de Maistre.

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Corey Robin 02.01.15 at 11:13 pm

Oh, I’m not surprised you’ve forgotten; that’s what happens when you get into arguments about texts you haven’t read. But it was you, on another thread, who made many claims about Hirschman and Tocqueville. In the first instance, without having read the book and in the second with no evident knowledge of anything Tocqueville had written.

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Harold 02.01.15 at 11:17 pm

Well, I am sorry that my remarks, whatever they were, stung to the point that you have been brooding about them ever since. I did read De Maistre in a graduate course in French and Tocqueville on my own. Is one only allowed to comment on topics on which one has written a Ph. D. dissertation?

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Corey Robin 02.01.15 at 11:18 pm

And, no, I’m afraid that was not at all the only claim you made about Tocqueville. Now I know at this point in the game what you’d love more than anything else is rather than looking at what you actually wrote, to find some academic worthy whom you could cite who could tell us what you wrote. But alas there is no such worthy; all we have is your own words, and they’re plain as day. You did in fact make multiple claims — and argued with me — about what Hirschman said, without having read the book, and you did make multiple claims about Tocqueville, showing no actual acquaintance with what he wrote.

Again, here’s the bottom line. Those academic writers that you claim to revere: they actually read the texts they write about. So why don’t you do the same? Stop citing reviews, Wikipedia entries, and the like; just read the damn book — and not just Google snippets — and then show us that it says what you claim it says.

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Harold 02.01.15 at 11:22 pm

What you are saying is that you don’t like the practice of fact checking.

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Harold 02.01.15 at 11:23 pm

Since you care so much, I will read your book.

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Corey Robin 02.02.15 at 2:06 am

No need to read my book; that would just compound the problem. My only request is that next time you make claims about a text, please have read the text. And when you’re challenged on your claims, rather than citing a book review or some other scholar’s views, cite from the text itself.

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Ronan(rf) 02.02.15 at 2:45 am

Harold – I don’t read BDL normally, so have only realised by going over there now that he’d ‘called you out’ (so to speak) on his blog. If I’d known the context for your responses above I wouldnt have said anything (although I do think youre wrong, and that review you link to – while interesting – doesnt say what you imply it does)

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Harold 02.02.15 at 2:52 am

@322 I am not a graduate advisee and there is no reason for me not to cite a review or mention a book written in German because I don’t read German. I am not aware that this is Crooked Timber policy. The fact that three specialist historians have similar objections to Snyder’s book is very telling. Here is a Thomas Kühne, Strassler Professor of Holocaust History at Clark University, Massachusetts:

Snyder is not the first to think about what Hitler and Stalin had in common and how their murderous politics related to each other. The more provocative historians were in doing so and the more they thereby questioned the uniqueness, or the peculiarity, of the Holocaust, the more their work was met with resistance or even disgust, most prominently and controversially the German Ernst Nolte in the 1980s. Snyder’s move to link Soviet and Nazi crimes is as politically tricky today as it was then. As it seems to reduce the responsibility of the Nazis and their collaborators, supporters and claqueurs, it is welcomed in rightist circles of various types: German conservatives in the1980s, who wanted to ‘normalise’ the German past, and East European and ultranationalists today, who downplay Nazi crimes and up-play Communist crimes in order to promote a common European memory that merges Nazism and Stalinism in to a ***‘double-genocide’*** theory that prioritises East European suffering over Jewish suffering, ****obfuscates*** the distinction between perpetrators and victims, and provides relief from the bitter legacy of East Europeans’ collaboration in the Nazi genocide.

No author is safe from misappropriation. In recounting the grievances, and in trying to restore the dignity, of the victims of mass crimes other than the genocide of the Jews, Snyder may not have intended to cater to East European ultra-nationalists. Nevertheless, the fact that his book can be read as a ‘bible of the Holocaust distorters in post-Communist Eastern Europe’ is a result not only of some readers’ misappropriation but also of the author’s mis-narration. The book’s dilemma is the way it presents history, or, more precisely, its obsession with large numbers and its resorting to great men when it comes to understanding what happened.” [end quote]

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Harold 02.02.15 at 2:57 am

Here is the citation; Thomas Thomas Kühne, “Great Men and Large Numbers: Undertheorising a History of Mass Killing” Contemporary European History [Cambridge University Press], 21: 02 (May 2012): 133-43.

http://www.academia.edu/1492056/Thomas_K%C3%BChne_Great_Men_and_Large_Numbers._Undertheorizing_a_History_of_Mass_Killing_Contemporary_European_History_21_2_2012_133-143

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Harold 02.02.15 at 2:58 am

Thank you, Ronan.

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PatrickfromIowa 02.02.15 at 3:02 am

Brett says, ” I guess the test would be whether the hostility goes away after a Sikh explains that he’s not a Muslim.”

Doesn’t work so well with American conservatives, Brett. This isn’t the only one: http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2013/9/23/columbia-universityprofessorattackedinallegedhatecrime.html.

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PatrickfromIowa 02.02.15 at 3:06 am

Having read Snyder, I think Harald owes Snyder an apology. He may not be right, but he doesn’t say what Harald says he says.

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Harold 02.02.15 at 3:18 am

I don’t think I slandered Mr. Snyder. I said he over-identified with some of the people he studied. And I believe this to be true of his wife as well (or her editors). I don’t think there is an equivalence, myself, and I think our refusal to condemn glorification of Nazis at the UN last November was despicable.

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Bruce Baugh 02.02.15 at 3:28 am

Oh, Ze Kraggash, a belated thought about your question up yonder about why this particular wave of pro-Ukraine sentiment from bought pundits and such. I am absolutely not any kind of expert, but my impression garnered from years of reading Lawyers Guns & Money, Juan Cole, and folks like that is that payoffs from corrupt governments seeking leverage via those willing to sell themselves out to whoever is business as usual in all the capitals. It’s just that every so often, a more general public/media spotlight falls on one of the groups that’s been buying themselves favorable coverage for the long haul.

I’m almost hoping this is wrong enough to bring out someone who knows what they’re talking about.

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PatrickfromIowa 02.02.15 at 3:44 am

What you said was this, “In this version, put forth explicitly by German historian Ernst Nolte in 1980s, and implicitly by Timothy Snyder and his wife Marci Shore, the Holocaust was an merely an understandable reaction to the previous Ukraine famine…”

As Corey Robin noted above, there’s no reason to suppose from your posts that you’ve actually read Snyder, because you have offered no evidence for your assertions from the book itself, instead offering links to reviews. At this point, if you want to make the case against multiple people who actually have read the book, and who say you’re wrong, you’ll have to offer some evidence from the primary source.

Or you could admit you don’t possess the evidence yourself, and then go read the book. There’s that option.

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William Timberman 02.02.15 at 4:09 am

Some years ago, when I was still working, the Special Collections Department of my university library received a donation consisting of a large collection of Nazi-era documents, everything from copies of Mein Kampf bound in gold-stamped white leather — intended as wedding gifts for certified Aryan couples — to typed dispatches for transmission to Berlin from SS Einsatzgruppen.

As a participant in the sorting and cataloging of the manuscript and typescript parts of the collection, I was obliged to translate larger or smaller snippets of many of them. It was a truly eerie experience, reading the cold columns of statistics reckoning up the numbers and classifications of those deported, killed, etc., not to mention those infamous phrases, die Ausrottung des jüdischen Volkes, die Endlösung der Jüdenfrage, and auf Befehl des Führers. Being in my thirties at the time, I’d only encountered such things in history books, yet now here in front of me were some of the originals, irrefutably spread out on the table in sheaves of tattered typing and memo pad paper, complete with the faded signatures of the person or persons responsible still visible at the bottom of them.

I’m no scholar, but I can tell you, just skimming our relatively small collection of documents immunized me forever against revisionist theories of that miserable period, no matter how plausibly they may be presented. The nature and extent of the evil I encountered in those bits of cheap paper were both palpable and, in my opinion, forever unfalsifiable.

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Harold 02.02.15 at 4:40 am

I will admit that my comment was a gross simplification. However, Snyder imply, through constant comparison, that Hitler was inspired by Stalin’s crimes. He says Hitler’s policies resembled Stalin’s (p. 62) describes Auschwitz as “a giant labor camp very much on the Soviet model” (p. 150) , and so on.

I don’t have the book in front of me because I took it out of the library some years ago when it first came out. When I first read it I thought it very illuminating. (In fact, my whole family read and discussed it, and then we went on to read other books, such as Jan T. Gross’s Neighbors and Larry Wolff’s The Idea of Galicia, as well as Michael Stanislawski’s very interesting A Murder in Lemberg.) It is only later that I began to see the defects of Bloodlands, especially as I read Snyder’s articles in the NYRB and elsewhere and the reviews of Bloodlands by authors I respect. I certainly would not go so far as to call Snyder a liar, as is done by Daniel Lazare (or his editor) in Jacobin, the magazine of which Corey Robin is a contributing editor.

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J. Parnell Thomas 02.02.15 at 4:47 am

That’s why I pretty much stopped reading library books, although this ends up limiting me quite a lot on account of me being such a cheapskate.

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Harold 02.02.15 at 4:52 am

I think what turned me against Timothy Snyder were his disparagements of Rosa Luxemburg and Claude Lanzmann, not to mention his contention that there was no Red Army, and that the Ukrainians not the Soviets had liberated Auschwitz, because that division of the Red Army was called the First Ukrainian Front. Which is like saying there was no British Army because of the Welsh Guards.

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J. Parnell Thomas 02.02.15 at 4:55 am

Also, speaking of books people haven’t read, me in this case, anybody here read “The Neighbors Respond: The Controversy over the Jedwabne Massacre in Poland” by Antony Polonsky and Joanna B. Michlic?

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john c. halasz 02.02.15 at 4:58 am

@330:

Actually, Harold @283 seems to imply he has read the Snyder book and was disillusioned with it from reading critiques by other specialist historiographers. I myself have read the book, only reviews, but whatever the merits of the book on a professional level, Snyder has been quite aggressively championing what one might call the State Dept. line on the Ukraine crisis, drawing on his professorial authority, while going quite beyond its bounds. And the phenomenon of equivalence and thus “double denial” which concerns Harold is quite real, (as he has provided links for), and disturbing, whether or not Snyder has done anything to support it, (which I would guess he would strenuously deny). (“Yats” was in Germany recently, where he told an interviewer that both Germany and the Ukraine has been invaded by the Red army!) Why anyone here should be expected to read Ernst Nolte, or at all want to, is beyond me. Besides which the German historians’ dispute occurred 30 years ago, and it would be more fruitful to read a summarizing overview (which I did years ago) of that many-sided debate that Nolte only set off.

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Harold 02.02.15 at 5:00 am

“No Russian army”, I should have said.

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J Thomas 02.02.15 at 6:21 am

#240 Harold

A very unsavory development in this regard is the new version of holocaust denial – or obfuscation, the so-called Double Holocaust theory (it should be called the “Doubletalk Holocaust”), endorsed by our government in a Nov. 22 UN vote ( in a move to appease Baltic and Ukrainian right wingers), which has the effect of blaming the Holocaust on the Jews themselves who were, it is held, overrepresented in the Stalinist regime, or who benefitted in other ways.

So here’s a claim about the meaning of the UN vote.

In this version, put forth explicitly by German historian Ernst Nolte in 1980s, and implicitly by Timothy Snyder and his wife Marci Shore, the Holocaust was an merely an understandable reaction to the previous Ukraine famine, in which many Jews were implicated, not least because of their mercantile activities as storekeepers and traders (according to Marci Shore “even during the height of the [1032] famine, special ‘Torgsin stores’ remained—almost obscenely—stocked with cornmeal and other foodstuffs. The Torgsin stores sold food for hard currency. Often it was dollars sent by American relatives that saved the lives of Jews while their Ukrainian neighbors starved to death.” See Marci Shore, “Rescuing the Yiddish Ukraine”, NYRB, April 3, 2014)

This appears to be a claim that some ukrainians blamed jews for surviving the famine, and so wanted to help kill them to even things out so to speak.

In Central European countries such as Hungary denying the double Holocaust is now a crime punishable by jail.

No doubt inspired by legislation to make doubting the single Holocaust a crime punishable by jail. I can’t help think this sort of thing is a bad idea.

So out of all these very serious claims, that have serious implications for europe, the only part that gets discussed is whether Snyder implicitly implied the things you said he did. This controversy has hardly anything to do with the fate of europe, but it could possibly have some sort of effect on Snyder’s career if people believe you that he complicitly implied. Or possibly some people might figure that if they can show that you got that one reference wrong then they can dismiss anything you say?

One obvious conclusion from this is that maybe your actual conclusions might get more attention if you do not provide references to back you up. The references will not in general support your claims because whoever thinks they’re an expert on your references will disagree about what they mean in reality. And if you argue about that, the discussion will slide down the black whirlpool of back-and-forth about quoting the words, and the contexual words around the words, and what the meaning of “is” is, until either all but one side give up in disgust or the nonexperts are totally confused. It’s a mug’s game.

“You might as well fall flat on your face as lean over too far backward.” Thurber and White.

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J. Parnell Thomas 02.02.15 at 6:29 am

I liked the part about the black whirlpool of quoting the words.

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J. Parnell Thomas 02.02.15 at 6:30 am

Sorry sorry, the black whirlpool of back-and-forth about quoting the words.

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Harold 02.02.15 at 6:44 am

Perhaps you are right, J Thomas. Generally, I don’t like to make statements for which I don’t have references. Also, I don’t think I said or even implied that Snyder was anti-Semitic. I don’t think other people have said that Snyder was anti-Semitic. What other people have said, including the head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, was that his book was being used by anti-Semites. Also I think you may be right that jail is not the right solution for holocaust denial, single or double. But the double holocaust theory and concomitant demand for reparations, does have the effect of casting doubt on the singularity of the holocaust. Especially, when some of the Baltic countries have retroactively declared resistance fighters against the Nazis to be criminals. I don’t know if they would consider Polish or French resistance fighters to have been criminals. This was the position in the 1990s of Berlusconi, however, with regard to Italian resistance fighters. His attempt to criminalize them was turned down by the Italian courts. It was also the position of the papacy, during the Nazi occupation of Rome.

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J Thomas 02.02.15 at 7:44 am

#341 Harold

Generally, I don’t like to make statements for which I don’t have references.

It’s great to have references. But if you display your references it’s predictable people will find something to argue about them.

But the double holocaust theory and concomitant demand for reparations, does have the effect of casting doubt on the singularity of the holocaust.

Singularity of the holocaust is a silly idea. Something like 2/3 of european jews disappeared in the Holocaust, around 6 million people. The Armenian holocaust killed 3/4 of armenians but there were only 2 million of them to start with. (There are 3 million in Armenia now.) The Nazis killed a lot of gypsies but there wasn’t a great estimate of the “before” number. Sure, the Soviets killed a lot of Russians and also many Armenians. The Chinese communists killed a lot of Chinese. The Khmer Rouge killed a lot of Cambodians, and the USA did very little to offer them any better choices. The USA was poised to kill a whole lot of Japanese after the surrender, but it turned out we didn’t have to. It wasn’t all that singular, and we should work to keep it from ever happening again, starting now.

Maybe some jews have tried to minimize other people’s suffering to make their own seem singular. But that is not enough reason to try to minimize Jewish suffering from their own Holocaust. There’s plenty to go around.

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J Thomas 02.02.15 at 8:05 am

#247 MPAV

I find it impossible to know what is really going on in Eastern Ukraine and I have no idea who to trust on the issue.

This is wisdom.

At some point you may have to choose who to trust, when you have no idea, because the consequences of not choosing are predictably worse than the consequences of choosing wrong. Then you’ll do the best you can. But I’m pretty sure that for you that time is not now.

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Harold 02.02.15 at 8:25 am

The Nazi Holocaust of the European Jews and Gypsies was singular in some respects and not singular in others. It is not a good idea to make invidious comparisons about suffering. But I am not going to debate this.

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Ze Kraggash 02.02.15 at 8:31 am

The Free World has always been at war with the Russians. Always allied with Germany and Japan. I’ve read somewhere that, based on the comments left at the Hiroshima memorial, nearly 40% of the Japanese school children believe that Russia dropped the nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

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novakant 02.02.15 at 11:38 am

Why anyone here should be expected to read Ernst Nolte, or at all want to, is beyond me. Besides which the German historians’ dispute occurred 30 years ago, and it would be more fruitful to read a summarizing overview (which I did years ago) of that many-sided debate that Nolte only set off.

I agree that nobody should be forced to read books by Nolte in order to participate in the discussion, I myself have never read a book by him and do not intend to. But a familiarity with Noltes position in and some of his contributions to the “Historikerstreit” is required if one wants to make strong claims about Nolte, as DeLong does – and he clearly is not knowledgeable enough to comment.

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Jim Buck 02.03.15 at 5:34 pm

I’ve read somewhere that, based on the comments left at the Hiroshima memorial, nearly 40% of the Japanese school children believe that Russia dropped the nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki

It would be handy to have a provenance for that attractive factoid.

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Harold 02.03.15 at 7:04 pm

Wikipedia has an entry on the Historikerstreit for those who are interested.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historikerstreit

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