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.