Response to Freddie deBoer, Just Like I Done Promised, Ye of Little Faith

by Belle Waring on February 10, 2015

Temporarily stranded in the last warehouse of my closed business, itself scoured almost clean save a few odds and ends and the massive teak bed I lusted after for so long, since 2002, bought in 2010, enjoyed…well, I don’t know that I enjoyed it quite, as I spent too many uninterrupted months in 2012 laying there looking at the mountainous terrain of sheets, and the violent tropical foliage visible above my half-shuttered windows, and the pink Christmas tree with its tin-winged angel, left up too long, and the local 1960s vanity with the mirrors all découpaged with photos from abandoned HDB flats and pictures from old HK movie magazines—filled to overflowing as always with unguents and near identical shades of fuchsia YSL lipsticks, and jewelry, and my grandmother’s monogrammed silver-topped powder container in cut crystal, from her girlhood in sober 30s font with the initials of Miss Henrietta Drewry Callaway. But the bed was lovely, minimalist with tapered uprights, with a rail for a mosquito net, and it was mildly unfortunate that when we moved from a big house to a condo that it would not fit. I am going to sell it at Expat Auction. In any case, I was sitting on the screed floor of the double-height space, one wall of windows shining, and so I wrote this blog post long-hand with my new favorite pencil the Palomino Blackwing 602. “Half the pressure, twice the speed!” It says that on the side. It may simply be a 3B with an, replaceable eraser. It will take longer to see. We only got them last week. John thinks I should scan it and post the scan, which has a certain justness, as I do have excellent handwriting, but I think it would be precious.

So, I promised you a response to Freddie deBoer’s response to Jonathan Chait’s anti-P.C. cry in the wilderness of having an extraordinary platform to write whatever you want. Why did I not do this immediately? Both my children have been ill since then, and I had Japanese homework, and I have a new art project which I will tell you about later [I am making my own tarot deck as I have dreamed of since childhood, but with Great-Aunt Nora Cloud’s (well, Violet Bramble’s, I suppose, really) Least Trumps from Little, Big.] And I am very sick and you should all feel super-guilty. No, OK really, also I am bone-lazy and a fundamentally unserious person as has been established.

Freddie’s post is very convincing! But it runs, I must note, athwart, if not actually orthogonal to, Chait’s essay, which thing Freddie himself regards skeptically. Chait’s whiner’s petting zoo proffers feeble, dirty things that any honest person would be embarrassed to employ as examples for a contentious thesis. “Someone who looked in the mirror with a towel on as a cape dubbed herself an Official Feminist 4Eva come whatsoever might. Then she pitched the #slatiest book ever to fly right over home #splatepitch, declaring that the sexism war is over and the patriarchy…DUN DUN DUNlost!1 [shocka!] And then people made fun of her on Twitter! Let us never lose sight of the root and branch and wasp-blown fruit rottenness of Chait’s essay. I’m quite unabashed in saying that it was a bunch of bullshit.

That aside, could Jonathan Chait be a stopped clock and Freddie deBoer a Swiss-made testament to his immobile accuracy? Yes, possibly. Does deBoer know more than I about actual on-campus political organizing right now? Yes, certainly. Could things now be a million times worse than when I was myself a college student who was politically active? Again, sure, although I thought it was a truth universally acknowledged that political organizations in need of feeling embarrassed need only be provided with copies of their posters from the ‘90s.

In deBoer’s post he tells of well-meaning young people being driven—hounded, even—away from political advocacy because of a single lapse into unapproved wrongthink.

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

Each of these examples is morally wrong in multiple ways: they are unfair to the person being driven out; they are counter-productive to the goals of the groups in question, and so on. I’m not surprised that it should be rich students chastising poor ones for imperfect knowledge of the language of oppression. I wrote about an adjacently similar situation long ago (remember when John and Belle Had a Blog?). In this case, my rich fellow grad students in Classics treated my friend as something of a pariah because he was a Libertarian, and thus an oppressive evil-doer. In fact, he had come from a difficult home with a single mother, and they depended on the state at times. He signed up to be a Marine for the tuition payment benefits (among other things), went to UCB, and, having learned Arabic in the Marines, was then getting a PhD in Classics, the first person in his family ever to aim so high, academically. He read to himself, carefully and slowly, The Laches (Plato’s dialogue on courage) while he was on his troop ship on his way to the Gulf for Iraq I, and this won my heart. It made me angry when Harvard legacies disrespected him: he was the embodiment of what a functioning welfare state could achieve for a ferociously hard worker who would take risks. Sure, in an ideal world he would also appreciate the privilege he had as a white man in our society—but, dude, these were just not the people to be lecturing other people about privilege.

DeBoer takes care in the post to note that the wrongdoers in the cases he talks about are not women of color. (And he makes a more general point reiterating it later, the gist of which is, ‘don’t draft imaginary W.O.C. as foot-soldiers in your arguments about political correctness, or feminism, or whatever. Also, stop being a dick just for the sake of it.’ (This last seems totally solid, I must say.)) Fair enough. But who are the villains of the piece? Women with $300 shoes. Because ‘women with their shoes amirite? Bitches. Be. Shopping for shoes, and then they pay $300, because they are straight cray!’ Oh goddamnit. What do bored MRAs do with their time, if they’re not the type of total psychopath who is a MGTOW? If they’re like this ‘normal’ MRA dude interviewed by Vox, they hang out on /r/TumblrInAction and spend their day mocking feminists on Tumblr. It’s better than the kotakuinaction people I guess? but.

“I mean it’s ridiculous that these people go on about how I have so much power because I’m a white dude,” Max continues, “like, Americans would rather elect a gay Muslim philanderer President than an atheist. Libertarians are treated like a joke. If you think people are mean to feminists on Twitter, you should see the stuff people say about MRAs. Or just like, you know, die white-cis-scum die.”

Yeah. That is a serious social problem, right? Now look, it’s not deBoer’s fault that assholes agree that vicious Tumblr-buzzword-based feminism is devouring society and then, ouroboros-like, its own tail. It’s not even genuinely the case that this is deBoer’s contention, rather, it bothers me that somehow feminists end up being the boogeyman most of these discussions of the tragedies of P.C. (I do realize that Freddie himself is likely innocent of this charge.)

DeBoer links elsewhere to outright calls for censorship. This is obviously stupid and wrong. But politically active people wanting to shut up white supremacists are a hardy perennial. They spring up every year; S.H.A.R.P is like Queen Anne’s Lace. Would deBoer would argue that the A.C.L.U.’s decision to protect the rights of Nazis to march in Skokie was a popular one among leftists at the time? It was the correct one, sure. But popular? Everybody hates Nazis. The article deBoer links to is decidedly not evidence for some rising tide of Nazi-hating.

Because that’s the thing: a core claim of the anti-P.C. argument, broadly conceived, argument is that P.C. culture is is powerful, pervasive, more prevalent than in the past, and growing in strength. I realize that it’s hard to provide evidence for this, but at the same time…I’d like to see some evidence. People are more likely to learn more about radical movements, and more quickly, than before the internet existed. They can get in deep quick. But do they go more overboard than campus communists in the 1970s? Anti-racists five years ago? Ten years ago? We’ve had the internet for a while now.

I’m willing to grant there are problems on college campuses that I don’t see, because I’m not there. I don’t think problems at universities don’t count; they are real even if they affect few people. (DeBoer complains that people try to dismiss problems on those grounds: “The more sophisticated version then became ‘that only happens in academia.’”) But it would seem the thing to do would be to make a very different type of argument from any that has been advanced so far.

Just now my older daughter asked what I was writing about. I explained using the example of the word “tranny.” I said that while some younger activists might think even using this word should result in banishment, some older trans people identified as “trannies.” We also talked about reclaiming slurs, and she independently remembered the “we’re here, we’re queer, get used to it” slogan I had told her about from the 90s. 80s?. I know the ‘out of the mouths of babes’ schtick can be annoying, but this is genuinely what she said (paraphrased). ‘No one should tell older trans people what to call themselves, that would be rude and ridiculous. And if you were friends with that person and they told you they wanted to be called that [i.e. “a tranny”], then you should. But otherwise you should just stick with trans. And if people decided they preferred something else you could always change because it’s not like it’s hard to do?’ DeBoer complains repeatedly that no one is offering ‘concrete solutions’ or ‘hard and fast rules’ about when to say (or believe) someone should shut up because he’s mansplaining and when to say hey, chill out, I want to listen to what he’s got to say. Right. There aren’t hard and fast rules, or strips on which ph can be measured. “That insult was too base; you have to leave the commune now.” People should try to be polite to one another, and kind to one another, and generous to one another, and to muddle through as best they can.

Here is a real article someone could write about P.C. culture if this was actually what worried them. It would address young political activists, but also people on the internet. To these latter people it would say, ‘this isn’t a game. Your desire to feel righteous fury is outweighed by the need for justice.’ To the former it would say, ‘hey, something bad is coming out of a good place! Your economic privilege is blinding you to the ease with which you accessed the tools and language of activism. Other people with good intentions who would strengthen our movement with diversity weren’t so lucky. Feeling right isn’t as important as making allies. We need to reflect on how P.O.C. have been shut out of activist communities in the past and learn from that hard lesson. It isn’t one wrong word that makes someone an enemy. It is acts of hate.’ If Jonathan Chait had written that article I think we’d all have said where’s all that activism you’ve been doing? ‘cool move, dude.’

{ 206 comments }

1

Rich Puchalsky 02.10.15 at 4:02 pm

“DeBoer takes care in the post to note that the wrongdoers in the cases he talks about are not women of color. ([…]) Fair enough. But who are the villains of the piece? Women with $300 shoes.”

I looked back through the deBoer piece, and didn’t see any mention of $300 shoes. I realized by the end of the paragraph — and having read through the deBoer piece again — that you were grafting MRA arguments onto his piece on the way to saying that he wasn’t responsible for them, but still, maybe not the best thing to do rhetorically.

I don’t have recent experience of campus activism either, since I’m older. But I can report back from how things were in Occupy, and the record of this kind of thing was mixed. People were certainly driven by other people being horrible to them, but the being-horrible wasn’t particularly connected to PC concerns. I can say more about this if anyone is actually interested.

2

Belle Waring 02.10.15 at 4:13 pm

It’s in the first post linked. Re-read. And I didn’t claim he was claiming identical things as Roosh V.; I pointed out how too bad it was that the complaints are so similar.

3

Belle Waring 02.10.15 at 4:15 pm

It’s under the story about the 33-y.o. Latino guy.

4

Belle Waring 02.10.15 at 4:17 pm

Good night all, enjoy the fracas!

5

bianca steele 02.10.15 at 4:20 pm

Freddie’s posts on this topic could be described as very kind (even bending over backwards to do so) to very young, white, not rich people who live in the South and are not sophisticated and are trying very, very hard to be good. And very young people who are trying hard to be good deserve sympathy. And Freddie is in a strong position as someone who understands their background and also understands the left.

But defending a bunch of provincial kids from mean, rich, sophisticated, powerful, non-southerners has its limits as a mode of plausibly left political action.

And pointing out that the reason the mean people make them feel bad is because the kids haven’t read enough books yet seems self-defeating if the goal is to persuade the kids to educate themselves.

6

Rich Puchalsky 02.10.15 at 4:20 pm

“It’s in the first post linked. Re-read. “

Oops, yes, sorry. I looked through the piece linked to in that paragraph rather than the first one.

7

LFC 02.10.15 at 4:53 pm

Actually I don’t have time just now to read BW’s post, but on the origins of ‘P.C.’, this will be of interest, I think:
http://s-usih.org/2015/02/politically-correct-a-history-part-i.html

8

Widmerpool 02.10.15 at 4:57 pm

I frequent blogs that are objectively anti-Freddie. Maybe that’s how I heard of him, I forget. I also read his blog. He often complains that people react to his arguments by putting words in his mouth, guilting him by association, and changing the subject. I have begun to sympathize.

To say that the PC villains of his piece are women with $300 shoes is objectively false and not at all cricket. The *victim* of his first anecdote was a young woman. She may have fled the classroom in $300 shoes, who knows, who cares, certainly FDB doesn’t seem to. The villains of the first and second anecdotes are unidentified. In the third anecdote — “I saw that. Myself.” — there was a glaring and significant social-class distinction that FDB conveyed with a telling visual detail, moreover creating a nice echo with the combat boots we may imagine the victim of that particular dressing-down having worn in Iraq. FDB can’t help it that the impolite person he actually saw being impolite on that particular occasion was an expensively dressed woman.* Elsewhere he might be accused of “class warfare” for noticing that fact. Here he is accused (“amirite”) of something distastefully close to that for simply reporting someone’s gender along with their social class.

I wear $300 mens shoes. Feel free to call me on that if I’m wearing them while being sexist or classist.

* Yes, of course, woe betide FDB and me if he made this up.

9

Josh Jasper 02.10.15 at 5:06 pm

Here’s Freddie’s main support of what Chait was on about:

Because some twit (who it’s really important to note was a white woman wearing a display of womanly wealth) decided to be a jerk, we have to shut down any discussion of when “tranny” is inappropriate, because PC culture needs to be burned to the ground and salted. The world needs to be made safe for The Man Show and other important cultural icons because if they’re criticized, or excluded from “PC POLICE” spaces, that will be the end of free culture, and the Nazis will win.

Am I getting that right?

10

Kalkaino 02.10.15 at 5:13 pm

Two oblique points about political correctness: when I was in graduate school we white folks spent some perplexity over what to call people of color descended from African aboriginals, since many of the traditional terms seemed to have become taboo. Then one day I heard Nelson Mandela talking about how when young he and his friends loved to see Tarzan movies because at least there were some “black guys in them.” I thought that might be a good argument for the acceptability of “black” as designation, not factoring for the fact that as a member of the group Mandela can designate himself and his fellows with more freedom than non-members. Also I thought, how strange that such a politically incorrect representation as the “natives” in Tarzan movies could still be somehow validating, a blow against complete invisibility, for some.

My second point: it often strikes me now that Political Correctness has evolved into one of those Orwellian bizarro-words used by today’s fascists (Clear Skies Act, True the Vote, Citizens United, etc) to designate the opposite of what the moniker implies. Those who insist on “Political Correctness” are now basically hippies who should be punched whenever possible. Meanwhile it’s completely taboo in the commercial media to apply straightforward , unambiguous terminology to the bullies, bigots, grifters, paranoids, punishment freaks, chicken-hawks, pathological liars, suckers, boobs, and rubes who now comprise the Republican party. The New York Times and the networks find such language unacceptable for “family fare.” The real Political Correctness then, enforced everywhere but the blogosphere (and in comedy), is the default assumption that Right-Wingers are honorable folks, well-intentioned and at worst misguided or overzealous. Thus they loot, terrorize, vandalize with impunity, not judged bluntly as they plainly are.

11

afeman 02.10.15 at 5:16 pm

Am I getting that right?

No.

12

novakant 02.10.15 at 5:20 pm

Freddie’s posts on this topic could be described as very kind (even bending over backwards to do so) to very young, white, not rich people who live in the South and are not sophisticated and are trying very, very hard to be good.

How’s that? The three examples he gives are:

1.) “a 19 year old white woman — smart, well-meaning, passionate — literally run crying from a classroom because she was so ruthlessly brow-beaten for using the word “disabled.” “

2.) “a 20 year old black man, a track athlete who tried to fit organizing meetings around classes and his ridiculous practice schedule (for which he received a scholarship worth a quarter of tuition), be told not to return to those meetings because he said he thought there were such a thing as innate gender differences.”

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

13

bianca steele 02.10.15 at 5:25 pm

Chait’s big example is of a dispute from within feminism (in which he takes sides–though what he doesn’t say is that it’s a dispute with someone who thinks feminism should focus more on men’s losses from feminism than it does). I can’t remember whether De Boer has any of those.

14

Donald Johnson 02.10.15 at 5:28 pm

“The real Political Correctness then, enforced everywhere but the blogosphere (and in comedy), is the default assumption that Right-Wingers are honorable folks, well-intentioned and at worst misguided or overzealous. “

I mostly agree with that–it was always obvious that “political correctness” is a problem you also find in the mainstream and on the political right, yet somehow the term is limited to the antics of people on the far left. I once tried to explain this to a friend back in the early 90’s when the anti-PC hysteria first kicked in–he was a liberal reader of the NYT –and he wouldn’t have it. No, PC thinking was a plague foisted on us by the far left, a mode of thinking exclusive to them, and that’s where the focus should be. Now that’s a sign of a really effective political correctness campaign by the mainstream, one that is so effective people don’t even realize it’s there.

That said, I sympathized with what Freddie wrote, though I don’t know how common the problem is.

15

bob mcmanus 02.10.15 at 5:33 pm

His Own Image …about Ariel Schrag’s new novel and “what makes trans men cool”. And race and class and other demographics interacting with that subculture(s). New Inquiry.

Because Adam and his sister have so little contact with people of color, they find themselves paralyzed in their presence, as in one perfectly observed comic moment where Adam can’t respond to a question posed to him by a black woman because he’s too busy thinking: “You’re black.”

For the white queer characters in Adam, people of color are alien beings who nonetheless provide whites with the possibility of a more authentic reality. The queer people at the gay marriage rally see people of color as giving them a tenuous connection to subversion

I do feel a connection to the post and topic, but I’ll just leave it alone for now. I found the article interesting about a subculture, and the dynamics of privilege within it.

16

bianca steele 02.10.15 at 5:34 pm

novakant,

You’re right. Thanks for pointing that out.

In that post, he has three examples. Two are of men who were unfairly lectured to by women. One was a man who disagreed with most varieties of feminism but whose heart was in the right place and who served his country and who shouldn’t have been pushed out of a feminist group by women. One was a man who disagreed with a woman but whose heart was in the right place and who served his country and who shouldn’t have been lectured to by a woman ten years younger than himself who “incidentally” was clearly rich.

One was a woman who broke down in tears and ran away from discussion because she was criticized for unthinkingly using language considered hurtful (even by De Boer), but whose heart was probably in the right place and . . . shouldn’t have been excluded by them? But she wasn’t, she excluded herself. The point of this anecdote is unclear.

But then he goes on and says he is upset by the way his students, who come from poor rural areas, are lectured to by more privileged students. On rereading, I agree, it’s not obvious what color the students he’s defending are. (Nor does he know what color they are in different parts of the country than his, obviously, much less on the Internet.)

I’m not going to research how often De Boer berates other people, commenters and other bloggers, in the same language he complains about in that post. Look at how much of the post is devoted to ridiculing bloggers on other sites. But he says he defends kids and attacks grown-ups who have important jobs and so it’s okay that he talks that way sometimes, it’s perfectly okay that he writes jeremiads about the bad behavior he engages in himself, because if you think hard about it, it’s totally different (and he’s off the hook).

17

bob mcmanus 02.10.15 at 5:38 pm

two more quotes from 15

“It isn’t so hard to be a trans man anymore, especially if you are the kind that populates Adam: white, of affluent or comfortably middle-class parentage, a graduate of an elite college, living in a city in the first or second decade of the 21st century. In fact, sometimes, it is very good indeed. “

“In the United States in 2012, all transgender people murdered were trans women, and 73% of LGBTQ murder victims were people of color.”

Is this subtle enough trolling?

18

Francis 02.10.15 at 6:03 pm

FDB writes: “I don’t know what to do.”

Then he’s lousy at his job. He should spend more time working on creating an effective learning environment than bitching about his own failures. He’s an academic. He’s supposed to be able to research and learn. (For gods’ sake, he’s at a university. He’s surrounded by people who have devoted their careers to teaching.) He’s also supposed to be able to mentor and teach. Sure, young adults can be mean. So can 5th graders.

19

parse 02.10.15 at 6:14 pm

DeBoer’s position is somewhat compromised by a attempt to takedown Jay Smooth that went hilariously awry a couple of years ago. The scenario is similar in several ways to the anecdotes DeBoer shares as emblematic of the problems of call out culture:

Radley Balko, who DeBoer noted was not politically correct but had done real work of benefit to people of color, was criticized by Smooth when Balko tweeted that people who were “really angry” about jokes made at the 2013 Oscars that they “should look a little harder for things to get angry about.”

It’s amazing how many white guys feel comfortable telling women and POC what they should & shouldn’t be angry about, Smooth tweeted.

DeBoer thought Smooth’s tweet was the perfect possible example of white, web-enabled social liberalism in general: it is fodder for the endless cultural and social status competitions of the people undertaking it, and not for the productive purpose of ending racism, or sexism, or homophobia, or other ills.

I’m not sure what led DeBoer to confidently (and mistakenly) assume that Smooth was white, but he was secure enough in his belief to title the blog post bullshit social climber faux-antiracism.

He was careful to include a denunciation of the person he was defending: The joke here is that I think Balko is an asshole as he did again in the later piece (Jon Chait is a jerk who somehow manages to be both condescending and wounded). I get that DeBoer thinks it’s important to examine the way the left treats potential allies, but it’s confusing that he hitches that particular wagon to these stars.

My own experience of on-campus political activism is considerably more dated even that Belle’s, and DeBoer certainly knows more about web-enabled social liberalism than I do. And his anecdotes ring true to me, and I think they are more likely representative than cherry-picked. But I don’t trust DeBoer to get the story completely right.

20

Rich Puchalsky 02.10.15 at 6:30 pm

Francis: “Then he’s lousy at his job. He should spend more time working on creating an effective learning environment than bitching about his own failures. He’s an academic. He’s supposed to be able to research and learn.”

He’s written specifically about this. While he’s involved in campus activism, it doesn’t take place during one of his classes, and he’s not responsible for “creating an effective learning environment” outside of them.

21

MPAVictoria 02.10.15 at 6:39 pm

I think your daughter is very wise Belle.

22

CaptFamous 02.10.15 at 6:44 pm

Bianca @6

I think the issue with using shame as the method of persuasion to self-educate is that a typical reaction to shaming is to ask yourself “How do I most quickly and easily remove myself from this shame?” And when the choices are “Read an indeterminate number of books, many of which may be very dense, in order to become fluent in a new cultural area” and “Stop interacting with these people”, “quickly and easily” almost always points in one direction.

As an aside, I find it strangely self-effacing when people act as if they knowledge they’ve gained from years of immersion in a topic is second-nature and should be for everyone else, too. Give yourself a little credit for having read all of those books.

23

foolishmortal 02.10.15 at 6:59 pm

my own tarot deck as I have dreamed of since childhood, but with Great-Aunt Nora Cloud’s (well, Violet Bramble’s, I suppose, really) Least Trumps from Little, Big

The most. awesome. thing. ever.

24

bianca steele 02.10.15 at 7:00 pm

CaptFamous @ 22

I don’t know whether this is the reason I’m having difficulty understanding your post, but I’ll throw this out there: Some subcultures use shaming for education and some don’t. Some regularly shame some members of their own group and some only shame members of out-groups and some do neither. And similarly, some subcultures assume everyone has the goal of being part of the same group, where some subcultures assume everyone knows there are people who are outside the pale. In other words, it sounds strange to me to blame people for recognizing they belong to an out-group, as if it were up to them to work harder to join “the community” (what is that? a classroom, university, the whole world, the whole educated world, the world where rich white people are in charge and you’d better get used to it?). Though at the same time, encouraging people to see others as wanting to shame and exclude them doesn’t seem productive either.

25

A H 02.10.15 at 7:03 pm

26

novakant 02.10.15 at 7:11 pm

#16

Sorry Bianca, I have no idea what you are talking about.

27

Lynne 02.10.15 at 7:23 pm

A.H. Thanks for the links. Sady Doyle the inimitable! I didn’t know anything about Freddie de Boer until today. When I read the piece Belle linked to I had a niggling question in my mind about how he was about feminism, and now I’ve had that niggle justified.

Some of his piece still resonated with me, but I’d rather read Sady any day.

28

bianca steele 02.10.15 at 7:24 pm

Well, novakant, that’s too bad. But this is the Internet, after all. If we all had to tag “I don’t understand you” comments after everybody we didn’t understand, comments sections would be full of almost nothing else.

29

mdc 02.10.15 at 7:26 pm

One thing that is unclear in the piece is whether a) the offenses mentioned are indeed worth worrying about, but should be addressed with a more generous rhetoric so as to not scare off ‘potential allies,’ or b) the alleged offenses are in fact adiaphora, aren’t worth ‘fighting’ at all, and thus are a substantive, and not just tactical distraction.

There’s something icky about seeing others as potential allies, it seems to me.

30

bianca steele 02.10.15 at 7:27 pm

Lynne, from occasional reading of De Boer’s blog, it seems to me he considers himself a feminist or defender of feminism. He just had an issue with Sady Doyle at some time in the past, I seem to remember she and her co-bloggers used bad language and weren’t nice to some important bloggers.

31

js. 02.10.15 at 7:29 pm

The stuff about DeBoer is fine and all, but I want more of where that first paragraph came from.

32

dudley 02.10.15 at 7:30 pm

deBoer apologized for what happened with Doyle. I recall he says that he was very much in the wrong

33

Lynne 02.10.15 at 7:35 pm

Well, he manifestly was in the wrong. Good for him for realizing it.

Bianca, his issue with Doyle as revealed in the first link was adeptly dealt with by her, I thought.

34

bianca steele 02.10.15 at 7:36 pm

There was a bit of a piling-on-Sady-Doyle craze there for a while, I’m not sure I remember clearly who-all was involved or what the timeline was.

Freddie’s “apologies” have a bit too much of a love-bombing feel to them for my taste, but I suppose mileages vary and that’s hardly important to this issue.

35

Fuzzy Dunlop 02.10.15 at 7:40 pm

Francis @18: “Then he’s lousy at his job.”
Rich Puchalsky @20: “He’s written specifically about this. While he’s involved in campus activism, it doesn’t take place during one of his classes…”

Maybe not a failure of his actual job as a teacher, but of his ‘job’ as a writer here. For me what was telling is that he ends his article by figuratively throwing up his hands, instead of just being straightforward & saying something along the lines of ‘correct language is important but it’s still important to be nice, and make sure language-policing doesn’t just become a way for people to assert their own privilege’. I might seem like I’m being too picky by pointing this out, since I clearly took away ‘be nice, don’t use language-policing as a way to engage in social distinction’ as his (likely) message. But I don’t think it’s trivial: the figurative throwing up of hands implies the need for some big transformation of leftist/activist culture–the basic principles have failed. Whereas what his examples tell me is more that the principles have been failed (i.e. people are failing to recognize their own privilege–are we supposed to know to do that intuitively, without having any language to talk about it ourselves, never mind explaining it to teh n006z, who might, like the afflicted individuals in his anecdotes, actually appreciate having a better ‘instruction manual’?), and that doesn’t justify the throwing-up-of-hands.

re the $300 shoes, I noticed when he read it that he didn’t identify the gender of the person in that paragraph until a few lines after bringing up the shoes, so I suppose one may or may not see him setting up for a ‘women and their shoes’ image there, depending on your expectations.

36

afinetheorem 02.10.15 at 7:44 pm

I hope we can agree on three things:

1) A lot of “PC culture” is being driven by people who are socioeconomically privileged rather than from those that are actually disadvantaged in society. This, I hope, is obvious.

2) There is absolutely a trend, particularly on the far left, of playing intersectionality trump cards before even making arguments. Quite literally, characteristics of the speaker are introduced before an argument is even made, and often these characteristics dive straight into parody. It is not even that the speaker is black, or gay, or female, but they they have dealt with psychological problems, or are fat, or suffer a minor disability, or whatever. It is one thing to say, “this argument is important and you may not have heard it because Group X is underrepresented in public discourse”, and a completely different thing to say, “this argument is better *because* it comes from a member of some, maybe, underrepresented group”. No liberal of any stripe disagrees with the first.

3) Other folks who support broad liberal goals are, and the Chait essay itself is evidence of this, turned off by what looks to them like a bunch of educated folks from wealthy backgrounds lecturing them about word choice and claiming to represent good arguments that find it difficult to make themselves heard. Especially this is true when the folks doing the lecturing are objectively uninformed 20 year olds. Shifting the liberal brand from promotion of equality of opportunity to what, fair or not, is seen as a neverending series of minor grievances can make it more difficult for broader liberal goals to be advanced in a practical manner. So conservatives do the same thing? Who cares? Chait and Freddie are concerned with a problem within liberalism, that makes liberal goals more difficult to advance.

37

someguy88 02.10.15 at 7:59 pm

You have this really cool magic wand. You pick it up you point at someone who said something somewhat implicitish while making an agrument, chant ist ism, and blamo everything they said is wrong. Everything they ever said with which you disagree is wrong.

Everybody rolls their status die in the arena for a potenial banishment.

So there you are blasting the bad guys with the cool magic wand. Blamo roll the status dice. Blamo roll the status dice. Woooooooo this is fun.

But a problem is lurking. Everyone is implicit, well everyone but you, and anyone can pick up the wand and use it. After all it is very easy, you just point at something vaguely implicitish sounding, chant ist ism, and blamo.

Naturally someone makes a mistake and points at you and chants ist ism. Blamo. But hey that isn’t fair because. I mean that is really wrong, you aren’t implicit, and besides that doesn’t magically disprove everything you ever said.

Shut up and roll your status die. Woooooooooooooooooo isn’t this fun? No. No. We should only use the wand against the ass/bad guys!

Blamo! Blamo! Blamo. Wooooooooooooooooooooooo.

38

The Temporary Name 02.10.15 at 8:03 pm

Other folks who support broad liberal goals are, and the Chait essay itself is evidence of this, turned off by what looks to them like a bunch of educated folks from wealthy backgrounds lecturing them about word choice and claiming to represent good arguments that find it difficult to make themselves heard. Especially this is true when the folks doing the lecturing are objectively uninformed 20 year olds. Shifting the liberal brand from promotion of equality of opportunity to what, fair or not, is seen as a neverending series of minor grievances can make it more difficult for broader liberal goals to be advanced in a practical manner.

Except that at my workplace the manager can’t call you a fag or a whore any more – even if you call yourself one! – without getting into trouble, a real, practical achievement of a liberal goal. Of course THAT is seen as a neverending series of minor grievances by people who are assholes. Sucks to be them.

Chait wouldn’t have written his piece without the constant right-wing complaints about PC, which are complaints about people rising above their station.

Chait and Freddie are concerned with a problem within liberalism, that makes liberal goals more difficult to advance.

Which goal has been stymied?

All that said, yeah, people who are policing boundaries can be jerks about it, as people who like rules over openness can be. Chait wondering about the impact of PC feminists on the H. Clinton campaign were absurd. DeBoer worrying about jerks is interesting, given, you know.

39

The Temporary Name 02.10.15 at 8:05 pm

… “was absurd.”

40

Francis 02.10.15 at 8:08 pm

Rich writes: “he’s not responsible for creating an effective learning environment outside of them”. It seems to me that this is a classic Freddie move: Some liberals suck and I’m both disappointed in them and helpless to do anything.

Why is he so helpless? Why can’t he participate in those conversations? Why can’t at least try to have a dialogue with the person who is being abusive / chilling the speech rights of others? Since he, apparently, has no clue, could he possibly do some research or talk to another professor about how to help create an on-campus environment that is more conducive to learning?

41

Fuzzy Dunlop 02.10.15 at 8:10 pm

afinetheorem @36: I don’t think 1) and 2) are obvious. If it is so obvious, you must have seen this happening somewhere, so you must be able to find some examples, right? This isn’t a rhetorical question meant to prove that you can’t provide them, my issue is, rather, that the whole discussion about “PC” is (by design, I think) fundamentally geared towards vague generalities and averse to detailed, properly-contextualized examples–it’s no surprise that Chait failed at this spectacularly; I think DeBoer did a good thing by giving examples.

re point 3) “the Chait essay itself is evidence of this”, have you considered that Chait may not broadly (and consistently–i.e. not just when it’s convenient for him) support liberal goals?

42

Rich Puchalsky 02.10.15 at 8:29 pm

Francis: “Why is he so helpless? Why can’t he participate in those conversations? Why can’t at least try to have a dialogue with the person who is being abusive / chilling the speech rights of others?”

I don’t really know, but here’s what he wrote about it.

Speaking out of my own experience, in Occupy, it’s difficult to dive into a conflict between adults in which one of them has accused the other of something, and simultaneously try to tell the accused that the accuser has a point and tell the accuser to chill out a bit. I don’t really believe that there are people who are super good at this, and that when deBoer writes that he doesn’t know how to handle it he’s just throwing up his hands. At least, in my experience there were no people within a group of 100-200 people who were good at it.

43

marcel proust 02.10.15 at 8:34 pm

afinetheorem >a href=”http://crookedtimber.org/2015/02/10/response-to-freddie-deboer-just-like-i-done-promised-ye-of-little-faith/#comment-609951″>writes:

There is absolutely a trend, particularly on the far left, of playing intersectionality trump cards before even making arguments. Quite literally, characteristics of the speaker are introduced before an argument is even made, and often these characteristics dive straight into parody. It is not even that the speaker is black, or gay, or female, but they they have dealt with psychological problems, or are fat, or suffer a minor disability, or whatever. It is one thing to say, “this argument is important and you may not have heard it because Group X is underrepresented in public discourse”, and a completely different thing to say, “this argument is better *because* it comes from a member of some, maybe, underrepresented group”. No liberal of any stripe disagrees with the first.”

Doesn’t this rhetorical device go back at least to Marx, except that rather than listing his own bonafides, he would shred those of others as a prelude to taking down their arguments? It’s been a while since I read these parts of him, but I have a strong recollection that he would first play the man, before turning his attention to the board. I have a similar recollection that Freud did the same, though with different terms and a different value structure. I would be surprised if those who are not better read than I could not come up with earlier examples. It’s both a rhetorical device to win the argument at hand and a way to establish higher status no matter how the argument at hand goes.

44

Widmerpool 02.10.15 at 8:38 pm

RP @42,

Indeed, as FDB wrote: “You can imagine [what would happen] if I said, in the middle of an activist meeting, that a particular charge of racism or ableism or sexism was unwarranted or being expressed too harshly. The whole point is that there is currently no theoretical or practical shared understanding on the left about when and how to intervene in a situation where you believe that the intensity of political criticism is unfair and not constructive. That’s the whole point …. I see a lot of sneering; I see very little in terms of principles and guidelines.” He’s not helpless, he’s asking for a meta-dialogue about this very, actual issue, yet Because Freddie Sucks we must mock him for it.

45

Z 02.10.15 at 8:39 pm

From Rich’s link above.

The whole point is that there is currently no theoretical or practical shared understanding on the left about when and how to intervene in a situation where you believe that the intensity of political criticism is unfair and not constructive.

This is obviously not the most important problem the left has or ever will have but I believe the factual statement is correct and that this is mildly problematic.

46

Anderson 02.10.15 at 8:53 pm

Pencil reviews. Good god, Belle, could you just be a little less perfect?

On second thought: no, wait, don’t.

47

Marshall 02.10.15 at 9:10 pm

Belle, I never doubted you. I was trying to be encouraging, plus now I get to tell my story about how I failed English 1A Freshman Composition at Berkeley in 1959 because I fell all unaware into the Sociology Wars. (With a (poorly written, I’m sure) paper that argued that a “perfect” simulacrum of a man should be taken as a man, thereby crossing the anti-science essentialism of those like S.J.Gould who thought E.O.Wilson’s speculations were racist and of the devil. The paper was Not OK and my failure to understand why was fatal.) The ‘F’ still stings and admitting there are so many reasons, the incident at least stunned my forward progress. I’ve got all this privilege but I can’t say I’ve been able to do anything useful with it. Last month somebody dissed me on grounds I haven’t read enough books. I could have been William Timberman, for better or worse. Oh well.

So Katherine wanted to be shown those who are significant collateral damage in the PC wars, but the point is that it’s opportunity cost. How many of Freddie’s bright kids didn’t just get turned away from leftist activism but went out the door and down the street to manage a McDonalds or go to divinity school? Bitchiness is a natural mode of human behavior, but sometimes it seems to me that the only people left standing are those with pretty good armor and corresponding sharp elbows, like Freddie says he has. Not me, I don’t. And besides that I just think all around nice is a better way to behave when you’ve got a choice which you usually do.

48

CaptFamous 02.10.15 at 9:11 pm

Bianca @24

In the interest of being increasingly tangential:

I tend to view it in terms of goal-oriented behavior. Shame can be useful in a number of scenarios, but providing the shamee with a feeling of inclusion is not one of them. The anti-PC complaints often seem to come in the form of “You claim you’re inclusive but you yelled at me!” (a la the Chait article). The reality is that inclusiveness is one of a number of goals of “the left”, and these many goals eventually come into conflict.

When a writer with a national platform undermines claims a position of “left” authority and undermines widely held “left” positions, shame can be an effective tool of bringing falsehoods to light, questioning assumptions on a wide scale, etc.

But shaming someone in a university classroom, or during meetings about cross-coalition efforts, is a lot more gray. It’s important as an individual to ask what the particular execution of shame is accomplishing, and whether it’s worth the cost of inclusiveness.

(To speak to your last point: Obviously, you don’t want people assuming everyone is out to get them, but we all need to recognize that no volume of credentials or “years of service” will grant us immunity from shame, and hopefully we’ll all be honest with ourselves in accepting responsibility for earning it.)

49

Lynne 02.10.15 at 9:18 pm

Belle and Marshall, I agree that kindness and politeness are called for in situations like the ones Freddie de Boer describes, but they aren’t enough. The discussion needs to be kept open, and labels close discussion. Certainly accusatory labels do.

Having said that, it can be wearying parrying the same sexist blunders over and over again, and desperately wearying being lectured to by a man about important matters such as war, pacifism, or whatever, that have to come first, before sexism can be considered. Which is what I suspected the Iraq war vet in FDB’s piece might have been doing, but I wasn’t there.

50

ragweed 02.10.15 at 9:27 pm

I think Belle hits it pretty well – Freddie is mostly on target with his criticism (assuming that his examples are mostly true), but there is something that feels a bit – off.

One of the issues with all the critiques that rest on “this group is alienating its potential allies who it should be trying to court” is whom they mean by potential allies. In Chait’s case the “allies” are established, slightly liberal elite dudes who are already have great power in our society. In DeBoer’s case the “allies” are mostly working-class men who (supposedly) have their hearts in the right place, but haven’t learned the right lingo. And his is an important point around class, but one gets the feeling that, like Chait, his real criteria is “people like me.”

Lost in some of this discussion is the fact that activists are human beings who are all by nature imperfect. Activist people don’t always hold up to a perfect, rational, even-minded strategic-thinking ideal. Activists sometimes have bad days. They have bad years. (I did some really destructive stuff as a student activist when I was dealing with a deep depression in my senior year). Sometimes the reason some well-meaning dude gets chewed out by a ranting feminist is because she just had a really shitty week, and has had to tolerate daily put-downs from the demeaning, sexist professor for a class that is required for her major, and one more “well-intentioned” dude saying the same clueless comments she hears all the time was just one clueless comment too many.

51

Donald Johnson 02.10.15 at 9:30 pm

Predictable how some have turned this into what a jerk FDB is–I read him sporadically and just don’t see how he’s any more of a jerk than most bloggers or commenters at blog sites, including me sometimes. Low bar, I know.

52

William Timberman 02.10.15 at 9:42 pm

Marshal @ 47

Last month somebody dissed me on grounds I haven’t read enough books. I could have been William Timberman, for better or worse. Oh well.

Not to start anything, you understand, but ????

53

Z 02.10.15 at 9:44 pm

I get to tell my story about how I failed English 1A Freshman Composition at Berkeley in 1959 […] thereby crossing the anti-science essentialism of those like S.J.Gould who thought E.O.Wilson’s speculations were racist and of the devil. The paper was Not OK and my failure to understand why was fatal.)

In 1959, S.J.Gould was 18 so I doubt he had much impact, even indirectly, on your case. Or maybe you were speaking of another S.J.Gould than the one I know, which at least would explain why you could characterize one of the most distinguished scientific in his field as “anti-science.”

Having said that, it can be […] desperately wearying being lectured to by a man about important matters such as war, pacifism, or whatever, that have to come first, before sexism can be considered. Which is what I suspected the Iraq war vet in FDB’s piece might have been doing, but I wasn’t there.

Wow, wow, that’s reading rather a lot into the situation FDB alludes to. All his piece says is that the woman objected to the patriarchal connotation when he requested that his fellow vets ““man up” and speak out about the war.” There is really not much to base your suspicion on.

And somehow, that’s the whole point of FDB’s piece (and subsequent comments): that sometimes using the expression “man up” can be a way to diminish women’s character and accomplishments and yet sometimes it is a rather innocuous turn of speech (that happens to be more prevalent in lower classes than in upper ones), that mistaking the second instances for the first is bound to exclude people, and that though the left has (to its credit) become rather good at calling out the former instances, it has not (or so it seems to me) settled on commonly shared practices ensuring than latter instances (or even honest mistakes and slightly awkward phraseology) does not lead to an unfair level of criticism.

Again, that’s not the worse problem in the world, though, but since we are talking about it…

54

Zora 02.10.15 at 10:05 pm

Me too. I dunno why the pile-on on FDB. It reminds me of too many other net pile-ons I’ve seen. Even joined. Groupthink in action, not limted to the net. I’ve seen it in real life: my Zen group; the Greens, when I was heavily involved, years ago.

Groupthink … that’s it, really. Not just limited to the left. Establishing your bonafides with other group members by displaying animus against enemies. Feels good to do so, doesn’t it? (Ask me how I feel about Tea Party, Republicans, Tories, BJP, etc.)

It’s not just Judean People’s Front vs. People’s Front of Judea. I recall a book re early Christianity (Elaine Pagels, I think it was) talking about the controversies that would bubble up re doctrine. It wasn’t OK to disagree, no … you had to fight it out, establish dogma, and throw the other guys out. Dogma as a ratchet, ever tightening.

Heck, I recall Garrison Keillor writing about his Sundays, spent with the splinter sect of a splinter sect, meeting in someone’s living room, and how yet another schism was narrowly avoided when two of the members were persuaded to back away from a heated argument during bible study.

We humans enjoy fighting, don’t we?

55

The Other DSCH 02.10.15 at 10:16 pm

BiancaSteele, #6:
But defending a bunch of provincial kids from mean, rich, sophisticated, powerful, non-southerners has its limits as a mode of plausibly left political action.

I’m skeptical of that, frankly; it seems to me that protecting provincial kids from the mean, rich, and powerful is a capsule definition of left political action.

But if our goal seriously is to make people “educate themselves,” then we’re in a bad place, comrades. Exploited and oppressed folks are already quite educated about the struggles they face; meanwhile, we’ve downgraded from a movement against oppression to some kind of educational initiative. Surely there’s a way for people to overcome bigotry and privilege through actual activity, rather than self-education. Take the “anti-oppressive stack” for instance. A great tool – one quickly learns the utility of prioritizing perspectives that come from a marginalized background. That is, it has utility because it leads to better organizing. How about that? All of the intersectionality, none of the white guilt!

56

Lynne 02.10.15 at 10:23 pm

Z, you’re right. We don’t know what the content of the exchange was, beyond the expression “man up” (which I kind of like. Wish there were an equivalent for women). It just brought back memories, is all.

57

bianca steele 02.10.15 at 10:40 pm

Belle, by the way, great post. I personally liked the story of your libertarian friend. I wonder, would he have gotten a pass if he’d been a paleo (surely there are plenty of paleoconservatives in classics departments even in Berkeley), what exactly was the issue? I think the one story deserves its own post, though maybe I’m the only one who’d be interested in it.

DSCH: I disagree. This isn’t just a matter of integrating “the provinces” into the rest of the country. The rhetoric of those parts of the posts comes dangerously close to encouraging white supremacist accusations against “big city elites” and “New Yorkers.” If he’s borrowing the rhetoric of white supremacists to be used by non-whites, well, then he’s playing with fire and he ought to write more clearly than he’s doing. And, frankly, defending students against big bad professional bloggers, without ever engaging anyone else’s arguments (looking for people in a similar situation to his students and promoting their arguments, along with his own, etc.), is a strange thing to do.

58

Ellie Kesselman 02.10.15 at 10:40 pm

Bianca, why is novakant confused? In #12, he posited that the composition of FdB’s examples weren’t all from southern states, or something like that. It wasn’t clear to me. No, sorry, it was that the three were trying to be good, and he said he didn’t understand. You responded to him, directly and at length, in #16, an hour and 15 minutes later. Then an hour and 15 minutes after that, in #26, he says he doesn’t understand what you’re talking about. What? I understand!

Moving on, I don’t understand this, from the original post:

…Americans would rather elect a gay Muslim philanderer President than an atheist.

Why would the MRA guy say “gay Muslim philanderer”?

59

bianca steele 02.10.15 at 10:43 pm

Ellie, I don’t know, I suppose I’m confused because I didn’t say novakant was confused. Why did you say novakant was confused?

60

The Other DSCH 02.10.15 at 10:50 pm

@BiancaSteele, I hadn’t read FredBo that way, so I guess we just have different sensitivities. Still, it strikes me that in the situations he describes, an anti-oppressive stack (which prioritizes those with “skin in the game,” as FredBo puts it) would have been useful.

61

geo 02.10.15 at 10:58 pm

OP: People should try to be polite to one another, and kind to one another, and generous to one another, and to muddle through as best they can.

No truer words …

62

Rich Puchalsky 02.10.15 at 11:17 pm

ragweed: “Lost in some of this discussion is the fact that activists are human beings who are all by nature imperfect. Activist people don’t always hold up to a perfect, rational, even-minded strategic-thinking ideal. “

I agree, but I don’t think that this goes far enough. Who are left activists, generally? Certainly not every woman, every person of color, every worker, every LGBTQI person or the left would win every election.

Left activists are (to generalize, of course) anti-authoritarian, power-seeking (however you want to put that: if you don’t seek power, you don’t become an activist), and generally not happy with how society is. These are general traits that don’t lead to lots of easy interactions in which people don’t get mad at each other. Every if people aren’t having a bad day, month, or year, they’ve self-selected themselves as a group of people who naturally have more trouble getting along than a randomly selected group of people do.

The problem that I have with call-out culture (to use deBoer’s phrase) is that it’s low on tolerance. People need a structure that allows them to be angry and to forgive other people for being angry. A whole lot of the answers to deBoer that I’ve seen lean heavily on “these are students, why can’t you overawe them with your adult, academic status?” But in a context where this source of social power doesn’t exist, that answer isn’t available.

63

TM 02.10.15 at 11:25 pm

Zora 54: Dogmatism and groupthink (not that the concepts are necessarily coextensive, but often they appear in tandem) indeed are pretty old and common phenomena. I have encountered my share in certain left activist circles. But really, why are they nowadays so often conflated with PC culture?

64

TM 02.10.15 at 11:28 pm

“if you don’t seek power, you don’t become an activist”

Couldn’t disagree more.

65

novakant 02.10.15 at 11:36 pm

On that note, I should have been more polite to Bianca, but I still don’t understand what exactly the point of #16 is, except maybe to diminish FdB’s argument through sarcasm and ad hominem.

66

Patrick 02.10.15 at 11:47 pm

“She excluded herself.”

Welp, leftism is over. Time for everyone to go home. Please pick up your immediate area as we pack this thing in, and we can make cleanup a lot easier on the roadies.

67

dn 02.11.15 at 12:16 am

geo @61: Word.

68

Heliopause 02.11.15 at 12:32 am

This focus on Freddie’s three anecdotes is a little strange to me. I think the more important underlying point, which he has been making repeatedly for a while now, is that the left is substituting the bon mot and the callout for tangible action. The reality that the left occasionally drives away potential allies with language policing, when the left needs all the friends it can get, seems to me a secondary point, but maybe he’ll drop by and straighten this all out himself.

69

bianca steele 02.11.15 at 12:33 am

Somewhere in De Boer’s many posts on this question–taking up almost all of his front page right now–he talks about the kids among his students who are from poor Appalachian areas (usually this means white) who didn’t have the same chances as the kids who went to expensive private schools to learn about bell hooks, and how unfair things seem to them.

I know novakant is European and maybe the students in the anecdotes code as different, comparatively, than they would here–under, if you like, “PC culture.” But I don’t know how to answer an objection that says simply “I don’t understand” without putting words in your mouth.

70

The Temporary Name 02.11.15 at 12:39 am

The “more general point” link mentioned in the OP seems to me to be Freddie deBoer calling out Freddie deBoer, particularly the last three paragraphs. And fine.

71

Ebenezer Scrooge 02.11.15 at 12:51 am

Amazing thread. 95% of the commenters are in 95% agreement with each other (including Belle), and yet the thread goes on.

72

None 02.11.15 at 12:58 am

afinetheorem @36 – A lot of “PC culture” is being driven by people who are socioeconomically privileged rather than from those that are actually disadvantaged in society. This, I hope, is obvious.

The “socioeconomically privileged” set the agenda & drive all kinds of conversations, probably the vast majority of them, irrespective of where the subject falls on the ideological spectrum. Why is it important here ? If you want to call them limousine liberals then you should do so openly.

73

js. 02.11.15 at 1:15 am

Has this been referenced yet? It probably has. But mentioning it here because this seems to me somewhat more problematic than anecdotes about socially conscious 20-year olds being a little too self-righteous, which I don’t know, seems a bit like a sun-rises-in-the-east shocker. But maybe that’s just me.

74

MPAVictoria 02.11.15 at 1:28 am

“I personally liked the story of your libertarian friend.”

I liked the story but nothing annoys me more than a person who wants to deny other people the benefits that they themselves enjoyed. But I am sure he had his reasons.

75

Belle Waring 02.11.15 at 1:36 am

Fuzzy Dunlop: reading is fundamental. “I watched his eyes glaze over as this woman with $300 shoes berated him. I saw that. Myself.” There is no remotely plausible world in which you, in entirely good faith, made it to the words “$300” and “shoes” without noticing the always scornful “THIS woman.” That you seem to need to pretend you did is an interesting problem. Or fine, I’m being uncharitable, and you just really, really don’t like it that there is a certain mild slant here that goes nowhere good. That your eyes should genuinely slide and dance over this nasty little remark is also a problem. Thems the breaks kiddoes.

Also, no one should accuse me of being cruel to deBoer or anything, it’s not as if this is some pile-on. I think his examples seem genuinely unfortunate, that he knows way more than me about campus organizing, but that when people mean this thing he intends by “Political Correctness” they mean a different thing than whatever Chait, for example, wants to mean. Also, though I didn’t talk about it, P.C. as a term is pointlessly loaded against the left though it’s an equal-opportunity practice. Plus there’s a smidge too much ‘tumblr feminists are evil’ about the whole operation, and when I usually hear that, it’s from some real peach.

76

Belle Waring 02.11.15 at 1:47 am

So, you guys want to pre-subscribe to my custom Tarot deck? IT’S GOING TO BE SO FUN. I say this now. I’m going to be making the eight of wands at some point in 13 months just like, ‘screw you, guy with slashes at the shoulders of his tunic, done in the style of an extraordinarily detailed woodcut. Screw you.’

77

JanieM 02.11.15 at 2:04 am

So, you guys want to pre-subscribe to my custom Tarot deck?

Where do we sign up?

78

Fuzzy Dunlop 02.11.15 at 2:10 am

Belle: You’re right, it was, rather, the word “affluent” that came before the identification of gender, not “$300 shoes”, and the announcement of the offender’s gender at the end struck me because I originally assumed it was a he, & the price of the shoes told me nothing I didn’t already know given the person was already identified as “affluent” which must be why I confused the two–and of course I completely agree that putting “$300 shoes” together with “this woman” is evoking a sexist stereotype. And, yes you are being uncharitable in envisioning this whole scenario of how I don’t want to acknowledge that that particular slant is there. Though I do feel like I should have caught that “woman”+”shoes” thing the first time I read it.

79

js. 02.11.15 at 2:16 am

I have only a vague sense of what a set of tarot cards involves, and I have _no_ idea what subscribing to a custom deck involves. But if I can be in, I am so in.

80

bianca steele 02.11.15 at 2:21 am

To defend FDB, I would be willing to consider the possibility that “this woman . . . etc.” is style indirect libre, and that he holds to the belief that every literary depiction of a character is intended (in the absence of authorial or narratorial commentary) to be taken as sympathetic. So, “this woman” is the veteran’s language. And it’s not meant as a dig at the veteran that he uses this language, because it’s appropriate to the character’s history that he uses such language. It’s a way for FDB to indicate sympathy with a character in his anecdote. (I am not entirely persuaded this works when there’s too much distance between author and character, but it’s a theory.)

The Tarot deck sounds cool. My grandmother always insisted she made up the whole thing and always gave me the same reading (with regular playing cards), but she would read cards for herself, so who knows.

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JanieM 02.11.15 at 2:30 am

js. — I have never had Tarot cards read for me, but I have this deck and it’s gorgeous. A deck by Belle would be a treasure.

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ragweed 02.11.15 at 2:37 am

“plus there is a smidgen too much ‘tumbler feminists are evil'”

Yea, I mean, I know we want the good guys to be better than that, but are people really shocked that people on the internet can be a bit harsh, and some of them may even be feminists? Compared to the average yahoo news comments section, the call-out culture is positively warm and fuzzy.

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T 02.11.15 at 2:59 am

Let’s see. Freddie attended Central Connecticut State University as an undergrad, U of RI for a masters and is working on his PhD at Purdue (Big 10, engineering school, not Southern). Belle was Columbia/Berkeley. My guess the folks putting people down at Purdue were not multiple Harvard legacies like they were at Berkeley. My guess the people being mocked at Purdue and CCSU likely have more rural and working class backgrounds than those Columbia. Maybe that’s relevant.

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js. 02.11.15 at 3:01 am

Oh, right! We’d be pre-ordering the custom deck. I was imagining some… I don’t even know, some CT-involved reading? Look, it wasn’t well thought out. Actually, scratch the “well”. Anyway, JanieM, those look great. And yes, for Belle’s deck, just tell me where to sign up.

And… just vaguely back on topic (kinda): I mentioned the Michelle Goldberg article above because if we’re going to have an intra-left cage fight flame war discussion about PC/call-out culture (are these even the same? I’m not entirely sure I even know anymore), that seems more promising—as in, more useful things might come out of it—than Freddie deBoer or Julian Sanchez or certainly Jonathan Chait. But I don’t think anyone’s really engaged with it in these threads—at least directly. Tho possibly I missed it.

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Belle Waring 02.11.15 at 3:03 am

OK Fuzzy, sorry. It was just I got accused of making up the $300 shoe woman by two readers of a rather short post (deBoer’s, not mine obvi.) and it made me testy.

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The Temporary Name 02.11.15 at 3:05 am

My guess the folks putting people down at Purdue were not multiple Harvard legacies like they were at Berkeley.

http://opa.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/Fall2013Snapshot_Dec2013_0.pdf

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T 02.11.15 at 3:20 am

@86 so, the populations of CCSU = Columbia as undergrads; and Purdue=Berkeley for grad students in the context of Freedies post? btw — Belle made the Harvard comment and it seemed it was referring to a Classics grad student. Have you visited to Purdue and Berkeley?

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The Temporary Name 02.11.15 at 3:28 am

What’s that T? I can’t hear you over the

My guess the folks putting people down at Purdue were not multiple Harvard legacies like they were at Berkeley.

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millicent friendly 02.11.15 at 3:32 am

There are few things I want to read less than this thread, but I have to say this is a wonderful opening for a novel: “Temporarily stranded in the last warehouse of my closed business,…”. Nick/update a bit of Almayer’s Folly and you’re good to go!

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MPAVictoria 02.11.15 at 4:43 am

“If racism/sexism/homophobia is something you’re sick of hearing about, imagine how exhausting it is living it?” -Jon Stewart

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MPAVictoria 02.11.15 at 4:49 am

From my experience being called out for using offensive terminology (unintentionally and I learned from the experience) it has always been by members of the group in question, not rich white and young liberals. Maybe Canadian universities are different.

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adam.smith 02.11.15 at 5:15 am

@js. I complete agree that for having a debate about this, the Goldberg article is not just better, but in an entirely different league of better. I’m still tending towards “she’s wrong” wrt the larger question, but at least it’s an honest and interesting piece, both with a more nuanced and more interesting argument and with actual evidence. Brittney Cooper’s response (Cooper is cited at length by Goldberg and approvingly to a large extent), quoted by Chait as a sign of PC gone crazy, is at least as interesting by the way: http://www.salon.com/2014/04/08/its_not_about_you_white_liberals_why_attacks_on_radical_people_of_color_are_so_misguided/

But that said, as I’m not the first one to say here, the use of the term “politically correct” as a derogatory term to discredit various left-wing causes would seem to be a much bigger issue, so the ridicule of liberals & progressives who adopt that terminology (the spread of which as a negative label I still think is best explained as a deliberate right-wing strategy–for context see LFC’s link in #7) seems to me a rather worthwhile endeavor in its own right. Plus, it’s certainly been fun to read.

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js. 02.11.15 at 6:24 am

@adam.smith — thanks for the link to the Cooper article, I hadn’t read that. (And I’m not sure what I was doing in March/April last year, but somehow completely missed the #CancelColbert controversy, so just catching up now.)

I’m not sure what to think of this, honestly. I do feel the force of Goldberg’s #CancelColbert post (link), esp. the last few paragraphs about silencing by the right-wing. And part of me thinks that Cooper is a bit too easily dismissive of this. But the other part of me thinks that Cooper is surely right that it’s kinda weird to blame lefty POC for this, which Goldberg implicitly seems to do. And I’m completely with Cooper re anger being a legitimate response.

At the same time, this sort of debate gets so meta and intricate that at a certain point, it’s hard to tell who’s supposed to be policing/silencing whom.

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Belle Waring 02.11.15 at 6:33 am

Yes, talking about Goldberg would probably be more salutary. And look, I know that Chait has few defenders here, and I am not “playing the victim card,” if that even fucking means anything, (nine of swords, I guess–go look at the Waite-Smith illustration to see why) but it was an important part of Chait’s essay that he was literally telling rape victims and other people who might find certain vivid depictions of rape or abuse triggering or disturbing that we were objectively wrong and that it would be more politically correct never to include trigger warnings on blogs or syllabuses or book reviews or anything in the great wide world. There could be no more urgent demonstration of Chait’s desire to correct speech to the political standard he deemed the best–one about which he was not even modest enough to say, as I might, ‘well I don’t know if this is the best way of putting things, please let me know what you think,’ but rather tripled down on ‘scientifically accurate.’ When I knew he had read my post I felt a pang only at having told him, personally, to fuck off, but this was why and I don’t think it was at all unreasonable. It’s possible that, by doing things that make people angry, you will find they are angry at you. It’s a funny old world.

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Zora 02.11.15 at 7:55 am

OK, you want a first-hand story about PC run amok, I have one. Happened to me, during Racefail, when SF fandom turned into a pit of snarling weasels over the propriety of writing about anyone not of the author’s own sex, gender, race, class, and ethnicity. (I posted this on another thread here, but I got to that thread so late that I do not think anyone read the story.)

One participant was waxing wroth about cultural appropriation. Evil. Bad. I riposted that cultural borrowing was great and everyone but everyone did it. Frex, I cooked from Japanese (and Chinese and South Asian and Persian and Middle Eastern … ) recipes and wore salwar kameez that I sewed myself. I was informed, with a great deal of venom, that as white person I was not entitled to wear salwar kameez.

Well, it turns out that I’m not entirely white (gene scan reveal) but I suppose African-Americans don’t get to wear salwar kameez either.

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Ellie Kesselman 02.11.15 at 9:07 am

Hello novakant! Now I understand ;) Thank you.

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Anon 02.11.15 at 10:48 am

“People should try to be polite to one another, and kind to one another, and generous to one another, and to muddle through as best they can.”

As geo said, this is wise. This is also precisely what FDB is saying isn’t happening, nearly enough. I don’t think it’s hard to lose that emphasis even with the reference to the price of shoes, but then maybe I just don’t know what intellectual generosity looks like.

Politeness could be a matter of taste, but the sum of BW’s recent posts/comments on this topic do not seem to sum to being “generous” towards people who are clearly signaling that they would like to have the approval of people like BW. Nor does BW seem to encourage generosity except towards those BW seems predisposed to being generous towards, which isn’t generosity at all. This is either an ideal or it isn’t. One shouldn’t solicit generosity in the same breath as calling those within one standard deviation (likely much less) of one’s own views “rotten” and etc.

Others can work through who exactly has to “muddle” through how much, exactly, but the entire CT masthead remains white and quite privileged, yes? So saying Chait doesn’t get to say so-and-so because he’s so-and-so is really bizarre. Isn’t he muddling just the same?

So… back on the firing line we go? No. So far no one has even attempted to claim that all of this is productive. So WTF? I’ll go back to geo: kindness and generosity are self-recommending, especially when dealing with potential allies. If we can’t extend that at least as far as Chait — even if we disagree with him on some important matters — then no winning coalition exists.

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Daniel 02.11.15 at 11:11 am

a) I actually don’t believe that Fred De Boer can price up a pair of shoes just by looking at them.

b) This isn’t about politics, at all. There are people in the world who are bullies, and who work out their unpleasant personalities in political contexts. Because some movements of the left have 1) weak organisational structures to control behaviour 2) a disposition to make allowances and excuses for bad behaviour and 3) some theories which are easy for bad actors to exploit, there are corners of the world which have developed norms and practices which are a really congenial environment for assholes

c) But there’s nothing specific to “The Left, Such As It Is”, there. A few years ago, we noted that professional philosophers also have some ass-o-genic customs and practices, which are abused by some of them more than others. You get these things everywhere.

d) It’s probably true that, because how many things outside an economics textbook are evenly distributed on a continuum, some corners of the world have this problem worse than others. I happen to know that English trans rights activism (which AFAICT has an alliance with sex worker groups, which is how I know about it because one of my friends is a prominent supporter of the Nordic Model) happens to have quite a number of really absurdly badly-behaved people in it. (Or more realistically, a small core of nasty people and a penumbra of casual hangers-on who will jump in where there looks like a chance of an unequal fight. The sociology and organisation is very similar to that of football hooliganism).

e) But this is nothing intrinsic to anything, not new and not A Very Real Problem For The Left. Christ knows, as Belle originally pointed out, someone who worked for The New Republic FFS has something of a Matthew 7:3 problem if their complaint is that some other corners of the political world harbour a few flaming assholes who are in the habit of monstering other people for minor ideological deviations.

f) And Belle also had Chait perfectly pegged – his real complaint is that nobody listens to him these days. The fact that middle aged white men can’t get a fair deal in minority rights campaigns is only A Very Real Problem For The Left if you believe that it is vitally vitally important for all these campaigns to have a load of old buggers like me hanging around telling people how it was in their day and so on. And I doubt that it is, not really, although it kind of kills me to admit it.

g) So De Boer is right; there is a real problem and people should cut it out and stop it. It troubles me more than somewhat when terms like “tone policing”, “calling out”, “privilege” etc are misused as euphemisms for “you’re not allowed to tell me to stop acting like a dick”, but I don’t know what to do about that either. But it really has much less to do with Chait’s article than meets the eye.

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Belle Waring 02.11.15 at 12:38 pm

Yes! It has pretty much nothing to do with Chait’s article which, to a great degree, consisted of him policing the discourse in the hopes that no one could blacken the escutcheon of The New Republic by accurately referring to articles it had published in the past! And, separately, my skepticism as to Freddie deBoer’s ability to distinguish between the costs of a Kate Spade flat, the true Chanel patent-toe ballet flat after which it is modeled, and the incendiary scarlet sole of a pair of towering Louboutins adds to my general mildly aggrieved feeling that all is not as free of sexism as one might wish.

Zora I did read that and it was idiotic. A similar peak moron incident occurred when Jezebel writers wanted to call Katy Perry out for “cultural appropriation” of Ancient Egyptian culture in the video for the (quite wretched) song “Roar.” I mean…whom was she meant to be hurting here? Hatshepsut? Royal children who, having been mummified correctly, their tombs never found, and their souls weighed even against the feather in the scales of Thoth, are even now cavorting in the Cities of the Dead, beyond the swamps ruled by the terrifying hippo-headed god where the unlucky suffer, happy with the many playmates killed to entertain them until all human civilization is gone, and not stone remains upon stone? I’m…not feelin’ it.

bianca steele, you did say above you would be interested to hear more about my Classics/Marine translator friend; I don’t know whether you noticed the was an entire post to click through to, there.

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macheath 02.11.15 at 1:10 pm

How about good old Jurgen Habermas, and the three rules of discourse:

1. Every subject with the competence to speak and act is allowed to take part in a discourse. 2a. Everyone is allowed to question any assertion whatever.
2b. Everyone is allowed to introduce any assertion whatever into the discourse.
2c. Everyone is allowed to express his attitudes, desires, and needs.
3. No speaker may be prevented, by internal or external coercion, from exercising his rights as laid down in (1) and (2). (86)

So people could criticize use of the word “tranny” if they had a strong basis, and debate/discuss it with others. But they shouldn’t banish people from discourse. Yeah, Habermas isn’t perfect (who is?) but these seem pretty good.

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bianca steele 02.11.15 at 1:42 pm

Belle, I did notice that afterwards. I read it quickly last night. All the rich Ivy types couldn’t really have been left-progressives, could they, though, even if they were into theory and stuff? I mean, as I remember it they generally weren’t going around inviting people to Bible study study breaks or calling down nuclear strikes on anti-apartheid protesters, but still.

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Fuzzy Dunlop 02.11.15 at 1:50 pm

It has pretty much nothing to do with Chait’s article which, to a great degree, consisted of him policing the discourse in the hopes that no one could blacken the escutcheon of The New Republic by accurately referring to articles it had published in the past!

I feel like there’s a great Onion article to be written about TNR defending its championing of The Bell Curve from ‘the PC police’, possibly involving references to Illinois Nazis.

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Belle Waring 02.11.15 at 2:00 pm

Yeah, they totally were. We had two other politically and methodologically conservative grad students, but mildly so. One person was maybe a bit techno-optimist, but more in that he helped another friend of mine who did his PhD at Michigan work on the Perseus Project, not in a libertarian rapture of the nerds way. You only get like five or six people a year; it’s not surprising that if you pick five or six students from colleges with excellent Classics programs they’ll be little lefties–moreso then, than in their later life, in all likelihood. Right?

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Salem 02.11.15 at 2:05 pm

This isn’t about politics, at all… It troubles me more than somewhat when terms like “tone policing”, “calling out”, “privilege” etc are misused as euphemisms for “you’re not allowed to tell me to stop acting like a dick”, but I don’t know what to do about that either.

But that’s why this is about politics. Specifically, the people who have adopted the (political) discourse of privilege have by and large put no limits on it. So they have lost the ability to distinguish in any formal sense between appropriate and inappropriate uses. It’s not that privilege is being “misused” in this way, but that who are you to say it’s a misuse? I don’t get to condemn “tone policing” and then tell people to act civil, unless there are clear, objective rules about what is (bad) “tone policing” and what is (good) “keeping things civil.” And the people pushing the privilege discourse are extremely hostile to any such set of rules, because they think that such rules will only benefit the privileged. But that leaves us right back in the muck.

Personally, I think the privilege discourse is really always a misuse when applied to other people. It’s good if I check my own privilege, but it’s the height of arrogance (privilege, even) to presume that other people haven’t checked theirs and need it checking. I should make sure that my objections to others aren’t using unwarranted objections to tone as an excue, but I shouldn’t accuse others of “tone policing” because I don’t know that’s what they’re up to. And so on. Someguy88, above, well describes the very negative dynamic when you apply this thinking to others.

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T 02.11.15 at 2:20 pm

@88
Precious response. I guess you’re here as a shill to prove Freddie right. Well done.

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MPAVictoria 02.11.15 at 2:28 pm

“Precious response. I guess you’re here as a shill to prove Freddie right. Well done.”

Don’t be a poor sport T.

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Belle Waring 02.11.15 at 2:30 pm

Ha! No! They were those fucking awful expensive hippie shoes that I always think are called Husquvarna, like the chainsaw, but it’s fluevogel or something! In which case deBoer could have known to the penny and I would retract. Salem, I feel you, but I don’t see that coming into this thread and saying, you know who’s been talking sense? Someguy88!” really passes the muster, argumentatively speaking. I may just be a dumb chick with a magic wand I point at stuff and then it explodes, though, so, what do I know? BOOM BOOM BOOM

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Lynne 02.11.15 at 2:34 pm

js @ 73. Wow. Depressing.

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bianca steele 02.11.15 at 2:36 pm

were into theory and stuff? I mean, as I remember it they generally weren’t going around inviting people to Bible study study breaks or calling down nuclear strikes on anti-apartheid protesters,

This could be misunderstood–these were BY NO MEANS the same people and no one would have confused them in the slightest.

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T 02.11.15 at 2:46 pm

@106 Yep. Because the community isn’t small enough already. Maybe Freddie could be on the something?

111

bianca steele 02.11.15 at 2:52 pm

Though the fundamentalist Christians I knew, who were likely to invite me to study breaks, were women, and the people (budding neocons or not) who spouted off in dorm common areas about nuking the protesters were men, so I don’t really know what the reverse gender distribution might have been.

112

MPAVictoria 02.11.15 at 2:58 pm

“I happen to know that English trans rights activism (which AFAICT has an alliance with sex worker groups, which is how I know about it because one of my friends is a prominent supporter of the Nordic Model) happens to have quite a number of really absurdly badly-behaved people in it”

No offence to your friend but sex workers and trans people are some of the most absurdly oppressed people in modern society. Can anyone blame them for responding forcefully to people who (from their perspective. Lets not get into an argument about the Nordic Model) want to make their lives worse?

This is my big problem with all the complaints about PC language. Basically we want to tell people who are mistreated and oppressed by society the appropriate way for them to react.

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bob mcmanus 02.11.15 at 3:07 pm

I’m back

City of Brotherly Love …New Inquiry, about HBO’s new show Looking from a queer perspective. See also way above at 15

But the reality of the Castro is that it was (and is) a neighborhood built on exclusion. Now that the gays who renovated the neighborhood’s old Victorians have successfully shed sexual exhibitionism and low-income tenants for platinum wedding bands and surrogacy arrangements, even wealthier straight people have arrived to displace the neighborhood’s gay old guard.

What I find interesting here (see 15) are the new metro trans/Q community watching movies about Brandon Teena; the “platinum wedding band” exclusionary gays making/watching movies about Harvey Milk and old Castro; and say millionaire black directors making 12 Years a Slave and Selma. Steve McQueen ain’t exactly starting/struggling Spike Lee.

This hints at what I think is really going on, and I didn’t even have to mention feminists with $300 shoes.

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Jonathan Goodman 02.11.15 at 3:08 pm

Witty writing obscures the fact that Belle Waring’s post helps make Freddie deBoer’s point. DeBoer wants us to go easy on people who say things we disagree with, particularly if they are college students. Waring prefers stylish clever ridicule.

115

bob mcmanus 02.11.15 at 3:24 pm

In other news of the abject and subaltern, poor Beyonce was freeking robbed by the old white dick, and Kanye is my social justice hero. And the forthcoming NWA biopic has a $25+ million dollar budget.

Sometimes I can’t stop laughing.

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bianca steele 02.11.15 at 3:27 pm

I also missed most of the CancelColbert stuff, but at least the people offended weren’t libertarians, right?

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T 02.11.15 at 3:31 pm

@110
“This is my big problem with all the complaints about PC language. Basically we want to tell people who are mistreated and oppressed by society the appropriate way for them to react.”

This is a really great point. And to the extent that the reaction can positively effect and change the society at large, it’s worth considering how to react. There are choices to be made. And I think that’s what Freddie was talking about.

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JanieM 02.11.15 at 3:32 pm

Witty writing obscures the fact that Belle Waring’s post helps make Freddie deBoer’s point.

Freddie deBoer helps make his own point. What is that piece but (his usual, as far as I have experience reading him) rant about how other people are doing it wrong?

119

adam.smith 02.11.15 at 3:36 pm

oh Belle, get your pop culture straight:
The Egyptian Katy Perry video that Jezebel harped on was Dark Horse.
PETA complained about Roar because of the use of animals.
I mean sure, they all sound the same but. . . get with it!

120

MPAVictoria 02.11.15 at 3:38 pm

“And I think that’s what Freddie was talking about.”

But who is Freddie to tell these people what to do?

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Sam Dodsworth 02.11.15 at 3:42 pm

Quietly seconding MPAVictoria@110 except that I might substitute “act” for “react” in the key sentence, if only because it makes the problem clearer.

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T 02.11.15 at 3:50 pm

@116
Freddie seems to think that a calling a potentially sympathetic 19 years old an asshole because she isn’t fluent in the language of anti-postcolonial hegemony isn’t a good idea. Guess that’s controversial.

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MPAVictoria 02.11.15 at 3:55 pm

“Quietly seconding MPAVictoria@110 except that I might substitute “act” for “react” in the key sentence, if only because it makes the problem clearer.”

Yep. That is an improvement. Thank you Sam.

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Rich Puchalsky 02.11.15 at 4:13 pm

MPAVictoria, you can say that complaints about PC language equate to “Basically we want to tell people who are mistreated and oppressed by society the appropriate way for them to act.” That’s fine: no tone policing. But in that case one has to give up the bit about how PC is just about politeness. Politeness is always, in theory, two-way, and a large part of it is expressly about how you handle violations of politeness in a constrained way. PC is about mockery and expressions of anger.

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JanieM 02.11.15 at 4:17 pm

T @120

You seem to be uninterested in much beyond snide short zings, so I’m not going to keep going back and forth with you after this.

But I never said it was “controversial” and Freddie never said anyone called the young woman an “asshole.” That’s twice in three lines that you put words into other people’s mouths.

What I said was that Freddie was doing the same thing he was excoriating other people for doing. People have already pointed to this, but it’s kind of funny that he doesn’t tell us who took the “sympathetic 19-year-old” to task. All the more if it was another 19-year-old, Freddie was doing the very thing he was bemoaning, i.e. landing hard on someone who might still be in the earlier phases of a long learning curve, and who is less likely to keep moving along it if she’s being screamed at, even if what she’s doing is screaming at someone else.

Freddie wants to know what to do about it. My answer would be: if you really want to be useful instead of just ranting self-righteously and then throwing your hands up in despair because everyone else is being bad, go study conflict resolution/ transformation/ exploration, or whatever they’re calling it nowadays, and learn the skills of intervening effectively. One of which is patience for the long term.

We (“we” = everyone) don’t seem to have learned that when we decide to come together to change the world, we’ve already skipped a couple of crucial steps: processing out loud what it actually is that we think we’re going together, and learning (or, if we were luckier or collectively smarter, having already learned) how to be a group effectively.

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bob mcmanus 02.11.15 at 4:18 pm

“This is my big problem with all the complaints about PC language. Basically we want to tell people who are mistreated and oppressed by society the appropriate way for them to react.”

My big problem is that there is not just one “society” (site, location, position, contestation, hegemonic discourse) and people seem to move around and between various levels too easily and for convenience and advantage.

So at the board meeting of Goldman-Sachs, the Saudi prince and the Chinese heiress tell the British Banker ‘stop oppressing us with your racist colonial attitude’

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T 02.11.15 at 4:20 pm

@118
I read him as saying that getting friends in the movement is a good thing and that hostile language chases potential friends away. And he gives examples. Maybe that’s telling people what to do.

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MPAVictoria 02.11.15 at 4:20 pm

@Rich

Do you think that people with power in society have more or less of a responsibility to be polite then people without power? Personally I give a LGTBQ person of colour a bit more leeway on how they respond to the oppression they experience every, single day.

Thoughts?

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William Timberman 02.11.15 at 4:28 pm

bob mcmanus @ 111

Sometime in the Nineties, the early Nineties as near as I can remember. Halloween, late afternoon. Underground from the West Portal station to Market and Castro, then, as planned, a short jaunt down to the Castro theater to see what was then being touted as the director’s cut of Blade Runner. Emerging from the tunnel at sundown, climbing to street level into a universe of hitherto undreamt of possibility.

You were made as well as we could make you. But not to last….

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Rich Puchalsky 02.11.15 at 4:33 pm

“Do you think that people with power in society have more or less of a responsibility to be polite then people without power? Personally I give a LGTBQ person of colour a bit more leeway on how they respond to the oppression they experience every, single day.”

I generally think that “civility” is merely a method of social control, aimed by those with relative power against those with less power. Politeness, also, has become a term of art meaning “You are not allowed to express something I don’t like”, instead of something like an actual system of politeness.

But watch out for your own language, MPAVictoria — it’s not up to you to give an LGTBQ person of color leeway on how they respond. You’re not the judger of them, giving or withholding leeway: you’ve expressly said that you shouldn’t be.

So, given that. Just out of curiosity’s sake, have you worked politically alongside LGTBQ people of color?

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bianca steele 02.11.15 at 4:34 pm

But who is Freddie to tell these people what to do?

Freddie occupies the author position. See the New Sincerity.

Irony and cynicism were just what the U.S. hypocrisy of the fifties and sixties called for. That’s what made the early postmodernists great artists. The great thing about irony is that it splits things apart, gets up above them so we can see the flaws and hypocrisies and duplicates. The virtuous always triumph? Ward Cleaver is the prototypical fifties father? “Sure.” Sarcasm, parody, absurdism and irony are great ways to strip off stuff’s mask and show the unpleasant reality behind it. The problem is that once the rules of art are debunked, and once the unpleasant realities the irony diagnoses are revealed and diagnosed, “then” what do we do? Irony’s useful for debunking illusions, but most of the illusion-debunking in the U.S. has now been done and redone. Once everybody knows that equality of opportunity is bunk and Mike Brady’s bunk and Just Say No is bunk, now what do we do? All we seem to want to do is keep ridiculing the stuff. Postmodern irony and cynicism’s become an end in itself, a measure of hip sophistication and literary savvy. Few artists dare to try to talk about ways of working toward redeeming what’s wrong, because they’ll look sentimental and naive to all the weary ironists. Irony’s gone from liberating to enslaving. There’s some great essay somewhere that has a line about irony being the song of the prisoner who’s come to love his cage.

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bob mcmanus 02.11.15 at 4:38 pm

“Privilege” or “oppression” are not attributes or valuable possessions carried everywhere and always by anyone. They are descriptions of social interactions in particular concrete instances and events. “Intersectionality” came about in the 70s because UMC white feminists were ignoring queer women and women of color in real-life meetings.

The Scalzi scale is pernicious pandering bullshit. Nobody has privilege on a desert island. Nobody is born with it.

FdB nails it. You need to look at the room to see where the power lies.

133

MPAVictoria 02.11.15 at 4:41 pm

“The Scalzi scale is pernicious pandering bullshit. Nobody has privilege on a desert island. Nobody is born with it.”

We do not all live alone on a desert island bob….

134

Marshall 02.11.15 at 4:41 pm

@William Timberman – No offense intended. I’ll buy beverage of choice any time you’re in Oregon …

135

Z 02.11.15 at 4:49 pm

Personally I give a LGTBQ person of colour a bit more leeway on how they respond to the oppression they experience every, single day.

Well sure, but the question FDB is raising is how to react when someone, who may have a point in reacting to potentially offensive language or behavior, nevertheless reacts in a too violent and counterproductive manner. Or in another words, how much leeway do we tolerate and what do we do when the boundaries are trespassed?

To take a concrete real example from the Nation’s article above, what would you say to a blogger objecting to the use of the word vagina because it excludes trans and who writes “So you’re really committed to doubling down on using a term that you’ve been told many times is exclusionary & harmful?”? That this is A-OK, in fact progressive? That the sentiment is progressive but the expression counterproductive? That the word vagina carries no exclusionary undertone in itself to people without a vagina so they should learn to chill out?

Because the Internet is the mother of all misunderstandings, I will insist that I genuinely wonder myself and ask the questions in good faith.

136

MPAVictoria 02.11.15 at 4:51 pm

That is a difficult question Z. I don’t have a good answer. :-(

137

bob mcmanus 02.11.15 at 4:52 pm

And this is why I vastly prefer as my intersectional internal checks Marxism, queer theory, and postcolonialism to feminism and anti-racism because the former understand and analyze at their core the interrupted and appropriated liberations that merely reproduce former hierarchies with a new set of bosses. Reformism is always opportunism.

138

MPAVictoria 02.11.15 at 4:55 pm

Sure bob. Thanks.

139

William Timberman 02.11.15 at 5:00 pm

Marshall @ 131

No worries. I was just curious, the context being unclear to me — a natural reaction when discovering that one’s been mentioned in dispatches, but can’t figure out why. Not important, and irrelevant to the ongoing discussion in any case. If I’m ever in Oregon — and I do get there occasionally — I’ll take you up on your kind offer.

140

Rich Puchalsky 02.11.15 at 5:13 pm

JanieM: “We (“we” = everyone) don’t seem to have learned that when we decide to come together to change the world, we’ve already skipped a couple of crucial steps: processing out loud what it actually is that we think we’re going together, and learning (or, if we were luckier or collectively smarter, having already learned) how to be a group effectively.”

But there are reasons we haven’t learned — problems that keep us from learning. It’s not in my opinion that there are solutions out there and all we have to do is learn them, and the reason why we haven’t is that we’ve thrown up our hands. When something like, say, the protests at Ferguson happen, the people involved don’t really have time to process or learn how to be a group. And the groups on the left who were supposed to do this organizational processing and learning ahead of time have been discredited for various reasons. I don’t think that there really has a successful movement that has been successful because it has learned these lessons: I think it’s possible to do this through the old means of charismatic leadership and hierarchy, but that these themselves have been discredited (generally for good reasons).

141

Ronan(rf) 02.11.15 at 5:37 pm

I enjoyed the linked post about the libertarian dude, C. Personally, I think it does a better job (more nuanced and generous) than FDB’s post at making the same basic point (or at least a similar one)
Also, I agree with those above who are saying that FDB engages in precisely the same rhetoric and action that he complains about. (That isn’t to take a dig at FDB, I’d probably be the same, and I’m sympathetic to some of what he says..but I do think it undermines his position to demand more civility and generosity, while at the same time adopting a confrontational and quite divisive tone)
I don’t think that’s a particularly profound comment on my part, but it’s an itch I wanted to scratch more than a meaningful interjection.

Rich all the way back at 1. I’d genuinely be interested to hear about this dynamic at play at Occupy.

142

Grad Student 02.11.15 at 5:59 pm

I try not to use the phrase “white privilege.” It often comes with the connotation that an individual possess something that she or he does not deserve.

Who is most often accused of “white privilege”? College educated white males.

Is being college educated a privilege? The stats suggest that it is.

But the more crucial question, in my view, is whether a college education should be framed as a privilege?

No. A college education should be available to everyone. We shouldn’t shame individuals for taking advantage of what many of us consider a social right. We should scorn the fact that these educational opportunities are not granted to everyone. We need to bring the bottom up, not bring the top down. The former approach encourages inclusiveness, the latter approach causes alienation.

143

mattski 02.11.15 at 6:00 pm

This isn’t about politics, at all. There are people in the world who are bullies

Much better to say, we all have the capacity–in varying degrees–to behave like bullies. It isn’t accurate to divide humanity into the bullies and the non-bullies.

So, in my view, the inference to draw is that politics is about many things and includes, crucially, spirituality. And that ties back to geo’s remarks about kindness.

144

Rich Puchalsky 02.11.15 at 6:51 pm

Ronan(rf): “Rich all the way back at 1. I’d genuinely be interested to hear about this dynamic at play at Occupy.”

I’ve written about this a bit tangentially here, which was largely about “Whose fault was it that Occupy General Assembles always seemed to turn into such train wrecks?”. But from my personal experience, three exemplary conflicts that I first remember, off the top of my head, had little to do with PC as such:

a) Someone presented a letter to local politicians that he said was from us, when it really was pretty much written by him. He felt that he’d been given implicit permission to do this, when according to a large majority of everyone else, he hadn’t.

b) Police came to the encampment late at night, while it was raining, and told everyone that they had to clear away the encampment by later that night or they were going to get arrested. Matters were complicated even further by a medical emergency at the same time. Everyone yelled at everyone else.

c) Encampment #2 failed when people heard rumors that had a homeless person had nearly OD’d, and found needles in a tent. It was quickly agreed to pack everything up and clear everything away before we got blamed for something.

PC concerns were tangentially involved in all three of these. In case a), many people objected to the relationship that the letter writer had with a significant other. In b), at least one of the people yelled at felt that she was yelled at because she was a woman, and this may well have been a factor. In c), I was pretty much the complainant — the mayor had given us resources to contact for people who needed help with drug abuse, and I felt like we’d been a little too shocked because of our class position and overreacted.

But it’s quite true that PC concerns were in no way the driving force of conflicts that contributed greatly to ending the organization. In that sense, one could say that this was no big problem. People acting horribly to each other was, in general, a huge problem. And I’m skeptical about the advice about conflict resolution techniques and so on. We tried all of that: stacks, consensus-building, intervention by trained mediators, and so on. When the crises actually happened, that didn’t help. One can say that maybe we needed more long-time patience, but how long-term?

145

T 02.11.15 at 7:24 pm

@134 and 135 and per Bob M

It’s contextual. The reaction to the double Harvard legacy grad student at Berkeley (the Belle reference) and the 19 y.o. at Purdue or CCSU should be different if the goal to cause change. And telling the former to f-off may well be the appropriate response. But I don’t see much upside in that approach with the latter. Of course, that doesn’t mean that anyone needs to tell someone what to do. But pointing out the effect of a behavior is different than proscribing behavior. So, yeah, FbB on this one.

146

The Temporary Name 02.11.15 at 7:51 pm

My apologies the T.

147

PatrickinIowa 02.11.15 at 7:57 pm

I think the most relevant identity for Purdue is “engineering student.” The Indiana rich kids who go instate usually go to IU, where the law and med schools beckon after.

I was a rich kid. I went to Michigan instead of IU partly because of the student body’s response to the invasion of Cambodia.

148

The Temporary Name 02.11.15 at 7:57 pm

I also apologize for my inability to type “then”. Not, though, for leaving the period outside the quotes.

149

jackd 02.11.15 at 9:02 pm

Least Trumps from Little, Big

John Crowley has a LiveJournal account and I am sure would be delighted to hear about this.

150

ragweed 02.11.15 at 9:26 pm

I think where Freddie DeBoer is most on target is where he talks about how the loudest voices in the call-out culture on white privilege are white. While it is important for white people to stand up and speak out about white-privilege (though I prefer talking about racism than white privilege, but that is another conversation), the issue is when white people trash other white people about being clueless about white privilege. It is one thing to say that an oppressed person has every right to respond with outrage and anger at oppressive actions, even if it is not polite. That seems to me completely valid, and I have seen the way that tone policing is used to silence justifiable anger about oppression.

But it is another thing when white people or men appropriate the outrage of people of color or women, and act otherwise aggressivly, using the experience of an oppressed group they are NOT part of as an excuse. It isn’t our outrage or our place. In the worst case you see very privileged white men verbally abusing people and then justifying it because tone policing is oppressive of People of Color. Maybe so, but not of them.

151

Anderson 02.11.15 at 9:31 pm

“how the loudest voices in the call-out culture on white privilege are white”

It’s a rule of thumb that the loudest, most dogmatic believers are converts.

152

Daniel 02.11.15 at 9:47 pm

“Can anyone blame them for responding forcefully”

Another concept which is unobjectionable and even admirable in itself, but obviously capable of being abused by turning it into a blanket all-in-come-free. Particularly as (I don’t need to name names), plenty of the worst actors in the subculture I was talking about are neither trans nor sex-workers themselves, but self-appointed allies. (No need to name names, but there is one individual who is a stickler for trigger warnings on things like “discussion of misogyny” but chucks around the phrase “Go and die in a fire” the way some people say “good morning”).

The big unspoken here, of course (and AIUI this was a big issue at Occupy too) is mental health. Because of their welcoming and tolerant nature, a lot of anarchist groups attract people with mental health problems. This is good in ever so many ways. But I’ve seen a cycle in more than a few individuals of 1) extremely aggressive behaviour, 2) blaming, probably-but-not-necessarily correctly and p-b-n-n sincerely, 1) on their health problems then 3) completely refusing to take any responsibility for 1), because of 2) and to complete the circle, 4) reacting with p-b-n-n sincere outrage and hurt at the ableist suggestion that the fact that they do 1) means that other people are going to treat them differently from other people who don’t do that. That’s another hard problem for which I’ve no solutions for, by the way, and it’s clearly just a specific case of a very general problem for which the mental health professions don’t seem to have a solution for either.

153

Bruce Wilder 02.11.15 at 10:51 pm

I read this article today, pointed to by the reliably outraged Ian Welsh:
http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-ferguson-lawsuit-20150209-story.html#page=1

It is about conditions in Ferguson and Jennings Missouri municipal jails, where many people are detained in a re-creation of debtor prisons. The conditions described are horrific and the implied devolution of the legal system appalling.

Then there’s this, from the article: “. . . the worst part, DeBerry told The Times, wasn’t the conditions. “The jails are only full of black people. That’s what sticks out to me,”. . .

The phrasing, the framework troubles me.

154

stubydoo 02.11.15 at 11:20 pm

I’m pretty sure that anybody (male or female) could look at my shoes and instantly determine that they cost less than $300.

155

Belle Waring 02.12.15 at 12:40 am

Jonathan Goodman: did you miss the parts where I said deBoer was almost entirely right and that in general we should try to be charitable in conversations like this? It’s not fair to infer from my willingness to mock a palm-off bid to protect the reputation of The “E.T.L.” Republic that I advocate constant dickishnishness in all fields of life at all times. You can see perfectly well what I’m like by interacting with me. Hi!

adam.smith: a tragic typing error as I have seen–parts, mind!–in the mash ups the girls and I repeatedly watch approx a billion times. The one good part of ‘Roar’ is when the bf is eaten.

156

JanieM 02.12.15 at 12:45 am

People acting horribly to each other was, in general, a huge problem. And I’m skeptical about the advice about conflict resolution techniques and so on. We tried all of that: stacks, consensus-building, intervention by trained mediators, and so on. When the crises actually happened, that didn’t help. One can say that maybe we needed more long-time patience, but how long-term?

Rich, thanks for responding to what I wrote; I was thinking of you and your stories about Occupy when I wrote it. I don’t have any answers, I’m getting older and tireder and more cynical by the minute. But at the same time, I have a certain pie in the sky hope or idealism, as in: What if we (“we”) all had been trained to some degree in conflict work and awareness starting in kindergarten? People wanting to gather to protest in Ferguson (since that’s what you mentioned) might have had more options than they had as it actually played out last summer.

But then again, if our culture was such that we knew enough to teach conflict work starting in kindergarten, we might not have needed protests in Ferguson in the first place.

Then again again, if there’s any chance we’re ever going to have such a culture, we have to start somewhere.

As to “how long term,” I have no idea. I don’t expect to be alive when that question is answered, if it ever is, and if various people here are right about the cyclical nature of history, that’s one kind of answer right there. But I’m remembering a sort of parable I once heard, which I can’t seem to make Google find. It about Person A saying, “I was thinking of learning to play to piano, but I’m too old. It would take ten years, and by that time I’d be sixty.” And Person B says, “Well how old will you be in ten years if you don’t learn to play the piano?”

Another story that seems relevant: For a few years in the early nineties I went to a UU church. On one of my first visits, a woman got up at what was then called “Joys and Concerns” time and made a passionate, heartfelt speech about the news that was just then starting to come out of Bosnia. She ended by appealing to the congregation: “Please, we have to do something about Bosnia.” (“We.” I love that word.)

I couldn’t even get my kids to stop squabbling. Bosnia? Yeah, right.

157

Rich Puchalsky 02.12.15 at 1:48 am

I’ll try to be nicer in my reply, JanieM, since we’ve just been talking about it: I’ve particularly appreciated some of your comments here. (That may not sound like much, but I don’t write it very often.)

Here’s the basic problem that I have. Our society does do “conflict work” in another sense: it has all sorts of situations in which decisions are made by means of mediated conflict. Politics, for example. Activists in my experience are kind of aggressive, just like trial lawyers are kind of aggressive. Without changing all of society, I don’t really know how to get away from this. But trial lawyers have a very strict structure within which they express their aggression, and activists don’t.

Looking back on my experiences as a direct activist, successes were mostly accompanied by being a jerk. I once was the only person that the enviro-s could send to a meeting, and I found out that there were literally ten industry reps there, all in suits. I was super rude, louder than all ten of them put together, and got concessions because the people in charge basically judged commitment by volume. At another meeting, I’d asked my spouse-to-be to hand out flyers to the community members as they came in. When they weren’t being handed out, I went to see why and found that the big, burly security manager for the factory that the meeting was about was being intimidating. Well, I could be just as much in his face as he could, and those flyers got passed out. Shutting up a heckler at a Divestment from South Africa meeting — being bossy at a student recycling group — the list goes on.

And when I see someone being nasty to other activists, as in the stereotypical call-out culture story that deBoer talks about, I recognize that it’s bad for the movement, but at the same time if the person is the leader in whatever is going on rather than one of the followers I’m saying to myself “Oh, that person has promise”. Because I really do think that you need some degree of that in order to be successful as an activist. You are going to face opposition: you need to be able to push through it, and to some degree, want to push through it. It has to be directed and controlled and so on, but… that person is never going to be a natural for peaceful conflict management.

And I really have no idea what to do about that.

158

Landru 02.12.15 at 2:43 am

People should try to be polite to one another, and kind to one another, and generous to one another, and to muddle through as best they can.

Indeed! Unless, of course, those others happen to be among one of the particular out-groups

the type of total psychopath who is a MGTOW

whom it is totally OK to revile without qualification, since we know deserve zero sympathy or respect. (Or, was “psychopath” meant in a technical way here, rather than simply as a disparaging and dismissive insult? Looking up the Hare definition, I don’t see that it fits; so I’m guessing not.)

More generally, how necessary is it for everyone to have an out-group or two that they can rank on reflexively, without guilt or hesitation? Does having these act as some sort of mental stabilizer, like a canoe outrigger? Give everyone the ability to retreat into “well, even on my worst day I’m not as bad as [X], they’re just pure evil” when needed? Can you think of examples of any figures — since Christ, perhaps — who lived successfully without having an out-group to stabilize against?

159

mattski 02.12.15 at 2:54 am

JanieM, We (“we” = everyone) don’t seem to have learned that when we decide to come together to change the world, we’ve already skipped a couple of crucial steps

I think there is a lot of insight in that statement.

Rich P, I think it’s possible to do this through the old means of charismatic leadership and hierarchy, but that these themselves have been discredited (generally for good reasons).

I’m curious what you think about what MLK was doing up until the time he was assassinated?

I appreciate your comments in this thread, Rich. It helps me understand your mindset, where you are coming from, etc.

160

Rich Puchalsky 02.12.15 at 4:09 am

“I’m curious what you think about what MLK was doing up until the time he was assassinated?”

I think that the American Civil Rights Movement was a classic example of a social movement organized on the basis of charismatic leadership and hierarchy, and that it was successful. I also don’t think that it can be duplicated now. Reasons why are probably beyond the topic of this thread.

161

js. 02.12.15 at 4:10 am

Lynne (@108),

Yes, it’s a troubling story. And one that I’m not sure how to respond to exactly (though I find Goldberg’s take fairly convincing). That’s more or less why I linked it here.

162

Ellie Kesselman 02.12.15 at 11:24 am

Is #107 an example of white, affluent, female academician privilege-rage?

No one asked me here, and I will probably be IP banned for this tirade, but as a voice from the out-group, I’ll share: Bianca Steele, Belle Waring and MPAVictoria (whenever I see “MP”, I’m reminded of “Military Police”) are intimidating and derisive. Using the Crooked Timber lexicon, that would be equivalent to “precious”. Maybe? The net effect is “hurtful”, according to the rest of the world’s lexicon. Red Magpie at World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) is slightly more pleasant than those three, and she is not especially cordial.

Rich Puchalsky, William Timberman, Landru, JanieM, Z, bob mcmanus, Anderson, The Temporary Name and ragweed seem friendly and sensible. Z is a mathematics professor! William Timberman has a worthwhile economics blog. I enjoyed every one of bob’s comments and links. I’ve had plenty of confrontations with the Twitter feminists. I don’t want to argue with or enrage them, but I always do. They promptly block me. I want to be congenial but always say something wrong. It’s the lexicon thing, which grows increasingly arcane.

What is a MGTOW? It was mentioned in #158 and earlier. Would a taxonomist classify it as a PUA cline? Or perhaps a RINO? I couldn’t find MGTOW in Urban Dictionary.

163

Ronan(rf) 02.12.15 at 1:48 pm

That link about Occupy at 144 is really good. Critical without being polemical or engaging in woe is me fatalism.
Rich, a couple of questions if you don’t mind. You wrote a few pieces on this a while ago which I read at the time (I think you linked them here, and I might not have read all of them) Going from memory, and this might be wrong/simplified, I thought you put the reason for the ‘failure’ of Occupy in the police ? The link above seems to imply you think the failure was explictly in Occupy’s structure/ideology ? (I’ll go back and read the other posts soon, but can’t at the minute)
Also, have your experiences with Occupy made you reconsider anarachism, or do you still consider yourself an anarchist, politically/ideologically?

164

Cian 02.12.15 at 2:26 pm

#153 – Bruce, yeah I read that story too and had the same reaction. The unspoken thing in all this is class, no? Which Freddie, for all his (many) flaws does at least get.

I’ve seen people online police the boundaries on race, sexism, homophobia. But many of the same people will say the most awful things about ‘white trash’. And while there are definitely gay and feminist activists who engage seriously with class and economic issues, they do seem to operate on the margins.

Nothing sucks more than being poor in the US. Sure it’s worse to be poor and gay. But people who are gay/female/black and wealthy have it way way better than those who are poor but have all the other ‘privileges’.

165

Cian 02.12.15 at 2:28 pm

In the worst case you see very privileged white men verbally abusing people and then justifying it because tone policing is oppressive of People of Color. Maybe so, but not of them.

I always see this as white men (and women – plenty of them do this too) using it as an excuse to bully other people. Righteous bullying – always a fun vice to indulge.

166

Rich Puchalsky 02.12.15 at 2:37 pm

I’m listed as one of the friendly and sensible people? I knew I should have been more hostile above. Got to stay in training.

Ronan(rf): “I thought you put the reason for the ‘failure’ of Occupy in the police ?”

Yes. In short, there were long-term factors that might have done Occupy in, but the police repressed it before those long-term factors really could be decisive. It turned out that Occupy couldn’t really exist without encampments, and police forces across the country destroyed the encampments. Some of the long-term factors that I talk about are structure, ideology, the strain of including homeless people with substance abuse or mental health issues, the long-term difficulties of middle-class protest movements, and the separation of Occupy from actual, majority identification in the U.S — but none of these things had time to work.

I’m still an anarchist, but the reasons why are even further out of the topic of this thread.

167

Ronan(rf) 02.12.15 at 3:07 pm

re race and prisons. Using figures in Ernest Drucker’s* ‘A Plauge of Prisons’, black and hispanic men make up 3% of the general pop but 30% of prison pop. Taking into account that black and hispanic men are also disproportiontly more likely to be poorer than white men, how would a statistician look at this when trying to figure out which is the more important factor in predicting the likelihood of spending time in prison, race or class? Or would said statistician bother ? Could such an answer be given ?

*I’ve only read half the book so far, I thimk he might answer this as it continues.

168

Belle Waring 02.12.15 at 3:34 pm

Ellie Kesselman: MGTOW are “men going their own way.” Unlike pick-up artists, they profess an alienation from currently disfunctional women so profound as to want o leav them behind entirely. But they’re not gay. Often they decide that women from developing nations who haven’t been ‘spoiled’ by modern feminism are acceptable. Also, you are a silly-billy if you think you will get yourself banned by such a moderate expression of distaste. If you did not do so, I recommend that you click through and read the post about my libertarian friend at Berkeley; it’s a more careful discussion of class than the particular post of deBoer’s we’re talking about now.

169

bianca steele 02.12.15 at 4:27 pm

Ellie, you haven’t been here long enough to know who is in the in-group. Neither I nor MPAV is, and Belle gets too much shit from commenters for you to complain that she’s dismissive. But I have said this before and I’ll say it again: there is something suspicious about people who pop in suddenly to “defend women” (and it feels even creepier from the side of the person who’s suddenly being “defended” from a crowd of strangers).

170

MPAVictoria 02.12.15 at 4:53 pm

171

Doug 02.12.15 at 5:57 pm

Interesting that the three people identified as “derisive” in 162 are all women who aren’t hesitant to give their opinions.

I have a sneaking suspicion that replacing “derisive” with “uppity” would better capture the point of that post.

172

MPAVictoria 02.12.15 at 6:12 pm

I really don’t see any of my posts on this thread as being “derisive” but I guess I wouldn’t would I?

173

Ellie Kesselman 02.12.15 at 6:16 pm

I’ve been here since 2013, as a commenter.

Doug, I know the difference between derisive and uppity. You would likely consider me to be uppity, but that is presumptuous of me, as I don’t know you. I doubt you’d want to know me.

I’m tired and defeated. I’m returning to where I belong, with the Crooked Timber statistics and vaccination-related posts by Kieran Healy. Those are more accessible and less fraught for me.

174

Doug 02.12.15 at 6:20 pm

MPAVictoria @ 172, that’s the joke of that post. You, Bianca Steele, and Belle Waring are three of the LEAST derisive posters on CT.

That epithet is particularly ridiculous when applied to Belle–the worst insult she has ever used is probably “bless your heart.”

Ellie Kessleman @ 173, I wasn’t suggesting you didn’t know the difference…

Also, if you keep getting blocked by “twitter feminists”, perhaps consider that your tweets aren’t as congenial as you make them out to be.

175

MPAVictoria 02.12.15 at 6:22 pm

“MPAVictoria @ 172, that’s the joke of that post. You, Bianca Steele, and Belle Waring are three of the LEAST derisive posters on CT.”

ha! Thanks Doug. :-)

176

CSC 02.12.15 at 6:27 pm

Doug @171: fwiw, I’ve gotten the impression that the “Victoria” in MPAVictoria is not a personal name.

177

Doug 02.12.15 at 6:34 pm

CSC @176, if I misgendered MPAVictoria, I apologize. However, I wasn’t basing that assumption on the name, but rather a vague sense from reading previous posts. Also possibly from the fact that xie seems to take an enormous amount of flack from certain posters (cough J Thomas cough) that seems far out of proportion to the contents of xie’s posts, which is a situation I usually see with women posters.

Plus it’s hard to use those genderless pronouns. :(

178

The Temporary Name 02.12.15 at 6:44 pm

On one of the listservs I was on (where the material discussed was divisive in itself) no meta-discussion was allowed*. It being a listserv everyone had everyone else’s email address so there was backstage chatter here and there, and moderation too was backstage and not public shaming, but outside of direct engagement with subject matter “so and so is not nice and said a bad thing” or “Does anybody else think this whole take on this thing is misguided?” simply did not happen. On the one hand, there were no personal spats. On the other, there was an obvious orthodoxy in content that could only change slowly.

*Not a suggestion to our indulgent hosts that they should do more unpaid work moderating.

179

Fergus 02.12.15 at 6:53 pm

Oh, man, I wrote a whole big thing, and then I hit submit at a moment my phone had no reception and now it’s gone. I will do a short version, I guess, and see if it makes sense.

I am a student, at Oxford (though I’m Australian really), and in the UK at least there certainly is an increasingly numerous and vocal grouping on the left (where I happily reside) which is about stopping certain views being expressed. The most notable such view is being pro-life: it’s increasingly a thing that pro-life discussion events and similar will be targeted by protesters whose aim (explicitly) is to disrupt those events with the goal that they don’t happen, not just to express disagreement with the pro-life stance. There are other things too. Marine Le Pen got invited to speak at the Oxford Union, and people thought she shouldn’t have been – not because she’d be boring or not interesting for union members, but because there was some sort of grave moral wrong in allowing her to talk. The argument given for these things is basically this: the occurrence of these events/speeches makes people (who’ve had abortions; who are minorities) feel threatened and unsafe, and it’s not acceptable to put the free speech rights of already privileged people above the actual safety of people who are marginalised and oppressed. Slam dunk; disagree and you’re either dismissed as, well, putting the free speech of privileged people ahead of the safety of oppressed people, or mocked as complaining about how little opportunity straight white men get to express their opinions.

Not a complaint, or not a personal one at least – I have not been mocked in that way, but it happens. The reason I haven’t been mocked is that I’ve avoided engaging in an argument about all this or dissenting from that line, partly because I know and get on fine with many of these people and like, what would I get out of that. And partly because as Belle says the other team is full of real bastards – the Spectator has given several articles over to people like Brendan O’Neill and Tim Stanley to complain about ‘Stepford students’ and PC-gone-mad and mix a whole heap of transphobia and sexism and condescending awfulness in there with it – and I don’t want to be on their side or say anything that might put me in the vicinity of being on their side.

Anyway, that’s not the point, and I’m not the one whose views are being shut out – I agree with the anti-free speech crowd on most things. But it is increasingly the case, for example, that in Oxford it’s hard for pro-life people to meet in an organised way and have panels or debates or whatever without being targeted by disruptive protesters who don’t think they should get to have those discussions. And that seems like genuinely a thing worth worrying about – they’re prolifers! this is not that uncommon or beyond the pale; I’d be totally up for giving this kind of treatment to the Oxford Neo-Nazis or something, no free speech radicalism here – and spurious-looking claims about physical safety don’t seem like good enough reason to just stop these people being able to express and discuss their views. This is a real thing, is basically what I’m saying – not a huge crisis or enormous moral failure of the left, but, it is true that there are a growing number of students who are more than happy to (try to) stop some views being discussed for not much good reason.

By the way, Belle – I’ve thought this before, when you posted about a conversation about mathematical realism, maybe? longtime lurker – your children sound incredibly clever and wonderful.

(Sorry to distract from the who’s-most-derisive feud, I guess.)

180

Rich Puchalsky 02.12.15 at 6:57 pm

Doug: “Interesting that the three people identified as “derisive” in 162 are all women who aren’t hesitant to give their opinions.”

Interesting that Doug, a person who from their screen name presents as male, is the first to announce that Ellie, someone presenting as female (according to my two-minute click through to her blog), is using “intimidating and derisive” as secret shorthand for “uppity women”. Looks like we’re about to get a textbook lesson in what the thread’s about!

And come on, it’s not tone policing to describe reality, is it? I won’t express an opinion on other commenters, but Belle Waring is derisive. As I write above, I don’t consider it to be a character flaw, but come on. Let’s just scroll back a bit here: “Salem, I feel you, but I don’t see that coming into this thread and saying, you know who’s been talking sense? Someguy88!” really passes the muster, argumentatively speaking. I may just be a dumb chick with a magic wand I point at stuff and then it explodes, though, so, what do I know? BOOM BOOM BOOM” That’s textbook derisive. What’s this weird, misdirected flattery and / or toadying saying oh you’re the least derisive person ever about?

181

bianca steele 02.12.15 at 7:09 pm

Oh, I feel so bad about having been dismissive of novakant-of-the-one-word-posts! Poor, vulnerable novakant! And about having guessed wrong about whether Ms. Ellie Kettleman would prefer me to gloss over her comment, point out that I don’t understand what she’s saying, or provide a three-page post in reaction. And about not taking whatever message Cap’n. Famous wanted me to take from his post on education through “shame” and acting on it.

I mean, these people always pick the most ridiculous times to come out with these personal evaluations of other commenters. Usually it’s best to ignore them, everyone is able to see for themselves what’s going on.

182

Doug 02.12.15 at 7:13 pm

Rich Puchalsky @180,

Derision in the service of mocking fools is no vice.

But seriously, considering how much crap Belle takes just for posting, I don’t consider a little light sarcasm to rise to the level of derision.

I mean, when you have people like Brett Bellmore advocating outright evil (in other threads), Belle would be well within her rights to use much harsher language and / or ban people left and right.

But then, I’m a pinko commie feminazi, so YMMV.

183

MPAVictoria 02.12.15 at 7:16 pm

I think this is very relevant to this whole debate:

http://mediamatters.org/blog/2015/02/12/msnbcs-sunday-shows-in-2014-mhp-remains-most-di/202512

Isn’t that absurd? Shouldn’t we be doing more, not less, to encourage and value minority voices?

184

Doug 02.12.15 at 7:24 pm

MPAVictoria @183, but minorities are always so angry and derisive! If they could just be more polite, then white men would be happy to listen to them!

185

Rich Puchalsky 02.12.15 at 7:33 pm

Doug: “Derision in the service of mocking fools is no vice.”

Derision isn’t derision when it’s directed at the right targets? Sarcasm isn’t derision?

“But then, I’m a pinko commie feminazi, so YMMV.”

Are you really? Is that supposed to be an implication that anyone criticizing you must be criticizing you from the right — as if they’re the kind of person who’d use “feminazi”? Or is it supposed to be an ironic reclamation of insulting language? If it’s supposed to indicate that you are in fact a Communist, feminist activist, I’d be glad to hear more specifics about what you’ve done and what motivates you to make this kind of judgement.

186

ragweed 02.12.15 at 7:38 pm

I appreciate being called friendly and sensible, but I actually think the same could be applied to Bella – though I can understand some might not get her literary style. I will acknowledge that she does tend to diss some arguments (more than people), but she does it with style and flair.

Bob McManus is, I think, more right than not in this discussion, though I will take issue with the opposition between Marxist/post-colonial/queer theory and feminism/anti-racism. Because most of the folks I can think of who pioneered intersectionality before it was a thing considered themselves feminists. Post-colonial feminists, socialist feminists, feminists of color, queer feminists to be sure, but feminists.

187

Doug 02.12.15 at 8:13 pm

Rich Puchalsky @185,

Precisely. Derision (and other forms of mockery) are perfectly acceptable when punching “up”–that is, towards people in power (or people with privilege, as the case may be).

Derision and mockery are not acceptable when punching “down”–towards the powerless and the underprivileged.

So, for example, mocking Donald Trump = acceptable. Mocking black people on welfare = not acceptable.

The same is true for judging “calling out”, “PC”, etc. Women calling out men for misogynist language = acceptable. White feminists criticizing black womanists for being “loud” and “angry” = not acceptable.

Its about power differentials.

Now, there are situations where the power differentials are unclear, but in those cases, deferring to the minorities is usually a safe bet.

188

Ellie Kesselman 02.12.15 at 8:16 pm

Bianca Steele #181

And about having guessed wrong about whether Ms. Ellie Kettleman would prefer me to gloss over her comment…

Please don’t ridicule my name. Yes, my ancestors were peasants in Zhytomyr and some were door-to-door peddlers of cookware. Pots and pans. You know your etymology, good for you. I am a second generation American. Not everyone is named so gloriously as “Bianca Steele”.

189

bianca steele 02.12.15 at 8:28 pm

I am not posting under my real name.

Everything else I say about myself is true, however.

190

Rich Puchalsky 02.12.15 at 8:39 pm

OK, Doug. It’s going to take some time to go through all of that.

First of all, this wasn’t about whether derision was acceptable. Someone said Belle Waring was derisive, you said that she is one of the least derisive posters on CT. When challenged on that factually, you had to admit that you were obviously wrong, so now you’re saying that she is derisive but it’s OK because she’s punching up, not down.

How do you possibly think that Belle Waring is punching up when she makes fun of Someguy88 here? She has the ability to ban Someguy88, delete his comments, or whatever. She also has a demonstrated group of commenters who would cheer her on in doing so. Against this, he has what — a male screen name?

And more to the point, how do you think that you, an apparent guy — though of course I don’t know — aren’t punching down when you accuse Ellie Kesselman of whatever? Let’s review: she is apparently a woman. You are apparently a man. She is a woman whose name, when clicked on, goes to an actual blog with some kind of enduring presence that she must value. You have a meaningless first-name pseudonym that, when clicked on, leads to nothing. You have nothing at stake and nothing to lose. How do you reconcile this with your punching-up theory?

191

Doug 02.12.15 at 9:43 pm

Rich Puchalsky,

Excellent questions! Let me address the second one first: Ellie Kesselman’s post contained an obvious dogwhistle and was clearly not meant in good faith. If this isn’t evident to you, well, I’m not sure I can help you with that–you just need to spend more time reading posts by tone trolls and misogynists. Anyway, the guidelines don’t apply to trolls. [And am I a troll? Well, that depends on one’s ideological bent, I suppose.]

Now to the first point–much of Belle’s derision is aimed at trolls. But even when it isn’t, you must consider the overarching privilege relationships. Belle’s ability to ban someone from CT is insignificant compared to the power men have to silence and hurt her. Consider MPAVictoria’s post above about the visibility of women in media, or the statistics on rape, or, well, damn near anything, and realize that Belle would be well justified to pour venom upon anyone supporting the patriarchy or Men’s Rights or the other bullshit that people bring to the comments. Instead, she contents herself with mild derision.

Unfortunately, I don’t think we can come to an agreement–we aren’t even speaking the same language. (Which is what I was getting at with the pinko commie feminazi remark–it was a self-deprecating comment aimed at showing that I have views on minority rights that many people consider to be extreme, which ultimately limits my ability to have certain conversations. For example, I think that the USA should provide some form of reparations to African-Americans…)

At any rate, I won’t be able to check the thread for a while, so I will depart the field, bearing you no ill will, and hoping that you, at least, will think of me as no worse than misguided.

192

ragweed 02.12.15 at 9:55 pm

Y’all are missing an obvious thing about being dissed by Belle. It’s the quality of the diss. It’s like someone who was disses by Mark Twain – you frame that.

193

Ellie Kesselman 02.12.15 at 10:01 pm

Doug,
I am not a troll. I didn’t mention men’s rights groups first. Someone else did. Belle clarified helpfully. I tried to be nice to Bianca but got told something unpleasant, then had my name poked fun of. Ooh, terrible: I am a Russian Jewess.

I am not a misogynist! You are so cruel! I AM a woman. I LIKE being female. I don’t hate myself! This is me, http://linkedin.com/in/4lisa Why are you pressuring me to verify my authenticity as a woman? (Why am I being so easily hurt and manipulated? Because I clearly am not wanted.)

I’m so sorry, Belle, I didn’t intend to turn your comments into a strife-fest.
Rich, thank you for your kindness and sensitivity, and for visiting my blog home.

194

MPAVictoria 02.12.15 at 10:03 pm

“Because I clearly am not wanted.”

I am sorry you feel this way Ellie.

195

bianca steele 02.12.15 at 10:34 pm

Ooh, Ellie, I’m a Russian Jewess too! And I’m second-generation! (As many people on CT already know, if they cared, because I’ve mentioned it before.) You’re going to make me paranoid! The only thing I need now is for someone just like you to show up using a name much closer to mine!

Seriously, I don’t know what you think I said that was unpleasant. I assume it was before I got your name wrong, which was an innocent mistake, because you attacked me before that.

196

bianca steele 02.12.15 at 10:46 pm

And I do have a sense of humor:

As Shakespeare said: Which is the nice girl here, and which the shrew?

197

bob mcmanus 02.12.15 at 10:58 pm

186.2.2: Agreed. It was just a mild ranking, not an exclusion.

I do have problems reading Americans about America any more.

198

Doug 02.12.15 at 11:45 pm

Back for a sec–Ellie Kesselman @ 193, oh for crying out loud, you can’t be for real. No one would write something so overwrought over a few comments.

I said (and maintain) that you are a troll, feigning hurt feelings to try to silence or shame some of the posters in this thread. Let me use your latest post as an example. No one has suggested that you were not a woman, and absolutely no one has demanded that you “verify your authenticity as a woman”–but by claiming that an unnamed someone has done so, you try to make yourself look persecuted, and anyone who questions you look like a misogynist. Likewise, Bianca’s mispelling of your name was a perfectly innocent mistake, not some sort of obscure Russian slur. But by suggesting that, you once again try to make her out to be the “bad person”.

You tried to position yourself as a “hapless innocent” who was offended by the “derisive comments” of certain posters in hopes of silencing those posters, and now that you have been called on it, you are doubling down.

Bah. I’m just unsettled by Belle’s other post, my tolerance for “can’t we all be nice” trolls is exhausted. If you really want to help, go tell some MRAs to stop being so “derisive” or something.

199

William Berry 02.12.15 at 11:50 pm

Doug @199:

Now you’re just being abusive.

Why don’t you chill a bit yourself?

200

William Berry 02.12.15 at 11:50 pm

@198, it should be. I guess.

201

js. 02.13.15 at 12:03 am

On one of the listservs I was on (where the material discussed was divisive in itself) no meta-discussion was allowed

The wisdom of this policy only becomes more evident with time. (And as with TTN above, this is in no way directed at any of our hosts.)

202

novakant 02.13.15 at 12:22 am

Doug is kind of a Q.E.D. to FdB’s point.

203

Rich Puchalsky 02.13.15 at 4:02 am

Well, that was predictable.

Here’s some more basic activism stuff: the purpose of activism is to get things done, politically. When I referred to “successes” upthread, that didn’t equate to “times when I felt good about myself.” They were times when (in conjunction with the work of a lot of other people) EPA regulations got changed, a factory lowered its emissions of VOCs, a university divested from South Africa, a recycling center became one of the largest in the county, and so on. Trial lawyers (to continue my previous comparison) are aggressive, yes, but no one would ever hire them if all they could do was go to court and come back and say “Well, I lost but I really told them off.”

What is supposed to be accomplished?

I’ll write more about the inside game and the outside game if anyone shows any sign of knowing what I’m talking about.

204

Landru 02.13.15 at 4:10 am

I’m beginning to suspect that Doug at 191 may be an example of the extremely artful trolling described in a recent post by Henry:

http://crookedtimber.org/2015/02/06/hr-tips-from-roman-slave-owners/

The real tip-off, for me, is the passage

[post] contained an obvious dogwhistle and was clearly not meant in good faith. If this isn’t evident to you, well, I’m not sure I can help you with that

I mean, really: is there any lower form of argument than “It’s simply self-evident that I’m right and you’re wrong, and if you can’t see it that just demonstrates how stupid you are”? Useful for all occasions, handy to have in the tool belt.

205

MPAVictoria 02.13.15 at 4:13 am

Guys can we just please stop?

206

lurker 02.13.15 at 2:15 pm

@205, MPA Victoria
I was going to post something hostile and petty here, but then I read Belle’s other post and the thread and was blown away, not to say shamed.

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