Jonathan Chait Denounces Political Correctness (Except His)
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January 30, 2015, 06:20 AM
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After the 2012 election we heard a lot about how the Obama Coalition was a demographic juggernaut. To take a random example, from New York magazine on May 10, 2013:
How Jason Richwine Passed Immigration Reform

By Jonathan Chait

The fallout from the Heritage Foundation’s immigration reform study has developed into a watershed moment for the prospects of passing a bill. The release of the study prompted a fierce backlash from proponents of reform, which compounded when Dylan Matthews reported that Jason Richwine, a co-author of the study, wrote a dissertation arguing, “No one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites, but the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have low-IQ children and grandchildren is difficult to argue against.”

Heritage has found itself in a public relations crisis, and announced Richwine was leaving the conservative think-tank.

…If the Gang of Eight bill fails, Richwine’s comments will continue to linger and recirculate in the Latino-American media until immigration reform finally passes. Republicans will never be able to convince Latinos they killed the bill for any reason other than racial animus. The need to put this behind them is growing desperate.

Of course, Richwine should be fired for having done his Harvard doctoral dissertation on a technical subject of massive importance to the long term future of the country. Nobody should be allowed to express or even have an informed opinion on the topic. Knowledge is bad.

But, as I’ve been pointing out for a long time, the Obama Coalition is mostly held together by its hatred for cisgendered straight white males like, oh, to pick another random example, Jonathan Chait.

Ever since the 2014 election, the progressive crack-up has been proceeding. Winning covers up a lot of fractures, but losing pulls the masking tape off.

So, in New York magazine this week, Jonathan Chait is firing back at all the Social Media Justice Warriors who denounce him and his friends, such as Hanna Rosin (basically, the Stephen Glass Support Network at The New Republic in the 1990s), for occasionally expressing a thought besides “CSWMs Are Evil:”

Trigger warnings aren’t much help in actually overcoming trauma — an analysis by the Institute of Medicine has found that the best approach is controlled exposure to it, and experts say avoidance can reinforce suffering. Indeed, one professor at a prestigious university told me that, just in the last few years, she has noticed a dramatic upsurge in her students’ sensitivity toward even the mildest social or ideological slights; she and her fellow faculty members are terrified of facing accusations of triggering trauma — or, more consequentially, violating her school’s new sexual-harassment policy — merely by carrying out the traditional academic work of intellectual exploration. “This is an environment of fear, believe it or not,” she told me by way of explaining her request for anonymity. It reminds her of the previous outbreak of political correctness — “Every other day I say to my friends, ‘How did we get back to 1991?’ ”
A behind-the-scenes angle to this involves a split among the Former Friends of Stephen Glass between Sabrina Rubin Erdely versus Chait and Rosin versus over the UVA Hoax.
But it would be a mistake to categorize today’s p.c. culture as only an academic phenomenon. Political correctness is a style of politics in which the more radical members of the left attempt to regulate political discourse by defining opposing views as bigoted and illegitimate. Two decades ago, the only communities where the left could exert such hegemonic control lay within academia, which gave it an influence on intellectual life far out of proportion to its numeric size. Today’s political correctness flourishes most consequentially on social media, where it enjoys a frisson of cool and vast new cultural reach. And since social media is also now the milieu that hosts most political debate, the new p.c. has attained an influence over mainstream journalism and commentary beyond that of the old.

It also makes money. Every media company knows that stories about race and gender bias draw huge audiences, making identity politics a reliable profit center in a media industry beset by insecurity. A year ago, for instance, a photographer compiled images of Fordham students displaying signs recounting “an instance of racial microaggression they have faced.” The stories ranged from uncomfortable (“No, where are you really from?”) to relatively innocuous (“ ‘Can you read this?’ He showed me a Japanese character on his phone”). BuzzFeed published part of her project, and it has since received more than 2 million views. This is not an anomaly.

It’s a free country, and if BuzzFeed can hustle a buck off putting dumb stuff out there, so what?

I care a lot more about when the SMJWs use their power and money to silence dissenters by getting scientists like Jason Richwine and James D. Watson fired.

Yet, I can’t find much evidence of Chait, who has had plenty of platforms in the press since he co-authored a story with Stephen Glass a couple of decades ago at The New Republic, protesting either Richwine or Watson losing their jobs.

In a short period of time, the p.c. movement has assumed a towering presence in the psychic space of politically active people in general and the left in particular. “All over social media, there dwell armies of unpaid but widely read commentators, ready to launch hashtag campaigns and circulate petitions in response to the slightest of identity-politics missteps,” Rebecca Traister wrote recently in The New Republic.

Two and a half years ago, Hanna Rosin, a liberal journalist and longtime friend, wrote a book called The End of Men, which argued that a confluence of social and economic changes left women in a better position going forward than men, who were struggling to adapt to a new postindustrial order. Rosin, a self-identified feminist, has found herself unexpectedly assailed by feminist critics, who found her message of long-term female empowerment complacent and insufficiently concerned with the continuing reality of sexism. One Twitter hashtag, “#RIPpatriarchy,” became a label for critics to lampoon her thesis. Every new continuing demonstration of gender discrimination — a survey showing Americans still prefer male bosses; a person noticing a man on the subway occupying a seat and a half — would be tweeted out along with a mocking #RIPpatriarchy.

Her response since then has been to avoid committing a provocation, especially on Twitter. “If you tweet something straight­forwardly feminist, you immediately get a wave of love and favorites, but if you tweet something in a cranky feminist mode then the opposite happens,” she told me. “The price is too high; you feel like there might be banishment waiting for you.” Social media, where swarms of jeering critics can materialize in an instant, paradoxically creates this feeling of isolation. “You do immediately get the sense that it’s one against millions, even though it’s not.” Subjects of these massed attacks often describe an impulse to withdraw. …

But political correctness is not a rigorous commitment to social equality so much as a system of left-wing ideological repression. Not only is it not a form of liberalism; it is antithetical to liberalism. Indeed, its most frequent victims turn out to be liberals themselves. …

In a Coalition of the Fringes, there’s a lot of effort put in to be Fringier than Thou.
I am white and male, a fact that is certainly worth bearing in mind. … If you consider this background and demographic information the very essence of my point of view, then there’s not much point in reading any further. But this pointlessness is exactly the point: Political correctness makes debate irrelevant and frequently impossible.

Under p.c. culture, the same idea can be expressed identically by two people but received differently depending on the race and sex of the individuals doing the expressing.

I’m going to jump in here and point out that I don’t think that’s necessarily unreasonable. For example, consider the legal concept of Admission Against Interest. When somebody once said:
“There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery. Then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.”
It’s more interesting because it was Jesse Jackson who said it.

I’m going to go in the opposite direction from Chait. He seems to be implying that it should be considered in bad taste to point out how demographics bias viewpoints. Thus, it shouldn’t be respectable to scoff at what Chait says because he’s a man or at what Rosin says because she’s white.

I’m sympathetic, but my view is that we should go 180 degrees the opposite from Chait’s notion. Instead of everybody being sheltered from criticism over who they are, as Chait implies, we’d be better off if everybody was free game over everything. Anybody would be okay to criticize anybody, no matter how sacralized the designated victim group the offended party belongs to.

My vision of what American public discourse ought to be would basically be 300,000,000 Bill Burrs going at each other.

Obviously, I’m biased. I don’t have a lot of Victimization Pokemon Points that I would be sacrificing.

I’m also professionally biased in that I’m a critic, and I think criticism is, on the whole, good for people.

White guys get criticized a lot. And, guess what? We behave pretty well. Having your group criticized for your stereotypical bad behavior tends to make you want to avoid that kind of behavior.

In contrast, members of lots of other groups are largely off-limits for being criticized for behaving in stereotypical fashions. For example, everybody knows that poor young black men are more likely on average to, say, loot convenience stores and attack policemen. But you aren’t supposed to admit you know that. That’s a stereotype!

So when Michael Brown looted a convenience store and attacked a policeman, and the policeman didn’t get indicted, lots of poor young black men in Ferguson responded by … you guessed it: looting convenience stores. And then a poor young black man in Brooklyn attacked a couple of policemen and shot them dead.

Funny how that works.

Likewise, everybody knows that women tend to take things personally, get worked up, and then throw principled logic out the window. So, you aren’t supposed to mention it these days because it’s a stereotype (because it’s true).

Not surprisingly, therefore, lots of women these days go online, take things personally, get worked up, and throw principled logic out the window. What, is somebody going to dare laugh at them and point out they are behaving in a stereotypically female fashion? So, public discourse gets clogged up with women throwing hissy fits.

And Muslims are stereotypically chip-on-the-shoulder hot-heads. Fifty years ago in France, they used to feel a little embarrassed about behaving like Anthony Quinn’s character in Lawrence of Arabia because that so obviously confirmed the stereotype. But now their grandsons have been told endlessly that anybody who notices stereotypes is evil, so some of them get offended and go murder caricature cartoonists.

None of this is some weird accident. It’s the basic logic of human behavior: the more a group is above criticism, the worse they behave.