Is identity politics ruining the Left?

You may have asked yourself, as I have, “So what’s the problem with identity politics? After all, there are marginalized groups in the U.S. and U.K., bigotry is still with us, and why shouldn’t people belonging to those groups agitate to get the rights and treatment they deserve? What were the feminist and civil-rights movements of the Fifties and Sixties besides identity politics?”

That’s a good question, and one that Mark Lilla takes up in two places: in an essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education called “How colleges are strangling liberalism” (this is an excerpt from his new book The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics), and in an interview with New Yorker editor David Remnick, “Mark Lilla on his critique of identity politics.” Lilla is a professor of humanities at Columbia University (he was once at the University of Chicago), “specializes in intellectual history, with a particular focus on Western political and religious thought”, and identifies as a “liberal Democrat” and a “centrist liberal.”

In the New Yorker interview Lilla defines identity politics and also fingers its big problem:

Now, you can say that people think of themselves as Italians or Jews or Germans, and then they become a kind of interest group. We’ve had interest-group politics before. But there’s a kind of essentialism to identity politics, where it means going out into the democratic space, where you’re struggling for power and using identity as an appeal for other people to vote for your side. And I think Bannon’s completely right, and I’ll stand by what I said: that it works for their side and it doesn’t work for our side, for all kinds of reasons. Now, that is not to say that we don’t talk about identity. To understand any social problem in this country, you have to understand identity. And we’re more aware of that than ever, and that’s been a very good thing. But, to address those problems with politics, we have to abandon the rhetoric of difference, in order to appeal to what we share, so that people who don’t share this identity somehow can have a stake, and feel something that other people are experiencing.

In other words—and this is what Lilla emphasizes in the Chronicle review—identity politics so fragments the populace, in particular the Left, that they lose understanding of what’s good for society as a whole, concentrating on what’s good for their identity group—in fact, not even that, but concentrating on what’s good for them as individuals. This not only prevents the Left from political success, claims Lilla, but heartens the Trump administration. As Remnick notes (who isn’t largely on board with Lilla’s views), “There is a quote recently that Steve Bannon, of all people, delivered: ‘The Democrats, the longer they talk about identity politics, I’ve got ’em. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focussed on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.’”

Lilla also blames identity politics for the defeat of Hillary Clinton. Part of his exchange with Remnick:

Lilla: . . . But, when we go out on the stump, it makes no sense to call out to various groups, as Hillary Clinton did, and inevitably leave people out. She would list the groups that liberal Democrats care about today: African-Americans, gays and lesbians, women. One out of every four Americans is evangelical. Thirty-seven per cent of Americans live in the South. Seventeen per cent, as many as there are, of African-Americans in this country live in rural areas. There are different ways in which people think of themselves, right? And those people did not feel called out to.

Remnick: Why do you think they felt called out to by Barack Obama and not by Hillary Clinton? What was the key difference there?

Lilla: Precisely because Obama did not list groups. Because he talked about “we.” He didn’t always finish his sentences—he would say, “That’s not who we are,” and wouldn’t quite tell us who we are. But he understood that. Both Obama and [Bill] Clinton understood that playing identity politics in electoral politics is a disaster for the liberal side.

But what about the notion that we’re throwing those marginalized people under the bus by appealing to a greater unity while ignoring their “identity issues”? Here’s the exchange about that.

Remnick: Unless I misread your book, you seem to say that, in the interest of winning—and politics is about power, ultimately—the Democratic side ought to think about abandoning certain issues, certain kinds of rhetoric, in order to win. But abandoning certain things like full-throated opposition to bathroom bills will mean that certain people—transgender people, some of the most vulnerable people in our society—will get hurt. How does a party go about sacrificing people on the altar of the general good?

Lilla: Well my main point is this, and I want to get this across: we cannot do anything for these groups we care about if we do not hold power. It is just talk. Therefore, our rhetoric in campaigning must be focussed on winning, so then we can help these people. An election is not about self-expression. It’s not a time to display everything we believe about everything. It’s a contest. And once you hold power, then you can do the things you want to do. Your rhetoric has to be mobilizing, and it’s got to mobilize—

. . . if we want to make people more tolerant, the psychology of that is very complicated. What we do know—and psychologists study these sorts of things—if you call someone a racist, they completely shut down. You’re not persuading, you’re not building a bridge to that person. And while it’s satisfying to speak the full truth about something, and I understand that urge, if you’re trying to persuade people and move them a little toward your position, you’ve got to find common ground. And that’s very hard to take for people who are in movements, and feel frustrated that things aren’t going their way.

So Lilla’s view is that “movement politics”—a unified push by different groups—is the only way for liberals to get power, and once that power is seized, then we can concentrate on the issues of specific groups.  Now I’m not sure I’m completely on board with that view, but there’s no doubt that the Right has been heartened by identity politics. Just look at Breitbart, The Daily Wire, or any number of right-wing sites, which daily publish articles on “P.C. [politically correct] craziness.” It makes the Left look petty, embroiled in trivial problems like cultural appropriation and bowdlerizing literature, while what we need is to get political power back from a group with a deeply regressive agenda.

In the Chronicle of Higher Education piece, Lilla of course concentrates on the universities’ responsibility for the fragmentation of the Left, and I think we do bear some of that. Humanities courses reinforce identity politics, and these students, particularly from elite universities, are the ones who will shape the next generation of Leftist politics. Again, Lilla emphasizes the dangers of this fragmentation:

Identity politics on the left was at first about large classes of people — African-Americans, women, gays — seeking to redress major historical wrongs by mobilizing and then working through our political institutions to secure their rights. But by the 1980s it had given way to a pseudo-politics of self-regard and increasingly narrow and exclusionary self-definition that is now cultivated in our colleges and universities. The main result has been to turn young people back onto themselves, rather than turning them outward toward the wider world they share with others. It has left them unprepared to think about the common good in non-identity terms and what must be done practically to secure it — especially the hard and unglamorous task of persuading people very different from themselves to join a common effort. Every advance of liberal identity consciousness has marked a retreat of effective liberal political consciousness.

Campus politics bears a good deal of the blame. Up until the 1960s, those active in liberal and progressive politics were drawn largely from the working class or farm communities, and were formed in local political clubs or on shop floors. Today’s activists and leaders are formed almost exclusively at colleges and universities, as are members of the mainly liberal professions of law, journalism, and education. Liberal political education, such as it is, now takes place on campuses that, especially at the elite level, are largely detached socially and geographically from the rest of the country. This is not likely to change. Which means that liberalism’s prospects will depend in no small measure on what happens in our institutions of higher education.

What’s strange about this essay, though, is Lilla’s take on my own cohort: the “’60s generation”, now in charge with teaching in the universities, and presumably of infecting students with identitarianism.

Lilla credits that group with having learned that “movement politics” (the cooperation of different groups to get power) was “the only mode of engagement that actually changes things”, but curiously, adds “which was once true but no longer is.” If it’s no longer true, and identity politics does change things, why is he writing this essay? Perhaps I misunderstand him. He adds that that generation also learned something that promoted current identity politics: “political activity must have some meaning for the self, making compromise seem a self-betrayal (which renders ordinary politics impossible).” I’m not sure if he’s right here: if Sixties politics was effective in promoting civil rights, gay rights, and women’s rights, which it was, how did we internalize lessons that, says Lilla, aren’t effective in changing a more right-wing government?

I’ll give a few more quotes from Lilla’s article (yes, this is getting long, but we’re supposed to have a higher attention span than The Kids). Here’s his view of how college transforms an entering young woman into an identitarian. This, to me, seems accurate (my emphasis):

Imagine a young student entering such an environment today — not your average student pursuing a career, but a recognizable campus type drawn to political questions. She is at the age when the quest for meaning begins and in a place where her curiosity could be directed outward toward the larger world she will have to find a place in. Instead, she is encouraged to plumb mainly herself, which seems an easier exercise. (Little does she know. …) She will first be taught that understanding herself depends on exploring the different aspects of her identity, something she now discovers she has. An identity which, she also learns, has already been largely shaped for her by various social and political forces. This is an important lesson, from which she is likely to draw the conclusion that the aim of education is not to progressively become a self — the task of a lifetime, Kierkegaard thought — through engagement with the wider world. Rather, one engages with the world and particularly politics for the limited aim of understanding and affirming what one already is.

And so she begins. She takes classes where she reads histories of the movements related to whatever she determines her identity to be, and reads authors who share that identity. (Given that this is also an age of sexual exploration, gender studies will hold a particular attraction.) In these courses she also discovers a surprising and heartening fact: that although she may come from a comfortable, middle-class background, her identity confers on her the status of one of history’s victims. This discovery may then inspire her to join a campus group that engages in movement work. The line between self-analysis and political action is now fully blurred. Her political interest will be genuine but circumscribed by the confines of her self-definition. Issues that penetrate those confines now take on looming importance and her position on them quickly becomes nonnegotiable; those issues that don’t touch on her identity (economics, war and peace) are hardly perceived.

The more our student gets into the campus identity mind-set, the more distrustful she will become of the word we, a term her professors have told her is a universalist ruse used to cover up group differences and maintain the dominance of the privileged. And if she gets deeper into “identity theory” she’ll even start to question the reality of the groups to which she thinks she belongs.

There are few thing more empowering and heartening than discovering that you’re a victim of sorts, for now you have the privilege to tell other people to be quiet because of your superior “lived experience,” and you suddenly become special, something that shouldn’t be underrated. A Muslim student with a hijab is special because she can claim she’s oppressed because of her identity, while a Muslim woman with uncovered hair has no such status. I have seen these claims repeatedly. (I add the usual but unnecessary caveat that bigotry against Muslim individuals or members of any minority is reprehensible.) But the point—or rather Lilla’s point—is that this specialness defuses any desire to work with others to do things like get a damn Democrat in the White House.

Lilla (again, my emphasis):

The more obsessed with personal identity campus liberals become, the less willing they are to engage in reasoned political debate. Over the past decade a new, and very revealing, locution has drifted from our universities into the media mainstream: Speaking as an X … This is not an anodyne phrase. It tells the listener that I am speaking from a privileged position on this matter. It sets up a wall against questions, which by definition come from a non-X perspective. And it turns the encounter into a power relation: The winner of the argument will be whoever has invoked the morally superior identity and expressed the most outrage at being questioned.

So classroom conversations that once might have begun, I think A, and here is my argument, now take the form, Speaking as an X, I am offended that you claim B. This makes perfect sense if you believe that identity determines everything. It means that there is no impartial space for dialogue. White men have one “epistemology,” black women have another. So what remains to be said?

What replaces argument, then, is taboo. At times our more privileged campuses can seem stuck in the world of archaic religion. Only those with an approved identity status are, like shamans, allowed to speak on certain matters. Particular groups are given temporary totemic significance. Scapegoats are duly designated and run off campus in a purging ritual. Propositions become pure or impure, not true or false. And not only propositions but simple words. Left identitarians who think of themselves as radical creatures, contesting this and transgressing that, have become like buttoned-up schoolmarms when it comes to the English language, parsing every conversation for immodest locutions and rapping the knuckles of those who inadvertently use them.

Having spent my whole life after 1967 in college (indeed, I liked it so much that I vowed, one way or another, that I’d never leave—and haven’t), Lilla’s words here seem accurate. The fragmentation of the Left into competing oppressed groups has prevented them from working together—something we see among educated atheists as well. And I think that Lilla’s comments on identitarianism defusing movement politics also has some merit. When, for example, I hear enraged students indicting Israel for various “apartheid” crimes (and ignoring the Palestinian attacks on civilians, as well as the own religiously-based oppression of their citizens), I don’t see students committed to solving this nearly intractable problem. Rather, they want to shout slogans, vent their rage, some want to flaunt their virtue, and none of this is even aimed at addressing the nearly intractable problem—unless you mean by that getting rid of the state of Israel.

Now most of the “identity” causes are meritorious: there’s still racism and sexism in this country, and that needs to go. But I don’t see it going so long as each group denies the other a contribution to the conversation—something that’s impossible if you claim full possession of the truth and the right to speak based on your identity. I may sound like an old guy here (and I am), but I remember that when marching in civil rights demonstrations, or discussing those issues, or fighting against the war, there were few arguments about which group had the hegemony of power and right to speak. Rather, I remember a wonderful sense of common purpose: we were all in this together, and we were going to change the world. Seriously—we really thought that! Well, we didn’t, of course, but that unanimity did help stop the Vietnam War and secure rights for women and blacks (gay rights weren’t yet on the table when I was a student).

To close, I’ll reprise Lilla’s thesis once again from the Chronicle piece:

Conservatives are right: Our colleges, from bottom to top, are mainly run by liberals, and teaching has a liberal tilt. But they are wrong to infer that students are therefore being turned into an effective left-wing political force. The liberal pedagogy of our time, focused as it is on identity, is actually a depoliticizing force. It has made our children more tolerant of others than certainly my generation was, which is a very good thing. But by undermining the universal democratic we on which solidarity can be built, duty instilled, and action inspired, it is unmaking rather than making citizens. In the end this approach just strengthens all the atomizing forces that dominate our age.

Remnick, as I said, is pretty critical of Lilla, and seems himself somewhat of a Control Leftist in his interview (this is reflected in the New Yorker‘s slant on politics). So, if you have time, read that interview, and also the Chronicle piece, and weigh in below. Weigh in even if you haven’t had time to read either, as I’ve given, I think, a sufficient precis of Lilla’s arguments.

51 Comments

  1. John willis
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    Jerry you need to be following Josh Marshall on twitter – he had a superb thread in this last night. Identity politics is a term nearly always used as a derogatory term and also Lillas argument ignores the demographic realities of today’s Democratic Party.

    • BJ
      Posted August 27, 2017 at 10:19 am | Permalink

      I don’t think it ignores the demographic realities at all. At the end of the day, most of the people even within the groups Democrats talk about care far more about the economy, wars, social security, and other *we* issues than they do about whether someone used an offensive word, or cultural appropriation, or other issues that strike most people from any group as deeply petty. They also care more about working as a nation to build something better than dividing everyone up and deciding who gets to speak and hold the ultimate “truth.”

      And this is the key point: identity politics as practiced is unconcerned with the larger issues that most people from all groups actually care about. Identitarians aren’t talking about the economy, or social security, or having to work too many jobs just to keep your shitty studio apartment. They’re not talking about the issues that speak to most people, perhaps because most of them, despite their identities, are really middle-class and higher, college-educated humanities students who don’t have to worry about these issues nearly as much (or, at least, not yet).

      • GM
        Posted August 27, 2017 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

        It’s more sinister than that though.

        Who is going to be staffing all the extra administrative layers and doing all the extra policing that will have to implemented to make sure people do not transgress the constantly moving boundaries of what is not allowed?

        It will not be the poor and the working class, it will be the educated upper-middle and higher class college graduates. And mostly it will not even be the visible minorities members of those classes (on so many occasions I have seen white females, and sometimes even white males, yelling at white men how them being white disqualifies them from having a valid opinion, apparently without any consideration that they themselves are white too).

        And who is going to be the most policed?

        The working class and the poor as they have had the least opportunity to adjust their behaviors to the new norms set by the upper classes.

        So in effect what all of this amounts to is using various groups suffering from real or imagined oppression as a tool to execute a power grab in one’s own interest.

        • Gabrielle
          Posted August 28, 2017 at 6:54 am | Permalink

          Where do you see this (the yelling)? At work?

  2. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    Sub

    I like the “what we share” idea.

    Bannon quote : yes. Also illustrates the view of politics as merely another spectator sport – he’s the hockey player or coach, his fans rally behind him. He’s promoting “economic nationalism” – sounds ok, what’s wrong with a specific country’s economic well-being? Problem is : there are better economists than Bannin.

    … I wonder about another thing : people have to be willing to ditch bad ideas, or ideas that they love but are not useful, are in the way, etc. that’s hard I think. Easiest example : religion.

    • GM
      Posted August 27, 2017 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

      Problem is : there are better economists than Bannin.

      Would that be the same economists who provided the ideological justification for the deindustrialization and deregulation of the US economy, and who helped create the crash of 2008?

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted August 27, 2017 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

        Errrmmm…..

        ( I misspelled Bannon)….

        That was a polite way of saying … something impolite about Bannon.

  3. Rich Sanderson
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    I saw a tweet from regressive Peter Ferguson (Humanisticus), who argued that you shouldn’t criticise identity politics, because LGBT campaigning is an example of “identity politics”.

    The completely fails to take into account that the “identity politics” we see in 2017 is not based on achieving equality in the traditional sense, it is based on illiberal, far left, intersectionalism. This is why we see identity politics becoming increasingly hostile to liberalism, to freedom of speech and expression, and to groups of people classed as “oppressors”, i.e. “cis white men” and Jews, etc. A lot of identity politics today is deeply antisemitic, for example.

    Oh, and groups of white supremacists banding together around a common cause, that would also be “identity politics”.

    So, in summary, identity politics can, at some level, serve a useful function, but like any political ideological approach, can, and has, turn(ed) very nasty, divisive, and illiberal.

    SWSs and the regressive left simply can’t identity the problem that identity politics has become, and they are a big part of the problem.

    • Posted August 29, 2017 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

      LGBT campaigning (for example) can be done as a way to promote sexual equality, education, access to resources, etc. for *everyone*. It doesn’t have to be done in a way that is “I’m in this category, so screw the outsiders” way at all. Doesn’t have to lead to “oppression olympics”, etc.

      As a cisgender-heterosexual-white-middleclass-male, I don’t fall into any of the “usual bins”, but protecting the right for any number of consenting adults to love who they want, have relationships that work for them, etc. is for all, and that’s why I’ve always supported LGBT matters.

  4. Christopher
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Sam Harris’ podcast interview (Is This the End of Europe?) with Douglas Murray touches upon some of these same issues in the context of Harris’ recent tweet about Charlottesville and the backlash that immediately followed. It is well worth a listen.

  5. Michael Waterhouse
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    Perhaps there is still racism and sexism and other flavors of bigotry, to a degree, but it is not the extent made out by those jumping on the oppressed or defending the oppressed bandwagon.
    There is not enough actual blameworthiness to warrant the viscous outpouring of nastiness and vitriol that typifies many left positions.

    Those people just simply are not as oppressed as they make themselves out to be.
    And any reluctance by another to agree to that position and try and engage in a dialogue, is met with hostility.
    Undeserved hostility.

    To many positions and claims of oppression have no substance.

    It is this lack of substance, as well as it revolving around personal identity that makes it had to to have a substantial movement.

    • Michael Waterhouse
      Posted August 27, 2017 at 10:32 am | Permalink

      That would be ‘Too many positions…’

      • Tom
        Posted August 27, 2017 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

        Yes it’s just another example of an introverted America navel gazing.
        Frankly, the rest of the world just yawns when Americans say they are oppressed.

  6. fizziks
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    The way that identity politics is hurting the Left’s chances of actually governing or being an effective counter to the Trumpian Right is indeed a crucial aspect to consider. But it isn’t anywhere near the most destructive thing about identity politics.

    Fundamentally, identity politics and its cultural tentacles moves citizens away from considering themselves and others as individuals, to be judged and considered as individuals, and pushes people’s conception of themselves and others as being solely representatives of various competing demographic groups. This is profoundly dehumanizing and depressing to a populace, and does nothing but sew the seeds of conflict and discord.

    • Kevin
      Posted August 27, 2017 at 11:00 am | Permalink

      Many who oppose Trump are unfortunately, but justifiably so upset that they are sort of involuntary thrust into an identity that’s more focused than it would have been had Trump and his minions not put them into that psychological state.

      Trumpism is really good at strengthening ideological walls for everyone. And that ‘exclusionism’ is particularly hurtful mostly to the Left which is supposed to have an open capacity to listen to all sides.

    • Posted August 27, 2017 at 11:16 am | Permalink

      This is well put and deserves serious attention. Regarding and characterizing someone as a member of a group is antithetical to democracy. Proof of this is a country like India, and many other countries as well, where each identity group, whether religious, ethnic or racial, is allotted power. In this way individuals are denied their own opinions and their own needs as opposed to the needs of the larger group, which may overlap but in the end deny diversity of thought and deny its recognition. I recoil at the notion, now beatified by the Regressive Left, that when I speak to or listen to or associate with an individual I am required make note of her
      skin color or sexual preference or religion or ethnic origin. Blur the essential intellectual identity of an individual and you eat away at that person’s personality as well as rights. There are no group rights, only individual rights. These are the ones desperate for protection and enhancement, the ones that contribute to democracy. Group rights contribute to authoritarianism and ultimately totalitarianism. Hannah Arendt would have a lot of say about that if she were still alive.

      • Posted August 29, 2017 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

        Are you sure that group rights are totalitarian? It seems that, for example, that freedom of association is a group right.

  7. Randy schenck
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    To someone outside the campus life it seems the descriptions laid out are a kind of shallow thinking that not only does a poor job of uniting the party but stops the education process for this type of person. There is a lot more to it than just determining, I’m for it and against it on any subject. And once this person lines up solidly on one side of every issue there is no longer need to discuss more or even have anything to do with those who do not agree.

    The same can be said for the protester today or in 1967, out there on the lines protesting the Vietnam conflict. Yes you can say, I was apart of it and together we helped get it stopped but what happened after that? Not much and very few seemed to take the time to find out why it did happen and what was really wrong with this conflict. You know, the kind of things that would prevent a repeat of the same thing over and over. Just being against something does not solve the problem, it just feels like it did. That is why we have the exact same problems and make the same mistakes today. And this is true no matter what your politics may be. If we do not understand the causes you will never find the solutions, whatever the issue.

  8. Jeremy Tarone
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    I have increasingly run into people on social media who claim the merit of a groups legal claims should be based on if they have been traditionally or currently oppressed.

    They never say it like that of course. It’s usually expressed more generally, X group should get what they want because they have been or are oppressed.

    I find this frightening, legal system’s decisions based on a hierarchy of oppression. Equality before the law would mean nothing.
    Some of the claims had actual legal reasons why they should win, including equal treatment before the law and discrimination. I’m thinking specifically of the Jewish Centre in Australia who were discriminated against because of their religion.

  9. FB
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    “I think A, and here is my argument, now take the form, Speaking as an X, I am offended that you claim B.”

    Best example of that, from Canada:

    • Craw
      Posted August 27, 2017 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

      Jibbers.

    • rickflick
      Posted August 27, 2017 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

      It’s easy to see how someone could be offended that she’s offended. Now what have we got? A room full of offence and no one is making any headway. Sad.

  10. BJ
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    I think Lilla is largely right here. When the left engages in identity politics today, it’s always vague. The words “racism,” “sexism,” “Islamophobia,” etc. are used, by rarely are specific issues discussed. Even when specific issues are discussed, the amount of time the left devotes to talking about the economy, social security, wars, and the like is drastically reduced, and the movement looks like a fractured mess of smaller issues. The issues that the largest number of people from all groups care about most have been thrown to the wayside in college classrooms. Most people, no matter their demographic, just don’t care about what the left’s elites talk about on a daily basis, like cultural appropriation, the hierarchy of oppression, or language policing. It’s an enormous mistake to think that all Democrats have to do is talk to the right groups to win, because they need to *talk about the right issues*. And those issues affect all groups, so the Democrats don’t even need to limit themselves in talking to certain groups if they talk about the right issues, but identity politics often stops them from doing this.

    “I may sound like an old guy here (and I am), but I remember that when marching in civil rights demonstrations, or discussing those issues, or fighting against the war, there were few arguments about which group had the hegemony of power and right to speak. Rather, I remember a wonderful sense of common purpose: we were all in this together, and we were going to change the world.”

    You make a great point here, Jerry. Most people in all groups still feel like they are part of a nation, part of a larger project, and want to work with each other rather than fighting over who gets to speak, whose ideas get traction based on identities proscribed by educated elites, whose statues get to stay up, whose culture is being appropriated. People don’t want to be divided. People like having common cause and feeling that they are working together. A political movement that tells its people that everyone is their enemy is doomed to fail. People largely want to feel like they can help each other and work together, not be forced to hash out who gets to decide what the work is and who gets to be the “allies” who have to carry out what the correct people decided unquestioningly.

    This all leads into another thing that has become particularly distressing to me: How many people will continue to stick around this already diminishing movement of identity politics when they discover that no matter what they do or who they are, there is always someone else on the hierarchy who outranks them, and thus their opinion no longer matters? And who wants to be part of a movement where what you have to say doesn’t matter, but only who you are when saying it? Who wants to be part of a movement that is chiefly concerned with deciding who is the most oppressed person in the room? Most people know better than to think that your demographic decides whether what you say is fact or fiction, a good idea or a reprehensible one, and most people want to talk about concrete problems rather than vague ideas.

    People who have the time and interest in deciding the current issues of left-wing identity politics — middle to upper class, college educated humanities students — are largely disconnected from the average American from any group, and won’t have much of substance to say to them when election time comes.

  11. Robert Bray
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    The (putative) transformation of students in college is a very complicated matter. So much so that, given the dynamics of sociopolitical and economic change in the U. S. over a professor’s career (let’s say about 40 years, 1970-2010) it has proved difficult if not impossible for institutions to sustain the ‘walled garden’ that traditionally protected students as they came to intellectual maturity.

    Science curricula have been the most successful in genuine education: new information integrated into sound, well-tested theoretical models, thus making for ‘vertical’ disciplines.

    Soft social sciences, with sociology/cultural anthropology the weakest, have by and large let students in the ‘Garden’ down: their muddled commitments to Marxism and cultural relativism (how oil-and-waterish can you get!?)has resulted in an outright denial of objectivity in any and all other disciplines while simultaneously somehow claiming truth in their own. Ideology thus becomes transcendent, and social science becomes the religion of this transcendence.

    And then there are the poor, poor humanities (which I professed: literature). To the extent that we looked to soc/anthro for our lexis/praxis, and particularly to ‘Continental Philosophy and Theory,’ we ended by dressing nonsense in their latest designer clothes, which changed with every fall fashion show on the Paris runways. Or, almost incredibly, building improvised explosive devices, placing them underneath the classics of western literature and announcing, ‘let’s blow these suckers up!’

    The piles of rubble formerly known as literature now bulldozed into our new sinkholes, what was left to talk to our students about? Yes, identity. Theirs. Which of course should be like ours. . . .

    All this time, the tariff for four years of college increased inexorably, reaching unaffordability. As did the parental questions and student anxieties: how much debt will Debbie have? Will I get a good job after I graduate? And (among the most sensitive) what has all this been good for?

    Right now, the humanities has/have a narrow range of choices. Continue the absurdities of post-post-modernism and soon go out of business (really and truly: the number of English majors at the college where I professed has declined from 150 to fewer than 40 in a single decade, though I must say that my department has been much less infected with the pomo plague than most other I’m aware of.). Or: become a skills-teaching service, writing and research.

    Neither alternative involves curating, nurturing and passing on the beauties and ethical values of literature.

    (apologies for the length)

  12. DiscoveredJoys
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    …identity politics so fragments the populace, in particular the Left, that they lose understanding of what’s good for society as a whole, concentrating on what’s good for their identity group…

    Actually it’s worse. The Regressive Left appear to concentrate on whatever identity group is currently ‘victim of the week’. Not only is that potentially patronising but other ‘ordinary’ people begin to think that it is always *someone else* whose views count more. And arguably this is one of the reasons that ‘populism’ is making a comeback.

  13. Historian
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    I agree in principle that extreme identity politics is not a good thing. I use the word extreme because identity politics has always existed to a degree and will always do so. As Professor Coyne has indicated extreme identity politics is bad because it divides society where the perceived needs of the group take precedence over the needs of society as a whole. Extremely divided societies are inherently unstable and open the way for civil strife, sometimes violent in form. In American society, a certain portion of the white population has suddenly discovered in reaction to their alarm at the identity politics of certain elements on the Left that their “whiteness” is important. In their delusion that they are being discriminated against, these white folks have become an important part of Trump’s base and likely to stay in it for at least as long as Trump is president.

    While saying all this, one must ask whether the extreme Left with its emphasis on identity politics can be blamed for the plight of the Democratic Party. My answer is marginally at most. There are several other explanations that provide better answers. First, for several decades the majority of white Americans have voted Republican. Identity politics on the Left may have reinforced their Republican leanings, but they probably would have voted Republican anyway, even if this issue was not in the public spotlight. Second, the American people as a whole are more Democratic than Republican. The distribution of voters has been the problem. Third, voter suppression and gerrymandering have hurt Democrats, particularly in races for the House of Representatives and state legislatures. Fourth, low voter turnout has hurt Democrats much more than Republicans. Most of those who don’t vote are the truly poor as well as minorities and likely Democratic leaning, if they think of politics at all. Fifth, the Democratic Party as an effective political organization has failed miserably for about the last decade, particularly on the local level. They all too often have let the Republicans control the political message and have failed to rally the troops.

    The Democratic Party should not abandon the effort to woo Trump voters. Toning down identity politics would help. But, it must understand that its success will be marginal at best. Still, just convincing 5% of the Trump voters to defect to the Democrats could make the difference in close elections. But, most of the Party’s efforts and resources should be devoted to rebuilding their all too numerous pathetic local organizations, fight gerrymandering and voter suppression as best they can, and, perhaps most importantly, work assiduously to increase the voter turnout of the politically alienated.

  14. Posted August 27, 2017 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    I’m basing this critique more on Lilla’s NYT op-ed “The End of Identity Liberalism” from last year, but as much as I dislike the identity politics obsession that’s dominating the left right now, I find Lilla’s critique less than useful. Basically, he wants to go back to some sort of golden age of “commonality” that supposedly characterized the Bill Clinton years. Which sounds to me that, like Jonathan Chait, he really wants the left to stop being the left, and embrace some very weak “third way” politics, and the numerous concessions to moneyed interests that went with it.

    More importantly, politics has never been about “commonality” full stop – there are always conflicts between haves and have-nots, and different interest groups in general. That said, the fatal flaw of centering the left on identity politics is that it so balkanizes people on the basis of identity, that building strong coalitions and making claims based on universalist standards of human rights essentially becomes impossible. Supposedly “intersectionality” is the substitute for a broader humanism, but I’m less than impressed with the kind of politics intersectionality has brought the left.

    (Mind you, I’m not rejecting identity politics such as feminism, gay rights, anti-racism, etc entirely – they’re needed for dealing with particular forms of social inequality. However, identity politics without any grounding in an idea of human rights more universal than intersectionality simply loses the plot.)

    Personally, I’m much more sympathetic to the within-left critique of identity politics espoused by folks like Frederik deBoer and Angela Nagle (who’s book “Kill All Normies” is a must-read) than I am from that of semi-conservative centrists like Lilla and Chait. I think existing problems of social inequality require the left to still be, well, left, albeit, one without the navel-gazing and petty authoritarianism that characterizes the current identitarian left. (I’m a big Bernie Sanders fan, if you haven’t guessed by now.)

  15. Patrick Flannery
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    This morning on Meet the Press, Chuck interviewed Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio on the question of what the democratic party stands for in addition to just opposing Trump. It is a great question. In trying to answer and show that the Democrats have a platform, Brown went immediately into all the old class warfare saws that Dems have been trotting out since the ’60s – erosion of the middle class, declining wages, plight of workers, need to resist greedy corporations etc etc. I groaned out loud at how badly he had misunderstood Chuck’s question and the imperative it implied. Trump laid a gleaming vision before the American public: vote for me and you all will become rich and powerful and live in the white suburban world of ’50s TV. All Brown, and for that matter Hillary in her campaign, offer is victory for certain groups. As Lilla says, Hillary named her groups explicitly at the start of each speech. Brown today offered, again, victory for the working class over their corporate oppressors. What he’s missing is that in the last election a lot of that working class preferred a man who is the very symbol of corporate oppression because he promised to include them in his fantasy. Obama won because he specifically stayed away from the divisive rhetoric and campaigned as an economic centrist. I thought Brown’s interview this morning was a perfect example of Lilla’s points above and the ultimate political futility of dividing your electorate in hopes of creating permanent hard nodes of support.

    • Historian
      Posted August 27, 2017 at 11:49 am | Permalink

      Well, I guess American politics would be so much healthier if both parties offered the electorate fantasies instead of just one. Clearly, you subscribe to the theory that voters can be so easily duped. You may have a point there.

    • paultopping
      Posted August 27, 2017 at 11:54 am | Permalink

      The corporate oppression argument was always a loser, IMHO. (Disclosure: I’m CEO of a small company.) Most people don’t feel oppressed by their bosses. However, they do feel that those CEOs shouldn’t make 400 times their own salary. They also know it doesn’t make sense to denigrate those above you while, at the same time, strive for advancement to those very same positions. In short, it is the system they hate, not the people who have taken advantage of it. Martin Shkreli notwithstanding.

    • Randy schenck
      Posted August 27, 2017 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

      It is actually worse than that because it is all generalities. It’s like saying a chicken in every pot. Flash back to the late 80s when there was almost no difference between the democrats and the republicans. The difference between Clinton and the first Bush was almost nothing. That is when the republicans see a big problem and must move to more extreme positions to win. And that is what they did and are still doing. Meanwhile the democrats are simply lost.

  16. paultopping
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    I agree with all this. Let’s start a movement! What should it be called? Who should belong to it? Who are its leaders?

    All kidding aside, I would like to see these ideas really take hold. Certainly there are many like Lilla and Coyne that are taking strong positions and making them heard. Trump’s election (and Clinton’s defeat) represent a wake-up call that is bringing people together. (Actually, more like a wake-up attack dog.) Bill Maher has been saying some of these things for many years.

    What I don’t yet see are left-leaning politicians saying these things. As far as I can see, they are still pandering to a set of identity interest groups. They do talk about how they need a more inclusive message but haven’t a clue as to what that message should be. Bernie Sanders comes closest to having an inclusive message, which also explains why he did so well despite being up against the Hillary machine.

    I am serious about this movement needing a name and a platform. Obviously just being left-leaning but against identity politics won’t win any elections. Seems to me that the winning central column to this platform is finding a solution to income inequality. Virtually all other worthwhile policies can be tied to that, such as making college affordable for all.

  17. Noel Carrascal
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Speaking as a Hispanic, I take offense that you did not mention us in this post…not! One comment by Lilla is particularly troubling to me, and that is that “we cannot do anything for these groups we care about if we do not hold power. It is just talk. Therefore, our rhetoric in campaigning must be focused on winning, so then we can help these people.” This is dishonest or cunning. This mentality explains to me why some ‘liberals’ are ok with joining forces with extreme Muslim groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, who are as anti liberal as it can be, in political coalitions. Because I have read reports that the Koran teaches to be deceitful until absolute political power is gained. Notice i put these deceitful ‘liberals’ in quotes because I do not think they are part of this blog, and that is why I ready even though I am in the center-right politically speaking. are those ‘liberals’ what this blog refers as the regressive left? Getting so deceitful can only go for so long, Obama pulled it off for two elections, but clearly people caught up with that in Wisconsin and Michigan. I believe this ‘regressive left’ is what I call neo-marxist (for lack of a better term). But regardless of what term describes correctly this deceitful ‘liberals’, they are the main force that gave rise to Bannon and Nationalism…in my opinion. Their contradictions and ideological inconsistencies is what Breitbart is exposing, and the ‘liberal’ MSM concealing.

    • marvol19
      Posted August 28, 2017 at 3:07 am | Permalink

      I don’t think Lilla is advocating lying but merely for the Dems to run for election on a broader platform, to attract more voters. “it’s the economy, stupid” – not which bathroom transgenders should be allowed to use.

  18. dd
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    I worked for feminism and gay rights in the 70s and 80s.

    What many of us worked for was an opening of what life could be regardless of whether male or female, or straight or gay.

    But what I see now is a push to have one intersectional hierarchy displace another: to make white straight males be at the bottom of the hiearchy instead of at the top.

    So much for progress and opening up of society.

  19. Posted August 27, 2017 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    Identity politics, including extremes of the Regressive Left, are the unfortunate consequences of an error in Progressive/Democrat/Liberal political philosophy: group-think. AKA, group rights.

    Frankly, this is to be expected. When sanction of group rights (political guarantees) is valued, won’t the most radical fellow travelers concentrate their fervor on smaller and smaller “groups,” even to the point they construct bizarre groupings out of any variant of the human condition and go to the barricades to establish political recognition and anti-discrimination crimes for them? And smash windows if their pet group is not elevated to “legal protected class?”

    What the Left cannot do is call out the root of these zealots, because that would entail voiding the entire Progressive Project. It would entail admitting that the smallest minority is the individual. That there is no such thing as ‘group rights.’ That only the absolute establishment and immutable protection of individual rights of life, liberty, and property forms the proper political philosophy for homo sapiens.

    • Historian
      Posted August 27, 2017 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      Once again, libertarian nonsense. There has always been and always will be groups of varying sizes and purposes, many with legal recognition from the government. I trust you are opposed to marriage as a “group” with legal rights. Libertarians wrap themselves up in a philosophy divorced totally from the realities of human existence.

      • Posted August 27, 2017 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

        Just because there “has always been” establishment of group rights by government does not mean there should be. I gave the reasons it leads down the road to perdition.

        “Marriage” is not a group. It is a contract. Is that the best counter-example you can name?

        The deepest reality of human existence is that each instance of homo sapiens is not another.

        • Historian
          Posted August 27, 2017 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

          You may view marriage as a contract, but married people are privileged by the government in many areas, such as tax law. I trust you favor eliminating such benefits.

          Since every society that has ever existed has given groups certain rights, I suppose each one was on the road to perdition. I imagine that the people in Houston would risk perdition as long as they could get FEMA aid.

          By the way, when you use the word “perdition,” do you mean assignment to the pit of hell or just ruination?

          • Posted August 27, 2017 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

            @Historian

            Just because married people might currently be “privileged” by government does not mean they should be.

            Any construction of government “privileging” anyone is a transgression; per my indicated political philosophy, government’s job is to protect realities and rights each individual possesses by existing, which I identified.

            This ought to include legal adjudication of claims stemming from contract of – or breach of – marriage. By consenting homo sapiens.

            Perdition (in this context) utter disaster, ruination, or destruction

            I don’t believe in hell. Do you?

          • BJ
            Posted August 27, 2017 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

            I think your line of argumentation here is dishonest. It’s pretty clear “group rights,” in John’s argument, means rights for groups based on the ideas of group identity. It doesn’t refer to “married people,” and I would personally argue that married people aren’t even given rights, but economic benefits because we know that marriage and the production of children is helpful to the economy. Tax benefits aren’t a “right,” and it’s clear what “rights” means in the context of John’s comments (“individual rights of life, liberty, and property”).

            • Historian
              Posted August 27, 2017 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

              Although I disagree with John’s philosophy, he does seem to be consistent and would deny special tax benefits to married couples. See his comment above.

              Also, giving tax benefits to one person that I do not enjoy in effect takes my property (money in this case) that I pay in taxes and gives it to somebody else. Many libertarians would consider this theft. I do not know if this is what John believes.

              Finally, when you say ” I would personally argue that married people aren’t even given rights, but economic benefits because we know that marriage and the production of children is helpful to the economy,” you are taking a very anti-libertarian position since governments all this time dole out economic benefits to groups that they believe are helpful to the economy.

              Therefore, nothing I have said is dishonest, but you did not understand John’s position on special benefits given to married couples.

              To John: Do I believe in hell? Only when I listen to Trump.

  20. shelleywatsonburch
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    The Chronicle exerpt (the full piece is paid subscription only) might be the best analysis of identity politics I’ve read so far. It seems to me that the social justice position went from advocating recognition of the points of view of historically oppressed people to demanding identify worship of those groups. To anyone who is not a member of a particular group, this is very off-putting. Last year I saw footage of a white college student with dreadlocks being publicly harassed by an African American female student, who harangued him and tried to physically restrain him as he tried to walk away. As they were students at a liberal arts school, it is reasonable to guess that they might both have been politically liberal in their views. If we can’t get past another person’s hair style, how will any real problems get solved? This is the next generation of leaders, nagging one another over hair or clothing or what food they like to cook. The next 20 or 30 years of American politics will be terrifyingly unproductive if this doesn’t change. We can’t ask 325 million people to agree, or to advocate the same position. It is folly to think this way. Bullying others into supporting one individual’s world view is madness, 325 million times over. I think that Lilla is correct to say that a political contest is a contest for power, or at least the right to govern. In the last election, it was as if the people were put in the position to seek the favor of the candidates, instead of the candidates seeking the favor of the people. It was a reverse popularity contest, in which each candidate’s followers were ridiculed by the other candidate. Everyone lost in that election: Americans, Hillary, and even Trump who will certainly go down as a historic embarrassment the likes of which we have not seen.

  21. Noel Carrascal
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    A bad consequence of Identity politics is that the terms racism and bigotry are expanding to include behaviors that are arguably racist or bigoted. One of this wrong reinterpretations of these two terms, to smear the right in politics, is the fact that racism and bigotry is almost always perceived as coming from white middle Americans towards minorities, but the events like the Orlando Pulse club shooting in which a Muslim killed 49 LGBTs that included mostly Hispanics.

    How can Identity Politics deal with hate and bigotry among minorities? It utterly fails and that is why it is ruining the good left. This not only hurts all of us, but the minorities too. People on the right notice that the regressive left continuously give national attention when a white cop shoots a black individual, but little attention is given to the fact that statistics show that white are shot in higher numbers and native american Indians are shot the most relative to their percentage in the population. And minorities suffer because this diverts attention from the fact that the biggest threat to a black kid, is another black kid like in Chicago (statistically speaking).. that is another reason why identity politics is ruining the left. A substantial numbers of African Americans notice this, and they did not show up at the polls last year.

    Finally, immigration, a subject in which I have insight knowledge. For decades no one noticed in the ‘liberal’ MSM that groups are routinely discriminated in favor of others: Cubans over Haitians, Some latin americans over others in the immigration lottery, Amnesties for Nicaraguans but not for other central Americans, and yet they want to push the idea that there is racism or bigotry when this arbitrary picking an choosing of who gets to immigrate is applied to countries where liberals would not be able to express their views…. Go figure, but I agree with Bannon, if the terms racist or bigoted continue being dis proportionally inflated or expanded… it will continue ruining the left.

  22. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    The Democratic Party’s abandonment of the white working class as a group to help is a huge factor in Hillary’s loss. Bill apparently warned her about this, and she did not listen.

    I haven’t read it yet, but my recently purchased copy of “The War on Science” by Shawn Lawrence Otto has chapters on both Christian creationists and on identity politics which Mr. Otto both perceives as assaults on science.

  23. Posted August 27, 2017 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    Lilla’s premise is wrong, like virtually all political commentators, including those who are against the “Regressives”. These people still have not done their research. I find this immensely frustrating by now. How many more years will it take?

    It’s not exactly difficult to do. You come across certain jargon, you read of “intersectionality” a few times. You look up what this is about, and quite quickly, you happen across a framework and movement called “Critical Race Theory”. I keep beating the drum until it is heard.

    You then find some primary material about this, for example, Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic’ introductions. Granted, proponents, Tumblr teens or commentors at Freethought Blogs are also clueless about it, but they still have internalized a vulgar version through comment section osmosis.

    In the introduction (Delgado, 2006), which I found once on the net (now link is dead) you can read for example, this:

    Unlike traditional civil rights, which embraces incrementalism and step-by-step progress, critical race theory questions the very foundations of the liberal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, Enlightenment rationalism, and neutral principles of constitutional law. — CRT Introduction, 2006

    You read what this is all about, according to a co-founder: a framework that rejects the civil rights movement and considers it as failed; you can read that it was based on a melange from postmodernism and radical feminism, with ideas from Freud, Marx and Derrida (and Foucault, more indirectly).

    They also write, plainly, that it is critical of the enlightenment project, and seeks to introduce other ways of knowing through “storytelling” or “counterstorytelling”). They list successes, such as how the framework spread.

    From conventional civil rights thought, the movement took a concern for redressing historic wrongs, as well as the insistence that legal and social theory have practical consequences. CRT also shared with it a sympathetic understanding of notions of nationalism and group empowerment. […]

    About splinter groups…

    Recently, critical race theory has splintered. Although the new subgroups, which include an emerging Asian American jurisprudence, a forceful Latino-critical (LatCrit) contingent, and a feistyqueer-crit interest group…

    … identity politics combined using Intersectionality (version 2, I maintain).

    What do critical race theorists believe? […]

    First, that racism is ordinary, not aberrational—”normal science,” the usual way society does business, the common, everyday experience of most people of color in this country.

    Second, most would agree that our system of white-over-color ascendancy serves important purposes, both psychic and material [… anti-colorblindness etc follows, check your white privilege]

    A third theme of critical race theory, the “social construction” thesis, holds that race and races are products of social thought and relations. Not objective, inherent, or fixed, they correspond to no biological or genetic reality; [yet, they want “whites” to constantly remind them of evil “whiteness” …]

    A final element concerns the notion of a unique voice of color. Coexisting in somewhat uneasy tension with anti-essentialism, the voice-of-color thesis holds that because of their different histories and experiences with oppression, black, Indian, Asian, and Latino/a writers and thinkers may be able to communicate to their white counterparts matters that the whites are unlikely to know. Minority status, in other words, brings with it a presumed competence to speak about race and racism. The “legal storytelling” movement urges black and brown writers to recount their experiences with racism and the legal system and to apply their own unique perspectives to assess law’s master narratives.

    Journalists and commentators ought to finally do their research. The effect would be:

    (a) acknowlege that this exists and apparently is now highly influential, even if in Tumblr-mutated form.

    (b) stop pretending “social justice warriors” didn’t exist, or that they are a right-wing invention to mock noble activists concerned with social justice. This is bollocks.

    (c) stop implying these people were liberals, or interested in making improvements. Their aim is more radical, in contrast to “colorblind” approaches. They also reference, plain black on white, radical feminism.

    (d) properly understand what “social construction” together with (cultural) “nationalism” means (find the terms above). This gels with “cultural appropriation” etc.

    (e) finally, once and for all, understand that rejection of this is NOT a right wing, bigot project, but there are plenty of reasons why liberals and leftists should oppose this framework (there are, in fact, also Marxists critiques).

    Right now, the best these commentators can do is point out identity politics which is then often disputed, as it is here, because it falls way too short. If they aren’t rejecting any criticism out of hand, and in denial pretend that safe spaces, cultural appropriation, microaggression, etc are not recent jargon that exploded onto the scene out of nowhere. Why is no journalist curious about this? They can’t all be imbeciles.

  24. harrync
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    I am not the first person say this, but unfortunately it is probably mostly true: “Democrats like to feel self-righteous; Republicans like to win elections.”

  25. Bruce Gorton
    Posted August 28, 2017 at 1:47 am | Permalink

    They’ve not only killed discussion, they’ve killed the ability to have a discussion.

    I don’t know if you followed the whole bust up around Laci Green, but basically it boils down to the Ctrl-Left as you all put it, deciding she had betrayed them by trying actually talking to the “other side” and learning what their views actually are.

    This is a big chunk of why I’m opposed to the “alt right” label – basically if you have a label with includes everyone from Richard Dawkins to Richard Spencer, you have a recipe for bullshit.

    And if you spend the entirety of the discussion trying to deny the “other side” a platform with which to air their views, you have no fucking clue what their views actually are.

    There is far too much outright lying on the left right now. I don’t like Sam Harris, I think he’s a weasel, but when you have assholes claiming he endorsed fascism in an essay where, if you actually read it, he was talking about how ignoring the problems within Islam is causing a growing fascist threat, that’s just not true.

    Worse social justice has indeed turned into mob justice. Michael Shermer, another figure I don’t like, gets accused of being a serial rapist – and if you don’t say he’s a serial rapist, you say he’s an alleged rapist, you’re a rape apologist who is defending a serial rapist.

    Look maybe it is that I come from a country where that sort of thing ends with someone getting doused in petrol and a tire put round their necks, but I can’t be alone in thinking that this shit isn’t going anywhere good.

    When did feminism become deciding to bin the due process of law because otherwise you’re “not believing rape victims”?

    I’ve had an argument that worked out just like that fairly recently. I’m not making this shit up.

    All of this is because they’ve decided to focus on identity uber alles, it is all brute tribalism where the hierarchy of the tribe is defined by how many oppressed identities you can be.

    And how correct you are is not based on how many facts you can bring to the argument, but how many of those oppressed identities you have under your belt. At least unless one of those identities is “atheist” or “Jewish” (Fuck help you if you’re both) – in which case you’d better watch your step because one bad tweet and you’re on the “alt right”.

    Seriously Ayaan Ali Hirsi, a black woman from Somalia, is seen as a white supremacist by these fucking unreasoning imbeciles because she doesn’t like Islam much, after Islamists decided to stab a death threat to her into her friend’s chest.

    Yeah we’re all for Muslims but that apostate better keep her mouth shut lest she support the narrative of the right with her inconvenient facts, because what matters isn’t reality, it is all narrative.

    Somehow Muslim has ended up the top most coveted identity of the lot. I mean seriously, that gay rights event that banned someone for waving a rainbow flag with a Star of David on it – Israel is better on gay rights than its neighbours.

    If being decent to gay people is “Pink washing” – then more countries could do with doing it. Why shouldn’t the Palestinian authority, I don’t know, get with the current century and treat gay people decently?

    If your enemies are making themselves look better than you by not being bigoted assholes to a group that you are a bigoted asshole towards, maybe you should stop being a bigoted asshole.

    But of course giving credit where it is due, recognising that the other side might have some good points, well that’s now verboten, that would imply actually talking to the other side and thus giving them a platform.

    None of this is to say that people have got to tolerate assholes or whatever, it is to say people have got to know what makes them assholes in the first place otherwise they’re not being intolerant of assholes, they’re being intolerant of figments of their fevered fucking imaginations.

    And that is where the left is right now. Trump is going to get a second term because of these assholes. They’re so fucking caught up in their zero sum identity games that they can’t for one second stop and think “Okay how does this benefit everyone rather than just me?”

    Out of this blindness you’ve got Antifa, a bunch of fucking university kids talking about how the working class should unite.

    Nevermind how when they beat someone with a tire iron or spray mace in some woman’s face, they’re physically attacking people who have far more claim to being “working class” than they do.

    Because they can’t see past identity – they can’t see that their chief victims are the precise people they claim to fight for.

    The inauguration day riots – who had to clean up the broken glass? Who had to lose a day’s wages? Who had to pay for all of that? Antifa?

    No, those cozy little fascist fucks were mostly safely away from the consequences of their violence, in nice little dorm rooms paid for by their rich mommies and daddies. The students struggling with their debt? They’re not the ones wrecking their own ability to pay it.

    But of course, bring this up and you’re alt right.

  26. Posted August 28, 2017 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    I listened to a local MPR (Minnesota Public Radio, local NPR affiliate) radio program late last week.

    It was a panel talking about diversity (another catch-all word that is beginning to mean nothing).

    There was one guy (African American, head of some organization) who kept saying, “we’re not there yet, we don’t have equity.” (more or less) and the host/mediator, much to her credit, asked him directly, at least twice, “OK, what do we need to do?” And he simply evaded the question. I was surprised. Here’s your chance to prescribe your solution. Why didn’t he? Does he not know? No idea? Or is he uncomfortable with defending it in public? (And, if so, what are you doing on a radio forum?)

    And another thing really bugged me. The whole group kept saying “you have to be woke” like everyone who didn’t fully agree with them was an idiot.

    So, I am white, middle class, and grew up that way. Of course I had a big boost in the world; and I’ve never had any illusions about that. I do my damnedest to treat everyone the same.

    On that radio show, they also kept emphasizing that being “color-blind” was the wrong goal. (Really?) I can see arguing that we haven’t gotten to that color blind state yet (and likely never will, bad monkeys being what we are). But to say Dr. King was wrong in dreaming of a time when his kids would be judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin?

    My wife was required to attend a “diversity” session for her work (all day on a weekend). Basically, the presenter spent the whole time just hammering away on how every one of you white people out there are racists — while knowing nothing about any of them. This kind of judgment is exactly what the civil rights protesters/workers of earlier days were fighting against: Judging people by the color of their skin.

    I wonder if these people have ever read any of this history?

    • Posted August 29, 2017 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

      I’ve encountered the “we’ve told you a thousand times already already” stonewall and hence getting nowhere attitude by Native American activists in the past. I explained, patiently I hope, that I was not sure which version of the solution was in mind, and to please tell me. Once that it was clear that there was something in mind, I then said I had to do that to make sure we knew what we were talking about, and not just shutting down conversation. I also said, if you want to take immediate action about something and *not* talk, that can be OK too, but then do that, and I’ll follow if I think you’re doing the right thing.

  27. Posted October 5, 2017 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

    The same is the case with leftists in India too


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