22.11.16

GETTING MUGGED BY REALITY.

Now that a subset of what used to be mainstream Americans is practicing identity politics, the usual practitioners are getting scared.  (Don't say I didn't warn you.)

Start with Lacy MacAuley, who looked in on a gathering of the National Policy Institute.  (A "National" in an organization's title is sometimes a survival of Jim Crow times.  Not this institute.)

Without irony, though, she suggests this.
Standing up to fascism means standing for a world in which we celebrate diversity. We embrace the awesome symphony of differences that make the world a beautiful, colorful, engaging place to be. We do not wish to live in a world in which all of us are the same, because that is not only oppressive, it is boring. We wish to live in a world of creative expression, openness, and support for each other.
Fortunately, it's not the usual unironic recitation of the usual protected classes, diverse in skin tone or sexual proclivities or what have you but strongly unified in worldview and policy preferences.  In fact, there's something that comes close to an endorsement of neoliberalism.
The food, technology, entertainment, and other cultural practices that the white boys of the Alt Right grew up in have been a product of a cultural milieu of globalization for a long time now.

Their meat and potatoes? Those potatoes were originally indigenous to the Andes mountains. Their salt and pepper? That pepper came from south India via the Mediterranean spice trade. Their numbers? Invented by Persians. Their bluegrass music? Developed by African slaves and indentured Celtic servants. Their aspirin? A medicine adopted from American Indians. Their Fourth of July fireworks? China. Their corn? Mexico. And the list goes on.

It is a fallacy that “white culture” was developed in a vacuum in the first place.
Perhaps among the ways America becomes great again? First, trade unites, politics divides.  Nice to see an aphorism of Milton Friedman.  Second, evolution is mutation plus selection plus adaptation.  Emergence is messy.  Third, vanguards can be dangerous.  That's self-evident to people of the left when the vanguards appear to be of the right.  The generalization from the alt-R to the ctrl-L is left to the reader as an exercise.

Chris Hedges reinforces the message that the old identity politics might have midwived the new.
Preaching multiculturalism and gender and identity politics will not save us from the rising sadism in American society. It will only fuel the anti-politics that has replaced politics.

Liberals have sprinkled academic, corporate, media and political institutions with men and women of different races and religions. This has done nothing to protect the majority of marginalized people who live in conditions that are worse than those that existed when King marched on Selma. It is boutique activism. It is about branding, not justice.
Yes, but will a Fifth International (or are we up to six now?) provide the justice?

At least there's some soul-searching about identity politics as usual.  Consider April Kelly-Woessner for Minding the Campus.  " If we want to prevent or reduce group conflict, we have to identify the social conditions that create it. I argue that an honest assessment of group behavior reveals that academics often contribute to the problem by amplifying social identities." Yeah, that's the old root cause argument, often distorted into a justification (rather than a positive theory) for transgressive behavior when it's the right kind of transgressivity.  It's not working out so well in practice.
Free speech often protects minority voices. Yet, colleges and universities have established speech codes on campus, aimed at protecting vulnerable minority groups from words or phrases that might offend. This sends students the message that one group’s rights are gained at the expense of another group. Free speech is now frequently framed as something that protects racists, sexists, and other “deplorables.”

Arguing in favor of free speech threatens to paint one into this group or, at the very least, suggests that one is insensitive to the needs of minorities. The assumption that silencing offensive ideas reduces hostility against vulnerable groups is deeply flawed. Research shows that the classical liberal approach is more useful – we confront harmful ideas by exposing them to truth.  At the very least, grappling with uncomfortable ideas is more fitting to an institution whose purpose is education.  Silencing ideas is more suited to an institution whose primary purpose is scoring points in the culture wars.

Finally, we add fuel to this fire because we tend to favor some voices and perspectives over others. We do this when we are too quick to label ideas as “racist,” “sexist,” or “homophobic,” merely because they do not conform to the most progressive ideals; people who favor greater enforcement of immigration laws are “racists,” as is anyone who admits to voting for Trump. The search for microaggressions contributes to this sense that anything that offends protected groups is off limits, even if no harm is intended. Students are actively encouraged to recognize and report microaggressions.
Yeah, I was being provocative when I characterized Critique of Pure Tolerance as "the diversity boondoggle's Mein Kampf."  But if others are now rethinking that manifesto, or discovering that it can be used against any entrenched belief system, perhaps that's a good thing.

There is still, dear reader, work to be done. Larry O'Connor characterizes Broadway as "Divergent opinions not welcome here."  A "monolithic echo chamber" might require a black swan event to check its privileges.

So let it be with Entertainment and higher education.

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