“The priorities of Western feminists”

This is a pretty good example of something I tried to teach my daughters:  the difference between a feminist (which their father is) and an American feminist (which he is not).

From Jim Geraghty’s Morning Jolt:

We heard a bit of “We’re turning into The Handmaid’s Tale!” panic-hysteria-accusation during the Bush administration, too. I’ll dust off my argument from then: To picture a near-future United States that is a Christian theocracy with open, systematic, and brutal oppression of women, you have to picture some unbelievable changes occurring very quickly: repealing women’s right to vote; a re-acceptance of slavery; widespread Christian acceptance of government-mandated extramarital sexual intercourse; total repeal of the First Amendment; total bans on any other religious beliefs (there are references to “Baptist rebels”). Perhaps most absurdly, almost all men have accepted a regime where the only sexual outlet of any kind is government-monitored breeding with the fertile “handmaids,” reserved for the most powerful.

Do you picture lots of American men signing on for a system that denies them the freedom to have sex with women? You really have to have your “all men have fascist impulses just under their skin” blinders on to hear that and nod, “Oh, yeah, that could totally happen.”

But Margaret Atwood could have set her tale in other places and made it practically a modern-day documentary: say, Saudi Arabia. Or any corner of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan…

Horrific, brutal regimes that systematically deny basic rights to women and girls based upon religious beliefs are not hard to find. They’re just rarely Christian. … The world has plenty of awful places that can be fairly compared to Atwood’s fictional dystopian regime of Gilead. They’re just mostly Muslim.

But Margaret Atwood wasn’t angry at Islamists back in 1985. She was angry at the trends she saw in the United States, and in particular, American Christian conservatives. Both then and now, American Christian conservatives are a very safe target for criticism and mockery. No priest or nun is going to strap on a suicide bomber’s vest and blow up the offices of Atwood’s publisher or Hulu, which is making the miniseries.

Thus you periodically hear some not-so-quiet scoffing at the priorities of Western feminists. They’re upset about how far some American women have to travel to an abortion clinic, while the world has plenty of girls who risk being scarred with acid for trying to go to school.

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Those are awfully aggressive snowflakes

h/t Heather MacDonald in yesterday’s WSJ, in which she argues that ‘Academic intolerance is the product of ideological aggression, not a psychological disorder.”

This soft totalitarianism is routinely misdiagnosed as primarily a psychological disorder. Young “snowflakes,” the thinking goes, have been overprotected by helicopter parents, and now are unprepared for the trivial conflicts of ordinary life.

“The Coddling of the American Mind,” a 2015 article in the Atlantic, was the most influential treatment of the psychological explanation. The movement to penalize certain ideas is “largely about emotional well-being,” argued Greg Lukianoff of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and Jonathan Haidt of New York University. The authors took activists’ claims of psychological injury at face value and proposed that freshmen orientations teach students cognitive behavioral therapy so as to preserve their mental health in the face of differing opinions.

But if risk-averse child-rearing is the source of the problem, why aren’t heterosexual white male students demanding “safe spaces”? They had the same kind of parents as the outraged young women who claim to be under lethal assault from the patriarchy. And they are the targets of a pervasive discourse that portrays them as the root of all evil. Unlike any other group on a college campus, they are stigmatized with impunity, blamed for everything from “rape culture” to racial oppression.

Campus intolerance is at root not a psychological phenomenon but an ideological one. At its center is a worldview that sees Western culture as endemically racist and sexist. The overriding goal of the educational establishment is to teach young people within the ever-growing list of official victim classifications to view themselves as existentially oppressed. One outcome of that teaching is the forceful silencing of contrarian speech…

Faculty and campus administrators must start defending the Enlightenment legacy of reason and civil debate. But even if dissenting thought were welcome on college campuses, the ideology of victimhood would still wreak havoc on American society and civil harmony. The silencing of speech is a massive problem, but it is a symptom of an even more profound distortion of reality.

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The people who say rotten things and the people who want to punish them

Charles C.W. Cooke writes about “hate speech hogwash.”

There is no such thing as “hate speech” in American jurisprudence, nor is there any associated or comparable principle that comes close to it. Whatever moral determinations an individual might make about the hatefulness of a given set of words, there is simply no mechanism by which the government can back him up with force.

In the United States, there is speech, and then, at the bleeding edge, there are incitement, obscenity, and libel. Contrary to Dean’s implication, none of this country’s “beyond-free-speech” categories are defined by subjective judgments such as “hatefulness,” “cruelty,” or “divisiveness, and for good reason: If they were, we would all suffer under an effective Heckler’s Veto, and there would be no point in our having protections in the first instance….

Under the Brandenburg standard, she couldn’t phrase her words in such a way as to incite imminent lawbreaking — there is a difference between saying “I think the government should be overthrown” in the abstract, and saying to a group of armed rebels, “Meet me in a hour, let’s overthrow the government” — but what constitutes “imminence” and “incitement” are extremely narrowly drawn, and, in any case, “hate” doesn’t enter into it.

As has been shown time and time again — including recently in a case that involved the rights of the Westboro Baptist Church to picket funerals — were Howard Dean to bring his theory to the courts, he would be laughed out of them.  And so he should be.

I am no fan of Ann Coulter’s, and nor am I impressed by the turn that certain self-described “conservatives” have taken toward turning the movement into a haven for the worst sort of trolls. But if I have to choose between the people who say rotten things and the people who want to point bayonets at them, I’ll pick the former every time. That I’m being asked to make that choice illustrates the profound mistake that the contemporary Left is making on this question at present.

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Two sides of the same very sad little coin

h/t Kevin D. Williamson in Gangs of Berkeley:

There is no budding fascist movement in the United States. But every gang needs an enemy, so they have invented one. This isn’t to say that sundry whackos and Twitter warriors do not exist. Our country is large, and it contains multitudes: I was at Waco for the Branch Davidian standoff, which was a very dramatic episode. But it nonetheless remains the fact that messianic Seventh-day Adventist factions are not a major factor in American life: It would exaggerate their importance to say that they are even a minor factor. There are 320 million people in this country, and a few of them are going to be UFO cultists, Nazi furries, bronies, and Methodists. One of them is going to be that pro-Trump guy who shows up at rallies wearing the American flag as a pteruges and sporting a Roman centurion’s helmet, or that other guy in that Tom of Finland get-up that the Village People rejected. In the same way, there are still KKK chapters here and there, and you still come across the occasional man in his 40s who saw that infamous skinhead episode on Geraldo and said to himself: “Yep, there’s my life’s calling.”

It’s a big country, and sometimes a stupid one. A more intelligent one would immediately recognize that the so-called antifa and the white-nationalist clowns are two sides of the same very sad little coin, basically a life-action game of Dungeons and Dragons with silly politics and no sense of adult responsibility.

Here’s a thought for the self-proclaimed antifa: You’re a bunch of idiot children, obviously. But you’re also a bunch of aspiring street-fighters who glorify political violence and dismiss liberal notions of free speech and property rights as so much outmoded bourgeois window-dressing standing in the way of what promises to be a glorious future.

You’re wearing black shirts.

Are you entirely sure you’re the anti-fascists?

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When speakers need police escort on and off college campuses, an alarm bell should be going off

Heather MacDonald writes in City Journal argues that “All who cherish free expression, especially on campuses, must combat the growing zeal for censorship.”

American college students are increasingly resorting to brute force, and sometimes criminal violence, to shut down ideas they don’t like. Yet when such travesties occur, the faculty are, with few exceptions, missing in action, though they have themselves been given the extraordinary privilege of tenure to protect their own liberty of thought and speech. It is time for them to take their heads out of the sand.,,

When speakers need police escort on and off college campuses, an alarm bell should be going off that something has gone seriously awry. Of course, an ever-growing part of the faculty is the reason that police protection is needed in the first place. Professors in all but the hardest of hard sciences increasingly indoctrinate students in the belief that to be a non-Asian minority or a female in America today is to be the target of nonstop oppression, even, uproariously, if you are among the privileged few to attend a fantastically well-endowed, resource-rich American college. Those professors also maintain that to challenge that claim of ubiquitous bigotry is to engage in “hate speech,” and that such speech is tantamount to a physical assault on minorities and females. As such, it can rightly be suppressed and punished. To those faculty, I am indeed a fascist, and a white supremacist, with the attendant loss of communication rights.

Hyperbole is part and parcel of political speech. But I would hope that there are some remaining faculty with enough of a lingering connection to reality who would realize that I and other conservatives are not a literal threat to minority students. To try to prevent me or other dissenting intellectuals from connecting with students is simply an effort to maintain the Left’s monopoly of thought. The fact that this suppression goes under the title of “anti-fascism” is particularly rich. I am reluctant to wield the epithet “fascist” as promiscuously as my declared opponents do. But it must be observed that if campus conservatives tried to use physical force to block Senator Elizabeth Warren, say, from giving a speech, the New York Times would likely put the obstruction on the front page and the phrase “fascist” would be flying around like a swarm of hornets, followed immediately by the epithet “misogynist.” And when students and their fellow anarchists start breaking glass, destroying businesses, and assaulting perceived opponents, as they did during the Milo riots and at Middlebury College, it is hard not to hear echoes of 1930s fascism.

We are cultivating students who lack all understanding of the principles of the American Founding. The mark of any civilization is its commitment to reason and discourse. The great accomplishment of the European enlightenment was to require all forms of authority to justify themselves through rational argument, rather than through coercion or an unadorned appeal to tradition. The resort to brute force in the face of disagreement is particularly disturbing in a university, which should provide a model of civil discourse.

But the students currently stewing in delusional resentments and self-pity will eventually graduate, and some will seize levers of power more far-reaching than those they currently wield over toadying campus bureaucrats and spineless faculty. Unless the campus zest for censorship is combatted now, what we have always regarded as a precious inheritance could be eroded beyond recognition, and a soft totalitarianism could become the new American norm.

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Competing narratives that can’t be bridged?

John O’Sullivan responds to this column by Ross Douthat in which the latter posits that there is a “struggle for dominance between the two American nations — not the rich and the poor, but the old and the new.”

The first nation is “the uncontested America of the day before yesterday [which sees itself] more as settlers than as immigrants, identifying with the Pilgrims and the Founders.”

The second nation is “a left-wing narrative that stands in judgment on the racist–misogynist–robber baron past.”

Much of today’s political polarization can be reduced to a choice between competing narratives,” O’Sullivan writes before turning to Douthat’s column:

Douthat is understandably uncertain as to whether there can be an agreed resolution at all. His final paragraph concedes this sadly:

Maybe no unifying story is really possible. Maybe the gap between a heroic founders-and-settlers narrative and the truth about what befell blacks and Indians and others cannot be adequately bridged.

Still, he judges that of the two possible resolutions, the Trumpian “particularist” and “restorationist” narrative of the old America is unlikely to prevail over the “universalist” narrative of a new America, rooted as it is in the civil-rights revolution, the “propositionalist” concept of nationhood, and the recent realities of mass immigration. Take a closer look at both visions, however, and the picture looks much messier.

The universalist vision of new America is weakened by flaws that its dominance of America’s cultural institutions concealed until the election. Its roots in American history before the 1960s are unrelievedly negative, for instance, and it has not dominated the main currents of history since then. It is steadily removing earlier American heroes from their pedestals, but it can boast only one certified American hero in its own pantheon, namely Martin Luther King Jr.

Whites, Hispanics, and Asians all rightly admire King, but the only group of Americans for whom he is a hero on the scale of Lincoln is black America. He is probably not up to the task of sustaining an entire national identity on his shoulders alone. Barack Obama might have provided a second hero for this new America — one appealing powerfully to a rainbow coalition that included whites — but he governed as a sectional and partisan leader who largely failed as president. His personal charisma, which explains his enduring popularity, will inevitably fade as he grows older and departs the scene. That’s our tragedy as well as his.

A second weakness of the new America is that its supporting rainbow coalition is divided far too deeply by ethnicity and ideology to last. Muslims and feminists, Hispanics and Asians, gays and black Christians may be united in the vision but they are often at odds in reality, and that is likely to become clearer as they all get to know each other better.

If the memory of slavery is to continue to cement the coalition, for instance, black Americans cannot ignore the fact that Muslim participation in the slave trade has a longer history (with less resistance from within Muslim culture) than that of Europe and America. Asians already diverge from Hispanics, blacks, and white feminists over affirmative action, which inevitably imposes negative quotas on them. And Martin Luther King’s devout religious faith makes him a “problematic” hero for gays, feminists, and aggressively secular liberals of all races in the long run.

It sometimes seems that the only cause that unites all these groups is hostility to white America.

And that’s the third weakness: The “universalist” narrative has no real place in it for white Americans, especially white males, except perhaps as permanent penitents for everything that happened before, say, 1968. They are the only group expected to make sacrifices under affirmative action — sacrifices that grow heavier because the protected classes grow steadily through immigration. They are the only permitted butts of ethnic humor. And they are regularly called upon to confess “white privilege” (or be written out of debate) in academic courses hard to distinguish from Communist re-education classes under Mao. As usually happens, moreover, theory limps along after practice to embrace expressions of simple, unqualified anti-white racism (and, in discussions of foreign policy, anti-Americanism too).

This anti-white sentiment disables the new America vision in two ways.

First, it runs up against the demographic fact that many people classed by the census as minority Americans, notably many Hispanics, think of themselves as white and are thought to be white by their neighbors. Many others, notably many Asians, have entered the white/Hispanic/Asian/black/mixed-race mainstream in which racial and ethnic differences lose their sharpness. Official, academic, and cultural authorities do their best to sharpen them again; they sometimes succeed. But the pull of intermarriage and soft social inclusion overrides many of these pressures, with the result that “whites” are a larger and less declining percentage of the population than the census suggests and therefore much harder to demonize or write out of the national story.

Second, a vision of America in which whites are simply environmental despoilers, racial oppressors, capitalist rent-seekers, or masochistic liberals is not only historically absurd but also morally deficient. It clashes with the experience of everyday life and with the decent feelings that ordinary Americans have toward their neighbors. Unless the new America can find a place for the descendants of the original settlers, it will either founder or impose itself uneasily through intimidation, reverse discrimination, and endless propaganda — in short, what was happening until last year and what is now being fiercely contested across the country.

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Baldwin and Obama

VDH writes, in Obama Is America’s Version of Stanley Baldwin, that “Both leaders put their successors in a dangerous geopolitical position.”

(A)s was true of Europe between 1933 and 1939, the world grew more dangerous and reached the brink of war. And like Stanley Baldwin, Obama was never willing to make a few unpopular decisions to rearm and face down aggressors in order not to be forced to make far more dangerous and unpopular decisions later on.

Baldwin was popular when he left office, largely because he had proclaimed peace, but he had helped set the table for the inevitable conflict to be inherited by his successors, Neville Chamberlain and Winston Churchill.

Obama likewise ignored rumbling volcanoes, and now they are erupting on his successor’s watch.

In both cases, history was kind while Baldwin and Obama were in office — but not so after they left.


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