Sunday, July 12, 2020

I Just Want Everyone to Obey the Same Rules

On Friday, I discussed one problem with the social justice left's so-called "consequence culture": that its "consequences" are wildly out-of-bounds and threaten to destroy our ability to maintain our liberal order. Today, I want to focus on another: favoritism.

In the social justice bully's "consequence culture," only some people have to suffer the "consequences." If you are white, straight, cisgender, and/or male and/or are of the out-group, you live under a microscope; everything you say and do is obsessively monitored, and any deviation from the left's stringent-yet-ever-changing standard is attacked in precisely the harsh manner I described in the last post. If, on the other hand, you fall on the opposite end of the intersectional axis and/or are of the in-group, you can - for the most part - do whatever you want with absolute impunity.

Consider: why did it take so long for anyone to notice that certain people were abusing their power in Hollywood and in the publishing scene to get tail or to diddle kids? In many cases, the delay comes down to this: these people were of the in-group. Said abusers bleated all the correct leftist bromides, so no one felt obligated to check their behavior until it became impossible to ignore. This is certainly what happened in the comic book industry, to take one recent example. All the folks who were "in" spent an inordinate amount of time chasing after small YouTubers and Indiegogo campaigners while the actual evildoers lurked among their own ranks. As I said a while back, comic book pros should've been examining themselves instead of hunting illusory "Nazi fans" to puff up their social justice street cred.

Meanwhile: have you noticed how often bigotry and hatred are permitted so long as they're expressed by the "right" people?  You can say "kill all men" without suffering many "consequences". You can argue that white people are demonic and/or genetically deficient and get feted by the press and showered with accolades. And left-wing antisemitism is greeted with a shrug -- especially when it's expressed by black activists. But because J.K. Rowling evinced mild, reasonable skepticism of trans-radicalism a while back, she's been endlessly hounded (though luckily, she has enough eff-you money and clout to withstand the sustained campaign against her). And if you dare suggest that looting and burning minority-owned businesses probably isn't the best way to ensure that #BlackLivesMatter, you may find yourself suddenly unemployed. This state of affairs is deeply, deeply unfair -- but as far as I can tell, no one on the social justice left actually cares. Indeed, as far as I can tell, they love that people in the out-group are being punished while their buddies are getting off scot-free. 

It is, of course, true that other human "tribes" sometimes circle the wagons and protect their members from legitimate censure. But I think followers of the social justice ideology are particularly prone to this nonsense because, since Marcuse at least, differential treatment has been a foundational plank in their program to right cosmic wrongs and humble the "powerful." To put it another way, their hypocrisy is a feature, not a bug.

As a classical liberal and a decent human being with a natural sense of justice, I think social justice bullies' embrace of open vengeance is incredibly toxic. And that's yet another reason why I resist the left's diabolical attempt to recast cancel culture as "consequence culture."

ETA: How Cancel Culture Works - A Thread

Friday, July 10, 2020

"Consequences" Must Be Proportionate

Social justice bullies have pounced on a new talking point: "We haven't established a cancel culture. This is a consequence culture." In the storied tradition of this blog, allow me to explain all the reasons why this is absolute BS.

It is, of course, anodyne to declare that free speech comes with consequences. Duh. If you say something remotely controversial within public hearing, people have every right to argue, express emotional upset, and even block you on social media if they fiercely disagree and would rather not associate with you. But based on how they're behaving in the real world, this is not what social justice bullies mean by "consequences." No: these radical leftists mean something far more cruel -- something profoundly dangerous to liberal society.

If you cross a cancel-culture aficionado in any way, no matter how mild the offense, they always react in the same extreme manner. They don't simply argue. They don't simply express their distaste. Instead, they seek to completely destroy your ability to make money and/or simply live with dignity. If, for example, you make the "mistake" of attempting to depict a culture that's not your own in your writing, social justice bullies will intimidate you into pulling your work from the publication schedule entirely. This is not a just "consequence"; a just "consequence" would be a refusal on the part of these SJB's to buy your book.

Similarly, if you happen to make a tasteless remark or two in public because, perhaps, you're in a sour mood one day, social justice bullies won't just admonish you for your poor behavior and ask for an apology. Instead, they'll try their hardest to ensure that you'll never be able to work again. And if you do try to make amends (like any good person might), they'll refuse point-blank to forgive.

Essentially, the social justice bully's idea of a "consequence" is utterly incommensurate with the nature of most of the "crimes" they seek to punish.

And I use the scare-quotes here because what these radicals often deem crimes are, in fact, not crimes at all. Regarding my first example above, it's not a crime to write outside your culture. It's risky, granted; you'll have to be very careful in your research and should expect criticism if you fail to get things exactly right. But attempting to stretch your mind and get into the heads of people who aren't like you is, in fact, an admirable endeavor -- not an unconscionable violation.

Likewise, it's not a crime to question any facet of the social justice ideology; indeed, such questioning is essential. Most of that ideological framework is based on demonstrable errors of fact and/or reasoning. It's not scientifically true, for instance, that gender can be completely divorced from biology (though the roles attached to each gender certainly can be altered by cultural and individual circumstances). It's also not indisputably true that the corruption of certain urban police departments necessitates the complete abolition of the professional police forces -- or that the presence of performance gaps on a particular standardized test automatically reveals the racial bias of that test and the inherent "white supremacy" of meritocratic standards in general. It is possible to differ in good faith on these matters no matter how much a social justice bully insists the contrary.

But what the hell: let's assume, for the sake of argument, that the hard left is right about, say, our nation's racial issues and that those of us who happen live somewhere in that wide-open space to the right of Mao have got things wrong. (Stop laughing, reader. I promise I have a point.) Even in that case, it's still abusive to knock us dissidents down and shut us up. Why? Because people are rarely wrong for genuinely evil reasons; most of the time, people are wrong out of ignorance. Even your average Klan member isn't racist just to hurt people; usually, he's embraced awful ideas due to a lack of positive exposure to people who aren't white. So how do you fix that? You expose that Klansman to people who aren't white. You don't further his isolation by driving him out of society completely. You target beliefs, not human beings.

Stiffer punishment is appropriate when people act in a way that's contrary to written law. But if someone has a wrong thought or says a wrong thing, he doesn't deserve to be starved to death, publicly humiliated, or otherwise beaten into compliance with "accepted opinion." So if you don't mind, you new Red Guards, kindly take your "consequences" talk and shove it where the sun don't shine.

ETA: The Reaction to the Harper's Letter Proves It Was Necessary 

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Video: And Then Karen Came for the Superheroes

I was going to comment on this particular topic, but then "Just Some Guy" beat me to it -- and since he's black, I think I'll just let him talk.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

More Relevant Quotes from the Archives

"Genuine diversity should - indeed, absolutely must - center on diversity of experience and diversity of thought. Yes -- ethnicity, gender, and sexuality do shape these things, but if you stop there, you've missed an entire universe of other relevant factors. I would venture to say, for example, that in a room full of middle class American academics, a black author who is also a middle class academic will add less in the way of diversity than will a white author from Eastern Kentucky who enlisted in the military instead of going to college and is entirely self-taught. And if those middle class American academics are practical atheists, a gay academic who's also a practical atheist will add less in the way of diversity than will an Orthodox Jew or a practicing evangelical Christian." -- 2014

"I believe the fandom should welcome all comers -- and so, I'm convinced, does everyone else who's taken the 'conservative' position on this issue. In the end, though, the supposed benefits of ethnic and sexual diversity will only accrue if people are allowed to speak openly when conflicts inevitably arise. And that brings me to my second point: If you want to have true diversity, a vibrant interchange of ideas, and the possibility of positive change in our own community and in society as a whole, you must hold the line on freedom of expression. The illib-progs subscribe to this bizarre idea that if they police what people say and how they say it, they will usher in a new era of racial and sexual harmony -- but in reality, forcing everyone to stuff his or her true opinions and adopt the mannerisms and speech patterns of the aforementioned clerisy on threat of shunning doesn't change minds or hearts. Instead, it hardens old hatreds and resentments.

Growth and change will only arise through conversation. Yes -- that conversation will not always make us feel 'safe' and comfy-cozy. We evolved to see 'outsiders' as possible threats to our lives, and so we all feel that rush of anger and adrenaline when we encounter people whose worldviews fundamentally contradict our own. But the instincts of our lizard brain shouldn't be afforded instant legitimacy just because they are so powerful and so disturbing. Because we are sapient, we have the capacity to stop, think, and discern the difference between something truly threatening and something emotionally upsetting -- and we should exercise that capacity to its fullest. Naughty words? A breach of etiquette, but not a threat. A verbal challenge to your ideology, your lifestyle, or your faith? Not a threat. Actions have the potential to be threatening, but [...] opinions can not and do not 'terrorize.'" -- 2014

"[...] a conversation can only be productive if no one is told to shut up, the participants all abide by the same rules, and everyone argues in good faith. You can't allow people in certain protected classes to act like assholes without consequences [...]" -- 2014

Friday, July 3, 2020

Hamilton Shows Us the Way

As of today, Hamilton is now available on Disney+ -- and I would like to encourage any conservative who has avoided this musical up until now because of the race swaps, the musical style, and/or the politics of its creator to give it a try. I really think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Hamilton is not especially good history. But despite its tendency to play up the immigrant angle (which doesn't really apply to the gentleman in question) and its other lefty tics, I still like it for two reasons. First of all, I think it does get the character of our country exactly right. We are a rebellious, scrappy people who dearly prize our freedom and aspire to transcend the circumstances into which we are born. And yes: as Hamilton makes abundantly clear, this is a place where someone starting at the bottom rung of our society can "rise up" through his own intelligence and industry. When all is said and done, Hamilton does not buy into the pernicious fictions of the 1619 Project. At base, it's optimistic about the American idea -- and for the most part, it treats our Founders with genuinely patriotic reverence (except, perhaps, for Thomas Jefferson, but I think that's due to the built-in pro-Hamilton slant of the text and not due to any antipathy for America as a whole).

Secondly - and perhaps more importantly - Hamilton stands as an implicit rebuke of critical social justice. How so? Well, consider its provenance: Lin Manuel Miranda originally wrote this clever work of art (and it is art in the truest sense, I think) because he read Ron Chernow's biography of our first treasurer and saw himself in Hamilton's story. In other words, Miranda - who's proudly, almost aggressively Puerto Rican - identified with a white guy. Imagine that! Imagine looking beyond skin color and nationality and considering experiences instead! Isn't that supposed to be impossible? Aren't we supposed to stick to our lanes?

Hamilton is unabashedly appropriative -- and I think that's great. I want immigrants and people of color to think that our history belongs to them because I honestly believe such raiding of our patrimony will do more to unify our multi-ethnic society than balkanized graduation ceremonies, so-called "black national anthems," or the rest of the divisive crap our new segregationists are trying to force down our throats for the sake of their "antiracism" crusade.

So yes: go and watch Hamilton if you can. It sends an absolutely vital message that American history is human history, not "white" history that we must abhor.

7/7 Edit: Here's another good article on Hamilton's pro-America spirit.