Patterico's Pontifications


Jonathan Chait on Political Correctness, Then and Now

Filed under: Education,General,Political Correctness — JVW @ 11:51 am

[guest post by JVW]

In the continuing effort to acknowledge those moments when our ideological opponents have a moment of sanity and allow themselves to see things from our perspective, let me bring to your attention Jonathan Chait’s interesting exploration in New York Magazine of the politically correct mania currently sweeping not just our country but by and large all of Western thought.

Chait begins the article by rehashing the familiar story of Omar Mahmood, the University of Michigan student who was kicked off of the daily campus newspaper after writing a satirical column mocking political correctness and microaggressions for a conservative campus publication. Chait, a Michigan alumnus, ties that story in to a 1992 incident at that very campus in which radical feminists influenced by law professor Catharine MacKinnon attempted to shut down an exhibition by a feminist videographer which aimed to explore the lives of workers in the sex industry. The arguments of the radical feminists 22 years ago will sound familiar to those of us up to date with the current movement to censor ideas that exist outside the narrow canon of tolerance: that being exposed to this material poses “a threat to the safety” of those students which justifies their claiming the mantle of victimhood and the corresponding right to act as censor. As Chait notes in comparing the 1992 and 2014 incidents at UM, “In both cases, the threat was deemed not the angry mobs out to crush opposing ideas, but the ideas themselves. The theory animating both attacks turns out to be a durable one, with deep roots in the political left.”

It’s a long piece and Chait weaves in several different pieces of evidence, from protests against campus speakers to the Obama-Clinton primary battle of 2008 to Charlie Hebdo. He traces the journey of politically correct totalitarianism from the rarefied and dopey mores of academia to the hive-like communities that have developed on social media. Those who are judged to be insufficiently deferential to the oppression suffered by the victim group du jour are routinely hassled, bullied, and threatened on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms popular with a young audience that is susceptible to mindless conformity in the name of social popularity.

But Chait also makes a very keen observation regarding another reason for why we are now hearing of so many instances of the left enforcing PC orthodoxy. As Chait writes, “Every media company knows that stories about race and gender bias draw huge audiences, making identity politics a reliable profit center in a media industry beset by insecurity.” At the same time success breeds imitators, so every interest group that manages to browbeat its critics into submission is an enticement for another interest group to attempt the same. This leads to an unacceptable situation that Chait neatly summarizes:

Political correctness is a term whose meaning has been gradually diluted since it became a flashpoint 25 years ago. People use the phrase to describe politeness (perhaps to excess), or evasion of hard truths, or (as a term of abuse by conservatives) liberalism in general. The confusion has made it more attractive to liberals, who share the goal of combating race and gender bias.

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

Of course, Chait being Chait, he later has to let loose with a paragraph of nonsense designed to remind everyone that hey, he’s a good lefty too, not one of those awful reactionary rightwingers:

Political correctness appeals to liberals because it claims to represent a more authentic and strident opposition to their shared enemy of race and gender bias. And of course liberals are correct not only to oppose racism and sexism but to grasp (in a way conservatives generally do not) that these biases cast a nefarious and continuing shadow over nearly every facet of American life. Since race and gender biases are embedded in our social and familial habits, our economic patterns, and even our subconscious minds, they need to be fought with some level of consciousness. The mere absence of overt discrimination will not do.

Get that? “The mere absence of overt discrimination will not do.” Why shouldn’t we read that to mean that Chait is suggesting that it’s not enough if I am cordial to Al Sharpton and treat him in a way that is honest and fair; unless I eventually come to see things his way I cannot truly be considered to be a “good person.” What else could Chait possibly mean with his blandishments about a nefarious and continuing shadow and biases embedded in our subconscious minds other than the tired claim that unless you vote Democrat you are a racist.

That aside, this is by and large an honest and worthy exploration of a rather illiberal phenomenon that has been cultivated, protected, and advanced for far too long. One can only hope that more thinkers on the left – especially members of those cherished victimized groups – will join him in opposing the mindlessness of enforcing cultural orthodoxy. Again, it’s a long read, but the full article is worth the while. Read the comments too, if only to get your daily allotment of self-regarding leftists who make the “our opinions are the only moral ones, so it is perfectly fine for us to censor your amoral deviations from proper thought” argument that we have all come to know.



Campus Sexual Assault/Rape: Epidemic or Hysteria?

Filed under: Education,Political Correctness — JVW @ 11:33 am

[guest post by JVW]

Picture this scenario: You are a software salesperson for a medium-sized firm. You spend your day contacting potential customers, both via cold calls and for follow-ups to previous conversations. It’s hard work and your success rate is fairly low (the salesman’s lament is that you hear “no” ten, twenty, even thirty times for every “yes”), but you make enough sales to be considered a moderate success.

One day you are at work and you are asked into a closed meeting. There you are confronted by the VP of human resources, the associate director of manufacturing, one of the senior programmers, and a marketing assistant. They announce to you that they are the company’s disciplinary panel and that you are under investigation because a customer with whom you wrote a contract back in November 2012 now claims that you offered them a kickback and that you wrote the contract in a way that runs afoul of the law.

“Wait a minute,” you say to them, “if you are alleging that I broke laws then I want a lawyer present.”

“This is not a legal proceeding;” the VP for HR replies, “this is an informal hearing in which we are only establishing whether or not you are subject to internal sanctions.”

You are read the allegations against you as reported by the customer, but you are denied a copy of the written accusations and your accuser is allowed to – even encouraged to – leave the room during your “testimony.” You are required to address these allegations immediately on the spot without any time to prepare a defense. No one on the disciplinary panel has a legal background and no one has experience in software sales or writing contracts. There is no hard evidence of your alleged wrong doing in terms of saved email or phone messages. Still, based upon your demeanor and your testimony and the importance of the customer, the panel judges that you are very likely to have committed the acts of which you are accused, so your employment is summarily terminated and you are escorted out of the building.


Does that sound far-fetched? This is apparently roughly analogous to the situation faced by an unnamed male Swarthmore College student who was subject to campus disciplinary proceedings based upon a rape that was alleged to have occurred 19 months earlier. This case has been covered by Powerline, with some original reporting coming from a conservative Swarthmore publication earlier in April with a follow-up a couple of months later. The ending is similar to the scenario I posited below: the student is never charged with a rape, yet Swarthmore deems that he is worthy of expulsion based upon what certainly appears to be a superficial investigation carried out by a panel with no particular expertise in this area.

This is the end result of a campaign waged by campus feminist activists. Unhappy that the vaunted sexual liberation of American youth oftentimes has deleterious consequences, they have determined that there exists today a “rape culture” on campus that is almost exclusively the fault of young male students and the overall patriarchal campus culture. They draw upon the figure from a study of two universities to conclude that one in five college women is subjected to unwanted sexual contact at some point during her undergraduate years. The study in this case defined “sexual contact” as “forced touching of a sexual nature (forced kissing, touching of private parts, grabbing, fondling, rubbing up against you in a sexual way, even if it is over your clothes).” Unsurprisingly, the most aggressive voices among highly politicized feminists have changed that statistic into one in five women being raped in college.

So it comes as no surprise that the Obama Administration — which depends heavily on young single women delivering votes for him, his agenda, and his preferred candidates — would make addressing campus sexual assaults a priority item. The Department of Education, invoking Title IX, is threatening federal intervention against any institution they judge to be unsuitably aggressive in investigating and punishing reported sexual assaults. More ominously, the administration is coercing universities into creating the same sort of kangaroo courts, devoid of due process and staffed by administrators with zero legal training, similar to the one that expelled the Swarthmore student.

Certainly there is no shortage of loutish college boys who seek to use alcohol and peer pressure to entice naive college girls into pushing past the boundaries of their modesty, just as there is no shortage of mindless floozies who believe that drunken sexual promiscuity is a sign of maturity and advances the cause of feminism. Contrary to the clichés that abound among college administrators, our colleges and universities are not populated solely with mature and sophisticated adults, but also with plenty of overgrown adolescents who are no more capable of handling adult freedoms at age 19 than they were at age 15. Any attempt to change a campus culture (and, let’s face it, a youth culture) which fosters regrettable and sometimes even criminal sexual hookups needs to focus on a variety of factors including the easy availability of alcohol and drugs, the loosening of sexual mores in our society, and the lack of rules and supervision prevalent in today’s college environment. Designating young women as perpetual victims always teetering on the verge of being force-fed liquor and raped by uncontrollable college brutes will only further polarize debate, sometimes along rather unpredictable lines. Since she is far more eloquent than I, let me allow Christina Hoff Sommers to have the final word on what she terms the “rape culture hysteria”:

Molestation and rape are horrific crimes that warrant serious attention and vigorous response. Panics breed chaos and mob justice. They claim innocent victims, undermine social trust, and teach us to doubt the evidence of our own experience.

E.M. Forster said it best in A Passage to India, referring to a panic among “good citizens” following a highly dubious accusation of rape: “Pity, wrath, and heroism filled them, but the power of putting two and two together was annihilated.”



What’s Missing from This L.A. Times Account of the Hollywood Shooting?

Filed under: Dog Trainer,Political Correctness — Patterico @ 2:26 pm

How about the fact that a witness says the gunman was shouting “Allahu Akbar”?

A witness named April Manlo says at 2:37:

He was running over there. And he sh — I heard a — yeah, yes, on the ground. I hear two shots, bap bap bap bap. And he’s shouting and running. “Allahu akbar.” He said: “Allahu akbar.”

Now, witnesses are sometimes mistaken, of course. The shooter has been identified as a man named Tyler Brehm, and it has been suggested that a break-up may have motivated the shooting.

But the witness was there, and the reporter wasn’t. So unless there we know for a fact that the witness was wrong — if we know why the shooter did it and it isn’t Islamic extremism — witness accounts should not be suppressed in the name of political correctness.

And we know from history that they sometimes are. We also know from the Fort Hood shooting that the L.A. Times and other news organizations squelched information that Nidal Hasan was motivated by Islamic extremism.

Is that happening again?

Thanks to an anonymous tipster.


Amnesty International Sides with Jihad

Filed under: International,Political Correctness,Terrorism — DRJ @ 2:25 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Amnesty International’s Secretary-General has endorsed “Jihad in self-defence”:

“Amnesty International (AI) Secretary-General Claudio Cordone has come under fire for defending jihad when it occurs in “self-defence” – a position many other human rights advocates believe “would gravely undermine the future of the human rights movement.”

Cordone’s comments came in response to a February 13 “Global Petition” to AI by human-rights and women’s -rights advocates protesting the suspension of Gita Sahgal, a senior AI official in London.

Sahgal was suspended after the Sunday Times of London reported she believed Amnesty’s collaboration with former Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzem Begg “fundamentally damages” the group’s reputation.

In a letter sent to senior AI officials, Sahgal charged that Amnesty has mistakenly aligned itself with Begg and his organization Cageprisoners, which calls itself a human-rights organization working to “raise awareness of the plight of prisoners” held in the war on terror.

According to the Sunday Times, the prisoners it championed have included “Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, and Abu Qatada, a preacher described as Osama Bin Laden’s ‘European ambassador.’ ”

Begg and Cageprisoners are also reported to have developed a relationship with Anwar al-Awlaki, the Al Qaeda cleric who endorsed the failed Christmas Day plane bombing near Detroit and who became a confidant of Nidal Malik Hasan, charged with carrying out the Nov. 5 Fort Hood massacre.”

“Everything in moderation,” including tolerance.



Steyn on the Decline of the West, Part 427

Filed under: International,Political Correctness — DRJ @ 8:04 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Mark Steyn is noted for his wry and informed take on many topics, especially the decline of Western civilization. Today’s installment looks at Canadian support of Islamic hate speech:

“The Jewish Defence League held a demonstration today in Toronto at Palestine House, one of the many jihadist front organizations without which no sophisticated multicultural western city is complete. Tomorrow night, for example, they’re hosting the editor of the London newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi, Abd al-Bari Atwan. Mr Atwan is a celebrity eliminationist who declared on TV that “if the Iranian missiles strike Israel, by Allah, I will go to Trafalgar Square and dance with delight.” Because Palestine House is government-funded, Mr Atwan’s appearance to share this and other insights is effectively being underwritten by Canadian taxpayers.”

Steyn concludes:

“Lenin famously said the west would “sell us the rope by which we will hang them. He was underestimating our suicidal stupidity: We’re happy to give it away.”

No one can sum up and skewer in the same sentence quite like Steyn.



Colorado’s Politically Incorrect Sheriff

Filed under: Political Correctness — DRJ @ 9:51 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Larimer County, Colorado, Sheriff Jim Alderden (also known as the “Balloon Boy” Sheriff) will once again celebrate Christmas with a politically incorrect Christmas tree-trimming party:

“A Yuletide-loving sheriff with a penchant for controversy today announced his “Apparently Annual Politically Incorrect Christmas Tree Trimming Party.”

Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden began the event in 2007 to thumb his nose at a Fort Collins task force that recommended no publicly funded holiday displays that favor a single religion. In response, Alderden put up his Christmas tree — funded with private donations — outside the county office and beyond the city’s jurisdiction.”

The celebration starts with “a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by Christmas carols, horse and buggy rides and a visit from Santa Claus.”



“This is Your Brain on Political Correctness”

Filed under: Political Correctness,Terrorism — DRJ @ 3:00 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Mark Steyn is my favorite political columnist. Today he writes about how political correctness enabled the mass murders by Major Nidal Hasan:

“Major Hasan couldn’t have been more straightforward about who and what he was. An army psychiatrist, he put “SoA”—i.e., “Soldier of Allah”—on his business card. At the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences, he was reprimanded for trying to persuade patients to convert to Islam and fellow pupils objected to his constant “anti-American propaganda,” but, as the Associated Press reported, “a fear of appearing discriminatory against a Muslim student kept officers from filing a formal written complaint.”

This is your brain on political correctness.

As the writer Barry Rubin pointed out, Major Hasan was the first mass murderer in U.S. history to give a PowerPoint presentation outlining the rationale for the crime he was about to commit. And he gave the presentation to a roomful of fellow army psychiatrists and doctors. Some of whom glanced queasily at their colleagues, but none of whom actually spoke up. And, when the question of whether then-Captain Hasan was, in fact, “psychotic,” the policy committee at Walter Reed Army Medical Center worried “how would it look if we kick out one of the few Muslim residents.

This is your brain on political correctness.”

There’s more, of course. It seems today’s political correctness is unlimited.



The Point of Public Education

Filed under: Education,Political Correctness — DRJ @ 9:31 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

What is the point of public education? Is it to learn basic skills like the old-fashioned “3 R’s” — reading, writing, arithmetic — or is it to learn how to get along with people, to be tolerant of different backgrounds and cultures, and open to other beliefs?

That seems to be the issue in a New Hampshire case involving Amanda, a 10-year-old girl who is being home-schooled by her mother and is described as “well liked, social and interactive with her peers, academically promising and intellectually at or superior to grade level.”

However, Amanda’s divorced father and a local judge think she needs a public education — and the judge seems to think Amanda is being brainwashed by religion:

“In a court order issued in the case, the local court reasoned that the girl’s “vigorous defense of her religious beliefs to [her] counselor suggests strongly that she has not had the opportunity to seriously consider any other point of view.”

Got that? It sounds like the more articulate and vigorous Amanda is in expressing her opinions, the more the judge believes she needs public education. However, the father’s attorney says the case is about Amanda getting along with other people and not about her religion:

“Kurowski’s attorney, Elizabeth Donovan, said the ruling was based on the girl’s isolated learning environment, not on her mother’s religion. She said the girl’s home schooling consists of “sitting in the corner of her mother’s bedroom,” where she receives her lessons on a computer screen.

Kurowski “is concerned because of the isolation that is borne of that and the lack of exposure to the broader culture at large,” Donovan said. “People of different heritage, people of different culture, tolerance, group problem-solving, making friends, losing friends — all of the things that come with a public school education.”

The New Hampshire Supreme Court has agreed to hear Amanda’s case but it’s hard to view it as an anomaly given a recent story about the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities College of Education and Human Development. Through its “Race, Culture, Class, and Gender Task Group,” the College plans to enforce what F.I.R.E. calls a “political litmus test for future teachers” and students based on their predispositions, beliefs, and “cultural competence.” The educators at U-Minn believe “both academic preparation and particular dispositions or professional commitments are needed for effective teaching.”

That sounds a lot like what the New Hampshire judge thinks Amanda should be learning in school.



In the Foxhole With Hasan

Filed under: Political Correctness,Terrorism — DRJ @ 10:52 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Via the Instapundit:

“WALTER REED OFFICIALS ASKED, Was Hasan Psychotic? NPR’s Daniel Zwerdling has owned this story from the beginning. And this is damning:

“Put it this way,” says one official familiar with the conversations that took place. “Everybody felt that if you were deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, you would not want Nidal Hasan in your foxhole.”

Not that they did anything to prevent someone else from finding themself in that position.”

This story is more unbelievable every day, but was it the result of a PC military or something more specific — like a PC medical-psychiatric profession?



A Woman’s Nation

Filed under: Dog Trainer,Political Correctness — DRJ @ 5:14 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

California recently hosted an extravagant Women’s Conference that is all about women changing the world:

“Under the direction of First Lady Maria Shriver, last week’s conference was a two-day extravaganza, a Technicolor version of the event of old. Much of the focus was “The Shriver Report,” a collaboration between Shriver and a Washington think-tank, which declared two weeks ago that we have become “a woman’s nation.”

But the heart of the conference occurred at lunch on Day 2, when Shriver, her voice breaking, for the first time publicly reflected on her mother’s recent death. Her words brought thousands to tears in a silent arena.

It was hard to imagine the same personal scene at a conference of men. But that was part of the point, for the theme of the conference might well have been: We still want to change the world. We just want to do it on our terms.
In her report, Shriver declared the battle of the sexes to be over, replaced by negotiation. Translation: In all the difficult decisions of daily life, the things that get us from here to there, much still needs to be worked out.”

Apart from the fact I wouldn’t waste my time attending a conference where the highlight is crying, this sounds like an excuse to whine about how hard women have it and that men don’t do enough to help them … with a dash of we’re so helpless or fragile thrown in.

Is this the era of independent women or isn’t it? Independent women can handle things without whining or crying and, if a women’s conference that celebrates women is such a good idea, then let men have a men’s conference where they are allowed to celebrate being … men.

There’s another double-standard highlighted here: At a conference where the theme is supporting women, why aren’t more California women supporting politicians like Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina? The article suggests it’s because the pressure is off:

“There are now enough women in high-ranking positions that it is harder to invoke the passions that led to firsts, like election nationwide of several women senators in 1992 or Hillary Clinton’s close second in last year’s presidential contest.”

I think there’s a simpler answer that explains why some women are more equal than others. I’ll let Victor Davis Hanson explain it in a slightly different context (H/T Eric Blair):

“What if you took everything Yale Law School Hillary has said abroad the last week [in Pakistan] and put it into the mouth of Idaho BA Sarah Palin?

The press would have gone ballistic about her ignorance of the Middle East, her sermonizing, her scapegoating, her factual errors, etc. (What is it about Palin that drives the elite, especially elite women, crazy? Great looks? That Middle-America accent? The 5 kids and he-man husband? The lack of a powerful father or spouse who could jump-start her “feminist” career with money, contacts, and influence? That Idaho BA? The wink? The charisma and, indeed, sensuality so lacking in her angry critics?)”

Of course, what does Victor Davis Hanson know? He’s just a man.


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