Wednesday, August 22, 2018
Why Trump's 'Enemy Of The People' Charge Rings Bells For So Many Of 'The People' (The Short Version)
Way too many words have been expended already on the Times’ misbegotten hiring of Sarah Jeong for the prestigious spot on the editorial board dedicated to technology, law and internet policy. Most of the coverage has been focused on the Korean immigrant’s obsessive habit of tweeting out nasty bursts of anti-white racism and other forms of derisive "othering." This seems to have gone on for years during the time Jeong was a Harvard Law School student (JD, 2014), a Yale journalism fellow (2015-16) and a contributor to such publications as Motherboard, the Atlantic, Forbes, the Verge and the New York Times Magazine. Apparently, anti-white racism isn't a disqualification for the California bar either; Jeong was admitted in 2016.
With the hounds baying for her blood almost as soon as the hiring announcement was made, both the Times and Jeong herself attempted to explain that she had long been the target of online harassment from misogynistic, anti-Asian trolls; she'd merely been responding in the idiom of her tormenters. That is to say, she was responding ironically. This is, of course, an explanation that hardly anyone besides the senior managers who hired her, and would look profoundly embarrassed if they fired her, actually believed, or at least pretended hard enough to look like they did. The idea that someone could get away with saying something analogous about any of the so-called protected groups---Blacks, Jews, Latinos, Asians---is absurd, as conservative black activist Candace Owen learned when Twitter suspended her account after Owens took some of Jeong’s tweets and tweeted them out again with the races reversed: black where Jeong had tweeted white. Irony tweets it seems are the object of a decided double standard, both online among flippant millennials and, apparently, on the pages of the serious (or serious-seeming) New York Times.
The best and most incisive treatment of the Sarah Jeong case is actually contained in a single sentence that Caitlin Flanagan wrote earlier this week in an excellent Atlantic essay about the subversive appeal of alt-lite self-help author Jordan Peterson. The single sentence, albeit quite a honker of a single sentence, is actually a two-fer, cutting to the heart of the Times hypocrisy on hiring Jeong at a time when it is hyperventilating about the rising tide of white racism on a daily basis and on issuing portentous warnings about Trump’s threatening use of the term “Enemy of the People.” In fact the two senior figures at the Times who had made the decision to hire Jeong---Opinion editor James Bennet and publisher A. G. Sulzberger, who took over from his father Arthur Sulzberger Jr at the end of last year, journeyed out to Trump’s Bedminster New Jersey golf club last month to relay their concerns mano-a-mano and joined the Boston Globe's effort, along with 300 other newspaper editorial pages, to denounce Trump's anti-press attacks. Flanagan writes:
When the top man at The New York Times publishes a sober statement about a meeting he had with the president in which he describes instructing Trump about the problem of his “deeply troubling anti-press rhetoric,” and then three days later the paper announces that it has hired a writer who has tweeted about her hatred of white people, of Republicans, of cops, of the president, of the need to stop certain female writers and journalists from “existing,” and when this new hire will not be a beat reporter, but will sit on the paper’s editorial board—having a hand in shaping the opinions the paper presents to the world—then it is no mystery that a parallel culture of ideas has emerged to replace a corrupted system.
Interestingly, Flanagan used to write for James Bennet when Bennet was editor at the Atlantic, and the current Atlantic editor, Jeffrey Goldberg, was long protected by Bennet from the many many Beltway journalists who were after him for any number of offenses, most of them tied to his Zionist chauvinism and the kind of Israel First journalism that produced his infamous and lethally flawed Saddam Hussein WMD piece from 2003. A bit of a betrayal then, or at the very least sign of significant disappointment in a former boss.
Sunday, August 19, 2018
At the Atlantic, writer Caitlin Flanagan has published a must-read for those who find themselves impatient with liberal sanctimony, p.c. virtue-tripping, transgender pronouns, the “white privilege” theory of any and all racial inequities, and the censuring of twitter, Facebook and Youtube freethinking deplorables such as Gavin McInnes and Jared Taylor. Her piece explores the reasons why the alt-lite's favorite self-help author Jordan Peterson is so popular, especially so with liberal-minded young men, such as her son. These young men, she explains,“graduated from high school and went off to colleges where they were exposed to the kind of policed discourse that dominates American campuses” and now found Peterson’s work, especially his podcasts, absolutely liberating. They'd voted for Hillary, called home in shock when Trump won, talked about flipping the House, and "followed Peterson to other podcasts—to Sam Harris and Dave Rubin and Joe Rogan. "
What they were getting from these lectures and discussions, often lengthy and often on arcane subjects, was perhaps the only sustained argument against identity politics they had heard in their lives.
That might seem like a small thing, but it’s not. With identity politics off the table, it was possible to talk about all kinds of things—religion, philosophy, history, myth—in a different way. They could have a direct experience with ideas, not one mediated by ideology. All of these young people, without quite realizing it, were joining a huge group of American college students who were pursuing a parallel curriculum, right under the noses of the people who were delivering their official educations.
Because all of this was happening silently, called down from satellites and poured in through earbuds—and not on campus free-speech zones where it could be monitored, shouted down, and reported to the appropriate authorities—the left was late in realizing what an enormous problem it was becoming for it. It was like the 1960s, when kids were getting radicalized before their parents realized they’d quit glee club. And it was not just college students. Not by a long shot.
Flanagan contends that “There are plenty of reasons for individual readers to dislike Jordan Peterson, many legitimate reasons to disagree with him on a number of subjects.” But, she continues, there is no coherent reason for what she describes as the left’s “obliterating and irrational hatred” of him. “What, then, accounts for it?” she asks.
Flanagan answers that while the left may seem “currently ascendant in our houses of culture and art,” it has in fact “entered its decadent late phase, and it is deeply vulnerable.”
The left is afraid not of Peterson, but of the ideas he promotes, which are completely inconsistent with identity politics of any kind. When the poetry editors of The Nation virtuously publish an amateurish but super-woke poem, only to discover that the poem stumbled across several trip wires of political correctness; when these editors (one of them a full professor in the Harvard English department) then jointly write a letter oozing bathos and career anxiety and begging forgiveness from their critics; when the poet himself publishes a statement of his own—a missive falling somewhere between an apology, a Hail Mary pass, and a suicide note; and when all of this is accepted in the houses of the holy as one of the regrettable but minor incidents that take place along the path toward greater justice, something is dying.
When the top man at The New York Times publishes a sober statement about a meeting he had with the president in which he describes instructing Trump about the problem of his “deeply troubling anti-press rhetoric,” and then three days later the paper announces that it has hired a writer who has tweeted about her hatred of white people, of Republicans, of cops, of the president, of the need to stop certain female writers and journalists from “existing,” and when this new hire will not be a beat reporter, but will sit on the paper’s editorial board—having a hand in shaping the opinions the paper presents to the world—then it is no mystery that a parallel culture of ideas has emerged to replace a corrupted system. When even Barack Obama, the poet laureate of identity politics, is moved to issue a message to the faithful, hinting that that they could be tipping their hand on all of this—saying during a speech he delivered in South Africa that a culture is at a dead end when it decides someone has no “standing to speak” if he is a white man—and when even this mayday is ignored, the doomsday clock ticks ever closer to the end.
In the midst of this death rattle has come a group of thinkers, Peterson foremost among them, offering an alternative means of understanding the world to a very large group of people who have been starved for one. His audience is huge and ever more diverse, but a significant number of his fans are white men. The automatic assumption of the left is that this is therefore a red-pilled army, but the opposite is true. The alt-right venerates identity politics just as fervently as the left, as the title of a recent essay reproduced on the alt-right website Counter-Currents reveals: “Jordan Peterson’s Rejection of Identity Politics Allows White Ethnocide.”
Here’s the larger cultural and political point:
If you think that a backlash to the kind of philosophy that resulted in The Nation’s poetry implosion; the Times’ hire; and Obama’s distress call isn’t at least partly responsible for the election of Donald Trump, you’re dreaming. And if you think the only kind of people who would reject such madness are Republicans, you are similarly deluded. All across the country, there are people as repelled by the current White House as they are by the countless and increasingly baroque expressions of identity politics that dominate so much of the culture. These are people who aren’t looking for an ideology; they are looking for ideas. And many of them are getting much better at discerning the good from the bad. The Democratic Party reviles them at its peril; the Republican Party takes them for granted in folly.
It would be interesting to do a quantitative/qualitative analysis of this Backlash Theory, also called the Theory of Reactance. It makes gut level, intuitive sense. But I'm sure those in denial, otherwise known as Democrats need numbers.