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Friday, December 22, 2017

The left's outrage is a barrier to achieving its goals

I think Jonathan Haidt's criticism of campus illiberalism is basically correct.

A Twitterer scoffed that denying a eugenicist funding to speak can't be compared to the racist-industral-political machine of death hard at work. And I basically agree.

But campus illiberalism doesn't have to be as big a threat as the rapacious racist right for it to be a block to curiosity and social justice. And it's much scarier than denying a eugenicist the opportunity for funded speech. There has been violence against plenty of people whom protesters don't know the identities of, who may themselves oppose these speakers' viewpoints. There's a very real threat of violence against anyone who just disagrees with the no-platforming itself. And the categories for condemnation are far beyond eugenics.

Are there people who would read my writing and no-platform me? Surround me and block my passage? I don't know. Do you? How confident are you that all the people who experience violence at the hands of leftist protesters on campuses are true enemies of the people? Are even most of them?

And is this shrillness creating more monsters than it stops? Look at Milo's transformation from a whiny video game reporter and awful poet to rightwing provocateur. Is his ability to speak to small gatherings of campus conservatives really a significant problem, as opposed to the prevalence of his views in the first place? Does a furious public response really do anything to solve that problem?

Also, as with many unhealthy movements, I think you can also argue that at its root, this illiberalism is a result of how correct the movement itself has been. That is, oppression has been so deeply messed up for so long in this country, it's not surprising that the forefront of stopping it is messed up too.

When capitalism creates astroturf and destructive plants, the real grassroots gets understandably paranoid about toeing the line.

One of Haidt's points that is being totally overlooked is that there are many voices on the left that are silenced by the demand for uniformity.

Much like in the 1960s, social justice movements form silencing power dynamics within them, and frame criticism of that as disloyalty.

The left itself becomes the biggest victim of this. Valuable Marxist analysis of social dynamics, such as analysis of the aspects of male power and socialization that can persist in trans women, can become anathema.

Some of the people I read who are most passionate about demanding that women's voices be heard are also the most passionate about silencing the voices of women on the left who are a few degrees away from them, eg TERFs (trans-excluding radical feminists).

One sign that these uncrossable lines are more about group solidarity than independently arriving at the same views: the way you frame something has a massive amount to do with whether it is rejected or accepted. Not to mention, obviously, that who expresses an idea has a massive amount to do with whether that idea is accepted or rejected.

Eg, the notion that attention should be given to the internalized sexism of trans women as a category can be seen either as progressive bedrock, or as wildly transphobic--suggesting that trans women's experience and identity as women be denied.

Refusing to allow a white child to dress as a black character, e.g. Cyborg, can either be seen as patently necessary to stop appropriation, or as the essence of racism itself, cementing inchoate and arbitrary social categories into permanent exclusivity and othering.

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