- Identity Politics – Left, right, and the making of Trump’s America
- Political Correctness – The tyranny of “PC culture” is real — and a threat to liberal society
- Big Government – Slouching toward illiberalism
- Campus Censorship – The purpose of higher education and why and how it is censored
- Free Speech in a Global Context – Dangerously illiberal trends in liberal societies
- Religious Liberty – The right to religious belief and expression is of first importance to a free society
- Education – School choice both manifests and strengthens the liberal order
Interesting analysis arguing that global jihadism is a youth movement, and European jihadis are the latest in a long tradition of violent nihilists.
Afrikaners have a wonderful but very rude word: poesbefok, meaning “Pussy struck” or mentally deranged by sexual desire or romantic love. Looks like the entire USA was poesbefok on October 7, 2016.
Dave Pell points out that the media’s over focus on the Trump pussy grab story allowed the bigger and potentially more damaging Russian hacker angle to go mostly unnoticed until too late:
Let’s go back in time to that fateful day, October 7, 2016 when we heard the instantly infamous “grab her by the pussy” tapes. It’s like the moon landing, Michael Jackson’s death, or the first time you saw Rick Perry try to look smart by wearing glasses. You’ll never forget where you were when it happened.
But it turns out that you are remembering that day for all the wrong reasons. As Clinton Campaign Comm director Jennifer Palmieri reminded us on MSNBC, October 7, 2016 was also the day that the NYT’s David Sanger and Charlie Savage broke a massive story with this headline: U.S. Says Russia Directed Hacks to Influence Elections.
Without the pussy story, that headline would have owned the day’s news cycle (or about 3 tweets) and put intense pressure on the Obama administration to release more details — which would have meant more stories.
Instead we fixated on Donald’s dirty talk.
My take on the Russian hacking this is this: Of course they tried to influence the election in their favor. This is an ancient realpolitik practice. Nothing new there. What is new is that they may have used hacked data released as leaks to these ends – and that was effective. Did it lead to a Trump victory? I am waiting for more evidence before I make a judgment.
I completely understand why Nottingham police want to fight back against the street harassment of women, but I think we are treating the symptoms, not the causes. Additionally the medicine proposed by Nottingham Police is also toxic. It erodes civil liberties, misallocates police resources, reinforces victimhood culture, allows subjectivity into a domain where evidence is vital to justice, sexist and open to abuse by malicious women or pressure groups with an interest in exaggerating the scale of the problem.
What are the misogynistic hate crimes that Nottingham Police will record separately and make a “police matter”?
“Incidents against women that are motivated by an attitude of a man towards a woman and includes behaviour targeted towards a woman by men simply because they are a woman.”
- Staring at body parts (breasts)
- Unwanted sexual advances
- Unwanted physical or verbal contact
- Unwanted mobile phone messages
- Taking photos without consent
None of this is evidence based. It is all about subjective experiences, how the women feel.
Nor is it even about crimes. The mere recounting of an alleged incident will result in a recorded “hate” incident….
What are we to make of all this?
I really want us to solve this problem. I come from a family and culture where male respect for women and being a gentlemanliness are highly valued. Where I grew up, the abuse of women – verbally or physically – would earn any man a thorough hiding at the hands of other men. Merely swearing in front of women was considered an embarrassing lapse that might earn you a smack on the ear from an older male.
I am the father of two daughters and I want them to live in a safe, decent society free from harassment of any sort. I also want them to live in a free and fair society, not a nanny state where every human interaction needs to be policed and the mere feelings of a designated member of a “victim class”- entirely independent of evidence or objective standards – are sufficient to criminalise actions. Those feelings are also enough to classify any public encounter or incident as a “hate incident”, again unlinked to evidence, which will lead to a body of “evidence”, that will possibly derange public policy and policing.
We have the familiar cast of bunglers in this story. The state trying to shore up collapsing social mores with ham-fisted and discriminatory over-legislation and destruction of civil liberties. We have social worker-bureaucrats – like Nottingham’s “hate crime manager” David Alton- securing their jobs generating a growing list of hate-crime victim groups and classifications. We have pressure groups grinding their political axes.
My main gripe with this police reaction is that is addresses the symptoms not the causes. In Turkey, they understand this.
Women’s rights groups, lawyers and doctors have condemned Turkey’s decision to introduce a mandatory chemical castration programme for convicted sex offenders, arguing the treatment does not address the underlying reasons for widespread violence against women, and that bodily punishment will instead lead to increased abuse.
Özgül Kaptan, director of the Women’s Solidarity Foundation (Kadav), has condemned the law – which came into effect on 26 July, at a time of extended legislative powers – as misguided.
“It’s a very bad and dangerous decision,” she said. “The law reduces crimes related to sexual abuse and rape to the one offending individual and to that individual’s body, which disregards the systemic problem of why so many men in Turkey commit these crimes or are violent against women.
“Men are taught to think that they have a right over women. We need to change ideas about gender equality and masculinity. What we really need is a change of attitude, of education. That cannot be done by passing such a law, or overnight.” – The Guardian, “Chemical castration of sex offenders in Turkey condemned by women’s groups“, Monday 15th August 2016
The Turkish feminists have an unlikely ally, Rob Slane writing in Conservative Woman magazine. All emphases mine:
The other big problem with the statement itself is that it is so vaguely worded as to be essentially meaningless. It could include just about every attitude or example of behaviour men exhibit towards women (or should that be men exhibit towards woman?), and is thus at the mercy of entirely subjective definitions of what does and what doesn’t constitute a misogynistic hate crime. Does it include a man attempting to give up his seat for a woman on public transport? The definition is vague enough to include it if the lady in question perceives it to be demeaning.
Of course you might say that this is not the sort of thing Nottinghamshire police are talking about. What they are actually trying to address is real, low-level harassment that women in their area often face. What do you say to that then?
Simply that this is a hopelessly foolish way of dealing with it, and the method merely confirms that we took a wrong direction way back when. In the first instance, police forces continually complain about overstretch and of the need to free up resources. How does this woolly-worded initiative achieve this? It doesn’t. What it could end up doing, though, is forcing officers to spend their time investigating hundreds of low-level instances of harassment, and so missing the more serious incidents.
So how do you deal with incidents of low-level harassment? There are no quick fix answers to this, but the clue is to work out how we got here. How did we get to the stage where young boys today have immeasurably less respect for girls today than they would have had even 20 or 30 years ago? How did we get to the stage where multitudes of young men see females through the porn filter? How did we get to the stage where the chances of a woman finding a man who will be responsible and faithful to her are becoming less and less each year?
…Much of what are now being labelled “misogynistic hate crimes” are simply a consequence of the tearing up of the very relationships and social expectations that once required males to be respectful towards women. Yet having done it, we are surprised to see the outcome – a generation of males who are less respectful towards women. As C.S. Lewis put it, “In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”
And so having torn up those relationships which were so vital, women must now apparently look to the State to step in and deal with the consequences. In the past, other men would have performed this function. A man who was seen to be hassling a woman would have been told in no uncertain terms by others in the community to quit it. And he would have quit it, knowing that the consequences of continuing were most unfavourable to him. Who will do that now? Those that might be prepared to do so know they run the risk of being beaten to a pulp.
The answer to the disrespect and unpleasant hassling of women is not to be found in yet more laws and more policing of such incidents. Instead it is in recognising that far from bringing liberty and a more civil society, the hacking away of the relationships and social boundaries mentioned above has largely destroyed the foundations from which true liberty and civil society can begin to flourish. Only when we have reconciled ourselves to this might we begin once again to see boys growing up into men who really do respect women.
I agree with Rob on this. We have gone badly wrong somewhere and the solution is not the police. It is cultural, political and educational. It is about values. Involving the police seldom helps and sometimes even inadvertently hurts:
Carceral solutions to structural problems have a tendency to have the most negative consequences for more marginalised people. They also tend to help marginalised people the least.
…What we are very likely to see with treating misogyny as a hate crime is that there could well be more arrests and prosecutions, but only under particular circumstances: when a Nice White Lady™ is victimised by a Nasty Black Or Brown Man™.
…It’s a repeated pattern in carceral solutions, and means that help will not go to the women who need it most because the police would rather come down hard on people that they already despise.
At the end of the day, the solution to misogyny is the same boring old thing that is the solution to everything else: societal change, starting with ourselves. Challenge it where you find it and nurture and embody alternatives, and support and believe survivors. The police are not, and have never been, the magic bullet for solving problems that they cannot even begin to solve.
Misogyny is misogyny, and the police have never been our salvation.
Another gripe I have is that many of these laws are unenforceable. The dreadful spate of sexual harassment crimes and rapes now plaguing Sweden show us that even with dozens of witnesses, stringent police attention and tokenism in the form of “Don’t Grope” bracelets, almost all the cases “were dropped due to lack of evidence or problems with identifying suspects.” These were large scale group molestations of young women and girls, even gang rapes, and the police are pretty much powerless. The culture of the perpetrators – in this case recent migrants to Sweden – is a key factor in the problem. The police are too overstretched and weak to protect women. Their powers and staffing are designed to manage a law-abiding culture where women are respected and safe. A sudden growth (through migration) in the numbers of men who do not share those values have overwhelmed them with dreadful consequences for Swedish women and girls.
We also have the now familiar discrimination against men we find so often in gender stories these days. Why does only the harassment of women count as a “hate incident”? This definition is sexist towards men by downgrading harassment against them, and prioritising crimes against women, even though men can and do experience harassment at the hands of women. Why not just expand the gender hate crime category if you have to, even if you know the victim split is 10 to 1. At least it does not actively discriminate against one gender.
The Nottingham police provisions also reinforce victimhood culture and the continued atrophying of our ability to conduct ourselves with agency and independence without needing to resort to authority to adjudicate every minor dispute:
We’re beginning a second transition of moral cultures. The first major transition happened in the 18th and 19th centuries when most Western societies moved away from cultures of honor (where people must earn honor and must therefore avenge insults on their own) to cultures of dignity in which people are assumed to have dignity and don’t need to earn it. They foreswear violence, turn to courts or administrative bodies to respond to major transgressions, and for minor transgressions they either ignore them or attempt to resolve them by social means. There’s no more dueling.
Campbell and Manning describe how this culture of dignity is now giving way to a new culture of victimhood in which people are encouraged to respond to even the slightest unintentional offense, as in an honor culture. But they must not obtain redress on their own; they must appeal for help to powerful others or administrative bodies, to whom they must make the case that they have been victimized.
…The key idea is that the new moral culture of victimhood fosters “moral dependence” and an atrophying of the ability to handle small interpersonal matters on one’s own. At the same time that it weakens individuals, it creates a society of constant and intense moral conflict as people compete for status as victims or as defenders of victims.
I have other misgivings. The vague wording and muddled definitions are also based on notions that are inimical to legal justice. The idea that that feelings and pure subjectivity are sufficient to establish guilt. It is not. Evidence and objectivity are the cornerstones of justice. Granting powers of judgment exclusively to women, without any restraining requirements of evidence or even clear rules, creates a Judge Dredd like situation on the streets of Nottingham where all humans identifying as women are the judge and jury of any man they encounter.
As we have seen with false accusations and feminist abuses in Canada, malicious women abusing the legal system to persecute men is far from rare. These sorts of laws are wide open to abuse by miscreant women. Even the most ludicrous, paranoid, divorced-from-reality compulsive liar attention-seeker will have serious police attention, their incident added to the official register of “hate” incidents and some innocent man will suffer the all the trials of the falsely accused “hate” criminal.
I am against it. Let people wear what they damned well please. It smacks of bullying and retribution. It is the only way that devout Muslim women can bathe in public. It explicitly targets them for exclusion. This is no way to advertise Western value of freedom and tolerance.
Due to a bug in the WordPress.com mac app I found I was “following” some Punjabi writer collective blog. This could have been a moment of serendipitous largesse, instead it was a glimpse under one of the rocks of lunacy littering the internet.
The top post on the day I accessed it was a repost of a Black Lives Matter (BLM) sub-group called Dream Defenders, defending their policy position supporting Palestine and branding Israel as “genocidal”. Another recent post on the blog declares that Khizr Khan, the father of a dead US solider who had a run in with Trump, is “the Uncle Tom of America’s Muslims.” No really. Not even Trump got that crazy.
The Dream Defender’s statement is meant to protest that their militant anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism. I was not convinced. The tone, is, well…judge for yourself:
Their [“Zionist” Jewish organizations] response has made it all the more clear why we stand in solidarity with Palestine and with Black and Brown people around the world fighting for justice.
Those who have previously claimed to be allies of the Black lives matter movement have shown us that they are comfortable with our resistance so long as it fits within particular confines and restrictions. It is convenient to endorse black lives matter when it benefits you. And as long as we stay silent about Israeli apartheid, they will “stand” with Black liberation in the US. Now that our movement has taken a stand against all forms of white supremacy and oppression, Black lives no longer matter. We want no part in this quid pro quo form of politics. True solidarity does not come with strings attached.
We’ve been dealing with this type of hypocrisy with our supposed “allies” for generations. On the American left, there are many wolves in sheeps clothing. You have revealed yourselves. And now that we know who you are, we will not forget.
As I read it they are saying that Jewish American’s, despite being at the forefront of civil rights in the USA for “generations”, have “revealed themselves” as, “wolves in sheeps clothing” (sic). 50 years of social activism by the Jewish community brushed away as nothing but Zionist entryism.
Who are Dream Defenders anyway? Reading their website one can easily sympathise with and support their cause. Social justice, non-violence, democracy…and they look like friendly, positive people:
Then you browse to the About page of their site, and you see this….
Same people, very different photo. It turns out this is some sort of Black Power group. Disappointing.
One of the oddities of the USA is the flagrant double standard in when it comes to ethnic pride, symbolism and self-interest. Black Power, recently feted by Beyonce at the Super Bowl, is according to Wikipedia, about…
“…emphasizing racial pride and the creation of black political and cultural institutions to nurture and promote black collective interests and advance black values“.
This definition leaves out all the anti-White racism and separatism that is very much a “wing” of the movement. It also ignores the origin of this term in the black supremacist Black Panther Party (established 50 years ago in 1966), whose legacy of anti-White racism and murder was recently revived by Micah X Johnson, the Dallas cop killer.
In 2016, in the USA, “Black and Brown people” (the “us” or “we” of BLM), can and do express both racial pride and openly campaign for their collective interests in explicitly racial terms. This includes the creation of racially exclusive political and cultural institutions. Whites doing this would be denounced as “racist” and forcefully resisted as a social evil. If members of white “civil rights” groups went so far as to be photographed doing Nazi (White Power) salutes, that would be unequivocal evidence that the group was racist. Not so for Black Power groups, even though the only difference between these ideologies is the skin colour of the members.
I am saddened when I see groups like this embracing Black Power. I want to support their quest for fairness and justice, but I cannot but oppose a group that embraces an ideology defined by it’s opposition and hostility to me, my family and children, based on our skin colour. This is racism on stilts.
As with radical feminists, I will not let this sort of bigotry, chauvinism and hostility dim my personal commitment and support for an entire movement, in this case for the continued struggle for civil rights, genuine racial equality and justice for African-Americans.
BLM and other groups in the collective ought to heed Bayard Rusti’s warning to groups that were embracing Back Power in the 1960’s (as opposed to an inclusive civil rights platform):
“It diverts the movement from a meaningful debate over strategy and tactics, it isolates the [Black] community, and it encourages the growth of anti-[Black] forces…they [will] emerge isolated and demoralized, shouting a slogan that may afford a momentary satisfaction but that is calculated to destroy them and their movement.”
He is right. Part of the Trump phenomenon driven by whites adopting grievance based identity politics. I am still haunted by David Frumm’s brilliant amalgamation of the voices of Trumpland. Heed this passage, because it should sound a very loud warning:
“You tell us we’re a minority now? OK. We’re going to start acting like a minority. We’re going to vote like a bloc, and we’re going to vote for our bloc’s champion. So long as he keeps faith with us against you, we’ll keep faith with him against you.”
This is the nightmare situation. A restive, militant and confrontational white underclass defining themselves in explicitly racial terms, block voting for populists (anti-establishment) politicians who campaigning on a white grievance platform. It is the predictable outcome of years of identity politics and victimhood culture but it could also spell the end for US consensus democracy.
One of the saddest realities of America in the 21st century is that these racial divisions really do serve to divide the poorest of Americans against each other. They should have such strong solidarity. Instead they are pitted against each other by identity politics, ongoing racism and forces of polarization unleashed by our disintermediated technocracy.
Imagine if BLM, instead of alienating poor whites with their “Black and Brown people vs Whites” narrative embraced the white working-class and invited them to support social justice for African-American’s as part of a broader and truly inclusive alliance of the disadvantaged? That is a movement I could enthusiastically support.
https://policy.m4bl.org/ – Black Lived Matter policy platform
Ella Whelan had a nice article on Spiked about the de facto sacking of Kevin Roberts for expressing an admittedly naïve, but contrarian, opinion on gender equality in the workplace:
It seems that illiberal liberals have discovered a new type of microaggression: gender-equality denial. Kevin Roberts, former chairman of the advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi, has been forced to take a leave of absence following his comments on gender equality in the workplace.
You could be forgiven for thinking that Roberts had gone on a rant about women having smaller brains and making sandwiches. But, if you forgive his cursing, Roberts’ comments were actually quite boring. In an interview with Business Insider, he said shocking things like, ‘I don’t think [the lack of women in leadership roles] is a problem’ and ‘the fucking debate is all over’. He defended his own company, (Saatchi & Saatchi has a 50/50 gender quota scheme) and asserted that the reason more women aren’t in top jobs is that they want to be happy rather than rich – hardly scandalous.
But even Roberts’ nonchalant lack of interest in gender equality is unacceptable, it seems. Feminists barely had time to hit the keyboards before Roberts had been put on leave with the promise that his position at Saatchi & Saatchi would be reviewed – in other words, he was sacked. Not only that, but Publicis Groupe, the parent company of Saatchi & Saatchi, released a statement damning Roberts’ comments and warning its employees that ‘diversity and inclusion are business imperatives on which Publicis Groupe will not negotiate’. Yes, that’s right, Publicis values diversity and inclusion so much that it will not tolerate diversity or inclusion of political opinion in the workplace.
…Roberts doesn’t want a debate about gender equality, but neither do his critics. Gender equality, it seems, is not up for discussion. Anyone who has criticised the political inadequacies of contemporary feminism knows this. If we want to have a real debate about women’s freedom (a discussion on reproductive rights would be a good start), we should have one. But let’s stop this pretence of a debate about gender and get serious about defending women’s agency and capabilities. That means allowing men like Roberts to have an opinion and to voice it freely without being silenced or sacked.
The thing that amused me was the Orwellian press release from Publicis. Talk about self-contradiction!
Finally, as “white male”, I am really feeling the hate from radical feminists. One wrong word and you are fired. I am sure many many men are choosing to stay silent on a whole host of issues for fear of repercussions. Mission accomplished I suppose? Whilst men are being sacked and having their livelihoods destroyed for expressing heterodoxy, radical feminists in particular can express the most sordid anti-(white)male sentiments with absolute impunity. It does not dim my commitment to gender equality at all all, but I am actively rooting for the real feminists like Camille Paglia who are taking the fight to these vicious people and standing up for free speech, gender equality and human rights.
Joanna Williams in The Spectator – http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2016/08/saatchis-sexism-row-suggests-feminists-cant-handle-debate/
An email popped into my newsletters folder the other day from OR Books. They were promoting a new book by Daniel Williams called Forsaken, about the persecution of Christian’s in the middle east. Here is the blurb:
Across the Middle East, Christian communities today find themselves the victims of widening repression: massacres, expulsions, and brutally enforced restrictions on the right to worship have all become commonplace. Such persecution has now reached the point where, in the region that was once its birthplace, Christianity’s very existence is under threat.
Radical armed groups such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) justify their offensive against the “infidels” with reference to new interpretations of jihad, the Islamic tradition of holy war, that have burgeoned in the region since the US-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq at the beginning of the century.
The impact on Christian communities is visible for all to see. In Iraq, the Christian population has withered from well over one million to just 300,000. In Syria, where the word “Christian” was first coined more than two millennia ago, at least half a million Christians, one third of the total, have fled their homes. In Egypt, where the Coptic Church, with its seven million adherents, is as old as the Church of Rome, Christians are emigrating in waves after being squeezed between those who blame them for the 2013 ousting of the Muslim Brotherhood government and a new military dictatorship that is heedless of their civil rights.
The book was published on the 10th March 2016. A few weeks later, on Easter Sunday, a bomber target Christian women and children at a park in Lahore, Pakistan murdering at least 70 innocents and maiming hundreds more.
It is not just the middle east. Pakistan, India, Iraq, Burma, North Korea, Eritrea, Nigeria..there is a long list of places where Christians are viciously oppressed. Even the Pope has started speaking out about it.
The Western media has been pretty muted on this topics, but I notice it is getting more attention now. Here are some articles prompted by the Lahore bombings.
Where are Christians most persecuted around the world? – The Independent
The Persecution of Christians – Wikipedia
Open Doors – a charity devoted to helping persecuted Christians
I think this concept of Victimhood Culture is the key that explains so much of the lunacy we see in modern academia.
Rather than reinterpret and possibly misrepresent, I have collected some excerpts and extended quotes on the topic to get you caught up:
I just read the most extraordinary paper by two sociologists — Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning — explaining why concerns about microaggressions have erupted on many American college campuses in just the past few years. In brief: We’re beginning a second transition of moral cultures. The first major transition happened in the 18th and 19th centuries when most Western societies moved away from cultures of honor (where people must earn honor and must therefore avenge insults on their own) to cultures of dignity in which people are assumed to have dignity and don’t need to earn it. They foreswear violence, turn to courts or administrative bodies to respond to major transgressions, and for minor transgressions they either ignore them or attempt to resolve them by social means. There’s no more dueling.
Campbell and Manning describe how this culture of dignity is now giving way to a new culture of victimhood in which people are encouraged to respond to even the slightest unintentional offense, as in an honor culture. But they must not obtain redress on their own; they must appeal for help to powerful others or administrative bodies, to whom they must make the case that they have been victimized. It is the very presence of such administrative bodies, within a culture that is highly egalitarian and diverse (i.e., many college campuses) that gives rise to intense efforts to identify oneself as a fragile and aggrieved victim. This is why we have seen the recent explosion of concerns about microaggressions, combined with demands for trigger warnings and safe spaces, that Greg Lukianoff and I wrote about in The Coddling of the American Mind.
…The key idea is that the new moral culture of victimhood fosters “moral dependence” and an atrophying of the ability to handle small interpersonal matters on one’s own. At the same time that it weakens individuals, it creates a society of constant and intense moral conflict as people compete for status as victims or as defenders of victims.
[Read the rest of the post for a superb examination of this pathology.]
In “Microaggression and Moral Cultures,” the California State University, Los Angeles sociologist Bradley Campbell and the West Virginia University sociologist Jason Manning identify a “culture of victimhood” that they distinguish from the “honor cultures” and “dignity cultures” of the past. In a victimhood culture, they write, “individuals and groups display high sensitivity to slight, have a tendency to handle conflicts through complaints to third parties, and seek to cultivate an image of being victims who deserve assistance.”
Insightfully complementing their analysis is a new study by the St. Lawrence University economist Steven Horwitz, titled “Cooperation Over Coercion: The Importance of Unsupervised Childhood Play for Democracy and Liberalism.” Horwitz makes the case that overprotective childrearing is undermining the “ability to engage in group problem solving and settle disputes without the intervention of outsiders,” a capacity he calls “a key part of the liberal order.” In other words, both studies find that Americans increasingly want and expect adult supervision.
…The authors argue that people seek the moral status of victim in situations where social stratification is low, cultural diversity is high, and authorities are referees. These three conditions pervade the modern American university, so it not surprising that the microaggression victimhood phenomenon is most intense in academia.
…As social status becomes more equal, they argue, people become more sensitive to any slights perceived as aiming to increase the level of inequality in a relationship. In addition, as cultural diversity increases, any attempts seen as trying to reduce it or diminish its importance are deemed as a morally deviant form of domination. As the New York University moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt has astutely observed, “As progress is made toward a more equal and humane society, it takes a smaller and smaller offense to trigger a high level of outrage. The goalposts shift, allowing participants to maintain a constant level of anger and constant level of perceived victimization.”
Those experiencing what they think are microaggressions seek third-party redress of their grievances by assuming the pose of victim. “People portray themselves as oppressed by the powerful—as damaged, disadvantaged, and needy,” write Campbell and Manning. The process heralds the emergence of a culture of victimhood that is distinct from earlier honor and dignity cultures. This is nothing less than demoralizing and polarizing.
In honor cultures, men maintain their honor by responding to insults, slights, and violations of rights by self-help violence. “Cultures of honor tend to arise in places where legal authority is weak or non-existent, and where a reputation for toughness is perhaps the only effective deterrent against predation or attack,” write Campbell and Manning. They note that honor cultures still exist in the Arab world and among street gangs in Western societies.
During the 19th century, most Western societies began the moral transition toward dignity cultures in which all citizens are legally endowed with equal rights. Dignity does not depend upon reputation but exists as unalienable rights that do not depend on what other people think of one’s bravery. Having a thick skin and shrugging off slights become virtues because they help maintain social peace. The aphorism that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” is practically the motto of dignity cultures.
Of course, serious conflicts cannot always be resolved privately. In dignity cultures persons, property, and rights are then defended as a last resort by recourse to third parties, such as courts and police, that if necessary wield violence on their behalf. Still, dignity cultures practice tolerance and are much more peaceful than honor cultures.
Horwitz is all about defending the culture of dignity. He points out that daily social interaction is full annoying or obnoxious small-scale behavior such as failing to refill the copier, taking some else’s parking space, or hearing a tasteless joke. “When one seriously considers all the moments in a typical day that have potential for conflict that get resolved through conversation and negotiation, or just plain tolerance, it is actually somewhat astounding how smooth social life is,” Horwitz observes. In fact, the vast majority of conflicts in modern Western societies are resolved without recourse to external authorities or direct coercion.
Horwitz makes a strong case that unsupervised and unstructured play among children teaches them private, noncoercive ways to resolve conflicts and generate cooperation, lessons that are very important to how they conduct themselves when they become adults. Supervised play, by contrast, trains children to expect adults to step in to adjudicate disputes and apply coercion. Horwitz fears this is flipping the social default setting from “figure out how to solve this conflict on your own” to “invoke force and/or third parties whenever conflict arises.”
…Americans are turning increasingly to third-party coercion to resolve what would in earlier days have been considered minor conflicts. He worries that without “the skills necessary to solve conflicts cooperatively, it is not hard to imagine that people will quickly turn either to external authorities like the state to resolve them, or would demand an exhaustive list of explicit rules” as to what constitutes permissible conduct. His concern mirrors that of Alexis de Tocqueville who in Democracy in America (1835) prophesied that democracy would generate an “immense and tutelary power” whose authority is “absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood.” Ultimately, Horwitz fears that the result of ceding ever more power to state authorities to resolve conflicts “will be the destruction of liberalism and democracy.”
A victimhood culture combines an honor culture’s quickness to take offense with an overdependence on the coercive institutions that serve as a dignity culture’s last resort. …A victimhood culture will spawn social conflict, which in turn will produce an ever larger and more coercive government tasked with trying to suppress it.
…a new, increasingly common approach to handling conflict.
It isn’t honor culture.
“Honorable people are sensitive to insult, and so they would understand that microaggressions, even if unintentional, are severe offenses that demand a serious response,” they write. “But honor cultures value unilateral aggression and disparage appeals for help. Public complaints that advertise or even exaggerate one’s own victimization and need for sympathy would be anathema to a person of honor.”
But neither is it dignity culture:
“Members of a dignity culture, on the other hand, would see no shame in appealing to third parties, but they would not approve of such appeals for minor and merely verbal offenses. Instead they would likely counsel either confronting the offender directly to discuss the issue, or better yet, ignoring the remarks altogether.”
The culture on display on many college and university campuses, by way of contrast, is “characterized by concern with status and sensitivity to slight combined with a heavy reliance on third parties. People are intolerant of insults, even if unintentional, and react by bringing them to the attention of authorities or to the public at large. Domination is the main form of deviance, and victimization a way of attracting sympathy, so rather than emphasize either their strength or inner worth, the aggrieved emphasize their oppression and social marginalization.”
It is, they say, “a victimhood culture.”
Victimhood cultures emerge in settings, like today’s college campuses, “that increasingly lack the intimacy and cultural homogeneity that once characterized towns and suburbs, but in which organized authority and public opinion remain as powerful sanctions,” they argue. “Under such conditions complaint to third parties has supplanted both toleration and negotiation. People increasingly demand help from others, and advertise their oppression as evidence that they deserve respect and assistance. Thus we might call this moral culture a culture of victimhood … the moral status of the victim, at its nadir in honor cultures, has risen to new heights.”
…Per their discipline, the sociologists offer structural explanations for why college students are addressing conflicts within the framework of “microaggressions.” Victimhood culture “arose because of the rise of social conditions conducive to it,” they argue, “and if it prevails it will be because those conditions have prevailed.” Those social conditions include the following:
- Self-help in the form of dueling or fighting is not an option.
- “The availability of social superiors—especially hierarchical superiors such as legal or private administrators—is conducive to reliance on third parties.”
- Campaigns aimed at winning over the support of third parties are likeliest to occur in atomized environments, like college campuses, where one cannot rely on members of a family, tribe or clan to automatically take one’s side in a dispute.
- Since third-parties are likeliest to intervene in disputes that they regard as relatively serious, and disputes where one group is perceived as dominating another are considered serious by virtue of their aggregate relevance to millions of people, victimhood culture is likeliest to arise in settings where there is some diversity and inequality, but whose members are almost equal, since “a morality that privileges equality and condemns oppression is most likely to arise precisely in settings that already have relatively high degrees of equality.”
…As I ponder microaggressions as “a form of social control in which the aggrieved collect and publicize accounts of intercollective offenses, making the case that relatively minor slights are part of a larger pattern of injustice and that those who suffer them are socially marginalized and deserving of sympathy,”
“JH: Western society has transitioned from an honor culture to a dignity culture and now is shifting into a culture of victimhood. In the culture of honor, each person has to earn honor and, unable to tolerate a slight, takes action himself. The big advance in Western society was to let the law handle serious offenses and ignore the inevitable minor ones—what sociologists call the culture of dignity, which reigned in the 20th century. It allows diversity to flourish because different people can live near each other without killing each other. The past 20-30 years, however, has seen the rise of a victimhood culture, where you’re hypersensitive to slights as in the honor culture, but you never take care of it yourself. You always appeal to a third party to punish for you. And here’s the big concept—you become morally dependent. Young people are becoming morally dependent; they are also less able to solve problems on their own. An adult has always been there somewhere to protect them or punish for them. This attitude does not begin in college. Students have been raised to be morally dependent.”
…All of us now live in fear that a single word, a single tweet, can suck us into a vortex of investigations and social media shame. Third is the sincere belief of the academic community in the culture of victimhood. Most professors are horrified by trigger warnings and microaggressions. But these things flourish in the identity studies departments, gender studies, race studies, and among any group charged with promoting diversity. These three forces are converging so that everybody’s walking on eggshells, afraid of being sued or accused.
HEM: You said that the student concerns that lead them to condemn microaggressions or ask for trigger warnings keep them in a state of constant outrage. One thing we know is that crazy-seeming behavior tends to have a purpose. What is the value of staying in a state of outrage?
JH: Moral judgment is not about finding the truth; it is more about broadcasting the kind of person you are to people that you want to like you. You might call it moral posturing. Getting angry about microaggressions shows that you are championing victims. In a victimhood subculture, the only way to achieve status is to either be a victim or defend victims. It’s enfeebling. When victimhood becomes your identity you will be weak for the rest of your life. Marty Seligman has been talking about this for decades. This is a good way to make people learn helplessness.
JH: There’s a basic tension between pursuing dynamism and decency. Societies differ on how much to focus on dynamism—encouraging innovation and creative destruction—and how much on decency, which means protecting people from the creative destruction, unemployment, and other problems of capitalism. This is the basis of the left/right divide over capitalism: The left usually focuses on decency, the right on dynamism. In talking to you, I’m suddenly realizing that we have the same issue in the college community. Focusing on decency—it’s called inclusivity—is valuable. But is that all we should do? Should we also focus on dynamism, encouraging students to think in new ways, to take risks, to say things that other people might not like?
BACK in 1993, the misanthropic art critic Robert Hughes published a grumpy, entertaining book called “Culture of Complaint,” in which he predicted that America was doomed to become increasingly an “infantilized culture” of victimhood. It was a rant against what he saw as a grievance industry appearing all across the political spectrum.
I enjoyed the book, but as a lifelong optimist about America, was unpersuaded by Mr. Hughes’s argument. I dismissed it as just another apocalyptic prediction about our culture.
Unfortunately, the intervening two decades have made Mr. Hughes look prophetic and me look naïve.
…On campuses, activists interpret ordinary interactions as “microaggressions” and set up “safe spaces” to protect students from certain forms of speech. And presidential candidates on both the left and the right routinely motivate supporters by declaring that they are under attack by immigrants or wealthy people.
So who cares if we are becoming a culture of victimhood? We all should. To begin with, victimhood makes it more and more difficult for us to resolve political and social conflicts. The culture feeds a mentality that crowds out a necessary give and take — the very concept of good-faith disagreement — turning every policy difference into a pitched battle between good (us) and evil (them).
…The researchers concluded that there was a widespread political “motive attribution asymmetry,” in which both sides attributed their own group’s aggressive behavior to love, but the opposite side’s to hatred. Today, millions of Americans believe that their side is basically benevolent while the other side is evil and out to get them.
Second, victimhood culture makes for worse citizens — people who are less helpful, more entitled, and more selfish.
…Does this mean that we should reject all claims that people are victims? Of course not. Some people are indeed victims in America — of crime, discrimination or deprivation. They deserve our empathy and require justice.
The problem is that the line is fuzzy between fighting for victimized people and promoting a victimhood culture. Where does the former stop and the latter start? I offer two signposts for your consideration.
First, look at the role of free speech in the debate. Victims and their advocates always rely on free speech and open dialogue to articulate unpopular truths. They rely on free speech to assert their right to speak. Victimhood culture, by contrast, generally seeks to restrict expression in order to protect the sensibilities of its advocates. Victimhood claims the right to say who is and is not allowed to speak.
What about speech that endangers others? Fair-minded people can discriminate between expression that puts people at risk and that which merely rubs some the wrong way. Speaking up for the powerless is often “offensive” to conventional ears.
Second, look at a movement’s leadership. The fight for victims is led by aspirational leaders who challenge us to cultivate higher values. They insist that everyone is capable of — and has a right to — earned success. They articulate visions of human dignity. But the organizations and people who ascend in a victimhood culture are very different. Some set themselves up as saviors; others focus on a common enemy. In all cases, they treat people less as individuals and more as aggrieved masses.
[As an aside, The I LOVED “The Culture of Complaint” when I read it back in the 90s. It has an absolutely magnificent W.H. Auden poem at the beginning. ]
Some more resources:
Microaggressions and Moral Cultures by Jason Manning (2015) The paper that sparked off the recent interest in this topic.
This was stuck in my drafts folder. I have published it on the date of creation. It is half baked and unfinished, so forgive the roughness.
Few argue with the stated objective of hate speech legislation, but it is widely abused for political means, interferes with free inquiry (needed for science and democracy) and is often counter productive (inflames rather than reduced ethnic tension).
Countries like Australia are ditching it. We have ancient and effective laws against incitement that are enough to handle direct harms. Look at Sweden. It has the most draconian Hate Speech legislation and has an exploding problem with extreme far right nationalism. A significant part of the problem is that honest dialogue is impossible because the laws are used a a political weapon.
Here in Denmark where we have great free speech, we have no such problems. People speak freely, there is a marketplace of ideas, pragmatic and fair solutions are created where all stakeholders – including the often silenced minorities – are considered. This leads to increased social cohesion, not less.
In Europe we waged a 1000 year fight against religious and state authorities to establish rights that you take for granted and are the underpinnings of liberal democracy. People are entitled to believe what they want, even if it is that certain groups are sub-human (Freedom of though). They also have the rights to express those beliefs (freedom of speech). Those natural rights are, as you say, constrained by the harm principle (You should not hard others with your actions). The argument since WW2 has been what harms come from certain kinds of speech. We have gone from direct incitement (“Kill that man!”) to a situation where merely insulting people is now criminal.
In our desperate effort to contain the problems arising from mass migration and botched multiculturalism, we are destroying our rights. The second order effects are damaging to democracy and ruinous if not utterly destructive to minorities. We are like rats gnawing on the ropes that keep us from falling into the sea. In our short-sighted effort to address the symptoms of our problems (Hate speech, rising social tensions, erosion of democracy, radicalism) we damage the the tools we will need to fix them (like freedom of speech).
It is impossible to explain the subtleties here, but please read the magnificent book Kindly Inquisitor’s by the gay rights activist Jonathan Rauch. It is one of the finest books on the subject.
Another example – from the Tito era – is the perpetuation of social and political silliness because people want to avoid offending other’s beliefs or are too scared to say things out loud. This wonderful RSA animated presentation by Professor Renata Salecl on The Paradox of Choice. Check out her description of people in Yugoslavia pretending to believe in Communism despite almost no one really believing it.