Saturday, January 02, 2016
Are Australians still favorably disposed towards multiculturalism despite Muslim antics?
The article below relies a lot on a report from the Scanlon Foundation, a do-gooder outfit, so may not be entirely trustworthy. In particular, the question asked to assess attitude to immigrants was pretty dumb: "Accepting immigrants from many different countries makes Australia stronger". The obvious response is "Which countries?". Syria, Iran, Iraq?
I personally would agree that immigration from East Asia and the various countries of Europe has been beneficial but I can see no similar benefit of immigration from fanatically Muslim lands or from crime-riddled African lands. I very much doubt that I am alone in that. All immigrants are not the same, hard to acknowledge though that may be to the Left
I also note that the survey was done the lazy way -- over the telephone. Such surveys are widely used but can be wildly inaccurate. In my own survey research I usually trudged from door to door to ask my questions. I believe I may be the only academic who has ever done so. Academics much prefer armchairs to dusty shoes. So again, I rather doubt the results. They could well be much too high
It is however true that Australians tend to be a relaxed and easy-going people so they may well be more accepting of immigrants than some others
Australia has had three terrorist attacks over the past year and this month former prime minister Tony Abbott preached to the Muslim world that it must become “enlightened”. Yet the country sticks out from others fighting Islamist extremism as most of its population strongly support multiculturalism and legal immigration.
Neil El-Kadomi, Parramatta Mosque chairman, says the local non-Muslim community have largely remained supportive. A recent protest by far-right group Reclaim Australia outside the mosque drew just a handful of protesters. “It shows just what a small minority this is,” he says. “We have integrated well into the community.”
A recent survey by the Scanlon Foundation shows 86 per cent of people say multiculturalism has been “good for Australia”, while 67 per cent say immigration has “made the country stronger” — the highest level recorded since the survey was introduced in 2007.
[That's a barefaced lie. According to Table 9 in the Scanlon report, it was higher in 2009 and 2014. Pesky of me to look up the original figures, isn't it? I have always found that fun]
“This is the reverse of the trend you see in Europe now, where the National Front and Ukip are gaining sizeable support,” says Andrew Markus, a professor at Monash University in Victoria.
It is not hard to see why Australia is more accepting of different cultures. A quarter of the country’s 23m population were born overseas, which makes it one of the world’s most multicultural nations, with more than double the proportion of immigrants than either the UK or Germany.
“Australians accept they are a new country made up of immigrants, whereas Europe with its older cultures does not,” says Prof Markus.
He says in Europe multiculturalism has been interpreted by political leaders as immigrant groups retaining their own cultures and rejecting integration. In Australia it is now understood to mean respect for different cultures while integrating into mainstream society, says Prof Markus.
It was not always this way. Australia introduced its “White Australia” policy at the turn of the 20th century to deter an increasing flow of migrants from Asia. This policy was gradually dismantled following the second world war, and in 1975 the government under Gough Whitlam passed the race discrimination act, which outlawed racially based selection for migrants.
chart: foreign-born population
Since then there has been sporadic racial unrest such as the 2005 Cronulla riots, when clashes broke out between members of the Middle Eastern community and white Australians. More recently, the far-right group Reclaim Australia has held demonstrations to campaign against what it dubs “Islam’s radicals”. But there is little sign of any far-right political party gaining the type of electoral support that would give it real influence.
Australia’s tight control of its borders and its role as colony rather than a colonial power are two underlying reasons why support for immigration remains high, according to some experts.
Tim Soutphommasane, Australia’s racial discrimination commissioner, says the country benefits from being an island continent that has a planned intake of migrants, most of whom are skilled.
“You don’t have the problem here of migrants and their descendants feeling estranged from the country,” he says.
Australia’s strong economy, which has grown for 24 consecutive years, is another positive factor. Unemployment remains low at less than 6 per cent and there are fewer of the immigrant ghettos that blight parts of France and the UK.
“We don’t have the level of structural disadvantage attached to ethnicity that you see in some other countries,” says Kevin Dunn, professor of human geography and urban studies at Western Sydney University .
But he warns this positive picture of a multicultural life in Australia cannot be taken for granted. Muslims experience discrimination at about three times the rate of other Australians, according to a recent study Prof Dunn oversaw, and people are emboldened to perform racist actions due to terrorist events and divisive media and political commentary.
“It is the political environment that determines whether racism flourishes,” says Prof Dunn. “This is the biggest risk to multiculturalism.”
Obama behind worsening behavior by blacks and others
Events over the weekend make a reasonable person wonder whether the constant fraying of the social contract has finally created a tear that is rapidly becoming irreparable.
In malls across the country, thousands of people congregated, not for the purposes of shopping, going to a movie or simply enjoying each other’s company, but instead with the goal of disrupting people from using the already hard pressed brick and mortar stores for their intended purpose.
At Minneapolis’ Mall of America, the radical Black Lives Matter group even went so far as to feint a protest so there would be a heavy police presence, allowing them to shut down part of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport during the height of the Christmas travel season. Beyond the obvious problem that their actions caused hundreds of people to miss their flights home, they deliberately placed thousands at an additional risk of a terrorist attack due to distracted security.mall of america protest 2014
Mall disruptions also were reported in New Jersey, Kentucky and elsewhere around the country. When combined with flash mob convenience store robberies and random assaults by mobs playing the “knockout game”, it would be hard to not notice that something is badly amiss.
Even our assumed driving rules are under attack. On the Washington, D.C. Beltway, a group of approximately fifty motorcyclists caused a delay as they uniformly slowed down across all the lanes bringing traffic to a standstill. As they got moving again, they aggressively cut cars off from passing, and even went so far as to drive north bound up the south bound lanes. There did not appear to be any political or other message in the motorcycle foolishness, but instead the mass act of civil disobedience seems to have been done just because they could. However, it reveals the fragility of our common understanding about the need to follow the rules.
While it is usually dangerous to draw broad societal assumptions based upon flash mobs at malls, roadways or even political protests blocking bridges, it is safe to note that these occurrences are becoming significantly more frequent.
And it is fair to tie this civil disobedience to President Obama’s continued attack on the law as a whole. When the President doesn’t enforce the nation’s immigration laws, people naturally believe that if the law isn’t going to be enforced then it is null and void, and the fabric of our nation’s social contract is torn.
When Obama nullifies sentencing decisions for thousands of drug dealers and others, releasing them back into their former neighborhoods it sends a message that the system was wrong and the fabric tears a little more.
When Democrats in Congress urge Obama to use his pen and phone to circumvent Congress, they send a powerful message to their constituents that the rule of law doesn’t matter, and the tear grows.
And when the left and some on the right make those who seek to enforce the laws, targets for attack and murder, creating a schism of fear between the protector and the protected, the fabric itself becomes unrecognizable.
The social fabric that binds America together as one has always been fragile, and to complete the fundamental transformation that Obama strives to achieve, it must be torn asunder from top to bottom in a wholesale surrender of the current rule of law to another set of laws composed not through consent, compromise and agreement, but instead through forced acquiescence.
America should not worry about getting on a slippery slope away from rule by the consent of the governed, because we are already half-way down the slide and few have noticed.
As more and more people read the news and wonder what is happening to their country thinking that the craziness that seems to ooze from our government is an anomaly rather than the forced new normal under Obama, a ballot box response erupts if there is a trusted alternative.
Something to think about as we head into the presidential primary season.
What a politically incorrect interrogation program achieved
This post is originally from 2010 but the facts are still not widely known
"As President George W. Bush's top speech writer, Marc Thiessen was provided unique access to the CIA program used in interrogating top Al Qaeda terrorists, including the mastermind of the 9/11 attack, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad (KSM)
Now, his riveting new book, "Courting Disaster", How the CIA Kept America Safe (Regnery), has been published. Here is an excerpt from "Courting Disaster": "Just before dawn on March 1, 2003, two dozen heavily armed Pakistani tactical assault forces move in and surround a safe house in Rawalpindi. A few hours earlier they had received a text message from an informant inside the house. It read: "I am with KSM."
Bursting in, they find the disheveled mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, in his bedroom. He is taken into custody. In the safe house, they find a treasure trove of computers, documents, cell phones and other valuable "pocket litter."
Once in custody, KSM is defiant. He refuses to answer questions, informing his captors that he will tell them everything when he gets to America and sees his lawyer. But KSM is not taken to America to see a lawyer Instead he is taken to a secret CIA "black site" in an undisclosed location.
Upon arrival, KSM finds himself in the complete control of Americans. He does not know where he is, how long he will be there, or what his fate will be.
Despite his circumstances, KSM still refuses to talk. He spews contempt at his interrogators, telling them Americans are weak, lack resilience, and are unable to do what is necessary to prevent the terrorists from succeeding in their goals. He has trained to resist interrogation. When he is asked for information about future attacks, he tells his questioners scornfully: "Soon, you will know."
It becomes clear he will not reveal the information using traditional interrogation techniques. So he undergoes a series of "enhanced interrogation techniques" approved for use only on the most high-value detainees. The techniques include waterboarding.
His resistance is described by one senior American official as "superhuman." Eventually, however, the techniques work, and KSM becomes cooperative-for reasons that will be described later in this book.
He begins telling his CIA de-briefers about active al Qaeda plots to launch attacks against the United States and other Western targets. He holds classes for CIA officials, using a chalkboard to draw a picture of al Qaeda's operating structure, financing, communications, and logistics. He identifies al Qaeda travel routes and safe havens, and helps intelligence officers make sense of documents and computer records seized in terrorist raids. He identifies voices in intercepted telephone calls, and helps officials understand the meaning of coded terrorist communications. He provides information that helps our intelligence community capture other high-ranking terrorists,
KSM's questioning, and that of other captured terrorists, produces more than 6,000 intelligence reports, which are shared across the intelligence community, as well as with our allies across the world.
In one of these reports, KSM describes in detail the revisions he made to his failed 1994-1995 plan known as the "Bojinka plot" to blow up a dozen airplanes carrying some 4,000 passengers over the Pacific Ocean.
Years later, an observant CIA officer notices the activities of a cell being followed by British authorities appear to match KSM's description of his plans for a Bojinka-style attack.
In an operation that involves unprecedented intelligence cooperation between our countries, British officials proceed to unravel the plot.
On the night of Aug. 9, 2006 they launch a series of raids in a northeast London suburb that lead to the arrest of two dozen al Qaeda terrorist suspects. They find a USB thumb-drive in the pocket of one of the men with security details for Heathrow airport, and information on seven Trans-Atlantic flights that were scheduled to take off within hours of each other:
* United Airlines Flight 931 to San Francisco departing at 2:15 p.M.;
* Air Canada Flight 849 to Toronto departing at 3:00 p.M.;
* Air Canada Flight 865 to Montreal departing at 3:15 p.M.;
* United Airlines Flight 959 to Chicago departing at 3:40 p.M.;
* United Airlines Flight 925 to Washington departing at 4:20 p.M.;
* American Airlines Flight 131 to New York departing at 4:35 p.M.;
* American Airlines Flight 91 to Chicago departing at 4:50 p.M.
They seize bomb-making equipment and hydrogen peroxide to make liquid explosives. And they find the chilling martyrdom videos the suicide bombers had prepared."
Today, if you asked an average person on the street what they know about the 2006 airlines plot, most would not be able to tell you much.
Few Americans are aware of the fact al Qaeda had planned to mark the fifth anniversary of 9/11 with an attack of similar scope and magnitude. And still fewer realize the terrorists' true intentions in this plot were uncovered thanks to critical information obtained through the interrogation of the man who conceived it: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
This is only one of the many attacks stopped with the help of the CIA interrogation program established by the Bush Administration in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
In addition to helping break up these specific terrorist cells and plots, CIA questioning provided our intelligence community with an unparalleled body of information about al Qaeda Until the program was temporarily suspended in 2006, intelligence officials say, well over half of the information our government had about al Qaeda-how it operates, how it moves money, how it communicates, how it recruits operatives, how it picks targets, how it plans and carries out attacks-came from the interrogation of terrorists in CIA custody.
Former CIA Director George Tenet has declared: "I know this program has saved lives. I know we've disrupted plots. I know this program alone is worth more than what the FBI, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Agency put together have been able to tell us." Former CIA Director Mike Hayden has said: "The facts of the case are that the use of these techniques against these terrorists made us safer. It really did work."
Even Barack Obama's Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, has acknowledged: "High-value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al Qaeda organization that was attacking this country." Leon Panetta, Obama's CIA Director, has said: "Important information was gathered from these detainees. It provided information that was acted upon.
John Brennan, Obama's Homeland Security Advisor, when asked in an interview if enhanced-interrogation techniques were necessary to keep America safe, replied : "Would the U. S. be handicapped if the CIA was not, in fact, able to carry out these types of detention and debriefing activities? I would say yes."
On Jan. 22, 2009, President Obama issued Executive Order 13491, closing the CIA program and directing that, henceforth, all interrogations by U. S. personnel must follow the techniques contained in the Army Field Manual.
The morning of the announcement, Mike Hayden was still in his post as CIA Director, He called White House Counsel Greg Craig and told him bluntly: "You didn't ask, but this is the CIA officially non-concurring". The president went ahead anyway, over ruling the objections of the agency.
A few months later, on April 16, 2009, President Obama ordered the release of four Justice Department memos that described in detail the techniques used to interrogate KSM and other high-value terrorists. This time, not just Hayden (who was now retired) but five CIA directors -including Obama's own director, Leon Panetta objected. George Tenet called to urge against the memos' release. So did Porter Goss. So did John Deutch. Hayden says: "You had CIA directors in a continuous unbroken stream to 1995 calling saying, 'Don't do this.'"
In addition to objections from the men who led the agency for a collective 14 years, the President also heard objections from the agency's covert field operatives. A few weeks earlier, Panetta had arranged for the eight top officials of the Clandestine Service to meet with the President. It was highly unusual for these clandestine officers to visit the Oval Office, and they used the opportunity to warn the President that releasing the memos would put agency operatives at risk. The President reportedly listened respectfully-and then ignored their advice.
With these actions, Barack Obama arguably did more damage to America's national security in his first 100 days of office than any President in American history.
How the language police are perverting liberalism
Jonathan Chait below seems to think you can have real liberalism on the Left. All he does, however, is provide an enchiridion of that not being so
Around 2 a.m. on December 12, four students approached the apartment of Omar Mahmood, a Muslim student at the University of Michigan, who had recently published a column in a school newspaper about his perspective as a minority on campus. The students, who were recorded on a building surveillance camera wearing baggy hooded sweatshirts to hide their identity, littered Mahmood’s doorway with copies of his column, scrawled with messages like “You scum embarrass us,” “Shut the fuck up,” and “DO YOU EVEN GO HERE?! LEAVE!!” They posted a picture of a demon and splattered eggs.
This might appear to be the sort of episode that would stoke the moral conscience of students on a progressive campus like Ann Arbor, and it was quickly agreed that an act of biased intimidation had taken place. But Mahmood was widely seen as the perpetrator rather than the victim. His column, published in the school’s conservative newspaper, had spoofed the culture of taking offense that pervades the campus. Mahmood satirically pretended to denounce “a white cis-gendered hetero upper-class man” who offered to help him up when he slipped, leading him to denounce “our barbaric attitude toward people of left-handydnyss.” The gentle tone of his mockery was closer to Charlie Brown than to Charlie Hebdo.
The Michigan Daily, where Mahmood also worked as a columnist and film critic, objected to the placement of his column in the conservative paper but hardly wanted his satirical column in its own pages. Mahmood later said that he was told by the editor that his column had created a “hostile environment,” in which at least one Daily staffer felt threatened, and that he must write a letter of apology to the staff. When he refused, the Daily fired him, and the subsequent vandalism of his apartment served to confirm his status as thought-criminal.
The episode would not have shocked anybody familiar with the campus scene from two decades earlier. In 1992, an episode along somewhat analogous lines took place, also in Ann Arbor. In this case, the offending party was the feminist videographer Carol Jacobsen, who had produced an exhibition documenting the lives of sex workers. The exhibition’s subjects presented their profession as a form of self-empowerment, a position that ran headlong against the theories of Catharine MacKinnon, a law professor at the university who had gained national renown for her radical feminist critique of the First Amendment as a tool of male privilege. MacKinnon’s beliefs nestled closely with an academic movement that was then being described, by its advocates as well as its critics, as “political correctness.” Michigan had already responded to the demands of pro-p.c. activists by imposing a campuswide speech code purporting to restrict all manner of discriminatory speech, only for it to be struck down as a First Amendment violation in federal court.
In Ann Arbor, MacKinnon had attracted a loyal following of students, many of whom copied her method of argument. The pro-MacKinnon students, upset over the display of pornographic video clips, descended upon Jacobsen’s exhibit and confiscated a videotape. There were speakers visiting campus for a conference on prostitution, and the video posed “a threat to their safety,” the students insisted.
This was the same inversion of victim and victimizer at work last December. 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.
Secret Confessions of the Anti-Anti-P.C. Movement
The recent mass murder of the staff members of Charlie Hebdo in Paris was met with immediate and unreserved fury and grief across the full range of the American political system. But while outrage at the violent act briefly united our generally quarrelsome political culture, the quarreling quickly resumed over deeper fissures. Were the slain satirists martyrs at the hands of religious fanaticism, or bullying spokesmen of privilege? Can the offensiveness of an idea be determined objectively, or only by recourse to the identity of the person taking offense? On Twitter, “Je Suis Charlie,” a slogan heralding free speech, was briefly one of the most popular news hashtags in history. But soon came the reactions (“Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie”) from those on the left accusing the newspaper of racism and those on the right identifying the cartoons as hate speech. Many media companies, including the New York Times, have declined to publish the cartoons the terrorists deemed offensive, a stance that has attracted strident criticism from some readers. These sudden, dramatic expressions of anguish against insensitivity and oversensitivity come at a moment when large segments of American culture have convulsed into censoriousness.
After political correctness burst onto the academic scene in the late ’80s and early ’90s, it went into a long remission. Now it has returned. Some of its expressions have a familiar tint, like the protesting of even mildly controversial speakers on college campuses. You may remember when 6,000 people at the University of California–Berkeley signed a petition last year to stop a commencement address by Bill Maher, who has criticized Islam (along with nearly all the other major world religions). Or when protesters at Smith College demanded the cancellation of a commencement address by Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, blaming the organization for “imperialist and patriarchal systems that oppress and abuse women worldwide.” Also last year, Rutgers protesters scared away Condoleezza Rice; others at Brandeis blocked Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a women’s-rights champion who is also a staunch critic of Islam; and those at Haverford successfully protested former Berkeley chancellor Robert Birgeneau, who was disqualified by an episode in which the school’s police used force against Occupy protesters.
At a growing number of campuses, professors now attach “trigger warnings” to texts that may upset students, and there is a campaign to eradicate “microaggressions,” or small social slights that might cause searing trauma. These newly fashionable terms merely repackage a central tenet of the first p.c. movement: that people should be expected to treat even faintly unpleasant ideas or behaviors as full-scale offenses. Stanford recently canceled a performance of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson after protests by Native American students. UCLA students staged a sit-in to protest microaggressions such as when a professor corrected a student’s decision to spell the word indigenous with an uppercase I — one example of many “perceived grammatical choices that in actuality reflect ideologies.” A theater group at Mount Holyoke College recently announced it would no longer put on The Vagina Monologues in part because the material excludes women without vaginas. These sorts of episodes now hardly even qualify as exceptional.
Trigger warnings aren’t much help in actually overcoming trauma — an analysis by the Institute of Medicine has found that the best approach is controlled exposure to it, and experts say avoidance can reinforce suffering. Indeed, one professor at a prestigious university told me that, just in the last few years, she has noticed a dramatic upsurge in her students’ sensitivity toward even the mildest social or ideological slights; she and her fellow faculty members are terrified of facing accusations of triggering trauma — or, more consequentially, violating her school’s new sexual-harassment policy — merely by carrying out the traditional academic work of intellectual exploration. “This is an environment of fear, believe it or not,” she told me by way of explaining her request for anonymity. It reminds her of the previous outbreak of political correctness — “Every other day I say to my friends, ‘How did we get back to 1991?’ ”
But it would be a mistake to categorize today’s p.c. culture as only an academic phenomenon. Political correctness is a style of politics in which the more radical members of the left attempt to regulate political discourse by defining opposing views as bigoted and illegitimate. Two decades ago, the only communities where the left could exert such hegemonic control lay within academia, which gave it an influence on intellectual life far out of proportion to its numeric size. Today’s political correctness flourishes most consequentially on social media, where it enjoys a frisson of cool and vast new cultural reach. And since social media is also now the milieu that hosts most political debate, the new p.c. has attained an influence over mainstream journalism and commentary beyond that of the old.
It also makes money. 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. A year ago, for instance, a photographer compiled images of Fordham students displaying signs recounting “an instance of racial microaggression they have faced.” The stories ranged from uncomfortable (“No, where are you really from?”) to relatively innocuous (“ ‘Can you read this?’ He showed me a Japanese character on his phone”). BuzzFeed published part of her project, and it has since received more than 2 million views. This is not an anomaly.
In a short period of time, the p.c. movement has assumed a towering presence in the psychic space of politically active people in general and the left in particular. “All over social media, there dwell armies of unpaid but widely read commentators, ready to launch hashtag campaigns and circulate Change.org petitions in response to the slightest of identity-politics missteps,” Rebecca Traister wrote recently in The New Republic.
Two and a half years ago, Hanna Rosin, a liberal journalist and longtime friend, wrote a book called The End of Men, which argued that a confluence of social and economic changes left women in a better position going forward than men, who were struggling to adapt to a new postindustrial order. Rosin, a self-identified feminist, has found herself unexpectedly assailed by feminist critics, who found her message of long-term female empowerment complacent and insufficiently concerned with the continuing reality of sexism. One Twitter hashtag, “#RIPpatriarchy,” became a label for critics to lampoon her thesis. Every new continuing demonstration of gender discrimination — a survey showing Americans still prefer male bosses; a person noticing a man on the subway occupying a seat and a half — would be tweeted out along with a mocking #RIPpatriarchy.
Her response since then has been to avoid committing a provocation, especially on Twitter. “If you tweet something straightforwardly feminist, you immediately get a wave of love and favorites, but if you tweet something in a cranky feminist mode then the opposite happens,” she told me. “The price is too high; you feel like there might be banishment waiting for you.” Social media, where swarms of jeering critics can materialize in an instant, paradoxically creates this feeling of isolation. “You do immediately get the sense that it’s one against millions, even though it’s not.” Subjects of these massed attacks often describe an impulse to withdraw.
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.
I am white and male, a fact that is certainly worth bearing in mind. I was also a student at the University of Michigan during the Jacobsen incident, and was attacked for writing an article for the campus paper defending the exhibit. If you consider this background and demographic information the very essence of my point of view, then there’s not much point in reading any further. But this pointlessness is exactly the point: Political correctness makes debate irrelevant and frequently impossible.
Under p.c. culture, the same idea can be expressed identically by two people but received differently depending on the race and sex of the individuals doing the expressing. This has led to elaborate norms and terminology within certain communities on the left. For instance, “mansplaining,” a concept popularized in 2008 by Rebecca Solnit, who described the tendency of men to patronizingly hold forth to women on subjects the woman knows better — in Solnit’s case, the man in question mansplained her own book to her. The fast popularization of the term speaks to how exasperating the phenomenon can be, and mansplaining has, at times, proved useful in identifying discrimination embedded in everyday rudeness. But it has now grown into an all-purpose term of abuse that can be used to discredit any argument by any man. (MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry once disdainfully called White House press secretary Jay Carney’s defense of the relative pay of men and women in the administration “mansplaining,” even though the question he responded to was posed by a male.) Mansplaining has since given rise to “whitesplaining” and “straightsplaining.” The phrase “solidarity is for white women,” used in a popular hashtag, broadly signifies any criticism of white feminists by nonwhite ones.
If a person who is accused of bias attempts to defend his intentions, he merely compounds his own guilt. (Here one might find oneself accused of man/white/straightsplaining.) It is likewise taboo to request that the accusation be rendered in a less hostile manner. This is called “tone policing.” If you are accused of bias, or “called out,” reflection and apology are the only acceptable response — to dispute a call-out only makes it worse. There is no allowance in p.c. culture for the possibility that the accusation may be erroneous. A white person or a man can achieve the status of “ally,” however, if he follows the rules of p.c. dialogue. A community, virtual or real, that adheres to the rules is deemed “safe.” The extensive terminology plays a crucial role, locking in shared ideological assumptions that make meaningful disagreement impossible.
Nearly every time I have mentioned the subject of p.c. to a female writer I know, she has told me about Binders Full of Women Writers, an invitation-only Facebook group started last year for women authors. The name came from Mitt Romney’s awkwardly phrased debate boast that as Massachusetts governor he had solicited names of female candidates for high-level posts, and became a form of viral mockery. Binders was created to give women writers a “laid-back” and “no-pressure” environment for conversation and professional networking. It was an attempt to alleviate the systemic underrepresentation of women in just about every aspect of American journalism and literature, and many members initially greeted the group as a welcome and even exhilarating source of social comfort and professional opportunity. “Suddenly you had the most powerful women in journalism and media all on the same page,” one former member, a liberal journalist in her 30s, recalls.
Binders, however, soon found itself frequently distracted by bitter identity-politics recriminations, endlessly litigating the fraught requirements of p.c. discourse. “This was the first time I had felt this new kind of militancy,” says the same member, who requested anonymity for fear that her opinions would make her employer uncomfortable. Another sent me excerpts of the types of discussions that can make the group a kind of virtual mental prison.
On July 10, for instance, one member in Los Angeles started a conversation urging all participants to practice higher levels of racial awareness. “Without calling anyone out specifically, I’m going to note that if you’re discussing a contentious thread, and shooting the breeze … take a look at the faces in the user icons in that discussion,” she wrote. “Binders is pretty diverse, but if you’re not seeing many WOC/non-binary POC in your discussion, it’s quite possible that there are problematic assumptions being stated without being challenged.” (“POC” stands for “people of color.” “WOC” means “women of color.” “Non-binary” describes people who are either transgender or identify as a gender other than traditionally male or female.)
Two members responded lightly, one suggesting that such “call-outs” be addressed in private conversation and another joking that she was a “gluten free Jewish WWC” — or Woman Without Color. This set off more jokes and a vicious backlash. “It seems appropriate to hijack my suggestion with jokes. I see,” the Los Angeles member replied. “Apparently whatever WOC have to say is good for snark and jokes,” wrote another. Others continued: “The level of belittling, derailing, crappy jokes, and all around insensitivity here is astounding and also makes me feel very unsafe in this Big Binder.” “It is literally fucking insane. I am appalled and embarrassed.”
The suggestion that a call-out be communicated privately met with even deeper rage. A poet in Texas: “I’m not about to private message folks who have problematic racist, transphobic, anti-immigrant, and/or sexist language.” The L.A. member: “Because when POC speak on these conversations with snark and upset, we get Tone Argumented at, and I don’t really want to deal with the potential harm to me and mine.” Another writer: “You see people suggesting that PMs are a better way to handle racism? That’s telling us we are too vocal and we should pipe down.” A white Toronto member, sensing the group had dramatically underreacted, moved to rectify the situation: “JESUS FUCK, LIKE SERIOUSLY FUCK, I SEE MORE WHITE BINDERS POLICING WOC AND DEMANDING TO BE EDUCATED/UNEDUCATED AS IF IT’S A FUCKING NOBLE MISSION RATHER THAN I DUNNO SPEND TIME SHUTTING DOWN AND SHITTING ON RACIST DOUCHE CANOE BEHAVIOUR; WHAT ARE YOU GAINING BY THIS? WHAT ARE YOU DETRACTING? YOU NEED SCREENCAPS OF BURNING CROSSES TO BELIEVE RACIST SHIT IS HAPPENING? THIS THREAD IS PAINFUL. HUGS TO ALL THE WOC DURING THIS THREAD”
Every free society, facing the challenge of balancing freedom of expression against other values such as societal cohesion and tolerance, creates its own imperfect solution. France’s is especially convoluted and difficult to parse: It allows for satire and even blasphemy (like cartoons that run in Charlie Hebdo) but not for speech that incites violence toward individuals (like provocative comments made by the comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala). This may appear to Americans as a distinction without a difference, but our distinctions are also confused, as is our way of talking about free speech as it overlaps with our politics.
The right wing in the United States is unusually strong compared with other industrialized democracies, and it has spent two generations turning liberal into a feared buzzword with radical connotations. This long propaganda campaign has implanted the misperception — not only among conservatives but even many liberals — that liberals and “the left” stand for the same things.
It is true that liberals and leftists both want to make society more economically and socially egalitarian. But liberals still hold to the classic Enlightenment political tradition that cherishes individuals rights, freedom of expression, and the protection of a kind of free political marketplace. (So, for that matter, do most conservatives.)
The Marxist left has always dismissed liberalism’s commitment to protecting the rights of its political opponents — you know, the old line often misattributed to Voltaire, “I disapprove of what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it” — as hopelessly naïve. If you maintain equal political rights for the oppressive capitalists and their proletarian victims, this will simply keep in place society’s unequal power relations. Why respect the rights of the class whose power you’re trying to smash? And so, according to Marxist thinking, your political rights depend entirely on what class you belong to.
The modern far left has borrowed the Marxist critique of liberalism and substituted race and gender identities for economic ones. “The liberal view,” wrote MacKinnon 30 years ago, “is that abstract categories — like speech or equality — define systems. Every time you strengthen free speech in one place, you strengthen it everywhere. Strengthening the free speech of the Klan strengthens the free speech of Blacks.” She deemed this nonsensical: “It equates substantive powerlessness with substantive power and calls treating these the same, ‘equality.’ ”
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.
Liberals believe (or ought to believe) that social progress can continue while we maintain our traditional ideal of a free political marketplace where we can reason together as individuals. Political correctness challenges that bedrock liberal ideal. While politically less threatening than conservatism (the far right still commands far more power in American life), the p.c. left is actually more philosophically threatening. It is an undemocratic creed.
Bettina Aptheker, a professor of feminist studies at the University of California–Santa Cruz, recently wrote an essay commemorating the Berkeley Free Speech movement, in which she participated as a student in 1964. She now expressed a newfound skepticism in the merits of free speech. “Freedom of speech is a constitutional guarantee, but who gets to exercise it without the chilling restraints of censure depends very much on one’s location in the political and social cartography,” she wrote. “We [Free Speech movement] veterans … were too young and inexperienced in 1964 to know this, but we do now, and we speak with a new awareness, a new consciousness, and a new urgency that the wisdom of a true freedom is inexorably tied to who exercises power and for what ends.”
These ideas have more than theoretical power. Last March at University of California–Santa Barbara, in, ironically, a “free-speech zone,” a 16-year-old anti-abortion protester named Thrin Short and her 21-year-old sister Joan displayed a sign arrayed with graphic images of aborted fetuses. They caught the attention of Mireille Miller-Young, a professor of feminist studies. Miller-Young, angered by the sign, demanded that they take it down. When they refused, Miller-Young snatched the sign, took it back to her office to destroy it, and shoved one of the Short sisters on the way.
Speaking to police after the altercation, Miller-Young told them that the images of the fetuses had “triggered” her and violated her “personal right to go to work and not be in harm.” A Facebook group called “UCSB Microaggressions” declared themselves “in solidarity” with Miller-Young and urged the campus “to provide as much support as possible.”
By the prevailing standards of the American criminal-justice system, Miller-Young had engaged in vandalism, battery, and robbery. By the logic of the p.c. movement, she was the victim of a trigger and had acted in the righteous cause of social justice. Her colleagues across the country wrote letters to the sentencing judge pleading for leniency. Jennifer Morgan, an NYU professor, blamed the anti-abortion protesters for instigating the confrontation through their exercise of free speech. “Miller-Young’s actions should be mitigated both by her history as an educator as well as by her conviction that the [anti-abortion] images were an assault on her students,” Morgan wrote. Again, the mere expression of opposing ideas, in the form of a poster, is presented as a threatening act.
The website The Feminist Wire mounted an even more rousing defense of Miller-Young’s behavior. The whole idea that the professor committed a crime by stealing a sign and shoving away its owner turns out to be an ideological construct. “The ease with which privileged white, and particularly young white gender and sexually normative appearing women, make claims to ‘victimhood’ and ‘violation of property,’ is not a neutral move,” its authors argued. It concluded, “We issue a radical call for accountability to questions of history, representation, and the racialized gendering of tropes of ‘culpability’ and ‘innocence’ when considering Dr. Miller-Young’s case.”
These are extreme ideas, but they are neither isolated nor marginal. A widely cited column by a Harvard Crimson editorial writer last year demanded an end to academic freedom if freedom extended to objectionable ideas. “If our university community opposes racism, sexism, and heterosexism,” asked the author, “why should we put up with research that counters our goals simply in the name of ‘academic freedom’?” After the Nation’s Michelle Goldberg denounced a “growing left-wing tendency toward censoriousness and hair-trigger offense,” Rutgers professor Brittney Cooper replied in Salon: “The demand to be reasonable is a disingenuous demand. Black folks have been reasoning with white people forever. Racism is unreasonable, and that means reason has limited currency in the fight against it.”
The most probable cause of death of the first political-correctness movement was the 1992 presidential election. That event mobilized left-of-center politics around national issues like health care and the economy, and away from the introspective suppression of dissent within the academy. Bill Clinton’s campaign frontally attacked left-wing racial politics, famously using inflammatory comments by Sister Souljah to distance him from Jesse Jackson. Barbara Jordan, the first black woman from a southern state elected to the House of Representatives, attacked political correctness in her keynote speech. (“We honor cultural identity. We always have; we always will. But separatism is not allowed. Separatism is not the American way. We must not allow ideas like political correctness to divide us and cause us to reverse hard-won achievements in human rights and civil rights.”)
Yet it is possible to imagine that, as the next Clinton presidential campaign gets under way, p.c. culture may not dissolve so easily. The internet has shrunk the distance between p.c. culture and mainstream liberal politics, and the two are now hopelessly entangled. During the 2008 primary contest between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, the modern politics of grievance had already begun to play out, as each side’s supporters patrolled the other for any comment that might indicate gender or racial bias. It dissipated in the general election, but that was partly because Obama’s supporters worried about whether America really was ready to accept its first president who was not a white male. Clinton enters the 2016 race in a much stronger position than any other candidate, and her supporters may find it irresistible to amplify p.c. culture’s habit of interrogating the hidden gender biases in every word and gesture against their side.
Or maybe not. The p.c. style of politics has one serious, possibly fatal drawback: It is exhausting. Claims of victimhood that are useful within the left-wing subculture may alienate much of America. The movement’s dour puritanism can move people to outrage, but it may prove ill suited to the hopeful mood required of mass politics. Nor does it bode well for the movement’s longevity that many of its allies are worn out. “It seems to me now that the public face of social liberalism has ceased to seem positive, joyful, human, and freeing,” confessed the progressive writer Freddie deBoer. “There are so many ways to step on a land mine now, so many terms that have become forbidden, so many attitudes that will get you cast out if you even appear to hold them. I’m far from alone in feeling that it’s typically not worth it to engage, given the risks.” Goldberg wrote recently about people “who feel emotionally savaged by their involvement in [online feminism] — not because of sexist trolls, but because of the slashing righteousness of other feminists.” Former Feministing editor Samhita Mukhopadhyay told her, “Everyone is so scared to speak right now.”
That the new political correctness has bludgeoned even many of its own supporters into despondent silence is a triumph, but one of limited use. Politics in a democracy is still based on getting people to agree with you, not making them afraid to disagree. The historical record of political movements that sought to expand freedom for the oppressed by eliminating it for their enemies is dismal. The historical record of American liberalism, which has extended social freedoms to blacks, Jews, gays, and women, is glorious. And that glory rests in its confidence in the ultimate power of reason, not coercion, to triumph.