Many moons ago, in a post on classroom radicalism and the grooming of students, I wrote,
The problem is that adversarial role-play, like that of leftist academics Grover Furr and Rhonda Garelick, has little to do with reason, refutation or how the world actually is. It does, however, have a great deal to do with how those concerned wish to seem. In order to maintain a self-image of heroic radicalism - and in order to justify funding, influence and status - great leaps of imagination or paranoia may be required. Hence the goal posts of persecution tend to move and new and rarer forms of exploitation and injustice have to be discovered, many of which are curiously invisible to the untutored eye. Thus, the rebel academic tends towards extremism, intolerance and absurdity, not because the mainstream of society is becoming more racist, prejudiced, patriarchal or oppressive – but precisely because it isn’t. As mainstream society becomes less fixated by race, gender, sexuality, etc., so peddlers of grievance and victimhood must search out - or invent - something to oppose. Overstatement and escalation are all but inevitable.
This last point was illustrated with the ‘scholarship’ of Barbara Barnett, a graduate of Duke’s infamous humanities department, who claimed that college campuses have a rate of rape and violent sexual assault almost 1000 times higher than any credible calculation. Other, equally bizarre examples of activist ‘scholarship’ can be found in the archives, starting with this gem. You can imagine my dismay on discovering that my thoughts were not at all original, as Jeff Goldstein had demonstrated three years earlier:
An obvious problem with the grievance aspect of identity politics is that the grievance needs to be perpetually maintained in order to justify the identity aspect of the politics. And in an era of academic specialisation wherein just about every individual identity group has its own set of researchers and theoretical champions - as well as a widely accepted generic narrative of grievance - the observation that continued relevance (which translates into political power) is contingent upon the nursing and care of the grievance is something that too often goes unexamined by a society that, at base, really does wish to understand and fix the problems and frustrations expressed by individual identity groups.
That nursing of grievance – from hoax hate crimes to hallucinated racism - is a subject that’s cropped up here many times since. It’s a trend that’s becoming increasingly surreal. As, for instance, when Kerri Dunn, a psychology professor at Claremont McKenna College, slashed her own tyres and defaced her own car with abusive and racist messages, before walking over to puzzled onlookers and asking if they’d seen who was responsible. Despite being witnessed vandalising her own vehicle, Dunn protested her victimhood to faculty and police, citing a “crisis of hate” on campus, while students held rallies for “tolerance and diversity.”
An identity defined in terms of victimhood needs fresh injections of oppression to sustain its existence. Those African-Americans who define “blackness” not in terms of positive values but in terms of negative values, need white racism, the real thing or the fake one, to remind them of who they are. And the same holds true for other minorities who define themselves not by their culture or values, but by their resentments…
The left’s need for victimisation means that increasing levels of tolerance actually lead to escalating confrontations with these manufacturers of intolerance. The assertion that all white people are innately racist because of their privilege is one such response to increasing tolerance. By claiming that whiteness itself is racist, the left gets back to political identity, rather than actual discrimination, as the source of conflict, and redefines even the most tolerant university multicultural spaces as racist.
The manufacturers of intolerance, whether they’re tenured academics like Ward Churchill, professional politicians like Barack Obama or angry waitresses like Dayna Morales, respond to tolerance with provocations. Their goal is to elicit evidence of intolerance to sustain their political identity. The more tolerance they encounter, the more they escalate their provocations. Their goal is not a tolerant society. It’s not a multiracial society or a post-racial society. It is a society perpetually at war over identity politics. That conflict is what gives them power.
We’ve seen the kinds of personalities to whom that endless psychodrama, and browbeating and attention, typically appeals. And for whom passive-aggression is both a lifestyle and matter of expertise. Habitual unrealism and opportunist dishonesty are apparently a small price to pay for being professionally aggrieved and therefore interesting, if only as a cartoon, a parody of a person. And even if the basis for that grievance is absurdly exaggerated or didn’t actually occur.
It’s no coincidence that these dramas usually originate in and around the clown quarter of academia, where the left holds court, and where pretentious victimhood is encouraged as a credential. Given the scrupulously PC environment of the typical campus, this creates a big problem for enthusiasts of identity politics and grievance leverage. There won’t be nearly enough actual racism or misogyny or homophobia to justify the inflated rhetoric and pre-booked outrage, on which so many egos and careers depend. And so what’s a warrior for “social justice” to do? The inflated rhetoric isn’t going away – for many it’s now the standard rhetoric, and its users can get quite upset if you dare to question them. And so liberties have to be taken – whether by denouncing grammatical correction as a racist “micro-aggression” or slashing your own tyres and blaming someone in your class. It’s a lot to ask, I know. But for heroes – for warriors – it’s the path to utopia. A world in which everyone is tolerant. And WrongThought™ has been scolded out of existence.
Via the invaluable Protein Wisdom.