Elsewhere (195)
So Cruelly Unappreciated

Charm School

I don’t want to have a civil discussion. I want to call you assholes.

For those who missed it in the comments, here’s a brief but telling video of a delightful exchange of wits, in which Ms Sarah O’Donnell, a student of creative writing and environmental studies at Denison University, berates a couple of gentlemen ostensibly for their advocacy of free markets, but especially and most passionately for their whiteness and maleness. A combination that is, it turns out, self-evidently sinful.

Even though we’ve seen this kind of airy posturing many times, it’s still quite odd to watch someone who’s basically a walking caricature of haughty, ignorant self-satisfaction. And so, when her belligerence, non sequitur and obnoxious racial comments are questioned, politely, Ms O’Donnell sidesteps explanation and instead resorts to theatrical sighs and dismissive eye-rolling - and further gratuitous insults - as if disdaining white men for being, well, male and white were some kind of moral full stop.

The thing is, when Ms O’Donnell says, “I don’t want to have a civil discussion. I want to call you assholes,” I think that’s a moment of inadvertent truthfulness. Evidently, she does want to abuse people, given the slimmest possible opportunity. The rest, it seems, is pretext, a rickety attempt to justify being obnoxious. In fact, if you assume a malign disposition as the starting point, the incoherent politics starts to make a kind of sense, if only as a vehicle for indulging that disposition and giving it an excuse to be what it is.

I suppose you have to ask what kind of personality would seek out and embrace a dogma that offers endless opportunities to berate and abuse strangers, based only on their most trivial and generic attributes. A dogma that practically obliges you to do this. What kind of person would want to spend time ostentatiously scolding white males for being white and male? More broadly, what kind of psychological misfit would choose to harangue and assault a passing stranger for having the ‘wrong’ kind of hairstyle? And what kind of person spends their afternoon thwarting and intimidating random strangers who are trying to hear a lecture, and making them fear for their safety, to the extent of pushing people underfoot, kicking them repeatedly, and then lying about it?

To my eye at least, and contrary to their imaginings, Ms O’Donnell and her peers are not good people. They’re merely seeking out opportunities for leverage and malice without the usual risk of pushback. Suppose for a moment that I were a malicious little shit and wanted to spend lots of time harassing people, shoving them, scaring them, and mouthing racial abuse. In the real world I’d run a definite risk of censure, social disapproval and possibly a good kicking. But if I were at an Ivy League university and invoked “social justice,” claiming my behaviour was a reaction to some nebulous oppression, there’s a very good chance I’d be accommodated, encouraged, even applauded. And for a certain kind of person, you can see the appeal.

[ Updated via the comments. ]