Rod Dreher

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Microaggression Trolls

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I continue to be fascinated by the phenomenon of concern over microaggression, and the related phenomenon of “trigger warnings.” It strikes me as turning SWPL neurosis into cultural politics. I think it has almost nothing to do with actual minorities, but is actually, as has been observed by others, a form of status competition among progressive whites. A liberal reader sent this entry from the blog of a gay progressive who is starting to wonder about this microaggression thing. Excerpt:

I’ll confess: I have done some Social Justice Bullying in my day. And the meanest I have ever been — the most personally insulting, rude, mocking, trollish, and unsympathetic — has been as a white person towards other white people who I thought were being “bad allies.” It was an artifact of my own white guilt. I was afraid that I wasn’t the “perfect ally” and I vented that fear by yelling at other white people, so that I could feel like the “good white person” in the face of their more “obviously problematic” racism.

I didn’t realize what I doing until the night that my (white) partner came home from a queer conference, all bubbly and excited to tell me about the Racial Justice Symposium they’d attended and the cool new things they’d learned about being an ally, and within the first five minutes I’d jumped down their throat about how some offhand remark they’d made in their excitement was “pretty problematic” and derailed the whole conversation into picking apart this one statement on the basis of my superior expertise about white allyship, instead of being excited with them about the new things they were learning — and the conversation got super tense, and after that they pretty much just shut down, and didn’t talk to me about racial politics anymore.

At first I was all pissed off, like, “Well, if they’re not opening to examining their privilege, I just don’t know what else I can do for them.” But then I thought about it and realized…shit. This was not about them. It was about me. Let’s be honest. I was feeling jealous and insecure about the fact that they’d gotten to go to this conference, meet all kinds of cool radical queers, and talk about intersectional politics all day and I hadn’t. What shut them down wasn’t my encouragement to examine their privilege. They’d just been in the middle of *telling* me how excited they were about examining their privilege. What shut them down was the strident tone with which I expressed that they were examining their privilege WRONG.

This is how a lot of movements end up: turning on each other, policing for ideological purity, destroying themselves from within. I’m happy for it to happen to these people, who are generally humorless hysterics. Still, it’s fascinating to watch. The progressive white pastor from Portland whose idea of facing down Bull Connor’s firehoses was admonishing fellow white people to use a different hashtag to tweet about police brutality is a perfect example of this.

A black activist has a word of advice for white allies who think they’ve done their part by chastising insufficiently sensitive white people online:

But you, don’t do me any further injustice by claiming to stand in solidarity with me while really (really) excusing yourself of the hard work that is engaging with fellow white people on this issue. Don’t hide behind “being a good ally” without actually doing any work beyond merely echoing my cries of pain, anger, and soul wrenching disappointment.

You’re a socially conscious white person? You don’t share *their* views? It’s disappointing to hear your friends say racist things? You don’t wanna talk to them? I hear you. I really do. But if you don’t speak to “them” who will?

Who will?

(Hint: Not me.)

So before you squander the opportunity before you in an attempt to demonstrate your solidarity, ask yourself which choice would be easier: unfriending the guy who attended your birthday party last year because he posted support of the non-indictment OR responding to his post with an open ended question to begin a (likely long and strenuous) conversation?

What would a good… actually, forget good… What would a useful, valuable, effective ally do?

The activist makes the mistake of thinking that these white “allies” truly want to help. What they really want to do is manage their own anxiety over their (real or perceived) cultural privilege. Like I said: white educated bourgeois neurosis as cultural politics. The black activist is absolutely right: no white person who is not already predisposed to sharing the cultural politics of these shrill, self-righteous “allies” will give them the time of day. One Russell Moore does more real and practical good than 100,000 SWPL masochists.

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The Jackie Cult

Via Ryan Booth, here’s Amanda Hess in Slate, making sense:

And there are many feminists who claim that the situation ought never be clarified because attempts to “pick apart” Jackie’s story are necessarily offensive to Jackie and by extension all rape victims. “The current frenzy to prove Jackie’s story false—whether because the horror of a violent gang rape is too much to face or because disbelief is the misogynist status quo—will do incredible damage to all rape victims, but it is this one young woman who will suffer most,” Jessica Valenti wrote in the Guardian on Monday. It is wrong to assume that seeking the truth—to the extent that it is discoverable—comes from a place of mistrust or outright derision of rape victims. Carefully examining the Rolling Stone debacle and taking rape seriously as a national problem are not incompatible goals; we are capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time.

… And yet there is something strange in the claim, from advocates at the NAESV, Valenti, and Autostraddle’s Audrey White, that they “believe” Jackie. I don’t challenge their right to believe in anything they choose, but I do question whether belief is a productive framework for this story, because it suggests faith in something that lies outside the bounds of human knowledge. To put claims of rape in this category is to buy the idea that rape reports are by nature ambiguous, and that feelings override facts. The Rolling Stone incident shows that is not the case—many aspects of many rape allegations are capable of being thoroughly investigated, and one of the greatest problems with the American justice system’s response to rape is that police so often refuse to do that work (or in this case, that a journalist declined to). The idea that fully investigating or truthfully reporting on rape claims boils down to a simple “belief” in a victim’s account is simplistic and offensive, as Rolling Stone itself realized after it claimed that its trust in Jackie was “misplaced,” and it was swiftly and rightfully shamed for saying so.

Similarly with the Michael Brown story, which a careful investigation of the facts by the grand jury showed was not the open-and-shut case of police brutality that activists claimed. When facts and logic don’t matter, a narrative becomes unfalsifiable, and moves into the realm of religion.

I understand the all too human tendency to believe stories that confirm our preferred narrative, and to disbelieve those that dispute what we wish to believe. I’m guilty of that at times, and so are you. What is absolutely inexcusable is to shut down the pursuit of truth, either in public or in your own mind and conscience, because it threatens the narrative that gives their lives meaning.

Truth is the universal solvent of all narratives.

 

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Defend Your Base on the Independent Right

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Y’all saw what happened to The New Republic recently, right? It’s 30-year-old rich-kid owner destroyed its editorial vision, and destroyed the magazine. But hey, it’s his magazine: he bought it, he can do with it what he wants. It has always lost money, and needed either donors or an owner willing to subsidize it at a loss. It got a rich owner. And that was the end of TNR as everybody knew it.

It is an unfortunate reality of opinion magazines that they—we—cannot survive on subscriptions and advertising alone. If an opinion mag doesn’t have a sugar daddy, it will depend on individual donors who share the magazine’s vision, and who believe that keeping its voice in the public square is worth a gift of their own resources. It is also an unfortunate reality that my investments in Powerball tickets have not yet paid off, denying my dream of being TAC’s sugar daddy. We live in a vale of tears.

Seriously, though. At TAC, we are at a disadvantage because our kind of conservatism is not the sort that delights the donor class on the Right. We favor foreign-policy realism, and non-interventionism, from a conservative perspective. We are skeptical of the market and of Wall Street — again, from the Right. In the years to come, as the GOP maneuvers away from social conservatives as a liability and the popular culture becomes more libertarian, my writing here at TAC will continue to defend traditional social conservatism and religious liberty.

Doing this work costs money. We would not be here today if not for many devoted donors who believe in TAC. We will not be here tomorrow without them — and without you. In this time of year-end giving, please consider making a tax-deductible donation to The American Conservative, so that we can defend the indie-right base, and expand it, especially during the Republican dominance of Washington in the next Congress. I don’t know about you, but it matters a lot to me that the pro-war, pro-Wall Street forces that set the policy and the tone for American conservatism know that they do not have a monopoly on conservative discourse. If this is important to you as well, then please help us.

Donate here. Any gifts between now and year’s end will be matched, up to $20,000 by the generosity of two other donors.

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A Radical + Traditionalist Bromance

Ur-Porcher Caleb Stegall was recently sworn in to a seat on the Kansas Supreme Court. His fellow Kansan and sometimes interlocutor Russell Arben Fox (I’m pleased to call both men my friends) writes with characteristic generosity about why he, as a socialist, admires Caleb, though he’s bound to disagree with him on many things. Russell agrees with Caleb’s critics that he’s an “extremist” — and that’s why he likes him. Excerpt:

There are, of course, good extremisms and bad, and part of the whole reason of a free society is so that clashes of extremism can be expressed without trashing everything both interlocutors hold dear. And that’s the key point with Caleb–while I have plenty of reason to assume that I will generally dislike whatever judicial opinions he hands down, as he would very likely generally dislike mine if we traded places, we both hold the same thing dear: Kansas. Our place, our community, our peoplehood, our demos. There are many lawyers who get sucked into a kind of romance of the law: maybe they see it as some kind of  Platonic-constitutional philosophical ideal, or as an aristocratic necessity to hold in the unwashed masses, or as embodying a serene technocratic-pragmatism, but however they view it “THE LAW” becomes their paean to something higher than, or better than, the people themselves and the cultures they build. The man that I interacted with, the man that helped to build Front Porch Republic, whatever else he believed, could never, I think, see the law as anything other than just one other attempt among many to organize and protect the manifold possibilities and struggles of human existence. That is, Caleb, as a member of the Kansas Supreme Court, may not be able to–and may not want to–engage in deep, revolutionary thoughts about building local communities and conservative Christian polities, but I can’t believe he would forget the very human thrill of trying to figure out how such a thing might be done, or if one might even want to. That’s a profound humility, a dispositional–if not philosophical–liberality which will keep him, I hope and I trust, far from the temptation to see the law as a sovereign foundation for his (or my!) preferred political project.

Reminds me of this old Peter Kreeft essay from First Things, in which he, as a traddie, realized that he had more in common with his socialist pal than with either of their Republican or Democratic friends.

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Wall Street Über Alles

Just so you know who runs things. Erika Eichelberger writes in Mother Jones:

A year ago, Mother Jones reported that a House bill that would allow banks like Citigroup to do more high-risk trading with taxpayer-backed money was written almost entirely by Citigroup lobbyists. The bill passed the House in October 2013, but the Senate never voted on it. For months, it was all but dead. Yet on Tuesday night, the Citi-written bill resurfaced. Lawmakers snuck the measure into a massive 11th-hour government funding bill that congressional leaders negotiated in the hopes of averting a government shutdown. President Barack Obama is expected to sign the legislation.

“This is outrageous,” says Marcus Stanley, the financial policy director at the advocacy group Americans for Financial Reform. “This is to benefit big banks, bottom line.”

More:

The Citi-drafted legislation will benefit five of the largest banks in the country—Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo. These financial institutions control more than 90 percent of the $700 trillion derivatives market. If this measure becomes law, these banks will be able to use FDIC-insured money to bet on nearly anything they want. And if there’s another economic downturn, they can count on a taxpayer bailout of their derivatives trading business.

From the WaPo:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) pointed to this item as the main reason she would vote against a bill backed by her own president.

“What I am saying is: the taxpayer should not assume the risk,” she said. She said the amendment went “back to the same old Republican formula: privatize the gain, nationalize the risk.  You succeed, it’s in your pocket.  You fail, the taxpayer pays the bill.  It’s just not right.”

And:

But the regulatory change could also boost the profits of major banks, which is why they are pushing so hard for passage, said Simon Johnson, former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund and a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

“It is because there is a lot of money at stake,” Johnson said. “They want to be able to take big risks where they get the upside and the taxpayer gets the potential downside,” he said.

One more reason why I remain a conservative, but not a Republican. These guys do not have the backs of the ordinary person.

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The Joy of Lüke

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Behold, my supper this evening, at Lüke, one of John Besh’s restaurants, an Alsatian bistro. Had to drop down to New Orleans today, and had an early dinner there. Lord have mercy. Everybody should go to Lüke, all the time. Every single day. Get there early for the fifty-cent raw oyster special. The shrimp and grits were exalting too. You know I post on this place every time I go there, but damn! That food!

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Torturing God Out of Jihadis

Michael Peppard pulls something particularly horrifying out of the Senate torture report:

The Senate committee was supposed to believe that a cruelly tortured man had thanked his torturer for breaking his religious faith. It goes without saying that the Senate committee found, after scrutinizing over 6 million pages of documents, “no CIA records to support this testimony” (487 n. 2646).

During the same hearing, Sen. Nelson asked about Hayden’s plans, if he suspected al-Qa’ida was training people to resist such techniques. His answer is chilling.

DIRECTOR HAYDEN: “You recall the policy on which this is based, that we’re going to give him a burden that Allah says is too great for you to bear, so they can put the burden down.” (487)

The new report does not describe the many techniques of religiously-themed abuse that I compiled from ex-detainee memoirs and interviews in 2007-08, nor does it extend our knowledge from the 2009 report, which admitted techniques such as forced prostration before an idol shrine to generate “religious disgrace.”

But what Hayden’s comments do show is that using religion as a weapon in prolonged psychological warfare was an actual “policy” – not a result of agents gone rogue.

The goal was to create a burden so great that a person’s religious faith would be destroyed. Nothing could be further from our country’s founding principle.

Peppard, who teaches at Fordham, has been studying how the US used religious abuse as a weapon against Muslim detainees. See here, and see here.

This is truly unspeakable. I do not believe that the Islamic religion is true, and I have no problem with sending people who wish to make war on us in the name of Allah straight to Hell on the battlefield. They want to be martyrs in battle, fine, let’s give them what they want.

But to take a captured prisoner, even one we can reasonably be certain has done evil things from religious motivation, and compel him to desecrate his religion, is to my Christian mind one of the most evil things that one human being can do to another. That the history of the Church shows Muslims have done this to Christians again and again and again does not make it right. It is always and everywhere a manifestation of utter barbarism. Again, consider the experience of Fr. George Calciu, a prisoner in the communist Pitesti prison camp in Romania:

They took very distinct steps. The first step was to destroy the personality of the youth. For example, the guards would come, together with a group of young prisoners who had converted to Communism, into a cell where there were perhaps twenty young students, and would try to intimidate them. They would beat them without mercy. They could even kill somebody. Generally, they would kill one of them – the one who opposed them the most; the most important one. Generally, he was a leader. They would beat him and even kill him. Thus, the terror began.

After that, they began to “unmask”

- What does that mean?

They wanted to force you to say, “I lied when I said, “I believe in God”. I lied when I said, “I love my mother and my father”. I lied when I said “I love my contry”. So everyone was to deny every principle, every feeling he had. That is what it means to be “unmasked”. It was done in order to prove that we were the products of the bourgeois, and the bourgeois are liars. We lie when we say we are virgin, we are Christian, and when we try to preserve our bodies pure for marriage.

- They were against that?

Sure. They tried to say that I was a prostitute, a young man who had connections with all the girls. We would be tortured until we denied everything we believed before. So, that is what it means to be “unmasked”. It was done in order to prove that Christian principles were not principles, that we lied when we said we loved Jesus Christ, we loved God, mother, father, and so on. It was to show that I lied when I said that I was a chaste man, when I held an ideal of nation and family. Everything had to be destroyed in our souls! This is the second step.

After this came a declaration against everybody who was in touch with us, everybody who believed as we believed. I was to make a declaration against everybody who knew about my organization or my actions, to denounce everybody – even father, mother, sister. We were to sever completely any Christian connection and moral principle.

The final step was to affirm that we had given up all the principles of our Faith and any connection we had with it. With this we began to be “the new man”, “the Communist man”, ready to torture, to embrace Communism, to denounce everybody, ready to give information, and ready to blaspheme against God. This is the most difficult part, for under terror and torture one can say, “yes, yes, yes” But now, to have to act? It was very difficult.

It was during this third part that the majority of us tried to kill ourselves.

Of course what the Romanian communists were after and what the CIA interrogators were after differs considerably. I’m not making a complete equivalence. But in both cases, they tried to compel a prisoner through torture to defile his faith in order to produce desired results. I’m a religious believer, and trust me, I would rather be raped a thousand times than tortured to the point of denying God or desecrating holy images or Scripture. Even though I do not share the faith of these Muslim detainees, what our government did to them is possibly most inhumane thing any man can do to another: to defile the image of God within their souls.

May God bring justice to those responsible for this abomination.

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Manufacturing Pro-Abortion Catholics

Well, this is not surprising, after yesterday’s discovery: now we learn that the Women’s Studies department at the University of St. Thomas, a Catholic college in St. Paul, encourages its students to engage in pro-abortion advocacy. There is not a single pro-life organization in their list of suggested places to seek an internship. Because they’ll likely take these things down after I post this, I’ve included screen shots taken just now:

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And:

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And I repeat: not a single pro-life organization on the list — this, even though for pro-life feminists, abortion is a feminist issue.

UPDATE: Here’s some good news — there’s a pro-life center at the university’s law school. Its director writes to me:

I direct the Prolife Center at the University of St. Thomas.  We are an officially organized academic center dedicated to promoting legal protection for all innocent human life from the moment of fertilization until natural death.  You can find more information about the center at http://www.stthomas.edu/law/academics/prolifecenter/ as well as on our facebook page at Prolife Center at the University of St. Thomas (MN)

While we are completely self-funding, as a recognized university center have free access to university facilities and support services.  This has allowed us to sponsor 5-6 public lectures each year on prolife topics on both the Saint Paul and Minneapolis campus.  The Center has developed two law school courses related to life issues and these courses are offered annually.  Through generous grants by Our Sunday Visitor we host a national conference on treatment of prolife perspectives in legal textbooks and published the results in the St. Thomas Journal of Law and Public Policy.  Each year we host a program for high school students in which we present a mock appellate regarding the overruling of Roe v. Wade.  We work with students and other faculty to prepare and file amicus briefs in cases involving important legal principles governing abortion and euthanasia.

While I am deeply troubled by the choice of two university departments to post internships with organizations dedicated to expanding and protecting abortion, the University has had a policy since 1999 to know[sic; "not"?] provide academic credit for such activities.  I am hopeful that the new administration will maintain this position.

Please feel free to contact me if I can provide any additional information to you.

Good for them! May they prosper.

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Ben Edelman Nation

Future Harvard Business School crusader Oliyy/Shutterstock
Future Harvard Business School crusader Oliyy/Shutterstock

In case you hadn’t seen, Boston.com has unearthed a 2010 exchange the Humanitas Prize-winning Harvard Business School prof Ben Edelman had with a Boston sushi restaurant. Sounds like Mr. Congeniality better write another apology. If you thought he was a jerk for the way he treated the Chinese restaurant, just you wait till you read that one. He may be History’s Greatest Monster.

Reader Mason C. posted this to yesterday’s Ben Edelman thread:

I was surprised how emotional I became as I read the emails. I work in a service job, fast food burgers specifically. We encounter people like this all the time. Admittedly they don’t have a Harvard education, but some tiny thing goes wrong and obtaining some restitution becomes a crusade for them. Requests for a refund or a new sandwich we quickly and willingly fix. But some people ask for ridiculous restitution. We will forget to take the pickles off of one of their sandwiches and they want their whole order free. When we refuse and offer to replace the single sandwich then the threats start. “What’s your employee number?” “I’m going to call corporate.” “I’m never eating here again!” And the basic threat is always the same, “give me what I want or I will do what I can to ruin you.”

The customers that come through the drive through can be mean but really can’t do much. Pro tip, corporate doesn’t care if your sandwich has pickles on it. They agree with us. They don’t want us to give you free food either. Edelman, as a member of the cultural elite and a lawyer, might be able to actually make good on his threat.

A lot of people here are agreeing with Edelman, at least in principle, but I think they are failing to understand exactly what it is he is doing. He is threatening to destroy this person’s business, putting more innocent people out of work, over $4.

Multiple lives ruined, over less money than it takes for his daily cup of coffee.

This brings up a story that changed my life (from “Lead like Jesus” but paraphrased). A seasoned street minister is training a new minister. The newbie points to a street woman and asks “is that a prostitute?” The seasoned veteran minister answers him,”No! That is a person in prostitution.” The point was that she was a person first.

I have my emotional self in check. I’m not given to being over sensitive or over emotional. But This story made me emotional because I get reduced to tears once or twice a week by people who visit our restaurant. People who have families, hold down good jobs, raise kids, go to church. These people bring me to literal tears because they are so mean, rude, inconsiderate, and vengeful.

So listen up, it’s an uncommon skill to treat people as if they were people. If you don’t make a conscious effort to treat people like persons then you probably aren’t treating them like persons, which is to say you’ve probably been an ass to a clerk.

It’s great to pick on Edelman but most of you have probably done the exact same thing to someone. You just didn’t end up on the internet for it.

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Microaggressions in Our Time

This is just delightful, is what it is. It’s from the Jim Wallis blog on the website of Sojourners, the progressive Christian magazine. The author is a Portland, Ore., pastor named Adam Phillips. Excerpts:

There’s this microaggression happening online, offline, and all around that has a nice sentiment, but really needs to stop. Can we call for a week-long moratorium on decrying “ALL LIVES MATTER?”

This is a request specifically for my white brothers and sisters, especially those in the church.

I, of course, as a white heterosexual married middle-class highly educated American male, believe that all lives matter. It’s something I’ve been fighting for my entire adult life.

This is not, I repeat, not, something from an episode of Portlandia. More:

We’re crying out, we’re Tweeting, we’re posting on Facebook, we’re marching with the refrain #BLACKLIVESMATTER because that notion is precarious these days. Every time a white person says ALL LIVES MATTER they’re not only missing the point of these voices rising up together, they’re inflicting further pain and anguish. (I will stand corrected if you have examples of African Americans, Latinos, Asians, or anyone else.)

Read the whole thing.  Where would we be without white heterosexual married middle-class highly educated American male pastors policing the Internet, crying out against microaggressors who claim that all lives matter?

By the way, I checked out a blog post on Pastor Phillips’s church website, and I read this posted in October:

Last week our core team gathered to reflect on last month’s first worship gathering and share what we liked and also shared how we could improve for our next gathering (this Sunday! October 12th at 4:30pm!).

We were all mostly really excited about worshipping in the round and seeing the whites of each other’s eyes [emphasis mine -- RD] as we listened to one another and God. We were also all mostly really excited about most of the music. And the kids parade. And the gluten free challah for communion.

Oh man. I just don’t know what to think anymore.

Seriously, of all the things to get worked up about. Only in SWPLtopia are hashtags that call on people of all races to recognize our common humanity seen as racist microaggressions.

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