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The Left Doubles Down On ‘Who? Whom?’

Notes from an incipient American Yugoslavia

As depressing as it is to face, we may as well get used to the fact that for at least the next four years, we live in a permanent freakout culture. Look at this:

The Cathedral is taking Streep’s relatively mild, faintly annoying (to me) anti-Trump speech as a Gandalf-Against-the-Balrog moment. And the Teenager-In-Chief is taking time out of preparing to lead the most powerful nation on earth to respond petulantly to a liberal movie star’s moaning:

In my post last night about Streep’s speech, I noted that actress Patricia Heaton had said on Twitter that she had hoped Streep would talk about acting. Some who follow her immediately attacked Heaton (who said she did not vote for Trump) for being insufficiently onside against the Balrog. This is how it’s going to be, isn’t it? The Twitterization of life, in which we are all permanently flipping out about everything.

I had a slim bit of hope that the left would be chastened by the results of the election, and would at least try to understand why we are where we are as a country. Nope, not gonna happen. Take a look at this tweet:

The author is a prominent Silicon Valley consultant. She later expressed regret over this tweet, by the way. Meanwhile, this guy describes himself unironically as a “professional bisexual.” He also an activist Evangelical. Here’s his take on the Golden Globes:

And there’s this, which is just an extraordinary thing.

I would love to see a SNL skit featuring Ned Resnikoff and his plumber, based on this clip from Annie Hall, when Alvy Singer goes to Easter dinner with Annie’s goyishe family.

Now, none of these three liberals cited here are nobodies. They all have some power and standing. And yes, you can find their right-wing counterparts. We all know this. What’s interesting to me, though, are indications that the Cathedral — that is, the formal and informal cultural-liberal power structure — is going to double down on demonizing whites as a race. Georgetown professor Michael Eric Dyson, who is black, has a new book, Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon To White America, that sounds like the ne plus ultra in garment-ripping, race-baiting crackpottery, which is to white liberals what a bottle of Roxies are to a hillbilly. Carlos Lozada at the WaPo gives us an idea of what’s in the book. Excerpt:

But there is little comradeship in these pages, and if there is love, it is of the toughest kind imaginable. Dyson makes clear that he regards much of white America as a pernicious force. “We can do nothing to make our tormentors stop their evil,” Dyson laments to the Almighty. “How can we possibly combat the blindness of white men and women who are so deeply invested in their own privilege that they cannot afford to see how much we suffer?”

He likens law enforcement officers to terrorists (“We think of the police who kill us for no good reason as ISIS”) and slave drivers (“The police car is a mobile plantation”). He admits that he’d like to pay violence back in kind. “Lord, Dear Lord, I don’t want to feel this way, but I swear to you I want to kill dead any Godforsaken soul who thinks that killing black people is an acceptable price to pay for keeping this nation safe. But then, am I any better than that soul?”

“The police car is a mobile plantation”? Really? More:

Dyson recounts what he calls the stages of white grief, pulled out whenever white Americans fear their dominance is threatened. They plead ignorance of black life and suffering; appropriate black culture; or simply deny, rewrite or dilute America’s racial history. So please don’t show up with tales about the economic insecurity of the white working class; for Dyson, the 2016 election was entirely about the revenge of whiteness, “how it is at once capable of exulting in privilege while proclaiming it is the least privileged of identities . . . and how it howls in primal pain at being forgotten while it rushes to spitefully forget and erase all suffering that isn’t its own.” The presidential election was also a reaction to fear, Dyson writes. Donald Trump, “more than anything else, signifies the undying force of the fear unleashed by Obama’s presidency.”

At times, though, there seems to be a built-in irrefutability to Dyson’s case. Any effort by white people to disassociate themselves from charges of privilege, to bypass or mitigate guilt, is dismissed as just another case of “innocent whiteness” — of reckless, blind denial. “You are emotionally immature about race. . . . You have no idea that your whiteness and your American identity have become fatally intertwined,” Dyson accuses. “Your resistance to feelings of guilt is absurdly intense.”

Any argument against Dyson is then, by definition, confirmation of his point. That doesn’t mean he’s wrong. But it does little to invite dialogue.

Ya think? Sounds like this Sermon is preached entirely to the Cathedral choir. Dyson’ll probably win the National Book Award for the thing. Read Lozada’s entire piece. He’s not enthusiastic about the book. Based on the parts quoted, the book reads like a parody. Here’s an excerpt from a NYT interview with Dyson from over the weekend:

At the end of your sermon, you do a “benediction” section, in which you talk about making reparations on the local and individual level: donating to groups like the United Negro College Fund or a scholarship program, but also, to cite your example from the book, paying “the black person who cuts your grass double what you might ordinarily pay.” That gave me pause! Good! I used to say in church, “If the sermon ain’t making you a little bit uncomfortable, it ain’t effective.” Look, if it doesn’t cost you anything, you’re not really engaging in change; you’re engaging in convenience. You’re engaged in the overflow. I’m asking you to do stuff you wouldn’t ordinarily do. I’m asking you to think more seriously and strategically about why you possess what you possess.

I agree with reparations, but maybe this is my white privilege speaking: I can’t imagine actually doing that. That is what I meant by an I.R.A.: an individual reparations account. You ain’t got to ask the government, you don’t have to ask your local politician — this is what you, an individual, conscientious, “woke” citizen can do.

I wonder if Dyson asked his interviewer for a twenty dollar bill at the end of the conversation. If he did, I wonder if she gave it to him.

Michael Eric Dyson is a man of enormous privilege. He teaches at Georgetown. He has written 19 books, four of them bestsellers. He’s got a national media platform. And he uses it to say outrageous, racially charged, indeed arguable racist things. The New York Times published this MED column in response to the racist murder of five Dallas police officers by a black man over the summer. Did you know that that mass murder was really about white privilege? Now you do, thanks to the Cathedral and Michael Eric Dyson.

By contrast, Milo Yiannopoulos is an alt-right outrage merchant who happens to be white (and gay). When he got a big book deal recently with Simon & Schuster, the editor of the Chicago Review of Books decided that the magazine will not review S&S titles this year in protest. As that editor said in a Guardian op-ed:

Some writers, editors and publicists have pointed out that our decision isn’t fair to hundreds of other Simon & Schuster authors who had nothing to do with the publisher’s decision to sign Yiannopoulos. I agree. It’s unfair. Simon & Schuster will publish some wonderful books in 2017 through imprints I admire, such as 37 Ink, Salaam Reads and Touchstone. But I strongly believe the literary community must hold the publisher accountable.

Why? Because rhetoric like his – which targets racial, religious and cultural minorities – invites discrimination. It arguably encourages people such as Omar Mateen and Dylann Roof to think of entire groups of people as less than human. And in his 2012 book The Harm in Hate Speech, legal philosopher Jeremy Waldron writes that hate speech sends a clear message to its victims: “Don’t be fooled into thinking you are welcome here.”

In a statement, Simon & Schuster assured readers they “do not and never have condoned discrimination or hate speech in any form”. But how is handing a purveyor of hate speech a $250,000 megaphone not condoning his rhetoric? And as an editor and book critic, how is giving Simon & Schuster free publicity not condoning their decision?

Where does one even begin with this? The point I want to make here is that publishing Michael Eric Dyson’s racialized ranting “invites discrimination” and “arguably encourages people … to think of entire groups of people as less than human.” It makes people like Ned Resnikoff scared of his white Southern plumber. It makes people — white, black, and otherwise — who are sympathetic to Dyson’s point of view inclined to give in to their suspicion and hatred of white people who are not part of their tribe, and to think of their loathing of these “deplorable” people as a manifestation of virtue.

The thing that is clear to many of us on the right is that many (not all) on the left, at least in the Cathedral, have no intention of trying to see the complex and difficult humanity of all of us, and that they’re engaged in tribalism, and building tribal solidarity through hatred, as much as the figures on the right that they hate. (And let’s not fool ourselves: there are figures on the right who do this very thing.)

The language of fairness and respect, when deployed by many on the left (especially in the Cathedral), is not about fairness and respect at all, but is a cover for a naked power grab, in classic Marxist-Leninist “Who, Whom?” style. In the case of race, the Cathedral and its favorite sermonizers demand that white people behave more humanly, while simultaneously denying their capacity to do so. And it holds academic and media elites like Michael Eric Dyson up as oppressed, simply because of the color of his skin, while framing poor and dispossessed whites as oppressors, solely because of the color of their skin.

(This, by the way, is why Meryl Streep’s speech got on my nerves: the way she began it by flattering herself and her audience as “vilified”; it takes real nerve to tell a room full of Hollywood millionaires that they are in league with the oppressed.)

I don’t believe the alt-right’s view of the world any more than I believe the Cathedral’s. If the alt-right’s racist ideas are going to gain ground in American politics, they aren’t going to do it through my agency. But here’s what the Cathedral left needs to know: you aren’t going to be able to count on conservative people like me to help you oppose the alt-right, because you are their “respectable” left-wing mirror image. 

I mean, look: if anybody tweeted that white actors deserved to win awards solely because they were white, he would have by that fact destroyed his career. Eliel Cruz tweets the same racist garbage, but see, he’s engaging in Bigotry For The Left™, so I expect him to continue to be able to publish on platforms like The Washington Post, and I bet you a bottle of Bulleit there’s not a senior editor in that entire news organization who can grasp the galling hypocrisy. What’s more, increasingly fewer people on the right are going to listen to conservatives like me, because they see us as holding to outdated principles that are incapable of stopping the left-wing power grab. The Cathedralized left sees no reason to be fair, so why should they?

I’ve been saying for years that the cultural left, with its infatuation with race, sex, and gender politics, and with demonizing all the opposition, is making the world a safer place for the alt-right. It’s happening right now — and they have no idea what they’re doing. They will, though. They will.



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