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Sunday, January 3, 2016

The vagueness of the Left

One of the wonderful things about being a liberal is that so many of the concepts you believe in are so nebulous that you can throw them around with abandon, confident that you cannot be proven wrong. The really wonderful thing is, nobody ever asks you to define your terms.

You can complain about "the system" to your heart's content, and nobody will ask you to define exactly what you mean by that. Nobody particularly wants to hear your disjointed, rambling, personal definition of "the system," so when you express a desire to fight it, your statement will go unchallenged.

Likewise, claim you're against "social injustice" and nobody will really question you. Oh, they'll be pretty sure you're not referring to our revolving door criminal justice system, or the lopsided nature of interracial violence. Whenever you use that amorphous phrase, most people will assume you're referring, vaguely, to the uneven social distribution of success. But nobody will ever ask you to provide a precise definition.

"White privilege" is a nebulous and mostly fictitious concept which conveniently explains away all differences in accomplishment between the races. (The Left must have wanted another catch-all term beside "racism.") When someone does try to use statistics to prove the concept, as Nicholas Kristof tried to in November 2014, its flimsy nature is exposed. But again, nobody will ever ask exactly you mean by "white privilege," since nobody wants you to continue your harangue. So, use the phrase as often as you like.

The Granddaddy of all hazy concepts, of course, is "racism," that all-encompassing term used to explain so many of society's ills. Nobody ever dares ask exactly what you mean by this, as they'll be too busy scrambling to prove that they themselves are not guilty of this Original Sin.

"Institutional racism" conveniently explains away all differences that can't be shown to be due to any actual racism. Not as many people of color in the physics department? Must be "institutional racism." Luckily, people have been conditioned by now to know that they must not question such a term. Throw it around with impunity.

"Sexism," racism's spunky little sister, is a hazy concept encompasses so many different things that it, too, is practically indefinable. Does women's liberation mean that feminists want women to be combat soldiers and be at risk of shrapnel shredding their flesh? Or do they want to ban the cracking of off-color jokes in the presence of delicate females? Do they want opportunities for women firefighters who can theoretically hoist someone over their powerful shoulders and carry him to safety? Or do they insist that any consenting woman who has sex was raped if she had one drink? Do they want the right to walk around bare-chested, just like men? Or do they want to criminalize leering at women? That's the utility of imprecise terms: they can refer to anything you want it to.

The "war on women" is an offshoot of sexism. This undeclared war seems to exist only in the overheated imaginations of liberals who see only evil in their political opponents. (It's just a pity that all warfare can't be conducted so bloodlessly.) But it's such a vague, inchoate war that even the battlefields remain shrouded in mist. (When examined closely, it actually appears to be more of a war on Republicans, as in, the best defense is a good offense.)

"Homophobia." I wrote about how misleading this word is here. (A phobia is when you have an unreasoning fear of something, not a mild revulsion for it.) But, of course, by classifying this revulsion as a "phobia," you are implying that those who feel it are somehow mentally ill. If you can define any opposition to your program as stemming from insanity, you're one step ahead.

"Diversity." The wonderful thing about this concept is that it is so, um, diverse: who can argue with such an amorphous notion? But are American students' high school experiences really all that diverse? And once in college, do people of different races really sit around and, in a spirit of friendship and mutual understanding, share their backgrounds and stories with receptive audiences of other races? Or do they just take their courses, play sports, drink, and look for sex the way most college students do?

"Cultural appropriation." Sometimes, just using eight and thirteen letter words will do the trick: you'll sound as if you're talking about something substantial. So what if the concept is a one way street? It sounds good, and that's what counts. (Anyway, aren't all liberal memes pretty much one-sided?)

"Raising awareness." Certainly, increased knowledge about our various problems can't be bad. And very few people are rude enough (like this blogger) to ask if the heightened awareness is actually doing any good. That would be a little like inquiring of someone who had participated in a 10k Race for the Cure, "Well? Did you cure it?"

After looking closely at the way these issues are phrased in such all-encompassing and sometimes misleadingly worded ways, one can't help but come to the conclusion that that is by design.

Having such unclear, hazy, ill-defined concepts comes straight from Obfuscation 101. Just remember, there is only one reason to ever obfuscate: because the plain, unvarnished truth will not pass muster. 

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've got some SJWs in my family tree. They use Facebook to express their views sometimes. I've read about racism, slavery, white privilege, etc. What's amazing is how many other people agree with their nonsense. Over time, you figure out who the liberals are.

- Susan

John Craig said...

Susan --
I find it generally doesn't take that much time.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes, I feel like conservatives are in the minority.

- Susan

John Craig said...

Susan --
According to the election outcomes, it's fairly evenly split, but conservatives tend to make less noise about their political opinions on a day to day basis, so I can see how you'd get that impression.

Samuel Nock said...

White privilege has definitely been a smart one and a successful one at that. As John note, it is essentially a way of putting in a negative light the inconvenient fact that Whites have historically been responsible for pretty much all major advances in material human existence. While the term is empty, it is at the same time a total explanation for those who buy it. As far as I can tell it has been very successful in convicting Whites themselves how unfair things are.

John Craig said...

Samuel --
It's been successful among the useful idiots. But it just defies common sense, and when examined closely, doesn't stand up to the light. Why is it that Asian-Americans not only have a longer life expectancy but also a higher family income and lower rate of incarceration in the US? Yellow privilege? And why don't whites exercise their privilege to dominate the NFL and NBA? Where are the editorials denouncing the black privilege in those two organizations? It would make just as much sense….I know I don't have to convince you of any of this, but to me it's such an obviously flimsy concept that it's amazing so many whites have swallowed it whole…..These people don't even have the remnants of common sense.

Steven said...

Before you read the article, answer this question: what is the shape at the top?

http://www.spectator.co.uk/2016/01/the-political-wisdom-of-people-who-dont-even-know-what-a-circle-is/

John Craig said...

Steven --
Good article, thanks…..I would have described the shape as the silhouette of a rock.

Samuel Nock said...

John, what's your take on Obama's tears at the press conference for his gun-related executive orders. I know you diagnose Obama as a sociopath, and given that, his reaction seems so calculated, cynical and, frankly, weird. Maybe this is one of those miscalculations: the sociopath who overstretches credulity because he reacts in a way he _thinks_ normal people would react but it ends up seeming over-the-top to normal people.

Another part of me wonders if there is a sociopath part of him, and a non-sociopath part of him. The non-sociopath part relates to race: he really does feel strongly about it and, in a deluded way, he somehow thinks these measures will stem violence against blacks, so he got (somewhat authentically) emotional? (Or tears of glee at how much this will dishearten whites)

It's just such a weird response. Obama has always been characterized by the most calm, unemotional, poised persona (No Drama Obama), and this one instance of tears is just bizarre.

By the way, I will be heartbroken forever if you don't respond to this comment. :)

John Craig said...

Samuel --
When have I ever not responded to a comment of yours? (And yes, I DO get the jokey reference to Lance Armstrong.)

My initial reaction to seeing those tears was, he must just be exhausted, or disheartened about some private, personal matter, and the tears jut happened to emerge at this opportune moment. Some sociopaths have the ability to be able to cry on command, but I don't think this was an example of that; Obama has never been one to put on a waterworks display in order to appear "caring." Nor has he been known to shed crocodile teams like Bill Clinton ( who has been known on occasion to dab at nonexistent tears at the appropriate occasions). And Obama has never (publicly, at least) shed any tears over the more than 300 children he himself has killed -- you know, as "collateral damage" -- through his drone attacks. (That number, by the way, is easily more than the combined total of all the mass killings he referenced in his speech.)

Anyway, I agree with your take on sociopathic psychology -- the way they overstretch credulity by reacting in a way they think normal people would react but overdoing it -- but I don't think that was at play here. I think he was probably just physically tired, and maybe depressed, and reacted to that, with the nominal stimuli being the children who died in Newtown etc.

Obama's sociopathy has always been evinced more by his constant dishonesty -- his Alyinsky-ism, if you will -- than by false emotionality, though he's not entirely above that. Remember when, early in his Presidency, he showed up at Dover Air Force Base to greet the coffins containing the bodies of soldiers who'd been killed in Afghanistan?

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/oct/29/barack-obama-soldiers-dover-base

At the time, of course, the media covered this in its usual fawning way, wanting us to think that this was an example of the great man's big heart. I had the opposite reaction: it struck me as a cynical PR move.

But these latest tears….I'm not sure. My guess is, they're tears of self-pity which somehow got conflated with the pity one MIGHT feel for murdered children. And sometimes the tears can come at inopportune moments, almost BECAUSE they shouldn't, when they would be most embarrassing -- how else would one explain John Boehner's frequent tears? (I don't believe Boehner was more soft-hearted than your average politician, either.)

Anonymous said...

When I heard about Obama's tears, I was suspicious, thinking that he conveniently cried while pushing his latest move (gun control) on the American public. I don't trust him and those in his administration.

- Susan

Samuel Nock said...

John, I agree with your conclusion. Ultimately, Obama is about Obama, and can cry just thinking about himself. Maybe there is also simply some fatigue from seven years of the presidency.

John Craig said...

Samuel --
Actually, I've come to an ever so slightly different conclusion about his tears, and will post about that today.

Douglas Carkuff said...

Enjoy your stuff. I would take issue with continually referring to "progressives" (I can't think of a more appropriate designation)as liberals. I realize that "liberal" is routinely used to describe people of the "left", but it makes no sense to describe authoritarian statists as liberal. "Liberal" is a perfectly fine word with a perfectly fine meaning and I'm more than happy to consider myself liberal - as in classical liberal. I think it is important the people who consider themselves free thinkers and advocates for genuinely liberal values defend this word and take it back out of the shit pile into which it has been thrown.

John Craig said...

Douglas --
Thank you. I understand your point, and agree with it. (One of the ideas I have scribbled in my idea folder for a future post is basically the same, about how I'm a 1960's liberal.) That said, I probably won't stop using the term, everybody knows what it means, and I'm not going to worry about semantics.

I could actually same something similar about the word "progressive" -- how does the current wave of New Victorianism and repressive thought policing in any way represent progress? But, again, it's just a word and as long as everyone knows what it means, I'm not uncomfortable with it.

Douglas Carkuff said...

Hi John, Actually, I have a serous problem with the whole political dialectic by which things are defined. I think it has been deliberately contrived to prevent consensus/foster animosity and to exclude those who are inclined to think outside of
the 3 x 5 card of allowable opinion, as Tom Woods so aptly puts it. In my view, the whole left/right, liberal/conservative thing is a charade, the entire purpose of which is to constrain authentic discussion and to distract people from figuring out what is really going on and to protect the status quo and the interests of the powerful (in a broad sense of the word - those people who actually determine what goes on in the world). I think participation in the debate using the predefined, accepted parlance merely confirms the legitimacy of the existing dialectic. And the purpose of that dialectic is to ensure that things can never really change. It's like they say about voting - if it changed anything, it would be illegal. Anyway, thanks for listening and my best, doug

John Craig said...

Douglas --
That's a great point, and more and more people (including me) seem to gradually be coming to that realization. My son keeps pounding me on this point: very little difference between the Democrats and Republicans. If there were, the Republican establishment wouldn't be so much against the guy who's the frontrunner in their party right now.

Thank YOU.