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Wed Jun 12, 2019, 11:38 AM

Don't Believe What They Tell You About The Left [View all]

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June 12, 2019

Try reading our books and talking to us instead of listening to what YouTube loudmouths say we think…
by Nathan J. Robinson

Bret Weinstein, a prominent member of the Intellectual Dark Web and critic of “identity politics,” recently released a video arguing that “demonizing ‘whiteness’ spreads white nationalism.” He contends that “intersectionalists,” by telling straight white men they are bad, have made the return of genocidal white supremacy more likely. He says:

They are going to back straight white males against the wall [and] white nationalism will emerge from that cohort… [These straight white males] have been accused, by bigots, of oppressing others, and been told that they are not entitled to well-being no matter how they individually have behaved. So what do they have to lose by cooperating together against the intersectionalists, essentially creating the world that the intersectionalists claim already exists.

Weinstein later cited a comment left on his video as an example of the tendency. The commenter wrote:

I have never been interested in white ethnonationalism until I started being told I was somehow unworthy of being a part of society by the media/the left. I do not feel superior to anyone based off of my race, but I also will not be told I am inferior. I don’t want to be involved in hateful subcultures, but when the message I’m overwhelmingly receiving from the common culture in general is ‘fuck you for being a straight white man,’ white nationalism starts looking much more appealing. If the rest of society has formed race-based gangs as in a prison, I’m going to start sitting with the other whites for group protection.

I am not naturally sympathetic to the “Black Studies made me become a Nazi” position. Partly this is because, as a straight white male myself (and a college Black Studies major), I have no idea what these guys are even talking about. I’ve never been told “fuck you for being a straight white man.” Nothing of the kind. The closest thing I’ve ever gotten is “perhaps as a straight white male you should exercise a bit of caution and restraint before loudly giving your opinion on matters that other people may have somewhat more personal experience with.” But when people insist they “won’t apologize for being white,” I still wonder who has been asking them, because nobody has ever asked me to do anything but show respect for marginalized people’s perspective and critically examine my own assumptions and advantages. Which seems a fairly modest ask.

I don’t know what “common culture” this guy inhabits, but it must be far more left-wing than my own. The common culture of the United States is The Bachelor and The Big Bang Theory and Judge Judy and Let’s Make a Deal. Even our liberal late-night hosts (Colbert, Kimmel, Fallon) are all straight white men! Most of the common culture seems pretty apolitical to me, and as I have wandered through American cities I have hardly ever encountered intersectional feminist theory. Weinstein and the reluctant white nationalist must be living in a totally different country to me. The media are anti-straight white men? Which media? The New York Times? If only they were, perhaps we wouldn’t hear so regularly from David Brooks, Thomas Friedman, Bret Stephens, Ross Douthat, Nicholas Kristof, Roger Cohen, and the one I always forget. [edit: David Leonhardt! It’s David Leonhardt.] CNN? White male privilege is the only explanation I have ever come up with for the career of Wolf Blitzer. Maybe it’s MSNBC, where Joe Scarborough is on for three hours a day. And let’s not forget, when we talk about “the media,” that FOX News is a giant propaganda apparatus that, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, spews precisely the perspective that the IDW thinks is being suppressed by the Dominant Culture.

Sam Adler-Bell had a similar reaction to Weinstein, saying that as someone very immersed in culture, he thinks he would probably have discovered by this point if “fuck off for being white” was indeed the “overwhelming message.” Adler-Bell makes a very good point, which is that the people saying this don’t actually seem very familiar with the people that they’re accusing of sending the anti-white, anti-male message:

These people are not getting the message “everyone hates white straight males” from left wing media. They’re not watching left wing media!! It’s absurd. They’re getting that message from right wing media *interpreting* left wing media for them.

I’ve pointed out before that critics of social justice politics rarely seem very familiar with the arguments being made or the people making them. (For a whole book on what they get wrong about social justice, see The Current Affairs Rules For Life: On Social Justice and Its Critics.) If you watch, for example, the Rubin Report, you’ll see a lot of people talking about what the bizarre crazy social justice people say, but you won’t hear from the people themselves. Bret Weinstein and the YouTube commenter aren’t really listening to what is being said on the left. “So you’re saying I’m irredeemably bad? That being born Caucasian is a crime? That I have to apologize? That I should be put on trial?” It’s like their ears are clogged.

(An interesting related anecdote: A while back, we commissioned the wonderful artist Chelsea Saunders to draw a cartoon depicting the absurd conservative view of American universities, complete with literal pronoun police and privilege-checking stations. The image was originally called “The Campus, In The Mind Of A U.S. Conservative.” Somebody reposted it on the pro-Trump subreddit, with all of the title except “The Campus” removed. The right-wingers loved it, commenting on what an accurate depiction of universities it was, not realizing that the image was spoofing absurd conservative beliefs about universities. They simply cannot believe that we are not actually like their absurd imagined caricature of us.)


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