“Identity politics” is racist code


Accusing someone of “identity politics” is the new, genteel way of calling them a “nigger lover”. I still remember being shocked into silence when I was about 15 years old, and my fervently Christian, home-schooling, John Bircher relation called me that, with a patronizing smile, after I tried to explain that no, black people are not more closely related evolutionarily to gorillas than are white people. He had pretensions to intellectualism, so I’m sure he would have loved the phrase “identity politics”. It’s excellent double-speak. Take a term that refers to a tendency to splinter into groups that favor narrower causes built around race, religion, or class, and apply it exclusively to any person who promotes a more inclusive, broader politics, one that crosses racial and sexual boundaries, the exact opposite of what the term implies. At the same time, avoid labeling what the white supremacists, the KKK, the alt-right, and the neo-Nazis do as identity politics, even though that would be far more accurate.

I was stunned and unable to respond when I was 15, but I’ve had 45 years now to think about it (l’esprit de l’escalier with a vengeance!). It’s been decades of being called a faggot, a Jew, a race traitor, and all sorts of variants of the identity politics insult, and I can confidently say now that it’s true: I am an old white heterosexual man, and I reject the politics of white heterosexual male supremacy, which is what you’re really trying to say. I don’t think my gender or race automatically make me a better human being. You think yours does, and that makes you a worse human being. It’s hard work to lift ourselves above our prejudices, and anyone who uses the phrase “identity politics” to disparage those who are trying is displaying their own lazily held biases. It’s virtue signaling to your fellow bigots.

I say this in response to a post by a well-regarded Atheist Hero, Sam Harris, A Few Thoughts on the “Muslim Ban”. The fact that he puts it in quotes is foreshadowing.

He makes it crystal clear that he detests Donald Trump — calling him “a malignant Chauncey Gardiner” is a good phrase — and that he thinks the implementation of the ban is terrible policy and inconsistent in its targets. But this is Sam at his oiliest: he is able to condemn Trump without reservation, but the ban…well, its real problem is that it doesn’t go far enough, and it’s undermined by those damned liberal leftists who are unable to see the true, depraved evil of Islam, the standard Sam Harris rant. You see, the real cause of all of our problems is not the right wing and demagogues like Trump, it’s the Left and their identity politics.

However, most of what is being said in opposition to Trump’s order is thoroughly contaminated by identity politics and liberal delusion. The Left seems determined to empower the Right by continuing to lie about the problem of Islamism. As David Frum recently wrote, “When liberals insist that only fascists will defend borders, then voters will hire fascists to do the job liberals won’t do.” I have been saying as much for more than a decade—and am vilified by my fellow liberals whenever I do.

Yes, Sam, you are, because we can see right through you to your conservative heart and decidedly illiberal views. That one paragraph is a perfect example.

“Identity politics” is a far right dog whistle. The only identity politics being practiced is a refusal to accept the privileges of being a white man — the only division being fomented here is between a larger vision of a united humanity and the bigotry of the status quo. It is also classic Harris to place the blame for Trump not on the people who voted for him, or the cowardly, amoral power brokers of the Republican party, or the corporatist drift of an out-of-touch Democratic party, but on the progressive, liberal people who rejected Trump and are now leading the angry opposition. It’s madness. It’s like blaming centuries of authoritarian religious oppression by the Catholic Church on those horrible atheists and pagans.

The only lying here is by Harris. He quotes David Frum — David Frum! — making the common argument that liberals can’t be true patriots, claiming that we are insufficiently zealous in being isolationist and xenophobic. There’s more to being an American than being a bigoted nativist (although, to be honest, that has historically been a significant part of being American). Liberals do not argue for the necessity of fascism to defend ourselves. It turns out that we actually think the diverse people who inhabit this country are ourselves, and what we oppose is the fascist politics of racism. The assumptions of Harris and Frum are fundamentally wrong. That we can embrace immigrants who have chosen to live in our country, whether they are Mexican or Muslim, is our patriotism, our values, our appreciation of an American identity. The America of Harris and Frum is a meaner, insular, provincial place, and that we reject their vision does not imply that we want a police state by default.

I really can’t get over the fact that he quotes David Frum to characterize liberals. Frum was a speech-writer to George W. Bush (he’s proud to have coined the Manichaean phrase “axis of evil”, which is perfectly Harrisean). He worked for the Reagan and Giuliani campaigns. He’s a neocon who supported the Iraq war. And he is the authority my “fellow liberal” Sam Harris turns to to explain liberalism? I am so unsurprised. They are very sympatico.

Then Harris says something I agree with.

It is perfectly possible—and increasingly necessary—to speak about the ideological roots of Islamism and jihadism, and even about the unique need for reform within mainstream Islam itself, without lapsing into bigotry or disregarding the suffering of refugees. Indeed, when one understands the problem for what it is, one realizes that secular Muslims, liberal Muslims, and former Muslims are among the most desirable allies to have in the West—and, indeed, such people are the primary victims of Islamist intolerance and jihadist terror in Muslim-majority countries.

Yes. I can despise Islam while at the same time recognizing that I have a moral duty to defend Muslims from oppression, violence, and discrimination. I am also able to recognize that someone identifying as Muslim has not confessed to being an Islamist on jihad. So why isn’t Liberal Sam condemning in plain English any kind of “Muslim Ban”? I can’t think of many better ways to alienate secular and liberal Muslims than making blanket prohibitions of entire nations of people from setting foot in America.

Well, I can think of one better way: we could bomb them and kill their civilians. We do that, too.

Harris, however, cannot categorically reject the Trump policy, because he favors something similar — maybe implemented with more finesse, with more carefully placed weasel words, but exactly the same in effect. So he writes a “few words” on the Muslim ban that consist of denouncements of the liberals who are out on the streets and in the airports right now protesting against this uncivil oppression. It’s telling.

Harris is not alone, however. Have you seen the latest from Steven Pinker?


Scientists’ March on Washington plan compromises its goals with anti-science PC/identity politics/hard-left rhetoric https://goo.gl/AVB7mR

Whoa. The March for Science is anti-science? Where does that come from?

It apparently comes from “identity politics”, which in this case, means the March for Science openly invites diversity. Here’s the horrible hard-left compromising rhetoric of that web page:

In the past days, scientists have voiced concern over many issues – gag orders for government science agencies, funding freezes, and reversing science based policies. We recognize that these changes will differently and disproportionately affect minority scientists, science advocates, and the global communities impacted by these changes in American policies. Addressing these issues is imperative in understanding how recent developments will affect all people – not simply the most privileged among us. We take seriously your concerns that for this march to be meaningful, we must centralize diversity of the march’s organizers at all levels of planning. Diversity must also be reflected in the march itself —both through the mission statement and those who participate.

We hear you, and thank you for your criticism. At the March for Science, we are committed to centralizing, highlighting, standing in solidarity with, and acting as accomplices with black, Latinx, Asian and Pacific Islander, indigenous, non-Christian, women, people with disabilities, poor, gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, trans, non-binary, agender, and intersex scientists and science advocates. We must work to make science available to everyone and encouraging individuals of all backgrounds to pursue science careers, especially in advanced degrees and positions. A diverse group of scientists produces increasingly diverse research, which broadens, strengthens, and enriches scientific inquiry, and therefore, our understanding of the world.

That’s what Pinker considers anti-science: a statement that clearly declares their intent not to discriminate. He might want to check out the NIH policies on inclusion — it’s even more thorough. I guess the NIH is anti-science.

Or perhaps he should wag an angry finger at those damned SJWs at the NSF and NASA. Totally PC. Must be anti-science. Thinking that people with disabilities, or uteruses, or too much melanin in their skin, should actually be respected for their skills is such a deplorable hard left position to take.

The March for Science also includes a blatant example of identity politics.

Who can participate:

Anyone who values science. That’s the only requirement.

Yep. Maybe that’s what annoyed Pinker. A refusal to discriminate on the basis of racial or other identity is “identity politics” to bigots.

Comments

  1. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Excellent rant PZ. Somebody who complains about identity politics is a bigot, as they don’t like to acknowledge they are only equals to everybody else on the planet if they treat them as equals. They are special snowflakes *snicker*.
    Yes, they are *special*. And to be ignored, avoided, laughed at, and refuted, based on their inner bigotry. Especially laughed at. Harris and Pinker, Bwahahahahahahaha. You are both so stupid and nonsensical.

  2. cartomancer says

    One thing that really annoys me about this sort of rhetoric is the way the bigots cast anything even vaguely progressive, egalitarian and socially responsible as “hard left” or “far left” or (as the Daily Mail crayon-pushers have been doing since the 70s) “loony left”.

    For a start, extreme left-wing policies include such things as the abolition of money, collectivised industry and the forced redistribution of wealth. America doesn’t have extreme left-wingers among its political classes. Britain and Europe barely do anymore. About the furthest left you get in mainstream politics these days are people like Jeremy Corbyn and Benoit Hamon, whose policies tend to include nationalised public services, maximum wage caps and universal basic income schemes. Nobody is proposing that the entire machinery of government be replaced by workers’ councils and the property of billionaires be seized.

    And, also, how have equality, tolerance and respect become left-wing ideals these days? There’s nothing intrinsically left-wing about them – one can be rabidly pro-capitalist, even authoritarian, and still believe in fundamental human equality. They’re values that go far beyond any political spectrum – they’re far more important than that. One could even make a good economic case from free-market principles to justify equality if one didn’t have a shred of moral conviction to do it out of basic human decency.

  3. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    secular Muslims, liberal Muslims, and former Muslims are among the most desirable allies to have in the West—and, indeed, such people are the primary victims of Islamist intolerance and jihadist terror in Muslim-majority countries.

    What could be called “cultural Muslim”. Like Dan Savage, of Savage Sex, calls himself “cultural Catholic” instead of ‘ex-‘ nor ‘lapsed-‘ nor ‘former-‘ nor the literal “atheist”; to note his heritage instead of his religion (or lack thereof)

  4. birgerjohansson says

    When the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church went to protest a military funeral, Fox News described the group as “extreme.left”.

    So now you know. If you are OK with gay marriage, you cannot be extreme left.
    — — —
    OT -We have the idedntity of the guy who provided Drumpf with the claim about 3-5 million votes by illegal immigrants:
    Gregg Phillips, who claimed on Twitter that he had examined 180 million* voter records and had reached that conclusion. (*He checked 180 million votes, when the total of votes cast was 130-140 million or so? )
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/dispatches/2017/01/28/voter-fraud-conspiracy-nut-can-prove-really-can/

  5. jrkrideau says

    “axis of evil” I believe you will see that Frum said that he said “nexus of evil” and the totally illiterate Bush regime misinterpreted it. Even a Yale Grad is not that bad.

  6. =8)-DX says

    @Marcus Ranum #10
    Identity politics is much older than “sjw”, except I feel it was previously used to decry people who labeled themselves a woman X gay Y or black Z, etc., now it’s being used to decry it when others discuss intersectionality or promote diversity. Before it was “you are wrong to talk about your own unique experience using labels”, now it’s “you are wrong to aknowledge the existence of unique experiences through labels”.

    All because in their minds bias doesn’t exist and full equality has been acheived.

  7. says

    I was also interested by how Harris’ complaint goes tangential: Trump’s muslim ban is bad because it’s not going to stop the spread of islamism.

    What? Does Harris really think that’s what this is about? Was anyone seriously putting forth the view that the ban was expected to stop the spread of islamism?

    I know it’s difficult to see why the ban – it’s straight up ultranationalism – but Harris is so far off the point there that he may as well be saying the ban is a bad idea because it won’t solve parking problems in San Francisco.

    As a non-nationalist (let alone a non national supremacist) I don’t even see a point to the ban at all. Harris should be focusing on the ban’s alleged expected effect. Which is?

  8. says

    I’ve been wondering about that.

    I keep hearing complaints about “identity politics” as the reason that the Democrats lost. Yet, it seems to me that people complaining about “identity politics” are, themselves, the main reason that the Democrats lost.

    Isn’t complaining about “identity politics” itself a form of identity politics?

  9. RoughCanuk says

    There was another post I saw online a while ago equating the term SJW the same way, which I agree, which is why I oppose anyone using that slur. Growing up in a small city in western Canada the term thrown at me was “Indian-lover”. We had far too few black families in our community.

  10. stevewatson says

    Frum is right: you should have defended your borders and prevented him from emigrating from Canada. ;-)

    And Pinker? Oh dog, I used to respect that guy. Another Canadian gone to the dark side.

  11. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    [out of left field]
    I saw a news item last night with comments by one who lost his leg due to the Boston Patriot’s Day Bombing, supporting the Muslim ban as being a safety measure to protect us from, to quote, “potential future attacks”..
    My remark to the TV was “The Patriot’s Day Bombers were from Russia” This border closing would not have stopped them, from entering the country. And look at Roof, not an immigrant. All 9/11 jihadists were from Saudi Arabia, a country not banned by Dumpster. *arrrrrgh*ptui*
    Still, why close borders to thousands when the risk is only maybe a few people will do damage, while the rest help build the country physically and economically. Talk about over-reaction paranoia.
    Nevermind Dump’s business interest in the 4 Islamic countries NOT banned.
    shozbot

  12. Petal to the Medal says

    What is their definition of “identity politics”? Was George Wallace practicing identity politics when he stood in a doorway at the University of Alabama to stop black students from enrolling? Was Bull Connor engaging in identity politics when he turned the fire hoses on civil rights demonstrators? Were the murderers of Goodman, Chaney, & Schwerner motivated by identity politics? Or is only identity politics when members of minority groups unite to demand justice & fairness?

  13. markgisleson says

    This appears to be a continuation of the weaponization of intersectional politics.

    I believe this is a Brockian pre-emptive attack on the Left. Liberals are playing word games to create situational constructs that cleverly make anti-racists sound like racists. Many of the people pushing this repeatedly accused Bernie of racism a year ago.

    This isn’t about race, it’s about politics and allowing neoliberals to continue controlling the DNC, and they don’t care how much the Left gets slimed in the process.

    Whether I’m right or wrong, it’s hard to post this in a liberal forum because I know what’s coming next. I will be accused of being everything I have spent my life fighting against solely because I see intersectional politics as a clever ruse to use anti-racism as a tool to promote neoliberal candidates and policies. I oppose racism, and I oppose “rules” for discussing racism.

    David Brock is still hard at work dividing the party. We don’t have to agree on candidates, but can we at least agree that you shouldn’t have to learn new vocabulary every four years just to continue believing what you’ve always believed?

    Racism is wrong. That’s everything you need to say in three words.

  14. Sastra says

    “… in his tweet Pinker was actually responding to an earlier version of the statement appearing at the March website. That statement, which has mysteriously vanished, called science a racist and sexist enterprise, and that is anti-science.”

    That’s interesting, if true, and might, if true, go a long way towards explaining Pinker’s puzzling tweet claiming that an innocuous “We must work to make science available to everyone” is “anti-science PC/identity politics/hard-left rhetoric.” I don’t know how to find out if there was an earlier statement, though, or if so what it was.

  15. Siobhan says

    @markgisleson

    We don’t have to agree on candidates, but can we at least agree that you shouldn’t have to learn new vocabulary every four years just to continue believing what you’ve always believed?

    “Stop expanding on your observations and theories of oppressive frameworks.”

    Right…

  16. says

    markgisleson @ #22:

    Could you please clarify? I’m confused as to what, exactly, you’re saying. Maybe give some specific details?

    Exactly what vocabulary are you uncomfortable with learning? Give some very specific examples.

  17. gmacs says

    @22

    Racism is wrong. That’s everything you need to say in three words.

    Clearly it’s not all you need to say. I know plenty of cryptically racist people who would agree “racism is wrong”. All people need to do is play around with the meaning of “racism” or ignore its more subtle forms and hey presto! we’ve barely made progress since the Civil Rights Era.

    We must also realize other things: Racism is systemic. Racism can be subconscious. Racism can be justified in the mind of the perpetrator. Racism is complex.

    I will be accused of being everything I have spent my life fighting against solely because I see intersectional politics as a clever ruse to use anti-racism as a tool to promote neoliberal candidates and policies.

    I wish people would either agree on a definition of “neoliberal” or stop using the term. If I consider myself ideologically socialist, but vote for more fiscally conservative officials when my own side lacks a feasible plan, does that make me neoliberal? I don’t consider “pragmatism” a dirty word. Does that make me neoliberal?

    Also, to address the idea of anti-racism and intersectionality as weapons against other liberals: you can fuck right off with that. You deserve all the derision you’re expecting. Without intersectional thinking, social liberalism is meaningless. Intersectionality is about making sure people don’t get left behind.

  18. k_machine says

    ” the unique need for reform within mainstream Islam itself”

    Maybe stop bombing Muslim countries first if you want to “reform” Islam? You know, remove the boot from my throat first if you’re genuinely interested in talking.

  19. markgisleson says

    Nathan @26

    From one section of the long Wikipedia entry on Intersectionality:

    matrix of domination
    vectors of oppression and privilege
    colorism
    skin tone stratification
    standpoint epistemology
    the outsider within
    standpoint theory
    The brown paper bag test
    objectification of the dominated
    mythical norm
    othering
    self-devaluation

    I do understand these terms, but I’m a retired business writer who had to work with the jargon of business culture. Jargon is necessary for technical and academic discussions, but when inserted into the general debate jargon is often used to exclude those who lack the vocabulary to participate in the discussion.

    I do not object to anything about intersectionality or related theory. I object to mainstreaming it with the expectation that everyone understands this stuff. Everyone understands “racism is wrong.” The more words you use to say that, the less well you will communicate with average people.

  20. gmacs says

    @30

    I haven’t seen most of those terms, and I can still understand intersectionality.

    Everyone understands “racism is wrong.” The more words you use to say that, the less well you will communicate with average people.

    In other words, average people are stupid, and we must herd them. I think you underestimate the capabilities of the average person. I also think that demanding less thought from people perpetuates their ignorance.

    And here I thought “neoliberals” were supposed to be the condescending ones.

  21. lindsay says

    @ markgisleson

    If all you get out of intersectionality is a more complicated way to say ‘racism is bad,’ you’re missing a whole lot.

  22. thirdmill says

    Gmacs, No. 31, I think there’s a good argument to be made that average people are stupid, as evidenced by the fact that they keep voting Republican, even when it’s not in their best interests, but be that as it may.

    Everyone practices identity politics, because everyone tends to support the interests of what they consider their group. That’s human nature and to be expected; we are after all humans and not angels. A black person who votes Republican because she is an evangelical Christian who opposes abortion and gay rights has simply decided that black identity is less important to her than Christian identity. But the double standard lies in pointing out that minorities do it while ignoring that majorities do it too.

    And on the Muslim issue, there’s an important distinction that almost never gets drawn. Judaism teaches that eating pork is bad, but that does not mean that most Jews abstain from pork. Most Jews just ignore what Judaism teaches on that count. Likewise, Islam teaches — yes, it really does — that violence and terrorism are acceptable methods for world conquest, but that does not mean that most individual Muslims believe or practice violence or terrorism, any more than most Jews abstain from pork. It is possible to say at the same time that the religion itself is evil and also that most individual Muslims are not.

  23. =8)-DX says

    @Neil Rickert #15

    I keep hearing complaints about “identity politics” as the reason that the Democrats lost.

    Why yes. The Democrats lost in part because not only did more people believe the lies about Clinton, but more people also don’t give two shits about racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. Clinton lost votes from people who didn’t consider Trump’s rhetoric disqualifying or were even attracted to it. As well as the number of Bernie supporters who ignored the B’s stupidity on class over race.

    If a vast majority of the population weren’t ignorant of or downright hostile towards what they percieve as “identity politics”, Trump couldn’t have won (although of course he didn’t win a majority even of voters).

    @markgisleson #30

    Everyone understands “racism is wrong.”

    That’s just factually incorrect. I’ve talked to multiple people who after having it explained to them that their opinions are racist, even despite their claim that “I don’t treat people different according to skin colour”, when they say “white people are more intelligent” or “I don’t believe discrimination happens” or “it’s their bad DNA”. And you can get those people to admit: “well by your definition, then I’m racist, but I don’t care”.

    So no. Almost everyone has at least a surface, simple understanding that overtly racist behaviours and things like advocating murder/violence based on race are wrong. But anything past that you’re simply projecting an optimistic view that ignores people’s actual opinions and knowledge of the matter.

  24. rietpluim says

    Some extreme right organization in The Netherlands calls itself Identitarian Resistance. Tells you something, doesn’t it? If their identity is so fragile it needs resistance the moment a black woman gets the same rights as they have, that’s pretty pathetic, isn’t it? Also, what’s with the pompous name?

  25. brucegee1962 says

    My interpretation of intersectionality is that it is the opposite to identity politics – idea that white women, for instance, shouldn’t be blind to the experiences of black women, or black men, or native Americans, or even issues of white men to the extent that their experiences may be problematic (troubles with boys in the educational system, for instance – the stuff Alex Gabriel used to write about).

    So I would expect that those unhappy about “identity politics” would be overjoyed to embrace the intersectionality concept. But that turns out not to be the case. Which in turn makes me suspect that the only reason they’re complaining about identity politics from other groups is to distract attention from their own identity politics.

  26. Zmidponk says

    Related to Trump’s Muslim ban, over this side of the pond, someone started a petition against Trump making an official state visit to the UK, and it got completely slammed with people wanting to sign it when he signed that ban. At the time I’m typing this, it now stands at 1,472,778 signatures and seems to be rising at a rate of a few hundred per minute.

    https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/171928

  27. starfleetdude says

    Pinker wasn’t responding to the current website, but to something that was evidently removed according to this tweet from him.

    Glad to see that the March for Science Web site has removed the distractions. It's an important event. https://t.co/oxLUGV461E— Steven Pinker (@sapinker) January 30, 2017

  28. Rich Woods says

    @rietpluim #36:

    Also, what’s with the pompous name?

    Fragile egos. I bet they have a symbol of some sort too.

  29. Hj Hornbeck says

    starfleetdude @39:

    Pinker wasn’t responding to the current website, but to something that was evidently removed according to this tweet from him.

    And his critique of that removed content is what Myers was responding to. Check the URLs, they’re different. I’m thinking Myers should critique that tweet, too; “indigenous, non-Christian, women, people with disabilities, poor, gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, trans, non-binary, agender, and intersex scientists” are “distractions” and unimportant, according to Pinker? I thought he was better at hiding his sexism and racism…

  30. says

    The section of the March page that I quoted is from the original web site that Pinker found objectionable. The new website is cleaner and simpler and has been edited down, but it was not to remove those horrible, evil ideas about diversity. Pinker is just trying to save face.

  31. starfleetdude says

    I see no reason not to take Pinker at his word, or to assume he’s sexist and racist myself. Is the focus of the march on science and the threat Trump poses to it, or about the issue of various -isms in STEM fields? I think the slimming down of the revised website to focus on the former is what Pinker favors.

  32. unclefrogy says

    @35
    I can not put into words what it is that I disagree with about what was written but I seem to have a very negative reaction to it.

    At this point it is about class more than race or at least as important . That can be judged by the reaction to the very idea of class as a thing, the complete avoidance of the subject by almost all major politicians.
    wealth is power keep the rabble fighting about crap that does not effect how the wealth is divided and everything will be OK.
    uncle frogy

  33. Richard Smith says

    [Sam Harris] makes it crystal clear that he detests Donald Trump — calling him “a malignant Chauncey Gardiner” is a good phrase

    But, while Chauncey only “like[d] to watch,” Trump has declared a more “hands on” approach.

  34. =8)-DX says

    @starfleetdude #43.

    Is the focus of the march on science and the threat Trump poses to it, or about the issue of various -isms in STEM fields?

    False dichotomy. The threats Trump poses to science include the various -isms, in STEM fields and other fields. Since science is a borderless, universal and collective endeavour, which directly benefits from diversity, international cooperation and a broad and well-educated middle class as well as just requiring government funding, all these issues are inherantly interconnected, and attacks on any particular minority or disadvantaged group will almost by definition impact US science. (As can be seen with the Trump muslim ban right now, his border wall, anti-immigrant policies, any damage he does to healthcare and women’s reproductive health – plenty of women are scientists too you know).

  35. =8)-DX says

    @unclefrogy #44

    Sharing the feeling you express here, If I could put it into words better myself, I would. The problem seems to be many minorities have no motivation to frame their problems as class issues due to baggage not of their making (people wont listen to class arguments that include them) as well as the fact they have ample reason to mistrust that any help for the poor will not once more exclude them as so many times in the past. Bernie talking about class was great, more people should do that worldwide. But ignoring the significant racial component in the US is ignoring exactly how the wealth is divided, and will continue to be even with broad measures to help the poor. From what I’ve come to understand many trans people are literally dying, being killed and tortured, and although adding a few dollars to the US minimum wage might improve their lives, one can understand they may have different priorities.

    So my point was more that people’s visceral rejection of intersectionality is a significant problem, it wasn’t my intent to criticise talk about class, or reject issues of class as one of the top priorities.

    Hope that makes sense.

    =8)-DX

  36. says

    Starfleetdude

    I see no reason not to take Pinker at his word, or to assume he’s sexist and racist myself.

    I take it you have neither read Pinker nor the critiques…

    Markgisleson

    Here you go: http://www.ferris.edu/news/JimCrow/question/feb14/index.htm

    Brown paper bag test. Newly fangled 1960s and earlier thing.
    You know what your problem is? You think you know everything and don’t need to learn anything new. Especially not from the people whom it actually concerns.
    So your defense mechanism is to complain about the kids these days.

  37. starfleetdude says

    @46

    Is the threat Trump poses to science primarily because of his various bigotries, or his promoting of alternative facts? I realize there are wider issues, but from what I gather Pinker’s issue was what the primary focus of the march should be.

  38. Sastra says

    I don’t know, but it’s possible that Pinker objected to the Scientists’ March page having characterized science as a whole rather negatively:

    “Science has historically – and generally continues to support discrimination.

  39. says

    markgisleson @ #30:

    From one section of the long Wikipedia entry on Intersectionality:
    matrix of domination
    vectors of oppression and privilege
    colorism
    skin tone stratification
    standpoint epistemology
    the outsider within
    standpoint theory
    The brown paper bag test
    objectification of the dominated
    mythical norm
    othering
    self-devaluation

    I do understand these terms, but I’m a retired business writer who had to work with the jargon of business culture. Jargon is necessary for technical and academic discussions, but when inserted into the general debate jargon is often used to exclude those who lack the vocabulary to participate in the discussion.

    I understand those words, too… now. When I first learned about and came to understand intersectionality, I didn’t even know those terms existed. When I found out they did, I took it upon myself to educate myself.

    Thing is, though, this doesn’t really answer my question, because I said:

    Could you please clarify? I’m confused as to what, exactly, you’re saying. Maybe give some specific details?
    Exactly what vocabulary are you uncomfortable with learning? Give some very specific examples.

    And you responded with a list of words you, by your own admission, do understand. Now, to get context, I was responding to your post at 22 where you objected to having to learn new vocabulary every four years.

    The only vocabulary that people have been asked to learn over these past years include, for example, an expanded list of gendered and gender-neutral pronouns (not just she/her and his/him, but also they/them, xi/xir, etc), and so on. That list you included is not, actually, required to understand intersectionality.

    So you can imagine why I’m confused. I’ve only ever seen objections to respecting people’s gender identities, not using the n-word if you’re not black, showing more respect to and for women, not using the f-word is you’re not a member of the LGBTQ community, and so on.

    So I think we could all use some clarification. Steven Pinker was objecting to the fact that the science march was working to be intersectional, by expressly and directly including people who aren’t straight, white, cis-gendered, able-bodied men (without excluding the latter). If you agree with my paragraph above, then I don’t understand what you are objecting to at all.

    I do not object to anything about intersectionality or related theory. I object to mainstreaming it with the expectation that everyone understands this stuff. Everyone understands “racism is wrong.” The more words you use to say that, the less well you will communicate with average people.

    Except that this is a proven lie. Everyone does not understand that “racism” is wrong. If they did:
    1) White people would not continue to complain about not using the n-word.
    2) Donald Trump would not be president of the United States.

    So… again… you really need to clarify what you’re going on about…

  40. =8)-DX says

    @starfleetdude #49
    The implication there would be that if Trump wasn’t cutting science funding or using counterfactual rhetoric, the scientists would have no reason to march and is similar to the implication that the Women’s March should only have been about women, those with vaginas, and exclude black women’s issues, climate science and other things.

    This problem gets resolved by embracing inclusivity and intersectionality (the bigotries are also anti-science and will also harm science, not just the funding/idology – many issues are joint in the intersections), which is exactly what Pinker is rejecting (and failing to understand in my mind).

    Maybe we should go back to another word: solidarity.

  41. anbheal says

    I will second #1 Nerd Of Redheads. Dr. Myers, this essay was just plain flat-out excellent.

  42. starfleetdude says

    @50

    If that statement was what bothered Pinker, I think that gets back to what he thinks the march should be focused on, namely the threat Trump poses to science, and to truth in general.

  43. richardemmanuel says

    ‘March’ for science is highly offensive and discriminatory. What about hoppers, mincers, and rollers? Non-binary people could attend without turning up. Or could they? Humpty Dumpty.

  44. markgisleson says

    Nathan @51

    I am uncomfortable with using academic terms in lay settings. My dislike of non-technical jargon stems from having seen it repeatedly use to silence people in debates. Best way to win an argument is make your case using concepts and words the other party doesn’t know. It’s a form of bullying.

    I made my living by taking documentation and turning it into every day English. I used jargon when necessary, but always tried to write for a wider audience. The more the Democratic party turns to academia for strategies like intersectionality, the harder the climb back will be.

    Study intersectionality on campus all you like. Write books about it. But if you want to win in 2018 and 2020, you need to learn to say this stuff in every day English. You can do it without dumbing down the message. It’s NOT easy. Easy is making up terms to explain complicated stuff. But if you want others to understand you, you have to dumb down the language. Not the message, just the language.

    A last (related, I think) item. The Dems have relied heavily on Lakoff in recent years. Noam Chomsky once famously observed about Lakoff that “he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” Lakoffism is based on extremely obvious and elementary marketing concepts. Marketing is a well developed field. Republicans kick our ass because they understand marketing better than we do. Dems keep hiring consultants with losing track records. The party needs to be purged of its failed leadership. I associate Lakoffism and intersectionality with that failed leadership. No one should ever go to their first Democratic party meeting and find themselves baffled by jargon. It should be easy to be a Democrat. Instead I’m seeing intersectionality used like a dog whistle to send a virtuous signal to those who already agree with you while the rest of the room scratches their heads.

    Don’t make this harder than it has to be. No one wants to be ‘educated’ by someone they’re arguing with, but they may be open to skillful and targeted persuasion. Winning arguments at Pharyngula will not net you a single extra vote in 2018. We need to convince the people who don’t read books. It doesn’t mean they’re dumb, but you do need to formulate your message in a way that they can hear.

  45. says

    “Science has historically – and generally continues to support discrimination.

    The problem with objecting to that is that it is completely true. I thought we were the reality-based side?

  46. Sastra says

    PZ #57 wrote:

    The problem with objecting to that is that it is completely true. I thought we were the reality-based side?

    Given the context, though, it sounds like the ‘Science March on Washington’ is admitting or blaming mainstream science for the racism and sexism in the current alt-right Republican regime — or racism and sexism in general. If science is under attack and proponents are defending the need to maintain its objective capacity to study and make recommendations on climate change, evolution, birth control, and so forth, then heaping on self-criticism in the mission statement about where and how science isn’t really objective anyway seems kind of counterproductive.

  47. says

    markgisleson @ #56…

    Okay.

    Listen.

    I’m sorry, but the conversation you are having is not the conversation anyone else here, myself included, is having. Literally no one here is talking about “academic jargon”. The word “intersectionality” is not “academic jargon”. The statement that Pinker was angry about (“At the March for Science, we are committed to centralizing, highlighting, standing in solidarity with, and acting as accomplices with black, Latinx, Asian and Pacific Islander, indigenous, non-Christian, women, people with disabilities, poor, gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, trans, non-binary, agender, and intersex scientists and science advocates. We must work to make science available to everyone and encouraging individuals of all backgrounds to pursue science careers, especially in advanced degrees and positions. A diverse group of scientists produces increasingly diverse research, which broadens, strengthens, and enriches scientific inquiry, and therefore, our understanding of the world.”) includes precisely zero “academic jargon”.

    So seriously…

    What are you talking about?

  48. consciousness razor says

    markgisleson

    I do understand these terms, but I’m a retired business writer who had to work with the jargon of business culture. Jargon is necessary for technical and academic discussions, but when inserted into the general debate

    This is a “debate”? About what?

    Is it true that “technical” or “academic” language would not be helpful? Does none of this even rise to the level of imporance for you that business culture supposedly has?

    but when inserted into the general debate jargon is often used to exclude those who lack the vocabulary to participate in the discussion.

    It’s used to exclude people? Who would have this kind of motivation, and what is that motivation supposed to be about? Do gay activists or feminists or anti-racists, or whatever examples you’d like to pick, have a deep-seated desire not to engage with the general public about the issues concerning them?

    Do you suppose there may be any coherent motivation to communicate in their own ways and from their own perspectives, but to communicate to you as carefully and as precisely as necessary what they think, which not necessarily what you expect them to think with all of the concepts you already had at your disposal? Why should anybody feel any need to take any “basic” terms/vocabulary for granted, when those may be misleading or counterproductive or in any sense inadequate?

    If you’re willing to claim that inscrutable corporate-speak bullshit is “necessary” somehow, for I know not what other than perhaps your paycheck, then I would think you should have no problem at all understanding why terminology is important in cases like this as well. There’s a legitimate purpose for it here, which nobody, not even you, should have any trouble articulating.

    I do not object to anything about intersectionality or related theory. I object to mainstreaming it with the expectation that everyone understands this stuff. Everyone understands “racism is wrong.” The more words you use to say that, the less well you will communicate with average people.

    The fewer word you use, the less you’re communicating to people. Let me share an observation with you. I can say (and have said) “racism is wrong” to my racist acquaintances, and they will invariably appear to agree with that statement.

    Enough said? Fuck no.

    I’ve said nothing of any significance to them, which will change anything about their racist-ass views. Because believe it or fucking not, it’s more fucking complicated than that. The basic premise that it is wrong doesn’t even look like an attempt to scratch the surface. So you’d better fucking believe more than that needs to be communicated with average people, or your fucking credibility in this conversation will drop about as fast as you can say “racism is wrong.” Maybe faster.

    I am uncomfortable with using academic terms in lay settings.

    The academia isn’t a priesthood. Also, I doubt anybody gives a shit about what makes you comfortable in lay settings.

    And seriously, if you don’t get the willies the next time someone says “electron” in your presence, then you should remind yourself how much of a bullshitter you’re being…. about something that is really important to people’s lives, and is not, you know, how big important people talk about yet another meaningless corporate fad. For instance.

    Best way to win an argument is make your case using concepts and words the other party doesn’t know. It’s a form of bullying.

    I’m just going to guess you’ve never been bullied. That’s all I’ve got right here.

    Don’t make this harder than it has to be. No one wants to be ‘educated’ by someone they’re arguing with, but they may be open to skillful and targeted persuasion.

    Nobody ought to give a shit what some racist shitslinger wants from a non-white person, with whom they believe they’re supposed to be in an argument. An “education” (if that’s really what learning a few new terms amounts to on your planet) is precisely what would suffice to communicate effectively to them. Indeed, it will not consist of the same bland, senseless fucking shit they wanted to hear and have heard a million fucking times already. Because that didn’t fucking change their racist shitslinging minds the first million times that you and your quietist lot “tried” to “fix” the problem, if you even genuinely know what the problem is, much less want to actually do anything about it.

  49. consciousness razor says

    More succinctly:
    If it’s true that

    Everyone understands “racism is wrong.”

    Then what everybody understands isn’t fucking enough, because racist shit still fucking happens.

    Yet very few people, far from all of them, understand that they’re responsible for that racist shit. Some don’t even recognize when it occurs or that it occurs.

    So, please, in three words or less, why the fuck is that?

  50. says

    @#35, =8)-DX

    I keep hearing complaints about “identity politics” as the reason that the Democrats lost.

    Why yes. The Democrats lost in part because not only did more people believe the lies about Clinton, but more people also don’t give two shits about racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. Clinton lost votes from people who didn’t consider Trump’s rhetoric disqualifying or were even attracted to it. As well as the number of Bernie supporters who ignored the B’s stupidity on class over race.

    For the last 30 years, the Democratic Party’s message has been “hey, everyone who isn’t rich: immolate yourselves to keep Wall Street warm — and since we have a tepid, almost nonexistent-in-practice* commitment to minorities, if you don’t do as we say you’re racist/sexist/homophobic”. It is a reversal: the Democratic Party no longer believes that it exists to benefit its membership, it believes that its membership exists to benefit the party. This disconnect between the beliefs of the party leadership (and rather simple-minded supporters who buy the line of reasoning) has finally grown great enough that people would rather stay home or even vote for Trump than keep letting it go on.

    But sure, keep doubling down on the position. I’m sure the Democrats will be able to retake all the Congressional seats, state Gubernatorial positions, state legislatures, and of course the Presidency, if only we can make as many people as possible believe that electing Democrats will provide no benefit to them, personally, and will probably continue to make their lives harder by taking away more jobs and screwing up the economy even more, but that they should vote for Democrats out of the goodness of their hearts. That strategy has worked so well in the past, after all — that’s why the Republicans control nothing whatsoever, right?

    *Consider for example Rahm Emmanuel, the Democrat who more or less bought the mayoral contest in Chicago, since the mayoral contest is more or less certain to go to a Democrat and he outbidded the other, more genuinely local contenders. He is very closely associated both with the Clinton administration, where he got his start, and with Obama, so you can’t claim he’s not representative of the mainstream. He deliberately helped cover up murders of black people by the Chicago police, rather than confronting them, because the election was coming up. And since the revelation, he has been unenthusiastic about taking any action against the cops (such as really pushing for serious investigation and prosecution over the Homan Square “black site”) — but he has been very active at clearing out poor neighborhoods so that whole blocks can be demolished and unhooked from services, which cuts costs, and his deals with his friends in the financial industry have been very profitable — for the friends, that is, not for the city. That’s the kind of “support” the Democrats have been giving minorities for a while now, for the most part. I question whether, under the circumstances, your charges that failing to support the party is a sign of racism deserve anything but contempt.

    It’s not like it’s an either-or proposition, either: the Democrats could be both economic populist leftists and civil rights advocates, just as they could have pursued financial justice and health insurance reform back in 2009 and chose not to. For a few decades back after World War II, there actually were some Democrats like that. Now, though, the only person who actively pursues both those goals is Bernie Sanders, who the party basically rejects and derides and blames for the failure of its uninspiring message and worthless candidates (vide your comment).

  51. thirdmill says

    Consciousness Razor, No. 61, three words or less: Self interest. They know racism is wrong but they benefit from it so they don’t care.

    Vicar, No. 62, as a life long Democrat I have been appalled at just how useless the Senate Democrats have turned out to be. Not one single filibuster over any Trump nominee. Not one. So far they’ve rolled over for everything he’s asked them to do. I wrote Chuck Schumer and told him that until his party actually starts fighting, they deserve to be in the minority.

    They should filibuster everything until Trump releases his taxes, and I do mean everything. They won’t. There’s too much pork barrel politics in it for them if they don’t.

  52. consciousness razor says

    It is a reversal: the Democratic Party no longer believes that it exists to benefit its membership, it believes that its membership exists to benefit the party. This disconnect between the beliefs of the party leadership (and rather simple-minded supporters who buy the line of reasoning) has finally grown great enough that people would rather stay home or even vote for Trump than keep letting it go on.

    I suppose most (if not all) of my adult life, I’ve been profoundly dissatisfied with the Democrats. They’ve been disappointing as a party, to say the least, and that’s after repeatedly lowering my expectations.

    However, I don’t think I understand what is being said, when this has purportedly “grown great enough” that they would vote for Trump or would effectively vote for him by abstaining (same difference to me).

    Were these people not thinking … as in with the brain in their heads? Or what exactly were they doing, such that what you just said somehow makes sense you to as some kind of an explanation of their behavior? These were genuine progressive liberals, yes? And they somehow thought that they were doing the right thing?

    What evidence is even supposed to lead you to this conclusion, when in fact Trump lost the vote by a significant margin and, on pretty much every measure, did poorly compared to pretty much every recent major-party candidate for president (winners and even losers)?

    I mean, I get the feeling behind it I guess, but it’s like you’re trying to explain ghost sightings to me. There are no ghosts to explain, ‘cuz that shit ain’t real. Have I ever felt like somebody was watching me in a dark empty room? Sure I have.

    But your explanation better not come in the form “people have seen more and more ghosts because” blah, because in fact they haven’t seen any ghosts. I totally get that you want to support your feelings/experiences/views with something more tangible and don’t fault you for it. But making up evidence is not how it’s done. And vaguely gesturing in the direction of evidence that says the opposite of what you intended is just … kind of difficult to understand.

    But sure, keep doubling down on the position. I’m sure the Democrats will be able to retake all the Congressional seats, state Gubernatorial positions, state legislatures, and of course the Presidency,

    Just want to note that this “retaking” of all seats can’t happen, because Dems have never had all of them or anything close to that. Which isn’t all bad, at least not in theory. I’m actually partial to having two (or more) reasonable parties to choose from, two (or more) that might help to keep each other in check and offer some kind of constructive criticism, which is not at all what we get from Republicans.

    if only we can make as many people as possible believe that electing Democrats will provide no benefit to them, personally, and will probably continue to make their lives harder by taking away more jobs and screwing up the economy even more, but that they should vote for Democrats out of the goodness of their hearts. That strategy has worked so well in the past, after all — that’s why the Republicans control nothing whatsoever, right?

    I think it’s a mistake to believe that fairness, equality, democracy, and so forth, are done purely out of the “goodness of your heart” and must mean disaster for you personally (or the whole economy… but it sounds like you’re parroting right-wing asshats, possibly just for rhetorical effect). Some people have this strange concept of pure and completely disinterested altruism that is supposed to work like that too, and it’s just some kind of confusion that they’ve mixed up the two ideas in their heads. They’re not even close to the same thing.

    It’s not only some other group of people over there who benefit. But at the end of the day, if we’re taking this seriously as a moral problem and not just about how to come up with ways to win elections, we shouldn’t lie and tell people that their own personal interests have some kind of priority over others’. That cannot be how you make a coherent policy, but that of course, as I just said, is not the same as saying we’re coming to destroy your life and to take everything from you. Still, if you want to make things fair, then you really have to mean that, not “fair … but also nothing of any significance is going to change about our society.”

  53. feministhomemaker says

    I just got my FFRF newsletter today and saw Pinker is an honorary board member. Damn. When I donated to their new building with a brick in the courtyard I had it inscribed with a heart and Atheism+. I hope it isn’t filled with folks who share his view. I’m a life member and now seeing his name in their pages as board member makes me feel queasy. Damn.

  54. richardemmanuel says

    March encourages war, and madness in hares. And word bans incite word terrorism.

  55. clevehicks says

    Regarding Harris’ implication that it is the fault of liberals that Trump was elected : I just read a post from a progressive blaming, among others, Jill Stein supporters and liberals obsessing over HR Clinton’s emails for the Trump disaster. My response: ‘It wasn’t Hillary Clinton’s emails that convinced me to vote for Jill Stein, it was her continuous support for endless bloody wars. Yes, I am sure that Trump will do the same or even worse. Nevertheless, at least with ‘President Palpatine’ the enemy of peace is in plain sight and he may shake us out of our bipartisan complacency, a complacency which has led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of our Muslim brothers and sisters. Anyway, if Greg Palast is right and Clinton actually won the election but had it stolen by Republican voter suppression, then blaming fellow progressives for Trump being President is worse than useless.’

  56. Dunc says

    Everyone understands “racism is wrong.”

    Sure, (almost) everyone will agree with that statement in the abstract, but a great many of them will do so without actually understanding what racism even is, with the result that they keep acting in racist ways.

  57. secondtofirstworld says

    It must have been discussed before, hence why I don’t see this, but Harris claimed Trump is America’s first atheist president. He also spearheads a movement toward the GOP to drop the religious right in favor of the alleged 25% of voters, who are non-religious (though not necessarily not spiritual either).

    The problem here is with priorities. I cite the example of the Amazing Atheist, who practically welcomed theists into his fellowship as long as they battle the common enemy, the SJW crowd. In other countries, where authoritarian ideas don’t hold much footing, this wouldn’t be an issue, but America isn’t such a country.

    What Harris and other atheists like him ignore is, that in addition to being actually powerless (even the LGBT crowd has a bigger pull), they accept any bone thrown at them to chew. In other words, they identify with the majority first, and being an atheist comes second or third, depending if they’re a man or a woman.

    The far right has discovered the techniques of the far left way back in the ’90s with the introduction of the internet, and it gained traction within the Holocaust denial crowd. Instead of being outright hateful and vengeful, they switch around the meanings of definitions and appear as the actual victims. For example, ask them if they accept the Holocaust as something that happened, and they will say yes, until you learn they mean every other murder outside industrial genocide. Just like such a denial, racism, sexism and homophobia repackaging isn’t about the past, but the future.

    There will be a lesser need to denigrate others, if people, who usually disagree with you, will do it for you. The people among the majority who’re genuinely feel fed up with the differentiation instead of unity will side with unity even if in the long run it hurts them. This did not start with Trump, he just rode the waves. We all should look back to the 2010 midterm elections, and how the huge voter turnout for the Tea Party was a response to a half black man being president. What Trump did was to dismantle the base behind the Tea Party darlings, and scoop it up, along with a plethora of angry liberals who too voted for him.

    I’ve seen this cathartic change first hand. Many of my colleagues were liberals, and during a previous administration, a free flow of ideas created a culture of different opinions. A mere 3 years later, after getting gratification from the new administration they started to reiterate the talking points of the administration with none of their own, conflicting their previously held views, the very definition of a loyal opposition.

    This is how minorities lose out, the majority becomes indifferent. They fear of losing their own hard gotten gains, and become dependent on the power that enables said gains to be earned. The Nazis and the communists could hunt Jewish people as it was the individual who feared its very existence from them. The administration sells the false idea, that empathy is tied to financial prosperity, and when times are tough, you gotta look out for number one.

    I’ve read several uplifting essays about how these tactics are to be resisted, but most of them focuses on an external threat. This issue has become internal since the end of the first Cold War. It’s not an issue of academic jargon or different interpretation. It’s about not being a fool, and believe, that an angry person who shouts all the time is actually very kind inside. They are worse. Almost all ideas that they represent is actually something their opponents say, and they put words into the mouths of their opponents that they actually hold to be true. It doesn’t matter if it’s about skin color, gender or creed, they sell the idea of being the good guy. It’s not that you don’t want other people to succeed, it’s that they don’t want it themselves, and you can’t help those who refuse help.

    Why was my culture so restrictive with refugees? Because when they weren’t even around, the first targets were the homeless. The loyal media has only shown the darkest side of their existence and sought out people who checked out from society a long time ago, so then when they rounded them up for forcible de-placement and and a junction restricting them from living in open spaces, society won’t budge and it did not.

  58. vaiyt says

    One thing that really annoys me about this sort of rhetoric is the way the bigots cast anything even vaguely progressive, egalitarian and socially responsible as “hard left” or “far left” or (as the Daily Mail crayon-pushers have been doing since the 70s) “loony left”.

    Standard use of the Horseshoe Theory: Hitler on one side, you in the middle, anyone you don’t like on the other.

    Everyone understands “racism is wrong.”

    Everyone also understands than “rape is wrong”, but when you actually ask people what qualifies as rape or racism, it gets defined out of existence. Racism is wrong because it’s something I’d never do, now let me tell you about those Mexicans…

  59. Marc Abian says

    There is the other side to the coin.

    “You talked about danger,” I said. “What were you imagining might…?”

    “Have you ever heard that thing, men are afraid that women will laugh at them and women are afraid that men will kill them?” she replied. “So. Yeah.”

    I told Adria that people might consider that an overblown thing to say. She had, after all, been at a tech conference with 2,000 bystanders.

    “Sure,” she replied. “And those people would probably be white and they would probably be male.”

    “Somebody getting fired is pretty bad,” I said. “I know you didn’t call for him to be fired, but you must have felt pretty bad.”

    “Not too bad,” she said. She thought more and shook her head decisively. “He’s a white male. I’m a black Jewish female. He was saying things that could be inferred as offensive to me, sitting in front of him.

    Read that extract, imagine what she’s talking about, and then read the full story from “I am a nobody”
    https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/feb/21/internet-shaming-lindsey-stone-jon-ronson

    She’s using the identity black jewish female like the guy in lethal weapon used diplomatic immunity: often and like it’s a superpower.

  60. secondtofirstworld says

    @Marc Abian #72: I’ve read the whole article, and I don’t see the other side of the titular coin. It’s an article about online harassment from which the guy came out unscathed, and the woman lost her job after some people with a lot of time and no connection to the case practically blackmailed the company.

    At no point does the article ever say that a minority status is being used as an unfair advantage or as an excuse. What it does say is that an audience lacking diversity had a good laugh at a stereotypical race joke aimed at black men. The titular other side would have been if he truly did nothing, and would not come back with accepting work in a place that has no women.

  61. basilblake says

    I made an account here just so I could defend markgisleson – I’m a lesbian and a member of my college’s LGBTQ club. My club does panels where we go to different classes and answer people’s questions on LGBTQ issues. I’ve encountered a number of people with profoundly ignorant opinions. I don’t start lecturing them on heteronormativity and Judith Butler – I try to understand where they’re coming from, find common ground, and speak from my own experience. I’ve seen people’s minds change over the course of a 15 minute discussion and it’s incredible.

    I don’t understand queer theory or postmodernism at all – every time I’ve tried to read that stuff my eyes have glazed over one page in. I’ve learned what I know from talking to other LGBTQ people about their lives.

    I trust someone who doesn’t spend time on tumblr keeping up with correct language but does listen to other people and treat them with respect a lot more than I trust people who know all the right words and use them to bully and harass people.

  62. Marc Abian says

    I’ve read the whole article, and I don’t see the other side of the titular coin.

    Well if you read the bit of the article I quoted, you see that she pointed out that the audience is white, with respect to her fearing for her life. And she doesn’t feel bad about him getting fired because he’s a white male, and she’s a black jewish female. The worst interpretation is that she doesn’t care about him getting fired because he’s a white male, and she’s a black jewish female. The best interpretation is that she doesn’t care about him getting fired because the joke had extra offence, because of him being a white male and her being a black jewish female. But how does that make sense? What does her being black and jewish have to do with anything? Why do you think she brought that up?

    What it does say is that an audience lacking diversity had a good laugh at a stereotypical race joke aimed at black men.

    What?

    It’s an article about online harassment from which the guy came out unscathed, and the woman lost her job after some people with a lot of time and no connection to the case practically blackmailed the company.

    Two different outcomes is expected because those people’s situations were not the same.
    Unscathed isn’t losing your job and then finding another.
    The guy should not have lost his job because he did nothing wrong.
    The woman arguably should have lost her job, because her job was basically to do the opposite of what she did (she was in PR). I do hate that a gang of strangers can blackmail an employer to fire someone though.

  63. secondtofirstworld says

    @Marc Abian #75:

    No, I did not read just the excerpt, but the whole article, and if you did too, we should drop the act where she’s made out to be the bad guy. He understood, that what he did was wrong, that you don’t accept it, is actually irrelevant.

    Finding a job right after being fired in addition to posting about it without the company’s consent? Yes, that’s unscathed. In many cultures and countries, one has to sign an NDA, including a 6 month freeze from applying to jobs in the same field, and no former employee can badmouth their employer, which is exactly what he did when he posted why he got fired, it’s not public information. In many places his ass would have been sued.

    You claim he did nothing wrong, except for the sexual joke he did, coupled with a racial stereotype. True, at first he did not get it, but later on he did. You also claim he was fired somehow due to her actions, and not, as it was in reality, by the decision of his company. There’s also the issue of online harassment which started after he posted his firing online. It did not just magically appear out of nowhere, those guys have been on the site before, and it’s a huge oversight on his part, if he hasn’t realized where he was posting.

    The good thing that he did beside realizing what he did was to not give in to the guys who wanted to use him as pawn. She wasn’t fired because she got him fired, she was fired, because a bunch of unrelated people blackmailed her company to choose between keeping her and not being able to do business (which is a cybercrime, as is harassment) or firing her. Bear in mind, they harassed him too.

    Imagine for a second that you’re cross eyed, and a guy comes on stage and says, he reviewed the new microchip, but it lags are due to incompetent workers who must have been cross eyed to eff up the circuits. Sure, he tried to to be funny, but the golden rule of stand up is, test your crowd before you do raunchy material. It’s like saying Michael Richards did not do anything wrong, he just wanted to hackle back, yet he never got a gig again that matters. Although this guy became a victim too, he did make a joke about women and black guys with long dongs, and it’s even worse, that the audience was mostly white men, as they don’t get it why it’s not funny.

    I had an English teacher, who was with the Peace Corps, and he hailed from Alabama. He was one of the most contradictory characters I’ve ever seen, as he liked to smoke weed, but he was also racist to his core, his favorite joke was that black people don’t need babysitters, because if you throw a baby to the ceiling, their hair will get stuck. Again, Peace Corps. He was also convinced that Rodney King provoked fully innocent cops.

    Speaking of which, the guy in the article spoke before 2 thousand people, any of whom could have recorded it and forward it, even if they agree with it, which eventually would have ended up with someone who doesn’t, so his bad decision was a ticking time bomb either way. I’d used the example of Rachel Dolazal, where a minority position truly was used for fraud, but that doesn’t change the topic.

    What links your article to this story is the people, who not only do bad things, but also tell others, that they should feel good about it. Many of those perpetrators are in high school, college, or just fresh out of college, so they don’t care much about consequences anyway.

  64. Marc Abian says

    No, I did not read just the excerpt, but the whole article, and if you did too, we should drop the act where she’s made out to be the bad guy.

    Great, we’ve both read the article. So I’ll ask again, what does her being black and jewish have to do with anything? Why do you think she brought that up?

    You claim he did nothing wrong, except for the sexual joke he did, coupled with a racial stereotype

    Again, what? What racial stereotype?

  65. secondtofirstworld says

    @ Marc Abian #77:

    I hinted at it earlier, imagine having any trait in your life others could see as a shortcoming, and people take ignorantly advantage of it at your cost, and anyone else you share that trait with. It could be as seemingly innocent as ” if you don’t get this movie, go back and watch Transformers”. This seemingly innocent statement brands everyone, who ever watched a giant robot or superhero movie as a dunce who can’t get deeper plots in movies. I, for example, am a cinophile, who watches a wide variety of movies, and don’t like to be stereotyped. I can’t and won’t pretend knowing what it’s like to black or Jewish, much less a woman, but I do get being bullied for superficial traits, down to a life threatening level. That’s what her statement is about, being both marginalized and being ignored while being marginalized.

    They joked about the fictional product having a big dongle. People in countries without any black population know it’s a racial stereotype about black men. There’s the opposite pair to this, the “once you go black you never go back”. While I do accept that he hasn’t thought it through, yet he should have, that’s why people get mandatory sessions on how to avoid a lawsuit. In a country like America, and by far not the only one with the issue, society as a whole may be diverse, but for the most part people live beside each other, not with each other. If one happens to grow up in a community without diversity, they lack the understanding on what one’s limits are, even worse, they can grow up, and in lack of social mobility, also die with having led a life filled with stereotypes about others they never meet in real life. Such a danger can affect anyone regardless of gender and skin color.

    Now, since you read the full article, you know it’s about how faceless entities destroyed their lives. The story of the woman and the man isn’t about him being fired, it’s about their lives being destroyed by a legion of psychopaths. I can’t judge Hank whether he knew or not what kind of a site he was posting on, only that he stopped after his “saviors” started to threaten him too.

  66. cicindela says

    I actually just came here (and made a username and everything) for the first time in at least five years. I was a regular daily reader during my undergrad days, but started teaching in 2011 and never really had much time after that to check blogs (okay, I more or less kept up with Ed Yong, but still).

    Anyway, today I thought about Pharyngula after a long time not thinking about it, and this seems an appropriate post to express my profound relief that I still enjoy the writing here–juxtaposed with so many of the people I followed/read/respected* in 2008-11 who have subsequently made asses of themselves in either social media or traditional media or in person, it’s refreshing that PZ is still writing, still leftist, still pro-diversity, feminist, and still utterly reasonable in a time when reason sometimes seems scarce.

    So, thanks for doing you, I guess. I’ll be checking back in again.

    *Sam Harris doesn’t count. That guy was always a douche.

  67. Marc Abian says

    They joked about the fictional product having a big dongle. People in countries without any black population know it’s a racial stereotype about black men.

    Oh wow. I guess yesterday when I ate chicken and rice I was doubly offensive.
    It is a racial stereotype sure, but it’s nothing to do with that in this context. It’s just a joke about a big dongle.

    I hinted at it earlier, imagine having any trait in your life others could see as a shortcoming, and people take ignorantly advantage of it at your cost, and anyone else you share that trait with.

    Are you saying this is what the guy making the joke was doing, or that the fact that she lacks certain social privilege means she was justified in either not feeling too bad about him getting fired or finding his joke extra offensive? Remember, what she said is that she’s a black jewish female.

  68. secondtofirstworld says

    @Marc Abian #82:

    I’m starting to wonder if you were okay with Mickey Rooney doing yellowface in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, since it’s just a joke… You said that you’ve read the whole article, in other words, not just their story. If so, you’d know the tone of the whole article instead of riding on one excerpt to justify a perceived injustice. He got a job right away, and his “solution” to the problem with women was that he doesn’t work with one. Yet instead of accepting how, in his own words he fell victim to the angry crowd after he refused to engage them, your single focus is “she abused being black and Jewish”. That’s not what got him fired, it was the decision of the company, and nothing would have happened, if he hadn’t posted it on a site, that was, and probably still is crawling with socially inept people, hellbent on destroying the lives of others.

    I agree, he had the right to do so, and was lucky his former company hasn’t sued him for defamation of character, but there are things which are obvious, like the site of Stormfront not being about weather patterns. The gist of it wasn’t white male versus black female, it was “men being afraid of being laughed out by women, and women being afraid killed by men”. The very fact you can focus on that single excerpt suggests you don’t have to deal with problems she cited, or at best you don’t understand them, but either way, it won’t ever affect you.

    I said it before, you should have focused on Rachel Dolazal, where misuse actually did happen.

  69. Marc Abian says

    justify a perceived injustice.

    I don’t know what you mean by this.
    Justify: show or prove to be right or reasonable

    The gist of it wasn’t white male versus black female, it was “men being afraid of being laughed out by women, and women being afraid killed by men

    Absolutely none of the story is about women being afraid of being killed by men. That Adria felt it was a relevant thing to bring up is startling. And read the comments under the article to see I’m not alone on this.

    she abused being black and Jewish”. That’s not what got him fired, it was the decision of the company, and nothing would have happened, if he hadn’t posted it on a site, that was, and probably still is crawling with socially inept people, hellbent on destroying the lives of others.

    I don’t think she abused being black and jewish, I said she brought up the fact that she was black and female and jewish to explain why she didn’t feel too bad over him getting fired. This is a good example of unreasonable identity politics and why it’s bad. I don’t see you arguing against this, other than with a crazy thought that blackness was somewhat relevant because big dicks is a black stereotype, and in your latest comment saying that the gist of the article was about women fearing men will kill them. Both absolutely ludicrous.

    And I still don’t know the answer to my question
    Are you saying this is what the guy making the joke was doing, or that the fact that she lacks certain social privilege means she was justified in either not feeling too bad about him getting fired or finding his joke extra offensive?

  70. secondtofirstworld says

    @Marc Abian #84:

    The article is about people, whose lives were ruined by keyboard warriors who felt the need to act on somebody else’s behalf without being asked to, and a side story about how the writer of the article had to face a few buffoons who thought if they re brand identity theft, it will cease to be one.

    Yet your concern is why she hasn’t felt bad. It’s simple. The story would have never seen light if he hadn’t decided to post it somewhere, where readers were such keyboard warriors. She was interviewed after her life was destroyed. Also, yes, her remark about being who she is was a reminder, that even without this incident she always was a target. The crowd the guy was talking to, as corroborated by other pictures, was one of white men. In and of itself, that wouldn’t mean anything, it could have been a social science conference, where the ones who showed up were majority men. Except it wasn’t, it was a gathering from an industry that is infamous of being excluding in nature toward people, who are not men.

    The problem isn’t being a man either, it’s being a person, who isn’t good with other people, and seeks out employment, where they don’t have to socialize. They don’t know the limits as to how far they can go as they usually don’t meet those people. They’re part of circles, who claim they shouldn’t feel guilt, because they know people who make more, than them, who don’t have as many obligations as they do (although that’s just redefining what an obligation is). About 2 centuries ago, zoos, as we know them today were the fad of royalty, but poorer people got to see human zoos, where other humans were shown as something exotic, bear in mind, it was still in practice after slavery was abolished. The Siamese Twins started out as slaves, until they bought themselves out, and kept slaves themselves.

    The point is, that even before her life was ruined, she still was a target for others, just not as viciously. On the other hand, Hank’s trauma with this experience remained a single case, he isn’t being harassed anymore, and also had not suffered any financial consequence.

    What you’re saying is, that this was a bad case of identity politics. Except, she only told that to the interviewer, she did not contact his employer, did not contact the organizers, and had not boasted about being anything after he got fired. There’s a vocal minority among men, who do make the case every time about what women should and shouldn’t do. That some of them cling to her words under the article isn’t proof Hank was wronged because of that. He was fired, because he made a sexual joke on company time representing a company that has zero tolerance in the matter. He was also immediately hired somewhere else.

    The question is, outside a stand up routine, can we or can’t we make a joke about a stereotype, that only refers to one race? I grew up in a culture, where making such jokes is A-OK, because the butt of the joke is never present, and thus unaware. It doesn’t make it right, but they’re also not confronted on it.

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