Sady Doyle hits another one out of the park. She discusses the phenomenon of the angry white male public intellectual and their anxieties.
Rather, the root at the problem of this kind of online harassment is that political and intellectual authority has for centuries been the domain of white men. The rise of feminism and civil rights; increased cultural awareness of Islamophobia; and the very real possibility that a woman may soon break the 200-year-plus lock that men have had on the United States presidency are all challenging that authority. Intellectual spaces have become more accessible for everyone. And that’s caused some men to wield their authority more anxiously, and brutally, to those who challenge it.
These anxieties are profound and pervasive. We’re used to seeing them expressed by people with the luxury of anonymity and unaccountability. To see them coming from “legitimate” sources is depressing. But there is an upside. By bringing online harassment out into the open and signing their real names to it, Dawkins, the Bernie Bros and others have let us know that the people ready to attack anyone who threatens the status quo are not necessarily strangers or faceless losers. They can also be people with real power.
That shows us exactly how entrenched ancient attitudes about authority really are. What’s at stake is not simply one election, or what a few people have to say on the Internet. It’s whether marginalized people have a place in the public conversation at all.
Yeah. We don’t have good gatekeepers on who gets to express their authority any more (although, this is Sunday morning: turn on your TV and watch all the male pundits. Some places still have really good gates). Furthermore, we don’t get to assume the public will gratefully defer to our authority. It can be very uncomfortable, being compelled to listen to and respect the opinions of, say, a black woman.
I’d only disagree with the focus on white male intellectuals. These are situations where intellectualism does not raise its noble head, except perhaps to assist in the rationalizations.
For example, there has been another mass shooting in Michigan, with seven dead after an angry white man went for a drive and started shooting random people out of his car window. Nothing intellectual about it — just another guy, frustrated that everything isn’t going his way automatically, and instead of firing off on Twitter, he decided to use his handy handgun.
These things are all connected. There is a climate of disquiet as the old order slowly shifts, as people brought up with the idea that they were the center of the universe discover that no, we are not, and we are losing unmerited advantages.