Andrew Sullivan makes Sarah Jeong’s point for her — how kind!


I thought the Right was supposed to be against political correctness and excessive sensitivity? But it seems they are quite happy to wax indignant about tone when it’s their skin being pricked. The latest incident is that the NY Times hired Sarah Jeong, a liberal leaning writer of Korean descent who has mocked the fragile fee-fees of white people. We’re supposed to set aside our concern about bigotry when a white writer uses the N-word, or when another white male writer announces that women who get an abortion deserve the death penalty, but poking fun at the privileged position of white people…oh my god, this is unforgivable racism.

Right now on the internet you can find lots of people clutching their pearls and quoting old tweets by Jeong — whole litanies of strung-together excerpts making a kind of poetry of laughter at white sensitivity. It’s entertaining because these articles are making Jeong’s point for her: that an awful lot of white people have achieved eminence while not actually earning it, and they’re terribly touchy about it.

Speaking of aggrieved privileged white men granted a voice far above their talent, of course Andrew Sullivan has contributed to the genre. Oh, Mr Sullivan, if only you weren’t quite so predictable and trite…

Is the newest member of the New York Times editorial board, Sarah Jeong, a racist?

From one perspective — that commonly held by people outside the confines of the political left — she obviously is. A series of tweets from 2013 to 2015 reveal a vicious hatred of an entire group of people based only on their skin color. If that sounds harsh, let’s review a few, shall we? “White men are bullshit,” is one. A succinct vent, at least. But notice she’s not in any way attacking specific white men for some particular failing, just all white men for, well, existing. Or this series of ruminations: “have you ever tried to figure out all the things that white people are allowed to do that aren’t cultural appropriation. there’s literally nothing. like skiing, maybe, and also golf. white people aren’t even allowed to have polo. did you know that. like don’t you just feel bad? why can’t we give white people a break. lacrosse isn’t for white people either. it must be so boring to be white.” Or this: “basically i’m just imagining waking up white every morning with a terrible existential dread that i have no culture.” I can’t say I’m offended by this — it’s even mildly amusing, if a little bonkers. (Has she read, say, any Shakespeare or Emily Dickinson?) But it does reveal a worldview in which white people — all of them — are cultural parasites and contemptibly dull.

A little more disturbing is what you might call “eliminationist” rhetoric — language that wishes an entire race could be wiped off the face of the earth: “#cancelwhitepeople.” Or: “White people have stopped breeding. you’ll all go extinct soon. that was my plan all along.” One simple rule I have about describing groups of human beings is that I try not to use a term that equates them with animals. Jeong apparently has no problem doing so. Speaking of animals, here’s another gem: “Dumbass fucking white people marking up the internet with their opinions like dogs pissing on fire hydrants.” Or you could describe an entire race as subhuman: “Are white people genetically disposed to burn faster in the sun, thus logically being only fit to live underground like groveling goblins.” And then there’s this simple expression of the pleasure that comes with hatred: “oh man it’s kind of sick how much joy I get out of being cruel to old white men.” I love that completely meretricious “old” to demean them still further. And that actual feeling: joy at cruelty!

Poor Andrew, so innocent, so naive, so trusting. No, I wouldn’t call that “eliminationist” rhetoric. David Neiwert has a good working definition of the term, and has a great many horrifying examples. Jeong doesn’t even come close. Ribbing the people in power is a perfectly reasonable tactic, especially when it’s clear it’s not a serious proposal — and no, laughing at people who complain that other people are outbreeding them, or calling them groveling goblins who must live underground, isn’t eliminationist. It’s kind of rude, at worst, and as someone pale enough to burn beneath incandescent lights, that comment does sting a little bit, because it bears a bit of truth in it.

But Sullivan should have avoided quoting her, because this one is a little too harsh: “Dumbass fucking white people marking up the internet with their opinions like dogs pissing on fire hydrants.” It’s true of me, I’ll concede, but you know who it fits perfectly? Andrew Sullivan. And there he goes, pissing on the internet again.

Comments

  1. says

    You carefully avoid reprinting many of the most hostile comments she made. I don’t give a damn about white people’s feelings, really, but many of her remarks absolutely are highly offensive. I’ve pretty much given up expecting much from the New York Times (my wife and I gave up our subscription after the 2016 election, after 23 years) but that doesn’t change the fact that nobody with this kind of attitude, on any side of the racial divide, should be given a platform at our nation’s “newspaper of record.”

  2. Siobhan says

    @2 Green Eagle

    nobody with this kind of attitude, on any side of the racial divide, should be given a platform at our nation’s “newspaper of record.”

    Jeong’s attitude is “I’m tired of white people being racist to me,” to be clear. She was exasperated and was reflecting the exact rhetoric directed at her.

  3. unclefrogy says

    I do find it funny but also very predictable that racist like that who advocate so stridently for free speech by declaring their right to say anything they think is correct have so much trouble with anyone else doing the same thing especially if it disagrees with anything they have said or “believe” is true.
    the way they fling the BS around they should take up mushroom farming.
    uncle frogy

  4. Ed Seedhouse says

    “Green Eagle”@2 ” don’t give a damn about white people’s feelings, really, but”
    Excuse me, but I’m being blinded and deafened by my bullshit alarms. The stupid, it burns!

  5. KG says

    I’ve a feeling I’ve seen Green Eagle being a complete fuckwit around here before. Anyone else remember exactly where?

  6. says

    Green Eagle @2

    You carefully avoid reprinting many of the most hostile comments she made. I don’t give a damn about white people’s feelings, really, but many of her remarks absolutely are highly offensive.

    Then by all means provide some examples that you think are particularly damning.

  7. gijoel says

    Surely we should be engaging in polite and calm debate with Miss Jeong, and not resorting to name calling. Shouldn’t we be extending olive branches, not cudgel. /s

  8. says

    Those quotes of Jeong’s are so obviously pulled out of a context of retorts to racists, responding to or flipping their rhetoric.

    The white supremacists have quite a thing going. They can say all sorts of horrible shit in “civil” phrasing and claim the real racism is people people getting angry about that. Or responding to the more blatant racists. There’s no problem in need of addressing if people are quiet about the racist abuse, but if they speak up they’re the “real” racists because pretty much anything said can be twisted.

    It’s disgusting how much people with influence let them get away with it, or even seem to fall for it.

  9. chrislawson says

    Tabby@7–

    Yes, that was transparently, hilariously self-serving, wasn’t it? “How dare you not quote the worst bits! I’m not going to quote anything!”

  10. says

    Shakespear is part of white culture? When? I’ve heard white people (mis-)quote “There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy” by people trying to say that science is limited* but that’s about it.

    Other than that maybe a few common aphorisms but that’s a foregone conclusion.

    *(No shit science is limited. It sticks to stuff that in principle can be found out.)

  11. says

    Should someone bother pointing out to Sullivan that he is clearly and obviously straw manning the “left’s” definition of racism? He claims that Jeong’s identity as a woman of color means she can’t be racist by virtue of that fact. But that’s not the left’s definition of racism. The identity of the speaker has no bearing on whether a statement is racist or not; what matter is if the targeted groups lacks institutional power. If Jeong went on a rant about how black men are predisposed to be violent criminals that absolutely would be racist. It still wouldn’t be racist if I, a lily white guy, (sincerely) wished for the demographic destruction of white people. Has Sullivan never heard of internalized racism? MY GOD he’s gay, he in all probability has dealt with self-loathing at some point in his coming out process. This is either remarkably sloppy or he’s operating in bad faith.

    There’s reasons to keep the two sense of racist separate, i.e. racist as mere bigotry against people of certain social groups OR racist as bigotry against nonwhite people back by institutional and systemic power. But you have to get them right in the first place to not be confused.

    I don’t know how this made it past the editor.

  12. says

    If that sounds harsh, let’s review a few, shall we? “White men are bullshit,” is one. A succinct vent, at least. But notice she’s not in any way attacking specific white men for some particular failing, just all white men for, well, existing. Or this series of ruminations: “have you ever tried to figure out all the things that white people are allowed to do that aren’t cultural appropriation. there’s literally nothing. like skiing, maybe, and also golf. white people aren’t even allowed to have polo. did you know that. like don’t you just feel bad? why can’t we give white people a break. lacrosse isn’t for white people either. it must be so boring to be white.” Or this: “basically i’m just imagining waking up white every morning with a terrible existential dread that i have no culture.”

    I know little about her, but now I can’t wait to read her columns. Seems an apt moment for some Toni Morrison.

  13. raaak says

    Some of her tweets were a little extreme and she got reprimanded for them. Times told her that behavior would not be tolerable in the future. Given that she was the subject of online harassment and her tweets were a response to harassment, it seems to me that the Times’ decision was fair. The whole situation didn’t warrant more than a slap on the wrist (at most).

    Forget about right-wing trolls. What they do is totally expected.

    But wasn’t this type of cool-headed and fair decision by the Times what “the moderates”, “the centrists”, “the anti-regressive leftist” always claimed the progressives lack? One would expect these esteemed and enlightened intellectuals laud Times’ cool-headed decision and support it.

    But No! They are regurgitating racist tweets against her and are shouting on top of their throats that she should be fired! Not only they are hypocrites, they are setting up Ms.Jeong for another wave of disgusting attacks by online mobs with the hope of provoking her to respond in kind and thus prove their point (their point being she is a R.A.C.I.S.T!)
    What a shame.

  14. upprunitegundanna says

    I do think that it speaks badly of anyone’s character to direct generalised comments at any demographic group. I am resolutely committed to the proposition that no demographic is a monolith, but rather composed of unique individuals, and that the behaviour of one member of a demographic is not the responsibility of all members of that demographic (e.g. calls for Muslims to “condemn” terrorist attacks by people who have no more in common with them than anyone else). However, I will say that I pray for a day when the only generalised comments about a group are about white people; I pray for a day when the only people killed by cops are white people; I pray for a day when the only people murdered full stop are white people; and I pray for a day when the only people who experience suffering of any kind are white people. It would just make everything so much easier.

  15. pensnest says

    georgewiman at #14

    You baffle me. Are you saying, as you appear to be, that Shakespeare is NOT part of white culture? Are you being sarcastic? I’m unable to parse your comment, could you explain?

  16. upprunitegundanna says

    @pensnest Georgewiman is correct: Shakespeare is not part of “white culture”, because there is no white culture. White people should not have – or even consider themselves to have – any culture, because doing so implies exclusive ownership of some aspect of culture. This is unacceptable: anything that could conceivably be considered to have a “white” origin (whatever that means) is the universal property of humanity, and not of one group.

  17. upprunitegundanna says

    “shouting on top of their throats that she should be fired!”

    @raaak, Andrew Sullivan specifically said that she should not be fired, as did Ben Shapiro, Robby Soave, Toby Young and numerous other right-leaning journalists. But if you go by Twitter you can find whatever opinion you want in any given moment to support the narrative you want to support, because ALL opinions are available in abundance on Twitter.

  18. marcoli says

    The strongest argument that I have seen that her comments were permissible, somehow, is that she was reacting to being harassed online. That is terrible, but so of course her responding tweets are against those sorts, right? Against racists? Misogynists? Online trolls? No, they were against an entire race.

  19. says

    Isn’t it amazing how all those media outlets and pundits and writers have suddenly discovered the word “racist”? It’s no longer “racially charged” or “racially insensitive”, nono, a woman of colour blows off some steam and suddenly it’s time to break out the word “racist”.

    Are white people genetically disposed to burn faster in the sun, thus logically being only fit to live underground like groveling goblins.

    Have the people who take offence at that ever been to a seaside place? seriously, we went to Spain for three weeks and white folks sported sunburns like it was 1983 and SPF 4 was a new thing you gently smothered on babies.

  20. Athaic says

    @ upprunitegundanna

    Shakespeare is not part of “white culture”, because there is no white culture.

    Let’s not go too far. I understand that an individual definition of culture is the sum of all the things one person has come across in its life, but another definition of culture is the common sum of things shared by a societal group. Of course, life being like it is, people don’t fit snugly in nice little boxes and defining a societal group tend to be an exercise in recursive iteration, but let’s try anyway.
    Shakespeare could be claimed as part of the British culture, because that was who he was when he became famous, and his job was to add to the culture of his country.
    But he is definitively not part of “white culture”. I’m a white French (well, under the sunburn), and if you tell me that Shakespeare is part of my culture, I’ll be surprised, honored, but I will also firmly tell you that no, he is not. I know of him, I have read a book or pastiches (Pratchett) or seen a movie or two, but that’s all. I may as well claim that samurai are part of my culture because I have read Eiji Yoshikawa.
    In the same manner, if you were to tell Chinese or Thaï people that Akira Kurosawa is part of their culture, they may express some doubts.
    Actually, reading Sullivan “white people culture”, I automatically translated it into “WASP culture”. I don’t think he was referring to Norwegian culture. Blind ethnocentrism at its finest.
    Now, labels are restrictives, and societies change. People meet and add to their own culture stuff from other cultures. Sometimes destroying, or assimilating the other culture in the process, but I digress. Tea, chocolate, potato, or tomato are deeply rooted in the culture of European countries, and not just as something to eat (or drink), but as something typical of the traditions of these countries. All of these products were unknown before Shakespeare and a little after.
    Actually, from what I see, it was the meat of one of Sarah Jeong’s supposedly-damning quoted sentences – how “white culture”, or rather in this case American WASP culture, is an amalgam of stuff lifted of numerous cultures the world over.
    Everybody does it since Babylonian times, so it’s not so bad. But it’s bad to pretend one’s society is the pinnacle of civilisation and invention, when it had heavily borrowed from about anyone else.

  21. raven says

    @pensnest Georgewiman is correct: Shakespeare is not part of “white culture”, because there is no white culture. White people should not have – or even consider themselves to have – any culture, because doing so implies exclusive ownership of some aspect of culture.

    This is sort of true but misses a key point.
    There is no such thing as white culture!!!
    There are a vast and ever changing array of “cultures” that have varying numbers of whites identifying and creating them.
    Whites aren’t a monolithic group that believes the same and acts the same.

    In fact, Europe is soaked in blood.
    European history going back before the Roman empire is largely the story of one group of whites or another fighting wars with other groups.
    To take another example, my coastal Northern California culture has nothing in common with Rep. Steve King’s Western Iowa culture.
    And oh yeah, my culture has little in common with Andrew Sullivan’s culture, thank Cthulhu.

  22. petesh says

    @22: Let me try to make it clear, in words of one syll… small words. She got tweets that said as a slur she was of a race and she came back with fake slurs about the white race. Get it? The scorn was a spoof.

    [This one-syllable stuff is hard.]

  23. marcoli says

    @26: Then she should say so at the time. Everyone knows that edgy, meant-to-be-funny/sarcastic comments online come off as hostile, and they should at some point be couched as such. So it is pretty clear that she meant it, it went on for years, & it includes comments directed to both men and women, and the late excuses that oh, she was joking just does not wash. Saying after the fact that it was a joke is what any racist or their defenders would say.
    Let me be plain. It is possible for people of color to be racist toward white people. I understand that it is different since that is directed toward those in the top of the power structure. That form of racism does little damage except to continue to divide different people and to to give talking points to the right. But it is racism just the same and it should be called out. Finally, I am an ardent liberal. I despise the political right and racists and all that, but I do wish that some members from my camp would stop stop making excuses for bad behavior coming from our side.

  24. A. Noyd says

    marcoli (#27)

    I despise the political right and racists and all that, but I do wish that some members from my camp would stop stop making excuses for bad behavior coming from our side.

    So, you might say that liberals should be aiming to create an absence of tension?

  25. raaak says

    21:

    @raaak, Andrew Sullivan specifically said that she should not be fired, as did Ben Shapiro, Robby Soave, Toby Young and numerous other right-leaning journalists. But if you go by Twitter …

    I don’t think Andrew Sullivan or Ben Shapiro are right-wing trolls (though Shapiro comes awfully close sometimes). I don’t want to name names and I admit it is possible have an exaggerated view of the viciousness of the attacks against her, fine.

    Let’s take Ben Shapiro. He accuses Ms.Jeong of having a generalized view about the “white race”. Well, if she truly believes in existence of the “white race” (in the sense pop-culture portrays it), then she should not be hired for a science writing position in the first place. Obviously, this is not the case. She has posted those tweets in response to vicious harassment and by white people, she was referring to how her harassers identify themselves. This seems so glaringly obvious to me that I have a hard time believing Shapiro is arguing in good faith.

    But it gets more twisted than that! So if she is a racist and posted those tweets out of racial animus, why shouldn’t she be fired? By not demanding her ousting from the job, they are effectively saying:
    If a white dude had posted similar tweets, he would have been definitely fired! (which is wrong)
    Leaving aside the stupidity of the counterfactual, they are demanding actual racists to be allowed into big news organizations like the Times and others because ….non-white people can be racist too, I guess!

    Like I said, by accusing her of racism, blowing the whole affair wildly out of proportion, and disseminating those tweets without providing the appropriate context, they (maybe unwittingly) are setting her up for another wave of online abuse. This is a shameful and irrational behavior.

  26. ck, the Irate Lump says

    raven wrote:

    This is sort of true but misses a key point.
    There is no such thing as white culture!!!

    Exactly. Shakespeare is British or anglo culture. There’s also no such thing as western culture. Both of these things were manufactured out of whole cloth to create solidarity among a group of dissimilar cultures for political reasons, not cultural ones. Even if you take the vague Western Values™ and look closely at each of those western nations which implement them, you end up with radical differences between them. Democracy is claimed as a value, yet many of these nations (including my own) are monarchies which is literally anti-democratic. Freedom is a value, but most countries have laws prohibiting certain kinds of speech (i.e. hate speech) and prohibitions on behavior (drug use, prostitution, non-hetero sex, etc) are still quite common today.

  27. blf says

    Whilst Shakespeare was written within the context of British (mostly English) court protocols, and is considered one of the predominate and defining influences on (fairly-)modern English language, it’s a bit misleading to consider his works as English / British. Heavily influenced, yes. His works are appreciated all over the world, and have been translated in many(? most?) languages. This is not to say he has the same-ish respect in non-English-language settings / cultures as he does in English-language lands, but he is not considered some minor hack or writer of no consequence — except in the (very small) part of English-language-lands who dispute the person from Stratford-upon-Avon wrote the works attributed to him since before he died.

  28. petesh says

    @27: I am sorry that you are irony-challenged. Anyway, as a traitor to my race, gender, class and national origin, I get where she was coming from. White people suck. [Some white people (but a depressing large number) in some (depressingly common) circumstances act somewhat inappropriately.]

  29. upprunitegundanna says

    @bif exactly! There is no reason to consider Shakespeare to be “white culture”. There is no such thing, and there never can be such a thing. It is immoral for white people to believe they have any culture of any kind. How can you “have” a culture? Surely cultural innovations are the universal property of humanity, not the sole preserve of a particular group. If anyone asked me what culture I had, I would say none, aside from the small amount of insignificant creative works I have personally created. That is the start and end of “white culture”.

  30. raaak says

    <

    blockquote>Let me be plain. It is possible for people of color to be racist toward white people

    Where I come from, there is a lot of jokes about minorities (a lot of them offensive, mocking people’s education, choice of clothing, equating them with animals, etc.). These jokes were offensive, but members of the dominant culture always claimed that they didn’t mind if the same joke was told about them and their culture. It is a feature of multi-cultural society that members of the dominant culture gets to mock and ridicule other cultures without people from those cultures being able to really get back.

    “White culture” is no different, except its power and reach is universal rather than local. When white people mock or ridicule people of color, their defense is: well, make jokes about us! we don’t care!

    But suddenly they DO care. They are offended. The same people lamenting death of humor supposedly because the left has become too sensitive, do not even try to put her remarks into context. Only 100% literal interpretations are allowed now. Only the most rigid and abstract definition of racism is applied to her tweets.

    I suspect the real issue here is the resentment the right and the centrist left feels toward the rest of the left. The emotions run so high that they prefer an alt-right narrative to cool-headed and disinterested application of reason simply because it satisfies their desire to somehow get back at the “regressive left”!

  31. methuseus says

    It may just be that I’m not racist, but I find those tweets funny. If they were said by a white person, not as funny, but still. if they were said by a white person about non-whites, that’s crossing a pretty distinct line. Hell, I say “white people suck” plenty often, and I’m white.

  32. emergence says

    As a white guy, I think I know why I’m not bothered by what Jeong said and Sullivan is. We both know who she’s actually talking about.

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