The New York Times’ decision to hire white-people obsessed Sarah Jeong as a member of its editorial board is getting a lot of virtual ink. That’s because Jeong has written a pile of hateful tweets about “whiteness” and men.
Dave Marcus at the Federalist is one of many who have exposed the double standard the paper displayed in hiring Jeong despite her discriminatory attitude towards people of a certain race. Many have called out her tweets as racist. For example, on June 14, 2014 she tweeted: “Let’s fund a study on whether killing all the white people would make black people safer.” But that’s not an isolated example. Her tweets on “whiteness” and men are a voluminous constant since at least 2013.
Jeong clearly has an unhealthy preoccupation with “white people.” It’s obsessive-compulsive, and certainly not a stable or happy way of relating to humanity. But ultimately, this is not really about Sarah Jeong or race or “gender” or any other issue du jour. Her tweets, and the hypocrisy shown by The New York Times is a symptom of a greater illness that renders people incapable of seeing individuals as real people.
This isn’t just about race, because it’s totally anti-person to reject our common humanity. Identity politics are the foundation for Jeong’s attitude, and her favorable treatment from The New York Times. Identity politics are a pathogen that spreads ill will towards fellow humans with no knowledge of them as people. We need to defeat this erroneous and unhealthy way of looking at people, and replace it with respect for our common humanity.
Sadly, people who are invested in identity politics have zero interest in achieving true civility among diverse peoples. Zero. They are invested in the perpetuation of angst and ill will because it’s become nothing more than an industry to them. One very stark example is their rejection of Martin Luther King’s most famous and poignant quote: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Instead, investors in identity politics have outright rejected the entire idea of a colorblind society. And you will not find that most famous quote inscribed anywhere on the Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington D.C.
Maybe initially the idea behind identity politics was to help build awareness about how some groups were socially oppressed. But certainly not anymore. The entire perspective has morphed into just another form of oppression. Many of its proponents seem conflicted by both an attitude of supremacy as well as an inferiority complex. If ever there was a “social construct,” it exists in the morally bankrupt industry of identity politics. It’s nothing but an incoherent emotional booby trap built of anger and bitterness. Group identities have become vehicles to express blind frustrations.
Anti-Thought and Anti-Person
I think there are two common denominators in identity politics today: anti-thought and anti-person. In a recent Federalist essay, I proposed that there are really only two political camps now, and they should go by the names of pro-thought and anti-thought. I’m hereby adding a corollary: today people can choose one of two dispositions in how to live their lives: pro-person or anti-person.
Identity politics is anti-person, because its main purpose has become the sorting of people into de-humanized pigeon holes. It’s fueled by envy and hate – but always in the name of some sort of unattainable greater good. (There are unfortunate connections with totalitarian thought here.) In this intolerant utopia, the self-appointed powers that be (e.g., NYT, Jeong, anointed celebrities, bureaucrats, et al) determine who is human and who is not.
Of course, Jeong’s impulse to be a provocateur is nothing new among denizens of Twitter. More concerning is The New York Times’ decision to use her obsession with identity politics as a means of perpetuating its harmful and destructive agenda.
As an aside, I would say such obsessions also represent a retreat into solipsism, where a person is trapped in a mindset that is not able to distinguish what’s in one’s own mind from what is in the world; not being able to verify reality with anyone, because only the contents of one’s mind constitute what’s real. People who are invested so deeply in identity politics have no interest in engaging others who don’t see the world through their eyes. Everyone must think exactly as they do. And that means we can have no real conversations, no real relationships. No real expressions of thought. And no real world either.
Promotion of Bigotry
Let’s examine what a general obsession with identity politics actually does to us. And let’s also examine what bigotry really means. By openly adopting today’s mantle of identity politics with all of its inbred contradictions, media outlets such as The New York Times have adopted a generalized stance of bigotry. Because railing against an entire class of people – white, black, male, female, or whatever – ultimately means rejecting each and every individual in that supposed category, regardless of the personal experiences or human sufferings any one of them might have endured as an individual.
That’s a hideous effect, because it is that very balance that makes human relationships possible. There is no civil society in such a state of mind. And there is no society in such a state ruled by the whims of identity politics. In effect, The New York Times – through the cultivation of this attitude on its editorial board — is now openly telling us to reject all individuals as unique human persons.
This brand of identity politics also requires you to reject the uniqueness of any personality or even the capacity of a unique personality to develop. In this matrix, you are only permitted to see an individual in terms of a particular characteristic, which in turn reduces the person simply to being a piece of a blob into which group think homogenizes him or her.
I can think of few things more bigoted than being put through that process, no matter what you think your group identity is. Worse, the rejection of persons as unique individuals means that you must reject free and open human association. Instead, media in the vein of The New York Times direct your thoughts on what you may say to whom. The end result of such agitation is to regulate and dictate human relationships. This is how power-mongering totalitarians operate. It is definitely not how citizens who truly hope to live in a free and happy society operate.
A Defense Mechanism of the Embittered
Now I do understand how the bitterness of some people over their personal experiences can cause them to see “whiteness” – or some other bugaboo – as a scourge on life. I can even understand how human bitterness causes many to pre-judge people based on other characteristics such as “gender,” ethnicity, race, etc. Those who make such pre-judgements probably feel that somewhere along the line their dignity was wounded by people with that trait. In this way, identity politics cultivates uncontrolled and lawless guilt by association.
When bitterness is left to its own devices, guilt by association runs rampant. Let’s consider an example: We know a dog might distrust anybody wearing blue jeans and boots, if the dog suffered abuse by someone wearing blue jeans and boots. At a certain point, the dog can’t distinguish between jeans-wearing folks who would treat him kindly and the one who didn’t. Through some sort of stimulus-response conditioning, he becomes fixated on the jeans and boots as the object and cause of his pain.
A child might react the same way. Just like the dog, the child would likely view anybody wearing jeans and boots as guilty, untrustworthy and scary just by constant association. Through bitter and traumatic experiences, our brains turn the association into a defense mechanism. It’s very natural. We also see it in a lot of feminist women who simply feel embittered because of the way men have mistreated them in the past. All men in their minds have become dehumanized as abusers, all of them potential rapists. Worse, obsessing over it only creates a vicious cycle in which the aggrieved nurses her grudges, totally uninterested in ever letting go of them, and unable or unwilling to see any individual in the group.
And of course we see this constantly when it comes to race. I think pure bitterness probably causes folks like Ta-Nehisi Coates to be incapable of letting go of the idea that “whiteness” is the primary reason for inequality and the scourge of humanity. He has even suggested a return to the violence of the French Revolution as a solution. I actually get it. I recently heard a very sad story about how Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters suffered as a young child in the presence of racist aggression. Such trauma can imprint itself for life. And it’s very difficult for people to develop trust with those they associate with their pain. So with Waters, “whiteness” is the culprit that must be destroyed by any means necessary.
However, you don’t need to experience any actual abuse to react with such distrust and fear. People can be programmed to do so. The grievance industry in academia, Hollywood, and the media has been very busy pre-programming this trigger reaction into people, when it comes to race, sex, or any other of its preoccupations. And Jeong’s job description at The New York Times is likely a part of that very process.
The point is that when people are exposed to the same repetitious propaganda reinforced by the agitation of political correctness, they learn to be triggered into reacting against whiteness as dangerous, or maleness as toxic, or even to regard any opposite-sex relationship as “homophobic” or “heterosexist.” There’s ample evidence of this behavioral response on college campuses. But the public education establishment has been conditioning K-12 schoolchildren and even pre-schoolers to react that way.
‘What’s Focal is Causal’
As the persuasion expert Robert Cialdini notes in his book PRE-suasion: “What’s focal is causal.” That’s a very basic principle of all advertising, propaganda and thought reform campaigns. The grievance industry obsessively applies that principle. So people end up focusing on irrelevant traits that would never have occurred to them in the course of an otherwise unmolested, friendly conversation with that person.
Purveyors of identity politics are invested in the odd notion that privilege and power is entirely tied up in those characteristics. They force you to focus — focus – and focus again — on those traits and your emotions, especially your sense of guilt. Your over-awareness then makes those traits the cause of all that’s wrong with the world.
And we know for a fact that such weird changes of perception often happen as a result of undue focus on a particular characteristic. For example, without pop culture’s constant focus on hyper-skinny bodies as the only kind of beautiful, a lot of anorexics might have led otherwise normal and healthy lives.
So as identity politics shifts your focus away from people as individuals and towards people as pieces of groups, it causes modifications of your behavior, your speech, and your thoughts. And so it serves to regulate all of our social interactions and all of our associations. Let’s just stop this madness.
When Hypocrisy is Obvious
When we try to figure out the logic of The New York Times hiring an identity politics warrior, we ought not get too derailed into claiming it’s racism against white people or sexism against men. The issue is much more vast. Instead, we should shift the focus to questions that might actually point to the problem.
Did something traumatic happen to Sarah Jeong that triggered a bitterness, and then an obsession with “whiteness” and “maleness” and other issues of identity politics? Or did she develop this attitude as a pre-programmed, learned response at UC Berkeley and Harvard? Or, is she actually committed to identity politics as a cynical means to acquire power in the sort of totalitarian system that identity politics naturally builds? How about the experiences of other purveyors of identity politics?
If we focus on our bitterness and continue to wallow in it, won’t that just cause us to get more of it? Where does it all end?
If we don’t respect the individual uniqueness of all human beings, how can people have real conversations or real relationships? How can we replace identity politics with a perspective that recognizes our common humanity?
Why are purveyors of identity politics so committed to preventing open conversations and freedom of association? Why don’t purveyors of identity politics realize that cultivating bitterness in people condemns millions of individuals to social isolation and punishment? Or do they realize this and not care?
Why should one person’s immutable characteristic cancel out their entire experience as an individual human being? How is that not the essence of bigotry? How is that not pre-judging and de-humanizing a person?
In the end, isn’t identity politics really just anti-person and anti-human? And isn’t that the tragedy and irony of it all?