Quotulatiousness

April 24, 2017

Today’s study in “problematic” issues for Teen Vogue

Amy Alkon fisks a recent Teen Vogue piece on soi-disant “cultural appropriation”:

Silly Teen Vogue-ers, Fashion *Is* Appropriation

This bit — from Teen Vogue — is hilariously sad and sadly hilarious:

    In our new column Don’t Do It Girl, Jessica Andrews explores the cultural appropriation epidemic at Coachella.

EPIDEMIC! Like AIDS, Zika, or Ebola!

Fashion always has been about appropriation. Appropriating style and appropriating culture. Those lace-up-the-ankle sandals? Ancient Rome!

Yet, do you see Italian kids mewling that you stole their culture? Of course not, because Italians, generally speaking, are exuberant people who really know how to live life.

Meanwhile, back here in America…

The kids growing up now, especially in the United States, are the freest people in human history — both as individuals and through the technology that removes the drudgery that’s been a constant companion for humans throughout the ages.

Naturally, their response to all this unparalleled freedom is to try to control other people’s behavior.

Fashion policing, in this case. Here, from Andrews story on that EPIDEMIC of appreciation:

    Even when people feign ignorance, there’s little excuse. In the past, I’ve worn a Pocahontas costume for Halloween. It’s a mistake I regret, and I’ll never do it again knowing how hurtful it is.

Oh, please. I grew up Jewish. If you pretend to be a character from Fiddler on the Roof, should I take to bed and cry for a few days?

    With appropriation being such a huge conversation these days…

So much talk…so little reasoning

    Like fashion, appropriative hairstyles are now ubiquitous at Coachella. Cornrows or box braids are not a “hot new festival trend”; black women have been wearing them for centuries. When outlets cover the hairstyle as if it started with Kylie Jenner, it’s not appreciation; it’s erasure. Those celebratory headlines are yet another reminder that black hairstyles are only acceptable when they’re removed from actual black people.

Do you need to be high to write for Teen Vogue? It’s a fucking hairstyle. Women wear it because they think it will look good on them. If they’re white with dark hair, they’re probably wrong (nothing like rows of scalpage showing through to make a woman’s head remind us of freshly plowed fields). Women with big honking faces like mine don’t look so hot in them, either.

    Unbeknownst to some Coachella attendees, there’s a stigma associated with cornrows and braids when black people wear them.

Unbeknownst to a fucking lot of us, I’d guess.

April 14, 2017

Eugene Volokh: Free Speech on Campus

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 4 Apr 2017

Eugene Volokh has a few things to say about things that aren’t supposed to be said. Volokh, a professor of free speech law at U.C.L.A., has seen books banned, professors censored, and the ordinary expression of students stifled on university campuses across the nation.

Volokh believes free speech and open inquiry, once paramount values of higher education, are increasingly jeopardized by restrictive university speech codes. Instead of formally banning speech, speech codes discourage broad categories of human expression. “Hate speech. Harassment. Micro-aggressions,” Volokh says. “Often they’re not defined. They’re just assumed to be bad, assumed they’re something we need to ban.”

Edited by Todd Krainin. Cameras by Meredith Bragg and Jim Epstein.

March 10, 2017

The rise of toxic “intellectual tribalism” on campus

Filed under: Liberty, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

George Leef on how the protests at Middlebury College in Vermont against Charles Murray show just how thin the veneer of civilization has become at America’s institutes of higher learning:

The reason why, I think, is explained by the intellectual tribalism that grips much of America.

I mean that many people label others as either being in their tribe (consisting of people who are righteous and always correct) and the opposing tribe (consisting of people who are evil, stupid, and wrong on everything). Real scholars never impart such ideas because they know that reasonable and moral people can disagree on almost everything. They also know that the only way for civilized people to counter error is through debate; they know that people cannot be persuaded with violence.

Unfortunately, intellectual tribalism is spreading like the Black Death among so-called progressives. Anyone who disagrees with progressive policies is likely to be labeled an enemy, much as Karl Marx labeled everyone who rejected his beliefs a “class enemy.” The more influential such a person is, the more vehement the attacks and hatred against him. Murray, for example, is called a “racist” and “white supremacist” even though he is neither.

(Try this thought experiment. What would have happened if one of the good, liberal students had piped up and asked, “But shouldn’t we find out if this guy really is a white supremacist before we shout him down?”)

And turning to the toxic effects of this indoctrination, one is the growing idea that the enemy tribe must be fought by any means necessary. Not only do evil people like Murray not deserve to be heard, they deserve to be punched.

Professor Michael Munger of Duke University recently commented on this disturbing phenomenon after he discovered a flier on campus. The flier, he wrote, “encouraged students to ‘bash the fash!’ meaning physically assault fascists. The definition of ‘fascist,’ conveniently, appears to be anyone who disagrees with the smothering leftist orthodoxy that the flier-istas embrace.” Just smear your opponents with a nasty name and it’s easy to whip up hatred and violence.

In Orwell’s 1984, Big Brother’s regime utilized the Two Minute Hate against an imaginary villain to maintain support among the people. At Middlebury, it was more like two hours, and the “villain” perfectly real, but the effect was the same. The leftist zealots “won” by preventing discussion and forcing “bad” people to flee in fear.

The veneer of civilization is thin enough under the best of circumstances. Education ought to strengthen it by making people more willing to listen respectfully to others, disagree rationally, and peacefully walk away from intractable disputes. The behavior of the Middlebury mob shows that for a significant number of students, education has taken them away from civilization, putting them back into the mindset of primitive tribalism.

March 6, 2017

Grammar is now racist

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Theodore Dalrymple on the recent revelation of the inherent racism of correct language usage:

Two kind readers have drawn my attention to a person called Asao B. Inoue, of whom I had previously not heard, who teaches writing at Tacoma University in Washington State. This deeply conventional corrupter of youth has delivered himself of the pseudo-original opinion that American grammar is inherently racist. It is true that it is often not very good; but that, alas, is true of the speech and writing of the people of all known nations.

To give a flavor of Professor Inoue’s polysyllabic pseudo-ratiocination, I can do no better, alas, than to quote him:

    Antiracist writing assessment ecologies explicitly pay close attention to the relationships that make up the ecology, relationships among people, discourses, judgments, artifacts created and circulated. They ask students to reflect upon them, negotiate them, and construct them. Antiracist writing assessment ecologies also self-consciously (re)produce power arrangements in order to examine and perhaps change them. When designing an antiracist writing ecology, a teacher can focus students’ attention on a few of the ecological elements…which inter-are. This means addressing others, such as power relations and the ecological places where students problematize their existential assessment situations.

This is a quotation, at random, from Professor Inoue’s book, Antiracist Writing Ecology: Teaching and Assessing Writing for a Socially Just Future.

I have not torn this passage out of context because tearing Professor Inoue’s prose out of context is as impossible as tearing fog. There are, in this instance, 300 pages of it, and I congratulate in advance anyone who reads it all. He deserves full marks for persistence, if not for a wise employment of his time.

It might, of course, be thought that a man like Professor Inoue could do little damage. It is unlikely that ghetto youth will ever go on the rampage shouting Problematize our existential assessment situations! It has other problems on its mind, such as police brutality and the price of crack. Moreover, although Professor Inoue’s prose is hardly Gibbonian, the fact is that he himself writes in approximately grammatical form — in other words, he uses standard grammar. No doubt he would argue that this is because he is forced to do so, that the vicious racists of Tacoma University would sack him if he didn’t, but this is no excuse: He doesn’t have to work there and could take another job, though for the moment I cannot think what it could be.

The point is, however, that he probably demands of his students that they reproduce his thoughts — or rather, opinions — not only in content but in form, that is to say in approximately standard grammar. Whether this is hypocritical of him rather depends on whether he is aware of it.

February 28, 2017

When the great AI singularity happens, you’ll be sorry you called Siri a bitch

Filed under: Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Amy Alkon views with disdain a Quartz article on sexually harassing, inter alia, Alexa and Siri:

Quartz Seriously Wants To Know: Are You Sexually Harassing Your Phone?
There’s an unbelievable piece up at Quartz, reflecting a gone-mad sector of our society — ultimately driven by radical academic feminism (though typically not admitting or crediting its nutbag roots).

Feminism was supposed to be about women wanting equal treatment. Now, as I like to put it, feminist no longer demand that women be treated as equals but as eggshells.

This article is a case in point. “We tested bots like Siri and Alexa to see who would stand up to sexual harassment,” is the headline. […]

First of all, if I could have Siri in either a bitchy drag queen voice or an Indian accent (from India, that is), which I love, I would. French or Italian or Eastern European would be fun, too. Because Apple’s rather boring about this — probably to serve an increasingly humorless and humor-attacking public — I think I have it on the British guy right now.

But I hate Siri and never use it.

The point is, you can change Siri to a man and harass the fuck out of it. I yell profanity at automated telephone systems when they repeatedly won’t accept my answer — both because I’m kind of immature and because there was this (probably mythic) idea out there that swearing would trigger a live operator to come on.

And per these evolved sex differences — we go for different Achilles heels in men and women when we’re attacking them. That’s because men and women are biologically and psychologically different, and men are more likely to be leaders, for example, and women are more likely to be caretakers.

Though male brains and female brains are mostly similar, these evolved sex differences lead to some differences in our psychology and how we present ourselves in the world (including the roles women versus men tend to have).

February 25, 2017

“Sophisticated and affluent Americans, as a group, are pretty gullible”

Filed under: Media, Science, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Andrew Ferguson on the gullibility of SAPs (sophisticated and affluent people) in social science fields:

Every few weeks, it seems, a new crack appears in the seemingly impenetrable wall of social-science dogma. The latest appeared last month with the publication of a paper by the well-known research psychologist Scott Lilienfeld, a professor at Emory University and coauthor of the indispensable primer 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology. Among other things, he is a great debunker, and he has trained his skeptical eye on “microaggressions.”

Sophisticated, affluent people in the United States (SAPs) have been trained through years of education to respect whatever is presented to them as “science,” even if it’s not very good science, even if it’s not science at all. Their years of education have not trained them how to tell the difference. Sophisticated and affluent Americans, as a group, are pretty gullible.

So when their leaders in journalism, academia, and business announce a new truth of human nature, SAPs around the country are likely to embrace it. The idea of microaggressions is one of these. It was first popularized a decade ago, and now the pervasiveness of microaggressions in American life is taken as settled fact.

We could have seen it coming. Already, by the time microaggressions became widely known, social scientists had invented the Implicit Association Test (IAT). The test, administered online and to college students throughout the country, pretended to establish that anti-black and anti-Latino prejudice among white Americans was ever-present yet, paradoxically, nearly invisible, often unrecognized by perpetrator and victim alike. Even people who had never uttered a disparaging remark about someone of another color were shown by the IAT to be roiling cauldrons of racial animus. You know who you are.

The IAT thus laid the predicate for microaggressions. They were the outward, unwitting expressions of implicit racism; not only were they evidence of it, they were offered as proof of it. (Circularity is a common tool in cutting-edge social science.) Microaggressions are usually verbal but they don’t have to be. In their pathbreaking paper “Racial Microaggressions in Everyday Life” (2007), the psychologist Derald Wing Sue and his team of researchers from Columbia University helpfully listed many common microaggressions. Saying “America is a melting pot” is really a demand that someone “assimilate to the dominant culture.” Having an office that “has pictures of American presidents” on the wall announces that “only white people can succeed.” Also, an “overabundance of liquor stores in communities of color” carries the microaggressive message that “people of color are deviant.”

H/T to Colby Cosh for the link.

QotD: Redefining “White Fragility”

Filed under: Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

In the spirit of reciprocity, I’ll attempt an alternative, and perhaps more realistic, definition. “White fragility” is the unremarkable fact that people by and large don’t like being slandered as racists and then assigned with some pretentious collective guilt, the supposed atonement for which requires deference to actual racists and predatory hokum merchants.

As Hippogryph notes in the comments, the official definition of “white fragility” looks an awful lot like Kafkatrapping, a dishonest and pathological manoeuvre, a form of emotional bullying, in which the denial of an unproven and insulting accusation is instantly seized upon as damning confirmation of said accusation. The object being to inculcate pretentious guilt via some notional group association, making a person feel somehow responsible for the actions of others, even strangers long dead, over whom he or she has zero influence. It’s an attempt to induce a profound unrealism, and thereby compliance.

David Thompson, “Fashionable Malice”, davidthompson.com, 2017-02-15.

February 22, 2017

QotD: The microaggression micro-environment

Filed under: Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

… these guidelines put whitemalemiddleclassheterosexualcisgender people in the wrong whatever they do. The rules are literally impossible to obey. The safest policy is not to interact with blackfemaleworkingclassLGBTQ people any more than you must. This avoidance will be yet more proof of your prejudice, but it’s not like there are any possible circumstances in which you would be declared unprejudiced. Not that anyone nowadays seeks wisdom from a dead white male, but Tacitus could have predicted the result of all this in AD 98: “Proprium humani ingenii est odisse quem laeseris.” The doctrine of microagression teaches that the victim classes are forever being injured by your acts. Let us hope that human nature has changed enough in the last nineteen hundred years that Tacitus’ observation that it is human nature to hate a person whom you have injured no longer applies.

What is it like to be the object of this code?

– Lonely. You will feel surrounded by enemies. And all outside your exact caste must be enemies: it is impossible for friendship to develop across the divides of privilege when every mundane interaction that might in other circumstances have led to friendship is fraught with tension. Thus one one of the main benefits claimed to accrue from diversity on campus is lost.

– Exhausting. You will be continually on the defensive, and for all your obligation to be constantly angry, passive and unable to control your own destiny. How could it be otherwise? You have chosen to centre your life on how your enemies perceive you. If black, your constant concern is what whites think of you; if female, what males think of you; whatever category you belong to defines you.

One of the attributes of status is that other people have to watch what they say around you, to mind their P’s and Q’s. The demands of political correctness can force high-status people to temporarily behave to low-status people in this respect as if their positions were reversed. But victim status is a very poor imitation of actual status. For one thing the apparent respect you get is gone the minute your back is turned – or a deniable microsecond earlier if the microagressor decides that he might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb and go macro. For another it’s, like, victimhood. You are officially a loser.

Natalie Solent, “Victim status is a lousy substitute for real status”, Samizdata, 2015-07-03.

February 21, 2017

“… let’s face it, triggering rage in a leftist is not a terribly hard thing to do”

Filed under: Liberty, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Jim Geraghty on the “Milo at CPAC” issue:

An observation for everyone bothered or worse at the thought of Yiannopoulos addressing CPAC: Fighting Yiannopoulos with protests and boycotts is like fighting a fire with gasoline. The most salient point Yiannopoulos makes in his shtick is that the Left is intolerant, filled with rage, and incapable of respecting any dissenting view … and campus leftists live down to his portrait, time after time. He has become a big show because he more or less is a walking, talking perpetual threat of a riot, and a big part of this is that he keeps going to places like Berkeley, the places most inclined to respond to provocations through violent outbursts.

It would be an enormous blunder for the Right to make the same mistake. And thankfully, the CPAC crowd is not a rioting crowd.

Perhaps the right measuring stick of Yiannopoulos is, what does he really have to offer an audience of conservative activists when he isn’t being shouted down, attacked, or besieged by riotous Leftists? We on the Right will rightfully instinctively defend anyone threatened by the pincers of a politically correct speech code and the radical mob. Once that threat to free speech is removed … then what?

Are there things Yiannopoulos can teach us to advance the conservative cause, conservative ideas, or conservative policies? Can the methods that get him what he wants be used by others, or are they non-replicable? Does the toolbox of the provocateur really have the kinds of tools useful to those of us who want to build something more lasting and create structural changes – i.e., tax reform, a stronger military, a solution to the opioid addiction crisis, a thriving economy full of innovation and consumer choice, support networks of community and family, etcetera? I’m skeptical, but willing to listen. Let’s hear it.

Yiannopoulos triggers rage in Leftists like no one else in the world today other than Donald Trump, and a lot of folks on the right will cheer that. But let’s face it, triggering rage in a leftist is not a terribly hard thing to do.

Update: Fixed broken link.

January 13, 2017

Jonathan Haidt on the rise of the “microaggression” concept

Filed under: Health, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

He is commenting on an article in Perspectives on Psychological Science (PDF):

The microaggression program teaches students the exact opposite of ancient wisdom. Microaggression training is — by definition — instruction in how to detect ever-smaller specks in your neighbor’s eye. Microaggression training tells students that “life itself is exactly what you think it is — you have a direct pipeline to reality, and the person who offended you does not, so go with your feelings.” Of course, the ancients could be wrong on these points, but the empirical evidence for the importance of appraisal and the ubiquity of bias and hypocrisy is overwhelming (I review it in chapters 2 and 4 of The Happiness Hypothesis). As Lilienfeld shows, the empirical evidence supporting the utility and validity of the microaggression concept is minimal at best.

I think the section of Lilienfeld’s article that should most make us recoil from the microaggression program is the section on personality traits, particularly negative emotionality and the tendency to perceive oneself as a victim. These are traits — correlated with depression and anxiety disorders — that some students bring with them from high school to college. Students who score high on these traits perceive more microaggressions in ambiguous circumstances. These traits therefore bring misery and anger to the students themselves, and these negative emotions and the conflicts they engender are likely to radiate outward through the students’ social networks (Christakis & Fowler, 2009). How should colleges (and other institutions) respond to the presence of high scorers in their midst? Should they offer them cognitive behavioral therapy or moral validation? Should they hand them a copy of The Dhammapada or a microaggression training manual?

It’s bad enough to make the most fragile and anxious students quicker to take offense and more self-certain and self-righteous. But what would happen if you took a whole campus of diverse students, who arrive from all over the world with very different values and habits, and you train all of them to react with pain and anger to ever-smaller specks that they learn to see in each other’s eyes?

And what would happen if the rise of the microaggression concept coincided with the rise of social media, so that students can file charges against each other — and against their professors — within minutes of any perceived offense? The predictable result of welcoming the microaggression program to campus is turmoil, distrust, and anger. It is the end of the open environment we prize in the academy, where students feel free to speak up and challenge each other, their professors, and orthodox ideas. On a campus that polices microaggressions, everyone walks on eggshells.

H/T to David Thompson for the link.

January 7, 2017

Artist immediately sells out of her new “Privilege Cards”

Filed under: Politics, Randomness, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Has someone around you said something out loud that might possibly offend someone else? Feel too intimidated to just shout out “Racist!” or “Homophobe!” or “Check your privilege!”? Here’s a way to get your passive-aggressive game face on:

A Brooklyn artist quickly sold out of “privilege cards” last month, a conversation-halting tool used to “check everyone in your life” in a “direct yet non-aggressive” manner.

“Uh-oh! Your privilege is showing,” the front of the cards proclaim. On the back, it says, “You’ve received this card because your privilege just allowed you to make a comment that others cannot agree or relate to.”

The card then lists checkboxes for several types of privilege, including “white, socioeconomic, Christian, male, heterosexual, able-bodied, citizen” and a fill-in-the blank spot.

January 6, 2017

QotD: The “Seven Bad Ideas” of the left

Filed under: Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The cult of darkness variously known as Leftists, Liberals, Progressives, Brights, Socialists, Pinkos, Late Moderns, Collectivists, Traitors, is controlled by a Seven Bad Ideas around which their various emotions and interjections orbit.

The Seven Bad Ideas are:

  • Solipsism — the paradox that asserts that truth is personal, hence optional: “It is not true that truth is true.”
  • Relativism — the paradox that asserts that virtue is subjective, situational, relative: “It is wrong for you to judge right and wrong.”
  • Subjectivism — the paradox that asserts that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. As if putting a urinal in an Art Museum, and betraying the standard somehow proves the standard wrong, not the betrayal.
  • Irrationalism — the paradox that asserts reason is untrustworthy. Each man’s reason is too biased by upbringing, class self interest, sex, race, and background such that no one, aside from members of a given race and sex and victim group, can be expected to understand or advise other members of the victim group. Of course, reaching this conclusion from that premise is itself an act of reasoning, requiring the reasoner to trust his reason, despite the background and race and sex of the reasoner.
  • Pervertarianism — the paradox that asserts it to be licit to seek the gratifications of sexual union of the reproductive act without the union, without the reproduction, and, in the case of sodomites, without the act. The same insane paradox asserts that females should be feminists rather than feminine; and that sexual predation is more romantic than romance.
  • Totalitarianism — the paradox that asserts that freedom is slavery, war is peace, ignorance is strength. The Constitution is a living, breathing document, ergo it must be smothered and killed.
  • Nihilism — the paradox of that the meaning of life is that it has no innate meaning.

No claim is being made that all Leftists believe all these things. They have their heterodoxies, as any heresy does. The claim is that about these seven core ideas most or all leftist ideas inch near and orbit near. They may throw up trivial distinctions or exceptions, but the overwhelming majority of Leftwing commentary follows these main lines of thought.

A Leftist who says he does not believe one of these seven will nonetheless speak of it with respect. A man who denies all seven is not a Leftist. Most Leftists are remarkably stupid people, unwilling to examine their own axioms, unaware of their own premises, and illiterate of their own founding doctrines and patrons.

No proof is being offered here that Leftists believe these ideas or make these assertions. The reader can discover that for himself, merely by listening to them talk, reading their works, and reaching his own conclusion.

If you cannot see it by reading what they say, you will not see it by my repeating what they say. Look for yourself.

John C. Wright, “The Hatreds of the Left”, John C. Wright’s Journal, 2015-06-12.

December 22, 2016

“Merry Christmas” versus “Happy Holidays” versus “Happy Midwinter Break”

Filed under: Business, Government, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

L. Neil Smith on the joy-sucking use of terms like “Happy Midwinter Break” to avoid antagonizing the non-religious among us at this time of year:

Conservatives have long whimpered about corporate and government policies forbidding employees who make contact with the public to wish said members “Merry Christmas!” at the appropriate time of the year, out of a moronic and purely irrational fear of offending members of the public who don’t happen to be Christian, but are Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Jain, Rastafarian, Ba’hai, Cthuluites, Wiccans, worshippers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or None of the Above. The politically correct benediction, these employees are instructed, is “Happy Holidays”.

Feh.

As a lifelong atheist, I never take “Merry Christmas” as anything but a cheerful and sincere desire to share the spirit of the happiest time of the year. I enjoy Christmas as the ultimate capitalist celebration. It’s a multiple-usage occasion and has been so since the dawn of history. I wish them “Merry Christmas” right back, and I mean it.

Unless I wish them a “Happy Zagmuk”, sharing the oldest midwinter festival in our culture I can find any trace of. It’s Babylonian, and celebrates the victory of the god-king Marduk over the forces of Chaos.

But as anybody with the merest understanding of history and human nature could have predicted, if you give the Political Correctness Zombies (Good King Marduk needs to get back to work again) an Angstrom unit, they’ll demand a parsec. It now appears that for the past couple of years, as soon as the Merry Christmases and Happy Holidayses start getting slung around, a certain professor (not of Liberal Arts, so he should know better) at a nearby university (to remain unnamed) sends out what he hopes are intimidating e-mails, scolding careless well-wishers, and asserting that these are not holidays (“holy days”) to everyone, and that the only politically acceptable greeting is “Happy Midwinter Break”. He signs this exercise in stupidity “A Jewish Faculty Member”.

Double feh.

Two responses come immediately to mind, both of them derived from good, basic Anglo-Saxon, which is not originally a Christian language. As soon as the almost overwhelming temptation to use them has been successfully resisted, there are some other matters for profound consideration…

December 16, 2016

QotD: Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Filed under: Health, Quotations — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

… it might have been worth mentioning that, whatever the validity of PTSD as a diagnosis, most people who experience a traumatic event in life do not suffer from it. As is to be expected of a creature as protean as Man, people respond differently to their experiences. They do not forget the trauma, but its memory does not affect their subsequent lives in any pathological way. I once met an American psychiatrist, John E. Nardini, who had been a prisoner of the Japanese for more than three years, who had seen half his fellow prisoners die of hunger and disease, and who had himself suffered from beriberi, but who felt that the appalling experience, which of course he would have wished on no one, had actually strengthened him. The development of PTSD does not follow from trauma as the night does the day, but depends on many things — no doubt the culture of the traumatized among them.

In any case, PTSD is largely irrelevant to what Heer is writing about. He isn’t writing about post-traumatic stress disorder at all, but rather, a new diagnosis of pre-traumatic stress disorder. I can’t help but recall the case of Mr. Podsnap, in Charles Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend:

    A certain institution in Mr. Podsnap’s mind which he called “the young person” may be considered to have been embodied in Miss Podsnap, his daughter. It was an inconvenient and exacting institution, as requiring everything in the universe to be filed down and fitted to it. The question about everything was, would it bring a blush into the cheek of the young person? And the inconvenience of the young person was, that, according to Mr. Podsnap, she seemed always liable to burst into blushes when there was no need at all. There appeared to be no line of demarcation between the young person’s excessive innocence, and another person’s guiltiest knowledge.

What is most interesting from the cultural point of view about the preposterous nonsense of trigger warnings for Victorian books is the obvious thirst or desire for victimization that they express. Victims are the heroes of the politically correct; their victimhood confers unique moral authority upon them ex officio. And since many would like to be a unique moral authority, it follows that they would like to be a victim. The fact soon follows the wish, at least in their own estimation; and this, of course, provides much work and justifies much power for the self-proclaimed protectors of victims. University teachers become the curators of figurines of the finest porcelain, which only they are allowed to touch.

This is a case in which caricature is the best way of capturing truth.

Theodore Dalrymple, “Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder: On the phenomenon of campus ‘trigger” warnings’, City Journal, 2015-05-27.

November 9, 2016

QotD: The power of Twitter’s shame-storms

Filed under: Media, Quotations, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Twitter makes it absurdly easy to shame someone. You barely have to take 30 seconds out of your day to make an outraged comment that will please your friends and hurt the person you’ve targeted. This means it is also absurdly easy to attack someone unfairly, without pausing to think about context — or the effect you are having on another human being much like yourself. No matter what that person did, short of war crimes, you probably would not join a circle of thousands of people heaping abuse upon a lone target cowering in the center. But that is the real-world equivalent of what online shame-stormers do.

This sort of tactic may buy silence, though it is likely to be the most effective on people who already agree with you and simply said something infelicitous. What it cannot buy is community, beyond the bonds that build between people who are joined in collective hate. With the exception of Lehrer — who clearly realized he’d done something wrong without needing to be told — the people whom Ronson interviews do not think that they were the victims of perhaps excessively harsh justice; they think they were victims of abuse. They often recognize that they did something stupid, but they don’t think they deserved to be fired after having their lives dissected and their character impugned by thousands of people who had never even met them.

And perhaps this satisfies the shame-stormers; they may want to change hearts and minds but be willing to settle for silence. This sort of shaming has costs, however. If you haven’t changed someone’s mind, you haven’t changed their behavior, only what they say. If they do harbor the bad beliefs you accused them of, those beliefs are now festering in private rather than being open to persuasion. And you haven’t even necessarily changed what they say in a good direction, because people who are afraid of unjust attacks aren’t afraid of being punished for saying things they know they ought to be ashamed of, but of being punished for saying something they didn’t know would attract this kind of ire. So they’re afraid to say anything at all, or at least anything more interesting than “Woo, puppies!” That’s not norm enforcement; it’s blanket terror.

Megan McArdle, “How the Internet Became a Shame-Storm”, Bloomberg View, 2015-04-17.

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