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On “Identity Politics”

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What Yglesias says here, responding to Jon Chait’s definition of “identity politics” as “shorthand for articles principally about race or gender bias” is very true and very necessary:

This is, I think, the problem with idea of “identity politics” as a shorthand for talking about feminism or anti-racism. The world of navel-gazing journalism is currently enmeshed in a couple of partially overlapping conversations, about “PC culture,” diversity, social justice, technological change, and shifting business models. One thread of this is the (accurate) observation that social media distribution creates new incentives for publications to be attuned to feminist and minority rights perspectives in a way that was not necessarily the case in the past. But where some see a cynical play for readership, I see an extraordinarily useful shock to a media ecosystem that’s too long been myopic in its range of concerns.

The implication of this usage (which is widespread, and by no means limited to people who agree with Chait) is that somehow an identity is something only women or African-Americans or perhaps LGBT people have. White men just have ideas about politics that spring from a realm of pure reason, with concerns that are by definition universal.

You see something similar in Noam Scheiber’s argument that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio went astray by emphasizing an “identity group agenda” of police reform at the expense of a (presumably identity-free) agenda of populist economics. For starters, it is actually inevitable that a New York City mayor would end up spending more time on his police department management agenda (something that is actually under the mayor’s control) than on tax policy, which is set by the State Legislature in Albany.

But beyond that, not addressing a racially discriminatory status quo in policing is itself a choice. Indeed, it’s a kind of identity group appeal — to white people, whose preferred means of striking the balance between liberty and security, in many contexts, is that security should be achieved by depriving other people of their civil liberties.

As I mentioned recently, Christopher Caldwell’s assertion that Obama only getting 40% of the white vote suggested that he was racially divisive (something he wouldn’t say about Romney getting less than 10% of the African-American vote or less than 30% of the Hispanic or Asian-American vote) is another classic example. Opposition to “identity politics” generally provides particularly strong illustrations of what it’s decrying.

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  • Aimai

    Thats very good for ygleisias. I havent read him for years.

    • djw

      He doesn’t always realize it, but this kind of thing is his wheelhouse.

      • JL

        Yeah, I would honestly rather see Yglesias write more about this sort of thing and less about some of his preferred topics. Back during the Sotomayor confirmation hearings he was both less detached than usual and more insightful.

      • JohnT

        Indeed. He’s very bright and back in the day was good at analysing a variety of issues and suggesting new and interesting perspectives, without being a #slatepitch contrarian. He’s not actually all that good at covering economic issues, though.

  • KmCO

    I’m late to the party, and everything that I need to say about Chait has been competently said already (Pareene in particular is a treasure here), but it bears repeating that the only “identity” that Chait is truly concerned about protecting and defending is that of the straight, white, privileged man. Chait may be nominally liberal on some topics, but he is not–and has never been–a true progressive ally. In fact, that cannot be repeated enough.

    • Vance Maverick

      Yes, this round has been pretty eye-opening for me. As many others have said, he does well-turned pieces of the form “How Republicans are being ridiculous today” — comparable, no coincidence, to Kinsley in this regard. But what is even that actually worth? A click or two, no more.

    • UncleEbeneezer

      it bears repeating that the only “identity” that Chait is truly concerned about protecting and defending is that of the straight, white, privileged man.

      This. Or Traditional Americans, as they say on the Right.

    • DrDick

      only “identity” that Chait is truly concerned about protecting and defending is that of the straight, white, privileged man.

      This is pretty much true for everyone who complains about “identity politics” or “PC”.

      • cpinva

        “This is pretty much true for everyone who complains about “identity politics” or “PC”.”

        this. when a person does this, even though I have no idea who they are, or what they look like, I automatically assume: male, white, upper middle-class to wealthy, probably ivy league, republican. I am, more often than not, correct. they “identify” themselves, by their (self) assumed lack of identity.

      • Jackov

        I think Chait’s is more concerned about protecting his gatekeeper identity than the built-in privileges of being a SW$M. How you separate the two is another matter.

        • drkrick

          Exactly. He aspired to be a one way broadcasting pundit in the style of a Broder or a Lippmann, but like an aspiring buggywhip maker born in 1890, the dream was no longer viable when the time came to achieve it.

          • humanoid.panda

            Yes. I am much more sympathetic to Chait than most people here (as I recall it, he was basically the only major pundit calling on Dems to forge ahead with the ACA after the Brown election- and that counts for a lot in my book), but what really bothered me in that piece was exactly this anger at people talking back. I mean, yes, some of the examples he uses indicate genuine problems, but then he is telling the heartbreaking story of a prominent writer who got people angry on Twitter and suffered some mild anguish over it! Hard to read that as anything beyond anger that the lesser people are talking back at his friends.

            • Aimai

              I realize thatthis thread is probably dead but this bears linking. I stumbled across this while reading We Hunted the Mammoth–its a 2003 essay on the relationship between the charge of “cultural marxism,” “PC,” and the far right’s attempt to “jewify” the idea of diversity, anti-racism, multiculturalism and everything else they were opposed to. Berkowitz argues that not only were “cultural marxism” and “pc” defined as produced by Jews (e.g. the Frankfort School) but that “the Jews” were accused of cynically using PC/victims rights/diversity as a cover for their own nasty tribalism. It was a way of using claims of victimhood and egalitarianism to destroy white supremacy, christianity, and the lawful roles of men and women and whites and blacks in society while secretely the jews were after special tribal priviliges for themselves and their kind.

              There really isn’t anything different about Chait’s argument except that he seems ignorant of this anti-semitic history. Both Chait and Weyrich (and others cited in the story) used the specter of what I’d call the “cynical victim” to argue that expanding equality and appeals to social justice are futile and lead to self destruction for the white race or, in Chait’s case, the unmarked journalistic/academic race of pure thinkers.

  • Malaclypse

    See also the idea that gay judges should not rule on gay marriage, because straight people have no bias whatsoever.

    • That’s especially lovely when paired with arguments that gay marriage threatens straight marriage.

      “Bias” here of course means “coming to my unfavored conclusion.”

      • cpinva

        “Bias” here of course means “coming to my unfavored conclusion.”

        much as “harassment” and “censorship” of speech means “you had the utter nerve to disagree with and criticise me, my fee fees are so hurt, and you are so mean!”

    • DrS

      “This judge should rule on this. He thinks he’s people?!?!”

    • Origami Isopod

      See also: the notion that women shouldn’t get to make political decisions about abortion because we’re “too close to the issue.”

      An anecdote. Some time ago, Pam Spaulding had an article up at a website not her own. She got an outraged comment from some dude insisting that she should identify herself as black and lesbian in the article, or that the site owners should identify her as such, so that people would know she was “biased.” (She mocked the guy and laughed it off.) It’d never have occurred to the dude that his presumed whiteness, straightness, and maleness might make him biased in another direction.

      • keta

        It’d never have occurred to the dude that his presumed whiteness, straightness, and maleness might make him biased in another direction.

        That’s what’s so maddening. People that don’t even fucking consider this.

        Well, that and when you patiently explain their myopia and they look at you like you’re from Gibber, speaking the native tongue.

  • waspuppet

    This is of a piece with the belief that a candidate who goes to a black church is practicing identity politics and pandering for votes but a candidate who goes to an Iowa county fair is just connecting with regular people and dropping by an event he was probably gonna go to anyway.

    • cpinva

      and while there, would suck down a couple of corn dogs in front of cameras, because that’s what us “regular people” do.

  • so-in-so

    “Divisive” clearly means “Not appealing to/supporting the horribly oppressed white male”. Once that’s clear everything else falls into place.

  • Bitter Scribe

    For some reason, this is making me think of an “All in the Family” episode. Archie is in the hospital and bonds with his roomie, a “Frenchman” on the other side of a curtain. When the curtain is pulled back, Archie is shocked to find that his roomie is actually a black Haitian.

    Archie: “You didn’t tell me you were black!”

    Roomie: “You didn’t tell me you were white.”

    Archie: “White people don’t have to go around telling people they’re white!”

    • Gwen

      This reminds me also, in the LGBT context, of that Onion article from a few years back with a headline to the effect of “Why won’t these homosexuals stop sucking my dick?”

      • DrS

        Why Do All These Homosexuals Keep Sucking My Cock?

        And holy crap it’s from 1998.

        Haven’t felt this old since last Friday when I got involved in a dodgeball game. First one for me since Reagan’s first term.

        • jim, some guy in iowa

          ah, dodgeball. for the days when the phys ed teacher was too hungover- or whatever- to actually do something

          • DrS

            It has left me a broken man. Turns out, my “dodging muscles” in my back need some work.

  • tsam

    The implication of this usage (which is widespread, and by no means limited to people who agree with Chait) is that somehow an identity is something only women or African-Americans or perhaps LGBT people have. White men just have ideas about politics that spring from a realm of pure reason, with concerns that are by definition universal.

    This also implies that these “identities”, outside of a straight, white, Protestant, American male are the single factor in political identity. There are lots of people who fit into these identity categories, but there are no guarantees that they fit neatly into any worldview. But then that assumption is the entire basis for identity politics.

    • Just_Dropping_By

      This also implies that these “identities”, outside of a straight, white, Protestant, American male are the single factor in political identity.

      Except that Chait is Jewish.

      • tsam

        Look at how neatly that fits into my argument that people who identify by race, sexuality and religion don’t necessarily fit into a predictable paradigm on politics.

  • Gwen

    I was thinking just today about how, historically and presently, conservatives love to use the concept of “natural law” to launder the particular preferences and prejudices of the era’s ruling class, into universal, a priori, products of “pure reason.”

    This came about because I was inspired to revisit the scholarly debate over Clarence Thomas’s liberal originalism and his views on race. (Just as the Holy Roman Empire, is neither holy nor roman nor an empire, Clarence Thomas’s liberal originalism, is neither liberal, nor originalist; c’est la vie).

  • FMguru

    Opposition to “identity politics” generally provides particularly strong illustrations of what it’s decrying.

    It’s like that saying about how the comments section of any article about feminism becomes a freestanding argument for and justification of feminism.

  • LeeEsq

    The entire Chait affair is ridiculous. The only think it reflects is the near complete irrelevance of liberals and the further left to American politics. My feeling is that a lot of the talk about privilege and tone policing, by both its advocates and critics, is just as a way to mask out powerlessness. Liberals and leftist engage in purges on who is a real liberal or leftist because that is the only form of power we have. I also don’t see a lot of evidence that most SJW are people of color. Many or even most seem white and well off.

    • Gregor Sansa

      Seriously? SJW? We’re really using that as a term of disparagement, however mild, in the LGM comment section?

      Yes, there is a type of sophomoric white boy who is playing at being more progressive than thou. That exists and is mildly annoying; though, as somebody who grew through that stage myself, I’d certainly like to think that it can be a step on the path to something better. But “SJW” is just about the stupidest possible term for such a person. The people who really deserve that name, in my book, tend to be 60+ years old, and any one of them could kick your ass three times around the block by just looking at you.

      The overprivileged white boys might be social justice paladins. That, I’d accept.

      • LeeEsq

        I represent immigrants for a living. Social justice is my living. SJW are tedious because they tend to be heavy on the talk and light on the action. Getting disrespecting because you don’t use the right lingo even though your a field soldier.

        • Vance Maverick

          Getting disrespecting because you don’t use the right lingo even though your a field soldier.

          Not sure how to parse this. But in any case, I find the disparaging use of the term offensive — it suggests that fighting for social justice, or perhaps social justice itself, are contemptible.

        • Jackov

          No one knows you are a good guy on the internet.

        • cpinva

          “SJW are tedious because they tend to be heavy on the talk and light on the action.”

          I’m curious now. what, exactly, would you have them do? perhaps storm the barriers of the bastille, and release all the king’s political prisoners? maybe invade every police station, rounding up the officers, then releasing all the wrongfully arrested in the holding cells? I mean, unless you’re planning full-scale, armed insurrection, your options as a SJW are somewhat limited: protesting, speechifying in public, working to change laws and outlooks, etc. the boring, yet necessary work required to move society forward.

          heck, even the founding fathers weren’t all out there shooting at the brits, someone had to write those basic documents, and get all 13 colonies to go along with them.

          • stryx

            don’t forget we need people to sign up to run the guillotine. That heavy blade doesn’t lift itself!

          • UncleEbeneezer

            Not to mention, talk is an action. Most of the articles I’ve read on how a person of privilege can be a good ally on Social Justice issues start with: 1.) learn/educate yourself about your privilege, 2.) be mindful of your privilege, 3.) stfu and listen to minorities on issues that they know about from direct experience, and then proceed to stuff like 3.) speak up/pushback when you see __-ism happening, 4.) amplify minority voices, 5.) educate other people of privilege, 6.) try to use your influence to foster diversity at your work etc. In other words, things that are mostly just talk.

            • Jamelle Bouie was a guest on the Boiled Leather Audio Hour a while back, and he made a comment that seems very relevant to what you said, and is well worth reproducing here.
              He said that he was skeptical that what he calls “privilege discourse” can accomplish much.

              Where I find [privilege] very unhelpful and sort of what inspires my skepticism is I think that helpfulness in turns of analyzing is mistaken for actually ameliorating anything, right? So … folks will “what can I do to make sure something like Eric Garner doesn’t happen again?” or “what can I do to make sure something like Ferguson doesn’t happen again?” and people will say “well you should be aware of your privilege.” It’s like, I guess. I guess that might make you feel good, I suppose, but that doesn’t really change anything. All it does is you get to be able to say “I’m aware of my privilege.” If I were saying [to] someone, here’s what you can do, I would say: maybe participate in primaries, right? Mabye participate in activist groups. Mabye do something concrete that actually changes the political dynamics of whatever. And … being aware of privilege may factor in to that, maybe being aware of privilege may be the difference between joining an activist group and just being willing to stay in the background a bit and joining one and wanting to work your way to a leadership position… On many places on the internet and in social media, I see checking your privilege, or being aware of your privilege, or talking about privilege as some sort of solution to problems when I just don’t really think it is.

              Start listening at 56:15

          • manual

            Thats the point. Most of these people are not working to change the laws or uproot much of anything, they are focused on policing speech and internet life – the taxonomy of grievance, language and the like.

            They are often not engaging in the actions that change people’s lives.

            • Lara

              Timothy Burke has been writing a typically thoughtful series of posts on this issue.

              • Origami Isopod

                As thoughtful as his post is, I agree with Josh in comments:

                Better to articulate universal standards of justice and work towards them. Right, this is the good-faith explanation for “All Lives Matter” instead of “Black Lives Matter”. Or the argument that discussions of the Ecole Polytechnique massacre shouldn’t have focused on the fact that the victims were women. Only it’s still misguided: injustice is not distributed equally. Focus on the universal and you erase the specific, targeted nature of injustice.

            • JL

              Most of these people are not working to change the laws or uproot much of anything…

              Citation omitted.

              • Theobald Schmidt

                21.5% youth turnout in 2014, three months after Ferguson.

                • Hob

                  That’s 21.5% turnout among all eligible voters age 18-29. Unless you think more than one out of five people under 30 spends a lot of time having political arguments on Tumblr, that is not evidence that people who write about social justice online don’t do anything about it. It’s just evidence that most people do neither.

        • JL

          1) Talk can be action. The people who write about social justice on the Internet are learning, practicing, refining, influencing, same as people like Chait who have been doing the same thing for decades but in posh opinion shops. I came to plenty of my current views – the philosophies that underline my activism – from reading and listening to what people had to say about race, gender, class, etc, on the Internet.

          2) Just as they usually don’t know that you represent immigrants for a living when you’re not talking on the Internet, you don’t usually know what they do when they’re not talking on the Internet. What basis do you have to assert that they aren’t “field soldiers” as well? I’ve certainly had people try to assert that with me, and then I laugh at them.

          3) Being a “field soldier” doesn’t mean that you never screw up. We all screw up.

          • Aimai

            100 percent this. Leeesq has no way of knowing what level of political engagement other people are at. Nor of knowing the level of the privilige they are learning to check.

            • sibusisodan

              A n00b asks:

              What’s the sense of ‘check your privilege’? Is it like ‘hold your privilege in check’ or like ‘check your flies’ (“dude, we can totally see your privilege hanging out. ugh”)?

              • I’ve always thought it meant “Review how you have privilege and think about it.”

              • JL

                Sort of a combination of your latter guess and what N__B said. “What you are saying/doing in this conversation suggests that you haven’t thought sufficiently about how your privilege affects your viewpoint. Other people in the conversation are noticing. Review how you have privilege and think about how it’s applicable here.”

                That said, I hear the phrase “check your privilege” way more often from people complaining about social justice conversations (as an example of something they dislike about them), than I do from the people participating in the conversations. People trying to get the point about privilege-checking across usually elaborate on it more than a three-word phrase allows.

      • Steve LaBonne

        I am privileged to know some of those ass-kickers in and associated with my UU congregation (which won the denomination’s social justice award last year.) Each one of them is worth 1000 Chaits. If the world ever starts to become a better place it will be because more of us had the sense to follow their lead.

      • tsam

        Hmmm…I’ll wear the SJW badge strictly for the troll value.

        I think saying SJW’s are long on talk and short on action isn’t very fair.

      • djw

        I generally associate the use of the term with the attitude that caring about social justice in a public way is fundamentally pathetic and worthy of mockery and derision. (That the term was used unironically in a sneering, above it all, whadabunchalosers comment didn’t really move me to change that assessment.)

        • Moondog

          Hmmmm, you sound like a “community organizer.”

    • McAllen

      I guess this depends on what you mean by “SJW” but in my experience the people being accused of being SJWs are absolutely people of color, or women, or queer people, or especially those who are some combination of those.

      • cpinva

        “I guess this depends on what you mean by “SJW” but in my experience the people being accused of being SJWs are absolutely people of color, or women, or queer people, or especially those who are some combination of those.”

        and who have the temerity to demand to be treated like actual human beings, with personal agency, and all the rights and responsibilities of every citizen of this great land. that, of course, is what pisses people like chait, Sullivan, etc. off.

    • Origami Isopod

      This thread wouldn’t have been complete, Lee, without you harrumphing about how discussion of these issues is “ridiculous.”

      There are scores and scores of “SJWs” on Twitter, to name one site, who aren’t white. A great many fit under the LGBT umbrella. But I suppose if you haven’t seen them, they’re irrelevant.

    • random

      This post is actually illustrative of how intellectually deficient every single complaint that invokes the slur ‘SJW’ really is.

      Here the term is used to refer to ‘white people who are all talk and no action’. I’ve seen white conservatives use it to mean ‘racial minorities who don’t want to be murdered by the police’ or ‘racial minorities who don’t want to be searched for being a racial minority’. I’ve seen black men use it to mean ‘feminists’ and I’ve seen both feminists and gay activists use it to decry transgendered people.

      It’s a slur that has no meaning whatsoever, other than as a personal insult to people who’s politics you don’t agree with. Hence any complaint that invokes the term in a non-ironic fashion is always necessarily invalid.

      • cpinva

        “This post is actually illustrative of how intellectually deficient every single complaint that invokes the slur ‘SJW’ really is.”

        I will wear the moniker “SJW” proudly, and take it as a sign that I have, in my own small way, managed to afflict the comfortable, and defend those not yet fully able to defend themselves. they will be eventually, given support, and then they too shall join the ranks of “SJW’s”.

    • manual

      Ha. Yeah, Im sort of with you. I do the work that people on this blog claim to care about – represent unions, working people and the like – and I find the the practitioners of identitarianism to be mostly people who are not vested in the struggle – at least not directly.

      I remember “liberal” people (often white) in grad school who all went to work for corporations or consulting firms lecturing everyone about privledge and the like. I see people in the struggle to be much less focused on this type of ersatz leftism. You can work for a big corporation and hate sexism and racism, but you cant hate capitalism.

      I generally subscribe to Walter Benn Michaels/adolph reed belief that most of these people have more interest in a politics that is full of righteous indignation but short on solutions or the primary unit of exploitation: American political economy – which is, of course, rooted racism.

      • JL

        If the people in your struggles on the ground don’t talk about privilege and oppression and race and gender, your struggles on the ground are astoundingly different from the ones I’m involved in.

        • jim, some guy in iowa

          but why assume all struggles are the same?

        • manual

          They do. It’s not on the internet. Or by others. Its by them. Its mostly about child care, salary, health care, safety and the like.

          Race and sex get talked about plenty. I would not discount them. I think people should talk about them. They are important! But the noxious debate over how these things should be discussed.

          Go to the hood. No one cares about if Lena Dunham is being mistreated because of how she looks or because she is a woman – all of which might be valid. They are worried about if there kids are going to eat.

          I guess my point is that a lot of what I see on twitter or in academia about social justice seems really divorced from how really people live it – at least from my experience. Most people dont spend a lot of time assigning privledge points or worrying about splaining. They are worried about getting by.

          Is Sheryl Sandberg a better spokesman for childcare women’s issues than, say, Rich Trumka? I dunno. Id trust the latter’s policies more.

          • mark

            That middle class women are complaining about the glass ceiling or mansplaining in a way that people who can’t afford food are not is pretty unsurprising. You can wish progressives had different priorities, but it’s not like they get an audience because they are complaining about stuff other people don’t experience or observe.

            • manual

              I think “progressives” do need different priorities. The travails of upwardly mobile people should be deprioritized.

              This is a longer discussion for which, it appears, this forum is probably not fit for nor interested in.

              But, in short:

              1) the left should spend a little less time on the problems and anxieties of the upwardly mobile professional class, who have been the beneficiaries of the post 80s economy, and more on everyone else. A real political statement is to care less about ourselves and our relatively minor problems and focus on the more significant problems others face. Yes, I have an interest in that.

              2) Exploitation, not discrimination, is the primary producer of inequality today – gender and race are simply sorting devices.

              3) Probably the greatest ways to reduce racial and sexual disparities are through redistributive programs. Free healthcare, free childcare, and stronger unions would all accrue benefits to women and people of color, who are disproportionately poorer and less empowered in the workplace, in ways that debates over discourse cannot.

              • jim, some guy in iowa

                i agree with you quite a lot, actually, but i think it’s worth keeping in mind this is kind of what a coalition, made up of groups with differing priorities but *generally sympathetic to each other*, is going to look like. imagine blind people touching different parts of the elephant and telling each other, “*this* is what an elephant feels like”. it keeps things interesting but also makes them exhausting sometimes

                if you know of a place sort of like this where people talk about the issues on a more boots-on-the-ground level, let us know. i’d be interested

              • mark

                Yes, it is a longer discussion.

                I’ll just say that what you talk about in (3)–that programs to help the poor will disproportionately help minorities or women–is of course a reason those programs struggle to gain acceptance. That’s the attitude described in the OP–things supported by minorities are “racially divisive.”

                Or, put another way, telling relatively educated women they should be happy with what they have, so suck it up and stop complaining, is certainly not going to broaden support for free child care or health care.

                • manual

                  Everyone is free to speak there mind. Im not telling any group to shut up. I just dont think Sheryl Sandberg speaking to an audience at Harvard Business school about the glass ceiling is as worthy a cause as the housekeepers (they are all women, too, no?) she refused to speak with who are tryinig to unionize at Hilton Hotels.

                  Id argue that, yes, the housekeepers making $10 an hour need more attention than the female student body at harvard business school. And further, yes, the women at Harvard business school should be more worried about the housekeepers than themselves – they will be fine.

                  And finally, this whole episode underscores my point: Sheryl Sandberg can be striking a blow for feminism, by breaking down boardroom doors and encouraging others’ to do so, at the precise time she is acting as an impediment to real change.

                  Creating a more diverse elite is probably good – but its still an elite. Women CEOs who want to crush the organizing campaigns of female workers are not that different from the men who do the same.

                  Im more interested in the female housekeepers, less in the B school grads. They are not coequel partners in the struggle against exploitation.

                • Origami Isopod

                  I just dont think Sheryl Sandberg speaking to an audience at Harvard Business school about the glass ceiling is as worthy a cause as the housekeepers (they are all women, too, no?) she refused to speak with who are tryinig to unionize at Hilton Hotels.

                  Bit of a false binary there.

          • random

            This again points to the abject vapidity of the insult ‘skeleton’ and how all arguments that invoke it are necessarily invalid. It is just a meaningless slur or insult that people toss around to preclude having to address the validity of an argument.

            Also, if you want to know why people in ‘the hood’ have to be worried about their kids having food it eventually ends up back to what the academics that you are disparaging are talking about. In fact you sound kind of academic to me.

            • manual

              No. The taxonomy of privilege is not what we need to be fighting. It it the existence of privilege.

              SOme people say they are the same thing and need each other. I think prioritization is more important. Spending all day fighting over whether the homeless white guy is privleged or not is pointless. Ending homelessness would be the point.

          • JL

            In my experience, the people who actually talk the most about privilege share a lot of your complaints about Sheryl Sandberg, excessive focus on the issues of upper middle-class professionals, that kind of thing. The people I know in anti-classist and economic justice activism talk privilege. The organizers I know in the Black Lives Matter movement, most of whom are from “the hood,” talk privilege. The anti-sexual-violence and anti-partner-abuse organizations that I volunteer for talk privilege (and also talk economic injustice). “On Twitter or in academia” is a weird combination of things to lump together – I understand that you’re doing it because you see the same jargon both places, but the jargon hasn’t been academia-exclusive for quite some time now, and few of the people using it on Twitter are academics. They’re people worried about getting by who happen to have learned a vocabulary.

            You seem to think the conversations about privilege are being pushed by affluent mainstream liberals. My experience is that they’re being pushed the most by leftists/radicals who get screwed over by unjust systems in multiple ways.

            • manual

              I think they are being done by all sorts of people. But just using lots of vocabulary is pretty worthless, and just because the person saying it is the right race or gender does not make it better.

              Brings to mind the phrase – all tactics, no strategy.

              Just because you are saying something does not mean its meaningful or changing people’s minds, or moving to concrete goals.

              The civil rights movement was not a vague campaign against the grievances of racism – it was an explicit program focused on citizenship rights for blacks and ending the regime of southern apartheid. It had goals and focuses for achievement. Most of what I see today from the grab bag of issue campaigns has no similar movement focus or goals.

    • Darkrose

      I’m certainly not an SJW–I’m a Social Justice Battlemage. Spells and heavy armor FTW!

  • MDrew

    Whatever you think of Chait’s somewhat underconsidered argument, none of it hangs on a need to use the term ‘identity politics.’

    • Scott Lemieux

      Fortunately, as far as I can tell, nobody is saying that it does.

      • MDrew

        Cool, as long as we’re clear that Yglesias’ point doesn’t really go to the substance of Chait’s argument in the PC piece much, then.

        It does, however, go much more directly to the substance Scheiber’s of argument in his DeBlasio piece, which Yglesias explains quite nicely.

        • Origami Isopod

          the substance of Chait’s argument

          There’s no “there” there.

  • tew

    One troubling implication for many people of “all politics is identity politics” is that it could be argued that it implicitly privileges some identities over others. “Favorable for women” or “would really help Hispanics” are recognized as positive ways to describe policy options. “Great for white guys” not so much. If white guys can’t say “this would be great for white guys” *and* we’re not letting them appeal to “concerns that are by definition universal” (because those all secretly mean “great for white guys”), aren’t we basically telling white guys to stop doing politics altogether?

    • Malaclypse

      No, we’re telling them they no longer win by definition. But thanks for your concern.

      • DrDick

        Exactly.

        • cpinva

          thirded.

    • Hogan

      Fortunately for this white guy, “working class” is also an available identity. There are, of course, others.

    • The Temporary Name

      “Favorable for women”

      That also being known as “a majority of Americans” but somehow…

      • tsam

        I’m not sure how anyone doesn’t recognize that justice and equality, no matter who is being targeted for reform or improvement, benefits all humans. Probably some cats and dogs too. But definitely humans.

        • The Temporary Name

          Indeed.

        • Origami Isopod

          It doesn’t benefit the minuscule percentage of human beings sitting on very top of the pile. Not that we should give a shit, but they own the media and are great at hiring the unprincipled to convince ordinary people to identify with the elite.

          Other than that, I agree. Some people benefit more dramatically than others, but nearly everybody reaps the benefits of a stable, equitable, and just society. You could even argue that the superrich benefit in that they don’t have to lock themselves away in heavily armed and guarded enclaves or travel with a small army to ensure their own safety.

          • joe from Lowell

            It doesn’t benefit the minuscule percentage of human beings sitting on very top of the pile.

            Well, it benefits them in some ways – socially, spiritually, culturally – but not in others – materially.

            Some of them have values other than the purely material and recognize this. Others…well, a lot of them spent their entire life getting to the top of the pile because it’s the most important thing to them.

            • Origami Isopod

              Well, it benefits them in some ways – socially, spiritually, culturally

              Eh. Given that wealth tends to make people into assholes, I’d say the comfort and joy they get from looking down on the rest of us far outweighs any such benefits to them.

        • tew

          Ah, but there’s a breezy appeal to “concerns that are by definition universal” embedded in your invocation of “justice and equality”, which we’ve learned to be suspicious of. Those are, after all, the words that rich white men have used for years to obscure the fact that they’ve been conducting a politics of rich white men, for rich white men.

          We’re so much smarter than that now, and off-handed references to “justice” won’t get the job done – we know that word just means whatever anyone wants it to mean. Nobody’s going to kneel down and submit just because you’ve trotted out the old shopworn “justice and equality” argument. Ross Douthat can make a justice and equality based argument against affirmative action in his sleep. You’re going to have to do better than that.

      • DrDick

        Right. As an older, professional, straight, white man, I support programs which benefit women, minorities, and LGBT because I support a system which benefits everyone equally, not just me and people like me.

        • Bingo. Ditto. Same here.

          • Vance Maverick

            Isn’t this in fact a well-known form of moral argument? Help me out here, philosophy-reading folks. It’s the most obvious answer to the people who think that without God there’s no morality: the Golden Rule is our only hope to build the society we want to live in.

            • Well-known doesn’t mean empirically popular. Look at the popularity of “why should my tax dollars got those people” as a political argument.

        • Hogan

          Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:

          On a bus to Harrisburg for some rally or other, I sat with a disability activist who pointed out to me something I hadn’t picked up.

          The ADA requirement for curb cutouts was widely resented because people in wheelchairs are only like two percent of the population, and why should we spend all this money for so few people? It’s a PC outrage!

          Now we have them, and you know who uses them? People with grocery carts. People with bicycles. People with wheelie suitcases and briefcases. People pushing handtrucks. People like my mom-in-law, who has trouble with steps and doesn’t see very well. Just about everyone, actually. Automatic doors with the big square buttons? I don’t see that many people in wheelchairs using them, but I see lots of delivery people and caterers using them, and that’s fine.

          Single-occupancy public bathrooms for trans people? Hey, I’m a middle-aged white guy who takes a diuretic to manage his blood pressure. Anything that increases the number of public bathrooms I’m allowed to use is aces with me. Not that I think it’s a reason in itself to do that, but if it makes some vulnerable people safer AND it lets me get my pee on with less anxiety, it’s got my vote.

          • I agree with every point you make, but…

            get my pee on

            you may be doing that wrong.

            • Hogan

              I’ve been told that.

          • Katya

            I’ve heard that story. (As someone who pushes a stroller on a regular basis, I, too, benefit from curb cuts.) And I think it makes a nice point–that people often assume that benefits created because of the needs of a defined group are somehow zero-sum, when in fact, they aren’t.

            (I also appreciate the unisex single-occupancy public bathrooms–it tends to alleviate the disparity between the lines for the ladies’ and the gents’.)

          • joe from Lowell

            Ditto green building standards.

            Hey, wow, this place is open and sunny and comfortable and the utility bills are really low! Look at that!

        • cpinva

          by benefiting all those parties, it has to eventually benefit me as well. also an older, straight white man. anything that harms those groups, can eventually be used to harm me.

          • Origami Isopod

            Yep. Niemöller nailed that one pretty well.

            • rea

              Not to mention Donne

          • DrDick

            Exactly.

          • tew

            Is it an empirical question for you, or do you take it as a matter of faith that “benefiting all those parties, it has to eventually benefit me as well.” What if it doesn’t eventually benefit you? Would you still support it?

            • Malaclypse

              What if it doesn’t eventually benefit you?

              What a sad, narrow definition of “benefit” you seem to work with. A ban on torture benefits me, not because otherwise I would realistically risk torture, but because I recognize the benefits of justice.

              Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

              This should not be a difficult concept.

              • tew

                Who wrote that, Jon Chait? That’s just the kind of view-from-nowhere impartial “realm of pure reason” bullshit that entitled white guys have been spewing for years. “Single garment of destiny”? Sounds like something a simpering suburban Catholic would say. Was this from an anti-abortion pamphlet?

                • Malaclypse

                  Who wrote that, Jon Chait?

                  If you don’t know who wrote that, you have just lost the argument.

                • Hogan

                  Oh.

                  Oh dear.

                • Malaclypse

                  I’m just gonna block-quote this, in case you want to edit away your stupidity:

                  Who wrote that, Jon Chait? That’s just the kind of view-from-nowhere impartial “realm of pure reason” bullshit that entitled white guys have been spewing for years. “Single garment of destiny”? Sounds like something a simpering suburban Catholic would say. Was this from an anti-abortion pamphlet?

                  My day, it is made.

                • tew

                  Glad my sarcasm made your day – so you do agree with me then that the premise that “all politics is identity politics” is false, and at least some of the time when people (even rich white guys!) make appeals to universals, or justice, or equality, we ought to take them seriously and not dismiss their arguments based purely on their identity?

                • jim, some guy in iowa

                  edit: never mind. i think i’ve had enough internet already today

                • Hogan

                  Hey everybody! We’ve got a live one here!

                • sibusisodan

                  That’s just the kind of view-from-nowhere impartial “realm of pure reason” bullshit that entitled white guys have been spewing for years.

                  That is just perfect.

                • Malaclypse

                  That is just perfect.

                  If we ever get the rotating banner quotes back, it needs to be included.

                • If you don’t know who wrote that, you have just lost the argument.

                  Actually, they lost all arguments, forever.

                  But unsatisfied, and probably being Meinongian, they go further!

                  That’s just the kind of view-from-nowhere impartial “realm of pure reason” bullshit that entitled white guys have been spewing for years.

                  Uh, “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” is not a “view-from-nowhere” or “realm of pure reason” view.

                  “Single garment of destiny”? Sounds like something a simpering suburban Catholic would say.

                  Well, the author was a Christian, though a Southern Baptist. And, I fully believe, this is the first time in all the possible and impossible worlds that his worlds have been adjudge something “simpering” and “suburban”. Kudos.

                  Was this from an anti-abortion pamphlet?

                  I dearly hope you are fucking with us. Because otherwise, wow.

                • keta

                  You’re either staggeringly stupid or a garden-variety troll.

                  I’m guessing both.

                • joe from Lowell

                  Srsly?

                  None of you got the sarcasm?

                  Of course he knows who the quote is from. That’s the point; you could apply all of these arguments to the language used by Martin Luther King.

                • I missed it and I didn’t see the claim to sarcasm until after I wrote. It happens :)

                  But I’m puzzling at the point of the sarcasm. King doesn’t seem to be advocating, here, a view from nowhere or atomic individualist perspective, but an interconnected one (with something effects being direct and others indirect). The atomic liberal individual is supposed to abstract away from lots of particulars about concrete social situations (to be neutral) but turns out (on standard critiques) both inartistically and practically be imbued with dominant group interests and perspectives.

                  Let’s expand the quote a bit:

                  I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against “outsiders coming in.” I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Frequently we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promise. So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here. I am here because I have organizational ties here.

                  But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.

                  Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

                  These all seem related: Why is King there? Because he has multiple connections in multiple ways. A good deal of the rest of the letter deals with differing epistemic perspectives and how they informal moral perspective (e.g., “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” “)

                  That’s not to say that King doesn’t preach universal principles. But the story is rather complex. When people say “all politics are identity politics” they aren’t implying that all politics are parochial.

                • sibusisodan

                  That’s the point; you could apply all of these arguments to the language used by Martin Luther King.

                  …I may be particularly dense, but applying those arguments to MLK makes one look stupid.

                  If there’s a joke here, I’m not sure it’s on us readers. And if there’s a point to looking stupid while pretending not to know it was MLK, well, I’m not seeing it.

                  [if the point is ‘look, I can attempt to conflate MLK with things white people have said, therefore not all politics is identity politics’ – which is the closest I can come to a point from it – why should that be at all convincing?]

                • DrDick

                  Glad my sarcasm made your day – so you do agree with me then that the premise that “all politics is identity politics” is false, and at least some of the time when people (even rich white guys!) make appeals to universals, or justice, or equality, we ought to take them seriously and not dismiss their arguments based purely on their identity?

                  I for one do not agree with this. The difference is how you define your identity. In my case I identify as a human being, not just as a straight, white male.

                • Hogan

                  at least some of the time when people (even rich white guys!) make appeals to universals, or justice, or equality, we ought to take them seriously and not dismiss their arguments based purely on their identity?

                  No one has been saying otherwise. Yglesias was calling out the assumption that when white men speak, it’s assumed to be an appeal to pure reason and universal principles, as opposed to the partial views, parochial concerns, and motivated reasoning of “minorities” (like, say, women).

                • joe from Lowell

                  But I’m puzzling at the point of the sarcasm.

                  …I may be particularly dense, but applying those arguments to MLK makes one look stupid.

                  You’d have to ask tew.

                  These both strike me as significantly better arguments than “Neener neener, you don’t know who the quote is from!”

            • tsam

              What the fuck did you just fucking say about me, you little bitch? I’ll have you know I graduated top of my class in the Navy Seals, and I’ve been involved in numerous secret raids on Al-Quaeda, and I have over 300 confirmed kills. I am trained in gorilla warfare and I’m the top sniper in the entire US armed forces. You are nothing to me but just another target. I will wipe you the fuck out with precision the likes of which has never been seen before on this Earth, mark my fucking words. You think you can get away with saying that shit to me over the Internet? Think again, fucker. As we speak I am contacting my secret network of spies across the USA and your IP is being traced right now so you better prepare for the storm, maggot. The storm that wipes out the pathetic little thing you call your life. You’re fucking dead, kid. I can be anywhere, anytime, and I can kill you in over seven hundred ways, and that’s just with my bare hands. Not only am I extensively trained in unarmed combat, but I have access to the entire arsenal of the United States Marine Corps and I will use it to its full extent to wipe your miserable ass off the face of the continent, you little shit. If only you could have known what unholy retribution your little “clever” comment was about to bring down upon you, maybe you would have held your fucking tongue. But you couldn’t, you didn’t, and now you’re paying the price, you goddamn idiot. I will shit fury all over you and you will drown in it. You’re fucking dead, kiddo.

              • You know just what to say to get me excited.

            • Origami Isopod

              Selfish assholes always project their selfishness onto everybody else.

        • keta

          Yes, yes.

          As an older, professional, straight, white man, I support programs which benefit women, minorities, and LGBT because I support a system which benefits everyone equally, not just me and people like me because it helps create a healthy, respectful society that in turn makes us all stronger.

          • DrDick

            Yep. None of us is truly free as long as any of us are not.

          • tsam

            Stronger parents, stronger friends, better voters, less inclined to unfair judgement…

            Maybe even less religious if we’re lucky.

    • Origami Isopod

      The poor white guys. They’re just so underrepresented in politics and business and education and damn near everything else.

      Also, I’m pretty sure that if we were to tell them to “stop doing politics altogether,” they would cease and desist with nary more than a sad quiver of their upper lips.

  • Sly

    This is where the at-times tiresome concept of privilege becomes very useful. The truth is that almost all politics is, on some level, about identity. But those with the right identities have the privilege of simply calling it politics while labeling other people’s agendas “identity.”

    All – not almost all – politics is about identity on a foundational – not some – level. Politics pertains to social relationships in the context of governance: who has power, how did they get it, how do they use it, and what is their rationalization for how they got it and use it. These are all questions that depend upon how one conceives of one’s self, one’s social context, and how the self and the social context interact. Without identity there can be no politics, because politics is an expression of identity.

    That’s my only quibble with an otherwise excellent piece.

  • Good take on Chait by P.Z. Myers

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2015/01/28/what-exactly-do-you-want-jonathan-chait/#more-22345

    Also “The truth about “political correctness” is that it doesn’t actually exist.”

    http://www.vox.com/2015/1/28/7930845/political-correctness-doesnt-exist

  • Like many white males, Chait doesn’t realize that vanilla is a flavor.

    • MAJeff

      This really hits at the idea of “whiteness” as “unmarked.” It’s the default category, so as a position it is “unremarkable.” What Chait and others object to is making it clear that such a position is just that, a position. And, it is not only a cultural position, but one embedded within social hierarchies. To remark about that is to engage in politically correct identity politics.

      Such a move deflects attention from the hierarchical position of whiteness. It transforms racial issues from structural inequality to discursive purity. And it lets Chait and his New Republic buddies off the hook for advocating the former.

    • Well put.

      The nice thing about Chait blowups (what Digby said) is that they’re so predictable that I don’t even need to read the rebuttals anymore, much less the original article. He gets self righteous about (pick ’em) Israel, the “Left” generally, some fresh terrorist outrage, or something like that, everyone points out how off base he is, and the world keeps spinning.

      Speaking even as a fellow white male Michigan alum who reads about Michigan sports far too much, I can’t even take him on that topic anymore. The only thing he’s still good for is occasionally taking the hot air out of the even more mainstream media. Sure, he does it with style, but there are plenty of other options for that, so why bother reading him at all?

      • Origami Isopod

        From Digby’s link:

        Trigger warnings are a very questionable response to trauma

        Oh, for chrissakes. No, they’re really not. There are good ways and bad ways to do them, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with them. It’s disappointing to see old-school liberal bloggers (Sara Robinson is another) pushing this bullshit. Can’t any of them actually read the medical literature, instead of just grousing about “toughening up” or whatever?

        • Origami Isopod

          What PZ says.

          … I think it is entirely reasonable and appropriate that students get advanced warning that emotionally difficult material is coming up. It’s clear to me that it’s a signal, not to run away and hide, but to prepare oneself to examine a concept carefully. That the material might be psychological or sociological does not mean it is OK to spring it on students without preparation; somehow it has become acceptable that civilians who haven’t been up to their forearms in guts ought to be given the courtesy of a warning before throwing gross and graphic images at them, but it is unacceptable molly-coddling to show similar courtesy to a rape victim before slamming them with a story of a traumatic situation.

        • cpinva

          I’m curious, was mr. chait born yesterday morning? I ask, because “trigger warnings” have been around for decades, in movies and tv. normally, they warn that “the following material will contain scenes of graphic violence, that may not be suitable for all viewers.” in fact, just this week, on the history channel, their historic fiction mini-series, The Sons of Liberty had that exact warning at the beginning of each episode, and no one (except mr. chait, I assume) blinked an eye.

          • Sons of Liberty showed lurid scenes of men rebelling against their divinely-chosen monarch. Such horror is not suitable for any audience.

          • Jackov

            If only the History Channel had warned me about all those Boston Beer Co. commercials.

        • This this this this.

          It’s so weird. We have people abusing the ADA to bring their non-service pet animals into inappropriate places…that doesn’t mean that service animals aren’t a real thing.

          Two seconds of reflection should fix that silliness.

  • xq

    The implication of this usage (which is widespread, and by no means limited to people who agree with Chait) is that somehow an identity is something only women or African-Americans or perhaps LGBT people have. White men just have ideas about politics that spring from a realm of pure reason, with concerns that are by definition universal.

    I think this is a correct point, but also that this is a good thing. If white people voted for Republicans like black people voted for Democrats, the world would be doomed. It’s good for progressivism that blacks, gays, etc. think in explicit identity terms, because that means they still have some interest in left-liberal politics even when they join the elite (or see themselves as joining the elite), but it’s terrible if heterosexual cis-gendered whites do.

    • The Temporary Name

      WTF

      • xq

        Was my post confusing? Sorry.

        Yglesias is saying that many straight white men (incorrectly) see their ideas as universal rather than arising in the context of their identity. I’m saying that this is a good thing, because when straight white men see themselves as having an explicit straight while male identity, they tend towards conservative ideology.

        • cpinva

          “I’m saying that this is a good thing, because when straight white men see themselves as having an explicit straight while male identity, they tend towards conservative ideology.”

          I could be wrong here, but I think the point that’s been made here, over and over, is that straight white men do see themselves as having an explicit straight white male identity, and it just annoys the shit out them when any other group does the same thing. to try and weaken those group’s identities, they denigrate them, all the while pretending they don’t have one.

          I could be wrong.

          • xq

            I think straight while males tend to see their own identity as unmarked, as normal.

            • sibusisodan

              I think where I’d disagree with you is the assumption that, once I see my own identity as a privileged WASP, I must therefore vote Republican – out of tribalism.

              I don’t think ‘identity politics’ is quite the same thing as tribalism. And what you’re saying is ‘thank goodness privileged white people don’t engage in tribal behaviour like people belonging to minority groups do’.

              That’s not a correct assessment of the situation, IMPO.

              • xq

                “I think where I’d disagree with you is the assumption that, once I see my own identity as a privileged WASP, I must therefore vote Republican – out of tribalism.”

                I didn’t say that. Obviously, white liberals exist who recognize their own privilege and continue to vote Democrat. I’m one of them. But that kind of thinking is rare in the population, though very common on LGM.

                We all have many identities, and all politics is identity politics. Identifying with oppressed identities, rather than oppressor identities, emphasizes the personal stake in progressive reform. It’s not impossible to identify as oppressor and support reform out of a sense of justice, but that’s not the typical course of things.

                • sibusisodan

                  If by

                  If white people voted for Republicans like black people voted for Democrats

                  you mean ‘vote with the majority of the people sharing their identity, en masse’ I think you’re talking tribalism, which isn’t really the same thing as identity politics.

                  Tribalism says ‘I want to copy the behaviour of the majority of people I co-identify with.’ It’s purely about belonging.

                  Identity politics says something like ‘I want to increase the well-being of the majority of the people I co-identify with.’ It’s about progress, rather than just participation.

                  Unless you are actually a member of the 1%, identity politics should lead one to support policies that are better at benefitting pretty much everybody.

                  So I don’t think you’re correct to say that it would be terrible if even straight, white males thought in terms of identity, rather than tribe.

                • xq

                  OK, I see the distinction you are making. That’s not a distinction Yglesias is making in the blockquote in the OP, which is what I was responding to. And I’m not sure I want to make that distinction either–I think both a sense of belonging and of shared self interest is common to all forms of identity politics as Yglesias is using the term. Sometimes people are wrong about the interests of the groups they identify with.

                  Core to RW identity politics is the idea that liberals want to take hard-earned money from white people to give to lazy minorities, and that affirmative action steals jobs from more deserving white males. Perceived group interest is definitely part of it.

        • Origami Isopod

          With conservative white men, it is an overt, conscious assumption. With liberal white men who haven’t really given it much thought, it operates at a less-conscious level.

          Chait may not be the best example, as it’s questionable whether he even counts as “liberal.” Certain white men who were involved with the Occupy movement are better examples. While some of them were overtly misogynist, the majority probably thought they were not, nor that they were racist, etc. Yet angry calls from women, PoC, etc. in the movement for more/better representation led to these same men bewailing how “divisive” such calls were.

          • libarbarian

            Whiny White Men always think it’s “divisive” when you tell them to step back and shut the fuck up.

            I mean, Occupy was such a rousing success and obviously something that should be emulated.

            • Origami Isopod

              For what it was and how little organization it had, Occupy was actually quite a success. It changed the national conversation: before, nobody in the mainstream media was talking about economic inequality. And local groups like Occupy Sandy have done amazing on-the-ground work helping people who should have been helped by their state and municipal governments but weren’t.

              That said, it had some serious issues, even if in retrospect they were entirely unsurprising.

              • I’m going to channel every teacher I had between 2nd and 8th grades by saying that the problem was that Occupy didn’t live up to its potential. It changed the national conversation, which is great, but it could have had more influence on the direction that the new conversation took.

                • joe from Lowell

                  I really don’t think it could. I think they accomplished about as much as some street protests over the course of a few months can hope to accomplish.

                  Even if it hadn’t reinvented itself into a movement devoted to issues of police procedures, the use of park land, and DHS conspiracy theories, I don’t see much more that the protests could have done. What Occupy accomplished is what other street protest movements ought to aspire to.

  • keta

    Jesus, that bolded bit of the pull quote is so blindingly true it’s almost painful. And what is painful is how many who give lip service to the whole topic just. can’t. see. it. And never will.

  • I’m praying that Matty meant this in context of describing the view of identity politics most white men have, because out of that context this is a powerfully hateful statement and it disturbs me that the context isn’t clearer:

    White men just have ideas about politics that spring from a realm of pure reason, with concerns that are by definition universal.

    • Lee Rudolph

      For goodness sake, his immediately preceding sentence makes your desired context unmistakeably clear.

    • Tyro

      This comment of yours is practically a parody of what Chait was criticizing. And I say this as something who can’t stand Chait’s shtick.

  • libarbarian

    What a good whitemansplanation!!

    I’m really glad I had a couple of white men on hand to whitemansplain that to me.

    • ColBatGuano

      It’s so hard to detect sarcasm these days.

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