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“Stop Hitting Yourself”: An Argument That Oddly Does Not Improve With Endless Repetition

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James Bennet decided that what his readers needed was a full column making the same argument as Bari Weiss’s comprehensively dunked-on tweet:

And a backlash against liberals — a backlash that most liberals don’t seem to realize they’re causing — is going to get President Trump re-elected.

[…]

Within just a few years, many liberals went from starting to talk about microaggressions to suggesting that it is racist even to question whether microaggressions are that important. “Gender identity disorder” was considered a form of mental illness until recently, but today anyone hesitant about transgender women using the ladies’ room is labeled a bigot. Liberals denounce “cultural appropriation” without, in many cases, doing the work of persuading people that there is anything wrong with, say, a teenager not of Chinese descent wearing a Chinese-style dress to prom or eating at a burrito cart run by two non-Latino women.

Pressing a political view from the Oscar stage, declaring a conservative campus speaker unacceptable, flatly categorizing huge segments of the country as misguided — these reveal a tremendous intellectual and moral self-confidence that smacks of superiority. It’s one thing to police your own language and a very different one to police other people’s. The former can set an example. The latter is domineering.

We’ve seen the exact same arguments from the center and the ostensible left, and I won’t repeat all the arguments that apply equally here in full, but to summarize:

  • The causal argument here is silly. There are smug self-righteous liberals in 2016. And 2012. And 2008. And 1964. It’s not actually an explanation for anything. The fact that Alexander wrote a near-identical op-ed in 2010 does really draw a line under this point, though.
  • One striking thing about the “conservatives become conservatives only because of smug liberals” op-ed the Times runs twice a week is the implicit assumption that there’s no affirmative case to be made for Ryanism or Trumpism to the non-wealthy. I concede this point! My apologies in advance for having created 1,000 more Nazis.
  • If protecting the rights of transgender people is such a sure political loser, how do you explain Pat McCrory? Why was the race in 2016 where the issue most salient a loss for Republicans?
  • Also note the one-way ratchet: college kids heckling Christina Hoff Summers can allegedly determine the outcome of elections, but CHS doing dog-and-pony shows with Nazis is supposed to have no impact at all on college students she’s trolling. It really is Murc’s Law all the way down.
  • And the magazine that published the most smug, self-righteous attacks on Appalachian working-class whites in 2016 was…the National Review. These arguments act as if J.D. Vance is a liberal academic rather than a reactionary who got rich working for Peter Thiel.

I’ll delegate the punchline to the guy who wrote the crucial essay about this mode of argument:

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