Who Is Truly Marginalized? – Part 2

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Champions of intersectional identity politics in academia, culture and government have accrued near-hegemonic societal power for themselves by exploiting both the real and imagined oppression of certain groups on whose behalf they boldly presume to speak

Last month, I wrote a short reflection on who is and is not effectively marginalized in 21st century Western society, both societally and intellectually. Building on far more substantial contributions from Rod Dreher and Kevin Williamson, I concluded that while racism, sexism and LGBT discrimination remain very real and pressing challenges to be overcome, when it comes to setting the political and cultural agenda it is those who refuse to embrace, uphold and evangelise intersectional identity politics who are increasingly the most functionally marginalized.

To me, this seems self-evidently true. Try being a black conservative or libertarian politician in America, or a gay politician questioning of current gender theory in Britain and see how far you rise and how welcome you are in the Democratic or Labour parties, or the Op-Ed pages of prestige newspapers. In each case it will not be the color of your skin or your sexual preference which holds you back, stymies your career and invites social and professional ostracization from the most prestigious and influential networks; rather, it will be the “unacceptable” opinions you profess and the supposed harm you are doing to sweepingly designated victim classes.

Partly depending on how one defines being marginalized – and there are different perspectives here, one being the ability to speak up for one’s personal interests and meaningfully control one’s own destiny, the other being the ability to wield influence to shape wider society in one’s preferred direction – a powerful case can be made that race, gender and sexuality are now far less a determining factor than whether or not one possesses the education, social justice lexicon and properly conforming social viewpoints to avoid scrutiny and censure by other “gatekeepers”. In other words, we have returned to an almost class-based form of societal hierarchy where the new underclass do not necessarily work with their hands or sit on the dole queue but generally hold opinions and values now considered unfashionable or harmful, while the new upper class do not necessarily own mansions or penthouses but are uniformly fluent in the lore and language of intersectionality.

Note that this is very different to making the tedious, self-pitying Alt-Right claim that straight white Christian males are now a terribly downtrodden group while reverse discrimination-benefiting racial minorities or perpetually unsatisfied “feminazis” are on the ascendance and have the best of everything – far from it. In fact, a straight white male is still likely to do extraordinarily well, to the extent that he also holds a narrow range of opinions deemed acceptable by current elites, while a black lesbian woman who blasphemes against one of the identity politics movement’s main articles of faith is likely to find herself every bit as limited in opportunity and outcome as a straight white male who commits the same sin.

Thus we need to think about power in a more nuanced, multilayered way. There are differences in power between various individuals in society, resulting from numerous factors including (but certainly not limited to or even predominantly caused by) race, gender and sexuality. But there are also differences in power between various voices in the public square, and these differences depend even less on immutable personal characteristics and more on the particular political opinions which people hold and either choose to voice or suppress. The former may well often be overwhelmingly important to the individual, whose personal happiness or fulfilment is likely closely tied to getting through life unstymied by various forms of discrimination. But the other power differential – the ongoing interplay of voices in the public square, which slowly shapes society through rules, customs and laws – is far more consequential to us all. And it is here where the social justice left insult our intelligence by continually playing the overwhelmed underdog when in reality they enjoy every conceivable advantage and inch closer to victory with every passing day.

To this end, I was very heartened to read the latest blog post by Ben Cobley, a left-wing journalist who freely expresses qualms about the groupthink and illiberal authoritarianism now rampant on the Left. Cobley focuses on the work of UN “Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance” E. Tendayi Achiume, who recently made an official fact-finding trip to Britain in order to apply a remarkably presumptive “post hoc ergo propter hoc” analytical lens to the supposed impact of “Brexit” (which hasn’t yet taken place) on racial equality in the UK.

Referencing the UN Special Rapporteur’s report, Cobley writes:

For this interpretation, which is appearing in our public life daily and prominently, the life chances and well-being of non-white-skinned people, women, the ethnically non-British, Muslims and disabled people are determined by those identity markers, so that they appear as universal victims of society and of the identity groups which dominate it. This is direct causation she is talking about – that identity leads to either success or failure. She makes no qualification on it and makes an unequivocal judgement on the situation as unacceptable and also sometimes unlawful – so assuming a kind of absolute authority over it.

Achiume, who The Times described as a ‘Zambian-born, US-based academic’ and ‘a UN expert’ on its front page, added, “Austerity measures have been disproportionately detrimental to racial and ethnic minority communities. Unsurprisingly, austerity has had especially pronounced intersectional consequences, making women of colour the worst affected.”

Here we see the logic of this form of knowledge, attributing victimhood along the lines of identity categories – so, combining women and people ‘of colour’ as victims, we arrive at a maximum victimhood of ‘women of colour’. This type of knowledge, of ‘intersectionality’, will be familiar to anyone accustomed to the theories coming out of the social sciences (and wider humanities) departments of Western universities.

However the ability to make assertion in the public sphere – and to have it leading the news with the one making the assertion described as a ‘UN expert’ as in this case – is an indication of political power. The domination of academic discourse by this sort of universalising theory is a sign of political power. That someone propounding this theory gets appointed by the body that brings the world together to go and inspect countries and tell them what to do is a sign of political power.

Absolutely so. Such is the power wielded by devotees of intersectional identity politics within academia that reputations can be ruined, careers terminated and cringeworthily fawning apologies extracted by identity politics practitioners, not on the basis of an intellectual refutation of a contrary argument but by the mere assertion that merely having to hear such alternative opinions constitutes intolerable cruelty and harm.

Such is the power wielded by identity politics practitioners within British politics that a one-time party leader – Tim Farron of the risibly named Liberal Democrats – can be forced through media pressure to publicly deny what we all know to be his true beliefs on certain hot-button social issues, and ultimately to quit his post because of the incompatibility of private conscience with the totalitarian demand that he personally approve of alternative lifestyle choices rather than simply promising never to legislate against them.

The power to hand down a statement or opinion of any kind – from a UN report accusing Britain of becoming a land of racist oppression following the Brexit vote to a university professor redesigning a curriculum or writing a grievance-soaked Op-Ed – and receive unsceptical, unquestioning newspaper coverage or approving cable news commentary is immense indeed. They who control the universities, cultural outlets serving mass markets and the media outlets consumed by political elites can be reasonably said to control the basic narrative of society. Sure, dissenting voices are still permitted to appear (though less frequently in prestige outlets, and often with various disqualifying provisos attached) from time to time, but as a general rule they who control the narrative determine the future.

Those in opposition to the social justice and identity politics movements simply do not possess this media or cultural reach. Their arguments are not given the same weight by opinion-makers and their messages are not amplified to nearly the same extent by media gatekeepers. Bad individuals on this side of the societal divide remain intermittently capable of causing physical or emotional harm to others through their private actions, which is always reprehensible, but the conservative movement as a whole is firmly in retreat on a societal level. Even many of those most concerned about the rise to power of Donald Trump concede that this historical aberration is very much a “last gasp” from a segment of society they openly write off as unimportant and “deplorable”.

Cobley continues to explore:

[..] how this power works through relationships which have built up between what I am calling ‘the liberal-left’ [..] and these favoured groups via those who appear as their representatives – so feminists, Islamists and ethnic group activists for example. These relationships make up what I am calling ‘the system of diversity’ – a form of society grounded in these relationships of favouring and representing, linked to assumptions of identity group victimhood.

As I am seeing it, many of our major institutions, including major media organisations like the BBC, Sky NewsThe Times and especially The Guardian and Channel 4 are constantly being drawn towards the system of diversity and its ways of relating to the world – seeing fixed and ‘quasi-fixed’ identity as primary to what is going on in the world and primary to how they should address it.

And warns:

This agenda is increasingly working its way into our daily lives as rules and orders and social norms – to implement positive discrimination in the workplace, to attend training to correct our ‘unconscious bias’ and to report assertions that are not favourable to favoured group members to the police as ‘hate crime’.

The natural response in this situation is to give way, which is after all, fundamentally, a giving-way to power. We evade, we protect ourselves, while the winners go on producing their reports and setting the agenda and setting the rules that govern our lives.

It takes a strong person to resist all of these pressures to conform. Only the very brave, generally reckless or those with little to lose will readily voice dissent against the identity politics left’s stark design for society, which is why such dissent is concentrated among a handful of brave and exceptional academics or journalists, opportunistic politicians or disenfranchised and often under-occupied young men online.

Unfortunately, despite the ability to generate the occasional flashpoint of resistance, these groups count for little against the great mass of middle class opinion which is either actively supports the identity politics message saturating the culture or (perhaps more often) is too fearful of negative personal consequences to question or object to the present direction of travel.

And all the while opposing voices are silenced, careers ended and lives ruined for failing to move in fast-enough lockstep with evolving identity politics orthodoxy, those powerful figures doing the silencing, ending and ruining have the temerity to portray themselves as the underdogs in this culture war. We must not fall for their charade.

 

Update – 30 May 2018

Ben Cobley has a new book on this very subject coming out on 1st July, entitled “The Tribe: The Liberal Left And The System Of Diversity“. I will be getting a copy and encourage my interested readers to do the same, as it promises to delve into these issues in more depth and certainly with a more scholarly eye than I currently possess.

 

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Feminists Against Brexit, The Patriarchy’s Latest Cunning Tool Of Oppression

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Democracy? Don’t be daft. Brexit is nothing more than an oppressive tool of the patriarchy. Or something.

If you had to guess what somebody whose web bio reads “Muireann O’ Dwyer is a PhD candidate in European Law and Governance in University College Dublin” has to say about Brexit in an article for Left Foot Forward, what angle do you think that piece would take?

Yup. Muireann O’Dwyer has found a way to make Brexit and the reclamation of our democracy and national self-determination all about intersectional feminism:

There is no shortage of analysis on the post-Brexit fallout but, following a trend established in the referendum campaign, issues of gender are remarkably absent. Indeed, women’s voices are rare in the debate regardless of their position.

[..] While all male panels and the dominance of male columnists and talking heads continues after the result, there has been some change to the political landscape.

Apparently Andrea Leadsom, Gisela Stuart and Kate Hoey (the first two of which took part in the main televised EU referendum debate watched by millions of people) don’t count, because they are women who dared to express the “wrong” views. And journalists / TV pundits Isabel Hardman and Isabel Oakeshott likewise do not exist.

Conservative women or women who supported the Leave campaign in the EU referendum are not “real” women, and the only women’s voices which should be elevated and amplified are those of pro-EU, left-wing women – at least, that’s the clear inference from O’Dwyer’s remarks.

O’Dwyer continues:

Economic policy is deeply gendered – the different general positions of men and women in the economy means that any policy intervention will impact them different.

In the UK, successive budgets have been analysed by the Fawcett Society, which has highlighted that women are bearing the burden of austerity cuts and reforms. In the aftermath of the referendum, it is likely that this disparity will continue.

However, the economic impacts of the vote are themselves gendered. For example, the pay gap for women over decades has lead to a pensions gap – women tend to have lower pensions, and to be more likely to have no private pension at all.

This existing disadvantage means that women are more likely to suffer the consequences of the devaluation in pension funds caused by the market instability and the sterling fluctuations.

This makes no sense. If there is a pensions gap, with more women having lower pensions or no pension savings at all, then the economic impact of any post-Brexit market turbulence would be felt more keenly by men, who O’Dwyer admits have more money invested in the stock market subject to risk.

But even if this were not so, looking at something as long-term as pension scheme performance through the lens of short-term market reaction to Brexit is stupid beyond measure. Unless one is cashing in a pension early or unfortunate enough to be retiring right this minute, any of last week’s stock market losses (most of which have already rebounded) are of little relevance. Who is to say that the improved economic output resulting from a well-negotiated Brexit and an agile, proactive trade policy will not lead to better stock market performance than would have been the case if Britain had voted to remain in the EU? Who can disprove the counterfactual? Certainly not Muireann O’Dwyer, who isn’t even aware of its existence.

O’Dwyer then turns her gaze on fiscal policy:

Additionally, the proposed tax reforms, particularly to the corporate tax rate, mean a transfer of wealth away from those who rely on various public services and supports to the already wealthy.

Again – insidious, cretinous nonsense. To the extent that people rely on public services, they do not have “wealth” – they are the beneficiaries of a compulsory wealth transfer from high earners to low earners, facilitated by the government. Assuming the government cut taxes and benefits, this is not a transfer of wealth from poor to rich, as the Owen Jones Left continually screech. It is just a smaller transfer of wealth from rich to poor. But of course it does not suit the left-wing purpose to acknowledge this fact, so O’Dwyer readily perpetuates the lie that tax cuts combined with spending cuts constitute a transfer of “wealth” which is somehow rightfully owned by those who did not earn it.

And then on to immigration:

Concerns over migration played a major role in the discourses of the referendum, and these have now mutated into heightened racism and abuse.

Migration is itself deeply gendered, as can be seen from the different migration patterns of men and women, but also in how migrants are constructed in media discourses.

The despicable rise in racial attacks in the days since the vote merges with street harassment of women. Even before the vote, Muslim women were the group most likely to be subject to racist street abuse.

While the rise in racism has been roundly criticised, it is essential to understand how this racism connects with sexism, both in online abuse and in the street.

Racism and sexism combine in migration policy debates as well. The famed points system proposed by Leave campaigners is based on the Australian system that has led to inhumane treatment of migrants of refugees and is itself the policy embodiment of a racist and xenophobic attitude.

Further, a points system operationalizes sexist discrimination – for example by setting earnings requirements for entrants. Since women on average earn less than men, their success in such a system will be systematically lower.

Further, unpaid work does not count in such a metric based system, and so the work of women in care and the community is discounted, further disadvantaging applications by women.

The proposed points system then provides a clear example of the intersections of xenophobic policy and gendered economic inequality.

Sure, it took some twisting to get there – assuming that a points-based immigration system is desired by all Brexiteers, and that Britain would adopt the same “discriminatory” rules for that system rather than create our own criteria, and that accepting people on economic merit is evil but favouring predominantly white Europeans while discriminating against predominantly non-white people from the rest of the world is A-OK – but O’Dwyer found a way.

And she did all of this based on the insidious, unspoken proposition that women are so feeble that they would all flop around helplessly were their alms from the welfare state jeopardised by a Brexit-inspired economic downturn. This is what passes for feminism in the 21st century – treating women like an inherently vulnerable, permanent victim class for whom the reclamation of Britain’s democracy can only be seen as a fearful calamity.

Fortunately, the women of Britain – naive, helpless and dependent creatures that they are – have virtuous and compassionate intellectuals like Muireann O’Dwyer, PhD candidate in European Law and Governance at University College Dublin, fighting their corner.

 

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