Jacques comments on yesterday's Shelby Steele entry:
Shelby Steele is clearly right about the Left's need for hate objects (as a source of power) but I think he is wrong to say this is "a death rattle". Or at least I'm skeptical. We've already been through so many phases of this same dynamic, and it hasn't yet killed the Left or even slowed it down. On the contrary, it seems to me that as their stories of evil Republicans and evil white men (etc) become ever more absurd the fanaticism and power of Leftists grows. For example, the Tawana Brawley story was utterly absurd even at the time. Any reasonable person would have regarded the story as highly dubious, even before all the decisive evidence of lies was available. And yet the absurdity of the story--even its demonstrable falsity--didn't do anything to convince Leftists that their campaign against "white supremacists" was mistaken. As far as I can tell the absurdity of the story did nothing to harm Al Sharpton's career. Similarly, it was obviously absurd to believe that Trayvon Martin was a victim of white racism, or a white supremacist, or whatever. There was, at the very least, enough evidence from the very beginning for any reasonable person to suspend judgment--to doubt that Trayvon was just an innocent little child victim, to doubt that George Zimmerman had any racial motivation, etc. But that also did nothing to stop the Left, and seems on the contrary to have emboldened them in their endless campaign against "racism" and "racists".
I agree. Trayvon Martin was no victim of white racism. He was no Emmett Till. The boy brought about his own death. If Martin had been taught, or rather had learned, to control himself he would most likely be alive today. But he wasn't or didn't. He blew his cool when questioned about his trespassing in a gated community on a rainy night. He was no child on the way to the candy store. By all appearances he was up to no good. He punched a man in the face and broke his nose, then jumped on him, pinned him down, did the 'ground and pound' and told him that he was going to die that night. So, naturally, the man defended himself against the deadly attack with deadly force. What Zimmerman did was both morally and legally permissible. If some strapping youth is pounding your head into the pavement, you are about to suffer "grave bodily harm" if not death. What we have here is clearly a case of self-defense. The verdict of acquittal for Zimmerman was clearly correct. Only a blind ideologue could fail to understand this.
Does race enter into this? In one way it does. But not in the way leftists think say. Blacks as a group have a rather more emotional nature than whites as a group. (If you deny this, you have never lived in a black neighborhood or worked with blacks, as I have.) Martin's lack of self-control got him killed. He couldn't keep a lid on his mindless hatred of the "creepy-assed cracker." White-on-black racism did not enter into it at all. So, while self-control is important for all, the early inculcation of self-control is even more important for blacks. I suspect Shelby Steele would agree.
And I think this is true of almost all their hate objects. Remember when Ronald Reagan was supposed to be a neo-Nazi, a right-wing dictator, a woman-hater...? Wasn't it obvious in the '80s that these ideas were false, indeed preposterous? Or the idea that Richard Nixon was some kind of uniquely vile criminal--as opposed to Ted Kennedy, for example, or JFK or Bill Clinton? Or the idea that Mitt Romney--Mitt Romney, that pathetic liberal squish--was some kind of hard-right authoritarian bent on destroying women and minorities? Or what about the utterly absurd idea of "white privilege" or "microaggression" or "transgenderism"? These things are demonstrably false or simply incoherent, but it only took a few years for all of them to be nailed down as the central principles of a new moral code that no one in human history had ever even imagined.
Of course you are right about all of this.
In all of these cases, and a zillion others, the Left's hatred was totally divorced from any kind of realistic adult assessment of reality. And yet it has never made any difference. It's never set them back significantly, and instead what generally happens is that their deranged absurd demonstrably false narrative ends up being entrenched as the only mainstream reasonable opinion within a few years at most.
So I'd propose an additional hypothesis to explain this phenomenon:
The absurdity of the story is part of its appeal. Leftists derive self-esteem from their (supposed) ability to understand problems that regular people can't understand, and their (supposed) deep concern for victims. It makes them feel intellectually and morally superior to regular people, and they are addicted to that high. The more seemingly absurd the theory, the more brilliant and sensitive and complicated you must be in order to really 'get' it--and, of course, the more it will repel the dumb rednecks and normies, who don't get it and can't be in the club. And this in turn strengthens them as a mass movement. They control the institutions and media, so they're able to reach an ever-growing audience of new people who also want to feel good about themselves, superior to the hated white male conservative Other. By contrast, a more rational and realistic assessment of the world offers little to these people--no special social status and opportunities for preening and validation, no sense of being exalted above the dumb masses.
What needs explaining is the uncontrolled, largely inarticulate, animal rage of the Left. (e.g., Robert de Niro: Fuck Trump!) Steele's hypothesis is that the Left is raging because it is losing its power and moral authority due to the drying up of sources of legitimate moral indignation. The civil wrongs were righted. And so leftists have traded in righteous anger for mindless hatred. In order to hold on to its power the Left is inventing bogus sources of moral outrage.
Jacques speak of an "additional hypothesis," but is he trying to explain the same phenomenon, the Left's hyperbolic rage? Or a different phenomenon, the need leftists have to feel superior to Hillary's "deplorables"?
It looks like the explananda are different and so are the explanantia. The rage and the need to feel superior, on the one hand, and the the lust for power and the concoction of pseudo-intellectual gobbledygook, on the other.
Finally, if this line of thought is reasonable, it makes me wonder whether Steele is perhaps being a bit naive about the Left's track record. Did the Left really "rescue America" from "the great menace of racism"? Is the story since the 60s really one of "the greatest moral evolutions ever"? I suspect that this whole hallowed narrative might be not so different, ultimately, from the Left's current stories about Trayvon and Michael Brown "the gentle giant", or this ridiculous thing about Judge Kavanaugh's high school sins. Maybe they've been telling absurd lies all along--just as they lied about the USSR, for example. Maybe "racism" in the past was a far more ambiguous phenomenon--not something that needed to be simply eradicated using essentially totalitarian methods, but something that needed to be moderated, understood in its context and judged more realistically. Take lynching, for example, one of their favorite mythologies. Who was being lynched, and why? Lots of blacks, but lots of whites too. Maybe the reason was mainly that blacks were committing a disproportionate number of murders and rapes. Maybe the reality of lynching was about as complex and ambiguous as the reality of so-called "racial profiling". And the same goes for their other narratives--about women, immigrants, sex and so on. I would expect that in 50 years people will have been trained to believe in the "great menace" of "heterosexism" or "microaggressions" or "hate speech" on the internet. Maybe they've always been crazy.
"Lots of blacks, but lots of whites too." Here I need some references. Lot of whites were lynched? By whom?
It is true that blacks are disproportionately more criminally prone than whites. (And since it is true, this statement cannot be dismissed as racist. A statement whose subject matter is race is not eo ipso a racist statement.) I hope Jacques is not suggesting that the extra-judicial lynching of blacks was justified by their disproportionate engaging in rape and murder.
I differ from Jacques in that I hold that the original Civil Rights movement was basically on the right track, and that Steele, while he exaggerates, is right to point this out. We should not conflate that movement with the insane leftism of the present day.