While Robinson has no kind words for Ngo, he rightly condemns antifa’s assault on him: “The attack on Andy Ngo does not, to me, meet the criteria for justified violence. A Quillette writer with a GoPro is a nuisance. Punching him might be satisfying (to some, not me). But it is gratuitous and unjustified. It’s wrong. It does nothing helpful, and actually harms the cause of the left.”
Agreed, though to be fair and in the interests of equal time, it’s worth pointing out that there are those who claim that Ngo is no innocent angel or martyr here either.
But I digress. As far as left wing pundits are concerned, expect good stuff from Nathan Robinson. Most of the time.
However, in a recent piece in Current Affairs, Don’t Believe What They Tell You About the Left, he drops the ball, and does so in a manner that reveals the heart of what’s wrong with so much leftism, both past and present. The article criticizes Intellectual Dark Web pundit Bret Weinstein for asserting that the left’s ongoing demonization of White people will drive more and more of them to the embrace of White Nationalism.
I am not naturally sympathetic to the “Black Studies made me become a Nazi” position. Partly this is because, as a straight white male myself (and a college Black Studies major), I have no idea what these guys are even talking about. I’ve never been told “fuck you for being a straight white man.” Nothing of the kind.
The closest thing I’ve ever gotten is “perhaps as a straight white male you should exercise a bit of caution and restraint before loudly giving your opinion on matters that other people may have somewhat more personal experience with.”
But when people insist they “won’t apologize for being white,” I still wonder who has been asking them, because nobody has ever asked me to do anything but show respect for marginalized people’s perspective and critically examine my own assumptions and advantages. Which seems a fairly modest ask.
Robinson goes on to insist that there are no such voices on the left condemning white males categorically, and that these claims come exclusively from right wing sources. The article favorably quotes one Sam Adler Bell:
These people are not getting the message “everyone hates white straight males” from left wing media. They’re not watching left wing media!! It’s absurd. They’re getting that message from right wing media *interpreting* left wing media for them.
He then goes on to suggest:
Don’t get your understanding of left concepts from Prager University videos. Get them from books! Or from leftists. Go to a DSA meeting and meet some people and listen to what they have to say.
Okay. I like the idea of going to the source. Get your views on the left from right wing sources, and what you’ll get is a telling glimpse of the private obsessions of the right wing mind. The vast majority of the time, these have little to do with the obsessions of the left.
What you’ll get instead is a Shapiroesque gish gallop or a Petersonian word salad, wherein you can count on one hand the number of inhalations the speaker takes before getting into the evils of communism, government intervention in the economy, the need for high income tax cuts and deregulation, one hundred million dead in the 20th century, and no small number of mentions of Venezuela and of course endless hosannas exalting endless private wealth accumulation and concentration.
Whatever the Koch Bro’s pay them to say, basically.
And that hasn’t changed in decades now. Listen to the right wing on any format, and what you’ll get is the clear sense that the western world reached its absolute satori around 1981 or so, when Maggie and Ronnie were slashing taxes, privatizing and deregulating left and right, and sticking it to the unions at home and the commies abroad.
From there, what we have to look forward to is a millennium of glory, as outlined in the gospels of Rand, Mises, Friedman and Hayek. If this actually sounds pretty lame, that’s because it is. An endless future of sweatshops, indebtedness and boom and bust cycles doesn’t sound that exciting to me. Sorry guys.
Plus, I should hope that we’re all smart enough not to be enticed into White Nationalism, no matter how shrill and stupid the anti-White rhetoric on the left gets. Too wrongs don’t make a right, after all.
And let’s especially give Adolf Hitler’s resurgent fan club a pass. Let’s not forget that he did start a war that got tens of millions of Europeans and white males killed, that devastated the nations of Europe and permanently ended their global hegemony. With friends like Adolf, White guys certainly don’t need enemies. Fortunately, this groundswell of neo-fascist reaction against social justice culture doesn’t seem to be a huge big thing.
And no, Trumpism doesn’t count. Neither does the Tea Party. Reactionary politics tap into impulses in the American (and European) body politic that are decades, centuries even, old. It reincarnates on a decade, maybe a generational cycle, but there’s nothing here that hasn’t been here in numerous different forms for ages now. So a surge of White supremacism as a response to social justice excess isn’t a thing, in any event.
So if you want to see what’s going on on the left, check out leftist sources. Agreed, and the reverse is true. Don’t just believe that Jordan Peterson is a Nazi and that Sam Harris is a genocidal neocon. See for yourself (said no leftist ever). Unfortunately for Nathan J. Robinson, doing precisely that actually damns his basic claim.
Frustration with the Left of the kind he’s criticizing isn’t coming from the Heritage Foundation or Liberty University. It comes from people like myself and many others who’ve had countless encounters with left wing people online and in real life and report having very similarly frustrating experiences. Common themes include:
- Robinson has had good luck with Leftists if the only anti-White, anti-male hatred he’s encountered is strictly tongue in cheek, or hyperbolic expressions of frustration with White and male privilege. If such expressions abound, that should tell us something about the character of the Left in the social media age, and that something isn’t good. If expressions of hate for anyone (except the legitimately horrible; Hitler etc) have become acceptable on the Left, that’s a pretty clear indicator that we’ve lost the plot. Remember when we hated racism, not White people? When we hated sexism, not men? This was the cant on even the radical left as recently as the 1990s. If you don’t think the Left has a White hatred problem and a misandry problem, you’re not paying attention to a host of sources: Twitter, Tumblr, a host of woke blogs, r/socialism, most of Leftbook, a good portion of Breadtube, most online feminism, etc etc. It takes a glaring dose of willful blindness not to see that the Left has become about flagrant racial and gender partisanship. It shouldn’t be.
- Leftists are too often not direct and honest in conversation. One wonders if protest is the only way they actually have of communicating with other people. In encounters with ideological rivals, the tendency online is to post vague expressions of disapproval in a scolding and parental tone, intended to gaslight their target into assuming a purely rational, “what did I do wrong?” kind of stance. And then eat them alive. Another is a “whew boys, look at this” sort of post, followed by mocking laughter. This is the entire format of The Majority Report with Sam Seder on YouTube. You know, the channel with the cackling asshole in the background at all times. Chapo Trap House is largely about this as well. While satirizing the right is fun and easy, if that’s all they do, one starts to come away from media like this with the impression that what leftists stand for is how smart, clever and funny they think they are. Are actual ideological and policy positions expressed on these shows? Or is it ALL gaslighting? I don’t honestly know. We’d do well to learn from the brilliant Kyle Kulinski, who always lets you know exactly what this is – or should be – about policy wise.
- Leftists have a love of sloganeering, thought stopping rhetorical tricks, witty portmanteaus and reciting, sometimes word for word, official dogmas. I’ve read the same copy-pasta, word for word, on gender related subjects I don’t know how many times now. And as bad as the intersectional feminists are for this, they have nothing on the classical Marxist-Leninists and (worst of all) the Maoists. Now these are a thankfully small minority on the Left, but do show how we’re not immune to the ills of flagrantly cult like thinking.
- Closed ideological systems, which contain within themselves easy means to dismiss any and all criticism of themselves. Critics are simply White males defending their privilege, reactionary capitalist roaders, kulaks, etc. They all have a stake in the maintenance of the present “oppressive” system. That the cherished dogmas of the Left, like Marxist-Leninism once upon a time and intersectional feminism today, could be flawed (while still making some correct observations) is inconceivable.
- Related to this is a tendency to display “moral relativism in monstrous incarnation.” Which refers to the tendency of Leftists to judge actions on the basis of the “classes” of people who perform them, or whether they belong to a “marginalized” vs a “privileged” group. Leftist hating of White males isn’t really hatred because hatred is “power plus prejudice” and since feminists and minorities have no power (according to their own self referencing dogmas) they can’t be bigots. Violent actions visited upon the kulaks or other enemies of the people are okay. Kto Kovo, right?
- Frequent expression, or at least implication, of truly bizarre and extreme views. Consider, for instance, the occasionally cited Schrödinger’s Rapist, which implies that all women everywhere should at all times avoid all men, because they have no way of knowing which men are the rapists and which are not. This has clearly not been thought through, and doesn’t reflect the way that virtually all progressives and feminists live their lives in the real world. Gee, I wonder why? Yet even if such ideas are not meant to be taken at face value, what does their popularity among Leftists and feminists say about their underlying mindset? Most of them may not all really hate all men and white people, but their doctrines certainly open the door to legitimizing such hatred, and anti white male exacerbation is a recurring motif in Leftist spaces in a way that would not be tolerated (and rightly so) were the racial and gender identities switched. Are we to believe that only White males have flaws in their character that require self reflection and repentance? At what point do “power” and “privilege” simply become legitimizing rationalizations for why it’s okay when the Left’s charmed circle of preferred identities hate? I guess the idea that we should not be discriminated against based on our race or gender isn’t really the idea after all. This all says something, whether the Nathan J. Robinsons of this world want it to or not. If men, White men especially, are put off by this ongoing pandering to female moral vanity, can we really blame them?
- Fragility. Put up serious arguments against Leftist dogmas and watch their adherents fall to pieces or go into full on attack mode. You’ve caused them personal injury, and they’re damn well going to let you – or your employers or people you do business with – know it. They sure the Hell let Andy Ngo know it, among others. Of course, they’re the first to accuse their opponents of likewise being fragile, with “White fragility” being a common thought stopping slogan among critical race theorists to denounce the tendency among whites to dislike being held collectively responsible for historical mistreatment of minorities.
I should like to point out that I, and many others, were not told about any of the above second hand by Bret Weinstein or Dave Rubin. We weren’t all good, dutiful socialists until Stefan Molyneux or Carl Benjamin somehow brainwashed us into falsely believing all of this. They are experiences that I and countless others, including some of these very “rightwing” YouTubers have had, and they aren’t isolated occurrences. They are the rule and not the exception, I’m afraid.
And I hate to say all of this, because I am a Leftist at heart. I don’t even completely disagree with the tenets of today’s Left: intersectionality and so on. Robinson is right in that we’d do well to listen to those with more experience with particular kinds of discrimination, and not be so quick to get defensive.
The problem is the weaponization of intersectionality and the inflation of standpoint theory into claims for full-blown infallibility. Plus, we can reasonably question just who the intersectional ideologues are speaking for, and how representative professional journalists and academics really are of the downtrodden and marginalized?
We’re not stupid, Nathan. We know when these ideas are being manipulated so as to establish social dominance. We’ve been through it with hip, politically correct ideologues time and time again, and the fact our frustration with it gets chalked up to the “alt right” simply compounds the problem.
Where Robinson gives himself, and the mainstream Left away, however, is in this pair of quotes:
I am not naturally sympathetic to the “Black Studies made me become a Nazi” position. Partly this is because, as a straight White male myself (and a college Black Studies major), I have no idea what these guys are even talking about. I’ve never been told “fuck you for being a straight White man.” Nothing of the kind.
One of my colleagues, for instance, has a tendency to joke that all men should be fired into the sun. (At least, I believe she is joking.) Men sometimes email to complain, saying they do not feel “welcomed” into the Left and that these jokes are hurtful because they imply that all men are bad.
I am not very sympathetic to the men who write these notes, because I am of their gender, and I do not feel wounded about remarks advising that men be fired into the sun.
In short, Nathan J. Robinson has not himself ever been told to fuck off for being a straight White man, so we’re to assume that never happens. Nathan J. Robinson himself doesn’t feel wounded by remarks advising that men be fired into the sun. Therefore, such remarks are well and good.
Well, I hate to have to say this, Nathan, but it isn’t all about you. Maybe, just maybe, it’s not wise for Leftists to countenance White male bashing in their ranks because doing so drives away a huge potential base for support. Support the Left needs to actually win elections, take power and actually implement policy that can really help poor and marginalized minorities.
Maybe that support and the politics it can achieve is more important to the broader cause than professional educated professional activists getting to be right and dumb Rightists being wrong about a cherished point of dogma, such as ‘power plus prejudice or of the ego stroking satisfaction of displaying their unbound feminist wittiness in the face of yet another neanderthal male.
But many Leftists will never consider this, and thus the core of the problem on the Left reveals itself, and why self-reflection (except a vain sort of self criticism of one’s own ideological shortcomings, itself a very totalitarian and cultish concept) seems never to be on the table with most Leftists:
The Left Has an Egocentrism Problem
Too many Leftists are caught up in a kind of narcissism wherein their projected self-concepts as warriors fighting on behalf of the underdog (the precise origin of the derisive use of the phrase social justice warrior) must be shielded at all times from any kind of doubt or criticism.
Thus, their reactions to disagreement are always ones of emotionalism, hostility and defensiveness. Never due consideration of what their opponents actually have to say, even if the end result of such consideration would reveal the critics being incorrect and the Left’s position vindicated by the facts.
One gets the sense that, like the religious fundamentalist, many Leftists demand blind faith, and the very notion of fact checking thus offends them. To doubt is to be racist, misogynist etc.
It’s so much easier just to handwave any and all dissent as the shrill hysteria of this or that rightwing pundit, and maybe even call for their deplatforming, milkshaking or the like.
So much easier than meeting the challenge head on. The bubble of self satisfaction doesn’t get burst that way. Not to say that rightwing pundits on YouTube or elsewhere are correct in their own world views. The Right has its own problems. However, the lack of self awareness among so many on the Left is simply breathtaking.
Perhaps this is why most of the intellectual and activist vigor on the Left is poured into digging in their heels over metapolitical dogmas aimed at asserting a kind of ideological infallibility: standpoint theory, power plus prejudice, white male fragility, dissension from feminist and race theory equating to racist and sexist oppression, and “hate” speech as a form of actual violence (justifying censorship).
As opposed to fighting the good fight for actual policies that will help real people in the real world: universal health care, free education, a living wage, ending petrodollar warfare, a new new deal, getting money out of politics and so on.
Witty Leftists so love their portmanteaus, so I have one of my own: too many Leftists are egolitarians. Its meaning should be obvious. So if you are reading this, Nathan J. Robinson, or whoever else on the Left who’s reading this, let’s work at not being egolitarian.
Let’s make this about the policies we all know we need, that Kyle Kulinski and Bernie Sanders so love to repeat so often. I’m not calling for perfection, purity testing or vigorous tone policing. Rather, let’s try to make this about ourselves and our self concepts a little less and about achieving good political results for the most needy and the most marginalized a little more, if we could?