Commentary on B. Doxtdator’s reply

Just yesterday I read a fascinating article titled The Psychology of Progressive Hostility written by Mathew Blackwell, a young economics student from Brisbane. Blackwell opens the article by explaining the different behaviours he faces when he disagrees with conservative and progressive friends. He finds that he has no problems speaking his mind and entering into nuanced discussion with conservative friends, but thinks twice when discussing things with progressive friends:

“When I disagree with a conservative friend or colleague on some political issue, I have no fear of speaking my mind. I talk, they listen, they respond, I talk some more, and at the end of it we get along just as we always have. But I’ve discovered that when a progressive friend says something with which I disagree or that I know to be incorrect, I’m hesitant to point it out. This hesitancy is a consequence of the different treatment one tends to receive from those on the Right and Left when expressing a difference of opinion. I am not, as it turns out, the only one who has noticed this.”

The treatment Blackwell alludes to is the tendency for progressive thinkers to engage in hostile tactics against dissenters. Sometimes, this can even be directed at self-proclaimed progressive thinkers who may just speak up against a particular aspect of progressive thought. This is exactly what happened to Professor Brett Weinstein, a self-proclaimed ‘lefty’ who dared question the progressive student body at his Evergreen State College. The ‘Day of Absence’ is an Evergreen tradition in which students and faculty of colour meet off campus as a symbolic gesture that mirrors acts taken by people of colour during the civil rights movement. But last year, the student body decided it was going to require all people of white skin colour to leave campus instead. Weinstein, a jew, voiced his concern, which led to the student body turning on him, calling for his resignation and labelling him a bigot and a racist. The saga ended in Weinstein’s eventual resignation following a settlement with the university.

Weinstein’s story is one of many. It is part of a growing trend of people being targetted for having alternative views to left-wing progressivism. Dissenters are instantly labelled bigots, racists, homophobes, transphobes, Nazis and much more in an attempt to close down debate. It is this strategy Blackwell fears most; it’s the reason why he finds it hard to express his views to progressive friends.

I am not a progressive thinker. I’m a liberal in my political opinions with rightward leanings on certain issues. I was not at all surprised today when a progressive educator went out of his way to try and associate me with the alt-right and white supremacists after I expressed my not-so-progressive views on identity politics. As described, these tactics, designed to stifle debate, are all too common. It was somewhat inevitable. I am going to add commentary to certain aspects of this person’s blog and as I do so, I will not pay attention to these smears. I will leave free thinkers to make up their own minds about whether or not I am an associate of the alt-right or a white supremacist.

On Martin Luther King

This blogger takes offence to my use of MLK’s infamous I Have a Dream speech. It seems to be a common thought amongst progressives that to agree with something that someone once said or someone once did must mean you agree with everything that someone once said or did, and if you find disagreement, you must denounce them. I am an admirer of Winston Churchill. The burden Churchill bore as Prime Minister during Britain’s scariest period of time, working hard to keep the hopes of the people of the commonwealth alive, was heroic. His proclamation that “success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts” and others that are also inspired by stoic philosophy give me reason to stay optimistic. My admiration for Churchill’s wartime efforts and great speeches do not discount the racist views he had. His shortcomings do not mean I must cease admiring what he did, nor quoting that which he said that has had a profound impact on western culture ever since. I can agree and disagree with Churchill. Likewise, Nelson Mandela’s role in ending apartheid in South Africa is equally admirable. I cannot imagine the existential crises he must have faced during 27 long years in prison. My admiration for Mandela and his message of reconciliation do not discount the violence, including deaths, he inflicted on people. I can admire and promote Mandela’s message while acknowledging his shortcomings, just as I can with Churchill.

I can promote the ideas MLK spoke of in his I Have a Dream speech – ideas that have had a profound impact on western thought – without agreeing on everything MLK once said and thought and did. I should not, and will not, ignore his message of equality and the impact it has had just because I disagree with his other, less impactful, ideas on how to promote the prospects of African Americans. MLK and his ideas are not the property of the progressive left. His message of equality in I Have a Dream reverberates in every facet of western society, and I will continue to promote that message.

Black poverty and affirmative action

The blogger cites growing wealth inequality and ongoing poverty as evidence for ongoing, systemic racism and discrimination in the United States, asserting that a person’s own agency is not enough to overcome the accumulated wealth held by white people. He cites this in opposition to my belief that systemic, widespread and consistent discrimination and racism does not exist in western society. Despite the author’s failure to note that inequality does not necessarily indicate discrimination, I’m much more concerned by and deeply sceptical of the ‘black people are poor and there is nothing they can do about it’ argument. That sort of soft bigotry does not appeal to me. Not least because Asian students, another minority perceived to bear the brunt of white privilege, seem to be doing just fine in the US.

This trend is also seen in other liberal western democracies.

Further, research suggests it’s not so difficult to do well for yourself if you make the right choices. The non-partisan Brookings Institute has found that choices do indeed lead to better life outcomes. A person, no matter their skin colour, should 1) at least finish high school 2) get a full-time job, and 3) wait until age 21 to get married and have children.

“Our research shows that of American adults who followed these three simple rules, only about 2 percent are in poverty and nearly 75 percent have joined the middle class (defined as earning around $55,000 or more per year). There are surely influences other than these principles at play, but following them guides a young adult away from poverty and toward the middle class.”

It’s common sense, but the blogger seems to disagree that this could at all be possible. I don’t buy his view.

Affirmative action is highlighted in the blogger’s post because I raised concerns that individual, hardworking young people were finding it harder to enter top universities due to the colour of their skin. I oppose universities that choose students on the basis of the colour of their skin. I think that is called racism. Organisations who opposed the ‘Asian penalty‘ agree. Striving for equity, often under the guise of diversity, has led to individuals finding it harder to enter the university in which they wish to study. As I have and continue to insist, we should be working towards equality of opportunity. That’s how things stay fair. Readers can make their own mind up on the issue. 

The Golden State posters

So we get to the original subject matter of my original post. I’m not arguing that discrimination or racism does not exist; I argue that systemic racism and discrimination, that consistently oppresses minorities to the benefit of white skinned people, does not exist. It is, therefore, not appropriate to push the idea of white privilege onto our kids via the school system. This is the subject on which I disagree with progressive thinkers like this blogger.

I have already detailed why I am against these posters so I will not rehash my arguments here. I would like to raise one thing though. Although the blogger likes to make light of it, the devastating events of the Holocaust and Cambodian Genocide were indeed motivated by identity politics. It should signal a warning to us: grouping individuals, making assumptions about their individual circumstances, and assigning a set of perceived ‘privileges’ (or characteristics) to them, is a bad idea (It’s actually what most people call racism). The author seems to believe this position is an alt-right or white supremacist one. Despite what triggered progressives might say, this is not a white supremacist or alt-right position, it’s a liberal position. The rights of the individual should supercede that of the group. Left-wing progressives wish to swap that around and they shouldn’t be allowed to push that idea onto kids. That’s my position and I’m sticking to it.

 

23 thoughts on “Commentary on B. Doxtdator’s reply”

  1. I oppose universities that choose students on the basis of the colour of their skin. I think that is called racism.

    And I think it is called “defamation” when you assert that “universities … choose students on the basis of the colour of their skin.”

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      1. What do you think affirmative action is?

        It’s not “choosing students on the basis of the colour of their skin”. That is a superficial way of dismissing something much more complicated and nuanced. It is, however, something that works when done properly, evidently:

        A 2017 study found that affirmative action in the United States “increases the black share of employees over time: in 5 years after an establishment is first regulated, the black share of employees increases by an average of 0.8 percentage points. Strikingly, the black share continues to grow at a similar pace even after an establishment is deregulated. One could argue that this persistence is driven in part by affirmative action inducing employers to improve their methods for screening potential hires.”

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      2. It’s not “choosing students on the basis of the colour of their skin”.

        That is exactly what it is in the US and your evidence points exactly to that fact – “increases the black share of employees”.

        If black is not a reference to skin colour then please indicate what it is referring to.

        Also I would like to see the link to study you are referrng to.

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  2. Sorry, I’ve read the post a few times and I’m still confused on one point: you feel that the author of the post you linked to, who challenged you on various points with evidence and citations, was being “hostile” and was unreasonably linking your arguments to white supremacists (a comparison you object to); and yet in this post and the last you feel that it is reasonable to equate the “identity politics” of “progressives” with the Holocaust and the Cambodian Killing Fields? Why is one unreasonable and the other not?

    Incidentally, I find it interesting that the “progressives” who have challenged you on your points – and I remind you that it is perfectly reasonable to challenge any argument – have not been “triggered” or “melted” like “snowflakes” when you compared them to the Nazis or the Khmer Rouge. And they’d be perfectly entitled to call Godwin’s, as you know!

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    1. It is unreasonable to associate my views with the alt-right because I do not have alt-right views. I am not equating the identity politics of progressives with the Holocaust and the Cambodians Genocide; I explicitly state that these are extreme examples of what happens when powerful forces play identity politics on the left and right. Modern progressice identity politics is no where near extreme, but the extreme examples should tell us that it is a very bad idea, whether you are progressive or alt-right.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. John there is a problem with the slippery slope argument. Almost anything taken to an extreme has problems so the this is on the way to the holocaust argument doesn’t help you. You also seem to be saying we can never talk about people collectively but that is just inefficient if a group of people have a common experience.

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    2. It’s reasonable to link someone who is advocating for identity politics to other movements based on identity politics. The reason John is right to object to being called a white supremacist is because he is only being called one because of his skin colour and not because of his argument. The alt-right are also identitarian and their argument is that the white race is superior and therefore deserves to be in a superior position.

      John’s argument relates to structural racism which is what is part of an existing dichotomy in sociology – structure vs action. Thus he gives evidence for action (or agency) arguments. The argument against him should show evidence of structural racism. Just showing differences in outcome does not do this as the person who does so is simply assuming there must be a structure or racism is endemic. This is a belief not an argument as they provide no proof or evidence of said structure. Thomas Sowell and Shelby Steele not only make the same argument that John does, they do so from the standpoint of having both experienced Jim Crow (actual structural racism) and living through the invention of an “invisible” and what they deem false structural racism that is promoted by identitarians now. They provide further evidence that the current concept of structural racism used is false on two fronts – 1) Agency arguments have more evidence to support them and 2) Solutions to the so called structural racism fail repeatedly because they reinforce the structure of racism in the individual not tackle it in society because the invisible structural racism is just a concept made up by academics, it’s not real. A bit like the proletariat are an invention of Marx’s, it was never a real group.

      I saw your replies to John in his previous blog. I’m not impressed by your critiques which simply amount to you think you are morally superior because you believe in a made-up concept called white privilege which evidence disproves in the US and the UK. The use of the terms racist, alt-right and white supremacist are smears/labels not an argument. It’s precisely because the people saying them can’t refute what John is saying that they resort to such tactics.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. you think you are morally superior

        Once again, you assert what is going on in my head. I have made no such assertions about your motives. Are you a mindreader, perhaps?

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      2. you think you are morally superior because you believe in a made-up concept called white privilege

        What was that argument John made about “progressive hostility”, again? I’m not the one making personal attacks and I thought I was the progressive one!

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      3. “Buddy”? My name is John. Please use it. And you are making presumptions yet again. I said nothing about “victimhood”; I merely observed that you are telling me what is going on in my head (which you are not able to do), and that your attacks fly in the face of John’s assertion at the top of the post that progressives respond in a hostile manner whereas conservatives are unfailingly polite. I have not attacked you, called you names, nor tried to assume what is going on in your head – all things you have done – and I am the progressive one.

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      4. You are the progressive one which is why you can’t see your own repeated hypocrisy. I’m merely making an observation re: victimhood. You are providing the evidence.

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  3. Mr. Doxtador likes to provoke, yet provides little to support his claims.

    I read what he wrote. I see it as an “argument” and not a “provocation”. I’m surprised you’re dismissing the considerable support for his claims all too easily.

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    1. To be fair jumping in with the alt-right label was clearly a provocation and does nothing except excite people to take sides. It may mean different things to different people but that just makes it more unhelpful.

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      1. To be fair jumping in with the alt-right label was clearly a provocation

        But aligning so-called “identity politics” with Nazis and the Khmer Rouge is not? You can’t have one without the other. And he did not label John K as alt-right.

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  4. Firstly, racism is real.
    However there does seem to be a lack of statistical thinking on the part of some people in response to your blog. The statistical averages of a population tells you nothing about the individual in front of you regardless of surface appearances.

    This is the Achelles heel of identity politics. Intersectional thinking must eventually get to the point where every individual will have their own unique mix of privileges and oppressions where they can only be judged on an individual basis and, since we can’t know every aspect of that unique mix, the only equitable answer is to treat the individual as an individual.
    However some people feel the need to draw a line on what intersectional characteristics will be included and which won’t and place themselves as the high priests of who gets to decide what is important and what isn’t… and thus increase their “power”.

    Case in point, your adversary has decided that, although they seem to be living a life- teaching in a foreign country (someplace my child may never see), getting a good wage to do so (I am assuming this) and having a platform where their thoughts are broadcast across the planet by an app- doesn’t seem to be able to confront their own privileges.

    Now, in the case of your adversary, they may be working towards their eventual TED talk and speaking tour based on quoting statistics they don’t really understand (I’ve seen Salsberg speak nonsense), but don’t waste anymore time on this guy as he is just trying to use you as a rung in his ladder to leave the classroom.

    I wish you were teaching my child. Your students are lucky to have you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Now, in the case of your adversary, they may be working towards their eventual TED talk and speaking tour based on quoting statistics they don’t really understand … but don’t waste anymore time on this guy as he is just trying to use you as a rung in his ladder to leave the classroom.

      1. Just because someone challenges your argument does not make them an “adversary”;
      2. Accusing Mr Doxtdator of working towards a TED talk (is that mocking?) is presumptuous of his motivations;
      3. If you look at his site, you will see that he is a writer and philosophy graduate, not a school teacher.

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