Carol Leifer’s joke: Demonically, Mary Elizabeth Williams seems to agree with something Tal Fortgang said!
For the record, the aforementioned Fortgang is a college freshman. For that reason, there’s no obvious reason to care about the things he says, or to expect great insight from him.
We don’t mean that as a criticism. Tal Fortgang is still a teenager. Like most teenagers, like all adults, he has a lot to learn.
Young Fortgang’s views don’t exactly matter. But over at the new Salon, they’re staging their latest group nervous breakdown about something the demonic freshman wrote for a campus newspaper.
Williams authored one of the pieces in which Salon kills the pig.
Even for the new Salon, this has been a pitiful breakdown. But good lord! Williams seems to agree with Fortgang’s basic point, to the extent that he managed to state one.
In a piece for The Princeton Tory, Tal Fortgang ’17 complained about being told, during discussions, that he should “check his privilege.” And good lord:
This directive can be dumb and annoying, Williams basically says:
WILLIAMS (5/5/14): To be fair to [Fortgang], though, “Check your privilege” has become the “Is there gluten in this?” of public discourse, an expression so promiscuously deployed it’s bound to incite a few eyerolls along the way. And it can be a pretty damn convenient way of shutting down conversation, suggesting that someone who hasn’t faced certain biases firsthand has no right to comment on them. We certainly saw plenty of how that line of thinking can miss the point entirely just a few weeks ago, when white male Stephen Colbert was the subject of misguided outrage when a satirical bit was taken out of context.Williams, an outlier at Salon, thinks it can be annoying and dumb when people are told to “check their privilege.”
Williams admits that this command can be dumbly deployed—that it “can be a pretty damn convenient way of shutting down conversation.” But that’s pretty much where the underaged Fortgang started:
FORTGANG (4/2/14): There is a phrase that floats around college campuses, Princeton being no exception, that threatens to strike down opinions without regard for their merits, but rather solely on the basis of the person that voiced them. “Check your privilege,” the saying goes, and I have been reprimanded by it several times this year.Has this expression been dumbly deployed in response to things Fortgang has said? There’s no way to answer that question. Young Fortgang never explains what he said to occasion this rejoinder, and—being a college freshman—he quickly wanders off into the high grass from there.
Fortgang is a fuzzy thinker and writer—but then, he’s a college freshman! On that basis, it doesn’t exactly matter what he has thought or said.
That said, the clueless people at Time magazine reprinted his sophomoric essay. The slightly older children at the new Salon pounced.
By now, the site has engaged in an orgy of Salonsplaining aimed at the demonic freshman. In one inevitable example, Katie McDonough attacked the “ridiculous baby tantrum” which identifies The Evil One as a “white racist.”
Pathetically, Salon has published four separate screeds denouncing the Fortgang of One. That’s four separate screeds and counting.
Can we talk? Salon’s work is pitiful, hopeless, cosmically dumb. If the new Salon didn’t exist, the Koch Brothers would invent it.
In fairness, it would make sense to criticize Time for reprinting Fortgang’s jumbled piece. His piece is fuzzy, virtually worthless. At Time, no one could tell.
Alas! The overwrought children of Salon aren’t challenging their counterparts at Time. They’re deconstructing the fuzzy thoughts of their most-despised college freshman.
This has made us think of Carol Leifer’s old joke, a joke we’ve cited before. The joke used to go something like this (for all we know, it still does):
Carol would describe the way people like to fool their dogs by pretending to throw a ball. The punchline would go something like this:
“How far down the evolutionary scale do we have to go to find someone to whom we’re superior?”
The new Salon has answered the question posed in Leifer’s old joke.
A basic change in framework: Needless to say, privileged people of various kinds may well have their perspectives affected by their status in life. In some circumstance, it may be helpful to remind someone of this.
Elsewhere, the direction to “check your privilege” becomes the latest Mao-flavored technique for triumphantly stopping discussion, as Williams managed to note.
It’s interesting to ponder a shift in perspective. Decades ago, discussions turned on the basic concept of “discrimination.” People challenged inappropriate acts aimed at members of “minority groups.”
At some point, the Stalinist-inflected youngsters substituted “privilege” for “discrimination” as the basic conceptual framework. This provides a wondrous way to attack all claims from Otherized bourgeois groups.
(It's no longer “discrimination” when a black person can’t get a cab. It’s “privilege” when Fortgang can! Unchallenged, this change in perspective can give our rampaging Maoist children big tubs of rhetorical power.)
The new Salon is a troubling place to visit. Quite often, the work at the site is remarkably dumb. As an obvious matter of corporate policy, its click-bait headlines are absurdly dishonest, as everyone has noticed.
Quite often, Salon makes progressives look stunningly dumb. The Salonists seem intent on sowing divisions within the 99 percent.
Did the Koch Brothers invent the site? We no longer feel entirely sure, but this is how power survives.