Our tribe’s self-defeating dumbness: For many years, we liberals laughed at the dumbness of the ditto-heads.
They’d call Rush Limbaugh and echo reams of pseudo-conservative cant. No claim was too dumb for them to swallow, too tortured for them to repeat.
At the time, our tribe was asleep in the woods. But for liberals who wanted to feel superior, it was a wonderful time.
In the past ten years, our liberal world has roused itself from its slumber. As corporate liberal news orgs have formed, an unfortunate fact has emerged:
As a group, we liberals are every bit as limited as the conservatives are. From our academic and journalistic elites down through our true-believing foot soldiers, our tribe’s intellectual capital is extremely limited too.
As with the ditto-heads, so too with us. We liberals just aren’t very sharp.
Examples? Over at the Washington Post, Sally Kohn offers the latest multiply-bungled piece about the gender pay gap. Her analysis is bad in so many ways that it ought to make liberals weep.
(Kohn’s piece appears at the Post’s aptly-named “PostEverything” site. Was the Post trying to tell us something when it adopted that name?)
That said, we’re going to skip Kohn’s piece and consider work that’s even worse. We refer to Brittney Cooper’s latest piece at Salon, where she posts a weekly essay, generally on matters of race.
Cooper is a 30-something assistant professor of women’s and gender studies and Africana studies at Rutgers. Her latest essay concerns a personal incident on a commuter train.
Race is a very important topic. For that reason, we’re sad to show you the way her column starts.
As she starts, Cooper describes a trivial incident which occurred when someone wanted a seat on that crowded train. In the trivial interaction the overwrought professor describes, she says she can see “the breadth of the battle against racism we have to fight in this country:”
COOPER (12/17/14): On Friday, I was on the train to New York to do a teach-in on Ferguson at NYU. Beats headphones on, lost in thought, peering out the window, I suddenly saw a white hand shoving my work carry-on toward me. Startled, I looked up to see the hand belonged to a white guy, who was haphazardly handling my open bag, with my laptop perched just inside to make space for himself on the seat next to me.Remember when we used to roll our eyes at things the ditto-heads said?
That he wanted the seat on the now full train was not the problem. That he assumed the prerogative to place his hands on my bag, grab it, shove it at me, all while my computer was unsecured and peeking out, infuriated me. I said to him, “Never put your hands on my property.”
His reply: “Well, you should listen when I talk to you.” That line there, the command that when he, whoever he was, spoke, I should automatically listen encapsulates the breadth of the battle against racism we have to fight in this country.
Buoyed by his own entitlement, his own sense of white male somebodiness, this passenger never even considered that he might simply try harder to get my attention before putting his hands on my stuff. His own need to control space, his own sense of entitlement to move anything in his way even if it held something of value to another person, his belief that he had the right to do whatever he needed to do to make the environment conform to his will are all hallmarks of white privilege.
Cooper’s piece goes on from there, at considerable length. It’s the type of piece which displays a sad fact:
Increasingly, we liberals are matching the ditto-heads in our lack of intellectual capital.
Needless to say, there is no way of knowing whether this minor incident occurred in the way Cooper describes. We have no videotape of the event. We don’t know exactly what was said and done.
We don’t know the tone of voice in which words were said, or the manner in which this man moved the professor’s bag. We only know this:
Someone moved the professor’s bag so he could sit down on a crowded train. In this utterly trivial matter, Cooper is somehow able to see the breadth of that battle against racism.
As third parties who weren’t present, we can’t asses Cooper’s claim that the fellow in question was rude. But we can assess the sheer absurdity of Cooper’s reasoning process.
Let’s assume that the person who angered Cooper really was rude and abrupt. It's stunning to see the sweep of the vision Cooper is willing to draw from one such incident.
Can we talk? Millions of people are rude and abrupt, in various ways, every day of the week.
People are sometimes rude and abrupt to people of the same race. People are sometimes rude and abrupt to people of other races.
In this case, Cooper says a white man was rude and abrupt toward a woman who is black. In this incident—an incident her readers can’t assess—she somehow thinks she sees the breadth of the nation’s racism.
Soon, she’s mentioning Rosa Parks. When liberal elites say things like this, the wider world starts thinking, correctly, that we liberals should be disregarded:
COOPER: Some will argue that I cannot generalize ideas about white entitlement from the action of one jerk on the train. After all, people get into petty squabbles on the train all the time. Let us not forget, however, that the civil rights movement was catalyzed by a squabble over a seat on a bus. I’m no Rosa Parks, of course. But what these connected histories teach us is that the right to occupy public accommodations unharassed is a right black people fought for. Died for. Endured centuries of indignity and white entitlement for. Battles over how we share public space are foundational to the narrative of race in this country.People squabble all the time! Yes, but Rosa Parks!
We’re sure that Cooper is well intentioned. Her work has become more unbalanced as incidents like the one in Ferguson have gained the nation’s attention.
That said, serious progressives of all “races” need to take professors like Cooper and throw them from the front of the bus. Whatever its motivation, work of this type seems to come from a liberal clown car—and the broader electorate will always see it that way.
It’s hard to capture the dumbness of this essay. It’s hard to capture the small-mindedness and the self-involvement of its overwrought author.
If you can't see how dumb it is, face it—you're part of the problem! However well-intentioned it may be, nonsense like this will never serve progressive interests.
(I'm no Rosa Parks? Truer words were never spoken. Civil rights leaders like Mrs. Parks and Dr. King were morally and intellectually brilliant. Increasingly, highly privileged assistant professors evoke their names as they betray their astonishing legacy—as they rage about the fact that someone moved their bag as they zoned out to their high-priced name-brand ear phones.)
Alas! The ditto-heads of the liberal left are emerging on an array of fronts. A horrible fact is clearly emerging: Our tribe is just as irrational as theirs.
Speaking with Rush, they announced their own limitations first. The rise of corporate “liberal” news sites is letting us answer in kind.
This is a very serious issue. It raises the most serious possible question: Now that our gatekeepers are gone, are we the people bright enough to conduct a real democracy?
Go ahead—read that piece. As monster dumbness arrives on the left, our future is put in peril.