Tal Fortgang, demonic freshman!

TUESDAY, MAY 6, 2014

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.


  1. This college freshman made more sense in one very insightful and well constructed essay than Salon has in a decade of victim journalism by dozens.

  2. 3:39 It made more sense to someone who has been privileged, that is. For some strange reason, African-Americans and women care about these things. Accordingly, they react. Here, their reactions are always dumb, cosmically or otherwise.

    There is no way that matters of race and gender cannot divide the 99%. That doesn't mean people affected shouldn't say what they have to say -- and that includes the young man, although he descends rapidly from a valid point to sheer obnoxiousness. The task is to paper it over as much as possible by reminding everyone that their membership in the 99% is more important to their lives than these other memberships.

    You can be damned sure Fox and the Kochs don't just "seem" intent on sowing division, they most certainly are. Fortgang probably is, too, but Williams and company most decidedly have no such intent. They are reacting to the substance of the issues raised by him.

    There's a very simple and almost always valid response to anyone who says, "Check your privilege": "I'll check mine if you check yours."

  3. OMB (Fighting Infestations of Uncle Joe's Spawn One Post at a Time)

    Yes indeed! The Koch brother's would have had to invent a site like Salon to keep the 99% (don't call us underpriviledged, punk) fighting amongst ourselves so they can continue the amalgamation of wealth they inherited in part because their daddy worked for Uncle Joe Stalin when nobody else would.

    Don't these Stalinists liberals undestand the wedgies they are sewing
    keep of us from finding the words to unite with our brothers who share our dreams. Good salt of the earth working Americans like, well, like....



  4. You live in a deeply stupid nation, a nation which is run by deeply lazy elites. The “press corps” has thoroughly ceased to exist. The professors are useless as well.

    There are shining stars that stand out among the vast herds of liberally indoctrinated, politically correct, worthless, middle-class socialist brats that infect our nation’s university campuses. Far too few but they do exist. The penalty these honest stars suffer is ridicule from their fellow students and professors. But as AWD is fond of saying, “if you’re gonna be a bear, be a grizzly.” Or as Winston Churchill said in a more eloquent fashion, “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” Princeton student Tal Fortgang is one of those brave, young stars. America needs one Tal Fortgang more than it needs the entire student populations of most universities!

    1. Well stated.

    2. The republic was not established by cowards; and cowards will not preserve it. This will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave

    3. Princeton student Tal Fortgang is one of those brave, young stars. America needs one Tal Fortgang more than it needs the entire student populations of most universities!

      Bwahahahahahaha! We need one Tal Fortgang more like we each need another migraine headache. TF has been asked to check his privilege, in other words, he has been politely asked to inquire of himself as to why he was acting like an asshole. But being a Princeton freshman, that's his job, and he immediately took umbrage at the suggestion that he reconsider his toil in the personal vineyard of cranial-rectal inversion.

      This star recites his inheritance from his family whose privilege it was to escape from societies where others held the privilege of exterminating his line. And apparently learned nothing from that family history. Heck, he probably choked down his last piece of matzoh a few weeks ago without figuring out that Passover is a ritual for turning history into empathy.

      Good thing Tal's forebearers came to a country that "cared not about religion," just like the institution of higher learning he now attends. Too bad their line has ended up with such a putz. Tal thinks that those who told him to check his privilege are asking him to apologize to them for who he is. But that's not what's being asked of him.

      He should apologize to his grandparents though.

    4. "TF has been asked to check his privilege, in other words, he has been politely asked to inquire of himself as to why he was acting like an asshole."

      DR, we know nothing of what TF said to have other accuse him of showing privilege. He could have been off base. He could have been on the money. We don't know. But observe how you rush to assume that he's being an asshole. And having an opinion of viewpoint dismissed just because you're white and male is just as racist and sexist as dismissing an opinion because it comes from a woman or a minority. And the idea that this sort of thing qualifies as polite is nothing short of retarded.

      You are acting as if you know all about him on the basis of virtually no information.

      Once again you are showing yourself to be a stupid bigot.

      White men are indeed frequently blind assholes. If you don't think that women and minorities are frequently that way too then you are really an anti white male chauvanist. And, of course, a stupid bigot.

      But we already knew that.

      PS: I am mocking you! Yes, mocking you!

    5. HB,

      This isn't a rush to judgment. I assure you that TF has been acting like an asshole. Let me count the ways I know.

      1. He goes to Princeton.
      2. He's Jewish, and he natters on about his grandparents' experiences as though he shares those along with their DNA.
      3. He's Jewish, he goes to Princeton, and he's blissfully unaware of the irony of extolling his grandparents' experience in a society where religion doesn't matter.
      4. He's Jewish, and he's blissfully unaware that "Check your privilege" is practically a halachic duty.
      5. He's Jewish and he invokes his grandmother's experience in Bergen-Belsen to bolster his sense of persecution.
      6. He's a freshman who thinks his blinkered experience is a Weltanschauung.
      7. Have I mentioned that he goes to Princeton?

      All that's happened to this asshole is that he's been told "several times" to check that he's being an asshole. As the saying goes, "When two people tell you you're drunk, lie down. Once you do that you can always decide that you're sober." Only if you're an asshole do you immediately decide that not only are you cold sober, but it's everybody else who's drunk.

      This isn't about white men being blind assholes. Or women or minorities. This is about one Princeton freshman. As I imagine TF's grandfather might say, "I read your essay in that antisemitic rag. How dare you invoke my experience in occupied Poland or your grandmother's in Belsen? It's a shande far di goyim. Come closer so Zayde can slap you into next week, you little momzer." We can forgive Grandad. He's getting on and at least he earned his Weltanschauung. HIs grandson, not so much.

      PS: I have to live by the adage that the mockery you take is equal to the mockery you make.

    6. Chauvinists like HB should be required to spell the word correctly.

    7. Dear Deadrat,

      Your defense is so comically stupid it falls apart on it's own. The people who are telling him to check his privilege also go to Princeton. And now you're picking on him for being a Jew.

      You are now an unintentional self parody of a left-wing bigot. I can't imagine why anyone who isn't a PC fuckwit would ever take you seriously.

      And, Anon at 11:39, I am not a chauvinist. I think all groups are essentially equal as human beings and that's the problem. Human beings are jerks. My spelling was a little off but you obviously know nothing about the rules of evidence. Spelling can be corrected. Poor reasoning skills are a far more arduous matter. Good luck at handling your issues.

    8. HB,

      I'm not playing defense; I'm being as offensive as necessary here. Yes, the people telling TF to check his privilege go to Princeton and are thus likely assholes in their own right. In their case, I'm just playing the percentages, but we actually have evidence for TF in his own words.

      I'm not picking on him for being a Jew. Nothing I said goes to any part of his "being." It's his doing that's a problem, as TF could tell you had he paid any attention to his religious training, assuming he paid attention past aleph-bet.

      And yeah, yeah, I get it. It's all about me, or at least your fact-free image of me -- a left-wing bigot or a parody of one. (But, hey! at least it's unintentional.) And no one would take me seriously, including you. Which explains why you don't bother with any substantive criticism of what I had to say.

      Which makes you as big a putz as your new BFF TF. He's a Princeton freshman. What's your excuse?

  5. "At some point, the Stalinist-inflected youngsters substituted “privilege” for “discrimination” as the basic conceptual framework."

    Shorter Bob: Get off my lawn!

    1. It is typically older people who notice changes over time because they are the ones with lifelines long enough to provide perspective. This used to be called wisdom but now it mocked. Something has been lost.

    2. Actually it is typically older people who think younger ones have fucked things up without having it as hard or fighting the glorious battles. This has been called the same thing for ages. Get off my lawn!

    3. These two comments represent two views of the same thing, the former held by older people, the latter held by younger ones. Whose view is more likely to be right? I think "get off my lawn" is spectacularly arrogant and disrespectful of life experience.

    4. Everyone who has ever been 22 knows the judgment of a 22 year old is worthless

    5. Alas, has beens who should know better engaging in hysterical name calling are worse than those whose excuse is a lack of experience.

  6. There are several ugly aspects of this "privilege" game. One is the assumption that someone is defined by his race. That's racism, and it isn't true. E.g., my half-black cousin David in NJ went to Princeton. But, he's hardly unprivileged. His father has a Ph.D. in Engineering. His mother was Professor of English and then became an M.D.

    Another ugly aspect is that it could be interpreted as an excuse for "non-privileged" blacks to be less competent than "privileged" whites.

    1. So which one is your aunt, which one is your uncle, and who used it as an ugly excuse?

    2. This is entirely in your head. "Check your privilege" is a challenge to examine whether your station in life has misinformed you.

  7. The electrical engineer is my 1st cousin. The English Professor/Medical Doctor is his amazing wife. Their son, my 1st cousin once removed went to Princeton. According to the article some people at Princeton talk about privilege.

    1. Second cousin

    2. first cousin once removed

      1. a child of one's first cousin.
      2. one's parent's first cousin.

    3. #1 is is also the def of second cousin.

    4. Your n-th cousin shares (n-1)-great grandparents with you.

      Your n-th cousin once removed has a parent who's your n-th cousin.

      For m>1, your n-th cousin m-times removed has a (m-2)-great grand parent who's your n-th cousin.

      The m-expression is the number of "greats," not the number of ancestors. Treat zero values of m and n as canceling the adjectives they modify.

    5. Got any half-white cousins of any degree? What is their excuse for you?

  8. Train wreck. Car wreck. Call it what you will.

  9. Who names their baby "Tal Fortgang?"

    Is he a character from an Isaac Asimov novel?

    1. A few minutes on the google reveals that "Fortgang" means progress in German, and "Tal" means rain or dew in Hebrew.

      Maybe Foundation?

  10. I have my issues with academic jargon but privilege is plain English and easy to understand. And need I remind you that Maoists ran a hugely popular revolution?

  11. I read this blog about Mr. Fortgang's article. I was curious so i found the article online and read it. In the end, i am left thinking to myself...who cares?