NARRATIVE GRIEVANCE AND ITS DISCONTENTS: The (allegedly sexist) lives of Others!

TUESDAY, MAY 21, 2019

The ways we humans were wired:
Michelle Goldberg's new column in the New York Times starts with a fascinating example of human "narrative grievance."

According to experts with whom we've consulted, "narrative grievance" is a future anthropological term. The current example, attributed to a voter, is highlighted below:
GOLDBERG (5/21/19): On Saturday afternoon, at Joe Biden’s official campaign kickoff rally in Philadelphia, I asked every attendee I met why they were supporting, or at least considering supporting, the former vice president. Often, they mentioned other people whom they thought Biden might appeal to. Again and again, they said they cared about beating Donald Trump above all else.

“On my list of 10 things, 1 to 10 is beat Donald,” said Shyvette Brown, 63. “Health care is 11. And everything else comes after that.” Brown said that she likes Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, but 2016 made her think that Americans aren’t ready to elect a woman. “I don’t like it,” she said. “I don’t think it’s fair.” But given the stakes, she wants the surest possible bet. “We can’t play. This is all or nothing. This is the end game right here.”
According to Goldberg, the voter in question would be inclined to vote for Candidate Harris or Candidate Warren. "But 2016 made her think that Americans aren’t ready to elect a woman," so she's thinking that she may vote for Candidate Biden instead.

The voter doesn't think that's fair. But that's the hand she's been dealt, this voter is said to believe.

Goldberg spends the rest of her column urging against such thinking. A cynic's translation might go like this:

Goldberg won't be voting for Biden in the primaries—and she doesn't want you to vote for Biden either.

Whatever! At this site, we're most intrigued by the somewhat peculiar judgment attributed to that voter. Our reason goes something like this:

According to Goldberg, the last election has that voter thinking that "Americans" aren't ready to elect a woman.

Such thinking is now being widely bruited. We find that fact intriguing, because the vote total from the last election went exactly like this
U.S. presidential election, 2016
The female candidate: 65.9 million votes
The male candidate: 63.0 million votes
All the voters were Americans. Despite that fact, the female candidate received 2.9 million more votes than the male candidate did. On a percentage basis, she beat him by 2.1 points.

The female candidate out-polled the male by almost 3 million votes! Despite this widely-bruited fact, a somewhat peculiar judgment has somehow widely emerged:

In the face of those vote totals, voters and pundits have been saying that this very election indicates, shows, proves or suggests that "Americans" (sometimes spelled with a "k") aren't ready to elect a female president! According to this line of thinking, more Americans voted for the person they didn't want!

How do such peculiar judgments emerge? Future anthropologists say this judgment reflects the strong inclination of humans to generate feelings of "narrative grievance."

What exactly was narrative grievance? According to these future experts, the story went something like this:

According to these future scholars, the human race was strongly inclined to separate itself into rival tribes. Once these tribal groups had formed, each group would fashion potent group "fictions"—compelling stories built around a sense of tribal grievance.

According to these disconsolate scholars, individual humans were "hard-wired" to adopt the prevailing narratives of their particular tribe. So strong was this "devotion to grievance" that—to return to the current example—an election in which Americans favored the female candidate could leave people thinking that those very same Americans would never elect such a type!

According to these future experts, humans were especially inclined to adopt such a "grievance narrative" when they saw their tribal leaders expound it. This brings us to a remarkable, multiply-bungled essay which appeared in the high-profile Outlook section of Sunday's Washington Post.

The essay was written by Jay Newton-Small, Washington correspondent for Time magazine. It was waved into print by Adam B. Kushner (no apparent relation), current editor of the Post's high-profile Outlook section.

Each attended the finest schools, with Newton-Small prepping at Deerfield. According to future anthropologists, this added to their air of authority within prevailing American culture.

That said, sure enough! Hard-copy headline included, Newton-Small's high-profile essay started exactly like this:
NEWTON-SMALL (5/19/19): Why some women won't vote for a woman for president

There are already six women running for president in 2020, an unprecedented number, and two of them—Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Kamala Harris (Calif.)—routinely poll in the top five among the nearly two dozen Democratic hopefuls. But But it’s still not clear that America is ready to elect its first female president. overachieving women in the race will have to surmount the sexism of other women—specifically, non-college-educated white women.
Two days before Goldberg's column appeared, Newton-Small had been talking about Harris and Warren too! And she had voiced that same slightly odd thought:

Despite the recent election in which the female candidate got way more votes, she said it’s "still not clear" that "America" is ready to elect its first female president!

Newton-Small handed that copy to Kushner; Kushner put it in print. In several of the nocturnal submissions the haters like to deride as dreams, future scholars have explained this manifestation to us on a purely anthropological basis.

We humans! We were always "the narrative-churning animal," these despondent scholars have said. Meanwhile, these same experts have said that another basic trait of our war-inclined species emerges in that opening paragraph.

They've called our attention to the end of Newton-Small's opening graf, in which she defines, then slimes, a group of Others. "This was an extremely common human impulse," these future scholars have said.

In this case, the Others are non-college-educated women—rather, "non-college-educated white women. By the early 21st century, grievances of the "liberal" American tribe were constantly tied to claims concerning gender and race, these future experts have said. Familiar slights at the "non-educated" were often thrown in, especially by "Ivy League" types.

The sin with which Newton-Small's group of Others stands charged is their alleged sexism. According to Newton-Small, this trait explains why Amerika may not be ready to elect a female president.

Due to the sexism of these Others, we finer Americans may not be able to elect a woman president! The tendencies which emerge in that claim were very common among human beings, these glum future scholars have said.

For what it's worth, Kushner also published this peculiar piece by Donna Zuckerberg (close relation) this Sunday. In her essay, the 31-year-old cyber classicist seriously considered the pros and cons of a nationwide female "sex strike" to protest and counteract state-level abortion laws.

As almost anyone can see, Zuckerberg's piece made zero sense. But according to our scholars, it emerged from the same general stream of "narrative grievance" as the essay by Newton-Small.

Within the context of narrative grievance, that was typically "close enough for human work," one future wag glumly said.

Apparently for that reason, Zuckerberg's piece was placed in print. It supported the feel of narrative grievance, our mordant future scholars have told us. Among the humans, it was pretty much "anything went" once that box had been checked!

Tomorrow: It was "no incompetence left behind" in Newton-Small's plu-bungled piece

Full disclosure: Through a set of technical oddities derived from random nuclear blasts, our anthropologists speak to us from the years which follow Mister Trump's War.

As far as possible, we try to honor their discouraging use of tenses.


  1. "But 2016 made her think that Americans aren’t ready to elect a woman"

    You, zombies, act as if being elected is some sort of reward or something. Like it's a Title of Honor.

    Politicians who are likely to make live better for me, why would I, or any other normal human being, give a flying fuck about their genitalia?

    1. Even Mao is less sexist than Somerby.

    2. not everyone is as enlightened as you are Mao

    3. President Tiny Hands is living proof.

  2. “A cynic's translation might go like this:

    Goldberg won't be voting for Biden in the primaries—and she doesn't want you to vote for Biden either.”

    There’s nothing “cynical” about it. Goldberg is an opinion writer. Of *course* she doesn’t want Biden as the candidate. She is allowed to say that.

    And the thinking that Goldberg objects to is the felt need by liberal voters to vote for the supposedly “safe” candidate, who may not share their views, instead of their true preference. Isn’t this kind of thinking the way you end up with bland uninspiring candidates who don’t reflect or stand up for liberal values?

  3. Naturally beating Trump is the only issue. That's business as usual. Negative campaigning has become the main Democratic tactic in Presidential elections.

    The reason IMHO is that the Democrats have little in the way of issues. The deficit is so huge that they can't realistically run on providing new goodies. An obvious problem is the number of illegal immigrants streaming across our borders, but the Dems have taken the other side on that issue. The Dems are more correct than Trump on global warming, but not enough voters care about that issue. The Dems can't run on fixing the economy, because the economy isn't broken. The Dems can claim that their policies are needed to fix racism, but that's no longer a big deal. Policies are basically in place outlawing racism.

    1. just to remind everyone here what a complete and total horse's ass David in Cal is.

      David in Cal March 23, 2019 at 10:07 PM

      This is the new Democratic talking point, but it won't last long. First of all, just about nobody opposes releasing the Mueller Report - not even Trump.

      Trump directs former White House counsel McGahn to defy subpoena, not appear before Congress

      President Donald Trump said last month that his administration is "fighting all the subpoenas" issued by House Democrats seeking testimony related to Mueller's report.

      Last night, Der Trumpenfuhrer held a Nuremberg rally in PA during which he accused the FBI of committing treason and lead his Brown Shirt fans in cheers of "lock them up". Yes, the President, chief law enforcement officer of our great nation accuses the FBI of committing treason, and dumbfuck David here, gets a boner.

    2. "The Dems are more correct than Trump on global warming"

      Hmm. How are they "more correct"? By pushing, at the request of their globalist sponsors, industries into countries with cheap labor and no environmental protection?

    3. mm - I said the Mueller Report would be released, and it was.

    4. You mean the report that totally exonerated Herr tRump? No, fuckhead, "Coverup" Billybarr is still hiding shit, extremely important shit, as we just learned last week. And as we can see, Herr tRump is too chickenshit to allow any hearings. Your hero, Donald J Chickenshit, Acting President and fucking treasonous bastard, So go fuck yourself, you dishonest lying sack of shit.

    5. The reason IMHO is that the Democrats have little in the way of issues.
      Interesting: because Vox had a long article discussing Democratic candidate's plan to alleviate poverty:
      That's just one sample. You do know that there a significant issue with poverty and unaffordability of housing, right? There is almost a unanimous push for Medicare-for-all. Is that not policy?
      Has Trump done anything -- and I mean anything -- when it comes to policy? Knee-jerk tariffs -- is that about the sum-total of his policy accomplishments? No one knows how long they will be in effect, so no one can really plan anything.

    6. You may want to read something other than your usual zombie propaganda, at least once in a while. Tariffs are a leverage, a tactic used in negotiations, to force others to drop their trade barriers and import American products.

      As for their bullshit "plan to alleviate poverty", this is the same empty promise they've been giving since early 1990s.

      "We'll ship the factories abroad, the bankers will make a shitload on money, we'll tax them, and you'll get your share."

      It never happens. Besides, people don't want your zombie charity, they want jobs.

    7. Sure, you can read about factory-closings:
      My "zombie-propaganda" for the most part includes news stories on NPR -- when I get a chance -- where actual factory owners are interviewed about their approach to dealing with tariffs.
      I will probably regret this, but what do you read, other than the bizarre, wacky, incoherent blog, to which you linked yesterday.

    8. One more thing: the plans to alleviate poverty were actual policy proposals. Feel free to dismiss them out of hand; you still young and your brain is not fully-formed. But that was apropos David's comment that Democrats had no policy proposals. There are proposals. But you want to hear about shipping jobs abroad? Here's another one:

    9. NPR certainly is part of the zombie media these days. Well, it always was, of course, but in a much less goebbelsian way before The Glorious Trump Era.

      For the mainstream news, try Reuters, I suppose. It's bearable, if barely.

      There are many more factory jobs now. This is not controversial. The talking point you want is that "factory wages lag behind". Meaning, of course, that factory wages don't grow as fast as... I don't know - liberal journos will find a way to explain why these are absolutely terrible times.

    10. 11:41,
      Meh. You need to step up your Right-wing game young man. Saying Democrats have little in the way of issues is nice start, but where's the diatribe about them pandering to neanderthals by passing restrictive abortion laws or making voting more difficult by passing voter suppression laws?
      You have no future in the Right-wing game, if half-assing talking points like this is the best you can do. Get your game together, or step aside.
      This is your last warning.

    11. "...people don't want your zombie charity, they want jobs."

      Only a brain dead zombie would be against a 100% Estate Tax.

  4. Somerby argues that because the popular vote went for Hillary, it is wrong to conclude that the country isn't ready for a female president. He ignores the elephant in the room. Hillary won the popular vote and yet she does not occupy the White House. Despite public opinion, Hillary isn't president -- a woman is not president, despite earning the office. Instead, the worst qualified man in our history was made president by a manipulation of the election process involving the FBI and Russia, along with massive illegalities by Trump and his campaign staff. When people work that hard to keep a woman out of office, you have to conclude that the country isn't ready. There is nothing illogical about such a conclusion.

    It is the "We'd love to hire [promote] you, but..." that women encounter when they seek jobs or promotions men don't want them to have.

    Oddly, Somerby calls the legitimate complaint that the election was stolen from Hillary "narrative grievance" as if it were not a legitimate grievance, not an actual grievance. This is the "get over it" response that women encounter whenever they complain about anything important to them.

    I'm not sure how many people have connected the dots between white supremacy and misogyny. David Neiwert in his book on the Alt-Right and Trump points out the importance of misogyny to traditional white supremacist movements, showing how it is explicitly expressed in their writings and how protecting white women props up and justifies their movement. But it is no accident that the terms racism and sexism go together, that Trump's movement is not simply about those overlooked white men but also about keeping women out of the white house. It is about "lock her up" as well as "build the wall". And they chant "lock her up" even after Trump's election, even though it is irrelevant, because the "her" isn't just "Hillary" but is symbolic of all women who don't their place.

    Somerby doesn't want to hear women's grievances. Too bad. Women are not going back to the bad old days.

    Look at the extremes men went to in order to keep a highly qualified woman from being elected. Women see it that way. Men like Somerby obviously do not recognize that Trump's movement is fueled by opposition to Hillary (as a woman) and that their success indicates that THEY are not ready to elect a female president. But they had to subvert democracy to maintain their superiority. Hopefully enough men will object to that subversion to punish those who stole the presidency from Hillary (and women in general). If not, women will elect other women and justice will happen more slowly. But it will happen. Women are nothing if not persistent.

    1. That shit is illogical as fuck. Damn girl you're dumb as shit.

    2. Who taught you logic, dumb ass bitch?

    3. Good demonstration of what women encounter on a daily basis in the workplace.

    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    5. 11:58, I saw no mention of the electoral college in your post. The good woman Elizabeth Warren is calling for its abolishment, and I agree with her. And I’m sorry for the replies you’ve received. Those motherfuckers are so dumb that they assume you’re a woman.

      But I think Bob is right on all points in calling out the imbecilic narratives he cites.

      “According to these future scholars, the human race was strongly inclined to separate itself into rival tribes. Once these tribal groups had formed, each group would fashion potent group "fictions"—compelling stories built around a sense of tribal grievance.

      “According to these disconsolate scholars, individual humans were "hard-wired" to adopt the prevailing narratives of their particular tribe.”

      This observation becomes even cogent when you read something like this:


    6. 1158, men conceived and designed the entire world you live in. Tomorrow you will get in a car conceived and designed by a man and drive on a highway conceived and built by men to a job in an industry conceived and built by men. when things get tough, when the electrical grid goes out who are you going to call, women? No, men. Men are going to go out in the middle of the night and fix it for you. When your toilet breaks, who you going to call? Men. The culture that allows for women to be independent was created and designed by men!

    7. Men also designed and implemented war and all its machinery, so I'm not sure how useful this argument is. And since they spent so much time and effort excluding women from all that inventin' business, it seems a bit unfair to crow about all this male accomplishment in the face of excluding half the population.

      Assuming you're a man, exactly what is it you invented?

      Men also wrote and enacted the 14th Amendment so that in the US, everybody has the rights of due process and equal treatment under the law. So are you going to chastise women when they ask what's due to everybody?

    8. A famous feminist wrote that if it were not for men, women would still be living in grass huts. Everyone knows this is true. The only way women engineer the latest technology is if the decks are cleared of men. The iPhone would be invented around the year 6030 if women started in 1990.

      You all know it. What women are better at is nurturing the young.

    9. Hillary didn't earn the presidency. We have rules that determine the winner and she failed to beat Trump. To claim she deserved it is typical female emotional fantasy world. She lost but she deserved it given to her. OK.

      Men didn't take it from her. White men, white women, and educated voters selected Trump.

    10. 12:27

      It's not an argument. It's a fact.

    11. Man, someone accused me of being a Republican here, and I admit, I went a bit off the rails.

      But undoubtedly, with near perfect statistical probability, the anon troglodytes posting in this thread are all Republican - assuming they're smart enough to have any real political views whatsoever.

      Yo motherfuckers, ever try a quick web search, like, women inventors?

      As deadrat observed, men are the war-makers. They're also, due to the influence of our dimorphic evolution, physically stronger, and able to decide who's boss, to put things in general terms.

      It's only because of the evolution of law (and the fierce battles women waged for recognition), that women have only recently been recognized as the fairer half. Not counting Thatcher and her ilk, don't get me wrong.

      Not gonna waste my time on this, ever again. Fucking motherfucking (probably literally) trolls taint this page, and I've tainted myself in responding. The anon who accused me of being a Republican troll should be jumping feet-first into this fray. But I'll never know if it did.

      So it goes.


  5. We can start by noting that “winning the popular vote but losing the electoral college” is not equal to “being elected.” We can extend this thought by noting that Obama, a black man with a Muslim sounding name, was elected, twice, and that a non-trivial number of his voters shifted from Hillary to Trump in 2016.

    Was sexism crucial to this shift? That’s the hard question. The young woman in Goldberg’s piece isn’t entirely out in left field thinking that sexism at least played a role. Given the history of gender discrimination in America, the continuing lack of equal pay, and the blatant misogyny displayed by Trump, it’s hard to avoid thinking about the possibility that sexism still exerts an influence.

    Sexism or misogyny, like racism, are pernicious in that they are often difficult to “prove” in some legalistic sense, and the perpetrators of such modes of thinking often issue plausible-seeming denials. One often heard the argument that such things as the denial of the vote to women or their lack of property rights were done to “protect” women. This is a similar argument to the revisionist notion that slavery was beneficial to blacks.

    It should be the duty of everyone, but especially liberals, to point out these kinds of harmful notions and educate people who may not understand that they exist. The fight for justice doesn’t suddenly end when women get the vote, or the voting rights of black citizens was secured. Victories that are won have to be continually nurtured and fought for, or they will be lost to the very real forces that are even now in the process of destroying them, as the recent abortion bills illustrate.

    1. Sexism exerted an influence in favor of Hillary Clinton. Millions of low information women voted for her because of her gender. The NYU gender switch experiment showed she was boosted by being a female and Trump was penalized for being a male. She would have lost by even more if she was a man.

    2. Is this the NYU play that depicted the Presidential debates with the roles reversed, a woman playing Trump and a man playing Clinton? Audience members reported that they saw things differently after they saw the play. For example, by understanding the effectiveness and appeal of Trump's words when a woman said them. Nothing about voting or "low information women."

  6. The extreme abortion laws enacted by several red states are not a legitimate cause for concern, according to Somerby. The uproar about them is simply more narrative grievance. Those women getting upset about nothing, according to Somerby.

    "As almost anyone can see, Zuckerberg's piece made zero sense. But according to our scholars, it emerged from the same general stream of "narrative grievance" as the essay by Newton-Small." Only a callous man with no relationships with women can conclude that taking away abortion (and contraception to follow) is hysterical nonsense.

    Then he criticizes Zuckerberg's article are sex strikes. Zuckerberg also wrote a book on the subversion of the classics by the Alt-right, to justify their white supremacist views. It is described this way:

    "“A chilling account of trolling, misogyny, racism, and bad history proliferated online by the Alt-Right, bolstered by the apparent authority of Greek and Latin Classics. Zuckerberg makes a persuasive case for why we need a new, more critical, and less comfortable relationship between the ancient and modern worlds in this important and very timely book.”—Emily Wilson

    A virulent strain of antifeminism is thriving online that treats women’s empowerment as a mortal threat to men and to the integrity of Western civilization. Its proponents cite ancient Greek and Latin texts to support their claims—arguing that they articulate a model of masculinity that sustained generations but is now under siege."

    Trump and Trump Jr. regularly retweet from white supremacist cites, spreading their memes. Somerby is doing his version of that today, inventing a "grievance narrative" to dismiss the women who are pointing out the connection between racism and sexism.

    Why is Somerby working so hard to discredit this? Why is he once again supporting the right while claiming to be doing "media criticism" at a liberal blog? I have been saying that he is a fraud. Now it is pretty obvious that he is a sexist fraud.

    1. "Tomorrow: It was "no incompetence left behind" in Newton-Small's plu-bungled piece"

      ...and a defense of Louis CK, who is a good person and was once nice to Somerby -- and those women just gotta have a grievance, no pleasing them, illogical harridans who "make zero sense"!

    2. Donna Zuckerberg’s piece is an examination of the idea of a “sex-strike,” wherein women withhold sex from men as a social pressure tactic. Alyssa Milano had called for such a strike over the recent abortion laws. Much of Zuckerberg’s presentation is a history of the Aristophanes’ play Lysistrata, which depicts Athenian and Spartan women withholding sex until their men stop the Peloponnesian War.

      Nowhere does Zuckerberg discuss a sex strike as a serious or effective proposal, so I’m not sure what TDH’s complaint is. That said, neither did TDH make any comment on the abortion laws themselves or women’s reaction to them. So your claim that the laws are not legitimate causes for concern, “according to Somerby” is a lie.

      You should probably stop that.

  7. “For ourselves, we don't know why Candidate Warren hasn't caught on in the polls. For ourselves, we tend to think that she's strong on policy, but we're also inclined to think that she's a terrible politician in several major ways.”

    A cynic’s translation might be:

    Somerby won't be voting for Warren in the primaries—and he doesn't want you to vote for Warren either.

  8. On Democratic Underground there is a news item about a Russian plan to train African Americans to organize a rebellion and create a separate state consisting of the Southern belt states that would then attempt to secede, thereby creating major unrest within the USA. I think they might have a better chance uniting the white supremacist gun-nut secessionists already meeting in the Western USA, but this illustrates the way Russia thinks of political factions as organized around ethnic identities. Russians don't realize that African Americans think of themselves as Americans first and black Americans second and are committed (and successful) at seeking power within the government. Witness the many black congress people who are in positions of power and influence within the government. This is one of the strengths of our government, that factions participate politically.

    Zuckerberg and Newton-Small raise the possibilities that women may act outside the political system if they are sufficiently frustrated by inability to gain a voice within it. A sex strike, although a literary allusion, raises the prospect that women may recognize their value within the economy and in families and may use that as leverage to overcome opposition to their participation in politics and at higher levels in business.

    Somerby doesn't take this seriously enough to raise arguments, engaging in name-calling instead. But this is the traditional way that excluded groups have sought and won political influence. Zuckerberg is doing some sabre-rattling as push-back to the extreme abortion laws being enacted against public wishes (witness polls). That push-back is necessary because women didn't vote for or have any chance to vote against those laws. They were enacted by entirely white male legislatures.

    In the 70s, the feminist movements resulted in not a few women leaving their husbands and sometimes even their children. That can happen again if women get angry enough about this stupidity. The sane states need to curb what is happening. Male politicians need to speak more forcefully against it, if they want women's votes (or anyone's since the large majority of the public is against this stuff). Lip service won't be enough this time.

    Somerby is, of course, on the wrong side of this issue. By refusing to even engage these women, simply dismissing them as illogical, he shows that he is not even walking with the majority of Americans. I don't know whether this is deeply held Catholicism or misogyny or both, but it is not liberal.

    1. "On Democratic Underground there is a news item about a Russian plan to train African Americans to organize a rebellion and create a separate state..."

      You don't say? Why, thank you very much for sharing this horrific revelation, dembot. I don't think I will be able to sleep now.

      But I thought their evil plan was to install their secret agent Donald Trump as the US president, and command him to destroy the Western Civilization with its Freedom, Democracy, and the Apple Pie.

      Or was that one of those "fake news" I hear so much about? What does your zombie underground say? Tell me, please.

    2. Does NBC propagate fake news? Only if you're Trump, who believes all news is fake.

    3. 3;17,
      I'm sorry i can't answer your question. Can you re-write your screed in plain English without the gibberish?
      Thanks in advance.