From the Personal Archives: The Obsession With Power

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This is an article I wrote on my secular blog 3 years ago tomorrow. At that time I ran two blogs no one read, one secular and one Catholic. If you’re curious about the madness you see in the secular political world, this may help. — Anthony

The Obsession With Power

The Special Snowflakes of Tumblr (aka, the neo-progressives/SJWs) are obsessed with power. How power is described and understood is involved in every claim they make. As in other religions, SJWs rely on power as a core belief, much in the same way that Christians require the death and resurrection of Christ to act as the lynchpin of the faith; without the Resurrection, Christianity falls apart just like without the understanding of power the religion of the Social Justice Warriors falls apart. What precisely are the power claims of the religion of Tumblr?
How is power seen by the neo-progressives? First, they believe that power is relational. In this they reject traditional understandings of power being found predominately in institutions of the state. Through the process of socialization we see power traits unjustly institutionalized. This is the origin of privilege – white privilege, male privilege, bicycle privilege, straight privilege, fill-in-the-blank privilege to explain whatever social norm is under attack at the moment. At the moment, race and gender are considered the ‘social constructs’ that are prized. Those who have these traits are somehow given privileged positions in the social order, meaning that they are given power.
What does this power look like? It can range from otherwise innocuous things like white men and women not being followed around a store while black men will be, or men being assumed to be harder workers than women, straight people being more trustworthy with children than gay men. Some assertions at least have the appearance of having empirical evidence to support them but others simply do not, which is where SJWs enter the realm of religious belief statements. An example of this are the examples of White Student Unions being allegedly opened on university campuses despite the mountain of evidence that the Facebook groups started for universities across the US at the same time were part of a massive trolling campaign by at-best a handful of men. See the Snopes link below (again still trying to figure out embedding). I could spend a book compiling evidence of the power-claims of the SJWs that are pure fantasy but I won’t attempt to present a lot of it here. Perhaps I’ll do that in the future.
This is where we enter the realm of Political Correctness. To be sure, some level of political correctness is, well, correct. Use of racial slurs by anybody is disgusting, as is other language designed to push people to the margins of society by turning them into an other. My best example of this is an anecdote: once upon a time, I worked in student government at a large university in a medium sized US city. I did so for three years and watched how each year the focus on identity politics came to dominate both the internal operations of the student government as well as much of its lobbying efforts both on campus and in the state capital. One day, in my second year in that environment, some coworkers of mine described certain things as ‘crazy,’ or ‘cray cray’ and other ways of saying something is stupid. The resident staff person who served as our Chief of Thought Police sent an email every week to let us know what words and phrases were now banned from discourse, including ‘crazy,’ ‘lame,’ ‘dumb’ and others because they might hurt the feelings of someone.
Jonathan Chait wrote about this and the danger it poses recently in the New Yorker. Again, the full link is below (seriously, if you know how to embed these links let me know, and yes I’m aware that my quote has a hotlink in it).
Political correctness is a system of thought that denies the legitimacy of political pluralism on issues of race and gender. It manifests itself most prominently in campus settings not because it’s a passing phase, like acne, but because the academy is one of the few bastions of American life where the p.c. Left can muster the strength to impose its political hegemony upon others. The phenomenon also exists in other nonacademic left-wing communities, many of them virtual ones centered on social media, and its defenders include professional left-wing intellectuals.”
The claim the neo-progressives make regarding power is simple: the power systems of universities and employers are not democratic in themselves so the need to use democratic means to address power disparities is not only irrelevant but also inappropriate. This view is expressed in a convincing and terrifying way by Angus Johnson in probably the most mainstream print media of the Social Justice Left: Rolling Stone Magazine. Read the article below if you like. Johnson’s thesis is that there is no PC crisis on college campuses and that use of non-democratic means of ousting professors, university presidents, and silencing of dissenters is appropriate because of power structures that favor white straight men.
These conceptions of power demand that we reject the classic marketplace of ideas that underscores democracy and pluralism. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes offered the gold-standard definition of the marketplace of ideas in a Supreme Court Case that he actually lost, even though later his definition would become the judicial gold standard for free speech. Holmes’ definition: “The best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out. That at any rate is the theory of our Constitution. It is an experiment, as all life is an experiment. Every year if not every day we have to wager our salvation upon some prophecy based upon imperfect knowledge. While that experiment is part of our system I think that we should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death, unless they so imminently threaten immediate interference with the lawful and pressing purposes of the law that an immediate check is required to save the country.”
We’ve seen the use of the ‘heckler’s veto’ (the shouting down of unpopular speech typically on campuses) used to silence those with ‘privileged’ opinions and positions. I saw this first hand a few years ago when, at my university, the College Republicans attempted to show an anti-Islam documentary in the Multicultural Resource Center (funny enough they were scheduled to present there by the administrative people who oversee student leadership) but were shouted down by the student Muslim groups and their Social Justice Warrior supporters. Instead of permitting the video to be viewed and then debated the mob descended and silenced the opposition on grounds of ‘hate speech.’ This is an obvious example of the campus activists attempting to rig the marketplace or even shut it down entirely by silencing those deemed to be privileged instead of exposing their ideas to scrutiny.
The ground for this behavior is complex and will have to wait for a future post. Suffice it to say at this moment that the grounds are themselves a rejection of democratic ideals, often excused by claiming that universities and social media are not democratic institutions and thus not subject to democratic methods, despite the student governments of public and private institutions being appointed in a democratic process and having the potential for real input in university governance, if the activists use those opportunities competently. Power is understood in traditionally Marxist definitions and applied to systems that are said to oppress people, despite the oppression either not existing or being far overblown. It is especially funny that universities are the subject of these claims when SJWs run the overwhelming majority of student governments and academic SJWs are heavily involved in the setting of university policies that lead to dissenting opinions on these topics being silenced by the institution.

© 2018, Anthony Stine. All rights reserved. You may reuse or copy this post by giving credit and providing a link.

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