#CancelColbert and the Return of the Anti-Liberal Left

From The Nation:  http://www.thenation.com/blog/179160/cancelcolbert-and-return-anti-liberal-left#

Michelle Goldberg
on April 2, 2014

Perhaps every political generation is fated to be appalled by the one that succeeds it. In the 1960s, longtime socialist intellectuals were horrified by the anarchic energies of the new left. Then some of those new leftists reached middle age and watched, aghast, as new speech codes proliferated on college campuses during the first iteration of political correctness. I was in college then and am now in my thirties, which means it’s my turn to be dismayed by a growing left-wing tendency towards censoriousness and hair-trigger offense.

It’s increasingly clear that we are entering a new era of political correctness. Recently, we’ve seen the calls to #CancelColbert because of something outrageous said by Stephen Colbert’s blowhard alter ego, who has been saying outrageous things regularly for nine years. Then there’s the sudden demand for “trigger warnings” on college syllabi, meant to protect students from encountering ideas or images that may traumatize them; an Oberlin faculty document even suggests jettisoning “triggering material when it does not contribute directly to the course learning goals.” At Wellesley, students have petitioned to have an outdoor statue of a lifelike sleepwalking man removed because it was causing them “undue stress.” As I wrote in The Nation, there’s pressure in some circles not to use the word “vagina” in connection with reproductive rights, lest it offend trans people.

Nor is this just happening here. In England’s left-wing New Statesman, Sarah Ditum wrote of the spread of no-platforming—essentially stopping people whose ideas are deemed offensive from speaking publicly. She cites the shouting down of an opponent of the BDS movement at Galway University and the threats and intimidation leveled at the radical feminist Julie Bindel, who has said cruel things about trans people. “No platform now uses the pretext of opposing hate speech to justify outrageously dehumanising language, and sets up an ideal of ‘safe spaces’ within which certain individuals can be harassed,” wrote Ditum. “A tool that was once intended to protect democracy from undemocratic movements has become a weapon used by the undemocratic against democracy.”

Call it left-wing anti-liberalism: the idea, captured by Herbert Marcuse in his 1965 essay “Repressive Tolerance,” that social justice demands curbs on freedom of expression. “[I]t is possible to define the direction in which prevailing institutions, policies, opinions would have to be changed in order to improve the chance of a peace which is not identical with cold war and a little hot war, and a satisfaction of needs which does not feed on poverty, oppression, and exploitation,” he wrote. “Consequently, it is also possible to identify policies, opinions, movements which would promote this chance, and those which would do the opposite. Suppression of the regressive ones is a prerequisite for the strengthening of the progressive ones.”

Note here both the belief that correct opinions can be dispassionately identified, and the blithe confidence in the wisdom of those empowered to do the suppressing. This kind of thinking is only possible at certain moments: when liberalism seems to have failed but the right is not yet in charge. At such times, old-fashioned liberal values like free speech and robust, open debate seem like tainted adjuncts of an oppressive system, and it’s still possible for radicals to believe that the ideas suppressed as hateful won’t be their own.

“One of the most striking characteristics of ‘60s radicalism was its aversion to liberalism,” wrote Alice Echols in Daring to Be Bad, her history of radical feminism. “Radicals’ repudiation of liberalism was not immediate; rather, it developed in response to liberalism’s defaults—specifically, its timidity regarding black civil rights and its escalation of the Vietnam War.” Something similar, albeit on a much smaller scale, happened after Bill Clinton ended welfare as we know it, and it’s happening now, as economic misery persists under Barack Obama. There’s disenchantment not just with electoral politics, but with liberal values as a whole. “White liberal” has, once again, emerged as a favorite left-wing epithet.

Continue reading at:  http://www.thenation.com/blog/179160/cancelcolbert-and-return-anti-liberal-left#

5 Responses to “#CancelColbert and the Return of the Anti-Liberal Left”

  1. Edith Pilkington Says:

    Did you look at the Galway University video? There were six people in attendance yet Ditum describes it as a “crowd”. Seriously? Ray Kelly was shouted down at Brown University. This is what the real thing looks like:

    I am supportive of what Truthout described as “creative heckling”. The non event at Galway U. was not a good example of what is involved with this issue. I followed the link to the Katherine Cross piece with all its justifications for conceptualizations of “cis” and talk of community among “transfolk”. There seems to be discourse in the comment thread that deteriorates toward the end which seems indicative of what “community” does and doesn’t mean and who is part of that particular “community”. When the subject turns to “trans” in relation to “vagina” I start asking myself what does this “community” want from me? Then Julie Bindel . . . I’d better stop. Next thing you know I’m going to go off topic and ask if Charles Murray’s racist “science” should go unchallenged. Journalists have a tendency to circle the wagons. Ask any of these proud defenders of the first amendment what they think about the fourth or the fifth. I don’t think the comeback will logically follow from their reasoning in relation to the first.

    • Suzan Says:

      Today we were driving home from out Friday set-up for one of the swap meets we work. There are some really rich areas in Dallas along with some very nice but middle class areas.

      We found ourselves in the Preston Hollow neighborhood where President Bush (W.) and his wife Laura live. It’s amazingly modest in comparison to near by neighborhoods.

      I said to Tina, “Now that W. is no longer President I have a hard time hating him.” Part of that is because I feel he was used but part of that is my having a hard time holding onto hatred or a grudge.

      I’ve listened to too many supposed activists who militantly oppose physically resisting the police and absolutely abhor the Black Blocks. I’ve listened to them say, “If we use violence then that makes us the same as as the police.”

      These same people who think it terrible for people to be fired for being LGBT are the first to call for the firing of those who had the audacity to contribute to a political campaign that opposed us. Yet that somehow doesn’t make us as bad as those who would fire us.

      I detested the political correctness bullshit when it first reared its nasty head in the 1970s. It smacked of McCarthyism then and it still does.

      I don’t belong to the “Trans-Community” I only loosely belong to the LGBT Community. My real community these days includes people who work swap meet, flea markets, gun shows etc. I have more in common with old people, poor folks and retirees than with any of the trans-stuff.

      I think the slacktivist approach to activism taken by the Twits that make up the Twitteratti is bullshit and not real activism at all. Mostly it is like that fame seeking little shit Ashley Love and her activist self promoting selfies.

      It has even gotten to a point where Andrea James and Calpernia Addams are being attacked by a newly minted, recent transitioner.

      It’s all bullshit.

  2. Edith Pilkington Says:

    “The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind” to how many roads one must walk up.

    I don’t know. I wasn’t thinking about Calpurnia when I made my comment. I don’t want my choice to be either Calpurnia or Parker Marie. A choice like that is a false dichotomy. I like Calpurnia. The people who have come to dominate the discourse in transworld I do not like so much. That said, the local production of Hedwig was a big success around here. All of my hipster friends were so taken by Oliver Platt, the local rocker who played Hedwig. I cannot hang out with them anymore. They think they know it all. I only associate with strangers these days. They treat me kindly, in the literal sense of the word. Nobody wants to be a circus freak, do they? That’s how I feel about Leto’s character in Dallas buyers club. His characterization lets a lot of closeted hipster bigots off the hook.

    Boy/girl romance reigns supreme, still, in hipster world. It’s so sacred, so essential to the world of art – the interplay between the perfect feminine and perfect masculine. Everything else becomes caricature in the milieu. Isn’t that how Dallas Buyer’s Club played out – the romance between Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Garner with Leto thrown in for comic relief?

    The term Addams uses, “jumping the fence”, is as insulting as much as it is bullshit, in my li’l ol’ humble opinion. I was there during the AIDs crisis. I don’t need to be talked down to regarding gay culture. That’s how I feel, Suzan. I am a lot older than people like Parker Marie. That makes me either the most evil or the most boring dinosaur of all. I don’t know which. I live in Seth McFarlane’s, Quahog, literally. Quahog is Providence. McFarlane went to RISD. McFarlane’s style of humor has always left me cold but he is fairly representative of the zeitgeist here. I’ve only seen excerpts from one episode of Family Guy – the one about Quagmire’s “dad”. I would have been dead long ago if I didn’t always have it in me to tell the world to go fuck itself. I read Calpurnia’s Huffpo piece that she linked to from her video. It doesn’t help my situation at all and I am never going to fall into Parker Marie’s camp, either. Calpurnia does amaze me, however. I love Appalachian music and it’s mother, Celtic music. That Calpurnia is into both was one of the first things I related to in her. I was born in Tennessee, too.

  3. tinagrrl Says:

    I no longer see myself as a part of “transworld” — perhaps because I do not believe in such a thing. There are so many different folks who have been lumped together and called “transgender” that I see it as an almost meaningless term. At the same time I am not anti-LGBT, even though I see little value in the T, as it is constituted.

    There are what we call heterosexual crossdressers – many of whom are VERY homophobic, tossing around the term “lesbian” while they still have functional dicks. Next, all the various levels of FtM’s, bois, boyz, etc., etc., etc. Within that crowd I have found more than a bit of anti-MtF sentiment. And yet, and yet, many of those folks are strong and true advocates of equality for all.

    Many late transitioners (like myself) are VERY affected by the losses they suffer during and after they come out (transition). They have seemed, to me, to not quite understand why folks are put off by them, not supportive of them, no longer comfortable around them. Perhaps the fact we are so happy obscures the fact we have broken so many taboos. People can say they support you, believe they support you, yet still react in a very negative way when faced with the reality. Many folks have very unrealistic ideas of how their lives will change – so, they are easily seduced by folks who want to use them, are still accustomed to that male privilege many say they don’t have, and don’t give themselves time to “grow into themselves”. I suspect that may be one reason so many people either newly transitioned, or in transition, almost have to act like THEY know it ALL.

    After a while, if they do not succeed as “professional trannies”, they settle into their lives and (like the old soldier) “just fade away”.

    “Transworld” almost has to be populated by “newbies”, professionals, and (sometimes) folks who are afraid to leave the comfort of “the community”. To tell them it does not exist, or is meaningless, would shatter their world.

  4. Edith Pilkington Says:

    Hi Tina, I joined Calpurnia’s message board years ago. She wrote back to me after I asked to join the group. I don’t know if it was a form letter, or what. She said something about friends. The part of the quote I remember is – “. . . if you have any left.” I wasn’t all that puzzled about what she meant. I mentioned “frienz”, above, but it’s way more complicated than that. It’s a very competitive world. I didn’t give up anything. Calpurnia made me aware of Marisa Richmond, though. Marisa is a real activist. I know that. I almost never go on Twitter.


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