Culture Wars, recent

The Dangers of Defining Deviancy Up

In 1993, then-Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan published an essay entitled “Defining Deviancy Down,” in which he argued that understanding the shift towards more permissive attitudes regarding crime and violence is crucial to their reduction. Specifically, he asserted that the redefinition of norms around deviant behavior (or “defining deviancy down”) had collectively shaped society in unintended ways, resulting in a desensitization to what might have once been considered shocking. By way of illustration, Moynihan referenced the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago—the notorious gangland execution of seven men committed during the prohibition era. He reminded his readers that those killings had elicited universal public outrage, and then contrasted that reaction with a contemporary example: “On the morning after the close of the [1992] Democratic National Convention in New York City in July,” he wrote, a headline reported “3 Slain in Bronx Apartment, but a Baby is Saved…A mother’s last act was to hide her little girl under the bed.” These were also execution-style killings, but they were greeted with only a barely discernible nod of dismay. In the six decades between 1929 and 1992, a transformation had occurred in the levels of violence and criminal behavior that the public seemed willing to accept.

The idea of defining deviancy down has attracted renewed attention from commentators in the Trump era. In recent years, Moynihan’s analysis has been used to understand how Trump’s impact on the culture has increased the acceptability of previously taboo language, attitudes, and behaviors. In November 2015, Jonathan Capehart wrote an article for the Washington Post entitled “How Trump is ‘defining deviancy down’ in presidential politics.” Capehart argued that, “As the 2016 Republican presidential contest drags on, [Moynihan’s] diagnosis fit politics in general and the campaign of Donald Trump in particular. Just when you thought the Big Apple billionaire couldn’t sink any lower, he does. He gleefully dances through the nativist, racist, misogynistic slop as if he were Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain. And to make matters worse, Trump is rewarded for it.” In a similar vein, Albert Hunt wrote an op-ed for Bloomberg in May 2017 entitled, “The Age of Trump is ‘Defining Deviancy Down’: When the president seems inept or corrupt, we shrug. If he ever fumbles through adequately, he is praised.”

But changes in social norms are not unidirectional—they can swing in the opposite direction and, instead of increasing permissiveness, norms can become more restrictive. This is what happens when we define deviancy up. Instead of treating atrocities as banal or becoming desensitized to wrongdoing, the most minor infractions are treated as if they are serious offenses. As the hasty condemnation of the behavior of a boisterous group of teenagers at the Lincoln Memorial on January 18 has reminded us, this trend is best illustrated by what we understand to be instances of prejudice, and how we respond.

Historically, “racism” has been defined as the belief in the superiority of one race over another. However, on campus and among progressives, the term has been redefined to mean “prejudice-plus-power.” This is leading to false distinctions such as the one made by Harvard Crimson editor Michelle Gao in 2018:

[The prejudice plus power group thinks] primarily of institutional racism and factors in a person’s power to use their racist beliefs against others. As one African American lead character from the 2014 movie “Dear White People” argues, “Black people can’t be racist. Prejudiced, yes, but not racist. Racism describes a system of disadvantage based on race. Black people can’t be racists since we don’t stand to benefit from such a system.”

Developments in how we think about sexism and misogyny have followed similar trajectories. What used to be understood as the belief that men were superior to women has expanded to include an understanding of systemic patriarchal structures and actions by a collective rather than the attitudes of individuals. Not surprisingly, the newly capacious definitions of racism and sexism have increased the number of situations and infractions that can fall under the rubric of these labels, and this has narrowed the spectrum of permissible views on a number of already sensitive topics, such as affirmative action, social mobility, immigration, gender imbalances in STEM fields, and so on. Matt Grossman, Senior Fellow at the Niskanen Center has explained how this is disproportionately stigmatizing the political opinions of political centrists and conservatives. To illustrate this point, he turned to common social science survey questions:

  • “Racial resentment,” an aspect of “symbolic racism,” is measured by asking for agreement or disagreement with statements like “Generations of slavery and discrimination have created conditions that make it difficult for blacks to work their way out of the lower class” or “Irish, Italian, Jewish, and many other minorities overcame prejudice and worked their way up. Blacks should do the same without any special favors.”
  • “Hostile sexism” is measured with agreement or disagreement with statements like “when women lose to men in a fair competition, they typically complain about being discriminated against” or “women are too easily offended.” The related “modern sexism” scale taps similar attitudes.
  • “Authoritarianism” is measured with questions asking respondents to choose between pairs of parenting values such as “independence” vs. “respect for elders” or “self-reliance” vs. “obedience.”

Thus, in a crude popularization, respondents [to such surveys] who favor obedient children and individual-level explanations for economic disadvantage could easily be labeled racist, sexist authoritarians.

As the author’s use of the term “polarization” suggests, it is worth asking whether or not these new norms help to build the sense of community that they exist to fortify. There is an argument to be made that they have insofar as these redefinitions have united the political Left in their much-discussed culture of callout and outrage. However, the strengthening of ties within a narrow subset of the population has come with a significant cost to the sense of community within society more broadly. So alarming has this political polarization become that nearly three in four foreign policy analysts and commentators surveyed in September of last year described it as a critical threat to the national security of the United States.

The expanded definitions of racism and sexism are rooted in an understandable desire to protect members of marginalized groups, but they do not bring us any closer to that goal. In addition to the price we pay in social divisions, the new definitions have done little to actually address racial or other forms of inequality in a meaningful way. Recent data suggest that little has changed in the last 40 years in income inequality between whites and blacks and that reductions in the gender wage gap have stalled. Furthermore, it’s likely that this new focus has distracted those who adhere to it from the hard work of practical, tangible political change.

This was the prescient argument made by the philosopher Richard Rorty more than 20 years ago. In a series of lectures on the history of American civilization, Rorty all but predicted the rise of a populist political figure like Donald Trump. Reflecting on Rorty’s warning in an article for the Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf offered this summary:

This Left is more likely to participate in a public shaming than to lobby for a new law; it is more likely to mobilize to occupy a park or shut down a freeway than to register voters. It “exaggerates the importance of philosophy for politics, and wastes its energy on sophisticated theoretical analyses of the significance of current events.” Its adherents “have permitted cultural politics to supplant real politics, and have collaborated with the Right in making cultural issues central to the public debate.”

Social norms generally change slowly. It is unrealistic to expect that a reversal of our current trend lies just around the corner. However, if we’re looking to start the slow process of bridge-building, we might begin by acknowledging the price we’re all paying for expanding our understanding of what constitutes deviancy. In a course I’m currently teaching on viewpoint diversity, a centrist student recently approached me after class and asked how she could have a conversation with some of her more progressive friends. She indicated that every time a topic related to race or gender arose, the differences described here would stall the conversation. She asked what I thought she could do. I suggested that she gently ask her friends to describe their long-term vision of the outcome of their current approach and to explain where they think it will lead.


Ilana Redstone Akresh is an associate professor of sociology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a faculty fellow at Heterodox Academy. She is currently teaching a course on viewpoint diversity. You can follow her on Twitter @irakresh


  1. Dr Collapsardonicus says

    The expanded definitions of racism and sexism are rooted in an understandable desire to protect members of marginalized groups

    No, they’re rooted in an understandable desire by extremely unpleasant and hate-filled people to win power for themselves. The point is always to harm ordinary whites, push ordinary whites from power, and create a totalitarian system. If the left cared about “sexism,” it would not have stood by as white women and girls were raped and prostituted by Muslims in places like Rotherham. It doesn’t care about “sexism” except when sexism can be used as a tool to win power for itself and harm white men.

    • codadmin says

      Exactly. The fascist lefts definition of racism is entirely rooted in hatred and a will to power.

      It’s circular, all roads leads back to ‘white people did it’.

      The way the fascist right talk about Jews, and the way fascist left talk about white people, are absolutely identical to each other. The only difference between the fascist left and right is who they hate and who they blame…oh, the fascist left have cultural power.

      • Angela says

        Except these days rhe fascist left is antisemetic too.

        • codadmin says


          Yes, the fascist left hates all white people, including Jewish white people.

          The fascist left have coined a new phrase for Jews actually: “hyper white”. In other words, Jews are “hyper evil” according to the fascist left.

      • jolly swag, man says

        “The only difference between the fascist left and right is who they hate and who they blame”

        Fascism can never be right wing, Fascism is essentially a collectivist ideology inspired by Marxism that subordinates all individual freedoms to the state. To be right wing is to be anti-socialist and pro individual rights.

    • Peter Kriens says

      I think reality is a bit more complicated then you make it seem. The horrible Rotterham situation was a typical example of how the interaction of groups can cause an effect nobody wants. The responsible people were afraid to act because accusing a minority group would have repercussions in the press. I.e. the act to condone was out of fear, while the people like journalsists and activists that caused this fear are maybe misguided but genuinely concerned about the welfare of minorities.
      Don’t fall in the trap of thinking people are vicious, very few people have vicious intentions; too often they do not oversee the consequences of their actions.

      • Agree, but it is easy to see situations like this Covington Catholic nontroversy, and see that the left-wing media is not acting in good faith and is whipping their base into a frenzy about it. I’ve tried to have rational, calm discussions about it on facebook and routinely ended up eventually being called a Nazi/KKK/skin head sympathizer. I’m afraid many of my more left leaning fellow citizens seem unreachable, especially when slurs like that get thrown around with zero justification and no evidence.

        • Well said Dookert.

          I see the loss of what we’d call common sense in the defense (good) liberals put up for the despicable behavior of the kooks in their tribe. If the transgression is beyond the pale of normal and decent behavior the argument immediately falls to “whatabout’ your guy’s behavior. That’s not an argument…

          Same goes on the right no doubt – but I think the center/right tribe finds it easier to declare – let’s say Trump’s tweeting and off-the-cuff buffoonery – behavior wrong or unacceptable simply because the center/right tribe tends toward a black or white mentality.

          Therefore, one side stops debate, admitting no fault whatsoever and the other side get’s beat into the ground.

        • david of Kirkland says

          The MAGA hats were all the leftists could see and it filled their minds with all the thoughts that clear observation would have affected.

          • The hat is certainly symbolic. To some it’s the neo confederate flag, to others it’s a stupid platitude, and still some find it’s idealism hopeful. I don’t care to think of all the facets of it perception. Think how these hats will be perceived in 20 years, once Trumps relevancy has ceased, i think the hat will be seen as humorous. In fact I think I’m gonna buy one in anticipation of that future. For now though it’s rebellious to wear one. It’s percieved as confrontational. I can’t even picture a contemplative person wearing one. It could be an ironic art project, depictions of people in peaceful communion with anything while wearing a MAGA hat.

      • Chris says

        since somebody raised the subject of Islam.. both it and Callout Culture have in common a simple non-negotiable rule book for inclusion, with heavy penalties for apostasy. The contemporary Left rule book is a work in progress, sure, but look how successful and persistent the system can be when finished. The fearful fellow travellers who kept their heads down in the Rotherham et al cases – well, don’t flatter them. I don’t buy the talk of good intentions: I prefer selfishness and stupidity, and they’re stupid enough to believe but stolid enough to apply the developing rule book.

        • Interesting. I made exactly the same observation today in another blog about these commonalities between the Progressive SJWs and Islamists.

          When they’re not busy fighting the Conservatives (Progressive SJWs) or Infidels (Islamists), they attack each other over differences in ideology (Progressive SJWs) or theology (Islamists).

          It should be noted that Islam is the blueprint of a 7th century barbarian warlord to consolidate and expand his power. We have seen it’s development and persistence over 14 centuries as a profoundly despotic and oppressive power structure. The similarities displayed by the Progressive Left SJWs must be understood as harbingers of the future awaiting us if they ever gain the power to enforce their agendas.

      • Caligula says

        In Orwell’s 1984, Winston Smith asserts “”Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.”

        Rotherham indicates that at certain intersections of politics and culture, this freedom is denied.

        For reasons the deniers deem right and proper, persumably.

      • codadmin says

        @Peter Kriens

        Who has created this climate of fear exactly? Do well meaning people who have ‘genuine concerns’ create oppressive, inquisitional climates of fear that threaten to crush the lives of whistle blowers? No, they don’t.

        Even after the story broke, the same ‘well meaning’ journalists and activists refused to admit what was going on.

        These people are evil because the ideology that animates them is evil. Look at what they did to Labour MP Sarah Champion after she spoke out. Sarah Champion is on the left ( the moderate left ), but still leftist activist and journalists ruined her life and career.

        STOP calling these facist scum bags ‘well meaning’.

      • derek says

        So what is the difference? The net result is a bunch of young girls were systematically raped while the people who had the responsibility to do something averted their eyes. And made sure that anyone who didn’t avert their eyes was fired or transferred out.

        What did they have to do to be evil, hold the girls down while they were raped?

        During my lifetime I’ve been in situations where I was legally required to report things. Meaning that if I didn’t I would be subject to legal sanction. Meaning that if I averted my eyes a judge would consider that as a criminal act.

        I understand perfectly why things went on the way they did, just like I understand why someone might murder someone in anger, or beat a woman or do other evil. There are always very good reasons in the minds of the perpetrator to do evil. But they are evil nonetheless.

      • Roman says

        The Social workers were afraid, the journalists cared for minorities, and the result was they closed their eyes.
        People are not vicious, but some people have done a lot of harm to over 1400 girls and women.
        You really mean this is not vicious?

      • Dr Collapsardonicus says

        Your excuses are a good example of the dishonesty of the left. Everything you say applies to the Russian Revolution, where possibly no-one at all “consciously” wanted to create a tyranny far worse than Czarism. But it happened anyway, didn’t it?

        I think reality is a bit more complicated then you make it seem. The horrible Rotterham situation was a typical example of how the interaction of groups can cause an effect nobody wants.

        The “complicated reality” is that supposedly progressive and caring people knew that under-aged girls were being raped and otherwise brutalized by adult men. The supposedly progressive and caring people refused to act in full knowledge that the rapes would worsen and carry on indefinitely. They were “afraid” to reveal the truth because of the possible consequences to their careers and reputations. Possible consequences, I stress, as opposed to definite and continuing physical consequences to the girls. That is not moral behavior. It is complicity in evil, whether or not the people themselves sought to create the evil.

        while the people like journalsists and activists that caused this fear are maybe misguided but genuinely concerned about the welfare of minorities.

        No, the whites amongst them are concerned about virtue-signaling. When there’s a genuine price to pay, they refuse to pay it. They don’t live with the minorities they impose on others and they lie and censor. But some amongst the journalists and activists are often driven by hatred of whites, as we can see from the death and injury they wished on the Covington white boys.

        <iDon’t fall in the trap of thinking people are vicious, very few people have vicious intentions; too often they do not oversee the consequences of their actions.

        Some of them are knowingly evil. More of them are knowingly complicit in evil.

        • Robin says

          The complicated reality is that the pedo gangs in Rotherham and other towns were protected by councilors who were more interested in the image of their community than in justice for girls of another ethnicity. Another factor is that it wasn’t abnormal for underaged girls to go with adult men and do drugs in those areas. Craven progs certainly played a part but there is more to the story.

      • Bonnie says

        Peter Kriens, thank you for your insightful comment. Most people are decent and caring.

        • codadmin says


          Yes, most people are decent and caring. Most people does not include the leftist fascist filth in the media who deliberately perscuated whistle blowers fir over a decade, however.

      • Fiona says

        I find it morally reprehensible for people to make excuses for those who condoned the gang rape of thousands of children over decades – there is no acceptable reason for condoning this kind of abuse. It is not ‘complicated’, it’s actually very simple – gang raping, drugging and torturing children is wrong and those in power who could have stopped it should have done so regardless of any ‘repercussions’.

      • Byron Thanopoulos says

        Intentions are irrelevant. The result is what counts. And that’s the trap you fell in. And the results were devastating for everyone other than the authorities or the press.

    • Defenstrator says

      While I agree with in general about the result, I know a number of people who honestly think the redefinition of racism is the correct one. Arguments that they are walking on the road to hell with their good intentions have fallen on deaf ears. But there definitely people who are advocating these views out of a misguided sense of justice, and are very righteous in their view.

      • Rev Wazoo! says

        @ Dr Collapsardonicus
        Re:Rotherham & other such

        Remember that it’s not that *no one* wanted the results; a dedicated group of people worked very hard across a long time to produce those results and were paid handsomely for them. They wanted to exploit girls financially and did so by exploiting their sexuality – they might have but didn’t groom just for their own use. This is important because of Occam’s razor; the simplest explanation being the best in absence of reasons to believe otherwise.

        Prostitution rings are illegal but *very* lucrative and the more successful the more lucrative but also the harder to keep under wraps. We’re told the *only* reason the police never busted any of these prostitution rings is “community relations”, ie not appearing Islamophobic but Occam’s razor says taking the traditional cut from brothels was the main reason with social justice based (self-)censorship an excuse and a weapon against anyone who wouldn’t play ball.

        Similarly, the community organizations who raised hell whenever anyone ( cop, social worker, politician, parent) strayed close enough to threaten the golden goose would indeed loose salvos of race/religion based claims of discrimination. Again, Occam’s razor suggests this wasn’t merely identitarian solidarity but that was combined with large financial donations and political support in the community allowing those who went to bat for the criminals, using accusations of racist Islamophobia, to keep and expand their cushy sinecures.

        The social workers? Lets be magnanimous that they didn’t financially benefit directly but that supervisors diverted anyone getting close to the hot-button/controversial Golden Goose and benefitted from good perfomence reviews, promotion prospects etc by keeping community relations good and doing so by towing the ideological line which placed them in the in-group which held their future in their remit. Anyway, a case worker sees hundreds of kids spinning into perdition and can’t arrest a suspected pimp but can only recommend seizing the child from their parents custody and feed her into the maw of state-run foster “care” and only when it’s the parents abusing her.

        The journalists played a similar game but more pernicious game. At least the so ial worker got on trying to help someone else in dire straights and try to forget about the poor girl she couldn’t help but the journalists more purely sold moral posturing for filthy lucre. “The editor want 900 words about how the Pakistani community is being singled out for accusations of lawbreaking? No problem, I can crank that out over the weekend with enough buzzwords like “multiculturalism” to get a lot of social media splash and its attendant clicks to get a 1,500 word piece next time.”

        Thinks it’s probably true anyway figuring the oiks in the provinces are like that anyway and again wants to be in the ingroup who determines advancement.

        A group working closely together to achieve nasty aims can -for a length of time- out-maneuver much larger but disorganized groups beset by institutional inertia by using a combination of the carrot and the stick – and feeding carrots those who’ll use the stick on their behalf.

      • jolly swag, man says

        Self righteous they may be, but ‘righteous’ they certainly are not.
        Reminds of the words of Yeat’s poem : “The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity”. I think he meant murderous intensity. Anyway, that’s where it leads: vigilante style mobs.

  2. Sounds like concept creep. It’s got to the point where practically everything is “problematic”. People can only walk on eggshells so long before they get “mad as hell” and start throwing eggs themselves. Trump is a symptom, not a cause.

  3. Donald Collins says

    I enjoyed the article.

    The problem as I see it is a generation of group think is not going to think long term as in where they believe this type of thinking leads.

    With this generation getting depression over folks not liking a post on some social media platform, thus believing folks do not even see their post, they rewire themselves to say, then believe, things that will bring on the applause of their peers through likes.

    This, in essence, has turned them into sheep to be led around by those that would be sheep dogs.

    This is not just a problem on the left, but it is a much bigger problem in that spectrum, as the right (I am Libertarian on the edge a little to no government) tends to marginalize our nutcakes. Can’t help who they vote for, but nazis and the like are generally pilloried, where as the left tends to make excuses for theirs, using some sort of power/oppression paradigm.

    That didn’t work out well for socialist that aligned with Lenin, that believed they were joining to make a better world through revolution, as Lenin was willing to use force as a means to attain power and do it his way, not come to an agreement with others what may be the best way.

    Does anyone actually think ANTIFA or BLM are any different. They have a vision and want it that way now. Even if you believe in socialism and that it can happen through a ballot box, do you actually think these type of folks want to wait for it to play out over time to convince folks it can be better? Nope, they will not be content to see a party in power that can do some of the things they want, they would rather be in power themselves and do what they want, using the sheep to get there

    • david of Kirkland says

      In a free country, you can be as socialist as you want with your fellow like-minded thinkers. That they refuse to join together and live their socialist ideals proves that they don’t care about socialism, just forcing it all. Like religions, they pretend to be worried about your eternal soul, but they really just want to control you.

    • Yes, I think ANTIFA and BLM are different…but I’m a fan of neither.

      ANTIFA are pure anarchists and communists. They REALLY scare me.

      BLM has some similar behaviors, but looking at their list of demands on their page doesn’t actually look too unreasonable. I’m sympathetic to some of their aims. ISTM that there definitely is some injustice in disproportionate sentencing, treatment, etc, but certainly not to the extent they think. It’s their perception of injustice though that is totally skewed.

  4. First, there aren’t any injustices to work to eliminate. Adjusting for IQ (and any of a number of other relevant social science metrics) we find that there is zero evidence of meaningful discrimination in society against so called disadvantaged groups (in fact, the opposite). So we need to establish first that there is no “meaningful action” that all this social justice nonsense is holding back. It’s what you get when there is nothing meaningful left to do.

    If any of these people were to get in power and try to implement their “ideas”, it would be a disaster. Most of these ideas have been tried before and failed. We went through this in the 1970s when we thought things like school busing were The Answer. I don’t see why we need to watch that all fail again. Maybe they are just hoping that with enough minority voters they can shove bad failing ideas down our throats without a Nixon backlash.

    Second, it’s critical to have a scapegoat (white, male, christian) in order to hold together the coalition of fringes. In this particular incident it should be obvious that people like the Black Isrealites don’t really get along we any of the other members of the Dem coalition. The Women’s March similarly has had problems with the fact that to brown people, Jews are just a rich kind of white person and not a victim group. BLM and Gay activists couldn’t get along on any number of issues. Intersectionality is an attempt to use doctrinal faith to hold together a bunch of people with competing interests and natures, and it absolutely needs a scapegoat outlet to make it work.

    • “First, there aren’t any injustices to work to eliminate. Adjusting for IQ (and any of a number of other relevant social science metrics) we find that there is zero evidence of meaningful discrimination in society against so called disadvantaged groups (in fact, the opposite).”

      Asdf, that sounds like the reality I live in. I wonder if you could provide a link to a concise article that provides pointers to studies that back this up by any chance? I’d like to share it with any number of ill-informed acquaintances of mine.

      • If I post a link, it will probably get blocked.

        The Bell Curve proves the point fairly convincingly.

        For something on the internet try googling “those who can see”.

        • quidnunc says

          The Bell Curve got far ahead of the social science in a rush to confirm the author’s tendentious arguments about political economy following a story about assortative mating leading to a “cognitive elite” baking in basic assumptions that discount environmental input to heritability. If you think it’s persuasive you havent read enough of the criticisms of the book or thought deep enough about what measures of intelligence are a proxy for

          • I’ve read a lot of criticisms of The Bell Curve and found them unconvincing. This isn’t to say that I agree with all of Murray’s politics and prescriptions, but I do think intelligence is genetically heritable at a decently high rate, I do think there are good intelligence measures with meaningful predictive capacity for important social outcomes, and I buy the basics on the race stuff too. I think a lot of this stuff was more debatable decades ago but that time and data have only reinforced those views. Ironically, the it seems to be the truth, the more outside the Overton Window it gets.

      • ccscientist says

        Crank: I live in a town with a good representation of blacks, orientals, Indians, etc. But it is well off. There is NO trouble going on, no overt racism anywhere in town.
        A big problem in the black community is that welfare broke up black families and kids from that environment do worse. It is a huge obstacle.

    • david of Kirkland says

      Most are afraid to let Liberty and Equal Protection do their magic over time. Most prefer to be a child rather than an adult (“Who cares for me?” is the definition of child over adult, or slave over master).

    • Marshall Mason says

      All of this is about Trump. The MAGA hat has the power to transform a child into mini-Trump. But this is temporary, Trump won’t be around forever. The Left are at each other’s throats right now and the only thing uniting them is Trump. Without a common enemy, they turn into a circular firing squad.

      • TarsTarkas says

        With us in the middle of the gunplay. They may kill each other in the end if they get the chance, but I’d rather not be part of the collateral damage the consider necessary to make utopia happen.

    • Interesting comment. I’ve just finished all 100+ episodes on the history of rome and it occurred to me that we’re living in outright utopia/nirvana here in the modern day US in terms of exploitation/abuse/unjust cruelty etc. We’ve literally hand-wrung the grievance rag out to dry and when one drop of discrimination appears – it’s seized on violently and aggressively and sucked up like a golden droplet of pure water in a desert.

      A part of this chaos is due to some folks desperate to work on good deeds and civil rights. They want their names in the history books so badly. It’s their mission in life. Folk I am describing are decent humans. They are desperate! But what are they to work on?

      I believe you’re right – there is largely very little meaningful and systematic work left to do besides the local stuff that takes a lot of work (like volunteering and donating to charity).

      Revolution is a party! It’s romantic! Whom to revolt?

      Stick it to the man! Who’s the man?

      The best we can come up with is white, male, christian. It’s en vogue and works.

  5. I’m so tired of this nonsense, and it’s importation from foreign places, via Orwellian universities.

    The real world does not have this view.
    Crime is increasing, instead of dealing with this, the media, and even law enforcement, would much rather deal with a white boy who is smiling ????

    “This is the way the ends, not with a bang but a whimper “

    • Nakatomi Plaza says

      Crime is not increasing. In fact, it’s very much down historically.

      What were you saying about Orwellian nonsense?

      • @ Nakatomi Plaza

        If crime is decreasing in your region or country Good for you. This is not a world wide fact, or indeed regionally correct in any nation. IE. In London the murder rate now surpasses NY?

        I come from a country that had zero history of slavery, zero !
        Indeed my country did not even exist while there was any slavery in any western country.

        And yet universities and social media have imported so much American academic crap, many people under 30 in my nation believe it did????

        That is dystopian, people who cannot say or even think that 2+2=4, it is straight from 1984.

  6. Interesting article, but can I just put in a plea to authors and websites in general ,and Quillette in particular?

    If the title makes it look like an article is making general points, but in fact is almost entirely about the US, can this be flagged up at the start please?

    • George G says

      @ TJR

      I’d second that, Quillettes a great site and gets interesting authors from both sides of the pond, the antipodes and all over but, and its a small but, a bit of an update to formatting would help. Breaking down articles by geography would be useful.

      Also the formatting of the comment section could be improved, there a 300+ chain of comments on the Magakids – Indian guy hooplapla and theirs interesting conversations in there but its hard going to follow when it gets that long. For an example The Guardian websites method of having the initial comment displayed and then responses nested within that is actually pretty good,( please don’t copy anything else from the guardian though.)

      • @George

        Agree completely. We Americans are so mis-served by our media that we rarely consider other societies at all, I’m as guilty of that as anyone. The major news outlets in the U.S. march in lock step offering little context to their obsessively parochial focus.To add a cherry on top of it we are told constantly by said media that we are awful.

        It’s a big world and that’s part of the reason I like Quillette, to get a glimpse of other societies. So yes, a little re-organization of this site along those lines is needed.

  7. ga gamba says

    Yes, the left is theatrical with its closing of motorways, which tend to upset many motorists and may endanger lives, such as people in ambulances and in need of the fire brigade. However, the mass participation games, be in they online or not, also have compelled companies to submit to many of their demands, such as in hiring, training, and advertising. The Gillette advert didn’t pop out from nowhere. That many twitter users were able to call for the death of boys without consequence from twitter, the same company that bans someone for tweeting “Trans women are men”, tells us that bias in favour of the progressives in strong. Whether these companies bend the knee because they agree or because they fear being smeared, I don’t know. Nonetheless, the companies are doing the progressives’ bidding. To dismiss out of hand the progressives’ effectiveness is a grave mistake.

    The expanded definitions of racism and sexism are rooted in an understandable desire to protect members of marginalized groups

    Are they? Or are they rooted in something more devious? Why not offer new words to describe the prejudice + power equation? The intent is to eradicate the existing definition because it acts as a speed bump. And it’s more easy to dismiss an opponent as an ist or obic rather than having to deal with his/her arguments.

    Thus, in a crude popularization, respondents [to such surveys] who favor obedient children and individual-level explanations for economic disadvantage could easily be labeled racist, sexist authoritarians.

    Indeed, if you control the definitions and the questions, and are ideologically bent, you control the outcome to malign and worse. Once you define such parents in those terms, then you may lobby the government to enact laws to remove children as a way to ‘protect’ them. Facing that threat, what will parents do?

    Rorty all but predicted the rise of a populist political figure like Donald Trump.

    I think this would have been better served by a link to Rorty’s passage rather than to Friederdorf’s article.

    Members of labor unions, and unorganized unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers — themselves desperately afraid of being downsized — are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else.

    At that point, something will crack. The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking for a strongman to vote for — someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots.

    To understand this, we need to define strongman, which is a political leader who rules by force and runs an autocracy or authoritarian regime or totalitarian regime. People assert Trump is an arsehole and even a buffoon, but is he a strongman? Has the Constitution been toppled or do the checks and balances exist? Yes, he uses executive orders (EO), but so too did Obama. Many of his EOs have been stayed by the court.

    When the Republicans ruled both houses in Congress was he able to force his legislative agenda through? In many cases no. He’s no LBJ strong arming legislators. Mayors and governors defy him, and the actual law it must be said, and has he used force to compel their compliance? No.

    He called the press the enemy of the people, but the press is an industry like any other, such as banking and weapons manufacturing, and they’ve often been called the enemy of the people too. Has Trump ended the First Amendment rights of the press? No. Previous presidents had their complaints, and may have even loathed the press, but Trump has been more vocal and quite caustic. It may be the press grew accustomed to being treated with more respect, or deference, than other industries are treated, probably because other presidents didn’t want daily run-ins. Using social media Trump is able to bypass the press, and because of this he doesn’t care about bad press. I suspect he finds it a useful foil.

    Trump’s presidency proves the institutions and the checks and balances are very resilient. But, there really weren’t under attack.

    Was Rorty a clairvoyant in 1998 when he wrote Achieving our Country? No. He simply remembered H. Ross Perot’s candidacy in ’92 that excited the same group of workers and even celebrities such as Cher.

    So, I think Trump the strongman ruler is untrue. Certainly he’s not a Franco, Mussolini, and Stroessner. Of his contemporaries, he’s far from Duterte and Maduro. At worst, an authoritarian personality.

    … new definitions have done little to actually address racial or other forms of inequality in a meaningful way. Recent data suggest that little has changed in the last 40 years in income inequality between whites and blacks and that reductions in the gender wage gap have stalled.

    Because the new definitions weren’t intended to accomplish this. It’s the Cloward – Piven strategy at work here. They were intended to create and stoke grievances to subvert and topple the system.

    Further, I think the examples of the so called income gap (or wealth gap), which is calculating the median of each of two groups, is about the lowest resolution of understanding one can get. Today, these are outcomes largely based on personal choices, and she as a sociologist at a top-tier uni will likely have seen the studies. What is public policy to do about the numerous reasons for it? Are we to forbid divorce? Restrict the number of children based on income? Provide government negotiators on the behalf of women who “lack the confidence” to bargain for a higher wage? If you can’t negotiate on your own behalf, what confidence do I, as an employer, have that you’ll negotiate strongly on my behalf? Shall we assign quotas? How will this affect veterinarians who are about 90% female? What vets get sent to the fishing fleets and sewers to increase female participation there?

    Where non-compliance of same wage laws occur then the government must intervene. However, very rarely do violations occur when the jobs are the same and easy to evaluate. A male and female intercity bus driver of equal seniority each perform the same work and are paid the same. The activists had to concoct the idea of equal work where different jobs are declared the same. Are lawyers and librarians the same? How about cashiers and warehouse workers? Indeed not. Same work and equal work are not the same, but many in the public don’t understand the difference. Equal work was intended to bamboozle the public to conclude men and women doing the exactly the same work, such as mounting automobile doors on an assembly line, are paid differently.

    Moreover, why do we not hear of the wage gap between Asians and whites? Whites, blacks, and Asians all fall under the same institutions and systems. Coleman Hughes addressed the racial gap issue a few months ago, and it’s worth the read.

    For me, a question is this: in the here and now, if you discriminate against someone based on prejudice or racism, what’s the difference? Is the person in each case still denied opportunity? “I only refused to hire you because I’m prejudiced.” Yippee! Thank goodness it wasn’t racism. That would hurt my feelings. And, why do we keep falling for the white-black example. If an Asian refuses to hire a black, or the reverse, is this merely prejudice too? “I only hate you because I’m prejudiced.” Oh goody. It’s more comforting to know that. C’mon, who are we kidding here?

    I understand the desire to build bridges, but if each group is going along different paths, it seems they’re moving away from that chasm to be bridged. Have you built a bridge to nowhere? When the definition of racism, sexism, or whatever is so different between two groups, then you are at an impasse.

    • Lightning Rose says

      One thing I’ve never heard mentioned in all the discussion of “wage gap” and “income gap” and “inequality” is the fact that the rich, by and large, have not gotten their wealth through “wages,” but dividends, interest, rent, and capital gains on ownership of real property, means of production, and investments. In the interest of clarity, I’d like to coin the phrase “capitalized class” as distinct from wage-earners. Virtually nobody ever got great wealth from wages, and that’s a fact!

      Nowhere have I ever heard discussed strategies for moving disciplined, money-savvy wage earners INTO the “capitalized” category by teaching them about investment strategies. Dumping your money in a savings bank or a big-screen TV is getting no one anywhere. We also need to (finally!) have an honest discussion of the relationship between single motherhood and poverty. Simply put, bad ideas bring bad results, both individually and collectively. The tragedy is that for 40 years, no one has pulled a meaningful intervention for urban society. Votes for more dependency have ruled.

      • david of Kirkland says

        It’s easier to grumble about greedy capitalists than to start a business.
        It’s easier to demand smaller classes and higher pay for teachers and more administration to ensure all is “fair” than it is to demand students learn, work, tidy their spaces, etc.
        If one group is top notch, but ignored due to racism/sexism/x-ism, then band them together and prosper.
        Like those who grumble about twitter or facebook or google and then use them daily rather than go elsewhere.

      • ga gamba says

        I commented before about the investment gap. Go to Coleman Hughes’s article I hyperlinked to above and I have one comment there. There is also an entrepreneurship gap. And there’s a public sector – private sector employment gap which has influence on investments and wealth. There is also a scholarship gap – one of the main reasons people seek to acquire wealth is to support their children’s tertiary educations.

        Some people assert that whites inherited their money. I’ve addressed on this issue too in that comment.

        What’s intriguing is people who are defined ultra high-net worth (UHNW) people, those worth $30+ million. In the US and UK, about 12.5% of them inherited their money. Yet in every leftist’s dreamland Sweden almost 44% UHNW individuals inherited their wealth. Counter public perception of the day, wealth mobility is greater in the UK and the UK than in Sweden. But Sweden is not hostile to investment and the markets; it has its citizens invest of portion of their incomes in the financial markets to prepare for their retirements – I recall they may choose from over 600 funds worldwide.

        And here I discuss the evolution of wealth, social mobility, and privilege:

        • Peter from Oz says

          Australia too has a system for people to invest part of their income in funds for their retirement. Unfortunately, some people were far better at such investments than others. Also large sums are sitting in these funds. Governments therefore can not help constantly interfering with the system, such that now it is almost impossible to comply with the rules or to amass enough money in a fund to enjoy a decent standard of living in retirement without having to pay tax on money that as already taxed when you put it into the fund.
          Is there any problem that some government can’t make worse, or some decent scheme that governments can’t ruin?

          • G’day Peter,
            Every time we get close to getting our super they put the age up! I think we’ll just have to work until we die . And the working middle aged are used by the government on both sides of politics, to justify our foreign replacement.

      • ccscientist says

        Ironically, the result of the 2008 crash was new rules for banks that make them less likely to lend to small business. Starting a business is indeed one way to become wealthy. I know many small business owners, who mostly got started using only their own savings. Interestingly, in my area the hispanics are doing very well owning their own companies: roofing, concrete, painting, not just yard work. “Hernandez contracting”–that’s the way to do it.

    • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

      @ga gamba

      “Nonetheless, the companies are doing the progressives’ bidding.”

      Or is it exactly the opposite? I suspect that the progressives are either complicit or are merely useful idiots, but who is it that stands to benefit from the destruction of any social solidarity, particularly worker’s solidarity? Is it not worthy of note that the Left, once the defenders of working people, *even* if they were white, now consider workers to be deplorable *especially* if they are white, and are entirely consumed with gendered bathrooms, the removal of any notion or normalcy, and the destruction of the notion of merit?

      One simply needs to ask the simple question: who has benefited under the current regime? All agree that it is the globalist plutocrats, and should we not take note of the fact that it is those same plutocrats who so generously endow our universities to enable the latter to pump out more SJ Warriors? Once our civilization has been entirely buggered, baffled and bewildered, who will take over? The Warriors believe it will be them, but will it be? Or will they perhaps have fulfilled their task, and then be swept aside?

      • ga gamba says

        You’re not wrong. The thought behind my statement is those online mobs who swarm a business that breached their progressive beliefs and goals or employs a deplorable who did so.

        One simply needs to ask the simple question: who has benefited under the current regime?

        If by current regime you’re talking about the globalised economy, then in the West the big winners are those who produce a highly scalable product that’s a market success, such as software, online services, and investment services. This is Ellison, Gates, Zuckerberg, Buffett, investment fund managers, etc. They’re unicorns.

        A much larger group is the professional class who by the nature of their occupations are well insulated from global competition yet enjoy the fruits of it, e.g. ever lower prices of household goods, food, etc. in ever wider varieties. Doctors, lawyers, tenured professors at top-tier universities, government mandarins, etc. From this class it’s those who negotiate trade deals and manage the service sector corporations. I’d include the top executives of the industrial sector because their pay packets are large enough that business downsizing or failure doesn’t leave them destitute.

        The middle class also benefit from those lower prices, but many of them are more at risk from globalisation. Their employer is taken over in an M&A deal and many white-collar mid-tier sacked. Well-compensated industrial workers, such as those in the UAW, are in precarious state, especially because many own homes – the lion’s share of their wealth – in one-industry regions. GM closes a plant, the town begins its decline, and home values fall.

        Continue lower and fewer gains are had. Yes, the poor have access to cheap food, $300 TVs, mobile phones, but that’s about it for them.

        Highly skilled legal immigrants, such as those with H1-B visas, have done well.

        Some illegal immigrants find success. If one is a skilled tradesman, for example in construction and working off the books, and doesn’t intend to remain permanently in the host nation, they’re remitting a lot of money home. Their quality of life is poor because they’re scrimping, but if they can stay for a few years during an economic boom their children’s educations are taken care of, they’ve purchased property in their homelands, and perhaps have even financed the start of a small business. This is not the majority of illegals, but they exist.

        • Peter from Oz says

          Ga gamba

          I’m interested to know why the professional classes are also not the middle classes. It seems that Americans are notoriously poor at defining class. It is not about income, but about customs and mores. Being Middle Class is about being superior to the plebs, not being Jo Average.

          • ga gamba says

            They may be. I was confining my definition to income and wealth as well as the extent they are insulated from competition. A UK-credentialed and based doctor faces no competition from lower-paid doctors in the Philippines, India, or China. Further, professional credentials in the West act as a barrier, so if a Chinese doctor emigrates s/he must be board certified before practicing medicine. The professional class is far better protected from competition than others whilst enjoying the fruits of competition. Their risks are minimal and their rewards are maximised. This is not a complaint about credentials, merely a statement of fact. Those who work on an assembly line are not insulated from competition, especially with global trade liberalisation. Where once Ford workers could move to GM in the event of layoffs, with the addition of competing marques from overseas this mobility of labour has been reduced. A Ford worker can’t move to S. Korea to work for Hyundai.

          • Peter from Oz says

            ga gamba

            I suppose the fact is that the word “class” is really redundant. Professionals are not really a class at all.
            You are correct about professionals having some protection against foreign competition. But this is not necessarily a path to financial security. Thus here in Oz since a centre left government re introduced university fees, universities have all increased the number of students studying law (an undergraduate degree in Oz). This is because legal courses are quite inexpensive to provide, but are perceived by potential students as being a path to a high income. But in recent years the number of lawyers has made it much more difficult for young lawyers to earn as much as lawyers did in the past.
            As an aside, instead of using middle class when referring to a person whose income is near the middle of the scale, why not just use the term “middle income earner”? It is far more useful because it recognises that a young professional might be earning the same income as foreman in a manual trade. Both a middle income earners, but the foreman wil most likely be working class and the professional middle class.

  8. Article: “The expanded definitions of racism and sexism are rooted in an understandable desire to protect members of marginalized groups.”

    Dr Collapsardonicus – “No, they’re rooted in an understandable desire by extremely unpleasant and hate-filled people to win power for themselves…”

    Are you a mind reader? Ascribing motives to large swaths of other people is rarely helpful. You obviously can’t know. We see this constantly from the authoritarian left and it’s obnoxious. Be better.

    • david of Kirkland says

      Redefine the words and you remove clarity for conformity. It’s newspeak.

    • Stephanie says


      When determining motive, it is instructive to look at the consequences of what people do, not at what they say. As the author points out, the “wage gap” the leftists purport to want to close has not. Instead, in rejecting what would actually close it (individual hard work and responsible choice-making), they are purposefully sabotaging their stated motive. Instead, by blaming the white male boogeyman and uniting the “intersections,” they are clearly vying for cultural and political power.

      One need not be a mind-reader to see the writing on the wall…

    • Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says


      On the other hand, do you expect your enemies to state their intentions honestly? If @Dr Collapsardonicus were correct, would we expect the Warriors to state their agenda, or would we expect them to pretend that all they want is Equity? Open your eyes. The Warriors drip with hatred, they pronounce their hatred. Their doctrine is that nothing but power exists and since The Patriarchy (read ‘western civilization’) has to go, how bright do you have to be to understand who the Warriors have in mind to replace that power structure with the next power structure?

  9. Carl Bankston says

    Nice article. I’d like to point out that Moynihan derived his original argument from Durkheim, who had maintained that high social solidarity tends to intensify social norms and raise group insistence on conformity. Moynihan suggested the opposite was occurring in his own day. As the article points out, deviance can be defined down in some respects and up in others. Durkheim observed that in a community of saints the least saintly is a sinner. In communities based on high solidarity around norms such as “anti-racism” or support for categories of people defined as “marginalized,” the least committed supporter of those norms becomes defined as a deviant “racist” or “bigot,” continually ratcheting the demand for conformity upward. In my view, this presents individuals with the options of either participating in the ever-increasing solidarity of normative commitment and continually defending themselves against suggestions that they may be “bigots,” or swinging to the other side and repudiating the norms and values altogether. Adamant, intolerant crusaders for anti-racism often inspire real racists.

    • david of Kirkland says

      The law of diminishing returns.
      Power corrupts, and groups always try to gain power.

  10. Mike Walsh says

    “8 murdered in Bronx Apt.” Your example of the way the MSM treats stories is telling. Here’s another: Trayvon Martin. What should have been a local story was blown into a nationwide scandal, even a grim parable about white-on-black crime, though no whites were involved. Why? Because the MSM used the Trayvon story to bury the nationwide Catholic demonstrations against the excesses of Obamacare.

    • Nakatomi Plaza says

      I think all that tinfoil on your head has damaged your brain. What a ridiculous argument.

  11. Morgan Foster says

    Akresh gives what I think is unproductive advice to her centrist student who asks how she can have a conversation about race and gender with her progressive friends without having it stall upon political differences.

    Akresh tells her to “gently ask her friends to describe their long-term vision of the outcome of their current approach and to explain where they think it will lead.”

    This will result in a lecture, with the centrist student fulfilling the role of respectful listener.

    There will be no conversation because there can be no possibility of disagreement or dissent.

    • david of Kirkland says

      The answer will be that their ideas are best and they must be coerced onto others to make it a better world. It’s the same drivel that has led so many good people astray from the ideals of increasing liberty and equal protection under the law.

      • TarsTarkas says

        Except that they then accuse the Patriarchy of creating that corner that they talked themselves into, and come out in their minds as martyrs and winners.

    • quidnunc says

      The solution there is to actually read a book unlike the fellow student who probably learned their political philosophy from social media. It’s trival to find more sophisticated “intersectional” epistemology that undermines those dumb talking points or if that’s too unpalatable consider the role of the citizen in basic democratic theory, how it relates to social epistemology and discourse ethics. The respectful listening trope presupposes what is an “achieved perspective”. Experiences by themselves don’t provide insights. The rhetorical move that demands a one sided exchange conflates assent to an ideology with equal respect and concern for ends and solidarity that can be enhanced by consciousness raising through sharing of experiences.

  12. James says

    ‘Capehart argued that, “As the 2016 Republican presidential contest drags on, [Moynihan’s] diagnosis fit politics in general and the campaign of Donald Trump in particular. Just when you thought the Big Apple billionaire couldn’t sink any lower, he does. He gleefully dances through the nativist, racist, misogynistic slop as if he were Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain. And to make matters worse, Trump is rewarded for it.” In a similar vein, Albert Hunt wrote an op-ed for Bloomberg in May 2017 entitled, “The Age of Trump is ‘Defining Deviancy Down’: When the president seems inept or corrupt, we shrug. If he ever fumbles through adequately, he is praised.”’

    I realize that drivel is a quote from someone else, but it exemplifies what drives Trump supporters. They are well and truly tired of so-called pundits firing off such random vitriol as God’s Honest Truth, when, in fact, it is their OWN opinion and nothing else. I’ve seen nothing but respect for minorities from this president; looking at black unemployment under this administration, for example – as opposed to that under Obama, if Mr. Trump is a racist, he’s damned poor at it.

    No, what they are tired of – as am I – is these hate-spewing leftist, always in our faces, with one hand poking us in the chest and lecturing us about our moral shortcomings while they have the other hand palm-up, demanding our money.

    To hell with them all. I am tired of being polite to these people while the denigrate me and everything I hold dear in the vilest of terms. Some day one of them will confront the wrong man and he will leave one or more of them bleeding in the street. Why it hasn’t happened already is either a tribute to Trump supporters’ good graces or incredibly good luck.

    • david of Kirkland says

      Hatred begets hatred; violence begets violence. We had the answers in Liberty and Equal Protection, having improved on these measures until socialism and corporatism took over the left and right.

  13. Donald Trump hasn’t governed any differently then the vast majority of Republicans would have if elected. He says a lot of dumb and sometimes offensive things but the hysteria over Trump is ridiculous. Its the old look at what I do versus what I say argument. Obama was a silver tongued devil and no one can convince me he was anything other then one of the worst modern presidents. Worst economic growth out of a recession ever. No year of 3% or better GDP growth. He destroyed health care for most people to make it better for about 10% of people. Leading from behind internationally. Gave billions to Iran in exchange for absolutely nothing. Cash for clunkers and the crapulus I mean stimulus remember those gems? The only reason he couldn’t inflict even more harm is he only had a short period of time to jam through horrific legislation because the Republicans quickly took control of congress and could stop his nutbag agenda cold. He did manage to shit out thousands of regulations in his last 100 days or so though an epic achievement of bad faith government. People talk about Trump’s war with the press but last time I checked he hasn’t pulled anything remotely close to what Obama pulled with Fox’s James Rosen. But but but Trump said there we some fine people at Charlottesville and called Haiti a shithole (which it is!) heaven forfend!

    • david of Kirkland says

      So Bush 2, who invaded Iraq on lies and created ISIS and lead us into the economic collapse was better? He must have been since Obama is “worst.” And that you think presidents and the global economy are highly correlated suggests you don’t understand the limited power of a president (doesn’t even control taxes or spending or the creation of any laws or any corporations) and how economics work.

      • Stephanie says

        @ David, I don’t get why people are still pissed off about Bush II invading Iraq. By 2014 American and Iraqi troops found no less than 5000 functional chemical warheads – and on at least four occasions, were injured by them.

        Let’s not forget Saddam Hussein was guilty of genocide against the Kurds. I thought the lesson we keep telling ourselves is that it’s always okay to remove genocidal dictators?

        • Fluffy Buffalo says

          @Stephanie You could have mentioned that these were remnants of decades-old and well-known chemical-weapons programs, not recently produced. But hey, why let inconventient details get in the way of defending a war started under false pretenses?

    • @Kevin Herman

      George W Bush was much worse than Obama. “W” was our Antichrist; he put the stake into the heart of what little was left of the Republic after the Kennedy, Johnson & Nixon administrations. If no “W” then no Obama.

      • Stephanie says

        @EK, i dont think that last part is accurate. You got Obama because it was the Democrats’ turn at the helm and 30 % of Democratic primary voters are black.

  14. I think the article mischaracterises what is happening. The boundary of what is considered sexist for exampl eis not being shifted so remarks are interpretted more sensitively as sexist in a uniform way. Remarks which are not just borderline sexist but outright advicate severe discrimination against men are considered perfectly acceptable whereas the most marginal and well intended remark simply implying that some differences between men and women may be biological in origin are considered as clearly sexist and unacceptable. My eyes were opend to this by an article which argued the NHS had failed because although the live expectancy of men and women had improved the gap had closed a little so women lived only 3.5 years longer than men instaed of neary 4 years longer. My observation that this was an odd way to regard something which was an improvement for both sexes and an improvement in equality was met with accusations of misogyny. It only struck me later that a mainstream publication was arguing a goal of public policy shoudl be to maintain womens life expectancy significantly above men and that next to no one thought this odd or sexist.

    The US culture around perceptions and accusations of racism are significantly different from the UK so I don’t have personal examples but I think the same pattern is present.

    Overall what has happened is radically different standards of what is considered deviant have become the norm and are acceptable with very much lower tolerance of groups discriminate dagainst mot obviously white heterosexual men and a much higher tolerance level become the norm for other groups most obviously women. The level of tolerance extended to women in paticular is extreme with outright advocacy of violence against men or statements that women should hate all men being acceptable in the mainstream press.

    This is really old fashioned bigotry branded in an orwellian way as the opposite.

  15. Ron Bialkowski says

    The article’s premise is that behavioral norms on the left stalls conversations and generalizes about the motivations, actions, and convictions of others. The trouble is that the same premise can be presented concerning the right as well. A centrist ideological critique should look at the ways different value systems and world views can make conversations more difficult. A centrist political critique should be mindful of the social psychology and context in explaining any group behavior.

  16. Farris says

    Both the Right and Left are on the hunt for a, pardon the pun, mythical trump card story or evidence. This hunt plays out in the press in various ways: this upcoming witness is going to bring down Trump, this piece of evidence is going to expose Clinton machine corruption, this action categorically demonstrates white male patriarchy, this weather event proves or disproves man made global warming, ect…
    The desire to reveal this so called illusory conclusive evidence is indicative of the present unwillingness to debate ideals or confront contradictory opinions. Unfortunately, today when people or journalists rush to foment these later proven false or fraudulent events and stories, there is little consequence. At most the story, tweet, blog, ect… is taken down and sometimes an apology issued. This alleged remorseful conduct lasts until the next appearance of a potential trump card story or event. If you wish to know which side is worse about instigating furor to theses public misrepresentations, just ask the opposite side. These fraudulent stories are what give legs to the term “Fake News”. Presently, the news is more spun than reported.

  17. Marshall Mason says

    The Prejudice + Power redefinition of racism is a classic bait-and-switch. First, define racism narrowly, to apply to egregious cases of explicit prejudice and bigotry. Develop a visceral reaction to accusations of racism. Teach society to condemn anyone accused of it. Make it clear that it is never okay, even when blacks do it (Obama gave an entire speech on this in 2008).

    Then expand the definition to include anything that disagrees with you, include any behavior you don’t like and even include inanimate objects such as walls or hats. Then you can use the old word to evoke a trained response of revulsion but apply it to things that were never included in the original meaning that created that revulsion in the first place. Then add the Power element so that you can excuse any bigotry of your own side, no matter how egregious.

    This is all mainstream now. The real radicals these days have moved to eliminate the Prejudice part, so that anyone with white skin is racist, full stop.

    • Stephanie says

      @Marshall: Accurate. Although they may be surprised to find how quickly people adapt to the new usage. When people stopped looking at ads on the side of the screen, Google started putting ads as the top two search results. Within only a few years, researchers found that people’s gazes started immediately skipping to halfway down the page.

      I think a growing number of people are meeting accusations of racism with the immediate assuption that whatever happened was trivial. Unless it’s someone on the right saying it, I have little confidence the word is being used correctly.

  18. Prejudice + Dysfunctional Behavior = Membership in Recognized Victim Group + Special Rights.

    Pro-social behavior + Hard Work – Special Rights= Racist

    Obviously, you want to encourage the first and discourage the second, because a society full of dysfunctional people reliant on public assistance to exist and full of anger and resentment at the productive members of society is a recipe for sustainable growth.

  19. Brad Gillespie says

    I think it’s time to think about racism a little differently. What has happened in the US over the past 100 years or so? There is no question whatsoever that it is considerably less racist than it was, even as close as 20 years ago. The self-conscious effort to rectify an issue that continually dissipates seems only to have worsened it. Now racism is perceived as a conscious invention, rather than a perceived reality. The focus of high thinkers in our prestigious institutions have blessed us with an over sensitive and seemingly less capable of thought group of thinkers, many of whom have very inventive minds, but only when it come to increasing the divisions amongst people who otherwise most likely would have none, or few. Racism, frankly, is not an issue: the concept of racism is. This applies to most of the other rampant isms out there as well. If you want to believe in widespread victimization, you can find proof…but not much, and only with a very particular instrument. My own thoughts are that the mind-numbing urge and effort to get rid of racism is actually increasing it, as normal people, who aren’t racist at all, get sick of being labled by others who don’t even know them. You are racist, because as a society, we are racist. You are a member of this society, so the connection is obvious. This has become a social sickness.

  20. Morgan Foster says

    Regarding the progressive redefinition of racism, it isn’t necessary to cede the field in conversation.

    I continue to use the word in its traditional sense, and when challenged, simply refuse to accept the progressive version.

    This may cause a few conversations to come to a halt, but if a progressive won’t talk to you when you decline to accept their rules, then the conversation wasn’t likely to lead to very much anyway.

    BTW, I never allow myself to be caught in a “definition game”. I am not going to define the word “racism” as I use it. That simply leads to a paralyzing round of bickering. Their intent being that you give up out of exhaustion and accept their definition in the hope that you can then move on to something else.

    I don’t play that.

  21. Bill P says

    I think you’re overanalyzing the issue. The reaction to the boy is no different from what a reaction to a black man circa 1929 standing up to a white provocateur in the South would have been. White boys are supposed to defer, to lower their eyes, to apologize, etc. To stand up and look a racial superior in the eye is uppity, insolent intolerable behavior that provokes rage. It’s a violation of the natural order of things, in which women and people of color are morally and socially superior, and should be treated as such.

    What’s weird about it is how many white men have internalized this attitude themselves, but allegedly a lot of blacks used to be the same way (hard as it may be to believe it today).

    The people calling for the Nick Sandmann’s head are having the exact same reaction to the boy’s behavior as Southerners had to blacks who violated racial norms during Jim Crow. Their emotions are identical. The decades-long campaign of hatred against white males has done its work. What is this concept of “white privilege,” which quite explicitly states that whites are morally less deserving than others, besides a modern-day version of the curse of Ham aimed squarely against white Christian men?

  22. Morgan Foster says

    What’s particularly distressing to white men is that their demonization is being driven in large part by white women.

  23. ccscientist says

    The author mentions “systemic patriarchal structures and actions by a collective” and the same idea is put forth for “systemic racism” but while such things existed in the 1950s I have yet to see any evidence for them today (except for the claims about the cops war on the black community, that’s it).
    The defining of deviancy up goes only one way, a ratchet. Those on the left guilty of serious crimes such as calling for genocide of israelis are not bothered.
    The idea that blacks can’t be racist is simply false. There are far far more black-on-white crimes than the converse. This is a real consequence. Blacks notoriously hate Korean owners of local business.
    I agree with the author that call-out culture (eg. obsessing about dreadlocks as cultural appropriation) is not curing any social ill. It is not making blacks better off financially. It is causing white resentment. People have been killed because of it and many more terrorized. The Covington kids and families are getting death threats.

  24. ccscientist says

    There was a black someone on Fox being interviewed about the Covington thing and he asserted that a MAGA hat is the same as a KKK robe. So half the country are evil racists when probably fewer than that were real racists back when the KKK had power.
    This defining your enemy as no longer human is how you get genocide. It is what Hitler did to the jews before the mobs attacked them.

    • Morgan Foster says


      And the OK symbol is now code for white supremacy. Presumably, non-white people may use the OK symbol without giving offense.

      • Stephanie says

        @ccscientist, I’m sure it’s impossible for anyone who has spent time in San Francisco to not have noticed the violent animosity blacks have towards Asians in that city. The intersectional hierarchy is steep, and what makes it even more dangerous is that the historic power white males possessed renders claims of their current persecution laughable to those who choose to ignore it.

        Particularly at a time when white people are becoming a minority in many developed countries, the chances for genocide are real and deadly serious. Jews (as always) will probably come first, but Asians aren’t far behind white people. Like the last generations of communists, competence is guilt.

  25. jimhaz says

    “acknowledging the price we’re all paying for expanding our understanding of what constitutes deviancy”

    Deviancy from the norm did create the massive array of species we are gradually killing off.

    Is what is occurring now predetermined more by the dramatically changed nature of the manner in which people interact with the world, including the downside of affluence, than anything that will ultimately be modified by widespread discussion of deviancy from the norm or increasingly what seems to be moral deviancy.

    As a person of double the average age of world citizens I sometimes fleetingly wonder if it is pointless to be concerned. I also question how much of whatever danger I may perceive is ego based – how much of the “unfairness” or moral wrongness I feel is because it is different to what my ego says is good, rather than being truly significant, as in a further slide into totalitarian rule.

    Is it just that my views of these worldly matters is formed from more of the past, than newer generations, and that the loose moral systems now arising are fitted to this point in our evolution, and that correction to the norm will occur only when it is forced by negative consequences or conditions. If you look even 100 years into the future it is hard to see how anything will be like it is today – massive success or failure as it may be. With success, at the very least our desire for electronic experiences will be 10 tiems more ravenous.

    Progress, in both social and technological terms, is essentially a weakening of the individual for the sake of the increasing many. This is repaid by an easier physical life, a longer lifespan and a broadening of experiences. As these are outcomes we all desire, and as we are gluttons, more and more of what we are seeing appears unstoppable.

    Are we are now (ever growing) products of our (ever growing) products. In a system so large can the causes that cause the western young or angry progressive mentalities to be as they are now, be changed, other than by extremely dramatic and traumatic events.

    In the end what I’ve learnt from the IDWers is sufficient for me to know identity politics must be made distasteful using reason and that the pace of the destruction of existing positive masculine archetypes must slow.

    One ‘out there’ thing I can turn to, to reject just being Que Ser Sera about this, is in terms of security. The more one opens the boundaries of what is acceptable, the less unified a group can be, or become. “Loose” people do loose things and think it is their right to refuse any authority. Big world players like China, Russia and Indian see advantages in preventing this occurring in their own countries, meaning they will have higher ratio of more functional human resources for conflict of any form. It would not be wise for the western world to change social conventions at a pace that the more conservative powers decide is dangerous to them. That is what is occurring now.

  26. ccscientist says

    I suggest a new motive: in a world without a cold war, in which people have rejected religion, in which meaning is almost a meaningless word, in which love and marriage have become a big joke, the one truth that many people think they have found is “oppression” of minorities. Nevermind that they are 70 years late to the party, that “colored” drinking fountains can’t even be found anymore. This is the single good thing, the single morality that they think they have found. But a morality based on oppression must have an oppressor. They all want to be first to call out the evil, to show that they are moral. But since there are almost no actual discrimination acts going on, they can only infer it from red ball caps and political affiliation. A dangerous game but that is what they are playing.

    • Foyle says

      Blame the decline of professional sports? – used to be that people (men) lived out their urges to violence, conflict and tribal (or Nationalistic) excesses through the harmless arena of professional sports, particularly of the team variety. Now those leagues are dying in popularity seemingly as the world becomes ever more mired in political tribalism and conflict. Perhaps there is inverse correlation?

    • Nakatomi Plaza says

      You’re a white male, aren’t you? (Yea, I know. I’m oppressing you and hurting your feelings by speculating about your race and gender. So go have a good cry and put your big-boy pants on before you return.) Go talk to somebody who isn’t a white male and see how quickly they call you out on your nonsense. Drinking fountains aren’t segregated anymore so racism doesn’t exist? Come on. You can’t possibly be that insulated from reality.

      And feel free to put your money where you mouth is and tell a black person that discrimination ended 70 years ago. I would pay money to see that conversation.

      • What’s wrong with discrimination, Nakatomi? Isn’t every animal and human being discriminating at some occasions, and out of instinct or cultural habits? I know, I know, from the Human Right bills it’s not allowed, but, it seems, even babies and toddlers of 2 or 3 yrs old are discriminating (psychologists found out with black and white dolls). By the way, Bolsaro of Brasil on that human rights bill: a hobby of the left! And, as I know, also in the African continent, a lot of discrimination among tribes, I tell you, because I’ve lived there quite some time. What’s wrong in the US to deny this all the time??

      • Diana says

        I am a Honduran woman who has lived in Arkansas and Texas. I thoroughly agree with all comments here (except yours) and loathe identity politics. Minorities at my work get away with murder because of political correctness. The only times I’ve been catcalled and even followed to my car was by Hispanic or black males. Many of my black friends and legal immigrant friends all reject this oppression BS

  27. Jeffrey O'Neill says

    The gender wage gap is a myth . Unless your force women to work more hours and in different areas of the workforce they’re will always be a gender wage gap It’s not a bad thing as it represents the free choices of millions of people.

    The explosion of black single parent households probably accounts for most of the stalling of black incomes compared to whites. 75% of black children are now raised in a single parent household. Let that sink in. Blacks need to do better.

    Illegal immigration is also negatively impacting this at the bottomed of the economic ladder. The fight for unskilled work is high and wages are suppressed

  28. Fickle Pickle says

    Culture is a powerful force field which patterns and controls all human activity, and ideas. It is a field, an aggregate of thought and emotion, a taxonomy that scrambles all disparate notions into a seemingly coherent and powerful whole.
    All counter-cultural movements generated within, or more correctly by the field always strengthens the cultural field though it might seemingly tumble some cultural king pins.
    Following all “revolutions” the cultural field remains largely untouched.
    The field as itself is inviolate, its contents incidental, for it can absorb any content into its own formal elements and subsequently transform it.

    During the American war against the people of Vietnam protestors thought that they could bring true and lasting positive changes.But the cancerous violence of that war simply shifted its locale and is now more widespread than ever – inevitably so.

    The all powerful cultural force-field automatically makes an ally of every effort to change it and thus has no adversaries. More often than not the ideas and emotions with every effort is turned into another must have consumer product.

    The cultural force-field can take on any form.
    The USA, with its Bibles, flags, munitions and soulless shopping malls, is but one expression of culture, an all powerful force field with many faces, using everything to its advantage, growing more and more toxic every day. The cultural force-field is completely indifferent to the well-being of all living-breathing-feeling beings, human and non-human.

    Everything and everyone systematically reduced to the lowest common denominator by the relentless “logic” of postmodern capitalism

  29. Doug Ducat says

    Great article. I would just add that the redefining of the term “racism” to refer to “power-plus-prejudice” originated in an anthropology journal article in the early 1970s. There were actually several definitions in anthropology for racism at the time, but this particular framing was attractive to the Black Panther Party in the mid 1980’s as it provided the perfect excuse for its members to treat white people horrendously and disclaim the “racist” label, reserving it only for whites that targeted blacks with prejudice.

    The term was used in this same manner in several academic works over the next 20 years until it finally became part of colloquial “woke” language just a few years after the turn of the millennia. It has since been used in much the same way the Black Panthers used it: To excuse racially motivated abuse of white people by people of color while simultaneously retaining the right to label white people for the same behaviors.

  30. In different countries (with their own history), different stances exist and develop on the issues race and racist. I read here with interest what D.Ducat has to tell about what antrhopology had to say about in in the 1970s. In the NL, in that same time, the whole idea of the term race was suspended, no justification, a social construct,no taxonomic significance anymore for biological human race as a classification, due to the large variations found within geographical populations. Racism, however, strangely enough, was not abolished, it is still lingering in all whites, we now know from a certain professor (herself almost white, but her hair made up in dreadlocks). Whether you are inclined to it,want or know it yourself? Not important. Part of the social truth,

    • Or deny it exists? (of course). The parents of those discriminating kids were embarassed, without realising that they themselves caused it.

  31. Sean S says

    The left has gone entirely insane, ask anyone from Soviet union, China, Vietnam, Cuba, Venezuela, this what their country look like when madness get started.

  32. Timm John says

    Thanks for using the picture of #MAGAKid diffusing the situation, when an (is he racist?) Indian is telling white kids to go back Europe.

    All the smart people knew before the whole video surfaced that the media was using the “smirk” as weaponized propaganda to attack their most hated enemy: Christian, White, MAGA, Males. It’s quite sinister the way it truly is. You can’t take down the white guy though we just keep moving forward and SMIIIIIILLLLLIIIIINNNNNG. Kinda sounds like a Hank Williams Jr song.

    Why does the media have that motive??? Cause we’re a bunch of cowboy maverick renegades that can take care of ourselves and aren’t hip to the idea of an all powerful government ruling our lives. We are the biggest obstacle to Globalism, and the Liberal World Orders wet dreams. Smart good natured people no matter what race or creed, are going to continue to wake up and join our ranks. God, Guns, Good Attitudes. MAGA. Pro Life. Pro Business. Pro Creation.


  33. I would challenge the idea that the identitarianism described within this article and within the comments are Leftist or progressive. This tendency is not Leftist. It is neoliberal politics of elite brokerage that does not advocate for the things historically associated with the political Left – access to free-at-point-of-use health care, universal free public higher education, free child care, living wage, et cetera. These folks are not interested in a redistributive economic program – they are interested in perpetuating “managerial classes” that “administer” to X,Y,Z populations.

    A lot of Leftist thinkers have written back against this, and I wish Quillette would encourage more of them to write here – Adolph Reed, Catherine Liu, Vivek Chibber, Angela Nagle, and Cedric Johnson all come to mind.

    This video encapsulates how and why this phenomenon is, in fact, not Leftist at all –

    As much as I loathe #45 and loathe the reactionary politics associated with him, I dislike the notion that everyone who voted for him is a racist and this idea that we can hypothesize that “half the country is racist” because of the election outcome. First of all, only about 26-27 percent of eligible voters cast their ballot for him – so how is that exactly “half the country?” Second, 42 percent of eligible voters did not vote at all – presumably because they thought Clinton and Trump were equally awful candidates, because of voter suppression tactics, or just out of apathy related to the onward march of bipartisan neoliberalism that has hijacked US politics for decades.

    The folks evoking this identitarian neoliberalism are harming the cause of the political Left in the United States and, although they would claim otherwise, they are not continuing the work of the Civil Rights Movement, second wave feminism, and LGBT rights movements.

    I realize that writing back against this tendency will invariably incite accusations of aiding racism, sexism, et cetera or even of being a racist, sexist myself. I don’t care. I’m done bowing down to this nonsense. My disagreements with the Right on economic issues, civil rights issues, et cetera are longstanding. I don’t need to constantly voice my wide-ranging disagreements with right-wingers in order to justify my critique of identitarian neoliberalism, which I think is resulting in worsening social divisions and blatant double standards. “Unite the many to defeat the few” is the way forward.

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