Victimhood culture and its alternatives

May 18, 2018 • 11:30 am

About five weeks ago I highlighted a new book by Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning, which you can buy (or see a preview) at the link below. It’s by two sociologists, and although there may be a bit much academic sociology for the general reader, there are lots of references to back up their statements.

I thought the book worth reading because I firmly believe that much of intersectional and authoritarian Leftism is a form of solipsism rather than a call for social justice—a way of calling attention to yourself (there’s nobody so demanding of empathy as a self-styled victim) to set you apart from others. That’s not to say that there are no victims, for of course bigotry persists in this world, but it’s hard to explain how those who are fully entitled and “privileged” nevertheless try to place themselves as high as possible on the victim hierarchy, and do things like demanding new forms of segregation, like campus “cultural centers,” or kicking gay men off the hierarchy because they’re not sufficiently oppressed.

What’s new in the interview that’s not in the book is the authors’ analysis of the #MeToo movement and a more detailed discussion of “cultural appropriation”, whose policers see as a form of moral pollution. They also have a few choice (and not necessarily positive) words about Lindsay Shepherd, who seems increasingly to be touting her own status as victim as well as courting white supremacists while denying it.

This view is not popular, for it “erases” the self-styled victims, but I think Campbell and Manning have some valid points. As I summarized their argument in my last post:

. . . the main topic is the pervasiveness of victimhood culture on college campuses, which means mostly the Left.

Campbell and Manning explain why campuses seem to have become the focus of this culture (I won’t explain that here), and contrast it with two other forms of culture that have existed over history. One is “Honor Culture” (the culture of the Old South, some Muslim societies, and many street gangs), in which individuals are expected to be offended by insults and take matters into their own hands, meting out what they consider “justice” to restore their honor. Another is “Dignity Culture”, in which individuals are supposed to ignore insults, but, if harassment becomes too pervasive or damaging, to appeal to third parties like the government rather than acting as vigilantes.

Campbell and Manning claim that “Victimhood Culture” is a hybrid of these two forms: individuals, seeing themselves as victims (the pivotal aspect of such a culture), easily take offense at slights and insults, real or perceived, and yet rather than rectifying these slights themselves, appeal to third parties for adjudication. In this case, it’s mostly university authorities (and, of course, social media) who are the “third parties.” That explains in part the huge recent growth of administrators relative to faculty members in American universities. Many of these administrators are there to adjudicate disputes or enforce speech or behavior codes.

If you don’t have time to read their book, the two authors are interviewed by Quillette editor Claire Lehmann at the following link:

I can do little more than call attention to this article, and give you two quotes:

We argue that victimhood culture, at least in its more extreme forms, is new. We see it in its purest form on contemporary college and university campuses. Manifestations of victimhood culture include complaining about and punishing microaggressions, demanding and creating safe spaces, requesting and requiring trigger warnings, and banning or disinviting speakers who might offend designated victim groups.

. . . Like honor cultures, victimhood cultures emphasize one set of vices and virtues over others. They are concerned with eradicating oppression and privilege, and this single-minded moral obsession can lead to the similar kinds of perversities that come from neglecting other virtues in honor cultures. But even in an honor culture your moral status usually has to do with your own behavior rather than someone else’s. In a victimhood culture it’s instead your identity as a victim that gives you status. It’s not your own virtue at all, but someone else’s treatment of you, that makes you virtuous.

One problem with this is that you end up with a system of morality that doesn’t offer much incentive for good behavior. Honor cultures incentivize bravery while neglecting other virtues. But if you want esteem in a victimhood culture, what can you do? It’s not like you can become a victim. Or actually, you can — you can portray yourself as weak and in need of help, you can portray others’ behavior toward you as harmful and oppressive, and you can even lie about being the victim of violence and other offenses. Victimhood culture incentivizes bad behavior.

The extreme form of victimhood culture we see among activists on college campuses leads to another problem in that one’s status as a victim comes not just from individual experiences of victimhood but also from one’s identity as part of a victim group. The idea is that all members of certain groups are victims, but that no one else is. Activists even argue that whites cannot be the victims of racism, or men the victims of sexism. Likewise, whether people can be victims of new offenses like cultural appropriation or microaggression, depends on their identity. A white person wearing a hairstyle associated with African Americans would be cultural appropriation, for instance, but an African American wearing a hairstyle associated with whites would not be. Likewise, those who have pioneered the concept of microaggression have made it clear that not all slights count. A white male elementary school teacher may experience stereotypes and put-downs, for example, but to call those microaggressions would be a “misapplication of the concept.”

The incentivizing of victimhood as a moral virtue also explains why so many campuses are caving into it, becoming virtual slaves to the demands of their students, and why the student complaints become increasingly ridiculous. I see this happening on my own campus, and there are parts of it I can’t abide (see here, for instance).

Everyone wants to be special in some way, and, by viewing identity politics through the lens of sociology and psychology, Campbell and Manning offer one entrée into the tortuous world of campus politics.

h/t: cesar

117 thoughts on “Victimhood culture and its alternatives

    1. And, in line with victimhood culture, the true victims get the blame, and the shooter is presented as the victim because the poor thing was allegedly bullied.

  1. I frankly think that identity politics is reductive, pushing people into cookie-cutter molds in a way that denies people’s unique selves.

    Identity politics has a not-so-hidden core of naked untempered rage, comparable to that of certain right-wing movements.

    1. Regular commentator here, Matt Cunningham, hit it on the head the other day, I think – it’s not about equity or other laudable goals, it’s about inverting the power structure. IOW, Regressives engage in identity politics not because they want equity, they want to use the power they get from their antics over others.

      1. “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”
        — Martin Luther King, Jr.

        1. Ol’ Martin sure had a way with the Queen’s English (though I suppose it was still the King’s English back when he started preaching at Daddy King’s Ebeneezer Baptist Church).

          1. Boy, we sure could him right about now. The hate throughout this country is palpable and is now dug in deep. It will not go away anytime soon, if ever.

            1. It has been here all along, covered by a thin patina of equality and brotherhood. People who previously didn’t express this hate, now feel free to do so. They seem to think it necessary to prevent the expression of certain offensive (to them) and harmful ideas, and to restrict the behavior of others. Sometimes this has caused vigilante “justice”. There is no right to prevent ideas you consider offensive from being expressed. You can remove yourself. It’s as though some individuals and groups think they are exceedingly virtuous and without the flaws they find in others. Not so.

            1. Martin was ordained as a minister at age 19, and had delivered sermons at Ebenezer even earlier, a common practice for a preacher’s kid in the Black Baptist church in those days (which puts him in the pulpit during the reign of George VI, if we’re gonna get all technical about it 🙂 ).

        2. He would not have been a fan of police being called to Starbucks, dormitories, and public parks. As a father, he probably took his children out in their strollers, too.

      2. I agree. In a similar post some time back I suggested what I think is an example of this. When regs can force people to refer to them or their group in some way- especially a lengthy and/or unwieldy way- you’ve essentially forced them to bow to you

        1. In other words, you don’t want to give up the power to denigrate people by using words they find offensive?

          Call me a girl or a chick or a bitch and you’ll find out what it really feels to be a victim — the victim of a woman with mad martial arts skill!

            1. Possibly!

              Or… I could work toward living in a world where I wouldn’t have to endure those patronizing epithets on a daily basis, and where people didn’t feel they could assert their unearned dominance by daily insults against me due to something that’s an accident of birth.

              It seems to me that the people complaining about “victim culture” are people who don’t know what it’s like to be repressed, suppressed, and insulted by people who think the accidents of their birth give them extra rights.

              1. “Patronising epithets” – really?

                When I was at secondary school I had to put up with real abuse, such as being called “puke” every day, being physically attacked, getting footballs kicked into my face, having my front teeth smashed, and getting broken glass in my right eye. Nonetheless I don’t consider myself to be a victim.

                But if someone says “girl” to you, you will respond with physical violence. Grow up.

              2. I’m with Richard there.

                ‘Patronising’ is in the eye of the beholder. If you wanna be a victim badly enough, you can simply define *any* descriptive word as ‘offensive’ or ‘patronising’ or some other sort of microaggression.

                I guess I could define ‘guy’ or ‘bloke’ or ‘fellow’ as microaggressions and threaten violence to anyone who uses them about me – but I can’t think of anything more pointless.

                It’s all in the context anyway.


              3. If you were called names as a child, and you are white, you will “outgrow” that experience in that adults don’t do that to each other in general. But if you are not white, you don’t outgrow that. The people who denigrated you then may have even more power over you as an adult.

              4. If you were called names as a child, and you are white, you will “outgrow” that experience in that adults don’t do that to each other in general. But if you are not white, you don’t outgrow that.

                That’s way to big of a generalization. Children get teased or bullied for all sorts of reasons, and how much it stays with them into adulthood can’t be reduced to skin color.

          1. I eschew the proclivity to violence, but, like you, I also don’t understand why some people are so invested in not calling people whatever the hell it is they prefer to be called.

            Like most people, I thought Howard Cosell was obnoxious, but I respected the hell outta him when he was the first public figure to come out and say, if Cassius Clay wants to be called “Muhammed Ali,” then, dammit, we should call him “Muhammed Ali.” Everybody ought to be afforded similar respect, is the way I feel about it.

            1. Exactly. It’s the polite thing to do. It shouldn’t be called “politically correct” to treat people with consideration.

              1. I remember in 1974 my sister had really curly hair and special shoes with straps that attached to her hips to correct severe pigeon toed feet and her classmates called her the crooked legged white nigger. How does a person deal with that.

            2. I think people like Jordan Peterson object to the law (if it IS a law)simply on the grounds that it’s coercive, and using certain words isn’t–or shouldn’t be–coerced to use words in a democracy. I’m not sure he wouldn’t call anyone by their preferred pronoun. As i’ve said repeatedly, I would, too, as a matter of civility.

              Have you seen anybody deliberately call someone by titles or pronouns they object to? I don’t think it’s very common.

              1. I don’t think anyone ought ever to be compelled to say anything in their personal capacity. Full stop. But if the university where Peterson is employed adopts a rule requiring that students be called by their preferred gender pronoun, I don’t think Peterson has any more right to refuse to do so without consequence than the wait-staff at a restaurant has a right to refuse to announce that the special of the day is foie gras because they disapprove of gavage (or tuna, because it wasn’t caught in dolphin-safe nets).

                My sense of it is that there’s been some grandstanding on this matter by Prof. Peterson.

              2. As a matter of record: the law is about harassment, and harassment is a matter of repetition. Peterson can just use names, correct himself to use one after one false start, etc.

            3. I half agree, if, say, ‘homosexuals’ want to be called ‘gay’, call them gay, if ‘blacks’ want to be called ‘black’ or in the US ‘african american’, so be it, if ‘whites’ want to be called ‘caucasian’, if the ‘san’ prefer ‘bushman’, etc. etc., who am I to oppose?
              However, I object to being forced to use phantasy invented pronouns such as ‘zis’ or ‘zap’ or whatever.

          2. Some of those words are contextual.

            Women often call each other “gal” as a form of empowerment, though it is considered bad when men do, and there is nothing wrong with a movie being called a “chick flick”.

            1. A lot of us do *NOT* use those words, FYI. I haven’t been called a gal in a very very long time, and I would go to a rom-com, not a chick flick.

              Taking a bad word away from the people who use it as a tool for enforcing a power dynamic is a tool that’s been used by lots of groups. My best friend in h.s. was one of very few chinese kids. She called herself “chink” as a defense.

              1. I knew someone online years ago who used “Chino” as his name. He had moved to Mexico from Singapore, and his new compatriots didn’t know that “chino” was the Spanish equivalent of “chink”. He has since moved to the US, where he still uses it a name. I must admit I have trouble with other variations of this – can you imagine someone adopting “Nigger” as a name? 😉 I guess the difference is partially that “China” is the feminine equivalent and is well established.

            2. My wife and her friends call each other ‘the girls’ and they wouldn’t know what to call themselves if that were forbidden. If I called them ‘chicks’ they’d scream with laughter, I’m certain of that. (I have no idea what they call me, but I’d guess it’s something mildly derogatory, not (I hope) hostile, but almost certainly slightly vulgar).

              But then, they’re Pacific islanders and they’ve never heard of political correctness or victim culture.


  2. Victimhood culture seems to have started with Christianity. That’s the gist I got when I read Nietzsche’s “On The Genealogy Of Morals”.

    1. And they haven’t let up any since. Listen to the Mike Pences of the world piss-‘n’-moan about how tough they’ve got it, what with their not being able to discriminate against others, all the while with lickspittle politicians across the nation kissing their ass. “War on Christmas,” my eye.

      1. Victimhood culture was a part of Christianity from its inception. There is a lot in Christian history about them being the victims of the Romans, and the Romans killing them and creating martyrs.

        In fact, the Romans went out of their way to NOT kill Christians, and gave Christians every opportunity to avoid being killed. The reality seems to be that some Christians were determined to become martyrs. They were the equivalent of suicide bombers, committing their suicide by cop.

        1. I read once that a Roman leader in Seville (I think it was) wrote a letter to the leaders of the Christian church pleading with them to convince their followers to stop throwing themselves to the lions. Seems it was ruining the show – the lions were supposed to eat “criminals” and captured enemies. My guess it wasn’t so much the show that got ruined, but the odds. Romans bet large amounts of money at these events.

          1. Must be a real bummer to have wound yourself up to being persecuted and martyred in the name of your religion – and then find out the lions aren’t really interested. 😉


        2. My impression, too. And when the victims got “equal” rights, in less than a century they inverted the power structure and banned everyone else.

        3. “The reality seems to be that some Christians were determined to become martyrs.”

          Or in today’s cultures:
          The reality seems to be that some [of an identity group] are determined to become [offended/inconsolable/un-appeased].

          To my jaundiced eye the champions of identity groups are always insufficiently placated – and escalate their demands. This has become so over-egged that true unjustifed discrimination becomes trivialised and people outside the identity group are turning against the victimhood mindset.

    2. It’s MUCH older than that. There is a primal human response to the aggrieved party demanding justice.

    3. If we follow Pinker’s advice we should avoid taking Nietzsche too seriously. Or perhaps even Frankfurt School Critical Theory. Oh well. Too many bogeys to keep track of.

      Arguably capitalism got its impetus from Calvinism. So Christianity created modern victimhood (slave morality of Nietzsche’s transvaluation rubric) and later the primary system for exploitation of said victims? From my memory of Fromm’s Frankfurt-like discussion which may be based on Weber the uncertainty of one’s final predetermined postlife status resulted in prosperity being an indicator of God’s favor. The vices of avarice and acquisitiveness became virtues. The Christian disdain for usury forgotten. At least Islam has one good point in its favor.

      Enter Ayn Rand and Branden’s egoism. Greenspan’s worship of the gold standard. Capitalism on steroids. That ideology (virtue of selfishness) eventually got mainstreamed. We are awash in it as fish in water. Our morals subverted by Friedman’s corporocratic monomania of fiduciary responsibility. Great Pacific garbage patch is our greatest work of art.

      Several decades ago “affluenza” was put forward as a thing. Is affluenza more or less a real thing than victim culture? Affluenza could help blow bubbles that pop and create many debtor victims. But if the core components of the system are rescued because TBTF the foreclosed could legitimately claim victimhood no? Or would that be so much ressentiment of the untermenschen? And based on Critical Theory that ressentiment could be manipulated by traditional and nontraditional media channels to foment misplaced rage. Enter Fox News, Glenn Beck and Alex Jones. The Enlightenment gave us the science of manipulation, partially brainchild of Bernays. We are victims of our creations. And Critical Theory is wrong how? Maybe too vague and general compared to Chomsky’s necessary illusions and manufacture of consent. And too disdainful of popular culture. Escapism is fun.

      But we are taught by our thought leaders that critical theory, postmodernism, relativism, gender studies, and Reza Aslan are the root of all evil. Everyone relevant is declaring as a “classical liberal”. WTF? The culture of victimhood for whatever merit the concept has will wake up one day to a mountain of student debt. Stand up straight and assume your place in the hierarchy lobster.

  3. Key phrases: “That explains in part the huge recent growth of administrators relative to faculty members in American universities.” And: “… explains why so many campuses are caving into it, becoming virtual slaves to the demands of their students.”

    Victimhood culture among a fraction of the students feeds perfectly into conventional aggrandizement among some administrators; and it stimulates the creation of more and more administrative sinecures specifically to service the student claims of victimhood. Holders of these sinecures in turn massage the victimhood culture among the students. It is a perfect positive feedback loop, which should perhaps be termed Evergreen, operating on every campus for years now.

    1. On many campuses, women comprise more than 50% of students, and “minorities” are a large fraction, not a tiny fraction as you imply. Add in LGBTQ and the people who grew up in privilege are becoming a smaller and smaller fraction. They need to adapt to a world where they don’t get to make all the rules.

        1. Are women running around campuses calling men names, demanding sexual favors for grades, raping them at parties, telling them they shouldn’t go to grad school but instead should get married & raise a family, unfairly deny them tenure (or mentorship that could help them get tenure), or deny them assistantships and fellowships even if they’re the ablest applicant?

          1. Yes, women are running around on campus, as well as other places, calling men names. Does the name Big Red ring a bell ?

            I have a friend who identifies as a Anarcho Communist. Whatever. I stopped following her on Facebook because her female Intersectional friends would attack me on a routine basis.

            Ever have numerous Leftists tell you that you and all of your neighbors and friends should die in floods because you live in a Red State ???

            What about the rash of female high school and middle school teachers having sex with underage boys ???

            I once had a female neighbor who attempted to sexually assault me

            Plenty of stories out there about standards being lowered for women and POC.

            Are there any false rape allegations out there? Duke, Rolling Stone, Mattress Girl ???

            1. I thought we were talking about college campuses.

              And don’t those false rape allegations constitute the exception proving the rule?

    2. Yes! It’s a tacit conspiracy between the professionally aggrieved and the self-serving administrators.

      It doesn’t just happen with victimhood culture. It happens with any social development.
      For example ‘health & safety’ – just look at the number of parasitic companies running courses or manufacturing overpriced ‘safety equipment’, and all of them eager to promote more and more expensive, time-wasting and pointless gadgets and regulations. (I’m not saying that all ‘safety’ is pointless and time-wasting, just that the useful safety measures were all in place some years back).

      Or the TSA and other ‘security’, happily causing more disruption and expense than Al Quaeda could ever have dreamed of.

      I could go on…


    1. Every time I open Yahoo!News (I use the “international”, i.e. US edition), I find some article(s) bashing white people. The only other group “enjoying” such normalized hatred are the Jews.

      1. You know that not everyone sees the same thing on Yahoo News don’t you? They skew the results based on what they think people in your zip code want to read.

      2. Out of curiosity, I went to Yahoo News just now. I didn’t see one article that bashes white people, or any group. I saw articles about individual criminals who happened to be white, but that is the closest I could find to what you claim.

        1. The yield is poor today because news are dominated by Prince Harry’s wedding and the Santa Fe shooting. See, however:

          “In what has become just another day here in post-apocalyptic America, a man was caught on video Tuesday unleashing a racist tirade inside of Fresh Kitchen, a fast casual restaurant in Midtown, Manhattan. His reason? Two customers had the audacity to speak Spanish to an employee who also spoke Spanish…”

          I’d wish the author to explain his reference to “post-apocalyptic America”, what exactly he had in mind by this.

  4. A recent incident perfectly incapsulates victim culture, as well as, by extension, the rise of perceiving even the smallest slights as burdensome oppression and hiding behind administrative processes to resolve even the pettiest of conflicts. Here is an article on the situation:

    Note the language the “victim” uses. Note the pettiness of the incident at hand. Note the idea that the “perpetrator” even attempting to resolve the issue through dialogue with the “victim” to be an even greater offense than the initial incident.

    1. Note the language the “perpetrator” uses:
      “I certainly had no desire to insult women or to make you feel uncomfortable” and suggested that Sharoni, born in Romania and raised in Israel, may have “interpreted my remark out of context.”

      Implicit bias is defined as a bias which someone is unaware of, and likely grew up with. So while he gladly assigns implicit bias to the woman, he won’t acknowledge that he could have an implicit bias.

      I wouldn’t have been “deeply” shaken by that remark, but it’s definitely sexist and tacky, and it’s the kind of thing women have to live with all the time. Why didn’t he say “Jock Straps, 3rd floor”??? Some men think they can say whatever they want to us and around us and then call us sensitive, and then we now have the men’s rights movement because rather than look inward, some men have decided to play you-too-ism. The men who look on or laugh at sexist jokes are the ones who really convey the idea that women are “less-than.” It was definitely an us vs. them moment.

      1. You are making an awful lot of assumptions and imbuing a single joke with tons of ideas, biases, etc. for which you have no evidence. And this, really, is the problem here: someone like you hear’s a joke, thinks, “well, I can interpret it as sexist, so it must be, especially since a man said it,” and that makes it OK to take administrative action against someone and/or destroy someone’s career. You’re convinced you’re fighting injustice and on behalf of humanity when, in all likelihood, someone just made a joke that had none of the intent nor connotations which you have imputed.

        You are the same person who, elsewhere in this comment section, said that they would commit actual, physical violence against someone for using the wrong words with you (and I would note that two of those words could easily be regional or colloquial terms that you, on a personal level, simply don’t like). You are so quick to interpret any simple word, sentence, joke, and anything else as an offense to yourself, women, humanity, or whatever that the very idea fills you with violent rage. You are not the kind of person most people want to trust with a powerful administrative process that can destroy others, largely because you’re so liable to take harmless situations — or, at the very most, situations that can be resolved by having a conversation like an adult — and destroy people over them (even physically).

      2. Because the joke is pretending you’re in an old time department store where you tell the elevator operator what department you want – it’s up to the operator to know the floor. You could call it a meme – it appeared in
        enough old TV shows and movies to be recognizable. He could have said “sporting goods” or “menswear” and it would have worked. “Jock Straps” isn’t a department.

        1. Agreed, though I think ‘sporting goods’ might not have been obvious enough to convey the reference.

          But – ‘Menswear’ ? How exclusionary. How male-obsessive. How dismissive and diminishing of women! The sort of mentality that would obsess about ‘womens lingerie’ could certainly find grounds for complaining about that.

          In fact any reference to any meme from 20 years ago is probably liable to complaint simply because they were soooo sexist and un-PC back then.

          I’m reading Damon Runyon’s Broadway stories – which may have just escaped from copyright in USA (or maybe not, your copyright laws suck). I’ll refrain from quoting a paragraph, suffice to say his names for every possible category of person would trigger a PC-quake today. (He’s also a bloody good writer and hilarious IMO). Which raises the question – is it the case that any writer’s output and worldview becomes un-PC before it even gets out of copyright?


        2. I couldn’t sleep last night. Saw an old Jack Benny episode from 1954. He told the elevator operator he wanted to buy a men’s shirt. the operator picked the floor

          1. Benny’s comedic persona was that he was cheap (even though Benny himself was a philanthropist), so I expect the joke would be for the elevator operator to know to take him to the discount department.

    2. “Note the language the “victim” uses. Note the pettiness of the incident at hand. Note the idea that …”

      The rhetorical device you’ve employed there is anaphora.

      I know you get off when I point such useless information out, BJ. 🙂

        1. BJ — As a fellow tennis enthusiast I left you links to a pair of interesting articles here. Don’t know if you ever made it back to that post to see ’em.

      1. Thank Ceiling Cat that my literature teachers seemed not to know that repetition had different names depending on where it stays in the sentence!

        1. Well, there is the theory that dissecting writing too closely is like dissecting a frog in biology class — one can learn a lot from the process, but it takes the life out of the object of the procedure. 🙂

  5. Victimhood culture is rampant among the authoritarian left, no doubt about it. But I don’t think it’s restricted to them. I think a significant factor in the rise of Trumpism is the extent to which the white working poor (egged on by right-wing media) see themselves as a set-upon identity group. They don’t care (or, perhaps, even comprehend) that Trump’s “policies” (such as they are) are inimical to their own long-term economic interests. They’re just thrilled to have a blowhard of their own (no matter how nutless his bluster) mouthing off against more traditional “victims,” whom, they feel, are getting a leg up on them.

    You ask me, the whole damn country is drowning in a rising tide of solipsism. Or maybe I’m just gettin’ crotchety in my encroaching dotage.

    1. It has been said, with some justification, that the white working poor is hated by the Republicans because they are poor and by the Democrats because they are white. Certainly neither party is interested in addressing their issues. Who should they side with?

      1. I dunno, Mikey. But they should’ve never fallen for an orange conman living in a gilded midtown palace who’s made a career outta ripping off working people — a guy who has his own chi-chi clothing line made in third-world sweatshops.

        This never woulda happened if organized labor were still a force to be reckoned with.

        1. This happened long before the Cheeto Toddler got into the White House – “What’s the Matter with Kansas” was published in 2004. Poor whites (the poor in general) have been ignored and or shat upon by both parties for a long long time.

          1. Oh, I didn’t mean to suggest otherwise. It’s just that the phenomenon has achieved the apotheosis of absurdity with the likes of Trump as their champion.

            1. Absurdity would have been electing the candidate who openly expressed contempt for while campaigning.

              3 Things.

              Trump can be a LOLcow, but the vendetta against him is hysterical.

              The difference between him and some of his predecessors is that he just reveals more of himself than they did.

              The world dodged a bullet when the US elected him.

              1. Donald Trump is manifestly unqualified to be president of the United States — by experience, by training, and (most crucially) by temperament. He has never given any serious though to public policy, or to the functioning of government, and he’s made plain he has no intention of starting to do so now.

                Hillary Clinton, OTOH, despite her faults (and they are myriad) was clearly qualified, as to each of the axes set out above, to hold the office to which she aspired.

      2. I don’t think white working poor are hated at all. Rich republicans may look down on them, but they don’t hate them. Rich people don’t find poor people threatening, and the white working poor just put Trump in power, so they haven’t harmed them. Hatred is a fear emotion.

            1. Apart from the mountain of comments before and especially after Trump’s election, there is lack of care concerning their problems (unemployment, low wages) and, most significantly, the immigration policy which is to bring in a large number of competitors for those jobs that cannot be outsourced, to bring further down their living standard and eventually to replace them.

    2. Yes, the essence of Trumpism is an appeal to the victimhood culture of his cult supporters. This is white identity politics as its worst and has brought this country to its sorry state. They think that the “undeserving” minorities are denying them their rightful place of dominance in American society. This is referred to as “status anxiety” and is not a new phenomenon in American history. The current version of this has been documented in an influential scholarly article by political Scientist Diana Mutz. Here is an interview with her.

      Interestingly, Michael Gerson, religious and conservative, sums up Trumpism this way.

      “Whatever else Trumpism may be, it is the systematic organization of resentment against

      So, complain all you want about leftist victimhood. Just don’t forget that the biggest purveyor of victimhood is the president of the United States.

      1. It’s a tried-and-true tactic for gaining authoritarian power (vs. equal power, which is what the minorities are doing).

        It worked quite well for McCarthy, and McCarthy’s lawyer is coincidentally linked to Trump.

        1. Yes, in the McCarthy era of the 1950s, the right wing attempted to associate all liberals with communism. Now, the right wing is attempting to associate all liberals with the authoritarian left. The tactic worked in the 1950s because liberals were scared out of their minds to be identified with communists. Now, many liberals are scared of being associated with the authoritarian left. Unlike the 1950s, liberals should not hesitate to push back at the right wing slurs and make clear that Trump’s cultish base, the practitioners of white identity politics, are the true danger to American society.

      2. That’s another really good piece by Gerson in the WaPo. He and his fellow former Dubya speechwriter David Frum have become two of my favorite never-Trump conservatives.

    3. Taking Critical Theory to the ultimate extreme we are as much media creations as the characters of our favorite TV shows and movies. Actually the whole free will debate dovetails nicely as we have as little control of our inner programming as we do the available programs on TV. We have more alternatives in the post-rabbit ear era, including now the web and its content. But as narrowcasting predominates we each get mired more deeply into our solipsistic filter bubbles. Maybe that explains Kanye as he morphed into just another character absorbed by the Kardashian borg cube.

  6. I read the Quillette interview yesterday, especially the part about the #metoo movement and the example of Azi Ansari as a sort of moral gray area, at least where the movement is concerned, and I thought it was really smart to present it as a problem of framing rather than the usual criticism of #metoo going “too far” or lumping together things that shouldn’t. If your only tool is to place everyone and everything along various axes oppressed and oppressor, you’re left without a language for those things that are bad or uncomfortable but not abuse. We’re seeing it now with Junot Diaz, and while I don’t want to deny anyone their own feelings about what happened to them, I’m having trouble with “forcible kissing” (unwanted kissing?) as assault.

    1. If you spit on someone it’s “assault with bodily fluids,” but if you kiss someone without their permission it’s just “oh well, the guy’s a jerk?” That doesn’t seem right.

  7. I tend to agree with the authors. At the same time, I’m wary of overhyping people who agree with me as a sort of academic breakthrough. A book-length argument from seemingly reasonable people might be good, but it’s not clear from the excerpts and interview that this is much more than a statement of opinion. Is there real research that can make the argument? For example, are people engrossed in offense-taking actually more unhappy or neurotic? Alternatively, are they actually better at avoiding subconscious bias?

    1. There is research that proves that minorities feel more self-esteem when they can spend time with people who have had the same experiences for the same reasons, e.g. affinity groups.

      I don’t know why it’s always been okay campuses to have students who get admitted as “legacy” admissions and then join an expensive, well-connected fraternity. (i.e. class, as it was on my campus), but it’s not okay for people who don’t have those privileges to make up their own groups.

      I hated the women who were ex-cheerleaders who all joined the same snooty sorority but I wouldn’t have wanted to deny them the right & opportunity to hang out with each other.

    2. I believe I’ve highlighted a paper on microaggression that uses lots of data to show that the vast majority of people supposedly targeted by “microaggressions” aren’t offended by them. But it’s too early for me to find it.

      1. I thought the point of paying attention to microaggression wasn’t that they are offensive in the individual instance, but that over time they accumulate and cause the victims to feel less-than and unwelcome, or worse.

        Being called a “girl” by one man on one day would be no big deal, but if I worked in a place where I was always called a girl or sweetie or honey, asked to make the coffee, talked over in meetings, etc. over time it would have a cumulative impact.

  8. Is this “victimhood culture” really a thing or just a constructed label to make biased observations and use motivated reasoning and pejoratively pigeonhole people we don’t like. We already have the rising use of “snowflakes”, “helicopter parents”, and “regressive left” with the inbuilt assumption that these are really things. Sure it’s great for rhetorical effect or polemic polarization (what’s with my alliteration today?), but does it enlighten or benight? As another example let’s take disparate people (eg- Pinker and Peterson) and pigeonhole them into the same bin. Oh that’s been done too.

    Reminds me of the controversy over whether the DSM is describing actual things. If I recall correctly “internet addiction” didn’t make the cut. Are some disorders bum steers that get affixed and treated?

    All this pejorative labeling is a byproduct of something deeper and more disturbing.

    1. Even if there is some over-reach, the movement in general is in the right direction — toward a society that is truly fair and equal.

      It should be okay to say “I’m sorry, I didn’t see things from your point of view, and I apologize for saying/doing something insensitive. I meant no harm, and thank you for letting me know that I’d accidentally done so.”

      If people would be more willing to do that, there would be no “outrage culture” or
      “victim culture.”

      But since so many “nice” people do jerk things, it’s up to society to put them in their place.

      1. Apologizing only empowers victimhood culture. It makes the self-alleged victim think of more demands, without care whether they are justified in any way.

    1. Atheism is as much about identity, ressentiment, victimhood, and grievance as any other self-categorization. We have our oppression and struggle narrative and our lawsuits against theistic profaning of the sacred secular space. Read Mehta’s blog on any given day. We have our Others, the Christians who keep us downtrodden.

      Another concentration camp survivor, Victor Frankl, saw a quest for meaning as a fundamental human drive. We seek to fill an existential vacuum. Being atheists we lack the ready made answers religions provide. With the rise of Nones, we also see a rise in mass consumption of podcasts, blogs, etc perhaps to fill our meaning voids and as a matter of escape, to assuage death anxiety. We have our allegiances to heroes.

      Nothing cements an identity as well as a demonized Other and the fracturing subsets of Atheists have plenty of demons and devils to wrestle or exercise. And we have our polarizing tropes be they the unfurled banners of social justice or free speech. Purity is expected either way. We actively seek worst cases as exemplars for our outrage.

      And we without the slightest hint of irony will harp on religion as a great instigator of conflict: Northern Ireland, Islam vs. West, annoying proselytizers knocking at our doors. Lose religions and conflict seeking remains with us.

      1. Please do not conflate either me or the readers of this website with people who cry about oppression by religion. As for your claim, “Lose religions and conflict seeking remains with us,” that’s just your opinion, one that is dubious since you claim that without religious there would be EXACTLY as much violence as we’ve always had, just another excuse for it.

  9. Hadn’t noticed Shepherd doing what you claim (touting her victim status and courting white supremacists) but what a sad state of affairs if true. 🙁

    1. Choosing Faith Goldy as her first “controversial” speaker is courting white supremacists, in my view. Also, listen to her video on why she left the Left, which I used to like but am now lukewarm about.

  10. Re-reading the interview, some things jump out at me:

    “By the 20th century, though, dignity culture had largely supplanted honor culture in the West. Writing in 1970, sociologist Peter Berger called the concept of honor obsolete, saying it had little resonance with modern people. People no longer lived in mortal fear of having their honor damaged. Questioning someone’s honor would result in a quizzical look rather than outrage… We argue that victimhood culture, at least in its more extreme forms, is new.”

    Having lived and worked in both black and hispanic areas, I can say that honor culture was NOT displaced in those cultures. White people don’t take up arms in affront, but minority people certainly do. Perhaps the situation on campuses is due to honor culture students arriving on campuses and clashing with dignity culture majority whites. And it’s certainly not “new!” Several civil rights movements are decades-old or older. They weren’t going to be granted their “dignity” by the majority. They had to demand it.

    And “honor culture” is a huge part of gang violence.

    “Activists even argue that whites cannot be the victims of racism, or men the victims of sexism.”

    the -ism of racism and sexism is *systematically* using power to repress people on the basis of race & gender, not mere prejudice. This is the definition that has been used in the “movements” for decades. It doesn’t mean that a black person can’t harm a white person if they have power over that person, but that white person can bounce back and move on with life because it’s not the normal way things are done. Racism & sexism are less prevalent now, but changing jobs or schools doesn’t make a black person less black or a woman less of a woman. How much research could these authors have done?

    “an effort to honor victims leads to credulity even in cases like the rape hoaxes at Duke and at the University of Virginia where it should have been clear that the accusers were lying. It also leads to efforts to weaken the due process rights of the accused.”

    The exception proves the rule! A few years ago where I live a girl was raped in her high school, reported it to the principal, and he sent her home to take a shower. The boy was not dealt with at all. The principal said the girl was a liar. The boy was eventually prosecuted, and the principal was moved to an administrative role (not fired!) This was not all over the national news. Why not? Because the girl was not on an NCAA team?

    The gymnastics coach who victimized young girls for YEARS and got away with it has finally been dealt with by administrators who knew all along. And today the news shows that yet another university shielded a man who victimized women for years.

    You can say that some people are butterflies or snowflakes, but you can’t take the position that things have gone too far. There are probably still many men out there getting away with horrible behavior because they get the benefit of the doubt or administrators look the other way. (I actually know of three in my field)

    Insisting that believers should *always* be believed really means, reverse the bias and assume she’s right because you (the administrator) probably still have an implicit bias in favor of the perpetrator. Nobody believes they have an implicit bias. That’s the definition of implicit bias, and it’s been shown through many studies that people do indeed have biases.

    So… I want to read the book now, but I remain skeptical. I disagree with painting any group of people with a broad brush. It’s not true that the “academy” is liberal — there are definitely conservatives in the academy. And it’s not true that all social activists have gone too far.

    I tend to be on the look-out for the fallacy of misleading vividness.

    I want to see a book on Outrage Culture, which is the true problem.

    1. Ummm. . . saying the “academy is no liberal” beccause there are conservatives there is like saying that men are not generally taller than women because there are some men shorter than some women. Look up the statistics–the VAST majority of professors are liberal.

      And who said “all social activists have gone too far.”

  11. I don’t remember who said it, might have been the Hitch, ‘micro-aggressions need only micro-responses’.
    (Note, I do realise that a continuous and unending flow of micro-aggressions can become very tedious at best and felt like a macro-aggression in a worse case scenario. I mean, I can understand it kinda adds up).

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