Control-Left: EVERYBODY is “problematic”

July 16, 2018 • 10:30 am

Why do I keep returning to HuffPost like a dog returning to its vomit? It’s probably because I consider the site, as the epitome of Control-Leftist journalism (and a widely read media platform) to be a harbinger of social changes to come in the Left. Already “mainstream” venues like the New York Times and the New Yorker, as well as a vast number of American colleges and universities, are showing the C-L streak, which I detect not by their social progressivism, but by a certain hectoring tone of their discourse and by the demonization of our political opponents as somehow morally impure.

Mixed in with those elements is the overweening method that C-Ls use in their attempts to effect social change: guilt. Like the Original Sin of Christians, all of us—and I mean everyone—is supposed to feel guilty because they harbor some degree of “privilege”: that we have benefited from the oppression of others and thus must atone for it, or at least admit it. (Lots of people have equated privilege with Original Sin.)

And, one by one, groups previously seen as oppressed are now seen as privileged: the most obvious example is the pronouncement by Britain’s National Union of Students that gay white males didn’t deserve representation in the LGBT societies because they don’t face oppression. Ultimately, the end of this slide is when everybody is deemed privileged, and told to atone for it, save for members of the most oppressed class. At the same time, everybody save cis white males will eventually be convinced they are oppressed and act like it, including Asian-Americans, one of the most privileged groups in the U.S.

In the HuffPo article below (click on screenshot), the privilege belongs not to white people, or gay males, but—wait for it—to Christians. Yes, the very same Christians who themselves complain about being oppressed. The insanity of this article, in which its author, a black woman, tells Christians that they’re all privileged and must atone for it, must be read to be believed:

An excerpt (my emphasis):

Some of us buy a pair of TOMS shoes to give a pair away to a child in Africa but never want to own the Christian industrial complex that economically disenfranchises children abroad and at home. Essentially, Christians want to have their cake and eat it too. We seek to hold what is pleasant or noble about our history while rejecting the notion of our participation in oppression systems, structures and organizations by nature of our belief in itself.

The problem is that if you identify as Christian (a highly politicized social identity as much as it is a religious one in the U.S.) you must, in having the social privileges of being Christian, also carry the social weight of taking on defensive postures to seem like one of the “good ones.”

This all gets shrouded under the notion that it simply isn’t fair to lump all people into one label or category. This is is sometimes true; however, with an identity as systemically privileged as being Christian is in the U.S. and with the gravity of historical nonsense perpetuated in the name of Jesus, it is not enough to simply ascribe responsibility to individuals in the same way it wouldn’t be helpful to focus on individual white people in dismantling systemic racism.

Notice first that many Christians are black, and hence already members of an oppressed group. Further, at least half, and probably more, are women, also oppressed. To what degree does their Christian “privilege” mitigate their oppression? How guilty should they feel for being Christian?

Second, how, exactly, are Christians oppressed? What is the “Christian industrial complex” of which they are members? What kind of guilt are you supposed to feel when giving away a pair of TOMS shoes to African children but are told that you’re a member of the “Christian industrial complex” of which TOMS is supposedly a part? Is TOMS even a “Christian” company? If so, I can’t see how. And the only criticism of TOMS I’ve found in a short trawl of the Internet is that the company might drive small shoe-sellers out of business or monetize white guilt by making people feel better without doing much. Well, something is better than nothing, and the plight of a few small shoe merchants seems lesser than that of many impoverished Africans. Yet TOMS is doing something—and I suspect far more than author Brandi Miller, who hectors fellow Christians for their privilege (she’s identified as “a campus minister and justice program director from the Pacific Northwest”).

Another excerpt:

Christians must learn a posture of listening, and instead of trying to crawl out of critiques, to ask better questions that help them to own identity and, as a result, hopefully gain renewal. There is no need to be defensive and decenter a conversation on perceived individual Christian exceptionalism when it simply serves to make the conversation about that Christian’s feelings rather than a critique being made on behalf of the marginalized.

38 thoughts on “Control-Left: EVERYBODY is “problematic”

  1. It seems that we live bouncing back and forth between the permissives and the controllers, each seeing themselves as the only alternative to the other. Both are very lazy positions, both avoid the hard work of the third option, fostering responsible autonomy.

    1. I used to feel like that when I was a young man. The oppressed – blacks and gays – had a righteous identity that bound them together while I was unsure and lonely. It made me jealous.

  2. I wish that, in the way the W3 is the commission that decides on standards for the Web, this wing of the Left would just create a single commission that would finally give us a clear mathematical formula to calculate how much “privilege” and/or “oppression” any given person has. Are you gay? You receive 5 oppression points. Are you male? You receive 55 privilege points. Are you Jewish? You somehow receive 46 privilege points, regardless of how much bigotry you may have faced for your Judaism. The formula, of course, would be completely illegitimate to all of us nonbelievers, but at least we could all be sure how each of us are to be perceived by these idiotic malcontents, rather than relying on a continuous stream of drivel from media outlets, academe, and Twitter.

    Of course, economic resources/position — by far the most critical aspect in predicting how one is treated and their life’s outcomes — would be left out. To weigh it properly and include it in the formula would prove very embarrassing to far too many of these activists, writers, and academics.

    1. You miss the key point BJ. Shifting standards are the point, so that you learn to accept what those of higher status tell you. Standards you could check against would make questions and objections legitimate; the goal is to make them uppity.

    2. If they did that, though, it would destroy the whole point. Oppressed groups–TRUELY oppressed groups–fight back against their oppression and build unity within the group. They recognize that there is a problem and they fight to fix it.

      Constantly harping on identity politics, in contrast, allows groups to be fragmented almost indefinitely. It allows a near-infinite gradation of “privilege” that allows anyone not toeing the party line to be silenced (remember, only the under-privileged get to speak!). It makes us each a minority of one, huddled alone, seeking shelter that can only be found in the Party.

      I know exactly how I am to be perceived by these idiotic malcontents: Insofar as I support their agenda, I’m a bit of volume in the screaming masses. Insofar as I oppose it, I am a threat to be shamed into silence. The important point isn’t how I am to be viewed–it’s controlling the discourse.

      (No, this doesn’t mean I’m in favor of Republicans. They’re just as bad, but taking a different direction.)

      1. So one is only truly oppressed if one fights back, huh?
        Kinda like how many people consider that a rape didn’t occur if the victim isn’t sporting defensive bruises–right?
        (I’m in no way claiming you actually believe the latter James, but the analogy is valid.)

        But as I commented below, Miller’s article certain isn’t about how Christians are oppressed, rather how they’ve been often used their privilege to oppress others.

  3. The MO of Christianity is to convince everybody that we are bad and deserve eternal torture or death, at least and then to provide the escape mechanism. “Hey you’re a bad person and you are going to die horribly, unless you subscribe to my religion”.

    This is just another way in which guilt is heaped on Christians to keep them firmly in the fold worshipping Jesus.

    1. I see this more as a secular ideology utilizing the same guild/shaming tactics as religion and happening to, in this instance, be targeting religious individuals.

      You can find the exact same tactics and language of “privilege” being used by and on the nonreligious as well.

    2. You probably didn’t read Miller’s article.
      I absolutely agree that that’s the MO of Christianity, but Miller isn’t referring to that at all.
      She’s talking about privilege that’s attained simply by being part of a certain group. She’s not trying to instill guilt in those who are part of that group rather to get them to recognize that privilege.

      1. She’s not trying to instill guilt in those who are part of that group rather to get them to recognize that privilege

        That sounds pretty much like trying to instil guilt into them to me.

      2. What is the point of the “privilege” assertion if not to instill guilt? What does “recognize that privilege” mean to someone like Miller?

        It strikes me that either it has the purpose of instilling guilt or it is a platitude bordering on a deepity. (Everyone is privileged relative to someone else in some way.)

        1. I could see trying to claim that guilt isn’t the point of the privilege game…if the very thing the movement does wasn’t telling people to “check [their] privilege],”, or, in other words, “shut you your god damn mouth/stop doing whatever it is you’re doing. You don’t have the right because you are X.”

          1. I mostly agree with you but I still don’t see what the point of a “non-guilting” privilege-point-out would be.

  4. I think you make a pretty good case for staying away from Huff Post and will continue to do that. I find all that preoccupation with privilege and who gets advantage over who just tired. The only time I see Christians as a privileged group is when I drive by one of their huge overpriced castles of worship which happens about every quarter mile in Wichita.

    1. “The only time I see Christians as a privileged group is when I drive by one of their huge overpriced castles of worship which happens about every quarter mile in Wichita.”

      And those castles only demonstrate the privilege of the one guy who owns the ministry. Everybody in that congregation pays for that lavishness, and is almost definitely poor or close to it. Oh, the privilege of being exploited!

    2. I read HuffPo and other leftist sites just as I read The Daily Wire and look at Breitbart (I can’t bear to read Breitbart): to see what’s happening among the various political factions. While Breitbart mentality infects the right, HuffPo mentality is changing the left. These are bellwethers for political change.

    3. I feel it every Sunday. Let’s say I want a beer. I do not follow their religion, and do not go to their places of worship to buy beer. Yet I am obliged to plan around their idiotic Blue Laws that forbid others from selling me beer.

      It’s a small thing, but one of those things that make me livid when a Christian speaks about how oppressed they are.

      1. Again, Miller isn’t talking about how Christians are oppressed, in fact, she’s calling out the privilege that Christians wield by denying you that Sunday beer.

    4. Randall, you live in Wichita, Kansas? And you don’t believe that Christians have certain privileges there?
      How can you deny that privilege here in the US when you’ve read so much about it right here at WEIT?

      This link was embedded in Miller’s article.
      It’s from 2012 (updated in ’14) long before most of us likely heard of “privilege” or “identity politics”.

      I have little doubt that most people here would have related to this list back in 2012 (maybe we did if anyone posted it here then). Why are things different now?

  5. What I enjoy is hearing the privilege-invokers hectoring other folk that they have to “learn a posture of listening”.

  6. Guilt is nothing more than the reinforcement of other people’s unrealistic expectations. It is a form of psychological torture that can be ended by not justifying our thoughts and actions to those who would torment us with accusations.

  7. When you create a culture of shame you have no right to be surprised when the people who rise to the top are shameless.

    1. Strictly speaking, the Christian view is that you *can’t* ever atone for the shit you didn’t do (or the shit you did), so Jesus has to do it for you and you just have to spend your every moment fawning over him for it.

      I think this person was raised Christian but is converting to the new religion of “progressive” identity politics. The sins of the new religion are becoming the more important ones and the penance is denunciation of the unwoke others, with a little self-flagellation thrown in.

      1. Not that different, in fact, from the show trials of the Cultural Revolution, or McCarthyism, or witch trials.

        Thoughtcrime was named by Orwell but it wasn’t a new thing, even then.


  8. This virtue-posturing has something in common with old-time hard-line Calvinist predestination. It demands an impossible standard, exhausts everyone’s goodwill toward actual good causes. If you don’t validate effort, those who are struggling to live a moral life along with surviving and supporting family, will give up and opt for selfishness. Kudos to those who resist this perfectionism (Ahem, ‘The perfect is the enemy of the good,’ did I hear someone say?)
    Thank you, Jerry, for making this your concern.

  9. Strictly speaking, our Brandi is not converting to the new religion of “progressive” identity politics but is just combining it with the old one of fawning over saviour Jesus. For her, what is “problematic” about Christianity is that it has not (yet) merged sufficiently with her particular catechism. This is an intra-Christian sectarian difference, like, for example, the wrangling over biblical inerrancy within the Southern Baptist Convention. [BTW, one article we will never see is one that asserts Islam to be “problematic”. But we already have plenty of cases of Islam combined with “progressive” identity bla bla bla, as illustrated by Linda Sarsour and some of Louis Farrakhan’s “progressive” fans.]

    The contrarian philosopher John Gray (now retired from the LSE) argues that all varieties of Left politics are imbued with the millenarian spirit of early Christianity. I didn’t take his argument quite seriously until I read Eric Hobsbawm’s autobiography “Interesting Times”, which unwittingly illustrated Gray’s point in spades. In one memoir, Hobsbawm described how a female CP comrade found herself trapped in a burning building during the London blitz, and, convinced that she would die, comforted herself by contemplating a picture. The picture, equivalent to a Jesus image for a Christian, was one of Stalin, Leader of the Toiling Masses and greatest revolutionary genius in history.

  10. I disagree about the Asian-Americans. Their young people are discriminated against to be left out of universities. This way, they are punished for their hard work and forced to compete between themselves, while the gates are open widely to other candidates with poorer performance. I find this terrible.

    More generally, when I see differences in the societal status and living standards between groups within the same country, I no longer rush to think of some as privileged and others as oppressed, but first look more closely at their cultures. Very often, groups claiming to be victims of injustice are actually suffering the inevitable consequences of their own bad culture.

  11. Jerry, I fear you’ve developed a knee-jerk reaction to anything you consider “identity politics”, “Control-Leftist” (that’s a new one) or discussions of privilege in any forum.

    I’ve read and re-read both Miller’s article and your response (but not all of the comments yet-Sorry) and you seem to truly misrepresent what Miller says.

    Miller isn’t claiming that Christians are oppressed, in fact, she’s saying the same thing you seem to believe (and have been saying for years) that many Christians claim to be oppressed. And the two times she uses the word oppression are both referring to the oppression Christians have dealt (and still often deal) on marginalized groups.

    Nor is she telling Christians they need to feel guilty about anything but rather that they need to work to extinguish the privilege they’ve benefitted from as a prominent religious group. Specifically, she says:

    Christians must learn to distinguish the general “you” from the specific “you” and set aside the incessant ego that takes everything personally. Most critiques of Christians as a whole are rarely speaking in the specific, but rather about the belief and faith system that tie all Christians to each other, and to the oppression that we benefit from because of colonialism, genocide and globalization.

    (that’s her second use of oppression, you quoted the first, neither says what you seemed to think it said)

    You cannot tell me that, after all these years of deriding those who continually osculate Christianity and Christians, of examining occasions where Christians have benefited from being the majority religion in many parts of the world, or how Christians have made laws or set policy based on Christian beliefs; you don’t think that Christians have had certain privileges. I’m surprised that you seem to be trying to do that now.

    There are many types of privilege and people can be members of more than one group (both privileged and marginalized) at the same time. At some times and in some places the privilege may override the marginalization (though often, for many people, not completely). How can you deny that such privilege exists?

    I used to say I came to WEIT for the atheism, but stayed for the science. Nowadays, I largely come for the science (and cats and ducks!)–which isn’t bad, but I’m quite dismayed at the rants I’ve seen and very disappointed when they don’t even seem to be justified.

  12. Like the Original Sin of Christians, all of us—and I mean everyone—is supposed to feel guilty because they harbor some degree of “privilege”: that we have benefited from the oppression of others and thus must atone for it, or at least admit it.

    I think it’s reasonable to point out that life is unfair, and that most people will – if they don’t think too hard about it – seek to benefit from the unfairness that favors them (and most will also suffer from other unfairnesses that target them). In that respect, reminding people that we should be working towards fixing such unfairnesses rather than trying to benefit from them is a good thing.

    Having said that, its entirely possible to encourage people to work towards fairness and a better world without trying to guilt-trip them or using some sort of “collective/historical blaming” on them to get them to do it. For example, I can accept that minorities have biases against them in hiring and resume evaluation, and I can support things like the Rooney Rule and affirmative action, without feeling some sort of inherited blame for those biases.

    Point out that the unfairness exists, and good people will want to help fix it. Lie to them about it being their fault, and they’ll lose respect for your cause.

  13. “Christians must … ask better questions that help them to own identity and, as a result, hopefully gain renewal.”

    “own identity”? What the f*ck does that mean? And “gain renewal”?

    Is it remotely possible for these weirdos to speak in comprehensible English and not some cryptic form of cant?


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