Once upon a time, a privileged white guy with writing gigs at various legacy mags and a prominent perch now at New York Magazine wrote an essay warning darkly of today’s “P.C. Police” on our college campuses and the internet because people sometimes say mean things about him and his writer friends (who also have sweet gigs at legacy magazines) on Twitter or in the comments on his articles. (Or something.) Full disclosure: I’ve mentioned his work exactly once on this blog, and it was only to give him a nod of agreement.
There have been a number of serious and productive responses that point out the folly of Jonathan Chait’s claims about the “dangers” of “liberal P.C.,” but also agree with him that arguments among putative liberal allies can be aggravating and sometimes turn on absurdities á la “the Judean People’s Front” or the “People’s Front of Judea,” such as Megan Garber at The Atlantic, or J. Bryan Lowder at Slate. In other words, they grant that yes, people on the internet are sometimes major jerks.
Yes, people are a-holes in general, and people with blogs are probably on average bigger a-holes than most. But, for the most part, straight, white guys on campus or on the internet just get criticized or maybe called names, or get told to “check your privilege.” White men don’t (for example) regularly get calls for their rape and murder, or death threats if they show up to give a speech on a U.S. college campus, which is the kind of thing that happens to feminist women writers on the internet. A lot.
It’s “funny” (by which I mean shocking and offensive) this examples of political correctness from the right escaped Chait’s review of the dangers of liberal “political correctness.” That’s the thing about us American liberals and leftists: we tend just to metaphorically shoot our mouths off, not threaten literally to shoot the political opposition, or in fact to shoot those we disagree with politically. Chait really believes that all speech is equal, which is cute but kind of pathetic for someone who has lived in the world for fifty-odd years and pretends to know something about it.
I get it that calling him names or telling Chait to check his privilege probably won’t work to make him change his mind, but humor can make all of us feel a little better, a-holes and everyone. For my money, the best response ever to Chait’s stupid essay is Neal Pollack’s satirical adoption of the same voice at Salon. A little flava:
As someone who once attended a major university, I believe that the rights of students who grace their halls are double, if not triple, what’s enumerated for ordinary citizens in the Constitution. I spent nine of the happiest years of my life in college, and I remember it fondly as a place to explore your weird, negative feelings about women and Muslims and affirmative action. If the free-speech police won’t let you have that, then what will they let you have?
The forces of intolerance don’t only gather in the rat-infested dirtholes where Islamic militants cower or where women have their private man-hating parties. They also live, like bacteria on bread, in the dorm rooms and group showering chambers of American universities. There take seed the dangerous forces that try to ban Bill Cosby from performing in the round in front of select audiences of 20 campus coeds, who dare to suggest that Israel is anything other than the greatest country in the history of the universe, or who intimate that “Modern Family” is still even remotely watchable. These are not totally imaginary threats I’m making up in order to try to cling to my last remaining shreds of media relevance. They are real, very, very real.
. . . . .
To sum it up, because my egg-salad sandwich should be arriving from the deli any minute, we must be very wary of relatively powerless but easily offended college students, who would withhold their sex from us at even the hint of a racial, ethnic or gender slight. We cannot let them silence our voices. They are the real threat to America, the true rising tide, the actual face of intolerance, and they must be banned forever.