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June 07, 2016

"Culture Creep:" How Americans Became So Sensitive To So Many Harms

Interesting piece, which I keep thinking of as the entire nation decides that saying "this Hispanic judge probably leans Democrat, like most Hispanics (and Judges) do" is now Vicious Racism of the sort routinely peddled in the Bull Connor Jim Crow south.

A new research paper by Nick Haslam, a professor of psychology at the University of Melbourne, Australia, offers as useful a framework for understanding what’s going on as any I've seen. In "Concept Creep: Psychology's Expanding Concepts of Harm and Pathology," Haslam argues that concepts like abuse, bullying, trauma, mental disorder, addiction, and prejudice, "now encompass a much broader range of phenomena than before," expanded meanings that reflect "an ever-increasing sensitivity to harm."

He calls these expansions of meaning "concept creep."


Classically, psychological investigations recognized two forms of child abuse, physical and sexual, Haslam writes. In more recent decades, however, the concept of abuse has witnessed "horizontal creep" as new forms of abuse were recognized or studied. For example, "emotional abuse" was added as a new subtype of abuse. Neglect, traditionally a separate category, came to be seen as a type of abuse, too.

Meanwhile, the concept of abuse underwent "vertical creep." That is, the behavior seen as qualifying for a given kind of abuse became steadily less extreme. Some now regard any spanking as physical abuse. Within psychology, "the boundary of neglect is indistinct," Haslam writes. "As a consequence, the concept of neglect can become over-inclusive, identifying behavior as negligent that is substantially milder or more subtle than other forms of abuse. This is not to deny that some forms of neglect are profoundly damaging, merely to argue that the concept’s boundaries are sufficiently vague and elastic to encompass forms that are not severe."


Expanded Notions of Trauma

Trauma originally referred to a physical injury to the body. In bygone wars, many who experienced what World War I soldiers called "shell shock," and what is now called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, were denied sympathy, care and treatment for their condition.

Thanks to "concept creep," today's veterans are treated better. Meanwhile, the concept of trauma generally, and PTSD particularly, is expanding to include lesser harms.

Haslam writes:

In recent years, trauma theorists and practitioners have proposed including childbirth, sexual harassment, infidelity, and emotional losses such as abandonment by a spouse or loss or a sudden move or loss of home within that range. These extensions are sometimes justified empirically by research showing that these events can precipitate PTSD symptoms (e.g., Carlson, Smith, & Dalenberg, 2013). Nevertheless, they represent a lowering of the threshold of severity for traumatic events.


Changing Views of Prejudice

Prejudice is perhaps the most controversial subject that Haslam tackles, tracing its evolution in the field of social psychology. Classically, "the prejudiced person holds hostile attitudes toward members of an outgroup." Is that definition sufficient?

He writes:

Early social psychological researchers began with an understanding of prejudice as blatant bigotry, examining endorsement of hostile and derogatory statements about African Americans, Jews, and others. However, as rates of endorsement of these statements began to wane later in the 20th century, the understanding of prejudice was broadened.

McConaghy (1986) drew a distinction between "old-fashioned" racism, exemplified by endorsement of explicit bigotry, and a subtler and more prevalent "modern" racism. Modern racists, like so-called "symbolic" racists (Sears, Henry, & Kosterman, 2000), do not endorse direct hostility to traditional targets of prejudice but instead denied the continuing existence of racism and expressed opposition to affirmative action policies. It was possible to score high on a questionnaire measure of modern racism, and later sexism, without agreeing with any derogatory evaluations of the target group.

Nevertheless, such scores were taken to indicate prejudice because they were conceptualized as revealing tacit negative evaluations and were associated with other indicators of prejudice, such as discriminatory behavior.

Within academia, "concept creep" expanded what counted as prejudice "from direct, expressed antipathy...to inferred antipathy," and then the concept was expanded in two more ways. "The concept of aversive prejudice (Dovidio & Gaertner, 2004) applies to liberally minded people who deny personal prejudice but hold aversions, sometimes unconscious, to other-race people," Haslam writes. "These aversions are not based on hostile antipathy but on fear, unease, or discomfort." And the idea of implicit bias—that subconscious attitudes and beliefs could shape actions--entrenched the notion that prejudice included negative racial sentiments held by people even if they were unaware of harboring them.


And the concept of prejudice as understood in the academy would not be complete without mentioning the rise of the controversial microaggressions framework:

...some research implies that prejudice exists at least in part in the eyes of the target. Research on microaggressions (Sue et al., 2007), for example, takes the target's perceptions of prejudice as clear evidence of its existence: If a target perceives a slight as evidence of prejudice, then it is taken as such, even if the slight is ambiguous and its author denies it.


The scholarship behind each step traced above has generated too much debate to summarize let alone engage here. But it seems reasonable to presume that, as in every other realm, "concept creep" around prejudice includes both salutary improvements in understanding and expansions that could be perilously excessive.

The New Eternal Received Wisdom is that guessing that a Hispanic has the usual political leanings of most Hispanics is "racist." That seems like "vertical concept creep" to me -- taking what was previously a lesser offense (minor league politico-racial stereotyping) and upjumping it to a Major Racist Sin.

If the goal of the Chattering Classes today is to take Trump out of the race, and prepare the justification for cancelling the primaries and rewriting the rules so that no delegates are bound, I can't entirely get too worked up about it, because Trump feels to me (as he felt months ago) like a sure loser in a race that cannot under any circumstances be lost.

However, we once again see the Establishment of the Republicans -- the Capital Class, I call it, the Upper Middle Class Professional Classes who pretty much believe everything their liberal bed-mates do -- endorsing a fairly extremist form of the Liberal Catechism in order to do this.

If I guess that a particular black woman voted for Obama, is that racist?

Bear in mind something like 94% of black women did vote for Obama.

Now, 6% did not. So my guess could well be wrong.

But if this is my guess- are we now expanding the concept of "racism" to include "guesses made about someone's political leanings"?

Is it now racist to guess things about someone based on race which are not themselves at all disparaging or negative?

If I guess that a guy who looks Hispanic speaks Spanish, and I try to speak my (very beginner) level of Spanish with him -- Que tal? -- am I racist for having wrongly guessed he speaks Spanish?

I could very well be wrong - and I would in fact be guilty of a kind of minor, ticky-tack racial stereotyping. No doubt, assuming someone of Hispanic lineage speaks Spanish is in fact a low-grade form of stereotyping -- many people of Hispanic descent are third, fourth, or even eighth generation Americans, and may have a level in Spanish even below my own.

Let's say this would be a "microaggression" on my part -- is it now also actually racist?

I agree, by the way, this would be a "microaggression" as the left defines it, and so wouldn't do it. But if I did do it -- would it actually be Felony Racism, or a much more minor case of Misdemeanor Stereotyping?

Is there any difference any longer? The left has long said there's no difference; is the entire Right "intellectual" class now in full agreement with their leftist confreres?

Well, the Herd Mind, without even giving this question a moment's thought, has collectively decided it is, which means that no one actually thought about it, but they all seemed to be saying the same thing, so they figured that someone among their number must have considered this.

In the cases I mention above, I do understand why the Hispanic who doesn't speak Spanish would be annoyed that I assumed he did, or that a black conservative woman would be annoyed I'd assumed she'd voted for Obama. I could very well see their finding of racial fault in me.

But I'd be pretty annoyed myself if they then began accusing me of actual racism based on fairly petty offenses.

Apparently we are not only convinced that microaggressions are now officially Racism, but furthermore, there's not even the stirrings of debate about this; the Capital Class is, once again, all of a Single Mind on the issue.

Meanwhile, the Capital Class continues studiously ignoring this:

The Capital Class feels Comfortable discussing some things, and very Uncomfortable discussing other things.

They don't seem to realize that this is because they have permission from the leftist culture-makers to discuss some issues, and a forbiddence from the same group from discussing others.

The right establishment continues to act as a rubber stamp for the Leftist executive -- the left proposes various changes in our thinking and understanding, but it's the right establishment that blesses them and turns them into, essentially, mental legislation.

I have two problems here:

The first is how obvious everything seems to the never-questioning Hive Mind of Twitter-moderated "thinkers."

The second is that this crew seems to be using Judge Curiel (something their liberal minders approve of them discussing) as an excuse to not talk about the San Jose riots (something their liberal minders definitely do not approve of them discussing).

The police chief that sat on his hands and gave the rioters Space to Destroy is affiliated with La Raza.

Is it racist to point that out?

Is it just generally racist to say that anyone other than white people have ideological priors?

Eh, I've got no problem replacing Trump -- other than the fact these fucks would replace him with a Rubio or some other Amnesty shill.

But this points up exactly why Trump won in the first place -- because ordinary voters feel that the uniparty Capital Class has its heads up its own ass sniffing for Fart Rape and meanwhile is wholly unresponsive to their concerns.

Flashback: Instapundit keeps linking this useful post by David Gerletner.

Political correctness. Trump hasn't made it a campaign theme exactly, but he mentions it often with angry disgust. Reporters, pundits, and the other candidates treat it as a sideshow, a handy way for Trump (King Kong Jr.) to smack down the pitiful airplanes that attack him as he bestrides his mighty tower, roaring. But the analysts have it exactly backward. Political correctness is the biggest issue facing America today. Even Trump has just barely faced up to it. The ironic name disguises the real nature of this force, which ought to be called invasive leftism or thought-police liberalism or metastasized progressivism. The old-time American mainstream, working- and middle-class white males and their families, is mad as hell about political correctness and the havoc it has wreaked for 40 years -- havoc made worse by the flat refusal of most serious Republicans to confront it. Republicans rarely even acknowledge its existence as the open wound it really is; a wound that will fester forever until someone has the nerve to heal it -- or the patient succumbs. To watch young minorities protest their maltreatment on fancy campuses when your own working life has seen, from the very start, relentless discrimination in favor of minorities--such events can make people a little testy.

The public is looking for someone to push back against this ever-proliferating regime of ever-more-baroque speech codes and Racial Diplomatic Protocols.

Instead, however, every time the public looks at the political leadership on "the right," they see the establishment and intellectual class simply adding to the speech and thought strictures, and confirming all of the left's claims about "microaggressions" and fairly small-ball racial clumsiness being full-on "racism."

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