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November 08, 2016

Shelby Steele: Deference to the Stigmatizing Power of PC is "Desptoism"

He wrote for the Wall Street Journal, and I'd like to link them, but they're behind a paywall, so try reading it at Zero Hedge.

Since the '60s the Democratic Party, and liberalism generally, have thrived on the power of deference. When Hillary Clinton speaks of a "basket of deplorables," she follows with a basket of isms and phobias--racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia and Islamaphobia. Each ism and phobia is an opportunity for her to show deference toward a victimized group and to cast herself as America's redeemer. And, by implication, conservatism is bereft of deference. Donald Trump supporters are cast as small grudging people, as haters who blindly love America and long for its exclusionary past. Against this she is the very archetype of American redemption. The term "progressive" is code for redemption from a hate-driven America.

So deference is a power to muscle with. And it works by stigmatization, by threatening to label people as regressive bigots. Mrs. Clinton, Democrats and liberals generally practice combat by stigma. And they have been fairly successful in this so that many conservatives are at least a little embarrassed to "come out" as it were. Conservatism is an insurgent point of view, while liberalism is mainstream. And this is oppressive for conservatives because it puts them in the position of being a bit embarrassed by who they really are and what they really believe.

Deference has been codified in American life as political correctness. And political correctness functions like a despotic regime. It is an oppressiveness that spreads its edicts further and further into the crevices of everyday life. We resent it, yet for the most part we at least tolerate its demands. But it means that we live in a society that is ever willing to cast judgment on us, to shame us in the name of a politics we donít really believe in. It means our decency requires a degree of self-betrayal.

He goes on to describe Trump as an avatar of the anti-deference position.

Note that he doesn't say, as I wouldn't say, that Trump arrives at his anti-deference position through rigorous philosophical inquiry. He arrives there only because he has a very large ego and has been rich all his life and, like a superstar athlete, therefore has come to expect people to defer to him and generally get away with behaving like an ass.

However, that's still something. I know a lot of "conservative" writers and politicians who will tell you wonderful reasons why one should not defer to political correctness, but then do so themselves anyway.

Actually, to be honest with you, very few people do that at all. The most they do is write snarky "Look at what these crazy college kids are doing now" posts. They don't propose a philosophical defense of autonomy and resistance to social bulling any more than Trump does.

However, let's say hypothetically that they did: Their actions will still carry more weight than their mere words, and their actions would still be those of a pet whose grown to like his cage and will mount defenses of his cage if attacked for living in a cage made by others.

Trump did not come to the position of defiance in the face of relentless, unending social bullying by philosophical pathways, but unlike most of those in our overly-socialized, let-us-not-defy-popular-opinion, we-all-must-buckle-to-group-thinking party, he did get there.

And that puts him ahead of the game.

There have been a lot of eye-opening things for me this election cycle, but one of the most eye-opening was to see how the "party of individualists" is so girlishly sensitive to Mean Girl social pressures, and of course how people who spend some time occasionally decrying social justice witch-hunts are very, very eager to join in a social justice scalp hunt the moment they have the chance.

It's very much like the playground, where people are just afraid to stick out for fear that they'll be the next to be chosen for group ridicule by the all-important Group, and who merrily join in in the ridiculing of others because at least that takes the spotlight off them for the period of the other's shaming.

Plus, of course, it's just plain fun to be cruel to people in a way that is socially acceptable because The Group decided it was, isn't it?

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posted by Ace at 07:00 PM

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