According to the psychologist and author Jonathan Haidt, there are two kinds of identity politics. “Good” identity politics is the Martin Luther King-style “Take my hand and walk a mile in my shoes with me” of the Civil Rights era. The other, “Bad” identity politics is tribal, completely lacking in empathy for others. Over the last thirty years, the bad style of identity politics has replaced the good style on the American Left.
“[Bad identity politics is] based on the Bedouin notion: “Me against my brother, me and my brother against our cousin, me my brother and cousin against the stranger.” It’s a very general principle of social psychology. If you try to unite people: “Let’s all unite against them. They’re the bad people. They’re the cause of the problems. Let’s all stick together.” That’s a really dangerous thing to do in a multiethnic society.”
There is no substantive difference anymore between identity politics of the Right and what has developed on the increasingly regressive Left. They are both the “bad” variety. That is why I constantly say they are both poison. That both groups use the same “us versus them” black and white thinking is obvious. What is less obvious is that they use the same rationale for positioning the “other.” And they both go beyond mere hate to visceral disgust. The only difference is who they hate. The Right-identitarians hate Jews and non-whites. The Left-identitarians hate whites and males, with white males being the most hated group of all (the strangers). The “Me, my brother, our cousin” alliance at this time includes women, racial minorities, the LGBTQ community and Islam.
Right-identitarians have more of an image problem due primarily to their association with Nazi German and KKK atrocities. Everyone recognizes they are a hate-based endeavor. But a biased mainstream media covers for the hate of Left-identitarians. In Charlottesville VA, a group of “alt-right” organizations, including neo-Nazis, had permits to hold a weekend of rallies in the city. Identitarian Leftists showed up ready to battle the people they hate (because of those people’s hate), with violence if necessary, and of course riotous violence ensued.
At the culmination of the riot, a white man ran over one of the Leftist protesters with this car, killing her. President Trump responded by denouncing the violence on “many” sides. And he was right, there was violence on both sides. The mainstream media freaked out, hounded him, and two days later he specifically denounced the neo-Nazi side of the violence and white supremacy in general, but it did him no good. To this day, in the media and on the street you, will hear how he “never” denounced the Nazis at Charlottesville—an outright lie.
The hate of Left-identitarians may not continue under the radar for long. The glaring inconsistencies are piling up. When white male High School kids, from white places like Minnetonka, MN, and Baraboo, WI, goofing off blundered into anti-Semitic territory the hammer came down hard. There was continued media vilification as well as constant crying for “consequences” and “punishment.” But when US Rep Ilhan Omar, a woman of color immigrant Muslim, made offensive anti-Semitic tweets? The mainstream media ignored it. In fact they were more interested in finding out she once wanted to be a Spice Girl. The only consequences they wanted for her were votes, and actual voters in her district didn’t really hear about it all until the New York Times had to explain her own tweet to her in an OpEd.
When Kevin Hart was to host the Oscars, all of a sudden the fact that years ago he used, and apologized for, homophobic language cost him the job. Female comedians got a pass in the media for similar language. When Gillette made its offensive and misandrist “toxic masculinity” ad, mainstream media showed it in full and never really explained why some people thought it offensive. Imagine had it been a short film on “toxic femininity” or “toxic blackness.” They would have described it as too offensive to show, even with warnings, and called for its makers to be fired and its sponsors boycotted. Those are just a few of many examples of anti-white and anti-male media bias.
This past weekend things came to a head. The Left-identitarian media found a story it thought neatly fit their narrative of smug white privilege with the Covington Catholic kids fiasco. They attacked the kids with the fury of a virtual lynch mob, threatening violence, including death, and doxxing them. But in the midst of this unprecedented bullying of minor kids by adults, new evidence emerged. The people of color the kids were accused of antagonizing, were actually antagonizing them in a racist and homophobic manner.
All manner of back-pedaling ensued. Some actual human beings in the media and on social media retracted and apologized for bullying kids. Some have been strangely silent, tacitly doubling down. The worst have been grasping at straws to “prove” the kids were evil racists and misogynists, bringing up all manner of whataboutism, and actually promoting the narrative that MAGA hats are only worn by racists (Kanye, Larry Elder, Candace Owens, and numerous other black people would disagree), and that the kid was “smirking” disrespectfully. Committing “facecrime.” George Orwell is literally spinning his grave…
The Covington Catholic incident has awakened quite a few complacent Americans to the hate that is Leftist identitarianism. The late Christopher Hitchens always said it took a religion to get a man to do great evil—a man would do any evil if he was convinced it was for the good and righteous. On the extreme of that evil is genocide, but bullying kids and threatening them with death is definitely on the spectrum. Identitarianisms function as cults, with their own internal logic. If more Americans understood that Left identitarianism is simply the flip side of the Right identitarianism they rightly despise, we could actually get back on course to realizing the dreams of the Civil Rights era: a free and equal society where we all get along.
To that end, I think it is important to peel back a layer and understand exactly what Left-identitarian hate cult has in common with the Nazi hate cult. I am not a Nazi or Holocaust scholar, so this is not a formal or exhaustive analysis. There seem to be at least four main rhetorical components to the Anti-Semitic identity politics strategy Adolph Hitler used in his rise to power in Germany: Collective Guilt, Historical Enmity, Resentment, and Disgust. Each of these dovetails with the way the identitarian Left in the US structures its theory and their rhetoric. How the rise of mass media and social media changes their importance and implications is a matter for another post.
Collective Responsibility refers to responsibilities of organizations, groups and societies. By which individuals who are part of such collectives [are] to be responsible for other people’s actions and occurrences by tolerating, ignoring, or harboring them, without actively engaging..”
Collective responsibility is a concept basic to both anti-Semitism and Leftist identity politics. It is the mechanism whereby the evil Shylock becomes every Jew, white slaveholders becomes “whiteness” or a few rapists become “All men are rapists.” It is interchangeable with collective guilt. The difference is one of perspective: guilt is what people in the target group feel and responsibility is how the larger society, or the in-group, sees the situation. Without these concepts, there could be no identity politics.
Collective guilt and collective responsibility are concepts that only apply to the “other,” the target groups, never to the in-group. A Jewish collaborator with the Nazis or a male feminist believe they are guilty of anything the propaganda accuses them of, because all Jews and all men are complicit in the crimes of some. There are many moral and philosophical problems with this concept and its applications. But most importantly for a free, multiethnic society, collective responsibility denies individual moral responsibility.
Hannah Arendt, author of Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report an the Banality of Evil, put what should be the final nail in the coffin of collective guilt way back in the 1960s:
‘Arendt referred to the post-war climate in Germany–where those personally innocent during the Nazi period all admitted to their “collective guilt” while the real criminals showed no remorse as “the quintessence of moral confusion.” The concept of collective guilt, as opposed to individual guilt, is “senseless,” Miss Arendt said, and only serves as an effective “whitewash” for guilty individuals to hide behind.’
Despite this glaring flaw, the notion of collective guilt lives today. It is too powerful a tool in the hands of the unscrupulous. “The quintessence of moral confusion” sounds about right for anti-Semitism, German post-war guilt and today’s “social justice” identitarian Left. As I always say, “Men do not rape, rapists rape.”
European anti-Semitism has its roots in the Bible. Supposedly when Jesus was crucified the Jews took responsibility for his death, saying “His blood is on us and on our children!” “Christ-killer” was an epithet used to incite anti-Semitic mobs through history. Jews were also accused of various other atrocities including drinking the blood of Christian children.
Hitler did not have to invent the hatred of Jews from scratch. He built on a pre-existing historical narrative of offense. Similarly, the “social justice” identitarian Left emphasizes the past transgressions of their target groups, the guilt current members of the target group bear for the sins of their forefathers and the alleged reparations they owe for those historical sins.
Historically, whites enslaved blacks in the United States and kept them from any position of power. There is no need to make up historical atrocity, but the rhetoric must keep history alive. So even though slavery ended more than 150 years ago, the constant rhetoric is still “400 years of slavery….” With women it is a little different. Men haven’t actually “oppressed” women in the way blacks were oppressed (they were treated as legal children), but feminists appropriate the same language. And the fact that women have wielded power over whole spheres of society and over whole countries? Ignored.
Umberto Eco, in his famous 1995 essay “Ur-Fascism,” touched on the resentment of the target group that must be stoked:
“8. The followers must feel humiliated by the ostentatious wealth and force of their enemies.
When I was a boy I was taught to think of Englishmen as the five-meal people. They ate more frequently than the poor but sober Italians. Jews are rich and help each other through a secret web of mutual assistance. However, the followers of Ur-Fascism must also be convinced that they can overwhelm the enemies. Thus, by a continuous shifting of rhetorical focus, the enemies are at the same time too strong and too weak.”
Hitler’s narrative of the “International Jewish Conspiracy,” a cabal that hypnotizes leaders and leads them astray to oppress the true, good German people, is well known. Hating Jews was, in identitarian Leftist terms, not considered to be punching down, it was considered punching up against power.
What should also be obvious to anyone paying attention is that identitarian Leftists also emphasize the power of their target group and the victimhood of their in-group: The oppressive “Patriarchy” (a direct IJC analog) is holding women down and doing violence against them! But “at the same time” we magically have the concepts of white fragility and male fragility—“too strong and too weak.” They have even redefined terms like “racist” and “sexist” in true Newspeak fashion to be “prejudice + power.” The oppressed cannot officially hate, even when they are hate-filled.
Disgust is a powerful emotion differentiated from hate. It is visceral and probably evolved to spare the body from exposure to disease and toxins. But it also has evolved culturally and is deeply connected to moral judgement, according to Jonathan Haidt who was the first to investigate the relationship between disgust and morality. He proposed that gut instincts of disgust determine our judgements of right and wrong rather than a more rational process. Since his initial studies, this theory has been validated many times.
Because of this relationship with morality disgust can form prejudices and those prejudices can be manipulated for unscrupulous ends. Lepers, lower castes, GLBT people and immigrants have often been the targets of disgust. The Nazis were famously disgusted by gays and Jews, who they referred to as rats, or vermin. And if something like vermin disgusts, the instinct is to purify, to cleanse your environment of the offending influence… It is a natural step from disgust to violent hate crime and genocide.
Leftist identitarians in the US have long used general disgust language. An early feminist epithet for non-feminist men was “male chauvinist pig” or simply “men are pigs” a dehumanizing disgust term. There is also the common epithet “Racist/sexist piece of shit (POS)” because shit is disgusting. It is also not uncommon for women Leftists to scream their “moral” disgust, regardless of language used, as if they were confronting actual vermin.
Lately a very specific disgust term has been popular among identitarian Leftists: “toxic,” as in “toxic whiteness” or “toxic masculinity.” It is their way of calling white people and men unclean, untouchable, because the condition of being white or male is a disease. When confronted on this, they will say “Well, only parts of masculinity are toxic. We really don’t hate men.” But nevertheless the phrase is “toxic masculinity,” with its very plain denotation and all the connotations, not “the toxic side of masculinity” or “negative masculinity.” Feminists who use this term are intentionally invoking disgust.
And of course what do we do with toxins? We purge them. The Final Identitarian Solution. Some radical black “anti-racists” have effectively called for the sterilization of whites, although they do not come out and say it in those words. Numerous feminists have already publicly “fantasized” about a world without men or a world of only ten percent men. There has been more talk of that from feminists already than there was of boxcars and shower rooms from Nazis in 1930s Germany…
Many older liberals actually have the good identity politics paradigm programmed into them from the Civil Rights Era, the 1950s and 1960s. We still judge people by the content of their character, not the color of their skin, or their gender. To today’s identitarian Leftists that is anathema. They see a MAGA hat or a white male face and they are filled with disgust. They take to media to become judge, jury and wannabe executioner. That is regressive, yet they tell themselves it is progressive.
This identitarian Leftist ideology, the “bad” identity politics, is now mainstream. It is actually taught in schools. “Grievance Studies” departments at universities actually churn out activists for “bad” identity politics, as well as laughably bogus theoretical rationalizations. Those grads end up in the media where they make biased judgements that brainwash even more people. Or they end up in government, education or the nonprofit world where they have influence. Lately this ideology has infiltrated entertainment, and the hard sciences are next. It is already taboo to do hard science research into topics that have implications that may contradict the Leftist identitarian narratives. Another parallel to guess what? The Nazi ideological takeover of all German society. The identitarian leftist ideology is a form of totalitarianism.
As such it never occurs to them that their actions are incredibly hypocritical. Totalitarian ideologies have an internal logic that erases the hypocrisy and justifies it. They really believe they are doing the “good” identity politics. They have an eagle eye for incoming “hate,” sometimes even faking it to make themselves into victims. When they see it they demand punishment and consequences. When they utter it, when they talk about “toxic masculinity,” they are oblivious to the fact they are using hate or disgust terminology. After all, racism is now “Prejudice plus power” in Newspeak.
So where do we go from here? Identity politics seems unlikely to go away. But how long can our society continue with hate and disgust filled people on the Left becoming more mainstream? People who will, cult-like, deny fact, logic and science for their identitarian beliefs and disgust instincts that are based on the logic of Hitler? How far will they take that? Well we saw that this week. They will at least threaten death to kids. Some day they will actually do it.
It seems obvious that the answer is to move from the current “bad” paradigm to a “good” paradigm. But how? We need a de-Nazification like they had in Germany after WWII. I have started by calling it out with my small internet voice. Maybe those who are savable will listen. Tweet me and share your ideas.