Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Lowder Contra Chait 1: The Out-Of-Touch White Guy Criticism

   Lowder writes:
Many progressive critics have written off the piece as the whining of an out-of-touch white guy, and that's certainly a fair response.
   Well, first, I've always been suspicious of the term "progressive." To my mind, "progressives" are either (i) people who fled the term 'liberal' when liberalism was out of fashion (hence, well, wimps) or (ii) people who are actually to the left of liberals (hence not liberals). But that may be a dead end with respect to the real topic at hand. There's probably no reason to fight about that word.
   On to more substantive points.
   So...that's a fair criticism, is it? Because it doesn't seem to be a fair criticism at all. Because it is obviously false. Chait's piece contains, so far as I can tell, exactly no whining whatsoever. He could be wrong (though he isn't)...but he isn't whining. Far from being fair, that's about as unfair as a criticism gets.
   And as for the fact that he's white: well, that's what we call an ad hominem, thus an attack against the person rather than that person's reasoning. Some ad hominems are valid, of course...but this one isn't. This one is downright stupid--and it's of a kind that's rife on the illiberal left, where being a white guy is approximately the worst thing one can be. Anything you say, no matter how true, no matter how reasonable, no matter how cogent, can apparently (according to such folk) be rejected on grounds of your whitedudeness. And that is just batshit crazy. Compare: your argument is invalid because you are a black woman. See what bullshit that is? I expect the neo-PCs to start complaining about Jewish physics any minute now...
   So, no. "that's a piece of whining by an out-of-touch white guy" is not a fair criticism. And the fact that Lowder casually asserts that it is fair bodes ill for the rest of his piece. I'll probably move on to the rest of it when I get a chance..but let me close now with this: Lowder's point is a telling one. The neo-PCs--almost certainly under the influence of certain aspects of recent "continental" philosophy (e.g. certain parts of critical theory)--reject the traditional/enlightenment/liberal (broadly construed) view that arguments must stand or fall on their own merit. Instead, they hold that it is arguers that matter rather than arguments. Arguments are to be viewed favorably if they are made by members of approved groups (e.g. by nonstraight nonwhite females). They're to be viewed skeptically if offered by reviled groups (e.g. straight white males). But, of course, no one can stick to such nonsensical criteria. In fact, when push comes to shove, the SJWs/neo-PCs actually just use the ordinary, tried-and-true, fallacious "method of inverse criticism" (Jeremiah McCarthy's term): they accept reasoning if they like its conclusion and reject it otherwise. Instead of using reasoning to evaluate conclusions, they use conclusions to evaluate reasoning. They will grudgingly accept reasoning with a politically correct conclusion even if it's offered by dudes...though they might take pains to point out that such people ought to know their place, ought to not get too uppity... And if a woman makes an argument they don't like, her femaleness will not protect her; she's a victim of false consciousness (or whichever self-sealing terminology they're currently employing). The race, sex, class, etc of the reasoner is appealed to on an ad hoc basis when such an appeal can add rhetorical oomf to a case that's being made on other grounds. If the neo-PCs stuck strictly to the race/sex criteria, then they'd face the problem that most of the members of their favored groups disagree with them. PC women are far outnumbered by liberal, centrist and conservative women. So obviously that approach isn't going to work... But if they already dislike your argument, and you are, let's say, white, then they'll make an issue of it.
   So that's just one sentence mid-way through the second paragraph... Perhaps it's a throw-away comment, or a sop to Cerberus (Lowder allows as how he's been on the receiving end of PC hate barrages in the past, and seems to not be eager to go through it again). So we might forget the comment, or forgive it--but we can't accept it, because it just isn't true.

 (Kind of a coda thing: Is Jonathan Chait out of touch? Really? Because if he's out of touch, then I don't stand a chance... I reckon that "out of touch" really just means "doesn't agree with us"... So it's not really worth fretting about. Besides, it's not like the neo-PCs are the arbiters of such things... Though their views do seem to be fashionable and fashion-like...so there's that...)

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