Fact And Faction

The other day a group calling itself ‘Hollaback’ posted a video on YouTube called 10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman. Its apparent purpose was to call attention to the oppressive conditions that women, even in these relatively enlightened times, must endure in a culture still in the grip of a malevolent and hegemonic cis-heteronormative patriarchy, and it accomplished this by showing that a comely lass walking the city’s streets will be commented upon, greeted with licentious approval, and propositioned by many of the young males she passes.

I think we can all agree that pestering and harassing women in this way is deplorable behavior. It is vulgar and ungentlemanly. It is certainly something I’d never do, and I don’t think I even know anybody who would. (I’m sure, gentle Readers, that you could say the same.) One might think, then, that this would be the sort of thing that the Left would rally round as one — but one would be mistaken, or at least way behind the times. The problem, you see, was that the young lady in the video was a “person of pallor”, and her randy tormentors almost exclusively black and Hispanic. This meant that once the thing was picked up by the grievance industry — which is so competitive these days as to make the meth business look like a kibbutz — it quickly became just another example of whiny, privileged whiteness.

The reason? As I’ve said before (see here and here), “injustice” is fractal. (Zoom out and you get slavery, the Holocaust, ISIS; zoom in and you get this.) The corollary of this is that when it comes to social-justice warriors, faction is fractal too. Interest groups will form ad-hoc alliances so as to unite against a common or external enemy, but once he has been driven off, the various factions no longer have enough in common to bind them one to another, and so they begin to squabble for dominance over the newly conquered territory. What’s more, when exposing social injustice is the defining purpose of your life, and the the measure of all that is holy, then you always need new injustices to put right, or you’re out of a job. So you zoom in. Rinse and repeat.

To those with any sense of history, that this bickering is happening at all is actually a sign of tremendously luxurious social conditions: if we were grappling with the Black Death, or a sacking by the Mongols, we’d never get around to any of these things. Another sign of this is the curious inversion of status that characterizes the grievance culture: as is always the case in human affairs, it is a competition for status — but in this case the rules have been reversed so that the highest status within the grievance community is awarded to those who can demonstrate the lowest status in the broader culture. It is as if the grievance culture is a little ‘virtual machine’ running inside the Western cultural operating system: it is only the smooth functioning of the external OS — peace, prosperity, tolerance, etc. — that makes running the virtual grievance-culture ‘game platform’, with its amusingly inverted status polarities, possible at all.

For those of us sitting in the bleachers, it’s certainly entertaining, for now at least. The talented young writer Charles Cooke has an excellent review of it all, over at NRO. Read it here.


  1. JK says

    Where you typed “zoom in” Malcolm I clicked and perused – now mind I don’t know whether the instance I’m about to use is illustrative of the phenomena you’re particularly describing.

    Watching CNN’s Candy Crowley interviewing Rand Paul this morning she asked;

    “Ferguson Missouri having a population that is sixty-five per cent African-American, how does the Republican Party reach that minority?”

    (Startled me so much I checked the transcript.)

    Posted November 2, 2014 at 1:36 pm | Permalink
  2. JK says

    Clicking to read Mr. Cooke led me to land on this;


    “I think” it relates.

    Posted November 2, 2014 at 2:04 pm | Permalink
  3. “Ferguson Missouri having a population that is sixty-five per cent African-American, how does the Republican Party reach that minority?”

    With a 10-foot pole?

    Posted November 3, 2014 at 12:16 pm | Permalink
  4. “… read Kevin Williamson’s excellent article about the grotesque Lena Dunham, …”

    “Grotesque” is a euphemism in this instance, Malcolm, though I can’t think of a harsher descriptor (other than “malignant c*nt”).

    Posted November 3, 2014 at 12:26 pm | Permalink
  5. JK says

    I came very near directing Candy’s question to you Henry.

    Just to check whether my understanding of percentages had been revised since my last attendance in a math class.

    But then I remembered “you-know-who” frequently resorting to poll results insisting, for instance, 65% of people agree JK, you are wrong even though the pollsters hadn’t bothered to ask me.

    Posted November 3, 2014 at 12:39 pm | Permalink
  6. JK,

    Not sure if your question is rhetorical, but if not: “minority” means smaller than the largest portion of a specific population. Hence, African-Americans are a majority of the Ferguson, Missouri population, though they are a minority of the population of the United States. I assume that the latter was the implied reference-population in Candy’s use of the word “minority”.

    Posted November 3, 2014 at 1:08 pm | Permalink
  7. Dom says

    The company that made the film, ihollaback, answered the charge of racism by claiming that white men were not included since their cat-calling was usually drowned out in traffic noises. There’s the power of whiteness for you: When white men act rude, sirens sound.

    Posted November 3, 2014 at 2:05 pm | Permalink
  8. JK says

    When white men act rude, sirens sound.

    That’s actually Dom, what I think the goal is.

    Thanks Henry. Wasn’t necessary (my usual fallback equation is which is greater, 65¢ or 35¢) but I don’t think Candy had my “which is what” in mind when she asked the question.

    The transcript of the interview doesn’t carry the heft she placed on the second that, it was her emphasis pricked my attention. As if the larger group was indeed the smaller.

    (it just now occurs that felony records might have some bearing. In kindness to Candy.)

    Posted November 3, 2014 at 2:24 pm | Permalink
  9. Dom says

    I’m having a lot of fun with the Micro-aggression site. Here’s a quote:

    “My nephew loves nail polish, but his dad and other family members get so bent out of shape over it. He’ll be really proud of his painted nails and run up to show someone and their reaction is laughter, eye rolling, or outright disdain. It makes me so sad for him. I just don’t get it at all. Do these people think Jesus handed down nail polish from on high, with the specific instruction that it be used only by women and girls?”

    Posted November 3, 2014 at 2:25 pm | Permalink
  10. JK says

    Well Dom, “dad and other family members” ought be happy it’s just nephew’s nails.


    Posted November 3, 2014 at 6:28 pm | Permalink
  11. the one eyed man says

    What’s up with the right wing jihad over Lena Dunham?

    I don’t watch television, so I am only dimly aware of her and her show. What I do know is that she created, wrote, and stars in a show watched by millions. Which is a pretty impressive achievement. I haven’t seen her program, and I suppose that most of those who pronounce her to be a loathsome human being haven’t watched an entire episode, if they’ve watched it at all. Have you?

    However, this young, attractive, politically liberal woman has elicited the usual mouth foaming, incendiary, barking mad hysteria which is the day-to-day fare of NRO and right wing media in general. You could say: well, that’s their shtick, NRO drives readership by getting their excitable audience all hot and bothered. I’m sure that she has said some outrageous things, so she’s an easy target.

    Or you could chalk it up to the normal fear and loathing which many people feel towards youth culture as they age. I remember the howls of outrage when John Lennon – who also said and did plenty of outrageous things – correctly noted that the Beatles are more popular than Jesus. The readership to NRO – whose age cohort prefers Matlock reruns – won’t be the first older generation to shake their fists at a world which has passed them by. It’s been noted that your sons and your daughters are beyond your control, for those whose old road is rapidly aging. No different now.

    NRO could devote its energies to discussing how the deficit-to-GDP ratio has fallen below historical norms (and about a third less than during Reagan’s Presidency). Or they could discuss how 2014 will be the hottest year on record. Or they could apologize for the right wing hysteria about how terrorists were infecting themselves with Ebola and sneaking across the border, while Obama secretly encouraged its spread because, you know, his father is from Africa and so is Ebola. Or any one of many things which are actually consequential. But instead NRO, and its ilk, devote its bottomless outrage at a popular entertainer instead. When you lack ideas or credible alternatives to existing policies, then you’re not left with much to do except fling poo.

    Posted November 4, 2014 at 11:10 am | Permalink
  12. !


    Posted November 4, 2014 at 12:55 pm | Permalink
  13. Malcolm says

    Oh, there’s plenty of other stuff at NRO, Pete. No reason they can’t do a little social commentary while they’re at it. And it isn’t just conservatives: even many on the Left are finding Ms. Dunham’s little memoir kind of icky.

    To answer your question: yes, I did, in fact, watch an episode of her show, back when it first came out. One was enough.

    Posted November 4, 2014 at 3:46 pm | Permalink
  14. Malcolm says

    I see, by the way, that once again you’re trotting out your usual response to any whiff of conservative thought: that old folks just sit in their rocking chairs and shake their fists at a world that’s passing them by.

    This assumes two things: 1) that all conservatives are old, and 2) that the concerns that conservative older people may have about national and cultural decay are nothing more than symptoms of sclerosis.

    As for 1): there is no age group in which self-identified liberals outnumber conservatives, and once you get above age 30, conservatives hold commanding leads in every age bracket.

    And regarding 2): something else that’s usually associated with advancing age, and is rare in youth, is wisdom. Having the likes of Lena Dunham at the helm as our culture sails into uncharted waters may be hunky-dory with you, but I suspect it isn’t exactly a comfort to the wise.

    Posted November 4, 2014 at 4:22 pm | Permalink
  15. the one eyed man says

    Regardless of how people describe themselves to pollsters, we are a center left country. Democrats won the popular vote in five of the past six Presidential elections, and handily won the popular vote for the House, the Senate, and the Presidency in 2012. The irony is that because of gerrymandering, the way Democratic voters cluster in urban districts, and the inherent advantages of small and rural states, we have a center right government, hobbled by a House where a bloc of 75-80 Congressmen from the extreme right have effective control.

    * * *

    Your contention that age = wisdom = conservatism is mistaken. People acquire things as they age, and they seek to protect what they have by a continuation of the status quo. NTTAWWT. It is also human nature to romanticize a halcyon past which never existed, and to abhor changes to the world one grew up in. As people age, their mindsets calcify along with their bodies. People do shake their fists as they move along the continuum from Bart Simpson to Grandpa Simpson. The people whose parents thought that Elvis Presley was the harbinger of “national and cultural decay” became similarly horrified when their kids went to concerts by the Ramones. And so it goes. At some point, you have to let go and recognize that you don’t get whatever your kids are watching, and that’s as it should be. Don’t you ever ask them why, if they told you, you would cry. So just look at them and sigh, and know they love you.

    * * *

    As for the “other stuff” at NRO: it’s sort of like the “other stuff” in Playboy. There’s not very much of it. If you go to NRO this very instant, you will see one interesting policy piece (by Kevin Williamson on youth in Asia), a few election-related items, and everything else – about 80% – something hating on Obama, progressives, John Kerry, the media, Lena Dunham, and various other right wing bogeymen.

    * * *

    As for Lena Dunham: artists get to be great by pushing things to their limits, or beyond. This often extended to their personal lives. Marcel Proust picked up sailors at the docks. Picasso was a violent, philandering womanizer. Hemingway got in bar fights (often to protect James Joyce, who would get drunk, pick a fight with someone, and yell “Deal with him, Hemingway!”) Miles Davis was a complete asshole. The great musicians we saw when we were young – in the years before you became a cantankerous fusspot – led louche and dissolute lives, some of which ended in their twenties as a result. So I really don’t care what Lena Dunham does, says, or writes, as long as she’s not endorsing necrophilia or doing recruitment ads for ISIS. And she certainly doesn’t deserve all the vitriol and obloquy she has been receiving: if you don’t care for her, fine, move on. There are plenty of more important things in the world than Lena Dunham.

    * * *

    This is my last word on the subject. The all-pervasive good vibes around here have been so strong since the glorious victory of our local ball club last week that I don’t want to engender a buzzkill with further quibbling.

    Posted November 4, 2014 at 8:25 pm | Permalink
  16. Malcolm says

    Well, I think you’re daft — in particular, your dismissive comments about wisdom make me wonder why you haven’t, in all these years, acquired a little more of it — but I don’t feel like quibbling either. I’m too busy this Election Night savoring this ‘center-left’ nation’s drubbing of your party’s representatives, and the wresting of the Senate from the execrable Harry Reid. (When you look at the election map tomorrow, I think you’ll see that the country has got a lot ‘redder’ in the past few years than you’d like to think it is. The real problem, though, is that we aren’t a ‘center-left’, or a ‘conservative’ nation at all; at this point we are two very, very different nations that cannot, unfortunately, get away from each other.)

    One thing we can certainly agree on: there are plenty of more important things in the world than Lena Dunham.

    Posted November 4, 2014 at 10:38 pm | Permalink
  17. Dom says

    “What’s up with the right wing jihad over Lena Dunham?”

    This is from Sara Luckey at Fiminspire (In an article that carries a trigger warning about sexual abuse and overwhelming whiteness):

    “Lena Dunham has handled this messed up sh*t by trying to classify this as a ‘right wing news story’ rather than just ‘news story’, which is what it is. She has tried to say that direct quotes of passages from her book are misconstrued words, which they are not. She has taken to twitter and effectively adopted the language of abusers in saying ‘my victim isn’t mad, why should you be?’. Call this what it is as it is: Lena Dunham wrote a memoir. In the memoir she detailed grooming her sister for increasing sexual abuse. She compared herself to a predator. Truth Revolt documented that Lena Dunham had written this and she is now threatening to sue them and trying to paint the telling as a ‘right wing news story’.”

    Posted November 5, 2014 at 9:58 am | Permalink

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