“Cancel Culture,” Race and the Greed of the Billionaire Class

Yves here. As much as I am loath to say much about “cancel culture,” since by calling attention to divisive behavior, it tends to encourage it, it nevertheless bears repeating that this is just another variant of Jay Gould’s oppression strategy: “I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.” But the clever thing about stoking idpol divisions is that not that many people need to be paid to carry them forward.

This current push is an intensification of the world view that Adolph Reed has repeatedly called out, of depicting a highly unequal society as fair as long as historical out groups are adequately represented among the wealthy, politics, and the top levels of high profile institutions. Yet these fights over speech are occurring when the super rich are getting even richer (particularly that bastion of white men, private equity) and no more diverse. And as Tom points out, there’s similarly lots of virtue signaling from companies but not much change regarding the composition of the executive ranks.

By Thomas Neuberger. Originally published at DownWithTyranny!

Nike’s attempt to prove they care about the poor (screenshot from this ad). Nike will manufacture as many poor as it takes to manufacture shoes for less than 50 cents per hour

A fake MacDonalds ad mocking fake corporate caring

The elites will discuss race. They will not discuss class.
—Chris Hedges

Chris Hedges is latest to weigh in on the “cancel culture” wars, saying what any number of widely cancelled others have said before him (for example, Matt Taibbi in this public post; he’s even more pointedly analytical in a later, subscriber-only piece).

But Hedges summarizes the situation so well, he’s well worth quoting. From his new perch at Robert Sheer’s Sheerpost he writes:

The cancel culture — the phenomenon of removing or canceling people, brands or shows from the public domain because of offensive statements or ideologies — is not a threat to the ruling class. Hundreds of corporations, nearly all in the hands of white executives and white board members, enthusiastically pumped out messages on social media condemning racism and demanding justice after George Floyd was choked to death by police in Minneapolis. Police, which along with the prison system are one of the primary instruments of social control over the poor, have taken the knee, along with Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of the serially criminal JPMorgan Chase, where only 4 percent of the top executives are Black. Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world whose corporation, Amazon, paid no federal income taxes last year and who fires workers that attempt to unionize and tracks warehouse laborers as if they were prisoners, put a “Black Lives Matter” banner on Amazon’s home page.

The rush by the ruling elites to profess solidarity with the protestors and denounce racist rhetoric and racist symbols, supporting the toppling of Confederate statues and banning the Confederate flag, are symbolic assaults on white supremacy. Alone, these gestures will do nothing to reverse the institutional racism that is baked into the DNA of American society. The elites will discuss race. They will not discuss class.

To repeat: Hundreds of corporations, nearly all in the hands of white executives and white board members, enthusiastically pumped out messages on social media condemning racism and demanding justice after George Floyd was choked to death by police in Minneapolis.

In addition, we’re drowning in corporate self-polishing-apple ads, like those from Nike and MacDonalds touting how much they care about the market that buys their products, even as they exploit that market for all they can get take it for.

Is it not more than obvious at this point, that corporate America and the purchased “free-market” liberals they keep in office are using this racially charged moment — a moment that should be racially charged — to distract from the other crisis facing America, the one where “minimum wage workers cannot afford rent in any U.S. state,” to cite just one of the hundred brutal tortures they inflict on us daily?

Make no mistake: The very very wealthy want even more of our money, want us to have even less control of our government than we have today, and they’re more than happy — eager, in fact — to see us fully distracted with worry over which left-sympathizing writer isn’t sufficiently sympathetic to violence, based on a tweet.

“But Isn’t It Racist to Say Calling Out Racism Is Racist?”

Along with the good and sincere, there are many bad actors here. Along with the principled freedom-of-speech advocates (many, but not all, of those who signed this letter, for example), there are also a great many racists and right-wing opportunists calling out “cancel culture” — and a few “unhinged Zionists” as well — who’ve done what they now decry. The Right has jumped all over the cancel-culture controversy to try to paint the Left as focused to a fault on the rights of minorities to the exclusion of needs of the majority.

First, if the Right says something is true, does that make it false, or worse, not worth examining? The “liberal left” (as opposed to the actual left) does tend to ignore class as an issue. The cancel-culture controversy is complicated; let’s not pretend it’s not, or worse, cancel those who don’t affirm its simplicity.

Moreover, at what time in modern America has the New York Times, who recently canceled its own editor for the crime of printing Tom Cotton, represented the actual Left, as opposed to that part of the Left that shovels free-market Democrats into office as fast as it can, then works like the devil to keep them there? The Times is owned by a corporation with close to two billion dollars in yearly revenue  — advocates for the poor they’re not, unless the poor will content themselves only the smallest of marginal structural changes.

In the meantime, while we’re squabbling over the latest cancellation outrage — many are indeed that, outrageous, while many are not — America is being rebuilt as we speak into an even greater monopolythan before, with even more wealth going to the even more powerful.

As one wag put it, Jeff Bezos is having a very good crisis.

Companies large enough to survive this event are flush with cash and gobbling failed competitors hand over fist. It’s been rightly said that when Covid has done its work, we won’t recognize the country it left behind.

Watching a Knife Fight While the Town Burns Down

The “cancel culture” war is a distraction, important though it is we have that discussion. While we watch the knife fight in the corner, cheering one side or the other on, the main event, the torched and burning town we all inhabit, consumes itself behind us.

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  1. Joe

    This captures many of the thoughts I’ve been having for the past few weeks. I live in Houston, a city with the highest rate of uninsured people in the U.S., who are mostly black and brown. Our ICUs are overloaded with COVID patients, and our morgues are filling up rapidly. Across the country, millions of Americans are about to lose their unemployment insurance, get laid off, evicted, foreclosed on, or some combination thereof. Thanks to a bipartisan commitment to socialism for the rich only, the billionaire class is getting richer and consolidating even more wealth and power in their hands. But where is the left? Instead of either a coherent strategy to help the unemployed, the foreclosed, the evicted and the sick and dying, or to challenge the oligarchs and the politicians they control, I am stunned to see our largely university-based, middle class left relitigating the same debates about political correctness and identity politics they had thirty years ago (now rebranded as the “cancel culture”), almost oblivious to the economic suffering around them. It’s as if the CPUSA in 1933, instead of organizing poor black and white sharecroppers in Alabama, or fighting evictions on the south side of Chicago, was spending time in Greenwich Village salons debating the merits of H.L. Mencken and The Jazz Singer over coffee and scones. What the hell is going on? By the way, this is not at all directed at protests against racist police brutality (George Floyd grew up near where I am writing this). I am not even talking about folks toppling Confederate monuments, which I support. I am talking about all the bullshit chatter about “cancel culture” this and “woke” that from Jacobin DSAers to New Yorker liberals. The massive amount of energy expended on arguing over symbolism at a time like this just shows how out of touch the middle class left is with working people and their needs. It makes me sick.

    1. jr

      “arguing over symbolism”

      Thank you for your comments, especially this one. There a lot to unpack in there…

    2. Adam1

      “organizing poor black and white sharecroppers…”

      Careful, you could drown more ERs with an influx of wealthy patients suffering strokes and heart attacks with ideas like that.

    3. Linda M Elkins

      Totally agree. I am old enough to remember a more fair and just time in our history, it wasn’t perfect by no means, but it wasn’t this dog-eat-dog BS we have now. We allowed this to happen, slowly they put us to sleep while they stole everything from us. Now, we must wake up and fight for what is righfully ours before it is too late; and we may already be there.

      1. Oso

        it wasn’t fair and just for black and brown people. that’s the crux of the matter. Not attempting to tear you down, it’s that blind spot that Taibbi and the rest don’t truly grasp. without truly acknowledging race and class both we will never have justice.

    4. Donald

      I agree with every word. Expanding on your point, it reminds me of how someone would burn a flag at an antiwar protest and immediately people in the chattering classes pivot to a discussion of the rights and wrongs of flagburning, what the flag stands for, etc…

      These symbolism debates consume oxygen. The more people focus on them, the less they focus on policy changes that could save people’s lives. It really does work that way. Time spent on political debate is a finite resource.

          1. Ian Ollmann

            > California culture and norms should not be imposed on the rest of the country or the world.

            California is such a melting pot, I’m not sure what its values are after living here for 28 years. I’m pretty sure many places like Idaho have some idea of California values as whatever it is they don’t want, but you can be assured that California has yet to make up its mind about these things so is probably not engaged in a conspiracy to norm behavior.

            The tiny fraction that is Hollywood may be conspiring to turn your freedom fries French. That isn’t California. They live in their own fantasy world. If you don’t want that, well you can be forgiven.

            The Californian cultural chaos does has some normative effect on us though. It really wouldn’t work to go to a white supremacist rally for example, when the largest demographic is latino. It would invite Latino supremacist rallies. Likewise, enormous pickup trucks are generally not needed, unless you are in the trades or live in the agrarian communities. Certain freedoms, like the divine right of Bubba to toss his beer can in the bed of the truck at 70 MPH should be curtailed, because there are a lot of people here that would like to do that and it would cause chaos. The 70 MPH thing on LA freeways would lead to rear ending the car in front of you within a few seconds. It isn’t going that fast. There is also every flavor of every religion to the Nth degree, so you won’t find the Southern Baptist Hegemony here, repainting the world in their image.

            California is a few years ahead of Idaho. It’s coming, but its not what you think.

            1. IdahoSpud

              I probably should have been more specific. Sacramento is attempting to impose Bay Area norms and culture on everyone, whether they live in California or not.

              Having lived in California for several decades, I’m well aware that California is not a monolith politically/culturally. The two coastal megacities have all the money and the political clout. The inland is where these cities export all of their felons and take weekend ski/boating/off-roading trips.

              Along with the rest of the world, not everyone in the Central Valley is thrilled with Bay Area norms being forced upon them. But by living in California, the good folks in Modesto/Visalia/Bakersfield/Redding all agree to live by the laws of the state. This is OK because they vote, and have representation in Sacramento.

              Sanctioning other states for not obeying California laws is another thing.

              The state of Idaho (and by proxy, its voters) doesn’t believe biologically born females should have to compete against biologically born males. California (and by proxy, its voters) believes that a state-sanctioned boycott is the answer to Idaho’s (practical and fair to women) policy. So yes, the Bay Area, via the California Legislature, is economically trying to strong-arm the rest of the nation out of their “wrong-think” ways.

              And this is “wrong think”. I’d value a good-faith discussion why any biologically born female should have to physically compete with a biologically born male. Such a discussion would have to include biological female’s safety in contact sports, and losing out on athletic scholarships.

              >”white supremacist rally”
              >”large pickup trucks”
              >”Bubba toss his beer can”
              >”Southern Baptist Hegomony”

              Lovely. Are there any other hillbilly stereotypes that come to mind?

              I encourage you to visit – you won’t want to leave. It’s beautiful, not yet crowded, and the people who live here are overwhelmingly kind.

              1. California Bob

                re: “… the people who live here are overwhelmingly kind.”

                Tell that to my ex-wife who moved to Idaho and had locals try to run her off the road until she got the California plates off her car.

    5. flora

      And Congress is starving the states of funds, forcing states to cut Medicaid in the middle of a pandemic. Cruelty. Cruelty from the fed govt in the name of balancing the budget. Wall St. is exempt from Congress’s “balanced budget self-righteousness”.

      1. Joe

        Yes, of course. As always, at least as long as I can remember. I’m 36; maybe those 80 + remember the TVA, Grand Coulee Dam, etc. and other projects from when the federal government did something other than build highways and overseas military bases. But why so little organized pushback?

        1. sierra7

          “…..why so little organized pushback?”
          The late Gore Vidal gave the answer:
          “The United States of Amnesia”
          Poor education. No real political discussions. Total focus on greed…….etc., etc.
          To achieve “pushback” means you understand history.
          Most Americans haven’t a clue.

    6. m sam

      Great comment! The comparison with CPUSA I think is apt. There is too much hand wringing and too little concrete action right now. I don’t think it is a stretch to think CPUSA would have been down in the trenches and trying to get out in front of the protests, for instance, trying to broaden the scope into wider class struggle, or organizing right now in order to fight against the looming eviction crisis.

      But instead all we have is all this finger wagging over “cancel culture,” and the distraction has only allowed corporate America to step in instead (like Amazon and its “Black Lives Matter” banner, not to mention my own dizzying experience with the large nonprofit I work for). And once that happens, there is little wonder in how the “woke” neoliberals in training become the poster children of the protest, the left is sidelined, and the status quo wins once again.

      1. Joe

        Exactly. But this can’t go on forever, can it? We’re entering real crises now, not just first-world problems.

  2. dbk

    There was a good interview with Chris Hedges by Chauncey DeVega (The Truth Report) yesterday. From the transcript and relevant to “cancel culture”:

    Everything that is now enraging white progressives is not new — it goes back decades. But it was never really covered by the mainstream American news media. The liberal elites busied themselves with the boutique activism of “diversity” and “tolerance,” “multiculturalism” and the like. Sure, that is well and good, but not when such approaches are divorced from economic justice.


    1. Lambert Strether

      > The liberal elites busied themselves with the boutique activism of “diversity” and “tolerance,” “multiculturalism” and the like.

      Indeed, the ineffectiveness — or, dare I say, the effectiveness? — of the NGO sector was a major factor in bringing us to this point.

      1. vlade

        It was effectivness, but in a specific way. For example, by creating new nice ways how to skim money out of it (all those diversity etc. councellors).

        There’s the famous story of how the blind audtions for orchestra places that started in 1970s (yes, that long ago), and that helped women to get major orchestra places. It worked.

        Instead, we got more and more questionaires for all sorts of stuff, to which option “I refuse to say” is often unavailable, and if it is, it highlights you right away.

        I do get that there are people who are disadvantaged by their race, sex or what have you (and believe me, you can be seriously disadvantaged even as a white male, by a simple thing like “wrong accent” – is beind classed as white-trash male worse or better than a clearly high-class female?). But I really do not believe that by forcing the “diversity” we’re making their situation better. If anything, I believe we can establish stronger prejudices than before.

        1. Thuto

          The issue of gradations of disadvantage is a complex one, if you look hard enough and are attentive to contextual cues, anyone can be disadvantaged by some attribute in their possession. For instance, a middle aged white male software engineer may be disadvantaged by his age in the youth worshipping tech startup culture, that said I believe no serious argument can be made against the fact that some groups suffer more disadvantage than others. I agree that forcing diversity will ultimately prove to be counterproductive but leaving “transformation” (as we call diversity here in SA) at the discretion of those who are privileged and threatened by it is equally unworkable as a proposition imho. Those who cluster along the upper echelons of power and wealth have no demonstrable, historical track record of sharing the spoils wealth and power of their own accord, some level of prodding is always required. Finding the optimal balance between external prodding and inserting diversity (and maybe wealth redistribution?) into the matrix of the self-interest agenda of the previleged and powerful is an intractable dilemma for the ages I guess, one for which I have no answers.

          1. vlade

            “Leaving … at the discretion” – I agree that will go nowhwere (well, it will go towards a breaking point, in some way form or shape).

            I do also agree at the degrees of disadvantage, but see, my experience is that lot of the “formally disadvantages” people refuse to believe that anyone except for “formally disadvantaged” (and often even that) is disadvantaged. For example, I have met minority catholics who would, in their words, “cull” the whole LGBT community from the face of the earth. But they will still complain about how they are disadvantaged by the whites (and god forbid the white happens to be a LGBT or Jewish).

            IMO you touch on the key point – wealth distribution. That – or access to the economic benefits – is what drives a lot of this in reality. Because IMO fear of minority is first and foremost competitive (which these days really means economic). I’d point out it doesn’t have to be direct competition like jobs, it may be “taking our resources” (as in benefits “paid for” our taxes).

            I can see it in here in the CZ. There are two significant non-white minorities in the CZ (don’t get me started on the white stuff, that treats Ukrainians like slaves), gypsy and Vietnamese (the CZ used to be a popular destination for vietnamese students before 1990s). The gypsies are loathed as petty criminals and benefit scroungers. Vietnamese are often applauded as hard-working minority that “adapted”.

            In reality, there’s a lot of vietnamese crime too, just not as visible (it tends to be mostly organised crime within their community), and the “hard working” often means “hard working shopkeepes running 24/7s which no sane person would want to do”, but most people would look at them still condescendingly using rather offensive terms.

            So Vietnames community is not seen as an economic competitor because they filled an economic niche few Czechs are interested in, while gypsies are – indirectly, via benefits and thus taxes (I know, I know, but doesn’t mean others do), and a vast majority of Czechs are obsessed with taxes.

            So if a minority is seen as potentially disturbing the wealth allocation, the majority will try to keep it down – as long as the wealth allocation is looked at this way. If people started to look at wealth allocation along the poor/not so poor axis instead, they could well realise that white poor have more in common with poor blacks than white rich, and more to gain if they get their stuff together with black poor than if they keep doing the white rich politics for free.

            But IMO then it also comes to the aspirational stuff, where it’s much easier for a white poor to aspire to be like a white rich than black rich, and hence to identify with the white rich.

            1. PlutoniumKun

              Yes, and you touch upon another annoying aspect of IdPol – the importation wholescale of US obsessions into inappropriate contexts. The notion of ‘white’ privilage is pretty meaningless in Europe where each country has its own set of historical issues with minorities – or occasionally majorities. Here in Ireland by far the most put upon minority are travelling people – similar to east European gypsies, but not ethnically Romany (they claim their own ethnicity, but this is dubious to say the least, although there is unquestionably a travelling community culture and identity).

              Irish people tend to be generally incurious about immigrants, generally labelling east Europeans with one identity no matter where they are from (mostly Polish and Russian-Baltic), ‘Asian’ (in Ireland usually meaning Chinese/Vietnamese/Korean, not South Asian as in the UK), and just generally ‘Spanish’, which for many Irish includes just anyone from Spain, Brazil or Venezuela. As an example of the confusion, the first wave of Vietnamese who came to Ireland were usually Cantonese speakers who then set up Chinese restaurants (correctly assuming Irish people only really knew Chinese food), while the next wave of Chinese were from the border area with Korea, and often set up Korean restaurants and identified as Korean. So its not unusual in a small Irish town to find a ‘Chinese’ restaurant with a Vietnamese name, or a Korean restaurant (less frequent) with menus with mandarin titles. Sometimes this vagueness can be positive. A Viet-American woman I knew who studied here once told me she found that Ireland was the only country she’d been in where people just called her ‘American’, which she loved – in the UK and elsewhere everyone insisted that she must be Chinese or Vietnamese, and Americans would always ask where she was from.

              I don’t think most communities in Ireland have been here long enough for cliches, prejudicial or not, to apply to them (except for Romanies, who are often identified as ‘Romanian’ to the fury of non-Romany Romanians in Ireland). But a lot of cliches/prejudices people pick up from US or UK TV and media tends to seep in, for better or worse.

              1. vlade

                Yes, the US had its ACW about slavery, so tend to forget that Europe had hundreds of years of wars about religion and nationality, never mind race (a non-trivial part of Osman empire janissaries were white men, kidnapped as kids from all over eastern and central Europe).

                1. sierra7

                  Nice comments…
                  Americans don’t do either geography or history very well………….

            2. Thuto

              Very good points you make, especially about the fear of others being at its core, competitive in nature. +1

      2. Another Scott

        It’s not just the NGO or non-profit industrial complex. The people pushing this viewpoint make a lot of money off the lecture circuit.

        Nikole Hannah-Jones at Google appeared as one of my recommended videos on YouTube (I had been watching a lot of Adolph Reed and Glenn Lourey-John McWhorter videos). I didn’t watch it, but does anyone think she’ll question if there are modern forms of redlining and if they’re bad for the black community. Will she ask if companies operating online stores charge more to minorities than whites because they live in neighborhoods with less competition? Will she ask about the difference between targeted ads both communities receive? I think we all know the answer.

        What has done greater harm to the black community today: the so-called neutral big tech platforms or slavery from 150 years ago? I don’t know the answer, but this is the type of conversation that we need to be having and one that certainly won’t be taking place when people are asked to present at the world’s wealthiest corporations.

  3. Thuto

    The cancel culture guillotines are being used to eliminate diversity in the realm of ideas, beliefs and opinions, even as the radicals who’ve hauled them onto the open streets claim to be proponents of demographic diversity. Service elevators deliver shiny new guillotines to HR departments in many corporations, with employees hauled in front of Maoist inquisitions for daring to say something the picketing mob outside finds offensive against their crusade to sanitize public discourse. Again, holding each other to high standards of civility and decency is a worthy cultural pursuit, one that’s being exploited to enact a tyrannical regime presided over by pseudomoralists who brandish the threat of cancellation at anyone offending their sensibilities. I watch all this with trepidation as even in SA this is an alarmingly accelerating trend.

      1. Thuto

        Sorry, my assumption was that most in the commentariat, given that i’ve “been here for years” know that i’m in South Africa. You’re right of course, I should spell it out because I’m sure new people join the community everyday.

        1. epynonymous

          American race theory assumes we all become ‘American’ eventually. 150 years before that were serf, freeman and master.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            It reminds me of the possibly apocryphal story NBC newscaster who 30 years ago referred to Nelson Mandela as ‘the jailed leader of South Africa’s African American community’.

            1. David

              I heard the same story about a US politician at the time. The irony is that Mandela didn’t consider himself the leader of just one ethnic group, but of a multi-ethnic political struggle. The ANC’s Freedom Charter referred to SA belonging “to all the people who live in it,” and many of the top people in the ANC and its associated organisations were white, coloured or Indian (Kasrils, Slovo, Pahad, Maharaj). You couldn’t get away with that today: Mandela would be cancelled in five minutes. Part of the reason was the close links between the ANC and the determinedly non-racial (after the 1920s) Communist Party.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      I can conform that cancel culture is spreading its wings elsewhere. Its always been pretty strong in northern Europe. Here in Ireland I’ve been disturbed to see twitter mobs gathering against progressive politicians for one reason or another although happily those attempts have largely failed so far. Those on the left who find it a useful tool will quickly find it used against them (this has already happened). Its also spreading within the work environment – unsurprisingly senior management and HR departments are finding it a very useful weapon against anyone they would like to see dislodged and there is always some idiot happy to oblige with a complaint.

    2. jr

      “Again, holding each other to high standards of civility and decency is a worthy cultural pursuit”

      I’ve noticed this in a more immediate sense when I have to misfortune to lock argumentative horns with one of these types, in it’s weaponized form I mean. In some instances, the conversation starts off politely and respectfully up until they realize that their lecture and their logic is being turned back against them. Then the dissembling and dodging begins, which is fairly normal when someone thinks they have a clue but doesn’t, the difference is that this dissembling has the goal of annoying you. If successful, if you express displeasure, you have fallen into the “trap”, you’re angry, and they can safely ignore you. Anger is reserved for the righteous.

      A variant is for them to simply come at you full throttle, hoping to get a rise from you and then they can again safely ignore you. Any honest emotions are condemned. It’s the ultimate “So have you stopped robbing old ladies?” question, you just can’t win.

      Unless you laugh at them. Nothing undermines piety faster than laughter. Nothing dissolves the intellectual ground from under their feet faster than giggling at their silly labels or pointing out that dressing in drag is not exactly new. Or that a group of young womyn all dressed in nearly identical Oxford shirts doesn’t exactly scream “diversity.” Then the spluttering starts and the angry, confused looks.

      Then you drive the dagger home. You explain to them that this isn’t the first time in history that marginalized groups have won victories and then had them snatched away. That finding allies is more important than finding more enemies, that true enemies are plentiful but true friends are scarce. That class is the real intersection where people of all stripes find common cause. That the people they been trained, molded, to hate are actually the people they have the most in common with.

  4. Joe

    This recent op-ed by University of Washington history professor Margaret O’Mara epitomizes the exasperating and cynical way that liberals weaponize anti-racism to attack leftist class politics:


    As someone from Seattle, I wholeheartedly endorse O’Mara’s point that the city has a deeply racist past (indigenous genocide, Chinese exclusion, redlining), and a peculiar kind of middle class white liberal hypocrisy shapes the city’s politics today. But O’Mara ends up exemplifying that hypocrisy, and in a way that is both sanctimonious and disingenuous. Halfway through the column, O’Mara attacks socialist city council member Kshama Sawant for supposedly focusing too much on economic justice at the expense of racial justice for demanding a tax on Amazon to fund programs for the homeless. Charging Seattle progressives with evasiveness around racism, she writes:

    “Civil rights issues, particularly measures to combat anti-black racism, can be subsumed by broader social justice agendas. The city’s most prominent voice on the left in recent years is Kshama Sawant, a socialist elected to the City Council in 2013. She has focused much of her ire on Seattle’s high-tech employers and the politicians who support them. As protests escalated in recent weeks, Ms. Sawant frustrated some allies by renewing her push for an “Amazon tax” on large employers to bolster homelessness initiatives. After the tax became a rallying cry at a recent Sawant-led demonstration at City Hall, one protester asked in exasperation, “I want to tax Amazon too, but can we please for once focus on black lives?””

    Jay Caspian Kang published a similar attack on Sawant and her followers in the New York Times just a few days ago, accusing Sawant and her supporters of hijacking BLM for a supposedly class-reductionist agenda:


    These digs at Sawant piss me off for a lot of reasons. First of all, African Americans make up 32% of the homeless population in King County, despite making up 6% of the overall population. So Sawant’s demand that Amazon pay a tax to fund programs to give homeless people shelter would DISPROPORTIONATELY benefit the worst-off black people in Seattle. But O’Mara and Kang seem to care more about whether protest chants are exclusively focused on racism than whether all black people in Seattle actually have housing. Second, Kshama Sawant has been organizing with Black Lives Matter in Seattle for the past five years, and has been one of the strongest critics of police brutality and the construction of a new King County youth jail. She has done more to challenge real systemic racism in Seattle than O’Mara or Kang will ever do. Somehow, unlike Sawant, I don’t recall either of them organizing any protests against racist police brutality or mass incarceration, let alone doing things that economically benefit African Americans (which Sawant did by spearheading the movement for a $15 an hour minimum wage, first for largely black and brown Sea-Tac airport workers, then for Seattle as a whole, and now by pushing for rent control, programs for the homeless programs).

    I find it deeply suspicious for these people to attack Sawant of all people, on the New York Times op-ed page of all places, in a way that deflects anger away from Jeff Bezos and Amazon. It is reminiscent of Hillary Clinton’s “If we broke up the big banks tomorrow, would that end racism?” line of attack on Sanders in 2016. This takes a lot of chutzpah for O’Mara, in particular, to do this. She is a former Bill Clinton White House staffer who has literally nothing critical to say about Bezos in her 2019 book The Code: Silicon Valley and the Making of America. O’Mara also happens to work at a university awash in donations and endowed professorships from Bezos and Amazon in the last ten years (https://techtransfercentral.com/2019/12/17/how-jeff-bezos-personally-helped-u-of-washington-become-an-ai-research-powerhouse/).

    This blatant weaponization of anti-racism in defense of the world’s richest man brings to mind Adolph Reed’s observation that “the race line is a class line.” As Reed has argued again and again, when anti-racist liberals attack the left by insisting on the importance of race over class, they are almost always shoring up their own privileged class position. To see them do this in a way that actually harms a disproportionately black homeless population really takes the cake.

    1. Lambert Strether

      > Ms. Sawant frustrated some allies

      I think “ally” is one of those words to watch out for. It presumes that identities are mutually exclusive, organized vertically, have quasi-sovereign status, and that each member of the identity represents the sovereign identity. There’s a name for that kind of logic, I’m sure it will come to me in a moment.

      Meanwhile, Reed defines racism as “belief in race.” I think he’s onto something.

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        “Reed defines racism as “belief in race.””

        I was shocked to learn—ere i abandoned socmed—that i was a racist simply for being a white guy….no matter my happy marriage to a mexican american, nor my “half-breed” children. and heaven forbid i bring up my own experience growing up with black kids, or later working in a black club(only white person in the place…my fellow cooks “protecting me” when we had an Ice Cube concert(I shook hands with him, and he hung out in the kitchen eating catfish before and after,lol))
        none of that matters, because my skin is lacking sufficient pigment.
        is this not, itself, a racist outlook? How did such Essentialism become so acceptable?!
        for once, I’m glad i don’t live in a place with a lot of white PMC types or in a college town,lol.
        this diversionary strategy looks far too successful from where i sit, and purposefully difficult to challenge.
        echoes of the Albigensian Crusade…”Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius.”

        the saddest part is that way out here, in this very Red place, outright, overt racism has been obviously on the decline for decades…little by little, and organically, due to exposure of white folks to brown, due to friendship, working together and marriage. I fear that this will at least somewhat undo all that progress…since a feature of this strategy is that precarious white folks will feel attacked and go on the defensive, and therefore be unarmed in the face of the “white nationalists”, etc—–which are the other side of this divisionary effort…and, i suspect, just as purposeful in the overall effort to erase class from the narrative.
        antiracism is promoting a continuation of racism.

        1. jr

          It’s easy to repel that “white = racist” trope if you can find single drop of non Caucasian blood in your veins. I have had a couple of run in’s with white kids, all Columbia students I now recall, who told me proudly of the fact that a generation or so back they had a POC in their family. Therefore,they too were victims. These are some of the most privileged children on the planet, snowflake white in complexion, telling me how they have suffered under the lash of racism.

          This points to another dynamic here, one that makes identity politics so attractive to entitled young white kids: the ability to “purchase” authenticity through self flagellation and attacking their own in group. POC and queers want their identities recognized , rightfully so. But for the entitled white youth, no stranger to security and comfort, marginalized identities are “real” only in contrast to the paucity of meaning their own lives hold. They marvel at tales of turkey-less Christmases and evictions not because they are sympathetic, they would mock a poor white “loser” in those situations, but because these are real emotions and real struggles they will never experience. Joining their ranks is a kind of safari into a scary, dangerous world far from the swaddled creche of their parent’s credit lines and advantageous links in the marketing world. Just not too far.

          1. JBird4049

            We never had no turkey free Thanksgiving, but how about meatless meatloaf at other times? Yummy. ;-)

            1. jr

              I’ve never tried it but I would. I make a mean vegan garlic and onion gravy by the way…

        2. JBird4049

          “I fear that this will at least somewhat undo all that progress…”

          Well, yes. Racism as we understand it is the creation of the the slave industry starting around 1600, by those Europeans who profited from the theft, sale, enslavement, and use of human beings who just happened to be black. Identity used as a means to justify slavery and a way to separate poor whites from the enslaved Africans.

      2. dbk

        Useful Idiots hosted Reed on 3 July; among other things he discussed quotas in the boardrooms of the S&P 500 (hint: this is not how Reed envisions economic justice), and referred to all the posturing in “support” of BLM as “dramaturgy.” And he talked a bit about his grassroots political work in SC trying to garner signatures from voters who pledged to vote only for candidates supporting M4A.


      3. drumlin woodchuckles

        I notice that some Social Justice/ Racial Identy groups and movements are trying to redefine the word “ally” away from its real meaning. They are trying to redefine the word “ally” to mean “loyal servant”.

        “Allyship” really means ” loyally humble servitude” to the Social Justice/ Racial Identy agenda.

    2. David

      Otherwise known as “let’s talk about me, please!” It’s been a pretty touch few months for IdPoliticians, with this virus thing getting them off the front pages.

      1. Arizona Slim

        And here’s the thing about that danged virus: It doesn’t care who it infects. It’s just looking for a host. That’s what viruses do.

    3. jr

      I found this morsel from the first linked article especially rich:

      “They might point out that it has driven up Seattle rents, which in turn has led to rapid gentrification of Black neighborhoods; action against Amazon could secure universal victory. The relevance of such debates, and even more so their resolution, is unclear.”

      A clear, crystalline example of doublethink. How can rising rents and the colonization of poor peoples neighborhoods by the wealthy not be relevant? Let’s assume for a small second it’s not the primary concern, it’s being called bad names or something, it’s still relevant!!

      1. Joe

        Right. Because obviously those economic issues only affect white people. The liberal insistence on divorcing race from class is incredibly myopic and annoying.

      2. Laputan

        I found the preceding statement also quite revelatory:

        Indelicate Marxists might argue that the identity of speakers should not matter and that the only meaningful action would be to leverage the movement to tax Amazon. They might point out that it has driven up Seattle rents, which in turn has led to rapid gentrification of Black neighborhoods; action against Amazon could secure universal victory. The relevance of such debates, and even more so their resolution, is unclear.

        Umm…who’s arguing that a tax on Amazon is the only meaningful action? Seriously, is even one person making that argument? Because it certainly wouldn’t be Sawant.

        1. Joe

          Right. And of all the burning issues he could have written about, why choose to target Sawant on these grounds in a high-profile publication, at a time when Bezos’ fortune is increasing more rapidly than usual, in a way that implies targeting Amazon isn’t the woke thing to do? I don’t mean to be conspiratorial, but I suspect the writer knows that pitting racial justice against economic justice, especially in a moment ripe for populist class politics, is a smart career move for a corporate media pundit. It’s a way of denigrating the left, appearing morally enlightened, and serving the interests of plutocracy at the same time.

    4. Eclair

      Thank you, Joe, for your incisive take on Seattle’s ‘middle class white liberal hypocrisy.’ As a newcomer to the city … moving to be near family in retirement …. I am caught off balance by a kind of schizophrenia there.

      1. Joe

        Good luck In Seattle. I know the hypocrisy all too well because I grew up around it. Their identity revolves around feeling morally superior to Republicans and rednecks, but they are blind to their own class elitism, and generally don’t care very much about the poor in their midst. Much like San Francisco, Seattle has gotten less interesting to me as it has become more and more like a giant gated community for tech workers. That being said, I love the natural landscape of the Pacific Northwest, and the Puget Sound, San Juan Islands, Olympic Peninsula, Cascades, etc. are beautiful. I hope you find happiness there.

        1. m sam

          As a resident of Seattle (who also grew up here) I can say it is very much true. And over the last two decades, as the city has become far richer, it has gotten way worse. There has always been the “liberal bubble” here, but the wealth has only allowed the city to become more comfortable with it.

          1. Offtrail

            You should all come on down to Vancouver, WA, a valley of humility between two mountains of elitist white conceit (Seattle & Portland). We don’t know nothin’ here and we have beer.

    5. Laputan

      Academia is the absolute worst when it comes to race-baiting as cover for class politics. It makes sense from an self-interested standpoint since the majority are upper-middle-class, aspiring elites who came from the same background since that’s all who’s been able to afford a post-grad education. Does it also surprise anyone that Ms. O’Mara is married to a healthcare analytics CEO?

      Plus the ID pol movement was also born in academia from phony scholarship in sociology, queer/gender studies, “performance theory”, etc. and has seeped into other disciplines as well as several administrations. I work at a university that has seen its department of Equity and Access become Equity and Inclusion to now being a full-fledged department of Inclusive Excellence – all in two years. It would be harmless if it were just a shell game of silly names, but now they’re throwing around hundreds of thousands in salaries for new staff to develop policies to tell people how to behave, and to recruit black and brown people (which is what people mean when they use the cloying and repulsive “people of color”) to professional level positions. Meanwhile, they’re paying some of their custodial staff, the overwhelming majority of which just so happen to come from minority backgrounds, not only below a living wage but even less in real terms than what they were making over a decade ago.

      1. Joe

        Yes. And how little they care about the pay of the people who clean their offices is the ultimate giveaway.

        1. IdahoSpud

          I find the Bowdlerization of our shared language incredibly autocratic. “People of Color” – how does that phraseology improve anyone’s life in a meaningful way? To improve someone’s life would require actual effort, so this is clearly the lazy person’s path.

          Also fascinating is that one rapper may use a certain word, and it’s completely acceptable, because race. Another rapper may not use the same word, also because race. Isn’t this practice of who gets to use words based on their race in itself racist? Are these derogatory terms acceptable or are they not?

          With the power of internet search, it’s now possible to find a historical scrap of text that could be uncharitably interpreted as showing a hint of racism. That scrap can then be used to prove that an individual is in fact a racist, and then either canceled or sent off to HR for re-education. This is an absolute gold mine for the politically correct to cancel people for previous slips (Taylor Selfridge), as well as for trolls looking to harass those who have been anointed by the politically correct (Sarah Jeong).

          Faux outrage and enforcing hypocritical behaviors are the tools these people are using. They are authoritarian, and have no desire whatsoever to help anyone improve their life. It’s puritanism, but nowadays they are using a different operating manual.

      2. Basil Pesto

        the other day I described the term ‘people of colour’ as staggeringly lame, but cloying and repulsive is good too. One wonders what black people of a certain age (and/or class) make of it.

        1. Michael Fiorillo

          How about “insipid?” I’ve always loathed the phrase… oh, and by the way, it’s no longer POC, but BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color), and don’t you dare fail to keep up!

          On a another personal note, I’ve often found that IdPol is frequently weaponized and used as a bad faith tactic in Left factional disagreements. As a NYC public school teacher, I was involved in the formation of a opposition caucus of the UFT, which included members of various left sectarian groups, the most active of which were (Ivy league-educated, and not one from NYC, natch) Trotskyists from the International Socialist Organization.

          Long story short, as the Trots (now very active in DSA) vied for control of the group (with the intention, of focusing on “activism” rather than a revived and more democratic union, their opponents were smeared without evidence as sexist and racist. Needless to say, there was a noticeable class split in all this, with ISO bringing in ringers, all younger teachers steeped in Idpol orthodoxies, for votes they staged. While the Trots were a minority, they were skilled intra-party fighters, and were adept at using Identitarian pieties to manipulate naifs and less politically sophisticated people.

          The irony is that all of this was taking place while the ISO was consumed behind the scenes with a sexual assault coverup that the Sectarians in our little lefty sandbox were directly involved in, all while they were making baseless charges of sexism against their opponents.

          The group (ISO) disbanded as result of splits resulting from the rape and its coverup. Many of its members went into DSA, unsurprisingly. Meanwhile, NYC teachers, represented by a feckless UFT leadership that has controlled the union for 60 years, have no effective opposition as austerity not seen since the 1970’s hits the school system, in part thanks to the weaponizing of identity politics.

          1. JBird4049

            BIPOC? So that’s what it means. Is this going to be another LGB->LGBT->LGBTIQA+ ->???

    6. hemeantwell

      I think that until recently I’ve tended to underestimate the severity of this problem. But I still have reservations:

      1. Simply, so what if O’Mara sounds the intersectionality alarm and accuses Sawant of economism? Do we really know how many “followers” she has? Is this a figment of yet another bourgeois news outlet choosing to foreground intersectionalist sniping to make it seem as though one must choose between, to put it one way, fairness in recognition and economic fairness?

      2. (I think this has been raised in other ways previously here.) To go off in a different direction, to what extent should this phenomenon be seen as reflecting the transformation of what Honneth and others have described as a politics of “recognition” into a politics of narcissism. By that I mean in the specific sense Heinz Kohut discussed as a therapeutic phenomenon in the treatment of narcissistic patients, in which the grievant seeks to find in politics, in the public sphere, a mirror in which they see a desired image of themselves, and when they don’t, they smash (cancel) the mirror. Almost any political situation has a potential for this kind of dynamic, but it is usually not predominant, since participants have a sense of worth that is grounded outside of the encounter. But some cancelers may pursue politics to be mirrored, steadily and with priority, and so any admixture of material motives seems terribly off point.

      I realize this risks dismissive “pathologizing.” However, it’s not a matter of just tossing diagnostic categories around, but of noting parallels with well documented clinical situations. So, it might be worthwhile to bring this to the question of coalition terminology. Could it be that the idea of “ally” is picking up on the kind of tenuous relationship someone has when trying to help out in a conflict over, to stick with this framing, a guarantee of “adequate” social mirroring for narcissistic ends? You don’t have common ground, but rather sympathy for the injured. And it is difficult to talk about the injury, because if one party isn’t injured then the possibility of seeming “privileged” arises. Not privileged in the general sense of being better off, but privileged in the specific sense of not sharing in the need for mirroring. And the way out, of course, is for you to mirror. In this situation there can be no sense of “we’re in this together” and that the payoff will be something like “more jobs.” Instead, when you’re holding a mirror, or mirroring, you are monitored for speech and behavior that appears to support the desired image. Tedious and fragile.

      To come back around to the question of how severe the problem is, it may be that the impression of severity is strongly augmented by a sense of its potential intractability. We’re aware that this culture has been doing a wonderful job of increasing the possibility of superficial narcissistic enhancement. We have a highly contradictory parallel development of increasing competition, putting narcissism in jeopardy, with (maybe now somewhat passe) making sure that child gets an award, along an explosion in the ability to gain the attention of others, to become a trend. For myself, in a possibly simplistic fashion I’m hoping that the current development of a massive material crisis will undercut this potential and that what we’re seeing now are protests against this shift.

  5. David

    One way of understanding this is as a manifestation of structures of power. No, stay with me. Anglo-Saxon concepts of power tend to be crude, quantitative and straightforward (though see Steven Lukes Power: A Radical View). But the fact is that in any system of power, those in charge rely on hierarchies lower down, and often unseen, to enforce their power, and not necessarily in obvious ways. Think of the most desperate conditions of humanity – refugee camps, slave plantations, prisons, concentration camps – and you find hierarchies of power even among the apparently powerless, because in the last instance there is (almost) always someone less powerful than you. We’ve all heard of prison gangs who are often the real power in prisons. But it operates in all circumstances. For example – since I was reading one of his books recently – Jorge Semprun, a Spaniard who fought with the French Resistance was captured and imprisoned in Buchenwald. He would normally have been executed, but his life was saved because he was a member of the Communist Party, and the camp was effectively administered by German communists who had been there since the 1930s, and had the power to say who could be qualified as an essential worker, and so survive. There are a thousand other examples.

    So what the billionaire class is doing is subcontracting the disciplining of ordinary people to those who have relatively little power, but are happy, and indeed keen, to exercise what they have. It doesn’t greatly matter to the billionaire class what the basis of that power is, or how it’s exercised: they leave that to the factotums who do the dirty work. And precisely because these factotums have so little real power, compared to the billionaires, they exercise it in a particularly vicious way. Powerless tends to corrupt, and absolute powerlessness corrupts absolutely.

    It’s a mistake to think this is about ideology, it isn’t. I always found the most frightening part of 1984 the part where O’Brien tells Winston Smith that the Party has no ideology, and that, “the purpose of power is power.” All the shifts in ideology and political alliances (“Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia”) and even the existence of the wars, are only important insofar as they constitute a complex and ever-shifting set of things that have to be believed and expressed in the right words. The ultimate success of the system, of course, is when people spontaneously believe the ever)-changing Party line, and even censor themselves and their expressions and even their thoughts. All authoritarian systems know that getting people to obey meaningless rituals is the best way to break them. So you have the grotesque (to foreigners, anyway) spectacle of white politicians kneeling down and saying “my life doesn’t matter.” Today in the Guardian (where else?) we read that the Royal Air Force has, without being asked, decided to change the name of the pet dog of Wing Cdr Guy Gibson, the leader of the 1943 Dambusters operation, because it is now, apparently (but was not then) a “racial slur.” The little memorial to the dog is apparently having its name changed presumably to something like “white fragility.” The history books will soon follow. When people start doing these things spontaneously, because they are afraid of reprisals if they don’t, then the billionaire class has won, without having to lift a finger. Their servants are doing all the work, without even realising it.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Yes, its always been about power. I’d go even further back in history to 19th Century Ireland (Scotland too), where the wealthy essentially subcontracted the disciplining of working people by simply favouring one religious group over another. In the late 18th Century poor catholics, presbyterians and high church protestants were to a significant extent united as a group – the 1798 rebellion was famously a mix of ‘catholic, protestant and dissenter’. By the mid 19th Century this was entirely gone – in northern Ireland presbyterians were favoured in jobs and businesses, in the south it was poor high church protestants. The results of course are well known. It was a simple process of giving some small additional power and income to one group and encouraging them to use it against their immediate economic rivals.

      1. David

        They should, although it was Foucault I actually had in mind. Real power is when people persuade themselves without you having to even ask them .

        1. vlade

          You still have to set up the right environment for that. I don’t think Arendt cares who does the persuation, her point IIRC was that it’s not “they take the power from us”, it’s “we give power to them”.

      2. sierra7

        Good one!
        “The Origins of Totalitarianism” Hannah A.
        Also as a sub overseer for the elites in the Nazi Gas Chambers:

    2. Adam1

      Totally agree! My biggest qualm with so many upper middle class white people I know who have become obsessed with BLM and anti-racism is that they pour so much energy into attacking all sorts of racist things (which individually is not necessarily bad) but seem incapable of realizing the real problem is the purpose of racism – to exploit workers and keep them powerless. All that’s really being accomplished is redefining what it means to be “privileged white”. Once we’ve reduced the poor working class (racist) whites to the same level as poor people of color we will have irradiated “racism” (snark). But actually not accomplished much of anything with respect to the power structure.

    3. L

      I think that you are definitely onto something here. This whole process makes me think very much of the 80’s (bear with me here) when large companies rushed to fund conservative politicians and encouraged conservative viewpoints. In that case the energy of the rabble was on the side of “family values” and “tough on crime” so the companies sidled up to the winning cultural side and, by extension, their politicians. In this way they can fit with the dominant mood and keep their access and their profits. Now that times have changed the corporate branding does too but the end goal, profits first, does not.

      Now they just want a different kind of moral crusader to give out discipline.

      A close look at some of the arguments is also enlightening. I have seen individuals literally argue that we cannot do broad based reform or social support because all the other groups supposedly got support and theirs didn’t so basically deliberate division is the order of the day.

    4. Otto

      David – Very well done. What often is missing in these conversations of race, class & IDpol, is any granularity in the meaning of these words. While the concept of ‘race’ or at least ‘racism’ has become much more elaborate (I didn’t say evolved), class on the other hand has little to do with what Marx was talking about and even less about the social structure of Great Britain in the 19th Century played forward. Power and status seem eternal. Original thinking like yours is more of what we need to deal with the actual reality in front of us, not the 2019 reality of saying or doing anything without consequence.

    5. ks

      The RAF didn’t change the name, they replaced it with an image of a black Labrador. The name was a racial slur in 1943 and the change doesn’t alter history, just spares some feelings in a public space.

  6. Eustache de Saint Pierre

    One thing that I have been picking up on with working class white people ( although some don’t consider themselves as WC ) is a growing resentment to Idpol & a certain amount towards those who it claims to benefit.

    Besides being of assistance to what appears to be a very few, I believe that it could if times get tougher actually make things much worse for the minorities of whom those representing them largely appear to be extremists to a certain extent, who are mistakenly identified as the face of whole communities. I have a couple of elderly West Indian friends, one Muslim & 2 gay relatives who are worried about the divisiveness of the approach & are of the belief that it won’t change the mindset of hardcore racists but more likely enable them to recruit those who are neither here or there.

    As for the real reasons of the hardship & inequality for minorities, it obviously won’t do a damned thing to change that. One of my gay relatives decided to stay firmly in the closet a while back, as he did not want to expose himself to this world as a potential target or scapegoat in which the Right appears to be growing in strength – with Liberals having sold out & in a kind of Bruning style screw & insult the majority while giving the appearance of favouring minorities well above them.

    1. Joe

      The problem isn’t “idpol” itself so much as the way elite liberals separate it from working class politics. Someone like A. Philip Randolph or Bayard Rustin combined a pro-labor agenda with civil rights in a way that benefited all working people (white, black, brown) while also removing discriminatory barriers that were holding back black workers. The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was about raising the minimum wage and demanding public works for the unemployed and much as about pushing Kennedy to sign a real civil rights bill and finally end black disenfranchisement a century after the Civil War. There is no contradiction between Sanders-style social democratic policies and anti-discrimination. Both are necessary.

      Neoliberal anti-racism is different. That is about diversifying corporate boards, sensitivity training workshops, corporate BLM banner ads, Jamie Simon taking a knee in front of a bank vault, etc. It’s a huge mistake to think that stuff does something for black and brown people but nothing for white people. Actually, it does something for a small class of rich and/or upwardly mobile professional white, black, and brown people, and nothing for the vast majority of white, black, and brown people who are working class or poor and lack a four-year degree. This stuff is benefiting CEOs, corporate consultants, media producers, cable TV pundits, and academics of all backgrounds. It is not benefiting bus drivers, Wal-Mart cashiers, fast food line cooks, or warehouse workers of any background.

      1. L

        Yes I have been continually surprised by the people I see (mostly online I’ll admit) who respond with anger, even vehimence, about Sanders’ support for working class voters but who get excited by the lip service paid by the plutocrats. Perhaps it’s just some weird form of privilege but I don’t see how symbolic nods by people who literally profit off of keeping people of color poor and sick is more meaningful than a systemic plan to lift everyone out of poverty.

        Some of it is clearly misinformation, I have encountered many who seem to think that Sanders was opposed to reparations and civil rights (not clear why) and who read his support for working class as “white working class.” And those who claim that his successes in 2016 against Clinton, particularly in states that Trump later carried, was proof that he was a racist.

        Oddly enough even Chait at NYMag did a good takedown of the vapidity of “anti-racist” training. Is the Anti-Racism Training Industry Just Peddling White Supremacy?

        1. Joe

          The tell is that most of the people who criticized Sanders on not supporting reparations never went after Clinton, Biden, Harris, and others for not supporting them either. Kind of like how women assaulted or harassed by powerful male Democrats get thrown under the bus.

    2. jr


      Blue fascism depends on making things worse for the people it claims to represent, it feeds off of their strife and frustration then offers them a soap box from which to rage helplessly into the ether. Imagine for a moment a world where they have won, every snowflake gets to sparkle in it’s own special way, every bold gender pioneer exploring new lands that have been mapped out for millennia. It would be the end of the line for the gravy train. Much like the Democratic party which would rather lose to Trump than risk a real peoples candidate so as to maintain those golden rice bowls, mediocrities like the DiAngelos of the world never, ever want to see real reconciliation amongst the “races.” It’s a self sucking rainbow popsicle…

    3. David

      I do wonder sometimes whether, in addition to the competition to be more-radical-than-thou, the people behind this aren’t actively trying to provoke conflict, by pushing and pushing ever harder in the IdPol direction, until they eventually provoke the backlash which will enable them to claim that the situation is as bad as they always said it was. If your political identity and career is inextricably bound up with Group X, then you don’t actually want that group to be happy. In fact, you want them to be unhappy, because then you become a more important player. So a backlash against the alleged beneficiaries of IdPol would be exactly what was needed. I hope I’m wrong, because it would be a stupid and extremely dangerous game to start playing.

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        “…In fact, you want them to be unhappy…”
        similar to underfunding and crapifying by esoteric rulemaking, behind a veil of complexity, various Public Things…from the Post office to public schools to medicaid…so that they can then point at it and say “see? it’s even worse than we told you it was..”

        and the ramping up of chaos and confusion, in an already thoroughly chaotic and confused world, serves to make ordinary folks throw up their hands, and seek some easy to understand place of relative certainty.
        #metoo, and all this Woke stuff, makes me want to abandon political discourse altogether, and just hide out here on the Farm.
        if someone like Adolph Reed can be excluded from the conversation…man…my eyes hurt from the rolling.
        …and every bit of it is to negate Class as a subject of analysis and even thought.
        “a Black CEO doesn’t trickle down”-Bruce Dixon(i think)

      2. PlutoniumKun

        I’ve often wondered about that. Trans activists in particular have seemed to take a very aggressive line which seems almost designed to provoke a backlash. So many people (including myself) who are entirely sympathetic to people living their own sexual/gender lives as they choose find themselves unable to support so many of their stances, in particular when they ignore the concerns of women about safety.

        1. Joao Bispo

          I assure you virtually every trans people wants nothing more than just live their lives, which many times is almost close to impossible when you have societies that make trans people feel like they have to justify their existence at every turn.

          Could you elaborate what kind of safety concerns of women trans people ignore?

          1. furies

            Trans activists insist that they are ‘women’ by adorning themselves with female attire/makeup. They do not have the experience of growing up female in this culture.

            Sorry; putting on a dress does not make you female.

            I have personally seen nothing by bullies in the “Trans Movement” where bio females must cower to flawed group-think. Bullied by white males yet again.

            I don’t give a crap what people do in the bedroom; but when your ‘id’ tramples gains made by women over centuries of oppression, I cannot take you seriously.

  7. Nick

    I don’t think cancel culture is really “a thing”. Very few examples and those there are seem pretty inconsequential. More like something opinion writers take up because in their qusickly shrinking industry, controlled and populated mostly by older, richer, whites, any diversity push is truly a threat to livelihoods of those established.

    I do like this article’s premise though. Liberals don’t care about class differences and they are not anything more than opportunistic friends!

  8. GERMO

    This is an interesting take. I think the phenomenon “cancel culture” (a terrible moniker on many levels) is something far less worrying than I read here. The political trend attempting to marginalize and ruin the reactionary layers of the intelligentsia is in all respects a powerless one, relative to real political power. But when I read about this cancel culture I’m always hearing from extremely privileged people with careers of influence. The vast majority of the signatories to the Harpers letter, for example, will be fine. Putting a muzzle on total jerks like Jordan Peterson or whoever is also totally fine. The examples of overreach or overzealousness by the cancelers fail to alarm me, but then, I don’t have a career and I’m not a bigshot influencer, and I don’t care about those who are except in the particular.
    Plus, you want to know about writers who have to worry about their every remark? I say, ask anyone who’s been pro-Palestine, anytime in the past 20 or 30 years. The chilling of discourse is real but since when is the ruling class worried about the far left, actually?

    1. ks

      Less privileged people can’t afford to risk the ostracism that comes of being labeled as racist or a TERF.

  9. John Merryman.

    What about promoting Julian Assange as the write candidate of choice?
    He certainly personifies what the power structure really fears. Which is not simply the fact that inequality grows ever larger, but that it’s the result of a tsunami of corruption that needs to be called out.
    History tends to remember those who played the game well, even if they had to drink the hemlock, got nailed to the cross, burned at the stake, show trialed.
    Not those winning all the bling.
    The bull is power. The matador is art.

  10. Code Name D

    They came for male students. And I did not speak up because I was not a male student.
    They came for gamers. And I did not speak up because I was not a gamer.
    They came for comic book fans. And I did not speak up because I was not a comic book fan.
    They came for the script writers. And I did not speak up because I was not a script writer.
    They came for movie critics. And I did not speak up because I was not a movie critic.
    Now they come for me. And I suddenly realize there is no one left to speak up.

    The “cancel culture” has been brewing for some time. The people who are going after the left for “wrong think,” are the exact same people who went after Start Wars fans for calling Ray out as a Marry Sue. There is even “gamer-gate” and “comics-gate” scandals (if I can even use the word) that tore up their perspective industries and fan bases.

    These “scandals” of course revolved more around gender, rather than race. But when one is only concerned about symbolism, then it should not surprise when race issues become interchangeable with gender issues. If you fail to love Star Wars, the Force Awakens; suddenly you are both a racist and a sexist. While ironically, harsh critics of TFA who just happen to be young women of color – magically do not exist at all or are rebranded as bloated white man-babies tweeting from their mom’s basement.

    Much of this was able to progress without much of a challenge because it focused mostly in media, entertainment and so called “geek culture”. Real activities were too concerned with “real issues” such as war, climate change, fracking, incarceration, excreta, to other with such issues. And perhaps one could be forgiven for this? Imagine a passionate dialogue over war-crimes in Iraq, and then have some on raise their hand and ask – but what about Star Wars?

    Nevertheless, those in the trenches for Geek Culture had long feared that “cancel culture” would eventually move into politics and presidential debates. And there were early signs. The Clinton campaign had requisitioned the “all-female” Ghostbusters movie, and then later Start Trek had modeled Klingons after “Trump voters,”, are but two of the early warning flags. Even more worrisome was that cancel culture was not contained. The gender-swapping of “The Doctor” in BBC’s Doctor Who was followed by similar gender hysteria.

    No wonder then that Japan is starting to fight back as forces seek to wield greater control not just over Japanese animation and books – but over Japanese culture itself. Only time will tell if they succeed.

    This leads me to see three observations.

    One, as already noted by many here. This is not about race or gender, but class.

    Two, not as widely noted. This is not oppression for the sake of some political agenda. This is oppression for the sake of oppression in and of itself. This may be about class – but its expression is still through racism and too a lesser extent gender. Say what you will about the Klan, at least they were willing to get their own hands dirty in the practice of their racism. The new bread of racists however want the state to carry out the dirty work for them because they are too busy to attend Black Lives Matter rallies.

    I recall old debates from the 60s that argued that; racists do not know thy are racists. In fact, they do not see their actions as being wrong at all, but as being part of the social norms of the day. This gave rise to two theories for change. One was to simply expose the “common racists” to perspectives they may never have been exposed too before. If they see the suffering of black people, as well as the things they hold in common, there outlook on politics may change. Begrudgingly it may be; but change of this sort can be traumatic, so one’s transition needs to be handled compassionately.

    The second theory is to simply dictate what passes for social norms. “Wrong think is to be canceled” and a “social correct” version of society to be put on display. What we now call “cancel culture.” So, in addition to that which is “canceled” one needs to pay attention to what is promoted in its place. Unsurprisingly one of those messages is “vote Democrat.” Perhaps I should not have been so dismissive when Conservatives complained about “political correctness.”

    My third observation is this. This is a clearly an example of a slippery slope. Where small changes in the wrong direction, become an immutable slide onto dystopia. We need to not just be weary of small changes – but also weary of small changes made is seemly unsuspecting places – such as comic books.

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      ” Perhaps I should not have been so dismissive when Conservatives complained about “political correctness.” ”

      Yeah. Mea Culpa.
      “Gamergate” was not even peripheral to my daily living.
      (“…so i did nothing”…)
      if i do know any gamers, they don’t talk about that stuff with Luddite(in all senses, it turns out) little ol me.
      last video game i played was stargate, in a burger hall. Circa 1983.
      I wasn’t interested in gamergate.

      I was, however, interested in the PC accusations being lobbed by righties at academia.
      I figured there was some kernel of truth somewhere in there, that they had characteristically mangled and perverted towards their own ends….but i was busy with my big field study trying to understand the Right…as well as covered up with my hip/arthritis and advocating for healthcare against local goptea.
      so it was a peripheral and perhaps interesting phenomenon that might need further study in future.
      It first became something more, for me, when from 2015, I proceeded to talk about what i had learned about the Right, under the assumption that some, sub-elite faction of the demparty actually wanted to get more voters,lol
      My bad.
      The batshit crazy that pooped all over me on FB, in early 2017,made it real, indeed…and i backed away from them, in order to focus on the local.
      I don’t have time for such people, and don’t want them in my life.
      Vampires is right.
      so yeah…the batshit crazy righties were right about this one.

    2. Mel

      I started this morning with a comment referring to The Archdruid Report’s essay on The Rescue Game. Comment got to wandering so I didn’t submit it — still it feels like that essay could be relevant. ?

  11. Jesper

    The effect ID-pol and the cancel-culture might differ slightly depending on the electoral system. I am not sure and as far as I can tell no study has been made but…

    In Sweden we’ve had single issue parties that tried to get representation in parliament. If the single issue was important enough and the party seemed competent enough then the representation was noticeable. The latest and hopefully last ID-pol (to me a single issue) party in Sweden had massive support by (establishment) media yet they failed to get representation in parliament. ID-pol is still being used to divide, however, I do believe it to be more difficult to divide people when there is a list system.
    In first by the post systems then the possibility of having a separate political party for a single issue is almost nil. Therefore the single issue has to somehow be picked up by one of the parties that actually can win, if the existing parties want a diversion then they can use ID-pol to say that we have different views compared our twin (on this issue but same on all/most other issues).

    The difference between the two systems might be that in one system then ID-pol can be a large and importanty differentiator and in the other system then people show by voting what they consider to be important and ID-pol works less well in getting into power. Getting into power is what counts and therefore ID-pol might be less important.

  12. JEHR

    All the made-up words and acronyms leave me cold and puzzled: e.g., lean-in, cancel culture, idpol, woke, a thing, etc. In the future, I will be reading a whole page of these ideograms and will have to look up each one in order to make sense of anything. Is this where Twitter is leading us?

  13. Joao Bispo

    I’ve been following this blog for many years, and I feel I’ve got a lot out of it regarding economic analysis.

    However, I have been really disappointed by the posts and comments about “cancel culture”. They remind me too much of the useful idiots that defended the “free speech” of people that are only interested in propagating hate and would be the first to censor others, if they had the opportunity.

    Surprisingly (or not?), the comments of these posts are overwhelmingly derisive regarding racial and gender issues, or full of “yeah, they are important but…”. They raised many red flags for me.

    Also, be careful when you start having comments such as “They came for gamers.”

    1. Lambert Strether

      > the useful idiots that defended the “free speech” of people that are only interested in propagating hate and would be the first to censor others, if they had the opportunity.

      This is America, man (not Europe). Basically, if you’re not openly inciting violence, the First Amendment means that you can say whatever you want — or should. “I don’t like what you wrote, so I’m gonna call your boss and get you fired” is McCarthyite in essence. And McCarthyism is seen as aberrational. Of course, things don’t always work out for First Amendment freedoms. But that’s not a reason to make things work worse than they already do.

      1. Joao Bispo

        No right or freedom is absolute. Free speech is just one of several rights, and restrictions are necessary for rights and freedoms to co-exists. In my view, the weight America gives to free speech hurts other rights of Americans.

        I gave a very specific example, which would include cases that in Europe could be considered hate speech, but in America would be protected. Your example is a strawman, and would need a separate discussion.

        1. Massinissa

          Wait, I’m confused, ‘they came for gamers’ is hate speech in Europe?

          Who determines what is or is not hate speech, and where is the line drawn?

  14. rob

    I think there is another cancel culture…. that is so ubiquitous, it is standard operating procedure.
    It is “cancel” by oblivion.
    The powerful;the powers that be; those in charge of the platform…… manipulate the voices heard by omission..
    “They” control the narrative, by being the “decider” of who has “the merit” to be heard,and who shall NOT be heard.
    The issues, are what is being canceled…by letting the masses have “certain” things to debate/argue .. that are NOT anything critical to the function of the machine.big machines and little machines.
    This tactic is used by every perspective.
    That is why there needs to be a project of some kind… a “truth and reconciliation commission”… but in an open source sort of way…because really… everybody has an issue…. with something or somebody.
    And you figure we can’t convince each other of our beliefs… but if the architecture is built to hold the stories of the past and present… it could be useful.

  15. J C

    The mock ad was MacDonalds. The actual name when used in the sentence with Nike was also spelled MacDonalds. Does anyone proof read anything? I haven’t eaten fast food in ten plus years but I know it’s spelled “McDonalds”. As I see grammatical errors I am less motivated to read certain emails.

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