Thursday, June 4, 2015

Title IX and The Left Eating Its Own

Oubor . .  Ouroboroues . . . Ouroboros-usesses!
What to make of the Title XI charges against Laura Kipnis? The story is:

  1. She (a tenured professor) published an article critical of the air of sexual-assault-paranoia on modern college campuses.
  2. Two anonymous students retaliated by bringing Title-IX charges against her for making the school feel like an unsafe place for them. Title IX is the statute that prohibits discrimination based on sex in any institution receiving federal funds.
  3. The university responded with a bizarre Kafka-esque trial where she could not have a lawyer, could not know who her accusers were, and so on. Despite being tenured, having published her article in a journal outside the school, and, frankly, have said nothing significantly threatening she was in danger of being fired.
Vox, a pretty left-wing site, had this to say yesterday: "I'm a liberal professor, and my liberal students terrify me."
In a New York Magazine piece, Jonathan Chait described the chilling effect this type of discourse has upon classrooms. Chait's piece generated seismic backlash, and while I disagree with much of his diagnosis, I have to admit he does a decent job of describing the symptoms. He cites an anonymous professor who says that "she and her fellow faculty members are terrified of facing accusations of triggering trauma." Internet liberals pooh-poohed this comment, likening the professor to one of Tom Friedman's imaginary cab drivers. But I've seen what's being described here. I've lived it. It's real, and it affects liberal, socially conscious teachers much more than conservative ones.
The American Conservative's piece on this concludes with a message from one of his readers (a nationally known educator who is conservative--if anonymous) saying it's worse that Rod thinks:
A nationally known conservative college professor, a man who is well into his career, and protected by tenure, just wrote to say “it’s worse than you think,” then sent evidence. He said this has definitely had a chilling effect on the lectures he gives, for fear of triggering a Little Empress or Emperor, who will set out to ruin his academic life. 
The Omnivore is going to take it from the Vox-Liberal and the American-Con-Conservative that their agreement meets in the middle, they're probably on to something. So what to make of it?

The Obvious: These Kids Are Idiots

Talking Points Memo, a left-wing blog, says "Good work Laura Kipnis critics, you made your enemy a martyr:"
Good work, everyone involved in the Get Laura Kipnis campaign. You made your enemy a martyr. Worse, a bunch of liberals who otherwise were fully supportive of feminist efforts to fight sexual abuse on campus now think Title IX is cover for some censorious re-education efforts.
Conservative blogs were considerably less kind to her accusers, to Kipnis in general, and Title IX. The Omnivore is simply appalled at this and isn't remotely sympathetic to the hurt feelings of the accusers.

Less Obvious and More Important: This Only Happens to Liberals

If you protest that Kipnis, publishing her defense of cis-white-male accused sexual assaulter isn't liberal, you're probably a millennial. Older people know that there has been a spectrum of the left for some time and being skeptical of trigger warnings for basic high school and college literature books and campus "safe places" are still within that spectrum.

The point The Omnivore is making is that the left-wing outrage is most effectively leveled at people who think they are on the side of Social Justice but are insufficiently pure. In this case Kipnis is totally against sexual assault but is insufficiently on the side of a female student whose story was investigated and found wanting (there was massive, considerable doubt about what happened with her and the professor and the result was a mess of dismissed lawsuits on every side).

If Kipnis had called the student a slut for going out with the professor at all--which she did of her own volition in a non-drunk state--and had said that young women today had no moral fiber, The Omnivore is pretty sure nothing would have happened.

This is because attacking a person scolding you from a socially conservative view-point is far more emotionally dangerous than going after someone who tries to self-identify as left (or, really, the in-group--whichever it is). If the professor had just published an article scolding young women for being irresponsible--from a hard-right perspective--she might have gotten some hate-email--but she would not be a target of left-wing retaliation in the same way and for the same reasons.

NOW: Clearly conservatives HAVE been attacked in similar fashion--that is true--but The Omnivore is pretty sure that the weight of the attacks is against the professors who think they are more left-leaning.

There is a different imagined dynamic for the accuser who is teaching the more powerful person a lesson than a simple all-out assault. The attackers imagine that the target feels some shame/guilt which a hard-core out-group person will not. In the case of Extreme-vs.-Ally it's the more extreme person who feels righteous.

In the case of Extreme-vs-Out-Group, it will be the target who feels righteous. And their friends will rally to them.

If you are hunting more powerful parties you need to do it from a higher righteousness-elevation.

Finally: Shifting Social Fabric

A recent Gallup poll, coming on the heals of their last one that found many moral issues have shifted leftward, showed that for the first time in 7 years pro-choice identifiers have passed pro-life ones. This is pretty significant: taken as a trend it marks a broad-scale movement in the direction of the left. We can also see the recent media around Caitlyn Jenner. Rush Limbaugh has warned conservatives and the GOP NOT to accept her. That would be to fall into the liberal trap!
He likewise dismissed a conservative blog that wrote that Republicans should embrace Jenner as one of their own to seem more humane, saying that doing so would constitute falling into a liberal trap. 
Under this system, “conservatives and Republicans are the new weirdos, the new kooks,” the pundit said, “and that is part of the political objective here in normalizing all of this really marginal behavior. I mean, if less than 1 percent of the population is engaging in it, it’s marginalized behavior. It isn’t normal, no matter how you define it. 
“We should not be celebrating this, we should not be lionizing this, we should not be encouraging this. These people have a very serious problem, and they need treatment,” he said. “They need help, not encouragement.”
The fact is that acceptance of people changing their gender has never been higher--and the changes in that spectrum have been rather quick to start as well. Of course there is significant societal backlash (and physical danger for people who are not within the center of society's gender bell-curve)--but it is a shift that Republicans are well aware of and will have to come to terms with rapidly.

This shift is creating a space where the very young really do see the world differently than those older than them. The media is engaged in a pretty severe feedback loop that reinforces certain kinds of change and normalizes it. Black and female presidents appearing on TV give Hillary a chance her predecessors never had.

This gulf in understanding and perception will eventually reach some kind of equilibrium (although possibly the kind where Christian Bale shoots everyone)--but until then we are going to see a clash that is a replay of the 60's hippies against The Power--but now the hippies are The Power. Part of this battle is inevitable (like Hilary! Ha!).


The Omnivore is not fond of the term Social Justice Warrior because it's not (generally) self-adopted (and when it is, it's adopted ironically--not so, for example, with Men's Rights Activist or Red-Pill). The term is meant to describe someone who is either so insane in the pursuit of social justice that they are just an incredible asshole--or else a person who fights (online) for social justice causes because they want Internet props (or like a good pile on).

The term is overly prescriptive and needlessly pejorative: The Omnivore doesn't know how Kipnis' accusers would describe themselves--but here's a theory. In one word? Feminist.

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