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Liberalism and the Social Justice Movement

Wherever there are political arguments, there’s a left-wing person accusing the right of being stupid and racist. Likewise, there’s a right-winger saying that the left is full of triggered snowflakes who have never held a real job. Of course, both of these arguments are disingenuous.

These caricatures apply to only the fringes of each side, and the number of individuals who fit either of those descriptions is greatly outnumbered by far more reasonable people, both on the left and the right. However, the reason the fanatics garner so much attention in the media and in general conversation is that covering their antics are an effective way to delegitimize the opposition, be it left or right,  without having to give a real argument to substantiate one’s claims.

A good example of this is the recent coverage of the ‘Unite the Right’ Rally in Charlottesville. Here is a brief summary of the rally and the events leading up to it. In February, the Charlottesville City Council voted to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee in a public park and rename the park to Lee Park. The following May, 50 members of the Ku Klux Klan held a rally opposing the plans to remove the statue. They were met by 1,000 counter-protesters and left after 45 minutes. Then in August, the original KKK members teamed up with a variety of far-right organizations and came back with about 500 people. Once again, they were met by 1000 counter-protesters. Violent clashes ensued, the police declared the gathering to be an unlawful assembly, most of the crowd dispersed, and 2 hours later one of the rally members drove his car into a group of counter-protesters, killing one and injuring 19. They came back again in October, this time with 30 people. They were more secretive with the planning, so fewer counter-protesters were on site initially. By the time the counter-protesters outnumbered the protesters, the protesters had gone home.

In short, far-right extremists held a national gathering supported by pretty much every ‘large’ far-right organization, and only got 500 people to show up. They were outnumbered 2-1 by counter-protesters, and their rally was dispersed before it even started. Then one of them drove his car into a crowd.

But that’s not how any of this was reported in the media. The left was falling all over itself to condemn Neo-Nazis, before hysterically asserting that Neo-Nazis are on the rise, while the right blamed the counter-protesters for the violence, and/or claimed that most of the protesters were not Neo-Nazis. However, neither of these takes on the matter were accurate. The real story is that a national far-right rally only had 500 attendees (compared to 400,000 at the Women’s March on NYC, or 185,000 at the student protests in Montreal, making it comparable in size to the recent protest in Toronto over the Rohingya genocide), and it was a small affair in that regard.

Instead of reporting that story, the mainstream media, which leans left, was too busy using the rally’s existence to shame the right in its entirety, while trying to convince everyone else that Neo-Nazis are suddenly coming out of the woodwork in misleadingly large numbers (conveniently using terms like “sea of demonstrators” and “roving bands” instead of 500, which is far less impressive). The right was too busy backpedaling, presumably because saying “there aren’t that many” would not be a great way to distance themselves from Neo-Nazis (who are technically on the same side as them).

The far-right lost and lost hard. The Robert E. Lee statue is now covered by a tarp, the plans to take it down still remain, and pretty much everyone reaffirmed their condemnation of Neo-Nazis, (as if public opinion in America was uncertain about them at any point in recent history). For the left, it was politics as usual; pick a small, loud, and stupid group on the opposing side of the spectrum, wildly amplify their importance and use them to paint everyone on that end as equally loud and stupid.

But this article isn’t about the face of the right, it’s about the face of the left, which has become very loud and very stupid.  

The New Face of the Left

Universities have always leaned left. That shouldn’t be surprising; the entire point of academia is to question and investigate everything and formulate new ideas in the process while challenging existing ones. Institutions that rely on publishing original studies are also not going to be interested in censorship (at least not at the beginning). Furthermore, places that endorse freedom of expression are always going to be safe havens for fringe groups; that comes with the territory. However, in the past decade or so, university administrations have actually started listening to the left-wing fringes and taking them seriously.

As a result, the news is now full of stories about ‘politically correct’ culture in which students and administrations always look ridiculous. Some selected examples include the call for the resignation of a professor who suggested students should be less offended over Halloween costumes, the implementation of self-segregated graduations, the ‘mattress girl’ controversy, and whatever this is. While these incidents are mostly inconsequential, their outrageous nature makes them a layup for journalists looking to get hits. However, public opinion outside of campus is clearly not in support of the students and administrations, as evidenced by Jordan Peterson’s ability to triple his faculty salary through his Patreon, prompted by his refusal to use alternative gender pronouns (which was not well received on campus).

While there has been a lot of talk about the new face of left-wing politics, it’s important to define exactly what distinguishes ‘far-left’ politics from regular liberalism; a certain level of self-contradictory behaviour and hypocritical, logically unsound rhetoric that is not usually found under the latter’s auspices. For example, what many have pointed out is that there is a level of cognitive dissonance required to complain about being oppressed while attending a world-class university. However, these universities are exactly the places where these dissonant ideas seem to flourish. Most importantly, the far-left hold a set of self-contradictory views and are ready to accuse anyone who questions their ideas of being bigoted by utilizing a plethora of words to articulate these perspectives.

Some of these views are listed below:

  • Nobody should be judged by their race, gender or sexual orientation, but white people are inherently racist.
  • Gender roles are social constructs, but it’s also possible to feel like a woman in a man’s body.
  • Any person accused of a crime is entitled to due process, and a conviction should warrant a punishment that is fair and also similar to another person in the same situation. Unless that person is a man accused of sexual assault, in which case an acquittal is unacceptable.
  • Women should be free to express their sexuality without consequence, but if they do so they’re being exploited by men. Also, if you express your sexuality while being attractive, you’re body shaming those who aren’t attractive.
  • Western culture is oppressive and needs to change, but eastern and middle-eastern cultures shouldn’t be meddled with because claiming the moral high ground over another culture is ‘Eurocentric’.
  • Cultures should pool ideas together to shape the future, but if someone of the incorrect race utilizes certain cultural symbols, then it’s ‘cultural appropriation’, which is bad.
  • Western culture silences the voices of those who are oppressed, even though those voices (at least the voices of those who claim to be oppressed) are the new face of left-wing politics.

In lieu of expanding on all of these points individually, here is a perfectly illustrative example of contradictory behavior enacted by the PC-culture left in a seemingly benign Vice article about Jagmeet Singh being treated poorly by the media. The gist of it is that CBC correspondent Terry Milewski asked Singh whether or not he would denounce posters of Air India bombing conspirator Talwinder Parmar. On the surface, it is certainly racist to ask the NDP party leader who happens to be Sikh about a completely unrelated Sikh terrorist. However, almost in a concerted effort to completely destroy its own introductory paragraph, the article goes on to reveal that Milewski has been reporting on Sikh politics since the 1985 Air India bombing, and in 2007 found that a Western organization of Khalistan nationalists was full of terrorist sympathizers. Furthermore, Singh himself supports “the right to self-determination” of the Khalistan region, so Milewski’s question about Parmar was absolutely relevant.

Yet, the author concludes that still, Milewski shouldn’t have asked Singh about Parmar. While it is true that a reporter shouldn’t ask the NDP leader about Sikh terrorism merely because he is Sikh, it turns out that Milewski had done his research, and his question actually was relevant to Singh. But according to the author, he still should not have asked the question, relevancy be damned, because Singh is Sikh and as such, asking him about anything to do with Sikhism or Sikh politics is racist. As a result of all this, the body of the article is completely ideologically at odds with the introduction and the conclusion.

Questionable Facts Abound

In addition to self-contradiction, there are a few well-quoted, oft-used facts and statistics in far-left rhetoric that are questionable at best. Here are a few examples:

White supremacy is on the rise

White supremacy as a belief was certainly mainstream in the US before the civil war. Immediately after the civil war, some Confederate officers founded the KKK, which was initially so over the top sadistic that they actually boosted Republican (left wing at the time) support. The original KKK died quickly, but other groups like the White League and the Red Shirts quickly took their place. The White League was actually absorbed by the National Guard in 1876, which should indicate that white supremacy was still very popular in the South. The KKK itself came back in 1915 and peaked in the 1920s, claiming that it’s members comprised 15% of the eligible population. Membership decreased considerably during the depression and the group disbanded in 1944. The KKK moniker was used by many independent groups throughout the ’50s and ’60s to oppose the civil rights movement as well as desegregation. These groups did not have central leadership and were never anywhere close to as large as the KKK of the 20s. In the 1990s, these groups were estimated to have about 6-10k total members, concentrated in the deep South. As of 2010, the Anti-Defamation League reported that there are probably around 5000 total members. However, the KKK isn’t the only white supremacist group in America. In 1988, NYT estimated that there were 2000 “Neo-Nazi skinheads” nationwide. While that number is extremely unimpressive, they were still in the news enough that in 1989, a TV host pretended to be attacked by them in order to boost ratings. Currently, the largest Neo-Nazi group in America is the National Socialist Movement, which the ADL estimates as having “several hundred members”. The SPLC claims there are 917 hate groups operating in the US, but many of these are little more than a Facebook page. The largest white supremacist groups in the US contain fewer members than a local recreational hockey league, which is to say they are the smallest they’ve ever been in the country’s history. In Canada, white supremacy was not a serious movement before the 1980s for the simple reason that Canada’s black population was extremely low until then. The KKK was actually active in Saskatchewan in the 20s, but they were mostly concerned with Eastern European immigrants. There were a few Neo-Nazi groups around in the 80s and 90s, but by 2005 the largest one was completely dead. White supremacists still exist, but the claim that white supremacy is on the rise in North America is just not true.

1 in 4 women are sexually assaulted on campus

These figures are self-reported, with the largest study found here. The sample sizes are massive, but the response rate among students overall was 19.3%. On page V, the report says “certain types of estimates may be too high because non-victims may have been less likely to participate.” It goes on to say “…many news stories are focused on figures like “1 in 5” in reporting victimization. As the researchers who generated this number have repeatedly said, the 1 in 5 number is for a few IHEs and is not representative of anything outside of this frame. The wide variation of rates across IHEs in the present study emphasizes the significance of this caveat.” If journalists had bothered to read past page V of the executive summary, they would have revised the headline. In contrast, Canadian police reported 20,735 victims of sexual assault in 2014, which is a 20% decrease from 2004. While this figure is certainly lower than the actual rate of sexual assaults, it is at least useful for gauging the change over time. Unless a smaller proportion of victims are choosing to come forward in 2014, sexual assault is decreasing just like every other violent crime. The police receive a lot of criticism for failing to press charges or convict for sexual assault. The police ask difficult questions because they can’t press charges with no evidence. The simple reason sexual assault has a low conviction rate is because it’s hard to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. The physical evidence separating a nonviolent crime from a consensual encounter after the fact is often nonexistent. Sexual assault is a real problem, but it’s not on the rise and it doesn’t happen to 1 in 4 women on campus.

Women earn 77 cents on the dollar compared to men

This is true if you simply add up all of the money made by men and women with full-time jobs and compare the figures. This doesn’t consider that men and women are not equally represented across all occupations. When controlling for experience, industry, and job title, the pay difference is 94.6 cents. There’s still a wage gap, but suggesting that a woman is paid 75% of what a man would be paid for the same job is just false.

Employers discriminate heavily against minority groups

Canada created the employment equity act in 1986, which designates women, people with disabilities, visible minorities, and aboriginal people as the beneficiaries of employment equity. In the 20 years since then, the Federal Public Service (Canada’s largest employer) has gone from 58.2% male to 45.0%. In 2015, each of the four designated groups was present in the Federal Public Service in greater proportion than their ‘workplace availability’. Given that many government employees of 1983 are still working (retirement is estimated at 3.4% per year, which would mean that roughly 30% were around in 1983), the hiring policies at some point must have been skewed even further in favour of the designated groups in order to arrive at their current representation. There is still a lot written about labour discrimination, but the evidence is always either aggregate metrics or self-reported surveys. Self-reported surveys are unreliable at best, and aggregate metrics measure the product of opportunity and potential ability. Nobody would argue that the NHL discriminates based on race, but the league is still 93% white. There is a multitude of reasons for this, but none of them include discrimination at the finish line. It’s not clear why this would be the case in the workforce in general. That’s not to say that decreased opportunity for certain groups is not a problem worth solving. But the first problem is to verify whether there really is a lack of opportunity (without using the aggregate metrics of adults), and the second problem is to address it. Using HR to fill group-based quotas and applying multipliers to SAT scores adjusts aggregate metrics in such a way that completely fails to address the underlying reasons for the imbalance in the first place.  

So what is the real source of all of these contradictions and dishonest statistics? They appear to be the logical extensions of the key axiom of far-left politics, which is summarized below:

If a group (defined by their race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.) is doing worse by any aggregate metric (earnings, crime rate, drug abuse rate, etc.) than another group, the disparity is solely due to oppression.

 

Using this assumption, one can actually measure the oppression of any group to see who is the most oppressed. The axiom equates equality of outcome with equality of opportunity and uses the latter to measure the former. This is why, for example, East Asian and Jewish people are infrequently used as examples of oppression in the modern era, even though both groups have experienced historical oppression in North America. In fact, many social justice advocates have actually become somewhat anti-Semitic.

The axiom has been used to shape a new definition for what counts as prejudiced, which was formerly just judgment based on race, gender, etc. to something along the lines of ‘prejudice plus power’. By this definition, only the members of the ‘dominant’ group can be prejudiced. This is why it’s perfectly acceptable to publish an article on why women are better doctors, but if Larry Summers suggests that oppression might not be the reason women are underrepresented in science, it’s highly controversial. It’s also why BLM Toronto’s co-founder can post “white skin is sub-humxn” on Facebook and still be taken seriously enough for Toronto to consider kicking police out of the annual Pride parade, which is funded by the city. However, if an emeritus professor at UofT makes a satirical joke about how the title of ‘master’ at Massey College is a bit much, he has to resign. Then they change the title of ‘master’ to ‘head’, just to show that he actually did have a point.

Why is This a Problem?

This article is not an argument about social policy or who is actually oppressed. It is about how the far-left’s rise to prominence has pushed everyone else to the right. Just as Neo-Nazis in Charlottesville are good for left-wing politics, ‘social justice warriors’ are good for right-wing politics. Vox actually makes the same argument in this video about Antifa. They forget to mention how stupid the organization actually is, but they are correct that the right-wing media inflates their importance to make it seem like far-left politics are becoming the norm (exactly what the left-wing media did with Charlottesville).

This imaginary struggle between Neo-Nazis and ‘social justice warriors’ as contenders for cultural dominance actually leaves everybody worse off. Groups that are constantly crying ‘wolf’ over trivialities such as the title of ‘chief’ destroy their own credibility to the point that otherwise reasonable people find themselves agreeing with far-right groups. The problem with this is that the far-left are not wrong about everything. Compare the harassment-filled, overwhelmingly white workplace depicted in Mad Men to the one that exists today. That transformation is the result of extensive social lobbying by left-wing activists who had real arguments. The War on Drugs is still (and always was) racist, the US still funds abstinence-only sex education (which doesn’t work) while restricting access to legal abortion, and private prisons are still alive and well in the USA. Identity politics is a distraction from real issues, the most important one being the growing divide between the rich and the poor, along with more limited social mobility, and on a related note, the GOP’s tax bill should be the real focus of campus outrage in America.

The final caveat to remember is that equal opportunity takes a generation’s worth of time to be reflected in aggregate metrics. Professors, CEOs, and political leaders are at the apex of 30-year careers. As such, their representation is going to reflect the makeup of the pipeline and the hiring policies of those jobs 30 years ago. Equal representation in those positions means that opportunity was equalized 30 years ago. The far-left is correct that there is still progress to be made, but equality in North America is about as good as it has ever been anywhere in the world. Exaggerating the magnitude of the issue using nonsensical logic and false statistics is not the way to continue making progress because most people stop listening.

 

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