The Political Regression Into Meaningless Self Righteousness
By Nicholas Goroff
Once dismissed as merely a fringe aspect of political thought reserved for the dark and sticky corners of the blogosphere and internet, much of the new ‘politics of banality’ seems in recent years to have gone mainstream to a degree not seen since the PC craze of the early 1990s. Much of the modern incarnation of the progressive crusade for tolerance focus instead on trivial or highly specious claims of cultural marginalization.
A most recent episode of such can be seen playing out right now in the world of pop music. With Coldplay and Beyonce’ having charges of cultural appropriation leveled against them
for the use of India as a setting in the music video for their song ‘Hymn for the Weekend,’ and a similar fate befalling Justin Bieber for his use of reggaeton beats in his latest single, progressive identarians seem hell bent on insuring that all aspects of given cultures remain exclusively reserved for those who can lay racial or ethnic claim to them. All of this, in the name of tolerance and inclusion.
The new progressive cause of combating cultural appropriation even extends into the comically absurd with Oberlin College students recently launching numerous protests against their dining halls over claims of culinary cultural appropriation, citing as examples of such the poor quality of sushi being offered as well as the use of steamed chicken instead of fried in the General Tso’s Chicken. Claiming that the preparation of the General Tso’s dish was an insult to Chinese culture and traditional cuisine, the outrage served up by the protests came with a side dish of irony in that General Tso’s Chicken is a dish originally created in the United States.
In addition to these, other campaigns against hairstyles, fashion, home décor and
seemingly any conceivable trend, interest or activity have been launched in the name of
combating cultural appropriation by activists, academics and ultraprogressive blogs and
publications. In Canada, an on campus yoga class designed to be inclusive to the disabled was actually cancelled after the University of Ottawa Student Federation accused it of being culturally “insensitive.”
It is a curious thing however, that as such campaigns seem to be the central focus for so
many who claim to advocate for ‘social justice’, focus and attention to things such as the
questionable international trade deals which are often central in the subjugation of impoverished or ‘developing’ nations get little to no attention as they’re pushed through by the elites in government and business. Added to this diminished level of scrutiny and watchdog activism in the mainstream, the honestly trivial causes that make up so much of this new emerging, identarian progressive set often act to do a disservice to such.
When the casual observer of national or geopolitical affairs finds the issues of corporate corruption of government, environmentalism, the militarized police state or income inequality linked to crusades over ‘cultural appropriation,’ ‘microaggressions’ and ‘safe spaces,’ it becomes easy for those in opposition the genuinely relevant progressive left to play the entirety of the former up as being as irrelevant as the latter.
In this, irrelevance by association works to undermine legitimacy by way of little more than a derisive chuckle and a pointed finger. In a sense, it could be said that the greatest asset to the corporate establishment and conservative ideologues such as the Koch brothers or Rupert Murdoch aside from their money, is the radical identity politics of the neoprogressive movement.
Thankfully however, while those on the hard right seek to invoke such pointless theatrics and empty hysterics as evidence of liberalism’s inherent failings, such has inspired those of more intellectually honest liberal philosophies to take a stand and attempt to reclaim the left from its fringe.
From pundits such as Bill Maher, to public intellectuals such as Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins and even up through the ranks of comedians such as John Cleese, Jerry Seinfeld and Ricky Gervais, opposition to the hypersensitive outrage culture that has developed within what antiextremism activist Maajid Nawaz calls the “Regressive Left,” seems to be growing every day. Recently, another high profile entertainer and respected public intellectual expressed his contempt for the modern outrage culture as Stephen Fry shut down his twitter account, describing it as “a stalking ground for the sanctimoniously self-righteous.” His decision came following an intense social media firestorm over what was an innocuous joke about a friend’s appearance at the recent BAFTA ceremony.
No longer content to tolerate being dictated to, what is “appropriate” in respect to thought and speech as decided by the vanguard of political correctness, many liberals and free speech advocates are even finding curious alliances being forged with more moderate conservatives and libertarians as efforts to counter this growing orthodoxy evolve.
One potential (and honestly entirely theoretical) outcome of the inevitable victory of free speech over censorious outrage culture could be the evolution of a new political dialogue between those of opposing views. This abandoning of allegiance and potential emergence of reason as central values to those engaged in political and social discussion could end up being the net result of these current conflicts. The PC and identity politics fundamentalism we see today could merely be the intellectual growing pains of a society on its way to a more enlightened body politic.
However regardless if such is a stepping stone to a more honest political landscape, or alternately a new permanent fixture thereof, the opposition to such from nearly all sides and perspectives show no signs of letting up. Likewise, the cold hard realities of the larger world outside of the “safe spaces” and “free speech zones” that regressives seek to establish are unlikely to change, regardless of demand or rhetoric. As always, it falls to those of intellectual honesty to combat the broken ideas of an authoritarian movement, regardless of what ‘side’ it may have come from. As such true liberals and progressives also find it once again to be their duty to speak out openly and without fear, regardless of how offended some might be in the process.
Nicholas Goroff is a writer, journalist, actor and Youtube content creator. A former political operative and labor organizer, he holds a degree in Criminal Justice and previously studied Political Science at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire. Presently he works as a beer and liquor critic at Everyjoe.com in addition to writing for The Rationalists.org and Occupy.com