Chait and the “pc police”

Jonathan Chait’s latest column for New York Magazine is getting a ton of attention for its deliberately provocative thesis: that political correctness within the left has run amok and poses a serious threat to liberalism. Which: lmao.

Chait has come under frequent criticism from the left before, most notably by the Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates. The reason for this has mostly been Chait’s shortcomings when it comes to talking about racial matters and how the white liberal establishment shares some of the blame for upholding white supremacy.

So perhaps this is his way of punching back at his critics. If so, I’m not impressed, and I can’t imagine his critics will be.

Chait argues that the left has embraced political correctness to a fault, and uses it as a weapon to cull dissent within its ranks. I disagree strongly. Much of what he argues against can be blamed on the immediacy of social media, which makes it easy for people – normal people, not just those with social capital – to weigh in on the controversial topics of the day. Naturally, with little to no filter, some people will be a little overzealous in their criticisms. This can undoubtedly be annoying, but that’s about it. As Chait notes, the left doesn’t have all that much power, especially when compared to the far-right. The problem, you see, is that the far-right can’t hurt Chait’s feelings, but the left evidently can.

As is the norm for thinkpieces of this ilk, there’s a lot of self-pitying going on. Witness (emphasis his):

I am white and male, a fact that is certainly worth bearing in mind. I was also a student at the University of Michigan during the Jacobsen incident, and was attacked for writing an article for the campus paper defending the exhibit. If you consider this background and demographic information the very essence of my point of view, then there’s not much point in reading any further. But this pointlessness is exactly the point: Political correctness makes debate irrelevant and frequently impossible.

He is arguing that many on the left, especially minorities, automatically tune him out because of his color and his gender. This is nonsense. What many on the left have said is that him being white and male and well-off means that his words come from a place of great privilege, a privilege that most of his minority and leftists critics lack, and which makes it harder (but hardly impossible) for him to understand their concerns and where their coming from.

This piece is unfortunate because, among other things, it reinforces the absurd and lazy notion that minorities and the left are somehow anti-white, or at least resentful of whites. In his quest to strike back against his leftist critics, Chait is doing the right’s work for them. Not that he would ever see it that way.

I’ll end by saying that you should absolutely read Alex Pareene’s take on this over on Gawker. It is tremendous.

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Writing and the flu

I’ve missed the past two workdays because of the flu. Worse, it has been bad enough that I’ve mostly laid in bed drooping and coughing and haven’t been able to write anything. I’m feeling a bit better, though, so it’s time to get back to business.

I have some ideas that I’d like to turn into short stories. I think I can have them ready by the end of the weekend.

Then, it’s back to work on Monday, where I’ll get written up because I don’t have a doctor’s note (I don’t have insurance).  Oh, the joys of being a wage laborer in America.

Anyway, I’d like to share this article from Brevity’s blog. It’s about how you need to write, write, and write, as opposed to just thinking about doing so. I spend so much time thinking about my stories that I end up tying myself in knots and never know where to start. It’s one of my worst habits, but one than can be overcome with diligence!

Hey look! A post about New Year’s Resolutions!

One of the major things I want to avoid this year is setting unreachable goals. There are many things I can reasonably accomplish and it’s better to focus on those than to set myself up for failure and disappointment by reaching for the moon. So here we go.

Goals that are well within my power to reach

-I will lose weight. I’m not going to attempt any fancy diets or trendy workouts. It’s going to be good-old “eat less and exercise” for me. My goal is modest: get down to a size 32 waist. I’m at 34 now, edging uncomfortably close to 36.

-Focus on my writing. Time is always scarce, but I plan on spending more of it becoming a better writer, a better storyteller, with a better grasp of all the nuts and bolts of the English language. This is very doable as long as I remain committed to this effort. Classes are workshops are not a possibility right now due to lack of funds, so my teacher is going to be the internet. Not ideal, perhaps, but there is a plethora of great information out there, and I need to take advantage of it.

-Read more. These days, most of my reading is done online, in the form of sites and blogs. This is fine, but I want to get back to reading some books that have been on my to-read list for ages. And if I want to become a fantasy writer, it is vitally important that I read more of the genre’s best works.

-Post on this blog more. I’ve been slacking off lately in this regard. Yes, life gets in the way, sometimes shit happens, etc. But this is my online home, and this is where most potential readers will find me, so I need to give them a reason to keep coming here.

-Continue to deal with depression and anxiety. I have made a lot of progress since I finally decided to get help and seek counseling. I want to get even better, to the point where I my depression and anxiety does not destroy my social life as it has been doing for years.

-Enough with the armchair activism. Get involved. My mental disorder has made it impossible to do anything political aside from voting, but I will no longer use that as an excuse to stay silent. I will seek out awesome groups and activists and find ways to help. Immigration and anti-racism are just a couple of the causes I am finally willing to fight for.

-Be there for my family. My mom and sister are my best support group, and I need to be there for them as much as they are there for me.

-Get my license. I’m 25 and have never had a driver’s license. Sigh. It’s a long story, relating to my anxiety. But that changes this year. Not being able to drive is holding me back immensely and I will fix that.

-Have fun! Life is hard and there’s no reason to make it harder on myself.

Goals that are attainable, but will require some lucky breaks

-Get a better job. Nine dollars an hour and no benefits? Yeah, fuck that noise.

-Find a place to rent. Right now, my mom, sister, and I are living with our aunt. We’re glad to have a roof over our heads after getting evicted, but we need our own place.

-Get published in a reputable lit journal/zine. I want to publish both literary and fantasy stuff. The plan is to send submissions everywhere and hope for the best.

-Have this blog grow considerably. I’ll do my part to build an audience. After all, what’s a writer without one?

And that covers most of the important stuff. I’ll look back on this post periodically to see how I’m doing. Best of luck to you and yours in 2015!