The more I think about it, the less I care about Sarah Jeong. I don’t think I’d ever read anything she’d written before this week and having now read a few things I don’t think I was missing all that much. That’s not meant as a slam on her ability because I think she’s actually a good writer. But the subject she writes about isn’t that interesting to me. She styles herself an expert on technology, which doesn’t mean she can rebuild a V-8 engine or repair a circuit board. In media parlance, it means she has opinions about social media. So…whatever.
I don’t even care very much about her racist tweets, per se, or even her lame excuse for making them. What does bother me is the way in which the left collectively responded to her tweets with a big shrug. Ed wrote earlier about the Washington Post piece which wonders aloud whether Jeong did anything wrong. I read the same piece this morning and this is the paragraph that stood out:
Without evidence that they had any bearing on Jeong’s extensive body of work, which includes a book she wrote about online harassment, these statements could have perhaps been unceremoniously dismissed as insignificant. But after conservative media seized on the story Thursday, they ignited a firestorm of debate.
That really sums up what bothers me about this whole story. It’s the assumption that a public comment like “White men are bullshit” would get a shrug if not for conservatives seizing on it. It’s an admission from the Post that there is almost nothing you can say about white men that anyone on the left would deem problematic (to borrow a popular SJW term of art).
The reason why Jeong’s tweets didn’t really matter to anyone on the left is that they’ve nearly all accepted the idea that racism doesn’t mean what most people think it means. Andrew Sullivan points out how the left has redefined it:
The alternative view — that of today’s political left — is that Jeong definitionally cannot be racist, because she’s both a woman and a racial minority. Racism against whites, in this neo-Marxist view, just “isn’t a thing” — just as misandry literally cannot exist at all. And this is because, in this paradigm, racism has nothing to do with a person’s willingness to pre-judge people by the color of their skin, or to make broad, ugly generalizations about whole groups of people, based on hoary stereotypes. Rather, racism is entirely institutional and systemic, a function of power, and therefore it can only be expressed by the powerful — i.e., primarily white, straight men. For a nonwhite female, like Sarah Jeong, it is simply impossible. In the religion of social constructionism, Jeong, by virtue of being an Asian woman, is one of the elect, incapable of the sin of racism or group prejudice.
Jeong was just exploring the space of this privileged position, secure that she could say just about anything without fear of blowback. Indeed, she had many defenders who refused to even acknowledge the possibility of another point of view about what she’d said. When you start from the premise that one group of people can’t be offended, you naturally wind up at the conclusion that anyone who says otherwise is being dishonest.
The editors of the Verge, where Jeong still works, described any assertion of racism in Jeong’s tweets as “dishonest and outrageous,” a function of bad faith and an attack on journalism itself. Scroll through left-Twitter and you find utter incredulity that demonizing white people could in any way be offensive. That’s the extent to which loathing of and contempt for “white people” is now background noise on the left…
Yes, we all live on campus now. The neo-Marxist analysis of society, in which we are all mere appendages of various groups of oppressors and oppressed, and in which the oppressed definitionally cannot be at fault, is now the governing philosophy of almost all liberal media. That’s how the Washington Post can provide a platform for raw misandry, and the New York Times can hire and defend someone who expresses racial hatred. The great thing about being in the social justice movement is how liberating it can feel to give voice to incendiary, satisfying bigotry — and know that you’re still on the right side of history.
That’s what really bothers me about this. It’s that one form of blatant bigotry gets a pass on the grounds that it won’t really hurt anyone. If the left thinks that’s true, I think they’re not paying attention. Sarah Jeong isn’t all that significant but what this affair says about the left’s mindset does matter.