So last night I was invited to go on This Week in Blackness to talk about Jonathan Chait’s political correctness essay. It was a really fun time, and a great conversation — the video is here, and my segment begins around twenty-three minutes in, though you should watch the whole thing.
Anyway, there was a lot of sharp stuff said, but rewatching the thing one of my own comments stuck out as something to bump up. We were discussing the back-and-forth between Chait and John Hodgman on Twitter, and I said this:
“Hodgman began by saying that a lot of times people on the internet, including progressives, take offense for the sake of taking offense. That a lot of times people act like jerks around issues of privilege and power. That a lot of times students on campuses take up causes which are maybe not the brightest causes.
“And nobody on the left was yelling at Hodgman for saying that, because we were all like, ‘uh, yeah, that does happen.’ Right? It’s not like we deny that there are flaws and excesses and obnoxiousnesses within our community. We know that’s true. What we object to is somebody who pretends to be on our team weaponizing those flaws and frailties which every group has, and using them as a cudgel to beat us up with.”
Chait keeps telling us that the identity politics left forbids critique. But yesterday middle-aged straight white man John Hodgman went on an endlessly retweeted, dozens-of-tweets-long rant that included a bunch of pokes at Twitter leftists. “I have watched sides entrench, circular arguments tighten into sanctimonious death spirals and jockeying for grievance status,” he wrote, in a typical tweet. But although that snark received 27 RTs, 77 faves, and Bladerunner joke in response, nobody raised a peep of criticism.
Why? Because Hodgman was coming from a place of love. Because when Hodgman says he values and respects this messy, ridiculous, hot-tempered community of ours, it’s clear he means it.
Jon Chait yearns — and demands — to be liked by people he doesn’t particularly like himself. He wants to be accepted as part of a community that he disdains, because he takes such acceptance as his due. Hodgman, on the other hand, clearly actually likes the people he’s talking about. “It enlarges me to be called out,” he says, “even when I conclude the caller is a troll, and especially when it’s by a person I respect.”
And when he says it I believe him.