The editor of the New Yorker has a long article about Obama and Trump’s victory. I thought this was a pretty good summary of the new media environment:
“Until recently, religious institutions, academia, and media set out the parameters of acceptable discourse, and it ranged from the unthinkable to the radical to the acceptable to policy,” Simas said. “The continuum has changed. Had Donald Trump said the things he said during the campaign eight years ago—about banning Muslims, about Mexicans, about the disabled, about women—his Republican opponents, faith leaders, academia would have denounced him and there would be no way around those voices. Now, through Facebook and Twitter, you can get around them. There is social permission for this kind of discourse. Plus, through the same social media, you can find people who agree with you, who validate these thoughts and opinions. This creates a whole new permission structure, a sense of social affirmation for what was once thought unthinkable. This is a foundational change.”
The identity politics debate in the US rolls on. I liked Michelle Goldberg’s take on it, which argues that left-wing politics have to be identity politics, but:
I certainly won’t mourn if the more illiberal aspects of social justice politics wither before the Trump juggernaut. Campus leftists who formerly disdained free speech will learn its absolute importance when faced with a regime that attacks protesters, the media, and dissenting artists. Perhaps progressive activists, newly aware of how many Americans reject their intellectual priors, will stop responding to clumsy questions with a sneering, “It’s not my job to educate you.” I’d like to see the language of privilege jettisoned altogether in favor of civil rights or equal justice, since the number of people who want to see their own privilege dismantled is vanishingly small. Maybe Everyday Feminism, the website that encompasses everything insufferable about social justice culture, will finally be revealed as an elaborate right-wing psy-ops campaign.
It feels to me as if a lot of the backlash against identity politics is about the culture of the movement, not the values. The sanctimony, the intellectual arrogance, the jargon, the sneering, the intolerance; you can’t dump identity politics but you can dump the toxic culture associated with it in a heartbeat. I’m also dubious about the idea that the left revert to discussing class instead of race, gender etc. Nobody under the age of 50 self-identifies as ‘working class’, and economic class has little predictive power when determining how people vote. That feels a lot like fighting the war before the last war.