Why Identity Politics Are Bad

28 Mar

(Not something I was planning to write about, but I was having a chat about it and the subject came up …)

First, it is a basic fact of human nature that, the larger any given group, the greater the number of a-holes. A group composed of 50 or so human beings will include a couple of people whom everyone else in the group dislikes. Past a certain level, it is very difficult to keep out the a-holes. Group loyalty overrides personal dislike.

The people who are inside the group will not be aware of this. As I have noted before, ‘us’ is a group of individuals and ‘they’ are one vast hive mind. The idea that all will be judged by one is not something we are programmed to accept.

Second, it is a basic fact of current politics that the enemies of that particular group will not hesitate to use the a-holes as poster children for the group If 99 out of a 100 nerds are decent people, with only one of them an a-hole (however defined), that a-hole will be used to smear all the nerds.

In addition to this, people are influenced more by bad encounters than good. (The old ‘one slap is remembered longer than a thousand caresses’ issue.) A person whose first introduction to nerd culture, for example, is a misogynist a-hole ranting about how women ruin everything isn’t going to be inclined to give the other nerds a chance to prove they are good people.

Third, thus causes problems for the group’s leadership (however defined) as well as the rest of the group.

If they denounce the a-holes, they will be accused of both betraying the group and selling out to the group’s enemies. One act of appeasement, their followers will insist, will naturally lead to others. And they will probably be right.

If they do not denounce the a-holes, they will be accused of being a-holes themselves, because – quite rightly – they’re sheltering genuine a-holes.

If the outsiders are good actors (but who is in politics?) they’ll understand the limits of the possible, that the a-holes cannot be easily ejected. The leaders may not have the power to evict the a-holes (either because the group’s rules won’t let them or it will spark a much greater exodus) or the a-holes may only be part of the group by association. The outsiders will not hold the a-holes against the rest of the group.

But if the outsiders are bad actors, which describes just about everyone in politics these days, they’ll turn the a-holes into a club and use it to beat the rest of the group.

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This provokes one of two responses. The original group may disintegrate under the force of the attack and fragment as it frantically tries to please the attacker (who will see this as evidence of weakness and continue the attack). This makes it impossible for the group to actually do what it’s meant to be doing because it’s gotten bogged down in politics. Or the original group may harden its attitude – having seen more than enough evidence that the attack comes from bad actors – and embrace the a-holes before concentrate on counter-attacking. In a sense, it’s fluid identity will have hardened (as the less committed members back out) into something rather more solid (and cultish).

If your identity is defined by your group – you’re an ‘X’ politician instead of a politician who happens to be ‘X’ – you’ll find yourself caught in a trap. On one hand, as you are part of a group, you will be unable to publicly question the group without being unceremoniously kicked out (or worse). And on the other hand, outsiders will define you as being part of the group, which means you’re either an a-hole or tolerant of a-holes.

In short, you are no longer an individual but just one of the group.

And if your group defines itself by its identity …

… Outsiders may define themselves against it.

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30 Responses to “Why Identity Politics Are Bad”

  1. PhilippeO March 28, 2017 at 8:55 pm #

    The idea that people (or government) will treat everybody as individual if ‘identity politics’ didn’t exist is ridiculous. There are laws that assign people differently because their identity far longer than before any identity politics is born, look at UK laws against Irish, US laws against Blacks, or laws regulating leather-worker, gypsy or other groups. Identity Politics is reaction because injustice that perpetrated against certain identity in democratic polity.

    People will always be an ‘X’ in any non-personal interaction, you could never be someone who just happen to be ‘X’ to somebody who didn’t personally know you.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard March 28, 2017 at 9:19 pm #

      IE Because Laws treating Blacks as inferiors were wrong, it is OK to have Laws favoring Blacks.

      Perhaps “to be fair”, there show be laws requiring Whites to be slaves. [Sarcasm]

      My mother taught me that “she hit me first” was no excuse for “hitting my sister”.

      Apparently, you weren’t taught that.

      • Vapori March 29, 2017 at 1:00 am #

        IE Because Laws treating Blacks as inferiors were wrong, it is OK to have Laws favoring Blacks.

        My mother taught me that “she hit me first” was no excuse for “hitting my sister”.

        Well, basically yes

        But still slightly different.
        a short story for that.
        In germany there wass a law made 1872 that it was illigal to have consenting sex between adult males was illigal and should be punsihed with up too 5 years of pf prison.

        The paragraph was made much harsher during the nazi era and survived for quite some time, after the nazis it was made milder in 1969 and completly removed in 1994. still in the time of the federal republic ~50000 males were sent to prison for being gay.

        that had also other problems being together with hardend criminals, loss of ones workplace or buisness….

        it took a while to be sorted out and in the end (this year)
        everybody got 3000€ +1500€ for each year in prsion.(not that much actually.

        It was maybe a crime that the hetrosexual majority supported or a while, bu not now anymore and in the end the compensation was paid by the state and the taxpayer.

        after all you can’t send the majority to prison, and also no representative of the state the president is after all not Luis XIV.

        All we can do is to compensate for past failures and that might include better education or healthcare for the children of society former victims to even the odds and starting conditions a bit.

        To say it in the slightly altered words of Kennedy: you can not chain a man and feed him poorly while he develops and then free him and expect him to race against a well feed athlete who had the time to train since early childhood and call it a fair race.

        If I look at the statistics on average the odds between black and white have no jet evened.. Well time will do that in some more generations I guess. But maybe it would be fair to speed the process up a little bit. maybe that leads to less racail tensions or it increases them.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard March 29, 2017 at 3:07 am #

        When I’m, as a white person, am “blamed” for all the shit that happened to blacks in the past, then I call BS on “special treatment” for blacks.

        Especially when I hear a black rich kid talk about “how oppressed he is”.

        Some of the “problems” with blacks today in the US are in the Inner Cities where the “problems” are more caused by the “efforts” of American Liberals to “help the poor”.

        It isn’t caused by White Racism.

        For matter, one of the Biggest Lies of the modern Liberals is that Racism is a “White Only Sin”.

        When people embracing “Identity Politics” tell Whites that they are “Evil Monsters”, then they give Whites no real reason to “like” Minorities.

        Here of course is the real problem with “identity Politics”.

        By creating an “Oppressor Class” (ie Whites), you risk creating hatred toward the “Victim Classes”.

      • Vapori March 29, 2017 at 1:12 pm #

        it isn’t a white only sin, but racism, by whites in the past had more servere consequences then any other form of racism for both native and African american.

        Then other forms of racism, for the day to day life and
        socio- economic prospects at least.

        There was never much of a collective compensation.

        if a large group of people oppressed you and your kin, would you not want some form of compensation?

        What if someone did something more servere.

        Let’s say Jewish survivors of the german concentration camps.
        Should they not get compensated by germany in some form even if today generation of young germans had nothing to do with the crimes of the past?

        Or would that only cause harm while today’s German would feel hate to the jews jet again if they have to pay for some of the crimes the already dead grandparents of them did.

        Should they get compensated or not?
        and I mean a bit of money no collective punishment.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard March 29, 2017 at 2:18 pm #

        “The sins of the fathers should not be held against the children”.

        Sorry but if some group had “sinned” against my ancestors, it would be wrong to hate current members of that group because of the sins of their ancestors.

        For that matter, I was a victim of bullying when I was a child.

        Leaving morality out of it, it would be harmful to me if I continued to hate those bullies let alone hating relatives of those bullies.

        Identity Politics boils down to “it is OK to hate people who did nothing to you but are somehow related to people who harmed people who you are somehow related to”.

        For that matter, the hatred Identity Politics encourages hits on people who had nothing to do with “family responsibility”.

        An Italian family who came to the US say ten years ago is treated the same by Black idiots as a family who was descended from slave owners.

        Sorry Vapori, it isn’t just to blame people for “sins of the past” that has nothing to do with them or their current behavior.

      • Vapori March 29, 2017 at 5:31 pm #

        You are right that it can’t go back to far in history at least when the living memory of the crime dies all forms of compensation are injust.

        It’s not the white who have the blame,
        it’s the state, the state did not threat the black equally and just.
        When the state makes a mistake for excample putting a person into prison, and later it came out that they were wrong, The person usually gets some form of compensation.from the state, not from the judge or the policeman involved.

        I personally have no blame when someone gets misjudged and still I pay the taxes used to compensate them because I live in that state and would want to be compensated as well if the state makes a mistake on me.

        It’s not ok to hate people, not for identy politics or anything else still it’s very human to hate.

        In my option identity politics boils down to.. it’s ok to get compensated if someone did you wrong. specially if you still have a disadvantage because of that.
        After all the income gap between whites and black is still still roughly 25%
        To give them slightly better chances to narrow that gap might be helpful. More helpful then paying outright single individuals who have been wronged in the past.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard March 29, 2017 at 5:58 pm #

        After all the income gap between whites and black is still still roughly 25%

        Therefore, we take a cut from the pay of whites to give to blacks. [Sarcasm]

        Sorry, but that “statistic” ignores too many other factors.

        We have the Black ghettos where blacks get “paid” for not working, where black gangs aren’t interesting in education and deliberately sabotage efforts by other blacks to gain an education, etc.

        Also that “statistic” ignores things like “working similar jobs”.

        Sorry but the assumption is that the income gap is solely because of White Racism.

        It also ignores the “poor whites” who get treated as Racists by “rich blacks”.

        I think I might as well end this “conversation”.

        “Identity Politics” is a Religious Position and logic has nothing to do with the belief involved.

      • Vapori March 29, 2017 at 7:13 pm #

        (Therefore, we take a cut from the pay of whites to give to blacks. )
        Nah we don’t do that.
        We just provide them with chances to get better jobs.

        there are of course many differences locally and between school district etc.

        (Also that “statistic” ignores things like “working similar jobs”.)
        That is actually wanted, if you get better jobs that is also another way to show that the distribution of these got jobs isn’t always fair.

        And the main reason while they are behind white in income is mostly history.

        If your parents are poor or can’t get good jobs because of racism or being newly immigrated then it’s harder for the children to get a good perspective in life.
        it’s harder not impossible but you see a big statistical impact.

        If your parent’s are well educated and have a reasonable income then it’s easier for the children to reach the same standard of living.

        I personally are not really that much in favor of identity politics it, in my option it would be better to provide children from poorer families a better start, with better public schools and other aides during their early development until they reach 25 or so.

        Otherwise I see that happening even less likely then a sufficient compensation of the blacks.

        In my option identity politics can be sometimes helpful but not always.

        Well anyway I guess the discussion about our beliefs is concluded then.

        At last politics and Religon is always a bit about perception we always lean to a position supporting our worldview and our morals. and interpret any data to suit our arguments.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard March 29, 2017 at 9:36 pm #

        Chuckle Chuckle

        The US has been in a “War On Poverty” since 1964 (Started by LBJ).

        Quite bluntly, the efforts of Liberals to end poverty have made things worse not better.

    • Cory June 15, 2017 at 3:27 am #

      So we should embrace the very thing the government uses to subjugate us? No.

  2. Bewildered March 28, 2017 at 10:17 pm #

    One issue overlooked is that some groups also appear to identify outsiders by the group they belong to and react in accordance with their views about that identity. Australia is presently having issues with homosexual activists targeting Christians in business or academia and demanding their organisations do something about them to prove that the organisation supports individuals’ rights and safety in the workplace. One activist has even gone so far as to suggest that the right to attend church and belong to a particular faith may be covered by freedom of expression, religion and association, but that anything else is suspect at best. Worse, there was a recent ad which included a moderate engaged in a civil conversation, and it caused a social media firestorm!!! Seems like it’s the moderates risking Coventry not the assholes braying at the top of their voices.

  3. randallberger March 29, 2017 at 8:26 am #

    Young Chris …

    Love your political thoughts. I was a Berner. I think Bernie Sanders was the last best hope for America … not Hillary or Donald. Democratic socialism will be the only thing that can save the US and many other 21st century democracies.

    I also think you should stop writing these things … with all your books, you are wearing your fingers down to the stubs. I think you should do a Chrishanger Podcast … easy as … and you can put more passion in your comments with your voice. You can even just post them here as a link …

    I do a weekly podcast on US politics from Australia with another American friend of mine. It is very cathartic. try it … http://www.thebillshow.net

  4. Drowe March 29, 2017 at 9:21 pm #

    I don’t think identity politics are fundamentally a bad thing, nor that we can or even should get rid of it. The reason for that is, that it forms the fundamental basis of nation states and with that our society. Without a sense of shared identity mostly based on things like culture, language and religion, there could be no nation states, at least no stable ones.

    That being said, you are correct that the form of identity politics we’re seeing right now is a bad thing. Instead of building a shared identity, like nation states do, it is breaking it down into smaller and smaller groups, causing social cohesion to weaken which will inevitably contribute to social collapse if it can’t be stopped in time.

    • Cory June 15, 2017 at 3:25 am #

      That’s a good point. So you’re saying the current model we embrace is too much of a good thing?

  5. David Graf March 30, 2017 at 12:01 am #

    Chris,

    I don’t see much good coming from columns like this. Let your books speak for you instead of turning off potential readers who don’t agree with your columns.

    • Drowe March 30, 2017 at 12:50 am #

      And others may pick up his books because they do agree with his columns. Most will simply not care either way, his books are worth reading, to most that’s all that matters. It would be foolish to stop reading books you enjoy simply because you disagree with the author’s political opinions.

      I may disagree with certain opinions he holds, but I respect him for voicing them. I would be disappointed if he censored himself.

      • David Graf March 31, 2017 at 1:15 am #

        Let me ask you this – why would an author want to do anything to turn off potential readers? It may be foolish to stop reading books just because you disagree with an author’s position but it’s just as foolish for that author to do things which turn readers off.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard March 31, 2017 at 1:35 am #

        It’s done by various Liberal Authors so why should Chris be silent?

      • Drowe March 31, 2017 at 8:44 am #

        Because speaking his mind could be more important to the author than losing a few readers over political disagreements. And that’s assuming he actually does lose any readers at all over voicing his political opinions, it is by no means certain that this is actually the case. It may be true or it may not. But I would argue that anyone who would stop reading his books because of what he writes in his blog, would not enjoy his books anyway, or at least not enjoy them enough to read his blog in the first place.

    • Cory June 15, 2017 at 3:24 am #

      You obviously agree with identity politics, why do you want to be so divisive?

  6. Veraenderer March 30, 2017 at 10:21 am #

    I 100% agree with this.

    I would like to add that I think that most of this attacks come from this hardened groups and lead to more hardened groups which in turn means that more and more people are in hardened groups which means that the society splits up more and more until this development is either stopped or the society breaks appart (which can lead to funny things like civil wars, dicatorships etc.) .

    I personly think that this development is the biggest danger the modern societies faces.

    • Bewildered March 30, 2017 at 8:45 pm #

      That raises an interesting albeit scary notion – a domino effect leading to the Balkanisation of society. Question is do those attempting to force change\lead the attack believe that to be a real risk, or even a real problem?

    • Cory June 15, 2017 at 3:22 am #

      Well put

  7. Tarun Elankath April 1, 2017 at 3:26 am #

    Maybe I am just slow today, but I didn’t get what this post is about. Is it about the anger directed against Trump supporters? I admit it appears to be truly getting out of hand. I don’t like the anti POTUS anger – I never liked it when it was directed against Obama either with all the crappy Birther and Muslim remarks. The election was legally won by Trump. The POTUS is an office – if you don’t like the man, at-least be neutral to the office. Admittedly, it is unfortunate that Trump is a guy who simply engenders hate with absolutely no filter on his mouth or for that matter his twitter channel. Crassness and anger is responded to with crassness and rage in a never ending multiplying cycle.

    Things would have been massively different if Sanders had ever been given a chance to win the DNC nomination. Sanders would have been a uniter not a divider.

    • Cory June 15, 2017 at 3:21 am #

      Look up critical race theory and identity politics. They are the drivers of the liberal party right now. This is what the author is critiquing.

  8. georgephillies April 1, 2017 at 10:18 am #

    At some point the potential outcome is partition, on the Czechoslovakian model. Instead of one county you have a half-dozen. This is not a good deal, but the religious and otehr divisions are leading in that direction.

  9. Cory June 15, 2017 at 3:19 am #

    This is just beautiful. You hit the nail on the head. I was a philosophy major before critical race theory and identity politics were mainstream and I remember thinking the same sorts of things about both theories. I remember being grateful they were not mainstream ideologies. Imagine my horror when they became just that.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    […] becomes to fall into the trap of dislike, distrust, suspicion and even outright hated.  Worse, as I have discussed earlier, the bad actors in a particular group will be used to characterise the rest of that group.  This […]

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