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Rahm Emanuel famously warned against letting a crisis go to waste. In the case of the New York Times’ hiring of Sarah Jeong, he’s right.
Make no mistake: Jeong’s hiring is a crisis. It is a crisis for journalism, a crisis for elite opinion, and a crisis for America above all. Those who gloat that Jeong’s hiring is merely another step toward an awakening for most Americans to the bias of the “fake news” media (which it is), or toward liberals accepting extreme positions that are electorally untenable to appease their extremist “woke” base (which it also is), are comforting themselves with minutiae to avoid the truly unsettling larger impact of this development.
Jeong’s hiring is more than a moment of indecent exposure for the New York Times. It is a moment of indecent exposure for the corporatist Left, represented by former President Barack Obama and composed of his core coalitions: coalitions that currently control most levers of cultural power in America.
Since it is apparently unacceptable to refer to Sarah Jeong as racist, as Andrew Sullivan recently discovered to his woe, I’ll avoid the “r-word” and be more descriptive. Jeong is not only a repulsive, hardened bigot whose sentiments would be out of place anywhere but with Stormfront if they weren’t about white people (as was ably demonstrated by the normally infuriating Candace Owens), she is also an unapologetic advocate of ethnic cleansing and genocide. What else can one make of her tweets “#CancelWhitePeople” (cancel them how, exactly?) and “White people have stopped breeding. You’ll all go extinct soon. This was my plan all along”?
The former is, at best, a coy reference to genocide. The latter is literally a celebration of ethnic cleansing. Unless whites cannot be the targets of genocide or ethnic cleansing in the Left’s warped moral universe, which would not surprise me, Joeng is a woman who has endorsed both. Granted, as far as the Left is concerned, she’s probably in great company. They still haven’t apologized for supporting Robert Mugabe, after all.
Yes, All White People
The fact of Jeong’s being an open would-be conspirator in genocide against whites is a gift to white supremacists everywhere. The otherwise alarmist sophistry about “white genocide” peddled in alt-right circles looks a lot more credible when an editor of the New York Times admits to wanting that very thing, and the paper stands by her.
I don’t think I’m being at all unfair in describing Jeong’s motives that way, either. Note the total absence of caveats in her two tweets: she does not say “cancel racist white people,” or “cancel rich white people,” or even “cancel white people who voted for Trump.” Nor does she say that some subgroup of white people has stopped breeding, and this is her plan. She says white people. All of them. Presumably including her new colleagues at the Times.
Not that I’d begrudge Jeong resentment against the sort of gentry liberals who staff the Times. After all, she is Asian, and the people who most frequently discriminate against Asians in today’s world are not gun-toting deplorables in Klan hoods: they are elite college admissions boards filled with the fashionably woke. If Jeong did post her tweets in order to target such people, she’d at least have some grounds for doing it, even if her genocidal remedy would still be morally reprehensible. Nor would she be alone on the far Left in condemning gentry liberals nominally on the same side: the same sort of rage motivated The Root to declare “whites allies” the worst wypipo (don’t ask) in the world, beating out even the Ku Klux Klan, Richard Spencer, and Jeff Sessions.
Unlike the authors at The Root, however, Jeong appears to have a talent for getting the white allies to show up on her behalf. After all, she’s one of the lucky few Asians to be deemed acceptable for Harvard Law School admissions, and her editors at the New York Times are still standing by her. However, like Suey Park before her, Jeong appears to be too possessed of a groundless sense of grievance to care that her path to the post she now holds and entirely does not deserve has been smoothed by the very people she wants to cancel and breed out of existence: that her genocidal sentiments are tolerated and even encouraged by such people, even though it cannot possibly be in their interests to keep applauding her.
And that’s the most puzzling thing about all this. It isn’t in white gentry liberals’ interest to encourage genocidal anti-white thinkers like Jeong. For one thing, giving such a person a platform makes them potentially complicit in their own eradication, in the event that the person uses that platform effectively enough to propagandize the cause. For another, even if Jeong never persuades a critical mass of people to go around murdering or attacking whites—well, a bigger critical mass than there already is—the Times’ sanctioning of her in the same breath that it condemns others removes the fig leaf concealing their radical politics.
As Claire Lehmann of Quillette put it:
The defence of Jeong is interesting because for once the social justice left actually have to defend their bailey position (racism=power+prejudice) rather than simply retreating to their motte position (dictionary definition of racism)
The social justice left’s entire modus operandi is to implement extreme positions using the language of moderate positions. But when this facade drops, it’s game over.
The “motte” and “bailey” language refers to philosopher Nicholas Shackel’s famous idea of the “motte-and-bailey fallacy,” whereby an extremist group pretends only to be interested in a very modest goal when attacked (like ending the dictionary definition of racism), but then goes way beyond that goal when they feel safe (say, by trying to only fight “systemic racism” by whites). The fallacy is so named because it refers to the old medieval battle tactic of building a tower (the motte) to defend multiple farms (the bailey), so that in the event of an attack, the farmers can retreat to the motte and survive even if they have to rebuild their farms.
In other words, Jeong’s hiring is dangerous for white staffers at the Times not just because of her announced hatred for them (one wonders how HR will handle the inevitable justified complaints of a “hostile work environment” once Jeong starts), but because it also leaves Leftists at the Times who agree with Jeong exposed and forced to defend their politically untenable position for all the world to see.
Foolish Assumptions About Dangerous Ideas
In a weird way, we owe Jeong thanks for unmasking the latter point, for it shows us something truly alarming, and something that Andrew Sullivan called out in his much-maligned piece about Jeong:
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.
The phrase “background noise” is instructive. We’ve somehow gotten to a point where white gentry liberals hear attacks on all white people, and are able just to breeze past it with the pristine assumption that it’s not about them.
The truly idiotic Zack Beauchamp of Vox summed up this attitude best. He argues that Jeong’s tweets are par for the course in “the way the social justice left talks” and then somehow convinced Vox to publish this:
What makes these quasi-satirical generalizations about “white people” different from actual racism is, yes, the underlying power structure in American society. There is no sense of threat associated with Jeong making a joke about how white people have dog-like opinions. But when white people have said the same about minorities, it has historically been a pretext for violence or justification for exclusionary politics. . . .
Eliminationist language, in the way it’s used by scholars of genocide and racial oppression, is used as justification for concrete actions—the Holocaust is the textbook example, and the Rwandan genocide is another clear one. But the very idea that Sarah Jeong’s tweets reveal her desire to set up concentration camps for whites is laughable.
Once you get past picking your jaw up off the floor, two points suggest themselves. First, the KKK and the American Nazi Party are relatively powerless groups in American society. Can we whitewash their usage of the “n-word” because the idea that they’ll ever be able to act on them is laughable? Somehow, I suspect Beauchamp would not accede to that argument, nor would he be similarly understanding if someone told him that attacks on Jews and blacks is just “the way the 4chan right talks.” Hypocrisy is ugly.
But lay that aside, because more important than this is Beauchamp’s implicit argument: Yes, Sarah Jeong is literally saying she wants to cancel white people, but come on, that could never happen here because whites are too powerful. In this reading, “privilege theory” and its attendant forgiveness of bigoted speech by minorities is just a way for the unimpeachably powerful whites to atone for their unimpeachable power.
Nor is it only Beauchamp who buys into this type of thinking. The perennially wrong Max Boot fed the fires of this same nonsense when he proclaimed 2017 “the year I learned about my white privilege.” Which is funny, because if white privilege existed, it’d be the only privilege Boot currently possesses to which he might be said to have a reasonable claim. Boot is, in fact, white.
So, we have to ask, is it true that “white privilege” ensures that talk of genocide against whites will remain just that—talk? Where does the acceptance of Jeong among actual, privileged whites, lead?
Unfortunately, this is not a question we have to ask. We know. In fact, not only do we know, but we can observe it in real time.
Next: The Pains Down in South Africa
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Photo credit: Flickr/Cat Branchman