The roots of male rage, on show at the Kavanaugh hearing

American men do have genuine reasons for anxiety. The traditional jobs that many men have filled are disappearing, thanks to automation and outsourcing. The jobs that remain require, in most cases, higher education, which is increasingly difficult for non-affluent families to afford. We should indeed tremble for the future of both men and women in our country unless we address that problem, and related problems of declining health and well-being for working-class men.

.. Three emotions, all infused by fear, play a role in today’s misogyny. The most obvious is anger — at women making demands, speaking up, in general standing in the way of unearned male privilege. Women were once good mothers and good wives, props and supports for male ambition, the idea goes –but here they are asserting themselves in the workplace. Here they are daring to speak about their histories of sexual abuse at the hands of powerful men. It’s okay for women to charge strangers with rape, especially if the rapist is of inferior social status. But to dare to accuse the powerful is to assail a bastion of privilege to which men still cling.

.. Coupled with anger is envy. All over the world, women are seeing unprecedented success in higher education, holding a majority of university seats. In our nation many universities quietly practice affirmative action for males with inferior scores, to achieve a “gender balance” that is sometimes dictated by commitment to male sports teams, given Title IX’s mandate of proportional funding.

.. But men still feel that women are taking “their” places in college classes, in professional schools.

.. Envy, propelled by fear, can be even more toxic than anger, because it involves the thought that other people enjoy the good things of life which the envier can’t hope to attain through hard work and emulation. Envy is the emotion of Aaron Burr in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton”

.. And then, beneath the hysteria, lurks a more primitive emotion: disgust at women’s animal bodies.

.. In the United States, we observe this dynamic in racism, in homophobia and even in revulsion toward the bodies of people who are aging. But in every culture male disgust targets women, as emblems of bodily nature, symbolic animals by contrast to males, almost angels with pure minds.

.. Disgust for women’s bodily fluids is fully compatible with sexual desire. Indeed, it often singles out women seen as promiscuous, the repositories of many men’s fluids.

.. as with the apparent defamation of Renate Dolphin in Kavanaugh’s infamous yearbook, men often crow with pride over intercourse with a woman imagined as sluttish and at the same time defame and marginalize her.

.. Disgust is often more deeply buried than envy and anger, but it compounds and intensifies the other negative emotions.

.. Our president seems to be especially gripped by disgust: for women’s menstrual fluids, their bathroom breaks, the blood imagined streaming from their surgical incisions, even their flesh, if they are more than stick-thin.

When Republicans Rejected John Bolton

in 2005, the extraordinary refusal to confirm his nomination to be President George W. Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations by a Republican-controlled committee is worth revisiting for what it revealed about Mr. Bolton and what it may portend for our national security.

.. Testifying before the usually staid Senate Foreign Relations Committee in April 2005, Carl W. Ford Jr. — the former assistant secretary of state for intelligence and research — called Mr. Bolton a “kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy” and a “serial abuser” of people beneath him in the chain of command. Mr. Ford — a self-described conservative Republican and Bush supporter — made vivid an emerging portrait of Mr. Bolton as a bully who repeatedly sought retribution against career intelligence analysts with the temerity to contradict him.

.. As under secretary of state, Mr. Bolton insisted that Cuba was attempting to build a biological weapons program. The national intelligence officer for Latin America and the State Department’s top biological weapons expert disagreed. In a fit of rage, Mr. Bolton tried to have both reassigned.

.. Mr. Bolton also was accused of attempting to inflate the dangers of Syria’s biological and nuclear weapons programs, by trying to sneak exaggerated assertions into speeches and congressional testimony before being called on it by intelligence officials. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage reportedly issued an extraordinary decree that required Mr. Bolton to clear all of his public utterances with Mr. Armitage himself.

.. Mr. Bolton also accused a State Department subordinate of not sharing with him a cable about weapons inspections in Iraq. The same official had managed to delete some of the more extreme claims about Iraq’s weapons programs from Mr. Powell’s infamous presentation to the United Nations. Mr. Bolton ordered him removed from his duties, which State Department officials reportedly saw as an another instance of Mr. Bolton trying to marginalize dissent.

Mr. Bolton made it something of a habit to request the identity of American officials whose names had been blacked out of sensitive intelligence intercepts. Some members of the Foreign Relations Committee were concerned that he was seeking information to use against those who disagreed with him — the very kind of improper “unmasking” that President Trump has falsely accused some members of the Obama administration of pursuing.

Other witnesses came forward to allege abusive behavior by Mr. Bolton during his time as a lawyer in the private sector — screaming, threatening, throwing documents and, in the words of one woman, “genuinely behaving like a madman.”

All of this ultimately proved too much for Senator Voinovich. In a remarkable speech to his colleagues on the committee, a visibly pained Mr. Voinovich explained his decision to vote against Mr. Bolton, effectively killing the nomination. We’ve heard, he said, that Mr. Bolton is “an ideologue and fosters an atmosphere of intimidation. He does not tolerate disagreement. He does not tolerate dissent.”

.. Though he has advocated tough policies on Russia, he has also reportedly suggested that Vladimir Putin’s effort to undermine the 2016 election was a false-flag operation orchestrated by the Obama administration.

The Rise of Victimhood Culture

A recent scholarly paper on “microaggressions” uses them to chart the ascendance of a new moral code in American life.

.. When conflicts occur, sociologists Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning observe in an insightful new scholarly paper, aggrieved parties can respond in any number of ways.

In honor cultures like the Old West or the street gangs of West Side Story, they might engage in a duel or physical fight.

In dignity cultures, like the ones that prevailed in Western countries during the 19th and 20th Centuries, “insults might provoke offense, but they no longer have the same importance as a way of establishing or destroying a reputation for bravery,” they write. “When intolerable conflicts do arise, dignity cultures prescribe direct but non-violent actions.”

“For offenses like theft, assault, or breach of contract, people in a dignity culture will use law without shame,” the authors observe. “But in keeping with their ethic of restraint and toleration, it is not necessarily their first resort, and they might condemn many uses of the authorities as frivolous. People might even be expected to tolerate serious but accidental personal injuries.”

.. The Oberlin student took a different approach: After initially emailing the student who offended her, she decided to publicly air the encounter that provoked her and their subsequent exchange in the community at large, hoping to provoke sympathy and antagonism toward the emailer by advertising her status as an aggrieved party.

.. It isn’t honor culture.

“Honorable people are sensitive to insult, and so they would understand that microaggressions, even if unintentional, are severe offenses that demand a serious response,” they write. “But honor cultures value unilateral aggression and disparage appeals for help. Public complaints that advertise or even exaggerate one’s own victimization and need for sympathy would be anathema to a person of honor.”

.. “Members of a dignity culture, on the other hand, would see no shame in appealing to third parties, but they would not approve of such appeals for minor and merely verbal offenses. Instead they would likely counsel either confronting the offender directly to discuss the issue, or better yet, ignoring the remarks altogether.”

.. The culture on display on many college and university campuses, by way of contrast, is “characterized by concern with status and sensitivity to slight combined with a heavy reliance on third parties. People are intolerant of insults, even if unintentional, and react by bringing them to the attention of authorities or to the public at large. Domination is the main form of deviance, and victimization a way of attracting sympathy, so

The culture on display on many college and university campuses, by way of contrast, is “characterized by concern with status and sensitivity to slight combined with a heavy reliance on third parties. People are intolerant of insults, even if unintentional, and react by bringing them to the attention of authorities or to the public at large. Domination is the main form of deviance, and victimization a way of attracting sympathy, so rather than emphasize either their strength or inner worth, the aggrieved emphasize their oppression and social marginalization.”

It is, they say, “a victimhood culture.”

.. Victimhood cultures emerge in settings, like today’s college campuses, “that increasingly lack the intimacy and cultural homogeneity that once characterized towns and suburbs, but in which organized authority and public opinion remain as powerful sanctions,” they argue. “Under such conditions complaint to third parties has supplanted both toleration and negotiation. People increasingly demand help from others, and advertise their oppression as evidence that they deserve respect and assistance. Thus we might call this moral culture a culture of victimhood … the moral status of the victim, at its nadir in honor cultures, has risen to new heights.”

It is, they say, “a victimhood culture.”

.. victimhood culture is likeliest to arise in settings where there is some diversity and inequality, but whose members are almost equal

.. the emergence of “the blogosphere” in the early aughts––something I participated in to some extent–– was rife with examples of conservative, progressive, and libertarian bloggers calling attention to minor slights against their respective ideological groups by mainstream media outlets. In “Fisking” the MSM, the aggrieved seized on these slights, often exaggerating them in the process; tried to garner the support of third parties (an ombudsman, the public at large); cast themselves as victims of unfair treatment; and demonized adversaries.

.. They did so in hopes of making the case that the small slight that they’d seized upon was actually evidence of a larger, significant injustice to a whole class of people.

.. many of them working class whites in the Inland Empire—would say that they resented “having to dial one for English” on automated phone lines, or having to hear Spanish spoken while in line at the grocery store. They, too, were emphasizing small slights in hopes of casting themselves as victims while appealing to third parties, like politicians

.. If “dignity culture” is characterized by a reticence to involve third parties in minor disputes, an argument could be made that many black and brown people are denied its benefits. In a city like New York during the stop-and-frisk era, minorities were stopped by police because other people in their community, aggrieved by minor quality-of-life issues like loitering or sitting on stoops or squeegee men, successfully appealed to third-parties to intervene by arguing that what may seem like small annoyances were actually burdensome and victimizing when aggregated.

.. to what extent are the same clashes happening in other realms, some of them on the political right?

Steve Bannon believed in Trumpism. Donald Trump doesn’t.

Trump is losing control of his administration, and he likes it that way.

As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump praised autocrats and exhibited strongman tendencies. But as president of the United States, Trump is proving to be one of the weakest, most disinterested executives in memory. He seems happy — even eager — to be both operationally and ideologically marginalized inside his own administration.

.. White House staff, congressional Republicans, military leaders, and executive branch officials are increasingly confident simply ignoring President Trump.

  1. After Trump tweeted that he wanted the military to ban transgender service members from serving, for instance, the Pentagon quickly said that it had not received an official order and was going to carry on with business as usual until it did.
  2. .. Similarly, after Trump tweeted his threats at North Korea, the key organs of American foreign policymaking — the State Department, the Defense Department, and so on — were quick to declare that nothing had changed, there was no military buildup or new red lines, and everyone should just ignore the commander in chief’s morning outburst.
  3. Senate Republicans are ignoring the president’s demand to keep holding votes on health reform.
  4. The National Economic Council, the Office of Management and Budget, the Treasury Department, and the Department of Health and Human Services are ignoring Trump’s campaign promises to raise taxes on the rich and protect Social Security and Medicaid from cuts.
  5. Attorney General Jeff Sessions — one of the few executive branch officials who seems to ideologically align with Trump — is ignoring Trump’s clear desire that he resign, or at least take a more aggressive hand overseeing Bob Mueller.

As CNBC’s John Harwood concluded in a recent overview, “fresh evidence arrives every day of the government treating the man elected to lead it as someone talking mostly to himself.”

Trump could react to all this with fury. He could elevate aides, like Bannon, who are committed to his ideological agenda and invested in reshaping the federal government around his vision, and fire Cabinet officials and top staffers who seem to be using his administration to drive their agendas. But he isn’t.

MSNBC’s Chris Hayes outlined a theory as to why. He argued that it’s wrong to see this as the government defying the president. This, he thinks, is exactly how Trump wants it:

I don’t think the president wants to be in charge. I think he wants to sit on his couch and yell at his TV screen and tweet things, but he’s almost happy to be able to kind of get it out of his system and not have anyone listen to him. I think his optimal equilibrium is hectoring Jeff Sessions but Jeff Sessions not quitting, or tweeting out the thing about transgender service members and the military ignoring him, or tweeting out threats to North Korea and not actually changing American posture.

I think that that we have arrived at a new equilibrium in which both

  • the interior members of his staff,
  • the actual federal bureaucracy,
  • the US Congress,
  • the US public,
  • the global public, and
  • global leaders

all basically understand the president is fundamentally a bullshit artist and you just shouldn’t listen to what he says.

There are two ways a president can make sure the federal policy roughly tracks his wishes. One way is to insist on it himself, but Trump has no interest in doing that. Another way is to outsource ideological enforcement to committed, empowered lieutenants.

.. Bannon was the closest thing Trump had to a lieutenant like that: He was the true believer running around the federal government trying to force various agencies and officials to align their work with Trump’s campaign promises

.. The problem is that Bannon could only win those fights if Trump wanted him to win those fights — and now we see Trump didn’t.

.. Instead, Trump has systematically elevated outsiders to his campaign and operation like John Kelly and Gary Cohn while alienating or firing allies like Bannon and Reince Priebus.

.. we’re watching a president who wants to comment on his own presidency without actually driving its agenda or being held accountable for anything he says.

.. The presidency Trump wants is one in which he can say whatever he likes but other people do the work and ignore him when necessary. Chief of Staff John Kelly seems to understand that:

.. The president of the United States is clearly unfit for the job, but the good news, to the extent that there is good news, is that everyone around him knows it, and he is willing to be sidelined as long as no one takes away his phone. Whether he is being marginalized by his own administration or choosing to marginalize himself I don’t know, but Bannon’s ouster is another piece of evidence that Trump is interested in Twitter, not Trumpism.