The Rush to Condemn Jordan Peterson as Racist

his critics on the left say Peterson, who dares attack their views of gender and white guilt, is one step removed from a white supremacist or similar to notable fascists.

.. Mishra points to Peterson’s affinity for “the great myths and religious stories of the past” as a sign that he shares an intellectual kinship with Richard Wagner, who “became notorious for using myth to regenerate the volk and stoke hatred of the aliens — largely Jews — who he thought polluted the pure community rooted in blood and soil.”

.. Peggy McIntosh, a Harvard graduate and professor of women’s studies, was one of the first to publish on white privilege. She wrote in a 1988 paper

.. Being white not only benefited her group, she argued, it oppressed other races, as evidenced by the fact, for example, that she could “talk with my mouth full and not have people put this down to [her] race.” Such privilege, she argues, “simply confers dominance, gives permission to control.” She alludes to the notion of hierarchy as oppressive but then offers no solution, except to urge white people to feel guilty.

.. Peterson mocked this paper last year during a lecture for the University of British Columbia Free Speech Club. He said McIntosh’s list of 46 privileges enjoyed by white people could apply to different groups of people in different countries, which means that privilege doesn’t have anything to do with being white or even with race but with being wealthy or being the majority.

.. “It turns out we don’t fit into one group, any of us, we fit into multiple groups and it’s not obvious at all which groups should be of paramount importance,” he said, noting that people can be divided by race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic class, intelligence, personality, etc. The individual is the most important entity, he argued.

.. Still, Peterson doesn’t let anyone off the hook. He acknowledges that those who enjoy wealth today have come by it largely as a consequence of “historical catastrophe” — a reality that should motivate you to “work to deserve” these privileges, which will in turn make the world a better place for everyone.

The Strange Persistence of Guilt

American life has secularized and grand political ideologies have fallen away, but moral conflict has only grown. In fact, it’s the people who go to church least — like the members of the alt-right — who seem the most fervent moral crusaders.

.. Whatever donation I make to a charitable organization, it can never be as much as I could have given. I can never diminish my carbon footprint enough, or give to the poor enough. … Colonialism, slavery, structural poverty, water pollution, deforestation — there’s an endless list of items for which you and I can take the rap.”

.. McClay is describing a world in which we’re still driven by an inextinguishable need to feel morally justified.

.. people have a sense of guilt and sin, but no longer a sense that they live in a loving universe marked by divine mercy, grace and forgiveness. There is sin but no formula for redemption.

.. The only reliable way to feel morally justified in that culture is to assume the role of victim. As McClay puts it, “Claiming victim status is the sole sure means left of absolving oneself and securing one’s sense of fundamental moral innocence.”

.. We see events through the lens of moral Marxism, as a class or ethnic struggle between the evil oppressor and the supposedly innocent oppressed. The moral narrative of colonialism is applied to every situation. The concept of inherited sin is back in common currency, only these days we call it “privilege.”

.. the Middle East, the Israelis and the Palestinians compete for the victimhood narrative.

.. Sin is a stain, a weight and a debt. But at least religions offer people a path from self-reflection and confession to atonement and absolution. Mainstream culture has no clear path upward from guilt, either for individuals or groups. So you get a buildup of scapegoating, shaming and Manichaean condemnation. “This is surely a moral crisis in the making,”

.. I notice some schools and prisons have restorative justice programs to welcome offenders back into the community. They tend to be more substantive than the cheap grace of instant forgiveness. I wonder if the wider society needs procedures like that, so the private guilt everybody feels isn’t transmuted into a public state of perpetual moral war.

The Exhaustion of American Liberalism

White guilt gave us a mock politics based on the pretense of moral authority.

Unlike the civil-rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s, when protesters wore their Sunday best and carried themselves with heroic dignity, today’s liberal marches are marked by incoherence and downright lunacy—hats designed to evoke sexual organs, poems that scream in anger yet have no point to make, and an hysterical anti-Americanism.
.. the Trump election suggests an exhaustion with the idea of white guilt, and with the drama of culpability, innocence and correctness in which it mires us.

.. White guilt is not angst over injustices suffered by others; it is the terror of being stigmatized with America’s old bigotries—racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia. To be stigmatized as a fellow traveler with any of these bigotries is to be utterly stripped of moral authority and made into a pariah. The terror of this, of having “no name in the street” as the Bible puts it, pressures whites to act guiltily even when they feel no actual guilt.
.. It is not real liberalism, in the classic sense. It is a mock liberalism. Freedom is not its raison d’être; moral authority is.
.. When America became stigmatized in the ’60s as racist, sexist and militaristic, it wanted moral authority above all else. Subsequently the American left reconstituted itself as the keeper of America’s moral legitimacy. (Conservatism, focused on freedom and wealth, had little moral clout.) From that followed today’s markers of white guilt—political correctness, identity politics, environmental orthodoxy, the diversity cult and so on.
.. innocence of America’s bigotries and dissociation from the American past became a currency of hardcore political power. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, good liberals both, pursued power by offering their candidacies as opportunities for Americans to document their innocence of the nation’s past.
.. liberalism was a moral vaccine that immunized him against stigmatization.
.. The white guilt that lifted Mr. Obama did not carry her into office—even though her opponent was soundly stigmatized as an iconic racist and sexist.
.. Perhaps the Obama presidency was the culmination of the age of white guilt
.. liberalism’s old weapon of stigmatization shoots blanks—Elizabeth Warren in the Senate reading a 30-year-old letter by Coretta Scott King, hoping to stop Jeff Sessions’s appointment as attorney general.
.. Bigotry exists, but it is far down on the list of problems that minorities now face.
.. Today’s liberalism is an anachronism. It has no understanding, really, of what poverty is and how it has to be overcome.
.. This liberalism came into being not as an ideology but as an identity. It offered Americans moral esteem against the specter of American shame. This made for a liberalism devoted to the idea of American shamefulness. Without an ugly America to loathe, there is no automatic esteem to receive. Thus liberalism’s unrelenting current of anti-Americanism.
.. Let’s stipulate that, given our history, this liberalism is understandable. But American liberalism never acknowledged that it was about white esteem rather than minority accomplishment.