Sunday, May 13, 2018

All the Concern Trolling That's Fit to Print

Fresh from her exciting adventures with hip, edgy intellectuals like Ben Shapiro, Bari Weiss got herself ratio'd on Twitter by blaming liberals for the alt-right: Well, sure. And racism and misogyny are caused by a lack of tolerance for racism and misogyny. It all makes so much sense.

Then today the Times carries a piece by AEI fellow Gerard Alexander that is basically Weiss' tweet inflated to the size of a column, and it's exactly as vapid and lazy as you would expect.
Liberals are trapped in a self-reinforcing cycle. When they use their positions in American culture to lecture, judge and disdain, they push more people into an opposing coalition that liberals are increasingly prone to think of as deplorable. That only validates their own worst prejudices about the other America.
So far, so insipid. But there is one notable passage in the thing--notable because it's where he gives away the game:
After the Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that states had to allow same-sex marriage, the fight, in some quarters, turned to pizza places unwilling to cater such weddings. Maybe don’t pick that fight?
What's revealing here is his perception of just who is picking a fight with whom. In the case he's referring to here, the owner of a pizza parlor announced gratuitously that they wouldn't cater a gay wedding (as if the demand were so enormous), then turned the resulting publicity into a fundraising scam. That sounds a lot like picking a fight to me. In the better known and more consequential case of the Portland bakery that refused to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple, the store owners ruined the lives of the couple by posting their address and phone number on Facebook.

At the heart of Alexander's worldview is a belief that marginalized groups insisting on full equality are "picking a fight" they maybe shouldn't. Alexander is exactly the sort of person Dr. King was referring to when he called white moderates "the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom".

The two essential elements of concern trolling are the pretense that they have your best interests at heart, and the certainty that they do not. Weiss and Alexander are conservatives who don't give a shit about liberals or civil rights or anything beyond exonerating conservatives for the monster they created.

And so they overlook the obvious but inconvenient real explanation for where the hate is coming from:
We show that the rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes in the US since Donald Trump's presidential campaign has been concentrated in counties with high Twitter usage. Consistent with a role for social media, Trump's Tweets on Islam-related topics are highly correlated with anti-Muslim hate crime after, but not before the start of his presidential campaign, and are uncorrelated with other types of hate crimes. These patterns stand out in historical comparison: counties with many Twitter users today did not consistently experience more anti-Muslim hate crimes during previous presidencies.
But it's much more comforting for people like Weiss and Alexander to believe that the thing that follows in a direct line from Goldwater through the Southern Strategy and the white evangelical conservative movement and the Tea Party all the way to Richard Spencer and David Duke is really the fault of smug liberal meanies.

ETA: Incidentally, it's important to keep in mind that seemingly-trivial cases of anti-gay business owners refusing to serve gay people are really part of a much broader direct attack on public accommodations law, and thus on civil rights law as a whole.

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