Tuesday, March 31, 2015


The latest David Brooks column, on Indiana's "religious freedom" law, has been mercilessly picked apart by Charlie Pierce, Yastreblyansky (here and here), and Driftglass, among others. The Brooks passage that's most infuriating is this one:
Morality is a politeness of the soul. Deep politeness means we make accommodations. Certain basic truths are inalienable. Discrimination is always wrong. In cases of actual bigotry, the hammer comes down. But as neighbors in a pluralistic society we try to turn philosophic clashes (about right and wrong) into neighborly problems in which different people are given space to have different lanes to lead lives. In cases where people with different values disagree, we seek a creative accommodation.
We expect Brooks to be exasperating in this way. We're not surprised that "the well-mannered moral monster," as Pierce describes him,"would like all those hysterical gay people to start using their inside voices and to understand that their desire for equal protection under the law would be better served if they understood the feelings of the people who think they are sodomite insects who are all going to hell."

But what am I hearing from Shakesville's Melissa McEwan, a committed progressive? She's an Indiana resident, and she's written a post for a site called Model View Culture in which she also chides progressives for urging a boycott of Indiana, and in which she further argues that the regressive nature of the state is actually progressives' fault:
Many of the people calling for the boycott are, realistically, individuals who have never set foot in Indiana, never will, and probably couldn’t pick out Indiana on a map. But there were also corporate leaders who immediately embraced the notion of a boycott. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff announced his company would be “cancelling all required travel to the state of Indiana,” and called on “other tech CEOs and tech industry leaders to please take a stand.

Hoosiers are already hurting economically....

The idea that we need more pressure in order to be moved to do something is absurd. People on the precipice don’t have the luxury of principled resistance. We are too busy trying to survive.
(Let me interrupt right there. "People on the precipice don’t have the luxury of principled resistance"? Does McEwan think the participants in the Montgomery bus boycott were part of the economic elite? A century ago, were the strikers who built America's labor movement part of the 1%, in McEwan's estimation?)
What you need to understand about Indiana is that the state government doesn’t give a fuck about the people of the state. If you don’t, either, you’re on their side. Not ours.

The truth is, progressives with resources have been boycotting Indiana for decades. That’s actually why we’re in this situation. If you want to know what a boycott would really look like, what result institutional neglect will really have, this is it. This legislation -- it’s the result of Indiana having been de facto boycotted for years, written off as a place unworthy of investment by people who could help.
Yes, we effectively wrote this legislation, according to McEwan, by not rebuilding the state's economy from scratch with a benignly carpetbaggish crash program of progressive entrepreneurialism. (Those of us who have absolutely no head for business are, I guess, guilty even if we have nothing of this kind to offer Indiana -- hey, you know what you are if you're not part of the solution....)
...What a generalized boycott of Indiana would do is harm working people -- among whom are queer business owners, as well as queer employees of inclusive and supportive employers, and also queer employees of discriminatory employers, because that’s the only job they can get in a state with far too few jobs.

And let’s be honest here: It isn’t like the vast majority of people who are cheering “Boycott Indiana!” had any plans to visit Indiana and spend money in this state, anyway. It’s just a slogan to shout at a state they perceive to be full of fat, poor, lazy, conservative, straight, cis, white people.

Which underlines what’s really the worst thing about this idea: It’s reflective of a vicious stereotype that disappears the existence of the very people for whom the sloganeers purport to care.
That's right -- we're pressuring Indiana because we're the haters.

I'm at a loss. I don't know where to begin.

I'm struck, though, by how much overlap there is between McEwan's leftier-than-thou cry of rage and the self-satisfied windbaggery of Brooks. Ultimately, isn't McEwan also calling for "deep politeness" while excoriating those who choose confrontation? Isn't McEwan arguing that we should never fight and should always look for a "creative accommodation"?

And aren't they both full of it?

(McEwan post via Tom Watson at Forbes.)


Roger said...

Half a point, maybe.

Apple, Nike, the NCAA @C. aren't shutting down their stores in IN, they're just going to use their discretionary $ elsewhere. They are still happy to sell their crap to Hoosiers with $. (Of course, that also means they continue to employee Hoosiers, directly and indirectly, to facilitate those sales.) But these same corps are also sending mfg. work overseas to places that aren't LGBT paradises either, (insert criticism of NCAA exploitation of student athletes here) and so forth.

The problem with her point is that she labels corporations as "progessives with resources," and then tars "progressives" for acting like corporations.

I guess her proposed solution is for corporations to flood IN with well-paying jobs and non-discriminatory employment policies, even though a press release is much less expensive, and the existence of an asshole Governor doesn't increase market demand for your product or service.

aimai said...

Yes, they are both full of it. McEwan with even less excuse. Because its obvious that Indiana politicians do care about being boycotted--much more than they care about anything else. This is literally the only way for outsiders to come in and have an effect on local politics so, in any event, there's no alternative. I get that she feels hurt and abandoned by talk of a boycott--but she is blind to reality if she thinks that a boycott has already taken place. The businesses which are proposing to pull out have been going to Indiana all the way along. That's why the boycott matters. Because its a change in the normal state of affairs.

Unsalted Sinner said...

"...What a generalized boycott of Indiana would do is harm working people -- among whom are queer business owners, as well as queer employees of inclusive and supportive employers, and also queer employees of discriminatory employers, because that’s the only job they can get in a state with far too few jobs."

This argument is sort of an old classic. In the 80s, it was used by those who opposed economic sanctions against South Africa. And I'm sure it was widely used about the American South back in the 60s, too.

Chan Kobun said...

McEwan has hers, so fuck the rest of us. She's not a progressive, she's just a privileged little snot.

retiredeng said...

"Queer" is not the proper term to refer to gay and lesbian citizens. Dead giveaway right there.

retiredeng said...

I was so ticked off at McEwan's obvious slur of gays and lesbians I completely forgot to answer your question. Probably because I consider anything Brooks writes (or says) to be pretentious hogwash not worthy of attention. So, the answer is yes. They're both full of it.

Gaydurhamnc said...

You all are being awfully hard on Melissa. If you read her blog regularly you would know that she's a solid lgbt and progressive ally. Queer is perfectly acceptable when used to describe someone along the sexuality/gender continuum that is not yet solidly defined by any other label. Melissa is also a feminist and cares deeply about showing respect to others. While I disagree with her in this instance, I do not doubt she believes, as did pacifists like MLK and Ghandi, that offering the path of least resistance is sometimes healthier for all involved. Of course I don't want to speak for her, but that's the impression I get.

Gaydurhamnc said...

And she does have a point. If these tech giants really do care about social justice, let them put their money where their mouth is.

Steve M. said...

I was going to say that I understand the use of "queer" -- I know there was an effort to steal the word back from the haters a number o years ago. And I know Melissa McEwan is a lot of people's idea of a lefty saint. But really -- King and Gandhi? Review their life stories and tell me that they'd oppose economic boycotts. King rose to prominence during the Montgomery bus boycott and died supporting a garbage collectors' strike in Memphis. What Unsalted Sinner says above is absolutely correct -- I remember this argument being used against the South Africa economic boycott during apartheid. "Nonviolent" does not mean "passive."

Dark Avenger said...

Turning the other cheek may be a Christian value, but it isn't a progressive one. And the boycott is a great example of non-violence at work, "pacifism" doesn't mean you get to sit on your ass doing nothing while the bigots flourish in the meanwhile.

Gaydurhamnc said...

Point taken. And like I said, I don't agree with her. I live in NC and if they pass this thing here I'm all for extending the boycott to my own state. I still think Melissa is coming from a place much different than the wretched David Brooks by looking at the issue more holistically and seeing the negative impact a boycott would have on other groups such as the poor and people of color. She doesn't deserve to be lumped in with the likes of him.

Dark Avenger said...

"The world is a dangerous place, not because of the people who are evil,but because of the people who don't do anything about it."

Albert Einstein

Victor said...

Just to be clear, the @Victor up above isn't me!

I have no idea who that was - unless it was another commenter named Victor.

But yeah, it's hard to imagine Melissa and Bobo being on the same page.

paulocanning said...

McEwan is a fullon SJW, Of course she has conservative ideas, that's where fullon SJWism ends up. Not even micro but *macro policing the 'offensive' 'unpoliteness'.

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