Team Mitch and the Weaponization of White Male Awfulness by Sady Doyle (Author of “Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear… and Why”). “The photo appeared on social media late this past Monday: a group of white, red-faced, beaming teenage boys in “Team Mitch” T-shirts, clustered around a cardboard cutout of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. They were pretending, variously, to kiss her, strangle her, and grope her crotch. The Instagram caption — because, like the geniuses they are, the boys posted this to Instagram — reads “break me off a piece of that.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the titular “Mitch” whose team these lunkheads seem to have joined, can’t seem to decide whether to deplore the boys or defend them.“
Okay Sady, I may be old fashioned, but since when is it in the job description of Senate Majority Leaderto deplore or defend a group of teenage boys, who are acting like….teenage boys? I would hope that Congressional “lawmakers”, WHO REPRESENT THEIR CONSTITUENTS IN A CONSTITUTIONAL REPUBLIC (just in case you can’t figure it out Sady), spend their time more productively. Why should Mr. McConnell take up your offense to “deplore” anyone, let alone some typically thoughtless and insensitive teens?? Oh, you know, maybe it’s because your “greatest living president ever”, Barack Obama, took time out from his busy schedule to criticize police shootings, then attended the subsequent funeral for 5 Dallas police officers who were killed by a sniper the day after his comments.
The officers — Michael Smith, Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Brent Thompson and Patrick Zamarripa — were killed during a Black Lives Matter protest (the night after President Obama criticized police for racism) by a black sniper who told police he targeted white officers. Elected officials should do the job they were electedto do, NOT insert themselves into public conversations about events they were not present at. Whether it’s Trump, Obama or McConnell, the less they pontificate the better. Unfortunately, people like Sady have come to judge politicians on their public personas rather than their constitutional job description.
She writes some intelligent things about young men, then can’t resist turning political: “So we come back to Team Mitch, and those grinning little nitwits in the Instagram photo. They’re not the most violent young men of their moment, nor do they necessarily have the most extreme politics. Yet they are among the most depressing examples, precisely because they stand at the threshold of all this violence, about to enter in. The indoctrination that begins in that photo—the ability to bond with other men through shared hatred of a female target, the sense of power gained through common sexual humiliation of a woman, the idea that political participation is about finding a woman you’re allowed to hurt or hate and going to town on her—will end in another mass shooting, somewhere soon, even if none of these boys are directly responsible. Republicans won’t disavow it, because the ugliness we’ve instilled in those boys’ souls is crucial to their power, and to the functioning of the world as we know it.”
How stupid is that last sentence Sady? Yes, that’s the hidden agenda of the Republican party, “Weaponizing White Male Awfulness.” And is the hidden agenda of the Democrats “weaponizing every possible or imaginary grievance?” Young, stupid men usually grow up, young, stupid leftists usually don’t.
Some might say I don’t even notice my “white privilege.” They would be right. Recently, I read a very thoughtful piece on how “white privilege” is embedded in the very language use without thinking of the implications: If most of us white people were telling a story, or conveying a news item, and we are describing a person, we assume that the modifier “white” is unnecessary, unless he’s some other race. Then it’s racial adjective time. He’s a black guy or an African American. Or he’s Asian or he’s Hispanic, but never he’s a white American. Since I’m white and almost all my relationships are with white folks, I don’t know how blacks or Asians or Hispanics describe people in their own stories, nor how they address each other. Since that piece was written by a white man, he wasn’t explicit about how people of other races describe someone of their race, but he implied that they all use the same modifiers we do. In other words, they too assume white is the default race and modifiers are needed for anyone else. All of which is to say, “look how pervasive white privilege is, how damaging it is to the self worth of non-whites.”
Do I, being white, disagree? Not necessarily, I really don’t know 1- how people of other races describe characters in their stories; 2- whether they even care about this issue; 3- whether they wish they were a different race or gender or whatever; 4- whether they hate or resent me for being born Caucasian; 5- whether they admire Rosanna Arquette for hating her whiteness. Gee, that’s a lot of stuff to know before feeling defensive or guilty about being Caucasian. Since I don’t have the answers to those questions, and frankly don’t care enough to make the effort to find out, and do not meet the Perfectionist Progressives’ definition of a good person (probably because of my cavalier attitude), I will simply revel in my white privilege.
Who, after all, decided what race, sex, citizenship and family I would be born into anyway? Was it not God, the Creator of all? Did He decree I would be born Caucasian, male, American so I could feel guilty about it all? Is the Creator honored because Rosanna hates her melanin content? She claims to be Jewish, but what does that even mean when she’s in effect cursing God for creating her as she is? It means that her desire to be virtuous in the eyes of her friends takes precedence over honoring God. Is that something to respect, to be proud of? Not for a believer, nor a true Jew. Let’s all bow down to the idol of popularity, shall we? Rosanna, I’m probably sorrier than you that you were born Caucasian. I have no desire to denigrate what God made me.
Can I be Caucasian and still honor God in my life and my dealings with others? My father lived the example of treating others fairly and honestly. He was a white shopkeeper in a black neighborhood. On the rare occasions when a teenager (notice that I didn’t modify teenager with his race, though given the neighborhood you can draw your own conclusions) stole something, he was always dragged back—literally—by a parent or neighbor and made to return the item and apologize. My dad hired from all races, and kept those who earned their pay, and fired those who were slackers, who happened to be mostly white. His modeling of behavior is what I took up. I treat everyone the same: trustworthy, unless they prove otherwise; diligent, unless they prove otherwise; intelligent, unless they prove otherwise.
Incidentally, there’s a show on FX network called Snowfall, supposedly a dramatization of how the crack cocaine epidemic started. It takes place primarily in Los Angeles, features a CIA agent, arms to the Nicaraguan contras being financed by cocaine sales, and lots of “local color” dialogue between denizens of a rundown black community and an equally rundown Hispanic community. The Hispanics are portrayed as addressing each other as Ese and Vato, and referring to whites as ….(sneer) whites. I guess that’s enough of an insult. The blacks most common self address is Nigga and Homie, and whites as….yeah, (sneer) whites again. Is this realistic? How would I know? But I suspect that if I addressed a black or Hispanic person the way they probably address each other (if rap lyrics are indicative?) I wouldn’t last long.
So says the Colorado State University Inclusive Language Guide. Yes Virginia, there really is such a tome.
“The Americas encompass a lot more than the United States. There is South America, Central America, Mexico, Canada, and the Caribbean just to name a few of 42 countries in total. That’s why the word ‘americano’ in Spanish can refer to anything on the American continent. Yet, when we talk about “Americans” in the United States, we’re usually just referring to people from the United States. This erases other cultures and depicts the United States as the dominant American country.”
“Erases other cultures”: Any culture that can be so easily erased by my saying “I’m an American” probably deserves to be erased. “United States as the dominant American country.” Well, if we aren’t, who is? How many of the 42 countries of the “Americas” matter to anyone but themselves? Even more to the point, how many of those 42 countries are trying to regulate droves of immigrants trying to get into them by any means, legal or otherwise? If any of those countries really objects to our calling our own country the United States of AMERICA, then why do none of them include the word america in their name?
Why doesn’t Mexico call itself the United States of Central America or Canada call itself the United Provinces of North America? Maybe they don’t give a shit about this deadly serious issue, maybe they have bigger problems. What, Canada has problems? Ask any victim of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunals. And speaking of Canada, WHEN ARE ALL THESE “AMERICAN” LIBERAL CELEBRITIES WHO THREATENED TO MOVE THERE GOING TO DO IT? No doubt in November 2020.
Have you ever been to Ft. Collins, Co.? My god, of all the places to get upset about non-inclusive language. I think what’s going on is that the mandarins of C.S.U. are upset that most people could name Denver, Boulder and Colorado Springs as cities in Colorado, but Ft. Collins? Where? If the Inclusive Language Guide is what it takes to put Ft. Collins or CSU on the map, don’t expect me to stop saying “I’m an American.”
Just about one year after I returned from Vietnam, a psychological experiment took place at an elite facility of higher learning called Stanford University. This experiment quickly became world famous, because it amplified the conclusions of another psychological experiment that took place 10 years prior at another even more elite university, Yale. Both experiments were touted as demonstrating that “inherently good people can be led astray into participating in evil by sufficient authority over them.” Both experiments were flawed, and actually proved nothing, but made their creators famous and rich because their conclusions were so useful politically.
One of the most famous studies of obedience in psychology was carried out by Stanley Milgram, a psychologist at Yale University. He conducted an experiment focusing on the conflict between obedience to authority and personal conscience. Milgram examined justifications for acts of genocide offered by those accused at the World War II, Nuremberg War Criminal trials, and wanted to investigate whether Germans were particularly obedient to authority figures, as this was a common explanation for the Nazi killings in World War II. Their defense often was based on “obedience”-that they were just following orders from their superiors.
The experiments began in July 1961, a year after the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem. The procedure was that the participant was paired with another person and they drew lots to find out who would be the ‘learner’ and who would be the ‘teacher.’ The draw was fixed so that the participant was always the teacher, and the learner was one of Milgram’s confederates (pretending to be a real participant). The learner (a confederate called Mr. Wallace) was taken into a room and had electrodes attached to his arms, and the teacher and researcher went into a room next door that contained an electric shock generator and a row of switches marked from 15 volts (Slight Shock) to 375 volts (Danger: Severe Shock) to 450 volts (XXX). The “learner” (Mr. Wallace) was strapped to a chair with electrodes. After he had learned a list of word pairs given him to learn, the “teacher” tested him by naming a word and asking the learner to recall its partner/pair from a list of four possible choices. The teacher–the naive participant–was told to administer an electric shock every time the learner makes a mistake, increasing the level of shock each time. There were 30 switches on the shock generator marked from 15 volts (slight shock) to 450 (danger – severe shock). The learner gave mainly wrong answers (on purpose), and for each of these, the teacher gave him an electric shock. When the teacher refused to administer a shock, the experimenter was to give a series of orders/prods to ensure they continued. There were four prods and if one was not obeyed, then the experimenter (Mr. Williams) read out the next prod, and so on.
Prod 1: Please continue. Prod 2: The experiment requires you to continue. Prod 3: It is absolutely essential that you continue. Prod 4: You have no other choice but to continue. What do you think the results were?
Milgram summed up in the article “The Perils of Obedience” writing: “The legal and philosophic aspects of obedience are of enormous import, but they say very little about how most people behave in concrete situations. I set up a simple experiment at Yale University to test how much pain an ordinary citizen would inflict on another person simply because he was ordered to by an experimental scientist. Stark authority was pitted against the subjects’ strongest moral imperatives against hurting others, and, with the subjects’ ears ringing with the screams of the victims, authority won more often than not. The extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority constitutes the chief finding of the study and the fact most urgently demanding explanation.”
Ten years later, an even more famous experiment seemed to confirm Milgram’s conclusions. The Stanford prison experiment (SPE), by psychology prof Philip Zimbardo, took place in the basement of a building at Stanford University, in August of 1971. Essentially, 24 men judged to be the most physically and mentally stable, the most mature, and the least involved in antisocial behaviors were chosen to participate. The participants did not know each other prior to the study and were paid $15 per day to take part in the experiment. Participants were randomly assigned to either the role of prisoner or guard in a simulated prison environment. There were two reserves, and one dropped out, finally leaving ten prisoners and 11 guards.
Prisoners were treated like every other criminal, being arrested at their own homes, without warning, and taken to the local police station. They were fingerprinted, photographed and ‘booked.’ Then they were blindfolded and driven to the psychology department of Stanford University, where Zimbardo had the basement set out as a prison, with barred doors and windows, bare walls and small cells. Here the deindividuation process began. When the prisoners arrived at the prison they were stripped naked, deloused, had all their personal possessions removed and locked away, and were given prison clothes and bedding. They were issued a uniform, and referred to by their number only.
Lots of things happened, and after a brief rebellion near the beginning of the experiment, both “guards” and “prisoners” settled into their roles. As the prisoners became more dependent, the guards became more derisive towards them. They held the prisoners in contempt and let the prisoners know it. As the guards’ contempt for them grew, the prisoners became more submissive. As the prisoners became more submissive, the guards became more aggressive and assertive. They demanded ever greater obedience from the prisoners. The prisoners were dependent on the guards for everything so tried to find ways to please the guards, such as telling tales on fellow prisoners.
Milgram explained the behavior of his participants by suggesting that people have two states of behavior when they are in a social situation: 1-The autonomous state– people direct their own actions, and they take responsibility for the results of those actions. 2-The agentic state–people allow others to direct their actions and then pass off the responsibility for the consequences to the person giving the orders. In other words, they act as agents for another person’s will. Milgram suggested that two things must be in place for a person to enter the agentic state: 1- The person giving the orders is perceived as being qualified to direct other people’s behavior. That is, they are seen as legitimate. 2-The person being ordered about is able to believe that the authority will accept responsibility for what happens. Agency theory says that people will obey an authority when they believe that the authority will take responsibility for the consequences of their actions. This is supported by some aspects of Milgram’s evidence. For example, when participants were reminded that they had responsibility for their own actions, almost none of them were prepared to obey. In contrast, many participants who were refusing to go on did so if the experimenter said that he would take responsibility.
Writer Ben Blum explained why the SPE became so popular: “The Stanford prison experiment seems to go deeper than its scientific validity, perhaps because it tells us a story about ourselves that we desperately want to believe: that we, as individuals, cannot really be held accountable for the sometimes reprehensible things we do. As troubling as it might seem to accept Zimbardo’s fallen vision of human nature, it is also profoundly liberating. It means we’re off the hook. Our actions are determined by circumstance. Our fallibility is situational. Just as the Gospel promised to absolve us of our sins if we would only believe, the SPE offered a form of redemption tailor-made for a scientific era, and we embraced it.”
The reason I started this post with a reference to my being in Vietnam was what I learned that was at odds with the conclusions of both experiments. Shortly before I was sent to Vietnam, the infamous My Lai massacre of unarmed civilians was the biggest news item. This was perpetrated by US soldiers, and provided ammunition to the antiwar movement’s claims that our soldiers were no better than the enemy. These two experiments might have provided hindsight excuses, or not. After reading about My Lai in 1969, I realized that I too could find myself in a situation that involved overwhelming peer and authority pressure to commit atrocities unless….
Yes, unless what? On my 23rd birthday, October 4, 1969, I resolved the following: “I decree to myself, that I will do nothing in Vietnam, no matter how much pressure is brought to bear, that will cause me to be ashamed, if I survive.” A few days later, I was on a plane to Vietnam. A few months later, I did find myself in a situation with strong peer pressure to murder someone outside of sanctioned combat (to put it delicately). My resolution saved me from doing the expedient thing and gave me the courage to do the right thing. More than anything else in my life, but one thing, that situation and my resolution and subsequent actions established my “sense of self.” The one thing that for me is even greater is my identity in Jesus Christ. I didn’t have that then; you may, or may not. If not, by what standard do you establish your sense of self?