Two liberal media icons spent much of the past week defending themselves from attacks by their fellow travelers, while conservatives chuckled as the left trashed some of its progeny.
New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof made a serious liberal gaffe when he tweeted, “Activists perhaps should have focused less on Michael Brown, more on shooting of 12-y[ea]r-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland.” Mr. Kristof linked to a story about a Cleveland police officer who killed an unarmed black tween.
Outraged followers of Mr. Kristof took him apart. Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic tweeted, “Notion that Mike Brown was not a ‘good victim’ gives the state credit that it hasn’t really earned.”
Mr. Kristof tried to back-pedal, but it didn’t work. Even New York Times editorial writer Brent Staples, who writes about race, lambasted his colleague, charging that a “healthy majority of white public support police action in death of blacks — no matter what.”
In another apparent liberal misstep, Jonathan Chait, a writer for New York magazine, described his concern over the current state of “political correctness.”
“After political correctness burst onto the academic scene in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, it went into a long remission. Now it has returned,” he wrote. “The movement’s dour puritanism can move people to outrage, but it may prove ill suited to the hopeful mood required of mass politics.”
Mr. Chait provided a long list of recent offenses, including banning speakers, destroying pro-life posters and denigrating provocative writers.
The Web and Twitter exploded with a variety of attacks against Mr. Chait.
Joan Walsh of Salon.com argued that Mr. Chait “continues to pick the scab of his suffering over the fact that the every musing of white liberal men (and women, to be fair) about race and politics is no longer welcomed for its contribution to the struggle.”
Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept wrote that Mr. Chait couldn’t tolerate his critics. “The world would be vastly improved if we were never again subjected to the self-victimizing whining of highly compensated and empowered journalists about how upset they are that people say mean things online about them and their lovely and talented friends,” he said.
Others complained that Mr. Chait quoted from a private Facebook page for women talking about issues affecting them.
I learned about the liberal vocabulary, including words such as “microaggressions,” “mansplaining” and “cisgender.” These terms reportedly have become commonplace in the academy, although I have never heard them even though I have spent the past 20 years in the milieu.
Here are some definitions:
• According to Psychology Today, microaggressions represent insults, whether intentional or unintentional, toward minorities. For example, a white woman clutches her purse when a black man passes her.
• The online Oxford Dictionary describes mansplaining as a man explaining something to someone, typically a woman, in a condescending manner. I plead guilty; I just didn’t know it had a name.
• The same dictionary defines cisgender as a person whose self-identity corresponds to his or her biological gender. I had no idea such a word existed.
It was engaging to watch liberals take on their own — a brief respite from liberal attacks against conservatives. Moreover, it was interesting to see how liberals have created a vocabulary that uses such mind-numbing jargon. Finally, it’s worth noting that many battles have moved to Twitter, where 140 characters essentially allow users to say, “Shut up; you’re stupid!”
James Taranto of The Wall Street Journal got it right when he wrote, “The obvious thing to say about [Mr.] Chait’s battle against the left is that we’re rooting for casualties.”
• Christopher Harper is a longtime reporter who teaches journalism at Temple University. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @charper51.
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