Privilege Is One Hell Of A Drug…

…it makes people comfortable to the point where they aren’t aware they are privileged, it allows people to exert their privilege to claim the concept of privilege is nonsense, and can lead those who are allies and aware of their privilege to abuse it.

While I disagree with a lot of what Louise Mensch says in this piece on feminism and checking one’s privilege (especially the casual dismissals of ‘cis’ and ‘intersectionality’ as being essentially too unnecessarily complicated and boring for words)  it’s the reaction to it which I find infuriating. And unsurprisingly, it’s mainly from the exact people who do need to check their privilege but naturally lack anything remotely resembling self-awareness, such a Labour MP Tom Harris (who responded with mockery), and Independent columnist John Rentoul (who responded by adding ‘check your privilege’ to a list of banned phrases in a manner that made me want to reach through the screen and punch him).

The worst offender was the Telegraph’ Dan Hodges (who claims to be a Blairite but really plays the same role for a right-wing media outlet that ‘Democrats’ Pat Caddell and Kirsten Powers do on Fox News in the US), who was self-admittedly completely unaware of what was meant by ‘check your privilege’  up to this point, proceeded to write a glib, snarky, staggeringly ignorant post mocking the whole concept of privilege and concluding, after having missed the point as badly as John Terry missed this penalty,  boasting that he’d go out of his way to act like a complete arse to spite the Privilege Police.

Apparently, if any of us wish to comment on a particular issue we have to first “check our privilege”. It’s like a sort of moral entry exam. Before expressing a point of view we must first establish our bona fides. So for example, if you want to talk about an issue such as welfare reform, you have to consider whether you are middle-class or not. If you are, then sadly you fail the test. You can’t comment. Or if you do comment, then your point of view is in some way invalidated.

Ah yes, the ‘they’re trying to shut us up’ fallacy, the close relation of ‘I’m the real victim here!’ ploy. Here Hodges’ ignorance of what feminists/minority groups mean by this is glaring. No, Mr Hodges, we’re not telling to you shut up. We’re not telling your opinion is invalid. Nor are we telling you what to think about subjects that don’t affect you. We are asking, very nicely, to bear the experiences of the people it does affect in mind and compare them to your own when formulating that opinion. That’s what allies are – people who do not belong to a specific group but support their aims, empathise with them and recognise that they can use their privilege for good by helping combat the issues the group faces without hijacking their struggle  (as in the case of anti-racism crusader Tim Wise).

Sufficiently briefed, I sat down to give myself a comprehensive privilege MOT. White: tick. Male: tick. Middle-class: tick. Public school education: fail. Able-bodied: tick (well, half a tick. I’ve only got one eye. But you get two for a reason). Heterosexual: tick, (though never say never).

OK, Dan, I’m going to sit you down and explain what exactly privilege is as you are no more informed now than you were when you first asked what CYP is: it is not merely being a member of a certain demographic, as you seem to think with this list: it is the consequences (or rather lack of) and benefits which come with being part of said demographic. It’s not an insult, nor do we hate you for being privileged, it’s merely stating a fact. Privilege is being paid more on average because of your gender. Privilege is not having religious institutions and assorted groups dub you subhuman and campaign to deny you rights because of your sexuality. Privilege is not being thought more likely to commit a crime purely due to your skin colour and being stopped by the police for this reason. Privilege is being able to write a facetious lot of tripe about a serious hindrance to progress in a national newspaper read by thousands.

For a start, how do we actually define privilege? Let’s go back to the example I gave about welfare. Who really holds the privilege in this debate? Is it someone like me, who has never taken a penny of welfare, except to make regular withdrawals from the bank of mum and dad.?

Why, yes, it is!

Or is it those who are actually subsisting on, and benefiting from, welfare themselves? Who, in this case, actually enters the debate from a position of self-interest? Shouldn’t it be those Shameless types who we all know are merely idling and scrounging and swinging the lead, who should be giving their own privilege the run down?

From your lofty perch as someone who’s never been on welfare, you make allusions to lazy, greedy people sponging off the state. Privilege in action which Hodges’ exhaustive and failproof Privilege MOT somehow didn’t register. We’ve had mansplaining, we’ve had whitesplaining, and now with Hodges’ piece we’ve got douchesplaining. Have a seat, sir.

To come back to the Mensch piece which kicked this whole thing off, I noted that in it she claimed it was inspired by Laurie Penny of the New Statesman and a an average Jo and feminist activist on Twitter, whose handle is @jonanamary.  I’ve taken issue with  a well-known person singling out a relative nobody for criticism (implicitly or explicitly) before, so this did not sit easy with me. And then this happened:

 

noplatform

 

It turns out that the reply scheduled was going to be from the other person mentioned in Mensch’s post, Laurie Penny – who already has a platform to respond and is on a level playing field. @Jonanamary, the unknown tweeter, still has no means of replying to criticism directed at her in the Guardian, which will be read by thousands of people.

I myself have experienced something similar – I once called out the Telegraph’s James Delingpole for his blatant racism towards Barack Obama on Twitter, and found myself the subject of his ire in a post following this on his blog.  Now, I have a very small blog which I only update when something really gets my goat and only a modest amount of Twitter followers, so there’ s an immediately obvious imbalance of power here.  My personal attitude towards this was one of contempt – really, a blogger for a national newspaper punching this far below his weight? – and satisfaction at having irked this bullying poltroon enough for him to single me out in his defensive response. But the fact remains, like Mensch with Joanamary, Delingpole had a platform (and a large one at that) from which he could denounce me, while I did not.

What’s the word for being in a position of having more influence, strength and power than another person?

Oh yeah. Privilege.

 

 

Quote Of The Day

Andrew Sullivan, on Hardball, in a great follow-up to his must-read Newsweek piece robustly defending President Obama and extolling his successes:

SULLIVAN: [Liberals] invested into Obama a whole bunch of fantasies, that he was some kind of far-left radical who is going to transform the world. He never was…And there`s a sort of purism on the left that if you`re not that, therefore, we must stay home. If I hear another person in their 50s with a pony tail tell me they are not going to vote this year because they couldn`t get a public option, I will scream.

Watch the whole thing:

 

No, The Obama Team Did NOT Claim They Would Raise $1 Billion

Hackery in a nutshell:

1) Make a false and exaggerated claim as to the amount the Obama campaign expects to raise this election season.

2) When a very healthy quarterly fundraising figure is announced, use the exaggerated claim to try to cast what is actually very good news for President Obama as very bad news for President Obama.

Noah Ashman of Ology.com, hang your head in shame.

Here’s his post claiming Obama’s campaign raising $68 million last quarter sucks because it means they’re way off target to reach their supposed target of $1 billion.

On Wednesday night, the president attended several fundraising events in Chicago, but it will be an uphill battle to get to the much ballyhooed “billion dollar” campaign that the Obama White House had claimed they would mount in 2012. In 2008, then-Sen. Obama raised $745 billion for his election effort.

At this rate, Obama’s reelection team would need to raise nearly $200 million per quarter to get to $1 billion by November. When asked about the lackluster total, Obama’s campaign manager Jim Messina said that “the billion-dollar number is completely untrue.”

Wondewhat I was reading that led me to believe that was the Obama teams goal? Once again, the White House reaches for the “who should you believe; me or your lyin’ eyes” argument. It must sting when you’re underperforming George W. Bush’s fundraising pace at this point in his presidency – in the fourth quarter of 2003, Bush had raised $47.5 million for his reelection effort.

If, unlike Rothman, you actually read any of the links he’s provided in his post, it would be immediately apparent that nowhere does Obama or a member of the Obama team claim that they’re aiming for a target of $1 billion dollars. The only mentions of this mythical figures are: a completely sourceless claim that ‘advisers are hoping’ to raise it, and this:

[On Obama raising $1 billion] It’s definitely within reach, as he raised three quarters of a billion last time,’ said Michael Malbin, executive director of the non-partisan Campaign Finance Institute.

Non-partisan institutions apparently speak for Obama’s campaign. Now we know why Gingrich and co want to do away with the CBO.

The truth is, as this ABC report states, the Obama campaign never came up with this $1 billion figure, it’s purely an invention of the media and has absolutely no basis in fact. So, yes, Mr Rothman, it appears your eyes are deceiving you. Or you’re too lazy to read beyond a headline. Or you’re a deliberately dishonest hack.

Also: George Bush raising more in the 4th quarter of 2003 can’t have had anything to do with the fact the economy hadn’t crashed at that point, leaving people with greatly reduced disposable income, if any income at all. Nah.

 

The Stimulus Is The New Public Option

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which staved off utter disaster for the US economy and which started and has kept it along the road (albeit at a sluggish speed) to recovery, is in need of recovery itself. Because at the moment, it is being falsely represented as a failure. It’s not surprising to hear that come from conservatives, who are against any spending that actually benefits people, but the real damage is being done by idiots on the left who scream that because it was  ‘not big enough’, it was a total failure. No ifs, no buts, just 100% fail (naturally, these same people also whine about President Obama giving into right-wing framing, while achieving the exact same result by battering the stimulus from the left. Such is the hypocrisy of this crowd).

Today in the Guardian, in an article entitled ‘Obama’s Stimulus Failure’,  Dean Baker, a liberal American economist, basically lays the blame for the size of the stimulus entirely at President Obama’s feet while lying about the effect the stimulus had:

If President Obama had been doing his job, he would have immediately begun pushing for more stimulus the day after the first one passed. He should have been straightforward with the American people and said that the stimulus approved by Congress was an important first step, but that the severity of the downturn was so great we would likely need more.

………..

It’s not surprising that they don’t have the political support for more effective stimulus when they abandoned the effort to make the case almost two years ago.

As you can see, Baker simply cannot comprehend why President Obama could not simply create enough stimulus to feed the battered economy, like Jesus created enough food from 2 fishes and 5 loaves to feed 5000 people. And he has a point…if you ignore the obstructionist GOP which necessitated 60 votes for the bill, the fact moderate Republican votes were needed due to the ongoing battle in Minnesota over Al Franken’s seat, that the Democratic Party caucus in the Senate includes conservatives who wrongly view spending with scepticism, and pretend for one moment that President Obama is not Dumbledore. And then he talks about how this is why he has no political support for ‘more effective stimulus’ now, when he didn’t actually have it 2 years ago either. Although he doesn’t use the by now hackneyed term, what you see here is the Bully Pulpit Fallacy – the deluded idea that if only President Obama took the case to the American people, votes would suddenly appear for his policies in Congress. Let’s just say Baker has as good a grasp of the realities of politics as his better-known fellow economist, Paul Krugman.

Baker’s views on the bank bailouts are equally revealing. But before we get into discussion of the bailouts, let’s observe the opening paragraph:

Most authors of books on politics or economics are happy when they get one or two prominent members of Congress to endorse their work. It looks like I’m about to get majorities of both chambers to endorse my book, The Conservative Nanny State: How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer (free download available). There is no other way to describe Henry Paulson’s $700bn bail-out deal.

This could be the first paragraph of any article written by any professional media liberal at any point during Obama’s presidency. In fact, you could summarise everything ever written by the professional left in three words: “Buy my book!”

The rest of Baker’s anti-bailouts column is an argument that the bailouts were wrong, that the banks should have been left to fail because the Federal Reserve would have taken over and all would have been well:

The best argument that the bail-out proponents had was that the failure to do the bail-out could lead to a collapse of the financial system, leaving us unable to use credit cards or ATMs, or otherwise conduct normal financial transactions. This would indeed be scary, since it would imply a complete economic collapse. (I had actually accepted this line.)

Actually this was entirely an idle threat. In the event the banking system really did freeze up, then the Federal Reserve would step in and take over the major banks. (It had contingency plans for such a takeover in the 1980s, when the money centre banks were saddled with billions of dollars of bad developing country debt.)

I don’t pretend to know much about economics, but to argue that nothing serious would have happened if the banks hadn’t been bailed out is completely insane. Putting ideology above everything else at either end of the political spectrum is dangerous, and while they may be more common on the right, left-leaning ideologues must be equally marginalised.

I chose to blog about this piece not because it’s particularly outrageous, but because it’s symptomatic of a wider problem among media liberals – a tendency to ignore fact, reality in favour of misty watercoloured memories of a non-existent past where Utopia could have been a reality, if only Barack Obama had done X, or Y, or Z. It’s been going on for literally his entire presidency, and I’m fucking tired of it.

 

NOTW Phone Hacking: Dead Soldiers’ Families Also Targeted

Sweet Jesus. The News of the World scandal hits rock bottom:

Phones owned by relatives of dead UK soldiers were allegedly hacked by the News of the World, a national newspaper reports.

The Daily Telegraph claims the phone numbers of relatives of dead were found in the files of private investigator Glenn Mulcaire.

The Government can’t resist calls for a full public inquiry for much longer. And who knows what further revelations are coming? However, it will be extremely hard for it to get worse than being discovered to have hacked the phones of bereaved families of the men who fought and died for us. I’m running out of variants of ‘disgusting’ to describe this loathsome rag’s actions.

 

 

Rebekah Brooks Is Either Incompetent Or A Liar

Rebekah Brooks continues to deny all knowledge of the despicable hacks into Milly Dowler and 7/7 families’ phones, leading to only two possible conclusions: either Brooks was so incompetent an editor that she had no control over and no idea of what was being done by her own newspaper, or she’s a liar, neither of which does her credit.

As the Independent revealed today that she asked the same private detective who dug up the Dowlers’ number to do other searches, I’m leaning towards the latter.

Ms Brooks, while editor of NOTW, used Steve Whittamore, a private detective who specialised in obtaining illegal information, to “convert” a mobile phone number to find its registered owner. Mr Whittamore also provided the paper with the Dowlers’ ex-directory home phone number.

The Information Commissioner’s Office, which successfully prosecuted Whittamore for breaches of the Data Protection Act in 2005, said last night it would have been illegal to obtain the mobile conversion if the details had been “blagged” from a phone company.

Ms Brooks, who said yesterday she was “shocked and appalled” at the latest hacking claims, admitted requesting the information. But she said it could be obtained by “perfectly legitimate means.”

I highly doubt that, but let’s leave the ‘means’ aside for a minute and focus on her actual request – trying to discover the private owner of a private mobile phone for no justifiable reason, on top of gaining access to a phone number that was removed from the directory books precisely to stop unwanted callers from obtaining it. Ethics, schmethics.