Since the inception of satt we have written with an undercurrent narrative of the “jaded left”. This, I can only assure readers, is a result of where we are at personally, it is an almost shamefully popular perspective but it is one that arguably has become more noticeable since the late noughties recession. Yet importantly, the left (or the bourgeois liberal) has always been jaded and self-critical. This can also legitimately be said of the right; unity within political parties has always been strengthened by party power based around broad, shared principles. I have struggled to try and distinguish what I myself see as the more regular fractures that riddle the left but have regularly come unstuck in my attempts to express it.
The other day my satt colleague Ross summoned an almighty shit-storm in a piece critiquing another lefty’s critique. Before really tackling the pieces themselves and their resultant fallout I would like to tackle the most surprising aspect that emerged from the two articles: the responses. These responses surprisingly from a lefty perspective; were very narrowly ranged in terms of substance. This surprised me as by my reckoning and personal interactions, people on the left disagreed regularly but agreed that it was OK to disagree (as we’re liberal).
Instead, the comments followed a quite linear progression. Of course this could be down exclusively to Ross’ piece itself but the sheer spike in statistics (500% increase in readership) connote a more direct link to Tristan’s blog (NPI*). A brief glance over Ross’ writing prior to this particular piece show a clear stylistic line which is why no self-proclaimed regular readers (aside from one well-mannered reader) took issue with the subject matter.
The responses generally took issue with the tone of the critique which, I must admit, was scathing. Some readers complained that the piece was merely an excuse for personal attack. Clearly, this was not the case, Tristan’s article and not Tristan himself was on the receiving end of the critique. The scathing nature of the criticisms lodged by Ross could be inferred as personal via the pejorative language used, but the language used of itself is not indifferent to a scathing review. Coupled with the fact that Ross and Tristan have zero history there is no real concrete evidence of personal attack.
The responses, even less substantively, drew ire from the Ross running joke (NPI). The argument followed this vague narrative, Ross had consented to or supported rape by making a joke about rape. This is where my more ideological issues with the left emerge, linking back into Tristan’s original piece and the actual general issue that Ross, I think, was hinting at. Most tellingly, a few commenters insulted Ross’ intelligence either directly or indirectly because of his taste in humour. Taste, as well all know, is almost purely subjective (apart for with sweet things, because we all fux with those). Comedians, NAY, Liberals for yonks have fought for people’s rights to think and say what they wish, whether or not they agree with the outlined sentiments.
The funny thing about humour and criticisms of it is that humour is often harder to quantify than the average piece of writing (which is slightly easier due to technical flag points). Broadly, some of the most famous and successful comedians have poked fun at fairly serious topics, topics that in another time and place, or with a different audience, would not have elicited any laughs. From Richard Pryor to Bill Hicks; from Margaret Cho to Frankie Boyle, controversy has been courted with abandon by comedians. Why do they often get a pass? The reason usually lies in their self-awareness and their audience’s understanding of their humour. This was clearly lost on the posters who, for whatever reason, missed the fact that among all other things, Ross had written in the hope that he might elicit a response to his actual sentiment (and in the hope that people might not take him literally).
The left were once defenders of the low and the high brow, arguing whether there was in fact any brow (let alone a middle one). Instead I am forced to pour scorn on the censurers who often have seemed to live by a moral code of modern political correctness that they attempt to siphon down the throats of everyone. In this regard they are no better than those on the right who seek to impose their morals and world views upon others.
Political Correctness gone mad! No, I do not believe that Political Correctness is mad, in fact it is very logical, to a point. Political correctness as an idea exists so we might slowly eke out the nasty stuff that fetters disagreements between parties. The problem is that Political Correctness, by many on the left, has been used as a verbal silencer by those who are very distant from day to day language usage from a broader cross-section of society. In the list of responses found on Ross’ post I noted to one reader (who didn’t refute or even answer this point) that me and many friends from different ethnicities grew up insulting eachother’s ethnicity and it made us more comfortable as we were all self-aware and empathetic enough to know the value and the limit of difference between our races.
Political correctness, for the left to avoid dumping liberalism for a new age tory manifesto, must be a quest to increase understanding. This is actually a debate involving lexicon for decades, centuries and probably millennia. In our society one of the big flashpoints was the word “nigger”, a word rife with a richly illustrated history of blood. Yet, there has been a struggle between generations to try and stifle or reclaim the word. There has been debate on who may or may not use the word as it underwent and continues to undergo a transformation in usage and potentially in definition from its older etymology. The inevitability from my perspective has always allied with word reclamation. The reasons for this are many but boiled down into a saccharine idea can be described as follows: we must aim to open hearts and minds.
*No Pun Intended