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Jonathan Chait Upset About Diversity In Media

New York Magazine writer Jonathan Chait, best known for being one of the “good liberals” who promoted the Iraq War, is still mad that The New Republic will no longer be a bastion for his kind of liberalism (along with pseudo-scientific racism and fraud). So mad he decided to take out his frustrations on the the fact that people of color, especially women of color, are on the ascendency in American media. Chait knows he is going into the night of relevance in political commentary but won’t go quietly and, like a deranged gunman with nothing to lose, wants to take as many people down with him as he possibly can.

As is typical, Chait’s piece is preening posing as discourse and seems a pretty obvious (if ham handed) attempt at rehabilitating his troubled reputation after he was exposed by Ta-Nehisi Coates as lacking basic understandings related to race in American history. Now he wants to let people who ignore him know that by ignoring and marginalizing him they are attacking democracy itself.

Chait, like many liberal commentators with his background, is used to writing off left-wing critics and reserving his real writerly firepower for (frequently deserving) right-wingers. That was, for years, how things worked at the center-left opinion journalism shops, because it was simply assumed that no one important—no one who really matters—took the opinions of people to the left of the center-left opinion shop seriously. That was a safe and largely correct assumption. But the destruction of the magazine industry and the growth of the open-forum internet have amplified formerly marginal voices. Now, in other words, writers of color can be just as condescending and dismissive of Chait as he always was toward the left. And he hates it.

Following his faux apologia for his support for the Iraq War, Chait, sounding personally wounded, bemoaned those who told people like him to “shut up and go away.” His philosophical position is that it is undemocratic—dangerously undemocratic, in fact—to tell Jonathan Chait to “shut up and go away.” It might be rude, and personally hurtful to Jonathan Chait, to tell him to shut up and go away (trigger warning: telling Jon Chait to shut up and go away), but he should perhaps try to remember that “shut up and go away” was his own magazine’s editorial position towards the entire left for the whole of the Marty Peretz era.

Chait’s piece focuses heavily on his view of how modern feminism and anti-racism has gone too far and centers around the rehashing of an often ill-informed controversy over the concept of “political correctness” something that has not been an actual left wing doctrine of relevance since the 1950s and comes out of the post-World War 1 cultural Marxism of the Frankfurt School.

In the interest of brevity I’ll sum up the actual theory of political correctness quickly – after the failure of workers to unite as a class and prevent the catastrophic first World War Marxist intellectuals tried to understand what went wrong. One of the theories that gained traction was by Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci who claimed it was capitalism’s “cultural hegemony” through cultural institutions like the church and popular entertainment that prevented workers from seeing themselves as part of the proletariat. Hence, a program of reshaping culture through the offering of “politically correct” cultural perspectives and narratives was proposed. From this program and school of thought came critical theory and other attempts at disrupting capitalist narratives in favor of Marxist ones in hopes that a long march through the institutions would eventually lead to a society that was not only materially ready but culturally ready for Communism.

Gramsci and the Frankfurt School are long gone (along with the Soviet Union) and well before they exited they lost much of their initial steam as the novelty wore off and other Marxists rejected attempts to alter and distort Marxism as it was originally understood. This is why “politically correct” has been a term of satire since the 1970s to mock the cultural left as closet authoritarians and not a banner people on the left rally or organize around. Which is why it was something the right loved to invoke to criticize the left during the 1990s when a conservative principle or program was scrutinized as being insensitive or harmful to ethnic minorities, women, or any group not culturally dominant (ie the cultural proletariat). In its modern use the term “politically correct” is completely deracinated from its original intentions and meaning – Chait is critiquing a critique of a critique.

Of course, that’s Chait’s specialty – making useless points against strawman arguments in hopes of stoking a controversy and receiving the subsequent clicks. Aka trolling. And he’s done it again to great effect. Let this be the last time we fall for it and leave him to the darkness he so richly deserves.

CommunityThe Bullpen

Jonathan Chait Upset About Diversity In Media

New York Magazine writer Jonathan Chait, best known for being one of the “good liberals” who promoted the Iraq War, is still mad that The New Republic will no longer be a bastion for his kind of liberalism (along with pseudo-scientific racism and fraud). So mad he decided to take out his frustrations on the the fact that people of color, especially women of color, are on the ascendency in American media. Chait knows he is going into the twilight of his relevance in political commentary but won’t go quietly and, like a deranged gunman with nothing to lose, wants to take as many people down with him as he possibly can.

As is typical, Chait’s piece is preening posing as discourse and seems a pretty obvious (if ham handed) attempt at rehabilitating his troubled reputation after he was exposed by Ta-Nehisi Coates as lacking basic understandings related to race in American history. Now he wants to let people who ignore him know that by ignoring and marginalizing him they are attacking democracy itself.

Chait, like many liberal commentators with his background, is used to writing off left-wing critics and reserving his real writerly firepower for (frequently deserving) right-wingers. That was, for years, how things worked at the center-left opinion journalism shops, because it was simply assumed that no one important—no one who really matters—took the opinions of people to the left of the center-left opinion shop seriously. That was a safe and largely correct assumption. But the destruction of the magazine industry and the growth of the open-forum internet have amplified formerly marginal voices. Now, in other words, writers of color can be just as condescending and dismissive of Chait as he always was toward the left. And he hates it.

Following his faux apologia for his support for the Iraq War, Chait, sounding personally wounded, bemoaned those who told people like him to “shut up and go away.” His philosophical position is that it is undemocratic—dangerously undemocratic, in fact—to tell Jonathan Chait to “shut up and go away.” It might be rude, and personally hurtful to Jonathan Chait, to tell him to shut up and go away (trigger warning: telling Jon Chait to shut up and go away), but he should perhaps try to remember that “shut up and go away” was his own magazine’s editorial position towards the entire left for the whole of the Marty Peretz era.

Chait’s piece focuses heavily on his view of how modern feminism and anti-racism has gone too far and centers around the rehashing of an often ill-informed controversy over the concept of “political correctness” something that has not been an actual left wing doctrine of relevance since the 1950s and comes out of the post-World War 1 cultural Marxism of the Frankfurt School.

In the interest of brevity I’ll sum up the actual theory of political correctness quickly – after the failure of workers to unite as a class and prevent the catastrophic first World War Marxist intellectuals tried to understand what went wrong. One of the theories that gained traction was by Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci who claimed it was capitalism’s “cultural hegemony” through cultural institutions like the church and popular entertainment that prevented workers from seeing themselves as part of the proletariat. Hence, a program of reshaping culture through the offering of “politically correct” cultural perspectives and narratives was proposed. From this program and school of thought came critical theory and other attempts at disrupting capitalist narratives in favor of Marxist ones in hopes that a long march through the institutions would eventually lead to a society that was not only materially ready but culturally ready for Communism.

Gramsci and the Frankfurt School are long gone (along with the Soviet Union) and well before they exited they lost much of their initial steam as the novelty wore off and other Marxists rejected attempts to alter and distort Marxism as it was originally understood. This is why “politically correct” has been a term of satire since the 1970s to mock the cultural left as closet authoritarians and not a banner people on the left rally or organize around. Which is why it was something the right loved to invoke to criticize the left during the 1990s when a conservative principle or program was scrutinized as being insensitive or harmful to ethnic minorities, women, or any group not culturally dominant (ie the cultural proletariat). In its modern use the term “politically correct” is completely deracinated from its original intentions and meaning – Chait is critiquing a critique of a critique.

Of course, that’s Chait’s specialty – making useless points against strawman arguments in hopes of stoking a controversy and receiving the subsequent clicks. Aka trolling. And he’s done it again to great effect. Let this be the last time we fall for it and leave him to the darkness he so richly deserves.

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Jonathan Chait Upset About Diversity In Media

Dan Wright

Dan Wright

Daniel Wright is a longtime blogger and currently writes for Shadowproof. He lives in New Jersey, by choice.