“Feminist” defined as “a woman on the left.” Why not just say that then and dispense with the added term? https://t.co/uFegTfglOf
— Damon Linker (@DamonLinker) January 12, 2018
– Because feminism is, by definition, a Good Thing.
– Good Things, by definition, are on the Right Side of History.
– Katie Roiphe has Bad Opinions (which may even make her a Bad Person).
– People with Bad Opinions are, by definition, on the Wrong Side of History, and, by the Law of Moral Physics, cannot occupy the same space as Good Things at the same time, ergo Roiphe cannot be a feminist.
It’s an a priori sort of argument that reeks of the musty cologne of Scholasticism — if reality conflicts with our pristine axioms and definitions, reality is obviously wrong. The more interesting question might be why anyone, especially secular progressives who are normally loath to have anything to do with Christianity, would still be so naïve as to believe that history is teleologically progressing toward some preordained benevolent destination, a wishful fantasy which has somehow survived where the equally-ridiculous belief in miracles, loving deities, and life after death has died. Amanda Marcotte is, to be sure, astoundingly stupid and dishonest as always, so it’s not really a surprise in her case, but still, not everyone who subscribes to the circular logic of progressive virtue is such an extreme example.
One possibility might be that it’s simply the deeply-engrained instinct of anyone seeking power over others to present their own opinions as The Way Things Truly, Objectively Are, as opposed to the partial and self-serving opinions of their opponents. It’s not me saying this, I’m just the humble mouthpiece for God, or History’s Dialectic, or some other higher truth speaking through me. Most intractable arguments are like this. Everyone who claims to be right is claiming to have identified a truth that exists independently of mistaken, self-interested perspective. As Nietzsche said in Beyond Good and Evil:
They all pose as if they had discovered and reached their real opinions through the self-development of a cold, pure, divinely unconcerned dialectic (as opposed to the mystics of every rank, who are more honest and doltish—and talk of “inspiration”); while at bottom it is an assumption, a hunch, indeed a kind of “inspiration”—most often a desire of the heart that has been filtered and made abstract—that they defend with reasons they have sought after the fact. They are all advocates who resent that name, and for the most part even wily spokesmen for their prejudices which they baptize “truths.”
In general, that may be true, but in the particular phenomenon of left-wingers who arrogate to themselves the right to speak for various victimized and downtrodden groups, there’s more specific details to flesh out. The Arc of History may be nothing more than an inspirational image, but you don’t have to believe in historical metaphysics to recognize which way the cultural wind is a-blowin’, and our clerisy (to borrow Joel Kotkin’s term) noticed a long time ago that there was much power and influence to be had by positioning themselves as the “good” white people, who had somehow transcended the natural sinfulness of their kind. They’d be happy to serve as generic rhetorical scapegoats as long as they retained the far more important power to set the terms of cultural conversation and decide who gets to participate.
Even today, more than half a century later, you can’t help but notice that it’s always the same people out in front of all these culture war skirmishes — usually white, typically privileged, and always progressive; still defining the terms, still policing the guest list. If I got a book off my wish list for every time I’ve seen a white male progressive defenestrate all his previous rhetoric about empowering the underprivileged and blatantly, aggressively pull rank on a woman, or a PoC, or both, when his moral and intellectual authority is challenged, I’d already be shopping for a 5,000-square-foot house with its own library. As I’ve said before, it’s as if members of the Tsar’s inner circle managed to reinvent themselves as hardcore Bolsheviks. “Social justice” is just the new brand name of the same old product, namely, the status-and-power-seeking personality type which adores bossing others around in the name of a higher good. Still the same; baby, baby, still the same.