Conservative boogeymen and the progressives who love them

I have an article over at The Daily Caller concerning the recent bouts of hysteria that have hit academia and the media.

This stuff is way, way bigger than college students being fragile babies, but Alexander correctly notes that, not for the lack of material, the media can’t seem to find an angle on it.

But it’s interesting to see the polemical contortions my favorite blogger had to tie himself into to save his article for polite society. He starts the blog post off with a caveat about how he started criticizing social justice back in 2010, saying that back then, only “wingnutty lesbianism-causes-witchcraft” circles bothered criticizing it.

He’s gesturing toward a quote made by Pat Robertson back in 1993, which has gotten lot of mileage since then as an example of a conservative being stupid.

“The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women,” the televangelist said. “It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.”

It’s important to note that that happened once, decades ago. And before we even know what he’s talking about, Alexander has to reassure readers that he isn’t right-wing bigfoot, like he needs to do that to get dispensation to have an opinion on people who are at the intersection of crazy and fashionable.

The fact that it’s expected to have these caveats isn’t the fault of Alexander or any other particular writer. But it speaks to nature of our cultural assumptions and of the parameters that define these debates. We live in a culture that uncritically believes in right-wing boogeymen.

We saw it at Yale with the boogeymen that wanted to legitimate the oppression of students by refusing to crack down on Halloween costumes. Mizzou had a supposed shit-smearing Nazi boogeyman that led to someone acting like an injured soccer player and going on a multi-day hunger strike. And then we had to have otherwise reasonable people reassure us that might be looking at these instances of boogeyman hysteria with the wrong kind of critical eye.

Go check it out.


  1. Scott Alexander is a liberal blogger utterly beloved by the right lately. It’s fascinating, watching the “I didn’t leave liberalism, liberalism left me” thing unfold right before my eyes, with Alexander playing the part of the guy proverbialy mugged by reality.


    1. It’s a level more complicated. I remember Scott Alexander writing in his essay “I Can Tolerate Anything Except the Outgroup” it’s the opposite: That he used to be a right-libertarian who regularly received death threats from left-wing activists for a column he had in his university’s students newspaper, and as a result is much more eager to criticize the dysfunctional and toxic aspects of contemporary left-wing political culture than most people with such loyalties even after now in practice supporting mostly left-wing causes.

      Of course, now that he finds toxic left-wingery is becoming harder and harder to avoid he slowly goes more conservative.

      Liked by 2 people

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