Conservative P.C. Victimology

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I wanted to link to Jesse Walker's column Right-Wing P.C. a while back but didn't get around to it until now [hat tip: Jonathan Adler]. This is a phenomenon that John McWhorter (among others) calls victimology. I've blogged about this several times before, most notably racial victimology, Christian victimology, heterosexual victimology, and even conservative victimology. It's pretty clear to me that this is a basic human default position when someone's real or perceived rights are violated, and virtually any group that identifies itself in a way that can admit to solidarity of some sort could demonstrate it.

Conservatives have at least in their official views regularly decried this sort of thing from the left, but I think it's been present on the right all along. Consider the standard argument against affirmative action on the ground that it discriminates against whites. How many white people who put forth this argument with outrage have really been harmed by affirmative action or are even aware of anyone who has seriously been harmed by it? (That's not to say that there aren't constitutional discrimination issues that you can raise independent of the issue of harm, but see here for my worries about such arguments.) Conservatives have mastered the art of victimhood for the sake of enjoyment without much direction toward progress and sometimes from a false sense of real victimhood to begin with. Are people who think gay sex is immoral really victims because their kids' schools treat the children of gay parents as having a family? So conservative victimology isn't new, but what Walker's column adds is a P.C. element, and I think several of his examples are dead on. I encourage you to read them for yourself.

One thing I think Walker doesn't get quite clear is the nature of the distinction between what might be called victimhood and victimology. Victimology isn't mere complaining about victimhood, because that can be legitimate if the concern is real and if there's some point to complaining, i.e. it's aimed at progress. On the other hand, victimology requires two elements: (1) playing up false victimhood or exaggerating real victimhood beyond its level of seriousness and (2) doing it for the sake of feeling better than others because you can call them names for oppressing you rather than to seek real progress. But this is a human psychological phenomenon, and that makes it more complex. Often there's a legitimate cry of victimhood tainted with victimology. In a fallen world, people are messed up, and we usually don't have fully pure motives for most things. Why shouldn't we expect the same here?

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