Yep: Insecurity is the Issue

This just proves that today’s outrage culture and offensensitivity (to use a wonderful term coined by Berke Breathed in Bloom County nearly three decades ago) is self-immolating by its very nature. It demands a lock-step groupthink and punishes any criticism as bigotry or worse. It’s the exact opposite of both tolerance and plurality, plus the nature of this particular offense — calling someone by their first name?exposes the high degree of insecurity among those involved in the debate, and their desperation to shut their critics up, even if it’s the most progressive President since LBJ.
Sometimes people say really offensive things, and on those occasions genuine offense can be warranted. But we often see outrageous outrage coming from two additional classes of people:

1) People who are really insecure.

2) People attempting to leverage victim status to obtain some advantage.

A lot of criticism focuses on type (2) cases, but I think type (1) cases are actually the most common. There are just tons of people walking around in constant fear of being looked down upon because they don't really think much of themselves. This is sometimes true even of people who have actually achieved quite a bit -- say, becoming a Senator after gaining tenure after earning a Ph.D., all of which are substantial accomplishments. There's a named psychological disorder associated with it, and some believe women are especially susceptible to it.

Under those circumstances, a highly confident man like the President can provoke outrage by saying things that would be completely inoffensive to someone with more self-confidence. Calling someone by their first name? He does that to Senators all the time. He used to be a Senator himself, and it's part of the culture of comity even among political opponents.

I suppose the rebuttal would be that sexism in society is so prevalent that it's our collective fault that high-achieving women like these sometimes feel sensitive to criticism. Certainly the society doesn't adhere to my own standards as to what I consider ordinary decent respect for women in day to day life. The way to make a road forward isn't by setting up a bunch of eggshells for people to walk on when talking about high-achieving women ("Don't use her first name!"). That's just going to reinforce the idea that women need special protections if they're going to get out in the world.

Certainly I always try to encourage women in my life to be confident and to take honest pride in their achievements. Mostly I do this because I like them, but there's a small element of self preservation interest as well. Confident, bold women are easier to live with. They make better friends, partners, comrades, call it what you will.

Probably they make better Senators.


E Hines said...

Whose insecurity, again? I haven't heard Senator Lizzie squawk about the thing. That may be that she has more important things about which to worry--like her differences with President Barry on trade....

I'm not entirely convinced the squawkers are all that insecure, either, as much as they're that desperate to find something about which to complain. Or maybe their insecurity stems from that desperation.

Eric Hines

Grim said...

I haven't heard her say any such thing herself either. In any case, she won.

E Hines said...

In the battle of crybabies, certainly, and resoundingly so--she was smart enough not to compete.

On the substantive question, maybe not--it's coming back up for a vote, maybe with 12 Dems who've changed their mind/intended their original votes only for their statement effect/don't have the courage of their convictions and let Obama intimidate them.

Eric Hines

Anonymous said...

I said it before: anything to avoid discussing an actual policy.


douglas said...

It's all he knows. When is the last time you heard him present a cogent argument for a position he held?

Texan99 said...

Since Sen. Warren herself hasn't complained, I set aside the question of whether she would show insecurity if she did. But a man who professes to be a liberal, and who calls a public adversary by her first name, and who claims to be unaware of the implied condescension and insult, is a fool. He'd certainly have noticed if one of his debate opponents had referred to him as "Barack." He'd have been an idiot to complain about it, of course--what use is there in announcing to the world how thoroughly one has registered an insult?--but both he and the person who insulted him in that way would have known what was happening.

Sen. Warren probably will have better manners than to retaliate by referring to him as "Barry." Many of his political opponents routinely do, however, and they certainly mean the implied put-down. They also know that the put-down is all the more pointed when directed at someone from a traditional class of servants or hangers-on.

At the moment, though, this is purely a proxy fight: Sen. Brown complains (very indirectly and mildly) on behalf of Sen. Warren, and Josh Earnest demands an apology on behalf of Pres. Obama. Who knows what the principals know or care about the dust-up? Brown's complaint is a way of questioning the president's ideological purity and, in that sense, seems like very fair game to me. The man is a hypocrite and deserves to be called out on it. A conservative who made the same error might be oblivious, but not a hypocrite--yet even he would pay a political price for confirming what everyone assumed about him to begin with.

Grim said...

In fairness to President Obama, Douglas, just the other day he participated in a panel discussion at Georgetown that was pretty decent. The panel was heavily but not exclusively skewed left, but he took some heat from the left and defended his position honestly. So I think he deserves a bit of credit for that: I'd like to see a lot more politicians engage in honest debate that way.

And to be fair, Tex, I don't think his first-naming of a Senator is at all to do with ideological purity or sexism. He calls Harry Reid by his first name, too. It's informal, and personally I think a President should be more formal when dealing with a Senator or a Supreme Court Justice. The comity proper to the Senate is not as proper across separate, co-equal branches of government.

(An aside: I wonder how the logic of Brown v. the Board of Education applies here? It seems as if there is a contradiction in Federal thinking about whether separate things can be equals: the principle is affirmed as the basic structure of our government at the Federal level; the logical opposite of the principle is affirmed as the basic logic governing Federal and state laws, with huge consequences for how we organize daily life.)

To return to the point, though, a relaxing of older formalities is very much a part of the ideology of the left. To first-name Senators (men and women alike) seems to me to be more ideologically pure than it is traditionally proper. And that is, at least, consistent with the President.

Texan99 said...

Yes, he calls his allies by their first names, which is tacky but not a put-down, and is not to the point here.

Cass said...

The entire tenor of his remarks was disdainful and insulting.

Coming from a political tradition that has been arguing that women face all kinds of subtle sexism and microaggressions and patriarchal put-downs and snottiness only makes Obama's tone more egregious: he's breaking every "rule" he claims should be observed when dealing with us fragiler-than-snowflakes-yet-fully-as-tough-as-menfolk types :p

I'm with Tex on this one. If you're going to go around claiming that every single perceived slight from a woman is An Extremely Significant Indicator of Structural Sexism, then you'd better walk the walk and treat women as you claim they *ought* to be treated: as snowflakes.

Obama's just mad because he likes to be the only one throwing sharp elbows and this time, he got caught.

Cass said...

It wasn't just calling her by her first name, either. That's just part of his larger comments.

Personally, do I think this was "sexism"? Nope, he talked to her like she was a Republican (not like she was a woman) -- i.e., disdainfully.

"Her position is ludicrous and illogical and she doesn't know what she's talking about (and she's only opposing this deal to advance her political campaign" isn't any kind of principled or merit-based rebuttal.

Hoist by his own petard, he is :p

Grim said...

Well, I agree with that last point: I think he was talking about her as he often talks about all his opponents, i.e., as being motivated by a combination of stupidity and greed for personal gain.

The older professor I spoke with the other day has suddenly picked up on the subtle accusations of racism pointed toward "folks" who "whoop up on me" -- that dropping into the vernacular highlights racial differences between the President and his opponents without naming them. How shocking to find yourself being painted as a racist for opposing the President, when you've always been loyal to the progressive truth. But it's not new as a tactic: it's just that he has some enemies to the left, now.

Texan99 said...

I could refer to Grim casually as a "country boy" and very likely not raise any hackles at all, unless there were already some kind of bad blood between us about urban vs. rural culture. But I'd have to be pretty clueless to be taken by surprise if I referred to a black man that way and then was agog that he objected to the "boy." Similarly, in a bygone age, people might have thrown around the insult "b*st*rd," but they'd have had the sense to think twice before hurling it at someone who was in fact illegitimate and had been the butt of veiled slurs about it through his life.

I think Cass has hit on it: his comments were disdainful, but he's not courageous enough to own up to it. (Now, if she were Fox News . . . . )

Grim said...

Well, the point about security is that you could call me a racist Nazi thug, too, without me getting too bothered about it. My confidence in myself isn't troubled by the thought that someone somewhere may think badly of me. If someone wants to apply a stereotype to me that doesn't fit, that's a mistake for them: as Sun Tzu would say, their failure to understand me creates a weakness I can exploit for my own ends if I want to do so. It's good if your enemies don't understand you properly.

You can't make it through young adulthood as a white man in America without being told that you're a racist, that you're somehow owed collective guilt for every bad thing that has ever happened to anyone, that you should be at least a little ashamed to be 'white' or to be male, and that your heart is teeming with subconscious racism, sexism, and other -isms that make you just a very bad person.

Maybe it's a kind of white male privilege to hear that all your life. It sometimes fosters an immunity to concerns of this sort. Micro-aggression? I'm all about real aggression. :)

Cass said...

How shocking to find yourself being painted as a racist for opposing the President, when you've always been loyal to the progressive truth. But it's not new as a tactic: it's just that he has some enemies to the left, now.

Does he have "enemies" on the Left? Or does King Barack just view anyone who dares to question him as an enemy? :p

Grim said...

Based on the conversation of a few days ago, I'd say he's got at least a few who are now enemies. They're clustering around Sens. Warren and Sanders.

Grim said... immunity to concerns of this sort.

Having said all that, I suppose I should add that my goal is to foster that level of confidence in the women in my life -- not to treat their concerns with disdain. My end game is my wife or female friends or colleagues having enough genuine self-confidence in their legitimate, earned accomplishments that they don't care if someone else doesn't respect them as much as they think they deserve.

Imagine what it must be like to be married, or partner in a business, with someone who constantly demands that you walk on eggshells. Someone who pours over your every word for some sign of a hidden disrespect. Someone whose ego is so fragile that even something ordinary and innocent can become, for them, confirmation that what they always suspected about you is true.

What a horrible life that would be. I don't know why anyone would want to try to create an environment in which important people in their lives felt that way. It would be a kind of hell just having to be around people like that all the time.

Texan99 said...

If polite discourse, social interaction, and ideas don't matter, and the only thing we should worry about is bullet wounds, a great deal of our time discussing social issues could be saved.

Grim said...

Ideas certainly matter. One way in which they matter is the importance of identifying and disposing of bad ones!

Grim said...

Two sets of ideas need disposing, I suppose, in this case:

1) The idea that fear of the disapproval of others should weigh so heavily in your life that you should constantly be scanning for any hint of it.

2) The idea of making people who are important to you feel that the first idea is plausible.

If your concern is social pleasantness in interaction and discourse, both of these ideas create a hellish social experience. Appropriate self confidence would eliminate a lot of the constant outrage and seeking for slights. Meanwhile, some encouragement would go a long way toward encouraging those who feel like imposters to realize that they've really done well and are respected by their peers.

Texan99 said...

I don't know about fear of disapproval, but I know an insult when I see one. I think C.S. Lewis jokes somewhere in Screwtape about encouraging a human soul to make comments whose express purpose is to offend, then to take umbrage when offense is taken. "You know the sort of thing I mean: 'I simply ask when dinner will be ready, and she flies in a temper.'"

Insults, like physical violence, have their place, but it's harder to see a place for affecting innocence of intent. Surely if there's sufficient occasion to get hostile, there's sufficient occasion to own up to it.

Grim said...

Fair enough. I like real aggression better than passive aggression, too.

Texan99 said...

Exactly, which is why I'm so allergic to condescension disguised as caring concern.

Grim said...

Well, my caring concern is undisguised: I'm quite open about my self-interest here. It's much easier to live with people if they don't feel like they have to prowl through your every word for hidden meanings and secret disrespect. That makes my life easier, too.

I still have a few female friends and associates who are eggshell types. You have to be very, very careful to think through exactly what you're going to say when you talk to them. It's exhausting, and even though I like them I find it difficult to spend much time with them as a result.

And I get off way better, perhaps because of my straightforwardly aggressive nature, than the men they know who really might try to hide secret meanings in their words. Those guys get explosive results just from time to time, sometimes fully warranted and sometimes not.

President Obama is probably a guy like that. He probably thinks he can put one over on you sometimes, which raises the risk of catching it in the teeth even on an occasion when you didn't necessarily have it coming.

Texan99 said...

Violent agreement. Disrespect isn't usually that hard to spot, so there's rarely a need to prowl for it; it's the acknowledgement that's sometimes lacking. In the case of the President, I'd hardly expect it at all--not his style to be open or courageous.

Cass said...

He had it coming this time - not because he was being sexist, but because he has gone out of his way to label even the slighted perceived offenses against women as "sexism".

It doesn't require an eggshell temperament to find his words offensive - he was being a jacka$$. By the standard he and the Left want us all to adopt, he got exactly what he deserved (even though I don't think it was sexism - just boorish behavior).

At any rate, Warren hasn't complained that I know of, and I doubt she suffers from feelings of inadequacy (however well deserved those feelings might be) :p

Texan99 said...

Right--if he'd said he had Warren in a binder, we'd really have to let him have it.

Also, if we wanted to go whole hog, we'd observe that no matter how respectfully he put his criticism, we couldn't help thinking that no male senator in history ever had received this kind of criticism, so we had to assume that his real problem was that he was unable to accept a female in the Senate.

You wanna see eggshell-temperament, he seriously embodies it.