I don’t think I’ve ever listened to a debate and come away with a stronger feeling of having just wasted time than after listening to the Munk Debate on Political Correctness. The motion — “What you call political correctness, I call progress” — went largely untouched, a point that Frye repeatedly pointed out, but to no avail. Peterson made some rather lame and, in my opinion, really underpowered points about the dangers of tribalism, while his tribalistic opponents simply ignored the subject to go after Peterson personally, with a few snide asides at Trump and at white people generally (white men specifically).
But there was a useful takeaway for me.
I first heard Michael Eric Dyson several years ago in an exchange with Andrew Breitbart on the Bill Maher show. Dyson speaks in a manner that fuses colloquial pop lingo and maximally emotionally-charged language into a kind of slam poetry that manages to be simultaneously imploring and berating. Rhetorically speaking, Breitbart was simply outclassed. But being rhetorically outclassed does not make one wrong. Consider the following exchange from the Bill Maher show:
Breitbart: …Who’s afraid? I’m sorry, where is this racism coming from? I haven’t seen this.
Maher: Well the racism is coming from Rush Limbaugh
Breitbart: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, you know what, I find that offensive, because there’s nothing in this country that is a worse accusation. It’s where, in America, if you accuse someone of racism, that person has to disprove that. It is completely un-American to call racism. You tell me what he has said that is racist.
Maher: Michael, you wanna…?
Breitbart: The man has been on the air for 21 years, 15 hours a week…
Dyson: Well, I tell you, first of all, Rush Limbaugh had a problem — he seems to have a problem with the black guys who run things. Think about it. So he was jumping on Donovan McNabb, for being a “black quarterback” because he was black, he was being celebrated, he got pushed off the air, that was Rush Limbaugh. Donovan McNabb went on to win the MVP which suggested that it was not just a figment in Rush’s imagination, that the reality is that this man really has skills. Now he’s jumping on Obama. Look, we know that…
Breitbart: I, I, look, I watched…
Maher: He’s said a lot of racist shit.
Breitbart: No he hasn’t. No he hasn’t.
Dyson: Wait, let me finish. He’s not saying “I hate negros,” specifically. What he is doing is creating an atmosphere of such profound vitriol and hatred, and I think denunciation of black people and of the ideas associated with those people who are vulnerable that yeah, there is a strong implication about blackness going on there, and if you put Rush Limbaugh in the context of the monkey appearing at the New York Post cartoon and the Barnes and Nobles…
Breitbart: He didn’t put that in…
Dyson: I didn’t say he did. I said in the context…
Breitbart: But wait, wait, wait, but didn’t put in the context…
Dyson: It’s code language.
Breitbart: No it isn’t code language. He was trying…
Dyson: It’s code language. Look, he was implying something serious about black people and a deficit about black culture, and an assault upon vulnerable people.
Notice the charge. The allegation of racism is justified by proclaiming an intentional creation of a hostile environment. This is a rhetorical ploy we’ve heard mostly used in schools and in bureaucratic work environments.
How is this claim justified? By pointing at anecdotes and choosing to interpret them as part of a larger pattern. Never mind that Breitbart points to exceptions in the pattern, such as Limbaugh’s defense of Clarence Thomas. Thomas — we are told — does not speak for all black men.
We are left to assume that someone else perhaps does speak for all black men? Perhaps that person just happens to be sitting in the interview with Maher and Breitbart… wouldn’t that be convenient!
But Dyson is not merely a talented emotional manipulator and a sophist. What he is doing is projecting, and this comes out in his debate with Jordan Peterson, whom he also accuses of being a “mean, mad white man,” which he promptly doubles down on, citing “lethal intensity and ferocity right here on this stage” and “evident vitriol with which you speak and the denial of a sense of equanimity among the combatants in an argument.”
“So I’m saying again, you’re a mean, mad white man, and the viciousness was evident.”
Cue audience applause.
That was in response to Peterson asking for a point at which everyone could agree that the political Left had gone too far.
On its face, the outrageousness of the hyperbole is almost laughable. It is a self-parody, except that he clearly means it sincerely. And the audience cheers. How can this make sense? Are they all delusional? Is everyone so stupid that they just can’t see it?
To me, this appears to be the less parsimonious explanation. The simpler, more reasonable solution is that Dyson is simply projecting.
All of his claims about indirect attacks upon blackness, about fostering a hostile environment against blacks, about using code language to harm “vulnerable people” (blacks), and about people like Peterson being mean to people “less privileged” than himself (blacks), all of these assertions perfectly describe Dyson’s treatment of white people. He’s not saying “I hate whitey,” specifically. What he is doing is creating an atmosphere of profound vitriol and hatred. He is doing so carefully and cleverly… and therefore, knowingly.
Michael Eric Dyson hates white people, and he is very effective at hating us. His aim is to attack “whiteness,” which is itself a euphemistic phrasing for weakening, diluting, and destroying whites.
The implications of this are pretty straightforward if you have read In Defense of Hatred. If you love yourself, and you find yourself subject to a willful existential threat, the appropriate thing to do, the moral thing to do, is to hate them and to hate them well.
I hate Michael Eric Dyson. It is not a passionate, burning hatred. It’s just a kind of recognition, a quiet “oh, I see, this guy is the enemy.” It’s a realization that he is “them,” and not merely a “them,” but an antagonistic and dangerous “them.” Nothing he has to say to me will be taken as sincere or honest, because his goals and my goals are mutually exclusive. Like men and lions, there can be no pacts or agreements between us; we will simply hate each other. To do otherwise is to betray your duty to love what you hold to be valuable — namely, yourself and others like yourself.