Crossing the microaggressions minefield Oct 5, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 04 • By MATT LABASH
Don’t take this the wrong way, but are you offended? I know I haven’t said anything yet, but it’s never too early to be aggrieved. Studies I’ve invented, since we’re all entitled to our own facts these days, show that 4 out of 10 Americans are offended by something at all times. Ten out of 10, if they’re taking a course containing the word “intersectional” at Swarthmore.
Many of us who came of age on a college campus in the early nineties mistakenly believed that full-throttle political correctness was too insidious, not to mention too exhausting, to follow us into the new century. Person, were we wrong. See what had to be done there? Under the new rules, I had to insert “person,” a non-binary, gender-neutral noun, so as not to offend people with the expression “man,” the preferred signifier of oppression of a white heteronormative cis-male member of the Kyriarchy. (I only understood about half that sentence myself, but I’m assured that everything in it is bad.)
Like New Kids on the Block or high-waisted shorts—other ’90s relics we’d left for dead that didn’t quite stay that way—political correctness is back with murder in its eyes. In our newly minted Cocked Fist Culture, the question when confronting nearly anything—a book, a film, an overheard comment on a Privilege Walk—is “Is this problematic?” Though it would save time to simply ask, “What isn’t?”
So problematic have the problem-miners become that my former colleague Sonny Bunch, now of the Washington Free Beacon, launched his own “Everything’s A Problem” Tumblr. Written in the scolding voice of the problem-miners themselves, each news item/outrage-du-jour arrives pre-satirized. The blog is only six months old, and was supposed to be a toss-off hobby. Yet Bunch has cranked out 142 posts, so many that I find it problematic keeping up with them. For as advertised, everything is problematic: from Caitlyn Jenner being called attractive (“We’ve smuggled in the same old cis/Eurocentric narratives about womanhood,” huffed the HuffPost’s Marc Lamont Hill) to New Yorker cartoons (94.7 of their characters are white, according to the Proceedings of the Natural Institute of Science, it now being considered essential to count such things).
The Cocked Fist Culture has turned into an ouroboros, except the snake is well past swallowing its own tail. It’s eaten its way clean up to mid-sternum. Recent books across the political spectrum have extensively documented this turn, notably Mary Katharine Ham and Guy Benson’s End of Discussion on the right and Kirsten Powers’s The Silencing: How the Left Is Killing Free Speech on the center-left. Though the outrage industrial complex shows no sign of shrinking, some thought a high-water mark had been reached earlier this year when Jonathan Chait, a New York writer and reliable liberal, broke ranks, accusing his own team of ideological repression through all the thought-and-speech policing. He charged that the hijacked left had adopted the modus operandi of old-line smash-mouth Marxists, who’ve always been contemptuous of mainstream liberalism’s tendency to enshrine dissent. The present left merely swaps Marxist preoccupation with economics for race-and-gender-identity fetishization.
While some on the right gave Chait a swat for sniffily arriving a quarter-century late to the anti-p.c. party, his comrades lined up to steamroll him. Amanda Taub, Vox’s self-described “senior sadness correspondent,” responded that there’s no such thing as political correctness. Even using the term is just a way “to dismiss a concern or demand as a frivolous grievance rather than a real issue,” a device “often used by those in a position of privilege to silence debates raised by marginalized people.” A sentence that sounded suspiciously like it had been written by a political-correctness meme generator. The kind that Orwell described as prose consisting “less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a pre-fabricated hen-house.”
Matt Labash, dog listener Jun 8, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 37 • By MATT LABASH
I've had a lot of dogs of many different physical types, but each has come loaded with the same daunting reminder: the countdown clock I can’t help but hear ticking away inside of them. I suppose I come with one of those, too, if I care to confront reality. Denial may be easier on the nerves, but the actuaries don’t lie. Your average American these days lasts 78.8 years. My average large purebred lasts about 8. Meaning over the course of a lifetime, I’ll bid farewell many more times than they will.
Matt Labash, maximal minimalist.Sep 22, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 02 • By MATT LABASH
The surest way to know who you are is to understand who you are not. For as long as I can remember, I’ve thought myself a simple man. I prefer hamburgers to fancy cheeseburgers, with all their dolled-up, dairy-fied excess. I have a “Simplicity” calendar with lots of Lao Tzu quotes. I would rather micturate outdoors than indoors, as it connects me to the land while keeping down the weeds. And as long as we’re showing our simplicity cards, I would rather say “squirt” than “micturate.”
Out of prison, with a new wife and infant son, Edwin Edwards, 86, hits the campaign trail again Jul 28, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 43 • By MATT LABASH
Surveillance of, by, and for the peopleApr 28, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 31 • By MATT LABASH
“Just because something bears the aspect of the inevitable one should not, therefore, go along willingly with it.” —Philip K. Dick
Matt Labash gets a LyftMar 17, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 26 • By MATT LABASH
Now that “software is eating the world,” in the words of Marc Andreessen, every once in awhile, we dinosaur types like to try our luck in the land of Web 2.0, 3.0, or Whatever.0 we’re on at the moment. To that end, I recently applied to become a driver at Lyft, the “ride-sharing” service where drivers who drive their own personal vehicle with a giant pink moustache lashed to the grille (the Lyft trademark) are summoned to your location at the touch of an app. This way, users don’t have to do the unthinkable, like look away from their smartphone while hailing a cab.
Matt Labash appraises a Blockbuster ending.Nov 25, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 11 • By MATT LABASH
Though four decades shy of being an octogenarian myself, I’m starting to know how they feel. For at the hurtling speed of change these days, even a casual observer of the scene is unwittingly turned into a perpetual obituarist, forever marking the loss of old friends. So it was again last week, when news broke that Blockbuster was shuttering all of its bricks-and-mortar video stores.
Tom Day and the volunteer buglers who play ‘Taps’ at veterans’ funerals across America Sep 16, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 02 • By MATT LABASH
Tom Day is not a man given to extravagance. He thinks he’s living high on a reporter’s nickel if he orders a beef sandwich to go at the local Buona sub shop. He shops at Goodwill every Sunday, hoping to pick up bargains, like his handsome $35 suits. But if there’s one superfluity that Day especially can’t abide, it is that of empty rhetoric.
Matt Labash, king of the crownJul 8, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 41 • By MATT LABASH
Like most civilized people of goodwill and sound reason, I’ve always held that violence isn’t the answer. It is, however, an answer. Which is why if I ever see Larry Randolph again, I intend to knock his teeth out.
The decline of Western civilization, 140 characters at a timeMay 6, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 32 • By MATT LABASH
“The Machine,” they exclaimed, “feeds us and clothes us and houses us; through it we speak to one another, through it we see one another, in it we have our being. . . . [T]he Machine is omnipotent, eternal; blessed is the Machine.” —E.M. Forster, “The Machine Stops” (1909)
At the risk of being abrasive, I am about to say something unthinkable, heretical. I am about to say six words you have likely never heard from a working member of the media, and may never hear again: Do not follow me on Twitter.