The Victims’ Revolution

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In Surrender: Appeasing Islam, Sacrificing Freedom (2009), Bruce Bawer told a grim tale of the surrender of parts of Europe to radical Islam. He showed how through a combination of multicultural orthodoxy and not-unfounded fear, politicians and members of the liberal intelligentsia have given in to the demands of Jihadists, sacrificing freedom of expression and other civil liberties to mollify Muslim sensitivities. The book amasses many disturbing examples, which Bawer dissects cogently. Now, in his new book, The Victims’ Revolution: The Rise of Identity Studies and the Closing of the Liberal Mind, Bawer has chosen what seems a less terrifying story, concerned not with riots, death threats, and medieval-style executions, but with the oft-impenetrable verbal pyrotechnics of academia.

Although much of the so-called scholarship he examines is indeed frivolous, Bawer’s study is a serious one, an extension of his political concerns into the academic arena. The Victims’ Revolution examines the toxic core—Identity Studies—from which the poisons of political correctness have leached into the body politic. It is not an entirely new subject, of course. Compelling exposés of the Leftist takeover of the academy have been published by such fine critics as David Horowitz, Stanley Fish, and Richard L. Cravatts, but Bawer’s intensive focus on the partisan ideological content of Identity Studies is unprecedented and necessary. One of Bawer’s most important insights is his clarification of how academic discourse can be at once almost entirely divorced from the reality of which it pretends to speak while also devastatingly real in its consequences.

Bawer’s central thesis is that to understand the moral and political confusion at the heart of Western life today, in which many voices are eager to denounce the most open, tolerant, and vibrant civilization ever created and to romanticize violence and thuggery as a cure, one must look first to our schools, and especially to higher education. For the past 30 years, there has been brewing in humanities classrooms a murky stew of sexual rebellion, hatred of democratic capitalism, and contempt for the institutions and traditions of American society. As Bawer shows, young people since the 1980s have undergone an intensive indoctrination to despise their country. In particular, women, people of color, and homosexuals have been trained to see themselves not as individuals with a stake in America’s collective future but as members of victim groups with the right to far-reaching compensation for their perceived injuries, which are dwelt upon to the exclusion of all else in courses that combine self-help therapy with Marxist and other revolutionary dogmas.

In these courses, the world is divided into oppressor and oppressed, the West and the (victimized) rest, and logic is turned on its head. Students in Women’s Studies are taught that there is no material difference between women’s treatment in the United States and their treatment in, say, Pakistan, where honor killings are common. In fact, such students are trained not to consider the women of Pakistan at all, except in relation to American imperialism, for to pronounce on Muslim women’s oppression is to declare oneself an Islamophobe. Black and Chicano Studies teach that the only authentic form of minority identity is grounded in grievance and defiance. The United States is portrayed as one of the most cruel and racist societies in the world. Such structures of thought and feeling, Bawer argues, have seriously affected the ability of young Americans to fairly assess their country’s achievements and to make appropriate decisions about its future.

How did such a state of affairs arise? In each chapter, which focuses on a different form of Identity Studies, Bawer traces the process by which the legitimate scholarly and social aims of various liberation movements, some such as Black Studies with an impressive pedigree, were fatally weakened by power politics and the rarefied conditions of academic life. During the period these programs were being established, an ideological battle was fought between the assimilationists, who wanted their concerns to be integrated into the disciplines and to employ traditional evidence-based scholarship, and the radical separatists, who saw no valid distinction between political advocacy and scholarship, and who wanted to forge a revolutionary coalition on the Left. The conflict was decided in favor of the radical separatists even as the more moderate assimilationists were increasingly winning over the general public. In time, the radicals’ fondness for extreme political positions became an orthodoxy, coupled with an all-but-unreadable writing style.

As a result of this history, tenured radicals now pursue their careers amidst manifold contradictions. While enjoying unprecedented liberty, prosperity, and security in their own lives, they persist in seeing themselves as heroic victims at war with a brutal enemy, believing that tactics of name-calling and evidence-tampering are justified in their circumstances. They talk of ‘otherness’ as a vital good that should not be surrendered, with no sense that what they regard as co-optation by bourgeois hegemony—going about one’s normal life without engaging in radical protest—is something that women and minorities around the world, often targeted for violence, can only dream of. And while priding themselves on their rebellion, they are deeply conformist in the narrow range of theories and arguments they employ.

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  • Chezwick

    I'll buy it…and when I'm done, I'll give it to a liberal sibling or in-law…making certain I point out that Bruce is gay and a former liberal. His sexuality shouldn't matter (and doesn't to me and most conservatives), but to libs, being gay somehow makes one intrinsically benign and victimized, and therefore more credible than a hetero. Perhaps then, they might be reached.


  • clarespark

    As an example of the identity politics revolution look no further than the fields of cultural anthropology and social psychology as managed by the early 20th century "progressives" responding to the Great War and its subsequent revolutions. The source was the notion of group character as developed by Herder and the German Romantics. Here is one particularly telling example as the week of the Republican Convention develops:…. "The Hebraic American Landscape: Sublime or Despotic?" The footnotes are especially juicy.

  • Jonathan Cohen

    Much of the social sciences and humanities at American colleges and universities has come to be dominated by what i would call "victim politics flavored with Marxism". This unfortunate trend is driven not so much by ideology but by its usefulness in pursuing the standard perks of the profession; tenure, merit increases, appointment to influential committees, and above all, financial suppor for new hires, special departments, academic conferences and the like.

    The true victims are the students who are the object of this program of indoctrination. It is amazing how pervasive such behavior is in the traditional departments of social sciences and humanities and how much of their rhetoric creeps into the governance of the universities.

    The most troubling aspect of the Obama administration is that such a high percentage of appointments to policy making positions in the federal government were marinated in this stew of victimology and regard their job as to make government policy based on this nonsense.

  • Spider

    Our schools from K1-12 through university graduate school teach nothing but garbage. After graduation their students.have the lowest skill set of any industrialized nation and at the highest cost. I might add that's for the 50% who actually graduate. What other endeaver in society creates a product (educated citizens in this case) where there is absolutely no accountability for the quality of the product or that the product even gets finished in the first place ??We need to return to a job skills and profession based education system that can compete with other countries. Currently our schools churn out derilect political philosophers identity hate groups and even violent revolutionary activisits. This has to stop! We are paying for this garbage and we must demand better or we soon will become a bananna republic – or make that a Com-munist dictatorship. School systems should be defunded unless they show that they can produce well ballanced educated and productive students with an advanced skill set. The unions need to be told right where to go since they are only in it for themselves.

    • Roger

      Local control, limits on union demands and rewards for results.

      All three are gone and the consequences are going to destroy us.

  • tagalog

    The article comments on how feminists claim that women are not treated significantly better in the United States than they are in Pakistan or Afghanistan. I've noticed that too, in my travels. I ascribe that kind of thinking to a state of mind that conflates a concept with reality. The feminists seem to be saying, "If women are discriminated against, there is only a difference in quantity, not a difference in quality." But in fact, laws that -for example- mandate stoning women for adultery in 2012 are different in QUALITY from laws that (as in New York State) prohibit women from sitting on a jury in 1975 (it's no longer the law and hasn't been for some time).

    So the kind of thinking that drives feminist and racial studies employing that kind of delusional equivalence of over-broad conceptualizing with the reality of life, is of course, bankrupt and ought to be ignored by everyone. We look at the grain of sand in our own eye and think it's the same as the beam in the eye of the Pakistanis.

  • jzsnake

    Bruce is my hero.

  • oldschooltwentysix
  • guest

    When you teach people they are victims, they get a big chip on their shoulder. They feel a big sense of grievance. And they can't take legitimate criticism. In fact, any criticism whether fair or unfair, should be looked at – people should be taught to examine themselves honestly. For instance, black attacks on whites (or other blacks) is a big problem, and blacks should face up to it. "Islamophobia" has very legitimate reasons (remember 9/11?). I've seen remarks by "gays" as to what horrible things they'd like to do to Pat Buchanan (by the way I disagree strongly with him on several things). Maybe gays should consider that extremely promiscuous lifestyles that spread diseases is not a good idea.
    I've made racist remarks, and as a consequence, was told by a black man that "we will annihilate you". I've made anti-gay remarks, and was told by a female couple that I must be "kept down!".
    I've been physically attacked.
    Our education system should teach tolerance of criticism, not only tolerance of racial differences.

  • Ghostwriter

    I'm afraid all this PC stuff has become very harmful. It should be dealt with.

  • Schlomotion

    In her glowing "independent" review of Mr. Bawer's book and her laudatory listing of all the "fine-critics" Frontpage offers in the same pantheon, Janice Fiamengo neglects to disclose that she is a featured writer for Pajamas Media. She thus has a conflict of interest in writing a Beatlemaniacal review of Mr. Bawer's book and it is both intellectually dishonest and a form of acclaim-counterfeiting.

  • Jim_C

    This expose neglects the whiniest, most put-upon victim mentality, entitled-feeling identity group in the country–American conservatives!

    • John C

      Jim: If you are referring to Southerners, you are absolutely correct. John C

  • rüya yorumları

    I love Bruce too… but no need to be sensitive.. Great read Janice.. thanx

  • dissertation

    The student must be enrolled in a program that leads to a degree or other recognized educational credential. This means enrollment in an accredited college, university, vocational school, or other accredited postsecondary educational institution.