Intersectionality: The New "Religious" Craze On Campus -- And Beyond
Great piece at NYMag by Andrew Sullivan on the violent heckler's veto of Charles Murray's talk at Middlebury College -- and of the academic fundamentalism that prevented him from speaking and sent the professor who was with him to the hospital with injuries.
He watched the video of this ugliness and writes that "it helped clarify for me what exactly the meaning of 'intersectionality' is:
"Intersectionality" is the latest academic craze sweeping the American academy. On the surface, it's a recent neo-Marxist theory that argues that social oppression does not simply apply to single categories of identity -- such as race, gender, sexual orientation, class, etc. -- but to all of them in an interlocking system of hierarchy and power. At least, that's my best attempt to define it briefly. But watching that video helps show how an otherwise challenging social theory can often operate in practice.
It is operating, in Orwell's words, as a "smelly little orthodoxy," and it manifests itself, it seems to me, almost as a religion. It posits a classic orthodoxy through which all of human experience is explained -- and through which all speech must be filtered. Its version of original sin is the power of some identity groups over others. To overcome this sin, you need first to confess, i.e., "check your privilege," and subsequently live your life and order your thoughts in a way that keeps this sin at bay. The sin goes so deep into your psyche, especially if you are white or male or straight, that a profound conversion is required.
Like the Puritanism once familiar in New England, intersectionality controls language and the very terms of discourse. It enforces manners. It has an idea of virtue -- and is obsessed with upholding it. The saints are the most oppressed who nonetheless resist. The sinners are categorized in various ascending categories of demographic damnation, like something out of Dante. The only thing this religion lacks, of course, is salvation. Life is simply an interlocking drama of oppression and power and resistance, ending only in death. It's Marx without the final total liberation.
This "intersectionality" is a totalitarian religion:
It operates as a religion in one other critical dimension: If you happen to see the world in a different way, if you're a liberal or libertarian or even, gasp, a conservative, if you believe that a university is a place where any idea, however loathsome, can be debated and refuted, you are not just wrong, you are immoral. If you think that arguments and ideas can have a life independent of "white supremacy," you are complicit in evil. And you are not just complicit, your heresy is a direct threat to others, and therefore needs to be extinguished. You can't reason with heresy. You have to ban it. It will contaminate others' souls, and wound them irreparably.
But who is Charles Murray and what does he stand for?
Doesn't matter to these students.
Oh, and by the way, Sullivan writes about the students' chant, "Hey hey, ho ho! Charles Murray has got to go." Then: "Racist, Sexist, Anti-gay. Charles Murray, Go away!"
Murray's old work on IQ demonstrates no meaningful difference between men and women, and Murray has long supported marriage equality. He passionately opposes eugenics. He's a libertarian. But none of that matters. Intersectionality, remember? If you're deemed a sinner on one count, you are a sinner on them all. If you think that race may be both a social construction and related to genetics, your claim to science is just another form of oppression. It is indeed hate speech.
A commenter at NY Mag, alesh, puts intersectionality neatly and concisely:
In the end intersectionality simply means anti-white-male. It's university-sponsored hate.