Marginalizing the Mainstream, Mainstreaming the Margins

That title is from yesterday’s column by Dan McLaughlin at National Review.  RTWT (in part because there’s some stuff about The Federalist that I don’t think is reported elsewhere), but the column is a variation on “calling all conservatives racists desensitizes mainstream conservatives to the charge and helps open the door to racists.”  Having written in that subgenre, I don’t have much to add on the basic theme today.

However, I would add that the “crying wolf” dynamic is not the only way that marginalizing the mainstream helps mainstream the margins.  I think back to this subtly intersectional 2010 piece by Megan McArdle about the effect of center-left journalism and academia marginalizing conservative journalism and think-tankery:

The point is that when one group has privilege, and the other doesn’t, the response isn’t symmetrical, a fact that the dominant group tends to spend a lot of time remarking upon. The out-group is angrier and prizes its group identity–“conservative”–over weaker affiliations like “journalist” or “sociologist.” The angrier the out-group gets, the more uncomfortable and hostile the dominant group gets … which, of course, makes the out-group even angrier.”

Seven and one-half years later, the phenomenon of conservatives adopting the anger and victimhood of other marginalized groups is even more glaringly obvious.  It is not merely the case that conservatives have come to discount progressives’ claims of racism.  It is also the case that the marginalization of conservatives in our cultural institutions fuels a vicious cycle that makes progressives and conservatives worse people.

Making identity central to one’s worldview is a retrograde exercise that ultimately debases our common humanity; this was apparent long before McArdle’s column, let alone McLaughlin’s.  The only thing that’s really changed in the intervening years is that the supposed mainstream (even as broadly defined to include a swath of the Right) has headed further in the wrong direction.

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