Dear Conservative Democrats, You Can't Tabulate Oppression
Carlos Ballesteros | April 10, 2015, 7:07 p.m.
In the latest issue of the Claremont Independent, Taylor Schmitt PO '17 tries to invalidate as many liberal causes célèbres as humanly possible. He denounces “campus progressives” for often “privileging narrative over evidence,” making it hard for him “to sympathize with their cause” and causing him to feel “embarrassed” to identify as a liberal.
While Schmitt does manage to raise some interesting points, most of his assertions are dull, misleading or just dead wrong.
Such is the case when he deduces that “many [liberals] don’t want factual journalism at all” simply because they don’t bash MSNBC as much as they do Fox News. Instead of criticizing corporate cable news media for purposefully dramatizing its content in the hopes of selling more eyeballs to advertisers, Schmitt simply touts the Republican line of crying bias without producing anything substantive.
Schmitt then moves on to Ferguson, where he pedantically concludes that it was “slanted media reporting”—not that Michael Brown was unarmed, shot at 12 times, left for dead on the street for about four hours or that African Americans make up 93 percent of arrests made by the Ferguson Police Department even though they only make up 67 percent of the population—which provoked hundreds of thousands of people in Ferguson and across the world to immediately put the blame squarely on former Officer Darren Wilson and all that he represents.
Moreover, large-scale protests against Wilson were absolutely merited when it became known that his extremely racist grand jury testimony and the wide variations from eyewitness accounts weren’t enough to require a trial. Schmitt even admits that the evidence against Wilson is “inconclusive,” meaning that a trial would have satisfied both of us. Unfortunately, justice was anything but served.
Next, Schmitt critiques the nationwide movement behind Emma Sulkowicz, a Columbia University senior famous for carrying her bed across campus after the university exonerated her alleged rapist. Schmitt does well in pointing out that the alleged attacker has been unjustly berated by the court of public opinion. What Schmitt fails to mention is that the same man was accused of sexually assaulting two other women at Columbia. Still, I agree that Sulkowicz’s case is more complicated than what meets the eye.
Unsurprisingly, Schmitt’s following analysis quickly ends our short-lived cohesive relationship:
“To question the guilt of Darren Wilson was to be a racist, and to question the veracity of Sulkowicz’s story was to be a sexist rape apologist … I am struggling to come to terms with this new reality wherein sticking to an objective view of the facts is considered a conservative trait. The campus left’s complete unwillingness to adjust their opinions of these cases to fit with the facts shows a thought process completely devoid of reason. Facts are apolitical.”
On the surface, I sympathize with Schmitt. Many of us have witnessed social justice activists call out individuals, whether it’s online or IRL. This is why I’m sternly against such tactics, for they alienate massive amounts of uneducated folks and are ultimately counterproductive.
But after reading the piece over a couple of times, one thing became clear: Schmitt doesn’t seem to care about the issues at hand whatsoever.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that protests against Wilson and behind Sulkowicz were more than just about two individual cases. Rather, they served as catalysts for a much broader critique of a racist and sexist society. This means that if Schmitt was against racist police violence—something that stretches far beyond Ferguson—he could very well protest the system and still be critical of college liberals’ vilification of Wilson. In the same vein, Schmitt could scrutinize Sulkowicz and her supporters and still voice concerns over sexual assault as a whole.
Nowhere does Schmitt ever come close to doing so. In fact, he does the opposite.
Backed up by a handful of hyperlinks, Schmitt spends the second half of the article desperately trying to discredit the issue of collegiate sexual assault, the validity of trigger warnings and the gender wage gap. Schmitt also claims that President Obama’s refusal to refer to the Islamic State as Islamic “downplays alarmingly high levels of sympathy for extremist movements in Muslim communities worldwide.” This last claim is backed up by an article from Breitbart, an overtly biased news site that, as pointed out by one of the comments on Schmitt’s article, uses unreliable sources and lies about the data obtained from others. Furthermore, a Gallup analysis of more than 130 countries in 2011 found that “one’s religious identity and level of devotion have little to do with one’s views about attacking civilians.”
This brings me to the article’s most rage-inducing segment: Schmitt’s belief that his “facts” are “apolitical.”
For anyone who’s taken a quantitative methods class, you know that (1) data is never perfectly collected and (2) with the right methodology, you can make the numbers say anything you want. Data can also be interpreted in a variety of ways depending on the reader’s internal biases.
This is the critique Schmitt wants to be making—that campus progressives are taking small, biased studies and blowing them out of proportion for the sake of a cause. Yet that is exactly what he is doing. Instead of denouncing the frailty of using singular and unique studies to make overarching generalizations, Schmitt uses his own data sets to try and one-up the liberals. Not only is Schmitt being fundamentally unproductive, he is also extremely misleading.
So, to put it briefly: Apolitical? My ass.
By the end of the article, Schmitt is more Ted Cruz than he is Elizabeth Warren. Despite his self-proclaimed blue innards, he is hell-bent on slandering the struggles of millions of Americans by using individual cases of possible misinformation as a way to ignore systemic oppressions.
As explained by The New Republic’s Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig, this is nothing new for Conservative, U.S.A.: “The right tends to pore over the specific details of high-profile cases like those of Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown, concluding that if those particular situations were embattled by complications or mitigating factors, then the phenomena they’re meant to represent must not be real either.”
The Left, on the other hand, understands that discrimination manifests itself in both clear and subtle ways, coming together “to form a tightly composed set of prejudices and policies that are difficult to disentangle.” In order to understand oppression, then, the Left looks “at entire systems of oppression, not just specific instances or behaviors.”
So maybe it’s not that we're embarrassing you, Taylor. It’s just that you were already on the other side of the fence and didn’t even know it yet.
Carlos Ballesteros CM ’16 is a flag-burning left-wing radical from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.