Libsplaining

You may not be aware of it, but there’s this site called Newsbusters that’s a project of famed right-wing activist Brent Bozell’s Media Research Center, dedicated to “exposing and neutralizing liberal media bias.” Their reporters seem to pick on particular left-of-center writers to “expose” if not “neutralize,” and I’ve recently become a reliable source of copy for a dude named Tom Johnson, who invariably refers to me in headlines as “lefty blogger.” One of the things about Johnson I appreciate is that he rarely adds a lot of commentary to his quotes, which are thought to so obviously show the twisted nature of godless liberal reasoning as to require none. But in the latest occasion, he did add one interesting word:

On Friday, two lefty bloggers argued that the conservative war on political correctness is a tempest in a teapot, and that being politically correct is pretty much synonymous with not being a bigoted jerk.

First, Ed Kilgore of Washington Monthly wrote that he was tired of Republicans like Donald Trump and Ben Carson “incessantly nattering” about PC, and alleged that “all this hysteria” seems to be based on “conservative media accounts of random college speech code incidents and the occasional dumb move by a school principal…something that affects maybe a tenth of one percent of the population.”

Kilgore then libsplained what’s going on:

The Trump supporters and proto-Trump supporters I know are upset by things like having to listen to Spanish-language messages on customer service lines, not being able to call women “chicks” without someone frowning at them, and having to stop telling racist jokes at work. That’s what “political correctness” is code for: having to worry about the sensitivities of people who were invisible or submissive not that very long ago.

The interesting word is “lipsplaining,” an adaptation of the common feminist term “mansplaining” for men telling women how they should think, or perhaps “whitesplaining,” which some #BlackLivesMatter activists use similarly to reject patronizing advice from white liberals.

I did have to chuckle at Johnson’s usage, since I was in fact doing something I’m sometimes hesitant to do but sometime have to do in trying to analyze conservative political phenomena: rejecting what conservatives say about their beliefs and motivations in favor of my own interepretation. A very good example involves the crocodile tears over late-term abortions of people who believe a zygote is a human being like you and me. In that case, there is plenty of evidence of bad faith in the pursuit of a gradual, indirect strategy to unravel abortion rights entirely. On the subject I was writing about, however, it was more of an educated hunch that “war on political correctness” had everything to do with the adjustments required for twenty-first century civility and little to do with exotic examples of speech codes at colleges most conservatives would never let their kids attend in the first place.

As it happens, though, this very weekend I was reading an advance copy of an upcoming book that includes the results of some intensive focus group work with what might be called the “angry wing” of the GOP base. The author notes that one thing that simply enrages grass-roots conservatives is the use of non-English languages by immigrants. So maybe by “libsplaining” isn’t quite as presumptuous as Johnson thinks.

UPDATE: The Johnson post I wrote about appeared on August 29. On August 30 he followed up with an item entitled: “Lefty Blogger Martin Longman: Trump Has Divided the GOP Between ‘Stormtroopers’ and ‘Ruffians.” Martin get edgier than me, gets his name mentioned in the headline. Story of my blogging life.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.