Sunday, May 05, 2013

PC as an autoimmune disease

From the May 3, 2013 Goldberg File:

America's Autoimmune Crisis
I think you could write a pretty good book on the idea behind my column today. I write:
Is the American body politic suffering from an autoimmune disease?
The "hygiene hypothesis" is the scientific theory that the rise in asthma and other autoimmune maladies stems from the fact that babies are born into environments that are too clean. Our immune systems need to be properly educated by being exposed early to germs, dirt, whatever. When you consider that for most of human evolutionary history, we were born under shady trees or, if we were lucky, in caves or huts, you can understand how unnatural Lysol-soaked hospitals and microbially baby-proofed homes are. The point is that growing up in a sanitary environment might cause our immune systems to freak out about things that under normal circumstances we'd just shrug off.
Hence, goes the theory, the explosion in asthma rates in the industrialized world, the rise in peanut and wheat allergies and, quite possibly, the spike in autism rates. There's also a puzzling explosion in autoimmune diseases. That's where the body attacks healthy organs or tissues as if they were deadly invaders.
Which brings me to my point. If you think of bigotry as a germ or some other infectious disease vector, we live in an amazingly sanitized society . . .
I then go on to suggest that the absolutely ridiculous obsession with racism on college campuses and elsewhere is a kind of autoimmune crisis.
One thing I didn't get to (I found the idea of the Klan laying siege to Oberlin College too funny to ignore) is the obsession with the "Muslim backlash" in America that continues to elude us.
When you suffer from an autoimmune disease your body thinks healthy organs are in fact somehow invasive threats. Last week, Eric Holder's response seemed like an autoimmune misfire. Americans get blown up by jihadi immigrants and the body politic's response is to unleash antibodies in search of anti-Muslim bigotry.
This is of a piece with the Left's instinctual, visceral need for terrorist attacks to be committed by white, Christian, conservative men. There's some glitch in their metaphorical genetic coding that makes them want to fight the wrong threat. Some liberal writers remind me of obsessive-compulsive hand-washers. They have a plausible concern -- dirty hands -- but they take it to the point where they wash their hands into bloody stumps for fear of a wildly exaggerated threat.
In every year since 9/11, there have been more hate crimes against Jews than against Muslims in this country -- by a wide, wide margin. And don't get me wrong, I don't think America is bad for Jews. Quite the opposite: Without America, it's possible the Jews would simply be gone. This country is, in many ways, more Judaism's savior than Israel is. But to listen to the Left, anti-Semitism in this country is a weird hang-up but "Islamaphobia" is an epidemic. There's a Marcusian flavor to our autoimmune crisis. Herbert Marcuse's shtick talked up "oppressive freedom," "repressive tolerance," and "defensive violence" as ways of saying that American liberty was really tyranny and Marxist oppression was really liberating. It was all verbal alchemy, transmogrifying bulls*** into eggheady gold. The problem, alas, is that it worked.
I wonder if the same sort of thing might account for "zero tolerance" rules that wind up with kids being suspended from school for pointing a finger and saying "pow".

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