Should Random Non-political Thing be Politicized?

Bethany Mandel is fed up with politics being in everything when all she wants to do is hawk an extra baby carrier:

I attempted to find several of the “BST” [Vik: babycarrying?] groups—buy, sell, or trade—over the weekend and discovered they had almost all been archived for the day. Why? To protest racism. What mothers selling their baby carriers to other mothers has to do with racism and what good it does the cause to inconvenience folks like me I’ll never understand.

I empathize with the feeling behind this.((though it saddens me that being against racism is considered political now.)) More than that, I think shared activities and interests are necessary for politics to not tear us completely apart. It should absolutely be possible to buy and sell a baby carrier without needing to audit another person’s politics or be interrogated yourself. No one should be micro-aggressed into not being able to sell their baby carrier on their preferred schedule.

Thai baby carry photo

Image by manhhai

That said, not everyone owes you that. If someone wants to make a commie-only baby carrying group, I will laugh at them, but if it bothers you, go form your own group or post to Craigslist or any number of other options.

As much as I share the preference to de-politicize things that are on their face neutral, it’s the prerogative of hosts to set the house rules.


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Vikram Bath is the pseudonym of a former business school professor living in the United States with his wife, daughter, and dog. (Dog pictured.) His current interests include amateur philosophy of science, business, and economics. Tweet at him at @vikrambath1. ...more →

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46 thoughts on “Should Random Non-political Thing be Politicized?

  1. Whoa, whoa. That “baby carrier” is a person. You can’t just sell her. I mean, not since Craigslist cracked down on that sort of thing last year.

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  2. I will take a different angle on this: Because it’s 2017 and social interactions are changing so much, I think this is the kind of thing we can expect to happen more often. For example, my wife belongs to a very benign chatboard for women that is not based around politics, however the women are smart and opinionated and they often drift into politics. The internet is often the only place where people feel they can really express their political views and so it bleeds into inappropriate places. While I am not aware of her group doing anything like this, I also wouldn’t be surprised. I recently heard an awesome quote that, “None of us are as dumb as all of us.” That can be taken a bunch of different ways, but they way i view it is that groups can also make silly decisions that none of them would make as individuals. It’s the whole emperor-wears-no-clothes thing.

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      • The problem I see is that because many adults don’t know how to have debates and still remain friends, they simply don’t discuss tough issues with their closest friends. I’ve been on camping trips with buddies near election time and rather than sitting around the fire discussing the issues of the day, one of them will say ‘no politics’ and instead talk about cars or something else trivial.

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        • “The problem I see is that because many adults don’t know how to have debates and still remain friends”

          Welp

          How often have we heard people exhorting us to cut our families out of our lives because they didn’t vote for Clinton?

          How often have we heard “I don’t care what problems the White Working Class has, they voted for Trump and that proves they’re a bunch of racist homophobes”?

          If expressing the wrong opinion might cause all my friends to reject me with neither warning nor discussion then fuck it, I’ll just talk about cars.

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          • When I was a little kid, my parents switched from the Northern Baptist Church to the Presbyterian Church and it caused a scandal among their family and friends to the point where some of their old friends couldn’t hang with my parents anymore since they “lost their way” or some similar phrasing.

            How silly of them!

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          • I think this is a corollary to the “why is it so hard to make and keep friends as an adult” problem.

            When I was a kid, a shared fondness for (for example) Lego or Hello Kitty was enough. Now, as an adult, there are whole three-page checklists some people have.

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            • We regret to inform you that Lego uses precious fossil-fuel resources to manufacture and transport, that Hello Kitty encourages brand-identity consumerism, that both reinforce binary-gender normativity, and that both are probably racist because they’re primarily consumed by non-PoC.

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    • “None of us is as dumb as all of us” I think is derived from the Murphy’s law that states “The intelligence of a group is equal to the intelligence of its dumbest member divided by the number of people in the group.”

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  3. I guess I’m just baffled that you’re trying to silence more than half the population by just taking as given that any given Random Thing is Non-political.

    Given that Random Thing is Very Political, arguing that it’s Non-political is Violence.

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  4. Some people are inherently ideological and will see everything through the lens of their cosmology. This cosmology can be political, religious, or economic but it will always be present. The baby carrier becomes political, entertainment must conform to religious values if is to exist at all, and dating about markets. These filters make so much inherent sense to some people that they simply can’t conceive of a world where a baby carrier is a baby carrier or a date is about romance. Like many believers, they also assume that everybody deep down sees the world like they do or is a heretic in need of eradication.

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  5. “((though it saddens me that being against racism is considered political now.))”

    It should sadden everyone, but the simple matter is that so many things have been racialized in the US today and that leads to burn out on the topic and sometimes a backlash. What was once a taboo is now “freaking the squares” for many, so to speak. Now, this doesn’t diminish real racism but it does make it harder for some to determine what is racism and yet easier for other to call anything they don’t like racism.

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    • Racism is particularly hard that way because much of it actually is subconscious.

      We’ve done a pretty good job of removing explicit racism from society (though not a complete one). That makes much of the remaining problem as subtle as it is serious.

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        • Dark,
          Subtle doesn’t mean subconscious.
          Subtle is We Only Want White People, so we Pay You to come up with “tests” that don’t actually ask that.

          … great way to make a quick buck, if you can do statistics and haven’t many scruples.

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          • Example(s)?

            Are you thinking of places like Silicon Valley and how their racial distribution of workers doesn’t match the general population (but is very close to the racial distribution of software engineers)?

            Because most of these sorts of examples are indeed abusing statistics.

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  6. I don’t know that it’s so much “against racism” is now political, as it is “If you agree with me that racism is bad, then by extension you must agree with these other, 20, points, some of which are far more controversial than the fact that racism is bad, and if you don’t accept every single one of the 20 points, I don’t want to know you.”

    I dunno. There are a couple groups I belong to where I’ve done the internet equivalent of biting my tongue hard because I know if I expressed my actual opinion (or even corrected someone on something) it would bring down anything from huffy correction to a full-fledged flamewar on my head. (I once made the mistake of admitting I liked the original, BBC, Top Gear on one of these places and was told what a Wrongthinker I was. I think it had something to do with sexism, I don’t know, but it was kind of enlightening but not in a pleasant way. And yeah, maybe the old “Top Gear” was kinda sexist but I was able to overlook that).

    I dunno. I kinda look at it like the “mean girls” I went to school with: if you want to run with that clique, you have to decide “are its Byzantine rules worth it?” If yes, then you do like I do and kind of quietly roll your eyes to yourself when something you think shouldn’t be politicized is. If no, then you either go off and try to find (or found) a more-congenial group, or you gird yourself up for flame war.

    (I also realized this weekend: people hardly talk about flaming or flame-wars on the internet any more; is that because it’s become such the normal mode of communication that it’s not seen as unusual any more?)

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    • (I also realized this weekend: people hardly talk about flaming or flame-wars on the internet any more; is that because it’s become such the normal mode of communication that it’s not seen as unusual any more?)

      Interesting observation and yes, I think you are correct. People just default to ripping one another.

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    • Broke: “Please keep flamewars off the group, if you have personal disagreements use private messages to settle them”
      Woke: “Saying we should keep flamewars off the group is SILENCING and ERASING, sending private messages is THREATENING and HARASSMENT”

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    • That is a fantastic comment. I agree with it throughout. In particular, this part is right on:

      I don’t know that it’s so much “against racism” is now political, as it is “If you agree with me that racism is bad, then by extension you must agree with these other, 20, points, some of which are far more controversial than the fact that racism is bad, and if you don’t accept every single one of the 20 points, I don’t want to know you.”

      One of the problems with our present political discourse is that both sides of the spectrum have become more like each other in the worst possible ways. For instance, reactionaries have always had a very narrow conception of certain virtues. Take patriotism. The left has generally understood that there is more than one way to love your country (i.e. you can love your country by objecting to its immoral actions). Parts of the left have now adopted the same sort of very narrow conception of virtue when it comes to a variety of social justice issues. It’s not enough to just be not racist/sexist/homophobic/etc. You have to be explicitly anti-racist/… And it’s not enough to be explicitly anti all of those things. You have to be woke in a very specific way.

      I also agree with this:

      I dunno. I kinda look at it like the “mean girls” I went to school with: if you want to run with that clique, you have to decide “are its Byzantine rules worth it?” If yes, then you do like I do and kind of quietly roll your eyes to yourself when something you think shouldn’t be politicized is. If no, then you either go off and try to find (or found) a more-congenial group, or you gird yourself up for flame war.

      By any objective measure, I am a pretty liberal guy. I also have some fairly right-of-center economic and political ideas, so for some folks, I am insignificantly progressive and my economic beliefs may even mark me as being on the wrong team. And that is fine by me. I’ve never claimed to be a progressive. The easiest way to avoid the left’s circular firing squads is to simply not caucus on the left.

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      • I’ve been insulted in the Dreher comments board (under a different name – I was banned by RD under this one) as a mindless liberal troll.

        A girl I was head over toes in college called me fascist to my face

        And me, I think I’m a (slightly pedantic) average Joe.

        Circular firing squads to my left, circular firing squads to my right….

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    • Seconding Jr. This is a great comment. The idea that reasonable people can disagree on at least some issues seem rapidly disappearing. You are either with us or against us and if you are against us than the Inquisition will be called on you.

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      • thanks, guys! This is something I think about a lot because I am, as my mother once said “I raised you guys to be too polite.” And I often wonder: am I too polite, or are those other people not polite enough? Honestly, some days it’s hard to tell.

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        • I can’t tell either. I never encountered the Intersectional Left in real life. There presence seems to be mainly on the Internet, which seems a near perfect platform for them. It allows them to broadcast to the entire the world rather than pass around pamphlets on the street or speak to themselves.

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          • I attended one of the Public Ivys for my undergrad and I saw some of the ground-floor of the stuff in person in the early 90s.

            It was….educational….to walk into the local grocery past a crowd of people who were asking each customer if they planned to buy animal products (PETA group, I assume).

            I just kinda looked at the ground and brushed past them; some people engaged them, some people just said “no” and left it at that but it was uncomfortable.

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            • I just kinda looked at the ground and brushed past them; some people engaged them, some people just said “no” and left it at that but it was uncomfortable.

              What I find helps is to pretend to be talking on your cell phone as you walk past them. For some reason, someone else’s telephone conversation is treated with a lot more respect than you might think.

              Another anecdote. On one campus where I studied, there was a PETA-ish guy who passed out pamphlets on “non-violent eating.” However, he was the opposite of pushy. He would just stand in a place on a campus sidewalk that was prominent, but didn’t block anybody’s path, and he’d announce in a calm voice that he was offering pamphlets. But otherwise, he wasn’t pushy at all. I’ll probably never agree with his philosophy, but god bless him.

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      • On my pessimistic days it seems more like it’s the reasonable people that are disappearing. On a number of pessimistic days, I’m becoming one of them when I give in to the despair…

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  7. “As much as I share the preference to de-politicize things that are on their face neutral, it’s the prerogative of hosts to set the house rules.”

    “your house your rules”, sure, but isn’t it at least understandable for people to get a bit tetchy when the host suddenly changes the rules–and very definitely Picks A Side, in a way that strongly suggests the guests should pick the same side?

    Like, Mandel is complaining about the sudden politicization…or is she really? Is she really all that upset about Being Aware Of Racism? Or maybe she’s got some…unpleasant feelings about the word, like, maybe she’s so upset about this because she’s racist and doesn’t want to be challenged? Good thing we did this aggressive performance–it helped us uncover the racist homophobic misogynists that had been lurking in our midst all along!

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  8. I don’t think it’s so much babycarrying craigslisters that are protesting racism as much as whomever is running that swap board is using the logic of a general strike.

    The swap board itself, if it’s like most, is more region aligned than item aligned. So the dynamic is ‘people in an area “taking a stand”‘ vice people in an hypernarrow commercial interest group taking that stand.

    General strikes themselves are normally only objected to (on the left) on pragmatic grounds;at least that’s what I saw 5-6 months ago.

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  9. “My kingdom. I would give my kingdom for a mommy safe zone. Now, I’m not a triggered social justice warrior looking for a safe space. But I would like a break from the politicization of everyday life for just a few moments…”

    That is… curious.

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  10. Time to create your own site or use craigslist.

    Screw them. Is there any more reason why not to use FB? Thank god my jujitsu instructor just posts promotional and informational news in his group, plus the occasional strike promotion. Otherwise, I ignore FB.

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