Reactionaries, extreme conservatives who yearn for a return to an idealized past, often accuse the left of engaging in a politics of victimization. In their telling, progressives are ‘snowflakes’ incapable of dealing with their ‘edgy’ rightwing humor, which almost always punches down at the marginalized rather than up at the powerful.
Many of us actually find a great deal of mirth in watching these hypocrites melt down over the slightest criticism or when facing consequences for their words or actions. Among a slew of possible examples, self proclaimed free speech warrior Jordan Peterson offered a classic case of a man unable to cope with the fallout from things he’d said on a public forum.
The author of the self-help book “Twelve Rules for Life” was temporarily suspended from Twitter for voicing his opinions about the actor Eliot Page’s transition and an earlier tweet about a plus sized Sports Illustrated cover model, demanding that everyone accept his definition of ‘beauty’. A professor of psychology celebrated for his deep thinking by many on the right, it’s remarkable how unaware Peterson is about how ideas of beauty change both from place to place in the present and throughout time.
Soon after, Peterson released a mind-numbing almost 30 minute video about the ‘controversy’ addressed to Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal, wherein he unironically plays the victim of the platform’s terms of service, took the time to praise Donald Trump and blamed the ‘woke’ left generally for coarsening the public discourse.
Along with their portrayal of themselves as the real victims of made up or almost entirely online concepts like ‘cancel culture’, many on the right from politicians to pundits also excel at projection. The concept of projection in psychology, first described by Freud, is when a person puts feelings or urges that they feel onto others.
This is the reason that a small number of anti-fascists are always seen as at the heart of any political violence that groups like the Proud Boys perpetrate, including the violent riots at the U.S. capitol on January 6th, 2021 that many on the far right claim were some kind of false flag.
Many on the far right without the large platform of someone like Peterson project their own sense of victimhood onto their political enemies, angry that they must treat as equals women and others their grandfathers weren’t required to. In fact, one of the key incubators of the so-called populist right that takes someone like Jordan Peterson as an icon is the online ‘manosphere’. These online communities composed of mostly young men unhappy with their relationship status start with misogyny rather than looking at their own behaviors and sense of self-entitlement and often fall further down fascist rabbit holes, expanding their already hateful beliefs about women to embrace racism and other odious ideologies.
Some smart people in media who clearly lack a conscience, like multi-millionaire frozen food heir and Fox News opinion host Tucker Carlson, stoke these grievances for profit, telling their audiences to blame their failures on those of lower social status like the undocumented while pretending that they are the protectors of the ‘little guy’ (and its almost always a guy).
Others like Peterson’s new boss at the Daily Wire, the fast talking Ben Shapiro, do seem to really believe the things that they say but have a very limited knowledge of the ideas and thinkers that they denounce, often calling them things like ‘neo-Marxists’, a concept almost wholly without any real meaning beyond convenience as a cudgel for attacking their political enemies.
All of these figures would be nothing more than clownish figures of fun if they didn’t drive some troubled people to sending death threats, harassing innocent people and even threatening or engaging in violence as we have seen throughout North America and Europe over the last decade or so with the arrival of the since rebranded ‘alt right’ that quickly hijacked more traditional conservatism, vocalizing in no uncertain terms what used to be dog whistles and giving mainstream life to nonsense like the ‘Great Replacement Theory’.
Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) recently had a man come to her home armed with a semi-automatic handgun to deliver his death threat in person. He reportedly told Jayapal he would kill her and told her to “go back to India”.
Less seriously but also troubling, New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez was verbally sexually harassed by a reporter for the Blaze outside of the U.S. Congress using disgusting, mysoginistic language. Most worrying, a Capitol police officer stood by and did nothing as the man verbally accosted her.
A day after the incident, the New York Representative told a group of reporters, “So I want you all to know that because this is not a place that is designed to protect women. It’s not a place … designed to protect LGBT people.”
This simple statement of fact caused many on the online right to attack AOC for playing the victim.
One of the most disgusting things these reactionaries do is minimize the history of racism, colonialism and especially slavery in the West while claiming they are the true victims of reverse racism and even sexism. The legacy of this history is still with us and it is why the left, which values equality and its twin solidarity, puts these issues to the fore, something that progressives too often failed to do in the past.