Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Was the Women's March Mass Therapy?

As the armies of the American left, in particular the media, rise up to declare war on Donald Trump—in  a way they never imagined declaring war against Islamic terrorism—David Brooks recommends sobriety.

By his lights the Women’s March last Saturday was an important cultural event, but it is still not a movement.  As currently constituted, he says, it cannot be “an effective opposition” to the Trump administration.

Of course, millions of women marched against Trump. Yet, the issues they were defending had been repudiated by American voters. Not so much in the presidential election, but in every other election during the Age of Obama. As Nate Silver noted, with Barack Obama Democrats won the presidency but lost the country.

What were the issues that could ground an opposition movement? Better yet, did the March really address the problems that people are concerned about today? Brooks explains:

Of course, many marchers came with broad anti-Trump agendas, but they were marching under the conventional structure in which the central issues were clear. As The Washington Post reported, they were “reproductive rights, equal pay, affordable health care, action on climate change.”

These are all important matters, and they tend to be voting issues for many upper-middle-class voters in university towns and coastal cities. But this is 2017. Ethnic populism is rising around the world. The crucial problems today concern the way technology and globalization are decimating jobs and tearing the social fabric; the way migration is redefining nation-states; the way the post-World War II order is increasingly being rejected as a means to keep the peace.

So, the marchers were claiming action on climate change and Donald Trump was assembling a group of labor union leaders—Hillary Clinton supporters all—and promising to take executive actions that will offer their workers new construction jobs?

Who will win that round?

Social movements, Brooks continues, require organization. They require political parties to turn their raw energy into policy. Such is not the case with the Women’s March. For Brooks it was a cri de coeur, a protest against the new political order, but, lacking a political basis, it was mostly therapy.

He writes:

Without the discipline of party politics, social movements devolve into mere feeling, especially in our age of expressive individualism. People march and feel good and think they have accomplished something. They have a social experience with a lot of people and fool themselves into thinking they are members of a coherent and demanding community. Such movements descend to the language of mass therapy.

Yes, indeed, mass group therapy. I believe that Brooks was too polite to say it, but when therapy is merely about feeling and when it fails to direct people toward consequential action it is not just therapy, it is bad therapy.

Like Prof. Mark Lilla, Brooks declares that the Democratic Party should abandon identity politics. It has failed for years now. In the person of Hillary Clinton it failed again. It is not likely to come back. It is certainly not going to return in the guise of a woman from Idaho, by name of Sarah Boynton Brown,  who wants the Democratic National Committee to shut down white people.

In Brooks’s words:

Finally, identity politics is too small for this moment. On Friday, Trump offered a version of unabashed populist nationalism. On Saturday, the anti-Trump forces could have offered a red, white and blue alternative patriotism, a modern, forward-looking patriotism based on pluralism, dynamism, growth, racial and gender equality and global engagement.

Instead, the marches offered the pink hats, an anti-Trump movement built, oddly, around Planned Parenthood, and lots of signs with the word “pussy” in them. The definition of America is up for grabs. Our fundamental institutions have been exposed as shockingly hollow. But the marches couldn’t escape the language and tropes of identity politics.

He continues, remarking the incoherence of a movement that is trying to agglomerate a mass of incoherent and conflicting messages:

Identity-based political movements always seem to descend into internal rivalries about who is most oppressed and who should get pride of place. Sure enough, the controversy before and after the march was over the various roles of white feminists, women of color, anti-abortion feminists and various other out-groups.

The biggest problem with identity politics is that its categories don’t explain what is going on now. Trump carried a majority of white women. He won the votes of a shocking number of Hispanics.

The central challenge today is not how to celebrate difference. The central threat is not the patriarchy. The central challenge is to rebind a functioning polity and to modernize a binding American idea.

As if to prove Brooks’s point, the March organizers banned a pro-life feminist group from Texas, while embracing anti-Semites like Linda Sarsour… a March organizer.

Bethany Mandel has researched Sarsour for The Forward. Her conclusions are not encouraging:

One of the key organizers of the event and a featured speaker, Linda Sarsour, director of the Arab American Association of New York, bills herself as “an award-winning, Brooklyn-born Palestinian-American-Muslim racial justice and civil rights activist, community organizer, social media maverick, and mother of three. Sarsour has been at the forefront of major social justice campaigns both locally in New York City and nationally.”

It sounds good… until you remove the veils of propaganda. Mendel discovered that the truth—you know, the facts—disprove the assertion.

She quoted Andrea Peyser’s article from the New York Post:

Sarsour contends that Israel and American supporters of the Jewish state are responsible for slaughter in the Mideast….Her outrageous online assaults sank to a depressing level this month, when [she] tweeted a picture of a small Palestinian boy standing before Israeli soldiers clutching rocks in both hands. She added the words, “The definition of courage.”

Of course, Sarsour wants everyone to be living under Sharia Law… because it treats women so well.

The Forward explains:

When a Jewish Queens City Councilman, Rory Lancman, pushed back against Sarsour’s statements on Twitter, Sarsour deemed him a “Zionist troll.”

After the March, one of Sarsour’s first impulses was to champion the paid maternity leave policy in, of all places, Saudi Arabia, while downplaying that little issue of women not being allowed to drive.

The Jerusalem Post’s Lahav Harkov, herself on maternity leave, asked Sarsour why, if this the only metric by which to judge a country, why Sarsour doesn’t give Israel, which offers 14 weeks of leave, more praise. A tweet from last year from Sarsour surfaced after the March as well, championing the benefits of Sharia law.

“You’ll know when you’re living under Sharia Law,” she wrote, “if suddenly all your loans & credit cards become interest free. Sound nice, doesn’t it?”

Obviously, there is more. Notoriously anti-Semitic groups like the Council for American Islamic Relations sponsored the March. For the record, CAIR has consistently opposed late-term abortion. The United Arab Emirates has declared it to be a terror group. Noted Communist Angela Davis was there to defend the Palestinian Cause.

And yet, a pro-life feminist group from Texas was considered beyond the pale.


Dennis said... Taken from
A strong woman to put fear in the hearts of feminists and why the women who marched will ultimately fail. In one we have a strong woman creating the future and in the other group we have the failures of the past destroying the future. An interesting juxtaposition between life and death as a philosophy. One leads to a growing prosperous culture whereas the other ultimately leads to the death of the culture.
In one one sees an inner and outer beauty of the soul and in the other one see an inner and outer ugliness of the soul. We are at a crossroad where we can live in the quest for beauty and a respect for others and in the other we choose the quest for the ugliness of contempt for others. A truly for choice moment. Life or death? Being an America or a fraying coat of many colors.

sestamibi said...

Current composition of the Idaho legislature:

Senate: 29 R, 6 D
House: 59 R, 11 D

Current Idaho congressional delegation:

US Senator: 2 R, 0 D
US House: 2 R, 0 D

I look forward to Sarah Boynton Brown bringing the same kind of success she's had in Idaho to Democratic campaigns for Congress in 2018 and to reclaim the White House in 2020.

Trigger Warning said...

"Was the Women's March Mass Therapy?"

No. It was performance art.

Dennis said...



It was not even good performance art if one considers that good performance art is meant to please the audience and not the performers as this was predicated on.

Sam L. said...

Part of the "art" was leaving all the posters behind for others to pick up and put in the trash bins.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

"Was the Women's March Mass Therapy?"

Yes, it was a ginormous group catharsis. Gestalt. Primal scream. Whatever you want to call it.

But it really was a Leftist rally, which means it was a parade of malcontents. A confederacy of micro-complaints.

And it will have no impact on anything Trump does in any way whatsoever.

Performance art, indeed. And David Brooks... so sober.

Ares Olympus said...

Trigger Warning said... "Was the Women's March Mass Therapy?" No. It was performance art.

I'm not sure why you're denigrating performance art, although maybe you're not. Certainly Donald Trump's entire candidacy has been nothing but performance art.

Myself, I find no home in a mass-protest, preferring understanding than public emoting with like-minded people. I don't even usually know if I do agree, as much as feel concern any deep emotions that make other people wrong are likely leaving something important out.

Anyway, your comment reminded me of a book I read a couple years ago, "The magic of ritual: Our need for Liberating Rites that Transform Our Lives & Our Communities" By Tom F. Driver, 1991

He made a list at the end, and I had to copy it, in case I can understand it someday. The book is a worthy read. It's primarily for Christian, but it does give a certain perspective often missing from the secular world. So Driver says the purpose of ritual is to affect the participants more than the observers.

15 Maxims for the planning of Christian Rituals:
1. To do something while displaying the doing equals performance.
2. In theater, the display is paramount; In ritual, the doing.
3. A ritual is a "transformance" - a performance designed to change a situation.
4. Church ritual often becomes mere display, either just flashy or merely symbolic, with no hint of transforming power.
5. In ritual active participants should outnumber the passive ones.
6. Art is play done workfully, but ritual is work done playfully.
7. All ritual invokes power. A ritual is religious when those powers receive adoration. It is Christian when the powers are God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit.
8. A Christian ritual "works" only when its participants are willing to make demands upon God. ("Ask and you shall receive.")
9. To be boring is to bear false witness.
10. To be sensational is to bear no witness at all.
11. Ritual loves not paper.
12. The form of a Christian ritual may be very traditional or very innovative or both at once, since form in ritual is nothing but technique, and substance is spirit.
13. Christian ritual is liminal and authentic when the people of God receive the spirit of God in the midst. ("The kingdom of God is among you.... Where two or three are gathered together, there am I....")
14. The liminality of ritual can be used by God to weaken the grip of oppressive powers. In fact, God has no other use for it.
15. Christian ritual is the opposite of servitude: It is the performance of freedom.

Reading this list, it actually brings me new admiration for Donald Trump, at least to the degree he inspired people to participate. I really start to imagine after his first 100 days of glory, surely he's going to spend the rest of the year in new rallies to learn what the people want next.

Just like Gandhi said "There goes my people. I must follow them, for I am their leader" Trump didn't choose his people - they chose him, for good or ill.

Anonymous said...

Can we have sharia law at least for the feminists?

I don't see any harm in that.

Katielee4211 said...

There's no way to abandon identity politics among people whose very identity is wrapped and defined by the ideology defining those politics. What would they have?

Jenis-jenis Herpes Dan Gejalanya said...

Success begins with our thoughts. Success is the condition of our minds. If you want success, then you should start thinking that you are successful and fill your mind with success.