Here’s a list of seven things that happened last week that deserved Facebook statuses longer and more emotional than those about a beaten horse cartoon:
1. The potential shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security at the hands of the party that claims to value security the most.
2. The probable assassination of a major member of the Russian opposition party in the streets of Moscow.
3. The third season of “House of Cards,” which is just OK.
4. The implementation of net neutrality rules, which, among other things, means that I can continue to enjoy complaining about “House of Cards” without paying astronomical fees for streaming Netflix.
5. The dress (“It’s blue, goshdarnit.” –Tom. “Who cares? Also, who says goshdarnit?” –Tucker).
6. Kanye West apologizing to Beck, which is outraging mostly because Kanye was right for once (“Long live the Queen!” –Tom. “Who cares about the Grammys?” –Tucker).
7. The end of unions as we know them in Wisconsin, and the frustration of Scott Walker getting his way with anything.
8. Bonus: the series finale for “Parks and Recreation.”
The list could go on — in fact, just Google “this week’s news” and almost every return will be more deserving of sustained discussion than the horse cartoon published by the Georgetown Voice.
Now we are not saying this to suggest that the cartoon was not offensive, nor are we saying that hundreds of years of racially motivated violence should be ignored or forgotten. The consequences of those historic injustices are still much too real — think Ferguson, New York, or actually any municipality in the United States — and still much too deserving of our attention.
Likewise, violence against women is not a laughing matter, and Georgetown’s own history (so recent it could just be called “current events”) of sexual and other violence against women deserves real administrative action as well as dramatic changes in student, especially male student, attitudes.
The cartoon was in poor taste and merited an apology. The dialogue that led to the apology, as well as the apology itself, should have looked something like this:
Georgetown: “Hey, I see what you were trying to do with your editorial cartoon, but you probably shouldn’t depict images of violence against black people or women, especially if they are being perpetrated by white males who are now our GUSA executives.”
The Voice: “Oh my gosh. We are so sorry. I can’t believe we didn’t catch that.”
End of dialogue. Everyone moves on to more important things, like videos of Youtube celebrity Alex Boye’s senior citizen remix of “Uptown Funk.” (Note: Alex Boye is a Mormon. Super exciting.)
Instead, unfortunately, the dialogue looked something like this:
Georgetown: “By publishing this you actively uphold a white supremacist order and the fact that you don’t understand this and did it either shows you don’t care or that you don’t understand — meaning that it passed through multiple editorial chains of command and all of them thought it was OK to publish.
“Have you no conception of the deep historical roots of white oppression via beating, lynching and killing, among other forms of brutal violence, of black people in our nation? And on our campus?”
The Voice: “I don’t want to contribute to racism, and I don’t want to make anyone feel afraid. It is not my intention to spread a message of hate. I want to help silence the message of hate, and it is apparent that I still have a lot to learn in order to do so. So I invite you, please come up, introduce yourself to me and teach me.”
This entire episode is reflective of a much broader, more malignant trend toward a “millennial liberalism” that emphasizes tweet-length logic over nuanced thinking, is wildly reflexive (and reactionary), and is — above all else — self-indulgent.
Most worrying, this form of group-think shuts down dialogue without even contributing much in the way of new ideas. As a consequence, we espouse beliefs because we think them politically correct, not because of the robustness of their underlying logic.
This new strand of Twitter-driven progressivism manifests itself in many things, but particularly alarming is whitesplaining, where wealthy white people take upon themselves the cross of pointing out instances of oppression on behalf of the actually oppressed.
Now there’s an image worthy of a cartoon.
But, most dangerously, this new idea of millennial liberalism actually blinds us to the real issues at stake — instead of focusing on actual bigotry deserving actual condemnation, we instead pounce on proximate trivialities. Real bigotry — against ethnic minorities, women, the LGBTQ community or minority religious voices — deserves real vitriol. But not this.
The event is now over: apologies have been issued, the marchers have cleared and Forbes has already chimed in. We realize that by writing this we ourselves are probably guilty of, ahem, beating a dead horse.
But, then, maybe all of us are.
Tucker Cholvin and Thomas Christiansen are seniors in the School of Foreign Service. Culture Clash appears every other Tuesday.