America

White Liberals and the Cult of Ethnic Sado-Narcissism


- March 31st, 2019
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When Jussie Smollett’s hate hoax collapsed spectacularly a few weeks back, after being publicized incessantly by Hollywood celebrities and the mainstream media, the most penetrating take came from journalist Andy Ngo. “Jussie Smollett’s hoax is symptomatic of America’s illness,” Ngo wrote—a combination he attributed to the rise of victimhood culture fueled in significant part by increasing group conflict.

Ngo, an outstanding reporter, was on to something. But it’s not an “illness” of America writ large; it’s an affliction particular to white liberals.

Call it ethnic sado-narcissism, a demonstration of self-love that perversely manifests itself as a desire to denigrate and punish the broader ethnic group to which one belongs. We saw it with Smollett, we saw it with the Covington high-school boys in their MAGA hats, and we see it—in black and white—in recent survey data.

Several recent polls by nonpartisan organizations suggest that white liberals have a unique distaste for their own ethnic group. And this matters for all of us because data show that white liberals dominate the institutions—the media, Hollywood and academia—that do the most to shape our public narrative.

In-group bias is a widely recognized phenomenon. In recent survey data, every group measured—from black conservatives to Asian-moderates—shows a significant, and unsurprising, in-group preference. Except for white liberals, who show significant out-group bias—meaning white liberals prefer nonwhites to whites.

This is a dramatic outlier compared to all other groups and it’s not just a product of liberal ideology, an artifact of some universal liberal empathy for “the other” or some equally fanciful observation that would flatter the sensibilities of liberal whites. Out-group bias is not shared by liberal Asians, Latinos or African Americans, all of whom have more typical in-group preferences.

The recent GenForward survey from the University of Chicago, the first nationally representative survey of youth focused on race and ethnicity, suggests that young white liberals harbor a dislike for whites. (I am indebted to Zach Goldberg, a doctoral student at Georgia State University, who graphed all of the survey data presented here.)

When looking at the GenForward data (all surveys were done confidentially online to minimize social desirability bias), whites of all ethnic groups had the lowest in-group bias, with moderates having a slightly higher bias than white conservatives. This would seem to counter the notion pushed by many on the Left that contemporary conservatism is some sort of stalking horse for white nationalism.

Using the even larger American National Election Studies (ANES) dataset that includes voters of all ages, we observe the same phenomenon. African-Americans show the highest in-group bias independent of ideology.

Hispanics and Asians are bunched in the middle, with no obvious ideological relationship between in-group bias and ideology. But apart from liberal whites, every group has a substantial in-group preference. In this respect, white liberals really are exceptional.

There are two plausible explanations for this phenomenon.

First, there is something particularly toxic about white culture—something missed not just by white conservatives but by white moderates, that empirically validates white liberals’ self-loving group loathing. Yet that’s hard to square with the fact that millions of nonwhites have chosen to make their home in countries with predominantly white populations and millions more want to join them—so many, indeed, that a wall along the southern U.S. border has become the central question of contemporary American politics.

It is extremely hard to square the empirical reality of hundreds of millions of nonwhites wanting to move to white-majority countries with a theory that presents white people as uniquely toxic and worthy of opprobrium. Yet it is just this contradiction that white liberals have embraced.

This leaves us with the second possibility: white liberals are suffering from a particularly pernicious form of self-hatred.

If self-hatred is the explanation, it would explain why so many white liberals celebrate the prospect of their ethnic group ceasing to be a majority by the middle of this century.

The same GenForward survey asked young whites how they viewed a future in which the majority of Americans would be racial minorities. Among white conservatives, respondents were almost evenly split about whether such a move would strengthen or weaken the country, but both these groups were in the minority. An overwhelming majority—more than 60 percent of white conservatives—said it made no difference. Results were similar for white moderates.

Among white liberals, by contrast, 57 percent said they thought a nonwhite majority would strengthen the country, while 7 percent thought it would weaken the country and just 34 percent thought it would make no difference. Thus, while white moderates and conservatives had a variety of views about America’s growing diversity, a majority of white liberals thought it would strengthen the country for whites to be a minority. Among all ethnic groups, only white liberals are biased against their own ethnic group.

Unfortunately for our public discourse, these white liberals exercise disproportionate influence within key sectors of our society, including the academy. Just 24 percent of non-Hispanic whites describe themselves as liberal, a number equating to about 15 percent of U.S. adults, but these privileged 15 percent dominate the airwaves, academia, and Hollywood.

A large scientific survey of more than 3,500 social science academics at 40 leading universities found a Democratic to Republican ratio of 11.5-to-1—and approximately 4 in 5 academics are also non-Hispanic whites. Among journalism professors, that ratio was 20-to-1. At elite institutions, donations to Democrats sometimes outnumber donations to Republicans more than 100-to-1. At least 77 percent of journalists (some surveys show numbers closer to 85 percent) are non-Hispanic whites. Just 7 percent of journalists in a recent survey identified as Republicans.

In Hollywood the overwhelming dominance by whites in key decision-making roles ranges from almost 80 percent of show leads to 87 percent of major studio directors. Ninety-three percent of major TV show creators and 92 percent of writers of top films are white. The overwhelming majority of their political donations go to liberals.

In truly Orwellian fashion, these same white liberals do their best to silence anyone who criticizes their hegemony.

According to a 2018 survey by the Voter Study Group, just 43 percent of Democrats vs. 70 perecnet of Republicans believe people should be able to express “offensive opinions.” Yet young white liberals are far less likely than older liberals to approve of such speech. Just 36 percent believe in freedom of speech for those who hold unpopular opinions, while 51 percent are opposed. The problem is getting worse.

We should not apologize for or normalize the self-hatred of liberal whites. They should apologize to the rest of us. Their narcissistic projection of their ethnic self-hatred is disturbing and profoundly damaging to American society.

While none of the foregoing facts excuses any racial misbehavior or animus by minorities or moderate or conservative whites, it is not these groups but liberal whites who have cultural hegemony. They run the major newspapers and Hollywood studios and dominate academic discourse. In an environment in which moderates and conservatives, and in particular moderate and conservative whites, played a more balancing role in determining the content of our movies, our universities and our mainstream media, the narcissistic cult of white liberalism would not be able to cause nearly so much damage to our already-tattered social fabric.

Photo Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

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