Fighting Words

Conservatives are pussies. We know it, they know it, and they use it against us, especially come holiday time when our defenses are down and all we want to do is celebrate Christmas.

There you are, minding your own business, re-reading Hayek or swooning over Milo, thinking about how to explain why it is impossible for top-down centralized systems of social engineering ever to work, no matter how well-intentioned. They, on the other hand, having failed to convince the Electors to repudiate the results of the election, are gearing up to come after you, adamant in their belief that the only reason you could have opposed a lying, crony-capitalist career politician up to her pantsuits in influence peddling is that you are a misogynist, racist, xenophobe, possibly even a Christian.

The attack will come, perhaps over a glass of wine, perhaps during a long walk. It will start with an invitation to talk about what you have been reading, and you will be sucked in. Because you want to explain. After all, you have been reading for years and you think you understand the reasons that every socialist country ever has ended up, sooner or later, like Venezuela. But this isn't a conversation. It is a trap. It doesn't matter that these are people who have known you for years, maybe you grew up together, maybe you have been working together. They are not in it for knowledge, but to score points. And they have powerful weapons on their side.

It starts with a joke. Perhaps a joke Trump made. Perhaps a joke Milo made. You know it's a joke, but they want to read it literally. "Trump hates women, he called a beauty queen 'Miss Piggy.'" It doesn't matter that Trump has hired women to some of the top positions in his businesses or that it was a woman who led his campaign to its successful conclusion. He, a white man, made a joke about a woman, which makes him a misogynist pig.

At which the question comes: "How can you defend such a man?" There is literally no answer you can make at this point that will not dig you in deeper. "He was trying to help her," you say. "It was in her contract that she needed to look a certain way." "How would you like it if a powerful man, your boss, said something like that about you?," they counter. You say: "I would brush it off with a joke." They say: "You could only do that because you have privilege." And you're doomed.

You thought you were going to get to talk about how culture works from the ground up, how the multitude of individual interactions that go on every day are what create a culture, how it is impossible to legislate the way people behave, how it is the very effort to legislate that makes Milo's and Trump's jokes so funny because humor depends on the tension between the sayable and the mischievous. They want none of it. Their voice takes on a querulous tone.

"Jokes hurt," they say. "You are countenancing violence against women." You try again, taking your cue from Milo: "Women are constantly saying they want to be treated like men. Well, this is the way men treat each other. They make jokes about each other. Maybe Trump meant it affectionately." (Which, I have to confess, I think he probably did. Imagining the other side in this conversation is proving harder than I had expected. It takes a special skill to be able to think like a SJW!) They respond: "But she was a woman of color! He was exerting his power over her body, to make her look the way he thought she should look, as if he owned her, like a slave."

"But that was the whole point!," you venture. "She wasn't a slave! It was in her contract, it was a business deal based on her physical appearance to which she agreed." They shoot back: "That's the way the patriarchy works. Women can never be free agents as long as men are in control, and men have always been in control." At which, your mind boggles. You try to think of how to suggest that the only reason there even are such things as beauty queens is because men (and many women) like looking at beautiful women; that it is one of the great privileges of being a woman in the West to be able to show off one's beauty in public. But you know you've lost because you are no longer arguing facts. You are arguing mythologies. And mythologies always win.

We don't need another Hayek. We need a story-teller.

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