Good Friday Morning! I hope you’re enjoying the two months left until the 2020 election. 60 days to go! Donald Trump and Joe Biden both spent the week trading statements in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and elsewhere this week. Protests and riots continue to embroil cities across the United States, and Democrats continue to freak out about the impacts on the election. Swing-state polls remain close-ish, while Biden maintains a strong national lead. There’s still a long way to go.
Late Thursday night, the New York Times reported that Michael Forest Reinoehl, an antifa supporter, and the lead suspect in the investigation into who shot a Trump supporter in Portland, Oregon was killed. From the NYT report:
The officials said the suspect, Michael Forest Reinoehl, 48, was killed during the encounter in Lacey, Wash., southwest of Seattle, when a federal fugitive task force moved to apprehend him.
An arrest warrant had been issued by the Portland police earlier Thursday, on the same day that Vice News published an interview with Mr. Reinoehl in which he appeared to admit to the shooting, saying, “I had no choice.”
With the confession this guy gave, apparently freely to Vice News, this will likely end up closing the investigation. As I keep writing and saying on the podcast: we’re in a dangerous position. I expect people to continue comparing that people like Reinoehl die in these encounters, while Rittenhouse’s come out alive. I see this as overly simplistic, but the comparisons exist and will likely continue enflaming rhetoric and beliefs across the country. We need this fever to break, and soon.
This week, I’m writing about a new term I learned this week: toxic positivity. It made me think about concepts like scientism and how this interplays with progressivism and other concepts in our culture. I also include a story that’s about Rachel Dolezal 2.0. Links to follow.
Where you can find me this week
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America is descending into chaos and it’s time for action – The Conservative Institute.
The unseen hypocrisy of American culture – The Conservative Institute.
Toxic progressivism and the scientism backing it
I learned a new term this week: toxic positivity. It came up while some people were grumbling about parents who were keeping a positive outlook while navigating new COVID-19 back-to-school regulations. A process that sounds like it got designed by Vogon bureaucrats from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Showing positivity or a hopeful outlook was deemed toxic by these parents, or, worst of all, “problematic.”
Before you think I’m just going to mock this term, it’s worth noting a grain of truth here. Toxic positivity has a definition:
“Toxic positivity is the assumption, either by one’s self or others, that despite a person’s emotional pain or difficult situation, they should only have a positive mindset or — my pet peeve term — ‘positive vibes,'” explains Dr. Jaime Zuckerman, a clinical psychologist in Pennsylvania who specializes in, among other things, anxiety disorders and self-esteem.
Toxic positivity can take many forms: It can be a family member who chastises you for expressing frustration instead of listening to why you’re upset. It can be a comment to “look on the bright side” or “be grateful for what you have.” It can be a meme that tells you to “just change your outlook to be happy.” It can be a friend who repeatedly posts how productive they’re being during lockdown. It can be your own feelings that you shouldn’t dwell on your feelings of sadness, anxiety, loneliness, or fear.
With toxic positivity, negative emotions are seen as inherently bad. Instead, positivity and happiness are compulsively pushed, and authentic human emotional experiences are denied, minimized, or invalidated.
My problem with this isn’t the concept. I can fully see, understand, and acknowledge this as a thing in society. My issue isn’t the idea — it’s the people most attracted to it. Those most attracted to this notion push it as a pervasive problem in society. In my view, the people who most commonly use terms like toxic positivity are the issues themselves. Toxic negativity is a thing too. People who have that are far more likely to label everything around them as toxically positive because they want to wallow in their negative mindsets. To an Eeyore, everything and everyone is toxically positive. On the flip side, people who are too optimistic can get stuck in the clouds and be useless when analyzing a situation.
The toxification of everything.
But outside that narrow notion, I have a broader issue here: it’s the toxification of everything. Take a word and slap the word “toxic” before it. You get some new psychological-sounding term you can use to combat anyone you deem as having that toxicity. It’s a way to end interactions with other humans. By nature, we are social creatures. Using the word “toxic” to describe other people is a way to end socialization while making it sound scientific.
In reality, this is psychological or emotional pseudo-science. It’s not real science; it’s political scientism. We claim “science” validates us or our individual worldviews. This process, making the non-science into a science, has long historical roots. No one wants to have “unscientific” beliefs. When you watch a typical sci-fi show from the last 30-40 years, the smartest are always those who base everything they do in science. Everyone is Sherlock Holmes.
Of course, it’s all patently untrue. No one bases everything they do in science. Some of those most “offended” by toxic positivity are typically the most cynical people you’ll ever meet. These are the kinds of people you get warned about in business books (like Culture Code, which studies the secrets of high-performing groups). Because if you don’t stop their toxic negativity, they’ll sink entire organizations. They want to claim science to endorse their personalities.
Marx and scientism.
You can go back to Plato and Aristotle and find a discussion about bringing “science” into politics to make it better. But Karl Marx is where you start for a person who tries to make things that aren’t scientific into science. Marx built his communist theories on the belief that there are scientific laws that govern history itself. From these laws, you could project or predict the future. This concept is why he expects the communist revolution will ultimately come because his “scientific laws” demands it will.
Marx’s problem is this: if you’re going to line yourself up as a scientist, people have to test those theories. We have. All of Marx’s predictions have failed. Socialism is different. It predates Marx and seeks a centralization of government authority to answer the issues of its time. However, it can also cloak itself in scientific jargon. But when you peel apart socialism, it’s often nothing more than a cover to establish a new technocratic aristocracy—people who want power and never want to give it up.
Once people got a taste of Marx, they wanted to do the same thing. They tried to make their fields or beliefs more sciency to establish more substantial claims of validity. Marx did it with history, what other areas awaited? As time has moved on, we’ve dropped the pretext of science and rely on jargon to accomplish the same task. We’ll claim we’re listening to the experts on a topic and “following the science.” The problem with that, as any trial lawyer will tell you, is that you can get an expert who will tell you anything. You have to shop around. It happens all the time in personal injury lawsuits, and it happens all the time in our political discourse. Journalists and pundits shop for the “right” expert.
We hunt for experts who will confirm our priors. Once we get that, we’ll slap the word “toxic” on something we don’t like to end the conversation. What I’m writing here likely makes me a toxic conservative. It’s interesting how the word toxic only cuts one way in the discourse. If extremes of either side can become toxic, and we are a scientific people, we’d note things like toxic masculinity and toxic feminism. Or toxic scientism. Or toxic anything-left-wing.
But as I said, the word toxic is about ending relationships and socialization and rationalizing that decision with “science.”
More college professors lying about their race.
Keep that thought in mind. We’re going to switch to a story that caught my eye. We have another Rachel Dolezal, or Elizabeth Warren on our hands: A George Washington University professor of African-American history professor admitted in a Medium post that she’s a white woman from Kansas. From the story:
A professor of African American history at George Washington University, who publicly identified as black, has now admitted she is a white woman from Kansas City and has been lying about her race for years.
Jessica Krug, 38, revealed on Thursday in a bombshell Medium post that she has lied about being black her entire career and admitted to deceiving her friends and colleagues.
In a video posted online in June of this year under her activist pseudonym, Jessica La Bombalera, Krug denounces ‘all these white New Yorkers who waited four hours with us to be able to speak and then did not yield their time for Black and Brown indigenous New Yorkers.’
She adds: ‘Much power to all my siblings who were standing up, my black and brown siblings who were standing.’
In an online bio Krug describes herself as an ‘unrepentant and unreformed child of the hood.’ Her book Fugitive Modernities includes the acknowledgment: ‘My ancestors, unknown, unnamed, who bled life into a future they had no reason to believe could or should exist…Those whose names I cannot say for their own safety, whether in my barrio, in Angola, or in Brazil.’
Krug’s online confession is reminiscent of the scandal involving Rachel Dolezal – a former NAACP leader in Washington state. She got exposed in 2015 as a white woman pretending to be black.
Between Rachel Dolezal, Elizabeth Warren, and now Jessica Krug, how many college professors are there lying about their race? This seems less like a novelty and more like a growing problem. If you can take the profanity, there’s a clip of her using some wholly made-up “NYC” accent that she believes is “black.” It’s so fake, even my ears from the American South knew it. According to a viral thread by a black professor from MSU on Twitter, Krug wrote the Medium post to get ahead of reports coming out soon that would level these accusations at her. Her essay is an attempt at damage control.
Can we pause for a moment and acknowledge that “a white woman from Kansas” is the most stereotypical depiction of a white-bread white person ever? Do Americans even have a classification for a more white person that can exist? A white woman from Kansas isn’t even Saltine Cracker white; she’s an *unsalted* Saltine Cracker. We joke about the basic white girl in Ugg boots holding a Starbucks cup or the “Karen” meme. But really. A white woman from Kansas. That must be the top of the list.
Race and toxic progressivism.
But I do think we can connect these people who identify as a whole other race with these people who push “toxic” things. You see, the push to create pseudo-scientific terms like “toxic positivity,” “toxic masculinity,” and more, is a way to end conversation and relationships. But it’s also an attempt to assert one’s own personal truth above objective truth. If you can say something objectively truthful is toxic, you can replace it with whatever you want. It’s an outgrowth of moral relativity.
That’s part of the lies these people are telling themselves. They claim nothing is objectively true; ergo, they can redefine themselves to become whatever they want. The only reason Jessica Krug is writing an article and admitting fault is that actual black people are pointing out that she’s a fraud. If these were white conservative journalists, Krug would more likely double-down on it. But the group she wants to be in has rejected her truth, and so now she can’t continue.
It’s what happened with Rachel Dolezal and Elizabeth Warren too. Warren started by fighting Donald Trump and “proving” her lineage through a DNA test. It wasn’t until that blew up in her face and the Cherokee Nation stepped in that she very quietly started scrubbing her website of that idiotic political blunder.
These fraudulent minorities aren’t happening in a vacuum. The far-left has worked for decades to claim anything “white” was toxic. The definitions given for this are always vague. But the result is that these self-hating whites create a whole new reality for themselves, so they don’t have to partake in that toxicity. They want to be “good,” so they self-baptize themselves into another race.
Scientism and religion.
The ultimate goal of all scientism is not to follow “science,” but to remake the world into whatever you fancy under the guise of scientific authority. It’s a religion. These people might as well be cultish prophets declaring truth from on high — their worldview — and everyone must acknowledge their god’s wishes. Toxicity is just another name for something immoral and sinful.
That’s the other thing about Karl Marx. He declared religion an opiate of the masses, but he ended up creating his own faith. There’s not a shred of evidence saying Marx is right. If you’re a true believer in Marxist communism, you’re nothing more than a religious adherent, waiting for that blessed day of the communist revolution. Your belief in that day is no different than a Christian’s faith in the return of Jesus Christ.
So when I say I learned a new term this week in toxic positivity, I’m saying I learned a new thing that progressives consider a sin. They want everyone to abstain from it. It’s their way of being prudish.
How does this look in the real world? Take a look at the American Psychological Association this week, which announced a large anti-racism campaign. The intro paragraph to this piece announced:
Police brutality may be what sparked a wave of protests across the United States and beyond, but the “racism pandemic”—a term used by APA President Sandra Shullman, PhD, for the ongoing harm caused by racism—runs far deeper. Today’s inequities, psychologists say, are deeply rooted in our past, and the status quo is no longer acceptable. “Every institution in America is born from the blood of white supremacist ideology and capitalism—and that’s the disease,” says Theopia Jackson, PhD, president of the Association of Black Psychologists (ABPsi).
Psychological associations are claiming that capitalism is a disease and a part of systemic racism, along with every — EVERY — institution in the United States. Now, truth be told, I can guarantee you not a single one of the psychologists listed could correctly prove capitalism is a sinful ideology. Nor do they have the capacity or expertise to toss out every US institution that exists. These are just phrases spouted off by people with degrees, without any real authority behind them. Capitalism doesn’t care about race, creed, or ideology; nor was it designed by some racist like Karl Marx. But scientism is declaring it bad, it’s toxic. Again, notice how toxicity only cuts one way politically. The left doesn’t like it, so now it’s a sin.
So next time you hear a new term like toxic positivity, think about how it’s getting used. Think about the scientism backing that term. And watch how people use these terms to exclude others from their circles, shut down debate, all while cloaking their behavior in benevolent terms of pseudo-science. Maybe we can call it toxic progressivism.
Links of the week
NPR regrets elevating pro-looting anti-Semite – Becket Adams, The Washington Examiner
Wake Up America, and Smell the Anti-Semitism: Americans of all races and political outlooks revile and attack Jews with unprecedented glee, while American Jews would rather talk about anything else – Eve Barlow, Tablet Magazine
Yet Another Chapter of ‘Nancy Pelosi, Master Strategist’ – Jim Geraghty, National Review
Guillotine Chic: The new fad on the far left is not cool or funny. Here’s the real story of what it celebrates. – Cathy Young, Arc Digital
From “Poor as Hell” to Billionaire. How Tyler Perry changed show business forever: Shut out of entertainment’s mainstream, Hollywood’s newest billionaire wrote, produced and starred in his own American success story. – Madeline Berg, Forbes
Gun-Control Group Shies Away from Guns in Swing State Attack Ads: Everytown super PAC downplays gun control to boost Dems Greenfield, Cunningham – Stephen Gutowski, The Washington Free Beacon
Trump is trying to grab some of Biden’s most valuable supporters. Analysis: The president is distracting attention from COVID-19 and making a strong appeal to non-college-educated white voters who are key in battleground states – David Wasserman, NBC News
Restore honor in public service: Recent events have shown why having a capable, professional civil service is of critical importance. – Francis Fukuyama, Dallas Morning News
Twitter Thread(s) of the week
Satire of the week
How to Let Go of Old Resentments and Make Room for New Ones – The Reductress
Thanks for reading!