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The Tyranny of Virtue: Identity, the Academy, and the Hunt for Political Heresies

Robert Boyers

Top 10 Best Quotes

“The characterization of entire groups as victims has underwritten the conviction that such groups may never be subjected to criticism of any kind.”

“The rage for 'identity' too often bespeaks a preference for simplicity rather than for complexity.”

“We don't always get to decide what others see when they sum us up or reduce us to a caricature of the rich and various selves we think we have fashioned.”

“Assertion, even self-assertion, does not invariably bespeak an urge to annihilate the opposition or to wield coercive power.”

“The will to insist upon a definite, unimpeachable reading of an incident - which might well have been read in other, more generous ways - was a mark of a bewildering denial: a denial of the imagination that, liberated to do its proper work, can lead us in alternative directions.”

“The attempt to create a total cultural environment and to silence or intimidate opponents is part of a campaign that had once seemed promising, even to those—yourself included—alarmed at the irrationality and anti-intellectuality unleashed by many of the most vocal proponents of the new fundamentalism. But concepts with some genuine merit—like “privilege,” “appropriation,” and even “microaggression”—were very rapidly weaponized, and well-intentioned discussions of “identity,” “inequality,” and “disability” became the leading edge of new efforts to label and separate the saved and the damned, the “woke” and the benighted, the victim and the oppressor. Concepts useful in careful and nuanced discussions proved strikingly “amenable to over-extension,” as the cultural historian Rochelle Gurstein put it, and ideas suitable for addressing “psychological distress” were forced into the service of efforts to “[redress] the subordination of one people by another,” yielding not significant redress but a new wave of puritanism and a culture of suspicion”

“Interesting, I said - using a word I often use when students come out with an earnest banality - and left it at that.”

“In academic circles influences by Said, any reference to acts of 'terrorism' was soon regarded as off-limits, a reflection of Zionist efforts to discredit the legitimate aspirations of a subject population by casting aspersions on their so-called freedom fighters. In this way, 'blaming the victim' was deployed as an ideological weapon that might constrain debate.”

“I have long been moved by Rosa Luxemburg's assertion that 'freedom is always the freedom to think otherwise,' and thus I've been attracted to contrarians, to people whose instinct is to go against the grain of officially accredited views - especially those accredited within their own circle of progressive thinkers. This has its dangers, to be sure.”

“Culture warriors, in the academy especially, are in thrall to an ideal of solidarity. Anything less than complete submission and approval they regard as betrayal. Their instinct is to divide people into friends and enemies, with enemies figured as dispensable and hateful. Supposing themselves to be political, they have no patience for coalition building or for the difficult work of persuasion. What is to be done, they believe, is to drive away opponents and to avoid, so far as possible, self-examination.”

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Book Keywords:

victimhood, victim-blaming, polarization, assertiveness, empathy, enmity, benefit-of-the-doubt, freedom-of-conscience, banalities, hmmm, interesting, identity, israel, coercion, persuasion, oppression, freedom-of-thought, power, charitable-interpretation, middle-east, erasure, judgment, self, misunderstandings, nonconformists, blame, self-concept, terrorism, kindness, contrarian, denial, ambiguity, language, subjectivity, oversimplification, us-vs-them, perception, dissent, innocence, complexity

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