There has been a plethora of complaints from the Remain camp as well as the left in general that attention was only being drawn to the mental health problems of Tommy Mair, the killer of MP Jo Cox, because he is a white British man. But hang on a minute, when Julia Hartley-Brewer stated that the Orlando shooter was a ‘lunatic’ Owen Jones had a serious problem with her use of the word.
This is a pattern that seems to occur again and again on social media, and is well illustrated by the example of two recent incidents involving children and dangerous animals in the US. The parents of Lane Graves, the little boy killed by an alligator at a Disney resort were actually criticised for allowing him to paddle in the water.
However there were many voices arguing that these parents had been let off the hook because they were white.
black kid falls in gorilla pit: "where were the parents????"
white kid drowned by an alligator: "where were the signs???"
— Amanda Richards (@amandakater) June 16, 2016
Many have argued that the parents of the three-year-old boy who fell into a gorilla enclosure at Cincinnati Zoo and was dragged around by a male gorilla who was shot were subject to far more criticism and censure because they were African-American, while the family of Lane Graves were spared because they were white and affluent.
Of course, one must have sympathy for the little boy’s parents – people trying to have parents investigated because they turned their backs for two minutes is horrible. But I also have sympathy for the Graves family, who have had to deal with repulsive messages expressing a lack of sympathy for the tragedy because of the family’s race:
Given that the whole world is on social media its not surprising that there are always going to be groups of ideological people ready to jump on a bandwagon of any kind, but with the social justice left it really does seem to be a default pattern. Before the race of the boy in the Cincinnati Zoo incident was made known some assumed the boy was white and hastily decided that Harambe the gorilla was killed to preserve ‘white life’.
17 year old unarmed black male shot after "endangering" life of white child… I feel like I've seen this kind of thing before #Harambe
— Xavier Cuevas (@barelyhispanic) May 29, 2016
But don’t worry, even after realising that Zoo officials had readily shot a critically endangered primate to save an African-American child the narrative was turned around yet again by the social justice brigade, this time using criticism of the parents and concern for the gorilla as proof positive of America’s omnipresent racism:
— LowGrowl (@LowGrowl) May 31, 2016
This is what happens when you have an oppression ideology which encourages young and idealistic people to see all-powerful ‘systems’ everywhere. If your first exercise in mental gymnastics fails, just try another one in the opposite direction. No need to think about how many complex factors may be involved. No need to think of the potential relationships between them.
Feminists are particularly prone to this kind of confirmation bias. In the days when I still thought something could be achieved by debating feminist friends the conversation would go something like this:
– Why can women wear trousers while men get laughed at if they try to wear skirts?
– Well the answer is obviously that ‘society’ associates value with masculinity, and ridicules a man in a skirt because femininity is viewed as unimportant and laughable.
– But hang on a minute… under that theory it would be the dream and ambition of every fourteen-year-old girl to go to school with thick, luscious hair all over her top lip. We all know that’s not the case.
– Well, of course it’s not – the patriarchy needs to control women by forcing them to conform to oppressive beauty standards… duh!
I think the problem is this; people are drawn to ideologies that offer them answers – solutions to the many problems we see when we look around us and try to comprehend all the suffering in this world. But those solutions can only be comforting if we can believe that we have diagnosed the problems fully and accurately. And so, very little time is taken to address the fact that the patterns we have supposedly identified might be a little bit more complicated than they seem. The fact that we might not have the key to fixing all human interaction because human interaction is governed by forces more numerous and complex than even our greatest thinkers can comprehend.
It must be great to be 18, at college and surrounded by teachers, friends and media that say you already know everything, have all the answers and are the only ones that can save the world. In many ways it’s a lot easier than the alternative.