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Oppressors Who Think They're Victims

I cannot stand people who occupy privileged positions and groups who have convinced themselves that they are victims.  This is a long-standing persecution fashion: imagine that you’re the oppressed rather than the oppressor - even better, imagine that the people who you help oppress (either explicitly or implicitly) are the real oppressor.  So when some lone and desperate individual in an occupied country suicide bombs the occupier, the surviving occupiers can say: see how they victimize us, see how they’re murderers!

Most often this false victimization happens because of gains made by the oppressed.  The former oppressors, suddenly experiencing a loss of the privilege they had taken as absolute, imagine that they are being oppressed.  "You mean I can't automatically have this job because I'm white and male?  I'm being attacked and harmed!"   So when the oppressor discovers that his privilege is not a fact of nature, and that he is not ontologically destined to be privileged, he sometimes experiences this loss of power as violence and victimization.

False victimization also permits scape-goating.  Fascist movements always count on mobilizing the poor against their own interests by convincing them that the reason for their poverty is because of oppressed groups: "it's the immigrants, the visible minorities, the women who are responsible for your poverty - don't you want to return to the heroic days of the country where you were guaranteed a job by virtue of your skin colour and gender?"  Not that these "heroic days" ever really existed, but the appeal is compelling.  Scape-goating, especially if it's combined with an appeal to patriotism and religious mystification, is a successful strategy - and the rise of the Tea Party south of the border is the most modern example of this logic.

In any case, when it comes to this complex of false victimization, there are three often interrelated examples that always annoy me.

1.  "Misandry"

I hate this word that is raised by Mens Rights Activists in opposition to misogyny.  Since feminist activism in North America has succeeded in achieving some significant gains, the austere Patriarchy of the good old days is no longer what it once was.  But even though patriarchy and misogyny still exist, and have been rearticulated and restructured in response to feminist struggle, men who dream of 1950s family values feel as if they are the victims.  

When someone uses the word misandry (man-hating) what they are really saying is this: "You mean I have to treat this woman as an equal in this specific context?  I am not permitted, as intended by God and nature, to beat my wife?  You're giving this job to a woman and not to me?  Well then clearly I am being discriminated against on the basis of my maleness!"

Here is a clever comic from a repugnant libertarian site that is dedicated to "anti-misandry" and mens rights:
Oh no! Those feminists are against the natural order of the Family!  They will get rid of the Patriarch forever!  Fathers are actually being forced out of the home because they're not allowed to beat the mothers anymore and chain them to the kitchen and the womb!  No more Father's Day!  The horrors!

Anyone who thinks that misandry actually exists is arguing that misogyny is normative and that any attack on the patriarchal artifice, no matter how small, is an act of hatred.  An appeal to misandry ultimately means that misogyny is natural and acceptable, the way things should be, and that violating this natural state of affairs is an act of violence against men.  In other words, the appeal to misandry holds that men are the only valid subjects: giving political rights to female objects is an act of violent hatred because only subjects can experience violence and victimization - a woman is incapable of experiencing victimization because objects are incapable of experiencing violence.  Therefore, according to this logic, there can be no such thing as misogyny - there can only be misandry.

2.  "Reverse Racism"

The logic of this cry of false victimization is identical to "misandry" - people who believe that this concept actually describes social reality are just upset that they aren't living in the days before Civil Rights or during slavery.  The fact that whites had the privilege they did before the rise of the Civil Rights movement, and still enjoy the historical fruits of this privilege, is because of the oppression of slaves and non-white low class workers.  But now that a small minority of people of colour are occupying better jobs, there is reverse racism!

Barry Deutsch has a great comic about this that, I think, shows the flawed logic behind the notion of reverse racism.  And though this comic has been posted on numerous blogs and facebook pages in the past, it is worth posting again:

People who speak of reverse-racism are unwilling to accept that they are just upset that they cannot be traditional white supremacists.  In the United States they're even more upset that they have a black president (although I think Obama is just another imperialist, we still have to ask whether there would be a Tea Party if he was white).  They probably think that reverse-racism is the reason why Obama is president.

The logic here is that people of colour are incapable of succeeding in anything unless they are helped out by "unfair" social programs that take jobs away from good old white folks.  It assumes that there is an equal playing field, that there was no such thing as slavery and colonialism, and that individual hard work alone is the guarantee of success.  The fact that generations of privileged whites have had jobs and opportunities handed to them at the expense of those they were standing upon is utterly ignored.

The claim of reverse-racism comes from knee-jerk white supremacy, and I'm getting tired of those wealthy white [and most often male] students (the ones who take up most of the class by thinking they have more of a right to speak than anyone else) saying that "today it's only socially acceptable to discriminate against whites."  I really should just have this cartoon made into a shirt and wear it for the first week of classes every year.

3.  "Christianity is under attack in North America"

This belief is particularly pernicious at this juncture of history.  Not only is there a rise in Islamophobic hate crimes in North America, not only have countries with a predominantly Muslim occupation been made victims of imperialist aggression, but the fascist currents that are becoming more popular in this continent are based on this Christians-as-victims ideology.

This is not a very new ideology and the "Christian" right has been imagining its fall from unquestioned American religious privilege for a long time now.  Here is a video that I was shown when I was barely a teenager that has always disturbed me:

The ideology promoted by this video (aside from the awesome styles of the late 80s and early 90s) is that the removal of prayer from schools in 1962 is the reason for rising crime rates, the erosion of public education, drug addiction, teenage pregnancy, and certain supposed immoralities.  The use of the word "religious apartheid" is offensive but telling.  And the claim that it is "our turn now" - well that clearly does feel like a call to fascism, especially since they're demanding that the historical clock be turned back to the days before 1962 when Christianity was not "victimized."

(It's almost amusing that people believe that the removal of prayer from school was responsible for all this chaos.  It couldn't be the gutting of social programs and the claw-back in social services that the people who believe the values of this song politically support with their votes.  It couldn't be the lack of funding for public education, the promotion of private schools over those now-desegregated educational institutions.  It couldn't be the fact that a white-supremacist government flooded the black ghettoes with drugs to neutralize political movements.  It couldn't be the violence that the militarization, celebrated by the people lamenting the death of prayer in schools, promotes.  And it could not be the rise of the prison-industrial society.  Nope, it's just the lack of prayer.)

But just what were those days before 1962?  Oh yes, the days of racial segregation, the days where women were property and rape was eh-okay.  "You remember those days and how great it was to live back then in America when you were a white, straight, Christian man?"  Either this video is an ignorant appeal to a time that never existed, or it is actually promoting the vile and hateful "family values" of that America.

When people say that Christianity is under attack in North America they usually mean that: 1) they do not like the secular division between Church and state; 2) they like the values of a specifically white, a specifically anti-science, a specifically intolerant Christianity that is becoming less and less acceptable in some circles because it is irrational and anti-human.

Those complaining that Christianity is being victimized are people who want a Christian theocracy, and a Christian theocracy based on a very irrational, very intolerant version of Christianity that promotes the attitudes behind the categories I discussed above.  In other words, they feel they are victims because it is no longer socially acceptable for them to victimize in the same way as they did before 1962.

And really, if right-wing Christianity was actually victimized in North America why is it given so much free reign in society to perform the following "biblical and holy" tasks: target Muslim populations and build mass-movements around Islamophobia, suppress sexual education in high school, suppress the teaching of evolution and global warming in some places, prevent gay marriage, censor books (funny that the video spoke about the Bible being removed from libraries when it is the people in this video who have other books removed from libraries), agitate for military agression against people they don't like.

I am going to stop the post here, however, because it is longer and grumpier than I intended.  In fact, I wanted it to be filled with ironic humour and biting satire.  Maybe I'll have better luck in my next post...


  1. Great post, Josh. My favourite thing about these claims to victimhood is the way they always seem to characterize their own moment as if it is the crucial historical breaking point, where racism, sexism and other colonial relationships got 'reversed.' "Yes, there was a time when America had slavery and segregation and lynchings, but those days are over and now the tables have turned."

    The absurdity is that colonizers ALWAYS say this! This is the discourse right now, but it was the same story in the 80s and 90s, when [typically white males and those linked to white male power structures] railed against affirmative action. Same goes for the reactions to waves of decolonization in the 60s and 70s ["we brought them civilization and this is how they repay us?!"] and so on. Landowners in Latin America [who come to "own" the huge tracts of land they control almost always by some combination of cronyism, theft and violence] have spent most of the 20th century crying about those villianous farmers who at various points have demanded they be given back the land taken from them. ["How dare these backwards idiots try to kick me off this land? I've leved here my whole life off the sweat of these peoples' labour because my father's father bequeathed this title to me!"] Same for dispossessed factory owners in Eastern Europe ["without us, that factory wouldn't even exist!"] or the supporters of Chiang Kai-Shek in Tiawan or the Miami Cubans. The list goes on and on!

  2. Yeah, the Miami Cubans and the Taiwanese Chiangists are great examples. Vaclav Havel is another notable example: an aristocrat who "tragically" lost his family land and who was treated as a "victim" by the West - even Bono and the rest of idiot U2 celebrated this guy.

  3. Actually that first comic is from the Onion and is deliberately reactionary in imitation of "Mallard Fillmore" right-wing asshatery.

    As for false victimhood, the most potent and repugnant example is that of 911 where one terrorist attack allows the US to portray itself as a victim ad infinitum that only an massive amount of bloodletting can satiate.

  4. Interesting that the first comic was originally from the Onion because I found it on a libertarian and MRA site that didn't recognize it as satire:

    Again, the right often satirizes itself without realizing it...

    And the 9/11 example is definitely pertinent, and clearly the biggest example of false victimhood (I was referencing it implicitly in the opening paragraphs).

  5. Here's story about 9/11 for you guys:

    My mom was a school board trustee at the time this happened. At the following board meeting the chair called for a moment of silence for the victims of the attack. Ma spoke up and said she was for it as long as the moment included the victims of bombings past and those to come in retaliation for the World Trade Center. Obviously, this was voted down and when the moment came Ma would not stand up nor would she bow her head. She caught a lot of high fallutin' morally indignant shit for that and lost her next election (she was just recently re-elected though).

    When I talked to her about it she said that we cannot allow a bunch of "aberrants", especially in the education system, to play the victim whilst ignoring their own history of violence against others. The ugly truth about that attack was that it was the result of policies that have been harming people for generations and it's time for these "holier than thou white folks and Uncle Tom negroes" (her words) to come to terms with that.

    Not too long after that Ma (a master electrician by trade) went to China to promote skilled trades and brought me back my very own little red book.

    True story, no shit.


  6. This isn't your story, though, is it? It doesn't seem to fit entirely with what you've posted about yourself before... Unless you're "Ma."

  7. Nope,

    I could never take credit for that.

    I'm a master electrician just like my mom (and grandfather).

    It runs in the family.

  8. Gotcha. Sorry if I sounded suspicious: after all this trolling I'm starting to become stupidly paranoid! Sounds like your mom was pretty cool. Although (and this is tangental) what was her experience in Dengist China? The shock free-marketization that's happening in the countryside, from all accounts, is pretty frightening. At the very least it has caused a lot of Chinese peasants and workers to demand a return to the Cultural Revolution era and the politics of Mao.

  9. Funny you ask,

    Ma spent a lot of time in the "counties" as she called them. She helped wire a school and some well pumps. One thing she mentioned was that she noticed a lot of resentment against the urban areas, especially Tshanghi(sp?) which she heard described as too "westernized". She was under the impression that Mao was still held in very high regard by most peasants and workers. She believe another revolution is only a matter of time.

    Don't worry about being suspicious. I am the king of paranoia, especially given the times. We're not exactly discussing NASCAR on here now are we?

  10. No, NASCAR discussions are not en vogue on this site!

    Your mom's experience sounds a lot like what I've heard from other people who have worked over there, lefty ex-pats, and critical contemporary histories. It's sad that the divide between countries and cities, which was growing closer together during the Mao era, is now being pushed further back every year...

  11. Hi,

    Can I repost this with this blog credited?


  12. Can I see your site first? I'm usually fine with reposting, but I need to see if I'm not politically and ethically opposed to where something is being reposted.

  13. Here it is:

    I haven't started writing anything yet so haven't posted any links. I intend to once I amp/learn some website and writing skills. But I wanted to post a link to this with maybe some paragraphs as quotations because I think there are too many people in the food security movement who hold positions of privilege (because they are white) who claim to be victims of POC when they get called out on their culturally appropriative ways and/or foodways. Also in general the food security and environmental movement is very oppressive and racist along with the capitalist system that is characteristic of and produced environmental degradation and the oppressive, colonial and unhealthy food system.

  14. Thanks: just wanted to be sure that I wasn't being posted by some weird conservative for trolling reasons. (it actually happens: a while back some Mens Rights Activist site posted something I wrote in order to mock/straw-person it, and then I ended up with these misogynist trolls spamming my comments.) Your site is not loading at the moment, but I assume that's because of the reasons you indicated.

    In any case, based on your explanation, feel free to cross-post. Just credit my blog and my blogging name.


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