AS252: Commentary; Inciting Incident

First up is some commentary on a common misconception about my Trump arguments. I do not think PC culture is blame to Trump. There’s a comment of disagreement I keep getting that I deal with in the first part of this episode. The second part is an interview with Al Laiman from the Inciting Incident podcast! We talk about his show, as well as the suicide epidemic at his university.

You can find Al’s show at:

24 thoughts on “AS252: Commentary; Inciting Incident”

  1. I, for one, never meant to imply that hatred of PC culture was exclusively responsible for the rise of Trump. It fuels support of Trump, but there are other sources of fuel.

    And, Thomas, these people (Trump supporters) are not thinking. They are not making rational decisions; they are erupting from their gut. Rationality, itself, is a feature of elitist PC culture. Rational, critical thought is not valued by your typical Trump supporter. As much as that sounds like an insult, they probably wouldn’t take it that way.

    I know these people. I used to work with them and I still lunch with them every couple of weeks. I know people who very well might vote for Trump simply to thwart Hilary. Rational in the long term? No. Do they care? No.

    You won’t change my mind on this because I see it in person on a regular basis. You’d have to change reality. I’m just sayin’ . . .

    1. I have yet to listen to the podcast, but I know I agree with everything you just said, including the part about knowing these people (I live in Alabama).

    2. THIS IS NOT NEWS TO ME and it doesn’t go against my point. I’m finding this really frustrating. No one is accountable for Trump voters’ irrationality. It’s literally impossible to be blameworthy for someone else’s irrational decision.

      1. I think you’re conflating blame with fault. If you go out, and leave your door unlocked you are to blame for the fact that someone was able to easilly access your house, but it’s not your fault you were robbed, it’s entirely the fault of the criminal. That being said some extremes of political correctness are the equivalent of leaving your door unlocked, and putting up a sign announcing it. It’s that type of political correctness that Trump is exploiting.

        Yes, I agree Trump is being racist/sexist/bigoted, but again PC culture has become so newsworthy due to it’s extremes, that the same idiots, that Ralph and mentioned, are incapable of recognizing the difference. When Trump says he wants to build a wall because most of the Mexicans coming here illegally are criminals, they will argue that that he’s being called a bigot simply because it’s not politically correct to say that.

        1. Again, no rational person (I hope) is going to vote Trump because of PC culture, but I would argue that less than half the population fall into the rational camp.

  2. Your argument against PC culture being responsible for Trump reminds me of Sam Harris’ argument against naming radical Islam being responsible for more Muslims becoming radicalized. If just naming it can have the effect of making Muslims commit error and begin terrorizing then that speaks more about those Muslims themselves to begin with, just like you were saying that if PC culture makes certain people support trump it speaks more to the problems in the people, not PC culture.

    On the whole I find these arguments compelling.

    1. Clement if I understand you correctly I think I agree. That being said if you are overly critical of Islam, and start suggesting that Muslims should be deported, it says less about them, and becomes more understandable when they become radicalized.
      To carry your analogy on to PC culture, it’s one thing when you say it’s politically incorrect to call someone the N word. If someone has a problem with that it says everything about them, but when political correctness is taken to extremes where you can’t say terrorist in the same sentence as Islam, or simply questioning affirmative action becomes a micro-aggression, or scientists are brought to tears based on the shirt they are wearing, or teachers feel forced to resign their jobs because they suggest adults have the ability to intelligently choose a Halloween costume, the backlash becomes says less about the person, and becomes more understandable.

      1. Clearly though by the sheer mass of opinions on the subject of PC there are a lot of reactions one can have to these situations you mentioned above. I think Thomas’ point is that we should put the responsibility on the reactors and not the thing being reacted to. Because people have the freedom to choose how they respond to PC culture in varied ways we can blame them for any decision they do make.

        For instance, I can blame a rapist for rape instead of the victim even if the rapist says the victim was dressed provocativily because I can point to the people who were in the same situation the rapist was but didn’t commit the same act. I think we can still blame trump supporters using the same logic.

        I just don’t feel people who are against PC culture need to feel that trump is their only choice. I dislike the over sensitivity myself that I have noticed while going to college but I do not feel compelled to support Trump and everyone can blame me alone for that reaction to PC culture because it’s my decision.

        (note: I’m using blame in the morally neutral sense of the word just meaning ‘responsible’)

        1. “I just don’t feel people who are against PC culture need to feel that trump is their only choice.”

          In the general election the only people who are going to vote Trump as a result of PC culture are those who are on the fence, and all it takes is 1-2% of people to go one way rather than another to make the difference. In the primaries I think it was a more significant issue. Most republicans would have been satisfied with any of the front-runners, Trumps perceived political incorrectness separated him from the pack enough to get him the nomination.

          1. Yeah, but . . .

            If someone is an anti-PC voter, who is their other choice now? Hilary is the very definition of PC culture. I’ll vote for her and I think she’ll win, but I would have been a lot more comfortable with Bernie: anti-establishment and a LOT less baggage. Hopefully Trump will remain the rat turd in the rice pudding and most voters will remain grossed out. I don’t think Hilary could get elected on just her appeal. She needs a giant negative node out there in the ether to drive the voters toward her.

  3. I wanted to comment on something I noticed during this episode, and more-so during the debate between Eli and James. There seems to be agreement that a brief note directing students to counseling services on the first day of class is sufficient to address the effect of disturbing content and unrealistic academic requirements on students’ mental health and well-being.

    While it’s definitely helpful to raise awareness and connect people with available resources, I’m concerned about the implications of presenting mental health-care as something a student needs to address privately, particularly in environments where achievement is so thoroughly fetishized as an assessment of one’s overall value.

    If mental health treatment is presented as something private for students to take care of when they fail to cope, it reinforces the idea that the student is responsible for their symptoms (they are flawed), that they are alone in their struggling (they do not belong), and that reaching out to others to form natural supports and/or advocate for social change is selfish (they are a burden).

    While current research identifies many risk factors for suicide, feelings of shame, hopelessness, perfectionism, thwarted belongingness, perceived burdensomeness, substance use, and comorbid mental disorders all seem particularly relevant to college students, and to a certain extent, can be reinforced, fetishized, and enabled by academic culture.

    I take issue with your guest’s speculation that an insufficient history of struggling primes one to die by suicide (I’ve seen no research to support this), but I agree with his general point about the culture of rigorous academia failing to support its students’ well-being. In many ways, they’ve created a very sick culture, and their response to students being harmed by it is that students need to be more resilient.

    As is often the case, an assertion that someone else needs to take personal responsibility is an abdication of one’s own.


    Also, just a quick note about demographics. You asked during the episode whether LGBTQI students were more likely to attempt suicide than their peers. While I don’t have information for college aged individuals, I have some data from researchers on adolescents and teens. A conservative estimate is that 45% of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans children (i.e., below 18), in the US have attempted suicide. I’ve spoken to school counselors who swear to me that this percentage is actually much higher, but I was only able to find data on attempts that were reported. You can compare that to 8% of heterosexual children. While both numbers are probably higher than what’s been documented, the data suggests that American LGBTQI youth, are 4-5 times more likely to attempt suicide than their peers.

    Moreover, a recent study found that 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQI. This is likely due to rejection by religious/conservative families as well as the fact that they are twice as likely to be sexually abused by a family member before their 12th birthday. Once on the street, these children are more likely than not to be raped (almost 60%), sexually exploited, and physically assaulted. And, their risk of not just attempting, but successfully completing suicide is over 60%.


    It should also be noted that while depression increases the likelihood of suicidal thoughts, it does not increase the risk of suicide attempts. Other disorders (e.g., anxiety, BPD, substance use, eating disorders, etc.) do increase the risk of suicide attempts, particularly if they occur alongside depression (i.e., thoughts + action).

  4. After a little bit of searching I found the clip of Dave saying Trump is a creation of the left. I will post the the clip if you want to view it. The relevant part is about 6 minutes in. The way they are defining PC Culture is grouping it all together as the regressive left. Milo is the video describes the frustration of those on the right that are the victims of PC Culture. Overall I don’t agree that those on the right have been unfairly labelled in many cases, but there are those that have been mislabeled. Especially those being called islamophobes for criticizing Islam, an ideology worthy of criticism. So you have a group of people that are sick of the labeling whether or not its valid doesn’t matter. So now there is this gap that exists between the regressive left and the right. The gap that Sam Harris and Bill Maher have been begging the liberals to fill. Along comes Trump and he slides right into that space. He plugs into that anger on the right and he may pull some people from the left as well because he recognizes the problems. He says the things those people are thinking. His solutions are terrible but it doesn’t matter because the other side won’t even publicly acknowledge a problem exists. This is how PC culture created Trump. They gave him a space to occupy because no one else was brave enough on the left to apply liberal principles to address the problem. We should be lucky enough to avoid Trump winning. Trump has no policies that he is running on, he is just against the grain and saying what many people already think. PC culture may not have created Trump but they sure gave him a nice place to live. We saw the same thing happen in Toronto with Rob Ford. He was also a joke candidate when he entered the race. He tapped into the anti PC crowd and ran on two things, stop the gravy train and build subways. When elected he did neither. It was just a gimmick.

    Rubin has guests on he disagrees with politically but when it comes to the regressive left he doesn’t have those guests. The reason is they are so dishonest that there is no value in the conversation. There is no high profile Eli Bosnick who is honest in his/her approach to the topic. Look how difficult it was to get Eli and James. Jame’s agent told him not to do the show since the conversation is generally so toxic. I also would not put Eli in the regressive left camp. If we tweet enough and Dave maybe he will have Eli on, but I doubt Eli draws the views like Reza would. Reza has proven himself to be completely dishonest.

    The difference between Trump and the other GOP guys in that Trump crossed every line. A long standing unwritten rule in politics is don’t say your opponent is lying. Trump smashed that and called Cruz a liar. He has labelled every opponent with a negative adjective. He drops f-bombs at his rallies, no candidate does that.Trump is your racist uncle at thanksgiving. He doesn’t just say he is anti-PC, he backs it up. The other GOP candidates still towed the line of what is acceptable in politics.

    It’s not about how bad Trump is, it’s about him occupying a space where liberals refused to take the lead. This is what Sam, Bill and Dave have been talking about. This diatribe from Noah makes the point crystal clear. Particularly between 11-12 minutes.

    He predicts the bigots occupying that space, and they did. So maybe creating Trump is the wrong term. The liberals should be in the lead here not the bigots. Sometimes people just want to follow the person that sees the problem and is willing to do something.

    Saying wrong and racist things that people actually believe is how he is sticking it to the PC police. The reason it is sticking it to them is because the more he does it the more popular he became. The things Trump has done would normally sink a candidate, but not Trump. He says the things people believe, not in dog whistle like the GOP of the past. He made fun of a disabled person, and got more votes. He said we should close the border to Muslims and got more votes. Howard Dean screamed and he lost the election because he was too unstable. That’s how he is smashing PC police, he said fuck you to them and he won.

    I’ll end it here, I could go on but I think I have made the points I wanted to make.

    1. Your use of the phrase “victims of PC culture” helped me conceptualize this issue. People who are used to being validated by society are finding themselves feeling invalidated by people whom they used to be able to ignore/dismiss. Trump comes along and validates that feeling of being “victimized,” not necessarily by addressing particular grievances, but by acting as a cipher for people who feel frustration at being asked to consider the effect they have on others, only to have their conclusions challenged.

      1. I’m not really saying that PC Culture is a bad thing. Like all movements there are some bad aspects to them. Not using racial slurs and derogatory descriptions of people is a positive. Much of the PC movement is just common decency. Some people don’t see it that way.

        At some point PC culture lost it’s way and moved away from liberal principles. That’s where Trump found his niche, in the vacuum that was left behind.

        Trump is good friends with Vince McMahon and Donald is playing the perfect heel character. So I agree with Thomas when he says he is not a real candidate, but he could still win and that is terrifying.

        1. Your absolutely right. In the ’70s when I first encountered Corporate America, it was heavily white male dominated with a fairly high proportion of bigots and misogynists (a lot of ex-military). When PC culture first came along, it had a civilizing effect on the existing “Old Boys” club and that was a good thing. But as the PC culturists got a taste of power and wanted more and more, they began to take it to absolutely absurd levels that resulted in white males who had never had anything against women or minorities resenting the hell out of them. Instead of reining in the existing bigots and misogynists, they had made everyone into bigots and misogynists.

          That’s what the Trump crowd is tapping into.

        2. I think we mostly agree, but I have to push back against the idea that “PC culture” has lost its way or lost touch with its liberal principles.

          George Carlin had a joke about traffic: “Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?”

          I grant that wherever each of us feels comfortable drawing our line about what seems reasonable is subjective and informed by where we happen to be and how familiar we are with others’ experience. At the same time, I don’t see how it’s a betrayal of liberal principles for someone to advocate for something I happen to consider unreasonable (e.g., not using gendered pronouns in an effort to counter false cultural misassumptions about innate gender characteristics).

          I’ve heard that the distinction between liberalism and progressivism is that liberals work within an established structure to accomplish social change whereas progressives attempt to achieve social change by altering established structures. I’m not sure if this is a worthwhile metaphor, but if it is, it feels like “liberal” advocacy for political correctness would be limited to arguing that trigger warnings are valid, while “progressive” advocacy would involve arguing for the replacement of administrators who refuse to incorporate trigger warnings into syllabi.

          Am I right to infer it is the latter you view as problematic?

          1. Do you think they argue over this stuff in China where almost all of our manufacturing capacity has been moved over the last 25 years?

          2. Where they abandon liberal principles is when they ignore obvious patriarchy in Islam to defend Muslim culture for instance. It’s things like that which are so far away from a reasonable line that drive me crazy. There is usually a grey area where we can disagree.

            My girlfriend is from Iran. Her identity there is tied to her father. She is known as Leila daughter of Persian Guy. It’s like she is out of the lord of the rings. No SJW nutcase would defend that here but they bend over backwards to defend that as “their” culture which is not their culture at all.

            So it’s not a line but the stuff that falls way outside a reasonably debatable range.

  5. Did you not realize you were answering the suicide question with your questions? It’s kids who never had to deal with real stress suddenly being expected to deal with it. That’s a real common thread. Young people suddenly having to deal with just a part of the real world and some real world issues. So what are people doing? Protecting people from real world problems with trigger warnings and safe spaces.
    In talk therapy, we expose people to what is causing them stress in order to desensitize them to the stressor. This has proven highly successful. To do the opposite seems insane and goes against all we know about mental health.

    Side note, love your show.

    1. Yes. Sounds like you’re teaching people to be resilient. That is SO much better than trying to make sure they never get stressed. They can take their resilience with them and learn to dodge the slings and arrows themselves and end up strong, capable, independent individuals. Unless they’re friggin’ richer than anybody I’ve ever known, they can’t take their protectors and enablers everywhere they go, all they can do is never go anywhere. Your approach is orders of magnitude more sane.

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