August 12, 2014

Terminal Pedantry

Red Eye ombudsman Andy Levy was a guest on the AoSHQ Podcast this week and at one point used the term 'micro-aggression' to describe a woman clutching her purse when a black person approaches. A similar example, provided by the race-baiter-in-chief,  is a car door locking when a black person walks by. While I agree that these behaviors may hurt the feelings of the offended race/gender/religion, I strongly disagree with using the term 'micro-aggression' in these cases and think it does more harm than good.

I don't know all of the subtle differences between the non-aggression principle, the zero-aggression principle, and all of the other narrow variations but, to me, as a libertarian, the initiation of force against another person or their property (what I generally call aggression) is immoral. I don't think a person's thoughts can ever be aggressive, regardless of how vile and immoral they would be in practice. The only thought crime I can conceive of would be a cyborg with a human brain directing limbs or objects against another person, but even then I'm not sure there's a difference between using thoughts to maneuver flesh or machinery.


When I envision that woman clutching her own property and essentially making an effort to avoid conflict, however biased or unwarranted, it seems like a disservice to freedom and libertarianism to say she behaved immorally, however microcosmically.

Let's imagine that woman clutching her purse and then getting punched and mugged. Did she start it? She was technically the aggressor, 'micro-aggression'-users must say. Is a woman securing the clasp of her bag the equivalent of a finger in the chest? Was she asking for it?

So, in my opinion, as far as the language of liberty goes, 'micro-aggression' is a misnomer, and a harmful one at that. It is very similar to the 'CC' phrase that I will never utter again, except that 'micro-aggression' might actually have a place.

Reaching out and touching someone's hand as they grasp a pole on the subway and filming their reaction for youtube because you are unfunny could possibly be described as a micro-aggression if you were ranking aggression on a scale of micro to murder. But that's about it.

When I hear 'micro-aggression' in place of self-expression, I hear 'hate crime'. When I hear 'hate crime', I hear 'thought crime'.

Clutching a purse or setting a car alarm simply cannot be associated with aggression. There are plenty of other words like bias, preference, or bigotry that accurately describe the behavior, that wouldn't muddy 'aggression', and still be recognized as an exercise of free expression. Peaceful people come in the ignorant and paranoid varieties, too.

UPDATE: Andy Levy himself has responded to tonight's story requesting a clarification.

He thinks that he was mischaracterized and that's probably true but he inspired a small exercise and serendipitously replied within minutes to the publishing of that exercise so Thanks Andy!

UPDATE 8-14-14: Reworded the opening paragraph to remove any motivations I had assigned Mr. Levy.