Monday, June 23, 2014

a Cracked response to "Check your privilege" baffles me. Normally, I'd consider it a humor site. It's an offshoot of the original Cracked magazine, after all, which was itself a 1950s response to Mad. To open Cracked is to expect parody, satire, and other general goofiness. But I've noticed that, every now and again, will feature essays that are serious and earnest in tone. This latest essay, which I found thanks to a link on Twitter from The Korean Foreigner, challenges the current meme of "Check your privilege," which is a fancy way of saying, "Shut up, white boy." "Check your privilege" is a politically correct meme that has, inevitably, gained traction in colleges—exactly the wrong place to be stifling dialogue, however provocative. The article argues that there are three ways in which "Check your privilege" is unhelpful: (1) it's freighted with (false) assumptions; (2) it promotes a bleak sort of cynicism; (3) it ends dialogue instead of starting or fostering it.

I would have thought that would be more liberal and not even question the value or veracity of the "Check your privilege" meme. That shows you what I know about the Cracked folks. For what it's worth, my own feeling is this: I'm glad I'm outside of the United States so that I don't have to deal with any PC "Check your privilege" bullshit. The main problem with using that catchphrase as a debating tactic is that it's yet another example of the genetic fallacy: "I dismiss you not because of what you say but because of your background." It's an indicator of sloppy, over-emotional thinking, and a sign that my interlocutor isn't interested in having a serious discussion about the social ill of the day. It's unfortunate that such memes seem to catch on quickest in colleges, which are, in theory, havens for our best and brightest youth. But young people are strange that way: in one sense, they can be boundary-pushing seekers and questioners, but in another sense, they can be some of the most closed-minded martinets out there.

So, yes: color me surprised to see such an article on But, for what it's worth, it's a welcome surprise. I just hope the magazine doesn't lose its sense of humor.

ADDENDUM: I saw and liked this comment appended to the article (edited):

I was told to check my privilege by a hippy girl at my college after she went on a long tirade about why communism and Buddhism were the perfect systems of government and religion. I pointed out that she was likely much better off in a capitalistic society than a communist one; she told me I was biased by capitalistic western culture. I informed her that I was raised in a communist country by a Buddhist family. Basically, this person was exoticising this ideal for a Far East Buddhist/communist country when I'm actually from a country like that, and I was told that my viewpoint was biased because my family chose to immigrate from a "rational government" into a greedy one like America's.

The concept of "check your privilege," much like Communism, sounds great in theory but is utilized by pushy assholes to invalidate other people and their voices.



Charles said...

Cracked actually has a lot of very thoughtful articles--possibly more of this type than of humor these days. Although it might be more accurate to say that, even when they employ humor, it is often to tackle a serious social issue.

I don't think they're always on target, but I usually enjoy reading the stuff posted there.

Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Reminds me of a recent post of mine:

"Why Privilege?"

Jeffery Hodges

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