Michael Flynn offers us some insights into the nature of Microagression, that latest of zany buzz words going around to describe acts leftists disapprove of that are so slight that you would be hard pressed to realize you are doing them. As ideas go I guess it is useful because they are supposedly unconscious and therefore the accused can’t hope to protest their innocence because the feelings of the accuser are all that is required to substantiate the charge. I share the bewilderment at the idea that your choice of citation style can communicate a political orientation.
The latest fad among the bien pensants on campus is the notion of “microagression.” It is never too clear of what this offense consists but, like Potter Stewart’s obscenity, “you know it when you see it.” Of course, “seeing it” is always after-the-fact, which means those accused seldom know they are doing it until the after accusation is itself leveled. This induces a level of terror in the intended targets. At least the old heresy hunters, Chesterton once pointed out, went to great pains beforehand to spell out exactly what the heresies consisted of.
The targets of opportunity in this case, at least those mentioned in the linked article, are liberal professors, so we are evidently in the phase of the Revolution when the Revolution begins to eat itself and Robespierre goes to the guillotine. Perhaps it is because liberal professors are so accustomed to apologize at the drop of a hat that it is easier to terrorize them.
Take the first example. Education professor Val Rust, who was into multiculturalism before the word existed. In a class on dissertation-preparation, he committed such microagressions as correcting someone’s capitalization, helping them simplify complex rambling sentences, and other thought-crimes against scholars of color.
Tensions arose over Rust’s insistence that students use the more academic Chicago Manual of Style for citation format; some students felt that the less formal American Psychological Association conventions better reflected their political commitments.
The idea that format and grammar do (or ought to) reflect “political commitments” is bizarre, and indicates that “political correctness” is not as innocuous as many suppose. Under the neue Rassenwissenschaft, Asian students are considered to be “white” for purposes of attack. This is likely because they do well in scholastics, which students in Newark public schools a couple decades ago denounced as “acting white” in their attacks on Caribbean blacks.