Details continued to emerge about the behavior and history of black, gay Virginia shooter Vester Flanagan II, aka Bryce Williams, in the aftermath of brutal slaying of two white journalists on live television on Wednesday.
Williams’ blackness and homosexuality are relevant only because Williams used them as rationales for the murders, explaining in a 23-page manifesto that he felt justified in his murders because of racism and homophobia. He said he wanted a “race war” and, on Twitter, specifically accused Alison Parker, one of his victims, of racist comments.
Naturally, some on the left bought Williams’ version of events. Sally Kohn of CNN tweeted that Williams “was mentally unstable AND appears to have acted out of sense of victimization i have no reason to believe not justified.”
It turns out that Williams did have an unjustified victim complex. According to The New York Post, Williams took nearly everything as a racial insult. Trevor Fair, a cameraman at WDBJ, said Parker would say, “The reporter’s out in the field,” and Williams would respond, “What are you saying, cotton fields? That’s racist.” When a manager brought in watermelon for employees, Williams reportedly said, “You’re doing that because of me… You guys are calling me out because I’m black.” He even accused 7-Eleven of racism for selling watermelon-flavored Slurpees.
Bryce Williams may have been mentally ill. But he was the ultimate product of the left’s microaggression society, seeking offense everywhere and then lashing out at others based on a perceived sense of victimization. Some victimization is objectively true, but that doesn’t mean that all claims of victimization are. The notion that subjective self-assessment of victimization should take precedence over objective fact is deeply dangerous.
In The Atlantic’s September cover story, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education President Greg Lukianoff and New York University social psychologist Jonathan Haidt write about the rise of the “microaggression” culture on college campuses. “A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense,” they say. They continue:
Microaggressions are small actions or word choices that seem on their face to have no malicious intent but that are thought of as a kind of violence nonetheless…. The recent collegiate trend of uncovering allegedly racist, sexist, classist, or otherwise discriminatory microaggressions doesn’t incidentally teach students to focus on small or accidental slights. Its purpose is to get students to focus on them and then relabel the people who have made such remarks as aggressors.
The effect of attempting to bar “microaggressions” on campus: a generation of mentally ill people. “Schools may be training students in thinking styles that will damage their careers and friendships, along with their mental health,” they write. Further, perceiving everything as a “microaggression” leads to the belief that any aggression against the supposed victimizer is justified – “microaggression” should be met with actual aggression.
Yet such a “microaggression” mentality has been extended to federal law:
Out of fear of federal investigations, universities are now applying that standard—defining unwelcome speech as harassment—not just to sex, but to race, religion, and veteran status as well. Everyone is supposed to rely upon his or her own subjective feelings to decide whether a comment by a professor or a fellow student is unwelcome, and therefore grounds for a harassment claim. Emotional reasoning is now accepted as evidence.
And such “microaggression” mentality – the idea that your subjective belief in your victimization at the hands of a racist-homophobic-sexist-transphobic-heteronormative-cisgender society – has been extended far beyond campuses. As riots raged in Ferguson over the completely manufactured story of Michael Brown’s killing – rioters suggested that Officer Darren Wilson executed Brown and that Brown raised his hands and surrendered, all of which was false — President Barack Obama explained, “there are still problems and communities of color aren’t just making these problems up.” Of course, members of the Ferguson community had made it up in the case of Michael Brown. But Obama continued, “Separating that from this particular decision, there are issues in which the law too often feels as if it is being applied in discriminatory fashion.”
Feels, not is. That distinction embodies the entire leftist worldview: so long as someone has a subjective perception, we must treat that subjective perception as reality. If a man perceives himself to be a woman, we must all pretend that he is a woman; if a black person feels that he was victimized, we must treat him as a victim. Subjective perception rules over fact.
And so, today, a Chicago police officer has been placed under investigation and castigated by the Chicago Police Department for this video exchange with two black men he had pulled over:
BLACK MAN #1: “We don’t trust y’all. You heard about Mike Brown.”
OFFICER: “Mike Brown deserved it.”
BLACK MAN #2: “Mike Brown should’ve shot his ass in the face.”
Chicago PD responded with this statement: “CPD prides itself on fostering productive relationships with communities to help make Chicago safer. The comments in this video are troubling and do not represent the views of this department.”
Similarly, the Seattle Police Department was hit in 2011 with a Department of Justice finding requiring new standards on policing, not due to racial discrimination – the DOJ admitted there was no “pattern or practice of racial discriminatory policing” – but due to the fact that “many community members believe that SPD engages in discriminatory policing.” Rioters in Ferguson riot because they perceive themselves to be victims. Rioters in Baltimore riot because they perceive themselves to be victims. Bryce Williams shot two innocent white people because he perceived himself to be a victim.
Leftism requires widespread perception of victimhood, because without that perception of victimhood, no government corrective would be required. There’s only one problem: glorifying self-appointed victims makes them more common. It encourages people to find their victimization. Then, once self-appointed victims have punched their ticket for first class seats on the politically correct train, they feel justified in criminal activity – and sadly, leftists often grant them the freedom to pursue that criminality. Bryce Williams subjectively appointed himself one of those victims, and then used that status to murder his real, objective victims.
Ben Shapiro is Senior Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and The New York Times bestselling author, most recently, of the book, The People vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case Against The Obama Administration (Threshold Editions, June 10, 2014). Follow Ben Shapiro on Twitter @benshapiro.