Questionable Motives

November 17, 2018

The Snowball Effect: How does demographic data fuel identity politics?

Filed under: Uncategorized — tildeb @ 3:44 pm

Demographic data is the means by which groups can be created and quantified.Image result for census data This data is then used to grant us the means to compare and contrast different groups. By doing so, we (not surprisingly) find differences. These differences are then presented with what appears to be an independent and objective hierarchy based on the selected criterion: higher and lower groups in the hierarchy. Membership is automatic: an individual who shares the criterion is member, as is one’s placement in the (obviously) unequal group hierarchy, which in turn defines the selected group disparity shared by all its members. Group disparity is then used as the evidence for group inequity and is the foundation for justifying political activism to address the group disparity. This is the core feature of identity politics in action… individuals acting on behalf of the group with which one has membership (or sympathy) and attempting to address the disparity using politics and legislation (or various immediate bullying tactics if impatient for systemic change) as the means.

Why is this a problem that is snowballing?

Well, as I’ve said many times now, groups are not real and so legislation aimed at reducing group disparity automatically becomes a source of intentional legal discrimination against the constituent individuals of one group and privilege of the constituent individuals for the other… to try to achieve group equity.

Two sets of rules are the inevitable result for real individual people in real life… in the name of correcting for group disparity and acting on the assumption that this discriminating action against certain individuals will achieve equality between the constituent individual members!

Throw intersectionality into this awarding of legal privileges and discrimination of individuals based on their group memberships – intersectionality meaning the interconnected and overlapping interdependent ‘systems’ of social categorizations – and you have the recipe for legally imposed discrimination and inequality where each individual has different rights and different freedoms and different privileges and different constraints and different opportunities and different quotas, and so on. All of this to supposedly address and correct for disparity between groups, as if achieving group equity (meaning the same, meaning no diversity in results) will produce individual equality and so addressing the group disparities justifies the legal and discriminatory inequality over individuals! This is Marxist to the core (which may help to explain why it never has and does not now and probably never shall work in real life… because disparity can always be found between created groups). Add the framing of this group thinking to be the only one morally allowed by its advocates and… well, this is where many of us find ourselves confronted by this ideology today: to criticize it is to be immoral because it must mean advocating for inequality through permissible bigotry and discrimination (pot, meet kettle).

Now what’s this about demographic data snowballing identity politics?

Ever heard of the Census Bureau’s National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic and Other Populations (NAC)? I hadn’t. But I kept coming across references to it in education especially and university funding applications. I thought this was census data and useful. But when one starts to investigate why this committee seems to have a great deal of influence over policymakers in such a wide social area, you find out it effectively acts as a support network for grievance studies! Yup. Groups. Disparity. Equity. Census data. And framed this way intentionally.

What does this Committee do? Funny you should ask: it identifies the very groups to which you belong! It began back in the late 1960s and early 1970s as the National Advisory Committees (NAC) on race and ethnicity. Good politics when race and ethnicity were root causes of civilian unrest and legal inequalities. For a committee. Ethnic groups under their recommendations to the legislative branch became legal entities. Pan-ethnic groups were included on the census data from the recommendations by NAC and they, too, became legal entities (Asians, Hispanics, and so on), and so new committees drawn from each of these pan-ethnic groups then became part of the overall umbrella organization charged to form recommendations to federal funding programs. These committees were drawn together under Obama’s administration in 2012 and became today’s National Advisory Committee… not just concerned about race and ethnicity but ‘other’ populations, too! Check out that title. Where do you fall?

And who constitutes the NAC making these legal recommendations, advising policy makers in education and university funding for research, and organizing census questions?

The membership is appointed by the Director of the Census Bureau and the majority (17) of the 31 members come from grievance studies ‘scholars’ (Grievance Studies is an area of Social Science that include the academic areas of culture, race, gender, fat, sexuality, critical theory, post-colonial studies, queer theory, and so on). There are ten other ‘ethnic’ members (from the Alliance of Iranian Americans, the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services, Asian American Decisions, the Japanese American National Museum, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the Native American Rights Fund, the Native Hawaiian & Pacific Islander National Network, the Network of Afro-Descendant Women of Latin America Caribbean and the Diaspora, the U.S. Indigenous Data Sovereignty Network, and the Supreme Court Committee on Minority Concerns) as well as four representatives from partner organizations (Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC), the Mexican–American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF), the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO), and the National Urban League). Every heard of any of these? You should; if you’re American then their recommendations to the legislative branch organizes the Census, approves its questions, and then recommends legislative action to direct your money to addressing the inequity of disparity they have ‘discovered’! And the ripple effect of what happens in the US goes far beyond its borders when it comes to things like buying education textbooks, when it comes to prestigious education and medical and scientific journals, and so on.

What are the chances such disparity can be found? For those of you who might suffer from being math-challenged, the correct answer is P=1, meaning 100%. And the data collected from the census crafted by this ideological group is then used to directly influence all kinds of public investments and social policies and legislative law.

Are you still wondering why this framing of populations into hierarchical competing groups is snowballing throughout the West? Are you wondering why academic research into group inequities is so well funded and meets no critical response from legislators and nothing but welcome from university administrators? Are you curious why diversity officers at universities are enjoying a veritable explosion of growth and development while other faculties shrink or are disbanded? Can you better appreciate why the snowball effect regarding identity politics rapidly became the norm after 2012? Are you beginning to see why this issue is not about me, not about some inherent bigotry or bias that drives the criticism but the hugely negative consequences that will impact every single individual when group rights trump individual rights?

Now that the November 11th ceremonies are done and we have rededicated ourselves to never forget, let’s recall the gist of what has been attributed to German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemoller:

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”





  1. I should clarify that demographics as a statistical method can be and is very useful in producing data in a wide range of areas. My criticism of it in this post is in regards to empowering differences for the purpose of creating social hierarchies.

    Comment by tildeb — November 17, 2018 @ 4:02 pm | Reply

  2. It seems to me that you’re actual gripe is with the often ridiculous specialisation that happens with maturing economies. A while back an economics student told me that you can’t get an economics paper published today if it doesn’t contain an equation, and the more complicated the better. Doesn’t matter if its shit. Doesn’t matter if it is fantasy. It’s pretty, and that’s the ‘new’ given. As we exhaust research areas, especially in the social sciences, students (especially those going for faculty employment) have breathed life into these fields (into careers) by complicating things that really aren’t complicated. Unfortunately, they have to. To get ahead, there’s really no other option. They take what is known, and for a value-add, they divide it up. And here’s the kick: because it’s quantifiable, because there’s data and graphs and pie charts, its perfect for policy makers who’re themselves desperate for some way (the easier the better) to legitimise their own work.

    Comment by john zande — November 17, 2018 @ 8:21 pm | Reply

    • There’s something to that in academia where original theses are harder to come by. I remember commenting in the 80s that the way to a Master’s in Sociology was to invent a new term. One of my all time favourites was a widely praised paper and media promotion about parenting using a revolutionary approach: the ‘time-IN’ tactic.

      Good grief.

      But no, my gripe isn’t with specialization. It’s with way too many of us forgetting that the promise that the caliphate or the kingdom of god or the proletarian paradise or the 1000-year Reich is always false, that as solutions to real problems such thinking leads to an imprisonment first of the mind and then the body. It’s about people willingly giving away my individual rights and freedoms in the name of social justice based on their faith that their support for group rights is virtuous. It’s about all the ways and means this toxic ideology to classical liberal values is being used and widely supported by people fooled into thinking they are supporting classical liberal values by undermining them.

      Comment by tildeb — November 17, 2018 @ 11:57 pm | Reply

      • But isn’t it the case that more often than not these ideas—which I agree can be regressive in the broader sense—take root inside academic wombs? That’s where the meme is born, then filters out into the larger society via lazy policy makers/white paper authors? If this is true, then the real source of the problem is people struggling to find legitimacy in mature markets. Mature markets are, therefore, the problem, not the unwittingly toxic memes.

        Comment by john zande — November 18, 2018 @ 5:16 am

      • Staffing universities with these ideologues (ask at any local university what the ratio is between Left and Right professors: it used to be a majority Left but now is almost completely Left) is a huge problem, not least of which is that it fosters the teaching and implementation of the group-based ideology that then creates an artificial bubble world that so many students then expect to either greet them or be remade in the real world. The problems of the group-based ideology become part and parcel of the delivery of the professional Colleges that oversee professional bodies they both represent and govern. These Colleges oversee the enforcement of ethical standards for the professional body, such as the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the College of Teachers, and so on. Inserting a majority of ideologues at this College level has vast influence across the professions throughout the Western world. It’s not the case that just a few campus have rowdy students who go along with this group-based thinking; the university has become the major delivery system for implementing it. And this has vast consequences when the Academy itself becomes hostile to the essential values they are chartered to embody.

        Comment by tildeb — November 18, 2018 @ 8:13 am

      • From Camille Paglia about the rise to supremacy of grievance studies at universities:

        “Most established professors in the 1970s probably believed that the new theory trend (Post Structuralism in particular, where words are infused with bigotry and bias to make them meaningless tools in criticism) was a fad that would blow away like autumn leaves. The greatness of the complex and continuous Western tradition seemed self-evident: the canon would surely stand, even if supplemented by new names. Well, guess what? Helped along by a swelling horde of officious, overpaid administrators, North American universities became, decade by decade, political correctness camps. Out went half the classics, as well as pedagogically useful survey courses demonstrating sequential patterns in history (now dismissed as a “false narrative” by callow theorists). Bookish, introverted old-school professors were not prepared for guerrilla warfare to defend basic scholarly principles or to withstand waves of defamation and harassment.”

        It’s been going on for a while, John, and now we are reaping what has been sown.

        Comment by tildeb — November 18, 2018 @ 10:07 am

  3. Yikes. Never even thought of it like that before. Time for Trump to clean house. I wonder if he could accomplish something like that?

    Comment by Ashley — November 18, 2018 @ 6:57 am | Reply

    • Check these videos out from the important census discussion about reclassifying a new category for North African and Near Middle East Muslim populations. Oh look… there’s our favourite social justice warrior and admittedly ‘white woman’ but once the hijab is on becomes a ‘woman of colour’ Linda Sarsour. We can all rest easy now. Look how independent and objective is this new group-based data. Good grief. There is no process in place where Western governments can examine how their own policies have contributed to the fracturing our societies into competing grievance-based constituencies. And the fracturing is going on all around us. But in the case of the US, the NAC charter and the Federal Advisory Committee Act at least gives the U.S. Secretary of Commerce the authority to terminate the NAC. If not Trump then I seriously doubt any future President who supports group-based ideology in action will do so. And that’s how the execrable social champions like a Linda Sarsour gain so much influence on behalf of her self-identified and victimized group membership over the likes of all us privileged folk who await our comeuppance with the victory of the Great Awokening.

      Comment by tildeb — November 18, 2018 @ 8:33 am | Reply

  4. This is so absurd, it’s almost funny. Groups are not real? Yes, that certainly explains the death penalty for gays in over 70 countries. It explains the fact that LGBT people can be fired in over 30 states for being gay. And it also explains how homosexuality can’t be spoken of publicly in Russia.
    And of course forming groups to defend the rights of LGBT people is a useless discriminatory endeavour, that’s why we’ve gone from a world 30 years ago where no one in positions of power was out of the closet to one where there are LGBT prime ministers and heads of major companies.
    Amusing that some people never call it identity politics when it’s about excluding and marginalising people, only when people fight to exercise their citizenship.

    Comment by The Pink Agendist — November 18, 2018 @ 10:20 am | Reply

    • Rather than treat individuals as the real thing, what you describe is what happens when we go along with group identities and treat these groups as if they were the real things. The disagreement we seem to have here, Pink, is that you think continuing to believe groups are real things and treating the individuals who constitute them as representatives of the group construct will magically correct this kind of horrendous discrimination and bias. I think the opposite, that progress for then individual is measured by eliminating group identities and focusing the law solely on each and every individual who share exactly the same legal rights and freedoms and dignity as if each of us IS the Other. Only then do I think diversity in such aspects as sexual preference and gender can be celebrated for the very real differences these bring to the social table and enrich the entire society. But everyone at that table must be equal in law as real objects first and foremost and not simply symbolic representatives of the various group constructs into which others have placed them only on selected criteria.

      Comment by tildeb — November 18, 2018 @ 12:12 pm | Reply

      • progress for then individual is measured by eliminating group identities and focusing the law solely on each and every individual who share exactly the same legal rights and freedoms and dignity as if each of us IS the Other.

        This is where I’m confused.

        How is it possible for an individual to singlehandedly fight for, and win, equal rights if not by first pooling resources, talents, time, etc. with others who’re also being persecuted (for the same reasons) on an industrial scale? If the discrimination is institutionalised, then the only way to effect change is to form a politically/socially/legally influential bloc.

        Am I missing something?

        Comment by john zande — November 18, 2018 @ 12:36 pm

      • Your confusion is not the least unusual. It reminds me very much of talking with parents about hitting their children and the long term negative consequences of doing so. Like you, they were confused because the only major tool of ‘discipline’ was to use violence couched in much nicer terms. If that tool was removed, then the confusion was about lacking any other means. Once they learned these other means, experienced how successful they were achieving the desired results, and the long term benefits to the parent/child relationship, they could not imagine every going back. The confusion is based on a lack of knowledge, a lack of options, a lack of understanding, and the same I think is quite true for identity politics. It is the worst option and by far the most heavily used because of an assumption that this is the tool to rectify social and legal inequality.

        But consider:

        “Ich bin ein Berliner”

        “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

        “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you: do ye even so to them”

        What do these sentiments have in common?

        Now consider:

        Apartheid. Pogroms. Segregation. Holocaust. Genocide.

        What do these programs have in common?

        The tool to address and correct legal inequality between individuals is enforced legal equality.

        Classical liberal values address in principle individual legal inequality. In principle. But they have to be empowered in order to be implemented by legislation. This IS the battle today. And the battleground is one of principle first. The choice we each of us face is to empower either individual rights or groups rights because you cannot have both principles respected in law. They are incompatible. And classical liberal values are losing.

        Comment by tildeb — November 18, 2018 @ 1:22 pm

      • Sorry, still don’t see how an individual can singlehandedly fight for, and win, equal rights against institutionalised discrimination. You quoted King. He represented a group that organised and mobilised to effect change.

        Comment by john zande — November 18, 2018 @ 1:30 pm

      • Sure, fighting against institutionalized racism was his motive. It should have the motive for every liberal. But his solution represented me, represented you, represented the liberal value of equality under the law. By doing so, he represented every individual regardless of any other identifiable features using the shared of the quality of one’s character. This is the universal principle and not the particular colour of one’s skin that is used as a group identifier. That’s why he was successful… because this is the kind of value that unites all people to a common cause and not the divisive kind of value that drives identity politics. Real systemic solutions to real systemic problems can be found when equality in law for every individual is the shared value. It cannot be found by legally privileging the rights of one group while intentionally constraining the rights of another. That is the road to inequality in law. Every. Single. Time. John, that’s not a solution.

        Comment by tildeb — November 18, 2018 @ 2:59 pm

      • You cannot eliminate group identities. Having never been a consistent member of any group, I can tell you that whenever I meet anyone, they spend the first hour trying desperately to box me into an identity. But where are you from – what nation do you *most* identify with – what language are you most comfortable with – where did you go to school… it’s all an exercise to identify markers for the purpose of quantifying value.

        Comment by The Pink Agendist — November 18, 2018 @ 1:06 pm

      • I agree; individuals will identify with all kinds of groups and I have no problem with that, Pink. My problem – our problem – is the huge negative consequences of replacing the individual in law with laws for groups.

        Comment by tildeb — November 18, 2018 @ 1:26 pm

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