Microaggression, or a slight intended or unintended, has influenced public discourse from universities to world leaders. Yet it is interesting to note some slights are acceptable and others are not. It is considered inappropriate to use an adjective such as militant or radical to modify the noun Islam. However, it is increasingly appropriate to use the expression Zionist aggression, even when most Israeli military activity is defensive – a retaliation for violence inflicted on the Jewish state.
In university life any slight, however, trifling has been elevated to an issue of major significance. A Halloween costume became a matter for presidential intervention at Yale. When the president of the University of Missouri neglected to recognize a group of students at a homecoming parade, he was charged with insensitivity. Alas, the world hasn’t gone completely crazy. These microaggressions are part of a left-wing strategy to disrupt prevailing convention.
It is as if Saul Alinksy’s “Rules for Radicals” was the playbook. Invented slights, exaggerated as normative insults, become the catalyst for disruption and disruption is the seedbed for revolution. These efforts at disruption are indeed mindless, but even mindlessness has a purpose.
On the international stage Islam has been put in a bubble. Even suggesting that the Islamic State is Islamic cannot be countenanced. But if it isn’t the Islamic State, what is it? On the other hand, Islamic leaders say “Death to America,” but the silence at the United Nations on this slight is deafening. Why is it okay to defile America and Israel, but inappropriate to criticize the dictatorial Muslim regimes? Why is Islam beyond reproach?
The answer, of course, lies in fear, fear that violent reprisals will occur. A memory of 9/11 and Paris bloodshed linger in the imagination. It is the unstated but obvious justification for self-censorship. The mere suggestion that Islam is not a religion of peace awakens hostility. When President al Sisi of Egypt said that “we need a revolution from within to challenge the violence in our faith,” the bullseye on his back grew, the death threats more numerous.
Sensitivities are growing but these are selective sensitivities. Political correctness is hereby insinuated into every crevice of public discourse. Microaggressions have taken this trend to a new level. A look might be interpreted as hostility, a gesture a matter of review. There isn’t a limit to possible insult. In the process, free speech suffers and expression is stifled.
In exchanges among states language is carefully nuanced. Diplomats are coached to be cautious; it is a communication necessity. Nevertheless, microaggressions are different. It might mean a limp handshake at a G-20 meeting. It could translate into an international incident over someone turning his back on his colleagues, even if unintentional.
Heightened sensitivities won’t go away anytime soon. Yet it is also clear that some spokesmen get a pass. When Palestinian Authority officials contend Israel planned the terror attacks in Paris, that foolish comment should be reproved by every responsible leader. The statement doesn’t have a hint of reality to it, but it still hasn’t been censured.
There is a Chinese saying that applies to this microaggression: “Where there is a will to convict, evidence is never lacking.” If some people are ready to pounce on what is considered objectionable, evidence is unnecessary, at least in the culture that is emerging.