Involuntary identity politics: Collective punishment can descend on anyone, anytime

As my colleague Ramesh Ponnuru has noted, much of this consisted of an unseemly focus on the character of the children’s faces: Ruth Graham in Slate pouring bile on one boy’s “face of self-satisfaction and certitude, of edginess expressed as cruelty,” Reza Aslan writing about a child’s “punchable face,” etc. Ponnuru writes: “For Anne Helen Peterson, a writer for Buzzfeed, both Sandmann and Kavanaugh have ‘the look of white patriarchy’ — hard to avoid, given that they are white and male — and reminded her of disrespectful kids she used to teach, kids who asked for extensions and plagiarized and snickered in class. She knew hardly anything about Sandmann. She didn’t need to know anything: She had seen his type before.”

If you ever have spent any time around racial bigots of the old-fashioned peckerwood-trash variety, you have seen this dynamic in action: A black man who commits a crime is not a black man who commits a crime, but a type and a representation of his race as a whole; a man of Mexican background who gets into an automobile accident and has no insurance is typical of Hispanic people as a class; a Jewish man who works in a bank is a “Jew banker” and part of a line that goes back through Mayer Rothschild to Judas Iscariot and the moneychangers in the temple. To mentally normal and morally literate adults, this kind of obvious prejudice and hate-mongering is repugnant — until it isn’t. Even when Kavanaugh accusers such as Judy Munro-Leighton confessed fabricating their stories — Munro-Leighton claimed to be one of the “Jane Doe” accusers, which she later admitted was “a ploy” and “a way to grab attention” — the Kavanaugh inquisitors remained unshaken in their faith: Maybe this or that claim of fact turned out to be a lie, but Kavanaugh must be guilty in general if not in particular, because he is one of them.

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