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The Oppression Olympics
How Leftists use self-reported marginalized identities for self-advancement.
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Even to the layman observer it's possible to note that there are psychological differences between people with conservative and liberal orientations. Specifically, classic Cluster B personality disorders — that is, dramatic, overly emotional or unpredictable thinking or behavior (negative emotionality) — are disproportionately found among radical leftists, or “very liberal” individuals, and reflected in the political attitudes and beliefs associated with them.
Research supports this. Studies indicate not just a growing mental health disparity between people who identify with certain political beliefs, with conservatives faring better than liberals, but scientific correlation between individuals who hold progressive ideologies and an increased risk of mental illness.
One recent analysis found this trend was particularly pronounced for those of both sexes self-labeled as “extremely liberal,” who tended to be noticeably worse off on several measures, not just compared to conservatives, but even compared to those identifying as “liberal” or “slightly liberal.” Conversely, those who identified as “extremely conservative” tended to have similar levels of mental health compared to those identifying as “conservative” and “slightly conservative,” with generally mild differences from “moderate,” “slightly liberal,” and “liberal” respondents.
Surveys on the “Big Five” traits of extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness to experience have found that people identifying as politically liberal tend to be higher on neuroticism (negative emotionality) and lower on conscientiousness (socialized impulse control) than their conservative counterparts. And of particular note: Pew Research recently found that an astounding 56.3% of liberal white women ages 18-29 were given a mental health diagnosis from medical professionals.
I believe this phenomenon is part of a broader trend of a growing number of Americans regarding themselves through the prism of victimhood that happens to confer legal protections onto them and other social benefits thanks to the rise of identity politics and intersectionality. Sectarian conceptions of rights and expansive notions of subjective injury are being normalized, and leftists are being incentivized to identify as victims in return for recognition, support, and status.
Sexual Preference Status Symbol
Over the past ten years, there’s been a 1,000% increase in the share of American teenagers identifying as trans. The number of people identifying as LGBT tripled between 2012 and 2021, with left-wing Americans far more likely to be LGBT than those on the Right. Take a gander at how many American liberals under 30 identify as LGBT:
According to Gallup, the sharpest increase in LGBT share has been among Gen Z (born between 1997 and 2012), with the LGBT proportion doubling from 10.5% in 2017 to 20.8% in 2021.1 While the raw point increase is greatest for those under 30, almost all age groups experienced a similar percentage increase — between 100 and 200% — from 2010 to 2021.
What’s especially interesting is the lack of correlation between homosexual behavior and the rapid rise in LGBT identification. While the latter has increased exponentially, the former has not. According to an in-depth report by the Center for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology, there was an 11-point increase in LGBT identity between 2008 and 2021 among Americans under 30. Of that, only around 4 points can be explained by an increase in same-sex behavior.
There’s a growing divergence between sexual behavior and identity among Americans under 30. Whereas in 2008, attitudes and behavior were similar, by 2021 LGBT identification was running at twice the rate of LGBT sexual behavior.
The majority of the increase in LGBT identity can be traced to how those who only engage in heterosexual behavior describe themselves. Subscribing to a “very liberal” or far left-wing ideology is associated with identifying as LGBT among those with heterosexual behavior, especially women.2 In other words, it seems that an underlying psychological disposition is inclining certain people with heterosexual behavior to identify both as LGBT and very liberal. Overall, the data strongly suggest that while there’s been an increase in same-sex behavior in recent years, sociopolitical factors likely explain most of the rise in LGBT identity, and that alternative sexual identities are a form of social contagion, incubated online and by universities.
It is worth noting that a person’s views on “shoutdowns” — that is, shouting down speakers to prevent them from uttering “harmful speech,” the definition of which has become so broad as to basically equate to “speech I don’t like” — are nearly as important as their ideology in predicting LGBT identification. White female students in leading U.S. universities who identify as very liberal and support shoutdowns have a nearly 7 in 10 chance of identifying as LGBT.
While it’s likely that non-heterosexual folks are more sensitive to speech they consider harmful to their own interests, minority and female students, who might be similarly sensitive to discrimination, are much less supportive of shoutdowns than LGBT students.
Also interesting is the correlation between LGBT college students and field of study, as revealed in a 57,000-strong Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression dataset of undergraduates at 150 leading U.S. universities. Among students taking highly political majors such as race or gender studies, a whopping 52% identify as LGBT. What kind of high school or college a young person attends poorly predicts their likelihood of identifying as LGBT, but the one exception is Liberal Arts colleges, where 38% of students describe themselves in this way. These are the sort of cats who major in Queer Fat Muslim Disabled Transgendered Black Feminist Literature and then go on to write long, fustian tomes on, say, the gender politics of Harry Potter.
A Trifecta Correlation
Liberal ideology, LGBT identity, and mental health problems are strongly correlated among young people. Using factor analysis in two different studies shows that assuming one common variable between all three traits explains 40-50% of the variation. Very liberal young Americans are twice as likely as others to experience mental health issues, and approximately 27% of Americans suffering from anxiety or depression identified as LGBT in 2021.3 This relationship appears to have strengthened since 2010.
I find the correlation between deteriorating mental health and LGBT identity…perplexing. It’s beyond argument that the U.S. has moved very left over the past few decades, in no small part because Democrats have moved much farther to the left than Republicans have to the right; they’ve essentially pulled the country with them. This has reset social mores and increased tolerance for everything from marijuana to transgender rights to gay marriage. Americans today are far more accepting of behaviors and identities that would’ve been widely frowned upon less than half a century ago.
Even so, there’s evidence that non-heterosexuals have been hit hardest by the post-2010 crisis of youth mental health. For example, a major study of nearly 40,000 teens in Wisconsin shows that LGBT mental health deteriorated significantly faster than heterosexual mental health between 2012 and 2018. In this six-year period, among young gay and bisexual teens, those reportedly diagnosed with anxiety and depression soared from about 55% in 2012 to 65% in 2015 to 72% in 2018. All this during a time of rising toleration of LGBT lifestyles.
Using 2020 Pew data, Center for the Study of Partisanship (CSPI) and Ideology Fellow Zach Goldberg showed that very liberal whites were considerably more likely than others to say they’d been diagnosed with a mental health condition. Very liberal whites had a 46% chance of answering that question in the affirmative compared to 33% of somewhat liberal whites and 29% of moderates. As mentioned earlier, we also know that very liberal Americans are substantially more likely to identify as LGBT than “slight” liberals, moderates, or conservatives, and in the CSPI datasets, “very liberal” ideology predicts mental health problems even when controlling for sexual orientation, race, gender, and other demographic characteristics.
Collective Munchausen Syndrome
I am of the belief that by pathologizing everyday experience and lauding a sense of virtuous but impotent victimhood the Left encourages, directly or indirectly, not just certain maladaptive behaviors but the appropriation of mental health issues and other marginalized identities out of naked self-interest for social capital—essentially, “Collective Munchausen Syndrome.” Rather than feigning a medical condition or inflicting an injury, sufferers of Collective Munchausen seek attention, sympathy, and empathy by advertising their supposed victimhood status or mooching off the victimhood of others (Collective Munchausen by Proxy).
This is inextricably tied to left-modernist culture, the zeitgeist of which puts a premium on transgressing social boundaries while celebrating — and even valorizing — victims and the vulnerable. As sociologist Eric Kaufmann points out, the past decade has been a period in which a social media-fueled culture of fragility expanded, a phenomenon which parallels the “Great Awokening” among liberal white Americans — evident in media and campus activism — yet extends beyond it.
Leftists are increasingly appropriating certain identity markers as part of self-serving melodrama because it makes them feel special and grants them preferential treatment and a morally elevated status. Many of these individuals are eagerly looking to cynically benefit from a society that now sees victimhood and membership in a protected group almost as a kind of currency that confers legal inviolability and absolute deference, even though it’s often the case that these egoic claims of being a “victim,” or a “survivor,” or a “marginalized” individual can only be ascertained through self-reporting that none may dispute and all must affirm.
For example, the Wall Street Journal reported on what sure seems to bespeak a dramatic increase in the number of young people looking to gamify the hallowed trinity of diversity, equity, and inclusion, describing “a surge in the number of students who take their exams in low-distraction testing centers [and] are allowed to get up and walk around during class or bring a comfort animal to school, among other measures.” In 2014, a poll of students taken at Pomona College found that 5% of them identified as “disabled.” That same poll administered in 2019 found that the figure had grown to 22%. A nearly fourfold increase in a mere five years strongly suggests what Wesley Yang calls “a culture of systemic advantage seeking” rooted in a “higher threshold of sensitivity to the vicissitudes of everyday life, and an overall normalization and valorization of the condition of disability.”
Performative Narcissism and the Victimhood Hierarchy
Self-involved narcissistic theatrics in Western society have practically been normalized as well, with examples too numerous to count. Spend ten minutes on any given day scrolling through Twitter or reading through the news and you’re liable to come across at least one clear-cut example of the miasma of performative narcissism that saturates the contemporary Left’s culture.
What most comes to mind is the prevalence of virtue-signaling “vulnerable” narcissism, a perfect example of which was when senators Alexandria Oscasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar pretended to be handcuffed as they were escorted away from the Supreme Court after participating in abortion rights protests with other House Democrats.
There’s also been a recent spate of climate activists who’ve taken to desecrating famous works of art and staging self-inflating acts in protest of global warming. The narcissism here is truly something to behold:
As behavioral psychologist Gad Saad tells it, progressives believe not only that feelings trump truth, but that feelings are the engine by which one’s existence is validated. Because of this, a culture of offense has taken shape where it pays to be part of a marginalized group and a member of the perpetually aggrieved. This creates the competitive urge to be positioned advantageously in a victimhood hierarchy. The Oppression Olympics is the arena wherein this competition of victimhood takes place, using identity politics and intersectionality to establish the “winners” of this grotesque theatre of the absurd.
Perhaps the best example showing just how coveted the immense social benefits atop the victimhood pyramid are is that of our dear friend Jussie Smollett, who was attacked by (fictitious) abominable ne’er-do-well MAGA savages while on a stroll to Subway for a delicious sammich at 0200 in the morning in downtown Chicago during the middle of winter. Dearest Jussie, the otherwise seldom known actor of the TV series Empire, was unhappy with the $125,000 he was getting per episode (a substantial sum for an actor with few credits, mind you) and his relative lack of fame. So, like many a millennial might do, Jussie sought out to ascend the victimhood hierarchy by orchestrating a fake hate crime attack on himself.
Unfortunately for Jussie, he paid off the two Nigerian-Americans hired to “attack” him by check. If he’d been smarter and paid in cash, he might very well be basking in all the societal rewards that befall Noble Victims.4
When it comes to Collective Munchausen Syndrome by proxy, however, we all know what the best example5 is: Elizabeth Warren, who appropriated Native American culture as her own by constructing a false narrative about her ancestry. A subsequent genealogical test revealed that she was somewhere between 1/64 to 1/1024 Native American, making her less of that ancestry than the average white American. And yet, she benefitted for several decades from this false narrative both in her academic and political career, piggybacking on the tragic history of Native Americans to garner sympathy and gain all of the advantages of being a “victim.”
“I can no longer call her Pocahontas, because she has no Indian blood,” Trump, who enjoyed mocking her with that name, said after the test. “She doesn’t qualify.”
About 1 in 4 high school students identifies as LGBT, according to a report the CDC released on Thursday, using data from 2021.
Bisexuals are close to half the LGBT total, and predominantly female. But the General Social Survey shows that the share of bisexual women with exclusively male partners increased from 13% in 2008-10 to 55% in 2018-21.
According to the 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, 82% needed mental health care over the past year.
Political scientist Wilfred Reilly has documented several hundred “hate crime” hoaxes and analyzed the perpetrators.