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There are just two problems with “social justice”: it’s not social and it’s not just. Rather, it is a toxic ideology that encourages division, anger, and vengeance. In this penetrating work, Commentary editor and MSNBC contributor Noah Rothman uncovers the real motives behind the social justice movement and explains why, despite its occasionally ludicrous public face, it i There are just two problems with “social justice”: it’s not social and it’s not just. Rather, it is a toxic ideology that encourages division, anger, and vengeance. In this penetrating work, Commentary editor and MSNBC contributor Noah Rothman uncovers the real motives behind the social justice movement and explains why, despite its occasionally ludicrous public face, it is a threat to be taken seriously. American political parties were once defined by their ideals. That idealism, however, is now imperiled by an obsession with the demographic categories of race, sex, ethnicity, and sexual orientation, which supposedly constitute a person’s “identity.” As interest groups defined by identity alone command the comprehensive allegiance of their members, ordinary politics gives way to “Identitarian” warfare, each group looking for payback and convinced that if it is to rise, another group must fall. In a society governed by “social justice,” the most coveted status is victimhood, which people will go to absurd lengths to attain. But the real victims in such a regime are blind justice—the standard of impartiality that we once took for granted—and free speech. These hallmarks of American liberty, already gravely compromised in universities, corporations, and the media, are under attack in our legal and political systems.


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There are just two problems with “social justice”: it’s not social and it’s not just. Rather, it is a toxic ideology that encourages division, anger, and vengeance. In this penetrating work, Commentary editor and MSNBC contributor Noah Rothman uncovers the real motives behind the social justice movement and explains why, despite its occasionally ludicrous public face, it i There are just two problems with “social justice”: it’s not social and it’s not just. Rather, it is a toxic ideology that encourages division, anger, and vengeance. In this penetrating work, Commentary editor and MSNBC contributor Noah Rothman uncovers the real motives behind the social justice movement and explains why, despite its occasionally ludicrous public face, it is a threat to be taken seriously. American political parties were once defined by their ideals. That idealism, however, is now imperiled by an obsession with the demographic categories of race, sex, ethnicity, and sexual orientation, which supposedly constitute a person’s “identity.” As interest groups defined by identity alone command the comprehensive allegiance of their members, ordinary politics gives way to “Identitarian” warfare, each group looking for payback and convinced that if it is to rise, another group must fall. In a society governed by “social justice,” the most coveted status is victimhood, which people will go to absurd lengths to attain. But the real victims in such a regime are blind justice—the standard of impartiality that we once took for granted—and free speech. These hallmarks of American liberty, already gravely compromised in universities, corporations, and the media, are under attack in our legal and political systems.

30 review for Unjust: Social Justice and the Unmaking of America

  1. 5 out of 5

    Cate B

    A review by someone that actually read the book First and foremost, if you’re on the fringe left or right, you will not like this book. If you’re somewhere in the middle of the political spectrum (like me), however, this might be a good choice. One thing to keep in mind is that, at least on Goodreads and Amazon, a lot of people that haven’t read this book are giving this book one-star star reviews, so the rating average is skewed more negatively than the book deserves. This book condemns identita A review by someone that actually read the book First and foremost, if you’re on the fringe left or right, you will not like this book. If you’re somewhere in the middle of the political spectrum (like me), however, this might be a good choice. One thing to keep in mind is that, at least on Goodreads and Amazon, a lot of people that haven’t read this book are giving this book one-star star reviews, so the rating average is skewed more negatively than the book deserves. This book condemns identitarianism and racial reductionism on both the left and the right. It details the philosophical developments of these movements, the violent turn of the adherents, and gives recommendations on how to limit their influence. The last part is definitely what made this book worthwhile in my opinion - too often political books expound on what’s wrong with the world without hinting at a solution. The other part of this book that stood out to me was the authors level-headed critique of Trump and the alt-right. I think he was actually able to express his critique of the right more concisely than his critique of the left. Even though I liked parts of the book, it didn’t seem entirely cohesive, especially in the first few chapters. The book definitely improved towards the end though. Overall, due to the suggestions at the end and the most level-headed critique of the alt-right that I’ve ever read, I liked this book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    This book is a must-read for all Americans, as far as I'm concerned. Classic/moderate liberals who have become disillusioned by a Democratic Party that is beholden to social justice warriors and identitarian politics will finally have an answer. This is an affirmation for what I have been feeling since the 2016 election wrapped up and I was motivated to become an independent voter. As if Noah Rothman had planned it, along came Jussie Smollet to execute a fake hate crime at the same time this boo This book is a must-read for all Americans, as far as I'm concerned. Classic/moderate liberals who have become disillusioned by a Democratic Party that is beholden to social justice warriors and identitarian politics will finally have an answer. This is an affirmation for what I have been feeling since the 2016 election wrapped up and I was motivated to become an independent voter. As if Noah Rothman had planned it, along came Jussie Smollet to execute a fake hate crime at the same time this book was published, providing a perfect real-life example of just what is wrong with the modern liberal movement. Bravo, Noah. I will suggest this book to everyone I know.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Paula

    Author and other guests on Morning Joe set forth interesting for and against ideas proposed in his book so I wanted to read it. I did not find the book well written or argued which was disappointing. Though author purports to call out social justice proponents on both ends of political spectrum, he blatantly makes his case more often on activists from the left end of the spectrum. He also amplifies the worst extremes of both groups (concentrating on left) instead of really arguing policies. He pl Author and other guests on Morning Joe set forth interesting for and against ideas proposed in his book so I wanted to read it. I did not find the book well written or argued which was disappointing. Though author purports to call out social justice proponents on both ends of political spectrum, he blatantly makes his case more often on activists from the left end of the spectrum. He also amplifies the worst extremes of both groups (concentrating on left) instead of really arguing policies. He places the extremes on left fully within the Democratic party, but extremes on the right are stated as not being as all conservative/Republican. As far as redistribution, every government redistributes--it the choice of how redistribution and distribution that sets parties and groups apart. I expected better from a person whose boss is editor of Commentary John Podhoretz. Rothman says he gives prescriptions for correcting the problems he sees, but I did not hear them. This is a very shallow dive. A generalized screed. A hodgepodge Also making up the word identitarianism made for a hokey beginning. Some observations that rang true were the whiny, victim nature of many in today's world of Twitter and other social media; of taking offense and trying to limit free speech; of fact-free assessments and arguments.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Dustin

    Despite what the author says, this book is "red meat" for conservatives. It’s a “pearl clutching” tirade. In a podcast, the author claims that 60% of the book is a critique of identity politics on the Left and overreaches by SJWs, and 40% is about the Right. It's more like 90% about the absolute worst aspects of SJWs, which he uses to mischaracterizes the Left in general, and 10% about white supremacists. The 10% about the Right is repeated again and again, saying the exact same thing, with no re Despite what the author says, this book is "red meat" for conservatives. It’s a “pearl clutching” tirade. In a podcast, the author claims that 60% of the book is a critique of identity politics on the Left and overreaches by SJWs, and 40% is about the Right. It's more like 90% about the absolute worst aspects of SJWs, which he uses to mischaracterizes the Left in general, and 10% about white supremacists. The 10% about the Right is repeated again and again, saying the exact same thing, with no real critique. The author throws in nuggets about white supremacists to appear balanced, but he is always quick to blame the Left for the Right's problems. In the middle of huge sections about bad behavior on the Left, the author will give an example about identity politics on the Right in a way that supports his critique of the Left, giving the reader a general sense that the Left is entirely to blame. It's a common trope to blame the Left for identity politics on the Right. The author’s finger pointing is obvious. I agree with the overall thesis of the book: there are overreaches on the Left that are divisive, revengeful, and illiberal, and social justice advocates can be so enamored with their own virtue that they cannot see the injustices they are committing; identity politics is dividing America, there is no question about that. This book offers the usual examples of Left-wing overreaches on college campuses and summarizes the worst parts of social movements, but it offers no real analysis. I would never tell someone to not read a book--so read this book. But keep reading others, as well. For an in-depth book see Francis Fukuyama’s Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment. For more on intersectionality, victimhood, and overreaches by the Left see The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, also see Whiteshift by Eric Kaufmann. This book also mischaracterizes several prominent rallies in 2016 and 2017, namely the UC Berkeley/Milo Yiannopoulos fiasco. The author fails to note that Antifa is an extreme minority among activists, and liberals and most SWJs fiercely criticize their tactics and condemn them for interrupting peaceful protests. This was true at Berkeley and it was true during the entire Occupy Wall Street movement, where violent agitators caused huge divisions among activists. You would never know this by reading this book. The Women’s Movement, and specially Women’s marches during Trump’s inauguration, were entirely peaceful; petty violence were statistical nonevents, but again, you would never know this from reading this book. The author writes about social movements, but he seems extremely out of touch with what actually happens on the ground versus what is reported. He recants the familiar media highlights of petty violence that mischaracterized thousands of people and hundreds of rallies. I wonder if the author has ever been to a political demonstration, seen firsthand what actually happens for himself, and then read news reports afterwards that mischaracterize the entire thing. If so, he would see that secondhand reporting can be distorted, and third-hand reporting is worse. The author clearly does not like political activism by the Left, but he seems to throw the baby out with the bath water. The author doesn’t seemed to have written this book for the purpose of making the Left or Right better or to improve society or the political system, such as Mark Lilla tries in Once and Future Liberal. Rather he just wants SJWs to stop so everyone can get back to the status quo. Lilla talks about what is means to be a citizen contributing to the common good. You won’t find that in this book. On several occasions, the author sites numerous examples on how terrible SJWs are, and then reverses course to appear balanced by throwing in a common cliche by conservatives: "Well, yes, as a reminder, there are problems in society, such as racism and sexism, and people should do something about it, but at the same time don’t do anything about it." It's a usual get-off-my-lawn conservative position. As a thought experience, I sometimes wonder what someone’s position would be if they lived during the Civil Rights Movement or the French Revolution. They would write books about SWJs sitting down at a Woolworth counter and boycotting public transportation, but what would they say about segregation and structural racism? It’s easy to point out overreaches on one side of the political spectrum, but what about issues that actually matter? What’s more important, pronoun badges on college campuses or climate change? Someone might be quick to offer legitimate critiques of Robespierre, the Jacobins, and the Reign of Terror, but what would they say about monarchy, mercantilism, and feudalism? My guess is a lot of people would clutch their pearls in the halls of Versailles while they complain why anyone would dare challenge the status quo.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Letitia Todd Kim

    Although I agree with Rothman’s thesis that the modern social justice movement does more harm than good, I found this book unsatisfying. It is too shallow. Rothman attempts to cover far too many (often disparate) incidents and topics, with the result that none of them receives sufficient analysis.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Robert Parker

    Tribalism and identity politics are destroying our country. Rothman outlines how this has happened and how we can move forward. I think every politically interested person should read this book. Quick and engaging read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jack

    I've listened to Noah Rothman on occasion and he has always come across as a reasonable right-of-center gent. In a few instances in the past, with books by ideologues who have a media presence, the book is more likely to be the sane presentation of a wilder radio, TV, or internet personality. With Rothman, it is somewhat reversed. His book is a bit more biting than it needs to be to make his point. He would have benefited, along with less snark, from more citations. Still, he is more balanced th I've listened to Noah Rothman on occasion and he has always come across as a reasonable right-of-center gent. In a few instances in the past, with books by ideologues who have a media presence, the book is more likely to be the sane presentation of a wilder radio, TV, or internet personality. With Rothman, it is somewhat reversed. His book is a bit more biting than it needs to be to make his point. He would have benefited, along with less snark, from more citations. Still, he is more balanced than many people might realized based on the title and edgy cover art. Rothman hates identity politics that is most notably associated with the social justice left (hence the "Unjust" title). But he has plenty of criticism for the identity politics of the right and Donald Trump as well. According to Rothman, everyone wants revenge for some perceived injustice of the past. Rather than seeing the US as a great land of opportunity, with equal shots for all, we all bicker about an ugly American past and how we are victims of it. For me, as a pretty down the middle guy, with more left leanings than right, I kind of wish the same as Rothman does. But then, I also read a lot of American history, and I appreciate well the many sins of our past. There's just no way to easily get past all that. But it would be nice if we could. And, again, I think Rothman could have reached a larger crowd with a more positive approach - he wouldn't have to change his argument by being less angry. But that's the way the world is, I guess. I'm glad I read this book, but it won't make anything better. Kind of like most political books.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Britney Wallesch

    This author, like so many people who take to discussing issues with which they don't agree, paints every nuance of the social justice movement into a corner full of radical zealots. It's a misrepresentation of the intentions and actions of those who seek to share this country in a more equitable way, but thought-provoking nonetheless. Certainly the issues tackled by the social justice movement are complex and varied, and the actions taken on its behalf can and have been hypocritical at times. Wh This author, like so many people who take to discussing issues with which they don't agree, paints every nuance of the social justice movement into a corner full of radical zealots. It's a misrepresentation of the intentions and actions of those who seek to share this country in a more equitable way, but thought-provoking nonetheless. Certainly the issues tackled by the social justice movement are complex and varied, and the actions taken on its behalf can and have been hypocritical at times. While I chose to read this book to try and understand some of the other side of this argument, I struggled at times to stick with it because it reads like a diatribe of a self-righteous and borderline obnoxious political commentator. I don't agree with the broad-strokes painted here and found the voice hard to follow, but there are points worth pondering for those willing to go down the rabbit hole of deep investigations into some of society's biggest troubles.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    This is an accessible, well-written synthesis of the criticisms of current ideas in “social justice.” It’s not the most in-depth or academically rigorous work on the subject, but it’s smart enough to be worthwhile, and is probably the best read out there for people who want to understand the case against “social justice,” whether they’re inclined to agree or disagree with it.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nick McCormick

    Great read This is a powerful and insightful look at the fraudulent state that social justice efforts have become today. Thoroughly enjoyed Noah’s work on this topic.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ronni

    An excellent discussion of today’s Identarian fixation & its vengeful actions as the antithesis of fairness and impartiality. Every American should understand this issue.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Alicia

    Wow! This is an amazing look at the social justice movement, on both the left and the right. I appreciated the history of identitarian groups, from the anti-Catholic “Know Nothing” party of the early 1800’s (similar to the alt-right today), to Tammany Hall courting the vote of Irish Catholics, to FDR’s Homeowners Refinancing Act (which led to dangerous ghettos in big cities), to the John Birch Society. Rothman discusses the development of social justice from the ideas of Aristotle, to Pope Leo Wow! This is an amazing look at the social justice movement, on both the left and the right. I appreciated the history of identitarian groups, from the anti-Catholic “Know Nothing” party of the early 1800’s (similar to the alt-right today), to Tammany Hall courting the vote of Irish Catholics, to FDR’s Homeowners Refinancing Act (which led to dangerous ghettos in big cities), to the John Birch Society. Rothman discusses the development of social justice from the ideas of Aristotle, to Pope Leo XIII, to John Rawls. Highly recommended and fascinating reading for any thinking American on either side of the political spectrum. "The American tradition of political idealism is imperiled by a growing obsession with the demographic categories of race, sex, ethicity, and sexual orientation- the primary categories that are now supposed to constitute "identity". As groups defined by these various categories have come to command the comprehensive allegiance of their members, identity alone has become a powerful political program. As it turns out, it is not a program that appeals to the better angels of our nature... So enamored with their own virtue are these social justice advocates that they cannot see the injustices they are abetting." -p. xii "No virtuous society ignores the petitions of the genuinely wronged, and social justice can be the recognition of the legitimacy of particular grievances...But social justice in its modern form encompasses the idea that an ill-defined class of persecutors and oppressors is due for a reckoning. The same idea animated the Jacobins in France, the Bolivarians in Latin America, and the Bolsheviks in Russia...Retribution rarely resolves conflict. Often, it fosters more of it." -pp. xiv-xv "Many who dedicate themselves to social justice are pursuing a noble goal: equality and reparation for genuine historical crimes. But harboring a grievance is toxic, and in the hands of an influential set of activists, social justice has turned poisonous. It appeals to our pettiness and stokes envy. It compels us to think of ourselves and those around us as victims inhabiting a complex matrix of persecution. While robbing us of our sense of agency, it entices us to take out our frustrations on our neighbors." -p. 4 "As the totalitarianism of the twentieth century recedes from living memory, some have begun to look favorably upon alternatives to classically liberal laissez-faire republicanism. Some of today's most popular alternatives- populism and tribalism- are the primordial ooze out of which despots crawl." -p. 6 "For the social justice left, meritocracy isn't the only myth that must be stamped out. Objective truth is another." -p. 11 "In the name of Identitarian social justice, the next generation has embraced racial, religious, and political segregation and censorship. This isn't progress. It's regression." -p. 13 Social media outrage: "These and other controversies made for the social media age produce the illusion for social justice advocates that they are engaging in genuine political discourse. In fact, they're only obsessing over popular culture." -p. 19 "What began as a humbling and enlightening quest for racial and cultural awareness has become a competition among victimized classes to determine who is the most oppressed and to capitalize on that status." -p. 27 "The alt-right is a funhouse-mirror reflection of Identitarian movements on the left. White nationalism is perhaps the primordial form of identity politics in America, and its program is social justice for white people. Its members revel in self-pity. They are hypersensitive to perceived slights against their race or their culture. They are convinced that society has erected insurmountable obstacles in their paths to success because of their heritage. They seek only fairness, they contend, just as their progressive counterparts do." -p. 29 "The way in which social justice has been perverted to mean censorship, thought-policing, and inequality in the name of social leveling is a scandal, but it is a scandal that was centuries in the making." -p. 33 "Purporting to protect vulnerable people from dangerous ideas- ideas that may be deeply offensive, threatening, or, even worse, alluring- social justice advocates have adopted a set of dogmas that bear a suspicious resemblance to the biological determinism they supposedly abhor." -p. 63 "From improving race relations to the march toward equality of the sexes to the success of the melting pot, the United States is making headway every day. That truth is undeniable, and for some reason social justice activists passionately resent it." -p. 64 "Biology: 'Gender is binary. Race exists on a spectrum.' For the social justice left, it's the other way around. Gender is a fluid concept. It isn't biological but sociological and cultural. Race, by contrast, is static and absolute. Racially distinct character traits cannot be transferred through cultural osmosis. That is tantamount to theft...The notion that race is indissoluble, non-transferable, and informs how a person navigates every daily social interaction is increasingly prevalent on the social justice left, and it is as toxic as any other kind of bigotry." -pp. 76-77, 82 "The reality is that race relations in America have improved, sex-specific life choices are often mistaken for sexism, and immigrants are integrating into American society at a pace consistent with their predecessors...The idea that the United States is in the midst of a terrible societal regression is the height of sophistry. Identitarians are walllowing in a self-serving ideology that confirms unhealthy biases. That should be greeted as good news. But for an influential contingent of identity-obsessed activists, it is a threat to their very reason for being." -pp. 88-89 "Perhaps the best description of the Identitarian activist class's ethos is a collective antipathy to fortune and the fortunate...A variety of philosophers and theoreticians throughout history dedicated their careers to polishing envy and class-consciousness until they shine with a bogus academic luster." -p. 92 "Hayek's principal objection to social justice was that it distorts the marketplace, which he viewed as the most powerful engine of human potential and happiness. 'Few circumstances will do more to make a person energetic and efficient than the belief that it depends chiefly on him whether he will reach the goals he has set himself,' Hayek contended...The more a set of institutions commits itself to addressing inequalities, the more inequalities it causes...No one can depend on anyone but himself to secure his maximum economic benefit. To give in to the temptations of distributive justice is to empower the state, invite collectivism, socialism, and ultimately tyranny." -pp. 99-100 "Social leveling is predicated on the sacrifice of individual liberty and potential... Natural talent, opportunity, or even personal tastes- these are disparate circumstances that must be corrected through social leveling." -p. 103 "This sorry story is the fruit of Identitarianism, an ideology that insists that the key to a person's mind and heart is the stereotypes associated with his culture and external features. We used to call that prejudice." -p. 122 "Judging one's forebears by the moral standards of one's own time rather than seeking to understand theirs is an exercise for the arrogant and the ignorant. The objective of those who engage in this practice is usually not a fuller understanding of their predecessors but confirmation of their own sense of moral superiority. This spreading folly is deforming the American left's otherwise noble desire to communicate the unequivocal sins of America's past, such as slavery." -pp. 122-23 Halloween costume controversy: "Steeping children in racial consciousness and teaching them that they are allowed to appreciate only one culture- their own- seems like a counterproductive way to combat racism." -p. 130 "Anyone examining the modern social justice movement quickly encounters a chicken-and-egg conundrum. Which came first, a movement that is so myopically obsessed with identity that it can't distinguish a legitimate case of discrimination from a ginned-up contre-temps, or the media culture that exploits that obsession for profit?" -p. 132 "That success was reduced to a formula, and that formula was built around the idea that social justice activism was fueled by anxiety, a preoccupation with oneself, and the need for a constant stream of new enemies." -p. 133 "'Settled science' is rarely scientific. As we've seen, though, this kind of simplistic absolutism has the potential to generate real income for anyone willing to monetize ignorance. Couple a pseudo-scientific secular religion with social justice, and the thing sells itself." -p. 141 “One of America’s founding ideals is the individual’s freedom to rise as far as industry and talent will take him or her. Today that ideal is becoming unrecognizable, as victimhood is mistaken for agency and worth.” -p. 147 “There is a simple explanation for this epidemic of hoaxes: victimhood bestows credentials. If you reward certain behavior, you’ll get more of it.” -p. 166 “The ideology animating aggressive white racists is not all that distinct from what motivates racial hoaxers- the desire to be a victim… White supremacists and the social justice left use different vocabulary but speak the same language.” -p. 173 “What happens to a people when it becomes convinced that its public and private institutions serve only to keep it in chains? What happens when it becomes insular, narrow-minded, and petty? When good news is rejected because it undermines its woeful narrative, when it prefers societal alienation to integration, when provocateurs profit from ignorance and disillusionment? How does it all end? Too often, the answer is in bloodshed.” -p. 181 “Studies have demonstrated that poverty is not a predictive factor when examining the causes of extremism and terror...The liberal myth holds that privation and dispossession will drive people to acts of political violence, because the liberal myth is a reductionist philosophy that boils down every sociopolitical development to privation and dispossession.” -pp. 206-7 “No amount of opprobrium heaped upon white supremacists will ever be too much. But the initial reluctance of elite opinion-makers to condemn Antifa with equal fervor suggests that in their eyes some violent mobs are more abhorrent than others. That is corruption; it is the rot that eats away at the foundations of a healthy society. And one day, when the rot has been ignored for so long that no one believes it can be expunged, another mob will come along. And that time, the republic’s weakened edifice may not withstand the pressure.” -pp. 208-9 “Identitarianism and vindictive social justice are radical philosophies, antithetical to the American idea. But rank-and-file social justice advocates must be handled with sympathy and care. They are not anti-American insurgents; they are our neighbors with valid concerns about the future of the country. They have been led astray.” -p. 230 “Social justice is no longer the pursuit of pure equality but of retribution, often for intangible, ill-defined, and occasionally even conjectural offenses committed by generations long departed...It compels its adherents to fixate on trivialities and to elevate perceived slights to the level of grave personal injuries. It steals from its enthusiasts a sense of charity, forces them to compete for victim status, and in the end to wallow in self-pity.” -p. 232

  13. 5 out of 5

    Don

    mobs

  14. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    I thought I was going to like this book more. In fact, I wanted to like this book more since I'm sympathetic to the author's position. The weaknesses of the first couple chapters were too glaring to make up for the relative strength and quality of the rest of the book. In essence, I though the chapter 1 and, to a lesser extent, chapter 2, contained too many assertions and not enough arguments and explanations. The author made no attempt to explain SJW thought or point of view; instead he too ofte I thought I was going to like this book more. In fact, I wanted to like this book more since I'm sympathetic to the author's position. The weaknesses of the first couple chapters were too glaring to make up for the relative strength and quality of the rest of the book. In essence, I though the chapter 1 and, to a lesser extent, chapter 2, contained too many assertions and not enough arguments and explanations. The author made no attempt to explain SJW thought or point of view; instead he too often cited a example of SJW silliness, quote some silly SJW activist, and then ended it all with unnecessary snark. He also used the standard political hack ploy by quoting something silly said by one SJW person and then attributing the quote to all SJW folks. Chapter 2 got a little better, as the author delved into some SJW intellectual history, but he never showed how, if at all, current SJW thought is in any way tied to or influenced by that history. The historical example cited, such as radical Republicans during Reconstruction and New Deal housing policy, struck me as odd. After the rocky start, the book improves a great deal. He still cites numerous examples of SJW overreach, but with less snark and more attempt to engage with the underlying thought rather than simply mocking it. As much as I disliked the first two chapters, I truly enjoyed the rest of the book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Rothman takes aim at what he terms "identitarianism," identity politics basically, that has become a feature of politics on both the right and left wings of US politics. Politics based on the idea that peoples are marginalized and that social justice demands redress against the society that has marginalized them. His assertion is that this form of social justice politics has undermined the liberal values of egalitarianism, the power of individual agency, and the promise in America that however h Rothman takes aim at what he terms "identitarianism," identity politics basically, that has become a feature of politics on both the right and left wings of US politics. Politics based on the idea that peoples are marginalized and that social justice demands redress against the society that has marginalized them. His assertion is that this form of social justice politics has undermined the liberal values of egalitarianism, the power of individual agency, and the promise in America that however humble one's origins, one can rise. As he writes, "Many who dedicate themselves to social justice are pursuing a noble goal: equality and reparation for genuine historical crimes. But harboring a grievance is toxic, and in the hands of an influential set of activists, social justice has turned poisonous. It appeals to our pettiness and stokes envy. It compels us to think of ourselves and those around us as victims inhabiting a complex matrix of persecution. While robing us of our sense of agency, it entices us to take out our frustration on our neighbors. It demands that we define people by their hereditary traits, and insists that we take subjective inventory of our 'privileges' we acquire at birth . It rejects as folly the idea that we are free to rise as far as individual aptitude and merit allow. For social justice devotees, the American idea is a lie." Lest the reader think this is an attack on the left only, he makes it clear that this identitarianism has been part of our country (and importantly all others as well) from its inception and that lately it has become a salient feature of politics on both left and right. He writes, "The alt-right is a funhouse mirror reflection of Identitarian movements on the left. White nationalism is perhaps the primordial form of identity politics in America, and its program is social justice for white people Its members revel in self-pity. They are hypersensitive to perceived slights against their race or their culture. They are convinced that society has erected insurmountable obstacles to their success because of their heritage." "The perversions that today's modern activist class calls social justice have roots in centuries of Identitarian thought in America. We must evaluate that history critically if real egalitarian virtue is to be saved from association with and corruption by this thing that calls itself justice." So left and right and our shared history are implicated, but perhaps at this moment it is the left which has weaponized identity politics most. He writes, "It is increasingly common to hear social justice activists equate discomfiting or objectionable speech with acts of violence, and not in a metaphorical sense. These activists are just as liable to view reactionary activities--including public disturbances, property destruction, and even the physical harassment of their opponents --as alternative forms of expression. Since they conflate speech and violence, a violent response to speech isn't just reasonable; it's necessary. It's practically self-defense" He also discusses how this brand of politics seeks to shut down any dissenting view points in an alarming way, the cancel culture. If what I say can be construed as violence to you, then shutting down my speech is simply preventing violence. He discusses a Google engineer, Damore, who was for a memo he wrote that affronted his co-workers and many in the social media space by suggesting the company policies aimed at fostering participation of women engineers at Google was possibly mistaken about the reason why there were fewer women. He suggested that biological differences might make women less likely to become computer scientists. Sounds wrong headed to me, but the point that I take here, and that Rothman is making, is that what ensued was far beyond what should have happened. At first Google defended Damore because Google had a culture of encouraging free discussion of policies, which Damore was engaged in, but then when the hue and cry on social media reached a level that worried Google, they fired him. Cancel culture at work. Rothman writes,"Damore's true crime was pointing out the patronizing principle at the heart of the social justice movement: the assumption that accidents of birth prevent certain classes from achieving their aspirations without the aid of enlightened liberal Sherpas." Having read the book through, I think it is a good read, reminding us that pursuit of redress for past grievances based on group membership can overreach what is good for the nation when it does not uphold other values that are essential for democracy, individual liberty and free speech being among them. He is right to note that sometimes there is a sort of mob psychology that is willing to trample individual liberty in pursuit of its grievances, to make individuals the brunt of its rage. The cancel culture is real and becoming more so and more widely spread every year. On the other hand, he does not address the fact that the cause of these grievances is ongoing. He does not address how a politics based on identity has allowed marginalized people to make their unaddressed grievances more salient and this politics, though it can overreach and does, has given marginalized groups a power that they would not have if they focused only on individual rights. It may be that anyone of exceptional ability can rise in our society today, but it is also true that it is harder for some because of where they are situated. Rothman discusses the Vonnegut story about how people are made equal by forcing the strong to carry weights, the smart to endure headaches, and so on. But he fails to recognize, as did Vonnegut, I suppose, that some members of this society are already carrying the weights and have been for centuries. They are just looking to put the weights down.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Allen Herring

    I was really disappointed by this book. I have seen Noah on Morning Joe and follow him on Twitter and watched the MJ episode where this was discussed with a panel of guests. I remember him saying to one guest in particular that his arguments were nonsense and showed that he had not read the book. Well, I read it, and I was disappointed by the lack of insight or understanding into social justice, and instead found a "pearl-clutching" narrative of victimhood for white male heteronormativity. Noah I was really disappointed by this book. I have seen Noah on Morning Joe and follow him on Twitter and watched the MJ episode where this was discussed with a panel of guests. I remember him saying to one guest in particular that his arguments were nonsense and showed that he had not read the book. Well, I read it, and I was disappointed by the lack of insight or understanding into social justice, and instead found a "pearl-clutching" narrative of victimhood for white male heteronormativity. Noah proclaims that Social Justice is the philosophy of liberal victims to be seen as equal with the established patriarchy and instead devolves into revenge and retribution narratives. Unfortunately, Noah is the one who is decrying victimhood. First, he doesn't really understand social justice, intersectionality, or identity politics. He operates from an uninformed place of understanding what the terms, movements, and politics truly mean, so he gloms onto events in which the individual operated within a social justice or identity political space and created a false narrative. For example, the false rape allegations against some fraternity houses. While I agree that the false narratives were wrong, Noah does not balance his argument against situations like Brock Turner. Understanding social justice is not about saying that because some women lied about being raped or being harassed that all social justice proponents are in favor of telling lies. It is about understanding that Brock Turner got 6 months jail for the rape of another person. A person of a different identity would not get the same sentence. That institutionalized racism is the bane against which social justice is fighting for. It is about understanding that Dylan Roof (who Noah only briefly analyzes and assumes that saying, he is a racist is enough of an analysis - it's not) was treated to fast food and kid gloves after he murdered 9 black people, whereas Tamir Rice was murdered by police for playing with a toy gun in an open-carry state, whereas Sandra Bland was murdered by police during a traffic stop, whereas Eric Garner was murdered by police for selling cigarillos. The anger and rage that is associated with social justice is not simply tied to the Right or the middle's inability to understand that a "safe space" isn't an area for mocking me for my identity as a black gay man, a hispanic gay man; as a black lesbian transgender; or a latina poet, etc. The anger and rage stems from the misguided understanding that Noah displays when he attempts to equate the Alt-Right with Antifa, or the Alt-Right as a subset on equal footing with Social Justice Warriors. To quote the president, "Bullshit." The Alt-Right and white supremacists are victims wanting to retain the historicity of white male heternormativity. They don't want to be accepted for who they are, they want to be considered the "top species" and all others are subservient or less than. They want to reinforce the oppression of the oppressed, they don't want equality. When Noah makes these false equivalencies between Trump-supporting Alt-Righters, with Social Justice Warriors, he displays his own fear at being considered on equal footing with the "other". I was so disappointed that he wove a web of false analysis into a tale of "leftist retribution" against the right. This was a poorly conceived and analyzed argument. Are there people on the left that misuse identity politics or social justice, yes, but to say that the desire for an individual to be seen and accepted as equal as a form of retribution against the white man, is a poor, poor state of existence and understanding. I expected better from Rothman.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kurt Mueller

    Several glaring inaccuracies mar what is an overall well-sourced and thought provoking work You can tell by the first page of reading Noah Rothman is a man who has a complex understanding of not only the language, but history and historical context. That, I think, besides the rather cutting and satisfying jibes against the subjects of the book, would be the main value. Rothman gives a wonderful overview of how extremism can not only take root but also be rooted out from an educated historical and Several glaring inaccuracies mar what is an overall well-sourced and thought provoking work You can tell by the first page of reading Noah Rothman is a man who has a complex understanding of not only the language, but history and historical context. That, I think, besides the rather cutting and satisfying jibes against the subjects of the book, would be the main value. Rothman gives a wonderful overview of how extremism can not only take root but also be rooted out from an educated historical and social point of view. Unfortunately, on those few subjects he covered that I know very well I saw inaccuracies that I believe stem from his immersion in the media landscape and not critically examining media narratives. Now, I'm loath to defend or attack any politician, politics being a tar baby if ever something could be called one, but it seems he has a blindspot when it comes to President Trump. Rothman states that there were months long periods where President Trump did not condemn David Duke. Simply not the case, which is a major problem since a few of his conclusions rest on this assertion. In fact, the Friday before the infamous Jake Tapper interview he condemned the man in a press conference. Not only leaving out that fact but leaving out the fact that during that interview it was a group that David Duke was associated with, not David Duke himself, that was the issue is rather glaring and sparks of someone who has not examined their own views critically. Not good in a book about critical examination. This is not the only inaccuracy that I saw in the issues I'm familiar with, making trust of Rothman on the issues I am not much more difficult. A grain of salt is needed while reading. Still, the book is very well-sourced and the vast majority of his conclusions and assertions seem sound, so it's not enough to take off a star or stop me from recommending this book. Just something for other readers to be aware of.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Anthony

    Whatever you may think of the SJW movement, there's much to be said equally regarding the outrage industry surrounding it. As one whose been sucked into an internet subculture of anti-SJW clickbait, I wanted to move beyond just my natural revulsion to that kind of activism. The good news is Noah Rothman delivers. The bad news will anyone want to listen or think he's only offering more red meat? Rothman spares no one in today's ongoing identarian wars; race baiters, gender totalitarians and intern Whatever you may think of the SJW movement, there's much to be said equally regarding the outrage industry surrounding it. As one whose been sucked into an internet subculture of anti-SJW clickbait, I wanted to move beyond just my natural revulsion to that kind of activism. The good news is Noah Rothman delivers. The bad news will anyone want to listen or think he's only offering more red meat? Rothman spares no one in today's ongoing identarian wars; race baiters, gender totalitarians and internet trolls of every stripe are all laid to waste here. Rothman spends a significant amount of time on the alt-Right and their use of similiar aggressive tactics to foment an environment of basic contempt for anyone who is not them, not unlike their progressive (and more accepted) counterparts. Just when the reader thinks Rothman will simply rant, he shows the human cost to the quest for social justice, like a 20-something driven to suicide because of his perceived online social media sins. There's as much care given for the equality of all people, as there is scrutiny and derision for the rapid Marxist redefinition of representation currently consuming our academy and media. If you can excuse some preconceived biases about conservative books regarding the subject, this book is worth your time.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Zach

    This book was a bit of a disappointment. The basic thesis is solid: the modern social justice movement is not committed to justice in any sense of the word. Rather, it is an "identitarian" movement, dedicated to the proposition that individuals are valuable insofar as they are members of some oppressed group or other. This is borne out by the facts in the United States today, where many insist that whites have no right to participate in certain conversations because of the color of their skin. O This book was a bit of a disappointment. The basic thesis is solid: the modern social justice movement is not committed to justice in any sense of the word. Rather, it is an "identitarian" movement, dedicated to the proposition that individuals are valuable insofar as they are members of some oppressed group or other. This is borne out by the facts in the United States today, where many insist that whites have no right to participate in certain conversations because of the color of their skin. On the other hand, what the book ended up being was a long catalogue of such instances of injustice perpetrated by the Social Justice Movement. Helpful in illustrating what Rothman is talking about, but lacking in any cohesive vision for an alternative. In the end, I was left with the impression that this book was designed to produce outrage at social justice overreach more than constructive alternatives. Finally, a positive point: Rothman is not afraid to argue that the social justice identitarianism exists on both sides of the policitcal spectrum. The despicable identity politics of Trump supporters is as much under scrutiny and condemnation as the leftist movements like antifa. For this balanced approach, Rothman deserves praise.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Scott Carson

    Noah Rothman provides an eye opening look at how identity politics, on both fringes of the political spectrum, are ruining the ideals and principles of America. He provides a myriad of thought provoking examples of how fringe groups tend to hijack even the noblest of causes, morphing those causes to be vehicles of hate and intolerance. Fighting hate with hate will never win and at the end of the day Noah provides us with information that should provoke thought and open our eyes. A very easy read Noah Rothman provides an eye opening look at how identity politics, on both fringes of the political spectrum, are ruining the ideals and principles of America. He provides a myriad of thought provoking examples of how fringe groups tend to hijack even the noblest of causes, morphing those causes to be vehicles of hate and intolerance. Fighting hate with hate will never win and at the end of the day Noah provides us with information that should provoke thought and open our eyes. A very easy read and those who consider this to be politically bias should perhaps wonder why so many examples exist from one side of the aisle. Social Justice, while noble in its base definition, cannot exist when we shift the balance from one side to the other. A great read with some good points and I would recommend to individuals on both sides of the political spectrum.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Joanna Larson

    Thoughtful, and reflective. The book was a bit wordy and disjointed at times, but well worth the read. I've met so many people within the last few years who feel 'expelled' from the left because their political correctness, or lack there of, egalitarian views, or willingness to be boxed in by identity politics has become an affront to social justice crusaders. This book is a welcome critique of the failures of identity politics, and offers a few thoughts on how to move beyond it. I've read most Thoughtful, and reflective. The book was a bit wordy and disjointed at times, but well worth the read. I've met so many people within the last few years who feel 'expelled' from the left because their political correctness, or lack there of, egalitarian views, or willingness to be boxed in by identity politics has become an affront to social justice crusaders. This book is a welcome critique of the failures of identity politics, and offers a few thoughts on how to move beyond it. I've read most of the works mentioned or quoted in the book, and found that helpful to try and hold the various perspectives in the same space. This was Noah Rothman's first book, and I look forward to his next.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lance

    I dropped this book before he even finished the first chapter. I was willing to allow him vitriol. It's opinion, and strong defense of that makes for better arguments and everyone gets a better negotiated outcome. What I won't tolerate however is inaccuracies. In chapter one he references the New York City Human Rights codes referencing pronouns. His summation is incorrect. It does not take 'one unknowing violation'. The code clearly states that there must 'repeated' deliberate us of incorrect p I dropped this book before he even finished the first chapter. I was willing to allow him vitriol. It's opinion, and strong defense of that makes for better arguments and everyone gets a better negotiated outcome. What I won't tolerate however is inaccuracies. In chapter one he references the New York City Human Rights codes referencing pronouns. His summation is incorrect. It does not take 'one unknowing violation'. The code clearly states that there must 'repeated' deliberate us of incorrect pronouns to count. A second example he points to was Columbia University have segregated living spaces. That I could find, there aren't any. You don't get to be aggressive, and wrong. There are more informed arguments to be made in defense of the values he's after. Save your time.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jody

    Based on the title and cover, I was expecting this to be another rightwing jeremiad completely lacking in self-awareness. In fact, Rothman goes to great lengths to point out that Trump cultists are the flip side of the coin to progressive SJWs. I suspect this is why Unjust did not garner as much attention as, say, Douglas Murray's most recent book. American politics is being held hostage by two sets of conspiratorial lunatics, both in the throes of a new evangelicalism. Like a plague, they have Based on the title and cover, I was expecting this to be another rightwing jeremiad completely lacking in self-awareness. In fact, Rothman goes to great lengths to point out that Trump cultists are the flip side of the coin to progressive SJWs. I suspect this is why Unjust did not garner as much attention as, say, Douglas Murray's most recent book. American politics is being held hostage by two sets of conspiratorial lunatics, both in the throes of a new evangelicalism. Like a plague, they have blighted all corners of social media and, increasingly, real life in general. If liberals and conservatives alike don't start mitigating these idea pathogens (to borrow Gad Saad's terminology), they'll infect the entire body politic.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Chris Lira

    I have read a numbe of books on political correctness, the, err....changes going on in the American university system, identity issues, etc. So I was very much looking forward to this book as the idea of social justice ties into those topics quite a bit, and it's a very important subject for people on all points of the politicial spectrum to understamd for its implications. Unfortunately though, the book fell flat in a number of spots with diversions into philosophy, McCarthyism, the John Birch S I have read a numbe of books on political correctness, the, err....changes going on in the American university system, identity issues, etc. So I was very much looking forward to this book as the idea of social justice ties into those topics quite a bit, and it's a very important subject for people on all points of the politicial spectrum to understamd for its implications. Unfortunately though, the book fell flat in a number of spots with diversions into philosophy, McCarthyism, the John Birch Society, etc. I am not sure how relevant these stretches were, and for me, I thought they strayed too much from the topic at hand. I hope another book can do it better in the future.

  25. 5 out of 5

    N

    Serious and deeply painful This book has been written by a genuinely deep and honest person, whose hope in the ideals and principles of the American Founding and Constitution has been battered by contemporary ‘social justice’ identity politics, mainly from the Left but in varying degree from the extreme Right. It is highly worth your time to read and think about his evidence and how to interpret it. I’m grateful to have known about Noah Rothman and his analysis, over the internet and via Commenta Serious and deeply painful This book has been written by a genuinely deep and honest person, whose hope in the ideals and principles of the American Founding and Constitution has been battered by contemporary ‘social justice’ identity politics, mainly from the Left but in varying degree from the extreme Right. It is highly worth your time to read and think about his evidence and how to interpret it. I’m grateful to have known about Noah Rothman and his analysis, over the internet and via Commentary Magazine, even though I’ve not met him personally. He is an asset to the magazine and for those who understand what he is trying to do.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mel

    It is a fact that there exist extremes of both left and right in America today. It is my opinion that for understanding you must examine beliefs of both extremes and not limit yourself to those values you believe in most. This book addresses social justice and how its extremes are as much a threat as the alt-right, indeed some points made here exist on both left and right. I will not admit I agree with all points in this book. I am better informed and understand those I often oppose after readin It is a fact that there exist extremes of both left and right in America today. It is my opinion that for understanding you must examine beliefs of both extremes and not limit yourself to those values you believe in most. This book addresses social justice and how its extremes are as much a threat as the alt-right, indeed some points made here exist on both left and right. I will not admit I agree with all points in this book. I am better informed and understand those I often oppose after reading this book. Reason enough to read and consider.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kent

    Disappointing and not helpful. When criticizing those known for strident opinions is it wise to spend the bulk of your book in strident attacks on them? Rothman would have done better to demonstrate the problem in a first chapter, provide principles and solutions in a second chapter, then demonstrate how those principles would have applied or were violated in the rest of the book. Instead Rothman has given a screed that will make no difference to anyone. Who did he think é was writing to? Who is th Disappointing and not helpful. When criticizing those known for strident opinions is it wise to spend the bulk of your book in strident attacks on them? Rothman would have done better to demonstrate the problem in a first chapter, provide principles and solutions in a second chapter, then demonstrate how those principles would have applied or were violated in the rest of the book. Instead Rothman has given a screed that will make no difference to anyone. Who did he think é was writing to? Who is this book for?

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jason Payne

    An uneven and mixed bag of a book. As with most political books, I agree with some of it and disagreed with some of it. There are times Rothman's a bit dismissive of those he sees as having opposing viewpoints (the snarky comments ending paragraphs isn't helpful if trying to bring people around). Did like that he goes after both the far right and far left. Some will find the book an attack on their politics and way of life, others will find it trying to stake out--for Rothman--a sensible place i An uneven and mixed bag of a book. As with most political books, I agree with some of it and disagreed with some of it. There are times Rothman's a bit dismissive of those he sees as having opposing viewpoints (the snarky comments ending paragraphs isn't helpful if trying to bring people around). Did like that he goes after both the far right and far left. Some will find the book an attack on their politics and way of life, others will find it trying to stake out--for Rothman--a sensible place in the middle. Can't please everyone, as the late Rick Nelson said.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mark O'mara

    A reasoned critique on the social justice ideology and how it runs to counter to classic liberalism. Critical of both the left (more, deservedly so) and the right. Offers constructive advice to the mainstream political parties and how and why they need to take responsibility by articulating the values the USA was built upon and attacking the extremists on the left and the right. If this is not done the author takes a pessimistic view of the future which is one I share.

  30. 4 out of 5

    P Bernhardt

    It explains in detail today's society of victims. Why they do what they do and what those of us who choose not to be victims can fight it. If you are not paying attention to what's going on around us, then it is a valuable ready. If you pay attention and believe in facts governing your life, then it's telling you what you already know. It explains in detail today's society of victims. Why they do what they do and what those of us who choose not to be victims can fight it. If you are not paying attention to what's going on around us, then it is a valuable ready. If you pay attention and believe in facts governing your life, then it's telling you what you already know.

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