The Cult of Victimhood

In our society, the category of ‘victim’ deeply paradoxical.

To be accorded that status is to be held blameless; once it has been granted, no one may suggest that the victim’s own choices might have contributed to the harm they suffered, nor may anyone suggest that the victim may have had the power to prevent by some means harm done to them. Suggesting that the harm may have been rightful or fair is out of the question; victims are those who have been wronged, those treated unjustly. If they weren’t wronged, they wouldn’t be victims, and since they are victims, they must have been wronged.

Once the status is granted, alternatives contrary to that status arising are automatically dismissed. Of course they weren’t responsible – they’re victims. Of course they were helpless – they’re victims. In logic, sufficient contrary evidence overturns an assertion, but mere logic does not apply to social consensus. If someone is defined as being a victim, everything must proceed from that given; questioning that definition is an attempt to undermine the social order and is evil in itself, and probably another attempt to harm the victim.

To be perceived as powerless and harmed, according to the consensus of our society, is to become entitled. Entitled to the sympathy and aid of the powerful. Entitled to the absence of contempt. Entitled to unique treatment; entitled to private, generous rulings that do not apply to others. As a consequence, gaining the status of victim brings immense power, a sort of aristocracy of the least and worst.

This can be seen in the context of Consistency.

A sort of schizophrenic thinking takes hold in the people who want to acquire the status of victim for their favored group. For example, you can see it in a particular strain of feminists. They cannot accept that female genital mutilation is mandated and often carried out primarily by women; nor can they accept that lesser but similarly harmful fashions stem from women’s standards. Women are victims; ergo, they cannot be responsible for systematic oppression. The judgment of other women cannot possibly be involved; conformity to harmful standards cannot possibly be imposed by other women. Therefore, the odious cultural forces responsible for maintaining these atrocity must spring from men.

Not only is this sort of thinking untrue and thus harmful in itself, but it turns the assignment of responsibility into an even greater minefield that it would otherwise be.

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5 Responses to “The Cult of Victimhood”

  1. Reminds me of the claims that certain groups cannot be racist because they’re powerless. Also of the anti-semitic theory that Jews made up/caused the Holocaust to gain enough sympathy to grab Israel (what a trade!).

    Steve Sailer had a post on the transition from the accomplished Eisenhower to torture-victim McCain about roughly this subject.

    Economics would suggest that subsidizing victims will create more of them.

  2. Very good post, I had a similar one in mind myself.

    “If someone is defined as being a victim, everything must proceed from that given; questioning that definition is an attempt to undermine the social order and is evil in itself, and probably another attempt to harm the victim.”

    Exactly! For some reason, everyone buys it when someone pulls the “blaming the victim” card, even when it is used circularly.

  3. “Reminds me of the claims that certain groups cannot be racist because they’re powerless. ”

    Which not only distorts the meaning of ‘racism’ beyond recognition, but grants the ‘powerless’ group immense social power.

    “Exactly! For some reason, everyone buys it when someone pulls the “blaming the victim” card, even when it is used circularly.”

    People do not permit evidence a higher status than certain kinds of conclusions. If the evidence is incompatible with the conclusion, then the evidence must be wrong, because the conclusion cannot be.

  4. People do not permit evidence a higher status than certain kinds of conclusions. If the evidence is incompatible with the conclusion, then the evidence must be wrong, because the conclusion cannot be.
    Reminds me of Alan Crowe’s “Reductio ad absurdum versus proof of necessity“, also phrased as “one man’s modus ponens in another man’s modus tollens.”

  5. I agree that victimization is misused but I think one must be careful not to occlude actual victimization. We should be critical of forces within a group that encourage continued “oppression” such as female driven female-circumcision, african american glamorization of gang violence, etc, etc.

    It is, however, a trend in right-wing punditry to use criticism of “victim culture” to deflect from actual victimization. Mind you I’m not accusing you of anything. I simply think that discussions of victimization need to be mindful of oversimplifications in favor of a more mature concept of what a victim is.

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