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Tal Fortgang Essaytyper

Tal Fortgang, the new face of white male privilege, is a lot like me. We're both white, we're both not poor-poor, we're both not liberal, and we're both circumcised (l'chaim!). So when I read the Princeton freshman's much discussed column in his campus conservative magazine, titled "Why I'll Never Apologize for My White Male Privilege", I empathized. And grimaced.

The thing is, I've been in his situation. Back in my day – about 10 years ago – university lefties didn't say things as meaninglessly bland as "check your privilege". (I blame Facebook for this rhetorical development.) The old charges might've been ignorant, but at least they were direct and specific: that's racism! That's sexism! That's something-ism!

And then we'd all get into a spirited argument, usually with whiskey.

So as Fortgang works to hone his skills as a young, suddenly very public conservative, I have some tips. Like his privilege, he didn't ask for my advice – but that's just the way life is sometimes

First off: don't apologize. Ever. More importantly, don't tell people you're not ever apologizing. It puts them on edge. Let's say we are taking shots of Fireball, and l insist that I won't apologize for being a projectile vomiter. Anyone in that situation would be as suspicious of me as the numerousleft-wingwriters responding to Fortgang's piece have been of him.

Speaking of the haters, they do have something right: Tal Fortgang is an idiot. But he's not necessarily an idiot because of what he said – he is an idiot because he's 20 years old, and all 20 year olds are idiots (by my definition, anyway). Some underage kids with college degrees might be smarter than me, but they're still all idiots. I'm eight years older than Fortgang, so even my wrongness is rooted in more information than he has. As such, he'd do well to listen to some of the criticism aimed at his piece, but only the criticism from peers and maybe a professor or two.

As for the professional critics knocking him and his piece and opining on What It All Means, this kid would do well to ignore all of it. He should feel sorry for them. I do.

For instance, Jezebel has a thorough takedown of his "long diatribe" (1,419 words) with an equally long diatribe (1,422 words) by someone named "Violet Baudelaire". What Fortgang wrote wasn't "bold" or "brave," by any measure, but using a pen name on a highly influential website is just chickshit. This shouldn't surprise anyone, though, since Jezebel, while championing and crusading worthy causes, occasionally and inexcusably veers into out-and-out bullying of children.

The biggest pile-on came from Salon, which had at least three pieces dedicated to Fortgang. My personal favorite was professional journalist and amateur socio-psychologist Peter Finocchiaro, whose piece used Fortgang to explain some supposed right-wing "syndrome" no one's ever heard of, let alone professionally diagnosed anywhere but on a left-wing blog.

The worst, however, came in the New York Times story on Fortgang when its opening paragraph declared that "check your privilege" is "a familiar phrase on college campuses, often meant to serve as conversational kryptonite". That the Gray Lady declared this is a pretty good indication the phrase is not actually said on college campuses anymore, even as a kind of kinky safe-word. And this not being a one of the Times' famous trend pieces, the paper doesn't even bother with one poor example.

That's kind of sad, but the saddest part is that these examples, and the numerous others, are written by professional thinkers and writers, all of whom acknowledge in their pieces that, actually, Fortgang is young enough not to know any better. Next year, he'll be a sophomore – literally a "wise fool". I'm curious about what the (slightly younger) kids are doing, but the last thing I'm going to do is wring my hands over the thoughts they have between getting high and getting laid – both of which everyone in college should do, whatever their political persuasion.

Fortgang definitely shouldn't let the criticism lead him to believe his own good press. Instead, he should ignore the people on the right championing his cause. Fox loves him, and The Blaze called his piece "bold". The truth is that, unless he fools around with the dean's daughter or works tirelessly in the science department's lab to advance medical research, nothing Fortgang – or anyone else – does in college will be bold.

A lot of this sounds less like advice and more like a warning about the terribleness of the "real world". It's true, the real world is a terrible place, but let me make one positive point: fail better, experience more. If Fortgang wants to keep developing as a writer and cultural critic, he should actually read Dave Weigel's response. As an alum of the conservative collegiate writers' cabal (which funds the publication in which Fortgang's essay first appeared), Weigel points out that the disadvantage of having an ideological friendly forum so early in school is that "you are imbued with a confidence that you should publish whatever ramblings you find insightful when you're still too young to drink or rent a car."

As a young conservative thinker on the rise, Tal Fortgang will no doubt soon be surrounded by left-leaning peers, especially if he ever finds himself in a newsroom, where liberal privilege goes unchecked. Some of them will be smarter than him, some of them will be idiots, and all of them will challenge his beliefs. If he's serious about continuing to write critically, he should want to expose himself to as many diverse experiences and as much pushback as possible. (Vaguely related: he should travel, ASAP.)

Anyway, one bit of advice for this guy: stick with whatever you're doing. Maybe one day you'll become a libertarian.


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