Self-awareness is a rare, endangered commodity within the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics
This blog has previously written about the ways in which the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics is a revolution determined to eat its own – see here, here, here, here, here, and (most recently) here.
Back in December I reported that there have been potential fleeting flashes of self-awareness from within the social justice community, as certain members – typically those who at one time found themselves persecuted and ostracised by their former comrades for having committed some minor act of thought crime – came to realise that the “call-out culture” within the social justice movement is doing far more harm than good.
Today there is another such spark of self-reflection in the pages of Everyday Feminism, as writer Lola Phoenix offers her tribe a few tentative suggestions as to how they might present a slightly less insufferable face to the outside world.
Of course, Phoenix’s testimonial begins with the now-familiar recitation of personal oppressions and “marginalised identities” to serve as mitigation for the harsh truths she is about to deliver:
Six months ago, I really got called out.
And by “called out,” I mean that the person had more interest in collecting me like I was garbage in a very public way and less interest in helping me understand where I was going wrong.
Hmm, sounds familiar.
Despite my willingness to apologize, to try and learn, their attitude pulled me back into that whirlwind of cognitive ability confusion. As a person on the autistic spectrum, I can’t count the amount of times I’ve been unsure of what I’ve done wrong and have tried to figure out what I did.
Blah blah, you get the idea. But pre-emptive excuses aside, Phoenix goes on to engage in some fairly accurate self-reflection:
We’re not robots, and when we learn we’ve been oppressive in some way, we’re going to have feelings about that. And sometimes that needs to be expressed, but – as of now – there’s no really appropriate place to do that.
As a white person, I’ve seen myself do this to other white people who haven’t learned better. When they exhibit the attitudes I once held, I become embarrassed, enraged at their ignorance, and treat them accordingly.
But we have to keep in mind that so many of us committed to social justice are living in a culture where we aren’t taught how to handle or process anger effectively, so it comes out in abusive ways even when we don’t mean it to.
There is a “callout culture” where ally theatre happens and people enjoy “calling out,” naming, and shaming, witch hunting, and publicly humiliating people.
I’ve been on the receiving end of that.
I do think there’s a difference between confronting someone about their behavior versus humiliating them.
Wow. This is an astonishingly frank admission. It is perhaps unfortunate that it took being on the receiving end of an SJW witch hunt for Phoenix to realise that enforcing ideological conformity through public shaming and strict social ostracising is a bad thing, but we should take what we are given.
Meanwhile, Sara Lynn Michener – coining the term CSJW, or “Counterproductive Social Justice Warrior – makes some equally valid observations for Empire South Magazine, including advice such as:
Someone has made a legitimate mistake, and there are calls by CSJWs to essentially have them drawn and quartered, thereby eclipsing the original offense and opening it up further for ridicule. Example: it is true that the British astrophysicist who wore a shirt covered in B-Grade Vargas Girls to an event of international significance (that would have had impressionable science-loving little girls in its audience) made a poor wardrobe selection that day that also spoke volumes of the negative experiences of women in science and tech. But verbal abuse or calls to have him fired, rather than specifically explaining the harm caused, were counter productive and fuel for the opposition. This rule also applies when the person who erred apologizes, but the apology is deemed insufficient (often not because it was deemed insincere, but because more than a sincere apology is what is being demanded) and calls for the proverbial pound of flesh continue until the vultures move onto another body.
Confusing Preaching to The Choir vs Outreach
Sometimes expressing outrage and drawing support from such a community is wonderful and gives you strength for the fight. I do it all the time, but I do it knowingly. It is not the same thing as outreach and one rarely lives in the same place as the other. When a group (or individual) truly seeks to explain something to a listening audience who are not yet the in-group but are sympathetic, curious, and ripe for conversion; there is no excuse for using the same hostile and demeaning snark that you use in the in-group. So, if you’re about to post about an issue, ask yourself: am I sharing this for the people who already know? Or for the people who don’t? And proceed accordingly, especially in the comments section. Here’s a hint: preaching to the in-group is easy. Outreach is very, very hard work that keeps you honest about why the issue matters.
Not being able to adequately explain the why behind your thesis
This one is practiced so often by college educated CSJWs it makes me wonder how tough their professors were on them. If your argument relies on a label rather than proving it is a correct usage of said term, your argument will only ever make sense among those who already agree with you. Rhetoric is a slogan. A real argument is both more and less work depending on how you look at it, but if you’re accusing someone of something like Ableism and you can’t explain why or back up your argument, you’ve already lost.
Rejecting Imperfect Members of the Resistance
Amy Schumer, Taylor Swift, and Lena Dunham are imperfect members of the resistance. I am an imperfect member of the resistance. So are you. Human beings tend to have faults. Famous people’s faults, whether they are even real or not, get nevertheless amplified all over the world. It’s fine to call out a celeb if they have genuinely said or done something problematic. But if you then never forgive them, bring it up every time they are invited to speak at a rally, and routinely say they have no place in the resistance because of things they have long since apologized for, then you will have a very small and ineffective resistance. I personally only accept flawed people in my resistance, including CSJWs who sound like they’re sitting at a high school cafeteria announcing YOU CAN’T SIT WITH US, when they do this.
The above point is a great observation. But note how the language could almost describe a Christian’s understanding of himself as a sinner, and the Church as a community of sinners. This is the extent to which Social Justice has become a new, secular religion for those involved – that we now see “love the sinner, hate the sin” discussions taking place in SJW Land.
And so from these and a growing number of other articles expressing unease at the way the Social Justice community polices itself and engages with the world, ther is at least a recognition that their own behaviours are making activist communities “toxic” for many people. Will it ultimately change anything? Probably not.
Mea culpas and moment of self-reflection such as this can be likened a man trying to find his way out of a pitch black cave with only a broken cigarette lighter for illumination. Press the button and it may spark briefly, revealing tantalising glimpses of a safe path through the interior, but no sooner does the spark appear than it is extinguished again, and the darkness returns. “Call-out culture” and public shaming is such an inherent part of the Social Justice movement that nobody in the ascendancy within the cult has any incentive to stop using the techniques of free speech suppression and ideological enforcement which they themselves practice and benefit from.
Some time ago, I described the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics as “a constant, bitchy, backbiting game of snakes and ladders, with one insufferable petty tyrant rising to the top of the Moral Virtue Pyramid only to be brought down by their jealous rivals, either for no reason at all, or for having unknowingly violated one of the many red lines that they themselves helped to draw across our political discourse.”
I still think that this is a fair and measured description of the movement as a whole. But if the social justice warriors could get their impulses for virtue signalling and heresy persecution in check – at least within their own tribe, if not to change their sanctimonious attitude toward non believers – then they might at least stop appearing so ridiculous and out of touch to so many outsiders.
Support Semi-Partisan Politics with a one-time or recurring donation:
Agree with this article? Violently disagree? Scroll down to leave a comment.
Follow Semi-Partisan Politics on Twitter, Facebook and Medium.