Tales From The Safe Space, Part 51 – The Social Justice Movement’s Toxic, Self-Defeating ‘Call-Out Culture’

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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.

More:

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:

Disproportionate Punishment
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.

And:

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.

And:

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.

And:

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.

 

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SJWs Say The Most Racist Things

Gentrification is Racism

If racist sentiments like this count as “progress”, count me out

If anyone were still in doubt that much of the social justice movement is often little more than a thin veneer of moral respectability plastered over a movement built on the hatred and resentment of “cisgender, straight white males”, they need only read this article by writer/performer Taylor Steele in online publication The Body Is Not An Apology.

In the piece, Steele reacts to the creeping gentrification of her Brooklyn neighbourhood with a racist tirade that would see her roundly condemned and excommunicated from polite society were she white and the target of her ranting black:

Gentrification happened to me in steps.

At first I was confused.

Were the non-POC in this predominantly Black/Brown neighborhood lost? Did they miss their stop on this Queens-bound train? Are they simply taking a tour of the best Caribbean spots in Brooklyn? When I let it sink in that they were here to stay, noticeable implants to a previously self-contained body, there was anger and frustration. I could feel my rent rising every time a white family, Air BnB-ing in my neighborhood, asked which way to the nearest organic market. And yes, that really happened on a Bed Stuy corner outside of the Crown Fried Chicken and family-run bodega.

(For the uninitiated, “POC” means “people of colour”, and “Black/Brown” are capitalised while “white” is not for reasons that will soon become all too evident.)

Okay, so we have what appears to be a fairly standard diatribe against urban gentrification. So far, so typical. But Steele then continues:

It is traumatic finding strangers in your house, not understanding completely how they got there, not being able to ask them to leave, them rearranging the furniture, and you not being able to move any of it back — nothing will ever be the same; change is trauma.

I can logically/intellectually understand that the white people who move into predominantly Black and brown spaces do not do so with mal-intent; perhaps, these are the places they can afford to live. Perhaps, they can’t see that their presence in these spaces can serve as a kind of terrorism. I also understand they are not responsible for my mental health. However, this is how white supremacy works. It makes it impossible to point the finger at any one thing because the problem is a systemic, political, institutional one. White supremacist capitalist patriarchy proclaims that I am supposed to feel an inherent inadequacy and replaceability.

Author’s emphasis in bold.

A kind of terrorism. Go back and read that passage again, lingering over each sentence. Just read it, and then tell me with a straight face that the world is somehow better off for the presence of this toxic, self-obsessive, cancerous movement in our society.

Imagine that the situation were reversed, and a white author was complaining about black or other ethnic minority residents moving into the neighbourhood, explicitly complaining about the way that they are “rearranging the furniture” through their presence and fretting that the unwelcome newcomers cannot simply be asked to leave. Imagine that the white author described the mere arrival and presence of these newcomers as a form of terrorism being perpetrated on the white inhabitants. Just imagine the reaction. Imagine the outrage and social ostracisation which would rightly follow the expression such heinous, prejudiced sentiments. Now answer this: how does this new form of racism toward the often white beneficiaries of urban gentrification in any way expunge or heal historic racism aimed at black people?

While stubborn racist holdouts and the vestiges of real privilege and discrimination clearly do still exist in places, they are a shadow of what they once were, and thankfully in terminal decline. While full equality under the law should always be the only acceptable goal, those who fought for civil rights in the 1960s and preceding decades would often be astonished by the landscape faced by their successors in 2017. In fact, the only ones now openly using racist language and seeking to resurrect the “separate but equal” days of Jim Crow and segregation are the Social Justice Warriors, in their perverse fight against perceived “oppression”.

And this leads us to the perverse spectacle of a black writer, seemingly oblivious to the historical parallels she is invoking, talking resentfully about white people moving into “her home”, “terrorising” her with their somehow-illegitimate, organic food-purchasing presence (as though no wealthy black people shop at Whole Foods).

Here is someone who would no doubt be the first to join an anti-Trump protest as it marched through Brooklyn, and yet describes her resentment and fear of change in exactly the same language – social loss, fear of change, the undermining of local institutions – that she would castigate a white person or Trump apologist for using to articulate their own feelings about uncontrolled immigration and social change. There is simply no self-awareness at all – just rage, entitlement and self-inflicted fragility.

Have we really come this far as a society only to revert back to fearful, paranoid tribalism of this kind?

For some of us, yes, apparently so.

 

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Bottom Image: Amanda Farrer

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Irony Overload At The Grammys

This article was written on February 13th 2017, back when it was still vaguely relevant

 

Capping off another celebrity awards ceremony in which cossetted stars withdrew to their bubble to rend their designer garments at the state of the world – with the likes of Katy Perry, Busta Rhymes and James Corden running to their safe spaces this year – Recording Academy President Neil Portnow had this to say in his speech at the 2017 Grammy Awards:

We are constantly reminded about the things that divide us. Race, region and religion. Gender, sexual orientation, political party. But what we need so desperately are more reminders of all that binds us together — our shared history, our common values and our dedication to build for ourselves a more perfect union.

I’m sorry, but who has been constantly reminding us of the things that divide us? Who has been incessantly emphasising differences rather than commonalities at every turn? Who has been the loudest megaphone and amplifier for vicious, self-serving and corrosive identity politics throughout the culture over the past decades? Ah yes – it was that branch of the American Left which includes so much of the entertainment industry.

Often in ignorance more than malice, I’ll concede, but the nerve of a man like Portnow to stand before the kind of people who recorded Hillary Clinton’s “Fight Song” and complain that Americans are being deliberately divided by race, region, religion, gender, sexual orientation and political beliefs is almost beyond belief.

One does not have to be a MAGA-shouting Trump supporter to be drearily, expectantly depressed at the glib self-satisfaction, unawareness and utter banality that took place at the Grammy Awards – as well as at last night’s BAFTAs. This blog certainly abhors Donald Trump and all other ignorant, amoral, authoritarian would-be strongmen like him.

But the answer to a democratic outcome one opposes is not to bemoan democracy itself and ignore one’s own part in bringing about defeat. Hugging identity politics ever-tighter and going back before the American electorate with a leadership team comprising Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Hillary Clinton 3.0 and the same vacuous, corporatist policy book will not put a Democrat back in the White House in 2020.

Introspection is not to be expected from the big egos of Hollywood, I think we have all learned that by now. But a large dose of it must appear from somewhere, and soon, or the opposition to Donald Trump will fall as flat as James Corden at his entrance to the 2017 Grammy Awards ceremony.

 

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When American Liberals Lose The Faith

Doesn’t this testimonial from a disaffected California liberal really speak volumes about just how far the American Left is going to lose friends and alienate people?

Rod Dreher shares an email from a reader:

So I was raised a secular liberal. My college professors were secular liberals. During my journalism phase, my newspaper colleagues were secular liberals. My law school professors and peers were – in the vast majority – secular liberals. Almost everyone at my corporate law firm was a secular liberal. My California neighbors and friends are secular liberals, as are my colleagues. My mother, siblings, and their spouses are all secular liberals.

By all rights, I should be a member in good standing of their tribe, “liking” their Facebook posts and joining their candlelight vigils against the evil Trump Administration. But November 8 and its aftermath revealed to me that I am just so tired of these people. I can’t be like them, and I don’t want my kids turning into them.

I am tired of their undisguised contempt for tens of millions of Americans, with no effort to temper their response to the election with humility or empathy.

I am tired of their unexamined snobbery and condescension.

I am tired of their name-calling and virtue-signaling as signs of supposedly high intelligence.

I am tired of their trendiness, jumping on every left-liberal bandwagon that comes along (transgender activism, anyone?) and then acting like anyone not on board is an idiot/hater.

I am tired of their shallowness. It’s hard to have a deep conversation with people who are obsessed with moving their kids’ pawns across the board (grades, sports, college, grad school, career) and, in their spare time, entertaining themselves and taking great vacations.

I am tired of their acceptance of vulgarity and sarcastic irreverence as the cultural ocean in which their kids swim. I like pop culture as much as the next person, but people who would never raise their kids on junk food seem to think nothing of letting then wallow in cultural junk, exposed to nothing ennobling, aspirational, or even earnest.

I am tired of watching them raise clueless kids (see above) who go off to college and within months are convinced they live in a rapey, racist patriarchy; “Make America Great Again” is hate speech; and Black Lives Matter agitators are their brothers-in-arms against White Privilege. If my kids are like that at nineteen, I’ll feel I’ve seriously failed them as a parent. Yet the general sentiment seems to be these are good, liberal kids who may have gotten a bit carried away.

I am tired of their lack of interest in any form of serious morality or self-betterment. These are decent, responsible people, many compassionate by temperament. Yet they seem two-dimensional, as if they believe that being a nice, well-socialized person who holds the correct political views is all there is, and there is nothing else to talk about. Isn’t there, though?

I am tired of being bored and exasperated by everybody. I feel like I have read this book a thousand times, and there are no surprises in it. Down with Trump! Trans Lives Matter! Climate deniers are destroying the planet! No cake, we’re gluten-free!

These are good people in a lot of ways. But there has got to be a better tribe.

It must be disturbing to “wake up” like this and realise that you are no longer fully in communion with your tribe, so kudos to Rod Dreher’s reader for putting into words something that cannot be easy to admit. With the wounds of the 2016 presidential election still raw, many on the American Left have little time for doubters, and admitting a heresy such as this would likely be met not with understanding (let alone introspection) but rather with intolerance and fury.

The scene that comes to my mind is from the film American History X, where protagonist Derek Vinyard, serving a jail sentence for the racist-motivated murder of a black car thief, realises the flaws of his white supremacist worldview while in prison and is then utterly unable to engage with that community – his only source of friendship and support – after his release. Eventually, Vinyard confronts the group’s leader and explicitly rejects their racist ideology, at which point they chase him out of their camp.

Increasingly, one has to either buy the whole regressive leftist agenda or none of it at all. Because it is couched in such explicitly moral terms, with any departure from orthodoxy seen as a moral failure, to question just one aspect of the worldview – the identity politics, the environmentalism, the statist paternalism – is to make oneself persona non grata within that community. Imagine the pain of realising that you no longer believe every article in the leftist gospel, and then being faced either with the prospect of admitting your heresy and being actively shunned by family, friends and colleagues, or else keeping your opposition quiet and living a lie.

The American Left has, with too few exceptions, given up on trying to win by persuasion, seeking instead to achieve victory by shaming and bullying dissenters into a sullen, resentful silence. That approach is no longer working and delivering benefits, to the extent that it ever did. When people like Rod Dreher’s reader are leaving the tribe in disgust at the sanctimonious echo chamber of questionable values then clearly something has gone wrong.

None of this is to say that American conservatism is in fine fettle – clearly not, as this blog has repeatedly warned. The fact that Republicans have closed ranks behind a profoundly authoritarian and un-conservative President-elect Donald Trump is evidence of the challenge faced by small-C conservatives in trying to maintain their influence and steer the Trump presidency away from endless pitfalls.

But it is the slow-burning revolution on the Left (particularly the growing elitism and the lethal embrace of identity politics) which fed the populist Right to the extent that Donald Trump won the White House. And until the American Left learns to moderate its many excesses and accept ideological diversity together with all the other kinds of diversity they champion, they will continue to alienate crucial allies and accelerate their march into irrelevance.

 

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Hugging Is Bad, Mmkay? Parenting, ‘Everyday Feminism’ Style

how-to-hug-yourself

Now the act of hugging is oppressive

If you are not already taking these important measures to ensure that your child turns into a psychologically frail victim-in-waiting and/or a raging second generation Social Justice Warrior, completely unable to function in the real world, then you should check your privilege and begin immediately:

Two of my good friends had their first baby late this past year.

From the get-go, Baby was a cuddly little girl. (Or, as her two moms say, “We assume she’s a girl, but we won’t know for sure until she tells us herself.”)

Sigh.

She was all about being held and being rocked – and crying her head off the moment anybody dared to put her down. She wanted contact with all the people ever.

But in the past couple of months, it seems she’s had a serious change of heart.

When some of us were over for a visit, Baby suddenly wanted none of it. Passed from one person to the next, she wailed like a banshee until finally given back to one of her moms, where she instantly quieted.

“Don’t take it personally,” Mama said to everyone, bouncing Baby. “She’s just entering that stage where she’s developing some healthy stranger danger.”

And so the new process emerged: One of us would attempt to hold Baby every once in a while. And if she cried for more than 20 seconds, we’d hand her back to one of her moms.

If Baby didn’t want to be held by certain people, Baby didn’t have to be held by certain people.

It was as simple as that – and something her moms are determined to keep in place as Baby gets older.

It took the brilliant minds at Everyday Feminism to make us realise just how tyrannical and oppressive the act of hugging really is:

We as a culture simply need to stop drilling into our own heads that there are only a select few ways to show love for another human being.

Families don’t need hugs in order to count as families, friendships don’t need high fives to pledge loyalty, and romantic relationships don’t need sex to be considered serious.

Are these things nice to give and receive? Sure. But only if both parties actually want them.

Such things only hold so much affection weight because we’ve given them that weight ourselves.

To someone who doesn’t want it, an affectionate action is rendered meaningless at best and damaging at worst.

Forcing hugging on a child tells them that 1) they’re expected to show affection toward this person, and 2) that this is exactly how they must show that affection.

Instead of being a hug tyrant, allow your child to be creative in how they show affection. Let them draw a picture or share a piece of their favorite food or read to you from their library book.

Those gestures count just as much as a hug. And your child needs to be validated in that fact.

In other news, parents should avoid unintentionally oppressing their children by bending over backwards to indulge an excuse their every passing whim and misbehaviour:

Don’t force them to eat everything on their plate, and remember that them needing to go to the bathroom as you leave the house, or saying they’re not cold and don’t need a jacket, are all examples of kids listening to their bodies.

That might be frustrating as a parent, but we should still do our best to respect that.

Yet parents should also take time to scare their children witless by discussing the “terrible things in the world” with them at every opportunity, even when they are patently too young to understand:

War, slavery, and corruption are all topics of conversation I’ve discussed with my five-year-old. Why? Because it is contextually important and sadly still relevant to our day-to-day life.

We watched the Disney/Pixar DVD with Frozen Fever on it, and the first short film up was John Henry. As a story about an African American folk hero, it got us started on talking about slavery.

We don’t idly consume media in our house.

If the book, movie or song is about a concept, person, or event that my daughter doesn’t understand yet, then we unpack it. Which can be a brutal process.

Trying to explain the concept of slavery to a five-year-old is no easy task. However, it needed to be done so that she could understand the context of the film (and the world she lives in). 

I’m all for encouraging curiosity and a desire for knowledge in children, as well as a sense of justice and the instinct to consider the needs of people who are less fortunate. I’m pretty sure that this just used to be called “good parenting”, and didn’t require an army of online social justice activists churning out earnest articles to encourage.

But if these educational top-ups for a five-year-old child can be described as a “brutal process” then it is safe to say that you are probably going too far. It should be possible to watch Aladdin with your kid without first making them sit through a 30-minute lecture on classism and forced marriages.

And seriously: so now hugs are tyrannical?

On this current trajectory I give Western civilisation another twenty-five, thirty years, tops.

 

Postscript: For a more scholarly critique of hugging, see The Oatmeal.

 

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