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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Attention, Thought Criminals: Glasgow Police Have You In Their Sights

Greater Glasgow Police - THINK - Social Media - Police State - Free Speech

Glasgow Police’s conception of public safety is plain old fashioned tyranny

Imagine the kind of dystopian police state you would have to inhabit for it to be normal for the authorities to routinely warn citizens to be careful about what they think or say, on pain of criminal prosecution and potential incarceration.

Well, you don’t have to imagine, because Police Scotland and the Greater Glasgow Police are busy constructing their own tribute to North Korea right here in the UK.

The tweet shown above was posted on twitter by the Greater Glasgow Police – unironically – this afternoon, along with the menacing hashtag #thinkbeforeyoupost.

Apparently before offering up our thoughts to the internet, whether they be on politics, cooking or sport, we are to ask ourselves whether what we are posting is True, Hurtful, Illegal, Necessary or Kind. The clear implication is that if our speech fails the THINK test, some snarling Scottish police officer will turn up on our doorstep to drag us away, much as the London Metropolitan Police did with Matthew Doyle last weekend.

This is something of a scope increase for the police, to put it mildly. Where once they largely confined themselves to preventing and solving crime, apparently having since eliminated all actual crime in our society (…) and finding themselves at a loose end, they are now eager to swoop in and punish speech which passes Britains’ already draconian hate speech laws but which happens to be arbitrarily perceived by others as hurtful, unnecessary or unkind.

Let’s call a spade a spade: this is tyranny. When an enforcement arm of the state can post jocular messages on social media warning citizens to be on their best, blandest and most inoffensive behaviour on pain of arrest, we do not live in a free society any more. And it is time that more of us acknowledged this, so that we can get on with the task of rolling it back and re-establishing our corroded right to freedom of expression.

Alex Massie thunders:

Whatever next? The monitoring of conversations in public houses? Why not? Twitter and Facebook, after all, are merely digital, virtual, gathering places. As the wags on social media have put it today, Thur’s been a Tweet and Detective Chief Inspector Taggart is on the case.

Beneath the necessary and hopefully hurtful mockery, however, lurks an important point. One that relates to something more than police stupidity and over-reach and instead asks an important question about the value placed on speech in contemporary Britain. The answer to that, as this and a score of other dismal examples demonstrate, cannot cheer any liberal-minded citizen. Such is the temper of the times, however, in which we live. Nothing good will come of any of this but you’d need to be a heroic optimist to think it will get any better any time soon.

What a country; what a time to be alive.

All very good points. If social media is fair game for the thought police, why not the local pub, too? What restraint should there be, besides time and resources, on blanket surveillance of everyone all the time in the pre-emptive battle against speech crime?

When will people finally start waking up to the sheer illiberality and the authoritarian nature of contemporary society?

When will people finally realise that weaponised offence-taking and the Cult of Identity Politics do not create a Utopian paradise of peace and harmony, that in behaving this way we are only driving bad ideas underground to fester and grow while punishing those who dare to think differently?

When will people get that having the state act as an overbearing, always-watching surrogate parent figure, monitoring our behaviour and punishing those who do no more than hurt our feelings, is creating a weak-minded and unresilient population who are unable to handle slights and setbacks without running to an external authority figure for redress?

In a healthy society, the author of that tweet by Greater Glasgow Police would have broken the law by using their position to threaten the right of the people to freedom of expression – a liberty which would be guaranteed in a written constitution enshrining our fundamental rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

But we do not live in a healthy society, the police are free to do as they please without censure and there is no written constitution guaranteeing our liberties. Instead, we have a “make it up as you go along” constitution and form of government with a strong tendency to attempt to solve the immediate problem in front of it by taking power away from the people to act in their own interests and vesting those same powers in the state.

We are approaching the point where some kind of rebellion against this censorious, bullying, tyrannical behaviour by the police must be mounted – perhaps some kind of co-ordinated mass action whereby everyone tweets something “offensive”, gets a partner to report them to the police and vice-versa, the idea being to gum up the workings of the police and criminal justice system until the whole rotten edifice collapses in upon itself.

Semi-Partisan Politics is in very rebellious mood right now.

 

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Will The EU Referendum Be Decided By The “Shy Eurosceptic” Vote?

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Is there a shy eurosceptic factor at play in the EU referendum?

What happened to all of the supposedly staunchly eurosceptic Conservative cabinet ministers – people like Sajid Javid and Rob Halfon – when it came time to nail their colours to the mast and declare their desire to leave the European Union?

Charles Moore has a theory:

Obviously one factor is that Tory MPs have found it convenient in recent years to adopt Eurosceptic protective colouring in their constituencies. But I think there is something deeper. The fear factor which may well win the referendum for Mr Cameron actually operates even more strongly on the elites than on the mass of the population. People who hold important jobs are much more worried than normal citizens about being considered ‘off the wall’. If they opt for ‘leave’, they will be interrogated fiercely by their peers about their decision. If they declare for ‘remain’, they will be left in peace. The EU is the biggest elite orthodoxy of the western world since we gave up our belief in imperialism. Most people within elites find it too tiring and dangerous to question the orthodoxy under which they have risen to the top.

Now, I have no time at all for those craven Conservative MPs who built their precious reputations and careers on a foundation of what turns out to be utterly fake euroscepticism. But neither can I deny the very real, socially oppressive aura that surrounds euroscepticism in some quarters, whereby it becomes very difficult for people to publicly express their eurosceptic opinions in certain context and company. And if one cannot excuse the shameless U-turning when it is committed by our elected representatives, we should perhaps be more understanding when ordinary members of the public falter.

So what are we dealing with here? It’s the same factor which makes otherwise confident, extroverted people drop their voices to a hushed and conspiratorial whisper when discussing their conservative political leanings in an elite (or creative/artistic) workplace, or makes a school teacher think twice before openly contradicting the biased, anti-Tory ranting of their colleagues.

But it is more than simply avoiding hassle. For many people, not only the elites, it is also a case of seeking to avoid very tangible real-world consequences of being known to hold unfashionable opinions – the threat of public ridicule, professional censure or even job loss, simply for committing thought-crime.

Maybe nobody will care if you fail to join in the joking with your colleagues when they laugh about Nigel Farage or mock those knuckle-dragging Little Englanders who want to pull up the drawbridge on Fortress Britain. But maybe they will notice, and maybe it might lead to an awkward question: “Wait a minute, you can’t seriously support those racists, can you? You’re having a laugh, right?” Far easier to just go along with the crowd. Why risk antagonising the boss, or the people you sit next to every day? Why risk that upcoming promotion? Better just stay silent.

And of course, this is exactly what happened last May. Ed Miliband and the Labour Party convinced themselves that they were heading for victory in the general election. They really, sincerely believed it (read Dan Hodges’ book “One Minute To Ten” to get a sense of just how fervently they believed it). But it was all nonsense, a great exercise in self-deception made possible by the fact that Labour activists had created such a stultifying aura of sanctimonious left-wingery and screeching Tory-hatred that anyone with a remotely conservative political leaning simply dropped out of the conversation and went silent. Silent, that is, until May 7 – at which time they marched to their polling station and delivered David Cameron back to 10 Downing Street.

Is there a chance that history might repeat itself now it comes to the EU referendum? It is certainly a possibility. There are many social settings – mostly where the social, academic or artistic elites live and work – where expressing a eurosceptic opinion or declaring one’s support for Brexit is tantamount to reading aloud from Mein Kampf in the town square. But conversely, there are no equivalent places or scenarios where one might reasonably expect to be actively persecuted for expressing pro-EU sentiments.

That alone speaks volumes. And while it may not excuse the despicable behaviour of some Conservative cabinet ministers who chose career advancement over eurosceptic principle, it would explain the reluctance of many people from certain professions or social groups to openly declare their euroscepticism.

As to how much of a chilling effect the establishment’s instinctive pro-EU instincts have on the polling and the wider referendum debate, we will likely not know until the votes are counted.

 

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