Tales From The Safe Space, Part 55 – Lena Dunham And Toxic Left Wing Call-Out Culture

Lena Dunham - social justice call out culture

The Regressive Left applauds when an overwhelmingly privileged “woke” celebrity shames and reports two off-duty service employees after taking offence at their private conversation

Lena Dunham, creator and star of the execrable television series Girls – and now seemingly a full-time social justice warrior – has form when it comes to policing both the internet and the real world for any instances of conservative thoughtcrime or failure to subscribe to the new progressive orthodoxy on various social justice issues.

To summarise: Lena Dunham was walking through the arrivals hall at JFK airport in New York when she allegedly overheard two off-duty American Airlines flight attendants having a private conversation about their views on the issue of transgenderism. During the course of this conversation, the flight attendants apparently agreed with one another that transgenderism is “gross” and that they would “never accept a trans child”.

(Note: Lena Dunham also has form when it comes to telling outright falsehoods, making her account of this supposed conversation immediately questionable).

And so naturally Lena Dunham did what any self-respecting, censorious young social justice warrior with a huge social media presence is honour-bound to do – she tweeted her shock at having heard opinions expressed which contradicted her own, shamed the unknown flight attendants and demanded that American Airlines re-educate their employees to ensure that such spontaneous acts of independent thought never again occur during the course of a private conversation between off-duty employees.

Specifically, Dunham wrote in a direct message to the airline:

“I heard two female attendants walking talking about how trans kids are a trend they’d never accept a trans child and transness is gross. I think it reflects badly on uniformed employees of your company to have that kind of dialogue going on. What if a trans teen was walking behind them? Awareness starts at home but jobs can set standards of practice. Thanks for your consideration!”

First off, this is as blatant an invasion of privacy as one can imagine. While a reasonable person might expect the possibility of being overheard while having a conversation in a public place, there is no reasonable expectation that a sanctimonious “woke” celebrity would rebroadcast their conversation – which again, took place while off duty if it even happened at all – to millions of followers on social media, contact their employer to trigger an investigation and quite possibly precipitate disciplinary action including the loss of their jobs.

Assuming that Lena Dunham isn’t simply lying again, there are multiple ways that she could have handled the situation better, rather than resorting to social media shaming combined with self-aggrandisement and virtue-signalling. The simplest option would have been for Dunham herself to intervene directly and voice her disagreement with the two flight attendants. This was a public place with very little risk of a physical altercation or any of the other reasons which might discourage direct action, so there was no good reason for Dunham not to take up the issue directly with the people allegedly involved, if she was sufficiently offended.

If Dunham lacked the courage to tackle this alleged intolerance in person (which would be a bit rich given that she co-founded Lenny, a website and newsletter almost exclusively dedicated to stridently advancing social justice issues), she could also have taken the matter up with American Airlines management staff while still at JFK airport rather than airily tweeting her allegations from the comfort of home, hours later. And if she was time-pressed and unable to do so, she could still have raised the matter privately with AA and written a more considered take on the situation once the investigation had run its course rather than tweeting about it in real time.

But of course none of these options would have been remotely satisfactory for Lena Dunham, because (more than) half the point of being a social justice warrior is the thrill of wielding power over others by policing language and behaviour, and enforcing your own worldview and etiquette onto other people. Directly confronting the people with whom she had a conflict or raising the issue privately would not have given Dunham the opportunity to flaunt her right-on credentials or display her conspicuous compassion; far better to raise the issue on social media, ostensibly so that it might serve as a “teachable moment” for other corporations and service workers (but really just to maintain her SJW credentials).

Robert Tracinski of The Federalist gets to the heart of the matter:

Saying “I overheard a conversation” but giving no specifics might prompt American Airlines to send out a general notice to its employees to watch what they say while in the terminal—which is a little unsettling in itself. But giving specific information only has one purpose: to help the airline locate, identify, and punish these specific employees for holding politically incorrect views.

It’s the hashtag #acrossfromthewinebar that sent chills down my spine. Dunham is acting like an informant working for a totalitarian police state—but boastfully, in public, on social media. With a hashtag.

Undoubtedly, someone will point out that this isn’t really totalitarianism because these are all voluntary actions by private citizens and organizations, not the government. Dunham isn’t a paid stooge of the police, but a citizen acting on her own initiative. American Airlines isn’t doing this because the government told them to, but because they’re terrified of bad press. (Which they are still going to get, but from the other side.)

Yet somehow this makes it all worse, because it implies we are being trained to internalize the ethos of the police state—and to enact it voluntarily, on our own initiative, without having to be coerced. We’re building a self-enforcing police state.

Equally concerning is the fact that Lena Dunham and her SJW colleagues feel it is in any way appropriate for corporations to take it upon themselves to “train” their employees in matters outside the skills required to successfully perform the job, particularly hot-button social issues. Whereas a decade ago one could reliably find leftists railing against the power of corporations and the supposedly unfair, coercive power balance between employer and employee, now those very same leftists are screeching that big corporations are not doing enough to indoctrinate their employees with the new social justice dogma.

Of course, vesting corporations with such power is in fact highly dangerous and quite likely unconstitutional, particularly when lawsuits start to emerge where employees allege that their employer has pressured them to violate their own conscience when it comes to matters outside the workplace. Already we see this coercive behaviour taking place in some large organisations, most recently the UK’s National Trust charity and the latest scandal to envelope Google.

Conor Friedersdorf also makes this point very eloquently in The Atlantic:

I suppose it was theoretically conceivable that Dunham’s public complaint about insensitivity by low-level staffers would prompt the multinational airline to put the offending employees—or all employees—through training in “awareness” or “love and inclusivity.” But I am doubtful that it would be a good thing, on the whole, if corporations began punishing workers for what they say off-duty, or aggressively regulating or engineering not just how employees treat colleagues and customers, but their every belief. Corporations are institutions driven by profit, not moral rectitude; many often do what is good for shareholders and bad for employees or the public. Trusting them as a reliable mechanism for positive social change is short-sighted.

Not that I presume that even earnest, right-thinking corporate altruism would necessarily bear fruit. Think of your attitudes toward trans people. Would your employer be able to fundamentally change your views, whatever they are, with  compulsory education? I suspect the very people with animus of a sort that does harm would be least likely to be swayed and most likely to double down on their beliefs.

And in response to this incident, or a rising tide of working-class people being reported to corporate employers for expressing beliefs that a lurking celebrity or journalist calls out, I can imagine the imposition of new, onerous, generally applied restrictions on where uniformed flight attendants can socialize with one another in airports, or whether uniformed retail employees are allowed a quick cell-phone conversation inside the mall while on break. Asking myself who that new regime would most harm, the answer is marginalized people; pondering who would find it easiest to navigate, the answer is creative professionals like Lena Dunham and me; we attended colleges that prepared us to navigate the elite’s social norms, and we don’t wear uniforms in public that identify our corporate bosses to eavesdropping strangers.

Ultimately this speaks to the paternalistic role that the progressive Left envisage for government and anyone else in positions of authority. First, these key institutions are to be fully captured by the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics, and then they are to be leveraged to enforce the same uniform dogma relating to sexuality, gender theory and everything else.

Rod Dreher has also sounded the alarm about this phenomenon:

I know a man who is a senior manager at a major corporation. He is also a Christian. Every year during Pride Month, for the past few years, the human resources department at the firm has been after employees to declare themselves “allies” of the LGBT cause. This man has never done so, because he would consider it a violation of his conscience. He is scrupulously fair in his dealings with his employees, both gay and straight, and would also consider it a violation of his conscience to discriminate in the workplace against his gay employees. He is afraid that the day will come when his refusal to declare himself on the LGBT issue will be viewed negatively within the corporation, and it will damage or end his career there.

This is not paranoia. McCarthyism did not end with McCarthy.

The very real danger is that within a relatively short space of time, it may become impossible for people to avoid withholding their most deeply held personal and religious beliefs from their employer, precisely because people like Lena Dunham insist that corporations act as a co-equal auxiliary parent, together with the state, to both educate their employees in the ways of progressive dogma and then to secure their active participation in advancing the agenda.

If you think that this is ridiculous conservative scaremongering, just take a quick peek inside the mind of someone who occupies a senior position in the entrepreneurial-tech world:

Fortunately, Joshua McKenty’s vision of a “directory of known misogynists and racists, used to avoid hiring or contracting” would likely fall foul of the US constitution. But you can be sure that McKenty’s fellow ideologues will push in that direction as far as the law will possibly allow, given half the chance. And what of those of us who do not live in the United States under the protection of the US Constitution? What is to stop multinational firms with offices in Britain, where there is no written constitution, from demanding positive affirmation of progressive social policies from their employees?

And so what starts as just another Twitter-based hissy fit from Lena Dunham is in fact only the tip of the iceberg. It certainly doesn’t help when “woke” celebrities abuse their vast social media platforms to shame working and middle class service workers who dare to express outdated or unfashionable opinions, but that is not the real threat.

The real danger comes when corporations and private citizens no longer have to be bullied by the likes of Lena Dunham into acting as enforcers of the social justice movement, because they choose to do so willingly.

 

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Tales From The Safe Space, Part 44 – The Suffix “-phobic” Is Now Considered Oppressive Against People With Phobias

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The social justice movement, long ridiculous, has now disappeared so far up its own backside that it is quite simply beyond parody. These warped, self-righteous posers will weaponise anything and infantilise anyone to burnish their own right-on credentials

When faced with the latest example of SJW posturing and weaponised victimhood, one wonders just how much further these baby-faced tyrants can possibly go in policing our language and behaviour to make us conform with their ever-shifting conception of what is good and what is deplorable.

But in truth, they will never be satisfied. In SJW-land, the power and social standing of a Social Justice Warrior activist is derived entirely from “points” that they accrue defending their new orthodoxy and persecuting heretics simply trying to exercise their free speech. A diligent SJW can pick up points for riding to battle against something “offensive” written by a perfect stranger on social media, but they accrue even more kudos within their cult by accusing a fellow member(s) of heresy. We may be the usual targets, but the SJW cultists themselves must always look over their shoulders for fear of attack by an overzealous rival. The social justice / identity politics revolution loves to devour its own.

This manifests itself in all kinds of ways – witness the case of student union official Fran Cowling, who declared in a blaze of self-publicity that she would not share a stage with Peter Tatchell because he dared to take the side of free speech over SJW “no platform” policies designed to shut dissenting viewpoints out of university campuses. Never mind that Tatchell has done more for minority rights in a typical weekend than Cowling will likely manage her entire wretched life – Cowling cynically attempted to position herself as a better and purer cultist, and so leapfrog the many levels separating her own unscrutinised place in history and Tatchell’s far more tangible contribution.

But what if one enterprising SJW found a way to imply that nearly every other social justice cultist in the world is being inadvertently oppressive all the time, while they alone were enlightened enough to recognise the error of their ways? That SJW would then be able to claim the mantle of Most Compassionate Person, and accrue incredible kudos within that ridiculous community.

Well, it turns out that one such SJW – Denarii Monroe, writing at Everyday Feminism, the motherlode of idiotic social justice, victimhood culture nonsense – is attempting that very feat.

Monroe writes:

For years, through to today, we have named these oppressions as homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, or queerphobia. Other movements use phrases such as xenophobia, fatphobia, and Islamophobia.

It’s important to put a name to the systemic structures that marginalize us and have effects on our day-to-day living. This language is essential in the fight for liberation for all marginalized groups. I remember how empowering it was to have a name for the specific experiences and needs of the bi+ (plus) community.

Naming, well, just about anything in life – a spoon, a tree, a breed of dog – allows us to identify it. And in the case of oppression, being able to identify it allows us to tackle it head-on.

Unfortunately, in our quest to do so, we have chosen language that isn’t just problematic, but downright oppressive.

And I get it. Most of us were born into this language. Whether we belong to the communities who use this language or we’re just allies, it has informed much of our experiences – how we began to understand inequality, how we talk about the discrimination we experience, and how we relate to others with similar oppression.

But Islamophobia, transphobia, and other constructions that use “-phobia” as a suffix erase the fact that “phobias” are a real thing that happen to real people. Those of us who use these terms know all too well the damage that erasure can do in the fight to achieve liberation and social equity.

Regardless of good intentions, at the end of the day, it’s not okay to build our righteous movements on the backs of other marginalized people. Further, in choosing inaccurate, inadequate language, we harm ourselves as well.

Original emphasis in bold.

In other words, using the suffix “-phobia” when describing real or imagined acts of prejudice – as in Islamophobia, transphobia, homophobia – is itself “oppressive” because apparently it appropriates the language used to describe recognised phobias like claustrophobia, thus somehow erasing or denying the lived experience of claustrophobes, agoraphobes and assorted other phobics.

So according to the new draconian standard set by the Social Justice Warriors, this anti-Donald Trump meme (expressing a sentiment which they would otherwise doubtless support) is itself ableist and oppressive to those who suffer from traditional phobias:

phobias-are-oppressive

A year ago, this might have been regarded as an entirely legitimate form of anti-Trump protest. But so far have things moved in the space of twelve months that the cutting edge SJWs of Everyday Feminism would now regard references to “homophobia” as an unconscionable assault on the daily suffering and lived experience of people with medically recognised phobias.

Yes. To speak about Islamophobia or transphobia is now ableist – that is, oppressive towards those with disabilities – because it supposedly makes light of the “disability” of having a phobia. Denarii Monroe has essentially declared that nearly every other Social Justice Warrior, by virtue of still using the suffix “-phobia” as part of their daily activism, are in fact part of the oppressive, neo-colonialist masses. They are all part of the problem. She alone is part of the solution.

This is the social justice equivalent of the launch of HMS Dreadnought back in 1906. With the launch of the steam turbine-powered warship Dreadnought, every other battleship in every navy around the world was instantly rendered obsolete, giving the Royal Navy an immense strategic advantage and setting off a new arms race. And now, in a dismal pastiche of history over a century later, Denarii Monroe is essentially declaring that the language of every other Social Justice Warrior – people who spend their whole day festering in this fetid swamp of identity politics and weaponised victimhood – was oppressive all along, unbeknownst to them.

But why should we go to the effort of completely overturning the language that nearly all of us – not only SJWs – use to talk about prejudice and discrimination?

Phobias aren’t really something you hear much about, except as an exploitative tabloid episode on shows hosted by the likes of Maury Povich and Jerry Springer.

Like all marginalized groups, disabled folks have little representation in the media and in real-life institutions. This is reflected in how we are portrayed, talked about, and treated. Mental disabilities – from schizophrenia and obsessive compulsive disorder to bipolar disorder and generalized anxiety disorder – are particularly notorious for being misconstrued and inaccurately and harmfully portrayed, usually just for ratings (read: money).

[..] Phobias are virtually invisible in society outside of the aforementioned daytime talk show segments.  But the fact of the matter is that we are real.

We exist. We navigate this world, to the best of our abilities, every single day. We’re on disability. We work. We find love and sex, if we desire those things. We have dreams. We struggle.

And our lived experiences and truths deserve dignity and respect, not the further erasure and trivialization that phrases like “-phobia” actively perpetuate.

Good grief. Has any person suffering from a legitimate phobia ever been upset, outraged or “harmed” in any way by the fact that we also use the word for their condition to describe people who are prejudiced against certain groups? Of course not – just as if I were to say (as I believe) that the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics is a cancer on our society, people currently suffering from cancer will not suddenly wince in pain when I hit “publish”. It would be clear to any reasonable person (thus excluding the SJWs) that the cancer I speak of is metaphorical, and entirely different from the actual disease, just as it is clear to legitimate phobia sufferers that nobody is seeking to diminish their suffering when we speak of “xenophobia” or “homophobia”.

And mark this:

The use of “-phobia” as a suffix erodes the dictionary meaning of the word, but more importantly, it is one tool that helps society forget that phobias are real phenomena that affect real people every day, some of whom, like myself and my friends, are queer and trans.

It is as though the author is laying each one of her oppressed identities before us, to add weight to her specious argument.

Queer? Check.

Trans? Check.

Phobic (and thus disabled)? Check.

This is how you win an argument in Social Justice world. Not by appealing to facts, reason or evidence but rather by pointing to your identity in terms of race, gender and sexuality, and trying to claim the highest possible position on the Hierarchy of Oppression. Denarii Monroe knows that few people will be able to outdo the triumvirate of queer, trans, and phobic. And because the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics dictates that those lower on the hierarchy must defer to those who can claim greater victimhood, Monroe has carte blanche to change the terms of discussion and literally remove words from the permitted vocabulary of other SJWs.

Monroe does, however, eventually cut to the chase:

That is to say, while fear is behind much of the oppression we face, it’s not the whole story. It’s not even the primary story. The language we use should reflect that.

When we say what we’re actually talking about, it paints a more accurate picture for our movements and our allies of our needs. It makes our goal clearer, which makes it that much easier to accomplish.

Further, “-phobia” as a suffix ultimately centers the oppressor instead of the oppressed. The language becomes about their fear instead of our struggle.

And I don’t know about you, but I’m quite tired of privileged people being the center of attention.

Ah, there it is. All of this overwrought discussion of language and oppression, when in actual fact this whole article is borne of Monroe’s jealousy that using “-phobia” as a suffix puts the emphasis on the supposedly prejudiced person when in fact it should really be on her. Monroe doesn’t want “privileged people” to be the centre of attention because she doesn’t actually want us to focus on prejudice or do anything meaningful to tackle it – rather, she wants to revel in her own victimhood and be sure that we all acknowledge it so that she remains the centre of attention.

This is a sick, warped way of looking at the world. But it is also absolutely required behaviour among Social Justice Warriors and identity politics cultists the world over, who are intent on turning daily life into one great big collective group therapy session, in which those at the top of the Hierarchy of Oppression are free to unload on those further down, blaming them for their troubles all day, every day.

Denarii Monroe didn’t get so upset that she wrote an article in Everyday Feminism because she has legitimate, heartfelt concerns that saying words like “Islamophobia” or “transphobia” actually causes mental distress to people with real phobias. She wrote the article in triumph because she found yet another way to claim that other people – people on her own side! – were inadvertently transgressing one of the key tenets of social justice. Which, even though everybody was using this language a year ago without issue or complaint, is now a tremendous issue. And as a totally (ahem) unrelated bonus, it also just so happens to give Monroe heightened status and more power over her peers.

To slightly amend something I recently wrote on the same subject:

If all of this seems ludicrous and a million miles away from doing anything which might conceivably affect or help actual black disabled people in America, you would be right. Because at its dark, festering core the Social Justice movement is not about delivering justice, equality or doing any other kind of social good. Social wrongs are merely the fuel which power the machine to perform its true purpose – controlling the language and the thinking of society in order to establish beady-eyed little zealots like Party Island Denarii Monroe as the indispensable clerisy who tell everyone else what to say and do.

Social Justice is, above everything else, about the acquisition and exercising of power. Victimhood is actively sought and eagerly weaponised by members of this Social Justice clerisy in their scramble for status amongst their peers and contemporaries. The legitimate problems and grievances of minority communities become irritating background noise, a distraction from what really matters – this finickity, juvenile, university campus parlour game in which casting oneself as the most vulnerable, oppressed but simultaneously tolerant person imaginable confers tremendous power, while the slightest slip (such as accidentally using the wrong word) can lead to immediate excommunication from the group.

Monroe concludes by lecturing us that we should immediately replace the “-phobic” suffix with the much more clunky “-antagonistic”, as in “trans-antagonistic” or presumably “Islamo-antagonistic”:

From the queer and trans communities to Muslims and fat people, that is literally our experience. Our existence and identities cause the majority culture to be hostile toward us and, as a result, we struggle against them – for our humanity, our dignity, and our liberation.

But we can never be free until we’re all free – and this includes folks with disabilities. So it’s imperative that we begin to deliberately abandon “-phobia” once and for all.

The mind boggles. I would write that the social justice movement cannot possibly lose the plot any more than it presently has, but we all know that in a week’s time I will be back with another piece about some even more outrageous claim to victimhood or demand for censorship. The world record for Most Stupid Thing Said By An SJW is now being broken almost daily.

And this is because at its dark, sulphuric heart, the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics is an arms race, in which cultists have to continually invent new vulnerabilities and injuries just to maintain their position in the social hierarchy.

SJWs have perhaps marked what is happening in Britain, where the National Union of Students decreed that university LGBT societies should no longer allow “white cis gay men” to have their own representation on diversity committees because they are not sufficiently discriminated against. Being a gay man is apparently no longer enough to command even the lowliest of positions in the Hierarchy of Oppression. So all of those SJWs only slightly higher up on the hierarchy are desperately casting around for additional traumas and vulnerabilities that they can plausibly exaggerate just to keep themselves in the game.

Social Justice is about power, plain and simple. And while its cultists may preach rainbows and unicorns and solidarity, in practice it is a brutal club to suddenly find oneself excluded from. This is why the arms race has now decreed that saying “-phobic” is oppressive, and it is why next week we will be back here, marvelling that something even more vacuous and self-indulgent has occurred.

 

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