So why do I spend so much blog space expressing anger at a left whose existence I fully acknowledge is necessary? Because there's a distinction in my mind between left-leaning ideas that are worthy of consideration and ideas that are not. I tweeted recently that I happen to think environmental degradation, corporate abuse, hardening class distinctions, and racial/ethnic disparities are real problems that demand thoughtful solutions, and I still stand by that belief. What I can't abide are the social justice warriors.
Many liberals and leftists seem to be under the impression that the pejorative "SJW" applies to them. "What's so bad about being a social justice warrior?" they ask. "I'm anti-racist, pro-LGBT, and I've never voted Republican. I'm an SJW!" But unless you're comfortable with the methods I'm about to describe below, you're not -- even if your bedroom is plastered with Bernie Sanders memorabilia.
So what makes an SJW? What's the difference, for me, between standard leftists and those I believe are clear and present dangers to me and mine? Quite simply, monstrous leftists do the following:
- They deny that truth is objective and universally accessible. They tell me, for example, that I can't discuss race relations in the U.S. because I'm white -- or that I can't discuss the transgender issue because I'm "cis." But what you feel as someone who is non-white or trans may not be based wholly in reality. As it turns out, memory and perception are incredibly fluid and prone to error; that's why everyone - and I mean everyone - needs to seek external validation before acting upon an emotional impression. If you just assume you're right at the get-go, you will do tremendous damage.
- They don't respect boundaries. They block traffic, destroy property, harass and intimidate opponents in public spaces (and even at their homes), and/or gleefully humiliate others in pursuit of their aims -- or they simply refuse to condemn such tactics when they're used by others. But none of these things are okay in our current context; indeed, aside from the destruction of property, which can be justified in a declared war, I don't think these are okay in any context.
- They're censors. You can discuss why you think certain movies/television shows/songs/scientific studies/etc. are problematic to your heart's content (as long as you're willing to accept push-back). You can even suggest that we modify our speech for the sake of politeness. But the minute you start demanding that songs be removed from the radio, dissident academics be fired, or that our speech and expression be regulated legislatively, you have crossed my line. You don't get to control people that way. I don't trust you - or anyone else - with that power.
- They magnify offense -- and then respond with no sense of proportion. Unintentionally insensitive remarks or actions cannot be socially engineered out of existence. I'm sorry, but people are imperfect and should be given room to screw up -- and if we happen to be put out by such imperfections, we should respond with grace, not rage. I'll give you an example: The hotel we stayed at for our recent Thanksgiving trip had clearly tried to make the room we were given accessible for the disabled. Unfortunately, the toilet was not quite high enough, and the flexible shower-head couldn't be dislodged from its post so we could use it while seated. Now, if either my dad or I were an SJW, we might've screamed that this was proof - proof! - that the hotel in question was "ableist" or some such nonsense, and we probably would've sought to shame them in public. But since we're not SJW's, we calmly informed the front desk that we had a few accessibility problems with the room and just left it at that. We assumed that they meant well - and probably didn't realize that their shower-head was not working, oh by the way - and we acted on that assumption. This is healthy; assuming the opposite - that all mistakes are due to malice that deserves punishment - leads to unhappy people and unhappy societies.
- They think they should be able to break normal rules with impunity. They think, for example, that they can park illegally and then scream "racist!" when someone not of their skin color calls them out on it. They think, for example, that they can show up at a place of business after closing time and insist on being served and then, once again, scream "racist!" when the clerks inside refuse. They think, for example, that they should be allowed to repeatedly dine and dash at Chipotle and then get some poor working folks fired for asking, understandably, for payment in advance. I'm sorry for the language, but fuck you. It's not racist to enforce traffic laws or business hours, and it's certainly not racist to expect to be paid for a product. If you think you have a right to flout these fundamentally reasonable protocols, you're an SJW - and a menace.
- They play games with definitions to worm their way out of charges of hypocrisy. Bigots with social power do more damage than bigots without that power. But the purpose of the "racism = prejudice + power" equation is not simply to point out this uncontroversial truth; it's to completely absolve certain groups of any wrongdoing. We can see this true purpose in the corollary that always accompanies the aforementioned formulation: that people of color have no power. This is absolutely false on its face. If you can convince large corporations to bend to your will to avoid your ire, you have power. I don't care how many of you are politicians or CEO's.
- They purposely misconstrue what people say and assign malign motives where none exist. I'm a teacher. I know there are people out there who struggle with reading comprehension. But I don't think leading SJW's fall into this group given that many of them are fairly adept as writers, therefore exhibiting somewhat-above-average verbal intelligence. No: SJW's understand what we're saying; they simply call us -ist and -phobic because it's easier than actually answering our arguments. They're intellectually lazy, not dumb.
- They congratulate or blame people for things they can't control. Nobody chooses to be born white, male, straight, or cis; nobody chooses to be born non-white, female, gay, or trans. These are immutable characteristics that confer neither moral worth nor moral worthlessness. Being human in a general sense entitles you to be treated fairly and with respect for your rights, but beyond that, it's your character and the quality of your work that should earn you prestige. But SJW's want to upend this idea; they think that some groups are entitled to much more than their basic human rights and that other groups should abase themselves to make this happen.
- They seek equal outcomes, not equal opportunity. I'm open to the idea that there are process issues with our system that hamper equal opportunity (especially when it comes to our utterly dysfunctional system of education). But SJW's don't care much about process; they just want to give certain people what they have not earned to balance the cosmic scales -- and if that means other people get screwed, well then those "privileged" assholes probably deserved to be taken down a peg.
- Overall, they're joyless, vengeful, and nasty people. They spend their every waking minute, it seems, trying to destroy people who offend them. They comb through old social media posts looking for dirt -- and when they can't find what they want, they straight up lie. They insist on hectoring people about their politics at all times and in all places, turning apolitical activities that could bring us all together into additional cultural battlefields. They refuse to let us escape and just enjoy our lives for bloody once because they have convinced themselves, beyond all reason, that they - or their mascots - are in imminent danger of persecution and even genocide and that, consequently, their exquisite concerns should be the center of our focus 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. No: we are not in that place. I'm no big fan of Trump, but he's not Hitler; he's not even in the same galaxy as the Fuhrer, and the more you scream, wild-eyed, that we're all going to die, the more I'm going to tune you out.
If you are left-of-center but do not share the features just described, I don't have a problem with you. We can probably come together and work out our political differences in a civilized and rational manner. If you're left-of-center and do share any or all of the above characteristics, then yes: I'm afraid you are my enemy. Please reevaluate your life choices before you destroy this country.