In a December 31, 2015 post, Salon boasts proudly that "2015 was the year of the Social Justice Warrior, and Progressives should embrace the term."
Although the term "Social Justice Warrior" was constructed as an insult against progressive activists, the year 2015 has amply demonstrated why liberals should embrace the term. Social justice issues dominated the year, from race to sexual identity and beyond.Wrong again, Salon. This reads like many progressive defenses of political correctness as simply "being nice" or "being respectful" to one another. I would not argue against being a decent, conscientious person. There's nothing to be gained by using racial slurs or being rude and boorish towards overweight women. Or anyone, come to that. In fact, I would go further than Salon and a lot of other socially progressive blogs these days and dare to suggest that our decency and conscientiousness should be for all (except those whose actions warrant censure), including the dreaded cishet white male, instead of being parceled out according to who has more "marginalized identities."
Conflating political correctness with niceness and being socially liberal with being a social justice warrior is a wide path that ends in authoritarian regressive leftism. It's not "nice" to criticize the barbarism of Islamism - they are the victims of western colonialism after all, so we'd better not do it. It's not "nice" to point out the very real social dysfunctions in black communities - they're the victims of institutional racism after all, so we'd better not do it. It's not "nice" to criticize misandry in feminism or advocate for male victims of sexual and domestic violence - they're the victims of patriarchy and rape culture after all, so we'd better not do it.
There's nothing nice about any of this. The victims, in all the above cases, are very real. Refusing to talk about it for fear of offending established interests is as far away from being nice and being what liberalism is supposed to be about as you can get.
To get a better sense of what the SJW is really all about, this excellent article on extremism is a useful tool for clarification. Laird Wilcox, who along with John George authored the excellent 1996 study of American Extremists, list a number of traits that define extremism and are useful for separating the SJWs from the socially liberal nice guys. These are:
The SJWs convert socially liberal ideologies into closed belief systems that refer to themselves in order to justify themselves, and use denial of guilt of heresy as proof of heresy, in which denial of being a racist, homophobe or whatever is cited as direct evidence of one's guilt. This is very reminiscent of the workings of the medieval inquisitions and witch hunts, and was characteristic of pro-communist show trials in Stalin's USSR and the anti-communist zeal of McCarthyism. It is a sad reflection on the failure of our academic and media institutions that history has not been learned from and both the ideologies and techniques of the SJW have been embraced by media and academia largely without question in much of the western world when employed by the charmed circle of feminists, Islamists and anti racists.
- Character assassination.
- Name calling and labeling.
- Irresponsible sweeping generalizations.
- Inadequate proof of assertions.
- Advocacy of double standards.
- Tendency to view their opponents and critics as essentially evil.
- Manichean world view.
- Advocacy of some degree of censorship or repression of their opponents and critics.
- Tend to identify themselves in terms of who their enemies are: whom they hate and who hates them.
- Tendency towards argument by intimidation.
- Use of slogans, buzzwords and thought stopping cliches.
- Assumption of moral or other superiority over others.
- Doomsday thinking.
- Belief that it's okay to do bad things in the service of a "good" cause.
- Emphasis on emotional responses and, correspondingly, less importance attached to reasoning and logical analysis.
- Hypersensitivity and vigilance.
- Use of supernatural rationale for beliefs and actions.
- Problems tolerating ambiguity and uncertainty.
- Inclination towards groupthink.
- Tendency to personalize hostility.
- Feel the system is no good unless they win.
Richard Hofstadter's excellent 1963 essay on the Paranoid Style in American Politics could apply just as well to the postmodernist critical theory of the SJW. To paraphrase the manner in which Hofstadter contrasts the "paranoid style" with sober and accurate reflections on history,
"The distinguishing thing about the paranoid style is not that its exponents see conspiracies or plots here and there in history, but that they regard a "vast" or "gigantic" conspiracy is the motive force in historical events. History is a conspiracy set in motion by demonic forces of almost transcendent power, and what is felt to be needed to defeat it is not the usual methods of political give and take, but an all out crusade."This describes precisely the manner in which the SJW perceives whichever forms of marginalization they are most concerned with. Racism and patriarchy were not unfortunate historical detours, necessitating a sober and liberal feminism and anti-racism to correct. Rather, racism and patriarchy are the sole, defining characteristics of western civilization, embedded in our every institution, form of relationship, our language and even our subconscious thoughts!
This is why, from the SJW mindset, the ends of defeating "oppression" justify any means necessary employed to do so. The moral compass of the SJW is calibrated not to the respect of human dignity and rights that one would expect of a liberal, but to this Leninist notion that truth and morality are measured by whether actions benefit an "oppressed" or a "privileged" demographic. Arguments reminiscent of Stalinist denials of repression inside the Soviet Union declare "oppressed" peoples incapable of racism or sexism, and so are given a free pass to engage in even the most wanton acts of prejudice.
The SJW has no qualms about usurping the identities and struggles of the marginalized peoples they're professing to represent, and speak on behalf of entire demographics of people - even when individual members of those demographics disagree with them in large numbers. The dangerous notion of false consciousness is trotted out to dismiss those members of marginalized groups who deny their marginalization, adding yet another circular thinking dynamic to the style and tactics of the SJW.
Censorship of those who offend "marginalized" peoples is therefore justified, because the offense taken by the marginalized is indicative of the overarching transcendent meta-historical evil that is patriarchy or white supremacy, and the temporary evil of censorship of a privileged person is a mere inconvenience in the face of it. In truth, the making of these kinds of sacrifices to defeat ultimate evil is something that the SJW relishes rather than laments, for it signals their intentions to "give until it hurts" and go the extra mile in the winner-take-all battle of pure good vs. ultimate evil.
We've seen enough examples of this kind of thinking in history now to be rightly concerned. Hitler felt the Jews an evil so despicable that any means were justified in order to defeat them. Hitler believed posterity would thank him for his efforts, but the general verdict of history would suggest otherwise. 4chan foolishness notwithstanding, Nazism is an evil the western world has no interest in revisiting.
SJWs have nowhere near the blood on their hands that fascists and communists do. But this kind of thinking is leading them away from their own best ideals. They've all but lost sight of their initial objectives - racial and gender equality - and are now unabashedly partisan in favor of women and peoples of color, and unabashedly authoritarian and without principle in their methods of activism, undermining their essential credibility among all save for the shamelessly self serving among their chosen demographics. The price will be paid down the road by the very women and minorities they're professing to champion, for the good name of feminism and anti-racism is being irredeemably spoiled by SJW antics.
The weakness of the western world, however, is in its failure to recognize the stormtroopers when they wear plaid rather than black shirts and dyed hair instead of steel helms. Of course, the SJWs are a long way away still from the kind of power needed to shed blood on Bolshevik or Fascist levels. But the failure of media and academia to recognize distinctly illiberal ideas when advanced under the banner of historically liberal ideas should be of concern to us all, but especially those most concern for freedom and liberty for the historically disadvantaged.