Above: Archie Bunker
DISCLAIMER: I realize that many reflection pieces responding to the rise of arm chair activism and the “outrage industry” have been written. I am writing this article for personal, cathartic reasons.
As any objective person active in contemporary mass culture knows, social media and the blogosphere has been invaded by hordes of shrill, belligerent ideologues who roam the internet in small cyber-packs, in search of easy targets to bully. Known as the “social justice warrior” phenomenon, many have invaded the news feeds of nearly every millenial Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, or other social media user. Have you ever wondered the cause behind the rise in self-proclaimed libertarian, small-government conservative, and constitutionalist political affiliations in recent years? Part of the answer: bleeding heart ideologues who agonize over inane non-issues that don’t pertain to reality (a.k.a “Social Justice Warriors”). Granted, this explanation is insufficient, overly simplistic, and a bit antagonistic itself. But hear me out. What I mean, in short, is that brazen identity politics are the order of the day. It seems that any dialogue about meaningful issues are drowned out by the latest, contrived outrage; somebody’s delicate sensibilities were offended and therefore the perpetrator deserves to be lynched on the altar of public opinion. In fact, that last sentence I wrote could be worthy of a skinning in some circles due to the fact that it uses the word “lynching.” The Social Justice Warriors are the Digital Age reincarnations of the 60’s “bleeding heart liberals” who displayed the same naivete and manufactured outrage that comically annoyed the fictional Archie Bunker and others like him on the show All In the Family. The cynic in me sees the new generation of SJWs as a group less genuine and more sinister than their baby boomer predecessors. Thanks to the over-sheltered upbringing of most of today’s Western youth, spurred on by helicopter parents thrown into a media-induced frenzy of fear, many members of my generation crave intrigue and meaning in their lives. Add to this the self-promotion afforded by social media, and you have the narcissist equivalent of the Crack-Cocaine Epidemic. It appears that many of these young, misguided internet users have sickly appropriated often worthy philanthropic causes for their own self-gratifying ego-stroking. Above: A “bleeding heart”
Like their bleeding-heart predecessors, SJWs are known for their characteristic (here comes the “warrior” part) witchunts of ideological non-purists. The aims of these raids can be as mundane as humiliation in front of targets’ friends to full-out “doxing,” the broadcasting of private, individually-identifiable information with the intent of bringing harm upon the victim. People have lost jobs, received death threats, had their identities stolen, and dealt with slanderous accusations thanks to such activities. The craziest part of the whole phenomenon is that it targets other supposed “warriors” who have apparently fallen out of favor with the main current of thought. The deeply-embedded yet subtly expressed sanctimonious intellectual conceit of the Left’s talking heads has found its full, combatant expression in the online communication of young, impressionable minds. The online world of armchair activism is a self-consuming movement. When not totally oblivious to non-identity related political issues, SJWs are finding ways to frame such issues in terms of identity politics. Mostly, these are thinly-veiled attempts at discrediting small-government and laissez-faire market capitalism. Now that more people are confronted with the self-entitled products of a “mass coddling movement,” the fears of death of the common virtue and the ensuing loss of the Pax Americana are more justified than ever. Social justice “crusading” can’t be fully understood without knowing the role that supposedly academic, not intellectual, institutions. The American university, in the words of Camille Paglia, has become an exercise in “institutionalized whining.” As I wrote in an earlier post, as long as the over-attendance of college has been going on, the intellectual stature of the American university has been in decline. While a dynamic, culture should never be stifled by tradition, re-interpretation of the academic canon can only go so far. So much of what was once taught and valued in the core curricula of American universities is now watered-down, disavowed, or frightfully misrepresented. Honest, genuinely intellectual discussion is increasingly under assault from the revisionist zealots. This is the breeding ground for modern-day online social justice activism in which many youth are introduced to this distorted learning and develop a false sense of their own erudition and righteousness. Above: “Coddle College” As a college student fully immersed in a collegiate environment, I am quite exhausted by the New Left’s relentless pandering to the young and the naive via demagoguery. According to this camp, whether it’s the “1%,” “privileged white people,” “the warriors against women,” or the latest obscure gender label there is always someone, rather than some issue, to direct one’s outrage towards. As a citizen of one of the freest and most prosperous societies in history, I didn’t realize I was supposed to be so angry at so many for so much. This is a dangerous trend if free, protected speech is to continue to be freely expressed without fear of retribution. On many campuses, there are now institutionalized “safe spaces” where students seeking asylum can escape opinions they find disagreeable; and, “free speech zones,” where students may protest and speak freely without risk of disciplinary action. What these initiatives amount to is the ghettoization of the university into distinct compartments that follow ideologically-drawn lines. This defeats one of the greatest strengths of the modern university by preventing the cross-pollination and conflict that arises from the confluence of different perspectives. This produces a tragic stagnation effect for academia as well as for the more widely-consumed culture. All forms of nonviolent expression should be tolerated and “out of the closet,” even hate speech. In an authentically progressive society, thoughts or ideas aren’t to be silenced because they may offend sensibilities; break all rules of taste; or, are blatantly false. The truth can evince itself and, as such, any and all ideas, organizations, and values claiming some ownership of the truth deserve to stand trial and have their claims questioned. Any cause that claims the moral high ground must prove itself to be in possession of such moral standing; they don’t need to be protected but, rather, they must be allowed to explain themselves. And, fill disclosure, as a”white, gender-conforming, cisgender, heterosexual, American-born male from an upper-middle class background,” I am not writing this to lament marginalization and discrimination experienced by those whose identities resemble mine; we are not victims of discrimination; Western culture as a whole is the victim of the character assassination of certain elements of society. So no, I don’t want to discuss the “outrage of the week.” I have no desire to engage in a rancorous shout match with you in the comment section of Facebook. It’s not enriching, thoughtful, or morally-satisfying in any way; it’s a further “tabloidization” of culture and politics. As Archie Bunker would say, “Can’t we all just have civilized humanical relationships?”