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  1. #1
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    Social Justice Bullies: The Authoritarianism of Millennial Social Justice

    Whether or not you agree with this author's opinion (completely or partially), I think this article should be read by everyone remotely interested in social justice today.

    Social Justice Bullies: The Authoritarianism of Millennial Social Justice

    Social justice, as a concept, has existed for millennia — at least as long as society has had inequity and inequality and there were individuals enlightened enough to question this. When we study history, we see, as the American Transcendentalist Theodore Parker famously wrote, “the arc [of the moral universe]…bends towards justice.” And this seems relatively evident when one looks at history as a single plot line. Things improve. And, if history is read as a book, the supporters of social justice are typically deemed the heroes, the opponents of it the villains.

    .....
    .....
    [LOTS of stuff omitted]
    .....
    .....

    The version of millennial social justice advocacy that I have spoken about — one that uses Identity Politics to balkanize groups of people, engenders hatred between groups, willingly lies to push agendas, manipulates language to provide immunity from criticism, and that publicly shames anyone who remotely speaks some sort of dissent from the overarching narrative of the orthodoxy — is not admirable. It is deplorable. It appeals to the basest of human instincts: fear and hatred. It is not an enlightened or educated position to take. History will not look kindly on this Orwellian, authoritarian pervision of social justice that has taken social media and millennials by storm over the past few years.

    .....

    But the fact of the matter is — anyone unwilling to engage in productive, open, mutually critical conversations with people they disagree with under the moral protection of liberalism and social justice are not liberals, are not social justice advocates, and are not social justice warriors; they are social justice bullies.
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    Re: Social Justice Bullies: The Authoritarianism of Millennial Social Justice

    Quote Originally Posted by RandallS View Post
    Whether or not you agree with this author's opinion (completely or partially), I think this article should be read by everyone remotely interested in social justice today.

    Social Justice Bullies: The Authoritarianism of Millennial Social Justice
    This article puts most of my feelings about what I often see being done in the name of social justice online into words -- words I had not thought of. Most of you know that I abhor and oppose political Authoritarianism and I do so no matter what the political color of that Authoritarianism is (left, center, right, other). In my humble opinion, the author is correct at least about Social Justice as it is most often handled online: it has become authoritarian.
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    Re: Social Justice Bullies: The Authoritarianism of Millennial Social Justice

    Quote Originally Posted by RandallS View Post
    This article puts most of my feelings about what I often see being done in the name of social justice online into words -- words I had not thought of. Most of you know that I abhor and oppose political Authoritarianism and I do so no matter what the political color of that Authoritarianism is (left, center, right, other). In my humble opinion, the author is correct at least about Social Justice as it is most often handled online: it has become authoritarian.
    Lends a new perspective to that debate about SJ and TC a few months ago, doesn't it?
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    Re: Social Justice Bullies: The Authoritarianism of Millennial Social Justice

    Quote Originally Posted by RandallS View Post
    Most of you know that I abhor and oppose political Authoritarianism and I do so no matter what the political color of that Authoritarianism is (left, center, right, other). In my humble opinion, the author is correct at least about Social Justice as it is most often handled online: it has become authoritarian.
    Ditto to the anti-authoritarian stance; in fact, I tend to view issues not through a left-vs-right lens but a libertarian-v-authoritarian one. (And that's 'libertarian' with a small 'l'.)

    The part from the article that stood out most to me is this:
    The problem with this brand of modern social justice advocacy is that who one is as a person (race, class, gender, etc.) is the be all and end all of their capacity to have a certain viewpoint. A millennial social justice advocate can discount an opinion simply because it is said or written by a group they feel oppresses them. It is a logical fallacy known as ad hominem whereby one attacks the person saying an argument rather than the argument itself. But this logical fallacy has become the primary weapon of the millennial social justice advocate. It is miasma to academia, to critical thinking, and to intellectual honesty.
    And this sums up why I find "check your privilege" to be so gods-damned buggy.
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    Re: Social Justice Bullies: The Authoritarianism of Millennial Social Justice

    I'm not in full agreement with all that the author has said, but this bit pretty much sums up how I feel about most online social justice:

    The version of millennial social justice advocacy that I have spoken about — one that uses Identity Politics to balkanize groups of people, engenders hatred between groups, willingly lies to push agendas, manipulates language to provide immunity from criticism, and that publicly shames anyone who remotely speaks some sort of dissent from the overarching narrative of the orthodoxy — is not admirable. It is deplorable. It appeals to the basest of human instincts: fear and hatred.
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    Re: Social Justice Bullies: The Authoritarianism of Millennial Social Justice

    Quote Originally Posted by RandallS View Post
    Whether or not you agree with this author's opinion (completely or partially), I think this article should be read by everyone remotely interested in social justice today.
    As I've said on here before, I don't like a lot of the online social justice subculture and reject identity politics/privilege theory as a theoretical framework.

    So, as you can imagine, there are bits I'd agree with (the use of "check your privilege" as a method of shutting down counterarguments, the issues surrounding balkanisation of identities) although I'm not convinced that he's saying anything new there. Naomi Klein was writing way more insightful stuff about identity politics and the politics of representation back in 1999, to give just one example.

    But there's as much there that I take as much of an issue with as I do the online SJ crowd.

    A big problem is that he starts with a particular worldview and just assumes that everyone interested in social justice is going to share it. For someone that's calling for more honest debate, that's a critical flaw. This statement encapsulates what I mean:

    and herein lies the problem — in attempting to solve pressing and important social issues, millennial social justice advocates are violently sabotaging genuine opportunities for progress by infecting a liberal political narrative with, ironically, hate.
    Assumptions he doesn't try to defend. (He's a lot keen on assertion then argument).

    That it's automatically a liberal narrative. He says he was taught history by a "capital S-Socialist", so that's not a mistake he really should be making. Obviously, that's how he personally identifies, but it's hardly universal. Personally, my views on liberals are a lot closer to Phil Ochs than to the author. And that's a very different argument then the (in my view) correct one about not automatically dismissing his arguments because he's "a straight, white, middle-class (etc.) male. We're talking about serious differences in political opinion that can't just be dismissed with post-ideological hand waving.

    I'd like to hear specifics on what opportunities for progress he thinks have been sabotaged. That's a pretty big accusation and some examples of what he means would help greatly.

    I'm not sure what's "ironic" about the use of hate, unless he's talking about movements that specifically claim to be against hatred. Maybe he's using it in an Alanis Morissette sense? I don't see hatred as a de facto bad emotion in all circumstances, which he seems to assume the reader will. That's linked indirectly to previous conversations on here about the ethics of cursing.

    It’s a term driven to weakness through overuse, but it illustrates a key issue here: that, sword drawn and bloodthirsty, millennial social justice advocates have taken to verbal, emotional — and sometimes physical — violence.
    What physical violence is he talking about here? I'm not saying there haven't been any incidents, just that I've not heard of many. Commonly, what we seem to be talking about is people being dicks on the internet, which is a bit different.

    Again though, here he's too general. Is he disagreeing with certain applications of violence or is he arguing that violence is beyond the pale per se? He seems to imply the latter, but doesn't mention that he's a pacifist anywhere in the piece. (Which probably means that, like most liberals, he thinks the state should have a monopoly on violence. Hardly an anti-authoritarian position). I'm no more attracted to fluffy bunny political arguments than I am spiritual ones. The world isn't all sweetness and light.

    In a dazzlingly archetypical display of horseshoe theory
    It figures that he's a fan of horseshoe theory; it fits his general perspective. But there's two main problems with horseshoe theory. Firstly, it flattens out important differences. (Stalin and Hitler were both totalitarian and awful, but if you look at their economic policies they're actually very different). Secondly, it leads frequently to the argument from moderation fallacy. I'd suggest the piece as a whole runs the risk of falling into the latter throughout.

    The modern social justice movement launched on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Jezebel, Slate, Huffington Post, et al. is far more reminiscent of a Red Scare (pick one) than the Civil Rights Movement.
    While the online social justice movement frequently behaves unpleasantly, that's a remarkable bit of hyperbole.

    The first red scare included mass arrests, detentions and deportions. The second red scare involved people losing their jobs and imprisonment. There's really no comparison. (It's somewhat ironic to be lectured about the red scare by a self-proclaimed liberal, considering that both the McCarran Act and the Communist Control Act were passed with heavy liberal support).

    When George Orwell wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four (and here some will lambast me for picking a white male author from a historically colonialist power despite the fact that he fought and wrote against this colonialism), he wrote it to warn against the several dangers of extremism on either side of the political spectrum. Orwell’s magnum opus is about authoritarianism on both ends of the political spectrum. If the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice, then the arc of the political spectrum bends toward authoritarianism at both ends.
    He's right, that would be an incredibly silly reason to criticide his use of Orwell to back up his point. A far stronger reason would be that he doesn't really understand Orwell.

    If he's going to complain about virulent language, he really should read some Orwell other then the classics. Orwell could be highly scathing with people he disagreed with.

    The idea that Orwell was against extremism is somewhat groundless. He did, after all, fight alongside the POUM.

    As is the idea that Orwell is some kind of liberal pioneer. Considering that he once described a liberal as a "power seeker without power", I'm pretty sure he'd have disagreed.

    Some Orwell quotes:

    Acceptance of the Catholic position implies a certain willingness to see the present injustices of society continue... Individual salvation implies liberty, which is always extended by Catholic writers to include the right to private property. But in the stage of industrial development which we have now reached, the right to private property means the right to exploit and torture millions of one's fellow creatures. The Socialist would argue, therefore, that one can only defend property if one is more or less indifferent to economic justice.
    Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic Socialism, as I understand it.
    I have no particular love for the idealised "worker" as he appears in the bourgeois Communist's mind, but when I see an actual flesh-and-blood worker in conflict with his natural enemy, the policeman, I do not have to ask myself which side I am on.
    In every country in the world a huge tribe of party-hacks and sleek little professors are busy 'proving' that Socialism means no more than a planned state-capitalism with the grab-motive left intact. But fortunately there also exists a vision of Socialism quite different from this. The thing that attracts ordinary men to Socialism and makes them willing to risk their skins for it, the 'mystique' of Socialism, is the idea of equality; to the vast majority of people Socialism means a classless society, or it means nothing at all.
    Those who "abjure" violence can only do so because others are committing violence on their behalf.
    So yes, he was definitely anti totalitarian. But not only was he not a liberal, he actually abhorred several of the arguments made in the piece, most obviously the ones about violence.

    His stuff on the Rolling Stone story misses a vital point. While I actually think that there was a whole lot of problems there to do with good journalistic practice, he suggests it's something different:

    It as a formulation that assumes innocence; to condemn on the basis of a certain accusation because of the identity or oppressed status of the accuser is a dangerous road to go down. It erodes the most essential tenet of liberalism: due process.
    The problem there is that "due process", alongside "presumption of innocence" are specifically legal concepts. They don't have any real meaning outside of that. Perhaps he means "assume good faith", but that's a very different argument then the one he makes.

    nstead of holy texts, though, the millennial social justice advocate bows at the altar of the currently-in-vogue ideological Trinity: Marxism, Feminism, and Post-Colonialism.
    Yeah, very few millennial social justice advocates are Marxists. (Generally, they see it as too reductionist about class. Marxism really isn't a good supporting framework for identity politics, because it's so structurally based). I've read Das Kapital up to Chapter 3. Which is three more chapters than most online SJ activists. I suspect he's been influenced by the cultural influence of past red scares here. Which actually is ironic.

    Why can’t I simply rebut this with a trip to the dictionary? Because this is laughed at by social justice types. The image of a white person walking to the dictionary to define racism is literally a trope at this point because the millennial social justice advocate finds it so entertaining that a dictionary, constructed by those in power for those who speak the language of power, can possibly give an accurate definition of a word.
    The blogger he links to is obviously laughable and hence really easy for him to dismiss.

    What he doesn't tackle is the obvious point that you can't rebut any argument about definitions with a simple trip to the dictionary, because language is a constantly evolving process. And dictionaries reflect language use, they don't prescribe correct usage. Because there is no such thing as an authoritative body when it comes to the English language. (That's important because I think it reflects a bigger problem with his approach. He seems to me to concentrate on the most easily dismissed arguments he disagrees with, not the stronger ones).

    As I said, there's also a fair bit I agree with in this. But there's also a fair bit I agree with from even the worst of the online SJ crowd. And that doesn't make up for either his or their flaws.

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  7. #7
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    Re: Social Justice Bullies: The Authoritarianism of Millennial Social Justice

    On the one hand, I don't disagree with the sentiment. Nasty, ignorant, and hateful elements can and do exist on the internet, and it's undoubtedly a form of bullying.

    On the other hand, it just feels exaggerated and cherry-picking its examples to define the *entire* online social justice movement, and it seemed more concerned with dismissing the Rolling Stone/UVa controversy/proving his viewpoint is the superior one rather than actually addressing the topic. For someone who complains about "no shades of grey" in the movement early in the essay, it's a bit hypocritical.

    EDIT: Well, Jabberwocky went and spectacularly defined everything I felt off about. Kudos.
    Last edited by DemeterDelusion; 18 Apr 2015 at 09:59 PM. Reason: actually read the post above mine

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    Re: Social Justice Bullies: The Authoritarianism of Millennial Social Justice

    Quote Originally Posted by RandallS View Post
    I'm not sure I agree with everything said in the article, but I think it's a good reminder to be wary of closing your mind and giving into orthodoxy.

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    Re: Social Justice Bullies: The Authoritarianism of Millennial Social Justice

    Quote Originally Posted by DemeterDelusion View Post
    ....
    EDIT: Well, Jabberwocky went and spectacularly defined everything I felt off about. Kudos.
    Amen to that. I'm new here, but this sums up some concerns I had about "lemming" media. Interesting read.

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    Re: Social Justice Bullies: The Authoritarianism of Millennial Social Justice

    Quote Originally Posted by RandallS View Post
    Whether or not you agree with this author's opinion (completely or partially), I think this article should be read by everyone remotely interested in social justice today.

    Social Justice Bullies: The Authoritarianism of Millennial Social Justice
    I highly recommend The Rise of the Post-New Left Vocabulary for anyone interested in these issues.

    It's specifically from a (hard) left perspective, but I found it very illuminating. It looks at the changes in left vocabulary from New Left days and what ideological differences underpin that.
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