The video above comes with a huge NSFW warning. However, it is a very important window into the deeply unsettling and unpleasant phenomenon of anti-social justice shamelessness, which has primarily arisen as an anarchic response to social justice’s overreach.
The remarks below follow from the argument of my previous post.
One of the most troubling features of the movement surrounding Trump has been the way in which explicitly and unapologetically racist and sexist voices have moved to the forefront of America’s conversation. The word ‘deplorable’ has been thrown around a lot over the last few months, but this phenomenon truly is deplorable and should openly be declared as such.
However, once again, it is crucial to appreciate the part that social justice and progressive ideology has played in this. In my earlier post, I remarked upon the strange phenomenon that social justice ideologues tend to prefer the notion that perhaps even the majority of the American population is irredeemably sexist and racist to the notion that they might often be well-meaning and intelligent people, with a measure of truth and reasonable concern on their side, people who need to be listened to and reasoned with, rather than merely condemned as hateful and stupid.
The question of why the former belief is the preferred one really needs to be reflected upon. Why are the austere lines of a Manichaean ideology preferred over a social reality that is more tractable to charitable persuasion, forging of common ground, maintenance of relations across ideological divides, and working together despite differences?
I suspect that the reason why has a great deal to do with the fact that it serves the maintenance of the comforting echo chambers of the privileged college students who tend to perpetuate it. Perhaps even more importantly, the Manichaeanism and the accumulation of the complex shibboleths of social justice terminology and ideology all serve to uphold the borders and the moral superiority of an enlightened elite academic, political, and social in-group. The oft-discussed phenomenon of ‘virtue signalling’ refers to the way in which deployment of social justice terminology, policing of other people’s language, expressions of outrage or approval, alignment with or adoption of particular causes, groups, or movements, can all have as its most immediate purpose, not deeply self-invested concrete involvement in ameliorative social action, but the establishment and maintenance of an elite and morally privileged group of enlightened right-thinking people. This phenomenon is especially pronounced in the world of social media.
Manichaean social justice ideology is ideal for the purpose of maintaining the pristine moral superiority of privileged groups on social media. However, most people have to live in the real world, with the very people that have been identified as vicious, evil, and ignorant. Progressives have prioritized their privileged politics of association in their social media cocoons over the politics of the actual relations of vulnerable groups in the real world.
Eavesdropping on social justice oriented groups on social media (Tumblr, blogs like Metafilter, Twitter, etc.), it seems to me that there are very important distinctions to be made between different members of these groups. In particular, there are a lot of very vulnerable and fearful people, who have a great deal of skin in the game. The social justice discourse heightens their sense of being hated and of being radically vulnerable to others who wish to destroy them. They cling to the discourse like fearful clients to a patron.
On the other hand, there are highly privileged people with very little personally invested, who nonetheless derive considerable social advantage from their employment of the discourse as social proof of moral superiority and group membership. There are those on the left who have been pointing out the toxicity of social justice discourse for some time (seriously, read people like Freddie deBoer). The problem here isn’t with the left in general, nor with liberalism in general. Both the left and liberalism have a great deal to offer the world right now. In fact, we need both more than ever. No, the problem is with the social justice ideology of the progressive left in particular.
Of course, hardly anyone in the real world is listening to what goes on in the bubbles of social media in which the progressive left function. Progressive social media is a sort of terrarium, filled with exotic and fragile plants, but sealed off from the wider world, where radically different environmental conditions pertain. Little penetrates into their bubbles from the wider world, and little escapes from them. However, the existence of these bubbles matter immensely because they form the values, associations, minds, and imaginations of the dominant social, political, and cultural classes. This is what occurs in their peer groups and it has become clear that the peer group dynamics of elite progressive liberals powerfully shape the way that they act towards and think of those outside of these peer groups.
It has never been more imperative to recognize that minority groups are used as pawns by the progressive left and weaponized against their ideological and political opponents. When the left is using women, racial minorities, immigrants, and LGBT persons as means to attack straight white Christian men, for instance, it is extremely easy to forget that these groups have never been the enemy. Women are our wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, colleagues, friends. Persons of colour are our neighbours, brothers and sisters in Christ, and family members. Immigrants are people we are knitting into our communities and churches. LGBT persons are our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, our companions, and our compatriots.
The progressive left operates using the politics of guilt and fear. On the one hand, it exploits a status of moral superiority to incite guilt in lower status groups, who must accept dhimmitude. Men must become emasculated and self-denunciatory, constantly apologizing for the fact of their masculinity. Lower status white people must condemn themselves for representing by their very existence all that is wrong with society. Christians must engage in frequent public expressions of contrition for their faith, its history, and tradition.
On the other hand, it incites and exploits fear in its pet minorities, causing them to cling ever closer to it, to attack its enemies while maintaining their own moral impunity. Its uncompromising liberal ideology must prevail over all, and minorities and vulnerable groups are used to enforce it.
Rather than adopting a gentle approach to navigating the differences between groups, seeking for ways for people with different values and beliefs to live together in peace, progressive liberalism pushes them into the fiercest of opposition. The idea, for instance, that transgender persons, a highly vulnerable group, are best served by imposing an extreme transgender ideology upon the whole population in a merciless manner seems radically misguided. Such an approach may serve the self-idealizing Manichaeanism of elite groups, but it just provokes profound antagonism to transgender persons on the ground. The same is the case with the treatment of bakers, florists, photographers, and registrars who, for reasons of conscience, do not feel able to participate in celebrating gay weddings. Liberal progressivism idealizes the extreme and absolute conflict, not countenancing the possibility that the two groups could coexist happily if only ad hoc arrangements or accommodations were made, if we strengthened the bonds of civil society, and learned how to make space for each other and our differing values. There are a great many LGBT persons who feel exactly the same way as Christians here: we should establish common cause with them against progressive liberalism’s Manichaeanism and collaborate to form strong communities and a robust and hospitable civil society.
The same is true in the discussion about immigration. Liberal progressivism consistently presses to make the immigration debate about white Americans’ hatred of outside groups, refusing to permit a conversation about the justice and prudence of certain radical and unchecked changes to communities and places in which people’s sense of self are powerfully invested.
Liberal progressivism has repeatedly attacked people, not just on account of their actions, ideas, or misplaced values, but on account of what they are. The venomous contempt directed towards ‘men’ or ‘white people’ (of course, coded to refer especially to rural populations) is pure sexism and racism and people often react to it as such. The fact that so few people accept feminism has much to do with its polarizing conspiracy theories, and the ways in which it can often perpetuate itself by practically essentializing a conflict and deep antagonism between the sexes. However, most men and women respect and care for each other enough to resist this framing: they love each other and are deeply invested in each other’s well-being.
When someone like Lena Dunham, so prominent a face of Clinton’s campaign that she was even given control of Clinton’s Instagram account at one point, celebrates the ‘extinction of white men’ it should be clear that Clinton’s campaign will probably be entirely irrelevant to Rust Belt working men concerned about their fate as they face renewed threats of migrating jobs and automation. While those Rust Belt men won’t follow Dunham on Twitter, Dunham’s video illustrates the ideologies of the sort of peer groups at the heart of the Clinton campaign. For such people, a world in which working white men are crushed is often celebrated with a deep schadenfreude, rather than regarded as something to be prevented at all costs for the good of whole communities. They don’t seem to be able to imagine or desire a world in which white men truly thrive and grow to their full stature as persons and members of society. They are so locked in atomizing identity politics that they fail to realize that the interests of working white men are also the interests of their wives, mothers, and daughters (and vice versa). Such ideologies shape policy visions and priorities, which is where the toxic waters of social justice ideology can result in the poisoning of actual communities downstream from the elites’ echo chambers. Or, as happened in the election, those communities will simply turn elsewhere for political patrons.
This racist and sexist social justice ideology has greatly empowered toxic reactionary movements in our national discourse. If white men of a lower social status are expected to adopt a position of cultural dhimmitude before culturally dominant moralizing ideologues, to consent to their cultural and economic obliteration, and to engage in a sort of self-loathing, there will come a time when they start to push back. The power of social justice elites rests heavily upon their supposed moral superiority and their authority in ideologically framing the world of the rest of the population.
As I argued in my previous post, the overreach of progressive liberals, who are chronically out of touch with social and natural reality, has played a prominent part in provoking the rise of a movement that is resistant to shame and guilt, as these had formerly been weaponized to control them. This has taken an especially pronounced form on social media, where a subterranean sewer of racism, misogyny, and hatred has overflowed and its vile contents slop into our conversational thoroughfare.
Once again, it is noteworthy that the leading figures in this are to be found in the abstract bubble of social media, among people who are close to the world of social justice ideology. This movement is one of people deeply ‘street smart’ in the ways of the online world, people who know how to spread hatred through memes and troll humour (most of it is initially provoked less by hatred than by the nihilistic delight of triggering the thin skinned for sport). Trolls don’t function in a vacuum. If you don’t feed them, they die. The trolls of the new racism succeed because they have a vast reservoir of social justice ideology to feed upon near at hand. They derive great pleasure from attacking it and from ridiculing the people who hold it. They purposefully go out of their way to trigger people from a movement that has used triggering as an instrument of ideological control. They have credibility among so many of their peers because they can see that they are attacking incontinent sacred cows. The credibility of the sanctimonious and shrill social justice ideology is utterly destroyed for an increasing number of white men, who have adopted a gleeful nihilism in reaction against it.
People like Milo Yiannopoulos are loved by these young men, not least because, in contrast to the self-flagellation of their social justice believing peers, Milo and his followers are clearly having a great deal of anarchic fun. Milo has credibility with them precisely because he is publicly ridiculing the emperor who has no clothes, directly resisting the social demand that we pretend that movements such as the prevailing form of feminism have deep intellectual integrity and moral authority.
In fact, Milo has public recognition and respect beyond this circle, precisely because he has been one of the leading early voices in exposing the ways in which social justice warriors have asphyxiated public discourse in the university and other fora. Milo goes to a campus, social justice warriors make themselves look like utter fools and lose ever more credibility, their childish tantrums are videoed, shared online, and endlessly remixed for the lulz, and a movement increasingly unchecked by and dismissive of even the many valid concerns within the social justice camp arises. It is essential to recognize that Milo would have no profile whatsoever were it not for the social justice ideologues. The anti-social justice movement has largely been created by the social justice movement. In an ideal world, nihilistic trolls like Milo wouldn’t be in the public conversation. However, in a country of social justice inflicted blindness, the man with one jaundiced eye will become king. Milo was a loud supporter of Donald Trump from early on, calling him ‘Daddy’, and being highly instrumental in the rise of Breitbart as a journalistic organ of the troll right. It is crucially important that we recognize how such forces are created.
The racism of the anti-social justice movement has credibility because so many white men of a lower social status rightly recognize that they have been suppressed by protected lies of social justice ideology. They delight in trolling the sensibilities of social justice ideologues and flaming them, in getting them to react in a way that reveals the impotence of the moral disapprobation that once held them in its thrall. However, this nasty yet seemingly abstract game in the detached world of social media has real world victims as it steadily legitimizes and emboldens some of the most unpleasant elements in society. When the sacred cows of ideology have become so identified with particular racial or minority groups, justifiable attacks on the former can easily be seen to legitimate attacks on the latter.
Against the ugly world created by social justice ideology, we must reject both the politics of guilt on the one side and the politics of fear on the other. We need to learn how to recognize, love, and no longer fear or hate our neighbours. We must turn away from social justice ideology, without dismissing genuine social justice. We must prioritize seeking peace and community in the concrete and real world over the abstract squabbles, status signalling, shibboleths, and group boundary policing. Withdrawn from the abstract context of the absolute and polarizing demands of detached ideologies, it is surprisingly easy by contrast to find common cause and seek a common good with people who differ from us when we relate to them in the concrete world of flesh and blood.