If you’ve followed the news at all recently, you’ve probably heard of a few incidents in the tech and entertainment worlds. GamerGate comes to mind, as does the resignation of Brendan Eich from Mozilla.
These cases may not seem immediately connected - on their face, one is about a bunch of video game enthusiasts raging against the rampant corruption in that industry, the other is about a CEO (leaving/being forced to leave) Mozilla after it came out that he made donations to anti-marriage-equality groups.
The one thread connecting both of these issues is social justice.
Whither social justice?
“Social Justice” as a movement can be compared favorably to a religion in many ways.
Anyone can claim to be part of any particular religion. Anyone can claim to be a “Social Justice Warrior” (or “SJW” for short, because 3 characters is a lot more convenient than 22).
Within a single religion, there are different and (sometimes violently) conflicting beliefs about the belief system and about how that should be applied in the real world. Proclaimed social justice warriors all claim to share the over-arching goal of eradicating inequality in the world, but disagree on how it should be done.
Most importantly for our discussion here, most religions believe that only their believers are Correct and Right and Good, and everyone else is Bad and Evil and Wrong. Social justice warriors believe the same. If you oppose their methods, no matter how slightly, that makes you an enemy to be driven out.
Background is necessary to make sense of our earlier comparison to Eich’s removal with the GamerGate controversy and the censorship theme under discussion here. Without getting into the controversy of how GamerGate started (it changes depending on who you ask and what their “religion” is), suffice to say that Social Justice has become inextricably entangled with the journalistic corruption that most GamerGate supporters oppose. Certain prominent feminists (a subset of social justice warriors) are at the center of the controversy due to their views (subject matter that games should not have) and actions (shaming developers and corporations who disagree with them).
And now we’ve picked the thread back up: What’s difference between Eich’s departure and Mozilla and, say, Target Australia and GTA5?
Actually, it’s about mass outrage in popular culture
There really isn’t one. Eich was forced out of Mozilla (at least that is my read on the consensus) after a mass outrage campaign launched following his donations to an obvious group of bigots. Target was forced to pull Grand Theft Auto 5 from stores in Australia after a similar mass outrage campaign organized by feminists took off.
You will see this pattern again and again. Social justice as a movement does not exert most of its control via court battles to achieve basic human rights and recognition, even though that happens too. (And thankfully, they win most of the time on those issues!)
Social justice is more known for its outrage campaigns. A successful campaign to get a CEO fired. Another (in progress, as of writing) to silence a homophobic author.
Notice the theme, here? The social justice warrior says, in effect: “Your views are bad, therefore you should not be allowed to speak.”
But, the first amendment..
Confronting a social justice warrior with this apparent contradiction will inevitably lead to the response that “the first amendment only applies to governments”, and since they’re not petitioning the government to shut someone up, that they aren’t doing anything wrong.
Well, they aren’t doing anything illegal, but I’d argue they’re perpetuating a great wrong.
Here is a simple question to illustrate my point: As far as the person being censored is concerned, what is the real difference between a government banning a book and a store refusing to sell it due to coercive pressure?
Now, you may say that a store has the absolute right to choose what they put on their shelves, and they do, and this is correct, and no sane person is going to argue with that view.
However, the problem here is not the actions of the store, it’s with the mass outrage group which created the manufactured consensus that falsely leads the store to believe that taking a certain action will lead to a loss in revenue.
I separate organic consensus vs it’s aspartame-like fake version by its method of organization. Did you, personally, decide to take the action to stop shopping at a bookstore, because what they did personally offended you, or did you actually not decide to do anything of the sort, and instead got a link by a friend to a button to click that says “I’m offended by this”?
Organic consensus is what happens when a business annoys the local community. Say, an energy company’s hydraulic fracturing operation dumping toxic chemicals into the local water supply. The locals, en masse, start hounding the company, the government, anything necessary to get their concern (ya know, toxic things in the water) dealt with.
Manufactured consensus is what happens when somebody posts a petition online, saying in effect “This person is bad, and here’s why you should be offended, go get ‘em!” - in effect, presenting a threat to a company that doesn’t actually exist.
Another difference is that manufactured consensus generally surrounds issues that don’t actually hurt anyone (inasmuch as you can be hurt by words.. sticks and stones and all that), while organic consensus does. Organic consensus is responsible for literally every instance of forward social progress made in the USA. The rights of blacks, women, LGBTs, and so on, all of those wins were due to personally involved people choosing to rise up, organize on their own, and defeat an actual problem that was actually negatively impacting their lives.
Manufactured consensus, however, can count its victories by the number of opponents silenced.
The highway to censorship is paved with good intentions
I’ll ask my earlier question again: Who does the silencing of a bigoted author actually help?
Does it help LGBTs in any conceivable way? Well, the author is still going to be a massive bigot, he’s still going to sell his books to other bigots (maybe just not at a dying bookseller), the other bigots are not going to be any less bigoted without his words, and now he has a legitimate case that his opponents think he’s so dangerous he shouldn’t be heard!
The answer is an obvious “no”.
You, personally, may not have any problem with this. It’s really, really easy to fall into the “This guy is an obvious piece of shit - why should I care about him or his ideas?” mindset, after all.
I didn’t even have any problem with this until very recently. I identified (still do!) as a filthy stinkin’ liberal. I agreed with the social justice types on a lot of things - who cares what bigots think, they are bigots! Fuck them!
But then, I ended up on the wrong side of the social justice movement. Namely, GamerGate.
I’m aware of the real grievances brought up by the GamerGate movement, but my attempts to support them in the fight for ethics are spun by the social justice crowd as a hatred for women. I have been there since the early days - which is what gives me the ability to say, with complete certainty, anyone claiming GamerGate is about hating women is either misinformed, or lying.
I originally thought “Yknow what? Anyone on the other side of social justice is obviously on the wrong side of history and probably a racist or sexist” (and more often than not, this is actually the case), so I didn’t think, at all, about the real people on the other side, because I had pre-judged them as having worthless opinions, not even fit to be heard.
And then I ended up on the other side, where my hatred of coverage-for-access, faked reviews, money under the table, undisclosed relationships, and the restriction of artistic freedom gets misconstrued by the social justice warrior, a person ostensibly on the “good” side, as a completely different and much more evil kind of hatred.
If you knew me, you’d know why this is laughably false.
Easy thinking is seldom good thinking
I’ve come to a revelation - maybe this is just me growing up a little, but I now believe that “easy” thoughts are usually the wrong ones. The easy thought “I’ve got time for this assignment, it’s easy and a full two days away”. The easy thought “that guy in front of me on the road is trying to piss me off”. The easy thought “this guy is an enemy, fuck him and the horse he rode in on” - these are all dangerous for different reasons.
The last one particularly so, since it makes it all too easy to ignore any legitimate points that an ideologically opposed person may have.
Now, I am not saying that our bigoted author has any legitimate points to support his bigotry (indeed, I have yet to see a single argument against marriage equality that isn’t based on either religion, tradition, or fear of the unknown) - but I am saying that I think he has just as much right to be heard as any other author, and that his ideas should be judged on their own merits, and not dismissed out of hand simply because he’s a bigot.
I vehemently disagree with the arguments that letting someone who disagrees with you (no matter how ugly their opinion) speak amounts to endorsement of their words.
Not that this idea is practical in the first place - the average bookstore has a frankly ludicrous amount of opinion based text - do you think the corporation (or the people running it) agrees with even most of that content? The idea is absurd on its face!
A petition of my own
I want you, the person reading this, to resist the censorship mindset, because it’s an easy (and so, wrong) thought.
I want you to think twice before clicking that “I’m offended” button to take the microphone from someone else, even if they are a legitimately horrible person.
Think about what your goals are - do you want to attack the other person, or do you want to help remove inequality?
I want you to consider how you would feel if you were to get on the wrong side of the social justice types (and by extension: the masses) calling you a horrible person, no matter how unlikely you think that might be. How would those accusations taint anything you ever had to say? Do you want to support such unthoughtful outrage?
Our culture can only meaningfully advance in the presence of a free marketplace of ideas, absent attempts by anyone, no matter how well-meaning, to control that flow of ideas.comments powered by Disqus