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Rise of the Social Justice Warrior: Decline of the Left
When the British left got their clocks cleaned in the recent UK elections most everyone seemed shocked. I was shocked that they were shocked. Really, you hadn't seen this coming? Funny that after the 2012 US presidential election it was the left mocking the Republicans for their echo-chamber mentality, only three years later it's the left who realize they've become detached from reality. In truth, neither right nor left, at either the party or the ideological level, now represent or even understand the public in any sense. However, the left faces a cataclysmic shift in public opinion, a repeat of the 80s. Likely it will be the end of the left as we know it.
It's not like this hasn't happened before. The left we have today is not the same left as I grew up with. That old, socialist left, was exterminated in the 80s. The trades-unionist and socialist left came to believe that the future was theirs, and they could behave pretty much as they pleased, for if they did not have God on their side, they at least had unstoppable forces of history. Every time a strike made the lights go out in London, Birmingham, Manchester, or wherever, they felt that was a sign of their strength. Instead it was another nail in their coffin. Where are they now? About the only place you encounter card-carrying socialists/Marxists nowadays is at science-fiction conventions, or in the ivory-towers of academia (and they are all middle-class and old). In the 80s history branched down a path that could not be turned back from, and the left we have today is more akin to the political right of former times, than it is to the left we once had. History is about to branch again.
The same dynamic is apparently playing out in America. In 2012 it was the Republicans who looked to be navigating into the dustbin of history, yet only three years later the Republicans seem poised for a complete takeover of the US political system (they already have control of both houses of congress, if they get the presidency too, they have the set). However, people in the US who are alarmed at the prospect of total Republican control should take heart and have faith in the US Republican party, because if anyone can lose a presidential election from a position of overwhelming advantage, it's the GOP.
Still, one must agree that something has happened, and that it's happened dreadful fast. The UK landslide represents more than a rejection of the Labour party or its leader Ed Milliband, for the significant event of the election was a huge swing of support over to Nigel Farage's UKIP, a party more right-wing than the Tories, and much of this swing involved working-class people leaving the Labour party itself. Yes, people switched from the major left-wing party to one more right-wing than its traditional opposition. Only a few years ago UKIP was a party to be laughed at and mocked, akin to the Monster Raving Loony Party. Now it is the third force of British politics, whether it has any seats in Parliament or not. More people voted for it than the SNP, and its silencing under the current electoral system is more than anything else the issue that's going to drive demands for electoral reform. The UK landslide is a signal that the great ship of history is turning again, and it represents a powerful and complete rejection of the modern left.
The reactions of the online left are telling. One person quoted Star Wars: "I felt a great disturbance in the force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced." Yes, that's right, because when it gives the "wrong result" democracy is just like the Death Star, isn't it? Who are these voices that were silenced? Everyone went and voted, and said what they wanted, and it wasn't you, was it? That's not silence, that 'disturbance in the force' was the British electorate shouting "Fuck you". The UK election results aren't "skewed", they represent a profound turning away from the left. Under proportional representation Labour would still have lost, but the Tories would have had a reduced minority, with much more power going to UKIP. The result would have been a much more right-wing Parliament than the one we've got, if anything the system we have has helped the left, it has lessened the damage done.
But suddenly the left has discovered that we have the wrong kind of democracy: I hear lefties talking about our 'monstrous' electoral system that gives such skewed, unrepresentative results, but when the left had power for a decade, what did they do to change that system?
Now the right never did anything to change the system either, but I don't recall them ever saying that the system was monstrous just because they lost an election. We wouldn't be hearing one word about electoral change from the left if they'd won. And this is the problem I have so much of the left now: their dishonesty. The right are at least honest, (well, except for anything involving money. Or prostitutes. Or...) as exemplified by the jaw-dropping responses of UKIP members during the electoral campaign. You don't have to trick UKIP candidates into showing their true colors, you can just ask them how they feel about minorities or gay people, and they'll tell you, at which point you can say, "Well, I'm afraid I won't be voting for you, but thank you for your honesty." The left, on the other hand, and here I mean the online "Social Justice" left that most of us encounter online these days, will tell you they're against racism, while sniggering behind their hands "Oh-ho-ho, we've redefined racism so it's okay to target white people! What fools these uneducated proles are!" With these college-educated 'check your privilege' fuckers you can't take anything on face value: if they tell you they're for or against something, force them to define their terms.
If the political sides were evil galactic empires the right would be the Klingons: Frequently brutal, self-serving and heartless, but they do have some underpinning sense of honor and fair play. The left aren't Klingons or even Romulans, the left are House Harkonnen.
Confronted with a choice between the Klingons and House Harkonen, who would you vote for?
But I can hear the Westminster wonks objecting that "The online social justice left isn't the real left! Those are just the crazy crowd!" But the problem is that the 'crazy crowd' are now the voices of the left that most people actually hear most of the time and for this you can Blame The Internet.
All parties and movements have their extremists and fruitbats, but in the days Before Internet (B.I.) those extremists spent their days writing outraged letters in green ink to newspapers and journals that would sensibly not publish them. When the media needed to get the official viewpoint of a movement or party, they'd go to that group, and ask who their spokesperson was. And the spokesperson would be some reasonably sane and well turned-out body who would stick to the party line and not be openly hateful towards anyone who might vote for or support the movement.
We now live in an age where an increasing number of people get their information through social media. Everyone I speak to refuses to admit this, in fact I've rarely seen anything that gets people livid quite as fast as pointing this out. "No!" they declare "People read papers! Here, let me check on my phone what the circulations of major papers are! Ah, I've found a facebook page with the figures on!" Even the papers and the TV news are now reporting events on twitter as though they were newsworthy themselves. Lots of people cannot accept this shift is happening, but it is.
Unfortunately in the new media environment you can't so easily control who your spokespeople are. If I decide I want to characterize myself as a free-marketeer or a feminist, then there's nothing to stop me doing that. And generally, if I prove to be a particularly radical, provocative or downright offensive free-marketeer or feminist, I will get more attention than a moderate. My incentives then, as a blogger or a journalist who is seeking to raise their profile, is to be as downright offensive as I can. As a result traffic is driven mostly to extremists, and for many people the extremists become their idea of what a movement or group is. For the enemies of a movement or a political viewpoint, this is a terrific boon, and if they are smart they will seek to direct people to these extremists. If they are smart and also evil, then they will create their own hate-spewing sock-puppets to represent their opponents, and direct people to those.
This situation is further exacerbated by the extreme complacency of the mainstream left. People I speak to about these issues generally fall into two camps. The first camp look at me like I'm mad and declare "but that's just the crazies, very few people believe that shit." The second camp denounce me for my white-male privilege, opine that requires_hate was right about me, and tell me to "shut the fuck up". The second camp are growing. The mainstream left is slowly being eaten away from within by an insurgency that, as with the right and UKIP, it fails to take seriously. Meantime, the people who aren't committed ideological wonks, AKA 'The Public' are leaving the left in ever greater numbers.
This situation is made even worse (I am already running out of ways to say 'is made even worse' and we've only got started on all the layered reasons why things are heading south) because, even if we ignore the issue of 'false flag' sockpuppets, the genuine commitment of the online social-justice warriors to the causes they espouse is highly questionable. This is a delicate point to bring up, because I'm sure there's plenty of people who truly are committed to their position, and they'll be outraged to hear me accuse them of this, but I invite those people to look at some of the others standing with them on some issues, and ask themselves if they're sure everyone's interests are really in alignment.
The internet has created an environment where attention, in the form of clicks on a webpage or blog, has become a currency. It rewards those people who are prepared to say whatever it takes, no matter how ill-advised and extreme, in order to raise their profile. If, for instance, I declare myself to be a supporter of the environmental movement, I can start to say the most extreme things that the movement wouldn't want to be associated with, and it does me no harm at all, in fact it will likely drive more attention to my website or blog. And if I don't actually care about green politics, then even better, because if the things I say drive some people away from that ideology, I don't care. Someone doing this is effectively asset-stripping an ideology, they are a parasite that is draining their host and has no concern if they kill it, for they will have moved on by the time the host dies.
As the online 'Social Justice' left becomes louder, more visible, and more daring, so more and more people will encounter it, and conclude that the left is their enemy. This effect will be strongest among working-class whites, who are the traditional support base of left-wing parties. Most (again, not all, but most) Social Justice voices generally seem to be motivated by nothing less than pure hatred of whites, especially white men (despite the fact that most of these voices are themselves white) and this is having exactly the effect you'd expect.
The environment where I first encountered this was not the online world, but instead in the science-fiction community (though admittedly very much in the online science-fiction community). Thus many of the examples that I can list are sourced from things I've seen or experienced in SF fandom. However, trouble seems to be happening across a wide range of communities these days, so it seems likely to me that these experiences are not unusual or limited to SF fandom, and that there's more-of-the-same happening in other contexts that I'm not aware of.
The thing that woke me up to the change in the agenda of the 'left', was encountering an online hate-troll called "All that's required is that you hate"She became 'internet famous' among SF types for her vicious attacks on white male SF writers. I was one of those who came in for this treatment, and my experience was comparatively mild: she called for me to be beheaded and wrote a number or tweets and blogposts misrepresenting my work (in one case accusing me of cultural appropriation because a character in a story of mine was sitting on a batik cushion). It wasn't so much the attacks that upset me, it was seeing so many people in SF circles, including people I'd considered friends, support them, and also support her appalling rhetoric of racial hatred. Requires_hate was saying things that any decent person should have objected to, but so long as she directed her vitriol at white males, most of the SF community would applaud, or at least turn a blind eye. She could just cast the standard social-justice spells of "There's no such thing as misandry" and "There's no such thing as racism towards whites", and the poorly-made moral compasses of middle-class SF fandom completely shut down. However, under the cover of her murderous attacks against white, male writers, she was also specifically targetting female writers and writers-of-color, because under another persona she was a social-justice SF writer, and these people were on her turf, she saw them as a more direct challenge to her ascendancy. It was only when this latter point was uncovered that 'progressive' SF fandom turned against her. Up till then 'progressives' were prepared to applaud any evil and outrageous thing she said, including her anti-white genocidal masterpiece "Courtship in the Country of Machine Gods". I've not seen anyone comment on the fact that this is basically a genocide fantasy in which whites are disposed of completely. To be fair, science-fiction has long been way too comfortable with genocide/gendercide/xenocide. I did think we were moving away from that, but of course all that's happening as power shifts from middle-class white males to a broader middle-class aristocracy, is that new groups are being lined up in the cross-hairs of an author's "Final Solution". It should also be noted that at the time "Machine Gods" was published no-one knew that the same person(s) who wrote this thing was also calling for white writers to be murdered, have acid thrown in their faces, etc, etc. But I doubt they'd have been concerned, because "There's no such thing as racism towards white people", right? And I would guess that at least some of the 'progressives' in SF will one day get to the point where they will be able to say it wouldn't be genocide if it was whites being pushed into gas-chambers. That's the logical progression of their belief-system, after all. And, if they will not say that, someone else will. You cannot control who uses a line of argument, nor what they do with it, and so I'd be very surprised if the likes of Islamic State do not take ownership of 'privilege' politics soon, if they have not done so already. The result of this, of course, will be the total discrediting of 'social justice' theory, but this is an ideology that seems designed to be discredited sooner or later: my only worry is how much collateral damage will happen to the rest of the left.
You know, in some ways its a shame about Requires Hate/Benjanun Sriduangkaew, because whoever's writing the stories can actually write, and they didn't need to stick knives in the backs of their fellow writers to advance their career, they would have got there if they'd just kept writing. But then, no matter how well they write, we don't need this fascist groove thing. We don't need another gender-hate racist who blames one demographic group for everything. Indeed, what we need more and more is for this ideology to be challenged, and consigned to the dustbin of history with the other fascist worldviews, but this challenge will not come from the middle-class, will not come from elitist college-educated 'progressives' who are in a hurry to further their careers. Consider this quote taken from a conversation between a white, male, enabler of RequiresHate, who feels she did nothing wrong, and a woman-of-color who's livid about his support for RequiresHate, but who reveals herself to be a startlingly vehement racist:
I don't owe your ignorant ass an education, but let me take you to school: Racism is a system, one that privileges arrogant white fucks like you over all PoC. That's why I can't be racist against you - I don't have the institutional power. But I can be racist against another WoC because I can play into the hierarchy of power and prejudice that systematically degrade WoC. Which is exactly what Benjanun Sriduangkaew did.
This line of argument, that "I can't be racist no matter what I've say about you", is precisely the ideology RequiresHate built her platform upon. So even those who are angry about what she did, cannot realistically challenge her, or the next RequiresHate, because they buy into the very ideology that gave her power. Furthermore they cannot fight racism, because they've invented a system that allows them to deny their own racism, and racism begets racism. If you go around attacking people of one racial group, they will generally develop the same attitudes towards you. Of course, this anti-white racism is born out of centuries of white racism, but if you're an anti-racist, then you need to realize the nature of the cycle and stop it turning. 'Social Justice Warriors' are absolutely incapable of doing that, and are, in my opinion, a force that is actively radicalizing new white racists at every turn, who will go on to produce more anti-white racists, and so the cycle goes on.
And they're no better when it comes to gender. One of the defining moments of the RequiresHate farrago, for me, was when a leading RequiresHate victim declared that "The real problem in this community is the men, who still hold too much power". We were a 'problem' even when we weren't involved, apparently our major problem is just that we exist. Having just walked into this community, and been pretty much instantly attacked, and given my constant experience of the community as a place where people said insulting things about my gender and race, I was incredulous at this claim of 'power'. Apparently at the top-level of editors and movers-and-shakers in the industry, it's all men, and no woman in the UK is currently under a writing contract with a major publisher. But this is about a relevant to me as the observation that Parliament is mostly stocked with men: I'm not one of those men, I don't move in those circles, and I never will, having picked the wrong parents at birth. Similarly, my experience of SF fandom at the lowest levels has not been one of male power, it's been one of exclusion and abuse.
Let's move on to some other examples of how the modern online left is enthusiastically alienating white, male support. Take the Huffington Post, the lefty, online equivalent of the Daily Mail. In 2013 it published an expose of Men Taking up too Much Space on the Train. This is the oldest move in the playbook of hate. You want to slander an entire group of people, just go around and find a few of them who are doing something you disapprove of, and claim that they're all doing it. The Daily Mail finds "scroungers on the dole" and claims that everyone getting unemployment benefits is a scrounger. The Huffpost finds "Men taking up too much space" and claims, to quote from their page, "an interesting visual representation of the way that men feel totally empowered to take up a lot of public space -- and women often do not." Note the switch, these men are suddenly representative of all men. I encourage the reader to pay attention next time they're on the tube, particularly if they're British and on the underground, and decide *what proportion* of men take up too much space (most Brits, both men and women, are terrified of any kind of physical contact with a person they've not been properly introduced to). If you go to the original tumblr that these pictures are taken from, you can see other men in the background who clearly do not feel this sense of entitlement. The HuffPost is lying to you. And I notice that men, though a dwindling minority of them, will still give up their seats for women who are pregnant, or will give up their seats for men or women who are carrying babies, or old, or in some way infirm. Me, I generally just always stand if there are few seats, though if the situation arises I will give up my seat, but I wouldn't to a young, fit, healthy woman: equality means standing on your own two feet, sister. I await the day when I see a young, fit woman give up her seat for a man who's old, disabled, or carrying a baby. I'm sure it happens, I would just like to see it. I'm quite sure we could create a tumbler entitled "Young healthy women refusing to give up their seat on the tube for people who clearly need it more than them." We could even start one of "Able-bodied women sitting in disabled seats while people who need those seats are forced to stand", I mean, we all know that's out there, right? It may be rare, but that's not the point, we could create a tumblr and then an article in an online magazine that tells the world that this shows us there's something wrong with "women". But let's not do that, because targeting a racial, gender or religious group in this it would be kindof fascist, wouldn't it?
In the science-fiction community K Tempest Bradford calls for a year of reading no white men. Not to read more women or people-of-color, notice, but just not to read white men. The two are self-evidently not the same thing, as you can comply with Ms Bradford's request by simply not reading any fiction, thus reading no men, no women, no whites, and no people-of-color (I suggest you read non-fiction and expand your mind, and don't read it on the basis of the gender or skin color of the author, instead read it for the content, for what's being said within). So you can comply with Ms Bradford's request without helping women or minorities, but I guess so long as you're not reading those dastardly white men, she'll be happy. She further says that "Cutting that one demographic out of my reading list greatly improved my enjoyment of reading short stories." Personally I would never cut any racial or gender group out of my reading, though I think I'll cut out Ms Bradford, and encourage her to do the same for me (I know in advance that she would misread my stories, because she'd read them through the prism of them being written by a white man, and then become angry and 'rage quit', and it seems to me that Ms Bradford needs less anger in her life). However, I'm not going to stop reading women or people-of-color just because I disapprove of Ms Bradford's worldview, because I don't feel she represents women or people of color. Ms Bradford is an individual, and individuals speak only for themselves, and they take up too much room on the train only for themselves, and one cannot generalize from them to the entire group. Someone who expresses themselves in these terms, and says that they're enjoyment of fiction was improved once they'd cut white men, or black women, or muslims, or jews, or whomever, out of the mix, is a hater pure and simple. Promoting an under-represented group is not the same thing as calling for the muffling of the majority group, and this kind of group-targetting language is deeply unacceptable in the 21st century. Notably Ms Bradford is one of the few people who continues to be a requires_hate supporter, so I feel there's a pattern forming there.
But Ms Bradford is way better than Kamila Shamsie, who calls for a year in which no men are allowed to publish at all. At least Ms Bradford leaves the matter to be a personal choice for the reader, Ms Shamsie goes straight to the publisher to cut off the readers's supply of books, making it not a matter of personal choice, but a matter of heavy-handed enforcement.
You might think these are all fairly minor examples (I would make the case that RequiresHate isn't) but they add up. Perhaps all the people pushing this kind of rhetoric do not realize that there's loads of others doing the same thing. This becomes a constant barrage of aggression and hatred if you're white and spend any time around left-wing communities. Sooner or later you'll experience having your opinion and right to speak quashed by someone telling you to "shut the fuck up" because of your skin color, or accusing you of 'mansplaining' or 'whitesplaining'. This will be a particularly pointed experience if you're a working-class person being lectured about your privilege by a middle-class white woman or person-of-color. For someone originally from the working class, neither of whose parents went to university, the belief in a modern 'classless society' where our voice is as valued as anyone else's, falls at the hurdle of our first encounter with the 'new left'. Suddenly we learn that a 'classless' society means that all whites are essentially the same: we're all as privileged as David Cameron, and must suffer because of this. Very quickly we grasp the truth: that "Social Justice" is nothing but another weapon of the upper classes, allowing them to claim that class is no longer an issue, and to shift blame onto the white working-class. For middle and upper-class whites the effects of the new ideology will be ameliorated by their advantages and connections: when it's decided there's too many "white men" in some company or profession, it won't be the boss' son or people who went to the right school who will be shown the door, it will be those few members of the working-class who have somehow managed to work their way up the hierarchy. Thus the effects of "social justice" will fall most heavily upon the white working class. Furthermore 'social justice' is a weapon that destroys any possibility of solidarity between working-class whites and other oppressed groups. The upper classes don't need solidarity, they have money, but for those at the bottom of society they only have power through collective action. However, as identity politics splinters the politics into micro-groups all pursuing their own agenda, so the ability of the working class to mobilize will become badly fractured.
All this will translate into the white working-class abandoning the traditional left-wing political parties, who no longer speak for them, who in fact are rapidly becoming their class enemy. Many of them, seeing no political options that they can really support, will just stop voting. Others will search about to find someone, anyone, who appears to take any of their concerns seriously. In the UK this is going to mean holding-your-nose-and-voting-UKIP. This is happening now. We see the results of this in the contradictory outcomes of elections compared with the widespread support for left-wing issues like gay marriage. Gay Marriage may be a special case, because unlike activists for racial and women's issues, I've never seen gay campaigners utilize the same kind of "you're privileged so shut the fuck up" rhetoric, and I've never seen them practice that kind of moral exclusion that's so popular elsewhere among the left. People feel they've played with a straight wicket. People like them. Thus they have had startling success, while campaigns around other issues are languishing, or starting to go into reverse. Still, we see that the UK population often supports left-wing causes, but now votes right at elections, because they know where they stand on individual issues, but they no longer trust the political parties of the left to represent their views.
The social-justice left is causing the appearance of a plethora of new parties and movements which, if not right-wing, are at least anti the new, feminist, left. In the cultural sphere movements like Gamergate and the Sad Puppies are not going away, and I think it's not impossible that they will eventually develop into full-fledged political movements with significant support. Small anti-feminist movements like "Women against feminism" or "Justice for Men and Boys" are popping up, and though they have tiny support, and the left mocks them for that, their very existence is a clear political signal, and it's likely they will follow a similar trajectory to UKIP, being first derided, then despised, then suddenly having real support and power. But the real threat to the modern left is an ideological system that can offer an identity to working class whites, and especially white men, who now feel increasingly hated and excluded by the modern left: Islam. To many people, with all that's happened since 9/11, this will seem the most shockingly improbable of ideas, but religions hoover up those people who cannot find a place in the existing system. America has been seeing a trend of Latinos, especially women, converting to Islam and working-class whites, or rather underclass whites who will increasingly not be working, will likely become interested in the religion for similar reasons. Few religions have the political and ideological leanings of Islam, and Islam will give working class white men something that they currently lack: a viable political identity and a gang that will fight for their interests. If we see western, working-class whites converting to Islam in any significant numbers, it's game over for the entire left.
The future of then, and I think this process is unstoppable, is going to be a future without a left in it, at least in the western world. The left now speaks a language that alienates a very large part of the electorate, and a language that is destined to be hijacked and discredited by some of the worst forces of the twenty-first century (for what RequiresHate did can also be done by much more dangerous people, who not only speak murder, but will also carry it out). When the end comes, it will come as it came for the trades-unionists, sudden and total. The only hope to prevent this calamitous outcome would be the appearance of an 'alternative left' that rejected the anti-white, anti-man agenda of the 'new left', but it is tough to see where the ideological powerhouse to drive such a movement would come from, given that 'social justice' ideology seems to have spread so far and so fast among the thought-leaders of the western left.