The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

The Rhetoric of ‘Social Justice’

Posted on | April 28, 2018 | Comments Off on The Rhetoric of ‘Social Justice’

Feminist students at the University of Southern California.

When did “oppression” become a synonym for failure or unhappiness? How did “privilege” become a synonym for success? And why do so many people now conflate criticism or disagreement with “hate”?

During the past five years — since President Obama was re-elected in 2012, basically — the rhetoric of progressive “social justice” ideology has made its way from elite universities into the cultural mainstream:

The term “social justice warrior” (SJW) was coined nearly 10 years ago by Will Shetterly. The son of civil-rights activists who were threatened by the Klan during his childhood, Shetterly became an award-winning science-fiction writer. It was in the context of his writing career that he encountered the indignant Internet mobs of virtue-signallers and identity-politics activists who inspired the epithet. By the time the #GamerGate controversy arose in August 2014, “SJW” was a popular label for this increasingly familiar type, and Shetterly’s coinage was made famous by Vox Day in the title of a 2015 book, SJWs Always Lie.

That the SJW mentality — a fixated obsession with victimhood — emerged from academia can be demonstrated by examining, e.g., Gender Studies curricula and the identity-politics rhetoric of student activism. “Intersectionality” (a jargon term coined by a law professor and proponent of “critical race theory”) became a mantra among campus feminists at elite universities who were taught that their “oppression” was part of an interlocking system of social injustice. No matter how rich her parents may be, or whatever social and economic advantages she may obtain, “intersectionality” means that the feminist student always considers herself as a victim of an unjust society, and thus obligated to destroy the system that oppresses her. Thus, in 2016, Vanessa Diaz — a student at the University of Southern California, a prestigious private school where the annual cost of attendance is now $69,144 including room and board — described her mission as executive director of the USC Women’s Student Assembly as “the dismantling of our capitalist imperialist white supremacist cisheteronormative patriarchy.”

Such rhetoric does not simply materialize out of thin air. Words like “cisheteronormative” and phrases like “white supremacist” are taught to students by university professors who view their jobs as training young people for careers as left-wing political activists. Indoctrinated with this radical ideology, the SJW sees “oppression” everywhere and is therefore permanently at war with society. Because paranoid rage is incompatible with happiness, the SJW is also permanently miserable, and believes that her misery is further proof of her “oppression.” Her implacable hostility to capitalism leads the SJW to eschew employment opportunities in the for-profit private sector and, unless she can find a job in academia, she is likely to be found at a tax-exempt non-profit advocacy organization. USC alumna Vanessa Diaz, for example, who describes herself in her LinkedIn profile as a “grassroots community organizer with a passion for intersectional advocacy,” is currently employed as a development assistant for a 501(c)3 “youth center” in South Central L.A. Such work is neither lucrative nor prestigious, but the SJW’s ideology teaches her to sneer at those who succeed in high-paying fields — law, medicine, management, engineering, etc. — as beneficiaries of unjust “privilege.”

Because the structure of American society is inherently unjust — a “capitalist imperialist white supremacist cisheteronormative patriarchy” — the SJW believes that success and happiness in America is wrong.

“We are living in a volatile political environment. . . . You could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables . . . racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it.”
Hillary Clinton, Sept. 9, 2016

During the Obama era, with a self-described “community organizer” as president, this bizarre worldview became mainstream. After he was re-elected in 2012, the Democrat Party and its media apparatus immediately began ramping up for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign. The fix was in at the DNC, and the liberal media machinery began promoting feminist themes in anticipation of electing the nation’s first woman president.

Hillary’s defeat in November 2016 unleashed a tsunami of rage and fear in large measure because her campaign was organized around a “social justice” ideology that demonizes and scapegoats opposition. During the campaign, Hillary denounced Republican voters as “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic” and her defeat was therefore interpreted as proof that these evil people had conspired with sinister forces to take over the U.S. government. This not only gave rise to the phony “Russian collusion” narrative, but also inspired a paranoid search for “hate” allegedly inspired by Trump’s victory:

In late March, the [Southern Poverty Law Center] included a piece about the best-selling author [Sam Harris] in its daily Hatewatch Headlines, a compilation of media reports on bigots, thugs, and other assorted creeps. Why was the neuroscientist and prominent atheist thrown in together with Mark Anthony Conditt, the Austin bomber who had murdered two black men, and Nazi war criminal Jakiw Palij? Because Harris defended Charles Murray, a political scientist best-known for arguing that genetic differences may account for varying levels of intelligence between races. The assertion drove many in academia and journalism to label Murray a racist; he was famously shouted out of an appearance at Middlebury College last March, and was labeled a “White Nationalist” and an “extremist” by the SPLC. But when the prominent Harvard geneticist David Reich echoed Murray’s ideas in a New York Times op-ed last month — arguing that “it is simply no longer possible to ignore average genetic differences among ‘races’” — Harris took several of Murray’s critics to task on Twitter, including Vox’s Ezra Klein. Klein responded in his typically obfuscating fashion, doing little to discuss the ideas at hand and a lot to strangle them with potent ideological terms. White men discussing the possibility of genetic differences between blacks and whites wasn’t science, Klein thundered — it was racism pure and simple, facts and findings be damned. The SPLC was quick to mirror this sentiment, placing Harris on its HateWatch list.
Harris’s co-author, Majid Nawaaz, experienced the organization’s wrath as well. A former radical Islamist who spent four years in an Egyptian prison, Nawaaz abandoned his zealotry and committed his life to promoting a pluralistic and non-violent version of Islam, a mission that led him to serve as an advisor to three British Prime Ministers. In the fall of 2016, however, Nawaaz was placed on the SPLC’s list of “anti-Muslim extremists,” widely disseminated with the header “a journalist’s manual.” His sins, according to the list, included sharing a cartoon of Jesus and Muhammad on Twitter and visiting a London strip club. You hardly have to be a scholar to realize that neither is particularly convincing evidence that Nawaaz, himself a practicing Muslim, is some sort of bigot. Joining him on the list was Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a victim of female genital mutilation in her native Somalia and an outspoken campaigner against the practice, as well as others, like child marriage and honor killings, common throughout the Islamic world. . . .

You can read the rest of that, but the point is that the SPLC witch-hunt for “hate” is slapping pejorative labels on previously respectable intellectuals — who are not “right-wing” by any rational standard — because such demonized enemies are necessary to the “social justice” ideology that now controls the Democrat Party.

This worldview expresses itself in a binary rhetoric that divides people according to identity-politics categories, denoting certain categories (black, female, immigrants, homosexuals, Muslim, etc.) as heroic victims of “oppression,” while classifying others (white people, males, Christians, etc.) as demonized enemies, possessors of unjust “privilege” who exercise oppressive power and are therefore to blame for inflicting suffering on the members of victim groups. This rigid binary mentality — oppressed victims vs. privileged enemies — enables Democrats to imagine themselves as heroic crusaders against evil, while portraying their opponents as evil incarnate. Anyone public figure who expresses doubt about this ideology (e.g., Sam Harris, who dared to disagree with Ezra Klein) is immediately targeted for character assassination, smeared as a proponent of “hate,” in an effort to discredit and silence them.

It is useless for Sam Harris’s defenders to point to his past service to the “progressive” cause. Whatever political advantage the Left derived from Harris’s atheist campaign against Christianity 10 or 15 years ago, leftists now count this as their rightful property, and they recognize no debt to the man who helped them obtain it. Harris was once useful to them, but this does not grant him authority to criticize the Left now.

Criticism is hate, because “social justice” does not permit dissent.



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