Hinges & Doubts: Musings on Social Justice & Activism


Adrian Rutt

Life is like one of those sand art thingies that gets destroyed after it's completed.

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233 Responses

  1. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    Hmmm. Here is where I stand on this.

    On the one hand, there are 7 billion people in the world and to expect universal agreement on much.

    But I don’t see why someone who is a minority needs to give succor to their bigots and oppressors and at a certain point there is not going to be a compromise. I am Jewish. I don’t think it is my responsibility or burden to be courteous to anti-Semites or treat their prejudices as being in good faith. If someone believes in patently false anti-Semitic conspiracy theories like Jews control the world banks, why should I give them the benefit of good faith?Report

    • Avatar Will H. says:

      I believe this is exactly what the author is talking about with this:

      Undoubtedly, my words will be twisted to “so you don’t believe they have a right to say whatever they want?” Of course I do; I wish only to show that the content of what they are saying leads down a road in which saying whatever one wishes whenever one wants won’t exactly be a reality anymore.

      Let me ask, as a person of American Indian heritage (ancestors on the Dawes Roll), what do you suppose my view of eminent domain should properly be?

      The fact of the matter is that my views on eminent domain are independent of my heritage.
      I am no slave to the past.

      What is a bigot?
      Are the Amish, who eschew electricity, bigoted on this account?
      Should we force them to have electricity anyway?Report

  2. Avatar Tess Kovach says:

    Oh this is Tess bait. I have to make an enormous response instead of just a snarky aside.

    1. I agree with you that we need a deeper inquiry than whether an act is legal or illegal – that the greater moral struggle is worth contemplation. But your essay has an internal contradiction in that you seem to be simultaneously annoyed that “social justice warriors” (sigh, this reminds me of ‘tree hugger” how did this ever become a disparagement?) are calling us to think deeper about our actions and our ideas – specifically how they affect the least advantaged among us who struggle with everyday life.

    2. Who is taking Howard Zinn on faith? You rightly point out that his work has value – that it attempts to tell the story of American History from a less idealistic perspective – from those on whom the boots have trodden. But are there really rational interlocutors who are saying we should believe left-leaning histories on faith?


    I cannot sit and admire a forest without being reminded of the alarming rates at which we are cutting down trees or the statistics of global warming…

    I’m so sorry! I did not mean to bother your feelings with citations to scientific information – and genuinely troubling data about the trajectory of the environment. This absolutely mystifies me. You definitely seem to be saying that “SJW’s” are blowing the ecological crisis out of proportion. I’m curious as to why you think this. Are you thinking the data is flawed in some way? If so, which data? Is it the measurements of atmospheric carbon? Is it some kind of misjudgment about the tipping point of ocean acidity killing plankton? If so, Ia m happy to hear the reasons for this. Do you count climate scientists among your disparaging term: “apocalyptic prophets”? And importantly, do you find their work to be a little more reliable than prophecy?

    4. Why is “do good by the world” accused of being “overly-idealistic?” Is not not just a basic expectation of all humans?

    5. Okay: some common ground ——> I agree we need more dialogue to begin on a foundation of trust instead of bad faith. The incessant assumptions of bad faith are certainly a reason for bad relationships between people on different ends of the ideological spectrum. But, part of healing that rift has to be a serious acknowledgement of where ACTUAL bad faith exists. There are people attempting to say America is a Christian nation. That climate change is an actual hoax. That the President is Kenyan. That the Civil War wasn’t about slavery. We even have an election now where these people are empowered and winning nominations.

    6. If anything, this essay is a defense of certain types of prejudice. Prejudice, surely meant in the least bad connotation possible. Which types of bias/prejudice do we need to defend? Which types of questions do we need to treat as settled? Which specific types of “SJW” activism are really on your nerves here? Is it BLM? Is it climate scientists?Report

    • Avatar Adrian Rutt says:

      I first off want to say, to all of those who have commented on this piece, that this is not an indictment of wanting change or progress nor is it promoting complacency or the “contemplative life.” It is, however, premised on the idea that everything is not, nor should be, political. So my motivations stem from this frustrating foundation: that ambivalence is equivalent to being against a political movement.

      1. You are absolutely right, social justice warrior is an overused term that I have since replaced with those who are involved in social justice movements. And indeed, they are getting us to dig deeper about our moral sympathies, but, the train doesn’t stop here. It’s more or less “we’re getting you to think differently, and if you don’t see how being tolerant is necessary, well, we’ll make a law forcing you to be tolerant.” All of this stemming from the idea that one cannot have bad thoughts even if one doesn’t act on them or is violent.

      2. People aren’t taking Zinn, per se, as gospel but, as I said, people who write to this tune. Admittedly, this is just two sides of the same coin: the Right doesn’t have a bad thing to say while the Left only has bad things to say (about history, that is.) I get into conversations all the time with people who are seemingly rational and may know the relevant histories and such, yet draw such odd conclusions. It’s like they’re mad at history for not being the present.

      3. This point goes hand in hand with my first sentence. This is not to disagree that something needs to be done and the overwhelming amount of evidence points to the fact that we need to – these are not mutually exclusive ideas. I can, and should be able to, sit and read, be contemplative, without being constantly reminded that I am only able to do this because of white or class privilege. Again, I may be being a tad extreme here, but everything has become political, and it’s getting, if not boring, exhausting to talk about. And yes, I do think that climate scientists are more than “apocalyptic prophets” but their apocalyptic language doesn’t help the cause nor help separate them from the former.

      4. Because doing good by the world seems, mostly, to impose upon the world. Surely, we need to solve problems and cure injustices when we see them but this isn’t the entire point. Again, my caveat at the beginning is where I’m coming from here.

      A defense of certain types of prejudices? I’m not sure I agree with this; maybe a defense of allowing people to have certain types of prejudices would be more in line with my position. And it’s not inconsistent of me to talk and converse with these people that I believe have harmful prejudices in order to get them to “see the light.” As is the case when I agree with BLM, the reality of climate change, and other such social justice projects.Report

      • Avatar Damon says:

        ” I can, and should be able to, sit and read, be contemplative, without being constantly reminded that I am only able to do this because of white or class privilege. Again, I may be being a tad extreme here, but everything has become political, and it’s getting, if not boring, exhausting to talk about.”

        Really? What the hell are you reading to be constantly reminded of your “privilege”? Maybe you should read something else? Perhaps you seem to care too much about what other people think you should be doing?Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

      Tess Kovach: “social justice warriors” (sigh, this reminds me of ‘tree hugger” how did this ever become a disparagement?)

      It’s like when feminists talk about “Nice Guys.” How did that ever become a disparagement? As you almost certainly know, it’s because the “Nice” is intended ironically. Likewise, the “justice” in “social justice warrior” is understood to be ironic. There’s an implied “(sic)” or “TM,” since “social justice” is distinct from and often stands in direct opposition to traditional conceptions of justice.Report

  3. Avatar Simon says:

    I cannot believe you honestly have a problem with abstraction, given the coy evasions of this essay. Who are these ivory-tower leftists who have “removed themselves entirely from the situation?” What prejudices, specifically, must they leave undisturbed in order to avert the free-speech apocalypse you seem to be… (If i may) cynically prophesying in your final paragraph?Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      What prejudices, specifically, must they leave undisturbed in order to avert the free-speech apocalypse you seem to be… (If i may) cynically prophesying in your final paragraph?

      Respectfully, I think this is a too-extreme characterization of that facet of the post’s argument. The OP argues two things that I see: 1) Those who advocate progressive change disregard the costs of implementing such change, or in the alternative dismiss and devalue such costs without careful enough consideration; and 2) Those who advocate progressive change reach far in excess of their grasp and therefore seek a ubiquity that itself exacts a toll, a toll the author believes he is imposed upon to contribute towards paying regardless of his own preferences.

      This isn’t to say that I agree with the post; mostly, I don’t. But I also don’t see a “Closing Of The American Mind” kind of argument here.Report

      • Avatar Adrian Rutt says:

        Thank you Burt. That is what I was saying, and, as always, someone said it better.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


        But isn’t there an issue of ideologies and world view matter? This is a debate I often get into with conservatives and libertarians over something like the ACA. They get angry that one person is coerced into paying while ignoring the tens of millions of people who finally have access to insurance.

        I don’t share the first principals of the libertarian movement (and I think constant stress on first principals is usually overrated) so I don’t quite understand that those who don’t want to pay should have more say than those willing to pay for social services in terms of higher taxes.

        And as I said above, to a certain extent “reasonable people can disagree” breaks down over certain issues and these are usually the most contentious one. There is no compromise between being for or against SSM. There is no compromise or halfway position on legislation like HB2.Report

        • Avatar Damon says:

          “There is no compromise between being for or against SSM. ”

          Of course there is. Here’s generally the positions:

          Gov’t should not allow gays to marry
          Gov’t should allow gays to marry
          Gov’t should not have any say in who gets married.

          The above first two positions utilize gov’t to force people to comply with it’s dictates, the last one doesn’t, and frankly, it’s been my potion since the whole SSM hit OT. The reason there is no compromise is that you and the right only see and use one method of achieving your goal.Report

          • Avatar greginak says:

            And here is where i fulfill what is apparently my life mission to point out that one of the meanings of marriage is as a legal contract. If you don’t’ think gov should have anything to do with marriage then who enforces or sets laws regarding contracts.Report

            • Avatar Damon says:

              This was covered during the extensive SSM “debate” on these forums.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Yeah and yet people still think gov can be kept out of contracts and courts. There is no “get gov out of marriage”. There can be “no standard marriage contract, so everybody make up there own within the confines of the law”Report

              • Avatar Art Deco says:

                so everybody make up there own ”

                There actually is a large element of that in what the lawfare artists have been pushing.Report

          • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

            Because the last option has no supporters outside of libertarians on the Internet.

            It’s like arguing the correct way to fix segregation in schools would’ve been to stop having public schools.Report

            • Avatar Damon says:

              “Because the last option has no supporters outside of libertarians on the Internet.”

              That’s clearly irrelevant to my comments to Saul. He was asserting there was no “third way” and there is. He and the right just don’t want to use it. That’s fine. I’m cool with that, but don’t then say “there is no way around this dispute” without acknowledging you’ve already dismissed options available.Report

              • Avatar Art Deco says:

                There really isn’t a third way, Damon (and, even if there were, abolishing legal marriage is an idea which some might find an unpalatable ‘compromise’).Report

            • Avatar Art Deco says:

              That you actually could have done. Voucher funded private schools would have resolved the problem in any set of localities where blacks were a critical mass. In the upland South, where blacks are thin on the ground, there would have had to have been supplementary programs to finance long-distance boarding.

              The appellate courts were very resistant to ways of desegratating schools (e.g open enrollment systems) which could not be harnessed to their social engineering enterprises and which would not require multiple court orders and years of court supervision. We’re all supposed to say there was no ‘bad faith’ involved in that, or so I’m told.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:

                Lol at the notion that the courts sending down desegregation orders were the ones acting in bad faith in the fight over school desegregation.Report

              • Avatar Art Deco says:

                Don, why were open enrollment systems not used? What do your fancy the disputes in Boston were about?Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:

                Because the courts were trying to achieve integration in fact as well as in theory. I gather you would consider that a sinister ulterior motive and that the only legitimate role of the courts was to do away with explicitly racial segregation?Report

              • Avatar Art Deco says:

                It actually is not the business of the judiciary to engage in social engineering enterprises. The schools had variable racial composition because neighborhoods do. Neighborhoods do because of a concatenation of choices people make. It was the business of the courts to refuse to enforce restrictive covenants and the business of the police to put the brick throwers in front of the municipal magistrate and in the county jail to cool off for a while.

                Arthur Garrity fancied he should team up with lawfare artists and that the wage-earning burgesses of Boston should be playdough in his hands. You can see how that worked out.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:

                And so disagreement with this particular Anatole France conception of the law must be in bad faith, I suppose?Report

              • Avatar Art Deco says:

                Anatole France? Some black kid whose mother works at a local nursing home attends a high school which is 75% black rather than 50% black and balanced with a mess of Irish and Italian kids whose mothers work swing shift at local factories and you fancy the former state is equivalent to sleeping under a bridge?

                The bad faith, Don, was incorporated into the notion that the judiciary had ‘no choice’ but to embark on these escapades, into the notion that it was being impartial when it was in fact a collaborator of lawfare artists, into the notion that it was anything but rum or obscene for a professional class man to impose costs on wage earners that no one he cared about would have to bear, into the notion that it was driven by a concern for anyone’s welfare and not corrupted by a contempt for a large swath of people.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:

                You are aware that “bad faith” has a more or less fixed meaning in English, right?Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                All hail REDLINING!Report

              • Avatar Art Deco says:

                A number of years ago, a social worker I met whose job was straightening out alcoholics told me he had two allies: banks and the criminal justice system. Regarding the latter, he offered that however inept and inefficient it was, it had a virtue: ‘once it gets you in its maw, it just comes after you and after you until it is DONE with you”. He said that was a great reality check for a drunk, who have ways of keeping reality at bay. As for banks, same deal because, “they don’t care about your problems. they just want their money”. There’s a lesson in there somewhere.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                you are of course aware of the numerous court cases that say that banks really did care whether people were black or white. This century, not last, in case you’re wondering.Report

              • Avatar Art Deco says:

                You’ve finally said something that isn’t hopelessly obscure.

                I really don’t give a damn what the ‘court cases’ ‘said’. I don’t expect lawyers to understand much but their daisy chains and how to put one over on someone.

                kim, making actuarial calculations is going to be unfair to someone. At the same time, you’re never going to have information about the person in front of you that’s granular enough to not be unfair some portion of the time. Also, people in certain trades can develop rules of thumb which work passably for them and do not damage their competitive position because no one else has thought up different rules of thumb.

                People had business transactions all the time with blacks in 1928, in 1948, in 1968, ad infinitum. They had bad attitudes about them, too, which affected in certain measure how they made decisions under conditions of uncertainty.

                You don’t need crude or cartelistic practices by banks and you don’t need much intergroup hostility to generate a great deal of neighborhood segregation. Modest preferences of who you’d like as a neighbor will do just fine.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                You don’t need crude or cartelistic practices by banks and you don’t need much intergroup hostility to generate a great deal of neighborhood segregation. Modest preferences of who you’d like as a neighbor will do just fine.

                And Art Deco passes entirely into the realm of the fictional.

                No one cares how the situation *could* have happened.

                What *actually did* happen was the banks did not give loans to black people, and then, after that was made illegal, refused to give loans to people who lived in certain neighborhoods, which just happened to be minority neighborhoods. (Aka, redlining. You appear to know so little about this you might not know that term.)

                What *actually did* happen was real estate agents refused to show certain homes to minorities.

                What *actually did* happen was not only were housing covenants set up to explicitly ban selling the house to minorities, but various state, local, and even the *Federal* government participated in those things.

                What *actually did* happen was those housing covenants started existing in 1917, because before that neighborhood segregation was *written into zoning law*, and that was finally made illegal in 1917, so bigots instantly seized on the idea of, as you put it, ‘cartelistic practices’, where everyone just signed statements saying they wouldn’t sell to minorities.

                Your imagined ideas as to how this could have happened *without* these practices does not matter in the slightest. It *did* happen with those practices.

                All this is…not up for dispute. It’s not some dismissable ‘court cases’ (Why can you just ignore legal findings again?), it’s real, documented, history. Refusing to believe it is roughly akin to claiming that JFK never existed, or that Nebraska isn’t a real state, or equally inane conspiracy theories.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                “People had business transactions all the time with blacks…”

                I’m sure you neither recognize nor care what is so blatantly and obscenely wrong with this sentence but wow. I actually don’t think it was intentional which, in some ways, is much worse.Report

              • Avatar Francis says:

                “It actually is not the business of the judiciary to engage in social engineering enterprises.”

                That is one point of view. Of course, that simply invites the debate as to what constitutes social engineering.

                Another point of view is that textualism, original intent, and original public meaning are all theories of constitutional interpretation that are designed to deny the court system the very power that the Founders intended to give it to resolve the meaning of such terms as due process, equal protection and deprivation of liberty.

                Anyone who has spent any time among legislators is well aware of the deliberate and structured ambiguity built into complex legislation which is intended to be resolved by the judiciary in light of the lived experience of that law. The idea that the Founders intended to bind all future generations of Americans to the then-existing interpretation of, for example, commerce, is simply absurd.

                And the problems with enforcing such a binding form of constitutional interpretation are amply evident throughout the history of Supreme Court decisions. Even the most valiant of strict constructionists regularly failed to live by their theory when it ran against their other biases. Look at the jurisprudence regarding the 11th Amendment.

                So if the opinion of Alexander Hamilton is not the sole means by which we resolve whether a state law conforms with the federal Constitution, what other tools are available? Precedent, judicial temperament, the persuasiveness of appellate argument, among others.

                Now, the outcome of that process can look a lot like liberal (or conservative) social engineering. But if the Bill of Rights is going to be enforceable against majoritarian decisions reflected in State and Federal laws then there’s really no choice but to have an independent judiciary empowered to reject legislative action.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

                “Social Engineering”
                Yet another invented term which stacks the deck.
                All laws and political structures are designed to engineer society.
                Social engineering is just a term applied to things which the speaker doesn’t like or think is necessary.Report

              • Avatar Art Deco says:

                I think this reply of yours is what I’ve seen called a ‘negative pregnant’.Report

            • Avatar Murali says:

              There are a significant number of leftists in academia who support the abolishment of government marriage as well. Of course, being of the extreme left, that are also prepared to force catholic churches to marry Gay couples who wish to be married in a catholic church. In fact, I got into an argument with Claire Chambers 3 weeks ago about thisReport

          • Avatar Art Deco says:

            See the Catholic blawger Donald McClarey on this point. Matrimonial law (or some simulacrum of it) is not something you can get away from. The imperatives of sorting property and child custody demand it.

            The questions re homosexual pseudogamy concern the nature, status, and function of human relations, as well as the capacity of the legal profession and the professional-managerial bourgeoisie generally v. the rest of us. The motor of the whole dispute was nothing very attractive and the resolution of it will not be either.Report

          • Avatar Michael Cain says:

            The last position includes — or at least should include — the implicit requirement that there be no government-provided advantages to being married. In my state, those benefits include things like both partners must agree to a pension annuity payout other than joint survivor, automatic medical power of attorney, and a variety of special tax breaks.

            Granted, most of those things reflect an old-fashioned single-earner household sort of model, and phasing them out is quite possibly a reasonable thing to do.Report

            • Avatar Art Deco says:

              Granted, most of those things reflect an old-fashioned single-earner household sort of model, and phasing them out is quite possibly a reasonable thing to do.

              Why is it reasonable to proceed as if the family were not an economy and there were no division of labor between husband and wife? While we’re at it, 1/3 of the work force in 1957 was female, at a time when the majority of women were married by their 21st birthday.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Are you cheering for sad irons yet?Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                Legislative intent in my state back the laws were passed. If you dig into the archives — which I had reason to do one summer; the legislative librarian loved the questions I was bringing her that year — the surviving notes clearly indicate that the purpose was to avoid leaving widows destitute, and widowers were pretty much on their own. Last time I looked, at least one of the odd property tax statutes still uses both terms and makes it easier for a widow to qualify than a widower.

                One of these first years, the legislative legal staff’s annual “let’s clean up obsolete language” bill will no doubt include proposed changes for that.Report

              • Avatar Art Deco says:

                I’m not sure which question you think you’re answering.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                If I was supposed to interpret your comment-before-last as saying “The state can bestow benefits on people in marriages, those should just be neutral with respect to gender, race, blood relationship, number of people, etc, etc,” then yeah, my last comment had no bearing on what you said. My bad.

                Same thing if I was supposed to interpret “Gov’t should not have any say in who gets married” to mean that they can’t stop anyone from getting married, but can bestow benefits selectively based on gender, etc.

                Or have I missed your point entirely? If that, still my bad.Report

              • Avatar Art Deco says:

                You’ve confused me with someone else (‘Damon’, I think).Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                In that case, really my bad.

                I’d ask TPTB for some sort of clever AI way to collapse comments, except that they’d probably ask me to do it.Report

  4. Avatar Tess Kovach says:

    If nothing else, the concept of “Western values” means continuing the conversation; never letting anyone get the last word. As it were, though, the last word is exactly what social justice activists are trying to get to with all of their cries of injustice…

    Hidden in these two sentences is an area between the lines: an idea that social justice activists need to do something other than cry injustice. My question is: what is this proposed alternative? Is it running for office instead of screaming from the sidelines? Because I can get behind that. But for some reason this reads as something more fundamental – an assumption that what is being cried about isn’t actually unjust. That activists are just plain wrong about that which they accuse of being unjust. Some may very well be. But surely the role of an activist is to push us to think twice about existing norms. The major locus of in-your-face activism lately has been BLM – which has put significant focus on policing trends. Without that activism we might never have known the depth of problems in the Ferguson, MO police and justice system. Right? To me this is evidence that skepticism of prejudice has a huge role to play in society. Most of us embrace our prejudices with little second thought. We need more people to ask us to give them a second look. IMOReport

    • Avatar Adrian Rutt says:

      I would agree wholeheartedly with this. I agree with social justice activism as a device for making us think about things differently. It loses me insofar as it becomes a device for demonstrating the one true way to think about things, and, due to standpoint theory, closes the conversational door on anything that even looks like a diversion of said agenda.Report

  5. Avatar pillsy says:

    I cannot sit and admire a forest without being reminded of the alarming rates at which we are cutting down trees or the statistics of global warming…

    Er, really? Who’s reminding you of this while you sit and admire forests? Are there protesters with signs? Do people just walk up to you and say, “What about anthropogenic climate change”?

    I get that you aren’t speaking literally, but at the same time I really can’t work out what you’re alluding to figuratively.Report

    • Avatar Adrian Rutt says:

      I am alluding to, or trying to allude to the idea that everything has become overly and overtly politicized. I think this is a harsh attitude. This is not to say that one cannot strike a balance, but it seems to me that this culture of anxious something-needs-to-be-done now loses a sense of appreciation, recognition, and beauty in what is before us.Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

        But you don’t see a “culture of anxious something-needs-to-be-done now” anywhere but on the left?Report

        • Avatar Adrian Rutt says:

          Absolutely on both sides: social justice warriors are equally on the Right and the Left, and they are both progressive in the true sense of the word. After all, returning to 1776 would be quite a progressive move would it not?Report

      • Avatar pillsy says:

        I dunno. I think part of the solution is probably going to be sitting down and actually admiring a real forest from time to time.

        Someone is always going to be eager to politicize any give thing, sure. It’s not clear why you feel obligated to engage with them, though, unless, maybe, you’re on a college campus.Report

        • Avatar Adrian Rutt says:

          Yeah, maybe (and judging by the response to this post) I shouldn’t. I just worry that attaching one’s self to some type of cause or movement, while inevitable, isn’t the end to life in any sense. I feel as though we are cultivating an attitude today that requires one be for or against something; a near-constant grasping for something more or better. I don’t know, the responses here seem to be, in a weird meta way, exactly the type of lashing out that I am talking about. I am more than open to be convinced, showed the better way, and in continuing the conversation. Seems like people think I’ve settled once and for all in my nice cozy Right-wing while male privilege cottage…Report

          • Avatar pillsy says:

            I just worry that attaching one’s self to some type of cause or movement, while inevitable, isn’t the end to life in any sense.

            It sounds like it isn’t for you, but for some people, for better or worse, that really is what they want out of life, and is a key part of finding happiness.

            And some people juggle geese.

            I feel as though we are cultivating an attitude today that requires one be for or against something; a near-constant grasping for something more or better.

            I’m sure it happens some of the time, but I also expect that it’s easy to get a distorted view because you notice that there’s political activism around pretty much any sort of issue, great or small. But that doesn’t mean that all (or any) of those activists are engaged with every issue, since you’re not going to see all the people who aren’t wrapped up in the activism around any given controversy.Report

            • Avatar Adrian Rutt says:

              Again, I should probably roll back (at least somewhat) the radical aspect of my OP. But I agree with you insofar as they are fighting the good fight – a necessary fight too. But being ambivalent about issues today is a non-starter. Any ambivalence, it seems, is viewed as being against an issue. I worry about this attitude.

              I can only tolerate so much guilt that has, seemingly unconsciously, seeped into my mind from all this talk of rights, justice, and fairness. My sympathy reaches beyond itself and turns into a sort of weird masochism that makes it seem as if I should feel bad that I am not spending every waking moment fighting for others… (this is an unduly esoteric response, I realize, and I don’t want to come off as self-congratulatory in any sense…apologies if I do; not my intention.)Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                I can only tolerate so much guilt that has, seemingly unconsciously, seeped into my mind from all this talk of rights, justice, and fairness. My sympathy reaches beyond itself and turns into a sort of weird masochism that makes it seem as if I should feel bad that I am not spending every waking moment fighting for others…

                Some people call this impulse, or at least something very similar to it, scrupulosity, and it sounds like it really sucks. I don’t actually have any great advice for how to deal with it.

                All I can say is that you aren’t alone in feeling that way, and that it’s entirely legitimate to carve out some space and time for yourself to keep yourself mentally, physically and (if relevant) spiritually healthy. Also, I am lukewarm about “privilege theory” myself, but to the extent it’s useful, I think it’s gotta be taken as descriptive rather than normative.Report

  6. Avatar Chip Daniels says:

    Isnt Social Justice Warrior just a person whose moral inclinations are different than yours?

    Is Franklin Graham an SJW? Pope Francis? Joel Osteen? Rafael Cruz?

    What makes one hectoring moral scold an SJW while another is a righteous person of faith?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Yeah, I can’t tell the difference between them either.Report

    • Avatar Art Deco says:

      How are any of the people you name ‘hectoring moral scolds’?

      That aside, the people you name (with one exception) have influence over only their own congregations and those who buy their books, who are in turn mostly concerned with their mundane life. As for Francis, he’s a manifestation of Robert Conquest’s dictum that organizational behavior can be explained parsimoniously if you begin with the assumption that the apparat in question is controlled by a secret cabal of its enemies.

      The people you name aren’t engaged in any lawfare, are not part of any fan dance with college administrations, and get no respect from the media.


      • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

        Are you asserting that Religious Right has not made enacting laws restricting abortion their central mission for these last 4 decades?
        And laws banning or resisting same sex marriage?
        Isn’t engagement with the public realm, and active attempts to shape our laws and culture, the express purpose of their efforts?

        I was going to go on about Jerry Falwell doing a fan dance with Ronald Reagan but its a bit early in the day for that.Report

  7. Avatar Damon says:

    “we are the problem, and that everything is going to hell in a handbasket”

    It is and we are. Every generation says so. Just get comfortable with that. Of course, you can also not give a damn what the “social justice warriors” say figuring that by the time they hit their 30-40s they’ll have “outgrown” it. But even if they are correct, well, you’ll probably not live to see it, so par tay on.Report

  8. Avatar LTL FTC says:

    To me, the most important part of this essay is the summary of the SJW mindset as ‘a near-constant assumption of bad faith.’

    Go back a couple of years ago and I found myself in a bit of a slack period at work, which I filled with reading too much on the internet, especially places where what we think of as the “SJW left” was coalescing. I mostly found it amusing and a throwback to the overly-earnest activists of my college days. Then, it started grating on me. I had good relationships with people from marginalized groups at work, in my neighborhood and even within my own extended family.

    But after reading enough of this stuff, I started to doubt those relationships. After all, there are people out there who can have someone ask about their hairstyle, cry uncontrollably for hours and write 700 words about it in which lack of knowledge of black hairstyles inevitably ends up evoking the Middle Passage. As a general rule, I don’t talk about hair at all, so that’s not about me in the least. But someone who thinks of himself as aware of my country’s history and its centuries-long battle to make the language of our founding documents seem like less of a farce to large chunks of the population, it stung.

    It’s not about me, I get it. I got over it. In doing so, I realized that the people in my meatspace life did not assume ill will. To do so is exhausting and alienating if you’re not trying to prove a point. Also, you’re usually wrong.

    To assume ill will online, especially in the an competitive battle of performative righteousness, only makes sense. That stranger who disagrees with you in a comment section about whether an NHK-sponsored kimono exhibit at a museum is cultural appropriation hasn’t spent every Monday morning talking about football with you around the watercooler. You’re a human being instead of a faceless blob of wrongthink. Mix in the incentives toward shibboleths, groupthink and extremism in ideological groupings and you have a toxic stew.

    It’s in that stew that the distinction between a social justice activist and a “Social Justice Warrior” arises. As much as the term can be criticized, it represents something real. I define it not by politics, but by the increasingly complicated sets of “heads I win, tails you lose” formulations that serve as inviolable rules in spaces where they call the shots. Most of it comes from Derailing for Dummies, which is basically a version of Roberts Rules of Order for identity politics.

    My instinct is that the current incursions of SJW logic into real life will be limited mostly to those places where the community rules are either controlled by those sympathetic to the cause or deathly afraid of same. Which is to say, college campuses. The farther away from that bubble, the more the assumption of bad faith reveals itself to be counterproductive. When the stakes get higher, compromise becomes more appealing and the other side doesn’t have to abide by your assumptions and rules of engagement.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      There was a truly exquisite letter to the editor a few weeks back in the New York Times (it was… (kisses fingers and tosses them away) “benissimo“) where a guy complained that, as a supporter of Hillary, he was seen as insufficiently progressive.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        That’s interesting because a lot of what we would associate with social justice movement or at least people sympathetic towards identity politics are lukewarm to Sanders because of his refusal to get identity politics.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          The children of privilege can’t be real SJWs. They can only approximate what they hear about. Hence: stuff like the stuff that happens at Harvard.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy says:

            Back before social justice was cool, my alma mater had a Social Justice Club. Like, that’s what it was called. It was headed up by this real asshat of a guy. He was a trust fund kid and thought growing out his hair and beard and pinning a Palestinian flag to his backpack made a difference. But the most he ever raged against was the inside of the back of a police car when he was arrested at an illegal on campus party. Everyone knew the party was illegal, including those throwing it. They figured it was Senior Week and they were graduating the next day so why not? But he decided to mouth off to the “pigs” and resist arrest (note: no one else got arrested) and then kick out the car window.

            He sucked.Report

        • Avatar LTL FTC says:

          That’s an interesting case. There are a couple of possible explanations:

          1. The Crime Bill, superpredators, etc., from Hillary’s history mattered less to the SJW voter than the ritualistic repetition of the right hashtags and shibboleths, which Hillary managed to do. Symbolism over progress is the calling card of this particular movement.

          2. The SJW vote is tiny. The POC vote is won by winning over the traditional power brokers who can deliver the middle-aged black women who are much more reliable as voters than the college set. If we’re talking about a movement comprised of 3% of the students and faculty of the 200 most elite four-year research universities and top liberal arts colleges, they could have all voted for Martin O’Malley and nobody would have noticed.

          3. Early on, the Sanders campaign was coded culturally as something that young whites support. It’s not that his message was unappealing or his policies detrimental. It’s just that he was the Vampire Weekend of candidates.

          4. Woman > Jew in the oppression olympics. Everybody knows that these kinds of activists are either extremely anti-semetic or completely willing to provide cover for those who are.Report

          • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


            “It’s just that he was the Vampire Weekend of candidates.”

            Space Awesome.

            I think the biggest things here are two and three. I am not that impressed with all the media pearl-clutching done over kids these days. Speaking of good faith, we should recognize that part of being an 18-22 year old is sometimes confusing a sledgehammer for a fine-point pen. They are still teenagers in many ways and close to adolescence.

            #4 probably not. I am surprised by how much Sanders Jewishness does not come up. He had one anti-Semitic heckler as far as I can tell. Though I still think that outside people who grew up in the Bos-Wash Corridor and LA, a lot of people don’t know how to register or read Jewishness. Also the Social Justice movements I have seen on college campuses always include anti-Semitism in their lists of things to banish.Report

            • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

              Saul Degraw: Though I still think that outside people who grew up in the Bos-Wash Corridor and LA, a lot of people don’t know how to register or read Jewishness.

              He looked a lot more Jewish when he had more hair.

              Also the Social Justice movements I have seen on college campuses always include anti-Semitism in their lists of things to banish.

              Also Israel and moneylenders.Report

            • Avatar LTL FTC says:

              There are two parts to #4, both are related to oppression olympics. Antisemitism has become a major issue as the campus left collaborates with Palestinian activists. Jews > Palestinians on the OO leaderboard. The things the yell at the Jewish or Israeli speakers they haven’t managed to no-platform would set your hair on fire. Links on request.

              The second is the argument we hear whenever any sort of speakers’ panel is announced. Any space taken up by a white person could have been taken by a POC. Any space taken up by a man could have been taken by a woman. Any space taken by a cis person, etc… When given the choice between a white woman and a white (Jewish) man, it should go to the woman, so the logic goes.

              Of course, this is contra the article about the Harvard student who was surprised to be one of the few Hillary supporters on campus. But the narrative is clear enough now: if you are of the identity politics persuasion, Bernie is the choice of ciswhitehetmales, and thus must be incorrect.

              (And I voted for Hillary!)Report

      • Avatar Damon says:

        It’s nice to see them eat their own.

        “believe in the government’s power to improve lives and create sweeping change” Seems he doesn’t like being caught up on the wrong side of “sweeping change”. He might remember that.Report

    • Avatar Joe Sal says:

      I really like this:
      “Which is to say, college campuses. The farther away from that bubble, the more the assumption of bad faith reveals itself to be counterproductive. When the stakes get higher, compromise becomes more appealing and the other side doesn’t have to abide by your assumptions and rules of engagement.”

      The problem is the college campus produces lawyers, which produce written, enforced at the barrel of a gun law. There is no compromise beyond that point, only violence. (yes, I do assume bad faith in that the lawyers will carry some volume of what happens on campus to the rest of the world)

      The concept of justice to the SJW is narrow. There is ignorance about justice. True justice looks like justice to everyone involved, this is not the starting point for the current warriors. Justice is what they ‘know’ it to be.Report

      • Avatar Simon says:

        Joe Sal:
        “True justice looks like justice to everyone involved, this is not the starting point for the current warriors. Justice is what they ‘know’ it to be.”

        This is manifestly and obviously untrue. The slave and the slaver need not reach consensus to achieve justice.Report

        • Avatar LTL FTC says:

          That’s an assertion, but not much else.Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

          The slave and the slaver need not reach consensus to achieve justice.

          Something about this seems wrong, but I can’t articulate what…Report

          • Avatar LTL FTC says:

            Let me articulate what’s wrong with it:

            1. The overblown hyperbole of the slavery vocabulary. Replace it with “microagressor” and “microagression victim” and it sounds a lot less like something you’d want carved on a monument.

            2. It’s only true if the slave’s goal is to reverse the hierarchy rather than remove it altogether. It’s a Maoist orientation.

            3. The assumption that such a reversal would be just is neither borne out by history nor explained by the speaker. It’s an exercise in handwaving and practiced soundbiteyness.Report

            • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

              Well, I was just going to think about it for a while, as the coffee infused my neural tissues, but damn! Clearly your coffee is already in-system.Report

            • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

              PS number 2 is what stuck in my craw. A slaver may enjoy the fruits of a structural injustice, but the removal of a master-slave hierarchy doesn’t necessarily see it as an injustice to them.

              They’ll be pissed, and may hold a grudge for generations…Report

            • Avatar dragonfrog says:

              1. Yes, it’s true of most levels of injustice based on entrenched social power. From the high example of slavery or vassalage, to the low example of some men’s perceived freedom to catcall women. When someone’s experienced nothing but privilege, the move to equality can feel like oppression.

              2. Not at all. The civil war was not fought over a proposal to enslave white Americans to black ones*. The “injustice” of simply eliminating slavery was strongly enough felt to lead to warfare to stop it.

              3. See 1 and 2 above.

              * Weak-ass “reparations would amount to enslaving white people because taxation is robbery and your social contract is nothing but vassalage” arguments notwithstanding.Report

              • Avatar InMD says:

                The fact that cat calling can be so easily thrown in on the same spectrum as institutionalized slavery is a perfect illustration of why the SJW perspective is so hard for anyone not dyed in the wool to take serioisly.Report

              • Avatar LTL FTC says:

                The hyperbole is all over this thread. The really entrenched types will throw in the word “violence” at any opportunity. Like “spending $0.03 of my student activity fees for a speaker I disagree with on an identity politics issue is an act of violence and makes me feel unsafe here.”Report

              • Avatar InMD says:

                Agreed, not that people with those attitudes are unique in their ability to completely lose perspective, but I do worry about a certain learned helplessness in young people. A society full of people willing to yell ‘fuck you’ at someone for stupid reasons worries me a lot less than a society full of people asking for things they don’t like to be removed by the authorities in order to prevent a trauma that cant be quantified.Report

              • Avatar dragonfrog says:

                That’s the whole point of a spectrum, innit, is to have ends.

                In this case, the category I’m proposing for inclusion in the set of things to place on the spectrum is something like “unjust situations arising from entrenched inequalities in social power”, and the spectrum itself something like “severity of outcome for those in the disempowered group” – with the extremes being naturally very far apart, since there is a wide range of things we would not want, and that’s kind of the point of a spectrum.

                Do you object to death from blood loss being on the spectrum of bleeding severity, at the opposite end from, say, a slight nosebleed? I’d say that if you do, you’re missing the point of what a spectrum is for.

                (And, by the same token, the severity of the outcome on those who are being demanded to stop the behaviour varies – from “Now I cannot operate my shipyards, farms, diamond mine, and cut-rate garment factories and my entire business empire will founder” to “Now I will have to find some other kind of jokes to tell on my lunch break”)Report

              • Avatar InMD says:

                Your entire response is begging the question. It assumes both that obnoxious words are the result of, as you put it, ‘unjust situations arising from entrenched inequalities in social power’ and that such words are fundamentally comparable to material deprivation. You’ve got to actually do the work of making that argument before you’ve got any chance of convincing unbelievers.

                Does a crazy bum who says ‘hey girl lookin’ good’ to a corporate attorney on the metro really have more entrenched social power than she does? Does it cause damage the way a lash does? Only if one has abandoned all nuance and perspective.Report

              • Avatar dragonfrog says:

                In the very specific example you’ve constructed, no, not on the whole. That’s how intersectionality works and all.

                He’s maybe pulling out the one axis of power on which he has more power than her, gender, and holding that over her to feel a little bit empowered at her expense (“I may be poor and unemployed and homeless and uneducated and disabled to her wealthy and gainfully employed and housed and highly educated and able-bodied. But I’m a man, and at least that’s one small thing where I have power she doesn’t.”).

                Do words that serve to remind the one addressed where the two people stand with respect to likelihood of sexual violence, cause damage the way a lash does? No, it causes damage in a different way, and to an obviously different degree.

                If you can’t see that without my having to spell it out for you at length, I kind of feel like you’re the one who’s missing some nuance – that thing that a spectrum is there to help express.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                Spectrums are fine and all, but they require paying attention to the spectrum.

                An arterial laceration and a nose bleed both fall upon the spectrum of “Blood Loss”, but our response to each is markedly different, and we would, quite correctly, look at someone funny if they attempted to cause paramedics to treat their nose bleed like it was arterial spray.

                That is the point being made.Report

              • Avatar InMD says:

                My view is that if you can’t spell it out you don’t have much of an argument. Don’t be mistaken, I think that privilege is real and we can attain some insight by thinking about it. Where we differ I suspect is that I see all the bad isms of the world as being fundamentally material problems, even if there are cultural attitudes that are intertwined.

                You’ve already assumed that any woman would be affronted or reminded of some form of inequality by my scenario. That view is in itself a product of believing that the cultural attitudes, manners, and decorum favored by a certain subset of largely middle class, college educated (dare I say, privileged?) people is the only way of analyzing human interaction. This is how I see the vast majority of discussion about intersectionality; using the language of trauma and oppression to justify the thinking of certain people who are for the most part doing alright for themselves.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                The original assertion was not about US slavery, but about a slave-slaver, or master-slave hierarchy, which has existed in many places all over the world, across all times (even today).

                How many wars were fought over the right to enslave people? I can think of one, which makes that something of an outlier.Report

              • Avatar InMD says:

                @oscar-gordon don’t confuse people with this talk about the history of the world outside the United States. Ideas that aren’t consistent with intersectionality and certain 21st century American class/cultural preferences are strictly forbidden.Report

              • Avatar dragonfrog says:

                Haiti had a good half dozen, and Jamaica had about four, I think.

                Also the very reason Spartan society was organized as an ethnicity-spanning militia was to protect against the frequent helot revolts. That was not *a* war, it was a society structured around maintaining a *practically constant state of* war.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                Slave Rebellions are a bit different from what the US Civil War was, although I’ll concede they do constitute a war in a general sense.Report

            • Avatar Simon says:

              1. I’m not the one who said that social justice rhetoric would end free speech. That was OP. And the comment I was responding to was warning that campus activism leads inexorably to gunpoint suppression of wrongthink, so if I’m guilty of escalation, I’m not alone.

              2 No, it’s true because the slaveholder sees being divested of slaves as a hierarchical inversion equivalent to being enslaved, and therefore rejects the justice (freedom) demanded by the slave. The point is that justice need not satisfy all involved parties, and that not all parties have equal standing to demand satisfaction.

              3. Again, this sort of inversion is irrelevant to my point, except to the extent that the dominant party regards the loss of dominance in itself as unjust. And history is full of elites describing their loss of particular legal and social privileges as traumatic and unjust. The Reconstruction South is one of the most vivid examples.Report

              • Avatar LTL FTC says:

                Did you ever notice how neoconservatives believe we’re living in a permanent 1939 and the outgroup is always Chamberlain?

                Ever notice how when Rod Dreher or his social conservative ilk see a gay person somewhere he doesn’t expect them to be, we’re at the verge of the fall of Rome?

                Ever notice that when questioned about the identity politics agenda, the defenders immediately start talking about slavery and Hitler instead of, for example, it’s a good idea to let student groups have the power to fire professors for ideological transgressions?

                It’s almost like they’d rather talk about anything but the situation right in front of their noses. Funny that!Report

              • Avatar Simon says:

                So you’ve just given up on substantive engagement altogether? That’s disappointing, but if you’d rather keep babbling about Maoism, be my guest.Report

              • Avatar Art Deco says:

                Ever notice how when Rod Dreher or his social conservative ilk see a gay person somewhere he doesn’t expect them to be, we’re at the verge of the fall of Rome?

                No, I didn’t and neither did you. That’s not a description of an authentic social conservative, much less a poseur like Dreher.Report

              • Avatar LTL FTC says:

                Seriously? Gay people and civilizational collapse is all Dreher talks about some days.Report

              • Avatar Art Deco says:

                If you’ve been reading him with any care, you’ll understand the antecedents to the latter and why issues surrounding the former beget discussion of the latter. It’s not the least bit obscure. Dreher has a couple of talents, and one is clarity.

                It will help you to understand Dreher if you begin with the assumption that his expressed concerns are (1) self-centered and (2) driven very much by his roiling emotional states. and (3) that he is quite other-directed. Dreher’s a poseur in one sense, but not really given to much unselfconsious fraud.

                Here’s Dreher’s dilemma, as he sees it: (1) we live in a world where a disposition toward homosexuality defines in-groups and out-groups among fancy people; (2) fancy people use the legal system and the personnel office to harass dissenters; (3) Christian moral teaching is clear and fixed: the practice of sodomy is a mortal sin. To these three propositions there is a fourth which are unacknowledged by Dreher: being in an out-group causes him great emotional discomfort.

                It causes others discomfort tow. People who are dopier than Dreher manage that discomfort about the way most socially conventional churchgoers do (especially women). It’s unedifying. People who make their living in the evangelical word merchant sector have other strategems (see David Gushee, Warren Throckmorton, and Phyllis Tickle). For people who are both dopey and employed in the evangelical word merchant sector, see Laura Ortberg Turner.

                So, Dreher’s attracted in various ways to visions wherein the tension is relieved (hence Benedict option). He’s also grappling with something which actually is novel in America: a secular politics and culture hostile to religious congregations.

                While we’re at it, Dreher is always attracted to tails of catastrophe. Nuttin’ person re homosexuals. He was on a whinge about peak oil a few years back, alternating with his columns amplifying Nouriel Roubini’s more florid statements.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                No, it’s true because the slaveholder sees being divested of slaves as a hierarchical inversion equivalent to being enslaved, and therefore rejects the justice (freedom) demanded by the slave.

                Assertion without proof. I expect the reality is closer to slave owners being pissed that they are being relieved of property without just compensation, commingled with pro-slavery types being morally offended that the slaves are being granted some measure of equality. I suspect the slave owner that is truly (rather than rhetorically) worried about the hierarchy inverting is a rare bird.Report

              • Avatar Simon says:

                A valid point. Inversion is a ubiquitous rhetorical flourish, but I cannot say with confidence that it genuinely reflects sincerely held beliefs. That said, many slaveholders have historically equated “being relieved of property without just compensation” with being made subservient to their former slaves. As such, I’m not sure the distinction is as sharp as you suggest, and certainly unsure how much credence to satisfy slaveholders’ own claims about what constitutes “just compensation.”Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                From this, I gather it’s an irrelevant point, no compensation could be had, nor would the true believers accept it.

                The main reason you got pushback here is pretty much for invoking slavery to make a rhetorical point that was unnecessary to use it for. It’s not exactly Godwinning, but it’s in the same Zip code.

                To restate your original claim:

                The more extreme the injustice, the more unlikely the perpetrator(s) of that injustice are likely to accept any result as just.Report

              • Avatar Joe Sal says:

                ” The point is that justice need not satisfy all involved parties, and that not all parties have equal standing to demand satisfaction.”

                This depends on what sense of justice one is referring to. True justice or perfect justice, as said above, looks like justice to all involved, it is most likely non existent, which leaves the parsing of justice to each vantage point with only the possibility of closing the differences or separating them further. But to know justice is a reach that may have substance or may have none. The claim is oft a sign of deception.Report

        • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

          I don’t know why people are pushing back on this. It just isn’t true that true justice looks like justice to everyone involved. In fact, I would probably guess that in most dispute resolutions, no matter how just the outcome, at least one party thinks it’s getting screwed over. To use Simon’s example, we can all agree that setting slaves free was just, but I’m fairly confident that a lot of slave owners thought they were getting robbed.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq says:

      “The assumption of bad faith” isn’t really unique to social justice. I find that most highly ideological people, especially if you are prone to a dualistic cosmology, require an “assumption of bad faith” The rightist equivalent of Social Justice, the SoCons, also assume that people who disagree with them are assumed to bad faith. Look how certain posters on this blog simply can’t believe that some people see LGBT people as basically normal rather than some type of deviant. Like Social Justice warriors, SoCons function best in a closed reality, in this case churches, and tend to run into trouble fast outside a closed reality.Report

      • Avatar Joe Sal says:

        Yeah, I petty much agree about this. That last sentence, I would change ‘run into trouble fast’ to ‘quickly find conflicts of moral alignments’.Report

        • Avatar LeeEsq says:

          That correction makes more sense. Another problem is that many times “an assumption of bad faith” is often a safe bet. If your from a group that has been historically treated shabbily at best, your going to be kind of wary of when your former persecutors or tormentors say “Sorry about the past few centuries, me bad, everything kay now?”Report

          • Avatar Joe Sal says:

            For sure, I see that as long lasting ambient friction between factions. To reduce the friction requires a salient understanding of factional and individual conceptions. Which altruism is grasped the most tightly and why?Report

      • Avatar Art Deco says:

        the SoCons, also assume that people who disagree with them are assumed to bad faith. L

        Are you the slightest bit familiar with the sort of people who invade the comboxes at Catholic publications? How ’bout law faculties? (http://althouse.blogspot.com/2016/05/for-liberals-question-now-is-how-to.html). What about the implications of contemporary ‘equal protection’ jurisprudence?Report

        • Avatar Don Zeko says:

          So the fact that Internet trolls argue in bad faith justifies the assumption that everyone you disagree with argues in bad faith?Report

          • Avatar Art Deco says:

            But we aren’t contending with ‘trolls’. They’re seldom if ever canny or creative in disrupting a thread. They’re just banging their high chairs for their viewpoint. It does not improve anyone else’s estimation of the viewpoint.Report

            • Avatar Don Zeko says:

              Ok, if you’d prefer not to respond to my point, suit yourself. Whether you consider them trolls or not, your argument remains that because some people in comment sections are asinine jerks, its reasonable to assume that everyone that agrees with them is acting in bad faith.Report

              • Avatar Art Deco says:

                I did respond to your point, it’s just that you don’t care for the response. People like me see the raw opinions of people like you all the time. They also observe the dynamic of political and legal discourse. No, there is not going to be a default assumption that the motor here is anything but what it appears to be: aggression. George McGovern is dead and Nat Hentoff is real old. Deal with it.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:

                What do you get out of arguing with people that you are so filled with contempt for, exactly?Report

        • Avatar Francis says:

          The implications of contemporary EP jurisprudence is that people who are offended by the normalization of gay marriage and the mainstreaming of transgender individuals will be less able to ignore behavior that they see as offensive.

          A workplace, for example, will have a young man who puts up pictures on his desk of his husband and who invites him to the company picnic. A public official whose faith mandates that she not participate in the performance of same sex marriages will have her fitness to perform her official duties called into doubt. Schools that teach that same-sex relationships are objectively disordered may find it more difficult to participate in certain competitions. Employers may decide not to move to States that are leaning against the changing public morality.

          In other words, pretty much the exact same thing that happened when our society decided that inter-racial relationships were not a problem.Report

      • Avatar Adrian Rutt says:

        I agree that it’s on both sides and, indeed, might be worse coming from the right!Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          might be worse coming from the right!

          Might be?
          Are you one of those squishes who thought that the Nazis might be worse than the Allies? The South might be worse than the North? The Catholics might be worse than the Protestants?

          There’s a special place in Hell for people who cannot take a moral stand.Report

          • Avatar Adrian Rutt says:

            Sorry I had a rhetorical blemish on my response that bound me to be a Nazi sympathizer.

            I am, I think, with you in condemning all of those bad things as worse than the other… Not sure what the issue is..Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              Well, when you are measuring intangibles, you’re pretty much stuck with policing the rhetoric of others.

              The people who do a better job of it are higher in the hierarchy than the people who are stuck hedging and getting all nuancy.Report

              • Avatar Adrian Rutt says:

                This is true. Well said.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Thinking about this some more, real progress, actual progress, usually comes about through some seriously less than romantic methods. Not merely hard but *BORING* work, horse trading, compromising, winning some/losing some, and it is wearing.

                If you have zero power, however, and zero ability to change the state of affairs, then you’re kind of stuck with a handful of options:

                1. Putting in the hard work to gain power through the seriously less than romantic methods
                2. Finding an intangible sphere and jockying for position in that
                3. Being co-opted by The Man
                4. Nihilism

                #2 will result in some changes that feel measurable. You win this rhetorical fight against this guy, you lose it to that girl, you learn better rhetorical kung-fu and get better and better at figuring out how to jockey for position… and, sometimes, this involves rhetorical fights against #3 people and sometimes it involves rhetorical fights against #1 people and, sometimes, you can’t help but notice that #1 and #3 sometimes share common cause and they sometimes even do things like trade horses with each other… and it’s really easy to use rhetorical tricks against that sort of crap.

                But it does sort of make you wonder what the actual goal is.Report

          • Avatar LTL FTC says:

            Jesus, you can’t escape the Godwinning anywhere…Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          Bunnicula is coming for you!
          The Right hasn’t been culturally empowered enough to do jack-all about anything in ages. They couldn’t even stop a sequel of Kick-Ass from getting made, and that movie’s previews disturbed them greatly.Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

        Ah, yes, the “You haven’t accepted Christ and are therefore a sinner, ergo your argument is suspect” folks. Rings right up there with the “You haven’t adequately examined your privilege and are therefore unenlightened, ergo your argument is suspect.”

        This is fun, I can do this all day…Report

        • Avatar aaron david says:

          What I find facinating is that those who complained about the former are often right there with the latter.

          Or, not really facinating, depressing.Report

          • Avatar Adrian Rutt says:


          • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

            Your priors are indicative of how poorly you’ve considered your own biases, mine are well considered truth.

            We all do it, some are more aware that they do it than others. This is the defining feature of Annoying Social Activist (or Annoying Social Conservatives), that they are either unaware of, or unwilling to accept, the weaknesses of their priors.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      Does this website assume bad faith when they ban certain words?
      Is there a difference between using the n-word and using the r-word and god forbid the f-word?
      What about the y-word?Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

        This makes me wonder what we’re going to do when the number of [letter]-words gets large enough that there’s, say, more than one ‘r’ word. How will we differentiate?

        “Don’t say the [eggplant emoji]-word!”Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          that was totally my point of just keeping going. I honestly don’t have any clue what the y-word is (though my gut says Yid!)Report

      • Avatar Kolohe says:

        Kim: What about the y-word?

        yuuuuuuuge? It’s overdone, but shouldn’t be banned.Report

  9. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    In an increasingly globalized world where existing is no longer close to the bone, it is extremely important to find a way for a wide variety of people with a wide variety of appearances, beliefs, customs, cosmologies to live together without killing each other. The being prejudiced against prejudice might be blunt at times but it beats paranoid xenophobia.Report

  10. Avatar Francis says:

    The author’s blurb reads in part: “most of life’s pleasures are born of ‘sardonic comments on the passing show.'”

    Yup, that’s a fair assessment. Re-read, for a moment, the opening line of the essay: “It’s not far before one’s contemplative gaze is interrupted by the crude clamorings of some activist claiming that we are the problem, and that everything is going to hell in a handbasket. ”

    Really? I can spend days in a contemplative gaze without being interrupted. That’s what books and friends are for. Moreover, in this world it is not only possible but actually easy to surround oneself with people who agree with your point of view. Finding articulate alternative viewpoints takes work.

    So it appears to me that the fundamental thesis of the essay — that those Others argue in bad faith, because they are consumed by the idea of prejudice — is also committed by the essay itself. How does one respond, in good faith, to the accusation that the Left is “purely” ivory-tower elites? Or that SJWs are consumed by the idea that prejudice is the “worst thing” one can possibly have?

    Is pointing out that the Black Lives Matter movement is staffed by everyday people who are worried not only about prejudice but the death of black kids a sufficient rebuttal? Or that the climate change activists are actually correct to point out that much of the State of Florida will be uninhabitable within 50 years and it is already too late to do anything about it?

    Sardonic comments are easy. Change is hard.Report

    • Avatar Adrian Rutt says:

      I couldn’t think of what to put in my bio, but now I’m regretting my choice!

      And to your point, yes, I can spend a day with friends, read books, and contemplate life, but somehow (and this has happened to me more than once) this is always twisted to look like I can only do these things because of white and class privilege.

      And no, I am not assuming any bad-faith on part of the social justice movement – I believe they are good and necessary causes. I do believe, however, that the ends which they are seeking are not desirable – the political and legislative ends. The difference between myself and the social justice movements and people I’ve had contact with is that I’m willing to listen to them, while the vice versa is 404 Error Not Found because I simply will never fully understand the situation as they do.

      Again, I agree with the BLM project and the awareness and incitement it raises, however, the movement loses me when it is necessarily shut off from people who have even an ounce of difference of opinion. And I similarly agree with climate change scientists – I am finding it odd that the moral people drew from this polemical piece was that I am wholeheartedly against these movements?Report

      • Avatar pillsy says:

        And to your point, yes, I can spend a day with friends, read books, and contemplate life, but somehow (and this has happened to me more than once) this is always twisted to look like I can only do these things because of white and class privilege.

        OK. Stipulate that it is.

        So what? I’m not asking a rhetorical question here.Report

        • Avatar Adrian Rutt says:

          I don’t even have to stipulate that it is; I know this is why I can do these things. I guess my point is that, in my opinion, this is a dangerous mindset and attitude to cultivate in people. I only ask, apparently with no foundation on which to ask, that there be balance. Spending most of our lives living the life we so ardently are fighting for and spend less of it arguing for it. Does that make sense? It barely makes sense in my head.Report

          • Avatar pillsy says:

            I don’t even have to stipulate that it is; I know this is why I can do these things. I guess my point is that, in my opinion, this is a dangerous mindset and attitude to cultivate in people.

            I agree, in that I think cultivating the mindset and attitude that having privilege is a personal failing or character flaw is actually really dumb and dangerous and bad.

            To engage with it on its own terms, even if you fail to pull back and spend time enjoying your life, you will still have your white and class privilege, you’ll just be privileged and miserable.

            I only ask, apparently with no foundation on which to ask, that there be balance. Spending most of our lives living the life we so ardently are fighting for and spend less of it arguing for it. Does that make sense? It barely makes sense in my head.

            On the contrary, I think it makes perfect sense and is absolutely something you are justified in wanting and in doing.Report

      • Avatar Francis says:

        “somehow … this is always twisted to look like I can only do these things because of white and class privilege”

        I find this to be utterly incoherent. I will stipulate that the internet is full of terrible people. I may even be one of them. But to define your opponents only by their most extreme members is just a recast of the Heckler’s Veto. As best I can tell, no one on this thread has accused you of failing to adjust your privilege. But at the same time, no one has the right to speak without consequence.

        You insist on speaking in absolutes at the exact same time that on this very thread people are trying to have a nuanced conversation. I, for one, would have disagreed much less with what you wrote if you had ameliorated your language just a little. You can’t sit and admire a forest without being heckled? Sure you can. Prejudice is “the worst” thing? For some people, maybe. For billions of others, not so much. Having the time to read is “always” twisted into a discussion about privilege? Really? All your conversations are pointless because your interlocutors refuse to accept that you take your positions in good faith? Find a different group of people to talk to. Refuse to accept the Heckler’s Veto.

        So, read any good books lately?Report

        • Avatar Adrian Rutt says:

          I don’t understand how I am being accused of not having a nuanced conversation. I am not speaking in absolutes; I am speaking from my experiences personally and offering that up as, not a defense, but another point to be addressed (or brushed aside, I guess). I, personally, do not think I am recasting my opponents in an extreme light because I am finding it increasingly difficult to speak with people on issues such as these without a complete awestruck-ness and disgust coming from my interlocutors when I say something like ‘political correctness was at one time a force for good, but now it’s swung too far.’ I never accused anyone on this tread of accusing me of ‘checking my privilege’ as far as I can tell, so I don’t understand that point.

          I assume, like I try to be with certain interpretations, a sense of sympathy with writers: I believe that instances of rhetoric shouldn’t be taken as absolutes. Yes, I can admire a forest without being heckled. Yes, some people – many people – don’t care about prejudice, but I feel as though a lot more do. So while your point is well-taken, I do feel as though people should try to be better in assuming, more or less, people are always speaking with psychiatric therapy “I feel…” language when they are speaking with authority or confidence. At least I do, and maybe this is wrong.

          In any case, about that last point about not being viewed as an honest interlocutor: I feel as though you are far too optimistic in believing minority clubs, feminist groups, or similar institutions are willing to hear what I have to say. I can’t even get in the door, which is why I think not getting in the door is in and of itself a problem. At best, an oddity. I don’t speak with authority on minority issues in any sense whatsoever – I actually can’t. I am simply committed to believing isolationism and us-them thinking can and might lead to unintended consequences – consequences that at least might be tempered with the inclusion of some “outsiders.”

          I’m sorry if you feel I haven’t been having a nuanced conversation. Maybe I’m misunderstanding what people have been asking me…Report

          • Avatar Maribou says:

            @adrian-rutt I appreciate the kernel of what you’re saying in the post, but as a reader, I found that the rhetoric took away (sharply) from your points rather than enhancing them.

            I think if you want to get away from “us-them” thinking, it’s fairly important not to use a term (“social justice warrior” / SJW ) that is strongly associated with us-them thinking. It may also be useful to be less binary in your rhetoric, since binaries tend to lead to further binaries. And if you are *particularly* attacking a form of binary thinking, it is *particularly* likely to lead to misunderstandings.

            This isn’t political correctness, it’s a combination of a basic level of demonstrating respect with employing accurate word choice (things you shine at in other contexts.)

            On a purely writerly note, you don’t need overblown “always” “completely” “never” etc to achieve confidence in your writing. In my experience, confident writers rarely resort to absolutes.Report

          • Avatar Francis says:

            But Adrian, while you claim in this response that you are not speaking in absolutes, your post and follow-up comments are in fact full of absolutes, to wit:

            ” I cannot sit and admire a forest without being reminded …” Yes, actually, you can.

            ” there is seemingly nothing around us that can be construed as ‘good-faith.’” Sure there is. You just have to (a) make an effort at it, and (b) limit your conversations to people who are willing to listen in good faith.

            “one time the Left was intellectual and reformist, whereas now it is purely ivory-tower elites…” Purely? There are no members of the Left who are intellectual and reformist? What about Black Lives Matter?

            “The Enlightenment’s ‘prejudice against prejudice’ project is an impossible one.” Impossible? I would swear that in the last 150 years the lives of women, various racial minorities and now sexual minorities have changed radically for the better. Prejudice against prejudice works!

            Reading is “always twisted” into privilege. Always?

            Words like “cannot”, “nothing”, “purely”, “impossible”, and “always” do not convey nuance. To me at least, they convey a sense of self-righteousness that is identical to the self-righteousness being complained of.

            To conclude this discussion, I will point out that the groups who are denying you access and won’t even listen to your sage advice are nameless and faceless, and the denials of access float untethered to particular events. Again, to me, this conveys nothing more than a complaint of being unheard. While the internet has given ordinary people extraordinary freedom of speech, there is as yet no way to guarantee that anyone will listen.

            All that said, I think you have a point that many activist communities of all shapes and sizes could do a better job of listening. But who is in a position to tell them so?Report

            • Avatar Adrian Rutt says:

              Point taken Francis. Looking back over my post and your criticisms I see what you’re saying. I spoke in absolutes (somewhat unintentionally) because no one listens to moderate positions, and I hoped to make clear some glaring problems (that I personally have) clearer. I will head back into the lab and continue to try and make my writing better, less flamboyant and more tempered. Thank you.

              But an odd accusation is that these specific problems I am having have no specific events tied to them thus, it seems as though you are implying that all this is just made up in my head; that I haven’t been barred from groups, clubs, and conversations before. Of course I didn’t mention these specific instances: apparently too many personal gripes one gets attacked for being too anecdotal while the other way you just get called too general and abstract to have a point. Perhaps this is the fault of my writing, but I am happy to tell you at length situations that illustrate the point that the conversation is dying off and we are becoming ever-more fractured with every passing day.

              Again, you gave the same examples in this response and I addressed them earlier: of course all of the things I said weren’t true across the board and at all times and forever; who actually reads pieces as if (even it looks like that’s what the author is saying) the author has finally found the One True Answer rather than offering a perhaps different aspect to the conversation? So yes, the Left for the most part was reformist at one point then postmodernism hit (not making value judgement here, God forbid) and a belief in actionable reform somewhat (not totally) dwindled. That’s all I was saying. I guess the implication here is in the form of a question: don’t you realize who is giving all these grassroots social justice efforts and projects their foundations? The intelligentsia and academia. Again, not a value judgement either way.

              And you didn’t understand what I meant by prejudice against prejudice; your example illustrates having a specific prejudice toward people with certain beliefs and it worked out for those groups. Which I am in support of.

              All in all, your point is taken: I need to shutup and think more. Noted.Report

              • Avatar Francis says:

                Thank you for your gracious response. I appreciate your willingness to reach out and understand the point I was trying to make.

                By the way, I certainly did not intend that you need to shutup. I thought your essay was interesting and I encourage you to continue to write. Commenting is much easier than facing a white computer screen and putting words down.Report

              • Avatar Maribou says:

                @adrian-rutt “because no one listens to moderate positions,”

                I hope (and believe) that when you’ve been around here a bit longer, you’ll change that assumption. There’s a vast gap between “listens to” and “argues with”…Report

              • Avatar Adrian Rutt says:

                You know, I was just thinking about this the other day. Perhaps I was a little too flamboyant from the outset because that’s what “sells” in this “industry.” It was by no means intentional, and I probably let my cynicism take over a tad too much, and probably owe most readers and writers here an apology for that.

                Not that it matters at this point, but I truly am a moderate when it comes to most things i.e. I tend not to have radicalized opinions about much. Strong, yes; crazy, no. Thanks for all the feedback.Report

  11. Avatar Simon says:

    Burt Likko: Respectfully, I think this is a too-extreme characterization of that facet of the post’s argument.

    OP argues that the activists only want to claim “the last word,” that “it’s no longer a question of how or why but when” they will do so. The final paragraph seems to forecast the rise of a legal regime that will codify these oppressive tendencies. “Apocalypse” was hyperbole, but OP was who set the stakes.Report

  12. Avatar Kim says:

    Writing from a special place in hell,
    I just want to say that you’ve completely mischaracterized everything —
    which buys into some rightwing framing and misses the pathology altogetherReport

    • Avatar Adrian Rutt says:

      Undoubtedly knew someone would come along and wisp away everything. Genuinely interested in being pointed in the right direction here, thanks!Report

  13. Avatar Kazzy says:

    I’ll start by conceding that there are some historical factors in this dynamic you discuss that I simply don’t know well enough to comment on.

    So I’ll start by sharing some personal anecdotes.

    I went to Boston College during the early 2000s. BC is a Jesuit school. The Jesuits are probably one of the more liberal wings of the Catholic Church (I’ll let the more religiously informed correct me if I’m wrong) with an explicit commitment to social justice. But they remain an order of the Catholic Church. So when I was on campus, the major debate was amending the school’s anti-discrimination policy to offer LGBT folks the same protections it offered other groups; at the time, it only offered the protections required by state law. Practically, I’m not sure how much this matter. I believe that, technically, gay students could be kicked out of school simply for being gay. But I never heard of this actually happening*. In fact, I had two gay roommates in college, both of whom were out and didn’t seem to suffer any ill effect, at least not at the hands of the school. The school did bar funding or space for any sort of LGBT club or gay/straight alliance, which does not seem inconsequential. But they also allowed events like a “Guess Who’s Gay?” presentation/discussion to take place. My roommates never reported any particular feelings of exclusion. However, they were both deeply involved in the theater community on campus and my time spent with them in that space said they likely had a different (and gayer) experience than did most undergrads. I know that one of them did make an attempt on his life during junior year (which I didn’t learn about until well after the fact) but I am not really comfortable speculating as to what, if any role, is experience as a gay man at a Jesuit university played in that choice.

    Anyway, while the debate was ongoing about the non-discrimination policy, two primary slogans arose. I don’t know from where they emanated and if they were from the same group/source or different ones. One was “Gay? Fine by me.” The other was “Intolerance will not be tolerated.” The former was emblazoned on t-shirts while the latter took the form of window signs. I adopted the latter. To me, it felt like the better approach, not just in terms of the likelihood of success but also in terms of engaging with the “opponent”. I knew many kids who opposed this rule change. Most of them had no personal issue with gays. They were friends (or roommates!) with my roommates. Their objection was primarily an appeal to Church teaching. And while I did not agree with them, I was able to engage with them and have worthwhile conversation that tended to yield mutual growth. The tone of the messages was so different. “Gay? Fine by me…” essentially said, “Hey man, I’m good with all comers… gay or otherwise.” “Intolerance will not be tolerated” seemed to be saying, “Agree with me or you are not welcome.”

    Now, I’m straight. So it is hard for me to say that the gay students should have had to embrace/accept/tolerate the presence of people who might very genuinely have hated them. I don’t know what sort of toll that takes on a person. But it strikes me that starting a conversation by listing what is off-the-table can mean that conversation ends before it begins and, with it, any opportunity for growth or understanding. I can understand wanting to set ground rules for respect and civility… and, yes, as we have said here certain positions are so beyond the pale that proactively barring them might be justified… but it doesn’t strike me that we should respond the same way to the guy who says, “Ya know, I’m just not sure we should allow gay marriage,” as we do to the guy who says, “God hates fags.” That doesn’t mean we should accept or agree with the former, but we should tolerate his idea at least insofar as we allow it into the space to be discussed, debated, and disagreed with.

    Now, I’m not exactly sure how this fits into what Adrian is saying here. I think I agree with him in part but also disagree that this is a one-sided coin. I bristle at the term Social Justice Warrior because, ironically, it feels like another way of shutting out a set of opinions.

    President Obama just made some very salient remarks during his commencement speech at Howard. We may throw it up on Linkage, but here is the relevant excerpt:
    “Another Howard alum, Zora Neale Hurston, once said — this is a good quote here: “Nothing that God ever made is the same thing to more than one person.” Think about that. That’s why our democracy gives us a process designed for us to settle our disputes with argument and ideas and votes instead of violence and simple majority rule.
    So don’t try to shut folks out, don’t try to shut them down, no matter how much you might disagree with them. There’s been a trend around the country of trying to get colleges to disinvite speakers with a different point of view, or disrupt a politician’s rally. Don’t do that — no matter how ridiculous or offensive you might find the things that come out of their mouths. Because as my grandmother used to tell me, every time a fool speaks, they are just advertising their own ignorance. Let them talk. Let them talk. If you don’t, you just make them a victim, and then they can avoid accountability.
    That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t challenge them. Have the confidence to challenge them, the confidence in the rightness of your position. There will be times when you shouldn’t compromise your core values, your integrity, and you will have the responsibility to speak up in the face of injustice. But listen. Engage. If the other side has a point, learn from them. If they’re wrong, rebut them. Teach them. Beat them on the battlefield of ideas. And you might as well start practicing now, because one thing I can guarantee you — you will have to deal with ignorance, hatred, racism, foolishness, trifling folks. (Laughter.) I promise you, you will have to deal with all that at every stage of your life. That may not seem fair, but life has never been completely fair. Nobody promised you a crystal stair. And if you want to make life fair, then you’ve got to start with the world as it is.
    So that’s my advice. That’s how you change things. Change isn’t something that happens every four years or eight years; change is not placing your faith in any particular politician and then just putting your feet up and saying, okay, go. Change is the effort of committed citizens who hitch their wagons to something bigger than themselves and fight for it every single day.”
    To me, that is social justice.

    Okay, I’ve got more to say but I should probably stop for now.

    * Rumor was they would only kick gay kids out if they were caught having sex. But technically everyone who was unmarried on campus (read: all undergrads) was barred from “cohabitating” with expulsion as a possible consequence. It is hard to know if gay cohabitators were subject to the same punishments as straight cohabitators because I never heard of anyone actually getting punished for it. It also seems worth noting that this rule included barring men and women from rooming/dorming together on campus, but yet they let my two gay roommates not only live in the same suite, but the same room (though they did not have a romantic relationship). This irony was not lost on us. “Hey, man… you two are the only ones with a chance to fuck your roommate. No fair!”Report

    • Avatar Art Deco says:

      The Jesuits are probably one of the more liberal wings of the Catholic Church (I’ll let the more religiously informed correct me if I’m wrong)

      More precise descriptions have been ‘gnostic cult’ and ‘devoted to the charisms of single-malt scotch and sodomy’.

      with an explicit commitment to social justice.

      Non sequitur.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        How is it a non sequitur? Like, do you even know what that term means?

        Jesuits believe that Christian faith demands a commitment to justice. This means confronting the structures of our world that perpetuate poverty and injustice. As the religious order declared at its 32nd General Congregation in 1975: “The mission of the Society of Jesus today is the service of faith, of which the promotion of justice is an absolute requirement.”

        The Jesuits undoubtedly have an explicit commitment to social justice. And, in my personal experience, they seem to be one of the liberal of Catholic orders. So, again, how is this a non sequitur?Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          It’s only a non sequitur if you’re currently touring the fine land of Cockaigne.
          Or as I might say to Art, regarding sodomy, — It does take one to know one, doesn’t it?Report

        • Avatar Art Deco says:

          Their foundational purpose was to take back territories and peoples lost to the protestant bodies, though their rule certainly had more elaborate purposes than just that. ‘Justice’ or ‘virtue’ are not incorporated into the particular missions of religious orders. The pursuit of the latter is assumed and the former is a derivative of dispositions to be cultivated in pursuing the latter. There is no religious order whose charism incorporates being indifferent to justice.

          The Jesuits were once invested heavily in teaching. There aren’t enough of them ordained every year to maintain the institutions that finer men founded and the order is far too corrupt at any level of manpower to accomplish much good, so you’ve got ruins like Georgetown and BC and Marquette.Report

        • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

          That’s kind of the point I was driving at, that the entire project of religion is literally social justice.
          It is darkly hilarious to see contemporary followers of Christ heap such scorn and derision on its founding principle.

          Its also why I reject the framing premise, that wanting to enact a law to recognize same sex marriage is some new thing called “Social Justice”, but wanting to enact a law blocking transgendered people from taking a pee is just, well, morality.

          Everyone wants to construct society according to some version of moral precepts. The more people strain to show that their moral intuitions are neutral, objective and universal, the more difficult it becomes to engage constructively with those who disagree.Report

          • Avatar Art Deco says:

            that the entire project of religion is literally social justice.

            Uh, no. Corporal works of mercy are in service to spiritual works of mercy.Report

            • Avatar DavidTC says:

              Corporal works of mercy are in service to spiritual works of mercy.

              That sentence is not actually true.

              First, let’s assume that your use of the terms ‘corporal works of mercy’ and ‘spiritual works of mercy’ are a reference to the Catholic concept of ‘Works of Mercy’. (If you’re referring to some *other* religious concept that coincidentally uses those same terms, disregard this.)

              In Catholism, ‘corporal works of mercy’ and ‘spiritual works of mercy’ are….not the same thing, nor does the first have anything to do with the second, except that they are both under the concept of ‘Works of Mercy’.

              The corporal Works of Mercy are (mostly) from Matthew 25:34-40. (The part of the Bible where Jesus say ‘You guys helped me, you other guys didn’t’, and both parties are like ‘What? We never even saw you!’, and Jesus say ‘Yeah, but I’m judging you based on how you treated random people.’) and they are: To feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, to visit the sick, to visit the imprisoned, and to bury the dead.

              The spiritual Works of Mercy are: To instruct the ignorant, to counsel the doubtful, to admonish sinners, to bear wrongs patiently, to forgive offences willingly, to comfort the afflicted, to pray for the living and the dead.

              If you map those out…there aren’t any of the first things that lead to the second thing. (Before someone gets excited about ‘to comfort the afflicted’, realize that means *talking to them*, not ‘giving them food’.)

              The Catholic church created a deliberate *mirror* of lists of corporal and spiritual works, and said you should do both. They didn’t make some sort of ladder where doing corporal works are done *in service* to spiritual work. Those are two sets of completely independent things you’re supposed to do. (According to the Catholic Church, at least.)Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

        ‘devoted to the charisms of single-malt scotch and sodomy’.

        You make the Jesuits sound a lot more fun than they really are.Report

  14. Avatar notme says:

    Here is a perfect example. A bunch of SJWs getting together to complain about who is the biggest victim of micro aggressions.

    UVA student: ‘American’ identity ‘the most blatant microaggression’


  15. Avatar Tess Kovach says:

    The OP makes me recall this news story.

    There are activists who blaze past all norms and try to impose their “my way is the only justice” typology. I just think they are rare. Most people who the right disparages as SJW’s are actually way more incremental and compromising than they are given credit for. Even Roxanne Gay, in the article linked above, came to regret the brashness of the act – but the thing is this: her heart was probably in the right place.

    All that really matters is whether someone is acting with good intentions. I’m one of those rare people who think most people really do act with good intentions.Report

    • Avatar Adrian Rutt says:

      Me too, which is why I wish people afforded me the same sympathy. I only criticize these movements in an effort to show how they can improve and why people are opposing them in toto. Not as an elitist, but as someone who understands the fear that some of these opposing groups rightly have but undoubtedly blow out of proportion.Report

    • Avatar Damon says:

      “All that really matters is whether someone is acting with good intentions.”

      No. Hell no. What matters is what one DOES. If someone is acting with good intentions and kills 20 million people, they still killed 20m people. Your position excuses that butchery.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Killers don’t have excuses. They have justifications. Occasionally even good ones.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC says:

        If someone is acting with good intentions and kills 20 million people, they still killed 20m people.

        I think there is a bit of a confusion here between ‘believe they have good intentions’ and ‘have objectively good intentions’. If someone with actual good intentions kills 20 million people, they either did it by accident, or they did it to avert something worse…and thus, yes, we should not treat them as badly as someone who deliberately kills 20 million people because they legitimately thought the world would be better off without them. That said, ‘not as badly’ is doing a lot of work there, and someone *accidentally* killing 20 million people is still going to prison forever.

        That said, it’s exceptionally weird to hear someone defend SJW with ‘they had good intentions’, considering that, as *they* often point out, ‘intent isn’t magic’.

        And what they’re talking about is, for example, when someone of, say, Asian descent is constantly asked ‘Where are you from?’ and stuff like that, from well-intentioned people…which would be fine if it rarely happened, but actually becomes a constant annoyance to Asian-Americans who have to keep explaining they’re from *America*.

        I.e., they get that no one asking that intends any harm with that question…but intent isn’t magic. Good intentions do not fix the problem there.

        (This sort of thing is often, confusingly, lumped into microaggressions, although I’ve always thought that, technically, microagressions require *bad* intentions.)

        So it’s weird to hear ‘Sure, SJWs are often idiots, but their intentions are good.’.Report

        • Avatar Damon says:

          “I think there is a bit of a confusion here between ‘believe they have good intentions’ and ‘have objectively good intentions’.”

          There are significant differences. I’d argue that the intention matters, like state of mind, in the punishment/consequences phase. Someone who kills 20m people intentionally should be pushed differently that someone who accidentally/did it for good intentions, but the fact is they killed 20m people.

          When I ask someone “where are you from” i mean from the states unless it’s obvious they aren’t citicizens. And it’s usually with Asians,because frankly, I can’t tell the different between korean, japanese, and chinese folks easily.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Excesses from the ingroup are rare.
      Excesses from the outgroup are representative.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      Do you in fact excuse the murder of innocent children, when the person who ordered it done did it with good intentions?

      For what it’s worth, I might, if I trusted the person’s judgement enough — murder’s quick, and it doesn’t hurt the child much.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

        Is a person who loses control of a car and accidentally kills a little old lady a worse person than one who stabs a little old lady nearly, but not quite, to death?Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          I’d need a HELL of a lot more information to decide.
          (I really side with Kant only about torture. Murder’s fair game for utilitarianism to me).

          What you’re introducing into the equation is negligence (possibly on both parties part – did the person who stabbed the old lady intend to kill her)…

          Is the person at fault for losing control of the car? There are some results that we can call “Act of G-d”… should that change our reading of the material?Report

          • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

            If intentions don’t matter, what’s the difference? One results in a dead little old lady and the other merely an almost-dead little old lady.Report

            • Avatar Kim says:

              Intentions matter, of course, but results matter a hell of a lot more.
              In that case, and from that perspective, the dead old lady is a lot better off than the “still dying” old lady.Report

  16. Avatar trizzlor says:

    Anytime you have a major shift in mores, many people will figure out how to hold on to their outdated values will paying lip service to the new ones. I know plenty of folks who have simply replaced “niggers” with “black culture” in their lexicon, and carried on with all the same prejudices and ugliness. What do you do with such people? What recourse do you have, as a minority, if every time you hail a cab the white folks down the block will get picked up first. Or if you’re getting less interview call-backs than your friend with the identical revenue and WASPy name? You got your black president and nobody’s making you use a separate drinking fountain, so quit your complaining, right?

    A lot of people feel like they are being discriminated against even though they cannot point to a specific culprit. That is a serious problem. The SJW assumption of bad faith is not ideal, and often makes things worse, but somehow this problem has to be resolved.Report

    • Avatar Adrian Rutt says:

      This is beautifully stated. Perhaps you thought that my post was too extreme or not sympathetic to what you just said, but I believe you hit the nail on the head with a bit calmer of an attitude.

      Maybe you think I’m contradicting my post with agreeing with you but I am not but I don’t feel as though I am.Report

    • Avatar dragonfrog says:

      I don’t think that the basic SJW assumption is bad faith, so much as ignorance of one’s ingrained mental habits.

      That is – the assumption in your examples above is not that the cabby goes “Oh, a black person, I will avoid them”. It’s that they see two people trying to hail a cab and go “My gut feeling is that of the two potential fairs, that person looks more clean-cut and reputable, I will pick them up”. That their perception of “clean-cut” is influenced by race, such that the black guy in a hoody looks a bit too ‘gangster’ for their comfort, for not entirely articulable reasons, while the white guy in a similar hoody just looks like a casually dressed preppy, is not down to malice.

      So of course the working assumption is that the party who disagrees with you is mistaken and in need of ‘consciousness raising’ or ‘education’ – this is a human universal.

      Alsotoo, there is a lot of bad faith to go around, and anyone who’s tried to change anything through political means has been exposed to a fair bit of it, no matter their political stripe. Sometimes that is going to lead to formation of prejudices about of your opponents, on the basis of the few opponents who intrude most forcefully and threateningly into your life.Report

      • Avatar Catchling says:

        A constant challenge for the SJW movement is finding the balance between normalizing bigotry enough that people recognize it when they otherwise might not, yet shaming it enough that people will confront it. Too far in either direction, and the reaction will either be that bigotry is no big deal, or that it is really rare.Report

      • Avatar trizzlor says:

        >>I don’t think that the basic SJW assumption is bad faith, so much as ignorance of one’s ingrained mental habits.

        In general, I agree both with this interpretation of the SJWs and with the underlying concept itself. However you *do* see instances of, say, people getting racially triggered (their words) by seeing “Trump 2016” chalked on the sidewalk, which hinges entirely on a bad faith assumption.Report

        • Avatar dragonfrog says:

          Yeah, that kind of goes to my last paragraph above. The majority of Trump supporters would probably not punch a black protestor for holding up a sign at a rally, but the minority who have sure are fuelling some negative prejudices about the rest.Report

          • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

            I don’t think a majority of Trump supporters would trump a protester, but I do think a protester aren’t going to be upset at all a protester got punched. As opposed to say, I think a majority of Marco Rubio attendees at a rally would get upset if a protester got punched simply for protesting Rubio.Report

    • Avatar Art Deco says:

      I know plenty of folks who have simply replaced “niggers” with “black culture” in their lexicon, and carried on with all the same prejudices and ugliness.

      People are now obligated to be admirers of family relations, personal tastes, and the strata of values modal in and among blacks? How extensively does this apply? Is this obligation a standing rebuke to people fond of phrases like ‘godbag Christofascist’ or does it just apply to people alienated from one or another liberal mascot group?Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        You can engage with what trizzlor actually said or you can trot out your usual crap. You decide. Right now, you’re doing the latter.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Everyone knows that the only people you’re allowed to not admire are the people who beat their kids to death.

        Name That Ethnicity! Go go go!Report

  17. Avatar Adrian Rutt says:

    Not that anyone’s going to get this far down to read this lonely comment, but I just wanted to note that I agree with the social justice movements insofar as they stop short of trying to change legislation on said issues they are raising awareness of. Unless, of course, specific, well-thought out, and reasonably crafted legislation aiming to remedy something can be concretely pointed to. Otherwise specific, case-by-case grievances are all that should be done to slowly weed out the rampant “isms” one finds on a daily basis. I know, this is a giant value judgement.Report

    • Avatar Joe Sal says:

      Well I must say, currently at 215 comments isn’t bad at all. You sure must have given us something we needed to joust about. Keep up the good work, apologize less. Take no offenses from the madhattings.

      Welcome aboard.Report

    • Avatar Maribou says:

      @adrian-rutt To clarify your actual position a bit (and to avoid peppering you with my own examples), could you provide a few cases of what you feel to be reasonably crafted legislation (current or historical, proposed or enacted), vs a few cases that should’ve never gotten to “there outta be a law!” in which actual laws were proposed and/or enacted?

      That’s a post in itself maybe, so no worries if you don’t want to go into it in a comment…. but I’d be less thrown off by your rhetoric if I had some concrete examples to accompany it, I think.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      “Otherwise specific, case-by-case grievances are all that should be done to slowly weed out the rampant “isms” one finds on a daily basis.”

      And in the meantime the targets of those “isms” should just continue to struggle with them?

      Not everything can and should be done through the legislature. But some things are not only best accomplished that way, but sometimes are the only way to accomplish them.

      Let’s not pretend this is a one way street either. Why did we have a wave of successful lawsuits that brought us marriage equality? In part because some folks decided to “change legislation” and make gay marriage illegal at the federal level. Why has NC become a battleground for transgender folks’ rights? Because the state “changed legislation” to overturn a city’s “changed legislation”, in the process instituting a far broader change.

      An assumption behind this mindset is that the “isms” just spontaneously rose up independent of any legislation past, present, or future that was explicitly aimed at cultivating and maintaining those very “isms”.Report

  18. Avatar Chris says:

    That’s not at all what Gadamer meant.Report

  19. Avatar Jon says:

    Adrien, I thought that Social Justice was the idea that current economic inequality for women and racial minorities, considered as a group, was the result of at least in part current, and historic, animus and discrimination. Proponents of social justice advocate that remedying the current prejudice against those groups will then result in reduction of that economic inequality. Is this correct?

    Another question. What is the consequence of the error you point out of the other social justice adherents?