Forget “Social Justice Warriors” and meet the Ctrl-Left.
Progressive Left. Liberals .Social Justice Warriors.
These words are supposedly synonymous and representative of a certain type of political identity, one where people are concerned about social inequality and aim at correcting it.
It involves many activists, coming from and focusing on diverse societal issues, being racial, gender-driven or against normativity and what is called the “status-quo”. Feminism (the modern version aka third wave) is strongly represented, as well as the LGBTQ community and vocal diversity advocates.
I discussed many of these themes in the past, and never hid my deep sympathy for the underlying causes defended by these groups. After all, I was always politically driven towards the left (aka “french socialism”), although getting more center-left as I grew older (either from loosing the “passion” or getting wiser…). As a physician, I can't understand non-universal healthcare (I can understand it economically, but not philosophically) and always refused to work in an environment where it isn't in place, even if it would mean major personal gain.
I despise racism, sexism as per standard definitions, and understand well the concept of privilege and limits of meritocracy. I wrote in the past about my annoyance with “edginess” and trolling and the equivalency of “shitposting” with free-speech.
“I must be a Social Justice Warrior then. I am clearly a liberal.”
These are honest questions I asked myself early on when confronted with the online controversy named GamerGate.
One part of GamerGate was clearly about gaming journalism, one part was more political, and quite complex in that regards. I will not discuss this again. I will focus on some “targets” and later very vocal “opponents” of GamerGate.
Many (if not all) people significantly fighting GamerGate were identified as or sympathetic to the Social Justice Warriors. Initially, I thought that it was quite logical, as a major flaw of GamerGate was to constantly mix opinions it didn’t like with wrong-doing, and most of these opinions were related to “progressive” ideas. Many developers and journalists were trying to change the discourse around gaming from a male dominated medium to a more diversity friendly medium. Although many obviously ignored the great history of gaming and its natural diversity, while focusing on a very recent definition of the field (it seems that it started with Call of Duty for strange reasons…) I found that they had to be lauded for their objective, at least the one they claim they had. After all, I did find way more excitement in smaller indie games than in large western productions in recent years, and the prospect of seeing more games exploring difficult, unusual or emotional themes with original interactions was definitely something I would support (I say “more” here, because such games have existed since gaming has).
However, I was quickly surprised by the challenges in approaching and having an honest interaction with these people. Where people within GamerGate were open to constructive criticism, people actively opposing it were quite agressive at the simple suggestion that the story required a careful analysis of the dynamics at play. In my case, this culminated when I “interacted” with a well known online activist, who presented herself as expert in online harassment. I wasn’t greeted with a discussion or rebuttal as I expected but with a flow of abuse from her fans.
This made me rethink a lot about these people, I thought of them as “bullies with a good cause”. But I was still convinced that they cared about Social Justice. I was wrong.
Let’s jump a year and a half later.
GamerGate has mostly crumbled under the weight of its lack of focus and leadership, the complex cultural chaos introduced by the 2016 U.S election finishing to divide it in smaller tribes. It doesn’t mean anything regarding those who were actively engaged two years prior. Of course, they continue to be painted as negatively as possible based on the behaviour of a few, part of a hardcore fringe subcomponent (there would be much to write on this type of reporting online and in the press… later).
More interestingly, current revelations shine a different light on many of the vocal opponents to GamerGate, the most significant being the so-called ConLeaks. They show that some of the most prominent voices actively blaming GamerGate for many social ills were in fact engaging in activities associated with online abuse, such as doxing, going after people’s jobs or maneuvering to have dissenting content removed.
Worst are of course the discovery of sexual abuse by other very vocal “SJW”.
Yes, you read well. He would have more respect for ISIS than for who he called the “anti-Quinn” people. What’s their crime? Investigating her potential wrongdoing? Asking embarrassing question? Being abusive online? (the ConLeaks actually put in question many assertions of actual online abuse of these supposed targets). But even if so, ISIS? Really?
Beyond the hyperbole, the ConLeaks and the revelation of him as a true abuser, not online but in real life, following other similar stories, have to raise many interrogations. The one that interests me most here is
“so what about Social Justice”?
Can you be a Social Justice advocate if you are promoting abuse, sexual or otherwise? Are you really that concerned about betterment of women’s condition if you are yourself a sexual predator? Are you really fighting online abuse if you are versed in its worst manifestations?
Of course not. So what with all this apparent focus on Social Justice? What’s its function, its role?
Imagine that you have minimal to zero talent, have a lot of “baggage” and are still looking to “make it”. Not easy now, is it?
Now imagine that you discover that people are happily backing/funding projects made by people like you, as long as you are validating their biases? The only prerequisite is that you are embracing themes of Social Justice, showing strong feminist or anti-racist stances and that’s it. Would you not be tempted to join? To use some relationships you had to be part of this new juicy pie?
On top of it, imagine that people from another field, journalists, were tired of doing what they’re supposed to do, reporting on facts, but wanted to be “leading the charge”, to become taste makers? You’ll get a golden opportunity, your positioning being synergistic to their need.
They’ll report on you, you’ll say what they want, allowing them to report on themselves through you.
Now you have it, these people don’t care and never cared about Social Justice. They cared about their self promotion, and they manipulated the system to succeed. They obtained control of the narrative surrounding their actions because of their symbiotic interaction with the media, who are the one validating narratives in the eyes of the public. In an age of massive information, where fact-checking is difficult and often considered unnecessary because people prefer to believe what makes them feel validated, the control of information is power. If you tell a lie enough times and through “credible sources”, people will believe it. “I’m a feminist”, “I’m an anti-abuse specialist”, “I’m a creative dev”, etc… As long as you control or work in concert with those who deliver these “truths” to the public, they will become “The Truth”. Add some hyperbolic concepts that you can regurgitate at leisure to shut down those who contradict you (think of the neo-definition of racism, sexism or cultural appropriation, as well as “conspiracy theory”), the ability to get the media to generate “thoughtcrime pieces” defaming those who could hamper your progress, and you can really sail quite far, propelled by a sympathetic wind of social appropriateness. It’s really that simple.
That’s why I prefer the appellation “Ctrl-Left” instead of “SJW”, as I feel that these people are living insults to the ideal of Social Justice. They just represent another type of machiavellian manipulators, who would sacrifice anyone and anything to obtain control, power and fame.
Social Justice deserves a voice, they just aren’t it.