“In real life we’re all guards and prisoners at the same time. We are all informants on each other. Contemporary political culture is an autoimmune disorder.”
I agree with your critique, but disagree that whats happening now is anything really new.
Currently, woke liberals accuse other woke liberals of being problematic bigots. In the 90s when I was growing up, it was decent respectable Christians telling other decent respectable Christians that they were going to hell. Before that, in 60s and 70s, it was feminists accusing other feminists of being “male identified” and trashing each other (http://www.jofreeman.com/joreen/trashing.htm). Before that, communist organizations were busy purging their ranks of counter revolutionaries — up to the point that Maoists made self-criticism a cornerstone of their ideology, and enforced it via public shaming and Struggle Sessions ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Struggle_session).
It goes back thousands of years. Its probably as old as human morality. Its a very powerful tendency. When you are caught in it, it feeds itself. You feel like you have to follow all the rules to be a good person, not realizing that the rules are there to STOP you from being a good person (or at least stop you from being seen as one) and give society an excuse to punish/control you. Its very painful, but you feel like you can’t stop without hurting people. You have to follow the rules, and to do so is to exist in a perpetual state of failure and judgment. The only relief is to judge other people: you’re temporarily safe from the judgment of the law by BECOMING the judgment of the law. This also provides a pleasurable rush, because now you have POWER over someone and you got that power by being RIGHT. So you can’t stop acting like a cop because it makes you feel guilty, and you want to keep acting like a cop because it make you feel good.
Again, none of this is new. What IS new is that because of advances in technology, we now have the ability to identify and record every single instance of “wrongdoing.” We can detect each and every time a rule is being broken, and instantly administer punishment. We can analyze a persons facial expressions and body language and use that to identify every moment in that person’s life where they were not a plaster saint. We can look at a person who gives 95% of their income to charity, who spends every waking moment of their life sacrificing themselves for others, and say “Well, we read some psychoanalytic theory, and all of your selfless behavior is ACTUALLY a response to trauma you experienced in your childhood, therefore its selfish and doesn’t count.”
So its not that we suddenly stared to see every single sin, even the tiniest blemish, as a sign that a person is irredeemable. Its that we have ALWAYS seen the tiniest flaw as a mark of damnation, and now, thanks to technology and, we can detect every flaw no matter no small. And we can catalogue it, put it on their permanent record, store it on a hundred redundant servers, and make sure they receive the punishment they deserve. And make sure that nobody ever forgets — after all, if they stop being punished, it would be like letting them get away with their crime, and we can’t have that right?
Still, you may have a point in that something has changed. Because before, the left would have opposed all of this as being tyrannical. Now, they cheer for it. The logic seems to be that its necessary, even good, for people to be in a constant state of terror and coercion by the law, because the privileged have an easier time evading the consequences of their actions and therefore you have to have a Panopticon to make sure they don’t. And mercy is off the table and is in fact a tool of the privileged, because they use it as an excuse to avoid the punishment they deserve for being racist/sexist/homophobic/ whatever.
In short, people have always been judgmental and eager to throw people away for the slightest mistake, advances in technology are giving more opportunities and methods for people to judge others, and the left is doing nothing about this because they think its exclusively effecting people they don’t like.