SJWism, Emotion, Free Speech and Violence
There’s a recent article over at Role Reboot titled, I’m Done Pretending Men Are Safe (Even My Sons). I hesitated writing about it, because I don’t want to single out the author. It’s not about her as a person, or any one person for that matter. There are countless people who believe in the underlying ideology guiding her piece, an ideology I myself used to preach. It’s not even about the subject of her piece in particular, “rape culture,” and I don’t intend to write about that subject here. It could have been about any number of subjects; what I find striking about it is that it illustrates a few clear examples of what I consider to be the insidious nature of SJW ideology.
Though it claims to be about ending oppression and promoting equality, if taken to its logical conclusion, I believe the ultimate ends of SJWism (or Regressive Leftism) are a normalization of political violence. This may seem absurd with no context, especially if you’re a well-meaning SJW who is in the movement for what you consider to be good intentions. I do believe such people exist, and may even make up a majority of the movement. I got wrapped up in this ideology because I believe inequality still exists, and I thought I was fighting the good fight on behalf of marginalized groups. I no longer believe the latter to be the case, for reasons so complex and yet to be untangled in my mind that they are probably best left for a separate essay.
The long and short of it though, might be that I believe the SJW movement is made up of two different categories of people: those who believe they are there to fight against oppression, and those who are there not because they believe oppression is wrong, but because they want to be the ones oppressing. Professor Jordan B. Peterson and PhD student Christine Brophy have been conducting research on personality predictors of political affiliation and political correctness. They draw a distinction between two types of people they define as PC Egalitarians (or PC Liberals) and PC Authoritarians. According to their research, PC Liberals seem to function as articulate (and in my opinion, often unwitting) apologists for the illiberal ideology of PC Authoritarians, which includes censorship and punishment for what they perceive to be offensive ideas or speech.
Back to the article that served as a springboard for these thoughts. The first quote that flashed to me in lights was:
“I’m through wasting my time on people who are more interested in ideas than feelings…”
This, in a nutshell, is one of the core tenets in the Gospel of SJWism. The ideology prioritizes feelings and emotion over thoughts and ideas. It tells you that whatever you are feeling at the moment is more important than any idea, more important than civil dialogue, more important even than attempting to form and articulate an argument to support your opinion. I see this time and again from the Regressive Left. In this Evergreen State College video compilation of the SJW campus takeover, at the 4:01 mark you can hear a student yell hateful expletives at the President of the College, only to have a nearby SJW justify this by admonishing the President “not to tone police people. These people are angry, and so what matters is WHAT they’re saying, not HOW they’re saying it.”
I couldn’t disagree more. Unfortunately, this is now widely accepted as canon in SJW circles. “Tone-policing” is one of many words and phrases in the SJW lexicon used to justify repugnant behavior and avoid engaging in good faith, all while claiming a false moral high ground. The danger in such a belief — that a person’s actions are subservient to their emotions, their speech — is that when taken to its logical conclusion, it justifies violence as a legitimate response to differing opinions, to differing speech.
If emotions become widely prioritized over ideas, thoughts, facts or arguments, how can we hope to have dialogue, compromise, or peace? In any conversation, if one person‘s feelings are used as an excuse not to engage, the exchange of ideas is essentially over. Imagine if we all behaved this way, if we expected world leaders to behave this way. We’d as a species have no dialogue, no way of coming to peaceful compromise. I believe, as philosopher Karl Popper said, “The war of ideas is…one of the most important inventions ever made. Indeed, the possibility of fighting with words and ideas instead of fighting with swords is the very basis of our civilization.”
The author of the piece goes on to say she doesn’t feel emotionally safe with any man, not even her sons, and that:
“This is not a reflection of something broken or damaged in me; it is a reflection of the systems we build and our boys absorb.”
Another way of saying this might be: ‘I am not responsible for my feelings or my pain. My ideology allows me to make it the fault of the patriarchy, of men, even my sons.’
SJW ideology is attractive because while it prioritizes emotions above dialectic, it simultaneously relieves you of the burden of personal responsibility for said emotions. Anything negative, especially lingering negative feelings, are the fault of those outside of yourself. SJWism is a secular religion meant to make you feel secure and justified in your inability to look at yourself with the same scrutiny you’re willing to look at others. This is another reason I find it to be so dangerous, because in some ways, it functions as a prison. It stifles healthy growth, keeps you ensconced in your pain, and provides you with justification for doling that pain out on others.
The author also writes:
“I teeter frequently between supporting my son and educating him. Is it my job as his mother to ensure he feels safe emotionally, no matter what violence he spews?”
Pay attention to the use of the word violence here. SJWism seeks to control our language for Authoritarian purposes, whether through redefining the definition of “-ism”s, or developing a lexicon that has become abused to squash dissent and free expression. One language trend I’ve seen recently in the Regressive Left is the Orwellian attempt to redefine speech (or opinions) they disagree with as “violence.” This muddying of the distinction between the two allows them not only to repress speech with which they disagree, but to justify physical violence as an acceptable response to speech. Take the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protestors who injured four police officers while attempting to block the Columbus Pride Parade, for instance. Video of the melee revealed one woman yelling at a Pride Parade participant, “Your words are violent!”
This obfuscation of the difference between speech and physical violence appears currently to be most rampant on college campuses. When so-called controversial speakers are cancelled or shouted down, a frequent reason given is that their speech is “violence.” This has sometimes been followed by the Regressive Left employing actual physical violence as a response to the offending ideas. The SJW and Antifa riots over Milo Yiannopoulos at UC Berkeley, the brutality that erupted at Charles Murray’s speech at Middlebury College, the roving gangs of SJWs armed with bats at Evergreen College — all should serve as a cautionary tale of what‘s to come from the SJW Left.
In talking about these issues, one common point I’ve heard is that those within the Regressive Left who are committing this violence are actually in the minority, and are not representative of most of the movement. That may be true for the moment, but with so many unwitting (or not) mouthpieces parroting and defending the ideology, I don’t believe that will continue to be the case. Take for instance the Berkeley student who penned an op-ed against free speech, positing that those with dissenting views are an actual threat, that the concept of free speech has “done nothing more than maintain the white supremacist, capitalistic, and patriarchal” system, and that she “will not put down (her) lighter fuel.” I see the same disregard for the war of ideas in this Princeton op-ed, where a student posits that censorship of free speech is necessary because certain kinds of speech should be redefined as harmful actions: “It’s time we abandon the assumption that actions speak louder than words,” he writes, “because, more often than not, words do more than actions.”
I’m reminded of myself when, as a young and arrogant SJW, I’d often engage in lecturing my Aunt on her many privileges and social evils, unable to see the wisdom in her defiant refrain of, “Keri, you may think your fancy college makes you smarter than me, but there are some things you can only learn in the School of Hard Knocks!” I snickered then, but looking back I blush with shame. “Actions speak louder than words” is more than just an empty aphorism, when the benefit of lived experience has shed light on its essential truth. As someone who’s learned the hard way: someone can tell you what they believe, but it will never be as trustworthy as what they show you with their actions.
The behavior of the Regressive Left — prioritizing emotion over ideas, blaming others for one’s own feelings, attacking free speech and justifying physical violence — tells me more about the ideology’s intended ends than any of their stated beliefs in equality.