Sunday, November 30, 2014


I Googled "social justice" last night and got to sites like Sojourner's and the Maryknolls. Then I Googled "social justice warrior" and got page after page after page. A definition in the Urban Dictionary, articles in BoingBoing and The Nation, a video game, many blogs and websites that I did not want to read, but they looked to be not nice. So there is huge Internet can of worms that I didn't know about.

The Urban Dictionary definition, which is clearly hostile:
A pejorative term for an individual who repeatedly and vehemently engages in arguments on social justice on the Internet, often in a shallow or not well-thought-out way, for the purpose of raising their own personal reputation. A social justice warrior, or SJW, does not necessarily strongly believe all that they say, or even care about the groups they are fighting on behalf of. They typically repeat points from whoever is the most popular blogger or commenter of the moment, hoping that they will "get SJ points" and become popular in return. They are very sure to adopt stances that are "correct" in their social circle.

The SJW's favorite activity of all is to dogpile. Their favorite websites to frequent are Livejournal and Tumblr. They do not have relevant favorite real-world places, because SJWs are primarily civil rights activists only online.
Thinking about this, it is not fair. The people I know who might be called social justice warriors are completely sincere, and I would not call them shallow. So what is wrong? I am still working this out. But there's a group dynamic that makes me uneasy, and they do pile onto people they think are wrong.

I then Googled "identity politics" and got to Wikipedia and this as a criticism of identity politics:
(The historian Eric) Hobsbawm, in particular, has criticized nationalisms, and the principle of national self-determination adopted internationally after World War I, since national governments are often merely an expression of a ruling class or power, and their proliferation was a source of the wars of the 20th century. Hence Hobsbawm argues that identity politics, such as queer nationalism, Islamism, Cornish nationalism or Ulster Loyalism are just other versions of bourgeois nationalism.
A similar comment shows up in an essay I just read on the philosopher and social scientist Istvan Meszaros:
The diversity of "identities" is used to divide labor within itself and thus becomes a vital tool for the preservation of the alienated system.
More cogent maybe is this comment by Foxessa on one of my earlier posts:
My personal opinion is that the confusion and cross-purpose discussion arise on all points by a confusion of identity politics, social justice and civil rights.

They may, and often do, hold hands at points, but they are not one and same.

Identity politics has huge potential for toxicity, see Israel and Palestine, for a single example, particularly if one includes religion as part of identity which both the Israelis and Palestinians do. That identity politik prevents any vision of social justice or civil rights developing.

This being the USA, who can only see and think in binary mode: yes, no; right, wrong; good, bad; us, them...


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