Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Social Justice Warriors vs Reactionary Conservatives

By Scott Alexander

SlateStarCodex.Com

The social justice narrative describes a political-economic elite dominated by white males persecuting anybody who doesn’t fit into their culture, like blacks, women, and gays. The anti-social-justice narrative describes an intellectual-cultural elite dominated by social justice activists persecuting anybody who doesn’t fit into their culture, like men, theists, and conservatives. Both are relatively plausible; Congress and millionaires are 80% – 90% white; journalists and the Ivy League are 80% – 90% leftist.

The narratives share a surprising number of other similarities. Both, for example, identify their enemy with the spirit of a discredited mid-twentieth century genocidal philosophy of government; fascists on the one side, communists on the other. Both believe they’re fighting a war for their very right to exist, despite the lack of any plausible path to reinstituting slavery or transitioning to a Stalinist dictatorship. Both operate through explosions of outrage at salient media examples of their out-group persecuting their in-group.

They have even converged on the same excuse for what their enemies call “politicizing” previously neutral territory – that what their enemies call “politicizing” is actually trying to restore balance to a field the other side has already successfully politicized. For example, on Vox recently a professor accused of replacing education with social justice propaganda in her classroom counterargues that:

All of my students, regardless of the identity categories they embraced, had been taught their entire lives that real literature is written by white people. Naturally, they felt they were being cheated by this strange professor’s “agenda”…It is worth asking, Who can most afford to teach in ways that are least likely to inspire controversy? Those who are not immediately hurt by dominant ideas. And what’s the most dominant idea of them all? That the white, male, heterosexual perspective is neutral, but all other perspectives are biased and must be treated with skepticism […]Have we actually believed the lie that the only people who engage in “identity politics” are black feminists like me? Could it be that when some white men looked at more powerful white men, they could see them only as reasonable and not politically motivated, so they turned off their critical thinking skills when observing their actions? (Not everyone, of course.) Could it be that we only consider people ideologues when they don’t vow allegiance to capitalism?

Compare to the “Sad Puppies”, a group of conservatives accused of adding a conservative bent to science fiction’s Hugo Awards. They retort that “politicization is what leftists call it when you fight back against leftists politicizing something”. As per the Breitbart article:

The chief complaint from the Sad Puppies campaigners is the atmosphere of political intolerance and cliquishness that prevails in the sci-fi community. According to the libertarian sci-fi author Sarah A. Hoyt, whispering campaigns by insiders have been responsible for the de facto blacklisting of politically nonconformist writers across the sci-fi community. Authors who earn the ire of the dominant clique can expect to have a harder time getting published and be quietly passed over at award ceremonies […]Brad R. Torgersen, who managed this year’s Sad Puppies campaign, spoke to Breitbart London about its success: “I am glad to be overturning the applecart. Numerous authors, editors, and markets have been routinely snubbed or ignored over the years because they were not popular inside WSFS or because their politics have made them radioactive.”

Torgersen cites a host of authors who have suffered de facto exclusion from the sci-fi community: David Drake, David Weber, L.E Modesitt Jr, Kevn J. Anderson, Eric Flint, and of course Orson Scott Card — the creator of the world-famous Ender’s Game, which was recently adapted into a successful movie. Despite his phenomenal success, Scott Card has been ostracized by sci-fi’s inner circle thanks to his opposition to gay marriage.

I see minimal awareness from the social justice movement and the anti-social-justice movement that their narratives are similar, and certainly no deliberate intent to copy from one another. That makes me think of this as a case of convergent evolution.

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