Friday, November 06, 2015

Steven Universe, or when progressives attack!

There was a case recently where someone who did fan art for Stephen Universe (which I guess is a cartoon, and I guess fan art is a thing? Who knew?) was harassed/bullied so much by people that she threatened suicide. What’s interesting about this is that the bullying was all done by around issues of identity politics. The artist was getting crap for being fat-shaming, or transphobic, or culturally appropriating asians, or white-washing. You can see examples in this article:

Here’s the thing - this was most likely a group of young people harassing another young person, and shouldn’t be taken as representative of how identity groups or social justice movements feel or behave writ large. But it does point to a road that progressives can go down if they aren’t careful. In fact, a lot of it is deriguer Tumblr-level social justice badgering. Tumblr being to progressive commenters what YouTube is to conservative ones.

I was skeptical of political correctness when I was in college in the 90s for some of the same reasons I am skeptical of it now. That doesn’t mean I am skeptical of minorities and marginalized groups deserving equal rights, respect, and a bigger voice in society. But the way it is often expressed, especially among college students and young people is often troubling to me, in a couple ways.

1. It becomes dogmatic, lazy thinking. It’s always worrying when you realize people are just parroting talking points they’ve heard someone else say. It can become dangerous when people adopt dogma that has come from someone else without fully understanding it, or perverting it in the process. This happens with religious dogma all the time (hence the people in the U.S. who are pro-gun and anti-poor are Conservative Christians, who follow a religious figure that explicitly ordered his followers to help the poor and forbid them from killing). 

2. It becomes about shaming other people and proving your righteousness by attacking others. This was how I experienced the PC movement in the 90s, for the large part. It was middle class white kids shaming other middle class white kids for using the wrong term to describe people, or for being impure in some other way. 

3. It very often is more cannibalistic and inward focused than focusing on actual racism and oppression. Related to number 2, when you spend most of your time attacking people for using the wrong term to describe a group, or for not sticking to the script, it’s hard to see how that moves the movement forward. There has been an obsession with language among progressive circles and in identity politics for the past thirty years, and it is hard to see what progress this has brought. It seems like we’d be better off doing less policing of language.

Anyways, those are my thoughts. In short, don’t be a dick to other people, and don’t wield your enlightenment and righteousness like a weapon. 

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