The Left's Speech Police

This is where you go when the speech cops arrest you, I guess?
January 29, 2014

There's a truly fascinating piece in the Nation about the ugliness self-described feminists subject each other to online (and on Twitter in particular). If you're intrigued by the politicized life or the way people use Twitter as a tool to demonstrate their moral superiority, it's a must read. The most striking aspect of Michelle Goldberg's article is the way Twitter is being used to silence those deemed to be not progressive enough and the fear this is sparking in those who wish to contribute to the conversation.

"Everyone is so scared to speak right now," Goldberg quotes an editor of Feministing as saying. And here's Katherine Cross, "a Puerto Rican trans woman working on a PhD at the CUNY Graduate Center": "I fear being cast suddenly as one of the 'bad guys' for being insufficiently radical, too nuanced or too forgiving, or for simply writing something whose offensive dimensions would be unknown to me at the time of publication." From a right-of-center standpoint, it's interesting to watch the left grapple with their norm that one need not intend to act as a racist to in fact be a racist. Writes Goldberg, quoting Cross in the first paragraph:

One such rule is a prohibition on what's called "tone policing." An insight into the way marginalized people are punished for their anger has turned into an imperative "that you can never question the efficacy of anger, especially when voiced by a person from a marginalized background."

Similarly, there's a norm that intention doesn't matter—indeed, if you offend someone and then try to explain that you were misunderstood, this is seen as compounding the original injury. ... The expectation that feminists should always be ready to berate themselves for even the most minor transgressions—like being too friendly at a party—creates an environment of perpetual psychodrama, particularly when coupled with the refusal to ever question the expression of an oppressed person's anger.

I've always been bemused by the left's insistence that a failure to intend offense wasn't a defense against causing offense, so I'm glad to see some of these activists wrestling with the norms they have championed.

Those on the left are free to dismiss my post as mere concern trolling, but I sincerely hope these activists work out their issues; it'll make Twitter a more tolerable (and tolerant) place for everyone. As I noted during the freakout over Grantland's piece on Dr. V, the goal of a certain segment of the population is to render certain topics verboten, to stifle conversation in the hopes of rendering rational discussion impossible and dangerous to your livelihood. The never-ending cycles of Two Minutes Hates may enliven Twitter to a certain extent but they also make it a treacherous place to engage in the free exchange of ideas. You never know when an off-the-cuff crack will lead to a digital lynch mob calling for your destruction.

Featured Photo Credit: Biggunben via Compfight cc