Have you ever said something offensive to another person? Maybe you made a joke in poor taste, or you didn’t even mean it the way it came out. The person you said it to may have laughed it off, looked at you funny or said something like “that’s not cool”, which made you realise what you had said, allowing you to apologise or clarify what you actually meant.
Have you ever said something offensive in company, like at a dinner party? Maybe someone pulled you up on it, or maybe you heard about it the next day, when someone told you that everyone was talking about it behind your back. Maybe they thought you were a bit racist, sexist etc, or maybe they gave you the benefit of the doubt. Odds are they still think you’re a decent person and you probably didn’t mean it that way. Once you apologised or explained what you meant, they probably didn’t give it a second thought.
Have you ever done it online? Depending on how people took it, what you said might have been retweeted tens of thousands of times and become a trending topic. You might have lost your job because people went to your employer, you were doubtless harassed by a huge number of people, you were probably even given death threats. If your name is Justine Sacco, it was all of the above, plus your family telling you that you’ve tarnished their name.
There is a lot of talk about SJWs, or social justice warriors nowadays, and for good reason. They are taking over college campuses all over the world, creating “safe spaces” where they don’t have to take part in a rational discussion, ensuring that every article or speech has a “trigger warning” and even seeking to ban people they don’t like from speaking. On Twitter especially, where a 140 character limit does not allow for context and deeper discourse, we see SJWs turn from well intentioned people to the online equivalent of roving gangs who appoint themselves judge, jury and executioner over other’s opinions and speech. If they deem it offensive enough, that person’s entire life can change, as Justine Sacco and many others have discovered.
When I saw the Cronulla Riots occur 10 years ago in Sydney, it was horrific. The news footage showed a mob of thousands of people, and the looks on their faces weren’t of people, they were of rabid animals. In many ways I thought I had seen some of the worst of humanity that day, but the feeding frenzy that happens online is just as bad. No one seems to consider the person at the centre of the attack, they just see everyone else piling in so they decide to join in as well. After all, that person is a horrible racist and we’re all good people! We’re doing the right thing here, this person deserves everything they get!
These SJWs doubtless believe what they are doing is righteous, that they are creating a better world, but viewed from above their behaviour is nothing more than the worst kind of bullying. The fact that it is often done over a single tweet should terrify anyone who wishes to speak their mind online, because it means you are fair game and if the wrong person reads it, you can lose almost everything you’ve worked for. “Well, be careful what you say online” would probably be the common sense response to such a concern. The problem with this is, it’s not only unreasonable but downright impossible. With such a statement, you’re expecting a person to filter what they say to be acceptable to 6 billion different people — something that no one is capable of doing.
Apart from the bullying, the biggest issue with SJWs is that there is often no critical thought going on when someone writes or says something they disagree with. They don’t take into account that person’s story, their personality, their experiences or what message they were trying to convey when they put their thoughts across. Maybe it was poorly worded, maybe they were in a hurry and hit the Tweet button without thinking, maybe they just had a really rough day and it came out the way it shouldn’t have. But few people seem to consider such things, expecting perfection (in their eyes) of thought and opinion. I’m the last person to quote scripture, but I seem to recall “judge not lest ye be judged” and “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” as a pretty big deal in Christianity and most religions for that matter.
In the case of Justine Sacco, it’s rather unbelievable to me that anyone with an ounce of sense thought she was saying that white people couldn’t get AIDS. Rather than giving the benefit of the doubt or considering what the author of the tweet meant, thousands went straight for the nuclear button, and essentially destroyed her life because they wanted to believe that she was a horrible person flaunting her privilege, rather than being a regular person just like them who made a mistake. It was automatically assumed that she was a disgusting racist and fully intended offense to people. I find it interesting that people will assume the worst about someone else when something is said that they disagree with, and in the same instant elevate themselves to the status of perfect human being who has never done wrong.
We can’t call ourselves compassionate and tolerant, and in the same breath condemn, harass and bully someone for a tweet without considering the intent or the person behind it. Such behaviour is not only hypocritical, it is arrogance of the highest order. SJWs appoint themselves the sole arbiters of what is acceptable in the universe and will punish anyone for transgressing that standard. There is no consideration of the end state of that person, and these people are fortunate that the victims of their disgusting behavior haven’t attempted suicide. In the NY Times article How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life, Jon Ronson says of the recipients of such treatment that “the people I met were mostly unemployed, fired for their transgressions, and they seemed broken somehow — deeply confused and traumatized”.
Many don’t seem to care unfortunately. In that same article, the person who retweeted Sacco’s ill thought out joke to 15,000 of his followers said when interviewed:
“The fact that she was a P.R. chief made it delicious,” he wrote. “It’s satisfying to be able to say, ‘O.K., let’s make a racist tweet by a senior IAC employee count this time.’ And it did. I’d do it again.” Biddle said he was surprised to see how quickly her life was upended, however. “I never wake up and hope I [get someone fired] that day — and certainly never hope to ruin anyone’s life.” Still, he ended his email by saying that he had a feeling she’d be “fine eventually, if not already.”
The fact that this person found it so easy, delicious even, to ruin someone’s life over a mistake and that he’d do it again says something really important: the backlash against her, the things said about her are far worse than what she said in the first place. And another thing, no, she won’t be fine. Just because the internet has moved on, it doesn’t mean that everything is back to normal for the victim, who may take years to recover from such an incident. And that’s what she is, a victim. See, a lot of you out there are probably saying right now “she’s the one who sent that Tweet in the first place, she’s not a victim!”
Ok then, fine. The next time you make a mistake or say the wrong thing (in the opinion of all the SJWs that is), the consequence is that tens of thousands of people get to know about it and judge you for it, without any context of who you are or what you were trying to say. In case it’s escaped your attention, we are all humans, and we all make mistakes every single day. If we were all to be as harshly judged as Sacco and others have been for things we have said in error, most of the population would be jobless and broken people.
I remember reading The Crucible in high school, and being horrified that people would so readily accuse someone they didn’t like of witchcraft, knowing that the end result would be execution. Thank god we’ve moved on from such horrible behaviour, that people won’t just take the slightest reason to… oh wait. Isn’t it funny that with all of the technological marvels of the 21st century, that one of those “marvels” is a platform which seems to have caused us to intellectually regress two hundred years, to a time when people gleefully destroyed one another’s lives.
If you consider yourself an SJW and have engaged in such activity before, I have a newsflash for you: you have no clue about what social justice is. It’s past time that you stopped assuming that everyone who writes or says something that you consider unacceptable is a horrible person. Apart from the fact that you don’t know everything, your opinion is not the sole standard of decency on this Earth. And just because there are others out there that agree with you does not provide justification to appoint yourself one of a thousand executioners.
Never forget that, whatever beliefs someone may hold and however outdated or flat out wrong they may be, that is not the entire story of that person’s life. When something is said in person, such considerations are taken into account. If someone says something racist in front of us, we tell them. We say “that’s really racist” or “that’s totally not cool to say that”. We educate them. We don’t go straight to punching them in the face, because that doesn’t educate anyone, it just leaves them bloody and bruised, and wondering why they deserved such a horrible response.
The other thing you need to know is, if you behave in this way, if you tell people to “check their privilege” during a discussion, if you seek to shut down debate because you don’t like what they say, if you want to try and get someone banned from speaking at an event, you are an intellectual lightweight. You have no place at the discussion table of intelligent people, because the baseline of being an intelligent person is the ability to hear arguments and perspectives, weigh them up and come to one’s own conclusions. It’s been said a thousand times before but bears repeating: you absolutely have a right to be offended, but you absolutely don’t have a right to not be offended.
It baffles me that university students at some of the most prestigious institutions in the world cannot handle someone coming to present an alternative view. Numerous appearances have been cancelled because students disagreed with the speaker’s politics or their stance on a certain issue. Intelligent people go to such events and listen. If they disagree, there is always the Q&A to hammer the guest speaker. Maybe, I don’t know, you might even learn something, which, if I’m not mistaken, is the entire fucking point of going to university. If you can’t handle other points of view, get the hell out of there and give your place to someone who can, because you don’t deserve the privilege bestowed upon you in being there.
And if you’re offended on behalf of someone you don’t even know, you’re probably beyond help and need to spend some time in the real world, where the rest of us are worried about far more important things.
PS: It’s perfectly timed that a comment came through on one of my more recent posts yesterday which said “I hope this post is removed” because he disagreed with it, because I attacked what he stood for. Well guess what champ? Just because you don’t like or disagree with something that I (or anybody else) wrote, does not mean:
- It’s wrong
- Other people shouldn’t see it
- That it should be removed because it offends you
- That I don’t have a right to say it
Welcome to the real world. You don’t like something? You want to change people’s minds? Make a compelling case. Your offense and/or disagreement means nothing.