I'm Offended: How The Social Justice Warriors Made Thinking Dangerous
Approximate Read Time: 23 minutes
“And beware of professors who confuse teaching students how to think with teaching them what to think.” –Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Let’s be honest. You can’t really be honest anymore. Under the guise of sensitivity, a new form of McCarthyism has taken hold of mainstream society. It began in those universities who are supposed to deepen critical thinking skills, spur creativity, and promote growth through the dialectic process. Instead, a dogma has taken hold where all the world is simplified into victims and oppressors. Disciples are encouraged to identify every possible manifestation of oppression while justifying every conceivable notion of victimhood. These self-proclaimed Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) now police the world of all those who aren’t duly sensitive to injustice in all of its forms.
They have created an environment that promotes venomous speech, polarity, and an inability to solve problems. Logical discourse is suspended as the quest for privilege and insensitivity becomes an all-consuming witch hunt where accusers are assumed correct based purely on the vocabulary of their accusations.
You see, it is not sensitivity the SJWs are after, or even equality. It’s superiority. As Joseph Haidt, author of The Coddling of the American Mind, explains, the best way to understand the SJW is to “follow the prestige.” What is it they get prestige for doing?” In the new social-media fueled “call-out culture,” status is awarded for detecting bigotry, slinging accusations, and responding with greater outrage. Conversations are not held in good faith. The truth is arbitrary. Prestige is awarded for being offended and calling people out. Thus, unintentional offenses that would be easily remedied by a civil conversation, become opportunities for social promotion. The offender must be publicly vilified.
How Dare You?
In an effort to expose all who neglected the new rules of hypersensitivity, Oberlin College, of Oberlin, Ohio, created the open forum website, Oberlin Microaggressions. It was here that a young, Hispanic female voiced her offense when a white male contacted her to discuss the upcoming Latino Heritage month talk, scheduled on the same evening as the intramural soccer games she had played in before. His email read:
“Hey that talk looks pretty great but on the off chance you aren’t going or want to play futbol instead the club team wants to go!!!”
This seems a fairly nice, simple email. Who could bat an eyelash, right? Yet, rather than as a conscientious invitation, this young lady chose to perceive the ask as a vile display of “white privilege,” “sexism,” and “appropriation” of the Spanish language. For a committed SJW, the only appropriate response would be to publicly roast this young man in an attempt to defame his character. Her post to Oberlin Microaggressions reads:
“Ok. 1. Thanks for you thinking that the talk is “pretty great”. I appreciate your white male validation.”
(Perhaps he was trying to be respectful of her interests. Is this only possible for non-white females?)
“I see that it isn’t interesting enough for you to actually take your ass to the talk.
2. Who said it was okay for you to say futbol? It’s Latino Heritage month, your telling people not to come to the talk, but want to use our language? Trick, NO! White students appropriating the Spanish language, dropping it in when convenient, never ok”
(And why is that? I can’t say Hola? What about saying it to my sister-in-law who was born and raised in Mexico? Where is the line here? Do Germans take offense by the common use of “gazuntite” following a sneeze? Why is this offense-worthy?)
“Keep my heritage language out of your mouth! If I’m not allowed to speak it, if my dad’s not allowed to speak it, then bitch you definitely are not supposed to be speaking it.”
(I’m not familiar with any forums in America that tell people they aren’t allowed to speak Spanish. She seems to be confusing the legal right to speak a language with the ability of people to understand that language).
This young lady also published her email response to the young man where she insinuates that white people are incapable of playing soccer with the same grace and class as Hispanics before concluding:
“I don’t care if this email is over the top or mean. So complain to whatever white friends you want about it. You’re never going to know what its like to not be able to your own heritage sport comfortably because of your gender/race/ethnicity.”
This last part is what is most troubling. The young lady seems convinced of this young man’s malicious motives based purely on his gender and race. Her contention operates from a most divisive assumption that the two sides can never understand each other and that she is right in her outrage purely due to her minority status and use of the social justice vocabulary.
A society cannot operate effectively from this combination of dogmatic superiority and assuredness in our counterpart’s inability for comprehension. Saying you can’t possibly understand “this” and you can’t say “these words” but we can, is only serving to create larger chasms and greater hostility.
If there is a victim of this Oberlin College exchange it is the young man, who I can only imagine was caught completely off guard. He thought he was just extending a pleasant, pressure-free invitation. He responded as well as anyone could be expected to when their good intentions were met with such public ridicule. We find that he grew up immersed in Hispanic heritage by a Costa Rican father and god family. Furthermore, his time in higher education had clearly informed his deep convictions about social justice. He even goes so far as to concede how big of a problem white, male privilege is, while sharing his own struggles to monitor his actions lest he fall into that repulsive trap of behaving like a white male whose overwhelming privilege goes unchecked. This is, of course, the moral imperative dominating the conscious hours of millions of young-adults, hell-bent on finding all unchecked privilege and leaving it sufficiently checked.
The Outrage Handbook
The Oberlin roasting is not an isolated incident of one delusional, angry co-ed, but a too common example of the new moral template being indoctrinated through our universities. The University of New Hampshire, for example, has joined a long, distinguished group of schools that have created a bias-free language guide. On the cover of this document is a quote that encompasses the simplistic thinking that is to follow:
“In a democracy, recognition matters. Everyone wants to be seen as they are. If they are not, then it’s impossible for them to enjoy the experience of being full citizens.” –Melissa Harris-Perry
Contrary to this assertion, it is quite possible not to be “seen as you are” and still enjoy the fruits of citizenship. Are the politicians and celebrities we constantly ridicule in the media any less able to be citizens? What about those caught up in the SJW fervor and mischaracterized as bigots? I certainly feel empowered as a citizen while I write this, despite the criticism that is likely to follow. How crippling is it for educators to teach students that they are victims of micro-aggressions and unable to experience full citizenship if people don’t see them as they think they are? That’s the cost of standing for anything worth caring about. Some will not like what you have to say and, likely, portray you in a way that seems not to grasp your true intent. No successful person walks around constantly offended by mischaracterizations while obsessing over how people perceive them.
Furthermore, the New Hampshire bias-free language guide is, in effect, a way to prevent people from being who they are, or saying what they think, unless it fits a very limited view. Rather than seeking to respect who people are, it expresses a desire to control their thinking. Censorship of language is a way of censoring thought, since, as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis posits, potential thought is limited by the bounds of one’s language.
The University explicitly outlines this desire quoting one of the creators of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis in its introduction:
Benjamin Lee Whorf said, "Language shapes the way we think, and determines what we can think about."
Rather than creating a dialogue about language, our universities are trying to dictate that all view the world from their very limited lens.
The document goes on to define microaggressions, microinvalidations, and the rules for an increasingly dogmatic culture based upon the restriction of speech to create a world of restricted thought. At the heart of this are good intentions. There is a well-meaning desire to create equality. However, the result is a docile society without the language or emotional and cognitive skills to bond together, solve issues, and create a world of more empowered people.
Even more, this indoctrination leads to a very distorted worldview. The human brain is very good at doing what we have programmed it to do. If we task it to identify blue dots in a succession of blues and purples, the brain will find just as many even when blues are slowly weeded out. The same goes for unfriendly faces, for unethical business proposals, and for instances of bigotry. These “Blue Dot” studies reveal a human tendency for prevalence induced concept change. In the words of the experimenters:
Levari et al. show experimentally that when the “signal” a person is searching for becomes rare, the person naturally responds by broadening his or her definition of the signal—and therefore continues to find it even when it is not there. From low-level perception of color to higher-level judgments of ethics, there is a robust tendency for perceptual and judgmental standards to “creep” when they ought not to.
Thus, an unhealthy victim orientation becomes an all-encompassing self-fulfilling prophecy that no amount of progress can mitigate. As evidenced by their expanding list of offenses, the SJW will always find evidence to point to racism, sexism, elitism, and any other ism.
For all the damage SJW dogmas have done, none are more devastated by the newly arborized thought patterns than those who hold them. The seeds of pathology are sown in the social justice handbook. As Justin mentioned in his piece, Wrong Thinking, many of the most destructive mental distortions identified by Cognitive Behavioral Therapy are indoctrinated by the Social Justice Warrior worldview. Thus, we are indoctrinating a worldview that breeds fragility, depression, and anxiety disorders.
Neuroses Go Mainstream
Only the neurotic find offense in every lighthearted expression. Yet we are normalizing this model and allowing these pathologically inclined to dictate public discourse, despite holding views that most reject. At least for now, you can take heart in knowing that politically correct views are not representative of the nation or, even the newest college-going generation (which has been cleverly dubbed, iGen).
A 2017 and 2018 national poll of over 8,000 people and six focus groups studied American political attitudes. Despite overwhelming our public consciousness, political correctness was broadly disliked. Over 80% of the general population believed “political correctness is a problem in our country” – a belief shared by most irrespective of differences between age, race, political affiliation, or income. Of those opposing political correctness, 83% made less than $50,000, 70% made more than $100,000, 79% were white, 75% black, 82% Hispanic, and 88% American Indians who we are constantly told would be offended if your daughter dressed up as Pocahontas for Halloween.
Members of iGen, the generation presumed to be most enamored by the politically correct worldview, are also, generally, against this environment of thought policing. 74% of 24-29 year olds and 79% of those under 24 believe political correctness is a problem. The issue is that public dialogue and mainstream norms are being dictated by the fringe extreme and this is reshaping the world our youngest generation inherits.
Where it once would have been reasonable to confront perceived insensitivities privately and with a tone of understanding—we have all spoken thoughtlessly or without sufficient understanding, after all—there is now prestige for making the confrontations as embarrassing and public as possible. Thus, even without broad acceptance of the social justice dogmas, public discourse is subject to the constant anxiety of attack from the lowest common denominator. Society feels the need to censor ourselves to appease the most sensitive and mentally distorted, whose pathology is reinforced by the increasing number of avenues to harass those they deem bigoted. Thus, thought-policing works its way into every sector of society, sabotaging anyone unlucky enough to land in its crosshairs.
Matt Damon was lambasted for this attempt to add context to the #MeToo movement he supported:
“I do believe there’s a spectrum of behavior, right? And we’re going to have to figure—you know, there’s a difference between you know, patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation, right? Both of those behaviors need to be confronted and eradicated, without question, but they shouldn’t be conflated, right?”
Apparently, he was wrong.
Dallas City Council Member, Jennifer Staubach Gates, came under fire this time last year for wearing a sombrero, a mustache, and a depiction of a lime on her chest for the mayor’s Halloween party. Gates was accompanied by two colleagues, both also wearing sombreros and mustaches. As she explained, they googled “costumes for three” and settled on the lime, tequila, and salt for a margarita. It was harmless. In the Dallas area, Tex-Mex restaurants are everywhere, always featuring their margarita, often along with sombrero clad mariachi bands. Her intent was clearly not malicious. She did not seek to characterize all Latinos, but simply an experience she’d frequently encountered.
Still, the model of public outrage had to be fulfilled. The president of the League of Latin American Citizens Council 4782, Hilda Duarte, led the charge for Gates’ resignation saying:
"She did offend us. She should apologize publicly to all of us because nobody's personal Facebook is personal. We all saw it. We all have pictures and copies of it and we don't have room for that at city hall. I think she just needs to resign if that's how she wants to depict us. That's not who we are. We're not all about tequila," Duarte said.
Each increasingly ridiculous politically correct violation is met with the same formula: outrage, calls for resignation, and, finally, demands for sensitivity training. But, particularly in light of the rampant mental health disorder and emotional fragility characterizing modern society, I’d argue that resiliency training would be more appropriate. People think they are being nice or woke, but these dogmas are devastating to the easily outraged, the identity groups SJWs are so eager to defend, and the entire social fabric. The risks for being wrong are so high that most wouldn’t dream of being honest or thinking creatively. We reinforce a society-wide fixed mindset that precludes growth.
The Hypocrisy of Taboo Topics
Comedian John Cleese, of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, has volumes of heritage jokes he’s used for years, attracting scores of beloved fans. He jokes about Australians being balanced because they have a chip on each shoulder and the French having civil-wars just so that they can occasionally win. All are met with a chorus of laughter.
However, he’s noticed lately that when he tells a once-popular joke about Mexicans, people get very quiet—very uncomfortable. He’s clearly crossed some social boundary. This is the cardinal sin of talking about a minority group without being part of one. Of course, this moral code is the greatest bigotry of all. It treats minority groups like they are such frail beings that they aren’t capable of withstanding the same lighthearted observations. Rather than pursuing equality, it shields minorities from the same criticism and jest that you would afford the “privileged.” Thousands are conditioned to be offended, rather than learning to dialogue.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, is a Somali born lifelong political refuge. She eventually escaped an arranged marriage and became a member of the Dutch Parliament, before facing death threats and the murder of her bodyguard for critical remarks she made about her former religion. In her book, Nomad, she bluntly addresses the problem with redefining standards of discourse for minorities:
“A well-meaning class of people holds that minorities should not share all of the obligations that the majority must meet…. There are many good men and women in the West who try to resettle refugees, scold their fellow citizens for not doing more, donate money to philanthropic organizations, and strive to eliminate discrimination…. These people mean well, I have no doubt. But I believe their well-intentioned activism is now part of the very problem they seek to solve. To be blunt, their efforts to assist Muslims and other minorities are futile because, by postponing or at best prolonging the process of their transition to modernity… the proponents of multiculturalism lock subsequent generations born in the West into a no-man’s-land of moral values. What comes packaged in a compassionate language of acceptance is really a cruel form of racism. And it is all the more cruel because it is expressed in sugary words of virtue.”
The Victimhood Narrative
“Tyranny is the deliberate removal of nuance.” –Albert Maysles
The core of the indisputable PC narrative making its way through every public institution is that hierarchy is evil. Power structures, it maintains, are always disenfranchising the less fortunate. The world is split up into a continuum of privileged and less privileged and the goal of organized society must be to somehow account for all factors and equalize. The goal is not equal rules for all, but creating a game board where one group’s advantages are offset by our institutions. Of course one could fit into millions of different categories and subcategories, all complex, different, and useful mostly for confirmation bias. Rather than judging individuals on the content of their character, society learns to obsess upon social categories making broad generalizations and stereotyping the rule of the day. Equality of outcome is deemed the only possible good.
In education, the processes of redistributing resources and adjusting standards in pursuit of equal outcome is called “equity.” It is based on infinitely mutable, impossible goals that tend to be extremely destructive in regards to the adaptability and happiness of those deemed less privileged.
Equity starts with great wisdom—some people have more advantages than others and we should try to help those whose experience less adequately promotes success. No argument, here. Then it makes an unfounded leap to the assertion that any hierarchy is innately evil and any discrepancy in outcome can only be explained by rampant inequality. The reality is, you cannot assume a difference in outcome comes from systemic bigotry, nor extrapolate that each isolated incident is indicative of such a culture.
Any meritocracy leads to a hierarchy. This is the beauty of merit-based societies. There is an incentive for people to work hard and become more capable. You want a surgeon who is most qualified. You want teachers who know how to read, write, speak, and think critically. We need meritocracy. It is built upon personal responsibility and the desire for people to be judged on their actions, rather than arbitrary identity categories.
Like freedom of speech, the promotion of reason, and the marketplace of ideas, meritocracy was a beautiful enlightenment tenant that threw off the shackles of the extremely unfair royal hierarchies. Meritocracy eliminated erroneous, dogmatically-enforced caste separation based on birth. It set the rules of the game and allowed people to strive and prosper.
The benefits of meritocracy are evident across Western society. For example, Asian-Americans now have the highest median income of any ethnic group despite facing extreme institutional racism, such as World War II internment camps, and widespread social racism that followed World War II, the fall of China to communism, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. It should be noted that there are many different ethnicities and cultures within the broad Asian-American category. Furthermore, none of this success excuses past injustices. Yet, the point remains that this socio-economic rise is only possible within a meritocracy.
Like any system, meritocracy comes with flaws that we should seek to limit. Many that reach the top of any dominance hierarchy inevitably seek to game the system to advantage themselves along with their friends and family. Even more, a person’s level of merit and capability is a confluence of many factors outside their own control. The lottery of birth is extremely unequal giving each of us talents, mentors, education, expectations, cultural norms, and a complex cocktail of nature and nurture that we’ve done nothing to earn.
Still, the greatest advantages are an inclination to learn and see the opportunities in challenges and the determination that you are the primary determinant of your own success and fulfillment. These advantages are available to all of us at any time. Demonizing the successful while reducing the world into overly-simplified victim and oppressor narratives does more harm than good. People thrive with the belief that everyone has their own battles, thus they should be empathetic to others, perhaps working to eliminate real injustice, while empowered as individuals to overcome their own obstacles.
The imperfections of meritocracy are best offset by strong values and nuanced dialogue that earnestly desires truth, however uncomfortable. When this exists, the differing beliefs across the political spectrum are able to balance and modify each other to bring about the greatest common good.
We can continue to improve the rules and identify more effective interventions without the fiction that a world without hierarchy is possible or desired. This utopian delusion forgets that people will be far better off if they don’t perceive themselves as victims, if they don’t feel entitled to have some force level the playing field, and if they don’t pretend that we can create such a sophisticated rule book so as to account for desirable regulatory leveling.
Many of the SJW causes do have merit, but our modern template eliminates the possibility of dialogue, while those spouting woke dogma posture as moral elites. Ideas remain immature because they are never exposed to counterpoint. You cannot just decide you are right and are going to scream louder. Safe-spaces eliminate the ingredients of growth and create intellectual dullness, rather than capability. They are factories for rigid thinking and the inability to adapt.
The Dumbing Effect of Censored Thought
“What causes what should be a diverse portfolio of ideas to collapse in terms of the diversity where everyone starts representing the same point of view with tiny variations?” -Eric Weinstein
Our incessant censoring of publicly accepted opinions creates an environment where solutions are never reached. The constructive criticism that helps refine ideas is never allowed. We exist in a bubble of logical fallacies from which we can never grow.
The tactics of the SJW are built upon the argument from ignorance, one of the most elementary logical fallacies. An accuser calls someone out as being a bigot and the accused is assumed guilty. It is impossible for them to prove the intent behind a comment or their lack of personal malice. The more they defend themselves, however ridiculous the accusations, the more certain it becomes that they will utter another comment that can be pulled from context and manipulated to frame them in the worst possible light (straw man fallacy). They have no means to clear themselves.
There are now huge social and professional costs for having the wrong opinion, no matter how necessary the counter-argument. Professor Jordan Peterson, of Toronto University, has faced down the barrel of politicians who would like to remove his clinical psychology license because of his opinions on free speech. Despite mischaracterizations, Peterson is not a radicalist spouting dogma and wild unsubstantiated claims. He professes a strong value system that he has developed through intensive study and years of contemplation. What he is concerned about is the threat to Freedom of Speech posed by SJWs. His is the most astute analysis I’ve seen on the rules of the Politically Correct Game that are muddying the waters of modern dialogue:
“First, you identify a domain of human endeavor. It could be the wealth of people within a society. It could be the psychological well-being of individuals within a given organization. It could be the prowess of school children at a particular sport.
Second, you note the inevitable continuum of success. Some people are richer or happier than others. Some children are better at playing volleyball.
Third, you define those doing comparatively better as oppressors of those doing comparatively worse.
Fourth, and finally, you declare solidarity with the latter, and enmity for the former (now all-too-convenient targets for your resentment and hatred).”
Unfortunately, there are bigots who use Peterson’s well-reasoned critiques of the Social Justice Warrior Religion to veil their actual bigotry and then take their own grand logical leaps to defend archaic world views. Since Peterson’s arguments combat accusations of injustice where it does not exist, true bigots with a superficial understanding of his arguments will jump on his coattails and discredit his necessary attempts at dialoguing towards truth. Consequently, Peterson has been explained as a divisive figurehead of the extreme right, despite his often left-center views. In fact, nearly all of those termed the “Intellectual Dark Web”—the group most successfully fighting the SJW—are pigeon-holed as bigoted extreme right-wingers despite usually holding center-left political tendencies.
This is the unfortunate dumbing effect of polarization. The solutions are nuanced and do not fit into the superficial, simplified schemas of staunch conservatism, liberalism, or any doctrine opposed to competition of ideas.
The true bigot’s dogmas are a manifestation of the same undeveloped moral certitude characteristic of SJWs. Both are fueled by an environment less concerned with truth than ego—an environment that promotes outrage over personal responsibility and comfort over constructive criticism. Paradoxically, by crying wolf every time the wind blows, SJWs empower those true bigots at the opposite extreme.
No solutions will follow from slinging accusations of bigotry and operating as if said “bigots” are incapable of understanding. That level of contempt is maximally divisive and only fuels its opponent.
“Unlike criticism, contempt is particularly toxic because it assumes a moral superiority in the speaker. Contempt is often directed at people who have been excluded from a group or declared unworthy of its benefits. Contempt is often used by governments to provide rhetorical cover for torture or abuse. Contempt is one of four behaviors that, statistically, can predict divorce in married couples. People who speak with contempt for one another will probably not remain united for long.” –Sebastian Junger
Today, we cannot even speak of differences in personality distributions that might account for differences in occupations between males and females (see the gender-equality paradox evident in Scandinavian countries). When a studious young black man is accused of “acting white” by his peers we are not allowed to mention how destructive that racial stereotype could be to his development and to others like him. We don’t discuss why boys perform worse in school than girls because believing boys aren’t always advantaged is sexist.
None of these realities should even be threatening to the SJW. They don’t discredit the goal of gender or racial equality. They just add layers of nuance that should be part of the conversation. But no one is willing to say them in a public forum because of the hailstorm that would ensue. A selection of dogmas has been deemed the gospel and any who speak against it are bigots, racists, sexists, or prejudiced in some special new way. In our complex world, most solutions fall outside that narrowly defined P.C. scope of acceptable thinking.
As with any understanding that moves towards truth, there are often very paradoxical, nuanced realities involved. Hierarchy is often unfair. Thank goodness we have worked to free women from the misogynistic expectations of past generations. Thank goodness for leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. who tenaciously held the moral high ground as millions were inspired to stand for equal treatment of all races. There is no denying a long history of prejudice and bigotry. We must allow the ramifications of that history to be part of the conversation, while not the only perspective. If, when, and how we combat hierarchical structures can be a very difficult decision. This is the beauty of dialogue aimed at truth. We need different perspectives competing for progress, while still respectfully united by mutually held core principles.
And when there is injustice, let’s remember that change does not follow unrefined or unclear thought patterns. Real social progress has always been the product of clarity, long-term sacrifice, intelligent dialogue, and maturely taking the moral upper hand with thoughtful actions and words. This requires honest self-reflection, the demand that one’s constituents hold themselves to a standard, and an earnest desire to grow and mature with anyone willing to talk honestly. Nothing important is ever accomplished expediently. It is clarity, perseverance, and a willingness to be wrong that drive progress.
“In order to think you have to risk being offensive.” –Jordan Peterson
Furthermore, seeking solutions to real challenges inherently requires engaging ideas that others may find offensive. Ayaan Hirsi Ali has made it her mission to expose the deep injustice imposed upon women throughout the Muslim world—injustice she has experienced extensively. Her stories are terrifying—from women not being allowed to leave the house without a male, to female genital mutilation and honor killings. The millions of women subjected to similar abuse each day can only be helped if we feel able to converse about these topics. They are not condemnations of all Muslims, simply condemnations of behaviors commonly practiced with Islam as the justification. This is similar to the publicly accepted critique of Christians who are not accepting of homosexuals—a critique that has helped many Christians form far more accepting, nuanced opinions about homosexuality and their religion.
Unfortunately, Ali is constantly butting heads with the pervasive dogmas of modern academics. She has not been met with open-minded dialogue, or a spirit that embraced the marketplace of ideas, but, rather, intense fiery rhetoric just as dogmatic, religious, and rigid as the traditions she sought to expose. Ali was flummoxed by the apparent contradictions of socially-minded students and professors who fight for women’s rights while defending Muslim traditions of intense female subjugation. She expresses her astonishment, stating:
“On campus after campus, I would stare in despair at these confident young men and women, born in the United States, who had so manifestly benefited from every advantage of Western education yet were determined to ignore the profound differences between a theocratic mind-set and a democratic mind-set.”
A democratic mind-set must be built upon the enlightenment values of reason, logic, dialogue, and the pursuit of truth. The most essential ingredient to fend off the complacency of dogma and tyranny is freedom of speech. When we trample the ability to freely convey ideas, we remove the primary engine of progress.
Promoting an obsessive scanning for inequality and victimization and then assuming the worst intentions in everyone who thinks differently is not a recipe for success. It is an operating system that promotes resentment and confirmation bias rather than perseverance and dialogue. Perpetuating greater feebleness and entitlement to be shielded from uncomfortable, often merited opinions serves only to inhibit communication that might bring understanding and solutions. These dogmas preclude refined thought and, instead, promote complacent frailty.
Justin explains this perfectly in Wrong Thinking:
“As any psychologist will attest, overcoming fears and discomfort comes not from insulation but from inoculation; we must face our fears rather than hide from them. This process means slowly upping the dosage of a particular fear or offense to develop a greater tolerance in the future. Psychologists treat individuals with a fear of elevators by first discussing elevators, then by showing patients photos of elevators, slowly progressing until their subject can successfully ride one. Universities have the unique opportunity to offer small tastes of uncomfortable and offensive ideas. Students should be exposed to “vaccinations” against racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and every other example of potentially harmful ideas through literature, historical case studies, and firsthand debate and discussion. These small doses will arm them for future exposure.”
Combatting Call-Out Culture
“If someone succeeds at provoking you, realize that your mind is complicit in the provocation.” –Epictetus
We must stop validating outrage. Having a louder voice, or appearing emotionally distraught is entirely unrelated to the argument at hand. These are the issues of the one feeling them, not the responsibility of society to placate. Your feelings are your own. Your lack of emotional control is your issue and holds no weight in discussions of right and wrong.
As political correctness becomes the rule dictating operations at schools and public institutions, society must learn to not honor outrage as having any bearing on our response. Ignoring mock outrage is the only way to quell its fires. A higher level of indignation is not an indicator of a higher level of moral superiority and, thus, cannot be rewarded. It does not equate to importance or correctness and, at best, should be considered arbitrary to any discussion. It is a temper tantrum, indicative of a person not yet emotionally ready to communicate with the adults.
When accusations of bigotry are cast, logic must reign. Mastering logical fallacies is a wonderful way to come to better decisions, avoid manipulation, and quickly dispel poor arguments. Still, cold logic will do very little to dissuade the masses. For that, we need to consistently model a better template.
When confronted by politically correct accusations, ask your accuser to define said bigotry. Their inability to reason will quickly become apparent. As Tim Ferriss suggests, point out that their accusations are “bigoteering” (seeking prestige by detecting bigotry where it doesn’t lie), rather than maturely conversing on the issue to come to a more socially constructive understanding. Broad use of this label may help the public broadly recast these behaviors in the toxic light they deserve. When others are met with insane accusations, stand with them and take the time to craft well-reasoned arguments, provocative only for their sensibility.
Discussions should be entered into in good faith, where both sides agree to avoid intentional manipulation. This dynamic can be strengthened further by frequently employing a steel-man technique (the opposite of straw-man) in any formal dialogue. This is where you repeat back the other person’s argument as well as you possibly can and then allow them to clean up your interpretation as needed. In effect, you ensure that you are engaging the most accurate possible version of your opponent’s argument and they do the same for you. From this foundation, everyone’s position is strengthened and everyone comes away having improved.
Culturally, we must rediscover the art of productive dialogue. It is important to remember the humanity in nearly every person. Most people you engage with are not evil. They are trying their best to make sense of the world, neutralize their own fears, and live well. They have a different experience and a different personality that has brought them to different conclusions and it is okay for them to disagree with you. If we can see each other as humans and enter into conversations with a mutual desire to grow and move towards truth, then nearly any engagement can be productive.
And this is really the reason it is important to combat the SJW movement. So that we can create an environment where people of different backgrounds and different opinions have the means to come together and grow stronger from the process. The world will never be perfect or equal. With finite resources, infinite potential wants, and differing values there will always be tension. We need a framework that promotes personal responsibility, antifragility, and an ability to dialogue toward truth. We’ll never quite grasp the full complexity of that truth, but we get closest when we allow everyone to be honest.
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