Twitter Mobs and Social Justice
Today I learned that it was Jacques Mallet du Pan, a French Royalist, who famously coined the phrase, “the Revolution eats its young” in 1793. So it’s not exactly news per se. That being said, the failure of leftist thinkers to understand it seems depressingly immutable. Fredrik deBoer today writes a good bit about Twitter firestorms and the myriad ways in which the “social-justice” wing of leftwing thought has devolved into furious shouting matches increasingly divorced from the real world. The conclusion is worth citing and endorsing:
Gandhi said, “Recall the face of the poorest and weakest man you have seen, and ask yourself if this step you contemplate is going to be any use to him.” I think when it comes to ostensibly progressive politics, the inverse advice is also useful: think of the most privileged man you have any seen, and ask yourself if this step you contemplate is going to be of any threat. At the country club, if the notion of feminist Twitter wars ever crossed the mind of one of the rich old men who rule our world, it might, briefly, prompt a chuckle between puffs on his cigar.
It goes beyond Twitter, however. Twitter merely streamlines the process of public shaming and self-criticism which is a staple of academic leftism. Ever since the postmodernism-tinged view of social theory took hold in academia, this general pattern of discourse has been emblematic of how liberals talk to each other. “Politics as a defensive crouch”, wherein all participants gleefully join in condemnations in the fear that the least enthusiastic participant is next on the agenda. This has been how large portions of the liberal intelligentsia has spoken to each other for decades, but Twitter makes naming-and-shaming much more efficient.
Which is sad, because as Fredrik says, feminism has so much left to achieve. And in order to achieve anything, it needs to engage with politics. Engaging with politics means an attempt to appeal to people (voters), rather than hectoring them about their “discourse”. I may be new to this whole political science game, but I’m pretty sure voters hate being told that their discourse is racist and sexist, because voters aren’t stupid and can hear the real message: you are a bad person. Nobody who isn’t thoroughly socialized to the social theory school of argument will be thoroughly repelled whenever they stumble across it, which probably means it’s a good thing it is so self-contained.