September 6, 2015

Opposing SJW Behavior Without Adopting It

'Staring into the abyss' - - 1588241I have been a frequent critic of the behavior of those who can accurately be characterized as social justice warriors (SJWs) for some time. I have explained that I believe their behavior undermines much of the social justice agenda they claim to support, harming vital social justice advocacy. I have compared their petty tribalism with that of Christian extremists. I have highlighted the blatant irrationality and hypocrisy so regularly on display. I have argued that having priorities different from one's own does not make someone a bad person and that we should reject the efforts by some SJWs to silence dissent and punish other atheists for various offenses through self-righteous vigilantism. And I have sought to bring attention to the high cost of driving away potential allies through shaming and chronic outrage.

While I have made my share of mistakes along the way, I have sought to focus on what is objectionable about the behavior of these SJWs rather than making the issue about the individual personalities involved. I have attempted to keep in mind that the fact that someone disagrees with me and engages in behavior I consider detrimental to various social justice issues does not make him or her a bad person. This has been difficult at times, but I think it is important and renew my commitment to working on it.

I mention this all because I have seen some behavior on the anti-SJW side of things that gives me pause. Specifically, I am seeing a growing number of people whose means of pushing back against the SJWs is starting to look an awful lot like what they have been objecting to from the SJWs. The most common example involves quickly jumping from disagreement with someone's words or behavior to utter condemnation of the person. Following a blog post from any of the more notorious bloggers who write for Freethought Blogs, Twitter lights up with tweets about how awful that person is. Some have even taken to calling individual bloggers "rape apologists" just as the SJWs themselves are fond of doing! Expressions of reasoned disagreement can still be found, and they should be welcomed. But it seems that they are increasingly being drowned out by condemnation and name calling directed at specific persons.

I certainly understand why the anti-SJWs are frustrated and upset with much of the behavior they see from the SJWs. I share much of their frustration, even if I might have somewhat different reasons for how I feel. The thing is, I don't believe that the bad behavior of the SJWs warrants similar behavior on the part of the anti-SJWs. If it isn't okay when they do it, it isn't okay when we do it either. If we want to oppose an irrational cult-like group, I'd like to think we can do so without forming another irrational cult-like group.

When it comes to what I have been seeing on Twitter, my solution is simple: I need to follow my own advice and unfollow those who regularly descend into name calling and other tactics I consider objectionable when utilized by SJWs. But since that only solves the problem of my frustration, I'd like to suggest something else. There is excellent content out there that continues to highlight what is wrong with what the SJWs are doing without resorting to their tactics. Michael Nugent comes to mind as a notable example here. If we promote the reasoned arguments and share the evidence of hypocrisy without getting drawn into the mud, we're in a much better position to maintain the high ground. And without this high ground, we become what we say we oppose.

Many of the anti-SJW folks once operated from a position of reasoned skepticism. I think it is important to hold onto it. I'd like us to be the calm, reasonable, and rational ones. I'd like to see us model the sort of behavior we would like to see more of among secular persons. I think we'll be more successful if we can refrain from adopting SJW tactics.

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