September 30, 2013

The Hammer of the Social Justice Warrior

I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.
- Abraham Maslow (1962), Toward A Psychology of Being

You have undoubtedly heard this quote or one of its many variants. Lately, I have come to suspect that it may have applicability to much of what we have seen from some of the social justice warriors in the atheist movement. Their hammer appears to be angry accusations of sexism, misogyny, harassment, and abuse. It is a hammer capable of doing real damage, as many of those hit with it are not sexists, misogynists, harassers, or abusers of any sort. Their "offense" is disagreement.

Even polite, respectful expressions of disagreement bring the hammer. Not sure you want to take their side and accept their views uncritically? Fine, you're an asshole! You cannot just be a person with a different opinion. No other opinions are valid. You are with them or against them. If you are against them, you are the enemy.

Once you are the enemy, your reputation will be assailed. You see, it is okay to label perceived enemies as "gender traitors," "rape apologists," and "sister punishers." That such accusations are largely unwarranted does not matter. These are enemies, and this is war. Think PZ Myers might have been wrong to post criminal allegations against Michael Shermer? You are blaming the victim and are likely a rape apologist (see Mr. Deity). In fact, if you question PZ's judgment and suggest that due process is valuable when criminal allegations are involved, you are probably only doing so because you are a serial harasser.

We have long been used to seeing behavior like this from Christian extremists. Seeing it from atheists is something I find disconcerting. I should be used to it by now, but I am not. I think that is because I really don't want to get used to it.