WHAT THE SOCIAL JUSTICE WARRIORS NEED TO UNDERSTAND

A guest blog by Ryan Long. The original post can be read here.

I won’t name names here, if you are following this drama on-line you already know what this is about. This is directed at the atheist “social justice warriors” who use blogs and social media to attack, insult, shame and in some cases lie about people (including people on their own side of the political aisle) over issues like feminism, LGBT rights, etc.

YOU AREN’T HELPING.

You are doing nothing constructive. Your moral outrage is not justified. You are changing no hearts, and no minds.

Many of the people you insult and attack don’t need to be lectured about things like power and oppression, or dominant privilege. Many of us ARE minorities and already understand all too well the sting of discrimination. Many of us have been threatened, attacked and assaulted ourselves, and we don’t appreciate you constantly insinuating that we don’t understand what these kinds of experiences are like or have never experienced them ourselves. As someone who has been the victim of bigotry, threats and violence myself for being gay, it personally sickens me that you cheapen these experiences by turning them into blog fodder, or use them as leverage to “win” idiotic arguments on the Internet.

Many of us also have preexisting interests, and in some cases, formal educational backgrounds in gender studies, LGBT studies, critical race theory, and other topics related to social science (I note that many of the atheist “social justice warriors” who blog and tweet about these topics have no formal background in any relevant field).

Your tactics such as naming-and-shaming; throwing around labels like “MRA”, “misogynist”, “chill girl” and “harasser” at the drop of a hat; and screencapping facebook conversations and tweets, and plastering them on blogs for your readers to gawk at and mock like petty children, are pretty much the opposite of everything I learned in social justice leadership skills workshops.

I see you applying your so-called “values” completely and utterly inconsistently. Your hypocrisy is so obvious it’s painful. I wonder if any of you have ever even owned a mirror. You routinely attempt to speak for all members of a demographic, while silencing dissenting voices within that demographic. You write incendiary, vulgar things routinely on twitter and blogs. You freely condone remarks such as telling people you disagree with to “die in a fire” or “insert a spiky object in your anus” or “fuck a blender”. And the second someone dishes it back at you, you cry “HARASSMENT!!” You claim to care about women and minorities, and yet I see women and minorities who disagree with you getting the same awful treatment as anyone else.

Meanwhile, I see great, positive social change occurring in our society. As a gay man, marriage equality, and legislation addressing things like housing and workplace discrimination, and teen homelessness and suicide, are personally dear to me. There is a lot of work to do, but the rapidity with which these problems are being changed for the better fills me with joy and optimism. I am sometimes brought to tears when I read about new wins for LGBT equality in the news. Today, the state directly south of mine passed marriage equality, and I cried. I cried for myself and for the gay and lesbian people I know who live in Illinois. I have felt their pain, and today I feel their joy. It’s overwhelming.

You did not do that. You didn’t do it by ranting on an atheist blog and attacking your own allies over trivial things, like a poorly worded tweet or facebook status. You didn’t do it by ranting about religious people, calling them names like “fuckwit”, and claiming absolute moral superiority over them. A coalition of Americans – including a great many people of faith, since the majority of Americans ARE religious – came together, cooperated, shared personal stories of happiness and heartbreak, fought tirelessly in the government arenas, risked jobs and reputations and lives, worked to change hearts and minds… and with blood and sweat and financial sacrifice, they made this happen. You didn’t. You sat on your ass in front of a computer or on stage at a speaking gig, and raged and gossiped about people you have personal grudges against. Often you attack people who are already in agreement with most if not all of your political and social views. And you continue to write offensive things about religion and religious people, all the while shouting “YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO NOT BE OFFENDED” at them; while simultaneously crying “I’M OFFENDED” at every little criticism aimed at you.

Hypocrisy.

You are not encouraging dialogue, addressing issues, solving problems or empowering people. First and foremost, what I and many of the others you’ve attacked on-line discuss when we talk about you is how to ignore you; how to correct for the misinformation you pump out on a daily basis and the toxic environment you have created, where discussion of social issues devolves almost immediately into infighting and Internet flame wars; how to get past the pointless drama you create, so we can actually set out to DO something about the issues we care about. We debate whether or not it’s better to ignore your bullshit, or push back against it. That is pretty much it. You inspire little else, outside of your little echo chambers and fan bases.

I am making a commitment to myself to create more positive content that is more in line with the ideas and strategies I was taught in leadership workshops and Women’s Studies courses in college. And I want to encourage others who are like-minded to do the same. More will be coming on that, but in the meantime, the people behind the insults and character assassinations have to realize: you are not helping, and you aren’t giving us anything meaningful to think about or discuss. You aren’t furthering the causes you claim to care about, unless your primary causes are merely shameless self-promotion and blog hits/ad revenue. Drama is an easy way to get attention, but it doesn’t change society or empower people. You’re fucking it up.

That’s all.

About Paul Loebe
  • Bart Meltzer

    Well said Ryan.

  • Chris A.
  • Eliot Parulidae

    I know the type of internet personality of which you speak, and I understand your outrage, but…what brought this on? Without any specific examples, the post seems unfocused. “Those X! They are so annoying!” is not a gripping thesis statement.

  • dagobarbz

    “Go die in a fire?” Hmmm.
    Sounds like you’ve got a /b/ infestation. Lotta those guys on Reddit now.

  • http://oolon.co.uk/ oolon

    You have a strange understanding of what FTB/Skepchick/A+ consider to be important Ryan. Especially appropriate this post comes out at the same time as this -
    http://www.starstryder.com/2013/11/06/truth-against-humanity

    Cos from where I am standing you and the “other side” have spent a whole lot of time and energy minimising things like this. Saying they either don’t happen or the “rage bloggers” are making it all up and “infantalising” women. Toughen up, don’t “make” yourself a victim or be a “professional victim” … As if that was even possible. Pamela is a victim, both in the initial assault and far far worse in the minimising, victim blaming and trying to avoid dealing with it that has subsequently happened. She now has PTSD and has probably achieved a whole lot less as a result of these actions and mishandling – damaging science and women in science as a whole. In an ideal world where there are proper harassment policies, which are adhered to, the initial assault is dealt with well – the person is ejected and not invited back, despite his seniority and power. Talking about it is not verboten as if this is something shameful on both sides, “drama” to be avoided and minimised. This is all the side I think are correct are asking for. Do you disagree?

    The real tragedy for me is that the skeptical community should be 110% on top of this sort of crap. We have studies and evidence of the harm done when minorities, like women, are subject to microagressions in the workplace and in everyday life such as Pamela talks about. When something as bad as a sexual assault occurs we should as one condemn it. But tribalism is such that this is not possible, if something looks to be damaging one “side” then its battens down the hatches! (I don’t see many from the other “side” giving Pamela support on that post, none in fact)

    One very good example of this is the author of this post, Ryan Grant Long, recently when his idol DJ Grothe is criticised he leaps to his defence. (https://www.facebook.com/djgrothe/posts/10152021454425856) DJ made a transphobic statement, seems his intent was different, but that fact remains. How do I know this? Well Ryan knows the opposite because he “has trans friends” and he did a LGBT gender studies course a few years ago and has the notes on it… For me? Well I cringed when I saw it and immediately thought it was awful, but then I saw DJ’s clarification I was unsure. OK he said something bad but his intention was to be for gender fucking, which is a good thing. So I looked to all the trans people commenting on it – trans men and women. Universally they are saying it’s transphobic and he should apologise. I read Natalie Reeds thoughts and a few other peoples. I’m convinced it was transphobic and while his intent was good it was an ignorant statement that arose from his own bias as a cis-man.

    So what is the right course of action here? To make a snap judgement based on tribal affiliation and your own very limited understanding of what it is to be trans. To try and minimise “drama” because you don’t like it? Or to listen to those who are actually subject to transphobia? Shut up and listen? Great example of it right here – don’t presume to talk for trans people because you know a couple. See what trans people are actually saying and listen to them. Not really hard. I’ll carry on with that approach, not Ryan’s. Thanks!

  • doubtthat

    There is a great deal of confusion in this post. You seem to be grouping together everyone you disagree with as though it’s a unified front.

    The main problem is the false equivalency – absent a single example, I might add – that underlies the entire post. Hypocrisy is seems to be your prime objection to this amorphous, undefined collective. You do this by adopting a classic tactic of generalizing a position until the hypocrisy can be found.

    For example, it is not hypocrisy to believe that one group’s claim of being offended is defensible while another’s is not. This is a basic reality of the world, but by generalizing the position to “thou shalt not offend anyone ever,” you sustain your charge.

    I can easily say that the offense caused by loudly bashing muslims in an office should be ceased while simultaneously believing that the offense taken by some muslims when images of Muhammad are published should be ignored. In the former, people have a right to be employed without being needlessly antagonized, while in the latter, society wide freedom of expression trumps the claim to offense. It’s an argument taken on a case by case basis.

    So without actually providing any example of what you’re talking about, we’re left with an unwarranted generalization about a group of people you haven’t bothered to identify in order to charge them with hypocrisy and call them lazy. Do you know these people didn’t work on political campaigns and otherwise invest their time in socially progressive causes?

    This post was full of dog whistles. It spends exactly zero words trying to establish a case, it’s simply a nod to folks already in agreement. Toss them some red meat.

  • ahermit

    Did you read this yet?

    http://www.starstryder.com/2013/11/06/truth-against-humanity/

    I learned that a witnesses to an event that occurred in 2008 is discussing that event and naming names. During the event in question, a man in power who I’d previously never met made a lunge at my breasts. This is one of the events that weighed on me when I wrote my TAM talk. It weighed on me when I said, “As an astronomer, at conferences, I’ve randomly had my tits and ass grabbed and slapped by men in positions of power and by creeps who drank too much. This is part of what it means to be a woman in science and skepticism.”

    I’ve been warned this may all hit the internet. I’ve been warned the social media maybe about to explode. I’ve been warned this could be devastating to my career. Let me put this more clearly: Because someone witnessed a man in power attempt to grab my boobs, I have been warned that I need to worry about my career being actively destroyed by others.

    That’s why some of us think things need to get fucked up…

    So sorry if that makes you uncomfortable Mr. Long, but this kind of shit needs to stop.

  • Natalie Reed

    This is Ryan Long, the dude who has had a history of things like threatening sexualized violence against specific women and their ‘c***ts’, making trivializing, nasty remarks about trans/intersex people, etc.. Dude isn’t exactly speaking from some superb moral high ground where he’s been a consistently great member of the “same side of the political fence” who only happens to occasionally make “poorly worded” Facebook posts. He’s regularly just as vicious, if not much more so, towards his fellow atheists as anyhing he accuses “social justice warriors” of here, and habitually uses people’s specific identities to attack them, so his claim to representing a more reasonable, kind, and forgiving behaviour is… well… the height of hypocrisy.

    • Christopher Camp

      So what he allegedly said in the past invalidates what he is actually saying in the present? How so?

      • Natalie Reed

        No, what he’s said in the (quite recent) past demonstrates the hypocrisy remarks, and invalidates the moral high ground upon which he’s built the entirety of his rhetoric and “argument” (absent any material statements, examples or or arguments whatsoever).

    • EllenBeth Wachs

      Well, leave it to a FTblogger to take something someone said totally out of context.

  • sinmantyx

    Could you please, maybe, perhaps, next time you want to go on some rant – could you quote or link to the ideas that you are criticizing?

    I know, for some reason, you think that’s a bad thing, but it’s not.

    The reason is because that’s the only way that anything you say could be challenged at all. Otherwise, you are making your own characterization (unable to be independently assessed or discussed) and essentially doing nothing else.

    Also, you just essentially “RAGE BLOGGED” about stuff and things, and that sort of undermines your entire point. Apparently, according to your logic, if one does such a thing, they do nothing else in their life.

    It’s also sort of bizarre that you appear very concerned about the counter-productiveness of attacking atheists; while mounting an “area effect” dressing down instead of constructively joining a conversation on a stated topic or suggesting a course of action or specific collaborative effort.

  • vexorian

    Actually, I take my post back. All other comments are good enough.

  • B-Lar

    Changed no hearts and minds? Changed mine.

    Those blogs you hate raise the awareness and intelligence of anyone who has the humility to accept that what they think they know already might be wrong. These (the one I just waded through) kinds of blog post actively try to suppress that effort.

    If this is an indicator of what RBB is going to be in the future, I probably wont be back. Maybe that was the goal all along!

  • Paul Loebe

    Thanks for your input. Thread closed


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