Sunday, February 11, 2018

Call-Out Culture Is a Toxic Garbage Dumpster Fire of Trash

Article by Katie Herzog in The Stranger:

There’s a name for this behavior: witch hunts. Someone is accused, judged, and condemned for an alleged or apparent transgression, and the townspeople on Facebook and Twitter grab their pitchforks and rush to the burn pile. There may be little evidence to support the prevailing narrative, but that hardly matters. The trial is conducted via social media, and the judges are anyone with access. Take a recent incident in Seattle, when the (ironically, Jewish) founder of the Punk Rock Flea Market was widely accused of being a Nazi sympathizer after a false and unsubstantiated claim that he kicked a woman of color out of his event was circulated on social media. I often write about social media mobs exactly like this, and what I have found is that they are not frequently misinformed, they are almost always misinformed. You just don't know what happened unless you were (A) there or (B) someone has actually investigated whatever claims have come forth. But that's not how mobs work.

This atmosphere makes it difficult, if not impossible, to dissent. I was recently talking to a friend about the #MeToo movement. In hushed tones, she told me she had a confession to make. “Don’t tell anyone,” she said, “but I don’t think Woody Allen raped his daughter.” Luckily for her, she was in good company—I also doubt the veracity of Woody Allen’s guilt because the evidence just doesn’t support the claims—but she said this as though she were confessing to a terrible crime. And she was: a thought crime, one so potentially harmful to her standing among her own friends that expressing it to anyone besides a known thought criminal was unthinkable. The resistance, it seems, is intersectional in everything but opinions.

In a recent Wired piece, techno-sociologist Zeynep Tufekci wrote about contemporary censorship, which comes not from governments but from our own social networks. “The most effective forms of censorship today involve meddling with trust and attention, not muzzling speech itself," she wrote. "As a result, they don’t look much like the old forms of censorship at all. They look like viral or coordinated harassment campaigns, which harness the dynamics of viral outrage to impose an unbearable and disproportionate cost on the act of speaking out."

I see this every day. Just this week, a complete stranger tagged me in a tweet:
Yep @kittypurrzog has written a number of very questionable articles. @TheStranger should consider re-evaluating whether they want to continue promoting her incendiary views.
— Guy Oron (@GuyOron) January 23, 2018
This person, Guy, finds my opinions so “incendiary”—so trash—that he wants me to get fired from my job for expressing my thoughts. That blows my mind. I’m a critic at an alt-weekly, not a politician. My views are just that: my own views. The idea that my opinions are so dangerous that I should be fired from my job isn’t just silly, it’s scary. It’s not like I’m over here advocating that everyone go out and club baby seals.

Progressives used to be able to handle dissent. The Democrats were the party of free speech and free thought. No more. Among far too many leftists, if you disagree, you are wrong. And if you are wrong, you are bad, and if you are bad, you are trash.

This is a shame, and not just because I’m sick of getting angry e-mails. It’s a shame because this call-out culture prevents people from actually speaking their minds, because they are too scared of being unfriended, unfollowed, blocked, shunned, or dismissed as simply trash. But we shouldn't be shutting opinions we disagree with down; we should be seeking them out. You don’t learn much if everyone around you believes—or professes to believe—the exact same thing as you do, and if we don't expose ourselves to a diversity of opinions, we are never going to get out our self-imposed echo chambers. These echo chambers didn’t just bring us President Donald Trump, they brought us a liberal establishment so unable to see and believe that other people actually liked the fucker, that we all laughed at his candidacy instead of taking it as the very real threat that it was all along.

The world is falling apart around us, and we—liberals, progressive, leftists, whatever you want to call us—are too busy fighting with each other to actually do anything concrete about it, even though we agree on most of the big, important issues. The reality is, we are more alike than we are different. Like every other progressive worth my “I voted” sticker, I think Trump is the biggest threat to world stability that we’ve seen in the past 50 years. I think women should be able to procure abortions easily, cheaply, and legally. I believe that climate change is an existential threat to humanity, that white supremacy and unfettered capitalism are bad for us all, and that every single person on this planet should have access to housing, health care, clean water, good jobs, fair wages, and food to feed their kids. But that doesn’t matter—all that matters are these tiny, minute disagreements about pussy hats or emotional support animals or disgraced celebrities or whatever outrage of the day has captured the national attention. All that matters is that you are woke and I am trash.
Read it all.

Bravo. Encore.

In the interests of accuracy, during this current postmodern witch hunt, I have decided to call myself a "classical liberal" (ugh--why isn't there another term?) instead of a leftist or lefty... I hate the modern regressive Left too much to align myself with them now. This political crisis is one reason why I haven't blogged here much and have mostly fulminated on tumblr. I have now decided tumblr is part of the problem too, and likely cannot be reformed, which was my wish. I have pretty much given up on my tumblr account, and like another local friend of mine ((waves!)) will henceforth (probably) stick to posting pretty photos of nature, cats and goats. The tumblresque self-imposed self-censorship is stultifying and stifling.

Censorship, McCarthyism, Stalinism, witch hunts, The Crucible--choose your terms, they have arrived and are in full bloom.

And this is the new front we fight on, since without free speech and inquiry, there is absolutely nothing to fight for.

Nothing at all.

3 comments:

Daisy Deadhead said...

Somebody on tumblr wondered 'why can't we all get along??' or somesuch... I went back in history and actually attempted to answer the question to the best of my ability.

Then I never posted it, LOL.

Here is what I wrote:

Baby boomers (I am one) were alike across many demographic strata (e.g. watched the same tv shows and ate the same food since there were literally no other choices). There were also gazillions of us, and we all ended up in the same over-run public schools, regardless of economic class or religion, since there were so many. Families simply could not afford private schools (and endless consumer goodies) for the whole Partridge Family the way they can for 1-2 kids now.

For this reason, and also because media was very young and new -- baby boomers share many cultural landmarks in common, and if you said to a roomful of baby boomers, “that guy is acting like Mr Spock”--everybody knew what that meant and who that was... rich, poor, all races of Americans, all genders etc... Mr Spock was on lunch boxes. Unlike now, parents and grandparents knew who he was too; they watched the same media we all did--there was not a tv set in every room, usually own one per household.

After cable TV, cheaper tvs and increasing FM radio choices, the culture atomized. Rich and poor and old and young and rural and urban suddenly had different choices, attuned to their specific identities. This was extremely profitable, to encourage regional and racial (etc) identities... marketing could get very specific re: fashion, region (think of the increasing popularity of sports team clothing/memorabilia, which has utterly exploded since I was a kid), music, tv, radio, movies, stores, neighborhoods, architecture... suddenly people are more atomized and more segregated than ever before. The market has exacerbated this, and the increasing separatism of the population seems to be an accidental consequence, not a wholly-deliberate separation or segregation. (yes, once again, you can blame capitalism)

Social groups now speak their own media-languages and political-languages and market-languages to each other--if you don’t know these special, arcane languages, you literally can’t play, are not invited, can’t even get your foot in the door.

The results.

Nobody can talk to anybody anymore. Nobody knows what anyone means.

Of course, our political discourse is totally fractured.

IDENTITY--a marketing technique-- has risen to sacrosanct proportions; people confuse the reification of identity with actual political work... partly because that demands nothing from anyone but partly because they believe what they are saying; they have no other idea of what politics might be. When I ask them to come on down to the deep South and help us out, the way the yankees did in the days of the Freedom Riders (and I have been saying this to the Left since I first signed on in 1998; still waiting) ... they blink. They react as if I am speaking Martian. They don’t see these political feelings as anything they need to change their life-goals over or act upon in any other way but rearranging internal identities; in other words, nothing that would upset the social order.

There is no challenge of power. Identity is therefore not part of the solution, it is part of the problem.

So, when young tumblrites talk “politics”--I have no idea what they mean. To me, politics IS action.

This is why we cannot talk and even when we try, cannot understand each other.

JoJo said...

You should have posted it and you should definitely post it on FB. You really hit the nail on the head. Russell is disgusted with the liberals and I am too to be honest. I keep telling him that 'liberals' didn't used to act that way at all and it was possible to have an intelligent discussion with people who had different ideas and opinions. You are so right that "nobody can talk to anyone anymore." Russell is a big time Trump supporter so imagine what it's like living with that all the time. lol He tries to bait me into arguing with him and I won't do it.

Daisy Deadhead said...

Yeah--I get upset that so many of the liberals *don't know how* to talk to conservatives anymore. Here in South Carolina, us liberals are way outnumbered and so we're *forced* to learn how--so when I hear about high-minded, pure libs who "refuse" to debate conservatives? I think: Must be nice to be surrounded with people just like you all the time! Good work if you can get it!

But just think of how boring that is too... lol.