Friday, August 29, 2014

Social Justice Warriors and How "Punitive Medicine" Might Come to the United States

I came across this article by Andrew Todd and although I agree with his macro-point that people who threaten women who disagree with them with rape need to be stopped, one part I did disagree with. See below:

“Social Justice Warriors” is a term used often by these sort of people, and it’s a term whose pejorative use perplexes me, because aside from the source of its invention, it sounds like a really badass thing to be. I’d much rather label myself a Social Justice Warrior than a warrior for...whatever it is that these people are warriors for. Social justice is such an inherently positive thing - literally everyone benefits from greater equality - that it’s impossible to see its enemies as anything but sociopathic. Hatred of Social Justice Warriors can be seen as a broader hatred of social justice itself.
Apparently Mr. Todd can't distinguish between people opposed to the cause of social justice (i.e. people who are racists, sexists, etc) and people opposed to the actions and attitudes of belligerent Internet left-wingers. And furthermore, he claims that people who are racists, sexists, etc. aren't simply immoral people, but sociopaths. Assuming the notion held by some Internet left-wingers that right-wingers have something congenitally wrong with them is true (it's not), that doesn't explain why left-wingers have come out against SJWs like this gentleman has here.

Let the record state that I am strongly opposed to racism, sexism, sending rape threats, and all the various a-hole things that take up most of Mr. Todd's denunciation. Those people deserve every ounce of opprobrium that can be rained down on them--and legal action too. Let's see how tough they are when they get charged with terroristic threats and get put in the cooler with really bad dudes.

However, I've criticized the SJWs myself a fair bit because of their propensity for swearing and many occasions when their claims get ridiculous--claiming J.K. Rowling is some kind of creepy Calvinist, which strikes me as quite absurd given the amount of criticism she's received from conservative Christians. Being a blowhard is so essential to these people they've invented a term that makes calling them out for their incivility immoral--"tone policing."

Obviously one should not ignore legitimate evidence just because the person presenting said evidence is a tool--Hitler and Stalin claimed the other was evil and they were both right--but I've seen people being complete jerks and claiming people are objecting to their behavior because they want minorities to shut up, not because they're jerks. Just because someone is a supporter of an ostensibly good cause doesn't mean that anybody opposed to that person is opposed to the cause itself--I'm a Christian, but I don't interpret attacks on individual Christians or organizations that misbehave as attacks on Christianity or Jesus.

Furthermore, accusing people with disagreeable views of being mentally ill is the first step down a very dangerous road. The kind of road that ends with the Soviet psychiatric gulag. Although I remember seeing some idiot on FreeRepublic claiming the Clintons and Obama were clinical narcissists, it seems to be more common on the (secular) left because they believe people are inherently good--so therefore when the reality of human evil becomes too obvious, they decide evil people aren't really people. See this article on sociopathy on Richard Dawkins' old website, for example. Or this one about the Virginia Tech shooter. In real life, I've got one friend who said "sociopath" is the scientific term for evil, another who said it's okay to love fictional psychopaths (including Loki from the Marvel films, who based on his attachment to his mother Frigga is not a clinical psychopath however much a murderous jerk he is) but one should avoid them in real life, and a third (a vocal member of the skeptic movement) who said that one of my Wastelands-verse characters is a psychopath even though, speaking as his creator, he's not.

(For the record, I toned his actions down a bit from that version of the story. If you're a writer and your reader misinterprets your character, odds are it's your fault for not defining him or her clearly enough.)

The "evil people are sociopaths" meme is something I first noticed a lot of on the site DemocraticUnderground, where people liked to claim various prominent Republicans were psychopaths and sociopaths (presumably the corporate variety chronicled in Snakes in Suits as opposed to the stereotypical mad ax-murderer). An entire pseudo-science called "ponerology" has been invented to justify this type of thing. Here's an example of ponerology being applied politically, to the point of conspiracy theory if you take the bit at the end about "PSYCHOPATHS RULE THE WORLD" into account. Here's another example of ponerology-as-ideology.

You say these people are isolated individuals (most of whom are limited to certain quarters of the Internet) who have no real power, right? Well, for starters every one who can vote has a small amount of power and once you get enough voters, then you're talking the potential for something truly dangerous. Once notions of un-persons and that certain political views are a sign of being an un-person get traction--and it wasn't long ago that a shadow of this passed over the political landscape--watch out. And before you say, "It can't happen here," well look at what's being discussed in Britain. Or what actually has happened in New York. Or the prominence of eugenics in the United States not all that long ago. The prevalence of the "bad people are sociopaths, not regular people who have made poor or immoral decisions" meme could represent a wider cultural trend, especially as Christianity, with its notions of universal human sin and that anyone can repent of their wickedness even late in their lives, declines in influence in the United States.

And politically, what happens when older left-wing leaders die and these people replace them in positions of leadership?

I imagine someone will accuse me of indulging in the slippery slope fallacy, and I concede that A doesn't necessarily lead to B and so on. However, if I were some obscurantist, I would have denied the existence of personality disorders as a whole, despite objective evidence for them. I could mimic the young-earth crowd and try to use religion to trump science (see Romans 2:15, which implies everyone has a conscience, something psychopaths/sociopaths don't have) and claim that the notion of personality disorders will inevitably lead to psychiatric abuses, the mistreatment of the children of criminals due to their supposedly defective heredity, etc. (fallacy of appeal to consequences), much like how the young-earthers claim belief in evolution leads to racism. My main concern is not popular prejudice (although I certainly object to that), but the political implications.

Ideas have consequences. If an idea is able to spread unchallenged and people believe it--and those people can vote--it is quite likely that laws will be made to reflect that. The notion that sex offenders cannot be rehabilitated, for example, led to those laws in New York, even though it may not be true.

No comments:

Post a Comment