An innocuous “memory” was offered by Facebook this morning. I chuckled at it – it was a “throwaway” comment about a moment I had on a vacation a number of years ago – and was about to re-share.

Then, I paused. Was this harmless (trust me) comment one that some motivated scold could deliberately misinterpret in order to cast aspersions at me?

That this moment of self-reflection happened tells us that the culture wars are over, and that lovers of liberty have lost.

Social justice warriors can take a victory lap, knowing that they have succeeded in prompting their fellow members of society to reflect upon the things they say and write within the context of others’ feelings, to respect others’ sensitivities, and to be more sensitive to the plight of oppressed identity groups.

They are correct in that they’ve won, but they are wrong as to what they’ve accomplished. Their success is the coercion of the bully, the heckler’s veto, and the intimidation of the hall monitor. The “sensitivity” they’ve engendered is that of self-preservation, not of what they’d call “woke”-ness.

Just about every post-transgression apology that famous people offer when the synthetically indignant, as George Will has called them, go dog-pile on something they said or did is one of self-preservation, not of cultural elevation. Every non-posting by someone like me of something that is (again, trust me) wholly “appropriate” to sane people is proof that the scolds have achieved their true, cynical goal: the shutting down of anyone who might not agree with every one of their demands.

It extends beyond the public speech of social media. The excesses of the #metoo movement have put men – good, non-sexist, right-minded, treat-everyone-equally men – on the defensive in the work place, to the point where they actually avoid women (this, of course, draws its own scolding). Comedians are shunning college campuses. “Cancel Culture” is now a thing. Comic Dave Chapelle, who just released a provocative special, is being “discussed” rather than enjoyed or ignored.

The great hypocrisy (well, one of several) lies in the scolds’ own disingenuousness. Many scolds are on board the woke train for selfish and/or defensive purposes. This has been dubbed “ally theater” by a professor at Penn State.

This is cultural Big-Brotherism. Instead of the government’s all-seeing Eye motivating people to behave, the social justice mob, awash in free time and earning dopamine rewards every time a scalp is claimed, applies relentless pressure on the rest of us to shut our mouths and censor our shares.

And, with the eternal nature of the Internet coupled with the vast quantities of free time human innovation (aka capitalism) has provided to these scolds and scold-aspirants, twenty year old comments or actions (or even older as pre-Internet content gets systematically digitized) are excavated, for nefarious purpose.

Yes, indeed, the scolds have won. Not in their purported goal: the “awakening” of people to bigotry and oppression. To their less noble desire: the silencing of everyone who is not them, of them, or defended by them. They achieved this not by the oft-ineffective ham-fistedness of government regulation, but by the threat of personal and professional ruin. They’ll defend their methods as “free speech,” and they’d be accurate, at least according to Hoyle.

But, they’re not “right.” The principles of liberty rest on the presumption of equality – that one’s rights end where they infringe on another’s. This does not debar disagreement, argument, or open hostility (as long as it doesn’t devolve to violence, threat, or overt intimidation). But, the diffuse intimidation of the mob is an end-around this limit. One person fabricating an outrage over another’s otherwise-innocuous statement is an interaction. A mob ganging up on someone is an intimidation, and it’s antithetical to liberty.

Sadly, I don’t recall anyone accusing social justice scolds of being friends to liberty, and I’ve no reason to believe that any of them are.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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