In a long-ago conversation with someone of a social-justice bent, I offered up the element of the “Protestant work ethic” that’s about “being left alone in one’s toil,” as a goal of people of a libertarian bent. The context was obvious, but my counterpart deliberately chose to read it as my advocating for a particular religion. And, by extension, as the exclusion of other faiths and other viewpoints.

You’ll have to take my word for it that my intent was clear, of course, but we should all recognize the tactic. Deliberately misreading an analogy or metaphor, or picking an element of an argument that’s not germane to the point being made, in order to avoid having to rebut the core argument, is cheap and logically fallacious but quite common. A similar dodge rests in deconstructing a simile or metaphor to unearth imperfections in the attempted analogy – all the while knowing full well what the intended point is. Or, even more simply, in declaring a word or action as violating one of their countless new rules.

Oftentimes, such tactics carry a degree of personal attack, and it seems to happen most when interacting with someone who claims the social justice high ground. Indeed, it’s become stock-in-trade of that crowd to deep-dive people’s history and social media for decades-old tidbits that can be used to level accusations of racism, insensitivity, or the like. These are the same folks who tell us that political correctness is merely good behavior, sensitivity to the oppressed, respect, common courtesy, and so forth, but the reality is that they use the carefully laid mine-field that is Social Justice as a weapon.

This recollection surfaced in my recent reading of a Facebook thread in a closed group. The kerfuffle that ensued was initially prompted by the deletion of a previous post by the page’s moderator, a post that, I gather, was deleted because it was a hear-say accusation.

I culled the most, well, interesting comments:

Original Poster (OP): Stop censoring this page. Dear [Moderator], decolonize yourself. It’s almost 2020. People have every right to speak the truth and it’s not your responsibility to police it … Stop this bullying.
MOD: Dear OP – All I ask for is first hand accounts, not hearsay. It is my responsibility to police it, as I … started this page.
OP: Censorship is colonial, white supremacist, patriarchal behavior. Stop it or I’m reporting you.
OP: (directed at a different commenter) This type of attitude is exactly why ABCDE has a toxic culture. … But since you are white and you have privilege, you don’t understand that.
OP: (again, directed at a different commenter) You have no idea what gender I identify as. Please shut your narrow minded face. you go away!
OP: Never assume pronouns without asking. We don’t live in that kind of world anymore.
OP: I would suggest renaming this page. Unofficial [Moderator] ABCDE page. To make it sound inclusive and welcoming is inappropriate.
OP: Gender pronouns are important for our trans/non binary/queer community.We have a responsibility to honor them. Never assume someone is a girl even if they appear to be.
Other Commenter: Be better than your pronouns.
OP: Ok seriously this is actually very inappropriate… ‘Be better than your pronouns’ is gross and really shameful when that matters so much to many people.

Near the end of the thread, someone chimed in with “They do exist…”

This was exactly my reaction. Here I had, in full-bloom and woke as all fuck, a Social Justice Warrior of the first order, who weaponized all that she (yes, she. Her personal page included her self-identification – her protest was that it was assumed) has been taught by the SJ mandarins. The initial comment could have simply been an opening to a discussion about the reasons for the previous deletion, but she had instead already concluded that the deletion was prima facie evidence of an oppressive mindset (see: “decolonize yourself”).

I could guess what “decolonize yourself” means, but instead I decided to research it. Two results stand out.

If you want your brain to melt into pudding, read the first one, which includes this paragraph on “neurodecolonizing.”

The minds of ALL people who navigate within Empire have been occupied, or colonized, by the memes and values of the Settler State. In today’s era of massive change and climate disaster, root causes such as monotheism, imperialism, white superiority, hetero-patriarchy, capitalism, corporatism, resource extraction and binary political systems are rapidly being exposed as outdated frauds. Even if we have learned to thrive within the simulacrum of these human-created systems, the fact remains that Empire is toxic to all life, including our own. The conditioning and domestication we have received over millennia has translated into many artificial beliefs, habits and behaviors.

Huh?

Wait… the second one explains the first one. And the OP’s use of the phrase. And all the other citations I found in my search. From Urban Dictionary:

Buzzword for indigenous activists. It really means nothing.
Indigenous Activists:”Hey white people are bad”
Person: “No I dont thi-”
Indigenous Activists:” RACIST COLONIZER BIGOT. You better DECOLONIZE YOURSELF.”

Yep, just an empty insult.

Our Woke OP coughed up a lexicon of Social Justice buzzwords: Decolonize, colonial, white supremacist, patriarchal, toxic, privilege, pronouns, inclusive, non binary, inappropriate. She also demonstrated that her entire raison d’être is the deliberate taking of offense. In doing so, she seeks to pre-empt any rejection or rebuttal of her assertion, and therefore not have to defend it. She mined for malice in the moderator’s actions, and continued to do so in response to every other comment offered in that thread.

As I noted earlier, the argument made in favor of political correctness is one of courtesy and good behavior. However, deliberately mining for malice, even when it is clearly absent to a rational and otherwise unmotivated observer, is not “good behavior.” It is not civility. It is not respecting others. It is antithesis of the SJWs’ assertions regarding political correctness. The irony is lost on them, of course, but the hypocrisy is obvious.

Going through life with this mindset must be utterly exhausting. It is a modern, secular form of Puritanism, described by H. L. Mencken as, “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy,” coupled with a Calvinistic “everyone’s a sinner.” To spend your life constantly on the alert for words or phrases that violate the modern social justice dogma must be pure misery, and misery that’s not even counterweighed by the promise of an eventual entry into Heaven. Even the wokest-of-woke are one errant syllable away from a Twitter-horde flogging and being relegated to eternal purgatory.

This absolutism is why so many people have turned to mockery of the movement. If you can’t ever hope to satisfy, why even bother trying? The shame is that the professed goal: protection of the oppressed, isn’t a bad thing. The excesses of these “miners for malice” do more harm than good.

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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