Social Justice Warriors

The “TERF War” has been the latest example consuming my attention for the last 6 years, rising to a crescendo around the J K Rowling and Maya Forstater cases in the last 18 months. But as a I keep saying it’s really an example of a more general problem, a problem that reared it’s head in the 21st C with the example of the God vs Science “Wars” alongside the real physical violence of religious extremism – also labelled a “War on Terror”.

I used to use the “Social Justice Warrior” label (caution – see scare quotes & use of “labels” #GoodFences) and I was reminded why today when Peter Boghossian published the cheat-sheet below:

(To be clear, at this point I’ve not actually read all the text in detail in the PDF, just the general idea. I’ll come back with post-notes if any detail changes my picture.)

I’d stopped using the “SJW” terms in favour of the specific TERF/GC & TRA terminology of the current example, but SJW contains a key word. However radical or reactionary or activist anyone’s take on any of this collection of issues – the warriors are fighting a WAR – binary win or lose by definition. And it’s true of both sides.

The problem I’ve always had with the Boghossian crowd – the radical sceptics – is they represent the “too cock-sure of the science” end of the SJ issues, where “rhetoric” is automatically a pejorative “label” condemning the other side. Both sides adopt the dogmatic “thin end of a wedge” don’t give an inch tactic. The rhetoric, including the rhetorical use of scientific evidence, is weaponised.

Since every topic involves context-dependent subtleties, the proper dialogue needed is lost in the trading of blows and labels in the binary war. Extremism is reinforced by the cycle of “debate”. My agenda continues to be to point out the dogma at both ends and encourage proper dialogue. Dialogue that requires quaint old fashioned (unscientific) human virtues like trust and good faith.

Anyway, Warrior is a reminder of where we’ve gone wrong.


Courtesy of Mark Hammonds on the Teesside Sceptics Facebook page:

“War on terror, war on crime, culture war …

What is the function of such a way of framing if not to discourage and stifle debate about the underlying issues?”

Couldn’t put it better.

Guess all I’m adding to that agenda is that even where there is no conspiratorial intent to use that framing for dubious ends, we all do it accidentally when assuming every day discourse is some kind of “for or against debate” – which it rarely is. The “scientistic meme” has encouraged us all to think in that “if it ain’t true it’s false” binary kinda way. Most unhelpful.

Posted as few times recently that I’m almost feeling like my meta-interest in the “TERF-War” is maybe coming to an end as more sensible voices appear to making progress over the name-callers and maybe I can actually get back to the main writing project, but every few days, I feel like this:

Hat tip @citizen_sane ]

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