When Upton Sinclair ran for Congress as a socialist, he got 60,000 votes. When he ran the same platform under the slogan “End Poverty in California”, he got 879,000. His conclusion was that Californians would gladly accept socialism – just so long as it was called something else.
Writer, editor, and game developer Vox Day believes that modern day America has gladly accepted a regime of thought policing under the label of anti-racism, feminism, and equality – broadly grouped together as “social justice”. A reductive social justice concept is that if you are male, white, straight, you are either an oppressor, or benefit from the oppression, of women, ethnic minorities, and queer people. These are pretty firm categories. White people who live in trailer parks are presumably contributing, somehow, to the systematic oppression of Will Smith’s kids.
What’s interesting is that the poor oppressed classes always seem to be able to get their oppressors fired, suspended, or censured, often for fairly disproportionate things. Pax Dickinson tweeted some Family Guy level jokes on his personal Twitter account. Satoshi Kanazawa reported on the results of a science experiment done by someone else. The CEO of Mozille donated $1,000 to an traditional marriage organisation in 2008. Thank God that the hammer of justice fell on such villains. You can talk about glass ceilings and invisible knapsacks, but Vox asks: are you really oppressed if you can so easily destroy the livelihoods and reputations of your oppressors? At this point, social justice seems like a boxer with a 84-21 record, still claiming to be the scrappy underdog.
Vox overstates his case in the title and nearly every page of this book, but then he’s built a reputation as science fiction’s enfant terrible, and his readers probably expect nothing less. Much of the book is interesting and reasonable. There’s some interesting amateur psychoanalysis of SJWs, and some history of how we got where we are. I could have done with less GamerGate, and a less exhaustive account of the SFWA’s internal politics. There’s a lot of things in here that literally nobody will care about in 3 years.
Towards the end, he’s in uncomfortable territory that will make some readers wonder if he’s that big an improvement over the social justice warriors. He comes up with a battle plan for combating SJWs that includes items such as “restricting their speech” and “denying them employment”, based on such dead giveaways as having a COEXIST bumper sticker. I prefer an alternate battle plan that includes items such as “minding my own business” and “leaving people alone”
And he doesn’t address the other problem: the fact that helping the downtrodden is a fundamentally worthy goal, and that many social justice warriors have their hearts in the right place, destructive and dangerous though their movement has become. Social justice is basically an overgrown sense of altruism, like a peacock’s tail growing until it smothers the bird. Vox Day’s approach to the problem is Genghis Khan’s: “Kill them. Kill them all.” I think a lot of these people could be met halfway, and could have their mental energies directed in a positive direction.
Otherwise, this is a decent book’s who’s time has come – social justice certainly isn’t directed in a positive direction right now. I think I first noticed it in 2007 or so – the way everything had become stifled, cringing, and apologetic. I once watched a Stephen Pinker debate about gender differences, and he prefaced his argument with several minutes of grovelling apologies about how oppressed women are and he’s not denying that and [insert more self-flagellation]? Why? What was he scared of? Anthropologist Gregory Cochran described a friend who thought he might do research in an area with politically sensitive implications (the genetics of Ashkenazi Jews), and was told he had balls. Why should a scientist doing science require balls? Nicholas Wade wrote a book about biological differences between races, and had virtually the entire genetics community perform an Amish-style shunning. Why? Even if the book’s wrong…does this normally happen? If Paul Krugman makes a mistake about the Laffer curve, does the entire economic world rise up and spit him out? Why are some topics and some ideas just…off limits?
Vox Day might not be the hero we need, or the one we deserve, but he’s the one we have. I just hope he remembers that Nietzsche line about reflective abysses. Nietzsche wasn’t a SJW, because he didn’t lie.