Building Bigots

I don't know how to put this politely. All I know how to do is put it simply: internet social justice is hurting itself.

You've seen the pictures of me. You've heard me talk about my privilege. So why listen to someone as astonishingly privileged as I am talk about oppression? (Hey, if you'll listen to the privileged white media about social justice, as many people do...)

Now, I could tell you about the oppressions I personally face in daily life. I could tell you about microaggressions, and the things that are bigger than microaggressions. I could tell you about discrimination and hate crimes. I could tell you several million things that would make you burn with righteous outrage and start writing strongly-worded blog posts on tumblr (but doing more than that to challenge structures of oppression would probably be unlikely). But you probably wouldn't believe me; not because I would lie to you, but because I'm still just white cis scum.

So I won't tell you about my personal oppressions. Instead, I will tell you about observations I have made, because these are more concrete things.

I used to lurk on TiA, a subreddit dedicated to finding and mocking the worst of the righteous keyboard warriors of justice. Contrary to what non-redditors would assume, it's fairly diverse - at least, it used to be - and not just made up of white cis dudes. You also used to get a lot of fairly liberal and pro-social justice people posting there, though it seems to be taking a dangerously conservative bent. (I personally quit lurking there after they defended lots and lots of instances of misogyny.)

What I noticed is that TiA didn't start out with that conservative bent; it started out fairly liberal, with most people aware of inequality and injustice in the world. Some were activists. Some even held by privilege theory, which I certainly had never heard about until 3 years ago despite the seeds of privilege theory having been around since W. E. B. Du Bois (arguably; I'm not a scholar of privilege theory, so it's really not my field). In short, it was by no means a wretched hive of scum, villainy and neckbeards, and was probably a pretty fertile ground to get people to organise and actually do something about injustice.

So what changed? How do we go from people who participated in the Egyptian revolution to "it's okay, the girl in the paedophilia joke is actually 19"?

To be honest, a lot of stuff happened - and because of the way that screaming keyboard warriors present themselves as knights of justice and equality, it's easy to start becoming more conservative when critiquing them. But a big factor, and an upsetting one at that, was the way in which allies are treated.

In recent years, allies have been getting some pretty bad press for what is essentially being privileged and fucking up. Privileged people are scum, allies are scum and basically useless, and if an ally disagrees with you that violence is the answer they can go fuck a shark's mouth and die.

Now, I've had some pretty bad "allies" in my time, the kind of little shits who pride themselves on being so progressive and right-minded but silence you when you don't agree with them and perpetuate harmful, outdated stereotypes. These people come from every side of the political divide, and one thing unites them all: they are absolutely terrible at supporting oppressed people. In fact, they are detrimental to the struggle against oppression.

You know what I do with people like that? Cut them out of my life and keep them at bargepole length away from me. There's a reason I had the quotation marks around "allies", and it's because people like that aren't allies at all - they are enemies. While I am not the most inherently trustful person (I am very guarded and cynical, unless I really like you), I do try to assume that not every privileged person who takes the time to educate themselves about oppression is going to stab me in the back at some point for shits and giggles, and I certainly don't give many people the honour of being called my ally. It is a title I reserve only for people whom I truly love and trust. And it's also why I can't hate on privileged people as a group. I can recognise that some groups as a whole oppress others, because privilege theory seems to make sense and fit current observations reasonably well. But hating all privileged people because of their class doesn't sit well with me, not when I've known some who have gone out of their way to help me.

At this point some people are either going to write me off as internally oppressing myself, a slave to the white supremacist, economically violent, heteropatriarchal imperialist complex (yes, I did just throw some shiny buzzwords together), or as the incarnation of evil, because I'm not giving oppressed people the right to vent. Or something.

The funny thing is, I've no problem with venting - I've vented a lot about privileged people in my time - and I recognise that allies won't always understand. They can't. They don't face the same oppressions. So I don't expect them to understand completely; I turn to members of my own group for that. I just expect them to be there for me and to try their best.

I will now give you an example of what some people consider to be venting, but what I consider to be shitty behaviour. I will take a hypothetical conversation between me and my boyfriend as an example, because he's a straight male and I'm a queer female. Oppression incoming!

Me: You know, you suck because you're straight and male.
Boyfriend: Um...okay...this is a change.
Me: You don't understand my struggles, so you should just sit down and shut up when I talk about them instead of straightsplaining.
Boyfriend: Don't I do that anyway? And what the fuck is straightsplaining?
Me: It's not my job to educate you, shitlord. Stop oppressing me by breathing in my face.
Boyfriend: That's not oppression! And I've been there for you all the other times!
Me: Oh, so you want a fucking cookie for basic human decency? Fucking straight male allies. All you care about is yourselves. You're a fucking worthless piece of shit and I hate you.
Boyfriend: Oh. Um...thanks for letting me down when I just wanted someone to believe in me.
Me: See, you're making this discussion all about you. Typical males. I can't wait until we kill all of you.
Boyfriend: ...What the fuck?!
Me: Well, you straight males are all rapists anyway and we don't even need you to reproduce.
Boyfriend: I don't have to put up with behaviour like this. We're over. And don't ever fucking talk to me or come near me again.
Me: Fuck you for weaponising your privilege. A real ally would have shut up while I vented. Go kill yourself, you piece of shit oppressor!

Fortunately, this discussion has never actually happened, because denigrating an intimate partner, telling them that they're worthless and will never be good enough, and inciting them to suicide is emotional abuse. But this seems to be considered acceptable behaviour in certain quarters, and I think it turns a lot of people off. Most people will not support someone who tells them over and over again that they're horrible, worthless people and that the world would be better if they didn't exist, because the kind of people who do that are bullies and abusers. This is not weaponising privilege; this is the idea that acting like an abusive shit makes people want to avoid you regardless of how privileged or oppressed you are.

Anyway, now that that little detour about ally hate is over, I can get back to my original thesis. I'm not going to spend much time on how such abusive behaviour alienates potential allies, because the widespread attitude is that if privileged people are alienated by oppressed people being angry, it's their own damn fault. This is reasonable when the anger in question is not abusive. When "oppressed people being angry" is "I've never, ever interacted with you but you should go kill yourself because you, personally, are a waste of space", then I would disagree with that, but everyone knows I'm a collaborator.

What I am going to spend time on is how abusive ally hate doesn't just stop people from wanting to support the good fight against oppression (which, by the way, is a dick move), it makes people want to oppose that fight in favour of institutionalised bigotry. This is exactly what I have seen on TiA and to a lesser extent in other places: chance upon the very worst instances of people being abusive for great justice, don't see many counterexamples, grow to think that social justice is about being abusive, and from there it's a couple of teeny tiny baby steps to hanging out with white nationalists. No, really. Not that anyone would actually, you know, critically reflect on that or anything.

I do not lay all of the blame at the feet of people who confuse fighting against oppression with emotional abuse - I am of the opinion that if you hang out with white nationalists and don't reject them as soon as you figure out they're awful you're maybe not the most ethical of people - but the end result is that in trying to fight oppression by acting like a dick, if you end up creating more oppression by making more people hang out with fascists and white nationalists, you should probably rethink your methods.

Now, people who aren't immensely privileged will know this, but some others still haven't got the memo: fascists and white nationalists are really, really nasty people. When they're out of power, they're absolutely hilarious, but the last time they were in power round about the time of the Second World War, they killed my family. Because they see me as subhuman, the current lot think that this is a good thing and would do it all over again. And they're fucking terrifying.

If you're turning people to the cause of bigoted, genocidal pieces of shit, you're not fighting oppression - even if you have the best of intentions. You are perpetuating it. And because that bigotry has history and institutionalised oppression on its side, it becomes that much more likely to utterly crush you and create a worse world. So for fuck's sake, lay off the anger and the abuse and lay on weakening the beast of oppression to create a better world for all of us.