Martin Luther King Jr. was a social justice warrior.
Yes. That headline is meant to trigger you. Yes, it sucks to live in a world where we can’t even use the word “trigger” in a genuine way because of how our language has been hijacked and politicized.
Here is the definition of the ward “warrior” according to Miriam Webster Dictionary:
: a person engaged or experienced in warfare; broadly : a person engaged in some struggle or conflict
If we could miraculously erase all of the ugly American history, loaded language, and bitter culture wars from our minds, wouldn’t we all want our social systems to have tenets that hold some regard for justice or fairness? Not to expect that life will always be fair or that we are all guaranteed equal outcomes despite our efforts or qualifications. Justice should be an ideal we strive for, even if we never 100% master the pursuit.
(Let me add the caveat that I also understand that “justice” itself is somewhat of a subjective concept.)
When I first heard the term “social justice warrior” or “SJW” (as the super cool kids say), I had difficulty understanding the negative connotation, until I was informed that the subtext of the phrase is meant to be sarcastic. According to a friend who really hates SJWs, these people aren’t really activists. They are just people who talk a bunch of shit on the internet, but don’t really care about the issues. They just want to catch people being insensitive, and galvanize the PC Police to shame them out of existence. Here is the definition of “social justice warrior” according to Urban Dictionary:
:A person who causes problems for normal people through protest and constant nagging because they cant accept that life ins’t fair
I think this is a legitimate cultural and generational issue, but in many ways, the response has been more than sufficient with backlash from mainstream outlets and figures like Bill Maher, Joe Rogan, and South Park.
Despite this legitimate criticism, there has become a symbiotic relationship between the “SJW” or far-left crowd and provocateur rightwing personalities who make their living by angering (trolling) those most sensitive to cultural or social issues primarily pertaining to identity. It really is a back and forth game of ping pong in which they each need the other to substantiate their own outrage and existence. Ann Coulter will say something awful or Donald Trump will push forward a policy that targets minorities – The leftists lose their shit, plan protests and boycotts – The shock-jock right gets to lap up all the “snowflake” tears – Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
This can even go in reverse like the controversy at Evergreen State College with professor Brett Weinstein enflaming the rightwing outrage machine by substantiating their confirmation bias about college campuses being run amok by leftist, Marxist, femi-nazi, SJW, safe-space, blah, blah, blah………I could keep going. Fill in the blank with the latest cutting edge ad hominem attack.
My main problem and the point of this article is if we are at a place where sarcasm is the implied tone to describe significant words and phrases, how do we tell the difference when someone is engaging in the activity that the words are ACTUALLY SUPPOSED TO MEAN?
Martin Luther King Jr. fought nonviolently to acheive social justice for blacks in terms of equality, integration, voting rights, and economic opportunity. I’m sure if you were to ask him if he was a “warrior” for “social justice”, the answer would have been unequivocally, “YES”.
The most famous phrase of the world’s most famous superhero, Superman, is “Truth, Justice, and the American Way”. If this character debuted in 2017 with that phrase, people would assume there was some political ulterior motive, because even the idea of justice is considered taboo. This is probably why modern audiences have a tough time accepting new Superman films with this original intent of the character as a morally pure, squeaky-clean boy scout. We are too cynical to think that anyone truly believes in authentic justice in their heart of hearts. Our modern heroes are anti-heroes – Walter White, Deadpool, or slowly vacillating the spectrum between good and evil towards existing in perpetual moral ambiguity like most of the characters in the world’s most popular show, Game of Thrones.
The fact of the matter is that the phraseology is less about diagnosing a new problem, but dividing us into diametrically opposed camps – Us and Them. Once I call you a “social justice warrior” or “SJW”, the conversation is over. I have embodied everything of who you are and what you believe into a compact acronym. You are part of a team that all thinks, behaves, and engages in unison. No nuance, no complexity. Most importantly, you are the “bad guy”.
SJW. Libtard. Cuck. Snowflake. Globalist. Teabagger. Trumpista. Republicunt. These are the new slurs. Mainstream society has more or less eliminated the acceptable use of slurs based on race, religion, or sexual orientation, but it is completely ok to use a slur to show your unfiltered vitriol for someone as long as they stand on the political opposition to you. These words are meant to insult, stereotype, and divide. Just like racial slurs, except without the history of oppression baked in. It’s their trendy new-slur shine that serves as subterfuge as to appear innocuous. You call someone a “cuck” who doesn’t know what it is, and it becomes inside joke fodder for your little club. Eventually it catches on and becomes part of the insult lexicon. Though like all trends, it will fade. I predict “snowflake” will age as well as calling someone a “jive turkey” in 1975.
The left shares significant blame in this trend as well. Leading up to the election of Donald Trump, there has been a massive uptick in the language regarding white supremacy, white privilege, white nationalism, mansplaining, the patriarchy, and in response to the rise of the Alt Right and the violence in Charlottesville, trying to pin down exactly what constitutes being a Nazi.
The meme about Nazi-punching has built some steam within the leftwing zeitgeist after Richard Spencer, the de facto leader and person who coined the term “alt right”, as well as founder of the magazine Alternative Right, was randomly punched on Inauguration Day. Also, the rise of the ant-fascist, anarchist, “by any means necessary” Antifa, and the perceived coming-out-party for white nationalists that was the Unite The Right Rally and subsequent violence that took place in Charlottesville, VA last month have helped propagate this narrative.
I’m not here to talk about the moral dilemma on whether or not it’s ok to punch Nazis. You can hear me tackle this subject on my podcast The Ex Man. I’m here to talk about calling people “Nazis”.
No one seriously goes around calling themselves a “cuck” or “libtard”. They are word creations used as verbal weapons against an enemy. Conversely, there are plenty of self-described Nazis. They are an actual organization. I just googled “Nazi” and The American Nazi Party website (not linked, because fuck them) is the first thing that showed up. The Nazi Party or National Socialist German Worker’s Party existed in Germany in the early 20th century and tried to conquer the world.
“Nazi” means something.
In the video above where Richard Spencer gets punched, he says several times he is not a Nazi, and that Nazis hate him. Perhaps he is playing semantic games in order to rebrand and repackage the same ideology with nice suits, elite education, and a tight haircut, but being able to discern who is who matters when you are trying to win a war of ideas.
Neo Nazis are their own organization. The Klu Klux Klan are their own organization. The Alt Right are their own thing, and some shit-posting 4Chan, men’s rights loving douchebag who trolls people on the internet and never leaves his house is his own thing. Just because a Neo Nazi and KKK member are both racist, does not mean they believe all the same things. Not trying to understand the difference makes us just as ignorant as the American war machine that stormed into Iraq without knowing the difference between a Sunni and Shia Muslim.
An actual Neo Nazi may still advocate for the genocide of all non-Aryan races (I didn’t stay on their site long enough to find out), where as Richard Spencer might just (claim to) want complete segregation, but not violence. Some make the argument that the pursuit of a segregated ethnostate is just the slippery slope that will alway lead to genocide. I sympathize and respect that argument, but I still think the other slippery slope is where our terms become so broad in their use that they lose their meaning.
Trump in his “many sides” comment and subsequent horrible press conference is possibly sympathizing with Neo Nazis, performing a soft and forced condemnation of Nazis, or dog-whistling to Nazis doesn’t distinctly make him a Nazi. If you look at Trump’s history of discrimination, racial rhetoric, and policy proposals, it is very fair to say that he may be or is a racist. You can say that he endorses policies that support white supremacy. But I do not think it’s fair to call him a “Nazi”. One can be a racist and believe in maintaining white supremacy, and still not be a Nazi.
Former Trump administration chief strategist and Breitbart chairman, Steve Bannon, has become white nationalist boogeyman #1 for the left to such an inflated degree that Saturday Night Live lampooned him as the literal embodiment of Death – taker of souls.
Bannon has been quoted as saying that Breitbart is “the platform for the Alt Right”, accused of using anti-Semitic language, but also recently quoted after Charlottesville saying that ethno-nationalists were “losers” and “a collection of clowns”.
He may be a nationalist, but is he a white nationalist? Is he Alt Right? Is he a Nazi? I’m not totally sure, but we should be as certain as possible before labeling anyone with claims this serious.
My gut tells me that Trump and Bannon more than likely use and capitalize off of fringe extremist groups for political gain, because they know racial resentment helps their cause. They may be racist, but we can’t fully know what is in someone’s heart or mind. As Denzel Washington’s Alonzo said in Training Day, “It’s not what you know. It’s what you can prove.” What they definitively are is opportunists and manipulators of pawns on the front line.
When you call everyone who is racially insensitive or on the right of the political spectrum a “Nazi”, the word loses it’s meaning and it’s power when we have to identify actual Nazis. It is a classic Boy Who Cried Wolf scenario; no different when those on the right call every liberal or progressive a socialist, commie, Maoist, Marxist, or Stalinist.
There are plenty of self-described socialists or communists out there that there is no need to paint a broad brush unless you are deliberately trying to mislead and deceive. Using terminology too broadly ruins your credibility. These words are used to shut down your critical thinking and dehumanize the “enemy”. Jews were compared to rats in the Holocaust and Tutsis were called “cockroaches” in the Rwandan Genocide. Conspiracy psychopath (put a lot of thought into using that word) and loyal Trump booster Alex Jones just compared Democrats to roaches the other day on Twitter.
This is getting out of hand. Do what you can to not let these words trick you into hating your fellow men and women just because you disagree politically.
Words matter. They have meaning. We have to do better.
Richard Spencer may claim he’s not a Nazi and that Neo-Nazis hate him but he does pull a lot from their imagery and rhetoric. He gave a speech where he literally did the Nazi salute and shouted, “Heil Trump! Heil Our Country!” He is of course a white supremacist and wants a “peaceful” ethnic cleansing. He skirts very dangerously toward Nazi territory, not that that is any better than white supremacy/nationalism.
The Alt-Right also flirts quite a bit with Nazi imagery.
I do ultimately, agree with you that Nazi can get thrown around a lot.