John Kerry’s been in the headlines lately. President Obama skipped the big Paris Charlie Hebdo rally, didn’t send any high-ranking American official, and was caught without a real explanation. Last week Obama finally sent Kerry to Paris, who brought James Taylor along to sing "You've Got a Friend" to the French people and make amends for the slight. Now that the French are reassured that all they have to do is call, and things are presumably back to the normal level of tension between the two nations. Kerry's Parisian charm offensive made me think back to his "swiftboating" in the 2004 presidential election. Speaking of which, Twitter is a very good place to get swiftboated in 2015.
I’ll explain what I mean by that, but first some background. Recently the comedian Margaret Cho appeared on the Golden Globe Awards, acting out a broad parody of a North Korean general in an exaggerated pan Asian accent. Cho's intent was to mock the tyrannical Kim Jong Un regime by making them look ridiculous but, predictably, the Internet Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) were instantly up in arms, declaring that Cho's depiction of the wacky general was "racist."
Internet outrage is a trend now, and Twitter is a major outlet for the unbound anger of the practitioners. The perpetually outraged are drawn to Twitter because they can both band together with like-minded fellow travelers and easily find targets for their rage. The results are often cringe-inducing, not to mention depressing. A brilliant scientist lands a module on a comet 300 million miles from earth but his celebration is ruined because he wears a "sexist" shirt. An actress writes a frank memoir chronicling her childhood sexual experimentation and she gets accused of sexually molesting her younger sister. When the sister comes to her defense, she (the "victim") is called an apologist for abuse. SJWs take no prisoners—get in their way and you get it too, no matter who you are. It's an endless cycle, and there are just enough people out there who want to be angry all the time to mess it up for the rest of us who prefer to exercise other emotions occasionally.
Margaret Cho became the first victim to fall into the clutches of the Twitter outrage maw in 2015. It didn’t matter that she is a Korean-American who was mocking a Korean, which you might think would grant her a pass. Twitter SJWs don't grant passes, and their judgment is swift and final. They weigh in quickly to preserve their reputation as the vigilant ones, ready to defend social justice, so there is little time (and no peer pressure) to form a thoughtful, reasoned argument.
Free speech is not a high priority for the SJW crowd. I don't care much for people trying to censor comics, though, because comics are on the front lines of the free speech battle. Comics make things better for the rest of us who believe in free expression by making people laugh on stages in comedy clubs every night, saying whatever’s on their minds. They’re the people who say what we want to say but can't, for a number of societal reasons. In a sense, we get to speak vicariously through comics—they’re our inner voices that get stifled little by little since we are children. Wanting to support Cho, and all comics, I tweeted: "Margaret Cho, a Korean American, mocks N. Korea and solemn, white SJWs call her racist from their special vantage point." I quickly got this reply: "I'm black and call her out, now what?"
I responded that I thought her calling Cho out was "BS," and then it was on. This person—we'll call her Kim—describes herself on her Twitter profile as: "Feminist, tankie, activist, sex positive, doctoral fellow, anti-imperialist, anti islamophobia, loves turtles Mao and cognac." The "tankie" reference means she is a fan of the Soviet Union—a hard line Stalinist. Kim was clearly looking for a fight, as she doesn't follow me and my tweet wasn't re-tweeted. She must have found my tweet through some Twitter search—"Margaret Cho" the probable search terms—she was engaged in. This is a form of "fishing" for those who have a bone to pick on Internet.
Her reply: "If I paint my face black and tap dance, eat bananas to symbolize a monkey, that's not racist just cuz I'm black?"
Kim didn’t explain why she would paint her face black if she were already black, but nevertheless her response was not analogous to what Margaret Cho had done. She had painted a much more extreme scenario than Cho's. However, if Kim had chosen to paint her face I wouldn’t necessarily think she was a "racist." Odd maybe, but not a racist. I replied that Cho didn't need Kim to be scolding her and that maybe she should learn to laugh, which didn't go over too well.
Her response: "Says the white dude who is probably quick to indict any form of humor by people of color that mocks white people as ‘racist.’ Lol @SubBeck."
Note her use of the word "probably" and the fact that she made her reply to all of her 12,000+ followers—pure demagoguery. This is the exact tactic that far right-wingers (to cite just one example) on Twitter employ, which is no coincidence given that neither group cares a lick about actual facts. Their leaders throw the red meat out to fawning fans and then sit back and watch the fun. The ambitious minions then compete to curry favor by showing how rabid and unsparing they can be in their attacks.
"Carl" was the first to rush to his leader's defense and he was ready to rumble right away—no need for clarifications of any sort. I was a racist and had to be chastised. Carl, according to his Twitter profile, thinks the world is a fucked up place and that new ideas are needed. He also claims to be trying to apply the insights of George Carlin, John Lennon, Bob Marley and Malcolm X. Exactly where he’s trying to apply these insights was neither mentioned nor exhibited on this day, however. I'm pretty sure I could’ve had a much better, more honest discussion with Malcolm X than with Carl. Carl's reply was: "Tell us how you are different than the other White guys who defend racist speech as free speech. Go on."
I declined this invitation, not feeling any obligation to defend myself or explain why I’m better than other privileged white guys. My opinion on what constitutes racist speech was clearly different from Carl's, but the SJW has no interest in exploring such nuances when they have "taken up the sword." I’d focused on Cho's mocking a despicable and degenerate leader who starves and tortures his people in his prison state, as opposed to whether or not her comic routine was "racist." This clearly made me a "racist."
Next from Carl: "You asserted you had a right to tell PoC what was & wasn't racist. You're not just racist. You're an asshole too."
So now I am an asshole to boot, rather than just a regular racist (who has actually said nothing in any way racist). I didn't realize I’d asserted any particular "right" of mine in stating my opinion to a person of color (PoC), but am guessing Carl was referring to my "white privilege," which in the SJW world would disqualify me from pushing back on this matter to a PoC. I told Carl that I was actually agreeing with a PoC, just not "his" PoC, as Margaret Cho is also a PoC. This caught him by surprise, and he dropped out, except for a little more sideline sniping. I don't think he knew that Asians are considered persons of color, an embarrassing gap in his SJW knowledge.
With Carl wounded, it was now time for the leader to step back into the fray with some canned incendiary rhetoric. Kim returned with this gem, once again tweeted out to all her followers: "yankees enjoy infantilizing/mocking global south countries.
Now, I’ll admit to being a "Yankee" but I had said nothing about "global south" countries. Margaret Cho was the only topic I’d broached. When I laughed off this gratuitous reference, Kim came back with: "Indicative of your privilege, you don't even know these countries exist outside of racist orientalizing. Fuck you! @SubBeck."
As it happens, I do happen to know these countries and have traveled in many of them without infantilizing a soul. The "orientalizing" is a reference to Edward Said's book Orientalism, which is pretty much the Bible in the field of post-colonial studies. The gist of the book is that westerners' impressions of the Middle East and Asia are tainted by a colonialist mindset, and thus distorted. How this is pertinent to my comments on Margaret Cho I was unable to grasp.
This "discussion" was pretty much over at this point. Another (European this time) SJW swooped in for a further shot: "I know the type. We have them here. Supremacists who object to rebalancing."
The supremacist he was referring to was me. Now, fortunately, I don't take Twitter too seriously, as having this label pinned on you could be quite disturbing if you took it to heart. I did vote for Obama twice (which I assume at least gets me off on the "supremacist" charge), and until this gruesome and depressing Twitter "colloquy" I’d never even been called (for good reason) a racist. It's more depressing than disturbing though, to think that someone feels free to hurl such gratuitous abuse at you. To sum up this swiftboating, I made one assertion: that an Asian comic's routine directed at Asians was not racist. For this statement alone I was called racist, asshole, orientalist, supremacist, and infantilizer of Asian cultures.
John Kerry started off as a war hero but then got swiftboated by the opposition with lies. As a result, an honorable soldier who had risked his life in the service of his country came to be seen by many voters as having a compromised military record. The equivalent of this—albeit not on a similar scale—happens all over the Internet on a daily basis. My swiftboating happened so fast that it didn't take more than minutes for me to be compared to a white supremacist. SJWs are not particularly interested in getting at the truth. Consensus is what they are after, and if you stray from the consensus you're punished. Anything but absolute agreement with the consensus is not tolerated, as this is a "faith-based" ideology. You may not get lashed in public or stoned, but if your offense is deemed serious enough your employer may receive numerous phone calls or you may get doxxed (have personal information released). Voltaire is definitely not one of the SJW role heroes.
Before a SJW can join a discussion such as the one above, they must first know, at the very least, the race and gender of the other participants involved. If the topic is LBGT-related, then your sexual orientation is relevant too. This is how the SJW sets their "compass" on an issue. If you’re a black woman, like Kim, it’s likely you can say very little wrong. You’re at the top of the speech pyramid. My particular demographic group, "white male," is of course the most privileged and, consequently, the least worthy of respect. There happen to be many white males in the SJW ranks, however, and one can only assume they have "signed up" to assuage their overwhelming guilt for having been born into such privilege.
What makes the SJW phenomenon particularly worrisome is that they’re actually convinced that they’re morally superior to the "unanointed ones." In their fervent, narrow minds they are the absolute arbiters of what constitutes the various offenses they police—racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia, Islamophobia, etc.—just like the religious cops in Afghanistan who whip women in the streets or publicly flog them for imagined offenses against Islam. Vigilantes with "God on their side" are the most vicious people on the planet. The victims of a SJW campaign will not be flogged, but if they attract enough collective fury they may lose their jobs if their boss succumbs to the pressure of dozens of phone calls, or they may see online calls for their house to be burned down. Offenders may even experience SJWs encouraging them be raped, tortured, and/or murdered, as a right wing female blogger did when her Ferguson-related post was deemed racist. Parents may become victims of abuse as well, as there is no brake on the SJW "justice" machine once it gets rolling.
SJWs hold themselves in high moral esteem, but the facts belie such positive self-assessment. It’s not enough to merely believe in the right things—you have to behave properly in support of them. SJWs are a nasty and petty group of whiners who Joseph Stalin would be proud of. Margaret Cho's job is to be funny and in order to do that she needs to take risks, which she does in full public view as opposed to sitting in front of a keyboard on Twitter. She doesn't know the SJW "rules" that are in place and doesn't give a damn. Cho is tough, like any successful stand-up comic, so she's not easily bullied. The SJWs know this and will now move on to more vulnerable targets. Twitter is certainly a "target rich" environment for them, so this is an easy task.
It can sometimes be hard to identify the "good" people from the "bad" ones in these troubled times, when corporations are people and an avuncular star admired by many suddenly seems to be a serial rapist, but the Social Justice Warriors play dirty and are not the good guys they delude themselves into believing they are. My advice: If you see one walking down the sidewalk towards you, take no chances and cross the street to the other side. Also, don't argue with people on Twitter. It's generally a total waste of time.
—Follow Chris Beck on Twitter: @SubBeck