Wednesday, May 22, 2013

STFU and listen, you privileged silencing oppressor!

I'm a bad blogger - I haven't updated this blog in a long time. I thought I would take the opportunity to step back a bit rather than trying to catch up on all the latest witch-hunts and manufactroversies, and instead talk in general terms about my problems with the Atheism-plus/FTB/SJW movement.

Other the past several months I've been exposed willy-nilly to a great deal of the Critical Race/Gender Theory (CRGT) ideology that underpins the "plus" movement. It's become inescapably obvious that we're not just dealing with two models of communication. Instead, there is a whole different worldview associated with CRGT - one I personally find abhorrent. (Cue PZ Myers crowing "Schrödinger's Therapist finds the idea of treating women as human beings abhorrent" in 5-4-3-2-1...)

I believe strongly in (a) affording everyone equal rights, respect and responsibilities and (b) treating everyone first and foremost as an individual. This is not the same as being "colorblind" (or gender-blind or whatever). The law should be color/gender-blind and treat everyone equally (i.e. everyone should a priori have equal rights and responsibilities), but we as individuals shouldn't pretend that differences have no social impact.

Let me clarify. When you're talking with an individual from a different demographic group, it's quite possible that this individual has had different life experiences than you due to their group membership. You should be sensitive to this possibility and be willing and ready to learn what these differences are and how they inform the other person's point of view - while remembering that the background is only the background, not the whole person.

To give an example, have you every hesitated to turn to the police for help, for fear of how they might treat you? No? Well, some people have, based on how the police have previously treated them or their friends and family. This might be useful to keep in mind if the topic is, say, crime rates in black communities.

I think this is what the concept of "privilege" was originally about - it was supposed to be a consciousness-raising exercise. You would realize that you weren't getting the whole picture due to the difference between your background and the other person's, and you would voluntarily try to educate yourself and be more sensitive to where they were coming from.

It's the same with politically correct speech - originally it was a consciousness-raising exercise. Suppose hypothetically you were in the habit of using the N-word because that was the culture you grew up in. Someone comes along and tells you in a non-confrontational way, "Look, you might not mean any harm by using that word, but a lot of people are hurt by it." Instead of arguing that some of these same people use the word themselves, you take on board the fact that there are people who are genuinely hurt when you use it. From that point on, you stop and think before using it, and at some point you voluntarily drop it from your habitual usage. Your consciousness has been raised.

Of course this isn't the way privilege and PC speech codes work nowadays. Political correctness has become all about laying down the law and dictating to people, often in a ridiculously nit-picking and infantilizing way, which words are mandatory and which are forbidden. Likewise, accusations of "privilege" are thrown around in a heavy-handed fashion to dismiss people's feelings and opinions out of hand based on their membership of a "non-PC" group.

Which brings us to the heart of my objections to CRGT. In contrast to my worldview, the CRGT-mongers apparently just don't see people as individuals. Instead, they have a list of criteria to label people with: gender, skin color, sexual orientation, cis vs. trans, able-bodied vs. "differently abled", and what not. Your whole identity reduces to the set of labels that are applied to you. You are not an individual - you are interchangeable with anyone else who has been put in the same little box.

In SJW ideology, your individual life experiences and circumstances are of no significance. For example, if you are a man, then you're automatically privileged and an oppressor - even if your home is a cardboard box under a bridge. You're a member of a non-PC group, and therefore your thoughts are not only deterministic and predictable, but irrelevant. In fact you should not even be allowed to speak - you should simply Shut Up And Listen.

Conversely, if you're a woman, you're automatically an oppressed marginalized victim - even if you are flown out to a conference, put up in an expensive hotel, and paid to speak. No-one has the right to disagree with you. Anyone who does is by definition "harassing" and "silencing" you, even if you have a microphone and/or a widely-read blog and they don't.

Now, I recognize that genuine harassment and threats have emanated from both sides of the Great Atheist Schism, and I condemn them. But I am struck by the dishonesty of the SJW's in conflating all criticism and dissent with the worst actions of a small minority who may or not be on the "other side", while explicitly endorsing the "shove a dead porcupine up your ass and go die in a fire" culture that they encourage and engender on the "plus" side.

It's clear that the odious PZ Myers and his FTB clique have a pretty fucked up view of free speech, or "Freeze Peach" as they childishly sneer at it. My own view is that free speech is as close to sacred as anything can be for an atheist. Free speech is how all ideas get a hearing, and the best ones succeed in the ecosystem of ideas while others gradually go extinct.

But I'm convinced the SJW's simply do not recognize free speech as a universal right. Rather, it's "a tool of Teh Patriarchy to harass, oppress and silence marginalized victims." When a SAWCASM (straight abled-bodied etc. etc.) person speaks, he is, by the very act of speaking, exploiting his "privilege" and harassing and silencing the non-SAWCASM victims. Therefore, he should not be allowed to speak. He should be forced to Shut Up And Listen.

When OVATA (Oppressed Victims And Their Allies) speak, they are under no obligation to support their claims with reason and evidence. Reason and evidence, after all, are (you guessed it) tools of Teh Patriarchy to HO&S MV's. OVATA are allowed, in fact required, to spew out raw anger and invective because of their victim status. I believe this is the explanation for their blatant double standards.

In the SJW/FTB view, there simply is no ecosystem of ideas. Only the OVATA dogma is legitimate, and no dissent from it can be tolerated. The legitimacy of an idea is determined solely by how the speaker has been labeled, which little box he or she has been categorized in.

When you strip away the verbiage and examine the core assumptions of CRGT, it becomes clear that it is utterly incompatible with any notions of freethought, skepticism, or rationalism. This, plus the crude, reductionist, insulting and dehumanizing way it attempts to strip people of their individuality and treat them simply as labels, is what makes it repellant to me.

This is why I question whether it's possible, let alone desirable, to build bridges to the "plus" side. They are determined to wallow in their self-imposed victim status and close their ears to any viewpoint originating outside their echo chamber. They are becoming increasingly toxic to the online freethought/skeptical community as a whole, as well as hurting the very groups they claim to help, by instinctively crying "misogyny" first and thinking not at all.

My view is, to hell with them. Wall them off and don't let them do any more damage. Let them stew in their own juice, while always being ready to extend the hand of friendship to people like Ellen Beth Wachs who get kicked out for daring to think independently, or who leave in disgust at the intellectual shallowness and dishonesty.

Considering the speed and recklessness with which Myers has been burning bridges and alienating allies, it's only a question of time before he and his coterie of SJW's are at each other's throats, and A-plus collapses in a final implosion of butt-hurt. In the meantime, let's just move on and leave them behind!