22 May, 2017
It was the attempt to poison the anti-Jihad campaigner Robert Spencer in Iceland last week that finally got to me; this new breed of ‘Social Justice Warriors’, ‘Antifa’ Demonstrators and Snowflakes are getting too dangerous to tolerate much longer.
In an ideal society, civility rules in public life. Conservatives and progressives agree to disagree, respect each other’s boundaries, and are capable of socializing with each other. Lest this sound too unrealistic, I prize my friendships with several people whose politics are very different from mine. However, we share an appreciation for the quirks of life, curiosity about many different things, and the self-confidence to know our values and beliefs should be tested occasionally.
This ideal seems far removed from the emerging generation of protestors who feel they need ‘trigger warnings’ if confronted by contrary views and go into paroxysms of rage when these are encountered. A dislike of contrary views is nothing new to humanity, and by no means whatsoever confined to the emerging generation of the Left; but this level of hysteria is frightening.
The self-righteousness of Antifa demonstrators is likewise nothing new; history is splattered with similar displays of zealotry. Consider the root of the word itself, and that a Greek word (‘Zelotes’) already existed to describe the fanatic partisans of 1st Century Judea.
‘Social Justice’ came with an uneasy stink to it starting in the 1980s. As a concept to define relationships between the individual, society and the state, the term has a history going back St. Augustine, but the foggy amorphous concept that appeared as the Post-Modernists progressives took strength in the 1980s is more troubling. “Social Justice” became to mean almost anything, and nothing. Loose but high-sounding terms have a way of getting murderous in the hands of hysterical fanatics… we’ve seen that before too.
Snowflakes, Antifa, and Social Justice Warriors are all separate, but can be combined in a common movement. They are modern phenomena but have been seen many times before… far too many times before. Cadres in the Cultural Revolution, Brownshirts, the Paris Mob in the Revolution, Witch-finders, Puritans, Wahhabis, the followers of Theophilus; almost every age and culture yields examples.
However, these ‘Neo-Brownshirts’ are our problem today. They are unwavering in their convictions (but believe themselves to be tolerant). They are conformists and agents of a new conformity, who fondly imagine themselves to be rebels. They are devoted to an amorphous cause they can barely articulate – and this makes them even more dangerous. In the 1920s and early 1930s, ordinary Germans got out of the way of the fanatics of the Left and Right – and we all know how that turned out.
These Neo-Brownshirts have to be confronted, but with grace, dignity and humour; not by screaming back at them or picking fights. Above all things, the fanatic fears to be laughed at, to have his (or her) vainglorious self-image punctured, and – worst of all – to face that moment of honest introspection.
Let us go out and do battle… Because if we don’t win this way, the alternative way of winning is rather ugly. The other way of quelling fanatics has also left a lot of bloodstains on the pages of history and I’d really prefer not to go there.
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