Why some people are becoming disillusioned with mainstream social justice activism, and why it has nothing to do with your debating skills

Over the past few weeks, there’s been a number of high-profile examples of Capital-L Liberals and public figures openly questioning the actions of some of their hard-Left contemporaries. This is great news for the champions of truth and reason; the more people that become aware of postmodernist-inspired activism within the Left, the better. But why is this happening, and what can we do about it?

What follows is a collection of recent case studies, and a wrap-up with some food for thought at the end.

10-second summary of this article:

My claim is that prominent Liberals are beginning to reject mainstream social justice activism because their contemporaries are overreaching, overstepping, making wild/untrue claims, and generally being nasty people. This has profound implications for anti-postmodernist activists, namely that we have to be as reasonable and patient as possible, letting people ponder our points over time and come to their own conclusions.

Laci Green becomes skeptical of mainstream feminism

Laci Green, a sex educator and outspoken feminist, rose to internet fame over the past ten years with her Sex+ YouTube channel that educates people on topics such as sexual health, contraception, human sexuality, and gender issues. In 2016, TIME magazine named her one of the most influential people on the internet.

As mentioned previously on this blog, Laci Green has been making waves lately with her willingness to engage with viewpoints across the political spectrum. In particular, she has been questioning mainstream Leftist views on transgender/nonbinary identities – such as whether or not there are more than two genders.

As you can imagine, this is quite controversial. Laci takes exception to some activists claiming that not being attracted to a transwoman with male anatomy is morally wrong (the implication being that genital preferences are not innate, undermining the concept of homosexuality).

Here’s one of her comments on her disillusionment with mainstream feminism. Take notes, there will be a pattern.

Cassie Jaye’s “Red Pill” Documentary is a worldwide hit

Although Cassie Jaye hasn’t developed her following as a popular YouTube personality like Laci, she is (was) a self-described “staunch feminist” who made documentaries focusing on social justice issues. Cassie’s early documentaries, “Daddy I Do” and “The Right to Love“, focused on female sexual health and same-sex marriage.

However, her newest film, called The Red Pill, documents her exploration of the Men’s Right’s Activist (MRA) movement, and how she came to integrate men’s rights issues into her feminist worldview. Her film has been a smash hit worldwide.

It has been extremely controversial, as it exposes some of the limitations and blind spots of modern feminism. Protests in Australia led to screening cancellations and accusations of misogyny.

Here’s a clip of her talking about the experience of making the film – keep taking notes. Things get really interesting around the 7:30 mark.

“I did have a breaking point where … for instance, with suicide, 78% of all suicides around the world are men, and the common reaction you’ll get from feminists is saying that more women attempt suicide. And what I learned from the men’s rights movement is they aren’t trying to dismiss women’s issues … but they’re trying to bring up issues that men face. But when you do that, instantly, feminists and mainstream liberals will have these quick responses that are diminishing what the men’s issue is.”

CNN’s Jake Tapper openly criticizes the Women’s March

This one is a doozy. In July 2017, the Women’s March celebrated the birthday of Assata Shakur, whom they lauded as an exemplary feminist and activist.

The catch? Shakur was involved with the Black Liberation Army in the 1970’s, was convicted of killing a New Jersey police officer, then escaped prison with help from armed revolutionaries, after which she fled to Cuba. She is on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list, although there is some contention as to whether or not she should have been convicted for the crimes she was accused of.

Although the Women’s March posted a long justification for their decision, Jake Tapper (among many others) balked at the idea of venerating a convicted cop killer as a saint of the women’s movement.

Jake Tapper, CNN’s Chief Washington Correspondent, is officially a political independent. He has been linked to the Clinton Foundation, and has moderated a couple of Republican debates. I wouldn’t call him a Capital-L Liberal, but he is an extremely high-profile journalist taking a controversial stance against mainstream feminism.

Here’s some of what he has to say: notice a pattern yet?

He promptly got called “alt-right” by Linda Sarsour, one of the leaders of the Women’s Movement… despite being one of the primary targets for anti-Semitic harassment by the alt-right.

Frances Lee: “Excommunicate me from the church of social justice”

This article (original link here) pretty much speaks for itself. Here’s an excerpt.

The amount of energy I spend demonstrating purity in order to stay in the good graces of fast-moving activist community is enormous. Activists are some of the judgiest people I’ve ever met, myself included. There’s so much wrongdoing in the world that we work to expose. And yet, grace and forgiveness are hard to come by in these circles.

At times, I have found myself performing activism more than doing activism. I’m exhausted, and I’m not even doing the real work I am committed to do. It is a terrible thing to be afraid of my own community members, and know they’re probably just as afraid of me. Ultimately, the quest for political purity is a treacherous distraction for well-intentioned activists.

What caused Jake Tapper, Laci Green, Cassie Jaye, and Frances Lee to begin to criticize mainstream social justice ideology?

The hard truth is that their first step down this path probably didn’t have very much to do with someone convincing them of the errors of their ways – at least not at first.

In many ways, an activist ideology like postmodernism or “social justice” is very similar to a religious ideology, such as many strains of fundamentalist Christianity. Here’s an excerpt from a New Yorker article about Megan Phelps-Roper (formerly of the Westboro Baptist Church), and how she first came to question her religious teachings.

On December 20, 2009, Phelps-Roper was in the basement of her house, for a [Westboro Baptist Church] function, when she checked Twitter on her phone and saw that Brittany Murphy, the thirty-two-year-old actress, had died. When she read the tweet aloud, other church members reacted with glee, celebrating another righteous judgment from God. “Lots of people were talking about going to picket her funeral,” Phelps-Roper said. When Phelps-Roper was younger, news of terrible events had given her a visceral thrill.

On 9/11, she was in the crowded hallway of her high school when she overheard someone talking about how an airplane had hit the World Trade Center. “Awesome!” she exclaimed, to the horror of a student next to her. She couldn’t wait to picket Ground Zero. (The following March, she and other Westboro members travelled to New York City to protest what they described in a press release as “FDNY fags and terrorists.”)

But Phelps-Roper had loved Murphy in “Clueless,” and she felt an unexpected pang—not quite sadness, but something close—over her death. As she continued scrolling through Twitter, she saw that it was full of people mourning Murphy. The contrast between the grief on Twitter and the buoyant mood in the basement unsettled her. She couldn’t bring herself to post a tweet thanking God for Murphy’s death. “I felt like I would be such a jackass to go on and post something like that,” she said.

– From “Conversion via Twitter” (New Yorker Magazine)

Cognitive Dissonance

What Laci Green, Cassie Jaye, Jake Tapper, Frances Lee, and Megan Phelps-Roper all have in common is that something happened within their movement that planted a seed of doubt. The discomfort of holding two conflicting beliefs at the same time is called ‘cognitive dissonance’.

As much as it is important for activists to know how to advocate for their issues and viewpoints, true change can only come from within; someone has to be willing to re-examine their worldview in order for debates, alternative facts, and devil’s advocates to have any kind of effect.

In his book “A Manual for Creating Atheists”, Peter Boghossian cites something called the “Transtheoretical Model of Change”, which goes as follows:

What we are witnessing with the above five case studies is people going from “Precontemplation”, or being unwilling to consider alternate viewpoints, to “Contemplation”.

This has happened many times in history – for example, the Hungarian Uprising of 1956 and Solzhenitsyn’s “The Gulag Archipelago” finally exposed the truth of Marxism to many in the West, settling many forms of debate over the subject once and for all.

Ultimately, exceptionally talented people may be able to plant a seed of doubt within ideological adversaries, but in many cases, the excesses and misdeeds of social justice activists will be the undoing of the movement.

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