I’ve pretty much had it with the absolute rigidity that exists in current social justice/leftist circles. The abandonment of liberalism by many on the left and the blind adherence to identity politics, intersectionality, and anti-fascism has become aggressive, unforgiving, and terribly toxic.
To start with, the use and abuse of terms like “white supremacist,” “Nazi,” “Islamophobe,” “fascist,” and a host of other powerful slurs that are quickly being stripped of all meaning has got to stop. It really doesn’t take much to be accused of being a “Nazi” these days. All one has to do is don a red MAGA hat and, boom, you are a Nazi. Now, don’t get me wrong, I loathe Donald Trump and pretty much everything he stands for, but, seriously? Labelling a supporter a Nazi without even knowing what their full set of beliefs is? No, just don’t do that.
Yes, currently, we are seeing the rise of the alt-right, and it is scary. But the way some on the left have responded is to adopt radicalism. Now, it seems that liberalism is seen as centrism and not taking a strong enough stance against the evils in the world. No, liberalism is liberalism. It is protecting the rights of all types of people, including those you may hate. And that’s not a bad thing. It’s a good thing. By ensuring that people you don’t like have rights, you are ensuring your own. We all have ideas that are seen as repulsive by others, therefore there is someone out there who would like to shut you down just as much as you might want to shut someone else down. But the liberal idea of free speech has been abandoned and even demonized by some on left.
One disturbing turn for the worse is the growing popularity of the phrase “Punch a Nazi.” It’s clear that there are some people are willing to commit acts of violence in order to shut down ideas or people they don’t like. Now, if someone truly adopts the ideals of the German Nazi party, indeed, they have chosen an awful set of ideas and those ideas need to be called out and challenged at every turn. But, people are allowed to have awful ideas. And it isn’t as if Nazism is the only bad set of ideas out there.
Combine this call for physical violence with the growing popularity of calling a large number of people who aren’t Nazis, well, Nazis, it’s fair to say that if everyone starts to punch Nazis, an awful lot of innocent people are going to get punched. And for what? The mere notion that a person MAY hold beliefs that align with a terrible ideology? Is this what we really want?
When the alt-light troll Milo Yiannopoulos visited the University of Berkeley in California, it set off riots. Riots? Milo is a jerk and says a lot of awful thing. But then, the left which opposed him, started to break windows and light stuff on fire, proving to be far more worrisome and scary than Milo. People were beaten and maced, again, merely for having a red hat. How did this become the acceptable alternative to a jerk with a microphone? This scares me. The left is not offering a vision of the future that fills me with hope. They are offering a vision that includes violence in the streets in order to force people who have bad ideas into complying with the demands of a rigid force hell-bent on destruction if they don’t get their way. What kind of future is that?
There is little room for dissenting views among what people claim are the dissenting voices. Sadly, when one doesn’t go along with the official script, it makes one an outcast very quickly in social justice circles. If you don’t accept the ideas within intersectionality, you are seen as part of the problem. If you don’t accept the new hierarchy of victimhood, you are slandered as being racist, sexist or whatever other -ist that can be imagined. And by calling people racist or sexist for challenging the determined narrative, the effect is essentially shutting down any dissent, challenges or open, honest debate and discussion. What’s worse is the fact that some are taking it to the next level where words are actually seen as violence in themselves. That doesn’t even make sense, but somehow, there are segments of the left who have decided this is logical.
At the moment, the left is in a dark place that it needs to recognize and come to terms with, and start reversing track. The left should be looking once again towards liberalism. It should abandon identity politics and start fighting for rights, dignity, and equality for all. And it has to step away from the violence and extremism. And it has to accept that yes, there are people with terrible views, but they do have rights as well. Shutting everyone down who says something you don’t like is not an effective long-term solution to dealing with terrible views. Until then, the left is not offering an attractive, viable alternative to the right.