Disclaimer: I consider myself a moderate progressive. I believe in gender equality, racial justice and free speech. It's important you remember that, because this piece contains keywords and ideas that radical progressives really, really hate.
Last year Jerry Seinfeld, possibly the world's most politically correct comedian, made headlines for his criticism of how society was heading towards an unrealistic expectation of politeness. Political correctness -- a worn out buzz term at the very least -- had gotten so extreme that even Seinfeld was on the receiving end of complaints, mostly from millennials who were angry over some of the material in Seinfeld's act.
The new social order has a whole list of things we cannot say if we want to remain in their good graces.
This phenomenon has now touched every facet of modern life, especially on social media. The main problem is that anyone who doesn't agree with strict rules on language is often labelled as a rabid right-winger, even if they are actually moderate progressives. What used to be a characteristic of the left wing fringe is now creeping into the mainstream ether, a pitchforks and torches method of forcing regular people to abide by unwritten rules of interaction. These members of the reactionary class are known as social justice warriors.
Disclaimer: By mentioning the term "social justice warriors," I have given radical progressives a way to label me as an enemy, as they tend to do. I'm not the enemy. I'm a moderate progressive.
So, obviously it's not easy to find the right words when writing a piece like this. The new social order has a whole list of things we cannot say if we want to remain in their good graces. This is what it is like to live in polarized times, where you are either a social justice warrior or a closed-minded conservative. Trying to navigate a nuanced position between those two groups will result in fending off vitriolic accusations from both sides; a bizarre experience and one that shows the common tactical thread connecting otherwise polar opposites.
One example of something you simply cannot talk about is the act of committing a false allegation, often attributed to individuals who lie about being sexually assaulted. While widely considered to be a rare occurrence, false allegations do exist, but suggesting an allegation might be false will cause the reactionary class to immediately dismiss you as misogynist or a rape apologist, even if you are merely trying to have a robust discussion.
This reaction is actually an exercise in projection where social justice warriors subconsciously assume that everyone must also be looking through a lens of activism. In this example, SJWs react as if they are now engaged in a debate with a men's rights activist. MRAs are often vocal critics of feminism and include members who are known for misogynistic opinions.
Disclaimer: By using false allegations as an example, social justice warriors believe I am subliminally waving the banner for rape apologists. I'm not. I'm still a moderate progressive. I just think we should talk about anything we want.
By the way, this trend -- where debate and discussion are traded in for an Orwellian expectation of uniformity -- is not sustainable.
In Canada, a recent high profile trial became a perfect case study of how the new era of social justice controlled the discussion on what makes an opinion legitimate. First and foremost, you had to begin by stating an unequivocal belief that the defendant was guilty. He wasn't just guilty of something; he had to be seen as guilty of everything, especially to support the overriding narrative that an individual would never, ever lie about being victimized.
Lost on the reactionary class is the notion that the most important time to defend things like due process is when an alleged criminal looks guilty.
When the public discovered that the alleged victims had either lied under oath or to the police, activists dismissed the judge, excoriated the defendant's attorney and said the inconsistencies were actually symptomatic of being victims of trauma. It didn't matter that a trial was happening and truthfulness is paramount to justice, because the starting point of assuming the defendant's guilt would override the idea that witnesses had to tell the truth. If you were to point out that it was possible that maybe one of the alleged victims might not have been a victim after all, well, you would immediately be dismissed as being a contributor to rape culture, no questions asked. He was guilty of everything, now shut up.
Disclaimer: I thought this defendant was probably guilty of some of the charges, and I'm not sure about some of the other charges. Not that it should matter what I think. It really doesn't matter what any of us think. Also, I did not mention his name because doing so would result in having to write another disclaimer.
Lost on the reactionary class is the notion that the most important time to defend things like due process is when an alleged criminal looks guilty. Convicting a person through public opinion poisons the well of justice and prevents a person who is found not guilty from rejoining society, a society whose hands are still stained with the tar it used to feather the person on trial. The same is true for defending free speech.
Free speech is most important when it is being used to say something controversial. You don't have to agree with what is being said, but defending the person's right to say it is what matters most. These two bedrock foundations of a democratic, free society are being torn to pieces by people with infallibility complexes, unable to separate their prejudices from the system they live under, and therefore undermining the very system that allows them to be so obstinate in the first place.
Follow HuffPost Canada Blogs on Facebook
ALSO ON HUFFPOST:
Robin Williams' daughter quit the social network after being bombarded with harrowing messages following her father’s death. She publicly called for the users sending her the abuse to be reported, adding: “I’m shaking. I can’t. Please. Twitter requires a link and I won’t open it. Don’t either. Please.”
The screenwriter and wife of Jonathan Ross quit Twitter after a hail of abuse following her husband's decision not to host the annual Hugo Awards in London in August last year.
Blue Peter presenter Helen Skelton decided to leave Twitter, claiming her "not very thick skin" meant she could not deal with the site any more. "Turns out I don't have very thick skin after all so I am closing my twitter account. Enjoy the games. Signing off, skelts x", the 29-year-old wrote on the site, choosing not to elaborate on the matter.
Sara Payne, mother of murdered schoolgirl Sarah Payne, said she had suffered 'decades' of abuse online. Her friend Shy Keenan tweeted that Mrs Payne had been "forced to close down her Twitter account" by trolls.
The Little Britain star said he could not handle the abuse and taunting he received after the death of his former partner Kevin McGee. ‘I appreciate all the support on here over the past couple of years but it’s time to shut down my Twitter account,' he wrote.
"I’ve stopped Twitter now because, although it was fun for a while, I had to stop because I was getting too much abuse," the star said in 2011.
Although the feminist campaigner has now returned to the social network, she quit Twitter after a lengthy campaign of death and rape threats and a police investigation.
The Channel 4 presenter tweeted she'd been "ushered" out of a south London mosque, but CCTV footage proved she hadn't. After receiving thousands of outraged tweets, she apologised and said she was taking a break from the site.
The Downton Abbey actress said she kept being mocked for her looks on Twitter. "I got, 'She’s not even pretty, she’s just nasty," the actress said.
Though he is one of the pioneer celebrity users of the site, the star has quit Twitter on numerous occasions, taking breaks when the abuse or pressure gets too much. He is currently taking a break from the site for at least the next three months.
Singer Iggy Azalea is seen at the Clive Davis Pre-Grammy Gala Press Day on Thursday, February 5, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Invision/AP)
Follow James Di Fiore on Twitter: www.twitter.com/theoddmanic