The trouble with reactionary outrage
Francesco Corso, Staff Writer
In an ever-changing world, there has always been resistance to changes in societies. These people, known in political science as reactionaries, are new in the political field. The term, like other significant portions of our modern political lingo, was coined following the French Revolution and defined as a desire to return society to the status quo ante, or the previous socio-political state of society. Reactionaries are generally found on the right-wing of the political spectrum, but there have been left-wing reactionaries as well. This reactionary response to the current state of events is at the core of Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.
As stated before, reactionary politics is nothing new but due to the internet, a new dimension of this ideology has emerged, that being outrage culture. Outside of the political sphere, outrage culture is the form of collective internet anger that has resulted in the review-bombing of movies on platforms like Rotten Tomatoes and harassment of actors like Ahmed Best or Kelly Marie Tran online due to fans not liking their characters in Star Wars. Within the political sphere, the general focus has been on identity politics. In the wake of Gamergate, which showcased some of the worst in humanity, this has been amplified. The aforementioned scandal saw the coordinated online harassment of multiple female critics of sexism in the video game industry, which included threats of rape, death threat and doxing, which is the unauthorized disclosure of private and identifying information of an individual over the internet. While I generally disagree with many of the key points from of the women involved, the behavior of the internet users was completely disgusting and far beyond the normal realm of political discussion.
Following, a number of online personalities (such as Carl Benjamin, otherwise known as Sargon of Akkad) have made a living making video criticizing extreme feminism and identity politics, and while some of the criticism is legitimate such as the violent riots that have erupted on college campus that threaten the free expression of controversial opinions on those campuses, others are completely ridiculous and looking for an agenda where one likely doesn’t exist. This may include how the new She-Ra reboot’s art style was somehow a secret agenda to erase femininity from our culture, despite the fact that more traditionally feminine looking female characters like Lara Croft and Samus Aran are still present within the pop culture sphere. Sargon’s main bread and butter however, is what is called “Cultural Marxism,” which is the claim that academia and other intellectuals are all part of a Marxist conspiracy to destroy Western civilization. The first thing to mention with this is that many of the things that critics of so-called “Cultural Marxism” rally against, such as political correctness and multiculturalism, have nothing to do with Marxism. Simply put, Marxism is the political philosophy where the working class seizes the means of production and then collectively distribute goods according to each individual’s need. There is nothing within that philosophy that states what words one can and cannot use, nor is there really a fully-formed cultural component to it.
Outside of the aforementioned conspiracy theory, which is categorically false, another form of this is the obsession over transgender pronouns. At its most basic core, people believe that pronoun usage is predicated solely on the idea that pronouns are invariably tied to biological sex. This is largely propagated by individuals such as Ben Shapiro, a conservative political pundit and editor-in-chief of the Daily Wire, who argues that pronouns correspond to one’s karyotypical sex. Mr. Shapiro’s argument is clearly absurd because no one goes around with DNA kits to check the karyotype of a person before using their pronouns. In actuality, it would seem that we tend to use pronouns based on the perceived gender of a person more than their actual biological sex. Furthermore, this obsession over pronouns is completely ridiculous. Simply put, if someone wants to be called something other than what you initially assume and they inform you of that, it isn’t that hard to honor that.
What makes this even more ridiculous is when people try to make this into a free speech issue. This is generally done by pointing to a Canadian law known as Bill C-16 passed in June of 2017, which added discrimination on the basis of gender identity to the existing Canadian Human Right Act, put in place additional protections against hate speech and allowed for gender identity to be considered a motivator in a hate crime. The narrative as it goes is that using the wrong pronoun was now considered illegal under the aforementioned hate speech laws, which the Associated Press found to be false. While I don’t agree with that part of Canadian law and believe that here in America, the government shouldn’t censor any type of inflammatory speech unless it is “directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action,” as laid out in the Brandenburg v. Ohio ruling from the United States Supreme Court, it is completely dishonest to assert a law you don’t like contains provisions that simply do not exist.
Furthermore, on the free speech issue, it is worth mentioning that being politely asked to do something for someone else does not violate your free speech rights, because those rights are legalistic. They specify that the government cannot make laws to restrict your ability to speak freely within reasonable limits, such as the aforementioned lawless action condition, and have no bearing on any form of condemnation from the individual members of society. This isn’t so much a free speech issue as much as it’s a common courtesy issue. As stated by Potter Stewart, a former Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, “Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have the right to do and what is right to do.” In this case, I would argue that you have the right to deliberately misgender a transgender person as much as you’d like, but other people have just as much of a right to condemn your initial speech.
Ultimately, a lot of new reactionary trends in our socio-political sphere seem to make mountains out of molehills. There is no secret conspiracy simply because society is moving away from things that we have been staples of society in the past, like rigid gender roles or the phrase “Merry Christmas.” That is not to say that we cannot have a disagreement on these topics or have a civil discussion about these issues, but there is a point where the outrage is disproportionate to the actual gravity of the issue. Change is the only constant in society, so it may be worth learning to adapt to it instead of angrily tweeting about some minor change that doesn’t affect you.