Social Justice is Corrupted by Capitalism!

I think we were closer to the ideal of an egalitarian respect for all individuals, at least in liberal circles, when I was young. For all their self-congratulatory and ageist belief in their progressiveness, it is the internet generation who are the more retrogressive and conservative. I suspect they have been conditioned by relentless online media marketing which relies, firstly, on profiling by rigid categorisation, and then by feeding its target audiences with a constant diet of idealised, and therefore stereotyped versions of the life they wish to live.

As I discussed in my previous post, younger transgender folk often seem to accept, in its entirety, the whole rigid, gothic edifice of conventional gender roles and expectations, believing that to be a traditional man or woman, they must embrace and embody every single facet of a sexual stereotype.

Trans people feel (understandably) uncomfortable with this, but their old-fashioned view of gender[1] leads them to reject absolutely all aspects of their biological sex, betray their own bodies as an indivisible part of that unchangeable institution.

In contrast, many of us cis, hetero-normies, although apparently more traditional, have a much more flexible attitude to gender conventions. We realise that nobody manifests all cultural constructs of femininity or masculinity. That would leave every man and woman on the planet as a grotesque caricature, without any individuality at all. In fact, you only need to demonstrate a choice selection of emblematic norms to be accepted.[2]  

Rather than simply accepting their biology and getting on with their lives, some trans people are willing to subject their body to the permanent insult and wounding abuse of invasive surgery, leaving them with a mutilated form that can, at best, only superficially resemble a parody of the womanhood or maleness they yearn for. I have often wondered if, rather than a solution to their anguish, gender-reassignment surgery is simply a form of self-harm, a more elaborate way of cutting yourself, to signal that distress to others. 

In doing so, trans people worsen their alienation from either hetero-normative gender,  and from anyone who has come to reluctantly accept the fact of their own imperfect biology. 

We all have the misfortune of being unable to choose whether we are male or female. The growing belief that we can is evidence of how deeply consumer capitalism has burrowed its way into our brains. 


[1] It would be interesting to know if transgender people are more likely to come from highly conventional backgrounds – the religious right, for example.

[2] I admit it still REALLY helps to be financially independent and heterosexual, if you want to demonstrate maleness, though!

On a Completely Different Subject: Why the Trans Movement is Misguided

An aside:

So, I was just reading an interview in the Observer New Review (04/09/22) with Perry Zurn and Dani S Bassett, who have co-authored a fascinating-sounding book, Curious Minds: The Power of Connection (2022, MIT Press.) The article includes a lovely portrait shot of these twins. They are dressed in traditionally masculine attire (Jackets and shirts; a tie and a short-back-and-sides haircut for one of them.) They are slim, androgenous, gamine, of indeterminate gender. Sure enough, we learn “Basset and Zurn were assigned female at birth – the twins now use they/them and he/him pronouns respectively” [my italics]. In other words, they were born female, with, presumably, XX chromosome pairings still treacherously residing in every cell, betraying this biological and undeniable fact, however the choose to project themselves superficially.

The dissonance between the gender you want to be (or your desire to be free of any gender) and that your body insists you are, must be very difficult to process for those who feel this way, especially as the internet enables the most appalling hostility and trolling against this small and vulnerable minority. We should support them on their journey, their struggles, and in the decisions they make, in any way we can. 

Luckily, Zurn and Bassett seem to have freed themselves from their distress enough to carve out successful academic careers: Zurn “Researches political philosophy at American University in Washington DC; Bassett is “a professor of physics, astronomy, engineering, neurology and psychiatry”(!) I suspect they find solace and freedom from such earthy concerns in these cerebral pursuits, and possibly in the love and support they find in each other. 

However, it is worth noting that, growing up, they found “there was a tight constraint on who we could be socially” and “the twins’ parents believed that men should go to college and have careers while women should instead get married and “serve and obey” their husbands.” Zurn is quoted as saying, “School was really my heartbeat…I remember being incredibly frustrated and disappointed when we came up against this expectation that we not continue on into academics.” 

So, Bassett and Zurn’s were taught to hold the most rigid and conservative of views of gender, ones where their femaleness was an obstacle to the academic ambitions that had become most dear to their hearts, and thus to their sense of self and self-fulfilment. Is it any wonder, then, that they should reject traditional femininity?

Much Transgender thinking seems to labour under exactly this ultra-conservative view of male and female roles: to be a “Cisman” is to be trapped in the grip of a completely inflexible world of football and competitive individualism, of macho, boastful strutting, physical violence and domination. To be a “Ciswoman” is to unquestioningly accept motherhood, home-making, and nurture, beauty, subordination, and being cared for and protected. 

Trans activists seem to conceive of gender only in these most extreme forms, so if you are uncomfortable with any aspects of traditional masculinity or femininity, your only option is to abandon your biological gender completely and either embrace a superficial and performative parody of the other gender, one you have no direct experience of, and that your own body denies, or try to be content drifting through a rootless, neutered, genderless limbo, like a ghost.

In either case, you are attempting to deny the truth of your own biology, surely an impossible task that can only deepen any sense of existential angst. 

Frustratingly, all this could be avoided if, rather than categorising everyone as types, we could just accept them as individuals with equal value and rights, free to express themselves exactly as they wanted. Without expectations to behave in a certain way, there would be no reason not to acknowledge our true, biological, genetic gender because it need not impinge on how we live our lives, although it would allow us to predict, and prepare for, certain experiences we are likely to have in common with other members of our sex or gender.

In other words, we should resist traditional gender roles and norms, not gender itself.

The Problem of “Ally-ship”

Unfortunately, the far-right brush off our attacks with derisive laughter. Our attacks are only harmless words, to them, because they embrace the behaviour we are condemning and like to make us angry. 

The only people willing to listen and accept our grievances are our own guilt-sodden allies, made vulnerable, ironically, by believing whole-heartedly in equality and the need to build a fairer and more egalitarian society, and thus unable to deny their own privileges. Often affluent, educated and frequently described as “white”, guilt is their familiar territory. 

Our allies are used to sorrowfully admitting their guilt and having that feeling soothed away by activists eager for their continued support. Those days have gone, though. On them, the activists’ furious verbal assaults can finally have an impact. We can see our interlocutor flinch (if our webcams have a high enough resolution.) We can hear a querulous and defensive tone enter their voices and words. We might even effect some change as our wounded white, cis, middleclass friends, often in positions of influence or administrative power, try to change society’s discourse and practices, to prove to that they are not prejudiced and right-wing by 

And having an effect is vital to activists. Our shouting needs to do something, because otherwise it’s all just words: self-justifying, self-righteous hot air; virtue signalling, while the same old unequal planet keeps turning; fiddling while Rome burns. 

This is the thinking that leads to the Critical Race theorists’ hatred and torment of their own virtue-signalling white liberal allies: Black feminists’ hatred and abandonment of “White feminism”, Robin DiAngelo’s entire literary output, and of the fallacy of “White Privilege” itself. 

Online Racism and Critical Race Theory: it’s all just forms of bullying and vengeful counter-bullying: ways of exercising power to prove to ourselves that we have agency, influence and affect in a crowded world.

Being a Virtuous Social Justice Activist (or at least a pious one!)

Right. So: we’ve established that harangues are not debates. You don’t persuade somebody of the error of their ways by shouting at them. They are unlikely to get beyond feeling terribly hurt, and so resist the attacks, which will alienate them further, and further radicalise their existing opinions. I’ve mentioned before how we appear to have lost the magnificent Lionel Shriver to the dark side (i.e. The Spectator.)  Imagine what a formidable ally Jordan Peterson would make, if we could just reach out to him…

We know this does not much concern the modern pioneers of Justice. The movements are inward looking: self-identifying, self-regulating, self-congratulatory. They are chanting the creed (“I Believe In The One True Faith…”) to demonstrate commitment and solidarity, to reinforce their own identities, and to convince their own doubters. 

Far from being part of a paradigm shift in attitudes, activists are manifesting deep-rooted cultural practices and constructs which sometimes exist in agreement, harmony and mutual support with other ancient practices and the attitudes, and sometimes in tension or contradiction[1]. For example, the Abrahamic religions have always stressed duty to the community. However, for Christians, especially the protestant faiths, virtue comes from sincerity of belief not good works. Good works are just evidence of such sincerity. Being good is an internal state not an action. 

The protest movements (not Protestant, though the etymological link is interesting) demonstrate this dual mindset exactly: by protesting, you are establishing your sincere philanthropic belief and you vaguely feel that, by some hidden mechanism, this will lead to the betterment of your community. The good someone adds to the world seems to come from just standing there being virtuous, radiating goodness and sincerity into the air, like a heater.

The pre-occupation with personal virtue leads, unfortunately, to an obsession with guilt and complicity. That is its flip-side, also inherited, presumably, from Christianity. If activism consists of simply existing in a state of virtue and integrity, then those who are not activists must all be existing in a state of intentional evil. You, yourself, are susceptible to corruption if you have doubts, or intrusive, impure thoughts.

Thus the interiority, the obsession with integrity makes Social Justice fundamentally accusatory. Activists, like their guilt-ridden Christian forebears, advertise the goodness they hope they embody but (probably) secretly doubt they do. They are virtue signalling, absolving themselves of blame by passing it on to others.


[1] Do you accept the existence of a benign, omniscient and interventionist God, supremely well organised, who has arranged every aspect of life to coordinate in the pursuit a single coherent plan and project? If not, there is no reason to suppose that any aspects of the intellectual life will not be at war with any other. 

Grubby Older Men on the Internet

My 16-year-old daughter is studying art. She posted a photograph of herself holding a portrait she’d done, on some site, asking for feedback and advice on how to improve her technique (and, no doubt, hoping for praise!) The website asks you to post yourself holding your work to prove it’s yours.

Within an hour she’d received two pieces of helpful advice, two nice compliments on her work, and, from older men, over 50 sleazy comments on how attractive she was. One asked her if she’d ever considered “selling foot pics.” (Her feet aren’t even in shot!)

This has disturbed her and made her sad. She says it has “shaken her faith in human nature, a little.”

Her experience goes some way, I think, to explain the vituperative intolerance of many online activists. Most men aren’t lecherous old gits, but a number are. It’s a noticeable sub-group of male sexual behaviour. So, if my daughter attended her local art group she might occasionally meet some odious flirt more interested in her body than her artistic ability, but (hopefully) not so frequently as to dishearten her or jaundice her view of men in general. She would, I hope, still have the emotional resilience to tolerate his nonsense and remove herself from the conversation in relatively good humour. 

But the internet casts its net so widely, connecting so many people, and then sieves out the silent, normal majority, because in this verbal medium, silence makes people invisible, their benign presence unfelt. 

So, my daughter encounters a self-selecting collection of sleazebags from all around the world, a far higher concentration than she’d ever experience in any real-world community.

These men also feel uninhibited by their anonymity, so are willing to be even more forward, without having to fear a punch in the mouth. My daughter is unable to assess whether they are just the naïve, self-deluding and sex-starved products of patriarchal and segregated societies or whether they are truly misogynistic and threatening. It’s a deluge of grubbiness that stretches her capacity for patience. 

The next time she encounters one of these morons, therefore, she’s much more likely to respond with furious antipathy, beyond what the situation requires or what is helpful in a plural society where we all need to learn to tolerate each other. Even the scumbags. 

Unfortunately, Social Justice theory advocates conflict in the service of total victory, of entirely vanquishing our opponents. Any tolerance of bad behaviour is seen as complicity with that behaviour. It actually makes us misogynistic abuse-enablers, even while we are victims.

This is not only unfair, it is also exhausting: having to pick up cudgels to challenge every single flat-footed attempt at flirtation and blame yourself if you do not. Pretty much every Social Justice activist or Critical Race Theorist I’ve read has admitted to their exhaustion at the constant battling they feel required to engage in. Understandably, they blame this on their enemies, but it also testifies to the inefficiency and unsustainability of their approach. 

In addition, hate-speech, intolerance, and persecution against minority groups appears to be increasing since the rise of modern, zero-tolerance Social Justice campaigns. There seems to be a direct, positive correlation between the two phenomena. 

Everyone is outraged by this. They blame the corrupting power of the internet, of modern capitalist society. No one seems to be suggesting the obvious point that our own antagonistic methods have been counter-productive, that we may have got it wrong. 

We can’t destroy injustice and intolerance through totally obliterating our opponents. They won’t allow it and it goes against our principles of equality, tolerance, and freedom of speech. The Far Right don’t hold these principles and so they are better at destruction than we are. By using aggression and pursuing conflict, we are confronting the Right on their terms and their home ground, using the weapons of their choosing. No wonder, then, that, while conservatives feel terribly threatened and alarmed by the protest movements, it’s always our lot, the reformers, who end up getting killed, in Charlottesville,  Virginia, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in Austin, Texas. (And The Social Justice and Critical Race theorists are still “my lot.” I’m on their side. I just think they are misguided.)

We have to live with these people, however galling it is to admit this. We will need to make compromises, negotiate. 

What Should We Do with all those Defeated Rightists, when We’ve Won?

Social Justice isn’t really an evangelising faith. Despite their stated aims – to change the world -, the activist writers I’ve encountered don’t seem very interested in converting people to their way of thinking and thus saving them. In fact, they take great joy in damning their opponents.

I guess they think that anyone who expresses “incorrect thoughts” is a lost cause. The wrong opinion is evidence of their immutable bad character. After all, the Cartesian belief in the true, enduring self or soul is the starting point for most of these movements and beliefs. It justifies the venomous personal attacks on anyone who disagrees, rather than on their opinions[1].

Worship of the exalted self also forms the theoretical basis of all protests movements intent on ending discrimination, and of the pursuit of self-actualisation as the highest calling of humankind, which is one of the key reasons for expressing your Social Justice credentials, in the first place: to establish your beliefs and your identity. Activists are intent on proving themselves right, to their own satisfaction and that of their supporters. They are stating what they believe in and thus who they are.

So, modern on-line activists aren’t trying to persuade. They are cathartically venting their anger and frustration; they are trying to wound those who have hurt or obstructed them; and, of course, they are playing to the gallery for the approval of their own kind, reaffirming their tribal identities by a recitation of the creed.

Anyone who questions or disagrees with a social Justice activist, or even has reservations about their strategies, deserves to be utterly dismissed and thus not thought as an individual. They are just another faceless imperial stormtrooper. The Right’s opinions are abhorrent and enraging but its members don’t deserve to be thought of as individuals. They just need to be targeted, accused and thus “defeated”, in some vague way, but how protest and argument leads to the defeat of reactionary conservatives, or what is to be done with them, is not dealt with by most people who involve themselves in the movements[2]. Are we going to execute all these millions of defeated rightists? Imprison them? Use them as slaves?


[1] Personal attacks on a person’s character, like physical assaults, are designed to silence them, not refute their opinions. This might suggest that those opinions are difficult to refute. 

[2] Some very inventive campaign initiatives have been started by some creative campaigners, I admit. Many genuinely good-hearted, hard-working and caring activists have started very effective organisations to better the lives of the marginalised and oppressed and disadvantaged, but these are not protest movements, although they may be affiliated with them.

“Death to Anyone who Disagrees with Me! (for I am a Social Justice Warrior!)”

Modern activists completely reject anyone with even the slightest reservations about their theories or campaigning methods. By claiming “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem”, activists are claiming that only their exact version of “the solution” is acceptable. They are infallible, incapable of error.  Anyone who deviates in any way from their formulations is not only misguided, they are the enemy! And the enemy must be destroyed, not convinced. 

That demonstrates exactly the rigid conservative thinking we’ve been exploring: complete, dogmatic subservience to the Maven’s theory. The rebuttals aimed at dissenters are always violent, personal attacks, rather than disagreements about ideas. The punishment for digression is brutal assaults on the self and banishment from the online communities that have come to form that self. The internet, an angry, alienating space, encourages and exaggerates personal hostilities. 

Social Justice creeds demand absolute loyalty, even to nonsensical self-contradictory tenets, such as the Gender – Sex dichotomy, which everyone solemnly espouses but nobody understands because it makes no sense[1]. Those are the mysteries of the faith.  


[1] Trans activists are attempting to change the world by imposing a new idea (a new distinction) onto our thinking about gender. It doesn’t make sense because it doesn’t correspond with the phenomena we encounter in our lives. Not everything in the world can be changed by relabelling it. Science is remarkably stubborn and social constructs of gender are a cultural response to, and are built on, a recognition of undeniable biological gender. The biological and cultural are indivisible in this case, although the latter can be altered. We can’t turn the male into the female, but we can change our expectations of both. Demanding that everybody uses “Biological Gender” and “Cultural Sex” entirely independently is like demanding that everybody start using single-sided coins: it is impossible and the nearest approximation we can arrive at is to pretend: it’s the Emperor’s New Clothes, all over again.  

The Fear of Changing Your Mind

Like anyone who holds an opinion, Social Justice activists don’t want to engage with alternatives, let alone negotiate or compromise. Theorising is a highly enjoyable activity. It is deeply satisfying to adopt or adapt a system, or formulate your own, then apply it successfully to the phenomena you encounter. The simpler and easier to grasp the better. Then everything falls into place and explains life so well! It is a tool for categorising and organising the world and thus of having dominion over it, and agency in it. 

Of course, the universe is so vast and so full of contradictory data that you’re relying on huge dollops of confirmation bias: skimming over anything that contradicts your theory to settle your attention on things that confirm it (and there will be lots of those) but that’s just the way we humans roll. 

In contrast, it is laborious and unrewarding to listen, open-mindedly, to other people’s perspectives. You might have to revise your formula to accommodate their opinions! The resulting hybrid tends to be far less satisfying and much less rewarding to apply, being more complicated and approximate, less totalising. It doesn’t clarify in the same way as your original. It can also be deeply discomfiting, because you lose ownership of your theories and thus your intellectual confidence and authority.  

Social Justice activists are just as determined to preserve the familiar as alarmed conservatives are. Both would rather identify flaws in other people’s thinking and then launch scorching and unforgiving ad hominem attacks against them, implying their opponents are wholly worthless and committed, without reason, to doing Satan’s work. That’s far more comfortable than trying to fit your head around your enemies’ ideas. I mean, what if they convinced you they were right? You’d lose your soul! 

“To Be Swayed is the Mark of a Noble Mind”

I suspect all minds tend towards an emotive alarm when confronted by ideas other than their community’s home-grown ones, even if their community is an avant-garde and revolutionary one. Once you’ve formulated and settled on a theory, you are loathe to abandon it and start again, partly because your identity becomes bound up in it. New ideas are bewildering and necessarily imposed by outside forces. They are disempowering, threatening. Accepting them would mean betraying not only your way of understanding the world, but also betraying like-minded people. 

An intolerant, thoughtless rebuttal that reaffirms tribal allegiance is much easier on the brain and on the sense of inner security. This is the essence of socially conservative, right-wing thought (as distinct from neo-con market-liberal capitalism.) It could also explain the furious reaction of reformers, rebels and disruptors to any challenges to their world-view. 

Conservative mindsets are probably the silent majority in most communities (although all humans harbour more than one at a time, so this is difficult to assess.) Certainly, in Britain, we elect far more Conservative governments than progressive liberal ones.  

However, it’s not just the conservatives. Everyone resists outside ideas, even if they are an improvement on the ones they already hold, or are more appropriate for modern times. Everyone is flawed and makes mistakes, harbours nonsensical assumptions and emotional responses they can’t explain. We need to be forgiving of ourselves so that we can accept this and be aware of our limitations, then actively school and correct ourselves. “To be swayed is the mark of a noble mind.” (The Iliad, Homer)

Are We to Blame for the Rise of the Right?

The internet’s toxic brew of cruelty, rumour and misused statistics, hatred’s potent fuel, has been super-charged by adopting fanciful and unproved social theories. The younger academic disciplines, such as Social Studies, priding themselves on their revolutionary newness, were always going to be attracted to media innovations for spreading their ideas.

In this environment, then, for all the reasons I’ve mentioned over my last few posts, social justice campaigning was doomed. It was always going to degenerate into endless rounds of personal attacks, trolling and counter trolling, petulant blaming and wounded feelings, backed up by misunderstandings, and unworkable pseudo-theories, of how human societies function. 

And this, of course, breeds schism, suspicion, and hostility. The power of unity, in the Civil Rights movement, in its universal appeal to our core, Liberal-Humanist values, has been fatally dissipated by division, as former allies turn against each other. 

And all of that just provides ammunition and opportunities for the resurgence of the Far Right. They are always prowling on the outskirts, waiting for their chance to push back, to discredit and dismiss us.