If Suey Park and her painfully silly #CancelColbert campaign seemed to come out of nowhere for you back in March and April, consider yourself lucky. Anyone who has a life should’ve been blindsided by the sudden realization that there are people out there whose entire humorless existences are consumed by identity politics and the constant self-perpetuating battles that spring up in defense of their particular slice of them. This isn’t to say that those who occupy overlooked spaces within the cultural narrative don’t deserve a voice or to make their grievances known, nor is it to suggest that there aren’t groups who face very real and sometimes violent oppression in our society. It’s simply that trying to cram a highly exclusive and personally beneficial brand of social justice down everyone’s throats makes more enemies than allies and generally makes you look like an asshole.
It’s true that Park was and probably still is a human umbrage machine, but she’s certainly not alone. There’s an entire internet rabbit hole that can be descended into where a hashtag as catchy and understandable as #NotYourAsianSidekick will feel like a tanker full of cool water in the middle of a desert. Or maybe a better analogy would be a shot of Haloperidol during the throes of a psychotic episode. Enter the world of the social justice warrior and you find a byzantine, heavily land-mined maze of alien-sounding pseudo-academic lingo, hyper-sensitivity to violations of orthodoxy, and damn-near relentless rage directed at anyone unlucky enough to not be in the club, to at least know the secret handshake and the right shibboleths, or to be deemed privileged and therefore oppressive.
It’s almost impossible to imagine what it would take to willingly submerge yourself in this kind of thing on a regular basis, but apparently one young woman has been doing just that since June of 2012 on a Tumblr called “WTFsocialjustice.” Her mission is to poke a little fun at people who seem incapable of poking fun at themselves, who in fact take themselves and their issues so fucking seriously and are so far up their own asses that to call them insufferable wouldn’t even begin to cut it. The site and the woman claiming to be behind it — who’s Asian, if that’s important — have obviously been the target of plenty of online wrath in the past couple of years, but her reaction to the material she’s posting isn’t so much hostility or antagonism as it is bemusement.
So now that you’re trigger warned and it’s been made clear that this won’t be a safe space, let’s take a journey into the realm of the social justice warrior — where everything is offensive except the things that really are kind of fucked-up; where words like “otherkin” (believing you’re an animal) and “kyriarchy” (basically one step above the old, boring patriarchy) aren’t the least bit confusing to anyone; and where it really feels like very little in the way of forward progress is ever made, just a lot of furious ranting subbing in for it. Basically, this is the farm league for Team Internet Outrage.
Check your privilege and get ready for a whole lot of problematic, kids. Some of this stuff makes Salon look like Total Frat Move.
Now let’s be clear: It’s one thing to be a kid still trying to figure out who you are. It should also be a right rather than a privilege to live without fear of persecution. But that’s not what most of this stuff is arguing. A lot of it is demanding some kind of mass cultural capitulation in the name of recognizing and satisfying the whims of the precious few snowflakes among us. At first glance it all seems pretty harmless, and much of it is, but the social media era has brought us more than a few attempts at catering to this kind of narcissism.
Of course it’s not a pressing issue, but when you see this crap unvarnished it sure as hell is obnoxious. Obnoxious, but admittedly pretty entertaining.
Chez Pazienza was the beating heart of The Daily Banter, sadly passing away on February 25, 2017. His voice remains ever present at the Banter, and his influence as powerful as ever.