The topics of policing reform, criminal justice policy, or racial issues have all been examined on my blog here. In the past month alone, I have discussed repealing qualified immunity and disbanding police unions as example of policing reform. Other policing reforms have been discussed, including ending the War on Drugs, ending mass incarceration, and de-militarizing the police. In terms of criminal policy and race relations, I have also analyzed how policing reform could men the rift between African-Americans and police officers, as well as how stop-and-frisk had disproportionate effects on African-Americans (see 2014 analysis).
I believe that we need to partake in policing reform to reduce racial disparities within policing practice. Then there is the phrase "Black Lives Matter." As a Jew, I believe that everyone is created in G-d's Image. As a libertarian, I adhere to the idea of the dignity of the individual, irrespective of race. "Black Lives Matter" should be a simple statement of "because black people are human beings, they should be afforded the same respect and dignity as everyone else."
It's when the phrase goes beyond its simple and literal meaning that I take issue because it is next to impossible to divorce it from its political context. What makes it more difficult to decipher is the decentralized nature of "Black Lives Matter" (BLM) as a political movement. Is BLM solely about policing reform? And if so, which reforms? Defunding the police? Does "defunding the police" mean eliminating the police force or simply reducing its funding? The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) goes beyond policing reform and argues for such policies as reparations on its platform and claims to be anti-capitalist. Then there's the Black Lives Matter Global Foundation, a multinational organization that I would contend uses language that is common amongst adherents of Social Justice (SJ), commonly referred to as social justice warriors (SJWs). The ambiguity of goals combined with the lack of precise language make it difficult to discern what Black Lives is supposed to mean.
I had difficulty discerning another phenomenon related to BLM as the George Floyd protests carried on. What I started to notice is that those who have been most vociferously anti-racist as of late are on the Left, especially on the Far Left. For this crowd, it is not enough to be non-racist or against racism; one has to actively be for "tearing down the institutions that systemically bring about racism." I could not quite put my finger on what was bothering me until I came across an article from the libertarian Reason Magazine. The article is entitled "Kneeling in the Church of Social Justice," and it details how the moral opposition to racism mirrors the rituals and phraseology of Abrahamic faiths. I grew up Catholic, and up until recently, I was an Orthodox Jew. I know what religious fundamentalism looks like. Reflecting on how Black Lives Matter is acting as a type of social justice movement led me to the realization that the SJ movement parallels religious fundamentalists. So how are SJWs similar to religious puritans?
Before beginning, I want to clarify three things. One is that I am not here to argue that SJ is a religion per se. I know Jewish, Christian, and Buddhist individuals who adhere to SJ without giving up their religion (although I know other SJWs who substitute SJ with religion). Plus, the SJ framework does not attempt to answer such questions as "Does G-d exist" or "Is there an afterlife?" What I am arguing is that SJ functions like a religion in many ways, and that the similarities exceed the differences. Second, I recognize that "social justice" could mean different things to different people, but am here to illustrate some of the commonalities amongst SJWs. Third, I am not here to use SJW interchangeably with "liberal" or "progressive." While SJWs are on the Far Left, I recognize that being Left-of-center does not make one an SJW. Rather, as we will see presently, the SJW is a more specific subset of Left-leaning individual that adheres to a Left-wing orthodoxy that manifests itself in a certain way.
- Ideologically motivated moral community. This is a point that author James Lindsay brings up in his astute essay Postmodern Religion and the Faith of Social Justice (I recommend reading it for further details on how SJ functions as a postmodern religion). It is inadequate to use a moral community as a criterion for a religion because the definition would otherwise be too broad. What helps to distinguish a moral community from an ideologically motivated moral community (or moral tribe) is a shared world view or ideology and incorporating sacrosanct ideas within the framework.
- Sectarian tendencies. Because SJ adheres to sacred beliefs, they cannot be questioned or doubted. You see this occur when one decides to question a religious fundamentalist's worldview: there simply is an incapability to handle criticism or scrutiny. Why? Sacred beliefs cannot be subjected to such "corrosive elements" as doubt or skepticism. Case in point: In 2019, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez lamented that too many people care about being factually correct over being morally right. This illustrates an important facet of moral tribes: the overarching moral imperative is what matters, damn any facts or logic.
- Doctrinal Belief System. A religion would not be complete without a set of beliefs commonly held. What are some of these beliefs?
- How the world works. Part of the SJ mindset dates back to 18th-century French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Rousseau believed that it was social institutions that corrupted human beings from their natural goodness. Sound familiar? It should. We are hearing the term "systemic racism" thrown around a lot lately. SJWs believe that every wrong in the world is rooted in systemic discrimination. Their mindset is "remove the system, remove the problem." This Rousseauian concept is combined with a Marxist one. Karl Marx viewed history as a class struggle between the bourgeois and the proletariat. The simplistic, neo-Marxist language we see used by SJWs today is more general in terms of the oppressor versus the oppressed. Rather than see individuals, the SJW crowd puts people into groups: black versus white, gay versus straight, men versus women. Not only is the inevitable result that of divisiveness, but it also creates a victimhood mentality that is all too pervasive in my generation of Millennials and younger.
- The doctrine of Original Sin. You might think that the idea of Original Sin is confined to Christian theology. However, it found its way in the SJW world, as well. The SJW Original Sin is being born privileged, whether that privilege is in the form being heterosexual, Christian, white, and/or able-bodied. SJWs might purport that "privilege" means "having a lasting sociological advantage." What they're really saying is that they take issue with privilege as a "facet of having grown up in a way that people ought to grow up." Rather than view it as positive that one grows up with adequate education, familial love, stability, or a lack of stigma, the term "privilege" becomes a negative attribute in the SJW mind. SJWs use "privilege" to shame and force one into contrition. The Marxist concept of false consciousness goes as far to say that "privilege" disqualifies someone from ever speaking truth. It is no wonder why "white guilt" has become en vogue for many white SJWs.
- Collective guilt. The concept of collective guilt, or blaming an entire category of people when only a [small] part of that group is guilty, stems from the Original Sin of privilege. This so-called "logic" plays out in the argument for reparations. It does not matter if a Caucasian-American's ancestors were in the United States prior to or during the Civil War. It also does not matter that none of us here in the year 2020 are directly responsible for the slave trade, Plessy v Ferguson, or the initial implementation of Jim Crow laws. What matters is the color of one's skin, and that should determine whether one should pay in this redistributionist scheme. For the SJWs, it is a crusade for justice, even if that means acting unjustly towards millions who are not responsible or harbor any ill will towards African-Americans. Regardless of the topic at hand, SJ is more about punishing or favoring certain groups while de-emphasizing, diminishing, or downright negating individual choices or actions when it comes to justice. For the SJW, they believe in that the logical fallacy of division, i.e., if someone belongs to an identity group that is deemed guilty, that individual is guilty, regardless of an individual's actions.
- Identity Politics. Identity politics is the result of viewing individuals as part of a group or collective rather than being their own individuals. The idea of identity politics grew out of discourse of leftist intellectuals in the 1960s. To deal with the ennui and disappointment about Marxism, they created what is called social constructivism. The idea of social constructivism is that knowledge cannot be objectively obtained through discourse and reasoning because the knowledge that society has been created was done so by heterosexual, white males. What evolved from these postmodernists is the paradigm that objectivity is impossible, but the identity and oppression based on this lack of objectivity are objectively real (or at the very least, there needs to be a platform for these voices to be heard since they historically have not been heard). For equality to exist in their minds, the knowledge of women, racial minorities, sexual minorities, and other marginalized people needs to be foregrounded. Aside from the highly subjective nature of this approach, identity politics are problematic because sole focus on identity is divisive, it produces heavily biased readings of situations that are not based on truth but the identity of the individual speaking (an example of the genetic fallacy), and it is incapable of consistently upholding the principle of non-discrimination. The concept of identity politics is a considerable departure from the universal application of human rights in classical liberalism. You can read more about the history and formation of identity politics here.
- Greater government power as an end-goal. Individuals of a certain religion exist on a spectrum of belief or observance. The same goes for those advocating for SJ, and that is partially due to the ubiquitous and poorly-defined nature of the term. For those who believe in "SJ-lite," (who I would argue would be a number of people who are Left-of-center, but would not be considered actual SJWs), it could mean a bit more of wealth redistribution [to alleviate racial disparities] than already exists. For others, it means upending the current institutions to deal with the centuries of perceived or actual systemic injustice. I don't understand why SJWs think this would work because nature abhors a vacuum. Rather than fighting power structures and oppression, SJWs will end up creating its own variants of power structures and oppression if they gain more political and cultural power. The best example of a social justice-based society fighting class differences and disparities in power is Communism. Communists thought they had the answers to fighting the war on the oppressor, and that only brought misery and millions of deaths. I'm not here to equate SJWs with Communists, but to have the analogy serve as a reminder of what fundamentalists, religious or secular, are capable of when they have unfettered access to power and control. As we will illustrate throughout this piece, what SJWs have been doing are mild in comparison to theocracies or Communist regimes because they hold a relatively minimal amount of power. Getting back to my original point, regardless of where an SJW falls on the spectrum of the SJ movement, being an SJW involves a belief in the aggrandizement of government power to help mitigate the unfairness within the systems.
- The SJW Caste System. Hinduism evolved into a rigid, hierarchical system based on karma and dharma. Even in Judaism, the Kohanim (Preists) and Levi'im (Levites) are afforded certain privileges. In the SJW world, the caste system that exists is referred to as intersectionality. Intersectionality started off with noble intentions. It was meant to be a framework in which minorities or disenfranchised can explain their unique experiences, particularly if there is more than one aspect of marginalization in play. A Caucasian male will typically experience the world differently than an African-American male. A heterosexual, African-American male will experience the world differently than an African-American lesbian. I do not dispute that various aspects of identity intersect in ways of how one perceives the world or how one is perceived. It does not diminish the fact that some aspects of identity make it more difficult to navigate the world. On average, a straight person is going to have an easier time than a gay person. Racial or religious minorities will have a tougher time on average than someone who is white and/or Christian. What I take issue with is that intersectionality has devolved into the Oppression Olympics. There is no official scoring system to speak of, but there is a hierarchy of oppression that exists in the SJW world. Straight, white, Christian males are at the bottom. Gay people rank higher than straight people. Gay people of color rank higher than gay, white people. Any non-SJW who has interacted with those in the SJW world will have picked up on this implicit hierarchical system with little to no effort.
- Social Control and Moral Codes. In religious fundamentalist communities, using moral codes to achieve social control comes in many forms, whether that it is of controlling speech, food, sexual behavior, marriage, what to do with your weekend (Shabbat), or what to wear. For SJW's, there are multiple attempts at social control (e.g., cancel culture, social media mobbing), but the most obvious example of social control is that of political correctness. A SJW would argue that political correctness is merely a modern-day application of politeness. As I argued three years ago when discussing political correctness, political correctness is speech and thought control in the guise of tolerance, politeness, and unity. The belief held by SJWs is that controlling use of potentially hateful and/or triggering language can make the world a safer place for oppressed individuals (see more in "Microagressions and Humorlessness" sub-section). For a specific example, you can take a look at my analysis on the word "Latinx." It does not matter if political correctness actually does make a difference in terms of changing one's mind. What matters here is even the appearance or illusion of having said control.
- Anti-blasphemy laws. Christian- and Muslim-majority countries alike have historically enacted blasphemy laws when someone shows a lack of respect or reverence for a given deity. In such a society, the official ideology is the only acceptable form of theory, beliefs, and values. Any alternative has to be quashed under the law in order to maintain social order. This has been true whether it has been a theocracy or a Communist regime. There was a time when those on the Far Left were some of the greatest advocates of free speech. After all, Berkeley has been dubbed the birthplace of free speech in the 1960s. How things have changed in the past few decades! Noam Chomsky once said that those who truly favor free speech have to favor it not just for likable views, but views that one despises. Rather than advocate for a freedom the Far Left once cherished, SJWs have generally supported anti-hate-speech laws, a nebulous subjective concept that is nothing more than a secularized version of anti-blasphemy laws. If you think this has not happened yet, go to a college campus. Examples of trigger warnings (which, by the way, are shown to be useless or actually harmful), safe spaces, anti-hate provisions in campus speech codes, and the suppression of conservative and libertarian speakers are numerous and easily searchable on Google.
- How one views non-believers. In certain religions, the "in-group versus out-group" dynamic is expressed in terms of "believers versus non-believers." Under the religious fundamentalist framework, believers enter Heaven, whereas non-believers go to Hell. It might not have an eschatological bent, but SJWs have a similar mentality. If you believe in the "Original Sin" of white guilt and if you think that everything in the world is due to a systemic injustice that needs to be toppled, then you are part of the in-group. If you disagree with the SJW view of how the world works or how to fix it in any way, shape, or form (even if you yourself belong to a marginalized group), not only are you wrong. You are considered evil, racist, homophobic, xenophobic, transphobic, and/or a hater of poor people. That level of intolerance towards the non-believer is indicative of fundamentalist thinking.
- Punishment of non-believers. An element of theocratic societies or religious fundamentalist communities is to punish those who stray off the "narrow and righteous path." Fortunately, we are not dealing with the executions that occurred during the Salem witch trials or the Spanish Inquisition. That might have something to do with the lack of political or military power that SJWs possess to implement oppression on such a scale. What we do see is cancel culture, or what Left-leaning, transgender activist Natalie Wynn (also known as ContraPoints, and who herself was a victim of cancel culture) refers to as a milder digital version of mob justice reminiscent of the French Revolution. As I brought up earlier this year in my analysis on cancel culture, author J.K. Rowling, an individual who is otherwise very much Left-of-center, has been accosted by the cancel culture mob because she said that biological sex exists. Another example of trying to reinforce its moral code and deal with those who stray off what they deem righteous, there is diversity training to make sure everyone is in line. And forget for a moment that diversity training is shown to have little to no positive effect on people's perspectives or implicit biases. Similar to other forms of religious fundamentalism, there is no tolerance for dissent in the SJW world.
- Contradictions and creating inadequacy. One of the reasons I left Orthodox Judaism is because no matter what I did, it was never good enough. In religious fundamentalism, the system is set up in a way that you fail before you began because it expects something that is quite frankly super-human. Here are two examples of quandaries in the SJW world. 1) If you do not speak out or fight against the unfairness and ill-treatment against gay people, you are a homophobe. But if you speak out against Muslims who are exhibiting homophobia or criticizing a Muslim-majority country for punishing homosexuals, you are considered Islamophobic. 2) If you do not believe in gender as a societal construct, you are "heteronormative." But if you do not believe transgenderism as a biological reality, you are "transphobic." So which is it: is gender really a thing or not? It doesn't matter what you say, believe, or do: you can't win! If cancel culture teaches us anything, you can be punished for something down the road that was considered normal or acceptable five or ten years ago. Much like with religious fundamentalism, the SJW framework is designed in a way where you can toil away but will always be deemed inadequate.
- Being "born again." It is common for Protestants who have developed a deep relationship with Jesus Christ to refer to themselves as "born again." The phrase "born again" is associated with the idea of baptism, in which one experiences a spiritual rebirth. Amongst the SJW crowd, this idea is referred to as "being woke." Being woke leads to another tendency of SJWs: a holier-than-thou attitude.
- Holier-than-thou. Holier-than-thou mentality is marked "by an air of superiority or morality" in which you think very highly of yourself. This concept originates in the Bible (particularly the Christian Bible), although it was not commonly used in the vernacular until the 19th century. In a Christian context, examples of this could be thinking you are "a better Christian" because you go to church every week, attend Bible study, or volunteer often. It is not an issue whether your actions have positive outcomes, but how you relate to those actions, as well as others in light of those choices. In a SJW context, such examples are thinking you are better than everyone else because you eat organic, buy fair-trade, don't use plastic straws, or drive a hybrid car. Speaking of hybrid cars, South Park criticized such sanctimonious behavior over a decade ago. In the episode "Smug Alert!", the people of South Park bought hybrid cars. The people of South Park thought they were such saviors of the environment and so full of themselves that they smelled their own farts to get off on their own piety.
- Microagressions and humorlessness. One thing I have noticed about religious piety is that there is no room for a healthy dose of humor amongst religious fundamentalists. SJWs share similar sentiments when it comes to humor because they take life too seriously. For one, being woke means being on the constant lookout for that which is unjust and fight it. This leads into my second and more compelling reason why I don't think SJWs have a sense of humor: microagressions. A microagression is a brief and commonplace verbal or behavioral expression, typically without malicious intent, that are taken as insults by individuals from marginalized groups. Remember, the SJ crowd has individuals that will say such things as marijuana is racist towards Mexicans, that chairs are sexist, expecting people to be on time is culturally insensitive, threading eyebrows and yoga are forms of cultural appropriation, using the wrong pronoun in transphobic, and according to a list of microagressions from the University of California, asking someone where they are from is nativist and disparaging towards foreigners. There is a difference between being considerate towards others and going over the top, and SJWs crossed that line a long time ago. Humor is often crude, raunchy, over-the-top, salacious, and yes, politically incorrect. In a world of being offended by the most of micro of so-called "aggressions," anything can be triggering for SJWs. If SJWs get huffy over microagressions, how can you expect SJWs to enjoy humor? Along with that humorlessness is the incapability to laugh at oneself. Show a SJW one of the videos below and I guarantee that instead of finding it funny, they will give you an earful about injustice, something systemic, or how they feel oppressed.
If you read this and thought the characterization or description of the SJW world seemed over-the-top, that is only because the SJW mindset is that extreme and absurdist. With its ideologically motivated moral community, strict adherence to its belief system, desire for societal conformity, attempts to control others in multiple areas of life, antagonism towards those who disagree, and overall narrow-mindedness, it is indisputable that SJWs operate in a similar fashion that religious fundamentalists do. On the one hand, I am glad that the SJWs do not have considerable political power, although G-d only knows they are working on influencing the Democratic Party. I can find at least some solace in a study showing that 80 percent of U.S. citizens think that political correctness has gone too far (Hawkins et al., 2018). On the other hand, their influence, which used to be confined to academic settings, has grown. In recent years, their influence has gone beyond the ivory tower and into the media, the corporate world, and increasingly politics.
As we approach the Fourth of July, I think of the beginning of establishment of freedom in the United States on July 4, 1776. I reflect on how the Founding Fathers solidified the ideal that life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness for all by signing the Declaration of Independence. While I am by no means giving President Trump a pass on eroding liberties (see here, here, here), I have serious concerns about how Social Justice has gained considerable influence in U.S. culture. I have observed what havoc they have wreaked with the minimal amount of power they have. I shudder to think of how destructive it could be if they truly got their way.
Anyone who attempts to fully control and politicize various aspects of life, whether religious or secular, on the Left or Right, fits the textbook definition of totalitarianism. Nazism, militarism, theocracy, Communism, it does not matter what you call it. Societies with authoritarian tendencies diminish civil liberties and economic prosperity. Although SJWs have not gained the power they would like to have (yet!), it does not change the fact that the SJ movement is a type of authoritarianism akin to religious fundamentalism. It is not only a threat to the "American way of life," but it threatens anyone who disagrees with SJWs and wants to live their lives peacefully. There was a time that the Left valued social liberty, equality, and freedom of expression. If I were to have one hope on this Fourth of July (aside from an end to this pandemic), it is that my non-SJW friends on the Left can weed out such nonsense from its ranks and relegate it to the same status of "nut job" that we give extremist cultists.