The PC/SJW Boogeyperson

Every now and then Dana Milbank writes something worth reading, and he did so this week. See “The GOP’s War on ‘Politically Correct.’” Milbank effectively demonstrates that, in current right-wing usage, the term “political correctness” has no actual meaning. “Once a pejorative term applied to liberals’ determination not to offend any ethnic or other identity group,” Milbank wrote,  “it now is used lazily by some conservatives to label everything classified under ‘that with which I disagree.’ ” For example:

GOP candidates are now using the “politically correct” label to shut down debate — exactly what conservatives complained politically correct liberals were doing in the first place.

When CNN’s John Berman last week asked Rick Santorum about Trump’s plan to ban Muslims from entering the country, Santorum employed the familiar evasive maneuver.

“Republicans are sick and tired of the political correctness that we can’t talk about this,” he said. “You can’t say the word ‘Muslim.'”

It wasn’t clear which officer in the P.C. Police told Santorum he couldn’t say “Muslim.”

People say “Muslim” all the time. And Trump’s plan to ban Muslims from entering the country was discussed rabidly throughout the nation for several days, with armies of people pointing out why this was a really bad idea, not to mention bigoted and possibly unconstitutional. What it is Frothy thought he was not allowed to talk about I can only guess.

Ted Cruz said that political correctness is “killing people.” I had to hunt to find out how. He was referring to the Obama Administration’s policy of not using the term “radical Islamic terrorism.” Apparently if the President would just say that phrase, ISIS would shrivel up and die on the spot.

And Ben Carson seems to think that not waterboarding people is just being PC. In his world, there is no other reason to not torture people. As Milbank said, this is intellectual laziness on its face.

I’ve only relatively recently stumbled into the acronym SJW, meaning “social justice warrior.” Apparently being a social justice warrior is a bad thing. According to Rational Wiki (which may or may not be accurate, but it’s fun to read), the phrase “social justice warrior” was coined in 2009 by a blogger named Will Shetterly. Shetterly was talking about people who like to engage in arguments favoring social justice on the Internet but aren’t committed to fighting for it anywhere else, like in the real world. They’re phonies, in other words, who are posing as liberals to raise their social status. I’m not sure why anyone would do that, but whatever.

However, SJW has since morphed into a term, meant to be a pejorative, applied to any progressive political or social activist. The subtext of this is that all progressive political or social activism is phony; people just pretend to champion liberal views to make themselves look good to other liberals who must be as phony as they are.

(Years ago I read a social psychology paper in which researchers had determined that white racists sincerely believe all other white people also believe nonwhites are inferior, and that the only reason some whites won’t support white supremacy is that “they’re just being PC.”)

“SJW” seems particularly popular among libertarians and “men’s rights advocates” (MRAs). It says here, SJWs are

… people who, according to Urban Dictionary, engage in “social justice arguments on the internet… in an effort to raise their own personal reputation.” In other words, SJWs don’t hold strong principles, but they pretend to. The problem is, that’s not a real category of people. It’s simply a way to dismiss anyone who brings up social justice–and often those people are feminists. It’s awfully convenient to have a term at the ready to dismiss women who bring up sexism, as in, “You don’t really care. As an SJW, you’re just taking up this cause to make yourself look good!”

Labeling someone “SJW” is just a way to not have to answer their arguments. Most women will recognize this as a variation of the “women are just emotional” line that sexists have used forever to avoid listening to us.

I’ve noticed that complaints about people or opinions being PC/SJW tend to follow a pattern (a recent example, if you want one). If the individual is educated enough to be writing for a commercial publication, we will learn he was traumatized in his college years by  fascistic “PC police” on campus. Even assuming some young people get a bit over-strident in their intolerance of intolerance, college is a relatively brief interlude in life that is quickly left behind as one marches into adulthood. So who’s oppressing him now? Hard to say, but he will complain bitterly about being “censored” without giving us any specific examples. Ahem.

If you want to see specific examples of people who try to intimidate other people into shutting up, see the Mahablog archive on conservative correctness.  I wrote back in 2007,

When the phrase “political correctness” was first coined, as I recall, it was something of a joke, ribbing academics for going overboard creating “inclusive” language, like “physically challenged” for “disabled.” Wingnuts seized the phrase and turned it into an all-purpose explanation for why liberals say crazy things like “racial discrimination is wrong”– the standard response is “Oh, you’re just being P.C.” Meaning, “you don’t really mean what you say.”

But we really do mean what we say, and when righties conjure up some phony outrage in order to bash liberals, we get all caught up in answering charges, explaining logical fallacies, and pointing out hypocrisies. We do this because we assume they mean what they say. And, frankly, the more cognitively challenged among them probably do mean what they say, because they can’t critically think their way out of a wet paper bag.

But Bill’s hypothesis is that many of the opinion leaders among them — he discusses Michelle Malkin because he knows her personally — don’t mean what they say. They know good and well that many of the outrages they gin up to bash us with are contrived. They’re just trying to bully us, often because (deep down inside) they think we’re trying to bully them. So while we’re exhausting ourselves in a mighty intellectual struggle, they’re just playing tit for tat and barely working up a sweat.

Now we’re hearing about “victimist” culture, never mind that righties can’t so much as say good morning without adding a complaint about how they are being victimized (see, for example the “war on Christmas”).

As has been said elsewhere, the original “PC” effort was well-intended, even if it sometimes got a bit silly (“differently abled”?). The backlash, however, is about nothing other than being able to express hate speech without being criticized for it.

And I’m done with it. The only correct response to “Oh, you’re just being PC” is “Oh, you’re just being an idiot.”  And a bigoted one at that.

45 thoughts on “The PC/SJW Boogeyperson

  1. Ok, I’m going to be completely un-PC here, by saying the following:
    Many, if not most of our conservatives, are retarded.
    There, I said it.

    Here’s a definition I copied, by Googling that word:

    Less advanced in mental, physical, or social development than is usual for one’s age.
    Very foolish or stupid.
    ‘In retrospect, it was a totally retarded idea.'”

    Some conservatives may very well have high “Intellectual” IQ’s – as defined by the standardized tests.
    But there’s also an “Emotional” IQ, which is less easy to define.

    Imo – I would define Emotional IQ, as being able to put oneself in another’s shoes. And/or to do unto others, as one would want others to do unto you.
    And yet, time and time again, conservatives display the Emotional IQ of fungi! With no actual “fun” involved to any, even the slightest, degree.

    On top of that, our conservatives feel offended at any and every single thing that they don’t agree with. And if you call them on their lack of caring, or forethought, they immediately don “The Cloak of Victimhood!”
    THEY’RE the real victims!
    Not the people that they look to throw under the bus, or let die poor, slow, early, painful deaths.
    “DAMMIT! By pointing out my ___________________, you’re the real racist/misogynist/xenophobe/homophobe/religiously-intolerant one! NOT ME! I’m the victim of your intolerance!!!”

    Conservatives never got over the old childish taunt, “I’m rubber, you’re glue. Whatever you say, bounces off me, and sticks to you!”
    And that, folks, is the very definition of the definition, of “retarded:”
    “Less advanced in mental, physical, or social development than is usual for one’s age.”

    How much less advanced can one get, than to continue to use a childhood taunt, well into adulthood.

    Ok, now I’ll go back to being my usual PC, SJW self – and meaning it!

  2. I’ve never understood how “Social Justice Warrior” is meant to be an insult. Isn’t being any kind of warrior for justice … awesome? I would take a job as a greeter, as long as I could call myself a Walmart Justice Warrior.

    (Also, you’ve got a typo – SWJ in a couple places where it should be SJW.)

  3. “‘You don’t really care. As an SJW, you’re just taking up this cause to make yourself look good!'”

    The retort to that is:

    And you’re not a conservative, you’re just an a**hole/bigot pretending to be a conservative to make yourself look good!

  4. PC is indeed well-intentioned, but superficial, bullying and conformist. All of this is due to its being a subset of Proper Manners, which is in turn a subset of Fashion. SJW is PC’s self-righteous younger sibling; it is wannabe militancy.

    SJW wants to be militant, it but knows not how. You want actual _warriors_ for social justice? Complete with casualties, saints and heroes? Fighting in struggles where the fascists fire live ammo? How about the labor movement? Or civil rights? Now those are social justice _warriors_!

    That is what I tell the younglings.

  5. As for PC: the phrase “Proper Conduct” also has the initials PC. Coincidence?
    The opposite is “Improper Conduct”, or IC, pronounced “ick!”

  6. WOW ! Talk about synchronicity. I was on FB about an hour ago, one of the questions posed was “which word or phrase would you like to see go away in 2016”, I wrote “politically correct”. It is the ultimate bull shit term, it is owned by the right to bully people and disparage any language they disagree with. Just dare to mention “the military”, “Veterans”, or “the second amendment” in any but the most glowing terms, and the right wing orcs will emerge like toad stools after a spring rain. It is like Archie Bunker is cool now, when once he was a fool.

  7. This article describes an example of how people’s minds become circumscribed and confined to an epistemic bubble. This is a condition that seems prevalent these days, and in the end it may be our fatal flaw.

    Back when the hubbub over the confederate battle flag was raging one of my right wing friends posted what was in his mind, a solid example of the victimization of people of southern/confederate heritage. Apparently, pointy headed, elitist left wing haters had forced a cable TV provider into discontinuing the broadcast of “The Dukes of Hazard.”

    “Oh, the humanity!”

  8. Back before I went into the woods, I worked in a field where there was an elaborate system of communication regarding people with disabilities. It was a kind of professional jargon that was often ungainly and periphrastic. But, in a way, for all its faults, it had a purpose, which was to make people rethink their attitudes about people with disabilities. Even that phrase itself is a good example, because it invites you to consider personhood first and disability secondarily. The cumbersome language is no longer in use. It seems mainly a sign that there was a general consideration of the issue. I recently read about a study that showed that if someone was described as “Africa-American” they tended to be more highly regarded than someone described as “black.” So, possibly, in the end that change in terms did mean something.

    I always think of the Martin Buber assertion that if you address someone as “thou,” after a while, you are more open to seeing their dignity. Maybe, terms of respect engender respect, maybe not, but they can’t hurt. Although, they can sound silly from time to time.


  9. SJW=Do Gooder. A pejorative term I never understood. As in, the laughing mocking aholes who make fun of people who want to make things better. And does the right understand that the PC police doesn’t actually exist. They won’t be arrested for saying anything. They should feel free to say anything they want. Feel free to use the N word, call Muslims towelheaded radical Muslims. Call Hispanics any number of names that I’m sure are ringing in your ears. Come on righties, don’t allow the PCP to have so much power. And you know what you call someone who doesn’t listen to the PCP? Donald Trump, who very well may get the nom, but won’t win the general.

  10. “because they can’t critically think their way out of a wet paper bag”

    That is the whole thing in a nutshell, most tea-tards essentially know they are out matched in the thinking department by anyone with a post 8th grade education (many of them I know graduated high school but stopped learning after elementary school) so rather than trying to learn something they shut them down with simpleton acronyms like PC, SJW, etc… The term social justice as a pejorative has been thrown around by wing-nuts like Glenn Beck, Alex Jones, etc. for years, Beck uses it as a way to attack liberal Christians without actually attacking their faith! My tea-tard friends from last weekend said I was being PC because I questioned their repeated and casual use of the term “nigger”? Whenever someone I have just met or only know in passing uses that term I like to ask them to please stop as my wife is African-American, that’s always good for some uncomfortable tension!

  11. A lot of it comes down to attempted mind-reading, which I try to avoid–some total stranger on the internet, and you think you can tell them what their real motives are?
    At any rate, I have some evidence that I’m not just being PC when I get outraged over racism. I took a test of implicit racial biases, and found that I have a moderate implicit bias in favor of black people over white people. Which surprised me a bit, since I’m white myself, but hey, it was Harvard.

  12. It seems our friendly heavily armed domestic terrorists are trying provoke another Waco or Ruby Ridge again, I hope the feds give it to them this time, bust out the drones! Gee I wonder what would happen if the Black Lives Matter folks armed themselves and occupied a Cleveland Police station?

  13. the whole SJW thing is a way for empathy lacking conservatives to not feel icky about themselves.

    many years earlier, Rush harped a lot about “liberal guilt” in much the same way

  14. Well, if being an internet SJW will boost my social standing in the eyes of conservatives…then count me in. Ever since I abandoned my brothers and sisters in the work of the Lord I’ve been somewhat of a pariah. So I’ll gladly take the step up.

  15. “So I’ll gladly take the step up”

    Sorry Swami, don’t you know if you try to help them, they’ll never be able to take help themselves, silly liberal just leave them to die!

  16. And Ben Carson seems to think that not waterboarding people is just being PC. In his world, there is no other reason to not torture people. As Milbank said, this is intellectual laziness on its face.

    When it comes to Carson I think using the term intellectual laziness is a bit too generous a descriptor. I realize Carson has a legitimately acquired intellectual achievement to his credit as a neurosurgeon, but it seems to me that there are areas in Carson brain which are insufficiently developed. I don’t mean insufficiently developed as a result of laziness, but more as result capacity limitations. Something along the lines of an idiot savant without the stark contrasts that characteristically are attributed to idiot savants. A mild or almost indiscernible form of intellectual impairment. Simply put..something ain’t right.
    When I listen to Carson talk, when he’s trying to convey a point or explain some reasoning process I’m left with scratching my head in an effort to reconcile his achievement as a neurosurgeon with his apparent disconnect to reasoning and language skills. His speech and communication skills run parallel to my thinking skills after I’ve smoked a joint of lunar quality herb.
    I guess I shouldn’t wasting time analyzing Ben Carson. He’s hit his high water mark as presidential contenders go, so I think it’s best to wish him well as he heads off on his path to political obscurity.
    This one goes out to Ben from Armstrong Williams…

  17. “It seems our friendly heavily armed domestic terrorists are trying provoke another Waco or Ruby Ridge again”.

    Put up a fence and starve them out. Feed ’em when they are safely in their Federal prison accommodations.

  18. Sounds like SJW is the new “bleeding-heart liberal” among the kindergarten set. Ohmigosh, we’re terrible people because we give a damn.

  19. uncledad.
    Remember. the “bigger asshole,” loses.

    And, these guys are being gigantic assholes.

  20. I didn’t coin the term, but I may’ve been one of the first to use it outside Tumblr (where I believe I first saw it) and maybe some private sites. It wasn’t used to refer to people who support social justice issues–I’m a great fan of social justice workers. It was used to refer to people who dox and send death threats and try to get people fired in the name of social justice. The “warrior” instead of “worker” is the clue, if you think metaphors matter. SJWs think they’re on a holy war, and therefore think the ends justify their means.

  21. Remember. the “bigger asshole,” loses

    I don’t consider the federal government enforcing its laws and going after terrorists being an asshole, letting them get away with what they are pulling would be the dumb move?

  22. I agree, the govt. is not an asshole in this – in OUR eyes. In the eyes of some, particularly conservatives, they are.

    So, imo – we starve them out by cutting-off all resources.
    And, in the meantime, look into charging them with everything from trespassing, to armed insurrection, to treason.
    And, as they come out, arrest them, and charge them with whatever is possible.
    Let them sweat, and pay for lawyers instead of more guns.

  23. LOL!

    If you search around on the inter-tubes, you’ll find some really funny nicknames for the group of armed white insurrectionist terrorists in OR!

    My favorite?

  24. Glad to see Will Shetterly chime in. I want to point out that describing Will as a blogger leaves out the majority of his claim, or my claim for him, to fame. He is one of the best science fiction, fantasy and now graphic story tellers around and married to one of the best and first modern urban fairy tale writers, Emma Bull. I’ve had many hours of pleasure reading them both. Recommend highly.

  25. Maha, no one is claiming it is. Most bad behaviors can be found in any group, humans being humans. But “SJW” was coined to describe a specific subset of self-righteous people who love doxxing, censorship, and death threats.

  26. It would seem to me a far more appropriate term then would be “Self-Righteous Warrior” (SRW) to avoid censorship and death threats being turned on those concerned with social justice.

    If one is being honest, that is.

  27. There are many terms that might’ve been adopted, but that was the one that was. SJWs love to talk about social justice, so it’s natural that the term became part of their name. SRWs can be found in every political camp. I’m a socialist, and I would never deny that there are authoritarian socialists who can be called SRWs.

  28. Will, it seems to me you are paddling in dangerous waters. It is entirely possible that the term SJW was originally intended to apply only to people who are bad actors, and of course I believe you when you say that is the way you mean it, but… I have seen that term tossed around in many, many different forums by many, many many different groups of people, and based oh how the term is actually used in the wild, as it were, the meaning, now, is that ANYBODY that talks about, works toward, or in any way expresses approval for ANY form of social justice can be dismissed as nothing but a dirty SJW. Many of the groups that are most fervently anti-SJW are also well known for raging, doxing, and mobbing in order to shut them down. Based on what little research I just did on your opinions just now, it seems like you would be labeled a SJW in a lot of the places I have seen people using the term.

    In my opinion, if the term ever was a useful discriminator between real and fake social justice workers, it no longer is today. It has been co-opted by people to whom any form of social justice at all is anathema.

  29. Ian, terms just get co-opted—”politically correct” when I first encountered it was used by leftists to make fun of other leftists who were just too earnest. If I’d had the job, I would’ve tried to come up with a more precise name, but it was already common where I found it, so I used it.

    Yes, I would be called an SJW by some of the people who’re now using the term very loosely, but I first became obsessed with the phenomenon when I saw people being doxxed and threatened by SJWs for making mistakes that should’ve been treated with kindness rather than hate. Too often, the people who should be our allies become our worst enemies, especially when their main concern is ideological purity. Whenever I think of SJWs, I think of the Judean People’s Front versus the People’s Front of Judea from Life of Brian. If you want to blame someone for the way the term is used now, blame the people who inspired it.

  30. OK, I’m gonna tell my kid – second generation reader – that I got an aw shucks from you – now we need to get the original Bordertown series back in print so when someone else walks off with one of my copies I don’t have to trawl the used book services for another! One of my favorite worlds to visit, tho I must say I had a hell of a good time binge-reading Shadow Unit.

  31. Will,
    it looks like I’Ll be ordering some books by you, in the new year.

    What’s a good one to start off on?

    Right now, I’m binge reading the great John D, McDonald.

  32. When I heard SJW first, it was in response to people who were trying to “ruin” things like computer/console games, comic books, and such. And the doxing and threats were directed *at* them.

    I didn’t follow the issue so I can’t report first hand. But the statement “it’s used to refer to people from the SJ perspective who do these things!” is a well known tactic – if your side is flinging mud, immediately claim the other side started flinging mud – “see, I had to block some from getting in your eyes, that’s why my hands are all muddy!” and, sure, some of your overzealous compatriots started DEFENDING themselves, but can you blame them?

    So: my sense is that SJW was as I’d heard about it, and the rest is a false tu quoque. I could be wrong.

    But I know that when Republicans started saying that liberals hate America and the Constitution they added, “oh, yeah, they demonize their opposition!” so the tactic is one I *have* seen used historically.

  33. beamhor, I hope to be nudging the Bordertown folks this year about getting it back into print. No promises, though—rights on anthologies can get tricky.

    c u n d gulag, I’m also a John D. McDonald fan, though I dunno that I can recommend anything specific knowing you are. My books vary a fair bit—I think Elsewhere and Dogland are my best, but they’re very different, and I’ve had readers mention other favorites.

    LongHairedWeirdo, the first doxxing I know by SJWs was in 2008. What seems to happen in these fights is people cite the sins of the other side and forgive their own.

  34. Will,
    I’m a very eclectic reader, who appreciates good writing, regardless of genre.

    I look forward to “discovering” you! 😉

  35. Will,

    I’m waiting for your evidence that the term SJW dates back to 2008. Otherwise, I’m going to assume that to be a very clumsy retcon. Whether you fell for it, or are perpetuating it, isn’t really of interest to me.

    But that you even think that such a whopper is going to pass the sniff test shows how little you’ve actually thought about what you’re saying.

  36. LongHairedWeirdo, I’m not claiming the term goes back that far. I’m noting that the people who are now called SJWs were doxxing and issuing death threats in scifi fandom as early as 2008. Google a little about the outing of Zathlazip if you’re curious. The ideology is much older than that, of course. My guess is I didn’t see the name until 2010 or so.

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