The Predation of Media and Subculture
(Part 3 of 3 in the Introduction to Soc-Jus series)
Part 5: Representation In Media
Despite a common and central theme to the complaints of social justice warriors and feminists being that they lack appropriate representation in the media, in many sectors of modern media it could be said that they enjoy not only representation, but in fact an over saturation therein. Arguing very often that the absence of social justice or feminist ideology within fictional stories, as well as an absence of strong female, minority, disabled, transgender and “non-binaries” characters in said stories is a sign of media marginalization, many a prominent feminist and social justice advocate are themselves outright media darlings. People who in the course of their generally rhetorically based “advocacy and activism” become go-to authority figures on the topics of sexism, racism, misogyny and harassment, despite often having little to no real credentials to really justify such.
Anita Sarkeesian, Zoe Quinn and Brianna Wu, who are little more than a media critic and two failed video game designers respectively, have all enjoyed substantial media adoration throughout the news media and at speaking events. Whether it be a terrestrial network such as ABC, NBC or CBS, or cable channels such as MTV or Comedy Central, individuals such as Sarkeesian, Quinn, Wu and others all enjoys substantial media attention as they declare themselves victims of hate and misogyny. Allowed to speak to national and sometimes international audience without any form of rebuttal or counter argument, individuals such as these are typically granted automatic and infallible credibility as they pontificate about the plight they supposedly suffer.
At the same time those who would wish to argue against the claims such individuals make are often relegated solely to either smaller new media outlets such as privately run news blogs or Youtube commentary talk shows, or to more ardently conservative or right wing outlets such as Fox News or Breitbart. Even when not focusing on the speeches or declarations of victimhood by social justice warriors, much of the mainstream media is itself very keen to advance the narratives on their own, even when such are found to be bogus or fallacious.
In 2015 Rolling Stone made a series of headlines with their publication of an alleged gang rape story reported to have taken place on the campus of the University of Virginia. Once published, the story written by Sabrina Rubin Erdely spread like wildfire throughout mainstream and online press, with initially little to no scrutiny paid to the claims made or the methodology to Erdely’s reporting. In a spate of media hysteria, news reports across the United States picked up the story and ran with it as being further evidence of a rape epidemic on college campuses.
It was not until details of the investigation came out that cast exceptional doubt as to the claims made by the alleged victim known as “Jackie,” as well as the sloppy, agenda driven reporting by Erdely on the story. As “Jackie’s” claims fell apart and Erdley’s designs to find a rape epidemic rather than investigate the questions as to whether or not one even existed came to light, much of the mainstream press, including Washington Post columnist Zerlina Maxwell rushed not to interrogate the validity of reporting, but to claim that they “stood with Jackie” regardless of the facts as they came out. By this point, the fraternity accused of having carried out the gang rape had already experienced excessive harassment, protests, accusations that they were all guilty of rape as well as criminal vandalism of their house and property.
Despite constant claims that they face silencing tactics and hostility in the media, this and many other examples of media bias in favor of social justice and feminism are almost impossible to ignore during consideration of such claims.
For another, less egregious yet equally emblematic example of media bias in favor of neo-progressives, one needs to look no further than the coverage of Gamergate. Branded a “misogynist hate mob” by the majority of the press, the aforementioned professional victims Sarkeesian, Quinn and Wu not only often found their victim narratives amplified by mainstream media, but in each of their cases profited quite nicely as a result. Between speaking fees and crowdsourced donations –the latter being ostensibly for work on video games and Youtube presentations that would never fully materialize- each of these three have racked up thousands of dollars in personal income, simply as a result of their media spotlights and complaints of feeling harassed.
Naturally one may be compelled to wonder how not only the mainstream conventional media, but also social media platforms such as Twitter and Reddit could be so blatantly aligned ideologically with a series of movements possessing track records of operating in bad faith. Could there be an intrinsic rightness or virtue which critics, including your author, simply cannot see that the press and social media know to be true beyond a doubt? It is possible to be sure, though given the ever growing record of bad actions, highly improbable.
The more likely scenario in this case is that the media itself has been infiltrated by social justice ideologues. Though this may very well sound conspiratorial, the sheer numbers of hard line progressives who possess or are seeking degrees in media and mass communication lends substantial credence to the concept of intentional media bias. To be certain, were there not ideological influences in play it is unlikely social media giant Twitter would have brought Sarkeesian’s “Feminist Frequency” on board to help advise them as part of a “Trust and Safety Council,” which is already suspected to have played a role in a number of bans and suspensions almost exclusively against users who are known for speaking out against feminism and social justice.
Likewise, when ABC News decided to run their own primetime story about Gamergate and online harassment as they did in 2015, the coverage would not have likely been so tightly focused on the claims made by Sarkeesian and others with again, next to no arguments offered against them. In truth, when it comes to reporting on feminist or progressive causes, claims or concerns, reporting throughout the mainstream media tends to be almost exclusively single sided, with the claims of victimhood and harassment being trotted out as unassailable fact, often without a word aired or published in opposition. Given this and the increasingly obvious ideological slant to publications such as Huffington Post, The Guardian, Vice and Vox Media, the shift to a sensationalist click-bait style of journalism seems to be going hand in hand with the rise neo-progressive voices throughout.
All the while, these same voices seem wholly dedicated to denouncing and decrying their supposed absence in other forms of media, often leading to yet another aspect and element of social justice warfare; the taking over of subculture.
Part 6: Subcultures – The Battlefronts Of The Culture War
Before Gamergate and the consumer revolt against biased media and ideological warfare which ensued as a result of such, the reach of feminist and social justice crusading had been felt in other hobbies and subcultures as well. Within the tabletop and role playing communities, feminist campaigners had previously waged multi-year campaigns to declare the hobbie misogynist and sexist, much as they would later do with video games. To a large degree, as the communities of tabletop and RPG gaming were those of smaller groups often playing their games in real life, the creeping menace of gender and identity politics which sought to shame and change the players and games themselves made its way into the subculture without much in the way of substantial pushback or media attention. Since then, within many gamer circles the broader culture of tabletop games is one that is considered by many to already be largely damaged by way of such gender political shaming and attempted artistic sterilization.
Following this, within the skeptics and atheist communities, feminist ideologues and social justice warriors embarked on yet another campaign of manufactured outrage and phony activism, as they sought to “expose the toxic sexism and misogyny” within the atheist movement. Culminating in what was later referred to as “Elevatorgate,” wherein atheist feminist Rebecca Watson took to a podium to denounce a flirtatious encounter in an elevator during a skeptic’s conference as being sexist, the ideological spread of feminism and social justice ultimately resulted in the fracturing of the atheist and skeptic communities into more or less, two distinct camps. With old school skeptics and the “new atheists” deciding to maintain focus on their interrogation and dismantling of the questions of religion, divinity and the existence of god, a new faction labeling itself “Atheism Plus” emerged with the stated goals of being a “safe space” to focus on the matters of sexism, racism, transphobia, homophobia and so on.
With this new atheist movement now fracturing what was a growing subculture of skeptical inquiry with its often obsessive focus on progressive identity politics, the “elevatorgate” scandal and resulting factional divide served to many as a cultural red flag as to the infectious nature of the social justice cause. To this day, many a self-proclaimed “skeptic” or atheist from the Atheism Plus camp, such as youtuber Steve Shives or blogger PZ Myers, can be seen spending more of their time attacking or criticizing those who dissent from the lines of social justice feminism than exploring the nature of secular philosophy or scientific inquiry. Despite the substantial harm such has done to the secularist and skeptical movement as a whole, the haughty and self-righteous attitudes on display at places such as Rationalwiki serve as rather compelling evidence in support of the notion that Atheism Plus is less about atheism and more about identity politics and progressive ideologies.
This same tactic of infiltration, accusation of misogyny or other bigotry and a declaration that the subculture itself now effectively belongs to the supposedly “marginalized” voices of the social justice left is by and large precisely what developed within the culture of (video) gaming, ultimately culminating in what is now known as Gamergate. Though inspired and largely centered on the biased and corrupt games media, the root source of Gamergate and the conflagration between gamers, gaming journalists and the broader media which followed, fell largely into the same patterns which played out before in the worlds of tabletop and atheism. Fortunately though, in respect to the video gaming culture itself and in respect to the otherwise seemingly unstoppable cultural parasite of identity politics, the gamers themselves were not nearly as quick to capitulate and give ground as those who had come before.
Likely by virtue of the gamer notion of ‘the grind,’ wherein the prospect of relenting to opposition in light of an uphill or difficult struggle only spurs the gamer to fight harder and eventually win, the broader insurgency of social justice warriors into gamer culture came to something of a stalemate, with SJWs constantly attempting to smear, dox, threaten, cajole and shame the gaming community and the community in turn largely rebuffing their efforts with their own activism, derision, mockery and memes. Likely also by virtue of the gaming cultures own often foul and offensive forms of communication between gamers themselves, as well as a cultural history of dealing with self-important bullies in general, the attempts to berate and bully said community had little to no tangible effect, as it had in other subcultures.
Most recently, with this stalemate getting them nowhere, many a social justice progressive and ardent new wave feminist have turned their attention to the media and subculture of the comedy scene. Insisting, as comedians Paul F. Thompkins and Sarah Silverman have suggested that comedy as a whole should adapt to the fringe outrage culture of the social justice zealot, many other notable comics such as Ricky Gervais, Stephen Fry and John Cleese have rejected such ideas outright, stating in one fashion or another, that this new fashionable offense is taken, not given, and is ultimately irrelevant in the consideration of the creation of art or comedy. Not quite yet having been dubbed as it’s own ‘gate,’ as seemingly every conflict or controversy these days seems to be, it would seem as though the SJWs and feminist campaigners are beginning to find their waves of discontent finally being broken against sea walls of creative endeavor and rational thinking.
When such campaigns and crusades by social justice warriors are considered in light of their often privileged backgrounds, being often the children of wealthy families, possessing expensive advanced degrees and maintaining positive relationships with those in power (despite their often fallacious claims and dirty deeds) the true goals of the social justice warrior which lie beneath the rhetoric about safety and equality become rather apparent.
Part 7: Of Privilege, Power and Persecution
As mentioned at the beginning of this series, the SJW is an ideologue who is easily comparable to religious fundamentalists. To a certain degree, it could even be observed that within some circles of social justice progressivism, the vehement fanaticism with which adherents promote the ideology is almost itself a type of quasi-religious zeitgeist. However as easy and somewhat satisfying as this analogy may be, it is in truth but an example of the form of rabid zealotry which the ideology inspires.
It is at the same time no different though, than the absolutist fervor of most any other extremist ideology utilizing tactics in pursuit of goals which are themselves also comparable. At the risk of invoking Godwin’s Law, in their quest to dominate media narratives both in respect to their own purported marginalization, as well as denounce all detractors as hateful bigots, this quote from Goebbels in respect to what his and the Nazi party’s designs were for media systems seems to strike to a central facet of the SJW methodology.
This “ostensible diversity” and “actual uniformity” can be easily observed throughout colleges almost everywhere in our modern time, as the social justice ideology is both formally taught and widely adopted on campuses. Though students and sympathetic faculty often insist that their aims are to create “safe spaces” where emotionally vulnerable individuals are protected from speech or ideas that they may find troubling, such is increasingly proving to be a politically fashionable euphemism for censorship. Ideas which do not support or extol the virtues espoused by social justice and feminism are now routinely deemed “toxic” and “triggering,” so frequently that many a campus and student union have taken steps to ban speakers and publications and even establish speech codes.
Similar fates have recently befallen video games as well, with studios and distributors bending to the demands of social justice warriors and implementing censorship practices under the ostensible claims of “localization.” This practice of localization, while not uncommon in the media export market, has more recently come into the spotlight as content changes made amidst primarily feminist protests are increasingly leading to sanitized exports being brought to market missing content that the consumers themselves desire. Ironically as well as demonstrably hypocritically, while many a social justice blogger has cheered the acquiescing to feminist campaigners by studios and distributors in respect to game localization, many of the same also decried the localization of the Cartoon Network show Steven Universe for U.K. audiences, which they accused of “censoring queer content.”
Within this double standard for what the social justice left deems to be censorship, as well as its boundless efforts to police the thought, speech and expression of others, we find that the true thrust of such efforts is not so much to elevate the downtrodden, as much as it is purely and without equivocation an effort to obtain power. The power sought in their fight is in truth, no different than the power sought by any other political ideology or fundamentalist political movement. While claiming to seek equality, their efforts are such which demand authority. While calling for diversity, they in fact seek uniformity. And while claiming to speak for and elevate the voices of the marginalized, they are in truth only using such voices and the concepts of their supposed powerlessness as props in political theater.
Authoritarianism and efforts to curb free speech and expression are nothing new to western society. They have presented themselves with many faces, wearing many uniforms, sporting many colors and under the banner of many causes, however be they of a nationalist, religious, ideological or social veneer, their aims are always the same. Control the population through fear and bullying. Manage and police what is deemed to be acceptable thought and opinion. Marginalize and punish your political opposition and at all time profess and maintain a façade of underdog populism.
The tactics are now well known and thankfully, due largely to the ideological overreach of many an SJW and radical feminist, the true face of this authoritarian movement is increasingly being recognized. However until the broader population is able to think and critically analyze the true motivations behind these wolves in sheep’s clothing and their ostensibly righteous endeavors, free speech and independent thought will remain under threat with but a vocal (albeit growing) vanguard of intellectual opponents standing in their way. History suggests that society tends to naturally oppose and reject authoritarianism, even if it takes root for a while. However without a mindful, watchful eye on those who would claim to think and speak for us in support of their own assigned morality, much can be lost in the meantime.
What we are presented with in this ideologically driven culture war is, in the opinion of your humble author, nothing short of the defining intellectual struggle of our age. With identity politicians seeking to police the thought, art and language of all in accordance with their own very rigid definitions of what is right or acceptable, we find ourselves now faced with but the latest incarnation of the authoritarian ideologue, who if not confronted and stopped dead in their tracks, will stop at nothing to dominate discourse and debate throughout the whole of society. For rational minds, this is the new enemy and one which must be confronted, lest the basic foundations of a free and open society be chipped away until they are little more than rubble.
Nicholas Goroff is a writer, journalist, actor and Youtube content creator. A former political operative and labor organizer, he holds a degree in Criminal Justice and previously studied Political Science at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire. Presently he works as a beer and liquor critic at Everyjoe.com in addition to writing for The Rationalists.org and Occupy.com