If you were to hear a feminist, black lives matter supporter or any form of social justice warrior speak about their opposition, you might draw the ultimately false conclusion that anti-feminism and anti-social justice constitute some form of monolithic ideology. Much as the social justice, racially political and feminist scenes are known to desire from their within their own ranks, their assumption of ideological homogeneity within the ranks of their detractors often seems to be standard in whatever few engagements with them which can be found in. The thinking being that should one oppose any aspect of the progressive narrative that they are themselves a bigoted, racist, sexist part of the alt-right or right wing establishment.
This is, to any who’ve bothered looking beyond given rhetoric, obviously false. However in many ways, much of this assumption that there exists a shared orthodoxy within more critical or skeptical circles does seem also to come from within said circles themselves. It is of course not as broadly assumed to be the case as the hard left’s narratives about armies of the alt-right looking to create a new Shoah. Yet at the same time many who find themselves temporarily aligned with strangers either actively or merely in topical agreement will often find themselves confounded by the disagreements which may come to pass in the future.
Being a form of groupthink unto itself, the divisions between both higher profile individuals or groups, as well as their respective fan bases and followings often inspires confusion and surprise when they occur, which they are like to do almost inevitably.
Whereas a traditionalist conservative (tradcon) and egalitarian liberal, neither of whom may have disclosed the totality of their politics prior to meeting, may stand side by side with differing but complimentary criticisms of things such as feminism, sharp and sudden division can arise when other issues in question or their respective underlying philosophies come into play. This is however, in and of itself actually a good thing.
Homogeneity of thought is often one of the hallmarks of an ideology. When all parties fall unquestioningly in line with the thoughts and thought processes of leaders or groups, it becomes very difficult for their own thinking to evolve in any manner, as well as making actual dialogue with them all but impossible. In many respects, this is even a proper definition for a cultist.
But what happens when those who may vocally share a given opinion on a given hot-button issue find themselves in pitched battle regarding a separate topic? What are those who follow two channels, or columns, or personalities to do when said sources for opinions clash? As it stands, the common reaction is to call it simply “internet drama” and either watch with popcorn, or ignore it entirely.
For some though, especially those who command large and loyal followings, the “drama” of public feuds, spats, disagreements, arguments and so on, often feeds not only the drum beat with which they either actively or passively lead their followers, but also has a tendency to line a few pockets along the way. On many larger Youtube channels for example, spats and feuds between larger channels are increasingly creating almost tabloid level, reality-TV style interest that drives clicks, views and ad revenue. Likewise, on many smaller channels, perhaps with niche interests such as moderns politics, attacks and retorts between content creators who may be of a like mind on many subjects often become issues unto themselves, with the specifics of such largely being lost beneath the din of clashing fandoms.
Yet in spite of all of this, in spite of the common calls for reconciliation, in spite of regular claims that such incidents are purely matters of driving clicks and revenue, or raising one’s profile in a given circle, such is not inherently a bad thing. Part of this stems from a word I’ve been largely hesitant to use in this article. That word is community.
Like it or not, those who actively participate in discussions about and against topics such as feminism, religion or social justice do form something of a community. It is not one in the sense where all hold hands, join together in song and find themselves of a like mind about everything, but it is, by virtue of the overlapping social circles, the conversations which occur between said circles, the friendships, animosities, romances and even drama which so routinely crop up between people whose common thread is their beliefs or positions as stated online, something of a community. Dysfunctional as it may be, there is no better word for it.
Though not the biggest or most subscribed to/followed amateur pundit on the internet, it was earlier this week that I found myself in a bit of a debate about Islamic and religious treatment of women with none other than the Honey Badger Radio account itself. It all stemmed from a spat which evolved after a livestream took place wherein the Badgers cast doubt on the relative suffering and repression of women in the Islamic world. This naturally angered a fair number of people, chiefly amongst them ex-Muslim women.
After seeing a back and forth between a few of them, it was upon finding this tweet, that I entered the fray
Never one to shy away from throwing a wrench into clockwork ideological statement, I countered as follows;
From there, a request for evidence was made and after links to both an article written by an ex-Mormon woman (which read curiously like many of those written by ex-Muslim women, albeit not as brutal,) as well as a news item on the Warren Jeff’s case, the conversation largely devolved into a standard Twitter debate, with semantics and clarifications flying left and right like feathers in a cock fight.
Now the details and the legitimacy of the positions taken aside, I am neither a fan nor critic of the Honey Badgers really. I maintain friendly relations with a number of them and even consider a few actual friends, however in respect to their position on this and other issues, I quite naturally disagree, as to my mind, many of such positions are made or taken by seeking out instances in which the use of their anti-feminist lens provides a desired picture. This is not unique to the Honey Badgers though, nor really any tribe or clique or group within what is commonly regarded as the anti-feminist and anti-sjw “community.” As such, judgement on my part falls less upon how such positions fit within broader community thinking and more with the merits of what is put before me.
This division however does not itself deny the existence of a community. Nor for that matter does my relative non-communication with those such as The Badgers, Dave Rubin, The Drunken Peasants, any of them between each other and so on. Within these circles in which we many travel, a six-degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon game is often all that exists between any two parties who may not even know one another. And just as in times when elections quite literally split towns and communities down the center, their status as communities, even when not everyone knows or likes everyone else, remains.
For yet another example of how this is at least passively true, consider the situations of people such as John Kelly or Slade Villena. Known as @JKtwits and @Roguestar on twitter, these two were, at varying levels, notable participants within the hashtag movement #GamerGate. However in both cases, bad actions and bad attitudes led largely to their ostracizing both from the circles of shitposter gamers, as well as the broader circles which came to their aid as Gamergate continued its grind.
However within the skeptics or anti-feminist or what many merely call “shitlord” circles, even this matter of standards is, as with almost all human social interaction, not a cut and dry matter. Consider now the question of one Devon Tracy and the matter of doxing.
For those few not aware of what went on, Devon Tracy who mans the Youtube channel “Atheism is Unstoppable” recently became the center of considerable scorn when followers and friends of his allegedly began doxing those who disagreed with him online. Despite almost universal condemnation of doxing as a practice throughout the aforementioned circles of skeptics, anti-feminists and the like, the condemnation of Devon and his followers specifically proved to be a highly divisive and contentious issue. With many regarding Tracy himself as being culpable if not outright responsible for the doxes and others including his own devoutly loyal following as well as many prominent Youtubers defending him, a large albeit short lived rift opened up in what had been otherwise shared audiences and social circles.
Beyond the specifics of what came about as a result of this rift, specifically infighting, group bickering and so on, these sorts of rifts expose two inalienable truths about life in the shitlord internet. The first is that despite it largely being comprised of overlapping circles of social groups, groups of friends and various fandoms, all more or less allied for the central purposes of advancing ideas they share and opposing those they mutually condemn, the word “community” is both inevitable and apt. Though the comradery may not be distributed evenly across all sectors and though disagreements may be abound throughout such, it remains to one extent or another a community.
The second truth we can observe in this is in relation to that very disagreement. Even within individuals, groups or circles which may be respected or admired by those of more skeptical, rationalist or empirically minded people, ideologies and orthodoxies still exist. As such, in the course of their own speech, signifiers of their use of an ideological lens through which they see the world will be both apparent to most observing, as well as divisive to those not already in line with their preferred school of thought.
Some can be cordial and engage in spirited, friendly debate. Some others however will fly off the handle, resulting in sometimes days’ worth of angry postings, tweets and videos should someone even remotely cross them. In either case, that which drives them to court audiences or followers or friends who may not universally share their worldview, is largely also the abilities to find common ground, even if only for a short time.