Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Posts Tagged ‘activism

Activists vs. group members and causes

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Two overlapping backlog items in an abbreviated treatment:

  1. There is a major difference between being opposed to activists for a certain cause/group/whatnot and being opposed to the cause/group/whatnot as such. This in particular as the opposition to the activists is usually rooted in negative behaviors and attitudes by the activists, e.g. hateful rhetoric,* exaggeration or outright lies, language distortion, extreme and/or unfair methods, pushing of “us vs. them” polarization, a continual moving of goal posts, a refusal to consider different perspectives, …** In particular, there are many who are on board with a general cause, e.g. “save the environment”, but are not on board with the variation of the cause proposed by activists, e.g. ideas like “Ban all X within ten years—no matter the cost! Or we will all die!”. Similarly, there is a very major difference between disagreeing with the methods used by some activists and disagreeing with the underlying cause. Consider e.g. the recent attacks on art by environmental extremists, in order to, somehow, by some miraculous effect, achieve some positive effect entirely unrelated to art.

    *A particular annoyance, as this hateful rhetoric is very often based in the claim that others would be hateful, which usually seems to be either projection or an outright lie. Similarly, those who speak of the need for tolerance and condemn alleged intolerance in others are often, themselves, extremely intolerant. Etc.

    **My older writings contain a great many examples involving Feminists.

    In the past, I have repeatedly used the example of how some who oppose Islamism* are condemned as opposing (even “hating”) Muslims. A more relevant example in the current climate is the LGBT-etc.-etc.** movement(s), and especially the trans-mania: For a good many years, this movement and its activists have been obnoxious and destructive—and having a negative attitude towards them is just common sense. This attitude, however, need not in the slightest reflect personal opinion about e.g. gays.*** I, for instance, have no objections to gays, be it as persons or with regard to their private sexual activities and preferences—but I rarely have more than contempt left for those who (in today’s Western world) shout loudly about homophobia, try to force soccer players to wear rainbow bracelets, or whatever might apply. Similarly, how would a preference for using words in their established meanings and pronouns in a grammatically correct manner be transphobic? On the contrary, the insistence by trans-activist that words should be used in incorrect meanings and pronouns misapplied is deeply offensive, irrational, and preposterous. How is it transphobic to not be “gender affirmative” (or whatever the phrase du jour might be) when a young teen wants to take hormones and have surgery? With an eye at history, the contrasting suddenness of the movement, how impressionable teens can be, and how many transitioners are now claiming to regret the transition, it is just common sense, not transphobia, to tread very carefully and to wait for a more mature decision.****

    *Often specifically violent or extreme Islamism, calls for sharia, calls for an adaption of local norms to match those of Islam, and similar.

    **The grouping of these into one single unity is often highly misleading and/or an example of the fellow-traveler fallacy. A case can be made for grouping L, G, and, maybe, B in many contexts, but T is usually of a very different nature, and the “etc.-etc.” part is anyone’s guess—especially as the number of letters is ever changing. Even a mere LG is unlikely to make universal sense. However, for the sake of ease of formulation, and with an eye at the use of very similar methods by various activists, I will ignore this complication.

    ***However, there is a risk that loudmouth activists dominate the impressions of certain groups outside these groups, which can lead to unfair generalizations, effectively transferring a dislike of the activists to the group that the activists claim to represent. In this manner, the activists can, themselves, unnecessarily create the very problem that they protest against.

    ****I am open to the possibility that someone can be born with a brain–body mismatch in terms of sex; however, the low past frequency of documented cases points to this being a very rare occurrence. When very, very many of today’s teens, in a comparatively sudden change, claim to be trans-this or trans-that, the true explanation is more likely to be outside pressure, fashion, insecurity, a search for a solution to various problems, attention getting, or something similar—not a true mismatch. Note that any argument based on a permanency of effects, e.g. that a transition is harder post-puberty, hits equally or more strongly in the other direction, as various measures have permanent effects and many are worse than the effects of inaction. Such arguments cannot be used to overcome the very high likelihood of a false positive.

    Note, similarly, how many groups on the Left seem to transfer personal dislikes into statements about groups. For instance, an attitude of “You don’t want Hillary for POTUS? You don’t want women to have power!” was quite common in 2016, when the true explanation, of course, was that Hillary, personally and specifically, was and is utterly unsuitable for the office. Indeed, many of those who opposed Hillary would have had no objections to a reincarnated Thatcher—and I was, myself, strongly in favor of Merkel until she had proved herself to be more-or-less the opposite of what she had promised to be.*/** For instance, during Obama’s presidency and/or in the campaigns, it was not uncommon to see criticism of Obama painted as “racism”, never mind that the same criticism would have been directed at a White man pushing the same politics. (Does Biden get a free pass from Conservatives for being a White man? Hell no!)

    *By 2016 I knew better, but in 2008 I was simultaneously still (naively) in favor of Merkel and (correctly) viewing Hillary as a disastrous candidate.

    **I have to admit that my experiences with female politicians (and women in leadership positions in general), including how disturbingly many of them seem to be far-Left nutcases, incompetent (even by the standards of politicians), or otherwise unsuitable for power, have made me increasingly sceptical. However, I do not rule out a given woman because she is a woman—but because (if) she is a far-Left nutcase, etc. Vice versa, I would not “rule in” a given man because he is a man and regardless of factors like his political positions.

  2. With what right does various organisations, groups of activists, and similar claim to speak for others? (And do they truly serve the interests of these others?)

    Consider “Autism Speaks”, a self-proclaimed pro-autis[tm] organisation, the very name of which makes it a great example: Many autists* and their relatives have been extremely critical towards the attitude of “Autism Speaks”, often seeing it as outright anti-autis[tm], prejudiced against autists, and/or using autism as a money-generating cause. They certainly do not see it as speaking for them or giving them a voice. On the contrary, I have seen the accusation that “Autism Speaks” would steal the voice that they might otherwise have had.

    *The utterly irrational abomination that is “people-first language” is another reason to despise the type of activist from the first item and I will not engage in this nonsense.

    Similar issues have to be raised with a great many others: Do e.g. LGBT-etc.-etc. activists speak for the actual Ls, Gs, Bs, and Ts? Many might claim to do so, but chances are that they just happen to, themselves, be Ls, Gs, Bs, and Ts with a certain set of opinions and whatnots that might or, critically, might not be shared by the rest. Worse, some of them might be “allies”, opportunists, general activists, idiots looking for a cause to fill their lives, or whatnot—without even being members of the group at hand. Certainly, any individual group member is likely to have a much wider and more nuanced range of opinions and (political/societal) preferences than the activist movement. Certainly, I hope that a great many find the modern LGBT-etc.-etc. movement(s) as distasteful as I do.

    To what degree does this-or-that “liberation organisation” actually speak for those to be liberated? Do those using bombs and violence to “free” the Northern Irish, the Basques, the Palestinians, whatnot, truly have the support of the respective group—or have they just given themselves the right name and presumed to speak for everyone?

    Of course, the problem could be argued even in regular politics: even a democratically elected candidate or party does not necessarily have the support of a majority of the eligible voters, a unanimous backing is unheard of in elections of non-trivial size, and even many of those who voted in favor might have done so on e.g. a “lesser evil” basis. Nevertheless, the elected often presume to claim to speak for the same people. Worse, Leftist parties/candidates have often displayed an attitude that “if you are X, you have to vote for us”.

Excursion on personal disapproval vs. norm breaking:
A further confounding factor in the area of the first item could be the difference between personal disapproval of some X and awareness that X breaks the norms. For instance, if I watch/read some work playing in the past or otherwise in a society with different norms, I do take notice when I spot some behavior contrary to my perceptions of the norms of the time. This does not imply that I, personally, disapprove of the behavior, but it could well mean that those of the right era would have and/or that the author had some specific intent that must be interpreted in light of the older norms.* Take a woman driving a car: Today, this is entirely unremarkable, but go back far enough and few women had the skills and were sufficiently trusted (or owned their own cars), never mind what women were or were not supposed to do. If, then, a woman of yore jumps into the driver’s seat and takes off, chances are that this has implications for her character, the situation at hand, whatnot, and that we really should pay attention. On a more meta-level, violations of, for instance, the old Motion Picture Production Code are a legitimate reason to take note—even when one does not agree with the code or consider the violation noteworthy by today’s standards.

*Including the possibility that the norm breaking was a wrong (morally, pragmatically, with an eye at consideration for others, or similar) as such, regardless of how sensible the norm was. (Be it in the eyes of the author, because he had a breaking-the-norms-is-wrong attitude, or on a more objective level, because the norm at hand was sufficiently good in context that it should not have been broken. To the latter, I cannot come up with a good “major” example off the top of my head, but consider violations of grammar rules and reasonable etiquett for “minor” examples: such rules might ultimately be arbitrary, but violating them can still do harm.)


Written by michaeleriksson

January 26, 2023 at 7:39 pm

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