A Sea Change on the Left?
The Response to "Confessions of a Former SJW"
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Your Thoughts on “Confessions of a Former SJW”
I expected Confessions of a Former SJW to elicit strong reactions, but what I didn't expect was for the response to be almost universally positive. Out of 24 comments, emails and messages I received, only one expressed strong disagreement with the content of the essay. I’m sure that those who agree with me are more likely to write me a message than those who don’t, and not every supportive message expressed total agreement. In the lingo of social science, what I have is a very tiny number of anecdotes.
However, as I read through your commentary, a number of themes emerged:
Many of you found the essay deeply relatable.
Most of you are troubled by the fanatical social norms I described.
Many of you feel unable to express your disapproval publicly.
Many of you noticed your life improve when you rejected this mindset.
Most of you desire an open and honest leftist discussion about the harmful and ineffectual behaviours of this subculture.
I was wracked with nerves in the lead-up to publishing this essay, but once I’d done the deed, a new emotion flooded me: relief. It took me years to make sense of my time in this subculture, and even longer to become ready to speak about it publicly.
It remains a risk to do so, because those who remain true believers will experience this essay as threatening and harmful, perhaps even violent. They consider any type of behaviour against a perceived ideological enemy to be justified, and they are well-practiced in inciting mobs of people to participate in doxxing and smear campaigns. Unfortunately, they succeed with notable frequency in damaging a target’s reputation beyond repair.
Nevertheless, I remain hopeful, because it feels to me like the tide is turning, and a number of your messages said as much. It’s becoming increasingly undeniable that language invoking power, privilege and oppression can be used to control, punish, manipulate and distort. Once you’ve been through this subculture and come out the other side, you can spot from a mile away the people and groups who use buzzwords like “justice” and “accountability” to try and disguise anti-social, anti-democratic behaviour.
To be clear, it is incorrect to interpret my essay as saying that all people who believe in or work with anti-oppression frameworks or intersectional feminist philosophies behave in this manner. There is way too much variety and depth within these bodies of work for me to ever make such a claim. Many of my dearest friends are social workers, therapists, public health nurses, legal advocates, frontline workers and anti-poverty organizers, and they use tools from these frameworks to inform how best to support the members of our society who are struggling most profoundly.
Here’s the thing: many of the people I’ve just described are the same people who privately thanked me for what I wrote. Those who have messaged me are not right-wing reactionaries—they are people who share my desire for a reinvigorated Left that is powerful enough to deliver wins to the working class, the poor and the otherwise disenfranchised.
I am so grateful to each and every one of you who wrote to me, and please know that I plan to reply thoughtfully rather than quickly. The response has been truly overwhelming. I am sorry so many of you could relate, but I am thrilled that you’re here. We may have lost the plot, but don’t worry—it’s got to be around here somewhere.
Pet of the Week
This week’s beloved furbag comes to us from Liam and Deanna. This is Spencer. He’s seven years old. He lies on the keyboard when someone has been typing too long. He loves to cuddle and receive butt scritches. And he loves his golden-retriever housemate, even if he won’t admit it in public. Keep living that feline dream, Spencer!
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Coming Right Up
Next week’s newsletter will feature episode two of the “kier here” podcast, in which I interview weirdo writers, artists, and makers. Next up:
Channy-B, like you, is a self-regulating, interactive art installation created by a mysterious artist of unfathomable brilliance. Through singing/songwriting, elaborate doodling and generally acting a fool they aim to share with you the joy, wonder and gratitude they feel for the terribly strange gift of being alive.
My interview with Channy-B drops Friday, June 10 at noon—commence foraging for your podcast snacks now!
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