I’m sure anyone reading this is aware of the rise, in the last several years, of a certain kind of politics, or “politics,” that is primarily waged on social platforms like Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter. It is informed by critical theory, cultural studies, and postcolonialism. It operates primarily through argument to incredulity, arguing not the correctness of its opinions but the disbelief that there is anyone who could not already see that correctness. It is brutally waged, constantly mistaking the virulence of an argument for its actual capacity to create change. It is emotive and individual; while it speaks in the language of structural critique and material oppression, its intent is inevitably to make others feel bad and to make the person critiquing feel good. It entails listing the privileges and bad attitudes of the person making the critique, but only insofar as that gets them to “and this is why this other person is worse.” More than anything: while it styles itself as ultra-aggressive, and while it takes the form of a righteous offensive, this brand of politics is fundamentally self-defensive. It is a fortress, a rhetorical structure built on the idea that the best defense is a good offense. Its fundamental dictate is not “change the world for the better” but “get there first.”
Freddie is as perceptive and eloquent as always, but due credit requires me to note that before social media, even before the mainstreaming of the world wide web itself, the famous psychologist, social scientist and troubadour Mike Muir expressed much the same perspective in his distinctively unadorned rhetorical style:
Everybody’s always talking about these things to change the world, to make the world a better place. It’s always, “you and you and you gotta change, because I know what’s up.” And quite frankly, I’m tired of little fuckin’ rich kids telling me what’s up. It’s inherently insulting to tell people what they should be, how they should be. Someone who doesn’t know me, who is not very smart, don’t tell me how I should think.