But the real key here is that “social justice warrior,” in this context, refers to browbeating, moralistic behavior, much more than any coherent or credible ideology. It is a largely American phenomenon in which those with a Puritanical disposition, but a secular viewpoint, use vague social and political stances as a platform for moralizing and witch hunting. Basically, imagine if Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell had been born into a family of coastal liberals in 1990, and you should get the idea.
There is the further implication that the SJW does nothing to help real people. “Social justice warrior” is meant in the same vein as “keyboard warrior.” It is not a precise term and it is kind of a stupid one, but that is the term we have. You can agree with the characterization or disagree, but this what people from gamergate and elsewhere have in mind when they make reference to social justice warriors.
Social justice warriors are drawn to causes involving race, gender and sexual orientation. But only some people who are drawn to those issues are SJWs. For the SJW, the appeal of these issues draws from the fact that one of the greatest stigmas one can carry in contemporary culture is to be labeled a bigot. Compare where Donald Sterling or Michael Richards wound up in the public eye to the outcomes for other celebrities who have, say, been involved in killing someone, like Matthew Broderick, Ray Lewis or Vince Neil.
By declaring themselves the authorities on these subjects, social justice warriors are able to claim the right to administer the scarlet letters associated with them: racist, sexist misogynist, homophobe and so on. This power, to declare their moral superiority over others, is what motivates them. The stereotypical SJW has little to no interest in the suffering of classes that are not linked to scarlet letters. Victims of unjust wars, for example, or the homeless, or nerds.
We can see the overlap with the hipster easily. Both types are driven by a desire to feel more enlightened, intelligent and generally superior than those around them. “I eat better food than you do, I dress better than you do, I listen to better music than you do and you are a racist who approves of rape, while I am not.” It fits together quite nicely.
Brian sends me occasional emails. Most of them are along the lines of “Gee, Damian, you’re my all-time hero. What can I do to be more like you?” Or, “Wow, Damian, your post today was the best one you’ve ever written until the next one you write!” But along with the fawning sycophancy, he’s sent me a few links to Ruthless Reviews articles, including this one, which happens to be one of the best summaries of Gamergate and the satellite issues in orbit around it that you’ll ever see. It is quite long, and could probably have benefitted from some editorial pruning, but still, it’s worth your time and you should check it out. One little excerpt doesn’t nearly do it justice.