Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and language use by others. People can be called out for statements and actions that are sexist, racist, ableist, and the list goes on. Because call-outs tend to be public, they can enable a particularly armchair and academic brand of activism: one in which the act of calling out is seen as an end in itself.
What makes call-out culture so toxic is not necessarily its frequency so much as the nature and performance of the call-out itself. Especially in online venues like Twitter and Facebook, calling someone out isn’t just a private interaction between two individuals: it’s a public performance where people can demonstrate their wit or how pure their politics are. Indeed, sometimes it can feel like the performance itself is more significant than the content of the call-out.
A struggle session was a form of public humiliation used by the Communist Party of China in the Mao Zedong era to shape public opinion and to humiliate, persecute, and/or execute political rivals and class enemies. In general, the victim of a struggle session was forced to admit to various crimes before a crowd of people who would verbally and physically abuse the victim until he or she confessed. Struggle sessions were often held at the workplace of the accused, but were sometimes conducted in sports stadiums where large crowds would gather if the target was famous enough.
Note: Any implied equivalence, morally or politically, between social justice warriors and the Red Guards is being made purely for the purposes of hyperbole, satire, insult, entertainment, or any particular combination thereof. In truth, it must be admitted that SJWs enjoy the privilege of having been born into a political system and cultural milieu that offers few viable opportunities for them to express their burgeoning authoritarianism in a truly deadly form, and as such, are unlikely to ever amount to much more than a temporary nuisance in the big scheme of things. In fact, with any luck, things like Jonathan Chait’s recent articles and Jon Ronson’s latest book signify the beginning of a mainstream pushback against them.