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Sad Radicals

When I became an anarchist I was 18, depressed, anxious, and ready to save the world. I moved in with other anarchists and worked at a vegetarian co-op cafe. I protested against student tuition, prison privatization, and pipeline extensions. I had lawyer’s numbers sharpied on my ankle and I assisted friends who were pepper-sprayed at demos. I tabled zines, lived with my “chosen family,” and performed slam poems about the end of the world. While my radical community was deconstructing gender, monogamy, and mental health, we lived and breathed concepts and tools like call-outs, intersectionality, cultural appropriation, trigger warnings, safe spaces, privilege theory, and rape culture.

What is a radical community? For the purposes of this article, I will define it as a community that shares both an ideology of complete dissatisfaction with existing society due to its oppressive nature and a desire to radically alter or destroy that society because it cannot be redeemed by its own means. I eventually fell out with my own radical community. The ideology and the people within it had left me a burned and disillusioned wreck. As I deprogrammed, I watched a diluted version of my radical ideology explode out of academia and become fashionable: I watched the Left become woke.

Commentators have skewered social justice activists on the toxicity of the woke mindset. This is something that many radicals across North America are aware of and are trying to understand. Nicholas Montgomery and Carla Bergman’s Joyful Militancy (JM), published last year, is the most thorough look at radical toxicity from a radical perspective (full disclosure: I very briefly met Nick Montgomery years ago. My anarchist clique did not like his anarchist clique). As they say, “there is a mild totalitarian undercurrent not just in call-out culture but also in how progressive communities police and define the bounds of who’s in and who’s out.”

Montgomery and Bergman see radical toxicity as an exogenous issue. They do not wonder whether radicalism itself could be malignant. As a result, their proposed solutions are limp and abstract, like “increasing sensitivity and inhabiting situations more fully.” Perhaps this is because the solutions all exist beyond the boundaries of radical thought. As Jonathan Haidt has pointed out, “morality binds and blinds.”

Unfortunately, toxicity in radical communities is not a bug. It is a feature. The ideology and norms of radicalism have evolved to produce toxic, paranoid, depressed subjects. What follows is a picture of what happens in communities that are passionately, sincerely, radically woke, as seen from the perspective of an apostate.

Faith 

Commentators have accurately noted how social justice seems to take the form of a religion. This captures the meaning and fulfilment I found in protests and occupations. It also captures how, outside of these harrowing festivals, everyday life in radical communities is mundane but pious. As a radical activist, much of my time was devoted to proselytizing. Non-anarchists were like pagans to be converted through zines and wheatpasted posters rather than by Bible and baptism. When non-radicals listened to my assertions that nazis deserved death, that all life had devolved into spectacle, and that monogamy was a capitalist social construct, they were probably bewildered instead of enticed.

Instead of developing a relationship to God and a recognition of one’s own imperfection, we wanted our non-anarchist families and friends to develop their “analysis” and recognize their complicity in the evil of capitalism. These non-anarchist friends grew increasingly sparse the longer I was an anarchist. They didn’t see how terrible the world was, and they used problematic language that revealed hopelessly bad politics. Frustrated with them, I retreated further and further into the grey echo-chamber of my “chosen family.”

Trent Eady says of his own radicalism in Montreal, “When I was part of groups like this, everyone was on exactly the same page about a suspiciously large range of issues.” When my friends and I did have theoretical disagreements, they tended towards the purely strategic or to philosophical minutiae. Are cops human? If we pay attention to the few white nationalists in town, will that stir them up? Is polyamory queer, or privileged?

Deep and sincere engagement with opposing points of view is out of the question. Radicalism is like a clan too suspicious of outsiders to abandon cousin marriage, and, like incestuous offspring, radicalism’s intellectual offspring accumulate genetic load. Narrow theories must perform increasingly convoluted explanations of the world. For example, Montgomery and Bergman describe Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s use of the term “Empire,” in their book of the same name, as both a miasma that “accumulates and spreads sadness” and an anthropomorphized figure that “works to usher its subjects into flimsy relationships where nothing is at stake and to infuse intimacy with violence and domination.”

No worldview maps reality perfectly. But when a worldview encounters discordant knowledge, it can either evolve to accommodate it, or it can treat it as a threat to the worldview’s integrity. If a worldview treats all discordant knowledge as threat, then it is an ideology. Its adherents learn to see themselves as guardians rather than seekers of the truth. The practical consequences of such a worldview can be devastating.

Fear

When I became an anarchist, I was a depressed and anxious teenager, in search of answers. Radicalism explained that these were not manageable issues with biological and lifestyle factors, they were the result of living in capitalist alienation. For, as Kelsey Cham C notes, “This whole world is based on fucking misery” and “In capitalist systems, we’re not meant to feel joy.” Radicalism not only finds that all oppressions intersect, but so does all suffering. The force that causes depression is the same that causes war, domestic abuse, and racism. By accepting this framework, I surrendered to an external locus of control. Personal agency in such a model is laughable. And then, when I became an even less happy and less strong person over the years as an anarchist, I had an explanation on hand.

There is an overdeveloped muscle in radicalism: the critical reflex. It is able to find oppression behind any mundanity. Where does this critical reflex come from? French philosopher Paul Ricœur famously coined the term “school of suspicion” to describe Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud’s drive to uncover repressed meaning in text and society. Today’s radicals have inherited this drive by way of Foucault and other Marxo-Nietzscheans.

As radicals, we lived in what I call a paradigm of suspicion, one of the malignant ideas that emerge as a result of intellectual in-breeding. We inherited familial neuroses and saw insidious oppression and exploitation in all social relationships, stifling our ability to relate to others or ourselves without cynicism. Activists anxiously pore over interactions, looking for ways in which the mundane conceals domination. To see every interaction as containing hidden violence is to become a permanent victim, because if all you are is a nail, everything looks like a hammer.

The paradigm of suspicion leaves the radical exhausted and misanthropic, because any action or statement can be shown with sufficient effort to hide privilege, a microaggression, or unconscious bias. Quoted in JM, the anarchist professor Richard Day proposes “infinite responsibility”: “we can never allow ourselves to think that we are ‘done,’ that we have identified all of the sites, structures, and processes of oppression ‘out there’ or ‘in here,’ inside our own individual and group identities.” Infinite responsibility means infinite guilt, a kind of Christianity without salvation: to see power in every interaction is to see sin in every interaction. All that the activist can offer to absolve herself is Sisyphean effort until burnout. Eady’s summarization is simpler: “Everything is problematic.”

This effort is not only directed at the self, but also outwards. Morality and politics are intertwined in this system so that good politics become indicative of good morality. Montgomery and Bergman skewer this tendency mercilessly: “To remain pious, the priest must reveal new sins … The new Other is the not-radical-enough, the liberal, the perpetrator, the oppressor.” Because one’s good moral standing can never be guaranteed, the best way to maintain it is to attack the moral standing of others. As Montgomery and Bergman point out, this is also a thrilling and actionable alternative to the discouragement that haunts radicals after each loss in conflict with capitalism and the state. This is how cliques and status games emerge in communities that purport to be opposed to all hierarchy, turning people into what Freddie DeBoer once dubbed “offense archaeologists.”

Bland friendships and events are the result. Conversations are awkward and tense as radicals contort to avoid the risk of hurting each other. As an anarchist, I did not engage with individuals as individuals, but as porcelain, always thinking first and foremost of the group identities we inhabited.

Escape from the paradigm of suspicion is hindered by kafkatrapping: the idea that opposition to the radical viewpoint proves the radical viewpoint. Minorities who question it have internalized their oppression, and privileged individuals who question it prove their guilt. The only thing radicals are not suspicious of is the need for relentless suspicion. As Haidt and Greg Lukianoff write of similar norms on campuses, “If someone wanted to create an environment of perpetual anger and intergroup conflict, this would be an effective way to do it.”

Failure Modes

Radical communities select for particular personality types. They attract deeply compassionate people, especially young people attuned to the suffering inherent to existence. They attract hurt people, looking for an explanation for the pain they’ve endured. And both of these derive meaning for that suffering by attributing it to the force that they now dedicate themselves to opposing. They are no longer purely a victim, but an underdog.

However, radical communities also attract people looking for an excuse to be violent illegalists. And the surplus of vulnerable and compassionate people attracts sadists and abusers ready to exploit them. The only gatekeeping that goes on in radical communities is that of language and passion—if you can rail against capitalism in woke language, you’re in.

Every group of people has some mixture of stable, vulnerable, and predatory individuals. That radicals have a poor mix does not doom them. However, radicals also dismiss longstanding norms that would protect them, in favour of experimental norms. They are built with the best intentions and are aimed at solving real problems. But intentions do not matter if one does not consider incentives and human nature.

Abusers thrive in radical communities because radical norms are fragile and exploitable. A culture of freewheeling drug and alcohol use creates situations predators are waiting to exploit. A cultural fetishization of violence provides cover for violent and unstable people. The practice of public “call-outs” is used for power-plays far more often than for constructive feedback. Radicals value responding to claims of harm with compassion and belief. But abusers exploit this the way children exploit parents and teachers—crybullying becomes a way of punishing opponents or prey. While norms such as “believe claimed victims” are important in families and close friendships where trust and accountability are real, they become weapons in amorphous communities.

One particular practice illustrates this well. The accountability process is a subcultural institution whereby survivors can make demands of perpetrators and the community must hold them accountable. Radicals are hesitant to report abusers and rapists to the police, for fear of subjecting comrades to the prison system. But turning victims into judge and jury and shared friends into executioners is a recipe for injustice that satisfies no one. And in light of the instant truth-value given to claims of abuse, accountability processes are an oddly perfect weapon for actual abusers. As one writer for the zine the Broken Teapot says, “The past few years I have watched with horror as the language of accountability became an easy front for a new generation of emotional manipulators. It’s been used to perfect a new kind of predatory maverick—the one schooled in the language of sensitivity—using the illusion of accountability as community currency.”

Entanglement with such an individual is what finally broke me from my own dogmatism. Having somebody yell at me that if I didn’t admit to being a white supremacist her friends might beat me up and that I should pay her for her emotional labor, was too much for my ideology to spin. The internal crisis it induced led to gradual disillusion. In the end, however, this was the greatest gift I could ask for.

Flight

What is the alternative to radicalism, for the disillusioned radical? She could abandon the project and commit talent and energy elsewhere. Flee the cult. As Michael Huemer says, “Fighting for a cause has significant costs. Typically, one expends a great deal of time and energy, while simultaneously imposing costs on others, particularly those who oppose one’s own political position … In many cases, the effort is expended in bringing about a policy that turns out to be harmful or unjust. It would be better to spend one’s time and energy on aims that one knows to be good.” Slow, patient steps are a more reliable road to a better world than dramatic gestures that backfire as often as not. Conversation is less romantic than confrontation, small business ownership than Steal Something From Work Day, soup kitchens than vandalism. If an individual wants to end suffering, she should think hard about why she’s joined communities that glamorize violence, vengeance, and anti-intellectualism. Having left that scene, I am amazed at how much effort we put into making the world a more painful and difficult place than it is in service of a post-revolutionary utopia.

Radicals should take stock of the progress liberal democracies have made. As Steven Pinker points out in The Better Angels of Our Nature, nobody in the West has an argument for wife-beating or denying women the vote anymore. Infant mortality rates have cratered, and extreme poverty rates are falling precipitously. With trends like these and more, liberal capitalism appears less like the arch-nemesis of humanity, and more like a miracle machine. It could even be improved by the compassion and devotion of former radicals. It is worth noting that this progress does not mean that exploitation and oppression have been solved; but it does mean that our current society is the only one to have made significant inroads against them.

Most of all, radicals should learn to abandon false truths. The only way to escape dogmatism is to resist the calcification and sanctification of values, and to learn from the wisdom of different perspectives. As Haidt argues, there are grains of truth in opposing political positions. Radicals do themselves a disservice by seeing the world of thought outside the radical monoculture as tainted with reaction and evil. There is a rich diversity of thought awaiting them if they would only open their minds to it. One of the achievements of liberalism has been a norm of free speech wherein individuals can both share and consume that spectrum of thought. Every new and challenging school of thought I discovered after anarchism rocked my worldview, as somebody who formerly thought that wisdom could only be found through “the struggle” or in esoteric French theory. Even if opposing views are not assimilated, the ability to contend with them on the intellectual field instead of silencing them is a sign of a seeker of the truth, not a guardian.

Young adults often become radicals after they realize the immensity of the cruelty and malevolence in the world. They reject a society that tolerates such suffering. They sanctify justice as their telos. But without truth to orient justice, seekers of justice will crash and crash again into reality, and will craft increasingly nightmarish and paranoid ideological analyses, burning out activists, destroying lives through jail or abuse, and leaving the world an uglier, more painful place. To paraphrase Alice Dreger, there is no justice without wisdom, and no wisdom without surrender to uncertainty in the pursuit of truth.

 

Conor Barnes is a student, writer, and poet. His writing has also appeared in Areo Magazine and the Mantle. You can follow him on Twitter @ideopunk

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302 Comments

    • Duppy Conqueror says

      Agreed. Thank you Conor and everyone at Quillette. You’re doing great work.

      • George G says

        Totally agree, best thing that’s been published in ages.

          • It’s hear, hear.
            I’m only saying this so that you know, so you can use it correctly in future. It’s something a lot of people don’t know, having perhaps only heard it said.
            I’m not a grammar snob or anything like that – I can ill afford to be.
            Really, just poking my nose in, hopefully in a useful way. 😊

      • Innominata says

        Very well done.

        I have been really disappointed of late with many Quillette pieces, because they seemed to falling into an “us/them” pattern of “the rational smart people versus the Left/Right extremists who just need to be rational like us”.

        But this had some depth to it, not just rational, but wise:

        “Every group of people has some mixture of stable, vulnerable, and predatory individuals … Radicals … dismiss longstanding norms that would protect them, in favour of experimental norms.”

        “Longstanding norms that would protect them” is what the wise mean when they say “conservatism.” Recognizing that all human groups contain destructive and unstable people is a notable step toward understanding of opponents, of plumbing the truth values of any group; since one must sort out the fractious lest one define all in a group by their behavior.

        For those unfamiliar with Haidt and his work as it relates to this article, some might find this short YouTube TED talk he gave on his research interesting:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vs41JrnGaxc&t=176s

        • stevengregg says

          But that is the core of the difference between conservatives and liberals: Conservatives demand objectivity while liberals demand subjectivity. Liberals want their lived lives to trump objective fact. Liberals want to overturn the reason of the Enlightment and return to the subjectivity of medieval tribalism. This is the weak point of liberalism which deserves to be hammered with reason.

          • Andy Patton says

            “Conservatives demand objectivity while liberals demand subjectivity.” Ummm…
            Let’s have some data first?

          • stevengregg says

            Well, Andy, you can read what liberals demand, such as demanding their lived lives trump objective data. They are demanding that engineering is patriarchal oppression to be cured by such things as feminist engineering. They demand their feelings trump facts.

          • Palace says

            It would be difficult, obviously, to get into the details. But this is a disconcerting over-simplification.

          • hunter says

            Excellent point.
            Biology is not destiny.
            Accusation = guilt.
            Shout down vs. dialogue.
            Narrative more than data.
            Perception trumps reality.

          • Jim Wolf says

            Sad that you have to call it liberalism, since that noble designation was stolen by totalitarian progressives a century ago.
            I’m not too thrilled with the concept of conservatism, either. Enshrining an idealogical preservationism is a bad way to label yourself ideologically–it’s a very limited label to hang your hat on. I like ‘rationalist’ much better, because it designates a philosophical view of appropriate proportion, regardless of the age of the idea.

          • Greg Thornton says

            Liberals believe their subjectivity is objectivity.

          • Will Rolf says

            Quillette is a liberal publication. You appear to be confusing liberalism with leftists. Liberals support free speech and inquiry into different views on a subject for better understanding. It is the moderate position taken by both political parties for much of the last century until one party swerved hard right and ideological and the other was infiltrated by leftists.

          • “But that is the core of the difference between conservatives and liberals: Conservatives demand objectivity while liberals demand subjectivity.” — Really? Conservatives are the ones who insist the Earth is six thousand years old, and that there’s no such thing as climate change, and that Pizzagate is a real thing.

          • David Levine says

            I do not see that at all, Conservatives right now deny climate change by a fair margin. The facts seem less important then ideology there.
            Of course, I do not see SJW’s as actual liberals

        • Deborah says

          Thank you. What a meaningful response & suggestion, I will watch the YouTube link.

    • Voytek says

      Yup. I want to write a long self-indulgent applause piece for it, that’s how much i enjoyed the read. Joe Rogan calling!

    • Great piece. I went though a period of depression years ago and responded remarkably well to CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy).

      For a long time, I suspected that the SJW phenomenon was partly fueled by an inversion of CBT.

      It makes sense that if you take a technique that is proven to decrease negative emotions and do the opposite, you would be developing a skill that increases depression, anxiety and aggressiveness.

      • BrannigansLaw says

        @ Tim “For a long time, I suspected that the SJW phenomenon was partly fueled by an inversion of CBT.”

        Spot on. I was introduced to CBT by a friend and was able to fix most of my psychological problems via it.

        SJW’s encourage many of the things CBT is designed to fix: catastrophising, negatively assuming the motives and thoughts of others about you, convincing yourself that your feelings are a perfect reflection of reality and assuming that all personal problems are always a result of issues outside yourself rather than within…

        This results in the intensification of one’s persecution complex and narcissism.

        Ted Kaczynski wrote some interesting stuff about the psychology of modern leftism (starts from paragraph six): https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/national/longterm/unabomber/manifesto.text.htm

        • Cornfed says

          Interesting comments here on CBT. I am not very familiar with that, specifically. But it made me chuckle a little because my switch from leftism to “conservatarianism” coincided with some much needed psychotherapy. the therapy itself had nothing to do with politics, of course. But it forced me to deal with life head on instead playing the victim. when I stopped seeing myself as a victim, I stopped being a leftist. Not trying to insult leftists here, this is just my own story. but it is worth acknowledging that one’s emotional makeup can have a great influence on political leanings. I happened to cross paths with a dude many years ago, who I found out had engaged in ecoterrorism. He was, to put it mildly, “out there”. Though he clothed his beliefs in intellectual arguments (such as they were) it was no rational impulse that drove him.

        • Cleanup Philly says

          And fascinatingly Ted Kaczynski swore that his participation in MK Ultra experiments at MIT were all part of what led to the development of the state of mind that he fully acknowledged was “unwell.”

          He was able to clearly state that he could be diagnosed by any doctor as having a persecution complex but that after being subjected at an early age (he was an early admission to MIT) to harsh government experimentation, which he wanted to make public but his deal with the prosecutor prevented explicitly, oddly enough, he had a right to feel persecuted by the authorities, by the government, by society.

          He said he was a violent revolutionary, leftist, anarchist, yes, but that his own government had entirely made him that way via the CIA MK Ultra program. Ted struggled with the question did he go rogue, or was he carrying out his programming? He never knew. He wanted the government to tell him.

          The details of MK Ultra during that time period are still classified secret. It is possible that the experiment was testing the hypothesis that violent revolutionaries are created by programming whether randomized or calculated, and said programming can be controlled. It would be a way to defuse indigenous anarchy. This negative behavioral programming theory is entirely supported by the article.

          It begs the question, is the CIA still doing it? Did MK Ultra ever end?

        • Pablo Rossi says

          Ha ha ha, I thought you were going to post Ship of Fools. How about quoting the section in the Manifesto that mostlikely was influenced by his experiences with leftists in the Cooperative housing system at the University of Michigan as a Math PhD candidate. I’m sure the audience would enjoy that.

      • Innominata says

        “For a long time, I suspected that the SJW phenomenon was partly fueled by an inversion of CBT.”

        Intriguing you should say that. Jonathan Haidt, the author mentioned in the article, makes an analogous point in his new book:

        https://www.amazon.com/Coddling-American-Mind-Intentions-Generation/dp/0735224897/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1544575316&sr=8-1&keywords=jonathan+haidt+the+coddling+of+the+american+mind

        Paraphrasing, Haidt argues that the present “safe space” and anti-free-speech radical Left movements at universities evince an inversion of CBT principles as well; that these movements seem to be encouraging people to see themselves as victims rather than encouraging people to take responsibility in their own lives.

        • James Lee says

          @Tim and Innominata

          In evolutionary anthropologist/biologist Joe Henrich’s most recent (and excellent) book on gene/culture co-evolution, he references a study conducted by Ken Craig which involved giving electric shocks to subjects, as well as subsequent shocks to a “tough model” who was secretly working for the experimenter.

          “Both the participant and model had to rate how painful the shock was each time. The tough model, however, was secretly working for the experimenter and always rated the pain about 25% less painful than the participant did. Then, after this, the model left and the participants received a series of random electric shocks. For this new series of shocks, the participants who had seen the tough model rated them half as painful as those who didn’t see the tough model….

          “Those who saw the tough model showed (1) declining measurements of electrodermal skin potential, meaning that their bodies stopped reacting to the threat, (2) lower and more stable heart rates, and (3) lower stress ratings. Cultural learning from the tough model changed their physiological reactions to electric shocks.”

          Contrast that with a worldview of omnipresent microaggressions, trigger warnings, and “words are violence”. Hell, one of the go to concepts from the true believers is that non-members of the SJ religion want to “invalidate the humanity” of minority groups. It couldn’t get much more catastrophizing and ludicrous. They are really turning it up to 11…

          Henrich, Joseph. The Secret of Our Success: How Culture Is Driving Human Evolution, Domesticating Our Species, and Making Us Smarter (p. 275).

        • I believe a large portion of the CBT discussion in The Coddling comes from the co author, Greg Lukianoff. In an interview conversation with Jordan Peterson, Lukianoff discussed how he underwent CBT in the early 20-teens and saw similarities between bad cognition and ‘woke’ culture on campuses.

      • Cleanup Philly says

        I agree that CBT is scientifically proven (and you can verify this in PubMed) in study after study to redirect and cancel auto-affirming negative narrative. This narrative as the article confirms is the hallmark of the PC SJW liberal.

        Conservatives remark often that “we only have to let them devour each other,” when speaking of the in-fighting between factions in the Democrats. I am in medicine and CBT is the most effective known behavioral therapy and the most likely to be reimbursed by insurance as a result, just fyi.

        Cognitive Behavioral Therapy repudiates the unintentional negativity of the Leftist mindset, as Barnes so aptly puts it, the “paradigm of suspicion,” replacing it with a habit of natural positivity. There is nothing hokie about it. It is the natural human condition to be positive and CBT shows the client how to hit the reset button.

        • Max Dublin says

          “The paradigm of suspicion.” In her book On Revolution Hannah Arendt remarked that the paradigm of suspicion is what animated that later part of the French Revolution and was the driving force behind the madcap feeding of the guillotine.

    • A very well written and concise summing up with insights into the situation and escape routes.

      • Yes, well written, but also could have been written in 1969 or so. Having come of age in that era, I tell my sons that this time is similar but in many respects worse. My hope is that the current level of heat in society burns itself out without causing more severe damage.

    • Stephanie says

      Agreed. More insightful and honest an article than I’ve seen in a long time.

    • Luke Eaton says

      Totally. This made actually smile that someone articulated their experience and dare I say (awakening) so well.

    • Bonnie says

      Thanks so much for speaking out and coming onto Tucker’s show. You are brave to do all of that. I learned a lot. And now I will pray for you and your former associates. I wish you well. Bonnie.

    • Martin28 says

      Sam, as an editor, I thank you. We all paint pictures with our words. The picture painted by “here, here” is ridiculous, even if most people don’t realize it when they write and read it. We all need these reminders from time to time.

    • Danny says

      Quite possibly the best online piece I’ve read online this year.
      KUDOS!

  1. Saw file says

    There is a (seeming) desperation, from young ‘radical’s’ to make,/be part of, fundamental change in the world.
    Arguably a noble goal, but too often the intentions are wholly suspect. I rarely blaim the young one’s (non-brainwashed zealots).
    So many lack any basic understanding of history.
    The postsecondary educator’s of these young ppl, are mostly hucksters.
    The rest are borderline ideological lunatics.

    • Rendall says

      “So many lack any basic understanding of history.”

      As a former radical, i can tell you that isn’t exactly it. It’s that many of us reject the basic history we were taught as the revisionism of the victors. Which, truth be told, isn’t it to some degree? What history can we trust, if we can’t trust non-radical historians?

      Remember, these are True Believers, so a scientific or historical fact is as relevant to an anarchist as it is to a Creationist: which is to say, only to the extent that it supports that which we already know to be true. Which, likewise, isn’t that true of most of us to some degree?

      • E. Olson says

        It doesn’t matter who taught you history, because there is no history out there that says things were better 50 or 100 or 1,000 years ago. 200 years ago, 94% of the global population lived on today’s equivalent of $2 per day, and 100 years ago it was still about 80%. Life expectation was less than 45 years old globally. Career and education opportunities for anyone except the 1% were basically back-breaking dangerous work on the farm, mine, mill, or military for men, and bearing and raising many children for women. In a sense we were all very much more equal than today – equally poor and miserable with bad food (but 100% organic), cold/leaky/cramped housing (and no electricity, running water, toilets), no effective medical treatments, no vacations, travel, or time off. The only reason radicals can exist today is because society has gotten so rich that radicals don’t need to work and therefore have time to travel and protest how miserable they are.

        • Rendall says

          Yesss. You need not argue against the radical point of view with me! I probably should have emphasized that my immersion in the radical anarchist community was done nearly 20 years ago, and lasted half as long.

          It is an easy outlook to criticize, but remember, it’s not about rationality but belief; you will not talk an anarchist around to your perspective by pointing out these obvious facts.

        • You make a good point, the notion that “life is better now” or “life was better then” is colored by what one’s definition of “Better” is. For those who want material things or to take those luxurious vacations then today is better. For those who find social equality to be top, then perhaps the past was better. Serfdom isn’t bad when one’s psychology strives for equality among the largest population. 99% living as poor serfs with 1% ruling class is a superior outcome to today’s multi-tiered class society in the US which is actually pretty close to the traditional caste system of India — which the champions of the US lower/middle/upper class systems speak down on (?)

          • @Bill
            ” the US which is actually pretty close to the traditional caste system of India — ”

            Really? Ok, from 10,000 ft view you could make this case. The U.S. – despite what the media reports still has a fluid class system where one born in a poor-ish family can rise to great wealth in a lifetime. It’s happened in my own family. It happens all the time. Today’s rich are not necessarily tomorrow’s rich. I suspect that’s happening in modern India too, to some degree.

            In the U.S. the place we see the generations stuck in a permanent lower class are those trapped by government welfare systems. Oddly, I doubt that this class is the source of the radical SJWs detailed in this article.

          • stevengregg says

            The USA is nothing like the traditional caste system of India. The Treasury Department reports that most Americans in the lowest quintile of earnings rise to the middle quintile within twenty years, ie the poor become middle class. That doesn’t happen in India. If you are a dobi working in the dobhi gat in Mumbai, you got that job because your parents were dhobis, their parents before them, ad infinitum. Your children are condemned to be dhobis.

            Just as the American poor lift themselves up to middle class, the rich in America lower themselves to middle class. There is no permanent rich class in America. Of the richest old money 400 of Manhattan families who were invited to Mrs. Astor’s ballroom in the Gilded Age, only a few remain wealthy. In America, wealth is dissipated by bad decisions, inheritance, and bad luck. There are no fixed classes in America, but rather a volatile movement of people centered on the middle class.

          • hunter says

            People who believe in the egalitarian past have read little history and understand even less.

          • Pat Allen says

            What you say is enlightening. To the social equality tops type the north Korea model would be preferable since all but a small percentage are equally miserable. Interesting and helps me understand some leftist points of view.

        • @E. Olson
          So well said. Unfortunately it’s all relative. Today’s young people only know what they’ve experienced, which is very little real deprivation and suffering – generally speaking. Upon my first international travel to a third world country (from the U.S.) my travel companion turned to me and said ‘we live like kings’. He was right. I personally have absolutely nothing to complain about.

          My worry is that the socialist Utopians and the radicals would ignorantly tear down the West instead of understanding what Steven Pinker chronicles in his book Enlightenment Now, the world is getting better in almost every respect. It makes little sense to tear it all down because it isn’t perfect yet.

          • E. Olson says

            Craig – I think the hardest thing for radicals to accept is that the “liberal” side has won in the West. Official and unofficial barriers to individuals based on their race, ethnicity, religion, gender, etc. are almost entirely gone, in fact the only group experiencing “official” discrimination today is the group consisting of white, male, heterosexual, Christians who are excluded from affirmative action or race/gender quotas. Yet many of the historic patterns continue to persist as white males (and “white” Asians and Jews) continue to rise to the top of most well-compensated, well-respected fields that require high intelligence and costly personal investments (i.e. education, apprenticeships, training), where they invent things, advance knowledge, and provide services and products that enrich themselves but also generate the economic growth, jobs, and products/services that provide a better quality of life for everyone. Thus radicals are faced with the discomforting thought that perhaps these hated “oppressors” are just naturally better at things that society desires and benefits from, and/or have worked harder than just about anyone else to rise to the top and hence deserve it. Bill above suggests that some might find Serfdom preferable because 99% are equally poor, but I have yet to see a radical protester give up the perks of modern living including iPhones, designer clothing, air-conditioning, and jet travel to the next protest site. In fact, I would bet serious money that you couldn’t find any US based radical who would voluntarily give up their US citizenship to live in Yemen (Gini coefficient 37.7), Slovenia (23.7), or Romania (27.3) that have substantially less prosperity and living standards than the unequal US (47 Gini) – they might actually need to get a job and work to earn enough to eat or have housing.

          • Craig, a great example of tearing down successful society is detailed in The World of Yesterday by Stefan Zweig. I believe we get to a point of success as humans and then, like the housewife in Ballard of Lucy Jordan, we look for escape to something else not realising we are jumping off the roof!

          • stevengregg says

            The top one percent of the world earn $29,000. The average income in America is $50,000.

        • You shoud have seen the peasants uprisings against which Luther fulminated 500 yrs ago, E.O.. There are historical scenes from painters that really impressed me (thought it was in a Vienna museum), all those lumpenproletarians with their axes and scythes and angry faces. And then there was the uprising of Spartacus and his slaves, to name just a few. Of the last one, there is a Hollywood movie I saw when a boy, with Kirk Douglas I thought it was as Spartacus. Armed protest certainly is not the privilege of college boys and the elite.

          • stevengregg says

            Most revolutions erupt in good times. In America, there was no revolution in the Great Depression, but protest culture flourished in the fat and happy 1970s. You need leisure and wealth to revolt. In hard times, you need to devote yourself to simple survival.

        • Johan says

          @E.Olson…The percentage of narcissistic-jealous-ugly people born throughout the history of mankind is most likely pretty much a constant…
          Modern capitalism gave these people opportunity to rage…Through internet and smartphones they seem to be everywhere.
          A radical thinks: ” I’m going to change the world!”…Arrogance and hubris in abundance.
          Jordan B Peterson says: “Start making your bed”…

          • But,Johan, how would mankind ever have progressed by just only making their beds (btw,in my time, done by my mother or sisters). Without revolutions, and, thus, radicals, no progress. Because, talking and empathy and hope for the good does not bring you far. Of course, revolutions don’t run smoothly, and involve a lot of injustice, cruelty often. But, look at Christianity, sacrifices belong to the scene.

        • stevengregg says

          Exactly, E. Olson. The invention of the steam engine lifted humanity out of abject poverty, giving us plenty of food, shelter, roads, and leisure time. You need leisure time to protest. Such radical extremism is a decadent product of plenty. When everyone is dirt poor, all your waking minutes are dedicated to feeding yourself.

        • Actually, there IS history out there that says things were better in the past. I know, it is mind boggling that there are people who believe in a past utopia without running water, climate control, modern agriculture, and medicine, but many do. How is this possible? Well, people who have never been camping have no idea how important running (hot) water or climate control are. They don’t care about agriculture because they believe the population ought to be smaller anyway, and they have never experienced a famine or any other privation. They have no idea how important medicine is because they believe in ancient alternatives like acupuncture. The unprecedented, world-shaking successes of the West have paradoxically left many Westerners not able to appreciate those very successes.

          And, of course, these past utopias are always run by someone other than white heterosexual males.

          • Famine, Davis, yes, that’s something you better control. But running water( and, worse even, running hot water), climate control, medicines? Bulshit, not at all necessary, unless you want to spoil the atmosphere and the soils.

          • Dirk running water decreases waterborne illness. Hot water does abfar better job of sanitizing. And explain Toba diabetic how medicine isn’t important.

          • Trollificus says

            Dirk is clearly a hardcore anarcho-libertarian who thinks the weak should just die (including, apparently, your example of diabetics). Just the strong, like Dirk, who don’t need comfort, easy access to food, shelter and sanitation, should survive. THAT appears to be the kind of “utopia” he envisions. But it will have clean streams to drink out of, right? (and good luck with that, Dirk. Digestive issues are unpleasant enough WITH toilet paper. And toilets.)

        • Constitutional Insurgent says

          pauvreté égale pour tous is the Liberal Progressive Democrat goal and the only outcome from their espoused policies. Of course they themselves will ensure they are in the ‘some animals are more equal than others’ class.

      • JWatts says

        “It’s that many of us reject the basic history we were taught as the revisionism of the victors. Which, truth be told, isn’t it to some degree? What history can we trust, ”

        Well it’s trivial to read the histories written by the losers for the last 5 centuries or so. Just read what European conquistadors wrote, or the Monarchists, the leaders of the US Confederacy, or the European colonizers, the Czars of Russia, the Central Powers in WW1, the Nazis in WW2, the Americans in Vietnam, etc.

        Usually, you’ll find that the losers have some valid points. But that modern history hasn’t really lied about the issues, though they were probably simplified.

        • Rendall says

          Agreed.

          I’m happy to know there is the possibility of a generally neutral consensus about facts of what happened in the past; and a principled way to interpret, and disagree about, those facts. It’s a relief, because during this time I believed to some degree that facts were weapons of one ideology or another; and it was necessary to explain away facts that were uncomfortable.

          My observation is decidedly not to justify ideology-driven narratives. In fact, I encourage us all to examine how ideology might be influencing us ‘non-radicals’. Even folks whose perspectives fit comfortably in the mainstream tend not to let evidence drive their understanding.

        • JWatts, I am not sure it matters whether your history is true of false. What matters is the fabric of your society that hangs from it. If radicals prefer a different view of society then that’s fine but we must stop them with all our means as our society cannot be built on a view of hatred of our society.
          Ship them all to Australia! we seem to be a dumping ground for radicals and no hopers.

      • Very good point, which reflects the humility we must all have if we’re to get closer to truth.

    • Lightning Rose says

      The problem is that our society’s basic needs have been met and exceeded, leaving a surfeit of young people with time on their hands, educated beyond their intelligence, with someone else paying their upkeep so they have the time for mental gymnastics like this. Add chemical imbalances likely caused by some combination of biologically incorrect diet, substance abuse, and social media and their life becomes a piece of dystopian performance art.

      Hate to tell ’em, but back a couple of generations people were delighted they could take a decent paycheck even from a ball-bearing factory, which would enable a roof, a dance and a beer on a Saturday night. Most were content and well-adjusted. They should try it some time . . .

      • E. Olson says

        Rose – are you suggesting that some protester with a gender studies degree should lower themselves to actually earn a living doing something useful for society? If so, then you are the real radical – more power to you.

      • Pat Allen says

        Very well put. Simple life can be very happy. But a decent job and stable society is a prerequisite.

    • 南沢山 says

      Someone said, perhaps Churchill, that if one is not on the left when young, one has no heart, and if one is not on the right when grown up, one has no brain. The observation is clearly flawed yet insightful in as much as it is applicable to so many people.

    • Martin28 says

      @ dirk.
      ‘Without revolutions, and, thus, radicals, no progress.’

      I reject that point of view. The man who invented toilet paper made human life a whole lot better. Sometimes radicals make the world a better place. Often they make it far worse. Non-radicals often make the world a better place and do far less damage.

    • Trollificus says

      As anyone can confirm at The Demands (https://www.thedemands.org/), the angry groups of wokesters always, without exception, have among their demands certain ones that will produce jobs, sinecures and tenure track positions for their indoctrinators.

      One is to suspect the motives of scientists tasked by the tobacco industry to investigate the health effects of cigarettes, or retained by the oil industry to research the health benefits of air pollution, but protestors being encouraged to demand things that will very directly line the pockets of the professoriate?? Suddenly, the cynicism disappears.

  2. August says

    This is one of the most significant documents on our time that I’ve read on this website. Thank you for offering your self-reflection and analysis: it has provided a lot of “food for thought.”

    • “No worldview maps reality perfectly. But when a worldview encounters discordant knowledge, it can either evolve to accommodate it, or it can treat it as a threat to the worldview’s integrity. If a worldview treats all discordant knowledge as threat, then it is an ideology. Its adherents learn to see themselves as guardians rather than seekers of the truth.”

      This especially is well-put. Karl Mannheim’s “Ideology & Utopia,” published 1929, communicates the same. It’s only a shame that, nearly a century later, we still haven’t learned it (or, that nobody is teaching it).

  3. Mr Bernard Hill says

    ….no justice without wisdom, and no mercy without justice.

  4. It is interesting to think of compassion as a vice. Anything can be a vice. water is deadly in excess concentrations, and yet obviously essential. Here is a subculture where people have distorted their compassion into a sort of weapon used to inflict more suffering, in an attempt to find meaning. Odd.

    Mr Barnes, if your reading, why do you use the feminine for your pronouns? You write ‘She could abandon the project and commit talent elsewhere.’ (Is it because most ‘woke’ people are female? Were you writing this for someone?) The Atlantic does this too and it always kind of bothers me. English offers the ability to not discriminate, (as you do in the majority of the piece) and writing in the masculine has the cover of ‘tradition’. When everyone is ‘she’, you are choosing to be sexist. Why?

    • Rupert Stubbs says

      That was your take out from this thought-provoking article? Really?

    • Aylwin says

      @Alex
      Shame to distract from the fascinating article and comments with an aside about the style. But here’s my take. Yes, there’s some kind of style flaw in adopting ‘she’ in this article, given that the article is partly autobiographical and the author is male. But I think there really is a benefit to a male author adopting the female pronoun when referring to hypothetical others. For example, it acts against tendencies to assume that particular roles or professions (managers, doctors, pilots…) are those of men. This assumption was statistically sound when a women’s role was expected to be constrained, and it might forever be statistically sound in some roles, given statistical preferences of men and women. A male author defaulting to ‘she’ is at least gracious, but might, in the ear of someone with traditional expectations for women, also normalise the idea that being e.g. a pilot is something as open to women as it is to men. This might be particularly powerful when read by someone whose culture or upbringing are traditionally conservative (particularly religiously conservative cultures, and particularly Islamic cultures). I’m sure others have argued this better than me. If ‘she’ sounds strained to your ear now, give it time. Interestingly, I’m currently reading Feynman’s Lectures on Physics and the relentless ‘he’ when referring to hypothetical thinkers/observers/students really does now grate on my, nowadays, more sensitive ear. You’re right that he/she choice is arbitrary and ‘he’ is established as precedent. But that can change.

      • @ Aylwin,

        I think you miss understand me. I don’t ask the question in some loaded way to point out a fault of the author. I ask because I truly want to know why he chose to use that way of expressing a point. Hence why I wrote multiple reasons which would be very acceptable (I was thinking of someone specific when I wrote that and was trying to subtextually talk to her….).

        My irritation is not aimed at the Author, I found the piece insightful and very powerful. I also found a lot of hope that things can and do get better. Rather my irritation is at publications like the Atlantic which universally use “she”, in some sort of subcontextual political posturing. If you think using ‘He’ is sexist, then the opposite is equally true. If you truly believe that using ‘she’ when discussing a role that is traditionally male will be effectual, but will not use ‘he’ in a role that is traditionally female (and the Atlantic doesn’t and no left author I read does either), what does this say about your actual views of equality and opportunity? English offers an easy out in non-specific terms. It was late when I wrote that, and just kinda popped into my head. I have just always wanted to ask why someone chooses to make that statement.

        But your right, it is a very small point about a wonderful essay.

        • Stephanie says

          With regards to the use of “she,” I also did wonder about that. It’s an interesting stylistic choice, particularly because it’s a habit of the same radicals the author used to belong to. Is it a remnant of his time with them? I wonder how far towards the centre he’s moved.

          I generally prefer to not assume people’s gender (excuse the SJW parlance). When speaking in general terms, “they” seems most appropriate. “She” draws unnecessary attention and tends to strike me as virtue signalling. I’ve never felt excluded by the general use of “he,” but introducing “she” makes the previously-neutral language seem gendered in a hostile way.

          • stevengregg says

            He is correct since the author is a male. Why would he use “she” when he isn’t? Rather than adopt political correct styles which warp the truth, why not stick strictly to the truth?

        • Trollificus says

          I see some articles/essays that alternate when referencing a non-specific person, regardless of role or expectation of gender. This has the positive effect of breaking down (unrealistic) gender stereotypes without creating a corresponding misandry.

      • Pat Allen says

        The usage of “she” is clearly a distraction (see this thread) and for that reason it is not useful. “He” includes the feminine but not vice versa….yet.

    • innominata says

      OHHHHHH….

      Memetic tribes! So I’m gonna assume that this author is perhaps a disciple of Rene Girard and his writings. I didn’t see Girard mentioned in the Medium piece, but “memetic theory” is his Big Idea.

      Girard may be penetrating a new generation of thinkers. I hope so. I find him fascinating and thought provoking.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/René_Girard

  5. W2class says

    @alex posch

    I had the same reaction. How is using she/her all the time any less sexist than he/him?

    The author of series of sci-fi novels I enjoy, solved this deftly by future people adopting the convention of male characters using he/him and female characters using she/her. It is gauche patronising to use the other gendered pronouns.

    • Andrew Mcguiness says

      Or, you can use ‘they’, sacrificing agreement in number to avoid specifying a gender.

      • Ambler D says

        I miss “one”. It is a completely appropriate and gender neutral singular pronoun for instances in which one does not want to identify a sexual signifier. I do know that it is old fashioned, though.

  6. maxmbj says

    Great piece. Transported me to a world I’m not very familiar with. Providing vicarious experiences for readers is what good writing is all about.

  7. Rupert Stubbs says

    Agree that this is an excellent article that I will need to re-read several times. Thank you again, Quillette.

    It feels to me that most of our evolving culture wars these days are based on the simplistic emotional logic of “if I can define you as wrong, then that makes me right”…

  8. Heike says

    that I should pay her for her emotional labor

    Oh my God, someone’s on a power trip.

    With the replacement-for-religion that SJWism is, they forgot to incorporate tithing. And missionaries. With these, they would have an income source as well as a way to rid themselves of troublesome brainwashed zealots.

    • stevengregg says

      Tithing requires you to have an income which implies you are working. What SJW has a real job? You can’t squeeze tithes out of baristas.

  9. Jezza says

    I enjoy reading work that introduces me to terms with which I am unfamiliar and concepts that are new to me, and for that I applaud the author. This piece is indeed a gem. I will have to re-read it several times to absorb it completely. Doesn’t everyone have dragons to slay in their youth? All mine have died of old age. Today I am but a spectator of life’s passing parade, but I do empathise with the struggles of others. Here’s a suggestion: buy a ukulele. No, seriously. The therapeutic benefits are incalculable, because music is made in the here and now, and that is where we all really live. Music is “like water splashing on a stone, it’s here and then it’s gone”. Just the attempt to make music will cause you to leave the past behind and delay the future until tomorrow. Try it and see. (It doesn’t HAVE to be a ukulele. A trombone will do just as well.)

  10. “No worldview maps reality perfectly . . . ”

    Our problem, which is existential, acutely threatening the very survival of our civilisation, is that no world view maps reality even approximately. The social & political sciences we look to as authorities in understanding socio-political reality are still stuck in a pre-Darwinian dark age, with an understanding of their subject that is on a par with pre-Copernican understanding of the heavens.

    Academia trapped itself in this pre-Darwinian dark age, by its extreme overreaction (not least on the part of traumatised Jewish academics) to Nazi social Darwinism, refusing to apply Darwinian logic to understanding human nature and society at all.

    Instead of seeking to understand evolved human nature, which is tribal and territorial, naturally inclining us to nativism, xenophobia and tribal prejudices, so that we can shape society accordingly and learn to work with it in a civilised fashion, they simply demonise it, advising governments to incite it (insanely, through mass immigration & DIVERSITY) and then suppress it, in order to claim a spurious moral authority (and the power that comes with it) for themselves for doing so.

    https://twitter.com/rogerahicks/status/1012987161409355776

    • Lightning Rose says

      If you experience life alongside animals, you understand “Darwin” just fine–and therefore the immutability of our animal nature. Any dog, cat or horse that can eat his lunch plus that of all the others’ he can reach will do so gleefully. Survival of the fittest encodes the basics of capitalism into our very DNA. It’s those contrarians who try to buck this reality and others, like the sex binary and the necessity of consumption, who set themselves up for a life of maladjustment to reality.
      Basically, this kind of thinking is an intellectual illness and maybe a mental one. Misery and “out” group status is a perverse choice they’re making.

    • Mr. Hicks, your description of what a modern post-Darwinian worldview sounds just like the pre-Darwinian worldview that was held most by most ancient peoples throughout history and is held by conservatives today. This suggests that a failure to appreciate Darwin is not the real problem.

  11. Song For the Deaf says

    This article goes with what I’ve been saying for over a decade now. The proper response to SJW claims is not to try to reason with them but to ask them how they got so damaged. When I see a professor talking about things like “Infinite Responsibility,” the first question in my mind is, “Who molested this guy? Or was he beaten as a child?” Because those beliefs are not the beliefs of emotionally healthy people. You see this with female SJWs too: who raped/molested all these women?

    These people are mentally diseased; they were before they began using Social Justice as an excuse for their ressentiment and their ideology only makes their emotional problems worse. And their all over our institutions. There’s nothing for it but to purge them all with a cleansing fire, literally.

    • I was raped as a child and don’t need to believe in this twisted religion.Your thesis about SJW folk being ‘damaged’ is actually flippantly hurtful (people who are abused do regard themselves as ‘damaged goods’ which is one reason the abuse is so harmful long term). Your thesis also doesn’t explain what I see, over and over–the adults who flock to SJW weren’t ‘molested’ or ‘beaten’–quite the contrary. Most of them have had relatively little trauma in their lives. They may well be emotionally ill separate from their experience though. But what I see is that SJWs (adults) are almost always second tier thinkers, with anxiety/depression, who need a sense of belonging in the absence of religion and who see the conformity as a way to advance their career and/or social position.They are almost all, without exception, upper class or upper intellectual class and use the SJW as a way of still oppressing the working class without having to change their upper class status and benefits. They’re natural bureaucrats, hypocrites,and low level priests.

      • @d
        I’m sorry for what happened to you. I hope you’re doing well now… And I tend to agree with you that most the radicals haven’t gone through anything as traumatic as you did. I do wonder how many SJW types are the product of broken homes/divorce??? The disillusionment of a family when a child is in a certain stage is devastating. I’ve seen it in my own extended family. It’s not to say the kids can’t, won’t be successful, but they very often question the righteousness of cultural structures (especially religious ones) and have a distrust of cultural norms that isn’t healthy. I have a hard time connecting with them as adults since I don’t have the underlying hate of my world that I see in them.

      • Peter from Oz says

        ”But what I see is that SJWs (adults) are almost always second tier thinkers, with anxiety/depression, who need a sense of belonging in the absence of religion and who see the conformity as a way to advance their career and/or social position.”
        Very true

        ”They are almost all, without exception, upper class or upper intellectual class and use the SJW as a way of still oppressing the working class without having to change their upper class status and benefits. They’re natural bureaucrats, hypocrites,and low level priests.”
        Not so true. Most SJWs are wannabes. As you point out, they don’t have the ability to make it in the real world, so they take up political activism to cheat their way to the top. The problem is that once they get any control they have trashed the institution concerned.

    • mitchellporter says

      This notion of “infinite responsibility” comes from the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas. I have managed to make sense of a lot of philosophy, but something about Levinas’s use of the concept of infinity has always eluded me. He seems to equivocate between using “infinite” to mean simply “beyond one’s understanding”, and using it specifically to mean “bigger (e.g. more important) than you can understand”.

      His philosophy also has a quality of moral fanaticism. He is obsessed with other people, the fact that you don’t completely understand them (this is one side of his “infinity”), and somehow leaps from this to insisting that the mere sight of an unknown person implies an unbounded responsibility towards them (there’s the other side).

      Levinas was Jewish, lived through World War 2 in Europe, and apparently felt a need to provide new foundations for morality, given the collapse of both religion and humanism. So there we have a possible motivation (and a traumatic experience, if one seeks a psychological explanation): he’s trying to make ethics, and especially “thou shalt not kill”, more fundamental than reason, in order to preempt further applications of reason towards mass murder. Maybe his work boils down to a hyperintellectual way of begging people to be humane towards each other.

      I find this theory of mine about Levinas broadly plausible, given the way he talks, but unfortunately his core concepts never quite made sense to me – and I don’t even know if that’s a deficiency of his, or just a deficiency of mine – so I haven’t been able to completely “test” that theory. But in any case, his ethical rhetoric lends itself to extremism and unconditionality.

    • Πέτρος says

      “…was he beaten as a child?” Because those beliefs are not the beliefs of emotionally healthy people. You see this with female SJWs too: who raped/molested all these women?”

      All my study and experience tells me that EVERYONE possesses a natural weakness for falling into victimhood thinking, not just the abused, misused, and impoverished.

      I’ve spent time through my work with wealthy, beautiful people who have had nothing but wins their whole lives and an absence of anything like significant abuse or trauma. Nevertheless, if they haven’t been raised with any wisdom, they do nothing but complain about what victims they are: of the pressures of their own fame and wealth, of people who gossip about them, of the people who work for them (who are obviously cheating them), of their selfish hairdresser who ruined their whole day because she cancelled when her child got sick at school, etc.

      Wisdom and clarity are not universal natural endowments. They are discovered and passed on, acquired by those who can grasp them. One of the main threads of Judeo-Christian philosophy is the question, “How do we keep people from falling into victim thinking and persecuting others for their victimhood?”

      An example of this breaking down: clearly, the Germany didn’t persecute Jews because of Jewish-inflicted trauma; they did so at least in part because they were convinced by unscrupulous and manipulative leaders that they were victims of nasty Jewish financiers who were ruining Germany with their vast conspiracies and greed.

      Victimhood might be better described as a cycle or a virus than an identity or an effect of a cause. Human beings lack natural immunity to victimhood, and it takes wisdom and effort for even the wisest and healthiest of us to stay out of it. Anybody who tells you they NEVER fall into victim thinking themselves is either a liar or the Second Coming.

  12. Michael says

    Long ago I noticed how deeply troubled and unhappy most so-called “SJWs” are. It’s also why Jordan Peterson has said he’s happy to go after academics, but not the blue-haired students they help set upon a path of unhappiness and self-destruction. As a psychologist he can see how troubled these kids are.

    It’s also why I don’t take as much pleasure as I used to in seeing SJWs get hoisted by their own petard. Behind all that anger and resentment they are usually deeply, confused and anxious people – and what’s worse, they’re in the thrall of a disastrous ideology that isn’t going to solve a single one of their problems.

    There’s no satisfaction in seeing troubled, unhappy people dead set on the wrong path have yet another bad thing happen to them. If they don’t change, time is going to be absolutely brutal on them, and that’s sadly going to be more than enough punishment.

    • WildCard says

      Michael: I get where you’re coming from, but I still have very little sympathy for them nor do I think anyone should. It’s true that some might have been taken advantage of to some degree, but that also means to some degree they were willing to go along with the social justice crowd, and more importantly, continue to do so.

      The more people continue to feel sorry for them and treat them like the victims they imagine to be, the least likely they are to snap out of it and finally take personal responsability for their shortcomings.

  13. Nathan says

    That was a really interesting piece and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. My only challenge was the image of ‘Rik’ from The Young Ones off BBC2 in the 80’s kept creeping into my mind and finally stuck there when I got all the way to the bottom to read the author described as ‘student, writer and poet’.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Young_Ones_(TV_series)

  14. I’d just like to mention that the artwork for this article was well chosen. It would be nothing special without the figure of a young woman donning a nose ring or the little white figure (who seems to represent an innocent person caught up) attempting to escape her wild tendrils. Excellent illustration selection.

  15. All of this was always obvious because purely understanding the world in terms of ‘power’ and its only assumed functioning within terms of the binary oppositions of oppression and resistance. This is the very heart of the revolutionary soul and it is the mantra that has always driven revolutionary thought. Unfortunately such a view of power is completely nihilistic when thought to its logical conclusions.

    Following the fall of communism sociology switched the foundations of its criticism from the basis of a reductive class struggle between capitalists and workers to exclusively focus its attentions on what it assumed to be the functioning of power in highly reductive terms.

    The problem here is that whilst the criticism’s of capitalism could be directed at institutions of the public sphere then the concept of power held not such restrictions as to where they could apply. It was inevitable that they would find their way into the protected areas of our lives that we thought of as being the private sphere and that following power logics they would end up creating an effective police state of the private sphere where power’s students become totalitarian self-appointed policeman of power’s operations. It is obviously a complete miserable view of the world because power is such a miserable reductive theory. It necessarily drove its inventor Nietzsche to madness after all.

    What this writer has finally realized is that one doesn’t have to accept power theory. One doesn’t have to take power as the only framework for understanding the world and our relationships in it.

    Power theory will inevitably denigrate every single valued human characteristics that we have and revoke any worthwhile value to it. This includes concepts such as love and humour. Power theory is completely devoid of any sense of humour or sense of irony. This was all completely predictable once the new foundations of power ‘criticism’ had been established. 30 years ago I read how sociologists were sneaking into the work place to spy on power and I was interested to see how they would respond to seeing laughter and humour in the work place. It was entirely predictable that the only way they could theoretically cope with humour at work was to categorise and understand it as a form of ‘resistance’ and in this process jokes, laughter and humour were lost as being of any real human value. This was all miserably inevitable and predictable.

    At the same time I realised that this was also a strategic error and that one didn’t have to oppose power’s abuses in every single circumstance for all eternity in that there was also the possibility in denying power its power in principle and in doing this we could defeat its abuse everywhere permanently. Power is the last strand of the grand narratives of enlightenment that postmodernist philosophers have failed to successfully deconstruct. No one wants to place ‘power’ in question because everyone is in the habit of wanting it for their own ideas and their ‘prosecution’ which always seem to turn into their own dystopian abuses.

    Postmodernism must inevitable deconstruct power because it is committed to do so by its own principles even if it does not realize that it is entirely compelled into writing power’s death and then analysing the world in those terms. All of this must take place as the necessary extensions of postmodernism’s theoretical foundation. That foundation is that there is no such thing as the autonomous human subject in the modernist common sense view of the term. By extension if there is no autonomous subject then postmodernism has also been forced to conclude that there is no such thing as the ‘Author’ in the modernist common sense views of them. To be logically consistent then once postmodernism and poststructuralism have deconstructed the Author then it must necessarily follow that the concept of ‘authority’ also needs to be deconstructed as that is directly tied to the principle of the Author. Once the notion of ‘authority’ is deconstructed then the notion of ‘power’ will be deconstructed with it. It is inevitable that this will happen as postmodernism and poststructuralism must adhere to their principles whether they like it or not. They have just not realized it yet.

    • Peter from Oz says

      Great point about the fact that the SJW creed is built on the binary of oppressor/oppressed. The interesting thing is that at the same time one lot of SJWs are claiming that there are more than 2 genders. They fight hard against binary thinking when it is right and struggle to impose binary thinking when it is wrong

    • Melvin Backstrom says

      Thank you for that excellent comment. You expressed a lot of my own ideas but complimented with news ones beautifully.

      • Thank you for a very kind response. To underline what I have it is interesting to see an article today on the BBC as to how a stand up comedian asked to perform at a University event was asked to sign a behavioural agreement before he performed. He refused and why would any stand up comedian subject themselves to performing before an audience which is only interested in policing everything they say. Its a dystopian nightmare of power’s reason that end up with everyone in the position of Joseph K in Kafka’s The Trial – trying to defend themselves against accusations they just don’t understand.

        https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/newsbeat-46541002

  16. Dazza says

    Great article. Those years as a radical thinker weren’t wasted, just part of your evolution.

  17. “When I became an anarchist I was 18, depressed, anxious, and ready to save the world.”

    How did you become an anarchist at a mere 18? Who did this to you? Normally it takes a university education to produce the mess called you. I suspect that high school teachers were pointing you in this radical direction, then you did a lot of reading on your own. You probably didn’t go to church, and your parents were off on some distant land – at least mentally.

    Your life is a mess but you are going to lead us to the promised land. Glad to see that you got out of that delusion.

    • ga gamba says

      Not answering for the author, and I didn’t fall off the face of the earth into a communal-living cult, but for me the gateway was music – hardcore bands such as Chaos UK, Anti-Flag, Crass, Subhumans, and Oi Polloi. I really embraced the DIY ethos of punk because it was kids going it for themselves, such as organising shows, releasing tapes/CDs, making flyers, doing art, etc, and did so long before the personal computer was commonly available. From this emerged other subcultures such as straight edge, inspired by the band Minor Threat and whose adherents later took intolerance of unorthodoxy to a whole other disturbed level. Add Animal Liberal Front ideas to straight edge and the result was toxic. Thought policing and worse I thought violated the spirit of things. In the eyes of some I erred and was even a poseur because I continued on playing rugby and other sports – many of these antis despise organised sports.

      I would not agree teachers pointed us in this direction; barring drug use they seemed oblivious to anything else commonly deemed antisocial. We were more than capable of getting into mischief on our own.

      • Ironically those bands like Crass were obnoxious and middle class exploiters in the extreme. Crass told their adoring fans to leave school, question everything , ‘fight the system’ and give up. Even though the leaders of Crass Penny Rimbeau and G Sus were both middle class University art lecturers with the benefit of an extensive English education who managed to get popular and make money with their pious moralising and tediously naïve politics.

      • V 2.0 says

        I lived with someone like this (punk, Marxism, Foucault, an unwholesome love for Paul Piccone and Telos). It eventually killed him, partly because taking care of your health was somehow too mainstream and partly because taking any sort of positive action was not only impossible (because society) but also a betrayal of all things revolution. This was a guys who would gladly go to a Marxist study group in some dank basement than come hiking with me on a beautiful summer day (how depressing is that!). Every attempt at helping him spawned more excuses until a simple act like cooking dinner was deemed too stressful and onerous (he had important books to read after all while all I did was sit in my cubicle pretending to work all day). It took me way too long to figure out that he was in love with his misery and that he and his friends were essentially members of a cult. It was a shame really. He was not a stupid person, just someone who came across some bad ideas at just the wrong time in his life.

        • Melvin Backstrom says

          I’ve known more than a few people like this. It’s so sad.

        • stevengregg says

          Some people are afraid to succeed. If they make the effort to succeed and fail, then it’s their fault and it’s crushing. It’s safer, psychologically, to blame the world for making it impossible to succeed. That way, you don’t have to try. You can hole up in your misery as a martyr. Being a martyr is easier than proving yourself a failure.

          • ccscientist says

            I remember being 18 and being afraid to succeed–things seemed so difficult, overwhelming. I was resentful of successful people too. Painting houses cured me of all that and I went back to school.

      • D.B. Cooper says

        @Ga Gamba

        Not answering for the author, and I didn’t fall off the face of the earth into a communal-living cult, but for me the gateway was music

        The operative phrase in this cryptic confession is: but for me the gateway

        What do you mean ‘gateway’? Gateway to what? Where did this music give ingress to exactly? While I’m pleased to hear you managed to eschew the communal-living cults during your enigmatic fall – an achievement I, apparently, have hitherto taken for granted as being one of the easier destinations to abstain from (Rule #1: communal-living = women who don’t shave) – it is nevertheless the case, per Newton’s apple, you eventually fell to somewhere, to some place; and if the marching bands to Hell Subhumans and Oi Polloi are any indication of where you landed, I’m willing to bet cents to dollars it wasn’t a damn sight better than the community of hairy women you so assiduously avoided.

        I have to admit, this is somewhat shocking, considering I’ve generally known you to be right on all the important questions (from what I read). They say knowledge rests on the teachings of experience, and while that may be true, I’ve never heard anyone say it rested on stupidity.

        If I’m honest, where this really becomes a problem for me is when I consider that much of my decision-making processes requires a heuristic derived from mental constructs (schemata) – of past experiences/observations – which has sufficient conceptual coherence to facilitate “reasonably” accurate/useful expectations, beliefs, judgements, and/or interpretations of others from inference.

        I mention this b/c your fairly vague admittance of having former affiliations with, what I must imagine was the most unsavory group of unnamed associates this side of a Scottish/English anarcho-punk rock band the smell of cabbage comes to mind; has introduced an indeterminate measure of ‘noise’ (via your role incongruity) into what was otherwise a rather useful heuristic (for stereotyping people). Prior to this little non-confession, confession, I was pretty sure you weren’t the fifth columnist you’re, now, giving every appearance of being. It’s like I don’t even know you anymore. And, worse, this entire comment section feels a bit more slippery than it did just minutes ago.

        So, Benedict Arnold, returning to the point in question, are we talking ‘Weather Underground’ type affiliations here; or was it something with a slightly less domestic terrorist feel to it (‘Animal Liberal Front’ does not qualify). I mean, it’s hard to imagine Chaos UK and Anti-Flag were about the business of signing up kids for their local 4H Club before and after concerts, now were they? Tell us, Gamba the turncoat, what kind of dissident behavior were you trafficking in against Queen and Country?

        • O. R. Ange says

          May I first say that the article was terrific and one of the best reads I’ve seen at Quillette since I’ve started browsing about a year ago. Secondly, there’s always something enjoyable within the banter of Messrs. Gamba and Cooper.

        • ga gamba says

          It’s an amusing comment. The Benedict Arnold quip had me giggle. The gateway to anarchist ideas was music. You have to realise this started when I was 13-year-old teenager; we’re kind of allowed to explore a bit, aren’t we? As I mentioned I especially enjoyed the DIY aspects of it. In a world where everything was either done or supervised by adults, having something outside that was fascinating to me. And I really disliked popular music.

          The punk community had an intriguing paradox. Many advocated far leftist causes, yet those who were actually doing things were very entrepreneurial and weren’t looking to authority figures, the 4H Club, or even the Rotarians to subsidise them. I never looked to Jello Biafra for an economics lesson, but even he was astute enough to write lyrics in Holiday in Cambodia that satirically took the piss out of the authoritarian leftist intellectuals and activists. So you’ve been to school for a year or two, and you know you’ve seen at all…

          Admittedly, I’ve always liked the libertarian strains of both right and left. It’s authoritarians who turn my blood cold. Sadly, but inevitably, it’s the authoritarian entryists and chancers who spy an opportunity to seize influence and inflict doctrine. I presume you’re read my prior comments where I exhort socialists and radfems to show me a proof a concept by organising and managing self-sufficient communities that adhere to their principles. Where’s today’s Oneida Community? Other than kibbutzes in Israel, many of which really aren’t self-sufficient, the best they demonstrate presently is Slab City in the California desert, which is a group of moochers and vagabonds living in derelict structures and making art comprised of broken bottles and other rubbish. Hell, if teens and young adults aged 13 to 22 can organise and sustain an interesting cultural movement surely well-educated adults have the talents and resources to surpass that, haven’t they?

          Tell us, Gamba the turncoat, what kind of dissident behavior were you trafficking in against Queen and Country?

          I’ve always liked Prince Philip. The rest of firm leave me flat. Still, Liz is safe and sound, surviving the poorly played yet enthusiastic music of 16-year-olds. And if you’ve ever associated with rugby footballers, we’re much more degenerate.

          It’s like I don’t even know you anymore.
          I apologise for throwing you for a loop and I hope it wasn’t distressing.

          • D.B. Cooper says

            @Gamba the Estranged

            You have to realise this started when I was 13-year-old teenager; we’re kind of allowed to explore a bit, aren’t we?

            Ah, yes, the intemperance of the young. It seems the trappings of youth are as reflexive on your side of the pond as they are mine. Mr. Shaw was right, youth is wasted on the young.

            I presume you’re read my prior comments where I exhort socialists and radfems to show me a proof a concept by organising and managing self-sufficient communities that adhere to their principles.

            Indeed, I have; which is probably why I was caught stiff-legged upon discovery. Not in shock or anger, mind you. But at the realizing the opportunity that this information would afford to me – and if, right now, you’re thinking this has suddenly taken a cynical bent, worry not, you’re tracking me just fine (queue ominous music). You see, Gamba, knowing what I’ve read from you, I was fairly certain – via my heuristic processes, remember! – you held to a set of guiding principles that you would not easily be divorced from, and further, that you would likely take exception to any suggestion that you might be as ethically fickle and asymmetrically informed as those you so regularly, take the piss out, to borrow a phrase. And who said, stereotypes don’t have predictive power…

            Frankly, if I would’ve thought otherwise, I would’ve never wasted my time writing the comment in the first place. Where’s the utility in that? There is none. If I would’ve seriously thought, for even a moment, you were anything like those I took great care to suggest you might be, what would’ve been the most likely outcome of me writing that comment? Pssh, it’s a rhetorical question. It is an indisputable fact, I dare say, that ‘true believers’ of the Left would have either not responded at all; or would have responded with some dreary procession of ineffectual claims of privilege or racism or the like; which they derive from the dust bin of not even wrong. Honestly, what value is there in that? Again, rhetorical.

            Hell, if teens and young adults aged 13 to 22 can organise and sustain an interesting cultural movement surely well-educated adults have the talents and resources to surpass that, haven’t they?

            Yes, such people certainly can, and they have, many times over. Just to name two, you may have heard of them, they were once called England and America. Of course, they still answer to such, but they are anything but the cultural movements that they once were, or so I’m told. And, now, each for reasons not entirely different – failure to balance the tension btw personal freedom and the common good, to take one example – have devolved into a rapacious state of self-sabotaging mission creep.

            I’ve always liked Prince Philip.

            I, too, am a big fan of P-squared. Forgive me gossiping, but I understand Philip was somewhat of a hound in his day; which to look at him – uh, bless it – it’s rather surprising, just to be frank, to find out that dog would hunt, so to speak.

            And if you’ve ever associated with rugby footballers, we’re much more degenerate.

            I’ve never been around the sport much (or at all), but I do have a rather extensive background in social degeneracy. I grew up in chronic poverty in the rural South. All the stereotypes that are involuntarily popping into your head, would almost certainly apply. But just to give you a frame of reference, the conditions in which I grew up in was not, I would think, too dissimilar from an Irish traveler out your way. Of course, we didn’t travel. We stayed in one spot.

            I apologise for throwing you for a loop and I hope it wasn’t distressing.

            No worries, GG, I’m already planning on getting over it sometime tomorrow. Absolution will be yours.

          • ga gamba says

            which to look at him [Phil] – uh, bless it – it’s rather surprising, just to be frank, to find out that dog would hunt, so to speak.

            I suppose you’ve never seen a photo of Philip in his youth. Though not dreamy, a handsome bloke, and not of the way one’s own mum judges such things. A solid 7/10. Some might give him an 8.

      • Peter from Oz says

        I joined the original punk movement as a musician in 77. For a lot of us upper middle class twits it actually was a right wing, fuck you hippy shits sense of freedom that egged us on.
        We were reacting against all those dinosaurs of the 60s and early 70s

        • ga gamba says

          Johnny Ramone probably being the most noteworthy right winger of that era. I suppose Fear and Agnostic Front too. Would you count your Cosmic Psychos in that group? I wouldn’t consider them political myself; more a Vitamin B drinking, gun shooting, skirt chasing group of working-class farmers. There was certainly an anti-hippie sentiment amongst punks of all allegiances. Also ridiculed was prog rock, guitar solos that lasted more than a few seconds, and the synthesizer.

  18. To really know the truth, you have to have believed the lie.

    • Suddenly Suzanne says

      “To really know the truth, you have to have believed the lie.”

      –Saul of Tarsus

      • Excellent brief Biblical reference (2 Thessalonians 2 – go read all of it now). Sounds like someone is saved. Amen! Hallelujah!
        ~
        2 Thessalonians 2: 13 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers [& sisters] beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. 14 To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.
        ~

  19. In a further note to my previous comment, this piece perfectly illustrates the futility of critical power theory and exposes the fact that its world view is driving its morally and ethically decent students to unbearable depression and suicide and driving its immoral and unethical students to extremes of revolutionary violence. All critical power theory creates is social division on the most violent terms that it can manufacture.

    What of the moral and ethical responsibility of educators to only give children this reductive view of the world and not offer them a range of views in which they could possibly interpret themselves and the world? The ‘truth’ of power is the only thing on offer and there are no alternatives presented. Power and its views are consequently ‘forced’ upon them.

    How can you ethically teach such a narrow political subject when you know that it will reduce your students to abject misery, suicide or and produce them as being generally unable to cope with social reality? This is the price that many of their students are now paying for the ‘gift’ of power’s views.

    This is not responsible teaching as it treats its students as experimental guinea pigs without any care for the outcomes and despite the fact that its objections of power’s functioning do not make any political sense anyway. One thing you can be sure of is that these enlightened teachers will accept no responsibility for any of this suffering and violence because it is what they are actually seeking. Power theory is not in the business of resolving conflicts nor is it interested in any process of mediation or in extremis, when it comes to transgender identity politics to close its conclusions to any kind of discussion whatsoever. Critical power theory is purely motivated on its own terms to actually create and amplify conflicts in general in order to produce a spectacle or ‘truth’ of power’s functioning, but it was power theory itself that taught, fabricated and amplified the conflicts in the first place.

  20. Rendall says

    I found myself in this world, too, from the late 80s to the late 90s, and did not fully deprogram until the 9/11 Attack. This article absolutely resonates with my experience. I kind of got into it hoping to have fun, but found myself immersed in a kind of grim paranoia. I often found myself hoping the revolution* would come so i could finally start to have some non-problematic fun**.

    Anecdotally, in all those years i never once met an anarchist who got along with their father, unless that father were already an anarchist. Never. Not once.

    * I always firmly believed in non- violent, emergent revolution, so
    ** by ‘fun’ I mean genuinely good, clean, unaffected, unself-conscious fun and humor that most people have access to. Not so, the woke. Hard to have fun when everything is problematic.

    • frances says

      In the 60s and 70s we had ‘Left’, ‘Lefter Than Thou’ (the shamers) and ‘unreconstructed’ (everyone else, our moral inferiors). We were deprogrammed by reality and the 80s. Same grim imprisonment though. The good old days! The problem now is that the institutions have been captured so comprehensively that there’s not much reality left to act as a check. We never imagined anything quite as joyless and pathological as this.

    • V 2.0 says

      Yeah…I stuck a toe into this world because four years at university studying English literature convinced me that I needed to live some sort of bohemian lifestyle and that this lifestyle would be exiting. It was the saddest, most boring world I have ever encountered.

    • BrownBear says

      We seem like kindred spirits.

      I was of the crusty punk mold. I left simply because of the intersectionality. I can still remember when Earth First was anti-immigrant and the Left was genuinely anti-globalist. Hell, today being anti-global is apparently anti-semitic.

      I think I cared more about true diversity, human and animal, rather than the claims of the oppression stack. Once the trannies and PoC became the focus rather than sustainable lifestyles and anti-materialism I left.

      There is still so much I loved about the lifestyle, at some level, at least during my time that was so genuine and compassionate. We also had lots of good pot.

      Would I still care to Smash the State and Liberate the Earth. Sure! Today I guess I would be considered a third positionist.

      For the record, I did and do get along with my Father.

  21. William Ray says

    Very well written. Your from Montreal Mr Barnes? I worked with CUTV there. Great writing I watched this from just outside I was in rooms with the CLAC et al but as an observer. Look forward to seeing more of your stuff

  22. Barney Doran says

    Should be required reading on every college campus…starting with administrators.

  23. Jean-Louis Lalonde says

    So the author admits he escaped his cult/autobrainwash by opening his mind to reality. So a simple Audi Alteram Partem opened the door to his freedom.

  24. George G says

    Great Article.

    I’d be really interested in a follow up article focusing on the deprogramming / realisation. I think Connor is exactly right that this and a lot of these modern identity movements are cults. Connor states that essentially the straw that broke the camels back for them was they were asked to believe something so egregious they just couldn’t and that let in some light to analyse their beliefs.

    1 I wonder how Connors experience can be expanded to help others? Do these cults just have to be left to run their course and eventually members will leave of their own accord as the demands the cults place on members become more extreme?

    2 Or is there anything that can be done to help the indoctrinated get out early? Or intervene early to stop them tumbling down the rabbit hole in the first place ? ( a lot of the malaise that led to this path for Connor sound like standard teenage stuff so I don’t think that they were especially susceptible )

    3 does anyone have good resources / research on cult deprogramming in general?

    answers on a post card please, all thoughts welcome.

    • Rendall says

      I can’t speak for the author, but for me, I was just so sick and tired of being broke all the time and struggling to come up with my share of the tiny rent for a dirty, over-crowded apartment. Also never having any fun; dealing with so many Byzantine rules on what to say and how to say it; and everyone was sooo boooring. I kept thinking there were interesting, cool, fun-loving anarchists out there who had everything figured out, but once I understood that I would never, ever find those people I jettisoned that baggage, moved out of that town and started living the life I had kept believing freaking anarchists would show me.

      There are folks who would say something snide like “Well, it’s great that you have the privilege to get the life you wanted, not everyone does.” But the thing is: if privilege exists, then it’s privileged to wallow when you actually can make things better for yourself. *That* is privilege

      No, I have no advice on how to get the woke to cut the nonsense, any more than I have advice to get fundamentalist Christians to stop believing that the Earth is 6 millenia old or that gays will doom civilization. It is the same conundrum. If you solve one then you solve the other.

      • George G says

        @Rendall

        Thanks for your thoughts, glad to hear you’re on a good path.

        How did / do you find interacting with people from that previous life?
        Are they receptive to your reasons for leaving, did they cease all communication etc?
        (your privilege comments give me the impression that some resent that you got out of your own accord and want to diminish your accomplishments.)

        I take your point that there is no magic bullet, but any insights you have about things that got you to question the beliefs you held would be useful. I think quillette is a good place, and god knows there’s been plenty of articles identifying the problems with identity politics here, but I’d like them to move beyond that and start proposing a way forward.

        • Rendall says

          @George

          When I left town, I did visit occasionally. It’s not like I publicly renounced anarchism in front of everyone or something, but slowly my evolving attitudes became known, because I wasn’t shy about them. I discovered that not a few had already long felt similarly as I did, but stuck around because their only friends were in the scene. A close friend who is a True Believer asked jokingly / semi-seriously “who had gotten to me”. But generally, no, there was no hate directed at me by my close friends.

          Some outside of my close circle though, definitely acted weird around me, but I didn’t pay much attention. I know there was at least one awful rumor being spread about me by a lover’s ex. I didn’t really care at that point although I did lose at least one friend whom I quite liked because *other* people were angry at her for hanging out with me. It hurt a little, but I figure that if a friend doesn’t hear me out before accepting a rumor as true, they are not actually friends and never were. Choose better friends.

          I want to add a little addendum to my testimony: Romance and dating is completely fraught in that scene. Men are automatically assumed to be toxic, so men have to work hard to be as non-threatening as possible; a metoo style accusation will automatically be believed by everyone who hears it, because women never lie about that; it is known that everyone is bisexual, so you if you are straight, then you are an oppressor; everyone is broke and suspicious of success and dresses like crap, so actual attractiveness is rare. This trans stuff wasn’t happening when I was deep into the scene, but became a total fad after I left. Don’t call it a fad, though, because hoo boy. Seems like everyone was coming out as trans or gender-fluid. I have no idea how that mixes into the ‘romance’ arena, but I bet it actually makes things easier, less complicated.

          It boggles my mind that this little sub-culture – I mean, we felt like complete outsiders – has become so mainstream. This was the revolution I had thought would make things more fun and fair.

          • @Rendall Your comment stuck out to me. Thought provoking, so I wanted to take a minute or two to respond. Solomon, one of the world’s wisest men, wrote the Book of Proverbs. If only to get some wisdom, go read the whole thing. For instance: “Proverbs 18:24 A man [or woman] of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. *OR* One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”[or sister] (this friend is, of course, God/Jesus/Holy Spirit). You were made for friendship with God. God does not just want us to know ABOUT Him; He wants us to KNOW him completely – and to experience His friendship. “John 15:15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” To be called Jesus’s servant is an immeasurable privilege. Yet Jesus confers a greater honor. He brings us even closer. He calls us friends. Get Jesus as your friend first, then God will bring you into a right circle of friends while you’re here in this world. May God bless you alway.

  25. For what it’s worth, the most valuable means to my own detoxification was reading Leszek Kolakowski. I have yet to find anything as potent as his critique of Marxism. Afte Kolakowski, there was no going back to any form of radical egalitarianism.

  26. D L Reynolds says

    Outstanding, superbly argued and written. Thank you.

  27. John Munson says

    “No worldview maps reality perfectly. But when a worldview encounters discordant knowledge, it can either evolve to accommodate it, or it can treat it as a threat to the worldview’s integrity. If a worldview treats all discordant knowledge as threat, then it is an ideology.”

    Very interesting distinction between “worldview” and “ideology”… I kinda like it.

  28. Richard says

    What a fantastic article! I am battling my 24 YO daughter who IS a radical. So much wisdom here, I am sending this to her with my love. My hope is for her to gain some wisdom but she is so embedded in this lifestyle, I bet she throws this right back in my face.

    • xyz and such says

      please let us know how it plays out… I’d be curious to hear how this lands with someone like that.

    • Suddenly Suzanne says

      @Richard:

      I was talking with an old friend today, and he is in a similar situation with his son. He is a man who has seen true oppression (ethnic Russian, grew up behind the Iron Curtain), and he’s baffled that his son, who lives in such a relative paradise, doesn’t understand the world better.

      I’ll tell you the same thing I told him, in case it’s useful: arguing and opposing such things can make them stronger. Radicalism thrives on criticism. Criticism validates radicalism. While this article may help your daughter, she may also feel attacked (as you seem to have a premonition of).

      There was a man who was a radical himself and did quite a lot of damage. When he was de-radicalized, he wrote a great deal on the nature of radicalism. He believed that love–which you mention–was the true antidote to radicalism, along with patience. This is his most famous observations on the topic:

      https://biblehub.com/net/1_corinthians/13.htm

      People often recoil at the “religion” part of this; but if you read it instead as just a man with profound wisdom from experience, who was brutally beaten on five separate occasions by the radicals he used to be a part of, he turns out to have a lot to say.

      • Scroto Baggins says

        @Suddenly Suzanne:

        That’s really well pointed out actually. Interesting parallel, and I hadn’t thought of it that way before. But Paul was quite literally a “zealot” before he got knock off his ass.

        “De-radicalized” indeed! 😂

      • Opressessed Indigenous Neanderthal says

        @Suzanne, You spoil everything. I had a really good hate going about how dumb SJWs are and we are all doomed, and you go and pull out a paragraph I had completely forgotten, that would give Shakespeare an inferiority complex. You really harshed my high.

        I pulled out my copy to prove to myself that you were quoting out of context. It only added ego insult to injury, because I stumbled upon another one from the Donkey Diver. I’ll see you and raise you:

        “‘If possible for you, be at peace with all human beings. Do not exact justice for yourselves, beloved, but yield place before anger; for it has been written, “The exacting of justice will be mine, I will requite, says the Lord.” But rather, “If your enemy hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give him drink; for in doing this you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be vanquished by evil, but vanquish the evil with the good.” (Letter to the Romans, 12:18)

        Getting in an argument with Paul must have been incredibly frustrating:
        “F*** you!”
        “Okay. Want a burger and coke?”
        “ARRRRGGHH! Stuff it!”
        “So … fries with that?”

        The more things change, the more they stay the same. I’m still gonna hold you responsible for ruining my evening with compassion.

      • So great a response, Suzanne. God has given you wisdom & you communicate it so well.

  29. Victoria Norton says

    I continue to be blown away by the quality of writing here. This is another excellent piece!

  30. Nate D. says

    Damn, this piece was well-written. Big thanks Conor Barnes and to Quillette for giving him a platform. I look forward to the day when I can tell people, “I started reading Coleman Hughes and Conor Barnes way before they were best-selling authors. I started reading them way back when they were just students, writing for an upstart internet mag called Quillette.”

    Loved this line: “Infinite responsibility means infinite guilt, a kind of Christianity without salvation: to see power in every interaction is to see sin in every interaction.” I’ve said it here before, critical theory offers no road to redemption. It chains you to history, tattooing you with a scarlet letter that can never wash off, no matter how much you grovel.

    And this one: “Radicalism not only finds that all oppressions intersect, but so does all suffering. […] By accepting this framework, I surrendered to an external locus of control. […] And then, when I became an even less happy and less strong person over the years as an anarchist, I had an explanation on hand.” Surrendering your locus of control is tempting because it lets you off the hook for your own choices. But you must also surrender your agency. It’s a deal with the devil.

    Keep writing Conor. Your voice is clear, and it is needed.

  31. Farris says

    Poetic
    Rebelling for the sake of rebellion. This is why today’s radicals have so many faux issues. Rebellions always fail, otherwise they would be revolutions. Beware those possessed with negative energy, they will always bring you down. Their goal is equality of misery. They wish all were as unhappy as themselves, hence the phrase “misery loves company”.
    Endeavoring to make the world a better place is a noble cause but it must be done constructively to be fruitful. Each day lived in bitterness is a day wasted.

    • And then there still is the rebel without a cause. Too much energy and naughty because of age. But maybe, not even an age old phenomenon.

  32. Your Morals are Eating your Mind

    This piece of meat that is Man’s brain, in her,
    Is a feasting ball of flesh-eating worms
    Fighting over one last, small, grey matter.
    They’ve chewed away her retinas and glare
    Through glassy corneas, hungrily watch.

    If you stand close (don’t stand too close!), you hear
    Their hiss & munch… like dry leaves being raked
    Or rattling machine guns miles away:
    “Worst… worst… worst…, Better better best best… Those…”
    If she were to tilt her head to one side,

    And you boxed her superior ear, squirmy
    Centipedes would drop onto her shoulder
    Which she would shrug off (because she can’t hold
    Even a bug’s weight there). You’ll see them scat
    Into any crack in her hardwood floor.

  33. georgopolis says

    What a fantastic article. I literally (in the literal sense of the word) got shivers reading this piece. While I was never fully swept into the tide of anarchy, anticapitalism and social justice, I did wade in the shallows in my late teens (which nowadays seem to last until the early twenties, and did in my case). Fortunately I was disillusioned early on due to being contrarian by nature. When I was engaged with some of these crowds, I too was struck by how suspiciously lock-step they were on so many issues.

    The comparison with religion is an apt one. What always struck me was unlike other religions, the price of membership is, as Hitchens once said, …”at the affordably low cost…of your critical faculties”. Furthermore, the cost of priesthood is similarly low, and to the malicious bad actor, the cost is negative. Priesthood is accomplished by denigrating others. This leads the movement to always be dominated by those most comfortable with putting people down; social sadists, if you will. The self perceived underdog rises to priesthood, delighting in the self-flagellation of cowering congregates.

  34. Paul Tyler says

    such a great article i cant properly express it in this space. i’ll touch on a few of my personal favorites though:

    ‘Slow, patient steps are a more reliable road to a better world than dramatic gestures that backfire as often as not. Conversation is less romantic than confrontation, small business ownership than Steal Something From Work Day, soup kitchens than vandalism.’

    this is the heart of the matter full stop. and its something i would have argued against when i was an Anarchist myself (about 99′ til 05′, aged 17 to 23). “what do we want?” “reform!” “when do we want it?” “Soon!” was a chant my friends and i would often sarcastically shout whenever we wanted to give the liberals and slowcialists a chide at a rally… i flat out didnt believe that incremental efforts could change anything and would have argued they instead reinforced the Spectacle/Capitalist system of domination. Now i hold the opposite view; i’m more likely to persuade people by showing them my example rather than telling it to them/demanding it from them.

    another thing the author discussed that paralleled with my experiences was in describing the “Accountability process”. to say that it is a playground that invites cynical people to exploit other well intentioned folks is putting it too lightly.

    all in all, i still believe that Sous Les Paves, La Plage… I just recognize we’ll only get there when people come to that realization on their own terms, rather than being shouted down into begrudging acquiescence.

    many thanks to the author for such a well written essay. i appreciated that he didnt indulge in any straw manning or unhelpful hyperbole. the self destructive nature of the radial left doesnt need any rhetorical flair or intellectual short cuts for it to be laid bare, it just takes a thoughtful and patient person to lay it out as it is.

  35. This is a remarkably mature analysis of the pitfalls of ideological thinking. Bravo to the author for hopefully awakening a crop of angry young turks to the dangers of tribal identity politics. There is truth on all sides. Open discourse and consideration of all viewpoints is essential for progress to be made in human hive societies.

  36. Michael Stanwick says

    Excellent piece based on someone’s observations and experiences within the radical SJW camp.
    I would very much like to know if the author has formulated any methods we (non-SJWs) can use to combat the tactics he has outlined here, and perhaps others not mentioned?

  37. Because in youth, with few (if any) world experiences, untested theories how about how people “ought to be” is just their tyranny, just their version of totalitarianism.
    Liberty and equality are hard because life/nature/Earth can be hard, and it’s easier to pretend that 7.5 billion individuals are all duped by magically powerful “rich greedy” people.

  38. As someone who teetered on the edge of joining radical leftist in-groups in my first couple years of college, every word of this is relatable. After taking sociology classes that spoke of nothing but how the world is on fire and it’s capitalism’s fault, anthropology classes that spoke of nothing but the destruction of indigenous cultures, and environmental science classes that spoke of nothing but impending doom, next I looked for a group of likeminded naive students who were all looking to save the world too. It got worse when I started dating anarcho-communist/socialist/feminist types (I feel dating radicals drastically expedites the radicalization process due to one conflating the romantic emotions attached to the person with the romanticization of their absurd ideology).

    I got out when they started policing my speech (pronouns in particular) and encouraging me to go to classes to learn how to not be a racist misogynist, which I apparently automatically was as a cis white male. After that, I realized it was a cult and now here I am years later, a diehard reader of Quillette. Many will escape this, many will not. The defining factor? Mental health. This movement rests on a collective of people with no direction or purpose, with anxiety, with angst, with fear and paranoia. Just as with a theistic religion, we will not eliminate this movement until these factors are properly understood and addressed so that it’s devotees no longer need its dogma or its church.

    This was one of the best pieces I’ve read from Quillette.

    • Melvin Backstrom says

      Nice to read of others who have had such similar experiences to my own.

  39. I don’t know if I’ve ever read an essay with so many sentences worth memorizing. Bravo!

  40. ccscientist says

    Radicals suffer from an excess of idealism. They imagine an ideal world and by comparison are horrified at how imperfect this world is. Some become so angry that want to destroy society. What they fail to grasp is how tenuous civilization is and how horrific it would be to destroy it. Their destruction exists in an abstract space of destroying institutions, patriarchy, racism, etc but in the real world institutions are what holds it all together and enables people to live. If they succeed in “destroying wall street” the whole thing crashes and 300 million real people suffer and many die. The real world is not an abstraction. It is where real people live. Destroying the oil companies, a favorite bugaboo, would mean everything stops. The utopia of a world without fossil fuels does not yet exist and destroying Exxon would not cause magic to happen. Their compassion for the wrongs in life blinds them to the horrors that would ensue if their agenda was fulfilled.
    Life is full of ugly truths: you are going to die, politicians are corrupt, people lie and cheat. But it is also full of love and beauty. Railing against evil does not make you good and is not love.
    The ”monster” of Capitalism is so wrongly named. The true thing is free association and voluntary exchange. No one forces the grocery store to stock food for diabetics, salt free food, gluten free food, diet food, ethnic food—they do it to make people’s lives better because that is how you make money. And no one forces you to shop at that store—if you don’t like that store there are others. It is hard to see the “oppression” in this system. That not everyone is rich and happy has nothing to do with capitalism—and in fact more people are rich and happy under this system than under a brutal dictator or under socialism.
    There is no room in this mindset for friendships and mutual help. When my friend was complaining about an odd eye problem, all of us guys talking to him said “OMG man, go to doc immediately” and he did and he got surgery. My friends and I give each other advice on taxes, mortgages, health, home repairs. The ladies bring food to their sick friends. We get together and laugh. That is real life and is lots better than this oppression mindset. When people take care of their own business so that they never need government assistance and even provide jobs for others, this does lots more to “save the world” than burning things down.
    The author notes that radicals reject a world that “tolerates such suffering” but the truth is more difficult. It is that perfection of actual humans is very difficult, and some attempts to do so lead to rigid systems that destroy people: think of the witch trials as an example or the current internet mobs who destroy people for a thoughtless tweet when they were 15.
    In actual religion, one can gain satisfaction about being saved by your personal relationship to God, and gain social approval by showing up at church and giving generously (etc). But for radicals, satisfaction and status can only be gained by rioting and hating on others. Not the same thing.

    • Georgopolis says

      Very well said. Unfortunately when you try and point to the contra positive of this gloomy world we live in, people feel angry rather than relieved.

    • Erica from The West Village says

      Jordan Peterson walks through these paths in his book The Twelve Rules for Life.

      Heaven and Hell are real, as is Yin & Yang. Over the past 300,000,000 years, we have had a constant struggle in Nature between organization and order vs. chaos. There is a fine line between the two and every person has a personal responsibility to find their path back to organization and order and out of the depths of despair that chaos reigns on them. Those who can’t make it back become suicidal, homicidal, or just plain maniacal.

      In the absence of meaning traditionally provided to children through organized religion, young people will turn to some amazingly odd things that attempt to explain the bigger questions in life. Sadly, some end up taking the path of anarchy and revolution for the sake of anarchy. Some never find a path out.

      This should serve as a reminder to parents that your children are malleable and can be stolen from you by these fortune tellers selling magical elixir from the back of their black backpacks. Giving your kid intestinal fortitude and helping them answer big questions earlier in their life will prevent your little snowflake from joining the campus radicals intent on tearing apart 300 million years of hierarchical structure by the end of the semester.

      • Paul Tyler says

        I appreciate where you’re coming from, but 300 million years of, competency based heirarchies? Sorry, but guns germs & steel (& stone & bronze) get the credit for the first 299.99 million years, not competency.

  41. While I strive for empathy at all times, I had never thought to have sympathy for radical leftists … empathy, though evasive, has genuine value and purpose almost all of the time, where sympathy for someone you have no direct individual relationship with is typically debilitating and often counterproductive … but after reading this, perhaps I should have at least a little for these people.

    The disposition of the far leftist, as with any ideologically driven zealot, is delusional and insecure by it’s very nature … yet it had never occurred to me to consider that that ideological self-deception might actually be a self-imposed prison no different than any other tribally driven desperation.

    For better or worse, I still associated leftism, even such absurd mental cull-de-sacs as intersectionality, third wave feminism, or critical theory, with the basic precepts of liberalism … and now that I see that bias, I realize where so many of my frustrations and failures stemmed from.

    This amazingly deep and thorough perspective on the life of the activist leftist really sheds light on the fear, the pain, and the desperate need for love and human connection that drives EVERYONE, and how some peoples insecurities and good intentions can mix and intermingle to turn them into the very demon they believe they are striving to defeat.

    This is both an interesting quasi-anthropological insight into a subculture we rarely get a view of, and a stirring and demanding emotional depiction of life under the tyranny of compassion.

  42. It is impossible to create a world that isn’t a reflection of ourselves. It is the only imprint that we will leave. If you’re a positive or loving person, you will have a positive impact. If you’re a negative person, you will embrace negative politics and become destructive. Often, we are a confused mix, or start out this way, as the article described vividly. However, other anarchists started from a different place and followed a different path. Somehow, I must believe that the spirit of Emma Goldman lives among us, even in the present dreariness.

  43. Yep, eager radicalism in general doesn’t accomplish anything. Now, if you care about precise and genuine leftist critique and activism, here’s Ralph Nader (who Nassim Taleb dedicated Skin in the Game to) explaining exactly how corrupt corporate structures are in the United States and how basic critiques expose how tilted the rule of law is toward the wealthy and powerful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXx4oUx8nZM

  44. Good Reason says

    ” . . . an anthropomorphized figure that ‘works to usher its subjects into flimsy relationships where nothing is at stake and to infuse intimacy with violence and domination.'”

    I’ve never seen a better definition of the “whore of all the earth.”

  45. Wonderful piece. I’ll add that SJWism tends to attract people with depression or other mental illnesses. It’s seductive precisely because it encourages all the things that depressed people should be avoiding (catastrophizing, assuming the worst, etc.). It’s like having an alcoholic hang out in bars all the time.

  46. Erica from The West Village says

    Looks like the good professor (Jonathan Haidt) has saved a soul.

    Kudos.

    Now onto tomorrow, where hopefully another radical can be pulled away from the abyss.

    #WalkAway

  47. Morgan Foster says

    “Having somebody yell at me that if I didn’t admit to being a white supremacist her friends might beat me up and that I should pay her for her emotional labor, was too much for my ideology to spin.”

    Ultimately, this is where all social justice activism leads: “White men, give me money.”

  48. Cornfed says

    This was one fine piece. Many thanks to the author and to Quillette.

  49. Suddenly Suzanne says

    @Pablo Chihuahua:

    It can be infuriating when someone who made mistakes suddenly gets adulation for a piece of newfound wisdom, when you have been doing the right thing all along with not a note of thanks:

    “… the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let us feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again! He was lost and is found!’ So they began to celebrate.

    The older son became angry and refused to go in … he answered his father, ‘Look, all these years I have served you and never disobeyed a commandment of yours. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours returns from squandering your wealth with prostitutes, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

    ‘Son, you are always with me,’ the father said, ‘and all that is mine is yours. But it was fitting to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” (KATA LUKAN 15:11)

    Sorry, I’m just in a New Covenant mood tonight, I guess.

  50. Charles G says

    Absolutely excellent piece. I have a lot more actual compassion for activist types now – in that I feel like I finally understand them. I’ve been waiting and wanting to understand them instead of just feeling angry and annoyed. That the writer was able to do this is a big deal.

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  52. Gordon Hamel says

    I can tell the author is still very uninformed because of the way he described his support of left wing causes as “anarchist.” There’s nothing anarchist about the left, as they consistently argue for new taxes and more government regulation. This is very basic stuff that you should know before you start writing op eds.

    • ccscientist says

      The author specifically was hanging out with anarchists–think Antifa–not the Left in general.

  53. Paul Izzo says

    Listening to the Rush Limbaugh show for six weeks would be an effective deprogramming tool for anarchists. It’s on from 12-3 PM weekdays. Expect him to be absent a lot. He’s gone Johnny Carson and has fill in hosts often.

    • Rendall says

      Listening to Rush Limbaugh would be no more effective for deprogramming leftist radicals than would listening to Michael Moore be for dittoheads. Such partisan pundits are excellent at rallying the troops and convincing the already convinced, but not at proffering reasoned, principled arguments.

  54. I read Ricoeur’s Essay on Freud when I was a radical student in the late 60s. He made the case brilliantly for the value of a hermeneutic of suspicion, all the while showing how it can be balanced by the equally important use of intuitive/spiritual approaches to deeper understanding. I especially appreciate the ways this essay explored how an ideology based on critical intelligence alone can become a prison cell. Congratulations on escaping from the mind-maze, Conor. I look forward to reading more of your work.

  55. Gregory S Richardson says

    Author sez:

    Infinite responsibility means infinite guilt, a kind of Christianity without salvation: to see power in every interaction is to see sin in every interaction. All that the activist can offer to absolve herself is Sisyphean effort until burnout. Eady’s summarization is simpler: “Everything is problematic.”

    I sez:

    Van Halen’s summarization is simplerer: “Might as well jump!”

  56. Haywood Smith says

    Eric Hoffer, The True Believer, 1951. I see some of the comments use the phrase. Hoffer, a self-taught longshoreman, understood these movements pretty well. For example: “People who see their lives as irremediably spoiled cannot find a worth-while purpose in self-advancement. The prospect of an individual career cannot stir them to a mighty effort, nor can it evoke in them faith and a single-minded dedication. They look on self-interest as on something tainted and evil; something unclean and unlucky. Anything undertaken under the auspices of the self seems to them foredoomed. Nothing that has its roots and reasons in the self can be noble and good. Their innermost craving is for a new life — a rebirth — or, failing this, a chance to acquire new elements of pride, confidence, hope, a sense of purpose and worth by an identification with a holy cause.” — P.21
    Of course such people are easy prey for manipulators. Cults operate on that basis.
    He also wrote this: “Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life.”

    • ccscientist says

      I read Hoffer in college 40 years ago and it helped me to avoid BS from then on. Simply brilliant.

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  59. DeplorableDude says

    Who would have known that the only thing an “anarchist” is expected to do is conform to someone else’s idea of what an “anarchist” is.

  60. Ellen says

    Most interesting to me was the notion of deconstructing power expressed above. After all, isn’t power is what this is all about. It is a sense of powerlessness looking to find strength or power in ideas that provide the belief in one’s superiority over others.

    The author does a great job of enlightening us why he is right now, and why his beliefs were wrong before. The result is a brilliant analysis, but only if you believe in such a thing as truth, right and wrong, good and evil. It is wrong to kill, to steal…it is good to give to others and to love, etc., etc.
    Knowledge is power and it is intoxicating for those who otherwise feel powerless.

    I believe that desire to know – to be right -ails all of us who have read thus far in this comment section. It is a catch-22 – as we cannot always be right. But it is always true that we believe ourselves to be right, otherwise we would not believe it. If my ideas are right and yours are wrong, then there is a small sense of pride, dare I say superiority. The sense of superiority comes regardless of whether my ideas are – in the universal scheme of things – right or if my ideas are wrong.

    But back to the point of deconstructing power. Orwell said, ““if you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever.” For some who are (or feel) powerless, it can only come by denigrating the worth of others. The need to feel a sense of worth, and to raise oneself up above others, is human and in all of us. And sadly, each of us is guilty of doing our own little part of stepping on the face of others to elevate ourselves.

    Any world belief that does not emphasize humility of self will ultimately fall prey to tribal rivalries. Jesus, if you believe, could have called upon angel armies, but went willingly to death for the sake of others. That is a deconstruction of power. I suggest that doing our best to be humble, and adopting the belief that least among us have worth as great as our own and doing our best to love our neighbors as ourselves is the solution to the problem. It is the antidote that allows every individual to make the world a better place. These beliefs which are held by many, not “capitalism”, are the reason why western civilizations lifts up so many. Money and things do not fill the soul.

    But it’s not a sexy belief system and requires effort. It’s like saying eat less and exercise more to lose weight. It is so obvious that it provides the giver no applause or sense of power in dispensing it.

    • Grant says

      We sat in churches every Sunday for generations being told over and over to love thy neighbor as thyself. It’s and impossible standard but merely trying makes great friends and neighbors.
      What’s replacing it is hard to put your finger on because it changes so rapidly. Still, many people try to do it even though they’re not hearing it all the time.
      This article is a story of people inhabiting the ends of the bell curve where they run straight into a brick wall and wonder what it’s doing there.
      It’s always been the case.

  61. Orion Buttigieg says

    “When I became an anarchist, I was a depressed and anxious teenager, in search of answers. Radicalism explained that these were not manageable issues with biological and lifestyle factors, they were the result of living in capitalist alienation.”
    I think Dr. Jordan Peterson offers good advice here….sort yourself out first before thinking you can sort out the world.
    My observations is speaking/debating people on business, economics, political theory, and even morality which always comes up (implicit or explicit) …is that many folks just have not unpacked things. The posses a barely cursory understanding of not just these subjects but how/why they view them in the ways they do.
    “Know thyself.” – it’ll go along way in creating better societies.

  62. Is it possible (or healthy) to grow up without being a radical in one or another field (e.g. environmental concern? social justice? animal cruelty?). Maybe it is, and I,m sure has lots to do with character. A selfish or timid person will not go through it.

    • Orion Buttigieg says

      Too many variables to consider especially since some of our political decisions/beliefs are rooted in biology (see Big 5 Traits). This would have to include assessing the family they’re being raised in AND how they’re being raised since you can have siblings raised differently in the same family.

    • Grant says

      The fact that a belief is radical means not many are thinking it.

  63. Walker Dollahon says

    This is a seriously good piece of writing. Some deep truths and penetrating insight here. Regarding the near evangelical and religious impulse of modern political activism I remember reading the personal accounts of 1920-30s era international socialist and Communist activists and also similar-era Christian missionaries working in Indo-China. The language, the expressed passions, the zeal, and arguments were almost identical.

  64. Social Justice Warriors always remind me of Terry Pratchett:s novel ‘Interestong Times”. I am reminded of when Rincewind was with the Red Army and they were telling him about overthrowing the government and how they were doing it for the peasants and farmers. Rincewond had sarcastlu suggested that no peasants or farmers would be on the ruling council and asked if anyone had asked the farmers what they wanted.
    Later, when Rincewond asked a farmer if he knew they were fightkng for him. And then he asked the farmers what it was he wanted. To which the farmer replied “a longer rope”. SJW tend to think they know better what the people they are supposedly helping want or need. They will even tell these people they don’t know what they need. For example, how they always claim that white working class voters are voting agy their interest by voting Republican.

  65. A very good piece, but I must take great exception to the implicit conflation of SJW radicalism with anarchism. There is something called anarcho-capitalism. The author should have specified Marxist or communistic anarchy.

    • Paul Tyler says

      no, anarcho-capitalism isnt a real thing, its just Objectivism. there is also no such thing as marxist anarchist. Anarchism and Marxism are antithetical to one another. Anarchism is rooted in the philosophy of Mikhail Bakunin who was an ardent critic of Marx.

  66. Skept-o-Punk says

    This is such a powerful article. More from Conor Barnes — it is stuff like this that makes me smarter personally and really will have an impact on our culture. Conor clearly lived it and survived it to tell the tale. I wonder how many simply sink into their despair, self-medicating until they’re living on the streets … or simply off themselves.

  67. Amazingly introspective study on radical thought. I suspect that radicals on the extreme right share a very similar psychology amidst a different set of ideas.

  68. I don’t know whether it has been mentioned already above, but the “yellow cardigans” uprising in Paris, and the way Macron tries to stop/control them is also something noteworthy. I’ve not before in my life seen a radical uprising of left AND right together. It’s also not clear for me what it’s all about. One thing noted by journalists: the professional radicals are not caught by police (they know exactly when and where to appear) but seem to have a large influence on the happenings, and also are from outside Paris. Specialism at work??
    And maybe, these are not even idealists of some kind. The game aspect, of course, is also relevant.

  69. This is one of the very best articles on here and very insightful. It helped me to much better understand the phenomen and how some of the younger people got to where they are

  70. Rendall says

    I found this article from Slate Star Codex “The Economic Perspective on Moral Standards” to be a nice complement to this article. From the anarchist perspective, complying with capitalism and the patriarchy is to be resisted at every single step, and doing so even a little bit means that you do not rate on the scale of “good”, and since everyone has to on some level a little bit, whether it’s to have a bank account, pay for electricity, have a job, see a doctor, then no one is actually good. But if you try, you might be “more good” than others, though still not actually good.

    http://slatestarcodex.com/2018/11/16/the-economic-perspective-on-moral-standards/

  71. payton says

    I think this article alone might have just converted me away from anarchism…

  72. Afer scrolling superficially through the reactions, I don’t see much sympathy for radicals. I feel sorry for parents with a radical kid (for some ideal), but, let me come forward with something different. The good radical! December 1989. Bucuresti, Romania.
    Mass demonstration, organised to hail the national boss, the dictator, legal power, for quite some time. A speech, with the words….. “I want to thank the initiators and organisers of this great event……” and then, somebody in the crowd shouted BOOOOOOOOOH. Seconds later, another one boohed, and the whole crowd started boohing, within a week Ceauscescu and his dear Helena were shot dead.
    End of a system, a socioeconomic structure, an ideology. Now, if ever you can call somebody a radical, then this boooooh initiator was the one (his name is unknown), he was against a longstanding and working and legal system, but he boohed, and had success! It was a daring person, because, the Securitate was everywhere, but he boohed, as a radical, and he won. Most radicals loose, like, for example, Spartacus. But, sometimes, you win, and assist in changing the system. For the general good!!!

  73. That was brilliant – as a former anarchist I so resonate with the description. One query: I get how Marx and Freud get us down a rabbit hole of criticality, one in society the other in the mind, but I don’t see how Nietzsche does it. Enlighten me please!

  74. Caleb says

    Wow, great analysis.
    My interaction with radical ideology has been through reading radical thought from Christian radical thinkers and practitioners.
    Thank you for pulling back the curtain Conor.

  75. Conor, this was a great expose of the cultism that seems always to creep in to groups that want radical change. Excellent! I’ll be sharing it around.

    I have a question for you, since I’m not plugged into the scene very well.

    Do you know of anyone, living or not, who advocated the abandonment of authority itself and explored what post-authoritarian society might look like?

    By abandon, I mean founding human relations at all levels on a peer basis instead of a supremacist basis, according to principles that are antithetical to rules, rulers and ruling.

    I’m doing a study and can’t find a single one. Plus, if anyone is headed that direction, I’d love some company.

    • @Millard: Try to find a copy of Living my Life, of Emma Goldman. It does not record her role as an anarchist in the Spanish Civil War (she was over 65 at the time), but explains what she would put in practice in that war.

    • Hey Mr. Melnyk. Look for Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard, his student. They build strong cases for anarchism (Rothbard), or at most minarchism (Mises), based on liberty and capitalist economics. (Friedrich Hayek was also Mises’ student.)

      • therealguyfaux says

        Rothbard is best remembered, if at all, for an observation he made about economists, but which is one that has wider applicability; paraphrased, it’s more or less, “What [academics] are actually good writing about doesn’t really interest them, and what really does interest them is something they are actually not good writing about.”

        • @therealguyfaux:
          Best remembered by whom? People who haven’t read his many great works (which unfortunately includes those who dismiss or sneer at “different” ideas without even wanting to understand them, which, again unfortunately, is the majority of people).

  76. german axel Aquila says

    This is such a great piece. Thank you so much Conor. Keep it up

  77. It’s a nice analysis I think the problem is that your experience doesn’t have anything to do with Anarchism. It seems that americans don’t really understand what it is, maybe is because of the culture that you’re living on or something like that.

    Anarchism doesn’t have anything to do with safe spaces, trigger warnings or any of those things. Maybe you could see what’s going on in South America, Italy and Greece to understand what this idea is all about. What you mention and the attitude to other “non-anarchists” is just progressism, that’s how the left thinks and acts. We are not the left and we don’t do that sort of stuff.

  78. Pooch says

    Quillette folks, please hook Conor up with Rubin or Rogan— his is a voice that needs to be heard far and wide. He has articulated the psychological underpinnings of the SJW movement that I’m sure many of us have intuited for some time but couldn’t quite validate.

    Much as I despise the radical left, I’ve always been uncomfortable with the lazy practice of tossing the words “evil” and “stupid” at them. Conor lays bare the emptiness of soul that really underpins their activism. Like all of us, they’re searching for meaning and purpose.

    Unfortunately, the path they’ve chosen in that search leads to a dead end of nihilism and despair. What else could there be when one’s entire worldview is based on victimhood, power, and oppression? When the world holds nothing but “victims” and “oppressors”, everything is a zero-sum game and peace is an illusion. And the truly unfortunate thing is their determination to take the rest of the world down with them.

    Thank you, Conor, for a beautifully written piece that offers invaluable insight into this mindset. Do you have thoughts on how to light a path out for others?

    • @Pooch Excellent comment. Agree with all of it. I dropped a note on Rogan’s page. Hope & pray he notices Conor & his amazing essay. I also get the sense that Conor has read some of Dr Jordan Peterson’s work &/or has seen some of his lectures online. I dropped a note on his page too. Just the fact that Conor was noticed and interviewed by Tucker Carlson shows that he’s on an upward move. To whom much is given, from him much is expected.
      ~
      Luke 12:48 … everyone to whom much was given of him much will be required & from him to whom they entrusted much they will demand the more
      ~

  79. Vicki Huston says

    Incredible article! Very well written. I, too, was a liberal who was red-pilled many years ago. Just today I was sharing a thread by a radical SJW with my son so he can guard against this dangerous thinking. It’s so hazardous at Universities these days that it’s amazing to me that parents send their children to these hotbeds and pay a fortune to indoctrinate their children.

  80. Conor, I saw your interview with Tucker just now, & left this comment on youtube prior to reading your entire essay. Wow. It really grabbed my attention. It’s so amazing to see God in action in someone’s life. May you be blessed abundantly with more of God’s grace. I can count your essay as a blessing to me as well, so thank God for you & for giving you such a wonderful gift of the written word. Youtube comment:
    I can see it in Conor’s calmness & his deeply thoughtful responses to questions he’s never been asked. It’s God drawing him out (John 6:44). It wasn’t an accident that he began understanding. God gave him a bit of grace, to rip him out of a hateful violent group. No man is ever the same after God has laid His hand upon him. Epiphanies are God-inspired & manifested thoughts & occurrences. God gives them in any way He sees fit. The literature he was reading to have “the light-bulb” moments were not mere coincidences. Coincidence is simply God’s way of remaining anonymous. Eventually, Conor will come to believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s a process only just begun.
    ~
    Question: “What does it mean that God draws us to salvation?”
    Answer: The clearest verse on God’s drawing to salvation is John 6:44 where Jesus declares that “no one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” The Greek word translated “draw” is helkuo, which means “to drag” (literally or figuratively). Clearly, this drawing is a one-sided affair. God does the drawing to salvation; we who are drawn have a passive role in the process. There is no doubt that we respond to His drawing us, but the drawing itself is all on His part.

  81. Bilbo says

    Tucker brought me here. A brilliant piece. I am literally blown away with the depth of language and reasoning presented here, found in scant few places elsewhere.

    Budding philosopher and statesman of course, but if you want people to take you seriously please cut the nails already. Social conventions still apply in any time period, and Einstein didn’t succeed in his field sporting pink hair. You get the idea.

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  84. Jim Wolf says

    I think a simple encapsulation of radicalism for many males who are enmeshed in it is ‘Superman gets laid’ because that’s much of what it’s about–being superman, and getting laid.

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  86. Philip Joseph says

    To dismiss “radical’ thought in such a fashion is a dangerous thing. You got in deep and hurt. In no way should this box the ideas of free thinkers that many of my “radical” friends imbibe in. An anarchist that was working in a coffee shop? True anarchists in short time are in jail or dead. Throw feces and in the dirt like GG Allin and maybe you can call yourself a true opponent of ANY authority. This is a compelling essay, but you need to step out of your own box. Resistance is NOT futile, and capitalism with its hunger for more and more is destined to collapse on the middle and lower class. Accept what we have to work with…yes, but I will smile and enjoy the ride as I do not go quite into the dark night!

    • Philip Joseph says

      And sorry kids, your invisible man in the sky you think has time to listen to your prayers for cousin Ernie with cancer, is really busy in an infinite universe. Enjoy your time now, be kind, and stay present!

      • Keep the condescending bullshit to yourself. That kind of y’all degrades the quality of Quillette. Have fun living in a world of nihilism where nothing really matters because we aren’t actually going anywhere 😉

  87. Alfredo Tateo says

    Philip Joseph: Please read a book. Sacco was shoemaker, and Vanzetti was a fishmonger. Why does the fact that an Anarchist has a job mean ANYTHING? Or do you espouse the violent takeover of my dinner as part of the struggle? I mean, people gotta eat, right?
    Your second, immature post, made me realize that there’s probably little benefit in deciphering the first one.

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  91. therealguyfaux says

    Leon Czolgosz, assassin of president William McKinley, committed his crime in some part to show those he thought were mere poseur anarchists “how it’s done.” Czolgosz had committed the cardinal sin, while associating with anarchists, of complaining that nobody cared that immigrants like his Polish parents were being sold a bill of goods– he was told, in effect, that he was merely looking to hold America to its promises and that that wasn’t the aim of anarchism; he wasn’t sufficiently ideologically “pure.”

    He was also “outed” as a “police provocateur” (he was nothing of the sort, but the anarchists were sufficiently paranoid enough to regard him that way) because he would say things like “Why are we always just yakkety-yakking when we should be actually, y’know, DOING stuff?”

    I don’t suppose, based on the article, that the anarchist mindset has changed all that much in 117 years.

  92. Philip Joseph says

    I’m going to let the Pingback sites speak for themselves. Anarchism was for cavemen and by it’s very definition followers can’t believe in a heavenly authority figure governing their lives. They also, if true to themselves, would not hold conventional jobs. How did it work out for Sacco and Vanzetti? Jail AND Dead…give Freddy my tab.

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  94. Thomas Banacek says

    I was a radical thinking leftist in a state chapter for the Green Party, and I can reinforce how the echo chamber of mantras and repeating cadences of Marxist conclusions shape how one is manipulated into seeing the world. Leftist propaganda in a world where the Establishment creates the pinball machine like playfield of lies, easily steers one into little pockets of mind control. Truth becomes subjective and cult leaders (like Noam Chomsky) carefully mislead one with a certain real truths, but deliberately OMIT more powerful truths that traps you into a false sense of agency that convinces you into believing that the Left has the monopoly of real truth, which is sadly erroneous. I escaped because the Establishment got so greedy with manufacturing fake stories and events, that I easily began to recognize them for what they are and found that Chomsky et al have been lying. That’s when I expanded my perspectives and found out what has been really going on. What a road it has been.

  95. DR01D says

    One brilliant insight after another. This piece has lasting value.

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  106. Red Robbo says

    Activists/reformists cannot see the wood for the trees. Take Nestlé for example – ignoring European Union and American sanctions against Zimbabwe by buying milk from an expropriated farm given to Grace Mugabe, mislabelling the source of bottled water as Poland Spring, apparently being part of the price fixing of chocolate, and chasing the Ethiopian regime for losses of around $6 million during one of the region’s unnecessary famines, all these are of great interest to activists/reformists who champion all sorts of quack cures, temporary measures and moral crusades for such issues yet only serve to delay meaningful change. Anti-slavery traders ignore wage slavery, fair trade & free trade advocates fail to envision a world without trade, and arms controllers want peace in a capitalist world where war is endemic. The list goes on and on.

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  110. Geoffrey Kegley says

    Absolutely brilliant piece. Brought tears to my eyes, both because I know that sad journey too well, and because I was devastated by those still on it.

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  112. Hutch says

    The US and Canadian federal and provincial governments are paying universities to mass produce radicals of this kind in the tens of thousands, every single year. These radicalized graduates are going out to work in academia, government, journalism, political activism, foundations, and corporate diversity departments/HR to move the agenda forward. It is a massive tsunami paid for by you and other hard workers who seem unaware of what is being done to them behind their backs.

    Raising an awareness of this radical flood is long overdue. What else needs to be done?

  113. Edward Terry says

    Quite illuminating. This essay has echoes of the memoir Witness by Whitaker Chambers.
    I agree with the author that Marxist and Freudian philosophy has created a framework used by radicals “to uncover repressed meaning in text and society”. The blending of Marxism with psychology allows the current radical pseudo-intellectuals to institutionalize their “critical reflex” of oppression as “thought crime”, and to do so with a patina of science; and, when all the institutions of our society (i.e., education, entertainment, sports business, religion, and mass media) adopt and operate from the radical’s framing to shape and control the citizens thoughts, or as Marshall McLuhan would say, “the scale and form of human association and action”, towards a particular weltanschauung, then its Sisyphean task for the individual to push back.

    The orthodoxy du jour that the radical may adopt, is beside the point. It only reflects a cast of mind-whether it’s the sad radicals’ or the joyful militants’. There will always be discontents that take the road of the radical. It’s when we see the institutions of society begin to adopt the same radical orthodoxies and begin the organic transformation of their institutions that the society has been effectively undermined. We have seen this happen throughout history. In our own history there is a clear line of sight between the radicalism of the 20’s 30’s and 40’s, the 60’s and 70’s, and what we now see in the radicalism of the 21’st century. However, in this century things are distinctly different. Even in Stalin’s Soviet Union, many were, in a sense, off the grid and outside the reaches of the “thought police”, particularly the farther away you were from Moscow and Leningrad. Today, with the advent of the internet, satellites, and smartphones individuals are continuously connected to a source information no matter how remote or rural that location may be. Big brother is alive and well living in your pockets and purses and he knows where you are and (through analytics and algorithms) what you are thinking . In America the weltanschauung has now been transformed; the radical point of view is dominant.

    Finally, there is an interesting statement that the author makes in the first paragraph: “I had lawyer’s numbers sharpied on my ankle”. I have always been curious about the network of “fellow travelers” that many of these radicals rely on to undermine the society at large that include doctors, lawyers, artists of all stripes, and various other people that would be seen, at least by the general populace, as “successful” members of society. If one reads Whittaker Chambers’ Witness or Bryan Burroughs’s, Days of Rage : America’s Radical Underground, the FBI, and the Forgotten Age of Revolutionary Violence, one can see that many of these radicals have a legal, financial, and emotional support network; not only in the U.S. but throughout the world. I suspect that much of that support network that was developed for the 60’s and 70’s radical movements, are still there for eco-terrorists and Antifa (Wow! MS Word capitalizes Antifa automatically) types. This may be a great topic to add to the history of radicalism.

    • Charlie says

      It is more basic . Muggeridge said communists were those ” Who had a grudge against their fellow man and civilisation”. The success of the West is based upon individual effort within a society where private property and achievements of the person are recognised. The massive amount of wealth created by the West since the 1720s due to the start of the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions has created a large, post 18 years of age, arts educated middle class who have a grossly inflated sense of self worth. Consequently, where reality exceeds expectation , there is unhappiness( Buddhist saying ). The greater the degree of inflation of self worth, the greater the unhappiness. These people sit around and whine. 600 years ago, they would be working the fields. If one looks at the skills to create and maintain civilisation, especially the necessities – farming, building, weaving, sailing, metalwork, pottery , cooking, medicine, they completely lack them. Since 1945 and the expansion of higher education and state employment , especially after the late 1960s and the increase in wealth, the West has produced vast numbers of mediocre, effete impractical under achieving middle class arts graduates who wish to find something to blame for their lack of success. These SJW are never the those who read engineering at universities and played rugby, hockey or rowed. it is like the family firm; after 3 generation there is often more useless mouths than useful ones. By the 4th or 5th generation most descendants of the founder family are effete impractical lack vitality and just want to live on the dividends and not work for the firm.

      As Ibn Khaldun said ,a civilisation needs vitality and solidarity, and they lack both.

      I am wondering whether a lack of testosterone means they do not undertake hard manual work , especially out of doors. If they did, boosted testosterone, dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, natural steroids, raised metabolic rate, raised red cells and oxygen levels would produce cheerful people. A days hard manual work ( digging trenches, cutting trees with an axe , etc, etc ), especially in winter, followed by a wash, a hot meal and glass or two of alcohol produces a superb sense of well being. These SJW types always appear whiny, puny or flabby neve robust, resilient , fit and healthy. If one compares the SJW women with say the medal winners of the ladies hockey at the Olympics, they are almost two different species.

  114. NateWhilk says

    “If an individual wants to end suffering, she should think hard about why she’s joined communities that glamorize violence, vengeance, and anti-intellectualism.”

    Orwell, “The Road to Wigan Pier”: “Though seldom giving much evidence of affection for the exploited, he [a Socialist] is perfectly capable of displaying hatred—a sort of queer, theoretical, in vacuo hatred—against the exploiters.”

  115. So why is it that these antifa types never go after the rich people who own the system or the upper-middle class who administer it?

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  117. Kimberly says

    I can see why this is labeled as a “Must Read”. It truly is thought-provoking & beautifully articulated.

    I could relate to your story, Conor, having been a die-hard animal rights activist back in the 90’s. While I’m still deeply passionate about the welfare & treatment of animals, I discovered that my own actions/lifestyle over time (conscious consumerism, donating to credible non-profits, etc.) made a long-lasting positive impact. The dramatic protests I participated in never did.

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  121. I used to be a member of the American Blackshirts Party, a neo-fascist group. They are exactly the same way – only they’re Christian moralists. Totalitarianism is all about conformism and herd mentality. As a Left-Hand Path occultist, that is something that I refuse to accept. Many people want to seem edgy, or they believe that “politics” is the best way to change the world. They fail to realize that nobody is obliged to conform to your demands and expectations of them, and by overemphasizing this idea, you become a totalitarian demagogue, too.

  122. Moises says

    You were not in a politically radical community. You just hung around larpers obssesed with political correctness. Now they ruined any actually revolutionary potential in you. Welcome to peak centrism.

  123. Tars Tarkas says

    There is some truth in this article, but it misses the mark in some respects. I watched a video of some of these clowns following Jason Kessler around on the UVA campus along with some other video and some reading and I recognized what was going on almost immediately. These are damaged people mad at the world and looking to lash out. This is one of the reasons they love racists so much. Racist is about the same thing as Heretic and our society looks upon “racists” in the same exact way older societies looked upon heretics. The charge of racism allows them to display the most anti-social and repugnant behavior with an air of legitimacy. Because they do it in the name of anti-racism, the media and other “important” people in society will heap praise upon them or, at a bare minimum, will excuse their appalling behavior. It’s like James Bond’s license to kill, only it’s a license to be an anti-social bully.

    These groups are just loaded with people who lack compassion. I had to smile when the author said these radical groups were loaded with people with extreme compassion. They lack compassion and that is their problem.

    They like to pretend they are compassionate to cover up for their real desire, which is social acceptance of their own dysfunctional behavior. When they cheer on the dismantling of police, often in the name of racial justice, what they are really doing is asking society to co-sign their own bad behavior. They don’t want anyone looking down on them or judging them.

    Their violent outbursts are “payback” for the way society (and individuals within) has mistreated them. The object of their witch-hunts are really just a stand-in for anyone who has ever wronged them.

    I have absolutely zero compassion for these people. I don’t fee sorry for this guy or any of his former buddies. We are seeing what their having even a relatively small amount of power looks like. We can look back at the Cultural Revolution in China to see what they would do if they had the power to do it. It is a dystopian nightmare where the lunatics take over not the asylum,, but a nation state and all the people in it!

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  126. Vilde says

    This is such a great piece of writing and a perspective I hope to see more of. I’m also someone who “switched” sides after growing up, I guess, and now see the world quite differently. What bothers me about people like Ben Shapiro, although I greatly enjoy listening to him and think he is a good person, I really feel like him and others lack the understanding of how when you grow up a certain way with certain views it’s really no wonder you take the position that you do. I wish people who want to challenge the radical left would understand that most of them are well-intentioned and very often they are mislead and misinformed, rather than trying to put it like they are all out to destroy society, yes some are just nihilistic and I would say that often it comes from a dysfunctional or unloving home. When I was a teenager I would march in solidarity on the 8th of March, and on the worker’s day on the 1st of may every year, I was active in a very left-oriented youth party, and it was not because of hate, but because I sincerely believed that they were the only ones who were voicing the concerns of minorities, the working class and what I saw as corrupt regimes around the world. But now it has, like you said, become a religion, or it has become this black/white worldview where they are right, and anyone else is just wrong or a racist or “alt-right”. I know many very kind and genuine people that unfortunately support things like the BDS movement because they are being completely mislead about the real intentions of it.

  127. K. Marx Jr says

    Great piece. SJW psychology is an interesting topic just like understanding the twisted minds of the Red Guards would be interesting. However both types are just peons. The Red Guards were used by Mao and when they became a nuisance, they were dealt with brutally. The SJW are also peons and their mere existence makes only sense in a bigger picture that still escapes me.

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