The Social Justice Blind Spot: Part 4, Moral Policing

What I'd like to do in a few more posts is give examples of how this blind spot, the reality that oppression and injustice is as moral as it is systemic, manifests itself in social justice talk and work.

These examples will mainly be illustrations of a contraction between social justice rhetoric and social justice practice. Specifically, the rhetoric of social justice is that oppression "isn't a moral problem, it's a systemic problem," and yet the practice of social justice often boils down to moral policing.

Take, as our first example, what we observe in call out and cancel culture and in movements like #MeToo. Much of the energy and effort in these movements is focused on finding and exposing bad moral actors, people who express racist or -phobic views or who are agents of oppression.

Now, there's been a lot of talk about the merits of this sort of social justice activism. But that's not the point of this post. I don't care, for the sake of this particular conversation, if you think call out and cancel culture, or movements like #MeToo, are necessary or have gone to far. My point is simply to draw attention to the blind spot these cultures and movements illustrate between social justice rhetoric and activity.

Specifically, I don't know if you've noticed, but social justice activity is very moralistic--very, very moralistic. There are good people and there are bad people, and the goal is to locate, name and marginalize the bad people. And again, I don't care about if you think this activity (for example, mob-shaming on Twitter or no platforming) is good or bad, effective or ineffective. I just want to point out that it's a form of moral policing, identifying, outing, and ostracizing the bad people.

All this illustrates the blind spot I'm pointing toward. The rhetoric of social justice is that we have systemic problems on our hands that require systemic solutions. And yet, the practice of social justice has primarily become one of moral policing.

And again--to be very, very clear--I'm not questioning the moral policing. That's another question for another time. What I'm pointing out is that the moral policing illustrates that social justice warriors don't actually believe what they are saying. Our problems are, indeed, very, very moral. And if you watch social justice activity, you'll see ample evidence that they also admit, with their actions, that this is the case. Oppression and injustice isn't just a "systemic" problem. We're also dealing with moral problems.

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