He delivers food for a living now, but “Barrett Wilson” had a previous career: stoking righteous anger on social media for maximum “wokeness.” Barrett now has to write under an assumed name, however, after going from a leader of the mob to one of its targets. He seems somewhat dazed by the transition, but wants to share what he’s learned about the dynamics of pitchforks and torches:
In my previous life, I was a self-righteous social justice crusader. I would use my mid-sized Twitter and Facebook platforms to signal my wokeness on topics such as LGBT rights, rape culture, and racial injustice. Many of the opinions I held then are still opinions that I hold today. But I now realize that my social-media hyperactivity was, in reality, doing more harm than good.
Within the world created by the various apps I used, I got plenty of shares and retweets. But this masked how ineffective I had become outside, in the real world. The only causes I was actually contributing to were the causes of mobbing and public shaming. Real change does not stem from these tactics. They only cause division, alienation, and bitterness.
How did I become that person? It happened because it was exhilarating. Every time I would call someone racist or sexist, I would get a rush. That rush would then be reaffirmed and sustained by the stars, hearts, and thumbs-up that constitute the nickels and dimes of social media validation. The people giving me these stars, hearts, and thumbs-up were engaging in their own cynical game: A fear of being targeted by the mob induces us to signal publicly that we are part of it.
How did he realize that it’s doing more harm than good? When the harm hit closer to home:
Then one day, suddenly, I was accused of some of the very transgressions I’d called out in others. I was guilty, of course: There’s no such thing as due process in this world. And once judgment has been rendered against you, the mob starts combing through your past, looking for similar transgressions that might have been missed at the time. I was now told that I’d been creating a toxic environment for years at my workplace; that I’d been making the space around me unsafe through microaggressions and macroaggressions alike.
Barrett’s conversion might have been a little more laudable if he had come to his senses without being targeted himself, but it’s still worthwhile reading. Having had his road-to-Damascus moment, Barrett offers a couple of good insights into the reason why online mobs gain momentum, especially the fear he mentions of being left out of one. But another, one which Barrett implies more than states, is the inflated sense of ego one gets for being in the right crowd, and especially from being one of its enforcers.
Attacking other people for heresy and apostasy does have its rewards apart from the distancing of fear:
When my callouts were met with approval and admiration, I was lavished with praise: “Thank you so much for speaking out!” “You’re so brave!” “We need more men like you!”
Approbation for being in the clique and the power to punish others for even a slight heterodoxy from it — that’s a powerful combination. Barrett never mentions the word “fascism,” but this is precisely how it gets built and enabled. It’s a “surveillance culture, a snitch culture,” Barrett remarks, one which demands perfection from the New Soviet Man — er, New Woke Man, sorry — and has no forgiveness or atonement for the slightest transgression. Lest anyone think that this is just a social media phenomenon, don’t forget the role Antifa plays in shutting down dissenting voices, with violence if necessary, to enforce that same radical orthodoxy — even as it keeps changing.
Basically, Barrett Wilson enjoyed leading the social-media street mobs the social-justice revolution as long as he could be a modern Robespierre. Unfortunately, Barrett never studied how that turned out for the original Robespierre, even though he accurately diagnoses that social-justice wars are destined to end, as Instapundit often notes, in Leftist autophagy. Barrett is only the most recent example, and perhaps not yet even the most self-aware. But … he’s still worth reading, and deserves some credit for making this point clear.