Tuesday a progressive opinion columnist at alt-weekly The Stranger, wrote a piece blasting the call-out culture which has become so popular on social media and college campuses. Katie Herzog considers herself a leftist in good standing but she’s getting pretty tired of people calling her “trash” for occasionally having a slightly different opinion about something:
My take on dogs on planes? Trash. My take on the place of lesbians in the queer hierarchy? Trash. My take on Aziz Ansari? So trash that a former Stranger writer spent several thousand words refuting what is essentially my opinion on her own blog. This Slog post? Definitely trash.
The criticism of these pieces, and of me personally, doesn’t actually bother me all that much—my job requires that one acquire a certain thickness of skin, and besides, hate clicks are still clicks—but I can see why people are afraid to voice their opinions if their opinions are even slightly outside the tide of contemporary thinking.
Herzog recounts a friend telling her she had doubts about the accusation against Woody Allen, but says the conversation was held in “hushed tones”:
She said this as though she were confessing to a terrible crime. And she was: a thought crime, one so potentially harmful to her standing among her own friends that expressing it to anyone besides a known thought criminal was unthinkable. The resistance, it seems, is intersectional in everything but opinions.
In fact, some progressives are so eager to show their commitment to the cause that they will seek to have anyone who dares to offer a non-approved opinion fired. Herzog cites a tweet she received suggesting her employer should re-evaluate “promoting her incendiary views.” [Emphasis added.]
This person…finds my opinions so “incendiary”—so trash—that he wants me to get fired from my job for expressing my thoughts. That blows my mind. I’m a critic at an alt-weekly, not a politician. My views are just that: my own views. The idea that my opinions are so dangerous that I should be fired from my job isn’t just silly, it’s scary. It’s not like I’m over here advocating that everyone go out and club baby seals.
Progressives used to be able to handle dissent. The Democrats were the party of free speech and free thought. No more. Among far too many leftists, if you disagree, you are wrong. And if you are wrong, you are bad, and if you are bad, you are trash.
From my own perspective, outside of this particular cult, this complaint seems to reaffirm what Bret Weinstein said last year about the left eating itself. Things weren’t always like this on the left but in the last few years, there has been an insurgency of far-left extremists who are trying to change what it means to be progressive. As Weinstein put it, the definition itself is in flux.
There are a growing number of people on the left who view speech as violence. That view justifies almost any imaginable response including shouting people down, getting them fired, or even pre-emptive violence before someone speaks. Herzog is not the first person on the left to take a glancing blow from this contingency, though she is certainly not its primary target. The future of the progressive left will depend in part on how many people on the left decide they don’t like the new direction some on their side are taking. In other words, articles like this calling out the purveyors of call-out culture are necessary to defeat the insurgents.