Tumblr’s one-eyed view of the world helps generate racism

The mention of tumblr in my last post wasn’t, truth be told, by accident. One of my major reasons for reviving this blog was that, after a couple of years use, I was about as tired of the social justice faction on that website as you could be (and at least one other user was pretty tired of me – but that’s another story). Its endless capacity to send me amusing photos of cute animals just couldn’t compensate for the constant annoyance it caused. For anyone who’s unfamiliar with tumblr, these are the rules for success as a social justice blogger there :-

1. Be about 20 years old, white, middle class, and from the US. Not many social justice bloggers post from the heart of the ghetto, or for that matter any other country but the US. If you aren’t actually white, be a member of an ethnic minority that is not generally regarded as being socially disadvantaged, but shade this by simply calling yourself a “person of colour” even though 100% of human beings are persons of one colour or another. Do not explain why that phrase is acceptable but “coloured person” is not.

2. In spite of only being about 20 years old, use a ton of impenetrable jargon culled from tomes on feminism, anti-racism and so on by middle-aged academics that you read on that Womens’ Studies course you once did (or, just as likely, culled from other blogs written by people who actually read it). Academics are famed for their fine prose style, and it will help the reader to understand better. Chuck around plenty of terms like “privilege”, “intersectionality” and “mansplaining,” and don’t bother explaining them.

3. Once a nerd, always a nerd, so don’t forgo any opportunity to drag your opinions into your nerdy enthusiasms. After all, the top priority for all African-Americans right now isn’t employment, education or whether they’re going to be shot dead by the police the next time they go out into the street – it’s whether there are enough “persons of colour ” in the video games a lot of them can’t even afford to buy or the gender politics of imported TV shows most of them don’t even watch.

4. Never forget that the most important object of the exercise is to make you feel good about yourself, and in pursuit of that:-

(a) Never pass up the chance to join a good, old-fashioned, internet lynch mob against someone who has committed grievous sins, like not agreeing 100% with you (or with someone else who you’ve never even met).

(b) Troll like hell, but for The Cause. Don’t you know that the ends justify the means? Ignore the haters who point out how bad you make The Cause look doing this.

(c) Never miss the chance to proclaim your hatred for white people/men/heterosexuals, in spite of the fact that you probably are one. Never mind whether it alienates them – who needs those false allies and their skilfully concealed bigotry anyway? History is full of examples of minority groups that succeeded in overturning the social power structure with no sympathisers from the majority community, probably through the magic of moral superiority.

5. The United States of America, although you take every opportunity you can to ridicule it, is always the paradigm for race relations. The most important ethnic relationship is black v. white, a history of being enslaved in your own homeland is a reality for all black people, the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s happened everywhere. And your gibes about white people having no culture are universally valid too, and in no way connected to the US being a nation where almost everyone is an immigrant of some kind and abandoning your old culture to become an American is part of the national narrative.

Tumblr social justice is what you get when socially awkward young nerds try to “do” progressive politics on the internet, and honestly most of the flaws in it I’ve just pointed out really trace back to that single fact – the excessive faith in academic thinking, the lack of any sense of proportion when it comes to one’s personal obsessions, the willingness to lash out at others anonymously to relieve one’s personal frustrations. If that proves anything it’s that before you start trying to change the world, it helps to have had some experience of it first.

Meanwhile, all I think this “movement” is ever going to achieve is alienating any of its own sympathisers who aren’t willing or able to meet the absurdly high standards the social justice crowd set, and in that respect actually generating more racism and sexism that it ever manages to resolve.


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