by Mike Young
Essay originally from Counterweight.
There is a very old and very awful movie called The Blob. As terrible as it is (and it is really terrible) the premise of that movie provides us with a very good analogy for what happens when Critical Social Justice begins to get involved in your business or institution.
The plot of “The Blob” is very simple. A meteorite crashes in the countryside of a small town in the USA carrying a small, red, jelly-like blob. Upon crashing, the Blob begins to absorb everything it touches, growing larger, redder, and more aggressive. Everything the Blob touches is destroyed and added to the Blob’s growing size. Two teenagers attempt to warn people, but they are ignored. No one believes them until the Blob reaches a nearby city and begins to absorb entire buildings. Only then do people begin to act.
When Critical Social Justice activists become involved in a company, they will inevitably begin to redirect resources away from the mission of the company and toward Critical Social Justice. Like the Blob absorbing everything in sight in order to make itself bigger and more powerful, Critical Social Justice activists will get a foothold in an organization and absorb more and more resources as they work to make Critical Social Justice central to the function of the organization. This explains how a razor company ends up making an ad about toxic masculinity, and a shoe company ends up making public statements commenting on race relations.
The Critical Social Justice activists believe that various forms of racism, sexism, homophobia etc prevent particular identity groups from gaining equal access to resources and opportunities, thus leading to unfair outcomes. On the surface such a claim looks reasonable: surely racism, sexism, and homophobia cause tremendous strife for those on the receiving end of them. However, because Critical Social Justice does not view the world the way many of the rest of us do, a number of problems begin to crop up, and the whole thing begins to go off the rails.
Critical Social Justice activists have a vastly different understanding of racism, sexism, and homophobia than the rest of us. Critical Social Justice holds that they are not just beliefs held by individuals; rather, they are systems of oppression that have been built into the very structure of our society. In the same way that all the roads in a city interlock to form a system of roads, Critical Social Justice believes that individual racism, cultural racism, institutional racism, and all other forms of racism interlock and overlap to form a system of racism that is present through all of society.
As a result, if you were to ask a Critical Social Justice activist about racism, they would tell you that everything in society, all our art, social conventions, language, ideas, religions, political ideas, education, knitting clubs, video games, and institutions have racism baked into them and that it is not possible to avoid being socialized into a racist worldview if you are white.1 Further, they would say that because many of the people who contributed to the founding of our society and the creation of our culture held racist beliefs, culture and society is therefore totally corrupted and contaminated by racism. This view of society is paired with the doctrine of complicity which states that we all share moral responsibility for the systemic oppression (racism, sexism, homophobia etc) that Critical Social Justice thinks dominates our society. We all share responsibility for the condition of our society such that even if we ourselves have not done anything racist, we are complicit in systemic racism in virtue of our participation within the society that perpetuates it. According to Critical Social Justice, the only way to avoid being complicit in racism (or any other sort of systemic oppression) is to actively and aggressively confront it at every turn. Further, to deny the existence of systemic racism is another form of complicity.2 There are two implications that emerge from the combination of these CSJ ideas regarding systemic oppression and complicity:
- Critical Social Justice activists think every organization they enter, and all the people involved with those organizations, need to be thoroughly vetted for beliefs, attitudes, prejudices and ideas that might perpetuate systemic oppression.
- Critical Social Justice activists think they will be complicit in systemic oppression if they do not get their entire organization and all the people involved in it completely on board with Critical Social Justice.
Thus, Critical Social Justice activists will be highly motivated to get organizations they join on board with Critical Social Justice. In fact, many activists think spreading Critical Social Justice is their most important goal. It is merely a matter of time, therefore, before they create serious problems within the organization.
Let’s take a look at how that goes.
When Critical Social Justice begins to take root in your business the Critical Social Justice activists will usually begin with something small. They may ask that your company implement Critical Social Justice-style sensitivity training which may look a lot like typical workplace sensitivity training. However, it will teach people to see systemic oppression everywhere and in everything and to call it out whenever they can. This leads people to become hypersensitive whilst encouraging them to accuse others of racism, sexism, and homophobia for even the smallest perceived slight or misstep.
The blob of Critical Social Justice has now gotten its first resources and it has grown a little bigger and a little stronger.
Once the activists within the organization taste their first success, they will begin to pressure the company to dedicate further resources to Critical Social Justice. As they escalate, the activists may ask for further sensitivity training, they may ask for workplace harassment policies, or they may ask for remedial processes for those who are seen to have done something racist. Whatever route they go, the new training and policies will always lead to both a greater awareness of Social Justice and a greater dedication to Critical Social Justice by the employees.
Remember, the Critical Social Justice conceptualisation of progress differs from the way people typically understand progress.
Whilst we might applaud a new path that aims at rectifying genuine wrongs, Critical Social Justice is more interested in creating wrongs where there are none, and then busying itself applying “fixes” for whatever it has deemed problematic. As more people become more sensitive to Critical Social Justice concerns, they will become ever more sensitive to perceived slights and missteps while feeling ever more empowered to call other people out for those perceived slights and missteps. This leads to an increase in workplace conflict and an erosion of trust within the organization.
The blob has now eaten more resources and it is now grown even bigger, even stronger, and it wants even more resources.
The activists will begin to ask that the organization take a stand on issues related to Critical Social Justice and that the organization dedicate resources toward Social Justice activism. Activists will demand changes to employment and hiring practices, changes to the organization’s mission statement and any other changes they deem necessary for advancing the cause of Social Justice. They will use the thirst for Critical Social Justice that was created by the training they asked for as leverage in demanding that the company take a public stand on contentious social issues, and demand the company pick sides in political fights. Failure to implement these demands may cause the employees to stage walkouts or engage in strikes of the sort that happened at Google in 2018 when employees staged a walkout in part over a transparency report about sexual harassment policy during the height of the Me Too movement.3
The blob will keep absorbing resources, it will keep getting bigger and stronger, and it will use its increased strength as leverage to demand further resources.
You can see how this works: because Critical Social Justice sees oppression as being systemic, every area of the company must be vetted and every member must go through Social Justice Training. However, with each new training and each new policy, the organization members become more dedicated to Critical Social Justice and ever more willing to read systemic oppression into anything and everything.
As the organization tries to appease the members who are fast becoming Critical Social Justice activists it will alienate the members, customers, and patrons who do not agree with the Critical Social Justice activists. This leads to a divisive, hostile, and uncomfortable working environment with first-rate employees leaving the organization and long-time customers and working partners seeking out other organizations to engage with.
So, it is imperative for anyone who runs an organization to let people know that, whatever their feelings on Critical Social Justice, activists do not get to hijack the organization for the purposes of propagandizing and perpetuating it. The members of your organization must realize that they do not get to make Critical Social Justice the paradigm through which all decisions are made. This will ruffle some feathers, and there will be short-term conflict. However, for the long-term health of the organization, it is important to make sure that Critical Social Justice is not able to make itself the dominant force within your organization.
While Critical Social Justice activists may try to create bad publicity if you don’t give in to their demands, it is important to remember that bad publicity will not last long, and the damage will not be permanent.4 News cycles move quickly, the spotlight is hard to keep, and the power of activists is grossly exaggerated. As such it is better to take a stand early on and protect the integrity of the organization than to allow Critical Social Justice to get a foothold and to then have to navigate the myriad of issues created by newly empowered activists. If an organization treats people fairly, provides equal opportunity to everyone based on merit, and conducts itself with integrity, then there is no reason to allow the organization to be pushed around by Critical Social Justice activists.
If your organization comes under attack by Critical Social Justice activists, or employees try to bring Critical Social Justice into your organization, the best option is to simply refuse it access and stand your ground.5
In the long run, you will be glad you did.
1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E2-4PTo4Krk ((34:00)
2 This is the fruit of the postmodern imperative to dismantle, deconstruct, and problematize.
3 https://www.cnbc.com/2018/11/03/google-employee-protests-as-part-of-new-tech-resistance.html Employees sought “end of private arbitration, a transparency report about sexual harassment, more disclosures about compensation and an employee representative on the company’s board”.
4 https://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/trader-joes-changing-ethnic-sounding-label-names-72109596 You can see here that Trader Joe’s held its ground and the story is no longer circulating. The furore always dies down quickly.
5 Ibid.Trader Joe’s held its ground and they have not seen trouble as a result of that stance.