Hugo Pelland, thanks for the interesting question:
”I am curious to know where you draw the line between a 'bad SJW' and a 'good SJW'? Because surely you agree that there is such a thing as someone fighting for good social justice causes obviously... or perhaps the label is not to be used in that case? For example, if we were to live under an Atheistic tyrant who tries to shut down all places of worship, you and I would be on the same side of the issue: I would fight for the rights of people to practice their religion, even if I don't do it myself. In this case, any "SJW" trying to fight that tyrant and give people the ability to worship would be good "warriors", no?”
There is no such thing as a “good” social justice issue, and therefore, there is no such thing as a “good” Social Justice Warrior. I will explain why. It requires understanding the modern conceptualization of the term, Social Justice, as redfined by the modern Progressive, and as opposed to the normal semantics of the words as commonly understood. So we need to explore Social justice as a Progressive, Leftist phenomenon. This will be lengthy.
The Frankfurt School of philosophy and its influence will be discussed below. For now it is enough to recognize that Social Justice is predicated on distaste for personal limitations due to external circumstances. While fighting this might seem normal and noble, what Social Justice is about is the limitations placed on the individual by the mere existence of cultural standards for behaviors. The sexual revolution of the '60's was about exactly that: the iconoclastic rejection of all rules regarding sexual restraint. "Why don't we do it in the road", sang the Beatles.
All prior cultural restraints are now anathema to SJWs. The old morals no longer exist, new inverted morals replace them. Old rules of logic are ignored; feelings replace them (the recent Supreme Court Decision has affirmed that "feeling" respect is a human right, replacing the old cultural requirement of having to earn respect).
In short, Social Justice is the desire to remove all restrictions on behavior for the anarchic self which feels bad when restricted, and conversely, to develop harsh restrictions on the behaviors and even the beliefs of those who subscribe to traditional behavioral restraint. Turning the tables from culture A to Anti-culture A with punishments for anyone still supporting culture A.
But there is more to it; it has a structure and objectives and tactics.
Social Justice is always based on classism and class warfare. The primary class, the Messiah Class, the population of which are known as Social Justice Warriors, consists of those who have created their own moral basis for application to all humanity. Nominally this consists of a corruption of traditional, natural law and Magna Carta based concepts of tolerance, equality, justice, freedom and natural rights, etc., and always consists of a rejection of the entire First Amendment Rights (and others too). And it always excepts themselves from any restraints on their own behaviors, which are always "righteous".
Social Justice has its roots in self-hatred and loathing of the western societies, cultures, and all things western. This is an internally incoherent hatred by westerners who live under the protection of the western laws and cultural decencies, and who utilize the considerable benefits of the west, even in making and distributing their condemnations of the west. Examples are those educated, overstuffed white males who despise white males based on their whiteness and maleness, and the protected, cloistered feminists who hate strong women for their non-victimness. So identity is an important feature of Social Justice as well. As will be expanded upon below, hatred of certain identities is a main feature of what is called “Social Justice”, and Social Justice cannot survive without it.
Because they define the new morality for their own glorification as elite class saviors, or Messiahs, the new, redefined “Social Justice” concepts become focused on both (a) protecting their own status and (b) eradicating dissent. This enables, in fact requires, creating SJW mobs to attack dissenters; this is seen almost daily now. Thus "tolerance" now means to tolerate any and every absurd, destructive, irrational but iconoclastic issue from the SJW, with total IN-tolerance of intelletual dissent or moral difference from the SJW.
Because classism in its beginning stages requires three classes, as historical Communism and Fascism have demonstrated bloodily, the Messiah Class adopts certain groups (generally not single individuals) into one of their Victimhood Classes. This designated class is maintained as official “victims” – forever – and is never released from its captivity in the designated class. The reason is the necessity of always having that class available for the Messiahs to “Save”, as a pretext for its war on the Other. In fact, many in the Messiah Class have dual membership, and are also in their own Victimhood Classes (e.g. Feminist/lesbian). Victimhood classes tend to be identity-based, and tribalism is strong (e.g. non-Victimhood blacks are “not black enough” or are “Uncle Toms” or “House niggers”, so defined as the means for depriving them of their identity, and ejecting them from the tribe). However, other existential issues such as saving Gaia from humans also allow for non-human Victimhood. Evolution is an example of a non-empirical science which is adopted into Victimhood for its protection by Messiahs; dissent is “anti-science” and dissenters are Oppressors of science, and are attacked personally rather than on the merits of their arguments.
So of course there is the necessary Oppressor Class, which is to be hated as loud, often and visibly as possible, with threats of violence whenever desired. Everyone who is not either a Messiah or in a Victim Class is automatically assigned to the hated Oppressor Class. The stated objective of SJWs is to eradicate the entire set of Oppressor Classes. Nevermind that to actually do so would eradicate most of the productive population of the planet, certainly all males and most whites except for lesbian feminists.
These three classes, Messiah Class, Victimhood Class, and Oppressor Class, form the Social Justice universe.
For Lenin, it was the Communists (Messiahs), the Proletariat (Victimhood Class), and the tsarist/bourgeois/capitalist/imperialists (Oppressor Class).
For National Socialism under Hitler, it was NAZIs (Messiahs), Aryans (Victimhood Class), Jews and all non-Aryans (Oppressor Class) - except for the immediately useful such as Italian fascists and Islamist fascists, who were granted temporary, conditional Messiah status.
Social Justice is bipolar, in the sense that it is (a) wonderfully self-anointed, self-deified, elitist, self-glorification; and (b) an official hate propagation mechanism for promoting and preserving their position in (a). By virtue of their own deification they describe their hate as righteousness. Inversion of reality becomes a standard feature.
Now, let’s examine some operating principles of Social Justice. Take blacks (not all blacks, but the large group of dependent blacks) as a Victimhood Class. There are two main, diametrically oppositional approaches available for dealing with underprivileged peoples.
The first approach is to give them enough stuff (just enough) to maintain their position of minimal survival willingly, hence, perpetual victims. To declare that they are not capable of many or most basic requirements for existing in mainstream society, and therefore giving them discriminatory advantages based on race. To condemn all whites as unconscious racists as a class, thereby maintaining the fear of racism in perpetuity. All the while maintaining plantation-type ghettos ad infinitum, as has been done in every Leftist-controlled city in the USA.
The second approach would be to assume that race does not confer any automatic inferiority, to teach properly in the plantation-ghetto schools about the benefits of traditional culture in terms of work/reward, personal responsibility for one’s own outcome, literacy, history (including the historical racism of the Democrat Party) and other cultural competencies as are taught in the elite white schools. To reward, not mere existence with blue ribbons, but work and progress. To develop positive character instead of teaching that character development is “too hard” for some (an actual principle). To teach parents and adults as well as children. Unfortunately, this would require the unteaching of current school teachers, however.
Social Justice will always choose option 1, because their need is for the continuation of the victimhood class, not its actual salvation. All Social Justice issues are approached this way: to preserve the "need" for Social Justice and the ramping up of Class War.
Social Justice is couched in a series of logical and semantic inversions: they are not true, but they cannot be lies since no truth is acknowledged to exist, and thus, lies cannot exist either. Inversions don't stop with morality. They include the SJW approach to reality, itself, by inverting the concepts of truth and existence as found in Aristotle's deductive logic and the First Principles which ground it. The result is a worldview based solely on emotional neediness of the SJW, their need for personal validation which they cannot get under the old cultural demands for respect due to work/reward. Their approach is to bestow respect upon themselves by the demands of their new culture. They consider themselves to be self-anointed (in Sowell's terms) to positions which they merely take, without achieving them.
The class system is in place to be maintained for the glorification (I know, that’s the third time the term has appeared here – it is valid) of the Messiah Class. Should the class system somehow be dismantled, the Messiah Class could no longer self-elevate to elitism. Should the Victimhood Class be elevated out of its tribal status and cease to exist, Social Justice Warriors would be without personal identities. Therefore, the vector is not to relieve the Victimhood Class, it is directed specifically to maintain the Victimhood Class in stasis or worse and increase its size, as well as to create as many new Victimhood Classes as possible. The vector requires the ultimate destruction, if possible, of the Oppressor Class, so that only the two classes remain: The elite controlling class and the dependent, submissive, controlled class (Hunger Games; Communism).
Perhaps you think this is not the case, this class system and its warfare. Carefully observe the behaviors of the SJWs. Observe how they pull back into sub-classes of elites and victims which attack each other – as classes. An example is feminism: subclass lesbian: sub-subclass eliminationist (anti-male) which attacks Victimhood/Messiah Class transsexuals because they are XY. But they also surge back together as they are doing for the destruction of traditional marriage restrictions by implementing marriage of all regardless of disorder or moral principle.
Although there are Victimhood Classes which are legitimate (ghetto blacks), some of those actually exist as victims – not of the Oppressor Class – but of the Messiah Class itself, which adopts policies of class maintenance and not solutions.
Keep in mind this fact: the Department of Homeland Security has again defined the promotion of Constitutional principles as "Right Wing Hate" behavior, for police scrutiny. Universities have restricted free speech to remote areas, and even there many do not allow distribution of copies of the US Constitution, which is now described by some SJWs as a Hate Document. Professors openly deride the US Constitution as an unintelligible, late middle ages document made by primitive men which cannot apply to today’s complex social requirements.
Are there redeeming features for Social Justice and SJWs? Their features are:
(a) destruction of actual moral principles which they find restrictive;There are no redeeming features for SJWs or their Social Justice, if one subscribes to Enlightenment rights and principles.
(b) self-elevation to dictatorship positions in government and universities, law and education;
(c) creating and maintaining victims for their own exploitation;
(d) spewing eliminationist rhetoric at the Other (Oppressors) constantly;
(e) Inversion of all principles of rationality and logic, as well as language and word definitions.
Social Justice as a class is related to Atheism because it rejects all religious principles, and establishes itself as the supreme moral arbiter, and the creator of all morality for the new society it craves. Social Justice objectives are to make their moral order and utopia out of existing society regardless of whether the denizens of that society want it. (Hence, legislation through the courts, not the popularly elected legislatures). It is of the same essence as the New Man principles advocated by Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Marx, Lenin, Mao, Pol Pot, Che, and yes, Adolph Hitler. It is social engineering by dictatorship to achieve their utopia on earth. It is prejudicial, exclusionary and it is vicious as it seeks to destroy any and all opposition.
Social Justice is likely based at least in part on the Frankfurt School of intellectual criticism and “critical theory”.
”According to these theorists, a “critical” theory may be distinguished from a “traditional” theory according to a specific practical purpose: a theory is critical to the extent that it seeks human “emancipation from slavery”, acts as a “liberating … influence”, and works “to create a world which satisfies the needs and powers” of human beings (Horkheimer 1972, 246). Because such theories aim to explain and transform all the circumstances that enslave human beings, many “critical theories” in the broader sense have been developed. They have emerged in connection with the many social movements that identify varied dimensions of the domination of human beings in modern societies.”Obviously, the valorous objectives of “emancipating from slavery” and stopping the “domination of humans” entails the defeat of putative slaveholders and oppressors. Hence, three classes arise immediately.
James Bohman; Stanford University Encyclopedia of Philosophy http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/critical-theory/
An example from the Frankfurt School is the psychological work, “Authoritarian Personality”, by Adorno, et. al., in which personalities are ranked on the “f” (fascist) scale. This book of psychological studies attempted to relate racism to “right wing authoritarian fascism” but has later been refuted on the basis of flawed studies, prejudicial sampling and other errors. Still the influence on the Left persists, likely due to its attack on a general class. This led to another example from the Frankfurt School, which is the idea that dissent can be dealt with by declaring it to be a form of insanity.
There is no good to be found in “Social Justice”, if one holds that both evil and good actually exist.
Finally the concept of social justice as extending to “fighting tyranny” falls outside the current definition for Social Justice. “Social Justice” was once the beneficent idea of society supporting widows and orphans. That is no longer the case. The term Social Justice, along with all other necessary SJW terms, is completely inverted now, and currently means to support SJWs in whatever quest they pursue in their iconoclastic march toward destruction of all old standards and destruction of the designated Oppressors which maintain them. Remember, Social Justice has no meaning regarding traditional justice for individuals; it is purely class and identity-based. In other words, extremely tribal.
The phrase, “fighting the tyrant” is an interesting semantic problem in the new Progressive lexicography. SJWs are themselves the tyrant-wannabes who are fighting to dominate and eradicate the Constitutional, Bill of Rights based, limited government, libertarian/conservatives who support the older, traditional concepts such as freedom, justice, and equality. These people, in turn, are now redefined as Oppressors despite their adherence to beliefs in personal liberty. This is the standard inversion of all tyrants who use the “people’s revolution” as their excuse for dictatorial suppression of … the people.
This is all empirical, in the sense that it can be observed and documented inductively, and it can then be cause/effect tested deductively (go to a Social Justice website and make a conservative remark regarding, say, Leftist racism/anti-semitism of Obama or some such, then observe the results and take data; repeat at other sites with other provocations, um, I mean causal forcing functions).
It can all be done historically, too, by documenting the SJW attacks on Chik-Fil-A, FRC, AGW skeptics, people fired for violating SJW issues, the pizza parlor in Indiana and the laws of state of Indiana, the Confederate flag hysteria, all wedding cake bakeries attacked by homosexuals, on and on … and on. Look for the drive toward destruction of the Other, the Oppressor Class. Look for frothing, foaming hysteria in the attacks, the wishes for your silencing, death and the promise of violence (remember homosexual response to Prop 8 in CA?).
It can also be done demographically by investigating the real outcomes of the Messiah/Victimhood relationships in Messiah-dominated American cities even in the absence of Oppressors, the standard examples starting with Detroit, Baltimore etc.
There is more information about all this in these sources:
Richard Wolin; “The Seduction of Unreason – The Intellectual Romance With Fascism, From Nietzsche to Postmodernism”; Princeton University Press; 2004.
F. A. Hayek; “The Fatal Conceit – The Errors of Socialism”; University of Chicago Press; 1988.
Thomas Sowell; “The Vision of the Anointed – Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy”; Basic Books, 1995.
And these three classics:
Julien Benda; “The Treason of the Intellectuals”; originally published by Wm Morrow and Co., 1928. Leftist affection for Communism and loathing of democracy.
Paul Berman; “The Flight of the Intellectuals”; Melville House, pubs, 2010. Berman focuses on the Leftist affection for Islam, a protected species, a Victimhood Class.
Paul Johnson: “Intellectuals – From Marx and Tolstoy to Sartre and Chomsky”; Harper and Row, pubs, 1988. Especially Ch 13: “The Flight of Reason”.