Guest post: Performative indeed

Originally a comment by Your Name’s not Bruce? on A different story.

Several Sussex colleagues publicly denounced her on social media, although strangely, she says, not to her face. “No peer ever said to me: ‘Look, I really object to what you’re saying and I’d like to discuss it with you.’ They immediately went to Defcon 1: ‘She’s a bigot… arguing for single-sex spaces is like the Jim Crow laws [that historically enforced racial segregation in the American south].’” She remains fascinated by the performative aspects of social media debate. “The important thing is to show your tribe that you have the right morals and you could show that by saying, ‘I’m not with her.’”

Performative indeed. Just like India Willoughby’s faux geniality in and around the radio debate, followed by social media transperbolic accusations of “genocide.” The impersonal distance offered by the interposing technological channel allows and encourages extremism that would be stilted and inappropriate in personal, face to face meeting. You’re less likely to deploy boilerplate sloganeering (or a bullhorn) in an actual discussion with another person, than you are when playing for an audience of fellow true believers, where both the message and intended recipients are completely different. A genuine expression of hurt, or a sincere request for understanding and sympathy from someone you feel has wronged you, is not at all the same as a pearl-clutching rallying of the troops to come to your defence. One behaves differently in front of witnesses than in front of an audience.

There is always the danger of “our side” doing the same, though I daresay there seem to be few examples of this behaviour that I’ve seen coming from the feminist or gender critical side. The fact that trans activists must twist and misrepresent even the mildest statements in support of women’s spaces and boundaries into TERF “dog whistles” that are in reality denials of trans “existence,” and calls for trans “elimination,” is a pretty good indication of the fact they have no better evidence of explicit feminist malevolence. If they had any such evidence, they would use it.

Best of all is a statement that is blatantly, manifestly false. Like 1 equals 3. Or trans women are women. If you claim to believe something like that, they you are committing yourself to the group that says that, and burning your bridges to the reality-based community.

And at that point, Stock’s colleagues stopped being colleagues and became Inquisitors, more interested in proclaiming their own orthodoxy (and protecting their own skin) than in coming to any sort of understanding or compromise. To compromise with Evil is itself Evil.

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