The internet left have hitherto only complained about the world, the point is to change it

Call me a hypocrite if you like; I know I’m guilty too. Still I wish left-folks on the internet and elsewhere would stop doing the following:

1. Locate or run into something offensive.

2. Post it on their Facebook account, blog or twitter with comments as to why it is so offensive.

3. (Optional) debate with right-wing friends on the ensuing comment thread about whether or not it is offensive, and to what degree.

Note that the above process is importantly different from the following similar but far more tolerable and useful processes. 1. Finding something rightwing and stupid, and making fun of it because it’s stupid. 2. Finding a right-wing argument, and cogently dismantling it. 3. Drawing attention to an awful thing that is happening somewhere which people must be made aware of.

So why do I say it’s a bad idea to just complain? Because leftists seem to have forgotten that the left is not built on complaining. Endlessly complaining that someone did or said something right wing on the internet isn’t going to get us anywhere, unless solutions are also proposed, or at least some analysis is provided as to what is happening. By merely complaining we put ourselves into a passive stance, and implicitly encourage the view that complaining achieves things. This may sound alarmist but right now a culture of passive complaint is pandemic on the left, all the way from Chomsky (sometimes) to Tumblr.

Our first preference should be to change the world. If we can’t do that, understanding it can also be useful. Merely pointing at things and saying they’re bad is both grating and useless. It also makes us look boring to people who might be potentially interested in left politics. Please stop.

About timothyscriven

I study philosophy at Sydney University. In the grand scheme, I'm not very important.
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