Remember #BringBackOurGirls? The short-lived social awareness campaign to rescue hundreds of abducted girls in Nigeria has long petered out. For a brief moment earlier this year, the world focused on the plight of innocent girls kidnapped by the Islamic radical group Boko Haram. Even the First Lady joined in the crusade. Millions of Facebook and Twitter messages later, and we’re nowhere close to bringing back our girls. The campaign was high on emotion and low on substance; the perfect reflection of our tech-obsessed, low attention span culture.
Mollie Hemingway should understand this. Normally, The Federalist contributor is a thoughtful writer with an agreeable view on culture, politics, and personal relations. In the post-Christian era where traditional distinctions are blurred more than ever, she provides some sanity to combat the forces of relativism.
But in a recent piece, Hemingway displays an angry frustration with the feminist cyberwarriors that have been hogging so much of the media spotlight. Topic of her disgust: the radical feminine vitriol aimed at shabby dresser Dr. Matt Taylor. After successfully landing a spacecraft on a comet 310 million miles from Earth, Taylor was chastised for wearing a bowling-style shirt embellished with scantily-clad women. A slur of insults and death threats followed. Even science-loving women were offended by the apparel.
Hemingway, like any sane person, was appalled by the puerile behavior displayed toward someone so brilliant, who succeeded at putting a creation of mankind on a cold rock far away from our home planet. She was so upset, in fact, she declared “It’s time to stand up to the bullying.” The irritated feminists “should be absolutely ashamed” and the next time their tirades take over the news cycle, “we should call it out.”
I agree: let’s stand up to overly sensitive feminists. Let’s show them that rationally thinking individuals won’t stand for their bully tactics and intimidation. Let’s combat the feminist inquisition with a hard dose of reality.
Except, how exactly do we go about this great defense of our traditional Vendéean stronghold? Where do we build the rampart, and begin the arduous march back toward normalcy?
Mrs. Hemingway doesn’t provide an answer. She recommends that victims of “grrrl power” bullies stop apologizing for perceived slights and offensives toward the female gender. Outside of that plain advice, we’re left with a rallying cry that is all talk and no essence.
My sympathies go out to her, but there is nothing that can be done about the militant forces of indignant egalitarianism. In many ways, the internet has been the great equalizer in terms of debate and speaking truth to power. It has also had the effect of giving a megaphone to morons. Social media proselytizing confirms Albert Jay Nock’s take on Gresham’s law: “the law of diminishing returns operate as inexorably in the realm of culture.” Increasing numbers of pop sociologists broadcasting rants on chat forums hasn’t lifted public discourse. If anything, these diatribes have ushered in a new era of trite victimology and an undeserved want of restitution. And on more than one occasion, the internet’s free flow of information, including the increased opportunity to be published in print media, has served as a breeding ground for totalitarian fantasies.
Recently, one student at Dartmouth used his God-given right to mouth-off to advocate the suppression of offensive speech. Writing in The Dartmouth, ungrateful man-child Zach Taylor declares “this country has gone too far in allowing people to say whatever they want,” which translates to suppressing language he sees as “hate speech.” Using the sagacious wisdom that comes with being a pampered undergrad, Taylor grants that there isn’t much standing in the way from authoritarian suppression of all speech, except for lingering cultural norms. I suppose he’s holding out hope the thought police will suddenly relent after stomping out the speech he finds deplorable.
Call Taylor what you will, but at least he advocates concrete action to silence his philosophical opponents. He doesn’t appeal to vague language and an unreachable goal. Yes, his contradictory and elementary writing reeks of “special snowflake” sanctimony. But at least he has a tangible solution to the evils that haunt his precious psyche.
I wish the same could be said of Hemingway’s campaign to “stand up” to pushy feminists. Her plea for action will do nothing to quiet the social warriors that patrol the hallways of the internet. Feminists have the same right to bitch and moan that everyone else has. Outside of forcefully cutting of their access to social media, there isn’t much that can be done. Free speech is a great thing, even when it’s used to voice idiotic opinions. Taking it away to silence a few miscreants threatens everyone in the end. As Sir Thomas More said in A Man for All Seasons, “Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!”
In no way do I think Ms. Hemingway is ignorant enough to want speech restrictions imposed on radical feminists. She’s sensible enough to realize that law is easily abused by human actors. It’s just a disappointment to see her appeal to pent-up rage that will ultimately amount to nothing. When it comes to temper tantrums thrown by unsavory characters, denunciation can be an attractive counteraction. But sometimes it’s best to, as Rod Dreher says, “roll your eyes and move on.”
The average working schmuck isn’t all that concerned about hurt feelings or that women might be discouraged from a profession in science. He certainly doesn’t care that a brainiac on television wore a shirt that’s fit for an expat drinking away retirement on a beach in Mexico. The scandal, like all frivolous news items, will soon fade away. It was never worth raising a stink about hidden misogyny in space exploration. It’s also not worth giving attention to people who are so starved for it they need to create controversy out of nothing. Don’t encourage the dames, or the effete bastards. Let them wallow in a puddle of irrational hate. They might not learn the error of their ways, but isolation is a better tool to weed them out.
If I’m wrong, I’ll happily accept a better solution.