Turn Down for What?

Origin of “Snowflake” as a Pejorative

Interesting fact: in the 1860s the pejorative “snowflake” was used by abolitionists in Missouri to refer to those who opposed the abolition of slavery. The term related to the colour of snow, referring to valuing white people over black people.

Anarchists (with their acute appreciation of the history of class struggle) resurrected the phrase in the early 90s, around the time that Internet flame wars first became a ‘thing’, and employed it in reference to the authoritarian right. A “snowflake” was someone who believed their genetic makeup to be ‘pure white’, and who would enter total meltdown in reaction to anything that conflicted with their ideological perspective (be it gays, blacks, or breastfeeding in public).  This subtlety went entirely over the heads of the auth-right, who perhaps due to their lack of self-awareness perceived “snowflake” as just “name calling”, and ironically started using it in retaliation!

‘White Power’ snowflake flag.

This is likely how “snowflake” came to feature in Chuck Palahniuk’s 1996 novel Fight Club, which famously included the quote: “you are not special, you are not a beautiful and unique snowflake”. This line was later included in the film adaptation, and thus entered into popular culture. Nowadays “snowflake” is sadly associated as a pejorative used by the alt-right against the liberal left… unless of course you were a Generation X anarchist in the 90s.

Conservative Snowflakes
Snowflakes enter meltdown if their worldview is challenged.

Thus ‘anger’ was originally the prerogative of conservatives and other reactionaries on the right. These ‘snowflakes’ would take offence at anything ‘different’ (typically anything not white or ‘straight’) and become morally outraged about it. Their authoritarian tendency was to ban, prohibit, censor, or segregate stuff they were’t comfortable with.

Political Correctness

The notion of “political correctness” was first applied in reference to that which strictly adhered to a range of ideological orthodoxies. For example, in 1934, The New York Times reported that Nazi Germany was granting reporting permits “only to pure ‘Aryans’ whose opinions are politically correct.” Ffwd post-WWII, and the term was being used sarcastically in reference to Marxist-Leninist doctrine. By the 1970s the left had also begun using the term in a sarcastic manner, albeit in reference to the sort of lip service routinely employed to placate them (the sentiment being in reference to the political perversion of fundamental correctness).

Political correctness can be a form of oppression.

Up until the 1980s mainstream egalitarian thought had predominantly been social, in that it dealt the politics of class, and advocated equality of treatment. Gradually this was supplanted by a populist liberal take on egalitarianism that dealt with the politics of identity, and advocated equality of outcome. These liberal egalitarians unironically adopted political correctness as a strategic method of delivering social justice. They began to express outrage, at the outrage being expressed by those on the right. This heralded the Age of the Pathologically Offended.

Egalitarianism: Social vs Liberal

Black Cat Worker Collective is founded on social, not liberal, egalitarian principles. Correspondingly, as a dive bar, Krakatoa is steeped in a culture of respect and tolerance, as opposed to one of judgement and intolerance. Our view is that outrage cannot be counteracted with outrage, and that the notion of being offended at someone else taking offence is nonsensical. One cannot preach tolerance from a position that is in itself inherently intolerant. Respect cuts both ways. Yelling in an angry person’s face is unlikely to change their mindset. Make love not war.

Social egalitarians advocate equal treatment. 

The problem with liberal egalitarianism is that it’s reactionary and therefore inherently authoritarian in nature. Advocates believe that others will slowly conform to its ideals, through the application of political force. All this does is thought police fundamentally wrong opinions underground, where they bubble away, giving rise to perceptions of oppression. Liberals have in effect birthed the alt-right: a reactionary movement, to the reactionary movement, to the original conservative reactionaries.

Or as George Carlin more succinctly put it:

Intolerance may not be the best response to intolerance.

The social egalitarian response is three-pronged. It not only seeks to address the underlying structural issues, but also strives to reeducate, and is outspoken in its rejection of the authoritarian solution… that latter aspect being crucial to flushing this nonsense out. If people are harbouring views that are racist, sexist, or homophobic, then forcing them to conceal those, makes it much harder to address the problem on an interpersonal level.

Any worthwhile progress in equality, has arisen from structural changes facilitating equal treatment rather than via the banning of free speech.

For example “the right” actively seek to criminalise homosexuality, whereas liberals actively seek to criminalise homophobia. They are in effect pursuing the exact same means in an effort to secure polar opposite objectives.

Social egalitarians reject criminalisation as a solution to anything. Instead they focus their efforts on education and securing equal treatment. In this case legalising marriage for same-sex couples. Other welcome structural levellings have included universal suffrage, common age of consent, allowing everyone to the use public transport regardless of race, and numerous changes to the school curriculum to encourage equal treatment early in life.

It’s often assumed that those seeking to ban stuff are the same people as those working to dismantle coercive structures. Although these strategies tend to parallel one another, there’s seldom any real overlap. While liberals express similar aims, their approach actually impedes structural reform, as it mainly serves to entrench opposition to it.

Class Struggle Anarchism

Although oppression assumes multiple forms, there is but one mechanism. It is impossible to oppress someone unless you have scope to dominate them. Class struggle anarchism is predominantly about dismantling those passive structures that facilitate domination. We eliminate class distinctions by levelling the playing field. Rather than criminalising the use of slurs, you seek to render them meaningless and obsolete.

Highlighting the differences between people, actually creates scope for oppression. People can only be targeted if they are perceived as a distinct group. This is why the social egalitarian component of class struggle anarchism advocates for equal treatment.

There are both social and economic components to class.

Class struggle anarchism, does not propose lumping everyone into a single economic class, rather it’s the recognition that we are all equally worthy parts of the same human race.

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