Imagine I call you a Nazi.
That's great for me, because now I can ignore anything you say, and I've made it clear to everyone else that they should ignore you too. In fact, anyone who agrees with or defends you is also a Nazi. Think of the time I've saved.
"You're no platformed! You're no platformed! Everyone is no platformed!"
The problem is, this won't change your mind. You now think I'm an idiot. It's obvious I'm trying to shout you down and to put anyone else off from listening to you. You might laugh at me. You might be abusive. We're not going to learn anything from each other, and we're not going to be friends.
It's the same with calling someone a "social justice warrior" as a way to avoid addressing what they say. Or, indeed, a "racist", "transphobe" or "Islamophobe". It might make you feel better, but it's not going to win any arguments or change any minds. Likely it will push people into two camps: for you and against you.
Do you know who else liked to put people into camps? Hitler.
Let's spell it out logically. If Nazis do a thing, it may be more likely that the thing is bad, but the thing could still be morally neutral or even good.
Hitler was a vegetarian, but that doesn't mean all vegetarians are Nazis.
People who are diametrically opposed to everything you believe in could be saying something which is factually correct, or that might have an important point or lesson which could help your own understanding, even if they don't realise this, and even if they are in fact Nazis.
We live accelerated lives. We communicate in small snippets of text, in messages or tweets or comments on Facebook. Context is generally lost, and we have no time to question whether someone actually means a particular point. It's much easier and more emotionally satisfying just to assume the worst.
I've previously written about Political Correctness, and how it can actually harm diversity and understanding (for example, by telling black women activists they can't criticize FGM because of western privilege).
While I was reading the many great responses to my article, I came across a link to an post at Pharyngula by the biology professor and internet personality PZ Myers. In The anti-PC police are in the wrong, PZ says:
I'm really fed up with all the op-eds emerging now, decrying those wimpy college students and political correctness and trigger warnings and safe spaces. They're all from obnoxious ignoramuses who are really trying to defend their sheltered privilege from criticism.
He's he calling anyone who disagrees with him a Nazi . He goes on to say:
the anti-PC language does the opposite of what its obnoxious proponents claim. It's not about advocating for free speech. It's about using accusations of "PC" and mocking efforts to give minorities a voice to silence critics of the status quo.
I'm doing no such thing: I'm all for giving minorities a voice to criticise the status quo. But it'll do no good to anyone for me to abuse PZ about it, or indeed for anyone to abuse anyone else about anything.
Instead, In the interests of peace, love and misunderstanding, I ask this...
Let's stop pretending that we can win arguments by declaring those with different opinions so terrible that we can never be seen with them, and that no decent person should be seen with them either.
Let's try to make the world a better place, and make it more likely that our 'opponents' will actually consider what we're trying to say.
If someone actually is inciting violence or hatred or seeking to remove the rights of other people, then we can stand up against them together.
But let's start by acknowledging that, right now, too many people dismiss the opinions of others out of hand far too easily.
Obviously you'll agree because, #AnyOneWhoDisagreesWithMeIsANazi ;)