A few days ago, I made a post about Edward Schlosser’s Vox article. I started by addressing his thesis, saying that I thought he was onto something, suggesting that maybe he’s putting the blame in the wrong place, but acknowledging that I’m not a student or an academic so I’m not the best person to judge. I didn’t offer a final judgment on his larger point, or try to sum up what I thought his point was. I certainly didn’t try to argue with him.
The main body of the post was concerned with one specific thing he did in that article, which was calling out an individual woman on Twitter by name and holding her up (falsely, he was wildly misrepresenting what she was saying in the Tweets he selected) as an example and cause of the problem he described.
As I noted in my post: she was not one of his students, one of his colleagues, or a part of any community he belongs to. She also didn’t call anyone out by name or point to anyone as a target.
And him holding her up and making an example of her subjected her to vitriol, threats, and other abuse from people who were all too eager to buy what he was selling about her.
The point of my post is that this was wrong. He was factually incorrect in how he characterized her statements, but disregarding that, what he did was morally wrong.
And here’s the thing: ever since I made that post, I have had people in the comments on my blog and in my Twitter mentions saying, “Yes, but Edward Schlosser has a point.” or “I don’t think you can say this proves him wrong.” or “You’re just cherry-picking to try to throw out his argument.”
Every single person saying this is making one very disgusting assumption.
And no, this is not a leap. It is a conclusion I am drawing, and I will explain how I drew this conclusion.
The disgusting assumption you are making is that the only reason a person would have to object to Schlosser’s treatment of his online scapegoat is if they desired to use her as a a pretext to attack him. You’re overlooking the possibility that anyone could actually care about her, about her feelings, about her safety, or even about the basic concept of fairness as it applies to her as a human being.
I’m saying, “What he did to this person while making his argument was not cool, and we should not stand for it.”
In order to take away from that is that I must have an axe to grind against him or I must be trying to discredit his larger point, you must not consider the possibility that I actually care about what he did to the person to be worth entertaining.
Now, I’m not claiming to have read your mind. I’m not saying you sat there twirling your Evil Mustache of Evil and said, “ZOUNDS! COULD SHE HAVE CARED ABOUT THIS OTHER PERSON? I SAY THEE NAY!” I’m saying it honestly didn’t occur to you. You leaped right past it.
And why did you do that?
Well… obviously any guess I would venture would be something of an assumption. That’s not to say that certain more obvious possibilities didn’t spring into my mind. I’ll bet they sprang into your mind, too… you were thinking that this is one of those “sees racism/sexism everywhere” things, weren’t you?
Here’s the thing that gets overlooked in all this “LIBERALS TODAY ARE TOO SENSITIVE BLAAAAAAR” stuff: if we only consider racism as a factor when it’s wearing a sheet and burning a cross on somebody’s lawn, we end up missing a lot of stuff.
Let me make a postulate here: Edward Schlosser did not in fact have any elaborate sinister plan when he called out the person he mentioned in his article. He did not in fact have any conscious agenda in using her as a lightning rod to gather outrage unto himself and support for his cause. I know, I know. You’re thinking, if I believe this, then why did I make my post?
Well, my post still stands.
Because racism doesn’t require evil schemes.
All it requires is callous disregard.
And callousness… we hear “callous” and we maybe still picture a sneering villain. But cruelty and callousness aren’t the same thing. To use an example from fantasy fandom: Severus Snape wasn’t callous in how he treated Harry Potter; Albus Dumbledore was.
Edward Schlosser did not consider his scapegoat to be worthy of the same regard he took for himself when he published under a pseudonym. He did not consider his scapegoat to be worthy of the same regard he reserved for his colleagues when he denounced call-out culture as creating a toxic aura of silence and fear. He did not consider his scapegoat to be worthy of the same respect he gives his students in actually hearing their words and taking in what they mean.
And when I say “did not consider”, I don’t mean “thought about it, then decided no”.
I mean “did not think about it”.
The same is true of each and every single person who came to my blog, read my post, and decided that I wasn’t really defending his target, but only attacking his message.
I could tell you how much I respect and admire his target, or how long I’ve been aware of her in a friend-of-friends sort of way, but here’s the thing: I shouldn’t need to prove my bona fides in caring about another human being. My point was and is that what he did to her was unacceptable, period. It would have been unacceptable if it happened to my best friend. It would have been unacceptable if it had happened to a perfect stranger.
This is a moral stance. This is an ethical stance. This is barebones, basic human decency.
I’m going to close this post by reiterating what I said before:
What he did to her was incitement, it was exploitation, and it was abuse, and we should not stand for it.
I note that Vox.com agrees enough to have edited that portion out of his piece. People are crying censorship, but notice that his argument is still there, exactly as intact and complete as it was from start to finish. That’s because the attack, the scapegoating… it never had to do with him making his case on a logical level.