When I heard about the toddler pulled into a lake at Disney World by an alligator, my first reaction was total sympathy for his poor grieving parents. Parenthood is a continual process of worrying that some momentary lapse in judgment or attention on your part—as a Midwesterner, I can assure you that people from Nebraska have no clue about alligators—is going to get your kids killed. That continues right up until they’re old enough to leave home, at which point you move on to the task of worrying that they’re going to get themselves killed.
But that’s a normal human reaction, and normal human reactions are increasingly unwelcome these days. Instead, we get reactions like this one, courtesy of a leftist activist on Twitter.
That tweet doesn’t get any better in context, which you can see here. Yet it was not the worst thing that was said in that conversation.
Brian Raftery of Wired makes an excellent case that it was, if not the “worst tweet of all time,” at least “the worst tweet of the day.”
It is, he writes,
a bouillon of everything that’s terrible about the Internet in 2016. There’s the lack of empathy, for starters—an utter inability to not only understand or acknowledge someone’s pain, but to not even allow that person to experience it in private…. Then there’s the preening, needy narcissism required to read about it and immediately think, ‘Hmmm. Dead kid, you say? How can I make this about me?’ And, of course, there’s the parent-shaming, which I guess is something we all feel comfortable doing in public nowadays?… Finally, there’s the politicization of it.
Yes, these are all excellent reasons, and a lot of people agreed with them. Which is why that’s not actually the worst sentiment expressed this year in a tweet. Much better competition for the worst would be this one:
@BrianRaftery The real “worst tweets” are the ones aimed hourly at women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ community. (4/5)
— Brian Raftery (@BrianRaftery) June 17, 2016
Yes, that’s right, that’s from Brian Raftery of Wired, the same guy who just made a very sensible point—and within 24 hours of doing so was pushed into a series of tweets making a groveling apology for it. Because that’s the way things work now. We can’t possibly let anyone get away with saying something that makes sense.
Nobody seems to know exactly who “Brienne of Snarth” is in real life, though she apparently had a following as a gay feminist activist online. All of her material now seems to be scrubbed from the Internet, and you and I might say good riddance. When you’ve said something that vile, perhaps it’s wise to just shut up and disappear for a while. But now, you see, it’s all Brian Raftery’s fault for being mean to a member of two certified victim groups, and he’s the one who needs to be hounded into an apology.
For those who are tempted to say that this is only chatter on Twitter—well, that’s a big part of how we communicate now, and what happens there is a way of establishing and enforcing the new norms of behavior and thinking.
What it is supposed to enforce, in this case, is a kind of relentless tribalism, in which everything—absolutely everything—has to be viewed through identity politics. Did you think they didn’t mean it when the Left started talking about “intersectionality,” that weird hierarchy of oppression that determines whose victimhood outranks yours? Well, they mean it. Every story now has to be processed through the filter of group identity so we can determine where we stand on it and how seriously we take it.
This is a far cry from the idealism about race that the old “liberals” used to congratulate themselves about. As a symbol of that, this is the election year in which it became mandatory to say that “black lives matter”—and proof of your perfidy to insist that “all lives matter.” As if the two are mutually exclusive and you can’t care about one group of people if you care about anybody else. This is the absolute worst of America’s undead racial politics, literally pitting the lives of some people against the lives of others.
To insist on the old liberal creed that we’re all brothers under the skin and everyone is equal, that identity politics doesn’t outweigh our common humanity, now takes an act of moral courage. And moral courage has been banned.
That’s the second target, and I suspect the more important target, of Raftery’s ritual prostration before the Social Justice cult. Another outdated self-image the Left clings to is that they are brave visionaries who are willing to “speak truth to power.” But it’s pretty obvious that isn’t wanted anymore, when you see how quickly anyone on the Left who states a sensible truth is brought to heel.
That’s what makes Raftery’s apology one of the worst things said on social media this year. It’s a sign of the conquest of the last vestiges of liberalism by the new leftist creed of racial collectivism, and more ominously, of the vicious groupthink that enforces obedience to that creed.
As I’ve been arguing for a while, the old “liberals” are dead. They have left to us the job of taking up whatever was good and idealistic in the causes they claimed to champion.
Follow Robert on Twitter.