Intersectionality: The Perfect Tool To Enhance Extremism?

Written by Geoffrey Aikens (@OhArd215)

In an increasingly hostile social environment, we have begun seeing those whose views do not follow the status quo being forced out without reason. It seems almost impossible to debate an issue without the context of marginalization being brought up. Silencing ideas allows them a status of victimhood in a society that is increasingly victimhood based, therefore giving these silenced ideas weight within the very system trying to silence them.

Weak-minded individuals seeking validation for their anger can easily make sense of this, as they now feel victimized and can hurl the exact insults that were first thrown at them. This cycle produces an interesting effect: As progressivism pushes the idea of intersectionality — how race, gender, and sexual orientation interact to marginalize an individual in society — it gives more power in social settings to the previously oppressed, and allows the persecution of those previously holding the power.

The newly marginalized group, embracing an intersectional society, can use the silencing of their ideas to show others who may believe the same, but are not as bold, that they are the actual victims, and that they need to strike back at a society trying to “replace” them. With the lack of face-to-face interaction, thanks to the internet, it is easy to perceive the oppression we may feel is much greater, especially once we occupy the undesirable end of the social intersectional hierarchy. Any attempts at questioning the narrative in that setting usually ostracizes the person, which does not allow them to have their possibly faulty ideals challenged and rebuked. These people often seek each other out, believing they must be right by looking at how marginalized they are. They will usually hold to their ideas more tightly, and even call to organize.

One of the ways this played out in real time was the Charlottesville march at the “Unite the Right” rally, held by Richard Spencer and Jason Kessler. The main reasoning for their rally had been to defend the statue of Robert E. Lee in Emancipation Park from being torn down. The removal of confederate monuments has been a serious topic of discussion for years now and culminated into what was supposed to be a non-violent demonstration.

The polarization of opinions made it difficult to discuss the topic, especially with the confederate flag tied to racially motivated murders in Charleston. This led to online far-right forums being flooded with people looking to discuss these taboo ideas without fear of persecution. Recognizing that they were not alone in their ideas, supporters of Confederate monuments called to action and organized a rally. The rally resulted in the deaths of three people, one from a vehicle ramming attack, and two police troopers in a helicopter crash.

We can break this down on many levels. First, we observe the removal of the monument being pushed forward and ignoring the protests of people who disagreed. This drove them to online forums that are only populated by people who believe the same thing. In turn, they developed a camaraderie in their feelings of marginalization and decided to take action through online organization with far-right sites such as The Daily Stormer.

“But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.” -Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The levying of social ostracization against the previous oppressor also leads to another unintended consequence: Ignorance. Without being forced to defend ideals against challenge, the reasoning for embracing them becomes muddled as time goes on. This path leads away from ideological and into religious territory. People become blind followers on the faith that they are correct instead of empirical evidence. Once we arrive at this point, the ideology is now appealing to those who are looking for a place to feel accepted. They do not need to learn anything beyond who stands opposed to them, and that they are the enemy. This is a dangerous line of thinking because it lacks nuance. You lose the ability to understand the depth to issues, adopting a binary view of the world.

Brady, William & A. Wills, Julian & Jost, John & Tucker, Joshua & Van Bavel, Jay. (2017). Emotion shapes the diffusion of moralized content in social networks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 114. 201618923. 10.1073/pnas.1618923114. Source: ResearchGate.

The graph represents a depiction of messages containing moral and emotional language, and their retweet activity, across all political topics (gun control, same-sex marriage, climate change). Nodes represent a user who sent a message, and edges (lines) represent a user retweeting another user. The two large communities were shaded based on the mean ideology of each respective community (blue represents a liberal mean, red represents a conservative mean).

This reduced view of the world is easily taken advantage of by those in different social or even political groups that wish to have people following them without question. By offering an easy-to-grasp concept and a “family” willing to accept an individual and give them worth, the disillusioned are quickly drawn.

The number of mass shootings in the United States between 1982 and November 19, 2018, by gender of the shooters. Source: Statista

Young men are especially susceptible to the lure because of the necessity of worthiness in a society where males are judged on masculinity. With so many young men living coddled lives, we are experiencing an epidemic; those who are searching for value in themselves with devotion to a group. When they reach out through the standard channels they find that most of these avenues are devoted to women seeking help. This is where we can lean on the idea of “the new sheriff is coming to town,” that young men tend to be violent when lacking a powerful authority figure to keep them in check. Seeing these young unstable men as an available source of members, many extremist groups target them and have been quite successful. Playing on their insecurities and lack of positive response from intersectional society, these young men are turned into the perfect tool for these groups.

They manifest an identity for themselves tied to whatever faction they hold and see any transgression against the group as an attack on them personally. This is the perfect member for any extremist ideology.

“I intend to destroy segregation by positive and embracing methods, When my brothers try to draw a circle to exclude me, I shall draw a larger circle to include them. Where they speak out for the privileges of a puny group, I shall shout for the rights of all mankind.” — Pauli Murray

It is important that each of us takes time to understand that identity politics, while not all equally dangerous, do not aid society. Everyone deserves to be seen as the individual they are. However, we can not forcefully compel others to see us as we see ourselves. We cannot forcefully compel people to believe in our ideals. We must imbue ourselves with antifragility, with the ability to disagree with someone and debate our ideas using reason and substance. This will allow us to confront subversive ideas without ostracizing each other for a lack of understanding. When we allow people to introduce alternative ideas into the fray, it gives us the ability to shine a teachable light. This lets us show others who might be feeling similarly the issues with their thought process, and we can attempt to change their mind through legitimate discussion. Even the spectacle of allows someone who is not directly connected to the conversation to receive the benefits of the interaction. We can recognize the people who are in danger of falling in line with extremist thinking and help prevent the propagation of those ideas.

We can give vulnerable people a way to hear positive ideals, to show that even in disagreement, conversation can exist; that they are not being pushed to the bottom of a new social caste, and are instead seeing the people around them come to the same level. By embracing peaceful assembly, instead of calling for trials, we can allow those who are afraid of being pushed out to raise their concern in a safe manner instead of lashing out at society.

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