Social Justice? You Were Warned

For quite a while now, readers of SJ have “informed” me that they agreed with my posts about criminal law, but hated my posts that addressed the blight of identity politics and social justice. How could I be so right about one thing and so wrong about . . . wait for it . . . JUSTICE!!!

But it wasn’t just that I was wrong, but needlessly and gratuitously wrong, since none of this had anything to do with the real world. Until it did.

For some time, a fixation on identity politics, a culture of reflexive outrage, and a scorched-earth approach to trivial transgressions have been all hallmarks of student activism and academic radicalism. They are now becoming increasingly evident in American life as a whole. In the name of defending women and ethnic and sexual minorities — all reasonable goals — progressives on and off campus are taking illiberal stances that polarize society, put a chill on free speech, and erode respect for due process.

Not long ago, tropes such as “white privilege” or “rape culture,” which reduce a vast range of social dynamics to racism and misogyny, were seldom heard outside the radical wing of the academy; today, they’ve joined the mainstream.

Who cares about what insanity pervades college campuses and the academy? After all, they’re just a bunch of dumb naive kids and their pointy-headed enablers, right? But as Cathy Young explains, what starts as a noble quest quickly devolves.

Opposing bigotry and injustice are noble goals; but the social justice movement, on and off campus, goes far beyond that. It labels people by identity, creating a hierarchy in which being “marginalized” confers status while being “privileged” brings shame. Moreover, given its focus on changing “wrong” attitudes, is almost by definition hostile to free speech: dissent, even counterargument, becomes “microaggression” or “discursive violence.”

To the simplistic, failure to embrace the dogma in its entirety, and as its tentacles extend in various “intersectional” directions from moment to moment to assuage the sadness that arises from the latest heartfelt anecdote, the questioning of social justice was the antithesis of justice. If one cared about defendants, one had to care about cultural appropriation and microaggressions, because they were all about opposing prejudice.

Except they weren’t.

IS THE DOCTRINAIRE left as dangerous to liberal democracy as the unified rule of the right? Certainly, the Trump-era Republican Party has the potential to do grave damage to democratic institutions and is already damaging liberal norms. But the academic left’s hostility to these norms should not be discounted, and its influence over progressive and Democratic dogma is only growing.

And the reaction only serves to polarize the positions of people who refuse to embrace an untenable and unprincipled ideology, its noble goals notwithstanding.

What’s more, left-wing campus politics also feed and empower the right. Stories of political correctness run amok, gleefully picked up by conservative media (and in some cases overblown), boost the perception of rampant hypersensitivity, speech policing, and anti-male and/or anti-white bias.

Cathy does an exceptional job cataloging the authoritarian self-righteousness, but this has also wormed its way into the mindset of lawyers who believe, and refuse to grasp the significance.

We defend society’s most reprehensible accused, except when we don’t like the offense? Is it a sex offense? Is the defendant a white supremacist? Was the victim gay or transgender? Off with their heads! Due process is only for the accused we like. Punch a nazi. Out a male on social media who didn’t ask “mother may I” for each touch. The presumption of innocence is the hill we would die on, except if it means we don’t believe the victim.

Perhaps the real danger is that “social justice warriors” on the left are propping up Trumpism on the right, and vice versa. With each side spurring the other to action in a feedback loop, there will soon be little room left for anyone else.

Standing firm on the principle of supporting constitutional rights such as free speech and due process, one will invariably be called the nastiest words the SJWs can muster, the worst of which is Trumpkin. After all, that’s what any heretic who fails to confess their sins and succumb to the overwhelming emotions of the progressive scolds must be. It’s infected colleges. From there, society. And that includes the law.

That it was coming has been clear for a few years now. That young lawyers (and their enablers) have adopted it means that they are no longer competent to serve their role of defending against the wave of scolds who would punish for offenses against their feelings upon no more proof than the tears of victims.

The alternative to social justice isn’t bigotry, but liberty. No criminal defense lawyer can forsake constitutional rights to serve an unprincipled cause of elevating their favored identity at the expense of the Constitution. And yet, they believe they are entitled to do so, and proudly reject their duty to their clients in favor of their dedication to their cause.

This is why so much effort has been put into explaining the wrongfulness of unprincipled ideologies that began with the children and wound their way into the courthouse. You hated it as it happened, as it failed to align with your feelings, but you will hate it far more when you can’t find a lawyer willing to defend you because you are too awful for them to tolerate.

And should this happen, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

36 thoughts on “Social Justice? You Were Warned

  1. REvers

    I have to take issue with one thing. Lawyers who elevate their dedication to a cause over their duty to their clients are not criminal defense lawyers, no matter what they think of themselves.

    1. SHG Post author

      True, except the continue to hold themselves out as such and use their putative position for the purpose of rationalizing why even CDLs support the evisceration of constitutional rights for the despised. The use their CDL cred as enablers.

  2. Richard Kopf


    The historian of science Michael Shermer, once wrote that “I’m a skeptic not because I do not want to believe but because I want to know.” He placed the word “know” in italics.

    Once upon a time, the vast majority of lawyers and many of our fellow citizens were skeptics. They wanted to know before they believed. No longer.

    Your warning is prescient. Unfortunately, it will not be heard. That ship has sailed.

    All the best.


    1. SHG Post author

      We’ve lost many lawyers. Mostly young, but some more experienced lawyers as well for whom the belief is sufficient. But I refuse to accept that we’ve lost them all, and that there will be no lawyer for poor clients who would otherwise end up with these believers. There are still lawyers who are skeptics and will not substitute their feelings for their duty to their clients.

      1. MonitorsMost

        I thought all the non-lost lawyers were boarding a ship to the Undying Lands like in the last ending of the Lord of the Rings.

    2. Skink

      Rich–I know you believe otherwise. You must be in this fight. Please, please, don’t give in to the bastards.

        1. Skink

          This won’t make sense to nearly everyone here, but it’s Sunday. Rich should take every little-kid lawyer into chambers and explain why it’s important that the Lincoln bust is wearing a shower cap. It matters.

          1. SHG Post author

            It’s not my place to discuss Judge Kopf’s personal issues. And when he’s done explaining, he should give them all a cookie.

  3. Sgt. Schultz

    A particularly stupid female lawyer on the twitters called this a “garbage” take, apparently because this hurts her feelings and she very much needs your validation. She went on to explain that you single-handedly destroyed the blogosphere. Why are you so mean to female lawyer blawgers?

    [Ed. Note: Link deleted, because reasons.]

    1. SHG Post author

      It’s hardly unusual to gather some trolls over time, but that one saddens me. There is something terribly awry there, but whatever it may be, it’s not my problem to cure.

      1. Sgt. Schultz

        Whatever it is, there’s an obvious fatal attraction element to it. Plus, she’s boring and insufferably self-absorbed. Some serious defects there.

        1. SHG Post author

          Not fatal attraction. More like daddy issues. But whatever. I can’t be responsible for every disturbed person out there.

      2. LocoYokel

        “[Ed. Note: Link deleted, because reasons.]”

        Darn, I would have liked to seen that thread. I enjoy watching peoples heads explode. Yes, I am that guy.

  4. B. McLeod

    “Social Justice” has become an incredible misnomer, as there is little “justice” in the hate-fueled, off-the-rack dogmatism pushed by he mindlessly irrational SJWs. By and large, they are simply so ignorant and intellectually compromised they are incapable even of perceiving their own profound hatefulness or their even more profound hypocrisy for what it is. Like their counterparts on the right, they unflinchingly subscribe to positions rooted in unthinking prejudice, yet they fail to realize why their different stripe of prejudice does not entitle them to the moral superiority they so desperately affect. From dawn until dusk, the holier than thou asshole of the left is closer kin to the holier than thou asshole of the right than to any of the mainstream citizenry.

    1. SHG Post author

      Whether hateful or not, it can’t work even if it was the best-intended ideology ever.

      A principled position is that the same rights are due everyone, and that any deprivation of those rights would be a violation of equal protection. Social justice is unprincipled, doling out rights according to identity, such that the majority gets the least, but even marginalized and minorities are constantly trumped by the more marginalized and more minority, such that each down the line gets greater rights at the expense of the rights of the more privileged. The majority cannot be slaves to the demands of the least privileged. It won’t work, no matter how much they feel it should.

      1. PseudonymousKid

        The majority should not be slaves to the demands of the most privileged, either, and the same rights are due to everyone, even the poor. Progressives got off the leftist train where identity eclipsed interest. It’s a shame. We’re all but sinners in the hands of angry Zuckerbergs now.

        1. SHG Post author

          I posit that the majority of Americans are decent people. At the same time, they hold some traditional values, to work hard, to care for their family, and to be kind and fair to others. These aren’t bad people, and demands that they forsake their beliefs for those of the unduly passionate will not only be rejected, but (as Cathy notes) compel them to move closer to the alternative if there is no middle ground left.

          If everyone who doesn’t believe, and practice, social justice is a racist or misogynist, then we will become a nation of them because people will not neglect their families or their values to obtain the approval of the woke. And to nail this down further, even trying to be more woke invariably fails, as one is never woke enough to avoid the slings and arrow of the SJWs. So the answer quickly becomes “fuck it,” and people go back to their normal lives of hard work and caring for their families.

          Just so you know, PK, the children of reddit/law are displeased with me, though apparently incapable of articulating a reason and too fearful to come here to call my post out.

  5. michael

    Interesting to note that at the end of an interview with now famous/infamous psychologist Jordan Peterson, that was done for Quillette just prior to the now famous/infamous Chanel 4 interview debacle regarding the “gender wars” and “inequality” SJW issues Peterson stated that, “Law is the worst of the bunch.” Finishing the interview with this follow-up: “The law is really bad. I had no idea how deep the corruption in law had gotten until last year. I have been talking to law students and professors and it’s absolutely unbelievable.”

      1. michael

        Do you think that’s a counter-argument of some sort? You should have begun your reply with, “So what you’re saying is … “

        1. SHG Post author

          Damn, you’re right. I blew my opportunity. I don’t disagree, but as appeals to expertise go, Peterson’s opinion about lawyers isn’t really very valuable to lawyers.

  6. Fen

    Opposing bigotry and injustice are not “noble” causes, good grief. You stand up for the bullied kid because it’s the right thing to do. Period

    These people need to get over themselves. Next they’ll be demanding a garland of roses because they didn’t molest the intern. Resisting temptation oooh edgy. It’s what normal people do every single day.

    I’m beginning to think all this virtue signaling and “resistance” pretensions are compensation for being awful wretched losers in their real lives.

      1. michael

        So what you’re saying is, you have no idea why the author put “noble” in quotations to indicate his subject was the self-righteous arrogance and pomposity of the typical SJW. Right? And, so what you’re saying is you are reading comprehension challenged.

          1. the other rob

            A long time ago, when I was young and single, I dated a vegan for several years. Some of the vegan meals that she cooked were magnificent and I say that in the full knowledge that mentioning women and cooking in the same sentence demands mandatory SJW hell.

            The funny thing is, at the time she was a radical progressive. She’d be a hopeless reactionary by today’s standards. The left eats all of its own, eventually.

            Now that I think of it, she was also the person who introduced me to Wednesbury Reasonableness.

            1. SHG Post author

              Most people considered me quite the lefty until I became whatever it is I am now. I had a drink a few weeks ago with an old friend, an SDS radical in college, who told me his daughter informed he’s a conservative. We laughed and laughed. Then we ate meat, because vegans are horrifying.

            2. Billy Bob

              Wednesbury Reasonableness? Are you on drugs! Wacky Wed-nes-day leads into Thirsty Thursday, in our calendar, a localism in these hear parts.
              The Left eats all its own, it’s Own Unknown. Thank you, Bob DyLand, the greatest poet of the last half century. Furthermore, my Dear Watson, reactionaries are never hopeless, by any standard; they are hopefulll of sh!t. Get yer facts straight, Rob “Peter-to-pay -Paul’, or we come down to Texas and hog-tie you, and drag behind a 50s pickup truck down a dirt road that nobody knows.

              You are pining for that vegan beauty today, we can tell. You blew it! Do not feel like the lone Ranger.
              You will be okay Rob, we have faith. Incidentally, men are the best chefs, and the best drivers on the road. Trust it. There’s a reason women do not get paid as much as men, but we’re not going there tonight.

            3. the other rob

              SWMBO made lamb tikka massala tonight. It was scrumptious. After complimenting her on the meal, I remarked that her cooking for us was probably literal Nazi rape. She laughed and laughed too.

              Confucius say, when those who are not mental laugh at your strenuous objections, you should consider the possibility that it may be you that is mental.

            4. the other rob

              “…or we come down to Texas and hog-tie you, and drag behind a 50s pickup truck down a dirt road that nobody knows.”

              We tend to be heavily armed, in this part of Texas. Just sayin’.

  7. BikerDad

    Justice is like ethics. Anytime a modifier is added, it can mean one of two things:

    If the modifier truly refers to a subset, then the core principle still stands. If, on the other hand, the modifier means “throw half the core out and replace with this new stuff”, then it simply serves to corrupt.

    So, whenever you encounter “social justice” or “environmental justice” or “legal ethics”, etc, take a close look at what’s happening. Subset? Or wholesale replacement/corruption?

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