Fighting Back: Bigoteer and Empowering Online Social Hate

Here’s a new word going throughout the tech and business world: Bigoteer.

It’s a term coined and currently being popularized by Tim Ferriss, a guy who has helped many and who has an enormous platform to spread messages.

Here’s a link to the hashtag. Take a nice look and examine the commonalities between the term’s early adopters.

And while we’re at it, let’s link to the term it evolved from, SJW (Social Justice Warrior). Take a nice look at that feed. Maybe preemptively grab a paper towel to wipe the puke from your mouth too.

According to Tim's definition, a SJW - or a bigoteer if we’re getting fancy - are people who are too easily offended; kids at colleges who get offended when someone does something racist, sexist, or ‘politically incorrect’. To listen to him explain it, an SJW performs unjust vigilantism of those who have controversial views, or those who - the actual term he used - ’challenge reality’. He also ties it together as a response to what he sees as the proliferation of the SJW, something he’s actually called “one of the most dangerous things happening in the U.S. today.”

A very brief history lesson: Social Justice Warrior was once a term used by some media outlets to describe the work of social reformists. Martin Luther King Jr. is a prime example.

The term was positive, laudatory to leaders who pushed for social equality. The right to vote, the right to choose a seat at the front of the bus, the right to not be relegated to the servant class. The term was also retrospective; it wasn’t used in the moment to describe these leaders. Social Justice had existed as a term to describe, quite simply, a fair relation between society and the individual. The ‘Warrior’ part was added in reflection, when society accepted that warriors were not just those with weapons and violence, but those who fought for equality by way of social reform.

Fast forward a few decades, the term Social Justice Warrior became an attack word, a catch-all for anonymous people to harass others. A derogatory term used to bring into questions the motivation of someone. We’ve seen this many times before. It started with a few select people in the gaming community deciding that women needed to be put in their place. It was wrapped up in justification stating that the targets were after self-promotion in the guise of ethics.

But it really was a small group within the gaming community bullying and harassing women. Then that turned into stalking and death threats.

Then it spiraled into an online and offline onslaught that targeted anyone promoting social equality. It was never about discourse or conversation, or any of the diversionary issues that the perpetrators espoused. Just strict fear-inducing bullying by those who wanted to make sure ‘the other’ were kept in their place.

And it’s worked. Especially on platforms like Twitter, where people can remain anonymous and can bombard anyone for their viewpoints without repercussion. Sure, the argument is that it goes both ways. But let’s not kid ourselves - no one promoting social justice is making violent threats against the others. And the numbers are skewed.

There are people who refuse to speak their mind for fear of being bullied, giving way for the bullies to thrive and push them out.

But there are those who choose to fight, to give voice to the voiceless, to stand up against the bullies.

At a minor level, this is akin to ‘nerd’ or ‘geek’ being a derogatory term in the 80’s and 90’s. A term that paved the way for bullying and, guess what? The nerds and geeks won that fucking battle.

But on a much larger scale, we’re seeing this play out in the presidential election. Trump promotes social bigotry. That’s his whole modus operandi. Brexit? How the fuck do you think that happened?

But, hey, let’s arm privileged Silicon Valley folks with the term ‘bigoteer’ so they can hurl it out without thought at others who disagree with them.

So, Tim Ferriss - what the actual fuck? You’re promoting a term that benefits a few, while latching yourself onto one of the most disgusting social movements of the Twenty-First century. And the few that it benefits largely already have a ton of privilege one the people you’re encouraging attacks against.

I’m a fan of yours. Your work has truly helped me in life. I listen to your podcast if the guest sounds like they'd be interesting. And I usually learn a lot from it. But I’ve listened to three now where you’ve pushed the term ‘bigoteer’ with a newfound vehemence in your messaging. Your shit tends to go viral, so there's a high likelihood this will too. And it’s odd to me that you’d use your platform to encourage hate in the guise of ‘challenging reality’.

Here’s an example of how you supported the term ‘bigoteer’ within your podcast: Daniel Tosh.

In 2012, this happened.

Basically, there was a ton of backlash. Daniel Tosh walked a fine-line between comedy and commenting that one of his audience members should be raped by five guys.

Tim’s argument was that it was a joke, that those who were offended and propagated the backlash fit the definition of ‘bigoteers’. That Daniel Tosh's career should not have taken a hit.

What a shitty example. Look, there are comedians who can make rape jokes work. It’s tricky, but that’s why they’re comedians. The good ones know how to find the light in something difficult. Louis CK, Sarah Silverman - they've told rape jokes that have worked with their comedy. That wasn’t what Daniel Tosh was doing. He commented that a member of his audience should be raped.

If I stood up in my office, pointed to a co-worker, and stated, “she looks like she should be raped by five guys,” I should be fired. Without question. Even if I follow up with, "just a joke guys! See, she wasn't offended, she's still here!"

There’s a line, and I would have crossed it. Just like Daniel Tosh did.

Understand something, Tim. People who have experienced violent abuse find no humor in reliving it, especially within an environment where they’re expecting joy and escape. Abuse victims relive it within their minds, the looks over the their shoulders as they walk alone, the intimidation as they encounter someone in an everyday setting who meets the profile of their abusers.

I don’t know if the girl was an abuse victim, but the ripple effect throughout the audience for actual abuse victims would be terrible. They’d look at the performer, see that the audience supported his comment about raping the girl, feel alone, and not be sure of how to act. If they protested, they would out themselves. So they go with the majority, to stay hidden. To stay safe. That’s why Daniel Tosh received a standing ovation that night.

But, by Tim's definition, the people who spoke out against Daniel Tosh’s act are ‘bigoteers’ and essentially overreacting as a mob.

How about this instead? The majority of the ones Tim deem ‘bigoteers’, the ’SJW’s’, they’re trying to give voice to the ones who are afraid to speak. To let them know they are not alone. Do they sometimes go overboard. Of course. But it’s nothing - absolutely not even comparable - to the other side which has a presidential candidate on deck. Mob mentality exists across the board.

Tim, you’re extraordinarily well traveled. Do it a bit more. Go take a look at some other countries. Go to the Middle-East and observe how the people who perform most of the labor tasks are indentured servants from other Asian nations; usually people who have their passports taken from them with no legal structure in place to defend their rights, often duped into slavery by their own governments. Go to Pakistan, India, or Bangladesh. Observe the acceptance of bonded labor. Observe the treatment of women. It is legally and socially acceptable for men to rape women and throw acid in their faces. Their lives are not their own. The people fighting to reform that, they’re Social Justice Warriors.

Then come back to the US and take a look at the people deciding on legislature for society here. Look at the racial and socio-economic make up of the people who decide what women, transsexuals, and other minorities can and cannot do. Research how that legislation translates into how they’re treated by society. What they face every day. The people fighting to reform that, they’re Social Justice Warriors.

Or just keep blaming the victims for overreacting, and their allies for supporting them.

The same wide swathe you use to cut down the small pockets of over-reactors, well, that affects the majority who actually work to make useful change happen. And lasting change has never, ever happened without a degree of increased vigilance.

What’s your long-term plan for a word that protects the privileged at the expense of the rest of us who have to fight for equality every day? What's the plan for this new term that you're pushing? It's not education. It's not challenging convention or however you're coating it. It's purely to put people you deem a menace in their place. You’re better than this. Or maybe not, I don’t know you. You seem like a nice, smart guy - which is why I'm baffled.

But I know you have an immense platform. I know you’ve helped a lot of people, myself included. I love a lot of what you do, and I don’t agree with the importance of everything you espouse: stoicism, meditation-as-the-new-silicon-valley-porn, Joseph Campbell - but that’s harmless shit that hurts no one if they sift through it and extract what is useful.

Right now, you’re promoting harm. And you’re doing it in the guise of enlightened thought for your elite and privileged audience.

To those of us who face racism and sexism, who have been victims against our will, who are profiled, who have to fight archaic laws, who have to work harder to prove ourselves against stereotypes - well, right now you’re just being a dick at a minimum, and a danger at worst.