There Must Be Something in the Water

This is an excerpt from the article Social Justice and Words, Words, Words by Scott Alexander. Line breaks added for easier reading.

Bottled water
Photo by congerdesign

How come the intertubes are clogged with pages arguing that blacks cannot be racist, that women cannot have privilege, that there is no such thing as misandry, that you should be ashamed for even thinking the word cisphobia…

This would never happen in any other field. No doctor ever feels the need to declare that if we talk about antibacterial drugs we should call bacterial toxins “antihumanial drugs”. And if one did, the other doctors wouldn’t say YOU TAKE THAT BACK YOU PIECE OF GARBAGE ONLY HUMANS CAN HAVE DRUGS THIS IS A FALSE EQUIVALENCE BECAUSE BACTERIA HAVE INFECTED HUMANS FOR HUNDREDS OF YEARS BUT HUMANS CANNOT INFECT BACTERIA, they would just be mildly surprised at the nonstandard terminology and continue with their normal lives.

The degree to which substantive arguments have been replaced by arguments over what words we are allowed to use against which people is, as far as I know, completely unique to social justice. Why?

Suppose the government puts a certain drug in the water supply, saying it makes people kinder and more aware of other people’s problems and has no detrimental effects whatsoever.

A couple of conspiracy nuts say it makes your fingers fall off one by one, but the government says that’s ridiculous, it’s just about being more sensitive to other people’s problems which of course no one can object to.

However, government employees are all observed drinking bottled water exclusively, and if anyone suggests that government employees might also want to take the completely innocuous drug and become kinder, they freak out and call you a terrorist and a shitlord and say they hope you die.

If by chance you manage to slip a little bit of tap water into a government employee’s drink, and he finds out about it, he runs around shrieking like a banshee and occasionally yelling “AAAAAAH! MY FINGERS! MY PRECIOUS FINGERS!”

At some point you might start to wonder whether the government was being entirely honest with you.