How I avoided the anti-SJW rabbit-hole

If you’ve been on YouTube at some point in the last decade, you’ve probably noticed at least a few videos with enthralling titles such as ‘ANRGY FEMINIST RUINS VIDEO GAMES’, or ‘SJW TIGGERED COMPILATION’. Unsurprisingly, these videos are terrible and should not be watched. However, little things such as quality, or being based on factual evidence didn’t stop these kinds of videos taking off. In fact, particularly if you are into gaming, you would’ve had these videos crammed down your throat. These videos/channels are known as ‘anti-SJW content’.

“What is an SJW?” I hear you ask. Well, the term SJW stands for ‘Social Justice Warrior’ or as I like to call them, ‘Skeleton Jazz Wizards’. As the term would describe, a social justice warrior is someone who fights for social justice, which is apparently a bad thing.

Okay, perhaps I’m not being fair to so-called ‘anti-SJWs’; there was a decent amount of batshittery in social justice circles that did and still does need calling out. So what exactly is the issue here? The issue is that for a very long time (and still to this day), if you cared about social justice to any degree, or even slightly aligned yourself with these ‘SJWs’, it meant that you were some kind of crazed nutjob completely devoid of reason that should never be taken seriously by anyone ever. This ended up being a bit of a problem if you considered yourself to be an SJW and were also, you know, right about a lot of things. In order to elaborate on this further, we need to take a time machine back to the prehistoric era of the mid twenty-tens:

So, GamerGate was a thing that happened. Yeah, that’s about as qualified as I feel I am to talk about the subject. I’ve had many people over the years try and explain to me what GamerGate actually was and I’ve still got no fucking clue. My overall understanding of it is as follows: 2 groups of people with completely opposite opinions shouted at each other online, whilst the rest of the world didn’t give a shit and was significantly better off for it. I guess it’s something that you really needed to be there for to truly understand, making it the internet equivalent of the Vietnam war.

The reason I bring up GamerGate, is that I see it as more or less patient zero for the whole anti-SJW shtick; it would also explain why that entire ideology is so heavily engrained into gaming culture. For example, if you watch a video on say, some Halo gameplay, it won’t be long before YouTube’s algorithm directs you to other videos with titles like ‘SJWs are ruining Halo’. Sure, it isn’t quite as bad now, but this kind of shit was almost inescapable back in 2015. It’s actually pretty depressing to think that an entire generation’s introduction to any kind of political philosophy was via ‘SJW Anita Sarkeesian gets owned’ compilations, all because YouTube’s wonderful algorithm. And for the record I don’t actually like Anita Sarkeesian, it’s just that I don’t believe that she ever had the power to single-handedly destroy the entire video game industry.

Back in December of 2015, me and my family went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens at the cinema. It was a good film. We all had a good time. It was fun. But little did I that, by enjoying The Force Awakens, I was in fact committing a great sin against the dwellers of the internet, as I was in fact having ‘the wrong opinions online™’. You see, about a week later, I decided to look up some internet reviews the film out of sheer curiosity. This was a mistake, as my 18-year-old mind was not prepared for the level of stupidity that it was about to intake.

A lot of the critic reviews were fairly positive about the film, praising the acting, the sound, the music, the CGI, etc. However, a large portion of the user reviews had a very different take, complaining that the film was ‘too SJW’, or ‘promoting a feminist agenda’. I was greatly confused, to the point where I had convinced myself that I watched a completely different film to everyone else. But no, apparently I just tuned out during the section where Rey lectured Han Solo on the wage gap, as well as the part where Princess Leia explained how we need to recognise male privilege. I tried to understand their point of view, but I just wasn’t seeing what all these smart internet people were seeing.

But then it hit me; the reason why people were criticising the new Star Wars film for being ‘SJW’ was obvious now: there was a girl in it who did stuff.  It turns out that I’m just an idiot who watches films to, I dunno, have a good time or something, rather than to see whether or not they validate my weird conspiracy theories about the world. How naïve I was, because everyone knows that having girls in a popular film means that there’s a feminist agenda taking over Hollywood, right? I know this kind of thinking probably sounds stupid if you aren’t a complete imbecile, but you’ll be amazed at how many people are actually like this. I’d also like to point out that just before The Last Jedi was released, I predicted that there would shortly be a load of people complaining that it was ‘too SJW’. I think we all know how well that take has aged.

This was the first time that the whole anti-SJW thing really rubbed me the wrong way; from my perspective, these so-called SJWs were getting offended at everything (or so I was constantly being told), so the response of these anti-SJWS was to get even more offended in response, which would apparently make them all go away.

So 2016 was a year that happened. Yep, I think I’m the only person on the face of the Earth that actually liked 2016, entirely because I distanced myself from a lot of shit so I could focus on myself and my work, which is probably why I was more productive during that timeframe than I ever was previously, or ever will be in the future. Not to say I was ignorant to what was going on in the world, it’s just that I made the conscious decision to separate myself from 90% of all social media in order to gain more clarity. I was sick and tired of being told to think one way or the other about everything and I just wanted to think for myself.You see, one of the biggest traps I kept falling into at the time, was believing in the illusion of consensus that the internet presents; just because a lot of people believe something is true, doesn’t make it actually true. However, particularly if you’re young, it’s very easy to see popular belief as the truth even if it’s not. What’s worse, is that it’s even harder to break away from this mentality if you don’t see any opposition to said popular beliefs.

It was when all the stuff with Trump and Brexit started kicking off that I truly learnt this lesson for the first time. It’s a lesson that I’m very glad I learnt when I did, particularly when you consider all the misinformation and propaganda that was being spread around that time. Observing the whole thing from a distance allowed me to pick up on certain things I otherwise wouldn’t have noticed. For example, one of the things that piqued my interest was how Trumpism was being sold more as a fashion trend than a political movement; it was like all the Trump supporters were the high-school jocks and the Democrats were the nerds who get beaten up and have their lunch money stolen. Just as well I didn’t get sucked into it, because who knows what kind of batshit conspiracy theories I could’ve ended up believing? I might’ve turned into one of those ‘Black Lives Matter are the real racists’ type fucktards.

Now, here’s where things get really interesting; people who knew me well during 2016 may remember that was a big fan of the YouTuber JonTron at the time (if you don’t know who he is, he makes funny videos about video games). I used to watch his videos almost religiously up until the end of 2016. At one point I might’ve called him a personal inspiration of mine, or even a hero. Little did I know that my opinion of him would rapidly change over next few months.

The first warning sign came up during November 2016, when he was interviewed for a Breitbart article. The article was captioned, “EXCLUSIVE – YouTube Star JonTron: ‘I Don’t Think People Will Trust’ the Media Anymore”. Honestly, there isn’t too much to complain about regarding this piece, but there’s a beautiful irony about complaining about ‘distrusting the mainstream media’, on one of the most untrustworthy news sites out there. If you’re fortunate enough to not know what Breitbart is, all you need to know is that I when I came to refresh my memory of the depths of depravity of the site, I came across an article which compared modern-day anti-vaxxers (who live in shear spite of scientific consensus and are completely devoid of any human decency), to the victims of homophobic propaganda during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s. It doesn’t take a genius to realise that these two things are not the same.

“So what?” my 19-year-old self I thought, “sure JonTron interviewed for Breitbart, but that doesn’t mean he’s a complete nutcase, right?” Oh, how naïve I was.

After the 2016 US election, JonTron became more vocal about his political views via twitter. At first this was merely tiresome, as it was very obvious that he had fully jumped on board with the whole anti-SJW thing. If you want an example of the kind of stuff he was posting, here’s my favourite tweet from Jon during this period: “OPPRESSION TEST: Can you drive to McDonalds not in hijab and get biggest Big Mac value meal? If yes: Not oppressed”. Yes, Jon, because complex long-lasting societal issues like racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and Islamophobia cannot exist as long as you can buy a fucking hamburger.

Things would go from bad to worse however, as Jon would unironically defend Steve King – a man who as openly supported racist, xenophobic and white-nationalist views, to the point where even other republicans called him out on his bullshit. One of the batshit things that King believes is the white-genocide conspiracy theory (or the great replacement as it is sometimes known), which is this idea that white people are going to eventually become extinct due to an increase in the population of non-whites, who will eventually breed them all out. This is about as nonsense as it sounds; it’s like getting a pen with two white rabbits in it, adding in a black rabbit, then saying you are having a genocide of white rabbits because the pen is no longer all white rabbits, despite the fact you have the same number of them as you started with.

The reason why I bring this up is that on the 12th of March 2017, King tweeted this in support of far-right politician Geert Wilders: “Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies”. Understandably, this tweet wasn’t received well by people who aren’t absolute cretins. However, upon seeing all the backlash to Steve King’s tweet, JonTron decided to offer his ‘two cents’ on the situation: “Wow, how scandalous, Steve King doesn’t want his country invaded by people who have contempt for his culture and people! NAZI!!!” Somebody needs to tell Jon and Steve that immigration and colonisation aren’t the same thing, or remind them about how the native American genocide happened.

Much like Steve King’s original tweet, JonTron’s support for said tweet wasn’t received well, to the point where the people who had previously supported Jon for ‘blasting the SJWs’ started seeing the red flags. Shortly after this took place, Jon was invited onto popular Twitch streamer Destiny’s livestream in order to take part in live debate and clarify his views a bit more. This was when the already lowered bar was about to sink to the bottom of the fucking Marianas Trench.

Where do you even start with the infamous Destiny Vs JonTron debate? Imagine a person with at least a decent understanding of complex socio-economic issues that’s able to back up their claims with actual evidence, having to debate someone who bases their entire political worldview on ‘SJW cringe compilations’ and ‘Ben Shapiro destroys libtard’ videos. That’s what Destiny Vs JonTron is like, and it’s also not difficult to figure out who’s who.

JonTron’s ‘argument’ in this debate, is that people of different races and cultures cannot co-exist because of tribalism (keep in mind that he’s half Iranian and half Hungarian), stating that if countries don’t conform to a singular cultural identity, they eventually fall apart. He cites Japan as a model society, despite having one of the highest suicide rates in the world. Destiny’s counterargument is that we are currently living in an age of unparalleled co-operation and peace between different races, cultures etc, proving we are able to overcome this so-called tribalism. He elaborates by talking about how historically oppressed groups in countries like the US, now enjoy certain rights that they previously didn’t have and that this has only been a good thing, as it has allowed more people to prosper and achieve a greater quality of life.

It’s pretty hard to disagree with Destiny here; despite all the problems with the world today, we are definitely in a much better place now than 100, or even 50 years ago. Life expectancy has increased, poverty has decreased and we have a much greater access to information and technology than ever before. Destiny cites things like immigration and multiculturalism as a contributing factor to a lot of these advancements, as it has allowed greater influx of labour and talent that’s helped grow the economy of a lot of countries. It’s pretty much a proven fact that immigration is good for a country economically, which is why anti-immigration types like Jon or Lauren Southern will rarely debate this. Instead, they’ll complain about how immigration is ‘damaging our culture’, which is basically code for ‘foreigners scare me’.

At this point, it becomes obvious that JonTron has no factual basis for any of his claims, which is hilarious as he constantly accuses Destiny of ‘not living in the real world’. Whenever Destiny presents him with actual facts and evidence that disproves his arguments, Jon just says something along the lines of “no, I don’t subscribe to that”, because he has no other way of effectively defending himself. I mean, there are plenty of awful, unfounded takes to grill JonTron for over the course of this debate, like “rich blacks commit more crimes that poor whites”, or “oppression in America isn’t real” (which has aged wonderfully by the way). But if you want to find out more, I would recommend just watching the debate for yourself on YouTube, because it’s actually impossible to articulate the sheer awfulness of this conversation by merely describing it.

There is one exchange from this debate that I do really want to talk about, because it probably says the most about Jon’s overall worldview. For context, JonTron starts talking about how immigrants from Mexico are coming across the border and setting up their own enclaves within the USA, essentially turning parts of America into Mexico (yeah, it’s as ridiculous as it sounds). Destiny says this in response:

Destiny: “So is the argument that Mexicans immigrating to the United States are going to turn it into Mexico?”

JonTron: “Yeah [laughs].”

Destiny: “If they were happy with Mexico, why would they come to the United States?”

JonTron: “Because [of] better handouts [laughs]. A lot of them are on welfare, you understand.”

Destiny: “Have you ever in your entire life, drove through a neighbourhood where there are construction crews working, or where you see people outside working? If you were to talk to anyone in manual labour, you would never hear the argument passed around that Mexicans are lazy and on welfare, they do some of the toughest jobs available in this country.”

Good point Destiny, also one that isn’t exactly controversial. For example, I used to work in a warehouse and about 70% of the other workers there where immigrants from Eastern Europe, so you can’t exactly complain about them being lazy, particularly considering that the job is very physically demanding. Not to mention that last year when the pandemic was at its peak, Boris Johnson asked EU workers that left the country at the beginning of lockdown to come back to the UK. I know I’ve already used the phrase ‘beautifully ironic’ when writing this article, but I really can’t think of a better way to describe that. As I said before, it’s pretty hard to dispute that Immigrant labour is good for a country’s growth, so what’s Jonny boy’s response to all this?

JonTron: “Ay yi yi dude, you’re just virtue signalling.”

According to Jon, pointing out something that’s very obvious and also very true is just virtue signalling. If you don’t know what virtue signalling means, it’s defined as saying or believing in something in order to look good. Not to say there aren’t people out there who actually do this because there definitely are, but the problem here is that JonTron accusing Destiny of ‘virtue signalling’ doesn’t disprove his argument. For all I know, Destiny could be taking this particular stance in order to seem virtuous, but that doesn’t necessarily make him wrong. Stuff like this really shows how baseless Jon’s worldview actually is, because when challenged on his views, he has no other response other than to say something that barely differs from “no you”.

The thing that upset me most about this entire debacle, wasn’t just what JonTron was saying, but how he was saying it. It’s bad enough that Jon’s opinions were absolutely abhorrent and unfounded, but it’s made worse by the fact that he acted like a smug, condescending, know-it-all on twitter and during this debate. It was really disheartening for me, because as someone who was a big fan of his work for a while, I never got the impression that he was anything like this. Jon always portrayed himself as very welcoming, inclusive and compassionate – it was sad to know he was anything but that.

You’ve probably gotten the impression I’m still angry at JonTron for the things he said and that I wrote this article to vent about it, but that’s not actually true. I don’t hate Jon, nor do I think he’s a bad person, but I pity him greatly for being a victim of a bunch of racist propaganda. There are many people out there like this; those that have accidently fallen down one too many internet rabbit holes and now believe in crazy conspiracies theories, claiming that race mixing and multiculturalism will spell the death of the human race. My objective here isn’t to demonize people like this or get Jon cancelled for the things he said 4 years ago, but to understand what leads them to believe these things in the first place.

So how do people end up falling for these conspiracies? A lot of it has to do with how we have more access to information than ever before, which means that by extension we have more access to bullshit than ever before. It’s easy to see the creation of the internet as the main culprit for spreading false propaganda, but it’s made worse by the various algorithms that shape what you do or don’t see on the web. It’s hardly a secret that big companies track what we do online – they use this information to direct us towards things we do like and away from things we don’t. This doesn’t seem too harmful in theory, that is if you’re okay with Mark Zuckerberg spying on you at all times, but this leads to the creation of echo chambers, where conspiracy theories thrive. It’s very easy to believe in something that’s false if everyone around you tells you it’s true.

You know what does still annoy me about the JonTron debate 4 years later though? The way the discussion was framed by a large portion of the online userbase. You see, a lot of people were championing Jon, saying he was brave for ‘speaking out against the political correctness’ and ‘triggering the liberals for his conservative views’ and so on. People were so suckered in by the us vs them narrative that they were willing to defend racist arguments to ‘own the SJWs’, so when it came to the Destiny Vs JonTron debate, a lot of people were very unhappy with Destiny, including a large portion of the so-called ‘rational sceptic’ YouTube community. They ended up making a lot of very contrived excuses for Jon, suggesting that Destiny had somehow ‘forced’ Jon to say racist things, or pulling the classic Donald Trump “he said X, but what he really meant was Y”.

As I said before, I don’t hate JonTron, but I do hate the YouTube sceptic community, or the septic community as I like to call them. You know why I hate them? Because they claim to be centrists or liberals, but they’re so obviously biased towards the right to the point where it isn’t even funny. These sceptics would be hyper critical of anything on the left, dedicating a large amount of their time and energy being angry at twitter accounts with 4 followers saying “fuck white people”, but would give a free pass to what was basically the rise of fascism on the right. If you want an example of this bias, one of these sceptics tried to actually defend Jon’s “rich black commit more crimes than poor whites” quote, by tweeting out fake crime statistics from Richard Spencer. Just remember, if you ever feel irresponsible, just realise that you haven’t spread fake statistics from a self-proclaimed Nazi to thousands of people online, in order to defend your friend from spouting racist obscenities online.

My absolute ‘favourite’ JonTron defender would have to be Derrick Pilot, who goes by the YouTube username SomeBlackGuy (yeah, that’s actually his real username). Derrick made a video shortly after the debate titled ‘Let’s Talk About JonTron vs Destiny’;I like to think that this video encapsulates everything wrong with the drama surrounding the debate, as it omits most of the shadier things Jon said and tries to frame Destiny as the bad guy, all because he actually came prepared and knows what the fuck he’s talking about. Here are some of the worst takes from this video:

Derrick: “You can tell this guy [Destiny] is very good at debating…….. say like how he would be on the computer trying to search things up real quick. He came prepared at it seems like JonTron just wanted to have more of a discussion than a debate.”

So let me get this straight, coming prepared to a debate and knowing what you’re talking about is a negative attribute?

Derrick: “Another thing that bothered me about this debate is that Destiny kept wanting to stay on subject”.

Oh no, what a monster! How dare someone in a debate want to stay on topic!

Derrick: “[Destiny] you’re a great debater, but I still think you’re a still kind of a fucking piece of shit for your bullshit tactics and trying to make someone like JonTron, a genuine guy, look like he’s some kind of racist or something like that.”

Yo Derrick, you know this ‘genuine guy’ thinks that, as a black person, you’re genetically more likely to commit crime than white people right?

Derrick: “Instead of having a discussion with someone that majorly disagrees with you; this guy Destiny, was out for blood, he was out to make JonTron look bad and I fucking hate people like that.”

This is so anti-intellectual it’s actually painful. What’s the point of discussing complex political issues with people who already agree with you, other than to have yourself validated? The most insulting part of all is that we’re constantly being lectured about how it’s the left that loves their safe-spaces, meanwhile we’ve got this guy defending a rich YouTuber with millions of adoring fans, all because some people online want to call him out on his bullshit. Hypocrisy at its finest, just goes to show how little people know about how free speech actually works. Yes, you are allowed to say what you want, but other people are allowed to criticise you if you’re wrong.

Derrick: “Destiny kinda pissed me off because he was really ignoring this whole ‘fuck white people’ narrative that’s been going on.”

So you’re telling me that it’s perfectly okay to parrot white nationalist talking points, because there are people on Buzzfeed making mean articles about white people? Here’s a tip for you all: never become a reactionary – it’s a bad idea to take up a political ideology for the sole purpose of pissing off people you don’t like. For example, you’d never see me defending Joseph Stalin in order to annoy Donald Trump or Boris Johnson supporters. Sure, I hate Trump, Boris and a large majority of their fans, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to take the complete opposite political stance in order to spite them, because shit like that is almost certainly how we end up with people ‘supporting Nazis to trigger the liberals’, which is probably how JonTron ended up with his particular views.

This made me realise that the whole anti-SJW shtick was basically being used as a Trojan Horse strategy for pro-Trump propaganda and other far-right nonsense, because it seemed like of you disliked Trump or any of his policies, you were branded as a crazed SJW that just wanted to shout at things for no reason. “Don’t like borderline fascist rhetoric? Well, you’re just a triggered SJW that needs a safe space!” I also started seeing the anti-SJW stance used as an excuse to get away with saying or doing awful shit. For example, one of the main excuses used for JonTron was that he was saying all this stuff to ‘destroy the liberals with facts and logic’, even though he was neither factual or logical. Listen, just because your views are anti-PC, doesn’t make them right.

Looking back, it’s actually amazing how badly anti-SJW content has aged. Most of this stuff took place at the beginning of the Trump era, now we’re at the end of it we have the luxury of hindsight; all of Trump’s promises about building the wall, draining the swamp and making all the politically correct bad things fell through, now his supporters have enough egg on their faces to bake a very nice omelette. Brexit has obviously been a complete fucking disaster – I’m still waiting for that £350 million per week to go to the NHS, feel like that would be really nice during a global pandemic. I know quite a few people personally that bought into the anti-SJW thing at one point; they now look back and cringe at that phase entire of their lives, but I can say with an almost excruciating smugness that I don’t share the same experience.

The truth is that even before Destiny Vs JonTron, I had suspected the anti-SJW trend was bullshit for some time, it’s just that it brought a lot of things that had been bubbling away in the back of my mind to the forefront. You see, my whole life I’ve had these feelings that something is right or wrong with something, but no-one else would seems to notice or care. Then, some kind of event would transpire that would prove me right in my original assumption – call it a gut instinct, or being ahead of the curve, or whatever. I’ve learned to trust this feeling more and more as I’ve gotten older, as it’s potentially saved me from getting into some shady shit. The anti-SJW ideology had never sat right with me, even when I was in my mid-late teens, but it was only after the JonTron debate when I finally figured out why.

But how did I know it was bullshit from the get-go? Maybe I’m just smarter than everyone else? It’s possibly due to me having reasonably progressive views from a fairly young age, as I grew up listening to bands like System of a Down and Rise Against, that were probably shaping my political views before I even knew what they were on about. The thing is that overall, I don’t actually consider myself that much of a political person, mainly due to my hesitance to keep up with what’s going on with the world in order to save my own mental health. But I like to think I know the difference between right and wrong. Regardless of who you are or where you come from, you should always stand for truth and justice above anything else. I don’t know how to fix every contemporary issue we collectively face, that’s a discussion best left to people more intelligent than I, but maybe if we less bound to furthering our own petty agendas and more compassionate, open-minded and eager to learn, the world would be a better place.

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