Toxic Activists


A few times in the past, I've considered appealing to my conservative friends and family by saying I know there are bad liberals and maybe giving an example, but I never did because trashing folks just to connect to others is hella uncool.

My mom and I have these occasional “we’re politically different but we can talk about it and not get mad at each other and actually feel better afterwards” chats. In one of these, I mentioned that I know there are bad liberals and good conservatives, just like there are good liberals and bad conservatives, and I went on to tell her that that there’s a part of the Star Wars fandom that really hates the part I belong to, but the reasoning for that hate changes if it’s successfully challenged. The reasons are excuses to be bullies.

I told my mom that this is how my least favorite liberals are, too. Some liberals use morality as a smokescreen to bully others. They don’t actually care if their accusations are true or if their actions are appropriate. They don’t care if the punishment fits the crime. They just want to bully someone, and bullying someone over a morality issue is an excellent smokescreen.

In fandoms, I've never seen any faction walk away from a conflict feeling like their lives are better for it. It never helps anyone, but some people devote themselves to hatred just to fit in.

Over the decades, I've decided that every fandom has room for its niches. We can love different and even opposing aspects of something without ruining it for each other. Finding joy in the same place, even if it's for different reasons, is awesome. We can and should give each other the space to enjoy what we love and defend our right to enjoy it. (I once told a guy friend, "You are entitled to your opinion [about my favorite character], but you can shut up about it," and I stand behind that energy.)

With morality issues in the real world, saying something stupid might lose you a friend or get you in an argument with someone nearby. Online, there are hundreds of people ready and willing to pile onto a tsunami of punishment for... what? Being a stupid jerk with a wrong opinion? Is it even worth the time and energy of so many people? And what does it really accomplish? It entertains the punisher, makes them feel good about themselves, gets them a pat on the head from others, but it doesn't create real change. Punishment doesn't build anything.

The biggest symptom of a toxic activist is that they don’t care who they punish. They care about their causes, sure, but their priority is social. They want to be seen defending those causes so that they can fit in and get praise from people they admire. It grants the instant satisfaction of having done something "good" without the downside of effort.

That's why so many people do it. It's much easier to tear people down than help people up. It has far faster rewards, too.

But destruction has always been the tactic of cowards and fools.

Online harassment masquerading as social justice doesn't hold up when compared to women’s shelters, legal advocates, educators, rights defenders, volunteers, counselors, peaceful protesters, and even the smallest cogs in wheels fighting to make positive change in the world. If online bullies really cared that much about this stuff, they’d do something real--but bullies don’t like to do real things. They don’t like to do hard things.

I didn’t want to share this with my conservative relatives in case it opens the floodgates to complain about liberals. So, instead, I’ll share this with y’all in the hopes that, if you’re liberal like me, you’ll be a little more aware of how destructive these online moral justice warriors really are, and how they’re not actually helping anyone.

And if you are a moral justice warrior? Consider whether your impact makes a positive difference or if you're just doing it to feel good about yourself and get praise from others online. If it's the latter, maybe consider getting away from the online aspect and reinvesting your time in something more tangible. Volunteer, fundraise, donate, or even look at career opportunities that will help you make a difference. Helping might be harder and slower, but it does more good than destroying people online ever will.