Yeah, how’s that for a clickbait title? I can do it too, Buzzfeed. I can do it too.
To make things perfectly clear, I don’t think the folks over at the Young Turks support misogyny. I’m just doing some clever role playing, providing some ironic commentary.
So what happened? Cenk Uygur is the creator of the Young Turks (TYT), a very popular left-wing news commentator on YouTube. He also helped establish the Justice Democrats, a left-wing party that is against neo-liberalism and corporatism, with the intent of getting said Justice Democrats elected into major offices. And almost twenty years ago he made some very crass and insensitive comments about women while online. That may not seem like such a big deal to you, but, to quote ‘Bino: “Because the internet, mistakes are forever.” And, boy, did this mistake hit him hard, to the point where he may or may not resign as the face of the Justice Democrats because of it.
Here is the official Justice Democrat’s response:
We are deeply disturbed by recent news regarding
@cenkuygur & David Koller. Their language and conduct is horrifying and does not reflect our values at Justice Democrats. We would be hypocrites to not act immediately and ask for their resignation.
I bring this up because it raises some interesting questions about how we, as a society, should proceed. We are living in the midst of a full-blown societal moral outrage, where anything that we don’t perceive as perfectly aligned with our morals and values needs to pack its shit and GTFO. This is not me throwing leftists and liberals under the bus, by the way. The last widespread moral outrage in the US had right-wing evangelicals to blame, and there are plenty of triggered alt-righters and garden-variety conservatives cropping up in the mean time.
The thing stereotypical SJWs, right-wing and left-wing identitarians, and modern day populists have in common is that they all seem to require constant virtue signalling in order to remain a part of the club. This effectively means constant policing of morality of those both within and outside of their respective clubs. What’s happening to Cenk right now is the same thing that happened to the Bible thumping, anti-gay marriage Republican senators who were found out to have frequented gay bars back in their college days. It’s the same thing that happened to Lauren Southern when her significant number of alt-right fans found out she dated a brown guy once. It’s the same thing that happened to Pewdiepie, where some hack “journalists” scoured old vlogs for any off-color jokes they could find. It’s the same thing that’s happening to all of these liberal actors and entertainment stars who maybe touched a girl’s ass without asking once, thirty years ago. There’s absolutely no room for compromise. As the Justice Democrats stated outright, they would be hypocrites if they didn’t immediately excommunicate Cenk Uygur from the church for violating one of their most sacred laws.
And I’m just wondering how much longer the Morality Police and its ridiculous, ever-fluctuating standards of “what is moral” will be able to sustain itself in this day and age. All of the aforementioned shitstorms occurred because of the internet. Old photos uploaded to social media, old blog posts, old e-mails sitting in a forgotten account somewhere, people they used to know cropping up on Facebook or Twitter and letting the world know all these new and interesting things. If you make it your job, not only your job but your moral imperative, to make sure everyone you associate with is clean and pure from beginning to end with no regard for context or how much time has passed, then no one is going to be spared from this.
It’s almost 2018. The people who are young adults now hardly remember a time when they didn’t have some kind of online social media. The 18-year-olds just entering into the adult world have never lived in a world without online social media. And yet here we are, using the internet and digging up things from decades ago–almost two decades in Cenk’s case–in order to cast moral aspersions on people who may or may not even stand by what they did as though that moral judgement is totally and completely valid, no caveats necessary.
Cenk said piggish, sexist comments about women and how they’re defective because they don’t put out more back when the iPod was a new thing. This isn’t me saying that his comments were totally fine. This isn’t me saying he’s a great guy who gets too much flack. This isn’t me saying that the comments should just pass under the radar because “it was a long time ago.” What I am saying is that you can’t judge people for things they did or said in the past as though that questionable action just occurred, as though its something you can do anything about now, without even bothering to address the situation any further. And, when you’re playing Morality Police, it’s certainly not something you can use as a legitimate form of moral judgement. Can you imagine what kind of precedent this is setting for future social and political discourse?
“Senator, we have written verification that, thirty years ago in a YouTube comment section, you called someone a fag. Why are you homophobic? Why do you hate the gays? I can’t believe how immoral you are.”
“Our records show that, back when you were twenty-two, you made insensitive comments to one of your friends on Facebook. Why are you such a sociopath?”
“We have footage of you fifteen years ago given a speech at a Democratic convention, so why are you running as a Republican now? You hypocrite. You’re just taking advantage of people.”
It completely and utterly lacks any sense of scale. If you did something once, if you said something once, that must mean you stand by that thing forever. We can act as though nothing has changed whatsoever. And if nothing has changed, or they committed a legitimate crime, sure–rake them over the coals. Go through all the legal things necessary and called for and expected. If they most they ever did was give voice to a thought crime or do something a bit asshole-ish, that’s a situation that requires more thought than immediate banishment from the tribe.
Have they changed their opinion since then? Have they changed their behavior since then? Have they actively denounced the bad thing they did? Is the “bad thing” only a bad thing by some ever-changing societal standard that it’s unrealistic to judge any past actor by? Is the “bad thing” only a bad thing by your own incredibly subjective standards? Can they explain themselves and their past thoughts or behavior in a satisfactory fashion? That’s all very relevant to how we should currently be judging them and their character, and none of that shit matters, apparently. Because when you’re policing someone’s Moral Character (TM), the broader the brush, the better. If that thing’s any smaller than an industrial paint roller, you’re doing it wrong.
And, oh yeah, go ahead and add Cenk Uygur to the list of Men Who Respect Womyn who just seem to be compensating for being an asshole either in the past or currently.