Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

The Problem with Call-out Culture

Rachel Wayne

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Recently, a story has been making the rounds asserting that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson complained in an interview about “Generation Snowflake.” The news was eaten up by embattled conservative soldiers for the Culture War. Johnson, reportedly a Republican, has become a bit of a political mascot in this celebrity-turned-elected official age, with Republicans even floating his name for President. However, Johnson has denied the veracity of the interview. In an Instagram post on Jan. 11, 2019, he wrote:

If I ever had an issue with someone, a group, community or a generation — I’d seek them out, create dialogue and do my best to understand them. Criticizing ain’t my style.

If only more people had that attitude. Ironically, among the people commonly called “snowflakes,” a pervasive schema for responding to the usage of the word “snowflake” and other un-PC things people say has emerged: call-out culture, and its corollary, cancel culture. It’s not that they’re “offended”: it’s that they are willing to fight fire with fire. Like many attempts to promote social justice, calling out has benign beginnings and legitimate uses, but has, among many people, devolved into bullying. And bullying is never okay, even if it’s in response to bullying.

Call-out culture is the set of attitudes, beliefs, norms, and phrases that promote an aggressive response to people who express bigoted views. It is common in leftist circles and is purportedly used to force people to recognize their subconscious biases and internalized bigotry. Unfortunately, the tactics used to achieve this desired outcome often include embarrassing or shaming the subject—often, someone within the circle. The other problem is that call-out culture, being partly based on the (correct) assumption that many people’s biases and bigotry are unintentional, advocates shock tactics. Calling someone out is an attempt to make them “wake up.”

Moreover, many proponents of call-out culture explicitly discourage “having dialogue” with people, asserting that it does not work. They’re somewhat correct: People tend to double down on their attitudes, subconscious or not, when presented with conflicting information.

Unfortunately, “calling out” also doesn’t persuade. Add an aggressive counterargument and it only drives people deeper into

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Rachel Wayne

Artist/anthropologist/activist writing about art, media, culture, health, science, enterprise, and where they all meet. Join my list: http://eepurl.com/gD53QP