• "A Suicide Foretold: How Social Justice Rhetoric is Turning People off Human Rights"

    by Agostini, Nicolas;
    Quillette;
    March 24th, 2022;

    Winning human rights battles depends on bringing ordinary people on board the human rights cause—and it starts with the language we use. As a human rights advocate and researcher, I’ve witnessed how recent rhetorical shifts are turning people off human rights. This is happening in three different ways and at three distinct levels: when we do advocacy with the general public, when we interact in the private sphere, and when we deliberate within the human rights movement itself.

    What are we talking about? New phraseologies. Established human rights language giving way to slogans. Neologisms. Hyperboles and metalepses. Instances of pure linguistic engineering. Social justice rhetoric, much of it coming from a critical theory perspective, is making its way into the human rights movement.

    Whether the critical social justice rhetoric of US activism takes over the human rights movement remains to be seen. The risk, however, is clear. If open debate is replaced with anathema, values with raw power relations, and rights with particularist claims, the human rights discourse will become irrelevant for most people.

    --- 1. Making human rights less clear: how we confuse people ---

    “The clearer your message, the better chance you have to convince your audience” says a basic rule of advocacy. Yet a look at contemporary human rights paints a disturbing picture. After 75 years of efforts, human rights folks are switching to a new, vaguer rhetoric.

    The performative assertions and programmatic rhetoric of critical social justice activism aren’t based on existing human rights law, clear state obligations, or reasonable expectations of what human rights can achieve in the short run. As a result, the human rights discourse is vaguer and vaguer. By setting goals human rights cannot meet and assigning ambitions they cannot match, critical social justice rhetoric ends up diluting human rights.

    --- 2. Making human rights less credible: how we irritate people ---

    Social justice rhetoric imports are producing another form of backlash. They don’t just look confusing. They irritate people.

    Rhetorical devices, and hyperboles and political correctness in general, put people on guard. When we eliminate nuance and abandon discernment, we erase the world’s complexities. We make human rights look simplistic. The more hyperbolic assertions get, the more righteous human rights folks feel, the less credible they are.

    The same process occurs when we make human rights less flexible than they should be. Critical social justice rhetoric imports are rigidifying human rights through compulsory capitalizations (one must write Black and Indigenous, but white). This is purely engineered language.

    Rhetorical shifts take human rights folks further and further away from common sense.

    --- 3. Making human rights less universal: how we tribalize people ---

    As the human rights discourse gets less clear and less credible, it also gets less universal. Rhetorical shifts reflect the tribalization of the human rights movement.

    Human rights language was designed for legal purposes and to avoid doing politics in the tribal sense of the word. If we replace it with critical social justice rhetoric, we reenter politics. Doing so, we provide ammunition to those seeking to delegitimize human rights activists as mere politicians… and we could end up giving an assist to the Right.

    This isn’t to say that human rights aren’t political. They are. This isn’t to say that human rights actors should always stay out of politics. This is illusory—human rights are about reining in those in power and confronting abuses. But we’re not talking about that kind of politics here. We’re talking about the kind of identity-based politics that makes activists lose battles before they have even started. We’re talking about human rights sounding particularist, not universal.

    As slogans turn into mantras and mantras turn into dogmas, they do little beyond preaching to the converted. As critical social justice activists get drunk on their new power, they feel authorized to deem dissenters outdated (at best) or monsters (at worst).

    https://bit.ly/3NqJTZf
    #humanRights #woke #wokeism #postModernism #criticalTheory
    "A Suicide Foretold: How Social Justice Rhetoric is Turning People off Human Rights" by Agostini, Nicolas; Quillette; March 24th, 2022; Winning human rights battles depends on bringing ordinary people on board the human rights cause—and it starts with the language we use. As a human rights advocate and researcher, I’ve witnessed how recent rhetorical shifts are turning people off human rights. This is happening in three different ways and at three distinct levels: when we do advocacy with the general public, when we interact in the private sphere, and when we deliberate within the human rights movement itself. What are we talking about? New phraseologies. Established human rights language giving way to slogans. Neologisms. Hyperboles and metalepses. Instances of pure linguistic engineering. Social justice rhetoric, much of it coming from a critical theory perspective, is making its way into the human rights movement. Whether the critical social justice rhetoric of US activism takes over the human rights movement remains to be seen. The risk, however, is clear. If open debate is replaced with anathema, values with raw power relations, and rights with particularist claims, the human rights discourse will become irrelevant for most people. --- 1. Making human rights less clear: how we confuse people --- “The clearer your message, the better chance you have to convince your audience” says a basic rule of advocacy. Yet a look at contemporary human rights paints a disturbing picture. After 75 years of efforts, human rights folks are switching to a new, vaguer rhetoric. The performative assertions and programmatic rhetoric of critical social justice activism aren’t based on existing human rights law, clear state obligations, or reasonable expectations of what human rights can achieve in the short run. As a result, the human rights discourse is vaguer and vaguer. By setting goals human rights cannot meet and assigning ambitions they cannot match, critical social justice rhetoric ends up diluting human rights. --- 2. Making human rights less credible: how we irritate people --- Social justice rhetoric imports are producing another form of backlash. They don’t just look confusing. They irritate people. Rhetorical devices, and hyperboles and political correctness in general, put people on guard. When we eliminate nuance and abandon discernment, we erase the world’s complexities. We make human rights look simplistic. The more hyperbolic assertions get, the more righteous human rights folks feel, the less credible they are. The same process occurs when we make human rights less flexible than they should be. Critical social justice rhetoric imports are rigidifying human rights through compulsory capitalizations (one must write Black and Indigenous, but white). This is purely engineered language. Rhetorical shifts take human rights folks further and further away from common sense. --- 3. Making human rights less universal: how we tribalize people --- As the human rights discourse gets less clear and less credible, it also gets less universal. Rhetorical shifts reflect the tribalization of the human rights movement. Human rights language was designed for legal purposes and to avoid doing politics in the tribal sense of the word. If we replace it with critical social justice rhetoric, we reenter politics. Doing so, we provide ammunition to those seeking to delegitimize human rights activists as mere politicians… and we could end up giving an assist to the Right. This isn’t to say that human rights aren’t political. They are. This isn’t to say that human rights actors should always stay out of politics. This is illusory—human rights are about reining in those in power and confronting abuses. But we’re not talking about that kind of politics here. We’re talking about the kind of identity-based politics that makes activists lose battles before they have even started. We’re talking about human rights sounding particularist, not universal. As slogans turn into mantras and mantras turn into dogmas, they do little beyond preaching to the converted. As critical social justice activists get drunk on their new power, they feel authorized to deem dissenters outdated (at best) or monsters (at worst). https://bit.ly/3NqJTZf #humanRights #woke #wokeism #postModernism #criticalTheory
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    A Suicide Foretold: How Social Justice Rhetoric is Turning People off Human Rights
    Something strange is happening to the human rights discourse. Few people are paying attention, but like a cat whose hair bristles before the unknown, close observers have switched to alert mode. What are we talking about? New phraseologies. Established human rights language giving way to slogans. Neologisms. Hyperboles and metalepses.
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