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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 07-Feb-16


Sunday 07-February-16

The terrible effect of bigoteering vigilantism

Being a bigot means being intolerant of other views. In particular, bigots often play 'holier than thou' games in which they use moral superiority to gain status and push others down the pecking order. A way they do this is by hypersensitively accusing others of transgressing social values (of being misogynistic, racist, sexist, etc). They may even play the victim themselves, being insulted, hurt and so on.

Calling out people who have done wrong makes the person a social criminal and yourself a vigilante hero. It carries little personal risk as it carries no social penalties, even if such accusation proves wrong. This can make the vigilante role attractive for the wrong reasons.

Such a 'kangaroo court' approach can have terrible consequences for the target person. They are assumed guilty unless proven innocent and showing they did not have a wrong intent can be very difficult. It is not helped when 'friends' take a step back for fear of contamination and others rush to share the glory by being witnesses or even further victims.

This is a form of bullying, where one person picks on others more for selfish reasons than to help others. It is a cruel practice and can ruin lives. Tim Ferriss called such people 'bigoteers', which is an apt name. Another term is 'social justice warrior'.

Yes, defending others and supporting others is a good thing to do, but we must also be wary of judging others on limited evidence, and especially when we are assuming that we know what they are thinking and what they intend. We indulge in mind-reading quite often, and are easily sure that we know what others are thinking, yet we are often quite wrong, with devastating results.

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