My Dear Wormwood on “Social Justice”

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People hold signs at a protest in Chicago, Ill., July 24, 2020. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

I was unsurprised to learn of the patient’s struggles in comprehending the precise meaning of “social justice.” The difficulty proceeds from his default to reason, presuming that the term is meant to have a commonly held meaning.

Kindly instruct the patient that social justice is a remarkably flexible tool for the acquisition of power, assertion of moral superiority, and enforcement of ideological conformity. It means whatever he wants it to mean; but in any case, it is always good and right. Thus, it renders him the sovereign arbiter of what is “good” and “just,” an irresistible flattery that suggests that no one — from Aristotle to Aquinas to the Founders — had properly considered the correct brand of justice. Accordingly, the patient will rationalize repudiating these figures as well as eternal verities in furtherance of his newly minted principles of enlightenment.

Cultivate in the patient an image of himself as a savior of the oppressed. He will quickly comprehend that most individuals and institutions will yield to nearly anything in the pursuit of “social justice,” for only the most deplorable would oppose justice. This will incline him to deploy the term promiscuously. Do not restrain him, for the term is most effective when used confidently, even arrogantly, before the public can discern that it is a Trojan horse designed to promote, through shame and coercion, false and absurd propositions that otherwise could not gain purchase. After all, few have the confidence or temerity to question, let alone oppose, “justice,” even if they do not know precisely what such “justice” is!

Be assured that, in the end, the patient will be convinced, as were all of our most celebrated patients throughout history, that anything is permissible in pursuit of justice — even tyranny. Broken eggs, omelets, and all that.

In my next letter, dear nephew, I shall address use of the delightfully insidious term “implicit bias.”

(Apologies to Mr. Lewis.)

Peter Kirsanow — Peter N. Kirsanow is an attorney and a member of the United States Commission on Civil Rights.





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