Power

The Wikipedia entry for ‘SJW’ is a political battleground

How do you explain an insult that is only used by trolls?

Power

Power

The Wikipedia entry for ‘SJW’ is a political battleground

How do you explain an insult that is only used by trolls?

Wackipedia

is a series that rates Wikipedia entries for accuracy, completion, writing quality, and inanity.

The Wikipedia entry for “Social justice warrior” has struggled since its ugly beginning. On September 28, 2014, a Wikipedia editor named Equality not Feminism created the original three line entry:

Social Justice Warriors, commonly referred to as as [sic] SJWs, are people who defend other people in order to have some form of personal benefit. They generally defend those who are played as 'victims' in the case of social media. They defend them through the acts of using threats, DDoSing, and denying evidence in order to claim false as true.

No sources were cited, suggesting this was original research. Nothing else is known about the user Equality not Feminism — except that he’s a dude because let’s be real. His talk page has been inactive since October 2014 when one user asked: “Gee, Equality Not Feminism, would I be correct by your username that you are here to push a specific political agenda rather than build an encyclopedia via WP:NPOV [Wikipedia’s neutral point of view]?” Equality did not respond. At this point he disappears from the history of SJW and Wikipedia edit warring generally.

Within two hours of its creation, a Wikipedia administrator nominated the article for deletion as a “non-notable neologism.” The entry might well have been deleted forever had another user not quickly added citations to the then-current Gamergate controversy.

As of this writing, the “social justice warrior” article is no longer a stub. Three hundred and forty-three Wikipedia editors have collaboratively written 13 paragraphs, contributed 26 external links, and added sources ranging from Urban Dictionary to Oxford University Press to this little-known role-playing game. But despite all efforts to show that social justice warrior is a culturally relevant, actually-used insult against those with progressive views, the article fails to establish something fundamental: why the expression means what it’s supposed to mean.

According to Wikipedia, a social justice warrior believes in each of the following: feminism, social progressivism, victimhood, civil rights, multiculturalism, identity politics, political correctness, cultural inclusiveness, weaponizing grievance, and “being engaged in disingenuous social justice arguments or activism to raise personal reputation, also known as virtue signaling.” Mind you, this is only an abbreviated list of the SJW’s hobbies. The full inventory is exhausting.

This encyclopedia entry also openly admits that its subject has no foundation. Katherine Martin is quoted observing that the phrase “social justice warrior” has traditionally been positive: “All of the examples I’ve seen until quite recently have been lionizing the person.”

Thus far the editors have rejected all proposed references to historical SJWs. For instance, an April 2016 attempt by Cirt to add Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr. as examples was quickly deleted on the basis of inadequate sourcing.

One rambling paragraph is dedicated to the bizarre claim that Donald Trump is actually a social justice warrior.

One rambling paragraph is dedicated to the bizarre claim that Donald Trump is actually a social justice warrior. I read each source mentioned in this section, and remain unconvinced. Sure, Trump inflames the culture wars. But he’s not fighting on behalf of social justice principles, which Wikipedia elsewhere defines as economic mobility, fair regulation of markets, and freedom from discrimination. Even conservatives are prone to slam the president for having no principles at all. In fairness to Trump, social justice warrior is not the insult he deserves.

Overall, the entry feels like a battleground where the types of people who use SJW as an insult clash with more sober-minded Wikipedia editors. My favorite line from the article’s editorial history comes from user Thalia42. When an editor cited this Rolling Stone interview blasting feminists and call-out culture, Thalia quickly rejected the change. “Last statement was sourced to an op-ed by Billy Corgan,” the lead singer of the Smashing Pumpkins. “That is not a source.” In this case, the Know Your Meme entry does a better job of chronicling the term’s rise and placing it in cultural context. Perhaps the Wikipedia article for social justice warrior is lacking because it was tasked with making sense of something that never made sense to begin with. Vice’s Allegra Ringo provides the article’s most insightful lines: “The problem is, that’s not a real category of people. It’s simply a way to dismiss anyone who brings up social justice — and often those people are feminists.” In other words, SJW has always been a boogeywoman.

Stephen Harrison is a lawyer and freelance writer.
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