In recent years, we’ve all become familiar with the rise of so-called ‘Social Justice Warriors’ (SJWs).
I’m not talking about the moderate left-leaners who express their views democratically and open-mindedly, but those taking part in today’s extreme identitarian left. They’re the ones who typically base everything on group identity, demand that celebrities they disagree with be canceled, and try to tear down traditional values.
The current social justice movement is a mix of Marxism, postmodernism, and often extreme political correctness, pushing distinct cultural attitudes on race, gender, and sexuality. SJWs claim to be driven by a socially progressive agenda, one that gives strength to the marginalized and educates the ignorant. But is all of their virtue sincere? Or is it a masquerade for something far more sinister?
A lot of the tactics used by today’s radical left suggest that they suffer from a collective narcissism.
A few days ago I was reading about Narcissistic Personality Disorder, a condition defined by an inflated sense of self-importance. According to clinical websites, this supreme confidence is often a guise for “a fragile self-esteem that's vulnerable to the slightest criticism,” as well as “secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability and humiliation.” As I read more about the disorder, I noticed a disturbing trend — a lot of the tactics used by today’s radical left suggest that they suffer from collective narcissism.
So, what are their symptoms?
1. They Have a “Sense of Entitlement” and They “Require Constant, Excessive Admiration”
Nothing satisfies a craving for admiration quite like virtue-signaling online. It’s quick to do, requires minimal effort, and directly advertises your morality to friends and connections. And while there’s nothing wrong with raising awareness for a cause, a 50-slide story on Instagram about climate change seems to be more about self-validation than genuinely helping the environment.
2. They Expect Others To Recognize Them As Superior, Even without the Achievements To Merit It
SJWs see themselves as more educated, virtuous, and “woke” than those who don’t share their views, and they judge people’s character on the basis of their privilege. Phrases like “Educate yourself!” and “Do better!” are popular ways to belittle those they see as inferior to them. Those from minority backgrounds (and their privileged “allies”) are assumed to be morally superior to white, cisgender, male, and heterosexual people — regardless of their actual virtue or achievements.
Those from minority backgrounds are assumed to be morally superior regardless of their actual virtue.
3. They Are “Extremely Sensitive” and Can’t Handle Criticism Because They View It As a Personal Attack
Narcissists “easily feel slighted,” and when insulted are “extremely resistant to changing their behavior.” Symptomatic of collective narcissism, the radical left is known for being easily offended. They believe words can be an act of violence and find ways of interpreting anything as a personal attack or “micro-aggression.” For example:
If you don’t meet the moral expectations of social justice warriors or comply with their virtue-signaling trends, you’re not only at risk of criticism but of being cast out of society. Anyone who disagrees with activists, or questions their methods to achieve social justice, is smeared as a bigot, sexist, racist, or alt-right sympathizer. “Cancel culture,” where individuals are publicly shamed for doing something considered offensive, has cost people their jobs, families, and even their lives.
Anyone who disagrees with activists, or questions their methods to achieve social justice, is canceled.
Clinical descriptions of narcissism suggest that, “for the people in the narcissist’s life, it’s often easier just to go along with their demands to avoid rages.” Maybe that’s why so many universities and institutions are now censoring free speech.
5. “Collective Narcissists “Resent Others for Not Appreciating Their Group Enough” So They “Fear and Depreciate Other Groups”
Group identity is at the core of today’s social justice movement. Depreciating groups they don’t like, SJWs argue that white people are problematic and push the narrative that “whiteness” is inherently violent and racist. And while they claim to promote cultural diversity, they furiously condemn “cultural appropriation” (adopting aspects of other cultures), calling out others for things as trivial as wearing hoop earrings.
Real virtue lies in being able to listen to other people’s opinions, be open-minded, and open to criticism.
Obviously, not every individual with a far-left political standpoint is a Patrick Bateman-type narcissist. But, the radical left as a movement seems to be adopting tactics resemblant of collective narcissism. Maybe this isn’t the fault of individuals, but a product of social media and the ease with which we can now virtue-signal and blame others.
Naturally, it’s hard to separate people’s true and false virtues. But what we can do is remember that real virtue lies in being able to listen to other people’s opinions, maintain an open mind, and remain flexible to criticism. Those who use dogmatic and authoritarian tactics to promote their politics are not virtuous, no matter the causes they support. Once we recognize that these people are seeking personal validation, rather than real social change, perhaps we won’t let the narcissists divide us.