Throughout human history people have been suppressing the ideas of their fellow men and women. Whether people disagree about art, religion, or politics, stomping on opposing ideas is a too frequently used tactic. Recently social media has helped give rise to a new breed of outrage activist who use more extreme, insidious methods to censor opposing ideas and in some cases turned their online crusades into careers.
Editor's Note: The closeout graphic uses a sample of the Russian text "Записки моей жизни Н.И. Греча", a classic and historical example of censorship, with photograph taken by George Shuklin and distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 1.0 Generic license. The other graphic images used are in the public domain, for the record.
Now we are seeing a new breed of outrage artist unlike those of the past. These Neo-Puritans disguise themselves as tolerant, progressive-minded individuals. They excel at inserting themselves into hobbies and cultures they otherwise wouldn't participate in, and cry foul at artists and creators they otherwise wouldn't be exposed to. Many of them openly admit they don’t even consume the product they are protesting, and actively seek money in the form of Patreon accounts, to fund 'online activism'. They create new definitions of words to fit whatever narrative they are pushing and viciously shout down any disagreement with labels like sexist, racist, or misogynist. They appear, for all the world, to support freedom and equality, but are quick to call for censorship and discrimination against those they disagree with.
Like their brothers and sisters of ages past, Neo-Puritans are completely intolerant of ideas different from their own but now they have social media to use as a weapon to suppress ideas they don’t like. They can organize in angry Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook mobs so fast and so loud that it’s hard to remember they make up just a tiny portion of the consumer base. The outrage they post is picked up by click-bait bloggers and journalists, all vying to get the scoop on their competition, often at the expense of facts, and it leaves actual fans in the dust. In many cases attempts to engage in the most basic discussion with Neo-Puritans turns into a bombardment of defensive ~isms aimed at shutting down dialogue rather than furthering it.
The most inexplicable aspect of the Neo-Puritan is how contrary they are to their own adopted ideals. Playing at being the spiritual descendents of women that fought to bare more flesh in the 1920s they have become the moral police telling women to cover up. They claim to support a woman’s right to choose her own path in life, but call ‘gender traitor’ any woman who proudly chooses to be a homemaker. They even call their dissenters ‘conservative’ as if that is a prime insult but seem to favor a world reminiscent of that predating women’s suffrage, seeming to be far more conservative in their own right.
Whether the Neo-Puritans are fighting to suppress a world famous artist’s depiction of Spider Woman, or taking offense to a game developer’s posting of their own busty game asset, the message is the same. Only their idea of morally acceptable images is allowed. They don’t care that their silence in response to Magic Mike gracing the cover of Entertainment Weekly is deafening.
Supporting a Neo-Puritan, or even identifying with their politics, doesn't protect anyone from their vitriol either. Many are the companies, bloggers, and private individuals that have spoken out in support of one outrage only to be thrown to the wolves when they don’t agree with another, or worse, advocate moderation. I can only imagine attempting to hold onto smoke is easier than attempting to toe the constantly moving Neo-Puritan line.
Logic and history tell us that anyone that cherishes their own freedom must also cherish the freedom of others or they put their own liberty at risk. Not everything in life is going to make everyone happy, and it shouldn't. Nothing will ever cater to the views and ideals of every single person, so you can’t expect everything to cater to you.