The year was 2004, it was a time when the social conservatives or as they were also referred to the religious right were at the peak on their influence. No more so than in the United States, they had felt further empowered by the re-election in November of that year of President George W. Bush, where large underpinnings of his campaign had been on moral values and fighting moral decay in the nation. They were issues that successfully wedged the Democratic Party who not only lost the Presidential Election but did poorly in the Congressional Elections. They were the prohibitionists of that era, trying to censor, regulate or ban anything that could be considered indecent or promote societal decay.
They were very effective in using the media of that time to create in the public a frenzy of moral panic about various social ills and it appeared they were being successful. Some of their campaigns were the promotion of purity rings to teenagers to make them swear off sex in the hope of stopping all of the horrible consequences of teenage sex. They were successful in getting many US States to pass bans on same sex marriage claiming that homosexuality was destroying the values of the country. This was complimented by the booming business at the time of pray away with gay clinics claiming they could cure homosexuality. They also campaigned against violence in films such as Scream and video games such as Grand Theft Auto, claiming they were leading to copycat effects in real life. Congressmen constantly made grandstanding speeches decrying the violence of modern society.
The peak of this lunacy was the hysterical reaction to Janet Jackson’s nipple being exposed during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show. Apparently everyone, especially children, by seeing part of the human body was scarred for life. Even scientific theories were too triggering as evolution was deemed a threat to Christian beliefs so the theory of intelligent design was created. The Garden of Eden was updated to include dinosaurs living with Adam and Eve as the discovery of fossils was also too threatening to their beliefs.
However their influence did not last as later actions proved they were not the example of moral purity they once claimed and they experienced a spectacular downfall. The most prominent example was the Reverend Ted Haggard, then head of National Association of Evangelicals and one of the most prominent public faces of the religious right in the culture wars. In 2006 he was exposed to have paid a male escort for sex and crystal methamphetamine and he was later forced to resign from his position. Other scandals included Congressman Mark Foley who, despite being one of the most prominent child protection advocates, was revealed to have sent explicit emails to male teenage congressional pages. There was also Republican Senator Larry Craig who was arrested for solicitation in an airport toilet cubicle. These scandals resulted in the public seeing through all the various moral panics the social conservatives had taken them on and they began to re-evaluate the issues in the culture war they had been told were a threat to the nation and a moral society.
When Barack Obama was elected in 2008 and then again in 2012, most of the media and popular culture was concluding that the social conservatives and religious right had been defeated. It appeared that their attempt at censorship, controlling people’s behaviour and prohibition of various social vices had failed and that we were entering a more open and liberal society where people could be free to pursue to type of life they wished and did not have to fear persecution for the activities they enjoyed.
But what has resulted since 2012 to this current day is a new type of prohibitionist coming into prominence, this time from the left side of politics. They take the form of social justice warriors which are made up of a large amount of third wave feminists. It is no longer acceptable in their eyes to make a racially charged, gendered or gay joke. You can get fired from your job and hounded out of polite society. Simply going about your business in everyday life you are accused by them of practicing institutionalised racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia, and your behaviour must be reformed if not voluntarily then by force.
More specific example of this new effort by social justice warriors to achieve a more morally virtuous society is the way that heterosexual men are demonised for their natural attraction to women. Their attraction to beautiful women is said to be perpetuating rape culture, and they are told they must attend consent classes in university and be constantly taught not to rape. We are seeing affirmative consent laws being passed where during sexual intercourse a man must constantly check that the consent is given by the woman. Men stating what is physically attractive in women is considered fat shaming or objectification even though it’s a perfectly natural feeling. In London, public adverts of women in revealing clothing have been banned by the city’s recently elected Muslim Mayor Sadiq Khan. Other examples are British scientist Matt Taylor forced to apologise for wearing a jacket made of images of semi-naked women. Also when Geelong Mayor Darryn Lyons wore a t-shirt featuring Madonna when she appeared nude in the music video for Erotica he was accused of objectifying women. Sexual desire is still deemed destructive, just the people who have been pushing that opinion are from the other side of politics.
Video games have also been the target of the new censorship campaigners, an issue which rose to prominence during the gamergate controversy when gamers decided to push back against a campaign by feminists to make video games less violent, more female friendly and with more female characters. It was having an impact on the way video games were designed with game designers fearing being labelled sexist. Any gamer who chose to fight back against this assault on their favourite hobby was accused of being a vicious misogynist. This campaign was spearheaded by feminist YouTuber Anita Sarkeesian whose profession it is to constantly pick at popular culture for evidence of a culture of misogyny.
The alleged domestic violence epidemic has also been used by feminists as a way to crack down on the leisure activities of men. A recent example was the objection to the opening of a new liquor store in the Melbourne suburb of Cranbourne the reasoning being it would lead to more domestic violence despite alcohol being a legal product. The violent nature of men is partially the reason why nightclub lockout laws have been introduced in the cities of Sydney and Brisbane. There have even been feminists who have wanted a curfew for all men at night to prevent rampant sexual assaults. The left have also been at the forefront of the recent attempts to prevent smoking by supporting excessive taxes, plain packaging and new prohibitions on areas where smoking is permitted. The left are also advocates of sugar and fat taxes that are promoted by public health lobbies. All these examples demonstrate the way that left wing activists have attempted to cure alleged social ills and prevent moral decay though prohibition and regulation. They are of the view that humans, mainly men in particular are naturally destructive and sinful beings and it is their job to correct and control the average person’s behavior.
Controlling speech is another strategy of the new left and social justice warriors through their advocacy of political correctness and wanting trigger warnings for controversial literature and art. They have used the struggle of trans people as a tool to control the use of gendered language. We must now not use language in everyday life that assumes someone’s gender or that perpetuates gender stereotypes. In the areas of race, gender and sexuality there are now words we are not allowed to use even if no offence is intended. Speech about Islam is the type that is most controlled with any public figure who is critical of Islam being vilified, subjected to threats of violence and in some cases actually physically attacked or killed. We saw this recently with the fatal Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack in France and vilification and chasing off our screen of Sonia Kruger after her comments on Islam.
Thankfully the emergence of the social justice warriors has not affect all people on the left. Comedian Bill Maher who took on the social conservatives censorship attempts in the 1990’s called out the new left for getting offended by everything. For example being offended by the play the Vagina Monologues because it is trans exclusionary, getting triggered by a Trump 2016 chalk sign and refusing to acknowledge the threat of Islam. Richard Dawkins famous for taking on the creationists in the 2000s has been shunned by the new left for being critical of feminism, Islam and safe spaces. I’m sure if Christopher Hitchens were still alive he would be horrified as what has now become of the left. Some younger members of the left are also not being swept up by social justice such as atheist Sam Harris and talk show host Dave Rubin and continue to fight to any type of censorship.
The Republicans and conservatives appear to have moved on from their moralizing past despite much of the official party platform still remaining very socially conservative. The Republican nominee Donald Trump has been a lifelong womanizer and whose business activities have included vices such as gambling and beauty contests. A new type of conservative activist is emerging the most notable example is Milo Yiannopoulos who is not uptight about commenting on sex, being crude and indulging in other vices. Pray away the gay clinics have lost all creditability and pro-censorship groups such as the Parents Television Council are largely mocked. In fact the conservative establishment who were part of social conservatives peak of 2004 this year has been largely dethroned by the alt-right who are not interested in censoring society and limiting the right of individuals to partake in the recreational activity and vice of their choice. They are largely not prudish about sex, drinking, smoking or gambling, they are about wanting to enjoy life. This is also demonstrated by their disdain for political correctness and efforts to control speech. Nobody takes what the social conservatives say seriously anymore, but it is the prohibitionists of the left and social justice warriors that now pose the bigger threats.
I will always fight prohibitionists who attempt to demonise or ban any victimless activity, I did so back when the social conservatives were at the height of their influence and I do so today now that it is coming from the left. Freedom is not a left right issue, it is a human rights issue. If we are not free to live our lives how we desire based on our own interests then we do not have freedom. Those attempting to control us should always be opposed.