Only as Creators! It has caused me the greatest trouble, and forever causes me the greatest trouble, to perceive that unspeakably more depends on what things are called, than on what they are. The reputation, the name and appearance, the importance, the usual measure and weight of things being in origin most frequently an error and arbitrariness thrown over the things like a garment, and quite alien to their essence and even to their exterior have gradually, by the belief therein and its continuous growth from generation to generation, grown as it were on-and-into things and become their very body; the appearance at the very beginning becomes almost always the essence in the end, and operates as the essence! What a fool he would be who would think it enough to refer here to this origin and this nebulous veil of illusion, in order to annihilate that which virtually passes for the world namely, so-called ‘reality’! It is only as creators that we can annihilate! But let us not forget this: it suffices to create new names and valuations and probabilities, in order in the long run to create new ‘things’.
-Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, 1882
In the same way that the coining of the term ‘political correctness’ allowed members of the political right to attack the left for infringing on personal freedoms, the creation of the terms ‘social justice warrior’, ‘feminist/feminazi’, and even ‘safe space‘ has served much the same purpose of delegitimizing leftist politics. These catchy terms homogenize disparate, localized acts of resistance to hegemonic norms into a single, recognizable something–a mere trend. The creation of the term ‘social justice warrior’, for instance, renders a massive, heterogeneous network of actors into an easily dismissed group of radicals who seek to destroy the foundations of liberalism and control peoples’ thoughts. On reddit, the mentioning of the term ‘social justice warrior’ draws up a whole host of connotations that reinforce its undesirability: Ellen Pao, censorship, feminism, XXChromosomes (a default subreddit dedicated to womens’ issues).
However, this rule is democratic in that it applies to everything that can be labeled: men’s rights activism, racism, sexism, homophobia–reddit’s dominant culture abhors these phenomena, too, but only when they can be explicitly labeled. When the label is absent, the underlying discourse thrives. The invocation of label tends to halt discussion.