Opinion: How well does ‘snowflake’ rhetoric hold up under logical scrutiny?

Jc Canicosa

Not very. That’s not exactly a revelation though.

Full disclaimer: This opinion piece isn’t intended to make any points politically left or right. This piece is intended solely to analyze how well “snowflake” or “social justice warrior” rhetoric holds up as legitimate political commentary and the validity of some of the arguments that this rhetoric tries to make. This piece also does not pretend to be the beginning and ending of this discussion. By all means, The Maroon has an entire rest of the semester’s worth of opinion section slots left.

For those that have never heard the terms “snowflakes” and “social justice warriors,” they are pejoratives for individuals who promote socially-progressive views. The rhetoric is meant to be dismissive of those socially-progressive views by implying that those views are coming from a place of over-sensitivity, personal offense and a social justice warrior’s lack of understanding of “how the adult world works.”

This, of course, is ad hominem. The “snowflake” rhetoric is attacking this idea of what the “social justice warrior” is like rather than the views of social progression themselves. By manufacturing a perception of socially progressive activism as privileged whining behind Twitter handles and picket signs, the arguments behind the over-sensitive and entitled social justice warrior become as disingenuous and entitled as the social justice warriors themselves.

For example, when viral Fox News political commentator and former television host Tomi Lahren said, “If you spend more time occupying Wall Street than you do occupying a shower or a job, you might be a snowflake,” or “if you believe by virtue of being born, you are entitled to anything you don’t earn, you might be a snowflake.”

She did not ever address the complex and nuanced arguments behind the socioeconomic ramifications of corporate influence on government or the pros and cons of social safety nets in her four-minute rant about “snowflakes.” She only attacks her idea of the kind of people she believes would occupy Wall Street or advocate for social safety nets.

This is where we start to see how “snowflake” rhetoric falls apart. The actual content of arguments for or against social progressivism are never truly addressed. Books and hours of political commentary segments have been dedicated to attacking an idea of what a “social justice warrior” is rather than the subject matter of the argument itself.

Unfortunately, the logical fallaciousness of “snowflake” rhetoric doesn’t end at the ad hominem. It’s also a straw man.

In order to make the argument for dismissing social progressivism as privileged whining behind Twitter handles and picket signs, one set up a straw man about the motives of the “social justice warrior” as over sensitivity, personal offense and the social justice warrior’s sense of entitlement.

The fallacy of this thinking is in believing that the manufactured perception of an offended motive says anything about the validity of the argument itself.

Again, the logically fallacious nature of “snowflake” rhetoric is not exactly a revelation to most. One might even wonder why someone would waste an entire opinion piece arguing such an obvious viewpoint. The reason I felt like this had to be said was because “snowflake” rhetoric isn’t only saved for internet trolls and Tomi Lahren. Legitimately very powerful and influential people use “snowflake” rhetoric under the guise of political commentary.

For example, Sinclair broadcast stations are required to work “must-run” political commentary segments into their local news broadcasts. So, in over 100 local news stations, rhetoric like this quote from political commentator Mark E. Hyman is something you would hear.

“I’ve got a message for certain students. Listen up, snowflake,” Hyman said. “Yes, I’m talking to you, the social justice warrior who whines for trigger warnings and safe spaces. Not grown-up enough to deal with the facts, then hunker down in your room and Snapchat the day away with other social justice warriors. College isn’t a babysitting service. It’s time to grow up, snowflake.”

Like I said, many legitimately powerful and influential people are using an ad hominem attack in their arguments under the guise of political commentary, and it takes away from genuine political discourse.

Because I am a huge proponent of political discourse, I believe in the marketplace of ideas, and that dissenting opinions and arguments are what is best for our democracy. We should be disagreeing and contradicting each other. It makes us grow, but using logical fallacies and misaimed insults absolutely undercuts that discourse and undercuts that marketplace of ideas among our electorate. You don’t need to trade insults or set up a straw man in order to make a conservative or liberal political argument.