17 Comments

I’ve seen this concept described as “magical words”, a few years back. There was a good little video essay series a guy made called “Magical words and how to fight them” illustrating how words like “Capitalism” and “Racism” are not used to refer to consistent concepts, but to establish friend and foe. Shibboleth is a better term

Expand full comment

This will sound more antagonistic than I intend it to: Is using pseudo-scientific jargon like "cisgender", or "binary" and "non-binary" not just another form of shibboleth?

Expand full comment

I’ve heard the following justification given for the “always tell your pronouns” thing: it’s supposed to create a more accepting environment for non-cis people. Relying on visual cues to infer gender places undue pressure on transgender people to pass, and asking “does anyone have non-standard pronouns here” unduly singles people out. So the only solution is to mandate it as a requirement for everyone whenever they make an introduction.

What do you think of this rationale?

Expand full comment

If everyone in the US read this article, how likely is it that anything would change? I suspect that few of those engaging in this behavior would feel they ought to change.

I also wonder if there are not other sorts of shibboleths we are accustomed to for other groups. The way we dress, even if fairly conventional, serves a similar purpose. Fashion is a shibboleth. When does a shibboleth turn into a custom or a tradition?

Humor seems closely adjacent to this. The non-woke accuse the woke of being rather humorless, and of having ruined TV comedy. Colbert was funny back when he played a character that parodied the right. But then he took of the mask and became a scold. Or do the woke still think he is funny?

Expand full comment
founding

Would you say that the shibboleth used by Mr. Runningwater was also a form of virtue signaling?

Expand full comment

https://open.substack.com/pub/sinatana/p/the-mask-of-all-skams?utm_source=direct&r=zickz&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=web

I’ve had so many preach the topics du jour to me lately through an ensign on their temple...loved your points

Expand full comment

Thanks for focusing on shibboleths. It's getting a bit ridiculous and I was wondering why it was so important to many people. But tribalism is the answer. Now it makes sense. And it is still ridiculous.

Expand full comment

Social liberalism allows for some forms of self-expression like nontraditional haircolors or facial piercings. I feel like these definitely should count as shibboleths, but they seem to exhibit a degree of self-expression beyond the mere signaling of a political opinion. I would definitely have a problem with a society where all liberals have colorful hair, and hair color would thus be a reliable proxy for someone's political positions. But it feels wrong to ask people to conform, especially when creating that kind of signaling is not their primary intention.

Expand full comment