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The short discussion about that PyCon incident yesterday led me to think about the whole phenomenon, and this is what I have come to.
In Discipline and Punish (written in 1975), Foucault analyzed the way punishment and disciplining have evolved over the previous 200 years. Feudalism used extremely violent, chaotic and almost universally public methods of punishment, which is done in the name of the monarch, the sole authority and sovereign, and meant solely as a display of his power and the horrible fate of anyone who opposes it. This was all terribly inefficient for the bourgeois liberal forces that replaced feudalism and who, inspired by Enlightenment philosophy and scientific development, sought for more refined and efficient methods of control. Since liberalism is opposed to physical violence on principle, these methods were focused on the mind rather than the body, meant to crush the spirits of convicts and turn them into disciplined servants of the bourgeois state. This is the point where the prison system became widely used, and its purpose became most evident in Jeremy Bentham's Panopticon project, a circular prison model built in a way that every single inmate would be under non-stop surveillance from the central guard tower, which would crush their spirits and lead them to accept obedience. Foucault claimed that this system is copied by most institutions of the modern bourgeois state, effectively creating a panoptical society.
This has changed since, though. The advancement of surveillance technology, media, social networks, tabloids, the internet, etc, have even further consolidated the means of the state and ruling class for control and the disciplining of society, while at the same time diffusing them among less powerful individuals and interest groups. The private sphere is steadily disappearing, which rendered the relative secrecy and subtleness of the classic liberal system of disciplining obsolete, effectively regressing to the feudal method of making the punishment public, although keeping the insistence on refraining from physical punishment, at least nominally. Some of these interest groups, specifically the ones with supposedly progressive goals and ideas, are using the method of public shaming in order to scare the possessors of reactionary and undesirable ideas into submission. This is especially evident among internet activists which like to associate themselves with left-wing and progressive ideas.
This approach is wrong, harmful and contraproductive. Oppression in the capitalist system is two-fold, and determined by economic and social structures, where the former lie in the material and the latter in the ideal realm. The two emanate one from another, and an egalitarian society cannot exist until both the oppressive economic and social structures are destroyed. The latter include racism, sexism, homophobia etc, which are what is important here. These originate from culture, media and social norms, due to the privileged groups holding cultural hegemony and imposing their views on the lower orders of society, which are taking them as granted due to their exposure. As a result, an absolutely huge majority of people are holding views that are harmful from a progressive perspective. In criticizing them and putting them to public shame, internet activists completely forget about the meaning of structures and the influence they have, instead focusing their wrath on the "perpetrators", chiding them for "not choosing to act and think properly" and thus completely negating the role of structures and reducing everything to a matter of choice, which is fundamentally a strongly right-wing view. The only thing that can be thus accomplished is completely alienating a huge majority of people who, unfortunately, do hold reactionary views but see no reason for changing them due to being put off by "feminazis" and the like. The left has always been a movement of the masses, change has to come through education and understanding, not self-righteous indignance.