Chances are, you’ve heard the term snowflake creep into political commentary in recent months.

Much like political correctness, it’s a term invented and used mainly by people on the right to disparagingly refer mainly to people on the left.

Basically, a snowflake is someone who’s easily offended or overly sensitive. According to Wikipedia (I know, not a very reliable source, but deadline time is taking its toll on my willingness to research thoroughly), the term’s modern usage has its origins in Fight Club’s line “you are not special. You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake”. Whether or not this origin is truly accurate is interesting to consider given the present-day usage of the term.

“Clearly, many people on the left are easily offended”

But while the term may commonly be used by people on the right as an insult to people on the left, it’s often people on the right who are the real snowflakes.

This is not to say that people on the left cannot be accurately described as “snowflakes”. Clearly, many people on the left are easily offended, often on behalf of others. It’s easy to see how the right has seized on this idea, slotting it nicely into its narrative of creeping political correctness, increasing social control, and the left’s immediate dismissal of potentially controversial points of view.

Whatever your views on these issues, the right must be admired for its use of these narratives. Whether you see concepts of political correctness as good or bad, whether you see a narrative of increasing social control by the liberal left as true or false, it is unquestionable that the right has built these ideas effectively and gained real popularity with them. Because it’s now even easier and even more acceptable for the average person – regardless of political leanings or engagement – to dismiss criticism, and especially left wing criticism, as coming from politically correct snowflakes scared of discussion.

The idea of creeping political correctness and a social climate stifled of honest debate was a key battleground in Brexit discussions. And for the left’s part, it must do something to tackle these criticisms – you may well believe that political correctness is a good thing, and that marginalising potentially offensive viewpoints is helpful in creating social cohesion. But believing this does nothing to advance the cause of left wing politics. In fact, it damages it.

Left wing politics would benefit much more greatly by engaging with people on the right, instead of immediately dismissing them. The left cannot simply dismiss the right as racist or sexist or classist or homophobic or transphobic or ableist or any of the rest of it right off the bat and still expect to convert people on the right.

All it takes to offend some people on the right is to say ‘Happy Holidays'”

This is not to advocate a normalisation or acceptance of prejudice and discrimination. But it’s pretty difficult to convince anyone that you refuse to talk to, and it’s pretty easy for them to brush you off as a snowflake if you do so. Which does nothing but strengthen their views.

And part of this convincing begins with pointing out the failings and the hypocrisies of the right. One such hypocrisy is that of the snowflake generation.

Yes, people on the left can be easily offended. But all it takes to offend some people on the right is to say “Happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”, or to call someone a firefighter rather than a fireman, or to accept that transgender people exist.

Some people on the right are so sensitive that all it takes to rattle them up is the suggestion that refugees deserve to be treated with dignity and respect and afforded basic human rights. Or the idea that a 48/52 vote split doesn’t provide a mandate for hard Brexit. Or the notion that maybe, just maybe, what they’re saying is actually offensive, but had they considered this alternative point of view?

Jack Taylor

Image: Doug Waldron via Flickr

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