We’re all ‘Generation Snowflake’, but who cares anyway?

Jonathan Boniface deconstructs the notion of ‘Generation Snowflake’, exposing it as a hypocritical nonsense, mired in privilege.


There are many curious things about the world of social media but few quite as disturbing as when people desperately try to get ‘with the lingo’. A perfect example has recently been served up by none other than the Right Honourable Michael Gove MP. Well, let’s be honest, there’s an awful lot about Gove that is rightfully eye-roll worthy but he managed to reach a whole new depth of cringe with his defence of Boris Johnson’s latest example of bumbling mediocrity.

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Yes, it’s the equivalent of when your elderly aunt first uses LOL or ROFL on Facebook (probably swiftly followed by her calling one of her friends ‘hun’) but on a wider note, we probably know that 2017 has already jumped the shark when we have Gove getting in on the ‘snowflake’ rhetoric and lumping himself in with the crassness of those who think they’re being clever when their response to being challenged is to hurl that blistering insult. I mean, ouch – I’m sure my self-esteem is plummeting right now. I’m probably only one step away from howling and gnashing my teeth Heathcliff-style in Wuthering Heights now that the great man himself has uttered that word.

What I’m trying to get at, in the roundabout way of a ‘leftard’ sympathiser of ‘identity politics’, is twofold. First, that the whole ‘generation snowflake’ insult itself really has no meaning anymore but second, and more pertinently, it is itself born of an inherent hypocrisy that the so-called ‘alt right’ (or fascists as I prefer to call them because, you know, I’m old-fashioned) will find more difficult to deny in the new post-truth era of Trump.

We probably know that 2017 has already jumped the shark when we have Gove getting in on the ‘snowflake’ rhetoric.

What does it mean to be a ‘snowflake’ in social media terms? On face value, it sounds rather pretty. In practice, it’s supposed to mean you’re one of those terminally offended people; the types who Katie Hopkins was sent to earth to defend the lovers of common sense from. If you’re a ‘snowflake’, it means you believe you have a ‘right not to be offended’, or that all you think about is safe spaces; you lack the strength to ‘grow up’ and engage with the world as it really is because at your core, you really revel in being a victim.

I guess that’s one interpretation; it’s also excrement, mired in hypocrisy. As a starting point, let’s consider the notion of safe spaces, a very particular bug-bear of those brave warriors who rail against ‘generation snowflake’. Unfortunately for them, there are actually very few people who think that their entire life should be facilitated completely through what we might call safe spaces. I think that everyone recognises that life isn’t safe. But what those who criticise the concept don’t realise is that everyone has their safe spaces; they just take different forms based on your circumstances and needs. Those who bemoan the existence of safe spaces suffer from their own particular malaise, or weakness if you will; the lack of empathy. It becomes particularly galling when you experience this type of crassness from within the LGBTQ+ community, or at least some sections of it. It takes a particular type of gall for gay men to mouth off on Twitter about how ridiculous others are for demanding safe spaces when they themselves spend their Friday and Saturday nights sashaying in and out of gay bars. Come back and have that conversation when you can get away with kissing boys in your local Wetherspoons and we’ll talk.

It takes a particular type of gall for gay men to mouth off on Twitter about how ridiculous others are for demanding safe spaces when they themselves spend their Friday and Saturday nights sashaying in and out of gay bars. Come back and have that conversation when you can get away with kissing boys in your local Wetherspoons and we’ll talk.

What the haters of ‘generation snowflake’ really demonstrate through their scorn of safe space arguments is not the weakness of those they seek to mock, but rather the weakness of their own intellectual abilities. Our society often places little value on emotional intelligence, even though it underpins our relationships with each other. It could most definitely be argued that the demand for safe spaces springs from a position of strength because it is often born of the recognition by people or groups that they suffer marginalisation and that there’s strength in numbers. It doesn’t arise from the desire to be invisible, quite the opposite in fact. The real tragedy is that the ‘snowflake’ term in this context is literally nothing more than an attempt to deny people change in society, and that’s the real weakness here.

That aside, it’s far more interesting to deconstruct the ‘right not to be offended’ argument which, aside from the often clumsy grammatical expression, comes with any number of face-palm-inspiring connotations. In basic terms (no pun intended), it boils down to this, and you might want to take a deep breath; by telling those who object to what you say or do that they don’t have the right not be offended, what you’re essentially saying is that your right to offend trumps (!) someone’s right to object and that they should simply shut up. Got it? If not, let’s try it another way… to me, it’s quite simple; you can say whatever the hell you want to, that’s your prerogative, but the moment you utter it in the public domain you give people the right to engage with it and that might be in negative fashion. It’s not about anyone wanting a ‘right’ to not be offended; it’s about calling you out on your shit and it’s not a particularly difficult concept to get your head around, assuming you have any empathy.

‘I’m entitled to my opinion, you don’t have the right to tell me what to think!’

Well… obviously? What we’re dealing with here actually runs much deeper than the ‘snowflake’ rhetoric; it actually borders on a pathological inability to accept criticism and begs the question, who is actually the ‘snowflake’ here? Invariably, those telling ‘snowflakes’ that they don’t have the right to avoid being offended by them are actually the people who can’t stand to be challenged. They’re not interested in discourse or debate – they’re simply interested in shouting louder than everyone else. Generally, they’re also the people with vested interests in how our society and our institutions are set up; if you don’t believe that, just take a look at the people who cry ‘white genocide’ whenever anything remotely critical of the western world’s history (or institutional racism) is mentioned – it would almost be amusing were it not so deeply disturbing. In this sense, it would suggest that the term ‘snowflake’ is a poor attempt by those at the top of the pile to shut down those who object to their position.

There are still newspapers which passively, at best, and more often openly perpetuate the myth that all Muslims must be terrorists, or that trans women are cross-dressing sexual predators who want access to female toilets to commit sexual assaults, or that non-binary people are mentally il. But if you object to something one of these outlets say, you’re the one who’s ‘too easily offended’…

‘You just want to shut down freedom of speech!’

That’s generally where the argument proceeds to next; remember, we love to shut down people’s opinions so much that we object to giving a platform to pedlars of hate. It’s just not fair, is it, that proponents of homophobia, transphobia, racism, Islamaphobia, etc, are just so damn beaten down and have nowhere to express themselves? In the ‘real world’ that such people often tell ‘generation snowflake’ to live in, we have mainstream media that peddles these things on a daily basis – there are still newspapers which passively, at best, and more often openly, perpetuate the myth that all Muslims must be terrorists, or that trans women are cross-dressing sexual predators who want access to female toilets to commit sexual assaults, or that non-binary people are mentally ill, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. But if you object to something one of these outlets say, or if you say that someone who spews hatred shouldn’t be provided with a platform, you’re the one who’s ‘too easily offended’? It’s ‘generation snowflake’ in full operation again, policing our society with their political correctness and weakness.

Generally, they’re also the people with vested interests in how our society and our institutions are set up; if you don’t believe that, just take a look at the people who cry ‘white genocide’ whenever anything remotely critical of the western world’s history (or institutional racism) is mentioned – it would almost be amusing were it not so deeply disturbing.

What they fail to realise, because they’re too busy congratulating themselves on being the champions of ‘freedom of speech’, is that it takes courage to object to them. It’s easy to be passive and to not provide a challenge to these people because once you deal with one, it’s like turning over a stone – you literally have no idea what will crawl out. Or rather we do know what will crawl out; faceless egg after egg on Twitter, hurling all kinds of abuse and marshalling the forces of ‘common sense’ and ‘straight-talking’ to put you back in your place. Who, in this situation, has the most courage – the hordes who seek to repress, or the ’snowflakes’ who seek to object?

The ultimate irony of the ‘generation snowflake’ nonsense is that both sides of the spectrum are actually doing the same as each other and that’s actually to be expected.

All of which leads us to beg the question, who actually are the ‘snowflakes’? Have you ever noticed that for all their mocking, it’s the right wing and conservative haters of ‘snowflakes’ who do the most complaining and who seem the most hurt? You prick them, and they bleed – a lot. Here is where the hypocrisy lies; those who claim we ‘don’t have the right to not be offended’ don’t seem to take well to being offended themselves. Are we to assume that offence is a one-way thing; it can only be given to marginalised groups and peoples and not taken by those who, as they’re so keen to point out, live in the ‘real world’? Those strong, bastions of common sense and straight-talking actually seem really quite fragile when push comes to shove. There’s no better example of this than the 45th President of the United States of America, sworn in yesterday. Adopted as a figurehead by so many of the people who bemoan ‘generation snowflake’, he’s actually the biggest snowflake going – becoming the President-elect of the ‘free world’ wasn’t enough to stop him taking to Twitter to vent his childlike spleen regarding anyone of any standing who dares to be even remotely critical of him. Sorry Donald, you don’t have the right not to be offended, you big old snowflake!

Those who bemoan the existence of safe spaces suffer from their own particular malaise, or weakness if you will; the lack of empathy. It becomes particularly galling when you experience this type of crassness from within the LGBTQ+ community, or at least some sections of it.

When we break it down (Sue Sylvester-style, because I had to) everyone criticises and everyone responds to criticism, offence, abuse, whatever you want to call it. For me, the ultimate irony of the ‘generation snowflake’ nonsense is that both sides of the spectrum are actually doing the same as each other and that’s actually to be expected. In this sense, we’re all ‘generation snowflake’ because we’re human beings and we argue. What we should object to, however, is the notion that those with whom this term is generally associated are always weak, introverted and lack connection with the realities of the world. More often than not, people are objecting to the abuses that permeate our society and which, in seems, so few people wish to take seriously because of the lack of impact such abuses have on their safe lives.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter (@gaes_elskhugi)

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