A new book tells us ‘We Need Snowflakes’. No we don’t — Analysis
Hannah Jewell has mounted an impassioned defence of the easily offended, but it’s only left me more convinced snowflakes need to melt away
If there’s one cheery takeaway from enduring Hannah Jewell’s recently published ‘We Need Snowflakes’ it must be that her claim the people that pejorative is directed at really don’t like it. That is the reason people spread the word.
“The term snowflake is a weapon to neutralise a challenge to the status quo,”Writes the author. “And worst of all, a person who calls you a snowflake is probably not just a good old-fashioned arsehole… they may be something even worse. They may be revealing their membership of or at least interest in the politics of the alt-right.”
This is it. While this is all part of Jewell’s conclusion, it’s also the starting point for her book, subtitled ‘in defence of the sensitive, the angry and the offended’.
Knowing the barb hits its mark, however, is just reward for ploughing through the 270-odd pages of patronising guff from the Washington Post video journalist who sees herself as very much on the ‘right side of history’ and anyone who disagrees with her worldview as not just fundamentally wrong but damaged and even dangerous.
So right-on is ‘We Need Snowflakes’ that two chapters are actually flagged with trigger warnings like: “This chapter deals with awful and potentially triggering things like sexual assault, rape, war, Mass shootings, suicide and abuse. Skip to page 209 if you so wish.”
Perhaps that would have saved you a lot of time reading the first chapter.
A warning is also given that Chapter 7 contains a lot of toxicity. “transphobic nonsense.” I’ll say. The tired attacks against Harry Potter author JK rowling are exactly that. So too is the assumption that readers agree with the author blithely labelling any woman who dares to question whether a man in a dress is actually a woman a ‘TERF’ (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist).
Reading this, it is clear that a snowflake’s right to call people fascists, TERFs, boomers, racists or transphobes, or simply react with ‘F**k off!’ on Twitter, is without limit and is always right, or in the terms more widely understood in the snowflake realm, a ‘valid response’.
There should be a further warning, maybe in a foreword, for anyone curious enough to tackle ‘We Need Snowflakes’, that the reader should beware that the millennial author has accepted many questionable intellectual positions as fundamental truths.
The views on critical theory can be argued just like the Sun sets and rises in the East. Left equals good. Right equals bad. Intersectionality is a curse. Gender is a social construct that’s fluid. All white people are racist (they just don’t know it). It doesn’t confer wisdom. Actually, you may be even more stupid as a result. To call someone a snowflake, isn’t just unwelcoming and cruel; it also betrays your identity of a reactionary stooge who has fallen for fascism.
Jewell has one foot in both the cultural swamp and the Atlantic. She tells us all about being a very entitled college student on progressive ground zero in Berkeley, California. And at the slightly more conservative University of Cambridge, UK. This is where her Masters was completed.
It’s a university pedigree denied all but the luckiest, but it’s shaped her life and, like so many folk who spent time in privileged further education, she is assured it has given her a unique perspective on the world that regular grunts could only ever scratch their heads over as they search for grubs to eat among the leaf litter on the forest floor.
She says that people who bemoan the poor performance of snowflake students, such as their inability to platform, their safety spaces, trigger warnings, or their dedication to the rainbow universe are wrong, close-minded and would do well to learn from the snowflake approach.
In her telling, ‘snowflake’ is a slur too far with roots in racism, which she goes to some lengths to recount, only to dispel them as irrelevant. She tells us the earliest use of the term was ‘most likely’ in Missouri in the 1860s during the US Civil War. According to L.U., there were three factions: the Claybanks, the Charcoals and the Snowflakes. Reavis is his 1876 book ‘Saint Louis: The Future Great City of the World’.
The snowflakes’ position was anti-war and pro-slavery, a peculiar mix that would confuse their intellectual descendants no end.
The author believes that this is because modern usage of the term came from something much nicer. From, well, being nice. Being special. Being special means showing compassion and standing up for the victims whenever you can.
It could be that they are transgender, a person with a disability, or a student at college. Jewell says they will need to be saved by snowflakes.
“We know the term ‘snowflake’ is wielded to distract, to belittle, and to diminish the arguments, identities and political power of young people, poor people, LGBTQ+ people and people of colour,”She wrote.
These, Jewell would have, are the victims who need help – “trans and non-binary people whose very existence threatens an old-fashioned understanding of gender.” Really? Jeepers!
“We know it’s a way to ridicule workers who want a fair deal,” Elle continues. “We know that when a white person is called a snowflake by another white person, it is an attempt to embarrass and chastise them in the hopes they will abandon their allyship.”It can be tiring to try and keep an eye on all those who need saving.
Jewell creates villains to illustrate the evil forces at work, and how millennials are so habitually mistreated. Without them, heroes are impossible.
So it’s the Marmite man Piers Morgan, far right whack job Milo Yiannopoulos, Harry Potter author JK Rowling, Donald Trump Jr (not so much Sr), Jordan Peterson, and the usual suspects who are lined up against the wall for the snowflake firing squad.
Jewell’s mistake in choosing these baddies is that we all know they represent no one but themselves. While Morgan is not to everyone’s taste, his media persona, like others in his field, is a construct devised to generate clicks, readers, and viewers by winding people up. Ditto Yiannopoulos as well as Peterson. Morgan might have an incredible platform on which to voice his opinion, Jewell has the WaPo gig. What is the difference between one being right and another?
It is a great privilege. And it’s from those dizzy heights that the author can condescend to look down on the rest of us and turn out a book telling us to buck up our ideas as a side-hustle while churning out post-ironic videos for her media outlet’s subscribers as a day job.
But to purport that this is a polarised argument of Snowflakes v The World simplifies real world experience and ignores the great majority of ‘In-betweens’ who might laugh out loud at the latest ‘outrage’ trumpeted by the Daily Mail,But we also believe that black lives matter.
Pretendence in offense is not an acceptable tool to try and score points during a debate. This just confuses the waters and grants emotion primacy over all other arguments. And while a snowflake might contest that, to the billions of In-betweeners, it’s not healthy.
While we may need to look after the poor and vulnerable in society, do we really need patronizing books and advice from academics and media professionals telling us how best to live and manage our words? Er, no, I don’t think so.
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