White Knights?

A random, rambling rant follows. More coherent content will resume tomorrow.

It was a modern colloquial term I never heard used in speech until I was in college the second time, but had caught glimpses of in action. Instead of the traditional good guy who rides in to take care of a very real problem, the modern term refers to people (not always male) who insist on solving a problem that either 1. only they can see, or 2. that they use to get their victim into even bigger trouble. It’s the reverse of what it ought to be, in other words. In their own minds, perhaps, they are the Good Guy on the Shining Steed.

It popped up again recently in a discussion about the people who insist on “saving” sensitive people (as they define them) from harsh language and hurtful speech. To warp an old saying: is speech still hateful if no one is around to hear it spoken? According to some people, yes, and so they (the savior-types) have a duty to keep other people from saying things that might cause offense and pain, even if the “victims” never hear it.

Which makes me scratch my head with mild puzzlement. If I never knew that someone was insulting me, why should I be bothered? I’m sure I get called uncharitable names behind my back. I work with teenagers, I was one once, and we had unflattering names and terms to describe faculty we didn’t care for. Ditto in college (“Dr. Absentia”, who overstayed summer break but sent us assignments from wherever he was, to be done before he returned a month into the semester. And then docked points when we didn’t make use of  corrections that he recommended—on papers that he had not returned to us!) It doesn’t hurt me.

Incitement to riot is a different animal, but “trigger warnings” and demands for censorship are not about incitement to riot. Ben Stein, Milo, the hard-core feminists, Jordan Peterson, none of them advocate beating up minorities or burning down their homes and gathering places. Incitement to riot is never appropriate, and is not protected speech.

Suggesting that perhaps there really are biological differences between those with XX and XY chromosomes is not incitement to riot. Nor is pointing out that there are elements of certain cultures that are dysfunctional in modern society. But here come our self-proclaimed white knights, to protect the fragile from words that they didn’t hear in the first place.

Only once have I appreciated a trigger warning. It was before the term had appeared, and was at an FAA safety meeting. The fed knew who I had worked for, and pulled me aside during break to let me know that he’d be talking about a crash that involved people I knew, in a plane I’d flown. I appreciated the head’s up, so I could deflect comments and questions if other people had directed them at me. (Sad to say, I had been expecting the crash to happen, but that’s a story for a later time, if ever. Statute of limitations. . . )

As some readers know, I’ve seen some of the underside of life. I’m a survivor, not a victim, and I do not appreciate being treated like a fragile piece of decorative china by people who don’t ask first. When people keep saying “Oh my gosh, you must be hurt/ re-traumatized/ upset/ forced to relive what happened/whatever by hearing this!” it actually can make recovery harder. And what about kids who grow up hearing, ‘You poor victim! You must be protected because the world is a terrible place and you will never be more than a victim?” All too often, it comes with the sub-text of “and only I/we can protect you from the mean people, so do what we say.” That’s not a good way to raise a healthy, durable person.

Those are the well-meaning white knights. The others, the predators? Ugh. I’ve collided with a few over the years. I’m lucky—my predator detector is pretty sensitive. Even when I’m upset and down, I’m suspicious of people who rush in to “save” me. Being borderline sociopathic [thank you, high school assailants] has a few benefits. Certain political figures, among others, raise my warning flags. Likewise some activists, administrators, and “community spokesperson” types.

White knights in the bad sense don’t ask the “victim” if he or she needs rescuing. They dive in, sometimes before “the victim” knows that she’s been hurt, and “save” the offended/injured party. In the worst case, they then isolate the “victim” and hurt her very, very badly.

That’s not just icky. That’s edging from malice into evil.

14 thoughts on “White Knights?

  1. Edging? I’d call it straight up embracing.
    The White Knights were out in force yesterday.
    Evidently, there was a puff piece about how brave Bruce Jenner is for embracing his status as a lesbian and shacking up with a hot 23 year-old.
    Needless to say, a lot of people questioned the presented narrative.
    And the cadre of White Knights rode forth to do battle. (I was forcefully reminded of the White Knight through the looking-glass, with his banhammer clutched tightly in his arms.)

  2. I find those people to be malignant idiots. Who are they to decide, and at times decree, what is or isn’t good for someone else?
    This reminds me if the people who say that immigrants need to be taught in their native language while said immigrants say they want to learn and be taught in English.

  3. Rummaging in the closet … yep, armor, gray, one each, battered from use. Lance, sword, rocket launcher … OK. Never said I’d fight fair with a White Knight or anything more loathsome. Leave my family and friends alone.

  4. Growing up in the fifties, often the new kid in town and by no means one of the “cool kids,” I got my share of personal verbal attacks. With help from loving parents, I learned to ignore or verbally deflect most of them and I developed the ability to detect when verbal harassment was going to devolve into a physical confrontation. In most of those confrontations I was victorious (I fight dirty when needed) and even the few times I lost, the fact that I was willing to stand up for myself ended the harassment. If sane adults cannot deal with criticism without a white knight intervening, they will have a miserable life, will become dependent on the white knights to protect them and will become permanent adult children. I know that it’s different for women and physically weaker men, and I would have hated to be black especially in the South during that time. Physical resolution may not be possible or advisable in those cases, but learning how to deal with predators or those seeming to have altruistic motives but in reality want to make you dependent on them is part of life. If you learn those lessons in school the most you get are some lumps and wisdom, if you don’t learn them as a child/teenager, the consequences in adulthood can be fatal.

  5. Everyone likes the thought of being a hero. The very thought of rescuing someone is an emotional high in and of itself. (Which writers must see as an unabashedly good thing!)
    The problem comes when individuals start thinking that the world (and other people) exist to validate their fantasies.

    Also, people who need rescuing, desire to be rescued, and can easily be rescued are not all that common.
    Accidents happen, of course. But most major problems develop over time, and generally with the acquiescence (and often enthusiastic participation!) of the person at risk. In lots of cases, you can only put in a lot of work encouraging the person to save themselves, all the while fearing that you’re somehow enabling them.
    This isn’t the stuff Fantasies of Power are made of.
    Your stirring speech isn’t going to have much emotional impact on a junkie.
    The girl in the abusive relationship she actively sought out, isn’t going to vault onto the back of your horse.
    Giving money to a bum carrying a cardboard sign isn’t going to get him off the streets.
    It’s just so much easier to feel good about yourself if the problem is imaginary, and the victims lack agency

  6. That’s not a White Knight. That’s a swamp thing (or schlorp monster?) wearing a sheep’s skin. And too often they HAVE sheepskins, and wield them as weapons of mass delusion.

    Just remember: Helping somebody doesn’t mean taking over from them except in the most extreme cases. In those cases you need to ask what you are really qualified to do. In all other cases, you make sure you are not overpowering or making choices for the helper.

  7. The term is also used by everyone from woman-hating gamers to neo-Nazi groups like the Proud Boys for anyone who defends the rights of women or people of color to participate in everyday life without being harassed, doxed, shouted down, or threatened. Look at the timeline for Gamergate or the cesspool of 4chan, the incel subculture, and the alt-right. These aren’t “imaginary” problems. They are as serious as cancer and have resulted in destroyed quite a few lives. Conflating the two meanings is how truly evil people convince us to ignore what they do.

    • And Antifa is just a community association, and true socialism has never been tried, and men are just defective women, and the NRA is a terrorist organization, and…

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