Call Out Culture & Making Mistakes

One of the negative aspects of call out culture (as opposed to calling in) is that it very often creates an environment in which people are afraid to make mistakes.

This is because if you got shouted at/insulted/ostrasized when you made a mistake in the past and said/did something problematic, then you’re going to be afraid to even talk about or act around certain subjects/issues. You’re going to feel like you’re always walking on glass. This is because due to your socialization and the fact that you can’t see around cognitive corners, you’re almost certainly going to make mistakes again, no matter how hard you try not to. This fear will be even greater if you have an anxiety disorder, which just so happen to be very widespread on the left.

The problem with causing people to be actively afraid of making mistakes is that mistakes are a good thing: people learn and grow through making mistakes, understanding why they were mistakes, and determing ways to not make these mistakes again. Mistakes are how we learn, grow, and develop as people.

So if call out culture creates an environment in which people are afraid to make mistakes due to fear of social sanctions/social ostracism, then the end result of call out culture is a group of people who haven’t unlearnt ways of thinking/acting that perpetuate forms of domination. Too often it either a) creates people who hide these ways of thinking/acting from the public eye due to fear of persecution, or b) drives people away from left wing spaces, who as a result of this, are very likely to continue to be problematic and not become better people. The latter can often be seen when you notice how differently left wing people will act when surrounded by radical leftists in public, vs when in private with close friends. Call out culture frequently creates the appearance of improvement, but underneath far too little has changed. This is especially true if one seeks to truly prefigure the future non-hierarchical society in the here and now.

Thus, if we want to abolish forms of domination then we need people to actually unlearn their socialization and learn new ways of thinking/acting, rather than learn how to appear perfectly non-problematic in public, but remaining problematic underneath. This means people being problematic in left spaces, and so making mistakes, and learning from these mistakes.

This crucially cannot solely be an individual process because, due to our socialization/cognitive limitations, we have internalized power relations to such an extent that they are invisible to us. So we must rely on the help of others to spot the flaws in our thinking/behavior [1].

Given this, I’m not saying we shouldn’t point out one anothers mistakes. I’m saying we need to establish ways of pointing out each others mistakes that do not induce in people a fear of making mistakes, but rather encourage them to learn from their mistakes and to develop and grow as people. We need a culture where a person’s response to having a mistake pointed out isn’t an intense fear of being socially ostracised from the radical community or having people actively hating them for a minor mistake.

I’m not sure how to do this in practice, but it needs to be done if the left is to grow and flourish, as opposed to fracture and destroy itself.


[1] In case it is not clear, I do not think it should solely be a collective process either. Each of us must devote a significant amount of our time alone reflecting on our behavior and ideas and consciously attempting to unlearn the oppresive ways of being/thinking that we have been socialized into. I merely think that alongside this we also need a social environment that aids and encourages others in this individual process.


One thought on “Call Out Culture & Making Mistakes

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s