“Snowflake”: Anatomy of a Slur

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The popularity of “snowflake” as the cutesy insult du jour is both very interesting and rather disturbing. It’s used, of course, by the Cult Of Trumpery to belittle those who refuse to join the cult, but it’s particularly intended to single out them librulz — on the apparent assumption that nobody else possibly could be alarmed by the rise of fascism in America.

One fascinating thing about this epithet is its astronomical irony. Calling someone a snowflake is meant mainly to suggest that they are fragile, overly sensitive, easily damaged or offended. But the people applying the label are doing so in defense of a petulant toddler who, among many other things, threw a tantrum against Nordstrom for dropping his daughter’s merchandise; against the cast of Hamilton for supposedly booing Mike Pence (they didn’t); against Saturday Night Live for lampooning him almost as well as he lampoons himself; and against the media and even the National Park Service for accurately reporting the size of his inauguration crowd (just let that one sink in).

And his fans themselves are often prone to gross overreactions even as they berate other people for being “snowflakes”. Recently there was a viral story about a Massachusetts man who wrote a letter to the editor of his local paper expressing his disgust with a yard sign that said “Hate has no home here”.  A 13-year-old boy penned a response that was absolutely priceless, and gives a person hope that the U.S. may have a future after all. He closes his letter by pointing out the absurdity of someone (supposedly an adult) becoming unhinged over a benevolent yard sign, and then disparaging others for their “snowflake sensitivity”.

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Another characteristic of (literal) snowflakes that may be suggested by this appellation is their uniqueness — it’s become proverbial that no two of them are alike. And there is speculation that the current application of the word was inspired by a line from the 1999 film Fight Club (based on the vastly superior Chuck Palahniuk novel of the same name):

You are not special. You’re not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else. We’re all part of the same compost heap. We’re all singing, all dancing crap of the world.

And consider the irony of this: if members of the Cult Of Trumpery really are ridiculing dissenters for their supposedly vain perception of personal specialness, they also are tacitly acknowledging that they themselves subscribe to a mindless herd mentality.

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What’s most disturbing about “snowflake”, however, is its white nationalist connotations. It has been widely reported that the term originated in Nazi Germany, where it was applied derisively to Jews because the ash from the crematoriums reminded soldiers of snow falling.

Mind you, there is no solid evidence that this story is true. But then, the Cult Of Trumpery has been more than willing to buy into all manner of unfounded beliefs and rumors: Obama is a Kenyan Muslim; Hillary caused the deaths in Benghazi; the Clinton Foundation committed fraud; climate change is a hoax; millions voted illegally; Muslims cheered on 9-11; immigrants pose a threat to the economy and to safety; Obama “apology tour”; death panels; etc., etc., etc., etc. So it’s not very likely that they’ve questioned this myth, either. In other words, it appears that many of them have called people “snowflakes” while believing that the term has its roots in the Third Reich.

Furthermore, there is a troubling etymology that is much more substantially documented. During the Civil War era, it was common for white racists to refer sarcastically to African-Americans as “snowballs” — a usage which already had been around for a century or so — and this later morphed into “snowflakes”. Unlike the Nazi narrative, this one is unquestionably true. (We might note that abolitionists also applied the term to those who supported slavery; but in this usage it was deriding people who perceived themselves as superior rather than deriding people whom the user of the label perceived as inferior.)

So the big question here (aside from why such folks consider it so important to ridicule other people at all) is this: given the widely reported belief that “snowflake” is of Nazi origin, and given its unquestionable racist associations, why do so many people nonetheless embrace it so wholeheartedly?

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2 thoughts on ““Snowflake”: Anatomy of a Slur

  1. I’ve actually had several right wing idiots use that term to describe me whenever they dislike what I write. Although I never associated such insult with the ashes from macabre German crematoriums falling surrealistically in concentration camp courtyards, its bad enough just to be forced to bear insult to one’s masculinity used by egotistical jerks to highlight one’s supposed weaknesses. After all, a bully who is extorting milk money from skinny kids with glasses, or a sadistic brute shipping trainloads of Jews to die in the ovens, make use of the same basic mentality—one which seeks to dominate and exert power over others by lacing comments with insults intended to demean anyone who dares disagrees.

    What’s really frightening though, is the way Trump has gone after the media–trying to use it as a scapegoat for any PR problems of his own making, and this follows the same playbook used by Hitler during his assent to power in Germany. And in fact, controlling or denigrating the media comes from the same playbook used by all Fascist despots or any autocratic government whenever an artificial enemy is concocted in order to make supporters think a concocted evil is threatening them. Remember how in 1984 the government kept broadcasting progress reports dealing with an imaginary enemy to ensure that it would winning support from the people being enslaved by it? And remember the references to badly distorted talking points like; Hate is love, and victory is surrender? (not sure these specific examples were in the novel) but it did describe these kinds of contradictory and paradoxical assurances being used by “Big Brother,” to control the populace.

    Trump, or in fact, any American President, may not be nor would ever be, openly promoting fascism, and I am pretty sure Trump won’t ship undocumented immigrants to crematoriums since he does seem to display appropriate awareness about the evils of the Holocaust. What bothers me is how a bully is sometimes respected by his classmates because he rebels against standard codes of behavior and gets his anger out on various nerds, that all immature young kids at times feel like rebelling against, and want to pick on others to release thier own frustrations. Stuffing a short kid into a locker, or deliberately trying to hurt someone weaker when playing dodge ball, is really cut from the same cloth as the power driven trolls all over the internet who have no intention of challenging their own nasty notions, but rather, have every intention to incite anger and divisiveness. The wave of dark money they ride has at times taken over dozens of Google pages intended to exploit some incredibly unlikely claim, in order to portray all climate scientist, all environmentalism, all religious people and/or anyone who prevents conservatives from taking over the whole ball of wax, as nothing but cowardly “snowflakes.”

    sickeningly enough this kind characterization is used by our friendly experts who help create and use propaganda to paint Trump’s daily wave of well earned criticisms, while shrugging them off as the scars supposedly being borne by a righteous martyr, while those who swallow his BS are completely oblivious of the falsehoods he disseminates. In fact, if any of us insist on criticizing his many crude, insensitive, or downright ignorant words and deeds, his followers only see those of us offering our criticisms as a howling mob of spoiled liberals intent on picking apart their fearless leader.

    The perception that a political leader has much in common with a large group of downtrodden people, is a very hard illusion to break. So, even though a swamp filling ignoramus, who owns his own skyscraper, his own jet plane, several homes around the world and hundred of business investments around the world which have helped him profit by using outsource labor, and who even owns his very own gold toilet seat, has somehow pulled the wool over the heads of many in the middle class? Eventually his propaganda will lose its appeal when ordinary people finally get the message—that a man like this is NOT a hero dedicated to the working class! Let him create all the jobs he can, or perhaps even deal successfully with Iran—but when he made fun of a disabled reporter and criticized the family of a fallen soldier–he permanently voided any productive deal I might ever want to make with him! The press and our comedians joke about him so much because the things he says, ARE ridiculous, and thus, worthy of poking fun at. So any journalist would not be doing their jobs if he or she ignored them! How about his latest praise for the Australian Health cares system which he applauded for having a health cares system better than ours (while apparently ignorant of the fact that Australia has a single payer system?) His P’R magicians tried to spin this embarrassing statement by merely sayings Trump meant that ANY health care system is better than our own, but that’s not really credible, because nearly all of his comments have indicated that he wants to put health insurance companies back in charge of healthcare–not create a national health care system run by the government—like those espouse by so many commie European Countries?

    How long will Trump’s ruse go on before our eyes, before those who conceivably might come ot his rescue even if he actually did shoot someone to death in broad daylight in the middle of 5th Ave? As far as I’m concerned, a week ago Yesterday would not be too soon!

  2. There is no supporting evidence for ‘snowflakes’ being used for the holocast. BTW, if it’s from Fight Club, then calling someone a snowflake means they are beautiful. If they mean it from Fight Club they should be calling people “decaying organic matter”
    Republicans can’t spell and they can’t even make a comparison let alone an analogy.

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