The Purity Spiral

Guter Artikel und Podcast über Empörungsmemetik in Online-Subkulturen am Beispiel von Strick-Communities und Young Adult Novels. Gavin Haynes identifiziert korrekterweise Gossip als Hauptmechanismus der von ihm sogenannten Purity Spiral: How knitters got knotted in a purity spiral – A process of moral outbidding is corroding small communities from within.

You might think online knitting and teen fiction would be innocuous cosy communities formed around a shared love of craft and a good yarn. However, as Gavin reveals, both scenes have recently become embroiled in what he terms The Purity Spiral. These vicious cycles of accusation and judgement see communities engaging in moral feeding frenzies. As a result, individuals are targetted and savaged by mobs who deem them problematic.

Gavin meets Nathan Taylor, an Instagram knitting star who unwittingly triggered a race row after attempting to reach out to people of colour using the hashtag Diversknitty. Nathan watched in horror as a wave of accusations of white supremacy and Nazism flowed into his inbox. This brush with the toxicity of a Purity Spiral was so severe that Nathan was hospitalised by his husband following a suicide threat. […]

A purity spiral occurs when a community becomes fixated on implementing a single value that has no upper limit, and no single agreed interpretation. The result is a moral feeding frenzy. But while a purity spiral often concerns morality, it is not about morality. It’s about purity — a very different concept. Morality doesn’t need to exist with reference to anything other than itself. Purity, on the other hand, is an inherently relative value — the game is always one of purer-than-thou.

It’s not just another word for ‘woke culture’, or even ‘cancel culture’, or ‘virtue signalling’. Even though intersectional social justice is a pretty great breeding ground for purity spirals, it is one among many. Nor is it confined to the Left: neo-Nazi groups offer some of the clearest examples of purity spirals: the ongoing parsing of ethnic purity into ever-more Aryan sub-groups. Perhaps the most classic one of all hails from Salem, Massachusetts.

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