Is there a word for this kind of person?
March 26, 2020 5:27 PM   Subscribe

In social activist spheres there’s always a type that’s quick to come up with ideas and volunteer others but is slow to make sacrifices themselves and seldom does anything substantial. Is there a word for this, like how the Germans have words like schadenfreude? At a base level, all I could come up with is a "do-nothing with fantasies" but that's not quite cutting enough. "Suicide bomber recruiter" is closer, but maybe too oblique.
posted by Roy Batty to Writing & Language (32 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I would call this person an "armchair activist" or "slacktivist". If they tried to volunteer you for something without asking, you were "voluntold".
posted by capricorn at 5:30 PM on March 26 [16 favorites]

I know the type you're talking about. The closest I can come up with is "windbag" or "gasbag" or "bag of hot air" although those have more to do with too much talking and less with the getting out of actual work... will watch this thread!

[on preview: SLACKTIVIST hahaha awesome, hastily adopting this!]
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:31 PM on March 26 [1 favorite]

FYI fingersandtoes, the more common use of "slacktivist" is for someone who feels like they're making a difference in the world because they retweet social justice memes to their friends who already agree with them - this is a little bit of an edge case-y use.
posted by capricorn at 5:34 PM on March 26 [10 favorites]

Self-appointed manager? (Coming up with ideas and voluntelling other people to work on them are managerial duties, just not in a context where the people in question are supposed to be doing managerial tasks like that.)
posted by eviemath at 5:34 PM on March 26

I would be confused by the use of slacktivist in this case, fwiw.
posted by eviemath at 5:35 PM on March 26 [4 favorites]

If he was male I would call him an “idea man“ but I’m not sure what the female equivalent would be.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:53 PM on March 26 [4 favorites]

Armchair quarterback, perhaps?
posted by sagc at 5:55 PM on March 26 [3 favorites]

Luftmensch, maybe.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 6:02 PM on March 26 [2 favorites]

In military parlance, that person is a Blue Falcon (a euphemism for buddy-fucker), and their ideas are a product of a visit from the Good Idea Fairy.
posted by Etrigan at 6:05 PM on March 26 [17 favorites]

Yes, slacktivist is someone who only does their activism online.

I think the word you're looking for is "jerk."
posted by brookeb at 6:17 PM on March 26 [3 favorites]

In other contexts, we say somebody "isn't willing to put their money where their mouth is" when they're not willing contribute to what they advocate. In this case, "money" means work. You could keep the phrase substituting "work" for "money". Or you could shorten it to "all talk, no work". So you could say 'So-and-so's ideas are good, but so-and-so is all talk, no work.'
posted by nangar at 6:27 PM on March 26 [4 favorites]

In reference to someone who pulled something like this, my dad would nod his head and say, "Oh, a 'Let's you and him fight' guy," but I don't know what the word for it would be.
posted by virago at 6:30 PM on March 26 [5 favorites]

I call these people "idea hamsters."
posted by rpfields at 6:38 PM on March 26 [7 favorites]

all hat and no cattle
posted by a humble nudibranch at 6:42 PM on March 26 [29 favorites]

"Ideas guy" is definitely a thing. An old trope is that they are looking for someone to *completely implement* their idea, because they see having the idea as the only really interesting part. When the context is online, one might expect them to volunteer to start the project wiki (and then ghost).

Echo the above, this is a male stereotype and I don't know an equivalent female one.
posted by dbx at 7:16 PM on March 26 [1 favorite]

"backseat driver"?
posted by foxfirefey at 7:40 PM on March 26

this type of person exists outside of the 'social activist' sphere, lemme tell you
my large lumbering corporate juggernaut if full of them
and no it's not just the dream fairies in Product Marketing
they are everywhere and my soul has the scars to prove it
posted by armoir from antproof case at 7:54 PM on March 26 [5 favorites]

p.s. in an earlier life, we referred to this guy as "the oxygen bandit"
posted by armoir from antproof case at 7:54 PM on March 26 [5 favorites]

Kamikaze groundcrew?
posted by Thorzdad at 7:54 PM on March 26 [1 favorite]





A Jimmy Jones, David Koresh, Charles Manson
posted by at at 8:02 PM on March 26 [1 favorite]

posted by under_petticoat_rule at 8:05 PM on March 26

posted by 20 year lurk at 8:13 PM on March 26 [14 favorites]

Y'know when a bunch of people all have to lift something big and heavy and move it over there? This probably isn't when it's a casket (because then, they've got to hoist it up onto their shoulders) but any other time there's always one guy who's got his hand on the object but isn't really lifting it. About him, we say "He's just moving his feet."
posted by Rash at 8:23 PM on March 26 [2 favorites]


e.g. "Nerve, extreme arrogance, brazen presumption. In English, chutzpah often connotes courage or confidence, but among Yiddish speakers, it is not a compliment."
posted by katra at 8:58 PM on March 26

I think adrienne maree brown had a term for this in their book Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Shaping Worlds. Let me see if I can locate my copy of the book.
posted by spamandkimchi at 11:14 PM on March 26

Reputational free rider
posted by shaademaan at 4:26 AM on March 27

posted by STFUDonnie at 5:56 AM on March 27

all talk
all talk and no action
all talk and no trousers
posted by meijusa at 10:11 AM on March 27

Not an exact match, but possibly a “hold-your-coat merchant”. As in, “You go on, fight them - I’ll hold your coat for you.”
posted by Morfil Ffyrnig at 1:46 PM on March 27

posted by oflinkey at 2:46 PM on March 27

I'm German and have never heard the word Luftmensch. We use Luftikus for someone who has lofty ideas (note the word has a male ending), but even that I haven't heard in years.

To me this sounds like someone who talks the talk, but doesn't walk the walk, but that's not one neat word...
posted by LoonyLovegood at 8:20 PM on March 27

Thanks all! None of the suggestions quite fit, imo.

"Idea man" comes close but I think it's even more oblique and less cutting than "suicide bomber recruiter."

"Armchair quarterback" maybe, but this, along with "boss" and "management" implies a hierarchy that these types seem to be unaware of.

They think they're as much in the trenches as you are, and that they aren't giving orders, but making the same level of sacrifice that you are. Pointing this out is the same as saying "you're not the boss of me," when in many activist circles, we want them to adopt a more active role.

"Luftmensch" is way too positive. A "Blue Falcon" seems like a saboteur (unintentional or malicious.)

I still think "suicide bomber recruiter" is best -- someone who shares a common goal with you, and thinks he's contributing by coming up with the idea, but expects others to make the sacrifice.

It may be time for someone to come up with a better term!
posted by Roy Batty at 10:09 AM on March 28 [1 favorite]

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