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Our Culture of Contempt (nytimes.com)
72 points by swibbler 16 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 156 comments

As a lifelong liberal, I've sunk into despair at the firehose of hatred coming from the left these days. And I talk to far fewer of my old lefty friends anymore--if they've made themselves awful, I just don't want to know. I'd prefer to remember them as they were.

Maybe this is just a phase, but it feels like we're going to a place from which we won't return.

I support most of the liberal platform, but in recent years a large portion of the party's base has turned into a cesspool of hatred, cynicism, and thoughtless reactionism. We used to be the party of idealism and belief in people's basic goodness. What the hell happened?

This comment, the parent, and many others on this thread sound eerily alike and similar to those propagated by trolls and bots during the failed WalkAway campaign.


Would you please not post ideological battle comments to HN? This is exactly the kind of discourse we're trying to avoid, and that presumably the article is lamenting.


Can you please suggest a way to raise these topics that wouldn’t be considered “ideological battle comments”?

From my perspective, you routinely practice “the truth is offensive, mind your manners” style censorship: I don’t believe there’s any way I could have raised Democratic support of racist or sexist policies that wouldn’t have had you show up to censor that under the guise of decorum.


So, please make a suggestion for a better way to discuss it, or admit you’re censoring for ideological reasons — that the truth is inherently offensive.

Again, from my perspective, the reason that comments like this generate such a strong response, including censorship from you, is because people can’t reply to them factually: my comment is factually correct, and the distress from that leads to the non-responsive comments and you censoring it to keep the peace. (The distress because of cognitive dissonance from having supported a party that acted that way.)

Censorship in support of groupthink is unhealthy.

Your comment wasn't primarily factual and wasn't the way people write when the truth is their main concern. It was aggressive polemic. We don't want that here, because it destroys thoughtful conversation and community. That's true regardless of ideology; we don't care what color gasoline is being poured onto a fire.

Is it censorship to ban accounts that post that way? Sure, if you like. But it's censorship of aggressive polemic, a.k.a. flamewar—not of ideologies or views.

I'm not sure that you'll believe this, but we don't care what your ideology is or your views are, or even read the comments closely enough to know what they are. We have to look at tens of thousands of comments. No human can read this kind of thing closely all day.

If you're genuinely asking about a way to discuss these topics that wouldn't be considered ideological battle, here's what I suggest. First, review the site guidelines, take them to heart, and rigorously edit out of your comments anything that is not in their spirit. Especially: "Comments should get more civil and substantive, not less, as a topic gets more divisive." Second, give up the idea of winning arguments or defeating enemies, and instead cultivate an attitude of good conversation between equals who respect each other, none of whom knows the whole truth. Third, be more respectful the more strongly you disagree. You can do that by editing out pejoratives and provocations, finding things you do agree on, and remaining neutral inside yourself while writing.

If you do even half of that, you'll find that moderators on HN don't show up to scold you, even though you're expressing substantively the same views as above. But don't underestimate the work it will take to get there. The enemy-smiting style is addictive and takes practice to abandon. I know because I had to do it myself.


Aaand this is why we can't have nice things.

The argument you appear to be making (as I interpret it) is equivalent to saying some members of the Freedom caucus support neo-Nazis / "alt-right", therefore all conservatives are now proponents of eugenics & "white nationalism" or some equivalently loaded term.

I mean, democrats are still white, by large majorities..so they "hate themselves"?

Such simplistic analysis of something so complicated seems.. trivialization to the point of no meaning. This just appears to be trolling for effect's sake..or venting. I know HN's guidelines suggest not attributing motive..but this appears to be such a rancorous post..

I mean, democrats are still white, by large majorities..so they "hate themselves"?

Well, it seems weird, but yeah - haven't you yet encountered the spectacle of a white man who seems to be apologising for being male and white? Or at least suffering from some sort of vague, formless guilt from which he can never atone about his 'privilege'?

Seeing people who have been convinced to hate themselves because of how they were born, is a distressing and puzzling experience. I hope it doesn't become something I see too frequently.

Can you name a conservative policy similar to the sexist policies of favoring women in education while they dominate college and high school graduation rates, or that matches the unconstitutional racial quota system in the 90s and still illegally carried on by Harvard?

I can’t.

Nor was I alleging what you seem to think — I was alleging that the Democrats through those alliances carried out systematically bigoted policies, not merely advocated for them. There doesn’t seem to be a modern right wing equivalent to those acts of systematic bigotry from leftists, but I suspect that leftists frequently talk about right wing bigotry as a cover for their own.

By having a popular myth of right wing racism or sexism, they provide social cover for their intentional bigotry.

However, whatever talk there might be on the right wing, the intentionally sexist or racist policies actually passed into legislation seem to be left wing.

I graduated with a degree in art, which means all my old college friends are more left-leaning than is usual.

I still keep in touch with many of them on Facebook, and the amount of absolute insanity coming from them is staggering and depressing.

Can you give some specific examples? (Live in Europe, curious to hear)

I agree with you on that point 100% - its really sick whats been going on in that way and i feel much like you do about it as i stand sickened by so much of the hate i see pouring so freely out of what had been my side.

Same here, I used to see myself as liberal but nowadays I can't stomach the identity politics, oppression olympics and witch hunts.

I'll give you a perspective from the other side of the fence: I used to be a liberal (and by this I do not mean as the "opposite" of conservative, I mean in the sense of "classical liberalism", the system of rights etc.) but now after reading critiques of its theory and practice and doing more investigation into the historical left movement (19th century figures who are unnameable on HN) I have turned much more to the left. I am a skeptic of the right to free speech (since I cannot find any logical basis for why it should be privileged over other rights or differentiated from other forms of action), for example, and I am against the private ownership of capital.

I've seen a significant number of posts like yours, all with the same gist, but they always make me smile; by describing yourself as a "liberal" as something akin to "left of center", i.e opposite of a "conservative", such people actually often really are liberals (in the political philosophy sense) themselves, the exact position that the left has been critiquing since the turn of the 19th century and what continued to be fashionable until about 1970.

The left has never been on the side of property rights, the system of rights in general (which they decry as bourgeois rights), the current form of the state, the existence of capital, income inequality, neoliberalism etc. and the appearance of the Left in the US as "liberal" as manifested in the Democratic Party for instance is in stark contrast to some leftist parties in Europe to whom "liberal" always meant center or center-right.

So you were always a liberal, and you still are, just not in the sense you thought.

> I am a skeptic of the right to free speech (since I cannot find any logical basis for why it should be privileged over other rights or differentiated from other forms of action)

I'm confused here - what rights do you view free speech as being privileged over?

In some cases, the right to freedom from discrimination (or right to equal treatment), for instance Catherine MacKinnon and Langton have argued that pornography does this to women, and they're waiting on empirical confirmation of that[0]. Indeed, in some cases the law has even conceded the point and still favored freedom of speech[1] simply because it is speech. To me that seems like dogmatism. There are of course other issues here such as hate speech in the U.S. and those parties that argue for unequal treatment. Speech often makes people feel unsafe, for instance a Jewish neighborhood in which neo-Nazis are marching. Susan Brison has a good overview of the case against free speech[2]. To put it another way, why is it that we have a right to free speech but not a right to swing our arms? What exactly differentiates speech from other actions? Brison finds nothing there.

[0] http://web.mit.edu/sgrp/2008/no2/EatonSAPF.pdf

[1] Easterbrook's judgement in American Booksellers Association v. Hudnut (1985)

[2] https://www.law.berkeley.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Bris...

I'm curious to read that paper, but it seems to be predicated on a positive conception of freedom ("right to equality", i.e. "freedom to"), which will probably make it irreconcilable with most of the philosophies it tackles (classical liberalism is typically based on a negative conception of freedom, i.e. "freedom from"). That just turns it into a battle of axioms, which is usually kind of pointless.

Rights as they are actually implemented either by the UN or the US (the right to a fair trial is often brought up here) don't figure themselves to be only negative rights, Brison finds that UDHR reads "all human beings are born free an equal in dignity an rights", and Germany has explicit restrictions on freedom of speech. The issue here is not about granting "freedom to"s, but rather investigating why the negative liberty is even there. I've never been too convinced by the negative vs positive liberty dichotomy since you can express the same rights in either framework. "Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech.." can be phrased as "Everyone [whom this constitution applies to] has the right to freedom of speech".

The only way the US manages to function (in contrast to Germany or Canada for instance) is by codifying similar rules outside of the constitution. For instance, restrictions on child porn, assault letters, threats, copyright etc.

I mentioned Rae Langton in my last comment; she claims to have found a way to challenge liberals on their own ground - pornography literally silences women by convincing people that their cries of resistance are actually encouragement. If speech is to be anything more than sounds and scrawls, it relies on meaning being reliably communicated. If women cannot convey their meaning in society at large then there are grounds to say women are being silenced. Suddenly there is a weighing act between the free speech of pornographers and the free speech of women. Caroline West defends this rather well[0].

[0] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00455091.2003.10...

In some ways I can sympathize with your views on pornography, but this will backfire on you. Badly.

Your views on speech align you closely with millions of far-right American social conservatives who also dismiss the primacy of free expression. People like David Barton, who will say openly that the constitution did not intend to protect the speech of non-christians. People who would love nothing more than for the state to censor pornography, vulgarity, profanity, blasphemy, and flag-desecration.

And that's just the start. You're also in good company with the stricter sorts of muslims -- and there are many around the world -- who believe the death penalty is an acceptable punishment for blasphemy against Mohammed. Even mundane portrayals of the Prophet are labelled anti-muslim hate speech, meant to silence muslim voices, and accordingly met with demands for censorship.

You'll enjoy similar agreement from the Russian state, which purchases conservative capital by outlawing any speech that looks or sounds gay, and the Chinese state which only allows speech that doesn't pose a threat to harmony or the revolution.

I suspect you have little in common with these people in any other way. So why would you want to fight this particular battle along side them?

I think its unfair to argue that just because their viewpoints are in part shared with other groups that some consider undesirable that they should abandon or be ashamed of those viewpoints simply because any advancement in those areas would possibly benefit aforementioned undesirable groups as well.

Groups with wildly different goals can share similar viewpoints, that does not make them allies. The reasoning behind their platforms are not identical, and the desired outcome is unlikely to be identical, even though there is similarity in some aspects of their positions.

Let's say there's Group A:

    - Advocates for abortion rights
    - Ethically and medically opposed to carnivorous diets
    - Requires wearing of a fez and monocle when out in public at all times
Group B:

    - Advocates against abortion
    - Opposed to carnivorous diets because eating the souls animals may increase the chance of spontaneous combustion
    - Condemns the fez as an abomination against all mankind; doesn't know what a monocle is, still considering boycott for symmetry's sake
Those two groups are at odds in many respects, but do share a dislike for flesh mongers.

What if a member of as yet defined Group C tries to persuade a member of Group A to abandon as aspect of their platform by saying, "I suspect you have little in common with those Antifez jerks in any other way. So why would you want to fight this particular battle along side them?"

That seems like an unnecessarily combative stance to take. Comparing Catherine MacKinnon to Islamic extremists or to unreasonably homophobic Russians is for sure hyperbolic.

That's silly. We're not talking about "tangentially similar" viewpoints (as you said before you edited your comment). Denial of free expression (and thought and conscience) as a fundamental human right is arguably the pillar upon which oppressive statist ideologies stand, as well as the mechanism by which they operate.

@claudiawerner argues, albeit obliquely, that speech that makes certain particular groups feel unsafe should not be protected. She might have somewhat different ideas about what constitutes safety compared to Tony Perkins or Yelena Mizulina. But they'll all argue, convincingly and articulately, that the notion of a fundamental human right to freedom of expression is an error. In general, history has shown that the consequences of such people gaining power over societies is tragic beyond words.

So, yeah, I agree that that comparing them based on their choice of clothing or diet would be a bit of a red herring. Good point, I guess.

I'm also in the same boat, I imagine with countless others. Trump didn't win in 2016, Clinton managed to receive 4.5 million votes fewer than Obama 2008 did. And she did that at the same time that the pool of voting age population grew by more than 20 million. [1] Quite a remarkable feat! The party has left its base far behind. Or perhaps it's the other way. Same result in either case.

In thinking about this though I realized something. Almost like clockwork there is a shifting of the zeitgeist of the nation on 20 year intervals:

- Roaring 20s

- Warring 40s

- Social movement 60s

- Huge growth 80s

- Identity politics 2000s

- ?? 2020s

You can't explain these shifts in era by a new generation alone, as would be implied by the 20 year intervals. It has to be in large part substantial chunks of the existing population also shifting their views. I'm not sure if this is a product of people changing, perhaps as they age, or maybe it's some organic factor of political competition that results in the parties changing. Again, going back to the top - I guess it doesn't really matter. It's the exact same effect and result in either case.

The point being is that I think this is 'normal', but we're the first generation to get to share and experience this sort of shift, and in such a public way, due to the internet.

[1] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voter_turnout_in_the_United_St...

I’ve always been slightly left-leaning, but in recent years have found myself identifying more and more with the (libertarian) right.

It's bizarre to see so many (allegedly former 'liberals' or 'lefties', itself a conflation) talking of / agreeing with a "firehose of hatred" supposedly coming from the left. What do these people think of the language and ideas coming from the right?

My suspicion is that they consider the right these days the calm voice of reason – not in spite of the racism, the misogyny, homophobia, or hatred of the poor, but because of these things, because maybe their sympathies simply lie with maintaining the comfortable order that they are used to, not with any of the ideals that they actually claim/ed to uphold.

All political mud-slinging aside, all weighing and apportioning of blame withheld, the main suggestions of the article are worthwhile.

1. Don't allow yourself to slide easily or prematurely into contempt. We do it too often these days.

2. Disagree better. You can disagree, but make your case and engage in the responses. Rhetoric has a place but it's being overused.

Unfortunately that leaves one vulnerable to the arsenal of concern trolling. The problem is that these strategies only work if your conversation partner is doing the same in good faith. (This is precisely what Arthur Brooks would have us do, someone who deserves all of our contempt, ironically.)

After all, it’s human nature to (often) entrench when faced with facts that challenge ones beliefs! And that dynamic is particularly acute when someone has chosen to believe the less-plausible-thing, the mark of conspiracy.

IMO a lot of people mistake disagreement for "concern trolling".

"Oh my goodness, how can anyone be so stupid that they don't agree with my (somewhat statistically fringe) position, they must be a troll!"

Supposed concern trolling first of all isn't even relevant here. A concern troll acts as if they fundamentally agree with you. So someone on the other side of the aisle can't really be said to be concern trolling because they would have substantive disagreements.

There's a real prisoner's dilemma phenomenon going on here. If the two options are "respect" and "contempt", and one side has ramped the contempt up to 11 and won the elections, what should the other side do?

I'm all for a winding-down of this process, because eventually it could escalate all the way up to violence, but like nuclear disarmament, you first. Or at least some plausible commitment to de-escalation that can be observed to actually happen over a period of time, as a signal of good faith for the next round of talks.

I think this is partially why people like AOC or Ilhan Omar have suddenly achieved success; they know that, regardless of what they do or say, they will never get anything less than total disrespect from Republicans and a large segment of the media; so they're free to ignore that contempt. This comes across in the other direction as contempt, when really it's just a refusal to be intimidated.

Contempt is also being manufactured by a variety of media sources from foreign intelligence agencies to all-American fraudsters like Alex Jones.

That's not a prisoner's dilemma. That's exactly what the article is talking about: saying there doesn't need to be a "you first" because both sides are equally guilty, so someone has to put down their contempt and it may as well be you (where "you" here means anyone at all). The act of one side being less contemptuous is not useless in isolation, as would be required for a prisoner's dilemma.

I would also caution against concluding that one side "ramped contempt up to 11". As a foreigner observing the US elections from afar, I saw a lot of contempt in both directions, but especially towards conservatives in the USA who were being routinely described as if they were mindless cattle, good for nothing at all beyond slowly dwindling industrial production. Compared coldly to the rest of the world, Trump's policies (some trade protectionism and enforcement of immigration laws) are nothing special or unusual, not in contemporary times nor historically. But somehow this position became held with utmost contempt and was routinely described as the most hateful forms of racism. You can see that as well with Brexit in which the majority of the voting population has been routinely described as racist.

There's no word for this kind of rhetoric other than contempt - it's literally what the article describes, in which the complexities and motives of millions of people are considered in trivial moralistic terms of "you hate, i love".

Great points! And it is curious, in that I was always taught how respect must be earned, yet we give our contempt away so freely. If those are the only options, they are not equal.

The contempt spiral did not magically start with Trump.

It's not like there weren't anything like "basket of deplorables" from the losing side either, and saying that it's always "the other side" that "ramped to 11 seems to be a prime case of "they learned nothing and forgot nothing". It is a problem by itself.

Although I might agree that AOC's and Omar's success is predicated on Trump being in the White House -- in current climate Democrats pretty much have to circle wagons around even someone as vile as them.

By the way, doesn't, say, Al Sharpton predate Alex Jones?

The problem is that 2 opens you up to (using a phrase from some submissions on HN) “intellectual denial of service attacks.” You could spend a dozen lifetimes responding reasonably, with well researched and phrased rebuttals to anti-vaxxers, or young Earth creationists and all you’d do is (ironically) help them evolve new fantasies, new conspiracies, and more convincing verbiage.

It’s possible to assume goodwill and sincerity in the limited case of a site like this, but in the general case it’s literaly impossible. Brandolini’s Law ensures that this is effectively a form of asymmetric conflict, and the well-meaning person is doomed from the start. It’s like dealing with a forum troll, who dedicates the whole of their waking life to their “business” while the mods and other users actually have lives and limited energy to spare.

I don’t have a solution beyond using and refining heuristics, but at some point you have to accept that you can’t afford to treat everyone and every viewpoint fairly. At some point, dealing with dishonest, foolish, and potentially harmful ideologies breeds contempt, and when you can’t just log off to avoid it, that contempt will take root. Some people, some ideas are contemptible, and the rational response isn’t tolerance and acceptance.

I think my personal answer is to accept the world and life as it is, not just as I wish it could be. On some level life is a competition, and ideas are a competition. Choosing not to play the game is far from a winning move.

>It’s possible to assume goodwill and sincerity in the limited case of a site like this

Even that's changing steadily, albeit slightly more slowly/subtly. The slower pace is likely due to the superior moderation here, combined with the astuteness of the HN crowd. But, that latter point also makes HN a prized target for propagandists and trolls.

And, if you look closely, you'll see them, including here on this thread.

But, the rest of your comment is spot-on: the sociopathic troll feasts on good-will and contemptible views should be met with contempt. In fact, however, this is their strategy: purposely earn contempt then claim to be the victim when that contempt is paid. For instance, they trigger vulnerable people, then attack them further when they try to defend themsleves. The trolls justify these attacks by claiming they are the actual victims.

I agree with this in the same sense that I never agreed with the old adage of opinions being like @$$holes, with everyone having one. There is far too much reaction and repetition, particularly online, for me to believe that everyone actually has an opinion of their own. Political partisanship is brand loyalty is religious zealotry. I feel our culture dissuades too many people from earnestly thinking their beliefs objectively through, "all or nothing" ethos prevailing, which limits our access to healthy debate. Friction is natural. The blacksmith has to hammer a sword into shape before it can effectively do its slicy thing.

I wonder how much of all these issues is due to Twitter. 140 characters isn't enough for nuanced conversation.

Twitter is a weird site. It's got a core of extremely active users who are almost entirely people who are famous or journalists. I'm at university - probably the place where the concentration of twitter users is likely to be highest, and hardly anybody I know has an account or if they do, doesn't use it for anything except occasionally reading something they got linked to.

It's almost like a kind of echo chamber for the media and famous people imo - I don't know if thats nessacarily a bad thing entirely, so long as people are aware on some level of that. There just aren't the opinions of suburban moms on twitter. There aren't plumbers on twitter. Cleaners.

Opinions might not matter, but it does bother me quite a lot when you see companies not caring on their support phone lines, on their facebook. There's almost no way to usefully get through to these copanies, but then one journalist idly tweets that they're having a problem with something suddenly you seem to see a dev team drop what they're doing and fix the problem. It's concerning that such behaviour benefits those who need it least.

> There just aren't the opinions of suburban moms on twitter.

Surburban moms are also nurses, doctors, teachers, engineers, programmers, etc etc, and all of these groups are active on Twitter.

But if you want a community of mums who are there as mums you could look at #netmums and #mumsnet. Here's one example: https://twitter.com/search?q=%23netmums&src=typd

> There aren't plumbers on twitter.

There are plumbers on Twitter. Twitter doens't do a good job of surfacing different communities, especially for new users. When you join the site Twitter makes stupid suggestions for celebs, and makes no attempt to find out what you're actually interested in. But you can ignore those selections and find, and follow, people who you're interested in.

> Cleaners.

This is a good point. People on low incomes are excluded from digital life, and we should probably work out ways to help them access tech.

> There's almost no way to usefully get through to these copanies, but then one journalist idly tweets that they're having a problem with something suddenly you seem to see a dev team drop what they're doing and fix the problem.

So, this isn't quite what you've mentioned, but using Twitter is sometimes a useful way to get customer support. "This happened, what do you suggest, @CompanyName?" will usually get you the right number to call.

It's a good point, but I do suspect that if I were to look into it the kinds of people you mention: "nurses, doctors, teachers, engineers, programmers" who are on twitter would actually turn out to have their own blogs or have written a book read by an audience, and would be thought leaders in their field and such folk. Your average member of those classes are likely not regular users of twitter.

Twitter just doesn't work if people don't care what you say - you have to already be a celebrity, with an opinion that 'matters' to people.

" Twitter doesn't do a good job of surfacing different communities" Yes, but what I am getting at here is that they are communities in the sense of several important people in the field who all know each other

and thats it.

There simply aren't many 'average' people using twitter regularly, at least in the sense of writing thoughts and/or having conversations.

"using Twitter is sometimes a useful way to get customer support. "

Yes, thats what I was saying. I think it should not be this way - at least, the actual dedicated customer support of the company should be at least as effective as tweeting at them.

I mentioned nurses because I know there are many UK nurses who use Twitter. The discussions are under hashtags like #wenurse and #wenurses

I agree that discovery is hard for Twitter, but these communities are there.

I use Twitter to talk to people.involved in suicide prevention, safety of MH services, and quality improvement of MH services. It's given me easy access to a bunch of people.

I'd prefer a different platform because Twitter has problems with hostility on top of user unfriendliness, but people are there.

Your comment assumes good faith.

I think it assumes that it's a complex problem and to untangle the mess will require that this is done persistently over a longer stretch of time. we didn't get into this over a couple of weeks. If this was unfolding since years if not decades then what we have now is the end stages of boiling frogs (we're just waking up to the water being unbearable having been oblivious for so long). I'm personally convinced that facing the problems can only be done by following these steps (even if it's painful and we'd rather have a quick fix to all this). It will take a long time to recover from this I think (having enough patience to hear an opposing view without judgement isn't easy).

All of this sounds good and, frankly, I don't have a simple alternative. To add, I think it's necessary to strive for good faith as a baseline.

So, I am not disputing the principle that good faith is required; on the contrary, I am lamenting its demise and the weaponization of good faith against its practitioners.

So, the issue is that while hoping it is sufficient to act in good faith, others are able to profit wildly from their own bad faith. In effect, your good faith empowers them. And, while the current situation unfolded over years, we cannot ignore the recent rapid acceleration and its meaning.

We have come to a place where bad faith is normalized and even celebrated. Not sure what the way back is.

It’s only painful in a stable, peaceful society with a strong rule of law. In any other context it’s downright lethal. Take the extreme of Dark Forest theory; you can try to explain your position and values all you like, and while you do it just serves to broadcast your location to someone who already decided to kill you. That’s extreme of course, an hopefully fictional, but in the intellectual and social spectrum it takes two to tango. If I’m just trying to waste your time and energy, and you’re insisting on addressing every point of my Gish Gallop... I win.

Suspending judgement is an interesting and valuable intellectual exercise, and trying to see other perspectives makes us better people. We have to accept however, that a time comes when just like any other approach, such measures not only fail, but full catastrophically. Just like an ardent pacifist, or an equally ardent militant, lack of adaptability is doom. Sometimes you have to sit down and talk, and sometimes you have to fight to the death.

The trick, and no one has yet figured out a formula for this, is to know when to adapt and how much. Anyone who tries to tell you that the only way to deal with a Nazi is a bullet, or conversely, love, is wrong. It’s advice that sounds good, but it’s totally useless. When to to talk, when to listen, and when to reach for a sidearm is the real question and more often than not people don’t even acknowledge that; it’s too nuanced, too open to interpretation, and too messy.

The thing is, it’s messy regardless of whether or not we choose to approach conflict (intellectual or otherwise) programmatically rather than dynamically.

That's kind of the point. Assuming good faith is akin to not ascribing to malice that which can adequately be explained by incompetence (or ignorance). Note that the incompetence or ignorance is not assigned so it may be either or both sides, which places a certain burden on you to try to evaluate and correct at least your part of that failure.

To be honest, I've yet to meet people in real life who mean bad faith. May be online or on talk shows it's different.

The difference is people in real life are not the ones who make the decisions.

Good faith breeds good faith, and bad faith breeds bad faith.

Would that that were always true.

The world would be a far simpler and better place.

I didn't say it always works. But if a person has any good faith inside, showing them good faith is the singular way of bringing it out.


The article is about how motive attribution asymmetry leads to contempt, first for the "other political side" then eventually to individuals within that other side.

But I think it could go further and question why things get polarized into 2 sides. Our modern society is way more complicated and contains way more nuance than what a binary system can offer.

I don't know what the answer is but I feel that political parties as a shortcut for evaluating individual policy goals is tremendously reductionist, and increasingly harmful to society.

> But I think it could go further and question why things get polarized into 2 sides. Our modern society is way more complicated and contains way more nuance than what a binary system can offer.

It's not that great for the masses, but it's wonderful for the elite. If you can persuade the vast majority to pick a side, then you don't have to worry about engineering public opinion to your own benefit on each and every issue. All you need to do is control both the red and blue teams. Then you can regularly shit on the proles and retain their support, simply by blaming the "other side" for their misfortune.

I think this is probably the main point. By dividing people into two camps you help solidify your own grasp on power. Again the 2016 election is full of just so many interesting lessons. How many people voted for Clinton thinking 'Yes, this person genuinely stands for what I believe in and will make a great president!' How many people voted for her because the alternative was simply unacceptable meaning they feared 'wasting' their vote? And the exact same is true of people that voted for Trump.

Think about how 'great' an achievement that is in terms of population control. You, as a player in the entrenched powers, have managed to get people to not only participate in 'your' democracy, but to actively vote for people they don't even want in office, and to actively attack people that vote for third parties. For instance already see the (rather orchestrated) massively negative reaction against Starbucks' Howard Schultz announcing his intentions of running for the presidency as an independent. How dare you run for president unless you declare yourself one of these two parties that fewer people than ever actually identify as, and that are ever more out of touch with the population! How dare you!

Oftentimes first policy decision about a problem is whether to address it, so that's naturally a 1-bit kind of decision. Take the biggest problem, global warming, for example. Yes, it's an entire field of policy, science, etc by itself. But the voters mainly need to make the value judgement of whether to fix it even if it costs something.

This is an argument you can make regardless of what is actually going on on the ground. "The problem isn't policy, it's actually polarization" -- but the article completely fails to examine the causes of said polarization: What are people feeling angry about? Which people feel angry about what? Are those people justified in feeling angry? Are those angry people just doing it for show or are their lives being actively ruined?

You end up having to view the conflict through an ideological lens, but claiming there is some enlightened non-ideological view and the "real problem" is contemptuousness is mega disingenuous.

Created a throwaway account for this. As a foreigner who has spent significant time living the US, indeed this seems like the kind of mealy-mouthed, somewhat vapid meta-commentary about "unity" that offers nothing more than some soundbyte call for some abstract value (in this case "better disagreement").

It doesn't address, for example, the fact that the two political factions in America now accept different versions of reality. You cannot square that circle with "better disagreement". You cannot paper over a disagreement on the nature of fundamental facts with simplistic calls for a better discourse.

To offer the most salient example: the question of whether or not the President of the country, with the help of his party and a major media outlet, is conspiring with a foreign dictatorship to undermine the democratic integrity of the country.

One demographic believes the above to be true. The other either does not believe it to be true, or alternatively does not believe it to matter even if true.

This is not some issue that can be simply bridged with "better disagreement". I'm sorry, that's just something you don't get to do.

To offer another example: whether the former President of the united states was indeed an illegitimate candidate due to not being a natural born citizen.

One side believes this to be true, the other does not.

This disconnect on reality exists across the spectrum, and the lines are harshly drawn.

If Americans cannot acknowledge that this schism in their country is arising out of a fundamental and deep disconnect on facts and reality that is widening on a day by day basis, not some mere "communication issue", they will never truly be able to understand and address it.

None of my conservative friends believe that nonsense about Obama, and none of my democrat friends believe that Trump is a Russian spy. Both sides agree Trump is a swindly buffoon, and everyone agrees the Russians have higher standards when recruiting spies.

The difference is that some of my conservative friends think it’s ok - or even funny - to have a swindly buffoon as president, and my democrat friends find this appalling.

The New York Times on the other hand is making mad bank promoting a big culture war, so make of that what you will.

I find two things interesting about your comment. The first is that you refer to conservatives in the general, and democrats in the specific. This may be simply inadvertant coincidence, but it stood out to me. In fact, you use those particular constructions twice:

> None of my conservative friends believe that nonsense about Obama, and none of my democrat friends believe that Trump is a Russian spy.

> The difference is that some of my conservative friends think it’s ok to have a swindly buffoon as president, and none of my democrat friends agree with that.

This suggests that in your mind, the "sides" you are seeing here are "conservative" vs. "democrat", which I find very interesting. One gets a party label, the other does not.

Secondly, to address your main point:

I don't understand why you feel that it's relevant what the "conservatives you know" believe. The political party that represents that demographic certainly strongly pushes those beliefs, does it not? Did the current President and party behind him not accuse the former one of being born in Kenya? Did they not and do they not still promote the belief that the issue of climate change is a "chinese conspiracy" (or alternatively, some ploy by the liberals and scientific establishment)? Did they prosecute a war on the "belief" that Iraq had WMDs (an action which cost your country several thousand soldiers' lives, and a few trillion dollars)?

Whatever your conservative friends may believe (let's leave aside the fact that you are making an argument via anecdote - your friends may or may not be representative of the demographic as a whole).. the party that represents them certainly pushes these understandings, and pushes them relentlessly, and justifies policy on the basis of those understandings.

I find your response to be similar to the article in question: generalized, abstracted, "stepping above".

Unfortunately, in this circumstance.. the details matter.

Keeping it real, you're reading way too much into what they're saying.

No he isn’t. I agree with him that there is something interesting about the fact that he refers to democrats specifically and conservatives generally. It gives us some insight into his/her bias. It exemplifies some of the broad strokes that are being painted. All conservatives think X because all conservatives, whether fiscally or socially, have the same beliefs. Their anecdata is also highly questionable and presented as a legitimate source of information.

I read it in quite the opposite way! I think it's implicitly referencing that 'republican' is a clearing house of views as opposed to actually representing any specific view. As an example libertarians and religious types generally have relatively little in common, yet both tend to vote republican. And this is because the party works to give them each something they value. So, for instance, I imagine that the vast majority of libertarians are pro-choice, yet the party chooses pro-life as a platform to offer something to the religious types. And indeed it turns out even though pro-life is the party platform, only 44% [1] of 'those that vote republican' would support overturning Roe v Wade. So the platform doesn't necessarily represent the individual.

By contrast democratic ideology is becoming increasingly authoritarian in that there's extremely little tolerance for views outside the party line. You'll generally find something like 85%+ support for the party line on most any 'hot' issue. By contrast, you'll find much more diversity in 'republican' views. For instance 'gun control' is supposed to be a black and white division, yet you find 31% [2] of republicans support stronger gun laws and only 13% would support less strict. By contrast, and as usual, you find a whopping 87% of democrats supporting stricter gun control and what measures as less than statistical noise (3%) in support of less strict gun control.

So there isn't really any such thing as a 'republican.' I think 'conservative' also does not necessarily apply ubiquitously, but it's somewhat reasonable. By contrast there is very much a thing as a 'democrat' and the vast majority of people that vote for that party are indeed 'democrats'.

[1] - https://thinkprogress.org/pro-choice-america-majority-d89630...

[2] - https://news.gallup.com/poll/243797/six-americans-support-st...

But the liberals think the conservatives are dumb enough to actually believe that Obama is Kenyan. And the conservatives think the liberals actually think that a guy like Trump is suitable material for a KGB asset.

> But the liberals think the conservatives are dumb enough to actually believe that Obama is Kenyan.

The Republicans elected a prominent birther so this should not be especially surprising. To look at it a little more precisely, depending on which polls you prefer, somewhere around half of them are, in your words, "dumb enough to actually believe that Obama is Kenyan:"

https://www.newsweek.com/trump-birther-obama-poll-republican... https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2016-election/poll-persiste...

Sorry for the meta, but it's interesting that the "points" on this post have fluctuated up and down quite a bit more than my others (that I've noticed). It's interesting to me because while that sort of thing isn't rare with political posts, this was the post where I was actually sharing data.

He's the president of the U.S. That places him well beyond mere "suitable material".

> It doesn't address, for example, the fact that the two political factions in America now accept different versions of reality.

This isn't an unusual state of affairs. Historically, western civilization has faced similar problems with, eg, Catholics vs Protestants (which was substantially worse than anything we have now). The US specifically isn't yet even as bad as it was in the Civil War. The C v. P issue deserves special consideration - religious freedom isn't a principle in the west because it is warm and fuzzy. There were a lot of deaths.

The threat is always that one side gets so delusional they do away with the institutions and systems that moderate the disagreement. Things like equal voting and standing before the law, judicial precedent, free speech, personal freedom, etc, etc. That risk is not concentrated in either wing of politics.

The problem is, as soon as one side starts doing that, the other side will try to outdo them next time they have a chance.

We're already seeing the collapse of many customary norms in Congress, for example.

One of my brothers studied to become a marine biologist. He then found Jesus. Now he's a creationist. Amongst a dozen other proclaimed beliefs.

Does my brother really, truly believe that the earth is 6,000 years old? Really?

One of my besties just revealed that she's an anti-vaxxor. Um, okay. Honestly, I can't even look at her the same way.

I now favor the theory of belief as attire. Every day is Halloween and people dress up aspirationally. Because reasons.

Whatever my brother (and others) now claim to believe, I've no idea how to relate, so I've given up trying to have meaningful, sincere conversations about anything substantial.

To keep things civil and pleasant, it's all just chitchat. With familiar strangers.

I think part of what you’re getting at is what Wittgenstein called deep disagreements, conflicts that can’t rationally be resolved because they actually are just a proxy for differences in foundational beliefs (‘hinge commitments’).

There’s a lot of interesting work that sprung out of these ideas, for example can hinge commitments be true/false or just ‘are’, if they can be true/false is it possible to give evidence to prove that?

High level (hopeful) overview i read a while back on the topic https://chris-ranalli.weebly.com/uploads/7/4/6/4/7464753/wit...

> It doesn't address, for example, the fact that the two political factions in America now accept different versions of reality. You cannot square that circle with "better disagreement".

You can't square the circle, but you can have a better discourse that recognises the fact. Abortion has been an issue like this for years - one side believes it is murder, the other believes it is fundamental to women's rights. But in the main, debate has been civil and about the issue rather than the people. That might be changing, of course - but it demonstrates that you can have a better discourse.

Is there really a qualitative difference? Public discourse is a vehicle to arrive at a shared understanding of (= beliefs about) facts.


It is a trick. People are being deliberately played. Power depends on myths. And people believing them.

You haven't addressed the author's main point at all. You can disagree all you want with someone, without feeling contempt towards that person.

> "but the article completely fails to examine the causes of said polarization"

Actually the article does exactly that:

> The sources of motive attribution asymmetry are easy to identify: divisive politicians, screaming heads on television, hateful columnists, angry campus activists and seemingly everything on the contempt machines of social media. This “outrage industrial complex” works by catering to just one ideological side, creating a species of addiction by feeding our desire to believe that we are completely right and that the other side is made up of knaves and fools. It strokes our own biases while affirming our worst assumptions about those who disagree with us.

I would add to the above the tech-fueled echo chambers, fake news, and clickbait journalism. As far as actual substantive differences between the 2 political parties, I don't think anything has changed dramatically in the past century.

Feel free to be as ideological and radical as you want. I believe in Medicare for all and UBI. But there is such a thing as healthy disagreements and healthy debates, and never does that include contempt. If you think that anyone who voted for the other party is worthy of contempt, you're part of the problem.

I know a literal neo-Nazi who voted for the other party. Are they worthy of contempt?

for somebody who as a non resident and oblivious to what is happening to US society (other than what toxic media feeds me), I wish the below thread (now dead) had at least 1 or 2 comments explaining why his/her position is flawed (or even outrageous). Judging only from what many Australians, Brits and Europeans are saying it seems the opinion on Americans is that they have been divorced from reality long before Trump. One of my mates living in NYC who I caught up with in January has pretty much reverberated what that (dead) sibling comment said. Not only do I fail to see why people find that comment outrageous but I don't even understand what people believe is the real reason for the divide.

Hopefully no one finds this offensive. Also the problem is far from being an isolated US phenomenon. I see it everywhere across the EU (Brexit being just the tip of the iceberg here).

edit: suddenly @discard0000's comment is no longer dead.

Yeah, I had to vouch for it to undead it. I was honestly surprised that it was killed. It made a great point and wasn't inflammatory.

Polarization is a tactic used to gain power, on both sides. It’s obvious who benefits from polarization: the moral defectives who end up in positions of power and influence by stoking it.

This is an ideological view here. The author is the head of a large think tank, the kinds whose current position is threatened by the "extremes" on either side of the divide. Take out the AEI and place in CAP and you get a similar antagonism and a loathing of these types at the people rejecting business as usual.

I chalk a lot of this up to the fact that journalism is no longer such a great career and increasingly a precarious career choice due to layoffs. This leads those in our society with the largest megaphones to increasingly spout discontent because they feel discontent.

I bet you that if journalism suddenly provided a comfortable and safe living, that within 5 years the entire attitude of the country would change just because the attitude of the cultural influencers would turn to contentness and they would spread that contentness.

I don't think it's the journalists in and of themselves. Journalists do not have much power. An individual on here posted about being contacted by the NYT to write an "opinion" piece based on a comment he wrote related to cryptocurrencies. [1] He followed up and eventually did publish the piece. I'm going to avoid commenting on that other than to say that the NYT forced him to endorse opinions he did not hold in an article that was supposed to have been written by him. It's best to read the exact examples than my probably biased tl/dr. And that sort of stuff is what they do to one-off writers. Imagine what they do to (and whom they recruit) for their regular staff! The journalists are just mouthpieces for the executive team.

I think the problem is that the media is dying, but they've found that in the mean time provoking and agitating for a 'culture war' is sending profits skyrocketing. So you don't need to change the media, but you need to change people that eat this nonsense up. Unfortunately, that's probably impossible.

[1] - https://www.rosshartshorn.net/stuffrossthinksabout/nyt_opini...

This is a superficial and unhelpful piece from someone who, despite appearances to the contrary, is in fact a US political partisan. That doesn't make his opinion worthless! But it does make his high-horse stance a bit much to take, to say nothing of the ahistoricism of his thesis (ask someone who appeared before HUAC if partisanism is boiling over in 2019).

That said, I come not to bury Arthur Cooke but to praise him, for while his arguments clearly have not survived condensation into an NYT op-ed, they're at least thought-provoking in longer-form media, and I can recommend as an alternative to this dumb article his lengthy podcast interview with Ezra Klein on many of the same topics:


He starts his article by saying he's a political conservative who works for a think tank in DC. What 'appearances to the contrary' do you mean? I've never heard of him but having read his article knew immediately he was a political partisan, because he told me so!

I'm also unsure why his arguments have not survived. The op-ed appeared cogent and internally consistent to me. If you wish to argue his writing is superficial, unhelpful, ahistoric etc, why not do so directly instead of just asserting that these things are so.

I disagree that he made his background clear. The first graf is written flippantly, in a "you say potato, I say potəto" sort of way (also, "I'm not a politics junkie"). The second graf buries the lede --- he's a professor, a former symphony musician, heads a think-tank... and, oh, by the way, that think tank happens to be AEI, one of the two most prominent centers of Republican conservative thought.

I also made a direct argument as to the ahistoricity of the piece.

I don't think this is especially important --- my original comment stands on its own --- but I'm a nerd and can't resist clarifying and defending my arguments.

Notice that it all got really serious when the fight fired up between ethnonationalists and xenophiles. It seems to hit people at a more basic level than merely arguing about health policy or gay marriage.

Plus, you get the extra magic of this same schism happening in the West generally.

I'd say there's a lot more to this than US domestic politics.

I wonder if the president of the American Enterprise Institute felt it so important to stress how both sides have "contempt" for one another back when a plurality of his politcal party of choice thought the president was secretly a Muslim born in Kenya.

The author of this article is a conservative. Noticed how he went out of his way to appear politically neutral. Notice how one of the two comments to this post is attacking him on a reputational basis.

This is the problem I see and likely the problem the author sees even if he's veiling it. The left wing specifically keeps disregarding other peoples views wholesale on a reputational basis. When I make posts online left-wingers regularly dig into my post history to find a reason to discredit me while right wingers don't even bother looking. If I'm making a right-wing point just like the author I go to pains to obscufate the fact I'm making a conservative argument. Otherwise making the argument is pointless because your intended audience, those with left wing views, won't read it.

I don't mean to make a completely partisan shitting on the left post. I have voted left wing in every election I've been a part of. I blame the uptick in politically motivated violence on the right. I believe "scientific racism" is increasingly becoming mainstreamed on the right through "red pills" as an explanation for say why inequity in employment/crime stats exists and is fair.

However holy shit merely talking to the right these days can cause a whole bunch of people to hold you in contempt. It ultimately will and has backfired because it's entrenching intellectual blindness which is bad for the left and bad for society.

You know, you make an interesting point. I think you're referring to the same thing that the author is referring to.

On the left side of the political spectrum, It's not a single phenomena though, I think you can break it down into two camps on the left: 1. older-school globalist liberals. Probably older, supported the Clintons, ect. These people seem to have traditionally looked down on the right as backward, uneducated "basket of deplorables" or whatever. Plays into the ivory tower liberal stereotype. 2. New-school farther left. Probably younger, fans of AOC et al. They'd also be likely to look down their noses, but in more of a moral superiority perspective.

I think the condescension of #1 goes back decades and has already borne its fruit in (at least to a degree) the political situation we find ourselves in today. I worry that group # 2 hasn't learned those lessons and is proving that they'll just repeat the same mistakes. Unless they self-destruct arguing about Israel, which totally mystifies me.

That said... so much of what comes out of the right is complete and utter bullshit. From the massive propaganda machine that is fox, to infowars, to tiny hyper-racist subreddits — there's a lot of noise to separate from the signal that might be a valid, reasonable conservative argument.

With that in mind, sometimes I wonder if we don't need a bit more contempt.

Maybe if the type of outright hate speech the mainstream right seems to support was not acceptable, that would open the floor for some actual conversation.

To summarize: I wish that democrats and the left weren't been so quick to dismiss legitimate concerns from everyone outside of NYC and SF (hyperbolic, I know). But it's right wing (and especially religiously-motivated) politics that have completely skewered our politics and media.

Saying "fuck that and fuck you" to anyone who supports that system is a reasonable reaction, in my opinion.

But where does that leave us? I don't know.

> Saying "fuck that and fuck you" to anyone who supports that system is a reasonable reaction, in my opinion.

Why is saying "men can't be women" considered hate speech, and "fuck you" is not. One conveys unreasoned aggression, while the other is a clumsy attempt to state objective truth.

Yup, exactly.

>New-school farther left. Probably younger, fans of AOC et al

The Axiom of Choice is a political thing now? I'd have thought it generally has strong support among both sides of the political spectrum; in spite of their vocal presence online, constructivists are still a relatively small minority of the mathematical community.

Appreciate the non sequitur, but not really funny.

> the uptick in politically motivated violence on the right

I haven't looked closely, but it seems like the preponderance of such violence has been coming from the left these days (ignoring people with obvious mental health problems). Charlottesville is the obvious exception, but clearly overbalanced by the guy that attempted to assassinate a bunch of Congressmen at that ball game.

Are there lots of examples I'm missing?

Pittsburgh massacre.


Also, the bombs sent to a number of democrats, funders of democrats, and Trump critics:


That said, individual events aren't particularly helpful, the media might be omitting major events (or more likely, a lot of smaller ones). So you can refer to this study by the Cato Instititute:


After Islamic Terrorism (9/11 unsurprisingly had a pretty big impact), you have right wing nationalists being the biggest contributors to murders by an order of magnitude.

I'd chalk Pittsburgh up to mental illness rather than politics.

The Cato study is interesting, but unfortunately covers a period of decades. I was referring to the last couple of years or so, which unfortunately this does not break out.

You must be thinking of the Sutherland Springs Church massacre which did not have a political or racial dimension cited by the shooter.

Mr Bowers, prior to murdering his victims wrote on social media:

"A man with that name had posted anti-Semitic statements on social media before the shooting, expressing anger that a nonprofit Jewish organization in the neighborhood has helped refugees settle in the United States. In what appeared to be his final social media post hours before the attack, the man wrote: “I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.”"


When you justify your actions due to a belief that jews are replacing "your people" you're a right wing nationalist. I am not surprised that ideologies that back this proposition attract crazy people who then commit murder.

There seem to be an awfully large number of mentally ill people who read rightwing material, post on rightwing message boards, and then engage in political murder.

I guess. How many political murders are there in the US each year, though?

> That said, individual events aren't particularly helpful, the media might be omitting major events (or more likely, a lot of smaller ones).

I recall that the media did not label the Knoxville UU Church Shooter a right-wing terrorist in spite of the fact that he wrote an actual political manifesto prior to the shooting which reads - and I mean this literally - like a dumb guy quoting Ann Coulter:


Neither the Pittsburgh massacre nor the bombs have been proven to be from the right.

For the massacre, the killer actually hated Trump.

For the bombing, consider this: people who want to actually hurt their targets, rather than running a false-flag operation, tend to succeed.

>For the massacre, the killer actually hated Trump.

That doesn't disprove that he was right wing.

>For the bombing, consider this: people who want to actually hurt their targets, rather than running a false-flag operation, tend to succeed.


Mental illness doesn't cause violence.

The examples you're missing are the mass murders of Jewish people in a synagogue, or people in a church, or people at a concert, or the shooting of a gun into a crowd of protestors, or the driving of a car into a crowd of protestors, or the disproportionate amounts of domestic violence perpetrated by people on the right.

Somehow none of these seem to count because reasons, but the right are fundamentally dishonest when they discount this violence.

> Mental illness doesn't cause violence.

??? Reality begs to differ...

Be specific. "Mental illness" is not a good catch-all term for a variety of different conditions. Depression tends to cause violence towards the self - suicide and self-harm - but not violence. What specific mental conditions do you have in mind and how have they been diagnosed in the people under discussion?

No, it doesn't.

Violence is common. Mental illness is common. Some people happen to have both, but there's few of them where the violence is caused by the mental illness.

When looking at things that predict violence we see that substance misuse is a better predictor. Previous exposure to violence (as a perpetrator or victim or witness) is a better predictor. Either of these combined with untreated SMI where the patient is not in contact with services is a stronger predictor. But SMI itself is only a weak predictor of violence.

You can read the NCISH (National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by Mental Health Patients) data for a research based look at the data.


EG, from the summary on page 6

> most patients had a history of alcohol or drug misuse; homicide in the absence of comorbid substance misuse is unusual

> around half of patients were not receiving care as intended, either through loss of contact or non-adherence with drug treatment

> patients are also at high risk of being victims of homicide

And for a more researchy source: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/183929

> In patients with schizophrenia, 1054 (13.2%) had at least 1 violent offense compared with 4276 (5.3%) of general population controls (adjusted odds ratio [OR], 2.0; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.8-2.2). The risk was mostly confined to patients with substance abuse comorbidity (of whom 27.6% committed an offense), yielding an increased risk of violent crime among such patients (adjusted OR, 4.4; 95% CI, 3.9-5.0), whereas the risk increase was small in schizophrenia patients without substance abuse comorbidity (8.5% of whom had at least 1 violent offense; adjusted OR, 1.2; 95% CI, 1.1-1.4; P<.001 for interaction). The risk increase among those with substance abuse comorbidity was significantly less pronounced when unaffected siblings were used as controls (28.3% of those with schizophrenia had a violent offense compared with 17.9% of their unaffected siblings; adjusted OR, 1.8; 95% CI, 1.4-2.4; P<.001 for interaction), suggesting significant familial (genetic or early environmental) confounding of the association between schizophrenia and violence.

Ignoring antifa’s role in this is a bit disingenuous.

Upvote for the links.

Yeah, I've been following the Portland thing a bit. To my eyes, it seems a bit like frenemy sport between PP (kind of full of themselves) and antifa (wannabe fascists without the martial skills).

If this is the extreme of right-wing violence in the US at present, well, wake me if something interesting happens.

Seems pretty minor compared to that prof that tried to murder someone with a bike lock (for example): https://www.foxnews.com/us/felony-charges-filed-against-alle...

And don't miss antifa hating on senior citizens: https://www.foxnews.com/us/portland-antifa-protesters-caught...

The stories in your links cite Portland police, among other sources, without mentioning the link between several prominent police officers who were present at those protests, and the right-wing groups opposing them. I mean, we're talking about a cop literally telling someone, "we have an arrest warrant for you, but here's how you can avoid arrest ...".

With that in mind, anything that Portland police says about antifa in those protests is basically untrustworthy by default.

Portland Police have stated that it is their policy to routinely reach out to both parties before such an event. You're receiving only half of a story.

There's a difference between reaching out, and actively trying to obstruct justice. Note that it wasn't a case of, "if you show up we'll have reasons to arrest you". The arrest warrant was already issued, but one of the cops involved was trying to prevent it from being served.

There's plenty of details about this story by now, all of them easily verifiable, and practically none in favor of the police.

Ben Shapiro acts respectfully when answering students and debating BLM or other persons. I've seen so many instances of bad behavior on the part of his conversation partner, yet Ben remains cool and professional. The worst I remember is that instance where he refused to use a pronoun on Television. If I recall the trans person in that situation behaved very badly.

Jordan Peterson remains cool, even with interviewers that treat him badly.

Dave Rubin says repeatedly he's willing to talk to people, and that people refuse him and don't invite him.

Tim Pool keeps his cool in the midst of online and real-world dust-ups.

Tarl Warwick is also calm cool and collected. He'll talk to anyone.

Any leftist who wants to engage others productively can look to Pool as a good example.

Jimmy Dore is on the left (according to himself at least), and he's civil.

My impression is that most anyone on the spectrum will talk to anyone else, except for Resisters, who seem to have a visceral dislike for Trump that clouds their reason; and the far left, who object more or less to the entire western way of life, or capitalism, or something that would require a large amount of dismantling. It takes a lot of dissatisfaction to want to start from scratch, and these persons seem to be the most badly behaved. So my guess is they feel most of the contempt and also are the ones who receive the most contempt -- because of their abusive behavior. In fact, if the far left has any lasting principle at all it would appear to be that contempt is a wonderful club to use against anyone who isn't responding properly to their dogma.

> Jordan Peterson remains cool, even with interviewers that treat him badly.

I had no idea about Jordan Peterson until his name popped up in the pronoun controversy. Being sick of all the bickering in this space I never watched it until I stumbled over some old lectures of him on addiction last week. Some of the best content I've ever come across to understand human psychology. His dissection of Pinocchio¹ is absolutely top. I can't say that I agree on everything he says (e.g. his view on abortion gets me riled up like nothing else), but nor do I have to. Whatever his views outside his work in psychology have little bearing on his work and should be judged independently. If society nails everyone to the cross that we disagree in 1/20 topics then there won't be any people left. Peterson actively reaches out to right wingers in order to help them and include them in the conversation. I think this is the way to go - the alternative can only lead to violent outcomes.

¹ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EN2lyN7rM4E


Would you please stop it with the flamebait here? We've asked you more than once. If you don't want to be banned here, you need to follow the rules.


You're being a little selective here.

Sam Harris is a good one on the left.

Joe Rogan is fairly neutral but has a lot of interesting guests from both sides on.

Can someone explain the downvotes?

Hillary's "deplorables" comment was the embodiment of this problem. And I wouldn't be surprised if it was what tipped the election for Trump in the end.

> Hillary's "deplorables" comment was the embodiment of this problem.

I'm always fascinated by the fact that some people believe this.

I remember a decade ago, in a heated time during an actual war, Sarah Palin would go on and on about "real Americans," a group which she made clear does not include me. Just one memorable example of the rhetoric she used toward those outside her tribe. She was a huge hit and hugely influential in her party.

Clinton let fly once with a comment exhibiting the same level of contempt that prominent Republicans use all the time and she suddenly became exactly half the problem.

I would say "deplorable" is far more contemptuous than "not a 'real' 'American'". It suggests that one isn't even a valid person, just something to be hated. And even if it were the same, the entire point is that saying "but look what they did" is a race to the bottom.

But that's not what I said, is it? "They" constantly, intentionally do what Hillary did on her worst day. In light of that, nothing you're saying makes any sense.

It's my experience that the average person - or an entire 50% of the population, if you prefer - isn't a monster. "They" aren't fundamentally worse people than "us". That's the mistake that underpins this whole problem. Maybe on a given dimension, or in a given span of years, you could construct a score sheet that puts them in the red (so to speak). But those on the other side are not holistically morally inferior. Not in parties as old, far-reaching, and evenly-populated as ours.

Here's what HRC actually said:

>"You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? They're racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic – Islamophobic – you name it. And unfortunately, there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people – now have 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks – they are irredeemable, but thankfully, they are not America.

But the "other" basket – the other basket – and I know because I look at this crowd I see friends from all over America here: I see friends from Florida and Georgia and South Carolina and Texas and — as well as, you know, New York and California — but that "other" basket of people are people who feel the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures; and they're just desperate for change."

So, what you have is people self-identifying into the abhorrent, contemptible "basket" she explicitly describes (versus the one that is "honorable" and even sympathetic), then crying foul. It really is a remarkable thing.

Now, she was overly broad with her statement "half" and --though she likely used that word to convey "two groups" vs literally 50% -- she admitted as much herself. But, the core of what she was saying is objectively true and observable: a substantial share of Trump's support was made up, in significant portions, of each of these groups.

So, to the question of "contempt", is it acceptable to have contempt for contemptible views? Because what she described in that first basket was certainly contemptible.

And that sums up the modern Right: troll, own the libs, and generally act in ways that are purposely and overtly provocative and comtemptible. Then, cry foul and victimization when you are called on it.

From Trump, to his sons, to the basket of deplorables that just spoke at CPAC, these people are first and foremost, purposeful trolls who seek contempt as a motivating force. Then, people like Brooks from AEI come along with facile, disingenuous articles and lament the contempt coming from "both sides".

This is rich coming from the head of AEI, an organization which is part of a network of think tanks funded by the likes of Koch that have been bootstrapped to promote corporate interests and a worldview where there is no society only 'wealth creators' and workers. [1]

Wendy Brown, Philip Mirowski and Nancy Maclean [2][3][4] have gone into immense detail on how these organizations are created and operated behind the scenes to fund and spread self serving ideology and propaganda.

They have huge problem with collectives of workers but see no problems with organizing themselves into 'groups' to not only lobby Congress, but sponsor university economics departments and hire thousands of people to push these self serving views in the press for decades on end. This itself compromises this project for untenable self serving hypocrisy. Its for individuals who buy into these narratives to question if organizing to promote and further their interests for decades is good for the wealthiest why is is not good for workers?

There are thousands of people whose job it is to come up with decontextualized words like 'wealth creators', 'job creators' to create a halo narratives for corporate interests and undermine society, citizenship, the social good, the environment that make 'wealth creation' even possible. So all those take a backseat to 'wealth creator' interests. Since you can't create wealth without society these two cannot be separated but since there are no civil, citizen or worker groups and structures to counter these anti-social narratives you don't get balance but a one sided self interested perspective.

In the AEI world the only thing that matters is people like Kochs business and personal interests and making sure government is not 'impinging on their freedom'. And to achieve this they propagate a fundamental anti-human narrative and create an environment where ordinary people and workers are held in contempt for even expecting living wages and conditions and their access to basic achievements of western democracy like education, health care and living conditions is consistently hollowed out to promote privatization and become 'entitlements'. And we are left with a decontextualized unstable individualized view of the world that exists in a collective but is forcefully detached into a context less existence.

[1] https://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/American_Enterprise_In...

[2] https://www.ineteconomics.org/uploads/papers/WP23-Mirowski.p...

[3] https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/undoing-demos

[4] https://www.theoryculturesociety.org/review-wendy-browns-und...

[5] https://history.duke.edu/book/democracy-chains

[6] Wendy Brown - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eowEmcS75JM

[7] Nancy Maclean - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tqQ_dIjr3uU

The appeal to civility is the last step before starting the cycle of rhetoric anew. Rinse, lather, repeat.


>The left, as I see it, gets and respects human vulnerability, and our need to depend on one another, and wants to build a just, equitable society where we can all fluorish.

This is what people dislike about the modern left, when it makes the assumption that the intentions of its political opponents are bad just because they disagree on methodology. There are conservatives who genuinely want to build a just, equitable society where everyone can flourish, and believe that strong welfare problems go against this by making people dependent on handouts. There are conservatives who genuinely believe the best way to achieve a flourishing, happy society is by following the tenants of some religion. There are conservatives who believe a just, fair society is one in which people are rewarded in accordance to how others value their work (how much other people are willing to pay them). Two people can want the same outcome but widely differ in belief about the best way to achieve it; assuming that your counterparty has bad intentions just because they disagree on the best way to achieve something or have a different definition of a word like "fair" does not lead to healthy discourse.

>>The left, as I see it, gets and respects human vulnerability, and our need to depend on one another, and wants to build a just, equitable society where we can all fluorish.

>This is what people dislike about the modern left, when it makes the assumption that the intentions of its political opponents are bad just because they disagree on methodology.

The writing of the person you're responding to is so egregiously bad that it makes me want to kick a puppy, but your argument is really off base here. The rather Randian, post-eighties conservatism that's prominent today is antithetical to a recognition of "our need to depend on one another." As Thatcher said:

They are casting their problems at society. And, you know, there's no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look after themselves first.

That's not a disagreement about methodology, that's a fundamental difference in outlook, not to mention intentions. It is not helping anything to say "hey, we all want the same thing amirite?"

As Thatcher went on to write in her autobiography: "they never quoted the rest. I went on to say: There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It’s our duty to look after ourselves and then to look after our neighbour. My meaning, clear at the time but subsequently distorted beyond recognition, was that society was not an abstraction, separate from the men and women who composed it, but a living structure of individuals, families, neighbours and voluntary associations."

Recognition of "our need to depend on one another." is not the end goal of the average left-leaning person (or at least those I know), the end goal is for nobody to suffer through poverty/neglect. The average right-leaning person would also like nobody to suffer through poverty/neglect. The right just believes that government intervention won't help poverty, and that it destroys family and community bonds via the government stepping in to fulfil the roles previously played by family and community. The left believes government intervention is needed to fight poverty, and to fix the failures in family and government. I'm sure if you offered the average leftist the chance to live in a world where nobody lived in poverty, albeit one without "a recognition of our need to depend on one another" (whatever that means), they'd happily accept.

you misread my point. I was saying that the policy disagreement comes from that fundamental attitude difference with regard to vulnerability/dependence. It is not an explicit policy goal for all leftists to have kumbaya circles. My point is we cannot eradicate poverty and other economic injustice without recognizing the need for mutual dependence. I challenge you to come up with a plan for eradicating poverty and injustice that does not involve human codependency.

But those who would say the only acceptable plan is basically everyone lifting themselves up by bootstraps do not respect or acknowledge the truth of our fundamental vulnerability and dependence on one-another on this earth.

Our local political organizations are (legally) reformed every two years. We Democrats have a ritual where we introduce ourselves and say why we're a Democrat.

Most people say something like "I believe in the greater good." Which I suppose could be warped into whatever you just described.

My answer has been "To help people help themselves and to help those who can't."

TLDR: You should probably meet some lefties, in person, before you claim to speak for them. Try meeting some righties too.

whats your issue with my writing?

Where is any of that discussion even being had anymore? The once vaulted values of the right you profess have been co-opted by the singular motivating force of demonizing and owning the libs. The old guard of conservatism has been reduced to mumbling around the fringes about this thing or the other. And you do not see any such talk in close proximity to the current power center of that party.

In fact, that power center is now a cult of personality.

So, seriously, why are we acting like there is any real debate as to the old ideological differences?

You have isolated the voices from the right you listen to to those that allow you to make those claims. Broaden your listening range.

I haven't isolated them. They have the bullhorn.

Who should we be listening to?

I've found many of the folks at the National Review, for example, to be quite principled.

Folks like Ben Shapiro wobble a bit in this regard from time to time, but tends to make arguments based on principle and not merely on leadership, and it's safe to say he's got a pretty loud bullhorn right now as well.

I upvoted to acknowledge your reply.

I was kinda hoping you'd mention someone new. Or at least someone who had something new to say.

I like Tyler Cowen. He really challenges my own views.

I also highly value Tim Pool's and Jonathan Haidt's criticisms of the left. Alas, they're also from the left.

I actually don't know anyone (contemporary) from the right criticizing the right, along the same lines as Pool and Haidt do for the left.

For instance, I have no idea, beyond denial, what the (contemporary) right's views are towards climate change, globalization, criminal justice reform, inequity, the end of work (AI & robots), food security, poverty, shareholder rights, privacy, forced arbitration, late stage capitalism, nuclear proliferation, mitigating environmental damage (eg Butte MT, Hanford). Etc.

FWIW, I scanned NRO, to assess its current incarnation. Charitably, it's still stuck in the horse race mindset, reactionary. Uncharitably, it's TLDR is: Rich good, liberals bad.

It's almost as if the right has run out of things to say.

Which I find very sad. I fundamentally consider myself a conservative. Raised Republican and in the church, defender of rights, law & order, etc. And it's been a very long time since any one on the right spoke for me. While GWB was probably sincere with his "compassionate conservative" rhetoric, sadly, he had little company.

>I fundamentally consider myself a conservative. Raised Republican and in the church, defender of rights, law & order, etc. And it's been a very long time since any one on the right spoke for me

My point exactly. You must be in a very lonely place.

It is said that Trump enjoys 80%+ approval among Republicans. This is primarily driven by a few policy issues and appointments, even though nearly everything he represents is the antithesis of what Republicans have long claimed to represent.

With all of the moralizing and lecturing from the Right over the years, it turns out the vast majority were bought pretty cheaply.

Who is carrying the banner for conservatism and has real influence on public discourse?

Where are the principles of conservativism being rigorously championed, debated, and defended?

When have conservative principles superceded the whims of one man and the cult of personality that now dominates the course of an entire party?

4-6 years ago, Ronald Reagan was the gold standard for conservatives. It was perfunctory to mention his name while running for office. When was the last time you heard him invoked?

If it's really conservative principles you care about, then you're not doing yourself any favors by pretending conservatism hasn't been completely co-opted and derailed for other decidedly less-vaunted purposes. In fact, many of these purposes run roughshod over what conservatives claim to hold dear.

That movement was killed, and many of its supposed adherents are complicit.

A good chunk of it has, and I grieve for it, and hope the torch can still burn bright through this current time and co-opted leadership that claims to speak with conservative principles.

The sources I cited do still champion it, and seek to discuss it, openly and without malice, with those who are willing to return that courtesy. But from what I can tell, /your/ ears are closed to this feedback. I ask you to open your ears a bit, because right now, you're hearing only exactly what you want people to have said, not what they are actually saying. Not everyone is a mouthpiece for Trump and populism.

Do you view Pruitt or Zinke as having been fundamentally well-intentioned, working to build a more just & equitable society?

Them being "fundamentally well-intentioned, working to build a more just & equitable society" is a good explanation for why they wiped out lots of job-killing regulations that infringed on private property rights. This might not be your idea of how best to achieve things, but it is consistent with a well-intentioned view that destroying jobs and infringing on private property rights is unjust and inequitable.

I understand people can earnestly believe all regulations are job-killing etc. However the personal enrichment & extreme secrecy made me question their motives.

Do you understand the difference between "there are conservatives that X" and "all conservatives X"? Do you believe that "worst example I can think of from Y" is representative of "all of Y"? Saying conservatives are ill-intentioned because Pruitt is ill-intentioned makes as much sense as saying all communists are ill-intentioned because Mao was corrupt and killed millions of people.

Conservatives have nuanced views but 'people dislike the modern left'?

>>All this to be a long-winded way of saying: yes, the left can be vitriolic. But you have to understand that the world as it is is crushingly inhumane to so so so many people, and people (especially privileged people) are content with the status quo and hostile to those who challenge it.

But compassion/empathy for the vulnerable/weak is not the only virtue. There is often a trade-off between compassion and other virtues (e.g. competence, discipline, protection of one's interests), and it's not always the case that choosing compassion is right pragmatically or in principle.

Compassion can also be pathological, and have harmful effects, if excessive or applied unintelligently. That's where the smothering mother motif comes from in stories and myths. Sometimes you need to hold people to account, to deter irresponsibility, for the greater good of society and even the individual who is being denied compassion. Too much compassion can and will be exploited by the unprincipled. Compassion above all else is not a sound principle around which to organize society.

Just FYI: "Mr. Brooks is president of the American Enterprise Institute". Many people find the agenda that AEI pushes to be loathsome, and I'm not surprised that Mr. Brooks finds himself the object of contempt on a not-infrequent basis.

Yes, "both sides" lie incessantly, embrace dictators, attack our norms and institutions, engage in voter suppression, and deploy bots and trolls to engage in earnest, non-contemptuous discussion (including right here on this thread).

This is kind of an amusing list, because you clearly meant it sardonically, but it's literally true.

Embrace dictators - check; remember Obama rushing to Saudi Arabia?

Attack our norms and institutions - check; Dems are talking about killing the filibuster in the Senate for good right now, and of course they were the first to start the process of dismantling it back when they removed it for non-SC judicial appointments under Obama.

Engage in voter suppression - Maryland is one of the worst gerrymandered states in the Union, and it wasn't done by Republicans. Democrats controlling the state are fighting against the courts (which slapped their scheme down) right now, in a lawsuit filed by Republicans.

Bots and trolls - I dunno about bots, but there's no shortage of left-wing trolls.

The usual answer to all this is, "but it's all for a good cause!", or sometimes, "but we're doing less of it than they do!".

The first one can be valid, depending on one's perspective, but then it would be hypocritical to attack the other side for doing all the same things. If your problem is their goals rather than their methods, then just say so: "they're bad because they want to suppress the minority voters, and we want to suppress racists and bigots".

The second one is broadly true (i.e. left vs right as a whole, as opposed to comparing distinct subcultures in either), but it's not an excuse - it just sets up a lesser/greater evil dichotomy. If those things are valid reasons for contempt -- and I'm not saying they aren't, by the way - then both sides deserve it, just in different proportions.

These what-aboutism arguments are so disingenuous that they are the product of either bad faith or a pathological measure of rationalization.

Whatever the reason, such facile rants are now the go-to technique--an entreaty to engage in a tit-for-tat, ignoring context and degree, thus normalizing awful behavior.

But I won't do it. I think you are well-aware of the difference in degree and of who is clearly and presently wielding power in a manner that runs roughshod over our norms, values and institutions.

That I'm well-aware of the difference in degree was explicitly spelled out in my original comment.

My point isn't that "both sides are equally bad" or some such - I don't believe that. It's clear that Republicans, by now, are engaging in all of these practices to a far greater extent.

My point is that you didn't make any distinction about the degree at all. You just said that these are all the things that those people did, and that's what makes them contemptible. I merely showed you what happens when that bar is applied consistently - Republicans end up looking really bad, but Dems still end up looking somewhat bad. If you don't like that result - and reject the notion that your team engaging in those same things on a smaller scale is still bad, just less bad, but enough to feel contempt over - then consider that perhaps your bar isn't where you articulated it to be.

> Attack our norms and institutions... both sides deserve it, just in different proportions.

Okay true, different proportions. It's roughly 1000 to 1 that Trump is messing with institutional norms over liberals.

I agree. The point isn't that, but that many on the left don't see a problem with messing with institutional norms per se, so long as it is done to advance their goals.

Also, at this point, "liberals" and "left" aren't synonyms. I'm a liberal myself, and I'm quite used to hearing that used as a slur coming from the right, but lately that has been increasingly coming from further left. It was always common sentiment for socialists (the real ones - I don't mean people like Obama, Sanders, or AOC) - but now it's also becoming more common among progressives, who appear to be arguing that some of those norms are constraining their ability to advance social progress. And there's a lot more of them, which is why you no longer have to deliberately go seek that stuff to find it anymore.

I have already mentioned filibuster, but now we're also seriously talking about e.g. Supreme Court packing. That concerns me, because one party deliberately going after those norms is bad enough, but if both become convinced that it's in their best interest, it becomes an arms race. Worse yet is that it creates perverse motivations - the more you dismantle those norms for the sake of being able to implement your agenda, the more you fear the other side taking over (because they would have that much more power to implement their agenda). If the other side can take over democratically, this means that you're motivated to be undemocratic. Republicans have had that problem on the federal level for a while, and I don't think that their penchant for voter suppression is a coincidence. But Democrats also have that problem on state level in many states, and on the federal level in the Senate. If they succumb to the temptation to solve it in the same way, there won't be anybody with a vested interest to consistently enforce those institutional norms, and they will erode that much faster.

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