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The Polarization Spiral (persuasion.community)
122 points by mpweiher 73 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 142 comments

> The polarization spiral, which is fed and accelerated by social media, is making extremists on both right and left more extreme, more powerful, and more intimidating. Both sides feed off of each other. Both sides are essential for a polarization spiral. And that means that neither side can win by attacking or humiliating the other side. Such tactics only serve to energize the other side.

It's not about who can "win". What would winning this "culture war" even look like? Everyone becomes a leftoid/rightoid and lives happily ever after?

That would defeat the purpose of all this, which is to make money. How do you make money on social media? Ads. How do ads work? Engagements. How do you maximize engagements? The best ROI formula is posting polarizing content that begets flame wars and hate-shares and thinkpieces. The "culture war" is an illusion perpetuated by the influencer/grifter industry that monetizes it.

I see a lot of dark muttering from "old left" circles that the point of culture war is distraction. To keep focus on cultural and symbolic issues to divide us with infighting and keep us from focusing on shared economic interests. Culture war to distract from the class war, to put it like that.

And I think there may be something to that. It's not all about grifters.

But I think it would be wrong to attribute all that to cynicism. I think e.g. workers at big organizations need to feel that they're doing good, especially when it looks like they're doing some pretty bad things. All the culture war drama at Google, for instance, or CIA's infamous "Intersectional mentally ill latina millennial" ad, I think they may not be top down efforts to whitewash, but genuine attempts to cast yourself as good in a messed up way.

I generally don't buy into theories that it was by design, i.e. a conspiracy to distract us.

Instead, it's a result of market forces (the attention industry) and the powerful (oligarchs & SIGs) gradually nudging things in a direction that works better for them. Coupled with virtually zero accountability to the American people.

It doesn't really need to be "by design".

Those with an outsource chunk of wealth and power tend to (a) be a small percentage of the population (b) have naturally aligned goals; those goals will be addressed using the tools at hand.

Those without much wealth or power represent a large and almost ridicuously diverse population, by almost every metric except having much wealth and power. It is much more difficult for them to agree upon goals let alone coordinate any sort of action that would further those goals.

Consequently, the "natural" state of affairs, once you allow wealth and power to accumulate in the hands of a fraction of the population, is for the goals of the wealthy and the powerful to take precedence.

Not just money; I've read that political scandals have a much larger effect size on who wins political elections than all of campaign spending does[0]. This suggests to me that there's a huge political incentive to fabricate scandals, and to get a large cohort of people talking about it and spreading it as fast as possible.

[0](I wish I could find the article, if this rings a bell to anyone, let me know)

Russiagate and its slow-mo collapse seems a good example of this incentive to fabricate scandals. Matt Taibbi has been writing about it for years, the details are too much inside baseball for me, but it's clear that the whole set of claims has been falling apart for years and that the TV channels and newspapers that were pushing it have never really admitted any fault.

Above the level to get your basic message out, campaign spending doesn't have much effect.

So I'm not surprised that learning about the candidates character had bigger impact.

probably not what you're thinking of but this came to mind per your comment; (pdf) https://www.uakron.edu/bliss/state-of-the-parties/papers/Kol...

Good point. Contemporary American political campaigning is just marketing. All about the eyeballs.

The culture war is not a creation of those selling ads. (It's fueled by the outrage machine that the ad-sellers drive, but they didn't originate it.)

"Winning" would look like the other side being marginalized, and everyone else agreeing that you were right, and agreeing with and implementing your political and social program. But since this involves the utter capitulation of the other side, which is north of 40% of the population, that's not going to happen. Instead, the threat makes the other side more outraged, and therefore more extreme.

The winner is special interest groups that can go ahead with their special interests because mass-bases groups on the left and right are neutralized and off the agenda.

I agree. Very convenient state of affairs for the oligarchs and SIGs.

For example, oligarch Peter Thiel has the current strategy of funding hate-spewing demagogues for political office because he thinks that America needs an "enemy" to be united. I wonder who that "enemy" is scapegoating for?

Is this culture war (illusion) dangerous? Are we against it, and if so, how do we end that?

The only solutions to a culture war:

1) Domination: fight it out and exterminate the other side or disenfranchise them so much they become powerless to oppose your agenda. Then you rule over them and make sure to keep them weak and defeated otherwise they will switch tables on you. (Examples: Bismarcks' original Kulturkampf reversing to Weimer reversing to Nazis, Argentina's dirty war)

2) Devolution: decentralize even more and reduce power of Federal government (Examples: Lebanon. Switzerland)

3) Divorce: split into two different nations entirely. (Examples: Ethiopia/Eritrea split, Yugoslavia breakup)

The reason why is that this is ultimately a religious war about values. People will die rather than give up their religion or change their core values. That means that if their core values are diametrically opposed, then will rather die than stop doing what the other side is convinced is immoral. This brings us to my favorite trilemma:

    a) diversity (of values)
    b) liberty
    c) a strong central government
    Pick two. 
Historically nations dealt with diversity of core beliefs by Federalism, e.g. letting one province be Catholic and the other Protestant and they just leave each other alone, with a central government that only takes action if both sides agree. But that's a very fragile arrangement prone to civil war -- e.g. Lebanon -- when there is a demographic shift that upsets the balance of power. The left, also, would not accept if, say, America split into a red and blue nation with the Red nation say not respecting gay rights or emitting lots of carbon. Blue America would invade them as they have a crusading vision that is global and totalizing.

Personally, I favor devolution (best) or a national breakup (second best). Obviously I do not favor domination. But most people I know, and everyone I know on the left, favors domination. The right must be defeated.

But it's easy for me to emigrate to a nation which is much more sane than the U.S., so I have less at stake than those stuck in America.

Or... just renew the electoral system to break the two-party system you guys have. People are a lot more agreeable when they have to compromise to get shit done. Talking shit about other parties will be remembered come the next elections.

The culture war doesn’t arise from two-party politics. Indeed, it’s causing people to switch parties as they realign around cultural lines. E.g. when Obama campaigned as a socially moderate economic populist in 2008, he won Iowa by 10 points. Just 8 years later, when Clinton campaigned as a culturally liberal economic moderate, she lost Iowa by 10 points.

In the US we have some people that are to the left of France on social issues, and other people that are to the right of Poland, all in the same country. Increasingly, a small contingent of the former have come to dominate the media, corporations, and NGOs. The two party system didn’t create that situation.

Also: small but loud extremist fringe groups are more likely to break out into their own party, if they see it as an realistic option. There they can be sidelined or loose majority support, which means an election actually represents the will of the people instead of some loud minority.

Or - as happens frequently in multi-party PR systems - large parties needing to form a majority coalition end up giving small extremist parties concessions in order to secure their support, meaning even a single electoral success can be parlayed into an outsized influence. There's no perfect system.

> c) a strong central government

Tangential to this, as an initial fan of the Federalist Papers (and of the people who wrote/were behind them) reading the Antifederalist Papers from that same era really opened my eyes, the people (anonymously) writing in there about the perils of centralised government in North America really touched on many points that are still valid now, ~230 years after they were written. You could also see in those writings that the mid-19th century Civil War was really hard to avoid, and not only because of slavery. For the record, I'm not an US citizen and I've never set foot in the US, maybe these facts about the Antifederalist Papers are really well-known across the pond and I'm only stating the obvious in here.

So let's say hypothetically America splits into red and blue. What about those of us not comfortable with living in either territory? Because at least as things are now, the extremes tend to balance each other out. But if you separate, there's a chance the highly motivated people on the far right and left will gain power and push for that kind of government.

Which would leave a lot of people in the Overton window unhappy with living in either blue or red. Can there be a three-way split? Blue is a leftist utopia, red is a conservative paradise, with purple remaining neoliberal (current US minus the left/right).

Question is how does purple keep red & blue from meddling in their politics as a kind of proxy war against the other?

Step 1: Don't have a two party system

That's easy to create election rules which doesn't induce a "two party" system, but how do you convince the current winners of the current system to change the election rules?

Current US minus the left and right could be a pretty nice place.

How does purple keep red and blue from meddling in their politics? By being larger/stronger than either red or blue. If it's smaller and weaker, the meddling is probably inevitable.

To point 3

A group will radicalise itself, even in isolation.

The approach of splitting the nation into 2 will work… for a while.

Also: I don’t have any better solution for the near or mid term.

Maybe education will help. But I am immensely disappointed with this approach. I seams to just not work.

Maybe small nations work way better. As far I can see this is the case. So maybe splitting up the nation into even smaller states would help.

As long as you have federal laws that grands children a life if they decide to go, this would be somewhat human? Think on a gay child in a radical state that demands forced conversion therapy.

> Maybe education will help.

You mean, Red education to get the Blues to see the error of their ways, or Blue education to get the Reds to see the error of their ways? People really don't want their enemies' values taught to their kids. We are seeing massive pushback against Blue education now, which was the key to Virginia's governor flipping red. It may be the most important issue of the 2022 elections. Did I mention how much people hate their kids being indoctrinated in values they think are evil?

> Maybe small nations work way better. As far I can see this is the case. So maybe splitting up the nation into even smaller states would help.

Yes, if Saudi Arabia doesn't let women drive, we don't need to invade and conquer Saudi Arabia. We can can grant asylum to Saudi women who are unhappy with this arrangement, and just leave Saudi Arabia alone. Even if they behead people.

>Think on a gay child in a radical state that demands forced conversion therapy.

Agree. Ultimately it means giving up on the idea that the US is going to fix the whole world. We stayed in Afghanistan, it seems, to make sure the girls can go to school and that gay men are not killed for being gay. I don't think this was the right decision. At some point you have to say "I hate how those people live, but I'm not going to try to change them."

Honestly I don't know a single friend of mine on the left who is willing to say this. I have friends on the right, on the other hand, who want nothing more than to be left alone. They don't care how many abortions people have in New York or what kind of stuff is taught in New York schools about how evil Europeans are. But the reverse is not true, every single leftist friend I have is absolutely committed to making sure girls in Alabama can also have abortions and that they are taught the evils of Europeans in the Alabama schools. For there to be any peace, the left is going to have to give this asymmetry up, and learn to live and let live.

I agree, but you're being a little biased I think, presumably due to your experience and the news you read:

>"I hate how those people live, but I'm not going to try to change them."

This is phrased to sound reasonable without context, but based on your example, it's more like "They are fairly objectively killing/beating/oppressing people for their gender/sexuality, but I'm not going to try to change them." I agree it's probably futile, especially in this case, but we should be realistic about what we are asking people to accept.

As for the domestic example of abortion, everybody I know on the right, friends and otherwise, want it illegal for everybody, and have a pretty deep hatred for people who get abortions (sometimes barring health reasons), in their own state and in all others. On this and other topics, they are all firmly in "dominion" territory, even going so far as to "joke" to varying degrees about killing people on the left for their crimes.

I am not refuting your point though, and I'm not taking a "both sides" stance, just offering a different view on the same conclusion. In general people want to exclude others, and in general the right favors splitting first, and, if that's unrealistic, dominion second, while the left tend to favors dominion first. Both are enormous disasters.

> which was the key to Virginia's governor flipping red

I think you'll find that turnout in an off year was the major driver of this change. Turnout 2020: 75%, Turnout 2021: 55%.

In general, only motivated people turn up in off years, which usually favours the opposition.

I wonder how coherent the base of either party is values-wise or ideologically. There's certainly some intellectuals that have a clear ideological side, but for the people I talk to offline there often seems to be a kind of sports-team dynamic, even if they don't fit neatly into ideological boxes. For example, I know Republicans that don't generally support their party's economic policies, and Democrats that don't support many of their party's social policies, but neither of those facts seem to interfere with them being solid partisans. Often they end up in a media bubble for their "team" which probably contributes.

Truth helps.

Every, single popular issue has nuance.

Whenever I see something on Cable News, usually my 'BS sense' tingles at least a bit, and I check alternative resources for more information.

Usually, most things don't fit very clearly into a narrative once you have a lot of facts.

> They don't care how many abortions people have in New York...

> every single leftist friend I have is absolutely committed to making sure girls in Alabama can also have abortions

I find it so curious how much you claim that people on the right just want to be left alone, and then bring up the issue of abortion as an example. If what you really wanted was for people to live and let live, then why would you care about women in Alabama having abortions? Don't they have just as much of a right to be "left alone"?

There are deep historical roots for this. In 1861, the US South just wanted to be left alone. It was the US North that forced their moral values on the South.

Some of us think that's a good thing.

The Union’s war against the Confederacy was fueled by the religious zeal of an evangelical Christian movement. I’m not sure that should be the go-to template for how we structure a diverse country of 330 million people.

That is a unique take on the abolition of slavery. I am sure you have accessed much more literature and data on this take that seems novel to me.

I don't think there's anything unique about it. Some Enlightenment thinkers opposed slavery, but abolition in the U.S. was an evangelical Christian movement. The Republican Party was a fusion of religious fundamentalists and northeastern capitalists. The Civil Rights movement was also quite closely affiliated with Christianity until the late 20th century. It's not a coincidence that Martin Luther King was a preacher.

Remember that, prior to modern genetic science, "all men are created equal" was an unfalsifiable assertion. IT was an article of faith. The Confederacy thus sought to portray their position as resting on scientific observation. https://www.battlefields.org/learn/primary-sources/cornersto.... And, of course, there's little apart from faith that could convince a society to sacrifice 360,000 of their own to fight for the freedom of a distinct group of people. I'm not aware of any other such "war of morality" in history prior to that.

All that being said, not every perceived social ill is slavery, and the Civil War isn't a good template for how we should relate to societies that have different moral frameworks. Do we want to go to war with Bangladesh because homosexuality is illegal there? My view is that Bangladeshis get to decide how to structure their society, and that this self determination is a principle that overrides almost all others. But maybe I'm biased being a foreigner.

> My view is that Bangladeshis get to decide how to structure their society, and that this self determination is a principle that overrides almost all others.

Unless you're a Bangladeshi gay I suppose. Then other people get to determine your social structure for you.

Self-determination is a collective right, not an individual right. Distinct groups of people get to structure their society as they see fit. Individuals within that a society must abide by those rules.

International law, of course, recognizes individual rights as well. My point is that when a society doesn’t abide by those rights, it’s not the business of other societies to do anything about it. Self-determination should trump in almost every case.

I'm on the left, but probably favor option #2, or potentially option 2+3... which would be to divorce the 50 states into their own countries, w/ a weakened D.C. that still manages interstate disputes, commerce, etc more like the EU than a country unto itself.

I'd like to see more communal type "intentional communities" w/ farms, eco-designed homes (earth bag/earth ship), that doesn't have religious aims, but only has one tenet which is to cut down on consumerism (not asking for major commitments, just limit spending, and buy things the entire community can share like ATVs, RVs, etc that could be loaned out.

You can build an entire home using earthbag tech for <10k. (It might take 4 years to DIY, but it's feasible) and you can buy tiny homes for <50k, or a yurt to live in until the home is completed, then reuse that for an airbnb or something. Pool up w/ maybe 20 other families to buy land, create a community garden, and a community toolshed+library of shareables (tools, printers, atvs, etc), and maybe have potlucks a few times a month, and some nice outdoor activities that make living their fun, and people wouldn't have to travel to have fun, and waste gas.

Could have a building w/ some offices too, for people who work from home.

Where do governments or nations come into play here? Groups don't split along geographical lines any more, and so, breaking up countries will not lead to delineating groups with different values.

1) Additional examples: Maos Cultural Revolution, Khemer Rouge, Russian Civil War, Spain Civil War

Or to try to calm the culture war. A lot of this is populism and one idea is to try to reel it in on campus, in social media, and maybe even in the News somehow (which has become more slanted).

It might be possible to marginalize the radicals on either side a bit.

Most of us are getting tired of this nonsense.

With Trump and COVID passing, there will be fewer 'lightning rods'.

Even the MeToo and Racism claims I think are starting to fall a bit short, most people have common sense and recognize the difference between racism, and a film that happens to case white people, or a serial Hollywood rapist, and a guy who got in a loud back and forth with his wife.

I mostly agree with your analysis, but while Devolution sounds good on paper at an abstract distance, the reality of it is going to be (and is) a lot messier.

The problem is that we don't have just Red-vs-Blue states in the US. We also have Red-vs-Blue subregions and counties within most (all?) states, and even within a nominally Red or Blue county, city, or town, you'll almost universally find a a sizable sub-population of the opposite bent.

So, to pick an example hot-button issue: Abortion Rights. If the feds decentralize this issue and let states find their own paths, you'd have ample abortion rights in the blue states and virtually no abortion rights in red states. But many of these nominally red or blue states are really, say, a 70/30 or 60/40 split by population, and so a large (but non-majority) population of each state is now living under laws they despise, which is not going to make for good long-term outcomes.

Over a long-enough time period, I suppose many would choose to move to other states and physically polarize the nation by-state, which is then going to make it easier and more natural to eventually Divorce the two sides as separate nations, and then they will almost surely have wars in the future over turf, politics, etc. But in the shorter term, most people don't have the freedom to just move states on a whim because of political change: they have families and friend networks, they have jobs to consider, financial and social costs of uprooting and moving, etc. It's still a relatively-rare privilege, among the whole US population, to be in a situation where you can easily move states as you feel like it on a political whim.

You could also imagine a path where Devolution just gets more-fine-grained - the Feds leave more to the states, the states leave more to the counties, they leave more to the cities, etc. This would allow things to differ at a much more local level. All over the country, you might find a flip of the abortion laws every 20-30 miles traveling down the highway. This reduces the costs and challenges for the individual - now they can more-easily move a short distance for a set of laws they find palatable, or simply drive across legal lines for various services/purposes. However, I think having such a large menu of divisive and important legal issues vary at such a low level would lead to a lot of chaos and friction. You'd lose a lot of the advantages of being a relatively-homogeneous country. Imagine doing business in such a country and having to pay far more attention to the more-significant legal differences in every jurisdiction. It sounds like a mess!

My current (perhaps naive!) opinion is that you can't fix this in an effective way through Devolution or Divorce - the costs are too high. I think this needs to be fixed at the per-human level: we need to become less-polarized as individuals, and elect less-polarized politicians as well.

We need to learn to disagree without being disagreeable again, and to understand where each other is coming from. We used to have that (well, to a much larger degree than we do now) decades ago. I don't think Facebook alone created this mess, but tech is certainly playing a significant role in amplifying the problem rather than solving it.

You have to reach a point where everyone can have conversations with all of their neighbors of the form "I disagree with your stance on X, but I can see why you think that way, and I want to explore where we have common ground and find a compromise solution that can make both of us reasonably happy to live alongside each other", or your society is doomed to eventually be a failed one.

Being "right" on an issue is not as important as being good neighbors to each other and respecting others' views. Perhaps your particularly strong view of a certain issue will eventually prove itself to be universally acceptable/accepted (in the sense that eventually in some future year, an overwhelming majority of the population will agree with you instead of say, just the 35% that are in your political subcamp).

However, you're not going to get there by going to war with the other 65% and demeaning and degrading them. You're going to get there by being understanding enough to have healthy relationships with them, and then perhaps minds can change more-naturally (and it may take a generation or two for some changes, but it's the only non-violent way to get there). You have to do this even if you don't think the other side is doing it, or even capable. It's the only way to have hope for a better future.

The solution is more offensive to Americans than the problem. Stricter controls on online content including ads. Alas, that would be censorship.

Since there is zero chance of it being applied impartially, yes it would be censorship and yes that cure would be worse than the disease.

Yes, that is the point the GP was making.

Leaves out the big elephant in the room, the o.g. Fox news, which is now metastasizing to even crazier alternate reality media outlets.

For sure some non digital media examples on the left too but nothing even close to that scale.

I do agree social media plays a big role in spreading alternate reality craziness on both sides, but political polarization won't go anywhere imho.

Content controls would apply equally to "traditional" media.

I probably wouldn't. But I do think it would be worth having 'truth in advertising' labels - that people will just ignore lol. Like Tucker Carslon != Walter Cronkite.

So instead of govts using manufactured consent to control us like 1984, Facebook does it to glean money/data out of every view, but it still ends up probably pushing us into some authoritarian nightmare... this is why I limit FB to very very infrequent visits, or chats w/ family in messenger, and pretty much only stick to reddit/HN.

there's a bit more intellectual discourse or at least witty sarcasm (in reddit's case), that appeals to me, and can keep my ADHD attention... FB is just stupid memes, and flame wars.

> The "culture war" is an illusion perpetuated by the influencer/grifter industry that monetizes it.

It’s absolutely not an illusion. Americans are diverging on fundamental aspects of how we should organize our society. For example, by 2060, half the country will be Latino, Asian, or Black. For decades, there was a consensus that children should be socialized to see “color blindness” as an ideal.

Now, many on the left say “color blindness is racist.” My third grader is being taught a “racial literacy” curriculum that will “help her develop her identity” “around her skin tone.” I don’t want my kid developing an “identity” around her brown skin. It’s a pretty fundamental disagreement over a pretty fundamental aspect of life—how to socialize children. There’s other related examples, e.g. addressing sexuality and family formation. These are fundamental issues, not trivial disagreements.

There’s a fundamentally new ideology taking shape, one that shreds previous shared assumptions. That ideology elevates non-discrimination to an overriding principle. I’ve had conversations with center left friends who won’t say they favor open borders, but can’t really think of any reason to have them other than “discrimination against brown people on the other side.” It’s overridden a bunch of other ideas underlying the Westphalian model. E.g. they’ll attack Japan as “racist” for wanting to keep the country for Japanese people—which can’t be reconciled with the Westphalian notion of self determination.

The new ideology also elevated credentialed expertise to primacy. I’ve shared with my center left friends a study showing that over 60% of Black and Latino people agree with Trumpian immigration rhetoric when not attributed to Trump: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/18/opinion/biden-latino-vote.... The academics running the study express shock that minorities agree with language that is in their view “obviously racist.” To me that’s a contradiction in terms: if most Black or Latino people don’t think something is racist, then it’s not racist. But I’ve had numerous center-left friends take the opposite position. In their view, whether something is racist is best decided by experts, not lay people. Similarly, with respect to the recent issues in Virginia, they think experts should decide the content of race-related instruction in schools, not parents. That’s upends previously shared notions. Article 18 of the UN’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights expressly makes parents the arbiters of the “moral” “socialization” of children.

In case anyone is curious, here is Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights:

"1. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.

2. No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.

3. Freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.

4. The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions."

> There’s a fundamentally new ideology taking shape

This is where I disagree. It's the same old (Lockean) liberalism adapting to an increasingly decentralized and connected (i.e. diverse) setting.

That’s an amusing take given that proponents of the new ideology would say “Locke was a dead white guy and investor in the slave trade, who cares what he said.” But I agree the new ideology is Lockean in the sense of presupposing minds are tabula rasa.

I disagree that the prevailing American liberalism is especially Lockean, though there is a strong thread of that. It’s a bit of a conceit, similar to people saying “the founding fathers were deists” by pointing to Jefferson.

For example, the Constitutional structure of government takes a very Christian view of humans being inherently sinful and needing checks and balances, rather than a Lockean view of perfectible man.

I use Lockean to make clear that I'm referring to liberalism in the philosophical sense rather the "red vs blue" political sense.

I see, but I’m not sure I agree. I don’t see how, e.g., believing that experts should decide how to socialize children, or that the non-discrimination principle overrides even self determination, is an extension of liberalism. Fundamentally, the new ideology isn’t pluralist, which seems like a big difference.

I’m inclined to agree with those who see it as a neo-Puritanism: https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/news/articles/revenge-of-...

> believing that experts should decide how to socialize children

That isn't what American liberals (in the philosophical sense) believe. Liberals believe that their personal beliefs are basically, universally correct--they are good American liberals, after all--and other people should be enlightened in the same way. How they get enlightened--reeducation or bombs or bibles or sanctions or spontaneously--is a minor detail.

> What would winning this "culture war" even look like?

Easy: opposition gets the firing squad.

> What would winning this "culture war" even look like? Everyone becomes a leftoid/rightoid and lives happily ever after?

I dunno, I figure if I'm being called a Nazi by the lefties and whatever their puerile insult-du-jour is by the righties then I'm probably about on track.

> Kalmoe and Mason found that nearly one out of five Republicans and Democrats agree with the statement that their political adversaries “lack the traits to be considered fully human — they behave like animals.”

> Their line of questioning did not stop there. How about: “Do you ever think: ‘we’d be better off as a country if large numbers of the opposing party in the public today just died’?”

> Some 20 percent of Democrats (that translates to 12.6 million voters) and 16 percent of Republicans (or 7.9 million voters) do think on occasion that the country would be better off if large numbers of the opposition died.


I dunno man. This is indeed scary, but I wouldn't take it literally. I would translate it more as: "when asked by a pollster, 'do you ever think [etc.], 20 percent of Democrats said 'yes'". Whether they ever really think that...

Well now, what does "really think" mean? If they had the chance to painlessly euthanize several millions of the other side, would they do it? Or does "really think" mean "gosh sometimes I get really angry and I - I just wish those scumbags were dead!" By that standard, I "really think" that it would be better if some of the drivers of my home town just died.

I'm not sure we can make those assumptions given we only have access to their poll responses, not the inner workings of their minds.

Have any of you ever answered a poll? And answered truthfully?

I'm inherently suspicious of most polls because everyone I know either refuses to participate in polls or deliberately lies to the pollster, either for fun or to get taken off the spam call list.

As someone who grew up in a very traditional fundamentalist church (preacher's kid), I think the religious extremism mindset is the problem - the "We're the right ones, and they other people are evil" mindset. Both sides have virtues and flaws. And as long as both sides are demonizing each other, the amplitude will continue to increase.

You're conflating religion with the use of it by some to get, maintain or increase their power.

Most religions emphasize humility and have at their best been used to prevent tyranny. Judging is definitely OK, it's actually needed. But you know you might be wrong and you don't impose your views on others. That's how we got liberalism.

For instance, all the Abrahamic monotheisms have at their core the idea of the intrinsic value of each individual human as they are made "in the image of God".

I'm not meaning to bash spiritual beliefs (I believe we're all part of One God - "members of the body of Christ"). But I believe darkness works strongly in many religious groups (both traditional and progressive). Here's the sort of darkness I'm speaking of:

Things demons say:

* This life doesn't matter. * Don't think for yourself. * How could anyone be so stupid? * The darkness is dangerous - don't explore those dark corners - don't ask questions. * Nothing is how it should be - everything is wrong. * Truth is very simple - I have no need to look any further.

"Most religions emphasize humility" for real? You read the same history books as I have? I think you're conflating theology with religion. Religion is a blood soaked tool to control the masses.

I think the whole thing is more about how the Internet allows people to mingle from various groups and so there's going to be higher friction than they normally would have. Also, social media allows for people to get the dopamine high from people liking, sharing, and even mocking their posts. There's always something dangerous about how the feedback loop on social media works and I've noticed it when I've gotten into some spats or gotten a post go viral out of nowhere. As the notifications roll in on your device it becomes more of a game to see who gets the most praise or jeers from the crowd and less about finding like minded or not-so-like minded folks to discuss topics. It just turns into sports hooliganism where your side, whatever that is, is battling it out with the other side of the so-called argument.

And all the while social media companies just rake in the money from the advertising revenue based on engagement metrics which may or may not even make said advertising useful for the firms who order it. Ultimately, I think this will have to be resolved through other means than just more regulations. Just like how we use to teach folks to not believe anything you see online. We need to teach folks that getting likes online doesn't make you better or right or anything of the sort of moral judgements.

Bias alert. The extreme Right is described as "strident, [with] uncompromising views." and the extreme Left is described as "highly sensitive to issues of fairness and equity, particularly with regards to race, gender and other minority group identities.”

I wonder what "true neutral" would look like for describing these groups. And who would actually write in a fashion everyone would agree is neutral.

What's interesting to me is you could smoosh those descriptions together and apply the result to both extremes pretty accurately: "strident, [with] uncompromising views... highly sensitive to issues of fairness."

I think something like: "there's very fine people on both sides, but extremists on both sides"

That sounds extremely accurate, and not for the extremes either.

Newt Gingrich & Rush Limbaugh began the mantra of refusing to compromise on any position. They are anything but extreme and are really more the torch bearers. Rush was even awarded a Presidential medal of Freedom.

And sensitivity to issues of fairness is hardly an extreme position. That's probably the most mainstream belief associated with liberalism and just plain being a good human being.

What bias?

>And sensitivity to issues of fairness is hardly an extreme position.

There are 2 ways to explain this: (1) the extreme left doesn't exist, or (2) the article is downplaying the extreme left.

I suggest that most (edit: not 'most' should have said 'some' or 'much') of the Left's actions are 'strident and uncompromising'.

The term 'White Supremacy' as it is loosely supplied is strident to the point of belligerence.

That said, I think the author roughly captured at least partly the spirit of the division.

Liberalism is not left wing, let alone extreme left. I dont understand your post.

> It may not surprise you to learn that the Devoted Conservatives were the whitest of all seven groups (88% white), but would you have expected that the Progressive Activists were the second whitest (80%)?

I am surprised that the author is surprised by this fact about the Progressive Activists. In my FAANG employer, the people who are always most offended, making denunciations of racism, sexism, -ism, etc. are highly educated whites. One of them told me in all seriousness that no white people should be allowed to do yoga or own yoga studios.

As far as I can tell most of the black US population living in the poor parts of the American cities were really against the "Defund the police" message from the very beginning, the reason being that people living in there actually need the police more than the (generally white) middle-classes living in the more affluent suburbs.

When reading actual anecdotes about those riots against police brutality (which has occurred mainly in the Midwest cities, and quite regularly for numerous years, from much before the BLM protests), you start to have a very different picture of what’s really going on, that doesn’t get articulated in the mainstream media. From the book Hinterland by Phil A. Neel, talking about the Ferguson protests:

“The perfect storm had been building for some time. Ferguson is at the bottom of the income spectrum and has acted as a sort of vanguard for the outward march of suburban poverty. Like many postwar suburbs, its heyday was in the 1950s and ’60s, which saw successive doublings of the population until it reached a peak of nearly 30,000 in 1970. Deindustrialization beginning in the ’70s was then matched with a continual drop in population to about 21,000 today, in line with St Louis’s historic population loss. As the city grew smaller and poorer, its racial demographics also flipped. As late as the 1990 Census, Ferguson was still 73.8 percent white and 25.1 percent black (close to the proportions of neighboring Florissant today), but by 2010 this situation had entirely reversed (to 29.3 percent white and 67.4 percent black). Inflation-adjusted income dropped, and unemployment doubled from around 5 percent in 2000 to an average of 13 percent between 2010 and 2012. The political establishment reflected this history. At the beginning of the riots, the city government was helmed by a white mayor, a white police chief, and five white and one Hispanic city council people. Combined with this, the dwindling population, fleeing industry, and plummeting property values had created a budgetary crisis, forcing many of the area’s small municipalities to rely less on their shrinking tax base and more on extra-tax fees and fines, enforced by the police and facilitated by the city’s arcane court system. The result was that Ferguson and similar suburbs existed in what the Huffington Post called “a totalizing police regime beyond any of Kafka’s ghastliest nightmares.” Out of a population of roughly 21,000, over 16,000 Ferguson residents had arrest warrants issued. And this number only counts individuals with warrants, not the total number of warrants. In 2013 this figure was a staggering 35,975, roughly 1.5 warrants per person in the city. These warrants were part of a complex racket designed to impose unrelenting fines on the poor population in order to fund the city government, which itself had largely been redesigned to facilitate this predatory practice. In 2013 fines, court fees, and other such extortions accounted for some 20 percent of the city’s budget. These fines were disproportionately applied to the city’s black residents, with black drivers twice as likely to be stopped, searched, and arrested as their white counterparts.”

> what the Huffington Post called “a totalizing police regime beyond any of Kafka’s ghastliest nightmares.”

Regardless of how terrible the situation became, I think we can all agree it's still better than waking up as a literal fly. Reminds me why I actively avoid HuffPo.

Still, this is incredible,

> In 2013 this figure was a staggering 35,975, roughly 1.5 warrants per person in the city.

Staggering lack of leadership in city government.

Dunno, seems pretty Kafkaesque for a city where you can get arrested by the police for the most minutiae things, and the reason for it is not because you’ve done anything wrong but just that the city needs to raise funds.

> Staggering lack of leadership in city government.

The paragraph explained the reason for the city’s downfall: deindustrialization and offshoring starting from the 1970s has shut down manufacturing jobs in the area, and the more affluent whites moved to bigger cities for better prospects, while blacks were left behind. This is much more than just lack of leadership in the local government, it has more to do with the deliberate macro-economic decisions of the US government starting from half a century ago.

> pretty Kafkaesque

>> enormous gulf <<

> beyond any of Kafka’s ghastliest nightmares

The tongue in cheek exaggeration has gone too far. I'm guilty of it, too. But we all need to stop.

You are correct that the macroeconomic issues have caused enormous problems. It is indeed a lack of leadership (in the government, in the police force, in community leaders) that let them fester and turn into the embarrassing mess that it did. Making excuses about the broader economic environment is a great example of the excuse making that characterizes this leadership deficit.

I'd BS on the actuality of this.

I've never seen it in Rust Belt cities.

>In my FAANG employer, the people who are always most offended, making denunciations of racism, sexism, -ism, etc. are highly educated whites.

See, also, that famous photograph of Huffington Post employees (<https://www.mic.com/articles/144177/this-tweet-from-a-huffin...>).

Yes, this is amazing to watch. The lack of self-awareness particularly.

Wokeness is an Elitist "Luxury Product" - it's a show of wealth, a show of position, and a show of virtue. Showing rank is especially necessary when the apparent value of the individual to society is unclear and uncertain.

This is the replacement for physical luxury products to show rank and position. And that replacement is necessary because luxury goods have become cheap enough that any random "deplorable" can afford to buy them now. In general, the US has an inverted "Maslow pyramid" in terms of commodity cost and availability. And that's thanks to Chinese slave labor and outsourcing.

Since most of the Elite class seeking these luxury products are exactly these "Highly educated white 1%", this should not a surprise. But of course most things humans do are NOT rational. And that includes group-think of the bubbles people often choose to live in.

Note as well that not a single one of them would "quit for equity" either. Do it, folks, practice what you preach. Free up some $300-500K/yr spots for minority hires, show some real leadership. Talk is cheap.

Or just give part of your income. If you make $300k, you can probably support at least 5 people by giving directly money. But often these people don't give money, they vote and speak a lot.

There's a significant difference between employing someone in a job where their accomplishments earn rewards; and "just giving them support money".

"something given has no value" is the best expression ive come up with for it, and it sucks; but the principle seems to hold. People value what they earn, and resent what they are given.


If you are NOT willing to commit your own wealth, time and money to ANY CAUSE, you are NOT SERIOUS ABOUT THE CAUSE.

This is always the best test for ideological or belief commitment - are you will to prove your commitment with something you actually value or not. 99% of the time, a claimed position is not strong enough to pass that commitment test.

One example was when I was taking a short-course at UCLA for "Nuclear Weapons Effects" for my job at the time. We had protesters there the first day plus a local TV station filming.

Turns out that within less than 60 seconds of the TV cameras leaving, all 40 of the "dedicated peace protesters" were gone and no where to be seen. And they never showed up again for the rest of the week despite it being an 8 hour a day course for 5 days straight.

The depth of their commitment to their so-called ideology was shallower than a puddle of water. A truly committed activist would have been there all 40 hours that week. There were none actually willing to commit their time. It was all a "virtue signal" without substance. What was more important than their "protest for peace"? Who knows - but it was probably as important in the grand scheme of anything as getting a latte or similar. Don't want to inconvenience a coffee break!

It was then I came to recognize "losers" who yell and bully without any actual commitment to their position. It's most of the left and ALL of the woke!

Naval Ravikant once referred to the culture wars as white on white violence.

Fabulously well put.

> In my FAANG employer, the people who are always most offended, making denunciations of racism, sexism, -ism, etc. are highly educated whites.

This is what is called the availability bias. The vast majority of people in FAANG companies are white. Being white and (if you are at a FAANG this is mostly a given) rich provide them with the opportunity to explore and fight about some of the upper layers of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. People who are concerned about how they are going to pay rent next month do not have the luxury to push back against racism, sexism, or most other systemic problems that are beneath your notice.

Hmmm, maybe. There's a lot of Asian people at FAANGs too, certainly the more technical parts.

Given that I had a similar experience when I worked at a FAANG, I suspect that it has something to do with them hiring lots and lots of grads, who may have been exposed to these sorts of worldviews during college.

I'm not entirely disagreeing with the availability bias argument, but I don't think it's the entire reason for the OPs observation.

I don't know about doing yoga, but when you have some studios promoting "goat" yoga or "beer" yoga or heaven knows what the latest abomination is, maybe he does have a point on the second one.

I think this is the most important part of the text:

It was only when Jon teamed up with the technology writer Tobias Rose-Stockwell that we found what we believe is the thing that warped the fabric of social space-time. It was the introduction of the “like” button, by Facebook, in 2009, which Twitter promptly copied, combined with the introduction of the “retweet” button by Twitter that same year, which Facebook copied in 2011. Before 2009, social media feeds were almost entirely chronological—content was mostly personal (rather than political) and social media was not particularly polarizing. But once users had two super-fast ways to say what they liked, and could do so many times a minute, the social media companies had vastly more information on each user’s behavior, and they began to optimize people’s newsfeeds using algorithms that continuously improved the platform’s ability to engage users and keep them clicking.

Interestingly, the actually concerning part of this has nothing to do with the left, the right or polarisation.

> The early chapters of our book, The Coddling of the American Mind, are about a set of destructive and illiberal ideas that emerged on American college campuses in the years 2014-2016.

That is still the big issue here. It doesn't matter whether they are left or right wing, countries controlled by people who reject liberal values tend to go badly for the people who live there. The people coming out of these institutions are being put on the easy path to the levers of power.

Whether or not they hold left- or right- wing or even centrist views, this is worrying.

Free speech and democracy was on it's deathbed when free speech became less about the cultural phenomena of respecting ideas opposite to yours, and more about wether or not the FBI is going after you or not for your ideas.

That was a while ago, and since things have not been getting better, things keep polarizing. The only way to reverse it would be to once again invigorate the idea of radically free speech. But neither side wants that anymore.

Maybe it is for the better. Sometimes society needs to heat up in order to improve.

LOL, and of course a large chunk of the comments here are down-voted or flagged.

With the rise of wealth over the last couple decades, a lot of people have much more time to entertain themselves. News is (practically free) entertainment, and people drink it like sugar water.

Luckily, the large majority of them are "Armchair quarterbacks" just rooting for their team. Lots of noise, little action. It sure has made the internet a less-enjoyable place for those not into team sports.

Ah, another "enlightened centrist" article that effectively absolves the groups that proliferate extremists by stating it's a universal problem.

When one side denies objective reality and allows extremism into the topmost echelons of their organization and the other preaches moderation and respect for political norms, creating false equivalences puts you on the side of the extremists.

The only way to win the game is not to play.

Even then, you're not likely to win. As a centrist/apolitical, it's hard to "just grill" when the extremists on both sides consider compromise to be tantamount to violence, and will attack you for even suggesting such a thing.

Well as someone who I think most would consider a leftist (I oppose any restrictions on abortion. I oppose intellectual property and much more.), I've tried to offer people on the right of me alternative proposals which should be starting points to find compromise, as I never assume what I propose is the compromise but rather an avenue to one, and just have it thrown back at me. It's really one of those hard situations when you honestly reach out to someone across the table and their answer is: no we want it this way and nothing else.

> extremists on both sides consider compromise to be tantamount to violence

My strategy is to block them on social media, and avoid them in real life. It's worked for me so far. I've surrounded myself only with people who don't consume themselves with political battles, and my world has been peaceful.

"As a centrist/apolitical"

Let's not forget that the radical center is a thing.

Ah, wanting to maintain the US as a Constitutional Republic with Democracy is NOT a radical position! Destroying that absolutely is.

Using polling to identify polarization originally caused by polling. Clever? Or unintentional irony?

I stopped reading when the authors identified Facebook's "like" button as the culprit of accelerated polarization (during Obama's 2nd term).

Um, what?

While I regard Facebook and Twitter as pure unalterated evil, they cannot be held more responsible for today's toxic polarization than corporate media. To believe Haidt's thesis, you'd have to completely ignore the slope of decades of build up.

I've read Haidt's prior works with great interest. Alas, his works amount to nothing more than self satisfied just so stories, telling fellow concern trolls want they want to believe.

An actual historian's take on the how polling toppled political parties and begat polarization is Jill Lepore's book "If Then", which details the role of Simulatics. For more context, read Ezra Klein's "Why We Are Polarized"; how academics advocated and then reformers inacted polarization to increase accountability (to voters), how sorting and polarization inadvertently led to a "stacking" of our identities, creating "superidentities".

As for Facebook and Twitter, their unique crime is using ML -- finding the difference that makes the difference -- to weaponize disinformation and profiting from the resulting lies, hate, outrage, and death. Dorsey and Zuck implemented a totality of rot and destruction that Edward Bernay couldn't dare dream of.

PS: "Death" might be too strong. I'm not certain that Zuck directly profitted from genocide or teen suicide. Those might just be collateral damage vs intentional.

True, but I wonder if you might be missing the participatory aspect of Social Media. Everyone gets to have a voice and put in their 2 bits of nonsense.

Social Media also allows for the purposeful characterization something via slander, comedy, insult, quip etc. - basically, plebes trolling plebes, and that low form of communication tends to fire us up.

As bad as mainstream news has become, at leas they have to remain mostly civil, and when the TV is off, it's off.

Please say more.

> True, but I wonder if you might be missing the participatory aspect of Social Media.

My mental model for social media is feedback loops.

Much as I hated prior corporate media (a la Chomsky, Ad Busters, others), I acknowledge that the editorial filter squelched virality (runaway positive feedback loops). Of course, we humans have always had fads, trends, groupthink.

Social medias changed the filters (using Chomsky's term). Gone are the Advertiser and Publisher filters. Replaced with algorithms which boost engagement. To a degree prior medias couldn't even dream of.

Like Stalin said, quantity has its own quality.

What I still don't understand is how the social medias transmuted from connecting peers within my monkey sphere (family, friends, acquaintances, people with shared interests, and so on) to coordinating mass action and inciting mobs.

> ... purposeful characterization something via slander, comedy, insult, quip etc

I'm very interested in the repercussions of the Sandy Hook parent's defamation case against Alex Jones.

Rights comes with responsibilities. Meaning speech has consequences.

Perhaps if the courts allow individuals harmed by Freedom Speeches™, we won't need draconian hate speech laws and such.

That'd be progress.

> Perhaps if the courts allow individuals harmed by Freedom Speeches™

I'm not sure what the purpose of this bizarre language is. It reminds me a bit of "freeze peach". Is it just to signal to anyone who believes in freedom of speech or, or just takes it seriously as a concept even if he rejects it, that you're not interested in a good faith discussion? But then why write a comment on that issue at all?

What do you call selective defense of speech while denying same right to others, the responsibilities that come with rights, real world power inbalances?

I'm not sure what you mean. Are you saying that "Freedom Speeches™" is your attempt to refer to a "selective defense of speech while denying same right to others, the responsibilities that come with rights, real world power inbalances"? So your sentence evals to:

> Perhaps if the courts allow individuals harmed by "selective defense of speech while denying same right to others, the responsibilities that come with rights, real world power inbalances", we won't need draconian hate speech laws and such.

Of course that sentence doesn't make sense regardless of what you replace "Freedom Speeches™" with, so it's really moot what "Freedom Speeches™" is supposed to refer to.

Oops. Now realize I omitted key words. Its should read something like:

> Perhaps if the courts allow individuals harmed by Freedom Speeches™ to sue for damages , we won't need draconian hate speech laws and such.

Jill Lepore has me reevaluating my support for laws banning hate speech. While I support the end goal, stopping verbal assaults, I'm very open towards other legal solutions. Like perhaps the courts can broaden the scope of libel and defamation.

Again, not excited about that. Overly broad, and we end up with UK style censorship.

It's a tough problem. But I'm confident we can find a balance.

Chomsky's filters are relevant, but they are almost a baseline and since the 2000's there are much worse kinds of filters.

Fox, and especially in the 2010's and especially since Trump, MSNBC, CNN, the Atlantic - all of them have become a bit unhinged.

The bold postmodern claims being thrown around as 'news' is jaw dropping, and they're all guilty.

I can't watch the news about a single event without assuming I will be misinformed, usually in some sneaky way.

If all we had to deal with were Chomsky's filters we'd be mostly fine.

I am confident we'll be able to reel in Alex Jones, I'm not sure about just the regular, harmful, cynical stuff.

And FYI - net-net - because the press has such a bigger audience than Alex Jones, and they lie a lot, they are kind of as guilty.

I hope they settle down in the coming years as Trump fades a bit into history.

Western democracies over the last ~30 years have seen their traditional labor parties shift from class based differentiation to a more race/gender/educational/cultural diversity based differentiation.

Whether this was supply or demand driven as we have had a massive influx of highly educated high status workers moving back to coastal cities or not.. is unclear.

So now we have high income, highly educated, high cost of living area people driving the narrative of the traditional labor parties. In the US there is something of a coalition holding between the highly educated/income whites & African Americans in general. The Democrats had banked on a "demographics is destiny" as the country becomes more diverse. This bet has clearly not been paying off, as Latin American immigrants follow the path of Italian American immigrants - fast assimilation and self-identification as "white". This should have been predictable given that they are generally - more family oriented, religious and conservative than the average American. You can see this in the 2016 -> 2020 voter share in which Latin American voters actually net shifted towards Trump.

A good encapsulation of the current mood for me was during NYC mayor primaries. A (white female, very politically active) friend told my (non-white) wife that she was racist for voting for the (black male) candidate, because he was NOT going to defund the police. This was an otherwise serious mid-40s adult person. On prodding about recent crime stats showing increases in homicide, anti-asian hate crimes and shootings in the city, said (very politically active) friend admitted she "didn't read local news" and "wasn't aware".

And this is what you would consider an "intra party" squabble, as everyone in the conversation votes blue.. it was just a matter of the the intensity of the hue.


Vocalizing casual judgements and self-righteous moralizing seems to have become the norm. I guess we're relearning the hard way what previous generations knew: don't talk about religion or politics in polite company. Unfortunately, being tolerant of this typically means just tuning it out. So, we sit and suffer through our relatives arguing with each other over Thanksgiving dinner.

Yes, but also just the deep irony & lack of self awareness of part of that end of the fringe.

The white person casually judging non-white voter as racist for voting FOR the black guy? Wait until you see who the cities black voters voted for.. they must also be racist! I'm sorry I don't know better than them what they need, like you do..

Chris Arnade writes about this stuff a lot - front row & back row America. Sometimes front row liberal white America wants different things for "back row", especially non-white, America .. than they want for themselves..

Sometimes theres a weird horseshoe where extreme anti-racism & racism wrap around and meet each other.

Sometimes I think we're in the midst of a cultural version of the French Revolution. We're going to experience some wild extremes before it's done.

> The polarization spiral, which is fed and accelerated by social media

Social media is not the root cause. The problem is rather that "wokeness" (or whatever the appropriate term) is having effects in the real brick-and-mortar world, and people are getting employed or fired based on belief confessions.

For this to be possible, employment wouldn't need to be based on productivity or competence. It could be purely symbolic, like honorary medals. With too many bullshit jobs, America might be in this state.

I happened upon https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Austrian_Civil_War and it feels like it's foreshadowing our current situation.

> A first major incident ensued early in 1927, when members of Hermann Hiltl's Frontkämpfervereinigung ("Front Fighters Union" — a paramilitary association likewise affiliated with the conservative camp) shot and killed an eight-year-old boy and a war veteran marching with the Schutzbund in a peaceful counter-demonstration in Schattendorf (Burgenland).[citation needed] In July, three defendants in the case were acquitted, which led to outrage in the left-wing camp. On 15 July 1927, a general strike occurred, and demonstrations took place in the capital. After the storming of a police station, security forces started shooting at demonstrators. An angry group of people then set fire to the Palace of Justice (Justizpalast), seen as a symbol of a flawed and partial judicial system. Altogether, 89 people (85 of them demonstrators) lost their lives in this July revolt, and many hundreds suffered injury. Surprisingly, the violence soon died down and the factions took their battle from the streets back into the political institutions...

> On 4 March 1933, Christian Social Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuß suspended the Austrian Parliament. In a close vote (on railway workers' wages) in the National Council, each of the three presidents of parliament resigned their position in order to cast a ballot, leaving nobody to preside over the meeting. Even though the bylaws could have resolved this situation, Dollfuss used this opportunity to declare that parliament had ceased to function, and blocked all attempts to reconvene it, also threatening to use military force against the parliamentarians, should they try to reconvene. The Social Democratic Party had thus lost its major platform for political action. The conservatives, facing pressure and violence not only from the left but also from Nazis infiltrating from Germany, could now rule by decree on the basis of a 1917 emergency law, without checks on their power, and began to suspend civil liberties. They banned the Schutzbund and imprisoned many of its members...

In what way do you see this as foreshadowing?

(It's a lot of information, and I don't see many strong parallels -- but maybe I'm missing something)

First violent conflict between protestors fighting against injustices (in their view) and police institutions, followed by overthrowing democratic institutions and replacing with a single-party dictatorship (which hasn't happen so far in the US, but I've heard of democracy being eroded and people fearing that Republicans would overturn the ballot results in 2020).

By "our current situation" I supposed you mean the US.

If so, I fail to see where the parallels are.

Seems to me that someone who is deeply conservative and cares about Constitution, Rule of Law etc. would be very concerned that Trump on Jan. 5 tried to push his VP to throw an election and also concerned that the President of the US would lie so flagrantly in his attempts to stay in office.

Seems to me that people who actually cared about Social Justice would contemplate the complexity and nuance in all of this policing, that much of the issues are general/social issues not policing, that reducing policing is risky and has apparently caused a lot of harm to vulnerable communities, and that working class White people, who have been 'at the bottom' and basically serfs for their entire family history, should be objects of sympathy not hatred. And, that even if we respect power imbalances, bigotry can be had by 'all sides', and a lot of the rhetoric from supposed 'anti racists' seem quite bigoted.

I think that these warring tribes are not actually political in the classical sense, I think there is something else going on, and those are the camps/flags that they ended up under, and that classical political orientation actually doesn't really describe what is going on.

Liberals are not Liberals or even Left, they seem to have a kind of post-modern, intellectual, ideological kind of anger. Trumpers are neither Conservative nor conservative, more like angry loud nationalists.

I think both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney represent more or less traditional notions of Left/Right (roughly of course).

But Clintons/Obamas are at war with the far left (you can see this infighting between camps at NY Times), and the right is at war with itself vis-a-vis traditional Republicans and The Trumpers.

If you use the Wayback Machine to look at CNN from 2001 you'll notice that it seems downright tame. And since 2016, they've become even worse for editorializing. The entire press landscape has become tilted, I don't even trust PBS/NPR anymore, and I also think social media and the internet has really inflamed a lot of people.

Since Trump is gone and COVID is passing a little bit, I do wonder if things will settle down maybe a little bit.


The view that there are only two "sides" is part of the problem

I think the author is ultimately wrong.

* I'll leave a trigger warning *

Let's have a real conversation.

- Half of the US wants their country, traditions and values

- Half of the US doesn't want a country (no border), upended traditions and no values

There are two countries and will destroy each other.

One country believes the world is going to end from climate change; that COVID19 is 10-100x more deadly than it actually is; that men can transition to women; that abortion is not murder.. I can go on.

The other believes the climate is always changing, but humans can adapt over years; that COVID19 is only 5x-10x more deadly than it actually is; and that a man can be a eunuch and dress like a woman, but still is not a woman; that abortion is murder... again, I can go on.

The polarization isn't really mend-able.

Both sides believe in polar opposites. Only one side believes this is the land of the free where anything is possible. The other side wants believes it needs to impose it's will to "stop climate change", "stop the spread", "stop the hate".

Don't you see it!? The hypocrisy of it?

Only one side wants to take away peoples ability to work, to travel, to raise a family, to educate your children, even your bodily autonomy.

This polarization is driven by hate. Hatred of traditions and of a history.

> “With those three words—‘very fine people’—the president showed that he was sympathetic to the men who staged the most highly publicized march for racism and antisemitism in the United States in many decades.”

Yes, because there were "many 'very fine people' on both sides", the omitted words are important. "There's no excuse for what happened" indeed.

This stops when both sides can admit that last years riots which left at least 38 dead were not "mostly peaceful", but a deadly riot. Similarly, that "January 6" was not an "insurrection", but a deadly riot (as the FBI already stated).

Yes, there were and are 'very fine people' on both sides, but the extremes on both sides are violent. We as a free people should not oppress our neighbors and that collaboration is required for us to continue as a civilization ... if we can even agree we want a civilization any more.

But disagreement is not equivalent to polarization. Polarization means that the middle grounds are not inhabited and everyone takes shelter at the poles. They grow too far apart to even hear each other. Most people can still remember a time when this wasn't the case, in fact the most interesting thing about politics was listening to people arguing and trying to convince each other.

You are the kind of person the authors are talking about. You're getting way too much of your information from social media. You think the people who are not in your defined tribe take cartoonishly extreme positions and therefore they must be stopped at all costs.

Well, nowadays even a lot of the “conventional” news just repeats what was already reported in social media (usually in an even much worse state of condition), so I dunno if you’re going to escape this after quitting social media. (Also understand that you’re posting on HN which is another social media with its own bubble, and a lot of the takes people post here are either unimaginable or even heinous in various other parts of the Internet.)

The real issue is that, people began to understand that they have no reason to blindly receive pre-manufactured truth from above, so they began to manufacture their own instead. Your position of “these tribal people must be stopped at all costs” only accelerates this phenomenon, since that makes you more “part of the elite that wants to control the narrative”. The ultimate problem is not truth, it’s about trust: “why should we believe in those officials when they have ransacked our people?”

Millions of people are losing their ability to work. Can't be hired unless they have an irreversible medical procedure, can't be hired based on quotes for race, banned from social media, etc

Do you understand?

This is cartoonishly extreme and it is reality; I know multiple people living this experience today. Lost their job and can't get another one in the field of their expertise.

People are in their own bubbles and not listening to those outside of their class / social circles. IMO this is the impact of having half of the views being censored on social media.

So, I guess we agree in part.

>Can't be hired unless they have an irreversible medical procedure

How can something be extreme if it has been the status quo everywhere on the planet for 50 years? Something extreme is, by definition, unusual.

You can think compulsory vaccinations are wrong, but there were compulsory vaccinations ten years ago. It has always been difficult for antivaxxers to find work, particularly in healthcare or education.

> there were compulsory vaccinations ten years ago

That’s simply not true. People didn’t used to need to show papers to go inside McDonald’s in NYC.

Similarly, there are many many laws against discriminating based on medical status and they always had religious exemptions. Employers are ignoring that at the moment and there are hundreds to thousands of ongoing lawsuits atm.

And I know many people who were and are working in healthcare without vaccines. Some of whom have lost their ability to work only the past 6 months.

Anyway, it appears pretty unusual. There weren’t many of these issues 4-5 years ago. So clearly something extreme happened.

> there are many many laws against discriminating based on medical status

There are laws requiring discrimination based on vaccination status and have been for your entire life.

>religious exemptions

Please. There is a tiny, tiny minority of people who actually object to vaccinations on religious grounds. This is an excuse.

It frankly doesn’t matter if it’s an excuse no one has a say in a persons beliefs.

Theres also a lot more legal background than meets the eye. For instance, the sanctity of bodily autonomy falls under that umbrella. Meaning, you can object to literally anything going into your body for any reason, even if that’s just “I want the autonomy to do so — my body is my temple and I don’t want xxx inside as I want to be pure blood” literally what ever.

There’s a lot of legal precedent to that. Now that only means you need “reasonable accommodations” which could be testing, masks, w.e. Depending on what’s being challenged.

Historically, only ~1% objected to vaccines, but given the push a lot more people have done research and are concerned. I know many people who are now entirely anti-vaccine after reviewing data, others who are more bullish than ever. At the end of the day though...

We have never had a mandate barring people from exercise facilities, restaurants, etc based on vaccines. Even the historic attempts have had mixed results and the Supreme Court cases only covered minor fines ($5 in 1920 kinda deal).

This is far more extreme than a historic context. And for reference only schools have really mandated vaccines and they’re required by law to have exemptions, which courts have ruled can generally not be questioned all that thoroughly.

> It has always been difficult for antivaxxers to find work, particularly in healthcare or education.

This is incorrect.

In the U.S., there have never been any nationwide employment requirements for vaccination before the (currently blocked) Executive Order. During some pandemics, there were brief requirements at some local and municipal levels, but these were not nationwide or particularly widespread.

Mandatory vaccinations have existed for students, but not teachers, and certainly not healthcare workers. And certainly not workers in general.

Moreover the ease of getting exemptions meant that in some areas - like Marin County - more than 50% of students were not vaccinated against things like measles during the height of the anti-vaccine movement in the 2000-2015 period. However this was primarily limited to a few wealthy, coastal counties and was not a nationwide phenomena.

The fact of the matter is that there was never a big movement to not get vaccinations up until now either. Except for some hippie areas and perhaps some small religious groups like the Amish, vaccines were not a political thing or a contentious thing. Thus there was no point to even having big mandates.

But retconning this to just pretend that mandatory vaccines for employment were common in the past is incorrect. It's just not the case that the debate was already settled -- it was only settled for vaccines for school kids with a generous opt-out policy.

Not knowing what the parent wrote one question I'd have would be: At which point is it legitimate to hammer a political movement for things they have done?

As someone living in Germany, I know that the original Nazis deployed self-victimization as an strategy as well, claiming the other side has no legitimate interest to defend, but only critizises them because they dislike them. Then they set the Reichstag on fire, claimed it was the communists, declared an state of emergency and that was that.

I think we are too assuming that such a thing would be impossible in this day and age. It isn't.


The top comment in HN or the blog post? If HN, what you ask for already exists.

I think there is a "Show Dead" button. Also you can click on a message's timestamp and if you have sufficient karma, you can "Vouch" for a message, and then upvote it.

Someone could make a site similar to the one that retains deleted Reddit comments. But I agree it would be better to manage our own censorship anywhere online.

You are allowed to have an opinion, so long as its' "the correct" opinion. Otherwise you are censored, silenced, banned, etc... Oh, but why is there so much polarization?

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