Maybe Today I’ll Debate George Carlin

Ben Sears

Ben Sears is a writer and restaurant guy in Birmingham, Alabama. He lives quite happily across from a creek with his wife, two sons, and an obligatory dog. You can follow him on Twitter and read his blog, The Columbo Game.

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163 Responses

  1. Motoconomist
    Ignored
    says:

    Debate is good. But say, removing Covid-19 misinformation videos from YouTube that tell us that vaccines cause autism or that bleach cures Covid-19 is also good.

    Bullshit ISN’T always fine with adults if the adults are not equals (say leader follower) and that leader’s false statements get amplified. I’ve lost friends online and offline because they believed their leaders were right up until the moment they figured out they’d been lied to, but the ventilator was already a foregone conclusion.

    You and I ? We can debate and should. No need to censor. But say, Trump peddling medicine man cures? F that, that causes death.Report

  2. Chris
    Ignored
    says:

    Let’s add our scores together. 99 + 41 +10. I get 150. Divide that by the three test takers and you have me and the sitcom watcher on the down side of the average, which is embarrassing for those who think that an average is a 50/50 split, but they laugh smugly and send out Carlin memes none the less.

    I’d guess that the Carlin fan who scored an almost perfect 100% missed a question about the difference between mean and median. Happens. But the Carlin fan is still smug. That’s the problem.

    Perhaps Carlin knew something you don’t.Report

  3. Kristin Devine
    Ignored
    says:

    I really enjoyed this, thanks for sharing it!Report

  4. Kolohe
    Ignored
    says:

    “In our discourse we have abandoned the idea of epistemological humility. I enter every conversation of any importance with the assumption that I might be wrong. It’s why I listen to the person I’m discussing things with. I want to know reasons why I might be wrong.”

    There’s been a thirty-plus year right wing infotaninment industry that starts every conversation with the notion that they are the only truth, you don’t have to listen to anyone else – and in fact everyone else is some variety of terrorist and/or traitor. And have become the epitome of gaslighting regarding things like the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    But yeah, sure, ‘we’ abandoned epistemological humility.Report

    • Pinky in reply to Kolohe
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      says:

      “Gaslighting” is becoming my least favorite accusation. It implies that there’s no difference between disagreeing with someone and calling him insane, and it assumes bad faith behind the disagreement.

      Also, if there ever was a time to say BSDI, it’s now. You can’t act like politics was open and honest from the beginning until 1981, and ever since it’s been only one side misbehaving. That’s gaslighting, I tell ya, gaslighting!Report

  5. Rufus F.
    Ignored
    says:

    My bias here is I came up in the 80s and 90s believing that free speech is wonderful, the PMRC were terrible, and the censorious urge is destructive, but also one I simply can’t relate to. Not to mention, I was raised in a society founded on the ideal of free speech and am, to be clear, a child of the Enlightenment. I’m still with Mill.

    But, I’m also aware there are some huge blindspots there, and it behooves me to address them. The John Stuart Mill ideal is something like a free market in ideas where the best ones will naturally and inevitably win out. And, over the generations, that might be true. But it’s messy. My feeling is that living in a pluralist democracy means living with a certain amount of mess and ambiguity and even instability. So, I accept that it might take generations to get to something like truth.

    But, okay, if we’re living in the Weimar Republic and the debate is over whether or not the Jews caused us to lose the war to make money, and I’m a Jew- I might feel differently about that.

    If we’re on the Titanic and you want to have a lively debate about whether or not the boat is sinking and should we rescue people if it is, and maybe we can’t do anything and should accept our fate- well, I might not want to sit down for that debate at the moment.

    But, really, the underlying problem is something Hume already saw- we’re not exactly paragons of rationalty and most of our big decsions are NOT made through reason. The Enlightenment ideal in which we have a dispassionate debate and come to the truth analytically almost never happens.

    It happens in scientific debate, but as we all know, human behavior and thus politics cannot be understood through any scientific laws, and can’t be transposed into “science” without bad outcomes resulting. Sometimes very bad ones.

    But you see it with your own example- the outcome of pumping CO2 into the atmosphere is a scientific debate, which you then counter with a debate about the intelligence of politicians and the shittiness of cars that can’t be settled scientifically.

    So, what we end up with in democracies are endless debate about questions that are probably unsolvable, and values that are ultimately irreconciliable. Which is fine when it comes to “Why is there something rather than nothing?” and not so much when the ship is sinking or, ya know, the democracy is close to being overthrown.

    And, besides, with climate change, the goal was never to come to the truth through dispassionate debate. Maybe for climate scientists. But, you must know that for everyone else, the point was always to keep arguing forever and ever. And then, the real issue is I might have rock solid arguments, but I simply don’t have the advertising power of the oil industry, so it becomes like arguing that Coke tastes like battery acid and expecting people to stop drinking it.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Rufus F.
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      says:

      I share this bias but…

      But, okay, if we’re living in the Weimar Republic and the debate is over whether or not the Jews caused us to lose the war to make money, and I’m a Jew- I might feel differently about that.

      If I were a Jew, I’m sure that I very much would want these arguments to be forbidden.

      At the same time I am pretty sure that any attempt to establish some sort of “we should set up a group of people whose job it is to shut down dangerous conversations” would result in a group of people who would get me to say something like “WAIT NOT LIKE THAT”.Report

      • Rufus F. in reply to Jaybird
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        says:

        Jay, the strongest argument for free speech that I can come up with is essentially the one you make here.

        What I would say is you come up with the most repellent idea you can imagine: all our problems are caused by Jews and bicyles, say, or even something like children benefit from sexual contact with adults. Something the vast majority of us can agree are repellent.

        Then the practical matter is how do we actually forbid anyone from expressing these ideas, so they don’t infect others. Oh, and remain a democratic pluralist society. I mean, it’s doable under totalitarianism. But, unfortunately, democracy seems to forbid forbidding.

        However, the Weimar example suggests that, well, people gotta be able to eat first. There would seem to be an extra impetus for those of us who like democracy to make sure some baseline quality of life is there to ensure social stabiity. Because, when people are starving and the currency is worthless, it’s a lot harder to convince them to remain rational.Report

    • Chip Daniels in reply to Rufus F.
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      says:

      Fred Clark over at Slactivist has a good series about conspiracy thinking where he demonstrates how people start with a belief (e.g. the Powers That Be are evil) then reverse engineer themselves into a theory that supports it (there are underground pedophile lairs!).

      The process doesn’t follow any logical path. It searches out sources that align and casts out those that don’t.

      Like the comment in this essay about climate scientists being Chicken Littles.

      The author tells us that he has no special knowledge or expertise in the subject, but has become convinced that 97% of the world’s climate scientists are wrong.

      How does a layperson arrive at this conclusion?
      It can’t possibly be through reason and logic.

      It can’t possibly be through an independent examination of the facts since, as stated, he has no way of understanding it.

      So somewhere there is a source of information that he trusts. And that trust is based on some shared worldview.Report

      • Pinky in reply to Chip Daniels
        Ignored
        says:

        It could be his belief that the statement “97% of all climate scientists agree” is wrong.

        But I’ll grant you that we get our facts from the sources we trust, and part of our trust comes from our worldview.

        It’s hard enough when differing worldviews lead to trusting different sources, which then lead to confidence in certain facts. I think we’re in a worse position than that right now, where there are worldviews that are defined by the statement “X group is lying about the facts”.Report

      • Rufus F. in reply to Chip Daniels
        Ignored
        says:

        The thing that’s hard to swallow, Chip, is that we all do this to some extent. Evem just at the level of gut response, I’m going to react differently to a headline asserting something I already think is true than I am to one reading something I already think is bullshit, even before I read the article. Nevertheless, I will read the article. But I’m going to be less critical in reading the article whose headline is “People Who Write are Scientifically Proven to be Sexier.”

        Now, I’m aware of this and try to mitigate it as best I can. But, when my MAGA mother told me that Obama was running gulags where conservative bloggers are imprisoned, or that New York State now mandates that a cetain number of pregnant women per year submit to forced abortions… I did not do my research to find out if it was true.

        And, the other thing is these debates can be time-sensitive. I quickly accepted the existence of COVID-19 even before I had it.Report

    • Chris in reply to Rufus F.
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      says:

      And, besides, with climate change, the goal was never to come to the truth through dispassionate debate.

      Right, this is the most important point.

      There’s a weird disconnect between the, let’s say libertarian right and its belief that good ideas should win out in the end, and therefore we should never stop the hearing of bad, even dangerous ideas, and the libertarian right’s obsession with propaganda in the Soviet Union. The latter suggests that they understand that ideas are not always meant to “compete” on the plane of reason, but nevertheless, they persist.Report

      • Rufus F. in reply to Chris
        Ignored
        says:

        This is a good comment, especially because I really have to think about it. I’m not on the “libertarian right”, but that’s simply because I’m not an economic liberal, which excludes me pretty quickly.

        But, in terms of culture, I do share the general liberal belief that good ideas should win in the end and that means sorting through some bad ideas to get there.

        On the other hand, there are ideas that have had their day in court and simply aren’t worth arguing anymore. “Scientific racistm” isn’t offering a novel idea and it doesn’t want to win out in the end, so much as to keep the debate going forever.

        Cable news has time to keep arguing forever, but I don’t.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Chris
        Ignored
        says:

        I suspect that many members of the libertarian right obsessed about the Soviet Union because they either didn’t fully trust their economic arguments about free markets and capitalism or they believed in their economic arguments but didn’t believe they could argue effectively with the ideological arguments made by the USSR and other major Communist countries.

        Part of this problem was that Communism just seem more high-minded and therefore more attractive intellectual to the leaders of the emerging new countries in the post-World War II era while American’s market created pop culture made the arguments for liberal democratic capitalism seem rather superficial. From reading, many. people outside the United States had a tendency to see Americans as a fundamentally unserious people regardless of whether they were right or left. The Soviets and other Communist powers came across as a fundamentally serious people and therefore more attractive from an intellectual perspective.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to LeeEsq
          Ignored
          says:

          The Soviet Union wasn’t that bad, after they got rid of Lenin and Stalin and Malenkov and Khrushchev and Brezhnev and Andropov.

          Chernenko had the country heading in the right direction, finally!Report

          • LeeEsq in reply to Jaybird
            Ignored
            says:

            That isn’t what I meant. I was referring to Soviet arguments would be more attractive to intellectuals and people from the. new countries in the post-World War II world than arguments about free markets and capitalism. If you were a high-minded person looking to fashion a future for your newly freed country, Soviet propaganda about how everybody works to further humanity and our youth are serious people who do serious things rather than American kids spending their time at the malt shop dancing to rock is a lot more appealing.Report

  6. Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    There’s a particular trick that I see from time to time. I’ll use abortion as an example. Why not.

    “If you don’t have a uterus, you don’t get to have an opinion on abortion.”

    I’m sure you’ve seen this sentiment expressed. What’s weird is that I only see the argument used against folks who say stuff like “I have reservations about the moral status of abortion”.

    When someone without a uterus says something like “Abortion is a human right!”, they do *NOT* get told that they don’t get to have an opinion on it.

    When someone with a uterus says something like “I have reservations about the moral status of abortion” or whatever, the counter-arguments start to show up that get closer to talking about stuff like having reservations about the moral status of abortion (“false consciousness” is a favorite).

    But the “you must be this tall to have an opinion” trick is only used against people who do not share the censor’s opinion.

    People who agree don’t get the measuring stick used against them.Report

  7. Pinky
    Ignored
    says:

    One thing that exacerbates the problem is that our social media encourage us to have a position on every topic. Even if you’re disciplined and stay out of a debate you don’t know anything about, a hundred others will be in the fray. I know nothing about Taiwan. I suspect I’m going to have to change that pretty soon, but until then I’m not diving into any debates. I’ve spent more time in my life studying Diablo 2, and I’m barely holding my own in that conversation on another thread.

    You mention Jonah Goldberg and the high priests. Even if the high priests of, say, immunology are always right about diseases, they don’t necessarily know anything more about trade policy than the rest of us. And that’s without considering that they may be wrong about diseases, or be bad at communicating with laymen about them.

    Take a step back from the immediate conflict (the people belittlingly arguing), and you’ll see that the disagreement is usually caused by different sources of information. At the risk of repeating myself, the big challenge of our time isn’t access to information, it’s filtering information. I’ll grant you right off the bat that that won’t necessarily be true if there’s a social media clampdown, but for the time being it is. I’d even speculate that a social media clampdown on an idea will increase its credibility in certain circles.

    But if the social media aren’t to be trusted as our filters – and they sure haven’t earned that trust yet – then who is? I don’t think there’s a good answer to that, but I think the best we can do will involve (a) constant assessment of news outlets, and (b) a real conversation about values, because they often underlie our assessments.Report

  8. Greginak
    Ignored
    says:

    Just note the irony of claiming YT ended debate on anything and especially in a blog post where we can debate any damn thing. Debates aren’t over in any way. Everything people say we can’t talk about people do talk about all the time.

    What actually destroys debate is bad faith arguing and just throwing back meme level arguments. That is pointless and we’ve probably all become hyper sensitive to it.Report

  9. Chris
    Ignored
    says:

    In seriousness, I want to relate a story that at first seems like a success story, but is in fact an indication of just how little “reasoned debate” has to do with anything, and why misinformation is dangerous regardless of how good the counterarguments are.

    The story starts with me doing what I do best, or worst, depending on whom you ask (basically me, or anyone other than me, respectively). In this case, on Nextdoor (oof) in a discussion about a local ballot measure. I oppose the ballot measure, and the far right groups supporting it have been spreading misinformation, really outright lies, far and wide in support of it. One of the lies they’ve told is that the proposition only restores the police budget to 2019 levels,. In response to this, opponents of the proposition have pointed out that the police budget was restored to its 2019 levels, plus some, in the 2022 budget passed a few months ago, and in effect now, so the ballot proposition can’t be about that. In response to this fact, the far right groups supporting the proposition have spread the lie that the proposed 2022 budget did restore the 2019 levels, but that budget wasn’t approved, so the proposition is still needed.

    So last night, I’m having this specific discussion about the proposition with a conservative on Nextdoor, and I’ve posted link after link, including the actual city budget and the highlights (which mention the restoration of the funds), but to no avail. Finally, I post a tweet by the city councilmember in the pocket of those far right groups noting just yesterday that the 2022 budget does, in fact, restore the police budget to 2019 levels plus a modest bump. My interlocutor sees this tweet, realizes he was wrong, and says there’s no reason to pass the proposition.

    On the surface, this looks like a good example of what you’re arguing: the person was convinced by the facts, and in fact, the far right groups’ lies came back to haunt them, because by saying that the proposition is meant to restore the police budget to 2019 levels, city council doing so (before the proposition was even officially on the ballot) undermines their case for the proposition.

    However, if you look a little deeper, you’ll see how disturbing it is:

    (1) This is one dude. Unless we, the opposition, can spread our facts as far and wide as the far right group has spread its lies, and it has spread them quite far and wide, then we’re fighting a losing battle.

    (2) The facts themselves didn’t actually convince him. Before I posted the tweet from the far-right councilmember, I had posted several news articles and the city’s own budget page, showing that he was wrong. It took someone he trusts saying exactly what I had been saying (and with no links, just saying it) for him to change his mind. He wasn’t convinced by reason and a better argument; he was convinced by the authority he bestows upon the messenger.

    We are fortunate, in this case, that the novice councilmember is not, yet at least, particularly politically savvy, and also that she’s fallen out with some of the far right leadership in the city, and is therefore not coordinating her message well enough with them. A more savvy politician in her place would not have tweeted that, in which case, no amount of better argument would have convinced this particular person.

    Interestingly, the new police chief in Austin would likely have been such an authority to many of those who have been convinced to support the proposition, but he opposes the proposition, and has consistently undermined the far right groups’ arguments for it with facts, so the far right groups have gone on a campaign of impugning the chief himself, going so far as to attempt to create internal division within the police department so that it will look like the chief is out of line with the rank and file cops. The upshot is, the chief is no longer an authority who can counter misinformation; no matter how strong his arguments, they are tainted by the idea of him being in the pocket of the (leftist, they argue) city council and mayor (an amusing idea, given that the council didn’t want the city manager to appoint him, and voted to confirm him only begrudgingly).Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Chris
      Ignored
      says:

      Is misinformation dangerous?

      Absolutely.

      It’s the “THEREFORE” that makes me want to point out that it’s the Dolores Umbridges that are in charge of the policies after the therefore. It’s not that I think that misinformation is hunky dory. It’s that I don’t want to give Dolores Umbridge more power.Report

      • Chris in reply to Jaybird
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        says:

        I’m personally of the opinion that there are certain ideas — Rufus mentions “scientific racism” above, which is a good example — that should be excluded from polite society, not by government censorship, but through shouting them down and into oblivion.

        So, for example, if Tucker Carlson is invited by a university to speak on his replacement theory views, I have absolutely no problem with his talk being so disrupted that he eventually gives up and leaves (and if pie ends up in his face in the process, assuming he is not physically harmed, I’m not going to fault the student(s) who threw it).Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Chris
          Ignored
          says:

          The problem with Polite Society is that it relies on Impolite Society as the Help.Report

          • Chris in reply to Jaybird
            Ignored
            says:

            Polite Society is obviously a misnomer, but it is clear that is meant by it. Racism isn’t an idea that can be defeated with reason, or it would have been eradicated long ago; nor is it something that merely offends, but I’m fact causes material harm.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Chris
              Ignored
              says:

              I look forward to seeing how Anti-racism does its job over the next few years.

              So far, it seems like a way for white chicks to crab bucket, but maybe that’s just because I’m not seeing all of the material help it’s providing.Report

              • Chris in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                If you don’t like anti-racism, think instead of homophobia. Gay marriage was legalized less than a decade ago, before which extreme anti-gay messages were not only accepted, not common in our society. Now they’re relegated to the cultural hinterlands. This is the process I’m talking about.

                And it’s worth noting that up until it was pretty much completely banished, or was common for people who would swear up and down that they support the general cause of gay rights to make precisely the argument you are making about anti-racism: it was an overreaction, and the media/politicians/etc were being cowed by the radical gay agenda.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Chris
                Ignored
                says:

                Well, when I supported gay marriage, it was because I wanted legal protections for same-sex life partnerships and wanted them to have the same umbrella for what I called “manila folder stuff” that I enjoy.

                When it comes to anti-racism, I’m not quite certain that it’s fighting for something as tangible as SSM proponents were.

                Remember the whole “kneeling” debate they had for the NFL and the National Anthem? Remember how that debate pushed the whole concussion thing off the front page?

                Anyway, I see anti-racism as a way to push stuff off the front page rather than something that has a similar material goal to marriage equality.

                But maybe that’s just because I’m not seeing all of the material help it’s providing.Report

              • Chris in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                I refuse to believe you don’t know that the kneeling was for, and if you know that, you probably know that anti-racism is about. It’s pretty similar to the gay rights movement in many ways, as that wasn’t focused on marriage exclusively either (and is still fighting rear guard actions with the retreating religious bigots in some states, who try to sneak in restrictions on things like adoption, or to exclude homosexuality from the list of protected classes in the workplace).Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Chris
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                says:

                I know what the kneeling was for. Protesting police violence. (Non-violently, at that!)

                And the NFL thanked the good heavens above that they didn’t have to talk about concussions. It became a debate over patriotism, of all things.

                Do you respect the anthem or do you think the athletes should be able to protest during it? Let’s argue about the military advertising during the show! Let’s ask Ruth Bader Ginsburg what she thinks!

                Let’s just not talk about concussions anymore.

                “It’s pretty similar to the gay rights movement in many ways”

                When I argued for gay marriage a while back, I didn’t argue that gay marriage was like interracial marriage.

                I merely argued that those opposed to the former used the same arguments as those opposed to the latter.

                As for the whole protesting police violence thing, I’m sure you know my feelings on stuff like asset forfeiture, ending qualified immunity, and getting rid of police unions.

                Which, you know, strikes me as being a lot more concrete (like “legalize gay marriage”!) than some esoteric “it’s not enough to not be racist, you have to be *ANTI*racist” messaging.

                But maybe that’s just because I’m not seeing all of the material help it’s providing.Report

              • InMD in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                You’re still missing the point, which is to create jobs for people with useless degrees in useless subjects. Think of it as the fight for 15 but for those that chose poorly at elite universities.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to InMD
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                says:

                Holy cow, then by my mocking it, I’m actively harming the people who chose poorly at elite universities!

                No wonder there’s a very particular type of hostility in response to this sort of thing.Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to Chris
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          says:

          The problem is that the list of “certain ideas” gets longer, and the inclusions upon the list less arguably dangerous / offensive.

          How long before a public lecture opposing a minimum wage hike is verboten because people have decided that opposing a minimum wage is racist/classist/elitist/what have you?

          So yeah, I agree with you that certain ideas should get shouted down, but there does not appear to be a rational “Keeper of the List of Dangerous Ideas”.Report

          • Chris in reply to Oscar Gordon
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            says:

            To me, this is where society’s values come into play. Ultimately, if a society values workers and equality, opposing a living wage might become socially verboten. You see pattern clearly in how quickly casual homophobia became completely unacceptable, for example: once society opposed discrimination based on sexual discrimination, it quickly changed what was acceptable.

            I don’t think this is a bad thing, though I do think there can be growing pains. What’s worse, though? People being openly discriminated against because of their race or religion or gender or sexual orientation, or people still working out exactly how to keep such discrimination out of the public discourse?Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird
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        says:

        Is misinformation dangerous?

        Anti-vaxxers are literally killing people. This isn’t why the GOP is pandering to them, but it doesn’t appear to be a hindrance either.Report

    • Pinky in reply to Chris
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      says:

      Don’t call people “far right” if your goal is to persuade them.Report

      • Chris in reply to Pinky
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        says:

        They are far right, but i did not call them that on Nextdoor, though noting that they are far right is a good way of pointing out that they have an ideological agenda to people who are not ideologically aligned with them.Report

        • Pinky in reply to Chris
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          says:

          I guess I’m not following how to talk to people given the type of persuasion you hope do use on them. There is room for different approaches, but generally you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.Report

          • Chris in reply to Pinky
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            says:

            In this context, I’m working as a volunteer for an electoral campaign, so my main goal is not to convince my interlocutor specifically, but to make sure I do as much as I can to counter misinformation and provide the facts. I don’t get to really express my opinions, and I have to be pretty cordial, even with people who absolutely disgust me, and a lot of them do.

            That said, one of the points I make, in some cases at least, is that the group behind this ballot initiative is a far right group that has stood at podiums with the Proud Boys and other hate groups, and that they are literally on tape lying to get people to sign the petition for this measure. And I don’t care if that upsets the other far right people reading the threads; I’m not gonna convince them of anything no matter what I do.Report

            • Pinky in reply to Chris
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              says:

              If you’ve mastered the techniques of giving information on an issue in a neutral voice and arguing for your side in a more general forum, that’s great. I have to question whether you have mastered it though. You’ve used the phrase “far right” a dozen times on this thread. Is it really something you can turn off? Remember that the term is likely going to be perceived as an insult if directed toward a listener, or toward anyone the listener isn’t 100% convinced is immoral.Report

              • Chris in reply to Pinky
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                says:

                Yes, of course it’s something I can turn off, though as I mentioned above, there are contexts in which I use it even in this campaign, specifically as part of my attempt to make it clear that the people behind this proposition, and most of the vast amount of misinformation being peddled about it, have an extreme agenda that many of the people who are still trying to decide do not share. The goal is not to convince anyone who’d be offended by the label “far right,” because I’ve written them off (in the vast majority of cases, accurately) as inconvincible.

                I admit I don’t enjoy shutting off my own voice, and that’s just one of many reasons I don’t like participating in electoral campaigns, but I recognize this one is important enough for me to do things I really dislike.Report

              • Pinky in reply to Chris
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                says:

                Depending on the details of the budget bill, I could be reachable, but based on our discussion on this thread I’d assume that you were lying. I’d look at the hard data though.Report

              • Chris in reply to Pinky
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                says:

                If you’d assume I was lying, then you’ve made my point for me.Report

              • Pinky in reply to Chris
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                says:

                Your point was that some people are unreachable. My point is nearly everyone is unreachable when you treat them with contempt. I guess my earlier statement could be seen as proof of both.Report

              • Chris in reply to Pinky
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                says:

                My point is that anyone who thinks I’m treating them with contempt by referring to this particular group as “far right” — a group that, to be clear, has consistently aligned themselves with groups that even you would probably admit are far right (e.g., Proud Boys), and has promoted an extreme authoritarian agenda for a few years now, so “far right” is not an unreasonable description — is unreachable. And you’ve proved that point, which I appreciate greatly.Report

              • Chris in reply to Chris
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                says:

                In contrast, this is a blog post, with all of the stakes of, you know, a blog post, and a commentariat primarily comprised of people who’ve been having the same arguments with the same people for more than a decade, so while I do moderate my tone a bit, because I am friendly with several people here, I don’t harbor any illusions about convincing people.

                By the way, “far right” barely scratches the contempt I have for them. This is my second electoral fight against these absolutely horrible people. In the first, they doxed me on Twitter (posted my name, my partner’s name, my infant daughter’s name, my address, my place of work, my partner’s place of work, hell, they even posted our Amazon baby shower wish list), threatened my then 3-month old child, and went after my partner’s job. “Far right” is absolutely the nicest name I can come up with for them when I’m not doing everything I can to convince the undecided.Report

              • Philip H in reply to Pinky
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                says:

                You’ve used the phrase “far right” a dozen times on this thread. Is it really something you can turn off? Remember that the term is likely going to be perceived as an insult if directed toward a listener, or toward anyone the listener isn’t 100% convinced is immoral.

                So what’s the alternative language you propose?Report

              • Pinky in reply to Philip H
                Ignored
                says:

                I said before that you shouldn’t enter a debate until both sides can state the other side’s position to the other side’s satisfaction. What I’m saying here is just a common-sense variant.

                On this site, I use terms like left, liberal, left-wing, or Democratic largely interchangeably, all to refer to the maybe 40% of the US population that would find itself on that side of the political continuum regularly. I know that bothers some people who emphasize the difference between the left and liberals, and I haven’t really worked that out. I try not to use any term the listener would be offended by.

                As I recall, you’ve identified yourself as a socialist, and while that craters your credibility in my eyes, I don’t think I’ve ever referred to you as one. It may not be something you’d mind, but it would look bad to anyone who’s just observing the conversation, as if I’m being aggressive and throwing everyone on left side into an ugly category.

                I don’t know if Chris realizes he’s doing the same thing by complaining about the far right. The number of people who actually deserve to be labelled far right is tiny; the idea that Chris is dealing with enough of them to use the term casually is extremely improbable. I have to assume that either he doesn’t understand the taxonomy or he doesn’t mind slandering people. Either way, I may well look into a fact that he presents, but he’s given me very little reason to believe that, on the matter of politics, he’s an intelligent person with good will.Report

              • Chris in reply to Pinky
                Ignored
                says:

                the idea that Chris is dealing with enough of them to use the term casually is extremely improbable.

                First, you’re grossly mistaken about how many of them there are.

                Second, the group I keep referring to is far right. They’re explicitly so (as I mentioned before, hanging out with Proud Boys is not uncommon for them). If you don’t like the label, I can go with ones I actually prefer: authoritarian right, proto-fascist, or racist motherfishers, all of which are accurate in this case.

                I find it rich, honestly, that you can’t distinguish between leftists and liberals, but you are upset that I’m distinguishing between, let’s say the business right, or the center right, or even some versions of the religious right, and the far right, because I actually know what I’m talking about, and am in the trenches, and you admittedly don’t know what you’re talking about, and are just in blog posts.Report

              • Pinky in reply to Chris
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                says:

                I can’t prove that your statements are false, but at a minimum I can tell you that anyone with a rightward or middleward bent would hear this and treat everything else you said as nonsense. (Note that the topic here is the about the nature of the debate, not any particular point that we debate.)Report

              • Chris in reply to Pinky
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                says:

                I can’t say as I care how people with a rightward or even middleward bent see me, outside of the context of an electoral campaign. Hell, when they know my politics, not a few of them will condemn me, and I kind of relish that.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Chris
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                says:

                Person is in Position P.

                This Position P is not a particularly interesting position at Time T.

                Move the overton window enough? Time T+N makes Position P “the far right”.

                If you have the game set up so that the lefter you are, the moraler you are, then you can make someone else immoral without them doing a goddamn thing.

                It’s a sweet trick!Report

              • Chris in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                First, my politics are built on strong ethical commitments, so yeah, I think the closer people are to me politically, the better their values. That doesn’t necessarily make them better people, but in my experience, it’s pretty highly correlated.

                Second, while I definitely want to move the discourse left, I harbor no illusions about doing so by directly moving the right to the center. So yeah, for the most part, as political subjects, the right exists only as bad actors to be either ignored or decried, depending on the context.

                As I’ve mentioned in the (now distant, I suppose) past here, I have spent a lot of time talking to libertarians (hell, that’s how I ended up here long ago), because, as I often put it, they read books, but I think the category of right libertarian has begun to collapse, ironically (though predictably) into the authoritarian right or the liberal left, with only a very few principled libertarians left (I count, as one example, Oscar here as among those very few).Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Chris
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                says:

                Oh, good. I dislike talking to people whose politics are built on the whole tribalism/people-like-me thing.

                either ignored or decried

                Unfortunately, the medium is the message and the game is iterated.

                I think the category of right libertarian has begun to collapse, ironically (though predictably) into the authoritarian right or the liberal left, with only a very few principled libertarians left (I count, as one example, Oscar here as among those very few).

                I agree with this. But I think that this is because of two things:

                The overton window moving (as discussed above… some of them didn’t even move!).
                The game being iterated and changes to optimal playstyles emerging.Report

              • Chris in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                I agree that some of them were authoritarians all along. That’s the predictable part. What was in the Crooked Timber dude in Australia (Quigglin?) called libertarianism years ago? The new feudalism?

                As you well know, from my time here in the past, and my current Twitter presence, I made friends with old OTers who are still relatively conservative (Will, Vikram, hell, I even interact not infrequently with Andrew, who wasn’t really here when I was), though we rarely talk politics, and I don’t think any of the many old OTers with whom I still interact a great deal on Twitter share my politics or really come close to doing so (maybe one, but he and I probably disagree in political discussions the most among the OTers), so I think it’s fair to say I’m not tribal in my associations. However, when it comes to whom I think can be swayed, I have pretty strong opinions, and very few illusions.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Chris
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                says:

                Most everybody (under a certain age, anyway) is swayable.

                Some people need to be shown evidence to the contrary.
                Some people need to be shown the current fashion and how it’s different from the local fashion.
                Some people need to be shown what happened the last time that their stated preferences were installed and the attendant unintended consequence.

                You just gotta figure out their meta-ethic.Report

              • Pinky in reply to Chris
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                says:

                “I find it rich, honestly, that you can’t distinguish between leftists and liberals…”

                I never said that. I didn’t use the word “leftist” at all. I’d have no problem if you used the terms “the right” and “conservative” as synonyms. I understand that some people on your side of the aisle have problems with me interchanging the terms “the left” and “liberal”, but I haven’t figured out the best way to handle it.Report

              • Chris in reply to Pinky
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                says:

                Pretty easy: are they liberals? Then they’re liberals. Are they anti-capitalists? Then they’re leftists,monarchists, or tradcaths.Report

              • Pinky in reply to Chris
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                says:

                That sounds good in theory, but most of us don’t carry around banners. On a continuum of 0 (left side) to 10 (right side), a person might be a 3 generally, a 2 on some issues, a 7 on guns, and find himself arguing on the same side as another person who calls himself a leftist. There might not be a best label for him; if there is, he might not know it; even if he does, I would have no way of figuring it out based on a current thread. I’ll use broad categories – ideally, identifying the stance rather than the person, although if I happen to remember a person consistently taking positions that fall within one of the two broadest categories, I’ll start using the term for him until he challenges it.Report

              • Chris in reply to Pinky
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                says:

                Sorry, I was being cheeky, which I hoped the “monarchists or tradcaths” part would make clear.

                Where the left begins and liberalism ends is a difficult thing to say, particularly since what “liberal” means changes depending on where you are on the “spectrum” (more like a multi-dimensional space), “liberal” means something different (e.g., when talking about leftists, leftists talk of “liberalism” in the context of anarchism, but when talking about the American political discourse, leftists talk about “liberal” as, broadly, the politics of the Democratic Party, which would be mostly welfare state capitalism). The two uses are connected, but without an awareness of the last 200 years of political discourse, it can be difficult to understand how.

                To make things even more confusing, for many Americans at least, on the left, anarchists both refer to themselves and are often referred to as libertarians (or libertarian socialists).Report

              • Pinky in reply to Chris
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                says:

                By all means, when you’re in a discussion with someone who disagrees with you about nearly everything, and we’re trying to form a shared taxonomy, that’s a great time to be flippant with words.Report

              • Chris in reply to Pinky
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                says:

                See several points in the comments to this post about how much I really care about what goes on in blog comments. Being flippant is a pretty normal response to that level of care.Report

              • Philip H in reply to Pinky
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                says:

                As I recall, you’ve identified yourself as a socialist, and while that craters your credibility in my eyes, I don’t think I’ve ever referred to you as one. It may not be something you’d mind, but it would look bad to anyone who’s just observing the conversation, as if I’m being aggressive and throwing everyone on left side into an ugly category.

                As often is the case, I’m stunned by your blindspots. I don’t know many on the left who would be offended by being called what we are. I’m quite proudly a leftist/socialist, and refusing to use that label when we are interacting – after all this time – is as much of an insult as deadnaming is. The thing that makes you look aggressive is saying things like my leftist/socialist self identification craters my credibility with you . . .

                And you still have not directly answered a directly asked question – if Far right is received by listeners on the conservative side of the aisle as an insult, what other term would you recommend for labeling people whose politics are, in fact, far right?Report

              • CJColucci in reply to Philip H
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                says:

                But that would involve actually talking about stuff instead of talking about talking about stuff.Report

              • Pinky in reply to Philip H
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                says:

                ” I don’t know many on the left who would be offended by being called what we are.”

                Wasn’t Chris? When I made a comment about the terms I use interchangeably, such as left and liberal, he responded by saying he couldn’t believe that I didn’t know the difference between leftist and liberal. I’ll grant you, he misread my comment and thought I was talking about leftists, but he did voice anger at the idea of the terms “leftist” and “liberal” overlapping.

                “I’m quite proudly a leftist/socialist, and refusing to use that label when we are interacting – after all this time – is as much of an insult as deadnaming is”

                I thought I remembered you calling yourself a socialist, but since to me the word is closer to a slur than a label, I wasn’t going to press it. I recall that you’re sensitive about words.

                And you still have not directly answered a directly asked question – if Far right is received by listeners on the conservative side of the aisle as an insult, what other term would you recommend for labeling people whose politics are, in fact, far right?

                I should have been clearer. When I said the following: “On this site, I use terms like left, liberal, left-wing, or Democratic largely interchangeably, all to refer to the maybe 40% of the US population that would find itself on that side of the political continuum regularly.” I was implying the complement as well, that terms like right, conservative, right-wing, and Republican are largely usable to describe the 40% or so of the US population regularly on the other side.Report

              • Philip H in reply to Pinky
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                says:

                When I made a comment about the terms I use interchangeably, such as left and liberal, he responded by saying he couldn’t believe that I didn’t know the difference between leftist and liberal.

                He’s not offended best I can tell. He’s credulous that you insist the left parse things to avoid offense but that you on the right don’t have to.

                that terms like right, conservative, right-wing, and Republican are largely usable to describe the 40% or so of the US population regularly on the other side.

                Thanks. I like direct answers. What would you have us call that part of the population that does support far right candidates and policies?

                And to be clear I’m not sensitive about words – as in the labels you direct at me don’t cause me emotional offense. I am regularly distressed that words are not used for their meanings – or that people want to call something one thing when the definition of that word doesn’t match the labeling they are using. I am a verbal literalist, which is probably why Jay and I get on so poorly – I don’t do well intellectually at ” what X really meant was.” That’s not, however, and emotional sensitivity.Report

              • Pinky in reply to Philip H
                Ignored
                says:

                “What would you have us call that part of the population that does support far right candidates and policies?”

                What I’d prefer doesn’t matter. What you can call the people who actually do have far right views doesn’t matter. If you call someone “far right” who perceives himself as being between 4 and 9 on the hypothetical 0-10 conservative scale, you’re going to lose him. And if you don’t prove that the recipient is at least an 8.7, you’re going to lose any other listeners as well.

                And to be clear I’m not sensitive about words – as in the labels you direct at me don’t cause me emotional offense.

                Am I mistaken, or aren’t you the person who complains about being called a traitor, a lot? A lot lot? I mean, you make it sound like you’re the only person who’s ever been smeared, and that it gives you some kind of extra clout.Report

              • Philip H in reply to Pinky
                Ignored
                says:

                Am I mistaken, or aren’t you the person who complains about being called a traitor, a lot? A lot lot? I mean, you make it sound like you’re the only person who’s ever been smeared, and that it gives you some kind of extra clout.

                Well when did traitor become synonymous with leftist? That aside – Traitor has legal meanings and I don’t think the people using it are just trying to smear me. I believe that they believe I fit the definition of being a traitor to the US and should be found and punished accordingly. Call me what every you want but when people want you tried and either jailed or executed for your political beliefs you don’t take that well.

                frankly I remain . . . disappointed . . . that right side folks around here don’t care to push back on that characterization by their own.

                What I’d prefer doesn’t matter.

                could have fooled me what with pushing back on all the labels Chris, Chip, and I choose to use.Report

              • Pinky in reply to Philip H
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                says:

                I’ve never seen you called a traitor. I don’t associate that term with the left, and I only brought it up because it’s the reason I think of you as being sensitive. And just for humor’s sake, could you list three other right side folks who frequent this site?Report

              • Philip H in reply to Pinky
                Ignored
                says:

                How wide a net do you want to cast? Andrew is center right; Dark is right-libertarian; Jaybird sits on the right but likes to wear both the cloak of libertarianism (which is generally a right leaning political philosophy as he expresses it) and in something he thinks is the Socratic method. Russel Michaels is self-declared right side, as is Vikrim, Dennis Sanders, and John McCumber.Report

              • Pinky in reply to Philip H
                Ignored
                says:

                Which of those have failed to defend you against the charge of treason?Report

              • Philip H in reply to Pinky
                Ignored
                says:

                If you call someone “far right” who perceives himself as being between 4 and 9 on the hypothetical 0-10 conservative scale, you’re going to lose him.

                What would you call a person who perceives themselves thusly but votes for a far right candidate?

                Which of those have failed to defend you against the charge of treason?

                all of them? Though I have no idea why that was a post-hoc requirement for my list – since it appeared you seemed to think I couldn’t.

                Which again isn’t the point. I asked you, as did Chris, what to call someone on the far right who might be offended by that term but actually operates there in terms of policies and candidates they support. You have failed to answer that direct, plain question. You have sent us all sorts of ways to avoid it. Which tells me you have no answer and that, contra other assertions, its not an insult. You just don’t like liberals parsing conservatives.Report

              • Pinky in reply to Philip H
                Ignored
                says:

                I’ve actually been trying to put a fine point on my answer, but whatever. Let me try one more time.

                If a person identifies as far-right, call him “far-right”. If he doesn’t identify as far-right but can be clearly identified as far-right by a member of the right or the far-right, you can call him “far-right”, although you risk alienating him and others. If a person doesn’t identify as far-right but you interpret him as far-right based on his positions and voting, call him what he wants. A good rule of thumb is, if your criteria for classifying him as far-right include positions that more than 10% of the population would take, then you’re misusing the term.Report

              • Philip H in reply to Pinky
                Ignored
                says:

                Calling your own balls and strikes is an amusing way to play baseball.Report

              • Pinky in reply to Philip H
                Ignored
                says:

                Apply my rule of thumb however you want. If any approach yields more than 10% far-left or 10% far-right, you’re probably using the terms improperly.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Pinky
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                says:

                This is only logical if you define “far” to literally mean “the far 10%”, at which point it is a meaningless term.

                Like, 90% of the Stalinists were not “Far left”.Report

              • Pinky in reply to Chip Daniels
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                says:

                As I said, it’s a rule of thumb, not an exact science. It’s always possible that you run into 10 extremists in one day. If you think it happens every day, your rating system is worth questioning.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Pinky
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                says:

                We’re witnessing it now, where the majority of Republican voters have embraced the Big Lie and the attempted overthrow of the election.

                The entire party has become radicalized.Report

              • Pinky in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                “which will bring us back to Doe”.

                We’re stuck in a loop here. You perceive the country very differently than I do. And yeah, it’s possible for a country to be 40% far-right, even though most of those people wouldn’t identify themselves that way and you’d alienate them if you addressed them as such. Possible, just not the case here and now. And neither of us can prove to the other that he’s wrong.Report

              • Chris in reply to Chip Daniels
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                says:

                No Stalinists were Far Left. Famously, the left wing of the party was purged, with varying degrees of brutality, starting before Stalin was in power. You’d learn this in pretty much any history of the Soviet Union, even those written by its critics.

                Which gets at an important point: in the U.S., we talk of Overton windows and positions relative to the median or center, but this quickly makes political labels concerning leftness and rightness incoherent.

                Students of political and economic history, however, will recognize that leftness and rightness have traditionally been, and still are better assigned to political views (and those who hold them) independent of how many people hold them. This is why, for example, “liberalness” can be, and for much of the last 200 years has been, orthogonal to left and right. It’s also why Nazis can make up a substantial portion of the German population and still be far right.

                Obviously, what is left and right changes over time as new ideas arise, others become dessicated, and the admixture of views change within and between ideologies, so it is not a perfect system for describing the political geography, but it’s better than “how far is X from the median voter” in pretty much every way.

                When I describe someone as far right, I generally mean they hold views that are nationalist and nativist, authoritarian (often, but certainly not always, religious authoritarian), and in case all that doesn’t make it clear, deeply antidemocratic. These views are of course associated with bigotry and an intolerance of any difference that undermines goals of their worldview.

                If I describe someone as far left, I mean they are left communists or anarcho-communists, mostly, though to an extent greater than the right (and as reflected in their constant infighting), the left, particularly as it gets further from the ideological center, is significantly more ideologically diverse than the right, so figuring out boundaries can be difficult.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Chris
                Ignored
                says:

                No Stalinists were Far Left.

                Let’s run with this.

                My problem with this statement is not that it is not true, it’s that, at the time, Stalin was considered “Far Left” by people who thought that “Far Left” was one of the good things to be.

                It’s only in retrospect that we look at the outcomes of what he did and conclude that, oh, he must not have been on the Far Left.

                I submit: The next time some exemplar of The Far Left shows up? He (or she or they) will be someone that, afterwards, people will say “Oh, yeah. Well, they weren’t Far Left.”

                But the problem isn’t being able to say this with perfect hindsight.

                It’s that whenever Stalins show up, they’re held up as examples because, hey, at least they’re not CENTRISTS.Report

              • Chris in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                My problem with this statement is not that it is not true, it’s that, at the time, Stalin was considered “Far Left” by people who thought that “Far Left” was one of the good things to be.

                Which people? One thing that’s the same between the left then and now is that they all know all the distinctions, so I’d be surprised to find communists calling Stalin the far left.Report

              • Chris in reply to Chris
                Ignored
                says:

                To follow-up, it’s worth noting that elsewhere in Europe, and even in the United States, divisions within leftist groups mirrored this division to a large degree, and after Stalin’s crimes became unavoidably clear (late 30s for some, after the war for others), the break between those who continued to support the Party and its unquestioning support of Stalin, and those who broke from them, lines up pretty well with this divide (think Camus and Merleau-Ponty on one side, and Sartre on the other, in France, representing how this played out).Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Chris
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                says:

                No! *TROTSKY* is the Far Left! Stalin is merely *CENTER* left!

                In any case, I do not understand that the calibrations of the Real Left People to be able to make distinctions between the Far Left (Good!) and the Center Left (Not Far Left!) while they are in the middle of setting up the system and I suspect that any system they set up will not be Far Left but merely Center Left.Report

              • Chris in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                One of the great thing about being on the left, similar to being a libertarian 20 years ago, is that you’re so far from the seats of power that no intra-left distinctions matter all that much practically for most people (they do matter in terms of who will actually join what sorts of coalitions, some of which can have real impacts, especially at the local level, but that’s another story).Report

              • Chris in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                One of the great thing about being on the left, similar to being a libertarian 20 years ago, is that you’re so far from the seats of power that no intra-left distinctions matter all that much practically for most people (they do matter in terms of who will actually join what sorts of coalitions, some of which can have real impacts, especially at the local level, but that’s another story).

                By the way, if you’re interested in the geography of the left, I recommend this: https://www.versobooks.com/books/1756-the-left-hemisphereReport

              • Pinky in reply to Chris
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                says:

                I think we can all agree that labels like “left” and “conservative” refer to things that change a lot, and that terms like “authoritarian” or “democratic” change but less so. I could safely use the first category of terms without explanation for reference within a country across a span of decades. I could use the second category across countries and hundreds of years. Does that seem right?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Pinky
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                says:

                “Fashionable” gets you 80% of the way to the former.Report

              • Pinky in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                That term seems purposely belittling. I’d say that the political designations involve and interplay between the deep and the shallow, given a particular time and place. But the least important of those components is the shallow. You can easily have great ideas, and shifts in people’s stances toward great ideas, due to discoveries, migrations, royal inbreeding (I have no idea why I thought of that example), et cetera. (Maybe I was just thinking about the US, which wouldn’t be anything like is without the English fleeing crazy kings using decent navigational equipment.)Report

              • Chris in reply to Pinky
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                says:

                The problem is there are anti-democratic people on the left and the right (Stalinists were, famously, right communists, which is meant to signify that they were nationalistic, anti-democratic, and authoritarian, among other things). If you’re up on leftist theory, basically the Bukharin strain in the Bolsheviks (so to some extent Lenin, and to a greater extent Stalin).

                To build on my reply to Jay, the far left or “ultra-left” in the Soviet Union was in direct opposition on pretty much all of these things with the Lenin-Stalin faction.

                So the reason we don’t identify people strictly with relatively absolute and abstract positions is that they don’t tell us enough.Report

              • Pinky in reply to Chris
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                says:

                I’m on board with a lot of this comment. I’ve never heard the term “right communist” before. My problem is that, if I read your comments correctly, it looks like you’d apply the same “anti-democratic” label to Stalinists and your average Texas Republican. Don’t you see a difference?

                (Note, I’m not saying that you don’t think there’s any difference between Texas Republicans and Stalinists, but that if the word “anti-democratic” is stretched across that big a surface it loses any meaning. I’d also argue that there’s nothing anti-democratic about Texas law, but I’m sure we both know each other’s opinions on that matter. I only bring it up because, if you do consider some Texas laws to be anti-democratic, there’s enough of a difference in degree that a different word should be found.)Report

              • CJColucci in reply to Pinky
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                says:

                I’ve never heard the term “right communist” before.

                Why does this sound familiar?Report

              • Chris in reply to Pinky
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                says:

                There are degrees of anti-democraticness. Stalinists were obvioulsy at the extreme end. Nazis/fascists, monarchists, religious authoritarians, etc., were and are, of course, also at the extreme end. Texas Republicans fallsomewhere to the middle but moving extremeward.Report

              • Pinky in reply to Philip H
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                says:

                When have you been accused of treason in front of any of these people you say aren’t defending you? Do you want us to send you a “you’re not a traitor” email every week in the absence of any accusation?Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Philip H
                Ignored
                says:

                Lets categorize :
                Governor Abbot forbids private companies from instituting a vaccine mandate.
                But only on Covid; All other vaccine mandates are A-OK.

                So where does this fall on our spectrum- is this Far Left? Left? Right? Far Right?
                Principled Conservatism? Socialism? Cultural Marxism?

                Because I think I understand what principle is involved here, but maybe a real conservative-whisperer can explain it for me.Report

              • JS in reply to Philip H
                Ignored
                says:

                It’s worth noting how this has derailed your entire point into a lengthy debate on whether “far right” is a mean, mean term.

                I mean we all agree that political ideologies form normal distributions (both as a whole, and when taken in chunks) and that OBVIOUSLY “conservative” would encompass a wide swath of ideologies that at the least would encompass everything from “barely conservative” to “extremely conservative”.

                But “far right” to describe those on the, you know, FAR END of that curve is somehow….bad?

                Pinky’s faux outrage did exactly what he wanted. He shifted the conversation from what you were talking about to how persecuted he is and how bad you are.

                For using “far right”. Which is a slur now. Because the conversation had to be changed, and YOU must become the villain.

                We all love a good round of “The real racists are those who talk about racism”, I admit, but even for that genre of stupidity this is pretty dumb.Report

              • CJColucci in reply to JS
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                says:

                As I said, talking about talking about stuff rather than talking about stuff. Perhaps best not to rise to the bait.Report

              • Chris in reply to CJColucci
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                says:

                I suppose that it is a sort of argument against the position in the OP that people get so easily distracted — Jaybird made the same point in an argument against athletes kneeling to protest police brutality — but this is a blog post, and people tend to end up having side conversations and side conversations to those side conversations in the comments to those. It affects no one, really, since no one has to read it, and no one has to participate, if they don’t want to.Report

              • Pinky in reply to JS
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                says:

                You want to have a different conversation, feel free. There’s no comment limit. But (and I’ll admit that this is tangent) political views probably don’t form a normal distribution in any meaningful way. We may see a bell curve on, say, a particular piece of legislation, but underlying that are visions that tend to be clustered on multiple axes.Report

              • Philip H in reply to JS
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                says:

                My point still stands, and I haven’t lost it. He clearly wants to avoid it, but I haven’t lost it.Report

              • JS in reply to Philip H
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                says:

                I mean sure, but who is talking about it? I don’t even remember without scrolling up.

                Derail successful.

                Common tactic, used to great effect.

                He’s not just avoided it, he’s pretty effectively memory-holed it, prevented others from really discussing it, and has turned this into a weird conversation wherein he’s the victim of mean words and somehow implied you’re a traitor or treasonous and ALSO that no one would defend you of it.

                So in short: He’s made sure your initial topic is not just not addressed, he’s done his best to prevent ANY discussion on it and to make everyone forget it.

                He then cast himself as the victim, and implied you were a very, very bad man. A hypocrite who is using awful slurs.

                It’s like “Have you stopped beating your wife” met a Gish Gallop met an ad hominem.Report

              • Chris in reply to Pinky
                Ignored
                says:

                I wasn’t offended. It was a good piece of information to know, as having conversations about most of the political discourse is only interesting if someone’s pretty knowledgeable of the range of views in that discourse. It would be difficult to offend me with political labels, but you could offend me by calling me a Texan.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Pinky
        Ignored
        says:

        But “far right” is a useful way of indicating that they’re not persuadable.Report

  10. Saul Degraw
    Ignored
    says:

    In which the phrase humility is used to quiet those who disagree with me on a substantive issue.Report

  11. LeeEsq
    Ignored
    says:

    Adding to what Rufus F. says, the platonic ideal in liberal democracies is that bunch of politicians and activists debate vigorously on the topic of the day and the electorate quietly and reasonably discusses these ideas among themselves and do to magic the best idea will always win. Anybody who has examined recent and not so recent political history inside and outside the United States realizes that this isn’t how things work. The tribal battle lines get drawn fairly quickly and very few people budge from their starting position. Any change that does occur usually takes a long time and a lot of work to achieve. The electorate might want things that are bad for the greater good like eating enough meat and living in big homes to cause some real big environmental damage. So it turns out that democracy might be based on a lie.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to LeeEsq
      Ignored
      says:

      So it turns out that democracy might be based on a lie.

      Team lead writes “Good Tsar” on the whiteboard and then wipes it off. Then writes “Good Tsar” on the whiteboard and then wipes it off. Then writes “Good Tsar” on the whiteboard and then wipes it off.Report

    • Rufus F. in reply to LeeEsq
      Ignored
      says:

      Sure, but I also said: “The Enlightenment ideal in which we have a dispassionate debate and come to the truth analytically almost never happens.”

      And: “what we end up with in democracies are endless debate about questions that are probably unsolvable, and values that are ultimately irreconciliable.”

      It’s not to say that Democracies are based on a lie, but they’re based on balancing values that can be objectively good and true, and still come into irreconciliable conflict with each other.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Rufus F.
        Ignored
        says:

        That is another good point. On the other blog there was a long thread today about how the destruction of unions moved the white working class in the United States to the right. Lots of mini-debates in that but one issue that I brought up is whether individualism are compatible with social democracy. The direct social democracies of the Nordic countries and the indirect social democracy of Japan tend to be high trust societies with a lot of social conformity. We just recognize it more with Japan because it goes in directions that Western liberals do not like while Nordic social conformity now tends in a direction we like. The everybody should be free to be themselves might not necessarily work well with the high degree of trust required by social democracy but many American liberals would be aghast if you suggest this.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Rufus F.
        Ignored
        says:

        This. Democracy can be about weighing and balancing competing visions of the good, different ideas about how to benefit the public. I think it has actually been this, in my lifetime, in the United States, as recently as the 1980’s. Which doesn’t mean there wasn’t partisan tribalism then, or bushels of bullshit to identify and ignore (or not), or cynical media manipulators, or vapid hypocrites pretending to be Very Serious Figures. Those all existed.

        But these weren’t so dominant or influential when it came to actually dealing with issues, and issues did (mostly) get dealt with. There were technocrats and inside-baseball pros holding prominent office, and a sense of the fundamental desirability of compromise on the disputes of the day. Out in the electorate, Reagan Democrats held the most sway and there was a sense of a substantial and persuadable middle existing within the electorate.

        It could be like that again. It won’t be perfect; it never was. But I am convinced it can be functional. Proponents of bullshit ideas insisting that their bullshit get equal time with the non-bullshit consensus of subject matter experts about a variety of realities is a significant impediment to that happening.

        Private actors like Google, Twitter, and Facebook are not bound by the First Amendment and have no obligation to not call bullshit what it is.

        Facts are not political, even if political actors would like to politicize them. The 2020 election was not “stolen.” MMR vaccines do not cause autism. COVID vaccines do not cause seizures or any other harm to the overwhelming number of people who receive them, but do substantially boost the recipient’s ability to resist COVID. Humans evolved from non-human ancestors. The universe was created in the Big Bang and the Big Bang happened 13.8 billion years ago. There is no such law as HIPPA; the actual law, HIPAA, does not protect the privacy all medical facts about an individual from their employer. Industrial discharge of carbon dioxide is causing a rapid and dramatic change in the climate far different from what the historical record tells us is likely to have occurred. These things were once questioned, but there is now substantial consensus on them.

        There’s no need or obligation for Facebook, Google, and Twitter to pretend that Flat Earther theories to the contrary of the demonstrated consensus are worthy of intellectual respect. And if the promulgation of those theories causes actual harm, I for one will not complain that those defective intellectual goods have been removed from that portion of the marketplace of ideas of which Google, Facebook, and Twitter are the shoppkeepers.Report

        • PitchMob in reply to Burt Likko
          Ignored
          says:

          No, oh, no, you don’t get it.
          Publishing peer reviewed graphs on Instagram is now Hate Speech!
          (Showing that men and women have physical differences in athletic achievement, as documented in Sports Medicine Journals).
          Science is now BAD unless it somehow agrees with ideology. And science rarely agrees with neat simple ideology.Report

  12. InMD
    Ignored
    says:

    I think most of the dissents are proving the OPs thesis or dodging the argument. The failure of the ‘(free) marketplace of ideas’ to always produce perfect outcomes misses the point of what it does, that being giving the best ideas a fighting chance. It doesn’t guarantee anything in the way of outcomes, but then neither does a class of wrongthink policing mandarins nor a might makes right mobocracy. When the latter two get it wrong, and they do, there is no possibility of peaceful self-correction. The former requires suffering all manner of fools and is constantly at risk of veering into the other forms but we should all be thankful for it nonetheless.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to InMD
      Ignored
      says:

      Some debates are already resolved, though. And it is reasonable for people who are not subject matter experts in a given field to accept a broad-to-near-universal consensus of subject matter experts.

      The OP argues, in its peroration:

      Why do I have to be silenced if you are so unequivocally correct? I should be fodder. You should relish the debate and crush me and hold me up as a warning to others, but the urge is to silence. Mark Steyn should be ground to dust by Michael Mann, but he has not been. Jonah Goldberg pointed out that there are those among us who have appointed themselves high priests, but the rabble are noticing that the high priests are getting some key things wrong. How long will the rabble put up with this?

      To pick an extreme example, the Earth is roughly spherical. This statement is a proposition of fact, not one of opinion, because a fact is something that is at least theoretically susceptible of being objectively proven or disproven. We haven’t resolve a dispute between Steyn and Mann because Steyn and Mann don’t ultimately dispute facts. We need not take the Flat Earth Society seriously. And just because a factual proposition involves causality (as is at issue in the OP’s understated skepticism of anthropic climate change) does not mean it is not of such a kind — would you take seriously the opinion of someone who lacked a medical or biology credential but nevertheless insisted that there is no causal link between smoking cigarettes and the likelihood of developing lung cancer?

      It’s one thing to say Proposition X is subject to reasonable dispute. Some people have lost the ability to distinguish between normative propositions and objective ones. Which is another problem. Normative propositions are always going to be subject to some disputes. But if you aren’t a subject matter expert in the realm where objective Proposition X is the subject of broad consensus, your claim to that virtually all of the experts in the field are wrong should be viewed with substantial skepticism. That’s not a question of bowing to a politically-oriented mandarin or a wrongheaded mob; it’s much more akin to accepting that an objective fact is not subject to reasonable dissent.Report

      • InMD in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        Respectfully, I don’t think that’s what this is about at all, and I think there’s a bit of a motte and bailey going on in your response. The bar for relitigating a scientific fact that’s been established for ~2300 years ought to be pretty darn high. What we’re talking about though is the evaluation of current and very near current events in real time. Experts and journalists are often bad at this, and a bunch of technology personnel and their algorithms are no better and quite possibly worse.

        Now the social media companies are private actors and can do what they want. I also don’t think anyone has any moral obligation to debate someone saying the sky is green online or in any other context. But I am saying that the belief that thought can be easily and neatly sorted into merited, in-bounds ideas on one hand and false, misinformation on the other is false. So absolutely pick your battles but I don’t think there’s any way out of the muddle. IMO that’s a feature, not a bug.Report

    • Slade the Leveller in reply to InMD
      Ignored
      says:

      At what point do we declare someone brainwashed, incapable of engaging in discussion and presenting a cogent argument?

      Why is it a private entity’s responsibility to provide the platform?Report

      • InMD in reply to Slade the Leveller
        Ignored
        says:

        To question 1, your call. To question 2, none.

        But it’s also naive to think that the platforms are particularly good at determining what is and isn’t true. We can’t outsource our own judgment to them, and I think it would be an abdication of our responsibilities as citizens to try.Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to InMD
          Ignored
          says:

          This is why I do think the FB whistleblower is a good thing. Not because I want a government crackdown, but because people need to wake up to how and why* FB manipulates them.

          *PS it’s not to push a liberal agenda.Report

        • Slade the Leveller in reply to InMD
          Ignored
          says:

          It used to be you had to stand on the street corner to pontificate and garner followers. Now all you have to do is put something up a video that will push people’s buttons.

          I’m sure whatever latent horror lies in people can be awakened by the right person, but we sure don’t need to make his/her job easier by regulating what content said private soapbox has to present.

          I trust my judgement enough to see past the BS, but can I trust that of a person who sees Donald Trump as presidential timber?Report

          • InMD in reply to Slade the Leveller
            Ignored
            says:

            There’s a certain de-personal-izing of information exchange heightened by the internet. It kind of reminds me of discussions we had in my military history class about how firearms changed not only strategy for war but in society. There was no longer a need for knights or samurai or other highly trained elite warriors (who also of course had important roles in government) once any old peasant could kill them at a distance. It reached its zenith with machine guns and gas in world war 1.

            So maybe the internet in the 90s was the blunderbuss and we’re already at machine guns with social media. Certainly we’ll have to adapt but I don’t see how trying to reinstitute gatekeepers in the form of a handful of tech companies is going to succeed. And really those people who think Trump is presidential material have always been out there. It’s on us to deal with it just as it always has been.Report

            • Oscar Gordon in reply to InMD
              Ignored
              says:

              That, and as DavidTC notes below, the tech companies have a strong incentive to keep the fires stoked, so any gatekeeping we implement will be circumvented faster that you can say “I’ll know it when I see it.”Report

              • InMD in reply to Oscar Gordon
                Ignored
                says:

                Well and beyond that they’re money making enterprises. They don’t exist to selflessly do good. But I also think we’re still in the early days of adaptation. Like every grocery store still has bizarre tabloids at the check out aisle. I assume that means that someone is buying them. Yet we don’t lose sleep over it because people have learned to not take them seriously.Report

              • DavidTC in reply to Oscar Gordon
                Ignored
                says:

                LOL, I read this and, while I agree with the position you ascribed to me, it took me a second to figure out how you got that from my comment down there, because that wasn’t how I was looking at the OAN thing. (And I wasn’t really thinking of AT&T as a tech company.)

                I mean, you’re probably right to some level, but…the thing is, AT&T cable has basically a monopoly where it is, and thus it has very little incentive to make people watch ‘more’, so the incentives don’t really work very well for AT&T, and I personally suspect the motive for them wanting more right-wing content on their network was ‘The Obama administration regulating AT&T and blocking proposed T-Mobile merger’.(1)

                I.e., while I think you’re right that conflict drives engagement in tech, I’m not really sure the AT&T/OAN thing fits within that sort of paradigm, as I don’t think AT&T wanted that?

                I think maybe OAN _itself_ could fit within that paradigm, though. Fox News itself could, and almost came up with the idea, they just tried to stay within a plausible news framework that OAN didn’t bother with.

                And, no, no BSDI here. While MSNBC and CNN have their problems, they do not generally operate off outrage…they sometimes operate off panic and confusion, but not outrage. You can watch hours of their programming and not be told to dislike anyone or be angry at anything. They do sometimes show up with a bunch of outrage, and sure, get viewers off that, but even there, it usually isn’t outrage generated by them, they’re taking advantage of existing outrage.

                1) And, as always, ‘Extremely wealthy corporate executives do not want to pay taxes so are willing to unethically use corporate money to fight taxes and support other right-wing causes, despite the fact that might not be how stockholders feel.’. Which is certainly something we should think about when we’re talking about corporations and their ‘free speech’.

                I really want to know how AT&T stockholders, which includes basically everyone who owns an index fund or is part of a pension plan, feel about AT&T actively creating a source of right-wing misinformation using _their_ money. (And, yes, AT&T providing a cable channel for something is ‘using their money’, regardless of whether any money changed hands.)

                Edit: Come to think of it, _I_ might have been an AT&T stockholder at the time. When exactly did I own those index funds…?Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to DavidTC
                Ignored
                says:

                To your final point, that is (IMHO) the strongest argument against allowing corporations to have free speech, the fact that the ideal and the reality are so utterly divorced from each other that no one should pretend the ideal is even feasible anymore. Maybe it was something that existed, if you squinted hard enough, but these days, when the bulk of shares are either held by funds…

                I could see sole proprietorships, or closely held companies, but once you’ve issued over 1,000,000 shares, you can’t really pretend you represent the voice of the employees or shareholders just because.Report

              • DavidTC in reply to Oscar Gordon
                Ignored
                says:

                Someone’s going to have to explain to me why a sole proprietorship or closely held company couldn’t just distribute their earnings to their owners, and have those owners make the free speech instead?

                Oh, wait, I know this one: Because they don’t want to get taxed on that money, and somehow think they have a right to use corporate money that they haven’t been taxed on as income to make personal statements about positions that they, as humans, hold.

                We don’t let the corporation you own pay for your car, we don’t let it pay for your house. At least, not without taxing you on that as income. Why should we let it pay for being the megaphone for your speech?

                The entire concept is a scam. Corporations should have ‘free speech’, to the extent that such speech is something that helps the corporation. An ad, for example. Or even lobbying…I mean, I hate it, but in the system we have set up, it’s a legit use of corporate money.

                But the forms of free speech we’re talking about are not those, they are _at best_ a form of tax evasion where people are using ‘their own’ corporate money to get random private political or religous positions across, and are usually outright theft of other people’s corporate money on top of the tax evasion.

                And yes, that applies to all messages, regardless of where on the political spectrum. A pro-LBGT message is the same.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to DavidTC
                Ignored
                says:

                Fair complaint. I’m fine with saying that a corporation can not write off messaging that is not directly related to their products or services. I’m sure folks will have lots of fun scoping out the boundaries of that, but hey, this is America, we have lots of bored lawyers and politicians, right?Report

  13. Chip Daniels
    Ignored
    says:

    A lot of the objections here amount to “the power to shame and shun and drive ideas from polite society is dangerous if used by bad actors”.

    Which is obviously true.
    But all the tools of society, from recognition of property rights to the protection of children, are dangerous if used by bad actors.
    Its actually impossible to erect any set of tools which can’t be abused by bad actors.

    But it seems weird to say, “well then we shouldn’t have those tools” as opposed to “well, we should be careful to whom we give the tools.”

    The thing about liberal democracy is that it isn’t just a machine that reliably produces good outcomes no matter who is at the controls; It assumes that the actor at the controls is generally a good actor.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels
      Ignored
      says:

      But it seems weird to say, “well then we shouldn’t have those tools” as opposed to “well, we should be careful to whom we give the tools.”

      Or… we could… hear me out… construct tools that are safe, regardless of who has them.

      Just like with dangerous tools, whenever we have a law or policy that gets abused by TPTB, it’s because the safeties were removed (or it was never designed to have safeties), usually in the name of ease and expediency.

      Sure the chip guard on that table saw gets in the way, and safety glasses get dusty and fog up, but a splinter in the eye is forever.Report

      • Chip Daniels in reply to Oscar Gordon
        Ignored
        says:

        construct tools that are safe, regardless of who has them.

        My point is that this is impossible.
        Especially when the number of bad actors reaches some large enough percentage, say 25% or so, then then can become both the actor and the watchdog.Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels
          Ignored
          says:

          If it’s impossible to build a safe tool, then we should seriously think about whether or not we need that tool.Report

          • Chip Daniels in reply to Oscar Gordon
            Ignored
            says:

            This is the libertarian dilemma, the Third Actor Agent Problem.

            Liberty requires a third actor who mediates, adjudicates, and enforces the interactions of the first two. But the third actor always has agency, an agenda, and a will of its own.

            There isn’t any outcome that isn’t the result of the good or bad faith of the three actors.Report

            • Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels
              Ignored
              says:

              If there is a solitary third actor, then yes. But this is why we have things like appeals…Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Oscar Gordon
                Ignored
                says:

                It is the hallmark of authoritarian regimes that the third actor does in fact become solitary.
                That is, where all the organs of state power are politicized and bent towards the policy goals of the authoritarian.

                This is why is it so alarming to see what the Republicans are doing in states they control, where the organs of elections are are being bent to serve the interests of the Republican Party.

                “It matters not how they vote, but who counts the votes” or somesuch.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                So obviously, you want to give authority more of those kinds of tools? Am I reading you right?Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Oscar Gordon
                Ignored
                says:

                When you and I say “tool”, we are talking about the basic machinery of elections.
                There isn’t any conceivable method of running a democracy where there isn’t some entity with authority like this.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                We started talking about the generalized idea of tools used by society and thus government. I’ve not gone to specific tools yet.Report

              • Casey Jones in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                Because in Democratic run areas, you’re perfectly fine with the legally elected (Democratic) election judge being kicked out of the counting halls by the Democratic Party Establishment.
                “You’re the election judge, why aren’t you watching the counting of votes?”
                “I have no idea. They locked me out!!”Report

    • Pinky in reply to Chip Daniels
      Ignored
      says:

      American democracy assumes that the actor at the controls is a villain, whether by nature of as an effect of having the controls. It assumes that the voters are good actors (but doesn’t trust them much either).Report

      • InMD in reply to Pinky
        Ignored
        says:

        I think this is closer to the mark. The US system tends to assume the worst about everyone. It’s the more authoritarian and populist systems that assume the best about at least some people.Report

        • Pinky in reply to InMD
          Ignored
          says:

          I do think about Venice a lot. An election system that’s impossible to game, you’re king for life but if you do anything that profits your family we’ll pull your eyes out and throw you in prison. It’s got to be the coldest assessment of human nature of any system, and it survived about 5x longer than ours has so far.Report

  14. Pat
    Ignored
    says:

    While I am a huge supporter of hashing stuff out, I am begging people to learn how propaganda works.

    Because having one conversation without acknowledging the other is really just the opposite of useful.Report

  15. DavidTC
    Ignored
    says:

    This discussion is weirdly missing literally the most important fact there is:

    There are a lot of people with the extremely loud sound system called money.

    We’ve just learned recently that AT&T basically made OAN out of nothing. It plucked a nothing ‘news’ station out of thin air and decided to let it reach millions of people. (And there’s a whole discussion how a publicly-traded company did that for something that doesn’t seem to be sound business reasons and kept it secret, but that’s different thing.)

    They are the source of all that misinformation, and it’s basically because they had money. All this misinformation isn’t just appearing from nowhere.

    And while we _now_ have the problem with the general public, we’ve had this problem in politics for _decades_…it’s called ‘lobbyists’. People with huge wallets pay to get access to politicians and feed them misinformation, or at least extremely tilted information, and no one else can afford that.

    The Supreme Court recently said that money is speech, and THEY’RE RIGHT. The decision was wrong, but the concept is correct. But no one has actually connected the dots and asked the obvious question ‘Can a society have free speech when some people have a billion times more speech than other people? How exactly is that supposed to work?’ Isn’t the premise that ‘good information will crowd out bad’ reliant on the concept that good information and bad information are at least vaguely proportional?

    I don’t think a society like ours, a society with this much speech inequality for lack of a better term (Because money is indeed speech) can actually function under the concept of free speech.

    This whole concept of ‘Dolores Umbridges ends up charge’ ignores the fact that SHE ALREADY IS…she just already owns the newspapers and TV news.

    And, no, there is no solution in this post. I have no solution. I just find it somewhat absurd we keep ignoring the main issue here, in that speech is money, and wealth inequality has basically rendered any sort of free speech and discussion moot. They are the people with walls of speakers, of an entire society rigged with mounted speakers that blast _their_ message 24/7, and no one else can even afford a megaphone. Free speech does not, and can not, work in those conditions.Report

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