Sunday, October 29, 2006

"The Elephant in the Room" 
In a well-reported article, the New York Times looks at how the polarization of the election season has affected interpersonal relationships.

Here's the elephant in the room the Times (predictably) fails to discern:

In example after example, interview after interview, we see the liberals holding themselves as morally superior to their conservative peers, and looking down upon them, and genuinely angry with them (as in the woman who spent weeks so angry with her Bush-supporting mom that she couldn't even speak to her. How stupid is that?)

On the other hand, in example after example, we see the conservatives declining to talk about politics in public not because of liberal views (though they're dumb enough), but because of liberal behavior. We're just tired of dealing with overwrought, hysterical people, so we clam up. I know I do. (That's the reason I keep blogging. I still have an outlet, and I don't have to piss of my socialist, Hezbollah-supporting, IRA-loving "I'd love to live under Castro" friends. Yes, I'm still a musician!)

The bottom line: Liberals are avoiding us because of our positions, which are in and of themselves evil (to them), while we're avoiding engaging with them because of their behavior.

They object to our beliefs. We simply object to them being assholes.

Lady, call your mother.

Splash, out


I'm the resident right-wing wacko in my office in Silicon Valley. Fortunately, most of my immediate coworkers are fair-minded "old left" types who aren't "wear it on their sleeve" moonbats who find my mere existence offensive. But there are plenty of the latter in my neighborhood, which is about ten block from Google HQ. (Oddly, I find it easier to talk to hardcore Marxists and other traditional hard-lefties than the "nice person" animal-rights or eco-weenies who recently traded in their Volvos for Priuses.)

The blogs are a breath of fresh air for me too.
My wife was on the phone with her very liberal best friend when the friend said, among other liberal inanities, that "America is just like the Taliban because here everyone wants to force you to become a born-again Christian."

My wife said, "Didn't I tell you never to talk politics with me? Now you've just said one of the stupidest things I've ever heard."

Then her friend hung up on her and hasn't called back since. That was about three weeks ago.

Maybe she'll call back on November 8...
There are certainly some intolerent liberals out there. I was just browsing Jason's exclusive blogroll, much shorter than many and presumably containing only a few of his favorite blogs. I hope we can all visit Cold Fury for examples of disagreeing respectfully on political issues without personal attacks.
Damn, I haven't updated that thing in ages. Since before Hackworth died.
I dunno about Cold Fury. We only disagree respectfully until somebody gets personally sh1tty. Then we usually say "please don't do that" once or twice, and then it's Commenter Pinata time - as occasional troll Bronwen about this. We did have a frequent lefty commenter who was really dingy, and we tried to talk sense politely, and after about a year of it he lost patience and started getting really nasty with a couple of our bloggers, so we policed him up for a while. Other times, you get a really snotty jibroni who stops in to just lob invective - I like getting links from Daou Report at Salon but if you could visualize the commenters, you could only summon an image of a two year old having a tantrum and throwing his own poop. We tee off on them pretty quick, and sometimes ban them. I think the social contract, recriprocal civil treatment, applies as long as everybody abides by it. Once somebody breaks it, all bets are off. That doesn't mean you wax somebody for being rude in an internet chat room, but it means once they break the civility rule, it's fair reciprocation to tee off on them for being an idiot. Subject, of course, to the caveat that if the response is disproportionate or inappropriate, the blogger or commenter doing the teeing off can lose that enforcement authority, sinking to the troll's level. There's a fine line, and sad to say, I haven't always stayed on the right side of it.

The best way to keep the discussion within the bounds of fair argument is to police up the screamers and toss them out if they don't settle down. This applies to cocktail parties as well as to blogs. You can say "liberals this" or conservatives that" but when you start calling people names and calling them evil, it's over. Let a handful of screamers run wild for a bit, they take over the joint. Witness John Cole's comments section - I like his commentary sometimes but roughly a third of his regular commenters are insane, and if they were to talk to your face the way they talk to each other, you'd probably punch them out, simply as a matter of honor and decency; in a civilized world you just can't let people act that way and get away with it.

BTW, I've lost a lot of Nu Left friends in the last couple years, and made friends with a fair number of old school marxists. We conservatives agree with the marxists on a number of fundamental ends, but disagree on means. With the Nu Left - they just disagree with our existence. We are subhuman and/or evil incarnate, as far as they are concerned. There's no room for compromise with them, nor is there a reason to try; they aren't interested in anything other than lashing out, so it's not worth standing in there just to help them feel better.
There's a fundamental reason that there's no room for compromise. The way the left and the right look at politics is fundamentally different, if I base it on my experiences discussing issues with Dem voters.

They base their position on feelings. The conservatives tend to base theirs more on information. Practical vs. sentimental.
Dean Barnett has a post on how conservatives want to be left alone but liberals can't shut up.
I think the Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy had the correct diagnosis of the problem: "They're afraid if they ever stop talking, their brains will start to work."
Regarding Al Maviva's experience with old-school Marxists... I suggest that the older Marxists, firstly, have given serious consideration to their own beliefs, and, secondly, have spent a large part of their lives in the company of non-Marxists, and have thus found it necessary to learn to talk to those who don't share their beliefs.
Contrast the contemporary bubble-"liberal". I suspect most of them basically inherited their beliefs from their parents; then, in blue zones, they make up a high enough fraction of the population to allow them to live in an echo chamber, with their beliefs constantly reinforced. To them, people who don't share all their beliefs are strange and scary - and have obviously been brainwashed by the all-powerful Fox News propaganda machine. They wind up utterly lacking in propaganda skills, having only the ability to repeat orthodox mantras which are persuasive within the bubble, but are notably antipersuasive, and downright alienating, to those on the outside.
I think you make a good point there. You can argue a staunch old school marxist back to his first principles, at which point the argument concludes with, "well, that's a fundamental point and I guess we just disagree on it. Let's have a beer."

Because they don't proceed from any particular point, but only in a reactionary direction ('smash the status quo,' 'if Bush is for it, I'm against it') they cannot argue. They don't have anything to argue, in fact, except for opposition. This reduces all argument to tactics. If I say, "X," the response is "But you slept around in college." If I say "Y" the response is "Halliburton! Oiiiillllll!". If I say "Z", the response is, "If you can't provide a web link to that, then it isn't true," as if political economy were a legal brief.

The damnedest thing is the NuLeft insists on bringing up politics at inappropriate times, and then gets all emotionally wrapped up in arguing about stuff, when they are essentially arguing unprovable emotional assertions that I couldn't agree with if I tried. I suppose in the end they don't really want your agreement, they want your approval and validation. I don't grant my toddler validation when he has a snit, and I'm not going to support a 40 year-old colleague who engages in the same behavior...
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