Saturday, November 12, 2016

Excuse me while I talk to monty, again...

Monty, has this convinced you yet that you can only talk to unpleasant fools for so long before it makes you foolish for engaging with them - at least if the engagement is on the basis that you think you have any hope of changing their minds?

Look, I know you like to see some good in everyone, and there (nearly always) is.   But when pointing out their wilful foolishness is met with mere rudeness, disdain and a repetition of tribalism, there is no point.  It is no accident that any Left leaning or even centrist commenter gave up on the site years ago. 

I could go on and do yet another summary of how the blog is deeply offensive, if not dangerous, from the top down.  But you and my handful of long time readers have heard it all before.

What prompts me to write this time is that I reckon the reaction to Trump at the place should be seen as a reason why no right minded person can in good faith engage with them further.  There is, to my mind, simply no way to usefully engage with fools who, for mere tribalist reasons, are willing to overlook the character, behaviour and proposed policies of Trump.   This is unforgivable foolishness of a magnitude I could not formerly imagine - particularly coming from anyone (as many at the blog do) who professes a Christian faith.

We know the American Right was divided over Trump, and we have to give credit to those columnists who are now likely just as gobsmacked as you and I.  But the threads of Catallaxy are full of non-serious tribalists - long fooled on climate change; gullible on economics; sexist if not misogynistic; bigoted.   They are not for turning - or engaging with - if they cannot see the danger and foolishness of Trump and his policies.

Attack them by all means in other ways - but the one on one engagement - forget it, I reckon.


not trampis said...

The fools do not realise Trump is not a rightwinger. Like Reagan and Bush he is going to blow the deficit on tax cuts . This will vastly increase the structural deficits. The boost to infrastructure will certainly facilitate growth .

How will Trump react to the Fed increasing rates because of his inflationary program. I tip another version of Reagan criticising Volker!

Paul Montgomery said...

There have been a lot of fools made in the last week of politics, and my prediction was as wrong as anyone's. Nevertheless, the ultimate reason that the election was lost was due to the shifting of votes in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, which fits the pattern that Michael Moore talked about, which also fits in nicely with the subject of my Cat OP. You can blame the media or the Bernie bros or the FSM, but in the end the votes that swung it were from precisely the people I was describing in that piece. So, even though I thought Hillary's other advantages would outweigh that problem, at least I acknowledged the problem.

The reaction at the Cat is a lot of pretending that they knew it was going to happen exactly this way all along, which is complete tosh of course, and that lefties like me still don't "get it". They never quite seem to codify what "it" is in their minds. By implication, it is too easy to dismiss "it" as racist nationalism, as white supremacism, as a number of distasteful -isms along the way to fascism. I don't think that sort of conversation will ever convince anyone, absent an actual Kristallnacht II to finally shame them beyond ideology.

There are some Cats with whom I don't even bother engaging in any hope of convincing them, because I know they will forever be hopeless ideologues. As I think I've said before here, though, the most successful working theory behind Internet forums is that the people you see posting are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of readership, and battles that are played out between active posters are read - by and can influence the thinking of - many times more lurkers. It's a performance art, in that way. You only have to look at what "candy" does to see that.

I agree wholeheartedly that the Christian right has been utterly disgraced by their support of Trump. Never again can they claim the high moral ground with their choice of candidate. They have been exposed as cynical exploiters of demagoguery and idolatry in a last ditch attempt to suppress women and minorities. These people are now worshipping the golden calf, not God.

Paul Montgomery said...

It is always the responsibility of the left, I think, to make their case for progress, no matter how much the people whom it benefits might resist. Outreach is still important, perhaps even more so now. I have been reading about many lefties who threw their hands up and gave up for a while... I don't think that's going to help. The cause is still as important as it was a few days ago. It will have some temporary setbacks, sure, but Trump isn't going to be able to arrest the long-term shift in demographics unless he actually transforms the country's culture into that of Japan through ethnic cleansing, which is practically impossible, and undesirable to the public anyway.

Remember when Abbott was going to usher in a new era of conservatism? That didn't last long. Remember when Dubbya won again in 2004 and the world was going to end? Remember when Obama got his clock cleaned in the 2014 midterms and we thought the space-time continuum would rupture? The wheel turns.

Everyone who thought Hillary was going to win should be doing some soul searching right now, and I'm doing my fair share. I have had some thoughts that Trump might turn out to be more Keynesian than the left has been giving him credit for, and that Trump might not give over his domestic policy to Pence and the Heritage Institute because he's all about dominance, particularly dominance of his own party, and the Heritage blueprint is actually anathema to his populist platform in many ways. I also suspect SCOTUS has a few more surprises before it succumbs to overwhelming numbers. But I realise these longshots are currently a bit too hopeful to be anything more than wish fulfilment. We shall see.

I'm rambling a bit now, as my thoughts are a bit jumbled. To answer your question directly: we only have one planet and the wingnuts rule it for now, so ignoring them isn't going to work. You can't earn the good times without going through the bad times and taking your licks. Politics doesn't work like that, and we have just got a very harsh lesson in that. Burying one's head in the sand is counterproductive.

Paul Montgomery said...

I kind of wise you would respond in the comments when I appear in this sort of post, Steve. Keeping up the conversation is a good thing.

Steve said...

Which brings me back to the point of my post: I have no problem with the idea of "outreach" to the Right at all - what I am saying that the particular forum at Catallaxy is not the place to do it.

It is clear that most threadsters there live in the Right wing media bubble - many talk about how they won't take their news from the ABC, and I think even Sinclair and Judith from time to time have indicated they either don't watch the ABC, or watch it as little as possible. (Even though they will still get their head on it if offered.)

The behaviour in both threads and - very often now - in posts, is incredibly rude and dismissive, and Sinclair runs the blog in such a way that he is not interested in it being a place for genuine debate of the kind where both sides are allowed to be equally as rude and aggro to each other. (I am aware I was wasn't banned, although I was clearly getting up his nose with the way I was attacking threadsters when he put a limit on me.)

Sinclair presumably can be affable in person - and he is open minded enough to be on friendly terms with the likes of Andrew Leigh, and he did endorse Turnbull over Abbott, and seems not keen on Trump. Yet he has often shot from hip in posts, and - more importantly - lets the blog threads have content that is very offensive.

Hence I suspect that the threads of Catallaxy are only read by two groups: those immoveables sharing the same Right wing media bubble, and those (like me) who read them to both be appalled, and have some idea as to how Australian wingnuts think and are fooled by charlatans.

I therefore doubt your theory that you can have any significant effect on readers who don't comment.

Furthermore, there comes a point where participating in threads acts like a quasi endorsement of the legitimacy of offensive views stated therein. You know what I mean - obviously you don't agree with the ridiculous and routine sexism, misogyny and school boy taunts on homosexuality - but if you keep participating in threads where it appears, it's a sign to them and the world that you don't take it seriously enough that it puts you off appearing in the same room.

And I suspect what your come back will be - that much of it (particularly from guys like IT) is done with comic exaggeration and is not to be taken seriously.

But you know that's not a justification for it being done repeatedly. It's pretty much the Trump followers "locker room talk" excuse, and besides, there is the psychological effect where if you act as if you believe something often enough, you do start to believe it. Hence, I have little doubt that participating in that forum has coarsened people (I've definitely seen that in the likes of Gab over the years) because Sinclair allows it to run like a locker room. One that also dumbs people down.

So that was more the point. If the site was run with even a modicum of the need for respectful discourse, it might be worth trying to convince people by arguing there. But it isn't. It has become an offensive toilet, really, and that's why I think decent people should abandon it.

Steve said...

Hey, just to explain - I did make a comment that I was trying to split into two, but I lost the first half. I'll have to recreate it...:(

Steve said...

My first half of the post was something like this:

Of course, we agree with many points of the election.

I see that the WAPO has shown that Trump essentially won by just 107,000 votes in three rust belt-ish states. The GOP really has no reason to crow that it was an overwhelming endorsement.

And while Trump, surprisingly, did marginally better than Romney with blacks and Hispanics, it was still so far from parity with their Democrat vote that the long term demographic issue for them is very real. Not to mention the youth vote, which I posted about. Sure, people may tend to being more conservative as they age, but it is hard to believe that it will happen at sufficient speed to replace the aged GOP vote as it dies off.

I remain a bit puzzled about how well Republicans do at the State legislature level. I guess that it may be that there is more freedom in Repbulicans at that level to be pragmatic and not so ideologically driven - hence we had centrist Arnie as governor, and odd facts like how Texas actually has a huge amount of wind energy, and a recent push to legislatively wind it back failed.

On the other hand, you do have madly ideological Republicans in some states, but it doesn't hurt them. Seriously, how can Kansas and its disastrous fling with Laffer-nomics still be overwhelming Republican? Sometimes I think rural folk just live in an impenetrable bubble against thinking about politics - you see it in Queensland too - and there is no explaining things to them.

And now you can see how that led into my second part .....

Paul Montgomery said...

The way I have come to think about the result, Steve, is that the most important deciding factor was Rust Belt Democrats who have been (or expected to be) economic victims of globalisation registering a protest vote against Clinton. I read somewhere that in Michigan there were a large number of people who voted down-ballot but left the presidency boxes unticked, many more than the margin of victory. That, to me, is what decided the election.

As such, we on the left who didn't see that coming have to go on a listening tour outside our own bubbles. To be honest, a lot of leftists have been full of crap, and have been exposed as such by the result. Berniebros and Hillbots alike have been too arrogant. How can we claim to be representing the little guy when we have left these people defenceless against the ravages of globalisation? The lesson here is that you can't leave anyone behind if you want to continue democratic validation of progress. That includes Trump voters, and Clinton abstainers who delivered the presidency to Trump. Retreating behind our own ramparts is precisely the wrong thing to do.

Paul Montgomery said...

As for the tone of discussion over there, the Cat is not a locker room, it's worse than that. The analogy I have always liked best is that it's a bareknuckle fighting arena. Some of us step into the ring and have at it, many more are in the crowd baying for blood, but no one should be under any illusion that there are Marquis of Queensberry rules in operation. I keep participating because I enjoy the fray. It's the most vigorous political forum in Australia since Usenet was still a thing. Judge me for that if you want, but if there was anything similar on the left I'd be there like a shot and leave the Cat in my dust. It seems the left in Australia is not able to create such a space for free discussion. Larvatus Prodeo was boring, let's face it, and Quiggin's place is full of feral greens and unreconstructed Marxists. Crikey's Poll Bludger threads are the only thing that comes close IMO.

I have railed against Zippy, because I would have thought Sinc might draw the line at an actual white supremacist. Evidently not. I know exactly what IT is doing when he says those ridiculously outrageous things, and I don't like it either, but engaging with him about it would just be playing into his hands. It's better to mock that sort of thing than to attack it directly.

We are living in a world where Trump is the leader of the free world. Now is not the time to cede control to the alt right. Battling them is more important than ever, IMO. Relying on the Gabs of the world to resist the darker impulses of the CLs of the world is not going to work.

Steve said...

Well, we agree that LP was a very boring forum, and JQ's threads are also only occasionally engaging.

We can also likely agree that Catallaxy used to be much better than it is now - even the long time conservatives there you can see becoming more extreme in their rhetoric, and basically bigger jerks.

Both sides seem to illustrate the whole echo chamber effect of anonymous social media. Strongly moderated Leftist sites tend to have an air of disdainful refusal to engage with different views, which can make for dull and unengaging reading; but a basically unmoderated Right wing site like Catallaxy doesn't seriously engage in debate either, and instead can become just a place where jerks take comfort in finding their views (some of which they wouldn't even say in front of their spouse, I'm sure) are shared by a wider jerk society.

Ironically, for Sinclair, I reckon that this also illustrates the practical failure of libertarian principles for running a society. One might hope that threads on a blog like that would become in a way self regulating - that outright racists, bigots and offensively sexist comments would be called out by other commenters in sufficient numbers it would set something that resembles self organised acceptable public behaviour for society overall. But it just doesn't happen.

So, I understand your regret at not finding anywhere for enjoyably lively political debate, but as I say, I just can't get over the feeling that participating works too much like endorsement for a site which has bad effects on people and (of course) promulgates actually dangerous policy in a completely foolhardy fashion (see "climate change".)