Saturday, March 31, 2012

Civil Discourse

I keep trying to have a soft spot for Stewart, who is a W&M grad, but his condescending style still irritates me.  Except when I completely agree with what he is doing and skewering someone who really deserves it, in which case I love his style.  Which is a pretty clear indication of character flaws on my part.

I do start to feel sorry for her toward the end, against the time when she realises what an ass she is being, and how she might feel that night.  Yet she seems so impervious and well-defended that I suspect that moment might never come.

Here is the extent of my generalisation:  I don't believe that all liberals are like this, nor even that most are.  I do believe that there is a significant minority that is pretty close to this level of denial, and I believe that of the convinced liberals, the 16-19% of the American population identified by Pew every few years, a majority have much more of this jaw-dropping lack of insight than they have the faintest clue of.  There are folks with similar levels of denial among the other political groupings, but much fewer and less intense.  This is not because they are inherently nicer or more honest people, but because liberalism - the set of ideas itself - lends itself to denial of reality in favor of what we might wish were true.  It is a one-step-forward, two-steps-back set of ideas in all realms: transnationalism, environmentalism, government incentivizing and redistributing.  All of these are ideas that have some strength, and can be made to perform if they are used wisely.  Absent that, they depend on deceit to stay afloat.

Thanks to Philosophical Fragments via Tigerhawk


Gringo said...

This is somewhat old, but I will rehash. Last summer, the blogosphere picked up rather quickly that Froma Harrop, the director of a project on civility, had called the Tea Party people "terrorists."

She got a number of comments on her blog, especially on this article: Am I uncivil? While the comments disagreed with her, I did not detect any obscene ones. Perhaps Froma had deleted them.

Here was Froma's answer to "Am I uncivil?":

I see incivility as not letting other people speak their piece.

She later wrote:
Comments are closed.
Froma has kept her blog closed to comments since then.

By her own definition, Froma is not civil.

If blind,self-righteous Froma ever wonders why I left the Libs, my reply is that her sthtick, which I found rather common among the libs, is perhaps reason number one why I left the Libs.

Texan99 said...

Oh, I saw this wonderful piece a while back, and loved it.

I have to disagree, though, about whether conservatives are really more self-aware in general. I suspect our blind spots are just in other areas. Liberalism sometimes requires a weak-minded enthusiast to close his eyes to inconvenient facts, like the real-life harm that comes from dewy-eyed intentions. Conservatism, on the other hand, can boast block-headed champions who insist that all is well with a tried-and-true method even in the face of serious injustice. A thoughtful conservative works his way out of those corners, but then a thoughtful liberal often finds a way out of his corners, too.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Perhaps T99 is correct, but I still don't see it. I will note that my second son tells enough stories that remind me that Texas is not NH, and conservatives are different in the two places.

Nonetheless, while I find plenty of conservatives making uncivil and downright stupid statement, I tend to find those in comment threads. I might read someone who calls Obama a traitor or a communist, but I don't hear McConnell or Boehner or Bush or Cheney having said them. But I did hear Al Gore or John Kerry or other prominent Democrats making absolutely uncalled-for insults. The field is tilted, the scoring biased.

Kitten said...

I've noticed the same. Rude/crude remarks among conservatives, and yes there's plenty, are generally kept to "among friends" venues by non-leadership types. Which leads to the concern of wondering what liberals say in the comfort of their own circles, given what they proclaim freely in public. Although, I suppose there just may be less of a private/public filter among liberals?

karrde said...

@AVI, with respect to conservative leaders being less uncivil than liberal/progressive leaders:

what you might be seeing is an effect of a double-standard.

Conservatives have learned that uncivil words by their leaders will lead to demonization from the press.

Liberals haven't seen that effect, so their leaders are of looser tongue.

(In my memory, this harks back to the First Lady of the United States blaming her husband's sexual dalliances, or maybe the publicity and allegations about them, on a Vast Right Wing conspiracy. Earlier examples can be many conservative politicians, or their wives, blamed developing scandals on Left Wing Conspiracies?)

I agree with Kitten; I've seen many blog-comments and in-group-comments among conservatives that were/are uncivil.

Equal, and worse, can be found among the followers of the liberal/progressive side of the debate. However, the 'faces' of the liberal/progressive movement (political leaders, official spokesmen, etc.) are much more likely to join in the uncivil discourse.

There may also be a strong regional component for things that people will say in-public, versus among-friends.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I think the possibility that there is less difference between public and private discourse among liberals is quite possible. Working in an environment that is nearly all progressives, I do hear things that are amazing that they say out loud in a setting where those who disagree with them might hear. As if they expect that everyone present is reasonable, and no reasonable person could disagree.

That would tie in with Jonathan Haidt's research that those on the left cannot predict or describe the moral answers on the right, but moderates and conservatives can predict and describe the left. This trend increases the farther left one goes. There would thus be this (probably indistinct) notion of a sea of yahoos, mainly outside their immediate experience, who are just stupid or evil. They see them on TV and read about them, but they exist only in caricature.

Gringo said...

As if they expect that everyone present is reasonable, and no reasonable person could disagree.

That says it. Back in 2004, I had a short visit with some relatives I don't see much. I got an Xmas card that year with the only handwritten note a political one: "I'm so sorry Kerry lost the election." As if all right-thinking people supported Kerry.
[After I replied with a short exposition of why I didn't vote Democratic, I got no more Xmas cards from them. Just as well.]

I imagine that in such a work environment, you hold your tongue.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Hold my tongue...hmm, that's an interesting idea.

Donna B. said...

There are few subjects where liberal and conservative yahoos agree. Fat people are gross and should be shunned and ridiculed is one example.

The shunning and ridicule take different forms. A liberal is more likely to use pity whereas a conservative is more likely to use shame.

The larger difference is that the liberal still expects the shunned and ridiculed to agree with him... because the liberal wants to help him!

The liberal 'cares'. A conservative doesn't really give a crap, and is thus more likely to have an accurate perception of the fat guy and might eventually accept him on equal terms.

"Might" being the keyword there.

Go ahead and call me crazy, but I think those in the big undecided, independent middle are 'small l' libertarians... or perhaps 'classic liberals' Choose whichever term suits you or come up with a better one -- pragmatics, perhaps?

By now you've surely guessed that I see myself in the middle. I like the idea of 'affordable' healthcare for all, but I figure it cannot happen no matter how many laws are passed mandating it.

I also see that every law passed carries with it a bureaucratic cost of enforcement. In the area of healthcare, I think that cost is greater than the cost of providing healthcare for the few -- whether the few are rich or whether they are poor. The ones in the middle lose and there are more people in the middle... so it's a net loss.

Starting on the far left, there are progressive leftwing pseudo-Christians, liberals, the big middle, conservatives, stagnant or regressive rightwing pseudo-Christians.

Yep, I think Christianity is being torched from both sides. And far too often, willingly.

Sam L. said...

As the old saying goes, good intentions pave the road to Hell.

Texan99 said...

Via one of the Maggie's Farm links today:

"Liberals tend to believe they're brilliant, compassionate, moral, enlightened, perceptive, and courageous, not because of anything they've actually done, but just because they're liberal. When you completely divorce a person's self image from his behavior, it produces terrible results -- like liberals who hurl abuse at conservative women while believing that they're feminists or selfish left-wingers who've never given a dime to charity, but believe themselves to be much more compassionate than people who tithe 10% of their income.

"Now, on some level, liberals know this is all a big sham. But, even that can be problematic because unstable high self-esteem actually causes more bad behavior and violent behavior than low self-esteem."

But I have to wonder if you can't do this same trick with conservatives who believe they're upstanding citizens, by confronting them with evidence that they break laws when they can get away with it, or avoid military service while promoting wars, or accept government benefits that they theoretically should be opposed to. Anyone who represses knowledge of himself can be dangerous.

Gringo said...

But I have to wonder if you can't do this same trick with conservatives who believe they're upstanding citizens, by confronting them with evidence that they break laws when they can get away with it, or avoid military service while promoting wars

As the draft ended some 4 decades ago, that is a rather jaded idea. Many libs were claiming that only those who had been in the military had the moral right to advocate military action in Iraq. Yet, libs never claimed that only those who had been in the military had the moral right to denounce military action in Iraq.

I do not recall anyone objecting to President Clinton ordering military action because he had avoided military service. This is a card that is only played on wingnuts, as far as I can tell. For thee, but not for me: that is they way the libs operate.

But let us deal with those who dealt with the draft back in the day. Libs painted Kerry as one who had performed his duty, and Dubya as one who had gamed the system by getting into the Guard. Dubya- and millions of others, myself included- gamed the system. At the same time, someone who gets out of Vitenam after 8 months for wounds that were less grevious than I have suffered in pickup football or soccer games has also gamed the system.

My draft board granted me 1-O [Conscientious Objector] status. I was ready to go to jail if the draft board did not grant me 1-O status. Though I didn't realize it at the time, my pacifist stance was most likely based on my reaction to a tragedy in my childhood, when a friend of mine got killed in a gun accident with his older brother.

I later changed my mind about pacifism, as a result of seeing the exterminations in Cambodia. I concluded that as long as thugs walk the earth, no one has clean hands.

Yet some libs will tell me that I have no moral legitimacy for advocating military action in Iraq.