Thursday, June 28, 2018


If people are puzzled at why the anti-Trump folks in our country are increasingly threatening, extremist, and even violent in their speech*, it is a good time to remember the best essay of the 21st Century, The Toxoplasma of Rage, by Scott Alexander at Slate Star Codex. Activism in any direction is subject to gravitations.
Vegan Outreach can get everyone to agree in principle that factory-farming is bad, but no one will pay any attention to it. And PETA can get everyone to pay attention to factory farming, but a lot of people who would otherwise oppose it will switch to supporting it just because they’re so mad at the way it’s being publicized. But at least they’re paying attention! PETA doesn’t shoot themselves in the foot because they’re stupid. They shoot themselves in the foot because they’re traveling up an incentive gradient that rewards them for doing so, even if it destroys their credibility.
*And increasingly, actions. Worrisome.  Not only that violence is happening from the extremists, but that the mainstream increasingly excuses it.


Aggie said...

That's a great reference, thanks for sharing. I have lived and worked in many different cultures where my demographic (which is in the majority in the USA) was distinctly in the small minority. In other words, I have on many occasions felt the keen insults and even intimidating threats being directed at the foreigner's / minority's station. Sometimes, the violence, too. And I have lived in the Deep South back in the age when the civil rights movement was first coming into its own maturity, and seen its profound effects on both the old and young generations at the time.

The USA is one of the least prejudicial countries I've ever spent time in, with respect to racism and sexism and all the other pejorative "ism's" being bandied about now. I'm not saying it's perfect, or even exemplary, I'm saying I've tried a double handful of the alternatives and found most of them sadly wanting in ways that would be perceived as beyond draconian, here. And Americans, while they carry a reputation of being crass and uncultured around the world, also carry a reputation of being one of the most beneficent cultures around, and the most laid back. Go to the third world and ask, they'll tell you.

I say all this because I think the essay, and your comments, are pointing toward a little understood condition in American social politics. Just because the silent majority doesn't rise up or even say much, doesn't mean they're not paying attention. It's a serious mistake to assume that the majority of people in this country, all races and creeds, are prospective willing victims simply because they have the forbearance to try to avoid public confrontations or embarrassment of having their private lives put on display.

But forbearance has its limits when survival is in question, and within that reservoir of patience is a coiled spring. It's threaded through our nationalistic DNA, from the colonists through the settlers through the industrialists: Once provoked and motivated to anger, the job at hand is going to be engaged until it is finished, once and for all. As the Germans and Japanese found out. I think our political scenery could profoundly change this year.

lelia said...

I admit it. I'm scared. I do not want to see the riots, the burning cities, the bomb threats etc of the 60's again. Where do the people in this "Harass them wherever they are" movement think this is going to end? I keep reading people asserting. "What did they think would happen. It's their fault we're hitting them!

Sam L. said...

The mainstream excuses it because they're all LEFTist on the left.