How big a bubble ?

by John Quiggin on October 4, 2021

We[1] are often urged to “get out of our bubbles” and engage with a wider range of viewpoints. As Chris said here, this mostly turns out to be a waste of time. As I experienced from my side, engagement with the political right consists mainly of responding to a string of talking points and whataboutery, with little if any content. On the rare occasions these discussions have been useful, it’s typically because the other party in the discussion is on the verge of breaking with the right[2]

To restate the case in favour of getting out of the bubble, it’s easy to see examples of people on the left putting forward arguments that don’t stand up under criticism, but haven’t faced such criticism within the limited circles in which they’ve been discussed. But the most effective criticisms of such arguments is likely to come from people with broadly similar political aims and understandings.

As Daniel once observed, opinion at CT runs the gamut from social democrat to democratic socialist, and I have traversed that range in both directions. I get plenty of benefit from arguing with other people in that range and with some a little outside it, such as liberaltarians and (not too dogmatic) Marxists.

Opening up the discussion bubble now.

fn1. At least we on the left, I rarely run across this suggestion in the rightwing media I read.
fn2. TBC, I don’t think the powerful force of my arguments has converted them; rather it’s that people making this kind of shift often have interesting things to say,

{ 60 comments }

1

Chetan Murthy 10.04.21 at 6:20 am

John, dsquared is right, when it comes to the FPers here. And you all are why I come back to this site.

But the commenters? whew I still remember a number who were loud-and-proud letting their Trump freak flags wave in the breeze. It was pretty disgusting.

To your original point, those people who insist we “get out of our bubbles” forget that many of us grew up among them, suffered gravely, and fled for safer environs. The only way some of us would “get out of our bubbles” is backed up with significant personal protection details with shoot-to-kill orders.

2

J, not that one 10.04.21 at 12:31 pm

Not sure of what “getting out of your bubble” is supposed to involve. For the ordinary person it seems to mean empathy more than theoretical persuasion (though I sometimes suspect the intention is to let some supposedly inevitable process of implicit persuasion occur through removing inhibitions) — there’s some misunderstanding of liberal democratic politics that seems to assume dehumanizing a group is a precondition for not wanting to see their priorities prevail. For the academic or student I imagine it’s different. (For the imagined “meritocrat,” who’s supposed to have no personal social existence but to be responsible for the wellbeing of people unlike them who they spitefully deny happiness, it would be different yet again.)

And as the OP notes, conservatives don’t often seem to feel “get out of your bubble” might apply to them. They seem more often interested in bursting the bubbles of others.

As for this blog, there are certainly one or two book events that can be seen listed on the sidebar that are decidedly on the right of the spectrum.

3

Doug 10.04.21 at 2:33 pm

I whole-heartedly agree.

And, FWIW, I often visit right-wing websites, and participate in a right-libertarian listserve. I get something useful that expands my horizons from the listserve maybe 2 to 6 times per year, max. I get nothing from the websites which, despite my best efforts, shifts my perspective. I do get things that shift my perspective from lefty Twitter, CT, The New Republic, etc.

4

nastywoman 10.04.21 at 4:23 pm

‘Opening up the discussion bubble now’.

Seriously?

As in the quoted observation of ‘Daniel’ – Daniel (also) writes -(or jokes?)

‘But I think that there’s one issue which divides us neatly into two groups. Or rather, into one group consisting of me, and one group consisting of all the others. And that’s the fact that I’m a nationalist. Horrible to admit it but it’s true. I genuinely do believe that, according to my standards (and who else’s standards might I use?), Britain is the best place to live that there is, and the British are the finest people in the world. After that, Irish, Turks, Czechs, Danes and French in that order, and after that there’s quite a steep drop-off’.

and see – that might be the problem? – as I very strongly believe that Italy is the best place to live that there is, and the Italians are the finest people in the world -(judged by the only serious way you could judge people – by the way they treat their children) and –
ALORA!

Hoe can somebody – anybody – who is in a ‘nationalistic’ bubble – EVER be able to get out of this bubble – especially if she -(or he) lacks…
‘Olive Oil’?

https://youtu.be/bHszbIHfkGM

5

nastywoman 10.04.21 at 4:29 pm

OR
as the little posh British Boy blubbers in the end:

Gosh –
it really does put everything into prospective –
doesn’t it?

6

nastywoman 10.04.21 at 4:43 pm

BUT!!!
on the other hand – isn’t it tremendously helpful if -(with the help of Italian Olive Oil)
even Great Britain has gotten out of the ‘We Can’t Cook Bubble’ and somebody like Chris is so Frenchifized that he went to France in order to look for ‘The Perfect Brie’?
(Parabelwise – just Parabelwise – if there is something like that?)

https://youtu.be/ynxdPLY6lnI

7

Tim B 10.04.21 at 6:50 pm

As I experienced from my side, engagement with the political right consists mainly of responding to a string of talking points and whataboutery, with little if any content.

Engagements with those on the left likewise.

Having well-thought-out positions that aren’t just someone else’s talking points takes a lot of work. And there are a lot of discussions about everything going on all the time.

I personally try to bias my own discussion contributions against things where I don’t have my own opinion that I’ve thought about. But there’s just so much more other stuff that the raw amount I participate is probably a fair bit higher despite the lower probability per discussion opportunity.

8

EB 10.04.21 at 9:16 pm

I don’t think “getting out of your bubble” by interacting with right wing idealogues who populate right wing websites/Twitter/etc is what is usually meant by that comment. It is more important to interact with people who are not preaching, not formulating arguments, not necessarily Trump voters or even Republicans. Rather, just people who are not responsive to the Progressive point of view on some things or everything. People who don’t think it is self-evident that the only reason for racial disparities is white supremacy; or that free college will solve all our problems; or that anyone who owns a firearm is a troglodyte; I could go on. In other words, don’t debate with people, just hang around with them. Some of my relatives are in this category, and they are not naturally right-wingers, but they sure feel rejected by many of the Progressive talking heads.

9

Alex SL 10.04.21 at 9:28 pm

I love discussing matters political, philosophical, scientific, and life would be pretty stagnant if nobody ever challenged me. It would also be pretty boring if we weren’t exposed to other values and ways of living.

But how far outside my bubble should I go? There seems to be little point in seeking out the opinions of somebody who believes I am part of a worldwide conspiracy trying to destroy Christianity, because I accept the evidence for common descent. Sometimes your own side actually has evidence and reason on its side, and those who disagree are actually wrong or a cult. (The problem, admittedly, is that everybody thinks that, but again: some of the people who think that are nonetheless demonstrably wrong.)

The same then applies in the political space. Little point, to me, in engaging with a white supremacist, for example.

10

hix 10.04.21 at 9:59 pm

Basic political beliefes are just one kind of bubble and democratic socialist till social democrats is a pretty big one. The other bubble are educational, class, ethnic group, age etc backgrounds. Diversity in that regard would be desirable and is harder to achieve. To make matters worse people who talk a lot about diversity are often particular bad at this, often only focusing on ethnicity and gender, disregarding anything else. The particular bad closed political bubbles also tend to be very closed regarding any exposure to diversity anywhere in their lives. The last major criticism of “lifestyle socialists” we had in Germany, Sarah Wagennechts book mainly showed she lives in an even narrower bubble than the worst lifestyle socialist… (a few pages were enough to be rather confident in that assesment). Ugly situation that, hard to produce a sane party to the left of the SPD with all that pre 1990 baggage still hanging arround. The linke we have got a well deserved beating at the polls.

11

Diodotos 10.04.21 at 10:01 pm

12

Ebenezer Scrooge 10.04.21 at 10:42 pm

There is no point in engaging with bad faith. Most of the right has long ago given up on good faith arguments, either because they don’t know what good faith is, or because they know that their good faith arguments rely on premises that outsiders cannot accept (e.g., subordination of women or other lower orders).
Liberaltarians haven’t given up on good faith arguments, which is why the social democrats and democratic socialists of this website can engage with them. Nor, for that matter, has some of the Catholic social justice tradition, although one has to pick one’s interlocutors carefully.

13

Ikonoclast 10.04.21 at 11:04 pm

This topic is an ink-blot test right? I could put my views but people could care less about my views unless they equal their views and I become one of their willing acolytes. This happens across the right-left spectrum. It is very rare that people want a critical analysis. They just want acquiescence to their views.

J.Q. is one the rare thinkers in the political economy space whose thinking is nuanced and who does listen a bit to those a little outside his thinking, “such as libertarians and (not too dogmatic) Marxists.” This is rare. Most of the left are as dogmatic as the right. And they mostly want to run their clique with willing acolytes as I term them. There are a few exceptions, not just J.Q., but they are rare.

The left (the liberal left) has become comfortable with being out of power and hence powerless. In-clique power becomes the substitute. The global system now (late stage neoliberal capitalism) is a totalising system which demands all reality and all socially imaginary possibilities and solutions be seen though its prism. This is ultimately bound up with the operations of finance and money themselves.

At this very late stage, without the radical abolition of the rules of the system, nothing can be done to change the system. While people believe in property, money and finance as currently constructed, the way they once believed in the Catechism of the Holy Roman and Apostolic Church, nothing can be done. The system will continue to run automatically and reproduce itself and the same outcomes. It’s an axiomatic system. Of course, it can’t reproduce itself much longer. Environmental collapse will see to that. It’s at that point that we may see radical change.

Oops, I just put my views when I know nobody cares. Why do I do that?

14

JimV 10.05.21 at 12:04 am

There might be a useful lesson from the following scientific fact. (Or not.)

If you have two polarized lens back to back with a 90 degree difference in their angles of polarization, no light gets through, but if you put a third in the middle with a different angle than either of the first two, some light gets through.

15

Omega Centauri 10.05.21 at 12:16 am

A big divide is epistemological style. Many are propagandists and argue in bad faith. Education level matters too. Will people be respectful if you offer data that doesn’t support their priors -i.e. agree to try to look at in impartially (or at least make the effort to do so, as no one can be completely impartial)? We also have a lot of monomaniacs (those who think a single lense/frame explains everything about the human condition).

This is not strictly about left/right bubbles. Enter any discussion about whether we should invest in new Nuclear generation in order to tackle climate change, and you will find a group who dismisses all studies that claim to show that a collection of variable sources can satisfy baseload demands.

16

Kiwanda 10.05.21 at 3:00 am

Little point, to me, in engaging with a white supremacist, for example.

I’ve always found Daryl Davis’s example to be inspiring. He was (maybe still is) engaging with KKK members and other white supremacists. (That is, even under the old definition of “white supremacy”.) He was able to help many people see the error of their ways, which is one reason to engage outside the bubble. (Notably, he did it by listening and calm engagement.)

Another reason to go outside is to try to see the error of one’s own ways, or to gain clarity on just what those ways are. This requires certain amounts of humility and self-respect. It also, at best, involves trying to get a better idea of what is true, as opposed to winning for the team, which so often is instead the main objective. Skipping the team part goes along with not worrying so much about what the team is, and who’s in it: not concerned with who said something, but whether what they said is true. So it’s not so much important to establish that all right-minded people agree that Jonathan Chait, or Steven Pinker, or Glenn Greenwald, or Andrew Sullivan, or even Chris Rufo, are History’s Greatest Monsters, but to disagree with them when they say something false, and to agree with them when they say something true.

It’s also possible to be liberal and go outside the bubble, without engaging right-wingers. I’m pretty much an old school liberal, including supporting civil rights, civil liberties, protecting the environment, and decent education and medical care for everyone. It used to be that “left” values included free speech (for everyone), due process (for everyone), decent police conduct (with everyone), respect for biology, and concern for sex-based rights. Not so much anymore, including here.

17

nastywoman 10.05.21 at 5:32 am

and about:
‘So it’s not so much important to establish that all right-minded people agree that Jonathan Chait, or Steven Pinker, or Glenn Greenwald, or Andrew Sullivan, or even Chris Rufo, are History’s Greatest Monsters, but to disagree with them when they say something false, and to agree with them when they say something true’.

But hasn’t that become THE problem?
That not even Glenn Greenwald knows anymore when he says something false?
And that he says and produces so much stupid and idiotic contradicting right wing dreck that he even had some readers of CT confused to such a dimension that they seem to believe that ‘politically’ he is on the same side as for example a Jonathan Chait?

Do they?

BUT not Prof. Quiggin – Noooo!

18

Chetan Murthy 10.05.21 at 5:44 am

Kiwanda @16: You argue that one doesn’t need to paint Rufo (for example) as History’s Greatest Monster, but simply should point out when he’s wrong and when he’s right. This completely misses that the method of The Big Lie is not to always lie, but rather to mix lies and truth in order to achieve a goal. Giving support to these people by supporting them when they’re speaking truth, is the same as giving support to them, full stop.

And why is this relevant? B/c nobody can be sufficiently expert that they can test every statement uttered by (for instance) Pinker. Instead, at some point they decide “enough people say that Pinker is truthful, often enough, that I’ll just take Pinker’s word for it”. And voila, the listener starts to believe everything Pinker says.

You’re assuming good faith on the part of these people, when they don’t offer it at all. They’re bad faith all the way down.

19

Chetan Murthy 10.05.21 at 5:49 am

Kiwanda: Also, you offer the example of Daryl Davies. [Paywall, so] I assume you’re talking about his reaching out to KKK members and other white supremacists? I’ll guess that he even converts some of them? That’s great stuff!

But it’s got nothing to do with actually being open to the words and arguments of KKK members! He’s just offering himself as an interlocutor, in the hopes of changing their minds.

And to be sure, I think that that’s great! Let me be clear about what I think is great. If I’m the sort of person who can stand the stench of the moral rot of these people, can bear to listen to their filth daily, treat them as human, and thereby convert a few to actually being decent human beings, that is a GREAT THING. We need people like that in the world. But nothing in what I said above, entails that I should actually be open to their arguments in any way, shape, or form. My engagement with them is wholly instrumental (and you might say, I’m engaging with them in bad faith, HA!) b/c I engage with them only insofar as I am trying to convert them to my position.

Again, that’s great. And heck maybe I could imagine doing that with a Flat Earther, say. But there’s no way I’d be thinking even for an instant that he’s not a feckin’ moron. B/c that’s all he is — I mean, “flat earth”, man.

Davies is doing a great thing, a great service. It’s got nothing to do with “getting out of our liberal bubble” and everything to do with “meeting these fallen where they are, in order to lift them up”.

20

nastywoman 10.05.21 at 5:50 am

AND we got out of our bubble and we engaged with a wider range of viewpoints (all over America) and it didn’t turned out to be a waste of time.

As all over America ‘good people’ came to the conclusion that Queen Anne would do much more fabulously than any ‘trump’ –
(the worlds new word for utmost ‘Racist Reactionary Right-Wing Science Denying Stupid)

See TC:2.27

https://youtu.be/RzpP8F5ELS0

And is it true if we – instead talking about ‘politics’ – we’re just talking about ‘being silly’ -(or just basically ‘stupid’) EVERYBODY like to… ‘chime’ in – perhaps with the exception of Germans and Members of the Cult of Donald Greenwald – who have no humor?
EVERYBODY

21

notGoodenough 10.05.21 at 9:43 am

Kiwanda @ 16

Perhaps you are referring to some other discussion, but the only mention of Chris Rufo on Crooked Timber I recall is the thread where you and I discussed his assertions [1].

Perhaps you can correct me if I am wrong, but I see no point where I accuse Mr Rufo of being “history’s greatest monster”, nor do I even make any particular moral assessment (I try, as a general principle, to make moral evaluations of actions rather than people). I also explicitly state that I do not know whether or not the points he said are correct.

I simply note that he has made statements which cause me to suspect he is a proponent of conflating CRT with “things I don’t like” [2], and that that would seem to make discussion regarding CRT rather difficult (as in line with the OP). I also note that, given the difficulty in assessing the veracity of his accusations [3] I can neither accept nor dismiss them, and suggest that perhaps it might have behooved the media and political parties to take the time to investigate before promulgating his narrative as if it were fact.

If you disagree with this assessment of our discussion, I’d certainly be interested in your reasons. If, for example, you think I have unfairly characterised Mr Rufo, then perhaps you can quote the text where I do so? Or, if you think my motivations for being skeptical of his statements comes not from an inability to validate his claims but rather because he is “not on the same team”, perhaps you can explain how you reached that conclusion.

Of course, it may well be you are referring to some other discussion – in which case I’d certainly appreciate your clarification.

[1] https://crookedtimber.org/2021/06/30/not-crt-but-critical-thinking-about-race/
[2] https://crookedtimber.org/2021/06/30/not-crt-but-critical-thinking-about-race/#comment-811638
[3] https://crookedtimber.org/2021/06/30/not-crt-but-critical-thinking-about-race/#comment-811747

22

notGoodenough 10.05.21 at 11:19 am

It is a dangerous business, after all, going outside your bubble. You step into a thread, and if you don’t keep your head, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to…

Indeed, surely as one wanders the daylight hours with one’s metaphorical lantern, ever searching for a more reliable model and understanding, one is confronted by the unfortunate limitations of one’s time and energy. And so, while it may well be valuable to graze more diverse pastures from time to time, I suspect that there are discussions and communities amongst which such attempts are likely to prove more or less fruitful.

In short, I would generally agree that there can be value to venturing “outside the bubble”. But there is also, I would suggest, also typically a cost as well (be it simply time, the toll of subjecting oneself to a barrage of invective, etc.). It is, I dare venture, not unreasonable to weigh these with respect to each other. And if someone determines that (for them) the latter outweighs the former, it would take person with a greater authoritarian bent than I to insist otherwise.

23

Kiwanda 10.05.21 at 5:42 pm

I think that this, from Chetan Murthy, is saying at its heart that democracy is impossible, because an open democratic society will always be vulnerable to Bad People who are “bad faith all the way down”; it is only us Good People who should have a say. Beyond specifics here, the left arm of the horseshoe seems to bend to agreement with those horrifying people on the right now working to destroy democracy via subversion of the electoral process. The only disagreement may be, who is good and who is bad.

I disagree with this Manichean view, partly because of the success of people like Daryl Davis. Certainly he doesn’t get to know KKK members because he thinks he might be persuaded by them, but surely neither does he think that they are irredeemable, “bad faith all the way down”, because if so, why bother. But beyond reaching them and “converting” them, I think there could be something positive that I could learn from a KKK member: maybe about his life and its hardships; family stories; job; aspirations for his children. To deny that possibility is to deny common humanity, and the chances of finding it.

notGoodEnough

Perhaps you can correct me if I am wrong, but I see no point where I accuse Mr Rufo of being “history’s greatest monster”, nor do I even make any particular moral assessment (I try, as a general principle, to make moral evaluations of actions rather than people). I also explicitly state that I do not know whether or not the points he said are correct.

I see a tendency on your part to interpret things a little too literally; in that spirit: I see no point where I accused you of accusing Mr Rufo of being “history’s greatest monster”; if I did, please let me know where.

Regarding that earlier discussion, it may be worth noting that while Lukianoff et al link to Rufo (for some examples), the overall set is from a book by Bonnie Snyder; now it could be that not only Rufo, but also Lukianoff and Snyder, are “bad faith all the way down”, fabricating quotes and documents. But I will make the small leap to guess that they are not. I would also ask: given anecdotes and reported incidents that conform with your beliefs, do you demand an equal amount of rigor for the verification of their accuracy?

24

Trader Joe 10.05.21 at 6:00 pm

Apropos of the OP I think where the bubble lies depends on where one stands within it.

If I imagine a Liberal to conservative spectrum with say Bernie Sanders at the full left call it “zero” on the X axis and say Ted Cruz at the full right, say 100. I’d generally place myself somewhere in the 25-35 range as an average across issues though I’d probably say my maximum range (on that spectrum) is about 10 to 55.

I doubt I’d get any value from talking to a “zero” or a “100” since they are too entrenched both generally and within specific issues and I can probably guess what they are going to say and I’ve also probably made up my mind about where I find flaws in it.

However if I talk to someone who I judge to be a “50” on an issue where I’m a 30 I might learn something. If I listen to a “15” on the same issue I might capture a good refutation of the point the 50 has made. These are the interactions that broaden my perception and allow me to interact comfortably across the entirety of my range without feeling defensive on one hand or too smug on the other.

Ultimately I’m still likely to remain comfortably left of center on most topics, but understanding the center and a bit of the “reasonable right”(of which there are some) tends to clarify my thinking far more than sitting in a left leaning echo chamber or trying to comprehend the far right who have little interest in convincing and really only want to be deemed right.

25

notGoodenough 10.05.21 at 7:45 pm

Kiwanda @ 23

Thank you for offering your opinion regarding my tendencies – certainly interesting, though unasked for.

I would respectfully note that I did not assert you accused me of accusing Mr Rufo of being “history’s greatest monster” (indeed, I would have thought my repeated qualifications that “perhaps you are referring to another discussion” would have reinforced that notion). I would further note that you have not addressed many of my inquiries (e.g. whether you believe that I have unfairly characterised Mr Rufo or the root of my scepticism), but will dare venture to assume you do not.

“it may be worth noting that while Lukianoff et al link to Rufo (for some examples), the overall set is from a book by Bonnie Snyder;”

Certainly an interesting point. If I have the time and inclination, it is a book I will consider reading. I appreciate your bringing this to my attention – perhaps it may contain the evidence I would like, perhaps not, but either way it is good to be offered additional resources.

“now it could be that not only Rufo, but also Lukianoff and Snyder, are “bad faith all the way down”, fabricating quotes and documents.”

With respect I have noticed what appears to be a tendency of yours to believe motivation has been ascribed when it has not.

There are many possibilities between “Rufo has accurately conveyed a fair account of events” and “not only Rufo, but also Lukianoff and Snyder, are “bad faith all the way down”, fabricating quotes and documents”.

I mean, you are aware that people can be sincerely mistaken, aren’t you?

”But I will make the small leap to guess that they are not.”

And it is certainly your prerogative to make such a leap.

But “these people are not acting in bad faith, nor are they fabricating quotes/documents” is not “these people have accurately conveyed a reasonably accurate understanding of events”.

And again, without evidence sufficient to warrant the latter leap, I see no reason to make it.

“I would also ask: given anecdotes and reported incidents that conform with your beliefs, do you demand an equal amount of rigor for the verification of their accuracy?”

An odd question.

To give a (necessarily very brief and general response), it would probably depend a lot on the belief in question.

I would (energy and time permitting) try to evaluate with some sort of heuristic (it would be difficult to evaluate every anecdote or report, after all).

Is the belief important and impactful? Is the belief already well-substantiated by a large body of evidence? Is the belief still disputed, or is it generally accepted? Has the belief been already evaluated by people in a position to do so? Is the evidence already supporting that belief already examinable? And so on.

For example, if a colleague tells me that they have measure the Raman spectra of crystalline Silicon, and found a band at ca. 520 cm-1, then no – I would not require an equal amount of rigour and verification. This is partly because there is a well-established body of literature, I have regularly performed such measurements myself, and if it turns out they were incorrect then the impact on the wellbeing of others would likely be minuscule.

If, on the other hand, someone in a position of power were to assert that they have a route to decarbonise the global economy which flatters my biases, then certainly I would want to demand that level of rigor and verification before accepting it as true. That would be partly because such things are (to the best of my knowledge) by no means as well-established as they need be, my ability to make such evaluations is limited and so I have less confidence, and if it turns out they were incorrect then the impact on the wellbeing of others might well be considerable.

Now of course, I am sure I am fallible and prone to error. No doubt there have been occasions I have failed to live up to such standards. However, I think this is (broadly speaking) a reasonable approximation of the sort of approach I aspire to.

While I am painting with a very broad brush in describing such an epistemological approach (I am somewhat wary of derailing the thread), I hope this – at least in some small measure – helps to satiate your curiosity.

26

J-D 10.05.21 at 11:43 pm

Chetan Murthy’s comments remind me of something I posted here a few years ago in a comment on a different discussion:

To do unbiased science on politically relevant subjects you need to engage intellectually with opposing ideas, but that doesn’t mean those ideas have to be represented among your professional colleagues. For example, a historian, sociologist, anthropologist, or political scientist studying the Ku Klux Klan needs to engage intellectually with the ideas of the Ku Klux Klan, but that doesn’t mean the university has to start hiring Kluxers.

I still think that’s right. I also think it has some relationship with the present discussion, although the exact question, despite the relationship, is a different one, to be answered differently.

27

Sebastian H 10.06.21 at 7:47 am

Getting out of your bubble is important because it lets you see people who aren’t like you as thinking human beings. I suspect getting out of your political bubble is important, but probably getting out of one’s class bubble or religious bubble or in many cases gender bubble can be just as important.

28

Stephen 10.06.21 at 6:31 pm

Agreeing with CB on the group size thread: “Not everything has to be related to US experience and US history, as if the US were a scale-model of universal human experience.”

That is I think more relevant to this thread. Seen from the UK, the left/right distinction does not seem as clear as in a country that has thrown up the unique President Trump.

Take the matter of Brexit, the most divisive matter of recent years. Anti-EU and so by extension would have been pro-Brexit in former years Hugh Gaitskell and Tony Benn, impeccably Left: passionately pro-EU, Oswald Moseley (difficult to place, Labour Cabinet Minister but later leader of the British Union of Fascists) and Ted Heath, Conservative PM. At the time of the referendum, pro-EU David Cameron (Conservative PM), Tony Blair (long-serving Labour PM but according to some neither L nor R, just a convinced Blairist), anti-EU Boris Johnson (atsnLnR, just a convinced Johnsonist), in his heart I think Jeremy Corbyn (for a while Labour leader). In the actual vote, large numbers of people in safe Labour seats voted anti-EU. Which is the Left position?

Or in other parts of the UK: is the Scottish National Party left (hooray) or right (boo) wing? Is Sinn Fein (party of mass murderers/heroic defenders of their people) left or right?

Abroad: is Xi Jinping left or right wing? Or Putin?

I wouldn’t confidently suggest any answers, other than that the L/R distinction is past its use-by date.

29

Kiwanda 10.07.21 at 3:15 am

notGoodEnough</a:

Thank you for offering your opinion regarding my tendencies – certainly interesting, though unasked for.

You’re welcome, although my observation was simply to put in context my response to your statement that “Perhaps you can correct me if I am wrong, but I see no point where I accuse Mr Rufo of being history’s greatest monster,” which you made in specific response to my prior comment, and quoting me, with the clear implication (to me, at least) of an assertion (however tentative) that I was saying that you had accused Mr Rufo of being “history’s greatest monster”. This being contrary to your later note (however qualified):

I would respectfully note that I did not assert you accused me of accusing Mr Rufo of being “history’s greatest monster” (indeed, I would have thought my repeated qualifications that “perhaps you are referring to another discussion” would have reinforced that notion)

Moreover:

With respect I have noticed what appears to be a tendency of yours to believe motivation has been ascribed when it has not.

I have expressed no such belief. Although your comments that:

It is interesting how many people are citing the words of Mr Christopher Rufo (formerly a research fellow at the Discovery Institute which, for those of us who appreciate irony, has been trying to force the ideologically motivated Intelligent Design into classrooms).

Just as a minor point, he seems to be a strong proponent of conflating (to use the distinction made in the OP) CRT and “crt” with “things I don’t like”

However, simply because Mr Rufo is (dare I suggest?) potentially just a little ideologically motivated does not mean we should discount what he says out of hand…

…do indeed give some indication that you dared suggest that Mr Rufo is potentially, just a little, ideologically motivated. So it’s plausible to believe that motivation has indeed be ascribed, and I do, at this time, now express that belief. But perhaps you were alluding to some other ill-considered belief (that I’ve actually expressed) regarding motivation ascription.

30

mw 10.07.21 at 6:53 pm

JD @ 26 “For example, a historian, sociologist, anthropologist, or political scientist studying the Ku Klux Klan needs to engage intellectually with the ideas of the Ku Klux Klan, but that doesn’t mean the university has to start hiring Kluxers.”

Quite true. But then we have the idea that people like Glen Greenwald and Steven Pinker are ‘bad faith all the way down’ — presumably among those a university should never hire and a publisher never publish.

Here’s a general question for CTers (and it’s not a trick question — I think the answers would be illuminating):

“Who is the rightmost writer/scholar/intellectual who think doesn’t display ‘bad faith all the way down’ and should be engaged respectfully (and whom you might even recommend to be hired, published, read, etc?)”

31

John Quiggin 10.07.21 at 6:59 pm

Who is the rightmost writer/scholar/intellectual who think doesn’t display ‘bad faith all the way down’ and should be engaged respectfully (and whom you might even recommend to be hired, published, read, etc?)”

You can rule out anyone who supports Trump, including anti-anti Trumpers. They are necessarily complicit in Trump’s comprehensive bad faith.

Among the Never-Trumpers, I’d say the most consistently conservative and worthy of respect is David French.

32

notGoodenough 10.07.21 at 9:25 pm

Kiwanda @ 29

Thank you for your response again. I am rather concerned this is deviating a little too much from the thread topic, and though I respond in the hope this comment will be sufficient to clarify potential misunderstandings I doubt (unless there is anything particularly significant relating to the thread) I will continue much further for fear of derailment.

“You’re welcome, although my observation was simply to put in context my response to your statement that […]“

Certainly. To try to be clear, preceding that statement I also said:

“Perhaps you are referring to some other discussion, but the only mention of Chris Rufo on Crooked Timber I recall is the thread where you and I discussed his assertions”

I thought (wrongly, it would seem) that my intention would be reasonably conveyed – the paragraph you quote was contingent on it being the case you had intended such a meaning, not as an assertion that such a meaning was intended. In short, a request for clarification – not an accusation.

“do indeed give some indication that you dared suggest that Mr Rufo is potentially, just a little, ideologically motivated. So it’s plausible to believe that motivation has indeed be ascribed, and I do, at this time, now express that belief “

Oh dear. It seems the more we discuss, there more confusion is arising – it certainly appears to me that I am having great difficulty in conveying my meaning to you. I am now most deeply concerned that this comment will create even more misunderstanding, and I think I will have to consider ceasing any discussion with you until I can work out how best to avoid such issues in the future. A great pity.

To try to address this, might I suggest it is worth rereading the surrounding text a little [1]? From the relevant paragraph:

“now it could be that not only Rufo, but also Lukianoff and Snyder, are “bad faith all the way down”, fabricating quotes and documents.”
(this part was a quote from you, Kiwanda)

With respect I have noticed what appears to be a tendency of yours to believe motivation has been ascribed when it has not. There are many possibilities between “Rufo has accurately conveyed a fair account of events” and “not only Rufo, but also Lukianoff and Snyder, are “bad faith all the way down”, fabricating quotes and documents”.
(this text, immediately following, coming from me)

I thought it clear my comment was in response to your comment regarding “bad faith”? You appeared (to me) to be implying an assumption or necessary acceptance of “bad faith” motivation here – an ascription of a particular motivation that I don’t believe is necessary.

While I do indeed suggest that Mr Rufo is, potentially, just a little ideologically motivated, it does not therefore follow that he is “acting in bad faith” and “fabricating quotes and documents”. Again, it is worth noting Mr Rufo’s words:

“We have successfully frozen their brand—”critical race theory”—into the public conversation and are steadily driving up negative perceptions. We will eventually turn it toxic, as we put all of the various cultural insanities under that brand category. The goal is to have the public read something crazy in the newspaper and immediately think ‘critical race theory.’ We have decodified the term and will recodify it to annex the entire range of cultural constructions that are unpopular with Americans.”

If someone states (what I interpret to be) a goal to “turn [something] toxic” and “have the public read something crazy in the newspaper and immediately think [something]”, I think it not unreasonable for me to suggest that these are not goals which are particularly helpful to facilitating an accurate evaluation. Nor do I think it is entirely unjustifiable to be more sceptical of their commentary regarding [something] than were it coming from someone without those goals.

Now, it does not follow that, merely due to this statement, Mr Rufo’s subsequent articles must necessarily be in “bad faith” (I believe I noted the importance of not dismissing what he has said out of hand?), but if (conditional) someone is ideologically motivated then they may filter things through a lens of personal bias (and thus be more prone to making errors in judgement, or not exercising sufficient critical analysis, or having a lower bar for accepting a claim in keeping with their preferences, etc.).

I would also note that even if (again, conditional here) Mr Rufo’s potential ideological motivation had led to honest errors [2], it would not follow that anyone quoting Mr Rufo must be acting in “bad faith” – it might be they are unaware of (or are aware and have already accounted for) Mr Rufo’s potential ideological (but not necessarily “bad faith”) motivations.

A positive claim of “bad faith” would, I feel, require evidence to support it (which would require not only showing that what was stated was wrong, but also showing that it was intentionally so). I am, currently, unaware of such evidence, and so would not assert “bad faith” (nor would I assert “fabrication”). And I seem to recall having previously said this some time ago on CT (though I may be incorrect), but I am mostly concerned by what people can demonstrate (potential ideological motivation, in this particular context, matters only to me to the extent it affects the degree of evidence I would like to see supporting claims before accepting them).

I hope this has clarified matters – if it has not, I would respectfully suggest we wait the next Twigs and Branches, as this all seems to be something of a divergence from the thread.

However, I would like to try to end on a note which (I hope) will be an area of harmonious accord.

From your comment, “It also, at best, involves trying to get a better idea of what is true”

I certainly agree that it is important to get a better idea of what is true – and this is why I would encourage people to collect evidence and construct sound and valid arguments to aid such endeavours.

If I may engage in a degree of starry-eyed sentimentality for a moment, it is my fervent hope for everyone (regardless of creed or ideology) to seek the truth. Even if there are disagreements as to what that truth is, or how best to go about finding it [3], I would hope one day everyone will agree that finding the truth (or, more realistically, establishing the best possible, most accurate models conforming to reality) is the best way for humanity to progress.

I hope this offers a positive note of potential agreement [4]!

[1] https://crookedtimber.org/2021/10/04/how-big-a-bubble/#comment-813617
[2] or even had it led to “bad faith” – though again, I am not implying it has (this is purely a hypothetical paragraph, hence the “if” at the beginning)
[3] which may, after all, help find the truth – different perspectives can, though not always, help
[4] though if it has not, and only succeeded in generating yet more discussion, I would suggest we retire to the appropriate forum when available.

33

J-D 10.07.21 at 11:15 pm

I wouldn’t confidently suggest any answers, other than that the L/R distinction is past its use-by date.

In my experience, when people suggest that the concepts of ‘left’ and ‘right’ in a political sense were once useful but are no longer so, it is an indicator that they don’t understand what their original use was. They are just as useful as they ever were for their original purposes; there are, of course, purposes for which they aren’t useful, but those weren’t the purposes for which they were intended.

‘Oh, look, this screwdriver won’t drive this nail! It’s no good any more.’
It was never any good for driving nails and was never supposed to be; it’s as useful as it ever was for its original purpose of driving screws.

34

Kiwanda 10.08.21 at 12:36 am

Sheesh. Not that extending the convolutions with notGoodEnough matters to anybody, but, here’s a version of my earlier deep thoughts, with formatting checked:

notGoodEnough:

Thank you for offering your opinion regarding my tendencies – certainly interesting, though unasked for.

You’re welcome, although my observation was simply to put in context my response to your statement that “Perhaps you can correct me if I am wrong, but I see no point where I accuse Mr Rufo of being history’s greatest monster,” which you made in specific response to my prior comment, and quoting me, with the clear implication (to me, at least) of an assertion (however tentative) that I was saying that you had accused Mr Rufo of being “history’s greatest monster”. This being contrary to your later note (however qualified):

I would respectfully note that I did not assert you accused me of accusing Mr Rufo of being “history’s greatest monster” (indeed, I would have thought my repeated qualifications that “perhaps you are referring to another discussion” would have reinforced that notion)

Moreover:

With respect I have noticed what appears to be a tendency of yours to believe motivation has been ascribed when it has not.

I have expressed no such belief. Although your comments in that earlier discussion that:

It is interesting how many people are citing the words of Mr Christopher Rufo (formerly a research fellow at the Discovery Institute which, for those of us who appreciate irony, has been trying to force the ideologically motivated Intelligent Design into classrooms).

Just as a minor point, he seems to be a strong proponent of conflating (to use the distinction made in the OP) CRT and “crt” with “things I don’t like”

However, simply because Mr Rufo is (dare I suggest?) potentially just a little ideologically motivated does not mean we should discount what he says out of hand…

…do indeed give some indication that you dared suggest that Mr Rufo is potentially, just a little, ideologically motivated. So it’s plausible to believe that motivation has indeed be ascribed, and I do, at this time, now express that belief. But perhaps you were alluding to some other ill-considered belief (that I’ve actually expressed) regarding motivation ascription.

35

mw 10.08.21 at 12:33 pm

John Quiggin @31

” including anti-anti Trumpers”

Is that the category that the IDWers or, say, Glen Greenwald fall into? Anti-Trump but also anti-anti-Trump in the sense of criticizing the left and therefore being ‘objectively pro Trump’?

36

Stephen 10.08.21 at 3:40 pm

JD. Isn’t it rather that the screwdriver of the L vs R distinction was once very useful when we were driving screws, but now we mostly use nuts & bolts and for them need wrenches instead?

37

J-D 10.09.21 at 1:02 am

JD. Isn’t it rather that the screwdriver of the L vs R distinction was once very useful when we were driving screws, but now we mostly use nuts & bolts and for them need wrenches instead?

No, that’s not what it’s like. What it’s like is this: in a world where screws still exist, some half-bakers who don’t know about them observe a screwdriver and say ‘That thing’s no good, we’ve got better hammers than that nowadays’, and I say ‘No, that’s a screwdriver’, and because they’re not well-informed, they won’t believe it. It’s true that some people have no interest in screws, but it’s always been true that some people have no interest in screws, and there have also always been people who are interested in them. It is, naturally enough, the latter and not the former who understand screwdrivers.

I made a comment in two parts, one in plain literal language and the other figurative, and you’ve only responded to the second part, which I feel tends to serve as an addition to the evidence of my experience, which I mentioned in the first part, that people who make the kind of remarks you’re making don’t understand what was the original (and still current!) purpose of ‘left’ and ‘right’ as political concepts.

38

John Quiggin 10.09.21 at 2:46 am

MW @35 Not only objectively pro-Trump in the case of the IDW types, but (IMO) consciously so, and concealing the fact. Possibly there is some element of doublethink going on, as discussed in Maria’s post on grift, but they all understand that Team Trump is their team, and his opponents are the other team.

And over time, the double negative cancels out, and they end up as plain Trumpists. See for example, JD Vance.

Greenwald is sui generis, but I wouldn’t see any benefit in engaging with him.

39

nastywoman 10.09.21 at 10:49 am

@38
‘Greenwald is sui generis, but I wouldn’t see any benefit in engaging with him’.

But the crazy narrative that there isn’t any difference between Republicans and Democrats he helped to invent did so much damage in the first place (Trumps election) that it was one of our GREATEST mistakes NOT to engage his stupidity in the first place.
And as he now
AGAIN!!! –
tries to fool his followers into believing that it is ‘the Liberals’ who are against Free Speech -(because ‘Liberals or ‘the Left’ always are – and were FOR stopping Hateful Right-Wing Racist and Science Denying Propaganda) – he still does a lot of damage.

And the point that his right wing lies -(he sells – grifting – as ‘inedepndent journalism’)
get more and more rejected on twitter doesn’t mean that he is still one of the utmost ‘Trumpish’ Propagandist – who even has the nerve to deny the ‘insurrection’.

40

Seekonk 10.09.21 at 3:36 pm

@39 ‘the crazy narrative that there isn’t any difference between Republicans and Democrats’

Not defending Greenwald, but I think it’s important, as a matter of accuracy and credibility, for the left to be forthright with the electorate that there are pernicious ways in which Dems and Repubs ARE virtually the same, e.g., austerity, privatization, deregulation, corporate dominance, and foreign policy.

The left can then plausibly argue that the Dems are nonetheless worth supporting because there are important matters in which they really are different – mostly social issues such as bigotry, women’s choice, and gun control.

41

nastywoman 10.10.21 at 6:19 am

@
‘as a matter of accuracy and credibility, for the left to be forthright with the electorate that there are pernicious ways in which Dems and Repubs ARE virtually the same, e.g., austerity, privatization, deregulation, corporate dominance, and foreign policy’.

But everything you listed the US Right-Wing Racist Science Deniers are as completely different than any average US Democrat in comparison to the average ‘Trump’-
(the worlds new word for: NO austerity for the Rich and no deregulation for anything and the utmost dominance of corporations and the utmost nationalistic foreign policy of isolation)

And I’m really curios – as everybody else in the world seems to be able to see such HUUUGE differences between the two US parties AND at the same time the members of the two US parties decry such HUUUUGE differences to a truly nearly violent degree –
why in the world are there American who can’t differentiate anymore between the US Crazy Right Wingers and the US Dems policies concerning ‘austerity, privatization, deregulation, corporate dominance, and foreign policy’?

I mean –
isn’t there currently this fight about some kind of ‘bill’ which concerns most of it?

HELOOO!!!

42

SusanC 10.10.21 at 9:46 am

An interesting thing about politics views on the Internet at the moment is just how crazy they are.

Here I use crazy in an informal sense, not as a psychiatric diagnosis. It is a commonly held theory in psychology that psychotic delusions (held by a single individual, and not shared by a community) are a completely different kind of thing from collectively held false beliefs, where the person’s motive for claiming to believe the false thing is to assert their membership of the community,

An additional complication: does Internet social media emphasize the crazy element? So if you seek out an example of a particular viewpoint, and go looking for it on the Internet, what you are likely to find is at the crazy end, because of social media selection bias.

Anthropology (e.g. Claude Levi-Strauss) often has a subtext. If people in other societies believe manifestly false things — and we can acknowledge them as false, because, not being a member of that society we have have no investment in pretending to believe the false thing — then what does that imply about us, assuming that we aren’t totally atypical?

43

SusanC 10.10.21 at 9:51 am

To follow up on that .. anti-vaxxers are an interesting case study.

One theory you might have is that people hold on to false beliefs that are basically harmless, i.e. there is minimal personal cost in believing the false thing. But with covid19 having a rough order of 1% mortality (depending greatly on your age etc.) here we see the conspiracy theorists who really are going to die in significant numbers over their personal craziness.

Kind of like watching the followers of the Reverend Jim Jone’s People’s Temple drink cyanide-laced Flavor Aid. Yup, human beings totally will do that,

44

Donald 10.10.21 at 2:54 pm

I think Greenwald is still worth reading and some of his criticisms of some parts of the left are correct. He is often childish and petty, so it probably isn’t worth arguing with him. But I still think people should read him. People who go too far and take pleasure in picking unnecessary fights ( which is how Greenwald has always been AFAIK) can still say interesting things.

45

Donald 10.10.21 at 3:23 pm

Here is a very recent Twitter thread where Greenwald is childish and picks on the wrong person ( Adam Johnson, who slaps him down) and yet has a point about some parts of the left.

https://twitter.com/adamjohnsonNYC/status/1446162458868125704

GG cites a poll ( scroll down) which shows that Democrats have a more favorable view of the CIA, FBI, IRS, and the EPA than Republicans have. ( For the record, I share that view of the EPA and the IRS, or at least I am happy to acknowledge respecting those agencies more than the average Republican would.) GG, though, in his “ must win argument at all costs” tries to associate Adam Johnson with these CIA and FBI loving liberals.

This in microcosm is GG. I think the poll he cites is interesting and I agree with his claim that some on the left are authoritarian. But not satisfied with making a valid point, he goes too far.

46

Donald 10.10.21 at 3:26 pm

I apparently don’t understand how to link Twitter threads. This one should have Greenwald’s reply

https://twitter.com/ggreenwald/status/1446164581274071050

47

Stephen 10.10.21 at 8:08 pm

J-D@37: “I made a comment in two parts, one in plain literal language and the other figurative, and you’ve only responded to the second part”.

Tu quoque, mate. I made a comment in two parts, and you’ve only responded to the second part. Come on, now: of the examples I gave in the first part, of major current political problems where the left/right distinction seems irrelevant, in which if any of those would you maintain it is still relevant?

And when you claim I cannot understand “the original (and still current!) purpose of ‘left’ and ‘right’ as political concepts”; well, it is not reasonable to suppose that those who disagree with you are by definition ignorant. But in this case, you may be. The original distinction between L and R was made according to the seating of members of the Estates General of France in 1789,when those on the Left opposed the Bourbon monarchy and those on the Right supported the Ancien Regime. If you think those are still current distinctions, I can’t help you.

48

SusanC 10.10.21 at 8:59 pm

@Donald, talking about Glen Greenwald

But .. the idea that some of the left is authoritarian (and this is a Bad Thing) goes back at least to George Orwell (1984, Animal Farm, etc.) With Soviet Communism and Stalin being the obvious non-fictional examples.

It would be completely ridiculous to think that we have only just noticed the existence of an authoritarian left.

49

Alex 10.11.21 at 3:15 am

One thing to note in discussions of bubbles, is that (in certain countries like the UK and US at least) there’s a growing generational gulf on social and political values. Young people are more liberal and have been associated with politicians like Corbyn and Sanders; older people otherwise. So it’s likely that a lot of people aren’t actually in bubbles in their day-to-day lives: we hear enough conservative or even far right opinions from our parents and grandparents.

50

nastywoman 10.11.21 at 3:52 am

and about:
‘GG cites a poll ( scroll down) which shows that Democrats have a more favorable view of the CIA, FBI, IRS, and the EPA than Republicans have’.

without obviously noticing that since the CIA, FBI, IRS and the EPA –
ALL!
seemed to have helped to get rid of ‘trump’ (the worlds new word for: Utmost Crazy Right-Wing Stupid) EVERYBODY in the world is very thankful for helping to get rid of ‘trump’ and ‘trump’ -(like Greenwald?) has turned ‘the Image’ of the CIA, FBI, IRS and the EPA in such an absurd way that they are now considered – at least in comparison to any Crazy and Racist Anti-Vaxxer Republicans – ‘
‘the good guys’ –
(or at least ‘much better’ than before ‘trump’)

51

J-D 10.11.21 at 10:39 am

I think Greenwald is still worth reading and some of his criticisms of some parts of the left are correct. He is often childish and petty, so it probably isn’t worth arguing with him. But I still think people should read him.

If what you’re saying is that whether it’s worth engaging depends on what is meant by ‘engage’, then I agree.

52

DavidtheK 10.11.21 at 11:40 am

People on the left respect the EPA for what it is, because they agree with its mission, especially in the ideal sense that it is a force on the side of the environment. At one time I even aspired to work for the agency.

They do not feel the same way about the FBI and the CIA, in fact could conceive of doing away with or wholly replacing both agencies. What they do agree with, is standing with individual officers of either agency who realize they are bound by law and morality and refuse to be pushed across these lines.

Glenn Greenwald and others on the anti-anti-right can’t seem to grasp these points. Whether that is because this is truly intellectually difficult for them, or whether they are just trolls is possibly an interesting discussion.

53

J-D 10.12.21 at 12:14 am

Tu quoque, mate. I made a comment in two parts, and you’ve only responded to the second part. Come on, now: of the examples I gave in the first part, of major current political problems where the left/right distinction seems irrelevant, in which if any of those would you maintain it is still relevant?

That is a typical example of a loaded question; asking whether something is still relevant loads the question with the presupposition that it was once relevant, which I’ve already identified as an issue in question. There is nothing new about the fact that the left-right distinction is not relevant to many questions: there are questions to which it has no relevance because it never had any relevance to them. I am old enough to remember (although I was not old enough to vote at the time) a national vote held in this country on the question of what should be our national song; there was no left-wing or right-wing way to vote on that question, but that doesn’t reflect any loss of a former relevance. If you think there is a case to be made that there are questions or issues to which the left-right distinction used to be relevant but is no longer so, you have not yet made that case.

That’s enough for one comment, but if time permits I’ll get back to further points raised by your comment.

54

Donald 10.12.21 at 11:47 am

SusanC

The problem is that authoritarianism on the left, broadly speaking, isn’t limited to Stalinists— depending on the issue, various factions of the left fear and distrust the authoritarianism of other factions.

Take Assange. He is a hated figure because of 2016, but Yahoo News put out a story recently that the CIA and Pompeo plotted to kill him.. Pompeo seems to have confirmed this by denouncing CIA leaks. But mainstream liberals hate Assange and there has been essentially nothing about this. I can only assume some liberals are okay with CIA terrorist plots if Assange is the target.

Some liberals regularly accuse Snowden of being a Putin ally, as though he chose Russia as his refuge.

I have seen liberals say Facebook and YouTube are private companies and First Amendment rules don’t apply, yet they want to use the government to pressure them on what they can carry.

I despise right wing lies on Covid and climate change but one can’t trust either private social media companies ( functioning as near monopolouesj or governments to declare what ideas are unworthy of being allowed. I know of at least one very far left Twitter personality, Nina Illingworth, who despises Greenwald, who was kicked off Twitter for no good reason I could see.

And people familiar with the way the “ antisemitism” accusation is deployed on the Israel- Palestine issue aren’t going to trust governments or corporations or college administrators with the power to censor on that subject.

55

Gorgonzola Petrovna 10.12.21 at 4:12 pm

There is a view, that I find mildly convincing, that Khrushchevites destroyed (‘buried’ might be a better word) the world-wide Left movement. First, by their denunciation of Stalinism, and then by being aggressively hostile to China while striving for peaceful coexistence with the West. It’s identified as ‘Soviet revisionism’. According to this theory the Right won, decisively, 50-60 years ago.

Since then, it’s mostly minor squabbles between various factions of the Right. Some used to say that in the US it’s a fight between smart billionaires (D) and stupid billionaires (R). Perhaps it still is, but somehow it doesn’t feel quite like that anymore. Did they swap sides?

56

J-D 10.12.21 at 11:32 pm

The original distinction between L and R was made according to the seating of members of the Estates General of France in 1789,when those on the Left opposed the Bourbon monarchy and those on the Right supported the Ancien Regime.

That is exactly what I meant (you’re not sure whether I knew this; I wasn’t sure whether you knew this), and it leads to two points about the concepts of left and right, in a political sense.

The first point is that as political labels they were adopted as ways of describing the positions, relative to each other, of groups in an organised partisan system. Among the purposes, therefore, which they were never designed to serve and have never been relevant to is the purpose of allowing every individual to find political labels to suit themselves. There are lots of people who find that the left-right political spectrum is not a useful or informative way of describing how they position themselves politically, but there always have been lots of people like that; that’s a limit on the extent of their applicability, but it’s not a loss of a relevance they once had. If people think ‘Once upon a time everybody could arrange themselves, or be arranged, along the/a left-right spectrum, but that’s not true any more’, they aren’t wrong about how it is not, but they are wrong about how it used to be. There are limits on the applicability of the concepts, but limits on applicability are not the same thing as loss of relevance. Again, if there are specific political issues where there’s no clear left or right side, that’s a limit on applicability but not a loss of relevance.

Second point: the original French Revolutionary associations of ‘left’ and ‘right’ included not only the idea that the left was opposed to the claims of the monarchy (the further left, the more vehemently opposed) and the right supportive of them (the further right, the fewer qualifications on that support), but also the connected idea that the left wanted to end the status of the privileged estates (as they were not just informally but technically known) of the clergy and the nobility, while the right, at least to some extent, wanted to defend them. Over the course of the nineteenth century, the usage of the terms naturally developed in a way which applied ‘left’ to those who opposed the claims of the privileged and ‘right’ to those who supported them, even as the structure of society changed from one in which the most privileged groups were royalty, clergy, and nobility to one in which the most privileged groups were owners, employers, capitalists, and bourgeoisie. It is through that natural development and that the original sense of the concepts is applicable as it ever was, within the same sorts of limits to applicability that have always obtained.

I could enlarge and particularise further, but that’s enough for one comment.

57

tm 10.13.21 at 7:54 am

The idea that commenters on CRT are all leftists with similar views (“from social democrat to democratic socialist”) is pretty funny, especially if you remember those Trump thread of 2016 that were regularly hijacked by the fascists (and OPers tolerated them until way too long). It has gotten much better but still, I cannot say I remember much in terms of productive intraleft debate going on around here.

58

tm 10.13.21 at 8:07 am

Donald 45, Democrats have more favorable views of the EPA than Republicans proves that the Left is Authoritarian. Yeah sounds about right. Typical Greenwald trolling. Nothing deserving intellectual engagement because never intended as contributing to an intellectually honest debate.

Trump wouldn’t have become president without Comey’s massive thumb on the scales but notorious for his ungratefulness, Trump wouldn’t be Trump if he hadn’t trash-talked the FBI as soon as Comey showed the slightest inclination to contradict dear Leader. Due to that trash-talking, Republicans’ opinion of the FBI became significantly less favorable. It has nothing to do with Republicans suddenly seeing the light on authoritarian state institutions – to the contrary.

59

Tm 10.13.21 at 8:20 am

Btw, Democrats’ view of the EPA turned less favorable during the Trump admin for obvious reasons. Taking these poll results as indicators of abstract political commitments, rather than responses to what people read in the news, is nonsense. (And labeling Democratic poll respondents as representative of “The Left” is another obvious nonsense).

Interesting is the huge partisan divide in the views of the ICE.

https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2018/07/24/growing-partisan-differences-in-views-of-the-fbi-stark-divide-over-ice/

60

Tm 10.13.21 at 10:09 am

And Donald 54: “Take Assange. He is a hated figure because of 2016, but Yahoo News put out a story recently that the CIA and Pompeo plotted to kill him.. Pompeo seems to have confirmed this by denouncing CIA leaks. But mainstream liberals hate Assange and there has been essentially nothing about this. I can only assume some liberals are okay with CIA terrorist plots if Assange is the target.”

You realize you are talking of the CIA run by Trump appointee Pompeo plotting Assange’s assassination with Trump’s explicit consent, do you? I understand you are here to stand in as a parody for GG lecturing us how the crimes of the Trump admin CIA under Trumpist Trump sycophant Pompeo proves the badness of librls. There was a time I would have been shocked by that disgusting level of dishonesty.

More on this:
https://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2021/09/no-true-maga

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