Somewhat interesting article that ironically, and likely unintentionally, solidifies the points I have been making.
Lets take a closer look at this Kafkaesque piece.
Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has thrown out the rule book to undermine healthcare and steal a Supreme Court seat. The United States is the only country with a major political party that denies the scientific reality of climate change. Republican state legislatures are attacking people’s voting rights instead of trying to win their support. And right wing media routinely promotes conspiracy theories, from questioning Barack Obama’s citizenship to suggesting that the Parkland student activists are “crisis actors.”
So, the writer is obviously extremely partisan. Fair enough. I do find it odd that he lumps together the entire "right wing", and by this the context clearly identifies such as "people he disagrees with", into a false association - as if the people who dislike Obama's ACA agenda and people who live by Alex Jones are by necessity birds of a feather. (well, they seem to be -in his
mind, at least.) Interesting that he uses the term "throws out the rule book" to invoke a moral high ground, by which he surely means bypassing filibuster rules for 60-vote requirements to proceed, when Harry Reid did exactly the same thing on multiple occasions, including but not limited to the byzantine maneuverings to get the previously mentioned ACA through the Senate. Well, faulty premises and blatant and obvious hypocrisy doesn't necessarily mean he is wrong so lets keep looking, shall we?
But despite these developments, a great deal of popular political commentary still approaches our politics with a strange form of unearned evenhandedness.
So, he is arguing that because theres plenty of shit on the right, that political commentary should not be even handed? I take this to mean that he believes that the existence of shit in Y means that people should rightfully support X - X being his own positions.
I’ve come to call these pundits “reactionary centrists.”
Reactionary centrist (n) — Someone who says they’re politically neutral, but who usually punches left while sympathizing with the right.
Reactionary centrism is an ideological stance that isn’t really centrist at all. It can elevate a speaker in the mainstream media as a liberal-ish critic of liberalism and make someone feel good about being above it all and not taking sides, but it’s increasingly a stance that leads to sloppy thinking, especially as the Republican party continues to lurch rightward and away from democratic rule. We should identify reactionary centrism when we see it, challenge it, and ask what reactionary centrists could be doing instead to more productively contribute to public debates.
So he conjures up his own pejorative terminology to throw a traitorous critic label at people who have the temerity to question his own ideology or tactics. Yeah, this guy seems a lot
different than the bad actors that exist on the opposite side of his political spectrum. /s
Reactionary centrists think politics is about positions, not actions
Did you know Exxon supports a carbon tax? Well, that’s what they say when they’re challenged to do something about climate change. But you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone on Capitol Hill whose ever felt pressured by the company’s lobbyists to actually pass a carbon tax.
Taking a political position is a cheap form of political action. But a lot of our thinking about politics is grounded in the idea that positions are more important than what political actors actually do to build and use power. Positional thinking leads reactionary centrists to the conclusion that if only the left and right could meet in the middle, wherever that middle is, we could settle contentious debates.
The first part of this bloc is actually true, and a point I myself like to make. I'm fairly certain after reading his body of work that he does not examine his own ideological allies too closely in terms of talk vs action, but even a broken clock is right twice as day, and he is correct to separate stated position from actions, lip service from real policy. I do wonder if he means to imply that this trait is somehow unique to people he would deem as "reactionary centrists" though.
For instance, writing in Enlightenment Now, cognitive scientist Steven Pinker posits that if only the left embraced nuclear power, they could compromise with the right on climate solutions. But he doesn’t account for the fact that mainstream environmental groups have been exploring deals like this for years with little to show for it.
More fundamentally, Pinker’s book admonishes the left to change its stances on climate policy. But why not tell the right to change their stances instead? It’s a question we too often fail to ask because conservative movements have made antipathy to compromise a key part of their political worldview. In admonishing the left to find more ways to work with the right, reactionary centrism does the right’s job for them.
So, because Plinker advocates for a particular position that many people find reasonable, this is evidence of the piece author's neologism? If the 'right' indeed rejected nuclear power simply because the idea came from Democrats, that would in fact be rather unfortunate. Of course, the writer of the piece talks in vague terms of 'mainstream environmental groups' and the 'right' - which right does he speak of? The W Bush administration? The GOP run congress? Some garbage online right-fringe newsletter?
In actually it seems like starting with the Democrats would have been a good place: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2016/06/01/obamas-uneven-scorecard-on-nuclear/#5a280c4261e5
And it feels good to believe that there’s a noble compromise to be had in the center. But the Republicans who are in power right now are telling us with their words, their actions, and their political muscle, that they’re not interested in one. Failing to listen to them—and blaming the left for not doing enough to compromise with them—is a recipe for sloppy thinking.
In political science terms, what the right is doing is shifting the Overton Window in their direction, trying to make extreme ideas such as climate denial, undermining voting rights, and dismantling the social safety net appear mainstream. Reactionary centrists, in urging the left to compromise with the right, play into this strategy.
Perhaps the piece writer was asleep for the past nine years as well? A look in the mirror might be interesting as well - so far we have seen myriad examples of poisoning the well, false association, inductive fallacy, cherry picking and many more in an attempt by the piece writer to assert that he is correct in accusing people who are critical of the vaguely defined 'left' of argument to moderation. This would be more convincing if he wasn't blatantly trying, in actuality, to paint his political critics as traitorous.
Theres more than enough sloppy thinking to go around, unfortunately. After all, both himself and his ideological compatriots also attempt to shift what he refers to as the Overton Window in their direction. This obviously does not by nature invalidate critiques made against the 'right' does it? Of course not, and I'm sure the piece writer would agree with me, at least on the last point.
This is a tougher, longer-term path to walk than negotiating a grand bargain on nuclear power. But it has the helpful advantage of being grounded in reality and enjoying the support of actual climate advocates. The fact that Pinker doesn’t lead with work like this suggests that his own politics are more focused on appeasing the right than building power on the left.
So even though he provided no actual evidence or reason beyond his circular critique of his own critics, he asserts once again that someone who disagrees with him is by necessity traitorous. Gotta give it to him, he's a genuine piece of work. I think I've seen people like this before, kinda reminds me of a leftist Sean Hannity, once I think of it. Apparently new left tactic is to take much of what they loath about certain elements of the right and copy it. That will lead to a wonderful society for sure. /s
Also interesting that he suddenly claims that his preferred approaches to climate change are longer and more difficult than the nuclear compromise, when one of his chief complaints about the nuclear issue seemed to be that some vague mainstream environmental groups had attempted it, and it didn't work? Was this piece written by one person?
Reactionary centrists need an intolerant left to match the intolerant right
Pinker is among many scholars who worry that intolerance on the right is being matched by a different kind of intolerance on the left. To be clear, reactionary centrists don’t deny that the hard right is bad and terrible. They see the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, the conspiracy theories, the voter suppression, the censorship of government researchers, the ICE agents picking people up off the street. But then they look for something, anything on the left to balance this out so they can stay in the middle.
I read this, and some of the examples that follow and can't help but laugh. This guy is seriously trying to say that leftist intolerance doesn't exist, or is a non-issue. He uses examples of things that happened, to try and assert that something isn't happening, which is ridiculous.
This analysis lacks a sense of who actually has power on each side. Do we really think that a student activist group protesting a controversial speaker is as much of a threat to free speech as a Republican president who calls for jailing journalists and firing protesting NFL players?
A specific 'student activist group' might not have more influence than a sitting president, but the idea
that shutting out, unjustifiably smearing, and physically attacking people with whom you disagree is not only acceptable but proper conduct is FAR FAR FAR more dangerous than a dozen Trumps. Trump is a tumor, where that idea is cancer itself.
Not to mention, one might also ask him if a president that unconstitutionally has all our communications spied upon and executes citizens via executive fiat is possibly a danger, because we also had one of those - from the other party no less.
Reactionary centrists also elevate these incidents, in part, because they believe that intolerance on the left somehow causes polarization on the right. But the mechanism by which this occurs is never explained. Amy Chua, a Yale law professor who has written a book about political tribalism, blames the left for the rise of Trump and the so-called “alt-right” white nationalists. In her telling, if the left had more tolerance for mainstream right wing views or tamped down discussions of topics like cultural appropriation, the right wouldn’t be as tribal.
Something the writer of the piece forgets, I think, is that many of the people concerned with the left simply live in the real world. They know real people, such as siblings, offspring, or perhaps even they themselves come into contact with the absurdity of cultural appropriation politics. The people who watch Fox news and such are probably not going to suddenly vote Democrat, but those aren't the Obama voters that switched to Trump, now are they?
I personally know some self-professed 'liberals' who have become rather intolerant and obnoxious with their PC crap. Even my brother has become disturbed by it from seeing it firsthand, and he has always been super-liberal, to the point in literally joining various 'Obama Brigades' (they weren't actually called that, Brigade is my term not his) and other lefty activism. Rational people in general will take to the antics of the new left very poorly, this should be expected.
So, the writer makes a really weak argument that the left being tolerant wouldn't win over Fox News adherents as a justification for being intolerant. (though he claims elsewhere that left intolerance is not a thing and/or a non-issue? how many people worked on this piece, surely more than one, and they couldn't have cross-checked each other it would seem.)
Also, the mechanisms by which polarization occurs have been widely explained - just perhaps not by his cherry picked example.
The truth is that if everyone on the left followed the advice of Peterson, Weiss, Rubin, and Chua, Fox News would still lie to its base to keep them whipped up about something. It’s just what they do.
This much is true.
Reactionary centrists often enter into political debates with the presumption that they should always be cool, level-headed, and respectful. And that’s nice, but politics is a very contentious field precisely because it’s how we resolve otherwise unresolvable conflicts. Further, a lot of reactionary centrists are part of a chattering class in publishing and academia that views respectful discussion as the central goal of politics rather than the building or use of power, the granting of rights, or the distribution of resources and wealth. Thus, they work overtime to elevate the views of what they consider moderate or reasonable voices on the right, even though those voices have very little power in policymaking. And they give far too much credit to actual powerful political actors on the right for being reasonable when they’re actually quite extreme.
Yes, means do not matter - only purported ends. /s
But what is the nature of this anarchy and its loosening? This is left to the reader’s imagination. I doubt most Americans even know who Kevin Williamson is.
As is most of this writers 'facts' - and about as many people have probably heard of Kevin Williamson as have heard of No Labels, which were featured in an example I haven't bothered to quote here. I love how this writer holds to consistent standards of any sort as basis of criticism. /s
Similarly, Sam Harris flipped out at Vox Media for publishing a criticism of an interview he did with Charles Murray, a right wing political scientist whose uses data about race and IQ to argue for dismantling civil rights programs.
This is a lie, and the link provided by the piece reader eventually leading to interview transcript basically proves it as such. Seems to be enough misrepresentation to go around, on all sides of political spectrum eh?
And he’d rather invest his time, energy, and considerable podcast platform into presenting a moderate version of Charles Murray’s views than elevating the voices of civil rights activists or scholars who work on ending racial discrimination.
Yeah, don't talk about anything the piece writer doesn't want to hear from you. Otherwise you're a traitor.
That discussion reminded me of so many others I’ve had with researchers who participate in political debates. They think the middle is where they’re supposed to be regardless of where the sides stand in a debate, but they can’t quite explain why. If you point out their political biases and the effects of their political advocacy, you’ll get a blank stare, a denial, or simply have accusations of bias thrown back at you.
Given the evidence presented in his own words, in the form of this article, it seems evident that the piece writer's reception of blank stares is most likely because he was spouting bullshit - and the accusations of bias probably came because the guy wears his bias on his sleeve, and seems totally incapable of accepting any way of thinking other than his own as valid.
It was an interesting article to say the least, more than vaguely reminiscent of similar pieces on Breitbart or even the smaller sites run by Infowars adherents. Flip the political perspective, and it reads much the same. A piece so deep in its own swamp, it thinks the whole world resides in there with it.