SIO6: Too Much Identity Politics Or Not Enough?

Welcome to the first edition of Thursday Inquiries!! My unofficial or maybe official name for the new format. Mondays will be interviews and Thursdays will be commentary and news and so forth. A lot is happening in the news and a lot of people are still very sloppy thinkers.  In an episode of The Waking Up Podcast, Sam Harris said that Trump was the end of the Democratic Party. Could this really be true in an election where Democrats won by 3 million votes? Also Trump had his first press conference as president elect and it was predictably terrifying. And yes, Trump mocked a disabled person.

All this and more, plus leave me a voicemail at my new Serious Pod number!! It’s (916) 750-4746.

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24 Replies to “SIO6: Too Much Identity Politics Or Not Enough?”

  1. Hillary Clinton LOST the election, Thomas. We can prove it beyond a doubt, if you want, by running her again in 2020. And watching her lose. Again. And I wouldn’t put it past us, because we STILL don’t get it. And you said it yourself: Trump was the worst candidate in history. And Hillary LOST to him! Listen to yourself! I don’t think there were but half a dozen people in North America who even COULD have lost to Donald Trump, but Hillary was one of them.

    The easiest way to have won would have been to nominate Bernie Sanders who polled a full eight points (plus) above Trump until he (Bernie) was out of the race, not because he lost to Trump, but because he lost to the Democratic establishment. We went with the candidate who polled neck-and-neck with Trump the whole time right down to election night.

    How in the WORLD are you going to get uneducated white male voters to identify with Hillary Clinton? What planet do you live on? I have tried to point out again and again that it was Hillary that lost the election for us. Not the Democratic candidate—Hillary. Not the liberal agenda—Hillary. We picked the wrong candidate. And listening to you, I bet we do it again. We might not really run Hillary again, but, come 2020, we will have found something just as stupid to do, because we still don’t get it.

    Uneducated white male voters weren’t voting FOR Trump, they were yelling “FUCK YOU” at the establishment and there has never been a more establishment candidate than Hillary Clinton. I’ll bet you dollars to donuts we do it again and, by 2024, Sam Harris, who is far more perceptive than either of us, will have been proven right—or correct or accurate or however you want to put it.

  2. I’m excited about the shift toward trading between Interview and Comment episodes.

    As to the sex-positive objection to kink-shaming the president-elect, aside from blackmail potential, I agree it’s important to parse the difference between a mostly harmless sexual fetish, and the vindictive, misogynistic, economically predatory, sado-sexual expressions of racial frustration and physical inadequacy represented in this story. Regardless of the validity to these claims, nothing we’ve seen from Trump leads me to believe he is not a petty, vindictive, and wholly deliberate creep whose thirst to disqualify America’s first black president isn’t rivalled only by his lust for personal enrichment.

    It does seem strangely convenient that people who get paid to speak on controversial issues just so happen to have stumbled upon the liberal’s most relevant weakness as a party (i.e., de-platforming controversial speakers), despite, as you note, strong evidence contradicting their claims. It reminds me of something I heard at a newspaper conference about the term “newsworthy” translating to “things that might affect editors.”

    I can’t agree with you more about Trump’s appeal to white identity. A major hallmark of privilege is the assumption that the mainstream race is the norm/default. (Embarrassing story: when I learned that evolution was responsible for variance in skin color, I assumed that people in Africa developed darker skin and not that white people, who left Africa, developed lighter skin). The notion that race shouldn’t matter, or isn’t a relevant factor in political ideology, is highly informed by a social context in which the effect of race has not been a tangible issue.

    Moreover, the idea of rejecting identity politics is, in itself, engaging in a sort of identity politics, particularly when the mainstream, pseudo-objective culture being championed by those who oppose social change is so clearly unequal. The assumption that you can separate yourself from your identity is a false one.

    There is a weird sort of contingency management that happens in liberal discourse. Tonight, I heard Hugh Hewitt on MSNBC blame Buzzfeed for letting Trump off the hook on releasing his tax information. There’s this desperate need to validate our own anxieties, in which our behavior demands hyper-focus while our opponents become amoral actors who can’t be held accountable for their terrible behavior, because we allowed them enough space to be terrible.

    Have you seen Ann Coulter’s defense of Trump mocking that reporter? In her book, she wrote that he “was doing a standard retard, waving his arms and sounding stupid.”

    Also, if you needed another illustration of Trump’s capacity to be small, disrespectful, and needlessly cruel, the president-elect fired the 89 year-old announcer of every inaugural parade since 1957, who has publicly shared that being able to throw himself into his work is the only thing keeping him going following his wife’s death several weeks ago.

    Trump fired him with an e-mail.

    …..

    Unrelated to today’s episode, but based in previous episode’s discussions on anonymity, I’ve decided to stop posting as Some Guy. I don’t imagine it will make a huge difference in what I post (particularly because I’m just going to use my first name, for professional reasons), but on the off-chance there’s some negative cultural impact of posting under a readily identifiable alias, I don’t mind the switch (although, there’s still a part of my brain that can’t help but picture J. Jonah Jameson pounding his desk while screaming that anyone wearing a mask is clearly a menace).

  3. The far left is communism and the far right is fascism. Why would anyone choose between these two options?

    Harris used Classical liberalism, maybe it was Maajid who used the term. Not true liberalism. Classical liberalism has a certain set of principles based on liberty of the individual.

    Here are two examples of a PC liberal clashing with liberal principles: Both Trudeau examples.

    Trudeau goes to a mosque for a Muslim holiday. He talks about how great it is that Muslims get to celebrate this beautiful holiday. He ignores the fact that men are on the main floor and women are forced on the balcony. The liberal principle of equality is ignored to respect culture. That’s PC culture trumping liberal values.

    Next Trudeau sang the praises of Fidel Castro because he provided free healthcare to the citizens he didn’t murder. What a guy. PC culture forces him to praise the murderous dictator. No liberal should ever praise oppressive regimes no matter how many bandaids they provide.

    1. Whenever examples like this are brought up Thomas says ‘well yeah, of course that’s not good’ and then continues to straw man critics of PC as people just wishing they could use racial epithets like they did in the good old days.

      ‘Of course I’m not a fan of deplatforming… But Milo, of course he should be deplatformed’

      Not an exact quote but very close to one. Very cringeworthy.

      There was like 2 minutes of discussion on how bad it would be for trump to have hookers piss on a bed as some weird Obama hate… Before a quick mention that the story was totally unsubstantiated. Unfucking believable.

      1. Huh? The first part about why that would be bad was a response to people who were saying we shouldn’t care even IF it were true. So I started off talking about if it were true, then moved onto the fact that it’s most likely not at all true. Not sure what your big problem is.

      2. I agree on the straw man. As much as some people dislike “anti feminist” take downs they at least take down an actual argument of an actual person.

        Wanting to deplatform anyone makes you a fan of deplatforming. People who don’t like Milo need to ignore what he says. The way I learned what Milo did to the trans person was listening to this show between Eli and Thomas. All that does is continue to give Milo the attention he craves.

        1. As much as I agree that people (and society, in general) would be better off ignoring Milo, not reporting on that story would have the unfortunate side-effect of also ignoring an act of public harassment against a trans person. Maybe this would be a good place to consider responsible journalism practices when discussing “professional antagonists” like those put in place for mass shooting incidents (e.g., don’t emphasize/glorify the shooter). As much as I like the idea of not giving Milo the attention he craves, I also think it’s important to let scared trans kids see that we acknowledge this shit happens to them, we agree that it’s fucked up, and that we accept some responsibility for challenging these backwards ideas.

          And, I have to push back a little on your all-or-nothing assertion here about de-platforming. “I’m not a fan of violence, except when my life is threatened,” “I”m not in favor of arresting people, except when they’re likely a danger to society,” and “I don’t support aggressive invasive medical procedures, except when moderate treatments are ineffective” are all reasonable claims, none of which make the speaker a hypocrite.

          1. All your analogies are preferable options that lead to a more desirable result. Deplatforming generally leads to the opposite result of what is desired. Milo gets booted from twitter and becomes a bigger star than he was before.

            All deplatforming does is makes a villain like Milo a martyr. He always hold the hammer by saying, “my ideas are so unbeatable that they need to silence me because they cannot beat me with their ideas.” So Milo wins, he gets more attention, makes more money.

            Milo has told people how to beat him and it’s easy, present better arguments based on facts. Calling him names does nothing to help you. Trying to silence him just makes him stronger. Beat him in the marketplace of ideas it’s easy because most of his positions are very weakly supported.

          2. I take your point about de-platforming leading to counterintuitive results, though I have to wonder how much of that is due to attention-related bias. Yes, there are clear examples we can cite of attempts to shut things down leading to their increased distribution, but I can’t help but wonder how many middling pseudo-Milos, who lack his particular “charm,” aren’t out there frustrated that nobody’s outraged that colleges won’t book them for speaking engagements. By definition, we’re not aware of all the people we haven’t been made aware of. I take your point though, that in Milo’s case particularly, part of his brand is claiming to be victimized when people refuse to enable him, and he seems adept at exploiting those instances.

            I agree to a large extent that it would be great to win the argument, but I also think it’s important to recognize that there are drawbacks to engaging him and his terrible ideas.

            As you mention, it’s not like there aren’t good refutations of his claims and assertions that are easily accessible to anyone with an internet connection or a library card. If convincing him to stop saying repulsive, unfounded nonsense only required he be proven wrong about the things he says, any number of op-eds written in response to him would have already accomplished this. The idea that Milo is a good-faith actor who only wants to get to the truth is not worth consideration.

            Refusing to give him space to speak does inflate his public persona, but so does granting him that space and so does engaging him and so does ignoring him (“I’m too edgy and insightful for them to even acknowledge”). I don’t believe we can base our actions on contingency management for an individual whose only real skill is exploiting people’s response to gain more attention. I’ve been ignoring the Kardashians for years, but somehow they’re at least relevant enough that spell-check didn’t flag their name when I typed it just now.

            More to the point, much like with Trump, if we choose to engage, there’s every reason to believe we can win the argument without winning the audience. For everyone who might come away saying “yeah, that british guy had some whacky ideas” there’s just as likely to be people who thought he did a great job, and worse still, people who thought “everybody raised some good points and it’s important to be a moderate for some reason I never feel the need to articulate.”

            Worse still, even if we win the argument and the audience, there’s a fucked up component of holding a big debate to address bizarre assertions that being trans is a mental disorder (it’s not), just as there would be whenever someone claims that interracial marriage is corrupting the gene-pool (it’s not), muslims shouldn’t be allowed in this country (they should), or women ought never to have been given the vote (Trump’s potential cabinet/supreme court appointment, Peter Thiel is wrong on this).

            And, if only for practical/spatial reasons, we can’t compel ourselves to provide a venue, audience, and thoughtful consideration to every speaker with a terrible argument.

            Lastly, while I agree it’s important to speak out against terrible ideas (which does not require hosting those who hold the terrible ideas), it’s also important to speak out against the morally bankrupt actions certain speakers commit. Moreover, it’s important to recognize the need to avoid conflating the seriousness of his potential for harm as an actor with the legitimacy of his claims as a thinker. When trans-people (who are drastically more likely to be the victim of assault than their cisgendered peers) say they don’t feel safe when he speaks on campus, when his actions are not just speech but deliberate targeted harassment, and when the best argument against de-platforming is that the people who aren’t threatened value their right to hear ugly ideas in person rather than online (or even down the street at a private venue) more than the safety of their peers, I’m inclined to respect the rights that colleges have not to give time, energy, and space to those speakers.

          3. That is a very good response and I agree with many of those points. Maybe I’m wrong but I think deplatforming is. It the same as not giving a platform in the first place. A university should decide who speaks there based on their own criteria. Once the say yes then saying no afterwards would be deplatforming.

            We engaged in debates with creationists and we have won that battle at least we did until Americans were left to vote, something too important to allow them to do it seems, but I digress. Milo is the same way, we engage with him not to change his mind but to change others around him.

            There are very bad feminist ideas that need to be challenged like the Duluth model. That might be the worst idea put into practice, it needs to go. There are “robust feminist arguements” apparently and those need to be presented to people like Milo. Some of Milo’s conclusions are correct but he generally gets there for very bad reasons. How Milo reaches those conclusions needs to be challenged as well.

            Might be too late to ignore him, so in my mind we engage him or we deplatform him. My choice is to engage, I believe good ideas will beat bad ones, I’m an optimist I suppose.

  4. I voted Hillary. There was no question in my mind given the other choice was Trump. I feel Sam Harris did a fine job of arguing that case in the months preceding the election. I also admit she was a poor candidate due to all the alleged corruption and the baggage that she would bring along. I’m not sure if Bernie would have won or not. I know he was polling better than Trump in the primaries, but we all saw how accurate polling was in the end.

    Like Sam, I don’t know that running a farther left candidate would have been any better. I’m sick of identity politics on the right and the left. Apparently Bernie is too judging from his recent statements on the subject. Anyway, I’m rambling. I don’t think I had much of a point.

    I consider my self a liberal leaning centrist. I do enjoy your podcast so far. So thanks for that!

    1. Truth be told, it wasn’t the polling that was off; it was the predictions. The polls always had Hillary within two or three points of Trump, sometimes ahead, sometimes behind from mid 2015 right up until November 8th, 2016. It was the predictors like Nate Silver and the Merlin Project who got it all the way wrong.

      1. Predictions were not wrong. I think Nate had his number at 65/35 split. There is no way to be wrong when you say one outcome is more likely than another. Only saying Hillary was 100% to win was a real prediction.

        Like the weatherman that says 20% chance of rain. Sometimes it rains on those days, most of the time it doesn’t.

        1. OK. The interpretations of the predictions were wrong. Down to a day or two before the election my li’bral/progressive cronies were sure that Hillary was a shoo-in. Personally, I still think the predictions were faulty. I think the Hillary vs. Trump odds were fifty-fifty from the git-go and remained so.

  5. Two points:
    People vote for the candidate they like and rationalize later why it’s also reasonable to vote for him or her. And yes TV asshole is a popular thing. Think about it.
    Hillary wasn’t as inclusive as Obama or at least people didn’t believed her.

    All polls said Hillary would win so why go to the election if you think she is just a lesser evil.

  6. As someone who is actually far left I do not consider the “regressive left” to be far left but rather a modern and rather annoying strain of liberalism.

    The true far left encompasses anarchism, socialism, and communism. All of which in theory are near utopian ideals. and nowhere near as bad as fascism and laissez faire capitalism.

    Trumps victory is a joke. don’t report to work on the 20th.

  7. I just wanted to add some clarification. I agree, I think in the current context the far right is a bigger threat than the far left. However, the far left can be pretty terrible if they are not kept in check. Just reading about the history of Soviet Russia can be terrifying. We are no where near that, but it is probably good to remain aware that it is at least a possibility.

    That being said, it seems odd to me that people use things like a Prime Minister visiting a Mosque as evidence that the left is destroying everything. Where as the far right passing laws that economically and socially disadvantage people is not as concerning. To compare these two things, and have the Mosque visiting problem outweigh the negatives of destroying social institutions, is baffling to me. In Canada, we just got rid of a conservative Prime Minister who put a gag order on climate scientists, yet visiting a Mosque is just too illiberal.

    This isn’t even about left vs right anymore. Trudeau, for example, is a centrist, and yet he is portrayed by the right as an illiberal communist. Think about that. In the current climate, a centrist is considered by the right to be too far left. Even Obama and Clinton were centrists, and yet maligned by the right as too left.

    Yet pronouns and safe spaces are clearly the bigger threat…

    1. How obtuse an you be?

      No one said that him visiting the mosque in and of itself was an illiberal act. They’re pointing out the hypocrisy of a liberal feminist speaking in a venue that segregates the audience by sex.

      Was that not clear?

    2. Did you seriously just try to straw man a post that is literally on the same thread?

      Visiting a mosque is fine, if that mosque at least adheres to Canadian values. One of those values is equally between the sexes. Liberals don’t praise segregation like Justin did. I voted for him happily, next time I’ll vote for him holding my nose.

      We don’t have to choose between far left and far right policies. There is so much in the reasonable middle to choose from. Identity politics needs to die. Especially on the left because identity politics relies on demonizing the other. The other the left demonizes is the largest voting block, its an idiotic strategy. Just on a pragmatic level you don’t demonize the biggest group it’s a stupid thing to do.

      Thomas needs to look at the voting breakdown. Trump won because he maintained margins among whites and gained in every minority group over Romney.

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