Is Incivility Necessary?

What's happening in your world? Discuss it here.
Forum rules
Play nice. We will be watching

Re: Is Incivility Necessary?

Postby Fun With Mr. Fudge » Sat Nov 10, 2018 9:55 pm

gisambards wrote:
Fun With Mr. Fudge wrote: Another key point is that, as I mentioned, I doubt the anger. I don't think it's less legitimate because it's come from someone who's not experienced it, because if the anger is genuine then it's genuine. But I do personally believe a lot more people support social justice causes that don't affect them purely out of self-gratification than people realise - the left-leaning white middle-class is absolutely full of these people - and it's often those people that are the most unhelpful to the conversation.


Again, I read this just see a more refined version of arguments that detractors on the right make on a regular basis. Intended or not, when this becomes the overwhelming focus, it minimizes the message of the protesters by impugning their motives as well as their tactics. It's not quite the same argument as "the issue isn't real" but I interpret what you said to mean in part that the protesters you're criticising aren't really getting at the right issues in your opinion. My guess is that for people who are on the fence or don't want to address the issue anyway, it's effectively the same as not having a "real issue" to protest.

According to my reading of your statements, you have defined what's "civil" in a way which makes it sound wrong to disagree with your assessments. I find this problematic. For example, your insistance that Asami fundamentally misunderstands the Civil Rights Movement (which actually strikes me as a pretty uncivil thing to state in the way that you have) seems based on an assumption that you know what "rational" people consider civil. But there are plenty of people who would consider kneeling during the Anthem hostile to America and offensive to their sensibilites. And based on their own beliefs, that reaction might be rational in the sense that their behaviors and judgments are consistent with their goals and worldviews.

You also think (rightly or wrongly) you know that many privileged white people don't really mean it when they protest, but I'm not in those people's heads. I also don't find your claim incredibly dissimilar from criticisms that people on the right make. Sure, sometimes they get conspiratorial (as when they suggest protesters they disagree with are paid actors), but even then there is a deeper point they are making: Don't listen to the message because the protesters are illegitimate in some way.

You aren't technically saying that, but if moderates consistently focus on making a similar-sounding argument, I don't see why the right wouldn't simply dismiss opposition by claiming the people they disagree with aren't sincere. And I'm not sure that they wouldn't be kind of right to use the criticism that way.

I think one of the major problems with these discussions is that people get hung up on technicalities, which allows them to dismiss larger points or ignore assertions they don't like. That comment is not meant for you specifically, Gis (I'm sure I'm guilty of doing this with people sometimes). I think you mean well, and I don't presume to know the entirety of your views on these matters. But your comments and others still remind me of this general problem that I perceive to exist.
  • 3

User avatar
Fun With Mr. Fudge
Frequent Poster
Frequent Poster
 
Posts: 153
Joined: Tue May 19, 2015 8:54 pm
Show rep
Title: Jackbooted Hug

Re: Is Incivility Necessary?

Postby gisambards » Sat Nov 10, 2018 10:43 pm

Well personally, I think it's very obvious why America is in the situation it's in, if suggesting that maybe people on the left should improve how they're going about things because otherwise no-one's going to listen to them is now apparently tantamount to echoing the arguments of Trump and his supporters.
I think we should aspire to the perfectly realisable ideal of a society in which important matters are decided as much as possible through rational discourse. And it should be plainly obvious that the only way to maintain such a society would be for people to try and keep their own side under control as much as their opponents. Whataboutism is a zero-sum game, even if the other side is actually worse.
Moreover, I think the suggestion that keeps being brought up that someone who believes incivility from the left is bad is going to be entirely focused on that to the point of not being able to criticise the worse behaviour from the right is utterly bizarre. I think going up and shouting at Mitch McConnell while he's trying to eat is unhelpful and would be against it, but being able to criticise that doesn't make me somehow less condemnatory of the things Mitch McConnell has done. I can understand that a situation is bad while still thinking that some people's ways of dealing with it are unhelpful.
I also think it's simply out-of-touch to suggest that left-leaning people criticising their own when they get out of hand shouldn't be done as it will give the right ammunition - they already have the ammunition, because the protestors already got out of hand. Any amount of media consumption will have shown you this. Criticising the protestors just makes it clear that that ammunition should no longer be supplied, and separates you from that display. I have never seen Fox News use someone who would have agreed with a protest instead criticising it as a talking point, but I've seen them use their perceived incivility of protests several times (sometimes when it did get out of hand, sometimes when it didn't). Sure, they'll criticise any protest, no matter how civil. But ensuring that they're only civil will do much more to persuade those who might be convinced. Defending the protestors out of some misguided notion of ideological loyalty is only ensuring that your side is taken less seriously.
Lastly, the idea that we should not criticise protestors whose politics we agree with, no matter what they do, is a ridiculous notion that it's plainly obvious will only ever lead to justifying or at least downplaying outright violence, as has already started to happen on the right and I'm sure will have to start happening on the left as the political situation grows more angry.
  • 4

User avatar
gisambards
TCS Junkie
TCS Junkie
 
Posts: 2038
Joined: Sat Feb 21, 2015 11:45 pm
Show rep

Re: Is Incivility Necessary?

Postby Fun With Mr. Fudge » Sat Nov 10, 2018 11:25 pm

gisambards wrote:Well personally, I think it's very obvious why America is in the situation it's in, if suggesting that maybe people on the left should improve how they're going about things because otherwise no-one's going to listen to them is now apparently tantamount to echoing the arguments of Trump and his supporters.


That's a strawman. I never said that merely suggesting improvements was a problem. I talked about emphasis and frequency. I even specifically said that not all moderates overly focus on crticism, but I think alot do. That is not the same as "never criticize." Moreover, I don't think you just suggested improvements. I think you called a group of people ill-informed and insincere, at least as I understand part of your criticism.

Also, I find your criticism a tad odd when you yourself acknowledge that two problems can have similarities without being equally bad. I pointed out how I think some of the arguments might come off to people because of certain similarities to more extreme arguments if those criticizems dominate duscourse. I did not argue that they were equally extreme on their own. If it seems that way, that was not my intention.

I never claimed people shouldn't be criticized for how they protest. To reiterate, I stated that my concern is that many people make that too big of a priority in different situations. I didn't even clarify which situations I think are uncivil or worth criticizing, so some of your statements strike me as odd in that regard as well. Are you suggesting that I shouldn't criticize the way people criticize? I doubt that you are, so it would be nice not to present my claims as if I've called all or most criticism of leftist protests wrong or Trumpian.

Also, how civil is it to suggest that I'm part of what's wrong with America?


I also think it's simply out-of-touch to suggest that left-leaning people criticising their own when they get out of hand shouldn't be done as it will give the right ammunition - they already have the ammunition, because the protestors already got out of hand. Any amount of media consumption will have shown you this.


Again, this discussion, as I have read it, has never been a debate about whether you should ever criticizie your own side. I suppose since I didn't emphasize the times when I think leftists get out of hand (and for the record, I do think at times in ways that are damaging) you think I don't consume media, or are you just trying to insult me?

Defending the protestors out of some misguided notion of ideological loyalty is only ensuring that your side is taken less seriously.


Where did I say or suggest one should never criticize a side just because it's their side? I am not some blind ideologue, and while you didn't outright accuse me of that, your words certainly seem to imply it (in my opinion) in the current context.

Lastly, the idea that we should not criticise protestors whose politics we agree with, no matter what they do, is a ridiculous notion that it's plainly obvious will only ever lead to justifying or at least downplaying outright violence, as has already started to happen on the right and I'm sure will have to start happening on the left as the political situation grows more angry.


This is several scarecrows' worth of strawmen. I never said anything of the sort. I don't think anyone here as said or even thinks that you should never criticize your own side "no matter what they do." I suppose I have to clarify that I think violence is bad and that I would prefer civility. Again, I also said earlier people can criticize, but I think that in many cases that becomes too much of the focus rather than trying to actually help the situation. Your contention seems to be that the criticism is part of the help, and I think there are many times when that's either not the case or the criticism could use some improvement.
  • 4

User avatar
Fun With Mr. Fudge
Frequent Poster
Frequent Poster
 
Posts: 153
Joined: Tue May 19, 2015 8:54 pm
Show rep
Title: Jackbooted Hug

Re: Is Incivility Necessary?

Postby IamNotCreepy » Mon Nov 12, 2018 6:04 pm

I'd like to point out that you can criticize the delivery of a method and still agree with the message and ultimately support their cause -- they're not mutually exclusive.

I'm a "white moderate," but although I may criticize the tactics of certain groups, I'm still going support their causes and vote that way regardless. I think it's disingenuous to assume that people will vote opposite of what they believe in just out of spite because they think the messenger is being uncivil.

If those actions do push away moderates who are on the fence, that's just a natural consequence of their actions. It's unrealistic to expect your target audience to change how they react to your tactics rather than to change your tactics to be as effective as possible.
  • 5

User avatar
IamNotCreepy
TCS Admin
TCS Admin
 
Posts: 1488
Joined: Fri Dec 18, 2015 5:00 am
Location: Inside the "Cone of Uncertainty"
Show rep
Title: Chasing after the Wind

Re: Is Incivility Necessary?

Postby Fun With Mr. Fudge » Mon Nov 12, 2018 9:12 pm

IamNotCreepy wrote:I'd like to point out that you can criticize the delivery of a method and still agree with the message and ultimately support their cause -- they're not mutually exclusive.


Who said these things are mutually exclusive? I'm baffled by how often this happens. I say, "Too much of X might be bad, especially done with a particular emphasis," and then someone says "X is isn't always bad" or "X doesn't always have the wrong emphasis." I never disputed the second two claims. Statements like that start to come off as people thinking I'm stupid because they're explaining very obvious things to me as if I didn't already get them.


I'll try this one more time (with very little faith). This will be a bit lengthy.

So let's say you have (A) giving criticism; (B) the criticism is to excess or has an unuseful focus; and (C) being damaging to a cause.

I am suggesting that if A AND B, then C.

But the responses I consistently see imply that I said if A OR B then C. I am NOT saying that. Now, there is a question as to whether B is true. Obviously, that is subjective and context-dependent. I will supply some examples of what I mean.

I think it is one thing to say that you find a protest method ineffective. It is another to suggest that people are just blocking roads or screaming to feel good about themselves or are just being jerks because they didn't get their way. The latter tow come off as dismissive and ironically don't take into account human nature in the way that protesters are asked to.

Now, it's easy to dismiss the anger of protesters if we just assume they don't actually care or are just trying to make themselves feel good, but I'm not convinced that that's a fair assumption. I personally am not one to scream at people and I like to be civil, but that doesn't mean I don't understand why someone would feel outraged or act out. And more importantly, it's not that case that people just willy-nilly block roads. The issues many people in the black community (or their allies) block roads about, like police brutality, have been going on for a long time, and those issues have been ignored or dismissed or under-addressed. There are also peaceful protests, but those don't get as much publicity and will also get criticized for being even slightly upsetting to certain groups of people. We can say those upset people are extremely conservative, but there is a seprate and related issue of signaling I will get to in a moment.

I think it's disingenuous to assume that people will vote opposite of what they believe in just out of spite because they think the messenger is being uncivil.


I agree, which is why I didn't assume it. Where did that even come from? I said that if the way a group protests sways the way a person sees the issue being protesting about, then they probably didn't care about the issue. That is a different thing from what you are criticizing in my opinion. Now, if moderates want to appeal to the people on the fence, which I think was a good suggestion by Crimson, there is the issue of signaling to consider.

If there is a target of attention (let's say, the right cause/set of issues to focus on), the amount of information tied to that target will determine how easy it is to perceive the target itself. If there is a lot of noise both from the far right and from the middle, the concer from me is that it's more likely that people on the fence (i they can be persuaded in the first place) will find it harder to actually notice the issue. Again, this does not mean I think it's wrong to criticize. But it does suggest that if I think a certain type of criticism is overblown, I will consider it more of a distraction from the target. I would liken it to the fan effect in psyshcology, though not the same thing exactly, at least as I have presented it.

If those actions do push away moderates who are on the fence, that's just a natural consequence of their actions. It's unrealistic to expect your target audience to change how they react to your tactics rather than to change your tactics to be as effective as possible.


I also think it's unrealistic to expect people from certain groups who are judged to unfair standards constantly not to take issue with being lectured about whether they should show anger. Sometimes those lectures are warranted, as when people went to Tucker Carlson's house. Other times I think they're overblown.

I would also like to point out that in my own personal experience, being civil sometimes actually makes some people view others in my racial group more negatively. I personally don't yell or even confront people who shout the N-word at me, for example (yes, this had happened multiple times in my life, and one of those times was a few weeks ago), but I also feel like if I did there would be people who would just see an angry black man. I have have tried to reach out to less extreme people who have less than positive views about black people (I used to have one of those people as a friend), but because I seem "smart and well-spoken" or "reasonable" they simply see me as an example of why they're justified in disliking the rest of my group that they view in more stereotypical terms. It suddenly becomes, you went through some bad things and didn't turn out like that, so they have no excuse.

Now, obiously, that example does not apply to everyone. But I also know that people who look like me get held to a harsher standard on a consistent basis, and it used to happen to me when I was younger and scarier looking to white people (at leat until I opened my mouth and showed I was one of the "good ones). But when you have to deal with that all the time, you don't always want to lecture the people in your own group, especially those who are treated even worse than you are, unless you really feel it's warranted. I think something similar might happen with protesters, especially if they feel they're held to unfair standards anyway. For the last time, that doesn't mean "don't criticize ever" or that every criticism is bad. Hell, I don't entirely disagree with everything Trump says sometimes.

I would also like to clarify that I really don't think we're all working with the same idea of what's "uncivil." Some people see boycotts as uncvil because they're coercive. But they can also be a useful way to push people in power to act. In that sense and others I will not get into (I think Asami mentioned plenty), I think incivility can be very useful and moreover, it illustrates that the point of protest doesn't always have to be to "persuade" to be meaningful (because I don't define economic threats as persuasion).
  • 5

User avatar
Fun With Mr. Fudge
Frequent Poster
Frequent Poster
 
Posts: 153
Joined: Tue May 19, 2015 8:54 pm
Show rep
Title: Jackbooted Hug

Re: Is Incivility Necessary?

Postby Crimson847 » Tue Nov 13, 2018 1:04 am

gisambards wrote:
AsamiSato wrote:Also, my general argument does not rest only on the Civil Rights Movement.

No, but it's a pretty major example of a civil protest movement that achieved a lot, rather undermining your false assertion that any successful social movement requires incivility, and you've been using the term white moderates frequently, as if to suggest modern moderates are at all like those MLK was criticising, which is not the case by any reasonable interpretation of the situation. As I said: Martin Luther King was criticising people who paid lip service to supporting civil rights but admonished any attempt to do something about it. What you are criticising is people who do support the things you're accusing them of paying lip service to, but actually want to push for something that might accomplish that, rather than just uselessly shouting about it.


The Civil Rights movement didn't occur in a vacuum; it occurred alongside widespread devastating race riots like this one, a systematic campaign of Klan terrorism in the South, and the rise of the Black Panther Party (which moderated over time but started off as a 2nd Amendment solution to police brutality, leading to a number of gunfights between BPP members and police). That would have easily met (indeed, overshot) the practical goals Asami mentions. The public's attention would be focused on the Jim Crow issue and authorities would have been desperate for some kind of solution, giving the "respectable" wing of the movement (like King) an opening to make a deal.



Of course, the flipside of that is the violence of the 60s also gave others opportunities to make their own pitches to a public desperate for solutions, like Richard Nixon. It led to a massive backlash that ushered in a generation of racially-tinged conservative political dominance and contributed to mass incarceration and the militarization of the police, among other things. More obviously, it also got a lot of people killed. Abroad, Hitler gained power and influence in Germany largely by promising to end street battles between far-left and far-right groups that were tearing the country apart, just as Nixon did and as Trump has positioned himself to do if today's situation gets worse. Left-wing dictators like Stalin and Mao, of course, took power by being part of violent left-wing groups which managed to topple the ruling authority.

If one studies the psychology of violent behavior (physical or otherwise), this makes perfect sense. Rage and violence are an extraordinarily dangerous combination of powerfully addictive and extremely contagious. Rage produces almost the same dopamine response in the brain as cocaine, and violence is surprisingly consistent at provoking a similar response in others even if they try to suppress it--hell, even if they know that provoking such a response is exactly what you're trying to do it still often works, as anyone who's ever fed a troll against their better judgment can tell you. As such, the more violence is employed by anyone in a society, the more everyone in the society is exposed to it, and the more fond of it we become in the aggregate. And as a society becomes less civilized and more brutish, the people who suffer most tend to be its weakest and most vulnerable members.

To Asami and Fudge: that tends to be what moderates have an eye on with respect to "uncivil" social movements that distracts us from the cause itself: that risk of social degeneration into barbarism or tyranny if rage and/or violence are indulged too much.

Another factor in the moderate attitude toward social change movements "overstepping" is simple political calculation combined with a different perspective. In a democracy, generating lasting policy movement on an issue generally requires convincing a majority of the voting public to support it. There are a few possible workarounds for elites (convincing a majority of the donor class to support a policy works well in the US, for instance), but for ground-up social movements you pretty much need popular support. The usual way to do that is to consolidate one side and win over some of the other side's moderates. Since left-wing moderates share a political "tribe" with other (right wing) moderates just as we do with other left-wingers, we have a lot of firsthand experience with how they think, and what works to win them over and what doesn't. Because we tend to assume persuasion is always the goal, we feel the need to share when we see a tactic isn't working at persuading those folks, not considering the possibility that being persuasive wasn't the goal of that particular tactic in the first place.

Finally, @Fudge:

Looking at this whole discussion is frustrating because it feels like the emphasis on civility seems like it matters more to people when someone is trying to combat perceived oppression.


Why do you say that? Is it because we critique such movements more than we do their opponents?
  • 4

"If it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them; but the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?"
- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
User avatar
Crimson847
TCS Junkie
TCS Junkie
 
Posts: 3171
Joined: Sun Feb 01, 2015 5:18 am
Show rep

Re: Is Incivility Necessary?

Postby Fun With Mr. Fudge » Tue Nov 13, 2018 2:11 am

Crimson847 wrote:To Asami and Fudge: that tends to be what moderates have an eye on with respect to "uncivil" social movements that distracts us from the cause itself: that risk of social degeneration into barbarism or tyranny if rage and/or violence are indulged too much.


This in an of itself is a fair concern and not one that I don't share for the most part. But it's hard not to feel like society is already barbaric for certain people. I live in a place where someone was murded outside at the end of my block last year, and where I would be rightfully worried about getting robbed or killed if I walked a few blocks in the wrong direction at night. Yet, the times I hear gun fire (which thankfully isn't that often), I would still be afraid to call the cops because while I don't dislike them, I am afraid of what they will do if they feel threatened in an area they already consider "bad." Now I'm lucky because I can avoid these situations in my current circumstances, despite proximity, but I don't see a civil world from where I sit. I see one where I actively avoid going outside, and where despite wanting to see the best in people (including law enforcement) I feel I have reason to fear what they will do to me or someone who's innocent because they look or behave "suspiciously" -- or (for certain people I think look suspicious) if I look like the an easy target for a crime.

Going back to something I mentioned earlier, while having racial slurs shouted you isn't deadly, I also worry about what will happen if I encouter someone who doesn't just shout at me from their car (or who, once when I was overseas, told me to fellate him while shouting a slur to my face). When I see white supremacists kill an innocent woman or badly beat a black man in Charlottesville, I think about the fact that I used to live there. And I think about the fact that the president of my country seemed loath to specifically condemn racism. Yes, condemn violence on both sides, but if I feel like the face of the nation is tacitly condoning it when racists are aggressively open with their prejudices, that feels like shift toward barbarism, never mind how horrifying it is that people literally don't seem to care about facts as much as they used to.


Finally, @Fudge:

Looking at this whole discussion is frustrating because it feels like the emphasis on civility seems like it matters more to people when someone is trying to combat perceived oppression.


Why do you say that? Is it because we critique such movements more than we do their opponents?


Good question. It is partly that, but mostly not. There are larger issues that are also driven by my own biases but also by the nature of how I think people and society work. So I'll try to break it down into a few points.

(1) I don't think you need civility for people to believe certain things. For example, you don't have to be nice to persuade someone that murder is wrong. And you don't have be nice to persuade someone that police brutality is wrong. But because some people don't experience brutality or don't see it, you have to persuade people that it actually happens. But certain people who deny instances of it automatically have more perceived credibility than the people who claim it happens. An easy example is cops themselves. Of course it's easier to believe cops than people who are seen as possible or actual criminals if you grew up trusting them. When you also factor in that black people are also more often associated with criminality and violence a lot of times, I think their anger matters more when they protest than when, say, Cliven Bundy and a bunch of dudes grab guns and have a standoff with law enforcement over public lands.

(2) People have a just world bias. They want to see the world as fair, and so when bad things happen to people, it's just naturally easier to blame them for it in some cases. So when you have the short end of the stick in society, I think it is already easier for (some) people who are better off to assume that the worse off ones sort of had it coming when something bad happens to them. I think that's even easier to think when you don't relate to someone as being part of your social category.

(3) People are hostile to change. That statement is obviously an overgeneralization, so we could also phrase it as "people like to be comfortable." So let's take a non-racial example: Sexual harrassment. For a long time men were comfortable making inappropriate comments or doing worse with women in the work place. But now that that is more frowned upon, certain people who were more used to that mentality feel like something was taken away from them. And some will get angry and see their anger as simply more justified than the anger of those they wanted to keep harrassing (in part because they never saw it as harrassment, and getting them to change their minds requires more civility than convincing them that they are right).
  • 7

User avatar
Fun With Mr. Fudge
Frequent Poster
Frequent Poster
 
Posts: 153
Joined: Tue May 19, 2015 8:54 pm
Show rep
Title: Jackbooted Hug

Re: Is Incivility Necessary?

Postby AsamiSato » Tue Nov 13, 2018 2:17 pm

Fun With Mr. Fudge wrote:
Crimson847 wrote:To Asami and Fudge: that tends to be what moderates have an eye on with respect to "uncivil" social movements that distracts us from the cause itself: that risk of social degeneration into barbarism or tyranny if rage and/or violence are indulged too much.


This in an of itself is a fair concern and not one that I don't share for the most part. But it's hard not to feel like society is already barbaric for certain people.


^^^ EXACTLY. But people of color experiencing violence (and racist harassment/threats) is normal in the US, it's scarier and more indicative of social disorder (to white people) if those people get too rowdy about their mistreatment.

This is part of why "uncivil" is always in the eyes of the beholder and can be defined in many ways depending on how a person frames the situation. (I LOL at the idea that there is a self-evident, 'rational' definition of what is civil and what is not). And what is so infuriating about white moderates' obstinacy in overly focusing on the civility offenses of the left is that they are helping the racists on the right by lending credence to their frame that 'both sides' are really to blame. And they do so while condescendingly explaining to oppressed people that in placating their Republican cousins and affirming the stance that the left has gone "too far" they're actually doing the real work for change :roll:

I don't think rioting is necessarily strategic or a "good" response to oppression. But at the end of the day, what do you really expect to happen when people are put under so much pressure? In many cases, white moderates place expectations of perfection on people who are experiencing truly ridiculous injustices and spend their time and energy haranguing them while not holding the right accountable AT ALL for perpetuating these injustices. But as long as they can still be friends and family with Republicans who spew hatred and feel ok about it (justification: because Mitch McConnell getting his dinner interrupted shows that both sides are problematic), that's what really matters. As Fudge said in his very solid post above, people want to be comfortable.
  • 4

User avatar
AsamiSato
Commenter
Commenter
 
Posts: 46
Joined: Sun Feb 08, 2015 8:17 pm
Location: Midwest, US
Show rep

Re: Is Incivility Necessary?

Postby gisambards » Tue Nov 13, 2018 4:20 pm

Firstly, I never claimed that there was a single rational definition of civility, only that there can be rational standards for civility, which I maintain. I also still think it's weasel words to use the argument that people had different standards of civility in the past to justify the assertion that today's moderates are comparable to MLK's white moderates.

Secondly, I continue to maintain (and always will) that calling for moderation and holding one's own side to account is a good cause, and I continue to maintain this despite the fact that I am actually part of a very victimised and oppressed minority myself - in fact, partly because I am: I have experienced what it is like to be part of a group that has its serious issues frequently ignored and dismissed because of a reputation for irrationality and being unreasonable.
  • 6

User avatar
gisambards
TCS Junkie
TCS Junkie
 
Posts: 2038
Joined: Sat Feb 21, 2015 11:45 pm
Show rep

Re: Is Incivility Necessary?

Postby Crimson847 » Mon Nov 19, 2018 3:45 am

Fun With Mr. Fudge wrote:Good question. It is partly that, but mostly not. There are larger issues that are also driven by my own biases but also by the nature of how I think people and society work. So I'll try to break it down into a few points.

(1) I don't think you need civility for people to believe certain things. For example, you don't have to be nice to persuade someone that murder is wrong. And you don't have be nice to persuade someone that police brutality is wrong. But because some people don't experience brutality or don't see it, you have to persuade people that it actually happens. But certain people who deny instances of it automatically have more perceived credibility than the people who claim it happens. An easy example is cops themselves. Of course it's easier to believe cops than people who are seen as possible or actual criminals if you grew up trusting them. When you also factor in that black people are also more often associated with criminality and violence a lot of times, I think their anger matters more when they protest than when, say, Cliven Bundy and a bunch of dudes grab guns and have a standoff with law enforcement over public lands.


I agree you don't need civility for people to believe certain things, especially if they already believe them before you said anything (e.g. that murder is wrong). If people already think you're right on the underlying issue, they're not likely to pretend otherwise just because you're being uncivil. Rather, civility/incivility affects two things in my experience:

Firstly, they affect an interlocutor's willingness to hear you out and listen to what you're saying in the first place, which is dramatically enhanced if they feel they can let their guard down in the discussion without being personally attacked; i.e. if you can be "civil". Regardless of its persuasiveness in a vacuum, no argument has much persuasive force if it's delivered alongside a rock to the head, because then the person is focusing on defending themselves rather than listening. The same applies to any perceived personal attack, to a greater or lesser degree based on proportion.

Secondly, if you do convince them, civility/incivility affects their prioritization of the issue. The world is too full of injustices for anyone to be equally aware of them all and try to solve them all with equal fervor, so people are forced to make difficult choices about who to help first. When forced to make such a choice, people are more likely to devote limited resources to sympathetic victims than to unsympathetic ones, because they have more emotional attachment and thus greater personal investment.


You may notice this is all dealing with the feelings of the person you're trying to persuade (what makes them feel personally attacked or feel sympathetic). That means, of course, that there's variation in standards of civility, which are dependent on culture and subculture. Among Maude Flanders types, severe profanity like "fucking" would probably be seen as terribly uncivil, whereas in a blue-collar bar you might be seen as a bit soft if you don't cuss like that. Likewise, accusations are taken differently depending on culture and other circumstances. For instance, an argument implying that someone is like a Klan member is generally a lot more uncivil now that the KKK is widely reviled than it was a century ago when the group was still considered semi-respectable. So "civility" is a moving target, dependent on things which aren't necessarily visible to a casual observer, like the listener's state of mind, beliefs, and culture. There are substantial commonalities and patterns, but ultimately civility is a bit of an art. That being the case, expecting the disadvantaged to conduct a beautiful symphony before anyone else is willing to budge an inch is potentially like expecting a hungry, freezing busker to play like Mozart before you'll give them any food.



@Asami: You keep attributing white moderates' beliefs to a desire to get along with our "Republican cousins". You say you have experience with this; what was that experience? Speaking as a white moderate with no living Republican family members I'm not sure what you're driving at there.
  • 5

"If it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them; but the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?"
- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
User avatar
Crimson847
TCS Junkie
TCS Junkie
 
Posts: 3171
Joined: Sun Feb 01, 2015 5:18 am
Show rep

Re: Is Incivility Necessary?

Postby Fun With Mr. Fudge » Mon Nov 19, 2018 2:42 pm

Crimson847 wrote:I agree you don't need civility for people to believe certain things, especially if they already believe them before you said anything (e.g. that murder is wrong).


I agree, but I should clarify that I meant something a bit different than holding prior beliefs. (In that sense maybe murder was not the best example, but I'll elaborate, anyway). I don't believe in a priori morality (not saying that you do, but some people do), so beliefs about right and wrong have to be taught in some way. And I think seeing what happens to other people who "do wrong things" or experiencing punishment yourself can, in some case, teach people that. With respect to murder, this is something many of us learn is wrong when we're children.

I tend to broadly agree with Piaget and Kholberg (though I'm a bit rusty on the details and flaws of their theories)in their assertions that children use punishment or the threat of punishment to determine what's right and wrong in their early stages of development. Depending on what kind of household you grow up in, you might learn that hitting is wrong when you get hit for hitting and see that it hurts (clearly that does no apply to murder). Now, it's debatable whether than counts as persuasion, and regardless my focus on children here is immediately complicated by factors like emotional or mental immaturity.

With admitted flaws and possible lack of clarity, the point I really wanted to get at is that I think fear of consequences or experiencing pain realted to a particular proscribed behavior (or even just appeals to authority, like "it's illegal" or "God said not to") can also form beliefs in ways that don't fit neatly (in some cases not at all) into my conception of "civil" persuasion. I don't know if that makes sense as I've stated it, but at some point later I can try to explain it if I was unclear.


If people already think you're right on the underlying issue, they're not likely to pretend otherwise just because you're being uncivil


100% agree, but the problem I see is one that you have brought up with a different emphasis from the one I have. As you rightly pointed out, the meaning of "uncivil" changes in relation to to the perceiver and their frame of reference. I think this issue is compounded when social biases enter the mix. If you're predisposed to seeing a group of people as hostile, your perception of an ambiguous situation might shift in the direction of seeing that group member as hostile. By contrast, that same situation with the group member replaced by someone with less negative stereotypes attached might be perceived differently.

For example, there's research suggesting that a black man's height effects the level of threat police might perceive in him. We might also liken it to studies in shooter bias which essentially turn ambiguous police encounters into a kind of video game. Long story short: in simulated shooting scenarios where people have to determined whether a black or white character is armed and shoot accordingly, people are more likely to mistake an unarmed black character for an armed assailant.

With respect to protests, I'm suggesting that the same level of uncivility (if such a thing can be measured) will be perceived differently in people from different social groups as a function of the stereotypes attached to them. I see this as something distinct from actively holding a prejudice because of how associative learning works.

You may notice this is all dealing with the feelings of the person you're trying to persuade (what makes them feel personally attacked or feel sympathetic). That means, of course, that there's variation in standards of civility, which are dependent on culture and subculture. Among Maude Flanders types, severe profanity like "fucking" would probably be seen as terribly uncivil, whereas in a blue-collar bar you might be seen as a bit soft if you don't cuss like that. Likewise, accusations are taken differently depending on culture and other circumstances. For instance, an argument implying that someone is like a Klan member is generally a lot more uncivil now that the KKK is widely reviled than it was a century ago when the group was still considered semi-respectable. So "civility" is a moving target, dependent on things which aren't necessarily visible to a casual observer, like the listener's state of mind, beliefs, and culture.


Agreed. I think this also means that for people who are used to being treated in a hostile way, certain expressions of anger will not come off as being unduly uncivil. If we go back to the example of BLM blocking traffic, they're probably not seeing their actions as "uncivil" in some unacceptable way. And part of the reason might be that the thing they're protesting is unjustified beatings and killings. I get that this might come off as people saying, "our issue is worse than you waiting in traffic" and to an extent it is. But I think there's also just a difference in perspective.

This is also where I think it's important to keep in mind the perspectives of the people we're asking to be "civil," which is a concern I think you have eloquently pointed out. In addition to the "amygdala hijacking" you mentioned, I would suggest that if someone makes an argument that's interpreted as, "if you yell about being killed, that might lead to violence," the person receiving that message might interpret it to mean that the speaker sees the violence being protested as more acceptable than the violence the speaker wants to avoid. (I thinkthis is part of Asami's broader point, though I don't want to put words in her mouth). After all, if peaceful protests haven't worked and the expectation is to persuade a group of people to listen to your issues (which might take a while), that won't actually prevent violence being committed against the group that inspired the protesters in the first place.
  • 2

User avatar
Fun With Mr. Fudge
Frequent Poster
Frequent Poster
 
Posts: 153
Joined: Tue May 19, 2015 8:54 pm
Show rep
Title: Jackbooted Hug

Previous

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests