Is Incivility Necessary?

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Is Incivility Necessary?

Postby Crimson847 » Fri Nov 02, 2018 8:03 pm

We had a bit of a kerfuffle on this forum a few weeks ago, which led to a thread (the social conservatism thread that split off from the Kavanaugh thread) being permanently locked. I'm told that the thread raised an important and valid issue, and we're encouraged to make a new thread on that topic.

I'm pretty sure the mods were referring to the original thread topic of social conservatism, specifically whether it's a legitimate ideology or not. Frankly though, I think I already made my points on that. If someone else still wants to argue the point I encourage them to make that thread, but in this political moment I think it's important to address another question the thread raised: how to deal with "uncivil" accusations.

Some background here: I'm sure you've all been sick, right? Have you ever been so sick you vomited over and over to the point of utter exhaustion, and ended up weakly resting your head on the sink or toilet seat even if it's dirty because you just don't care anymore, with sweat pouring off your face and mixing with the puke dribbling from your mouth, pleading to supernatural powers you've never really believed in, "please, Lord, Allah, Buddha, anyone, just make it stop, I'll do anything"?

That's how I felt on the night of the Ford-Kavanaugh hearings--it was that same sense of total and complete exhaustion and emptiness. I wasn't sick, I was just witnessing the outpouring of rage and hate from every corner of the political world after Ford and Kavanaugh testified to the Senate. Not just watching, but taking it in, really feeling the rage of millions of people explode like a bomb. It was a singular experience, like I imagine drinking poison would be if you managed to live through it. And it left me, yes, angry. Angry at this rage that's tearing my country apart. Angry at the bullshit merchants who incite Americans against Americans. Angry at those on the left who screamed loudly about the allegations against Kavanaugh while looking the other way for Keith Ellison or Al Franken. Angry at those on the right who whine about liberals being uncivil or not respecting due process enough while their party's leader openly endorses violence and conspiracy theories about his political opponents.

Most of all, though, I'm angry at the motley collection of centrists, moderates, institutionalists, and heterodox independents whose thinking most reflects my own for whining ineffectually about all this, shaking our heads in judgment from our distant perches at how stupid these emotionally-driven radicals are all being, how obvious it is that everyone should just stop being angry and respect each other again. So attuned to the loud, plain violence of insults and shoutdowns, yet so blind to the quiet, subtle violence of condescension, of dismissing the problems that convulse our society as not worth getting so worked up about (except, of course, problems that primarily concern our tribe like the decline of civility or bipartisan cooperation) and treating those who feel differently as a danger to the social order. Fellow centrists who acted like I have, here and elsewhere. Fellow moderates who embody MLK's criticism of the "white moderate" that still stings today: that we would rather people treat each other with a fake respect based on fear of conflict and strife rather than true respect based on justice and mutual understanding. We throw gasoline on the fire, and then wonder why this stupid fire stubbornly refuses to go out.


Since then, though, I've been thinking. Why do we (moderates etc.) heap the blame on others anyway? As members of the political center it's our job to tie left and right together. The center is our jurisdiction; if it's failing, we're primarily responsible for mending it, but our efforts to do so have largely poured more gas on the fire. Why should combatants in this culture war listen to our moralistic lecturing and hectoring about "incivility" when we can't do our own job properly? We've given them little cause to believe that we can mend society, and even less cause to believe that their problems will ever get taken seriously if they listen to us. That kind of trust cannot be demanded as one's due; it must be earned. And one doesn't earn it by getting outraged and shutting down the conversation when someone doubts our sincerity or accuses us of the same everyday human faults that we accuse them of all the time, like succumbing to motivated reasoning to reach a preferred conclusion, caring more deeply about friends and allies than strangers or opponents, or applying double standards. We earn that trust by taking their objections seriously even if they offend or implicate us, and either disproving those objections (to their satisfaction, not ours) or fixing them.

I won't condone hurting someone for the sake of hurting them, but uncivil accusations are a different beast from violence, or even what you might call "pure" insults that communicate nothing other than antipathy. It's dreadfully uncivil to accuse someone of rape, but if they're genuinely convinced that person raped someone, what else are they to do? Tell them to keep their mouth shut and you don't do anything to control their anger--indeed, you make them feel persecuted as well as righteously angry, and you deny their target the opportunity to respond to the accusation. Likewise, if large and growing portions of our society now truly believe that their political opponents are white supremacists, thugs, liars, Marxists, theocrats, misogynists, misandrists, traitors, or some other stripe of asshole, telling them they can't say that because it's terribly rude is a recipe for even greater rage, not peace. If we want civil debate again, we have to address these fears and concerns, and that ironically means accepting that incivility is inevitable now given what people have come to believe about each other. There is simply no realistic way that I can see to litigate such explosive claims without breaking a few monocles in the process.

Those of us who disagree with all this incivility do so not because we're exemplars of stoicism or because everybody else has lost their moral compass. We disagree with the incivility because we don't share the underlying belief that Republicans are Nazis, or that liberals want to destroy America, or what have you. This is not primarily a moral debate, it is a factual dispute occurring on both sides about what our political opponents really think, believe, and are capable of doing if we let our guard down. Are modern American liberals misguided idealists, or brutal socialist revolutionaries? Are religious conservatives sincere or do they just hate women and sexual minorities and use religion as an excuse to restrict their freedoms? Does the left/right generally support antifa/Nazis or not? Do they actually believe our side supports antifa/Nazis, or are they just cynically using guilt by association to fool the public into voting for their guy? In short, are our political opponents dealing with us in good faith, or are they actively trying to do harm? These are important questions, no less so because some of us believe we already know the answers. They need to be discussed, not sarcastically but fairly, and that can't happen if raising such charged accusations is deemed excessively uncivil and punished.

What this moment demands of any who would seek peace and comity is to face this sort of incivility and squarely address the beliefs that underlie it, rather than shrinking from it, censoring it, or attacking the people promoting it. That responsibility goes double for those of us in the political center, who must deliver on our promises of putting petty bickering aside and getting important stuff done through bipartisan cooperation if we want people to trust us again. In short, if we want civility, we must be prepared to tolerate incivility, to withstand the heat of the fire long enough to get to the base of it and put it out. Otherwise our nations, our communities, and our world will continue to come apart.
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Re: Is Incivility Necessary?

Postby AsamiSato » Fri Nov 02, 2018 10:02 pm

Here's a good piece on this issue: http://time.com/5434381/tayari-jones-moral-middle-myth/

If this is a factual debate, I think it is pretty clear who has the facts on their side. And that's the left.

Now the left isn't perfect and I have plenty of canned critiques and rants about the left that I can bring out at any given moment. But I think that moderates need to stop trying to claim this is a matter of both sides being too extreme because that's just gaslighting those of us on the left who are like um, look at the utter insanity that the right has brought into being?

Like the critiques that are levied against the left are by and large based in right wing media exaggeration and falsehood. Whereas all you have to do is look at what people on the right are saying with their own mouths to see lots of evidence of bigotry, lies, etc etc.

For instance, you brought up Al Franken and Keith Ellison. I have been deeply involved in progressive MN politics. Al Franken was taken down by the accusations against him. And liberals are extremely conflicted about Ellison to the point where he might lose because of it (even though the accusations against him are probably bullshit). So to compare those cases with Kavanaugh are just not fair.

Also, drawing a comparison between the violent white supremacist right and antifa as though they are the same is false equivalence. US history is littered with the bodies of murdered socialists and people of color whose white supremacist killers got off scot free. (a couple examples: Greensboro massacre, murder of Vincent Chin)

Antifa (to my knowledge, correct me if I'm wrong) has not killed anyone, at most there has been some property damage and people getting beaten up. Not so for the 'other side.' (citation: https://www.adl.org/resources/reports/m ... es-in-2017) So if moderates want to be taken seriously, they need to not draw these completely false equivalences between both sides as though both sides are equally problematic and to blame for what is happening right now.
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Re: Is Incivility Necessary?

Postby Marcuse » Fri Nov 02, 2018 10:36 pm

If this is a factual debate, I think it is pretty clear who has the facts on their side. And that's the left.


The problem the US has right now is that someone on the other side of the political spectrum will say the exact same thing with the identifier swapped. There's no middle ground, the left thinks the left is 100% correct, and the right thinks the right is 100% correct. Regardless of the factual accuracy of this or that claim, the fact that neither side can accept the other or work together in a rational way (ie. not screwing things up for the country so that the other "side" loses) is evidence that the political discourse in the US is in the toilet.

As to incivility, I don't think it's useful as a tool to generate cooperation or bridge the gaping left/right divide in the US. Never mind that really geopolitically it's more like center right/far right when compared to the rest of the world, but hey ho. The point of why incivility doesn't work is because it relies on shouting about things and expecting the other side to back down, that it appears to be a reasonable tactic is itself a symptom of the excessively polarised political situation. If the go-to option is to try to force the other side to back down then it's not producing cooperation, it's trying to enforce capitulation.

That doesn't mean that it's wrong to, for example, accuse someone you genuinely believe of having raped someone of rape. But the problem the US social politics has currently is that any and all accusations are wrapped up in a partisanship whereby people on the same side as the accused deny the allegations regardless of their truth, and the other side believe them regardless of their truth. This taints any good faith such accusations might have by injecting politics into the situation, dragging Kavanaugh and Ford up in front of a public senate hearing like that was the wrong thing to do, and didn't help anything. Kavanaugh is now a supreme court justice and Ford has been entirely forgotten (at least where I am). The problem with this isn't the incivility, it's the nakedly political way the accusation (whether genuine or not) has been manipulated for purely political ends and in a way that wasn't in the best interests of either Ford or Kavanaugh.

In short, are our political opponents dealing with us in good faith, or are they actively trying to do harm? These are important questions, no less so because some of us believe we already know the answers. They need to be discussed, not sarcastically but fairly, and that can't happen if raising such charged accusations is deemed excessively uncivil and punished.


There's a really big difference between calmly asking the question about good faith, and quite another to have a group of people screaming at each other baseless or near baseless accusation about the topic to no end. When the latter happens, the discussion produces more antipathy and the presumption of bad faith both ways. Building a dialogue usually rests on finding common ground and working to see the the other side views a situation in a different way because they prioritise different things which might be legitimate but they're not your priorities. Maybe it's the case that American needs to delve into and address these political questions and both the left and the right need to disavow some negative and concerning tendencies in order to move more to the middle. I don't think that's going to happen as easily without some constructive dialogue and I can't see the kind of incivility I see here and elsewhere as constructive, personally.
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Re: Is Incivility Necessary?

Postby AsamiSato » Fri Nov 02, 2018 11:15 pm

Marcuse wrote:"The problem the US has right now is that someone on the other side of the political spectrum will say the exact same thing with the identifier swapped. There's no middle ground, the left thinks the left is 100% correct, and the right thinks the right is 100% correct. Regardless of the factual accuracy of this or that claim, the fact that neither side can accept the other or work together in a rational way (ie. not screwing things up for the country so that the other "side" loses) is evidence that the political discourse in the US is in the toilet."


I would characterize this problem differently. I think the left is for the most part at least trying to live in a fact-based reality. You can point to occasional failures (the anti-vaxx movement for one, ugh) and spin (MSNBC), but every single group/movement has its stupids and by and large the left believes in science and fact-checking. The right has spun off into a bizarro world of conspiracy theories and outright lies and a world where literally only partisan loyalty determines truth. It used to be just a strong fringe on the right that was like that, now mainstream Republicans are backing up everything Trump says and does. I get that individuals on each side are *sure* they are right. But I'm backing up my points with research studies and well sourced articles from reputable journalists and they're just parroting Trump/Fox News talking points that are backed up by nothing.

Of course, being right doesn't matter at all if you don't have any power. And that's where the left finds itself right now, the right has blinded enough people with racebaiting and lies so the the super-rich and oil companies have won (to the ultimate detriment of everyone). The kind of incivility I'm in favor of is less the "screaming at each other on the Internet" kind of incivility and more like civil disobedience and generally creating trouble for people in power so they're forced to change.
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Re: Is Incivility Necessary?

Postby Kate » Fri Nov 02, 2018 11:56 pm

Speak for yourself. I'm not a moderate or a person who endeavors to be civil because these things aren't worth getting worked up about. This is actually ironically my third attempt at responding because my first two were not very civil.

To start, I am pro-life. I am not saying that to spark the debate, but to ask you to step back and think about what that means for me to live in a country with some of the loosest abortion restrictions in the world. I mean really think about it.

That means I am living in a world where 60 million children have been killed, in a completely legal way, since Roe v. Wade passed, in modern times. Half a million children a year are killed every year in my country, with minority, impoverished, and disabled babies especially vulnerable to this killing, and it's totally legal and in fact it is celebrated by some.

Do you really believe that this isn't a thing I find worth getting worked up about? Like do you think I go to bed at night and say "Well sure, lots of babies were intentionally killed today in my country, not to mention the rest of the world, but well differences of opinion so I guess I will just not be upset!" When I was pregnant with my sons and getting my 18 week ultrasounds and watching them squirm around and suck their thumbs and feeling the most intense love I have ever felt, such that I cannot even begin to put it in words, do you think I wasn't just a little emotional that if Andy and my roles were reversed he could have chosen to end their existences at any moment and there wouldn't have been a thing I could do?

That is the world I live in. And by your logic, it shouldn't be my responsibility to refrain from calling people baby murderers or shouting that half of America is fine with murdering children. Hell, by that logic, one could hardly blame clinic bombers for killing a few bad guys to save who knows how many innocent little babies, right? Wrong. Of course it's wrong. Because there is nothing you can do to convince me that these are not children being killed by abortion; my personal philosophy says that all human organisms are people and so far scientifically no one has been able to "bridge that gap" to show me that these aren't human organisms. This is just how it is. The onus is on me to listen, and understand and believe that people who disagree with me do not see the world the way I do and do not have the motivation of killing people for the sake of a lower priority. Even if they see fetuses as people, for the most part they are only reluctantly okay with abortion in that instance because bodily integrity takes priority. That does not make them bad people and the onus is on me to understand that.

Frankly, it's a bit much to assume that I am not calling conservatives racist because I don't find racial injustice in this country real or worth getting worked up about. Thomas Paine said that trying to argue with people who have abandoned all reason is like trying to administer medication to a dead man. I'm paraphrasing but that's the gist and that is kind of where it feels like we are right now. Someone who starts on "pro-choicers are baby-killers!" Has already demonstrated that they aren't inclined to listen. Someone who says "everyone who voted for Trump is a racist!" Has demonstrated they are disinclined to listen. Someone who says " Those SJWs are just virtue signaling and don't care about minorities!" Is already not listening. So why is the onus on moderates when the failure in communication is coming entirely from the people who are actively choosing to not listen?

No one needs to concede that the other side is right, or that the status quo should be accepted because some people are okay with it. No one needs to dim their fire and passion. But civility is everyone's responsibility, not for its own sake and not to avoid conflict. It is easy to avoid conflict by being uncivil. Do you understand how easy it would make my life if I just said, "everyone who supports abortion is evil or stupid." That's a much simpler world. That's a great excuse to do nothing but complain to the choir because you can't fix evil or stupid. Civility is every adult's responsibility because every human deserves the basic respect to at least be heard before being judged, and because frankly you can't get anywhere without it. People calling for genuine civility aren't ignoring problems, they're trying hard to fix problems. We can't do that if we start from a place of bad faith, and the responsibility lies with the people acting in bad faith. We don't need incivility. The civil are not responsible for the incivility. We might need to try and work through it, but we don't need to accept that people just can't help it because of how they see the world. They can, and they should, because they are adults and adults should figure out how to have empathy, it's part of growing up.
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Re: Is Incivility Necessary?

Postby cmsellers » Sat Nov 03, 2018 12:23 am

@Asami, I thumbed you because I agree with your point about Franken and Ellison being a false analogy to Kavanaugh. I started another thread on attempts to compare Bob Menendez to Roy Moore, and that is a far better analogy than either of those cases and Kavanaugh. I actually almost started a thread on this, but I had no energy after the Kavanaugh hearings.

I too would be conflicted on Ellison and I never liked him to begin with. If he is abusive, he obviously should not be elected, but given Ellison has only one accuser, I would normally reserve judgment, but intimate partner abuse is tricky because it's harder to get multiple accusers, one reason I think the #metoo movement has affected almost no women. Given that she claims to have video evidence she refuses to share, I'm downright skeptical.

That said, it is not true that the left is always right based on the factual evidence. Some debates in modern politics are essentially moral debates, as with abortion and gun control, or how progressive the tax system should be, the issue is a clash of values, not a dispute over evidence. Some debates the left is much more likely to take the wrong position, as with GMOs, nuclear power, trade, and the application of the Duluth Model to domestic violence. Some questions are a combination of the two, such as the push for universal free college. And then you have things like illegal immigration, where research which might show it to be negative is such a political lightening rod that research tends to be focused on questions that will support the left-wing position, while questions that would contradict it go largely ignored.

@Crimson
I fully agree that we need to try to empathize with people we disagree with, even when their positions horrify us. Liberalism, in the procedural sense, means that we have to treat opponents with respect, even when they would not offer us the same consideration; we need to be tolerant of the intolerant, and defeat their ideas in the marketplace of ideas.

It deeply disturbs me that the GOP seems to have largely rejected this idea; I suspect that the fraction of people who see "liberal tears" as a legitimate policy goal is far more numerous than most people on the right or center are willing to admit. It also worries me that activists and even relatively respected figures on the left seem to be pulling the Democrats in the same direction.

That said, I think people who are neither left nor right (I don't consider myself a moderate or a centrist) share some blame in this, I don't think it's the lack of civility which is the main issue, rather I think it is the impulse that we have towards bothsidesism and triangulation. While I think Asami is wrong to suggest that on policy the left is objectively right, it seems very clear to me that it has been the GOP who has pioneered most of the innovations which have degraded public discourse in this country. I have been saying this quietly since early in the Obama administration and loudly and directly since McConnell's stunt with Gorsuch. It is important to look at all sides of an issue critically and to try to understand the proponents, but when one side is behaving worse, I think we need to call it out and punish the culpable, even at the risk of looking like partisans.

Unfortunately, a large part of the country sees politics as a zero-sum game, and those people are disproportionately located on the right. These are primarily white people (especially white evangelicals) engaging in identify politics who see the country they know and love changing into something new and scary. I hate identify politics from both the left and the right, I stand up against it resolutely as illiberal, but the fact is that it is popular enough that we have to work around it. Unfortunately, I don't know any of these people myself, and if I did, I'm not sure how to reach out to them in a way that would change their minds.

When I see people complaining about the lack of civility, I am reminded of MLK's speech on the white moderate. In my lifetime, I have seen four major cultural issues in which an oppressed group has demanded just treatment: gay rights, Black Lives Matter, trans rights, and #metoo. Each of these has sparked a major backlash, each has seen complaints about methods which were tasteless and goals which moved too far and too fast. But we saw this before as well, with abolitionism, Reconstruction, women's suffrage, and the Civil Rights Movement. In each case, one side has demanded to be treated like human beings, one side has responded with violence and extreme incivility, and the response of the moderates at the time has been to bemoan the incivility and extremism of both sides.

I will reiterate again that I think it is important to try to understand people who disagree with us, even when there is no chance of persuading them, and to try to persuade them where possible. Even when an idea is so stupid it is frustrating, even when it runs counter to all evidence on the subject, angry rants and namecalling is not going to persuade people, much less masks and Molotov cocktails. But I also think that when it comes to those of is caught in the middle, bothsidesism is a bigger issue than incivility. While it is vitally important to try to honestly understand where both sides of an issue are coming from, and it it absolutely fine to condemn incivility, I think we should be placing more focus on the merits of the arguments and less on the packaging.
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Re: Is Incivility Necessary?

Postby AsamiSato » Sat Nov 03, 2018 12:31 am

Kate wrote: People calling for genuine civility aren't ignoring problems, they're trying hard to fix problems. We can't do that if we start from a place of bad faith, and the responsibility lies with the people acting in bad faith. We don't need incivility. The civil are not responsible for the incivility. We might need to try and work through it, but we don't need to accept that people just can't help it because of how they see the world. They can, and they should, because they are adults and adults should figure out how to have empathy, it's part of growing up.


I think at some level incivility is necessary for social change. Perhaps we mean slightly different things by incivility. I mean like I should be able to interrupt Mitch McConnell's dinner or call my idiot racist cousin an idiot racist asshole to hold him accountable for idiot racist assholery that I think is harming America. That doesn't mean that I never have empathy for my cousin or like that we can never try to connect on the basis of our common humanity. I am a strong advocate of doing that. I just taught a class where I had students pair up and just have a deep conversation about life to make the point that we need to figure out how to connect with one another across political differences. But I also think that people should have the right to stand up for themselves and what they believe in and that can sometimes mean physically blocking the road or calling an asshole politician an asshole in public.

I don't think being against abortion is stupid. And if you feel that strongly about it, I actually would understand and find it justifiable if you protested outside an abortion clinic. I am being 100% serious when I say this, I actually internally applaud the abortion protesters that hang up disturbing images above the highway I drive on every day, even though I fundamentally disagree with them. I think that's the kind of thing that gets people's attention and sends a clear message (even though some people might find it uncivil).

Unfortunately, social change just doesn't happen without incivility. Seriously, name a social transformation that came about without some people doing things others find 'uncivil.' You'll have a hard time doing so.

cmsellers wrote:That said, it is not true that the left is always right based on the factual evidence. Some debates in modern politics are essentially moral debates, as with abortion and gun control, or how progressive the tax system should be, the issue is a clash of values, not a dispute over evidence. Some debates the left is much more likely to take the wrong position, as with GMOs, nuclear power, trade, and the application of the Duluth Model to domestic violence.


I don't disagree. I was overgeneralizing in reference to the US political climate today. But yeah, I get that the right has good points sometimes. When they're being sane and using logic and facts.
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Re: Is Incivility Necessary?

Postby Deathclaw_Puncher » Sat Nov 03, 2018 2:05 am

I think one of the big issues plaguing Centrism, and to an extent American political discourse nowadays, is something of an idealized stoicism. Like, there's something of a mis-assumption that all it takes is a single logic bomb to get people over to your side. There's a reason the Fallacy Fallacy is a legitimate Fallacy in the first place, and that's because people tend to be emotionally invested in their arguments, and views aren't going to shift dramatically instantly because of a simple gotcha. Yet, you're left with all these people who seem to think that, say, a black, lesbian, trans woman can win debate with the most virulent Neo-Nazi over her right to exist with just the right logical argument, which isn't exactly the most realistic of scenarios. That kind of thing only really gets achieved through real, emotional connection.

The thing about incivility, is that it's largely a backlash against disingenuous and conditional terms of support. Like, the racial or sexual minority might be approached with the condition that more widespread acceptance must only come from the individual, never from the demonym; that everyone potentially hostile to you should not be denounced retroactively through legislatively and judicially implemented civil rights advancements, but won over in entirety, essentially treating civil rights like a gameplay elitist judges a playthrough ("I'll only respect you as a person if you win acceptance on legendary mode with a permadeath and pacifist playstyle!", essentially.) In critiquing the "Myth of Time" in that letter from Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King Jr is basically saying "Why not go after easy allies?". Sticking with the people who will listen to you and sympathize with you will make your cause more successful in the long run. If people were forced to only go after the people who were the most virulently against them instead of sympathizers we'd still have segregation in America and arrest people for having gay sex in their own apartment, and anyone who says otherwise is essentially saying "Shut up and let me dominate you!" And not in the good way. Same goes for the people presenting a Shylockian dilemma over politics. Their minds were already made up. The person who conditions bipartisanship on one side abandoning all their values was never interested in cooperation. The person who blames their support of a racist candidate or policy on being called out for that candidate or policy being racist was always a supporter and a racist regardless. It's all just a means of social control, especially if only one side is ever allowed to be angry about anything.

Marcuse wrote:The problem the US has right now is that someone on the other side of the political spectrum will say the exact same thing with the identifier swapped.

That may be true for the most part, but it's the right that tends to embrace the actual holdover scientists. You know, the people in the pocket of the Liberty Foundation or Focus on the Family who are doctors or psychologists who argue that LGBT people are mentally ill and advocate for conversion therapy, or scientists bought by corporations who try and claim things like sugar is good for your health and Global Warming is a hoax despite a 99.7% consensus. And then you've got people like Charles Murray, the author of "The Bell Curve",who argues that Black people are statistically less intelligent than White People. Are we supposed to just concede that these people might actually have a point?
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Re: Is Incivility Necessary?

Postby Kate » Sat Nov 03, 2018 3:33 am

Does calling McConnell during dinner actually promote change, though? Because it kind of just makes me feel sorry for Mitch McConnell. I'd like to say I don't know this feeling, but one of the things I hate most about this hyper charged and hyperbolic environment is that people keep saying inaccurate things about politicians I hate and my brain goes "But that isn't actually true" and then I'm in the position of defending people I hate, because apparently I can't just practice the self-care technique of not standing up for assholes just because some other asshole is being unfair about them.

If your cousin is a racist asshole, you shouldn't have to pretend he isn't. But does calling him a racist asshole change him and how people treat him, and importantly, is he actually a racist asshole? I mean I believe you, there are a lot of racist assholes in the world, but it's an insult that is flung around pretty cavalierly these days.

Right now, we have a big breakdown in civility in our society in terms of if/then. "If you voted for Trump, then you are a racist." "If you support Black Lives Matter, then you want cops to die." "If you support Kavanaugh, then you are a misogynist and a rape apologist." "If you oppose Kavanaugh, then you don't support due process." The problem with all of these is judging someone without enough information to really judge them and turning people who think differently than you do - and sorry, I am tired, I mean the general you and not you, AsamiSato you - into Others.

I don't think the GOP and the Democrats are equally bad (GOP is worse, definitely), but I think conservatives and liberals are both equally guilty of engaging in this form of incivility. And it's making the polarization and political climate a lot worse, in my opinion. It doesn't help even aimed at politicians unless it is accurate. Calling Trump as bad as Hitler when he is not is bad because we have now lowered the bar. Now Trump just needs to be better than Hitler to satisfy his supporters in their righteousness, and that's a low low bar. And we are the ones who lowered that bar.

Maybe incivility is necessary, ultimately, but not the way it's currently being wielded against each other and not because people have no responsibility to try and understand people who think very differently than they do. Making distinctions between actions and people is an easy way to avoid this; "It is racist to single out Muslims to keep them from entering the country" says the same thing that "Only racists want to ban Muslims from this country" does without leaving as much room for argument and objection. The former also leaves room for honest dialogue to try and figure out if they actually are racist or not, and then to try and change their minds about the policy if they're not.

Sorry this is so long, I'm having trouble filtering.
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Re: Is Incivility Necessary?

Postby Windy » Sat Nov 03, 2018 4:07 am

This is now my personal Crimson headcanon

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Re: Is Incivility Necessary?

Postby JamishT » Sat Nov 03, 2018 8:57 am

That doesn't add to the discussion, Windy.

I think incivility works sometimes, but not as often or directly as it seems people believe. I think that being direct with a person about their beliefs can result in their reconsidering them, but that doesn't mean calling them a racist asshole is going to help anything at all. Maybe I have a MidWestern definition of incivility, because I'm thinking of saying literally anything challenging a person's beliefs as uncivil. I don't think calling anyone a racist asshole, pansy-ass libtard, socialist drone, or anything along those lines is going to cause introspection, because why would you listen to anyone who has obviously written you off?

On a larger stage, I think that incivility works even less often or directly. I think that embarrassing the government can sometimes work, like the march to Selma and the photos that came from that, the bus boycott, and others. Gathering a large group and marching only seems effective in the way of connecting like-minded people, and inspiring like-minded people by letting them know that they are not alone. I don't think Senators and Representatives give a crap about protestors, unless the polls show them losing their seat.

I don't know where I'm going with this.
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Re: Is Incivility Necessary?

Postby Deathclaw_Puncher » Sat Nov 03, 2018 9:18 am

JamishT wrote:
I don't know where I'm going with this.

Ougadougou?
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Re: Is Incivility Necessary?

Postby AsamiSato » Sat Nov 03, 2018 4:32 pm

One thing that I am noticing is that a lot of moderates seem to think about politics as some kind of abstract game where it's like everyone should be nice to each other and that's the main thing that matters. Whereas I see politics as like holy crap, people are going to actually die and horrible things are going to happen to a lot of people (many of whom I know and care about) if Republicans continue to win people over to a non-truth-based racist sexist reality.

Kate wrote:Does calling McConnell during dinner actually promote change, though? Because it kind of just makes me feel sorry for Mitch McConnell. I'd like to say I don't know this feeling, but one of the things I hate most about this hyper charged and hyperbolic environment is that people keep saying inaccurate things about politicians I hate and my brain goes "But that isn't actually true" and then I'm in the position of defending people I hate, because apparently I can't just practice the self-care technique of not standing up for assholes just because some other asshole is being unfair about them.


But, WHY do you feel bad for and want to defend horrible people? Like, my question in response is why is that your priority? Mitch McConnell has done more than any other human being to undermine the legitimacy of this democracy and shove through laws that hurt/kill poor people. He should get his dinner interrupted.

If being nice is most peoples' main priority then we are toast as a country. Like my racist cousin is on a different side of a conflict than me. While I do think that sometimes people on the left are too mean to people who could potentially be supporters (and I have confronted them for that at times), I am also deeply suspicious of moderates who think that we should make nice with our literal enemies who want to see us humiliated and dead. I teach at a college. I know what Milo and those types want to do to college professors. I am a woman who is not white. I hear and see what they want to be able to do to us with impunity. Like when I look at a lot of moderates, I see a systematic (willful?) misunderstanding of what the right stands for and is capable of in their current formulation. We're not about talking those nice moderate Republicans that care about fiscal responsibility here. We're not talking about Jeb! or John Boehner. Republicans are moving closer and closer to just being open Nazis. Does that apply to every single individual in this country that identifies as Republican? No. But the fact that a lot of moderates seem to be more worried about some people being unfairly labelled as Nazis than about white supremacist violence, sexual assault, and our country descending into some kind of dystopian post truth nightmare seems to me a case of misplaced priorities.

It is like people are holding onto a fantasy that everything is still normal and all the same rules of polite discourse still apply... what that ends up meaning in practice is that the left gets scolded and demonized (the rhetoric is amping up right now) while also being overpoliced and killed and the other side gets to do whatever they want behind a wall of protection from white moderates who want to make sure no one is called a racist that doesn't truly deserve it.
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Re: Is Incivility Necessary?

Postby Windy » Sat Nov 03, 2018 5:43 pm

It is like people are holding onto a fantasy that everything is still normal and all the same rules of polite discourse still apply... what that ends up meaning in practice is that the left gets scolded and demonized (the rhetoric is amping up right now) while also being overpoliced and killed and the other side gets to do whatever they want behind a wall of protection from white moderates who want to make sure no one is called a racist that doesn't truly deserve it.


It's because your fearmongering isn't based on any kind of facts or reality. No one is going to start rounding people like you up into camps to kill you. We aren't descending into a Nazi regime and we aren't going to legalize rape or repeal women's suffrage or the 14th amendment. People claim we elected literal Hitler or the antichrist after every election and it simply hasn't ever come true. You'll have to forgive the centrists if they see you as one of those people who keep saying the world is going to end, so certain that they have it right this time.
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Re: Is Incivility Necessary?

Postby Kate » Sat Nov 03, 2018 6:10 pm

I understand that fear and anger, but my concern is not about being nice for the sake of being nice. The biggest reason it concerns me to see Republicans being labeled Nazis is because, essentially, the boy who cried wolf is a real thing. If we keep calling them Nazis when they are objectively not as bad as Nazis, people won't take us seriously when they get to that point or believe that they are getting to that point. It's not more important than the white supremacism, it's important because of the white supremacism, because it is important that we not shoot ourselves in the foot when fighting back against the tide of horribleness. Saying most illegal immigrants are rapists is bad enough, we don't need to say that means Trump wants to kill all Mexicans. Saying women are things meant to be the conquest of the rich and famous is bad enough, we don't need to say Trump is a rapist. When we lower that bar for him, we're not doing ourselves any favors.

I value accuracy and civil disagreement not because I care about being nice, but because it is more convincing. I don't think this is a game. This is very real. But I mean, I am used to living in a world where innocent people are dying every day and the best course of action is to humanize the people responsible for it. Because they are human and treating them as something else won't work and is ultimately wrong.

By your logic, it would be okay for me to harass any vocally pro-choice politician. Because children are dying. A lot of them poor, I might add. But even if I thought it was okay, that doesn't make it a good idea because anyone who doesn't think this way is looking at that and just seeing that I'm an asshole who harasses people who disagree with me. If I don't think it's okay to harass people responsible for literal baby killing, my bar for harassment is pretty high. Either I should accept Operation Rescue's tactics of harassing clinic workers at home, or I draw a line that includes McConnell and Pelosi and Obama and any other politician responsible for terrible things. And it's an easy line to draw when harassment isn't actually an effective means of changing minds or stopping politicians. I am pretty sure Trump gets a hard-on every time someone gets thrown out of his conventions, and it wouldn't surprise me if McConnell feels more secure in his righteousness every time "some snowflake" (as the internet jerks say) interrupts his dinner.
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