Is Incivility Necessary?

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Re: Is Incivility Necessary?

Postby Ladki96 » Tue Nov 06, 2018 7:59 pm

That's the problem right there, the need to be persuaded. Why not just be instantly accepting and on board with things? There's no use in resisting societal progress.


Because people don't work like that. And thank goodness they don't. What is obvious societal progress to you may not be to somebody else. Dialogue and discussion is then the key to bridging the gap. One of the awesome things about our species is the exchange of ideas. /o/

Deathclaw_Puncher wrote:I just don't want people to be hateful toward me. I also have, like, ALL the trust issues.


I'm sorry to hear that {{Deathclaw}} But things have been getting better. And they will continue to, as long as we continue to press the point and talk, and you know :P persuade people like Creepy ^^ Reasoning > shouting right?

an awesome play wrote:Yes, I believe in the gentle power of reason, of common sense, over men. They cannot resist it in the long run. No man can watch for long and see how I - he lets fall a stone from his hand to the floor - can drop a stone, and then say: 'It does not fall.' No man is capable of that. The temptation offered by such a proof is too great. Most succumb to it, and in the long run - all. Thinking is one of the greatest pleasures of the human race.
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Re: Is Incivility Necessary?

Postby AsamiSato » Tue Nov 06, 2018 9:45 pm

cmsellers wrote:The Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act and Indian New Deal were all passed by Congress. Apartheid was ended by a vote among white South Africans. After WWII, decolonization happened fairly easily in liberal countries (except French Algeria), but it wasn't until the end of the Estado Novo that it happened in Portugal. East Timor only won its independence when Indonesia got democracy. Gay rights in Europe have mostly been passed by legislation. And courts play an important role in protecting minority rights as well, which is a key feature of liberalism. Gay marriage in the US, Brazil, and South Africa came through court rulings. Desegregation in the US came through court rulings.


Real question: Do you think any of that legislation would have happened without people in the streets? (I'm thinking of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts in particular). Without the movement forcing the issue and making it central to the national conversation? Because the way you frame it here makes it seem like liberal processes happen in a vacuum, that they in and of themselves are what create social change. If that is what you are saying, I would counter that is a flawed/incomplete idea about how social change occurs. The Civil Rights legislation only got written and debated because people were willing to put their lives/bodies on the line to make the authorities and the public listen. (The judicial branch is its own animal; I do agree that the courts have played an important role in protecting and advancing minorities' rights, and groups like the NAACP have been very strategic in pursuing litigation as a tactic)

The political process is much more complex than what we see 'on paper' or learn in our AP government classes or whatever. That's just the first face of power. Close study of social conflict and the struggles of the poor and people of color reveals that confrontational tactics are often the only way authorities will even listen or view your issue as an issue. Civil Rights Movement leaders actively strategized about how to end segregation for many years, it didn't just happen because white people got less racist over time. The Montgomery bus boycott happened in 1955 (and was not the first boycott, just the first successful one)... the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964 only after a decade of consistent agitation.

Overall, white moderates tend to overestimate how important their irritation is and underestimate how important it is that the issue is even being raised in the first place.
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Re: Is Incivility Necessary?

Postby sunglasses » Wed Nov 07, 2018 4:59 pm

Deathclaw_Puncher wrote:That's the problem right there, the need to be persuaded. Why not just be instantly accepting and on board with things? There's no use in resisting societal progress.



Ah, but there's the rub. What some may consider societal progress others consider a fringe. I, personally, hate anti-vaxxers. Yes. Hat. I hate the anti-scientific stuff they spew. However, and this is key, they feel like they are the societal progress. As do the free birthers. As do many fringe groups who only gain momentum online. Whereas there is, in fact, documented societal change regarding gay rights over the 20th and 21st century. If, a fringe group like the anti-vaxxers, were to cause a societal change I would push back with my entire being. It's against everything I believe and nothing you can say will change my mind.

Expecting people to magically accept notions that are heavily rooted in their believe structure is a recipe for failure. Changing minds and opinions take time-no matter how many laws are changed. No one wants to be hated but there are people who are hated for more basic reasons in which there has been more pronounced societal change (yes, I am talking about blatant racism). No one was magically just on board with what Loving v. Virginia had to fight for. These things take time and patience. Trying to force change on people will just make them reject it more.
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Re: Is Incivility Necessary?

Postby cmsellers » Wed Nov 07, 2018 10:39 pm

@Asami
To answer your question directly first: The Indian New Deal didn't involve mass protests, while the later mass protests of the American Indian Movement didn't accomplish much. Similarly, a lot of colonies were decolonized without a major effort by the local population, though Britain, France, and Portugal basically took an Oprah approach to independence: once it was clear India, Indochina, and Angola and Mozambique had to go, well you get independence, and you get independence, and...

But major social change does typically involve some form of protest, however I never said it didn't. Protest is part-and-parcel of liberal democracy, it's why the right to peaceably assemble and protest for the redress of grievances is guaranteed by the First Amendment, and other liberal democracies have similar guarantees. Protest can be a powerful tool even in illiberal societies against the right leaders: it brought down the Estado Novo, Marcos Regime, Greek Junta, and Soviet Union.

However what we disagree on is where protests are effective. In liberal democracies, I think protests are typically effective when they have the goal of increasing visibility of issues that the majority hasn't really considered. Segregation, Apartheid, and police brutality were conveniently out of sight, out of mind for most white people before the Civil Rights Movement, boycott of South Africa, and Black Lives Matter. Women's suffrage gained momentum in part by demonstrating the plight of working class women to the middle class. Before the gay pride movement, most people probably didn't think about gay people outside the context of jokes. #metoo highlighted just how prevalent sexual misconduct really is, in a way I think even many victims of assault themselves hadn't realized.

But some protests simply don't work. I was part of the Iraq War protests, and while we were saying "the evidence W has of WMD is bullshit, he doesn't have a plan for afterwards, and Iraq is a sectarian mess waiting to explode like Bosnia," the media simply had no interest in covering the protests or our arguments. And it was not an issue where being so disruptive people have to notice us is going to be effective, because the key thing was the arguments we were making, not the size of the crowds, and reduced to soundbites they weren't very convincing.

Similarly, when it came to bothering Mitch McConnell, the protesters had an unfocused laundry list of complaints that I think had no chance of being effective simply because of the unfocused nature of the complaints. However the protestors who disrupted Ted Cruz's dinner didn't do a good job of calling attention to sexual assault either. Yet the protesters who surprised Flake got a cursory FBI investigation and the ones who surprised Hatch got him to make an ass of himself. It obviously helped that the protesters of Flake and Hatch were actual sexual assault survivors and not random assholes like the people who bothered Cruz, but I also think that the context of disruption at work vs at dinner mattered there. Flake was in the mindset of doing his job and Hatch was in the mindset of fighting a crusade against liberalism, while Cruz was in the mindset of "I'm trying to have dinner with my wife here," plus I think enough people have been bothered at dinner by political canvassers and telephone push polls that the optics were never going to look good.
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Re: Is Incivility Necessary?

Postby AsamiSato » Thu Nov 08, 2018 3:54 pm

cmsellers wrote: However what we disagree on is where protests are effective. In liberal democracies, I think protests are typically effective when they have the goal of increasing visibility of issues that the majority hasn't really considered. Segregation, Apartheid, and police brutality were conveniently out of sight, out of mind for most white people before the Civil Rights Movement, boycott of South Africa, and Black Lives Matter. Women's suffrage gained momentum in part by demonstrating the plight of working class women to the middle class. Before the gay pride movement, most people probably didn't think about gay people outside the context of jokes. #metoo highlighted just how prevalent sexual misconduct really is, in a way I think even many victims of assault themselves hadn't realized.

But some protests simply don't work. I was part of the Iraq War protests, and while we were saying "the evidence W has of WMD is bullshit, he doesn't have a plan for afterwards, and Iraq is a sectarian mess waiting to explode like Bosnia," the media simply had no interest in covering the protests or our arguments. And it was not an issue where being so disruptive people have to notice us is going to be effective, because the key thing was the arguments we were making, not the size of the crowds, and reduced to soundbites they weren't very convincing.


I don't know if we disagree based on what you're saying here? I don't think protest is always effective. Obviously there are times when protest backfires or is ineffective... and I could go over different perspectives about how to strategize and think about when/how to protest but we aren't in a social movements class right now so I'll refrain.

Where I think our real disagreement lies is that I think that white moderates need to majorly check themselves in terms of how important they think their feelings are in the broader picture. I see a LOT of evidence regularly that white people/privileged people in general prioritize their comfort and sense of moral superiority over the actual suffering of people without power. Like little brown kids are in cages, black people are being shot and killed with little provocation, poor white people are dying from drug addiction and lack of healthcare, women are being raped by powerful men who face no consequences, etc etc but "nice" middle class/upper class white people just want to talk about how terrible it is that Mitch McConnell got his dinner interrupted? I honestly just think that's gross and a serious (yet revealing) case of misplaced priorities. Whether or not it was unstrategic on the part of those protesters is beside the point. I think people inadvertently reveal who they are and what their priorities are when they fixate more on deconstructing why protesters are wrong than they do on actually addressing the problems that cause people to lash out in the first place.
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Re: Is Incivility Necessary?

Postby Kate » Thu Nov 08, 2018 8:21 pm

You are presuming an awful lot about their feelings and priorities, though. In my first post, it's not that I assume Crimson thinks I don't care (my first attempts included a lot of fucks, btw, and I think perhaps yes our definitions of civility are different since I think peaceful protest or polite arguing is perfectly civil), but that the implication in the OP is that people who are hung up on civility just don't care as much. The stakes aren't as high for them. And I am someone hung up on civility partly because the stakes for me are super high, and I can understand why people hang out at abortion clinics and yell about murdering babies and that people are going to hell and yadeyadeya and I can see how very wrong that is on many levels. And most relevant to the high stakes, how ineffective it is.

Some moderates probably don't care very much and don't prioritize suffering of others over their own comfort. But some of them are surely picking apart protesters because they believe it is actively harming the cause if their side is represented by people who come across as awful people. Why should anyone take pro-lifers seriously if they're those guys who harass women seeking medical treatment? Why take antifascists seriously if they're those guys who break things? Why take BLM seriously if they're okay with violence against the police? Or feminists if they applaud assaults on men? All of these are a lot more serious than calling someone at dinner and I think we can all agree that these are in varying degrees not actually representative of the bulk of their movements, but those are the examples that stand out. I want Mitch McConnell and Ted Cruz to take my problems with their policies seriously. If some asshole who believes the same things I do is harassing them during their family time, they will be *less* receptive to what I have to say, not more, and so will their supporters. And that is frustrating. Of course I am going to criticize people when I think they are actively making a bad situation worse. I don't need to spend a lot of time telling people who already agree with me that "Papers, please" is an unacceptable thing in the land of the free, but I do need to spend a lot of time convincing people who don't already agree with me that opposition to what they see as common sense security measures is not represented by the people who do petty things like call up legislators during dinner to harass them.

Ultimately, they disagree that it is effective and in fact think it is harmful. And the people doing it clearly think it is effective and that people who don't engage in such things or don't approve of them don't care enough. I'm not sure where that leaves us, except that we probably eat our own because of our investment and not in spite of it.
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Re: Is Incivility Necessary?

Postby AsamiSato » Thu Nov 08, 2018 10:01 pm

Kate wrote: Of course I am going to criticize people when I think they are actively making a bad situation worse. I don't need to spend a lot of time telling people who already agree with me that "Papers, please" is an unacceptable thing in the land of the free, but I do need to spend a lot of time convincing people who don't already agree with me that opposition to what they see as common sense security measures is not represented by the people who do petty things like call up legislators during dinner to harass them.


If people are focusing on the protesters incivility, the conversation should be turned toward why the protests are happening in the first place. Period. If a person continues to care more about protesters' incivility, in spite of being confronted with the issue at hand, then they are probably not someone to focus time/energy on convincing because as I said above, they are making their priorities known. Some people can be won over. Others are not in a place where that is possible. And the people who have been lost to Fox News propaganda tend to drag the conversation in directions that focus on demonizing the left. It's not in good faith. But well-meaning sympathizers allow them to keep the conversation there instead of forcibly being like, no, what you are talking about is irrelevant compared to the grievous injustices that are happening right now to people that caused this protest to happen in the first place. Like sure, criticize protesters if you want. But if you are routinely making that the issue, or allowing others to set the terms of the conversation, I think it is important to ask: Why? What is actually gained from that?

I don't need Mitch McConnell or Ted Cruz to take me or my ideas seriously because they have already proven there is no common ground to work on. I think that the focus of anyone who wants to get our country back on track should be to 1) make Republicans' lives/jobs more difficult so they enact as little of their horrible agenda as possible and 2) work in whatever way you can to get them out of office. I wouldn't say that about all Republicans in all times, btw, but that's where we're at right now, that is where Trump and the Republican Congress of the past several years have escalated us to. Believing that there is a possibility that some of these people will listen to reason is, in my opinion, delusional when they are out there publicly backing up the lies and hatemongering and government delegitimizing actions of POTUS.
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Re: Is Incivility Necessary?

Postby gisambards » Thu Nov 08, 2018 11:03 pm

AsamiSato wrote: I see a LOT of evidence regularly that white people/privileged people in general prioritize their comfort and sense of moral superiority over the actual suffering of people without power.

This is something I agree with, but I find the issue that stems from this far more is the amount of people who pay lip service to the idea that they're on the side of good while actually contributing nothing to the conversation. When Trump came over here to the UK, there were massive protests, and having spoken to the people I know who participated, the motivation for it overwhelmingly seems to have been out of an attempt to comfort themselves and assert their moral superiority by participating in a protest that actually accomplished nothing. Trump wasn't made uncomfortable by it - he probably lavished the attention.
A genuine outpouring of emotion that comes from not being listened to by the people in power from those who are victimised by those in power is one thing. But what we see overwhelmingly in left-wing American political protests at the moment is more an attitude of "we're not being listened to, so let's just be really annoying", which is an attitude that only really makes sense to (and thus, let's be honest, you only ever see being carried out by) someone who isn't actually any sort of victim of what they're protesting against. The people who are actually suffering surely want their situation to change, and will want anything that might accomplish that. A bunch of privileged people deciding that change isn't happening so we'll just be dicks isn't helping anyone but themselves.
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Re: Is Incivility Necessary?

Postby cmsellers » Thu Nov 08, 2018 11:37 pm

@Asami
You seem to essentially be expressing a desire that people who are moderate on social issues would prioritize norms and civility less and listening to minorities more. But I don't see how that is any less unrealistic thinking than DP's often-stated desire that people would simply embrace her optimal level of social progress to begin with. As I said, people tend to have empathy with people who resemble them more than people who don't; it's human nature, and though I think people have gotten better at empathizing with outgroups, I can't see that bias ever going away entirely.

For my own part, my reaction to protesters bothering Cruz and McConnell was "this seems stupid and likely to backfire." I don't think either Cruz or McConnell deserve to eat dinner in peace, they are both awful people, but I do think that in both cases, the righteous indignation they got from pretending to have the moral high ground probably outweighed the annoyance of having their dinner interrupted.

More problematically, it gives people in the middle, whose natural impulse is to try to find evidence that both sides are just as bad, something to point to and say "look, see, Republican congressmen may punch reporters, but Democratic mobs harrass Republican congressmen; both sides are deplorable." You are entirely right that Cruz and McConnell are unpersuadable. But how you interact with those people is a powerful took in persuading those who are.

I've always been very progressive on most social issues, I'm a libertarian who used to be a radical leftist who idolized Bernie Sanders before it was cool. How I got from there to here is instructive: I reevaluated my views on economic issues after libertarians reached out to me at a point I was really despondent (Dennis Kucinich had lost the primary) on issues where we already had common ground, not even asking me to change my views, but simply to consider supporting their presidential candidate in the general election.

Meanwhile, I've actually moved slightly to the right (really the center) on some social issues (in particular affirmative action, tribal sovereignty, and illegal immigration), because I observed that other people questioning the "right" position led to angry refutations based on the identity of the person doing the question instead of responding to the issues raised. To be clear, I didn't move right out of spite, but when I saw what seemed like not unreasonable questions shot down with ad hominem and appeals to emotion by proto-SJWs, I concluded that the arguments for the position I had grown up accepting were untenable.
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Re: Is Incivility Necessary?

Postby Crimson847 » Fri Nov 09, 2018 2:59 am

Kate wrote:In my first post, it's not that I assume Crimson thinks I don't care (my first attempts included a lot of fucks, btw, and I think perhaps yes our definitions of civility are different since I think peaceful protest or polite arguing is perfectly civil), but that the implication in the OP is that people who are hung up on civility just don't care as much. The stakes aren't as high for them. And I am someone hung up on civility partly because the stakes for me are super high, and I can understand why people hang out at abortion clinics and yell about murdering babies and that people are going to hell and yadeyadeya and I can see how very wrong that is on many levels. And most relevant to the high stakes, how ineffective it is.


Check out this Family Guy clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPmLCoYTdBI

Except for the "whore" remark at the end, this is a reasonably "polite" exchange, by my definition of that term. They're speaking calmly, and nobody's raising their voice, swearing, raising their fists, talking about taboo topics like their latest bowel movement, or anything overtly impolite. You could imagine these people sitting around in robes smoking pipes and swirling brandy glasses while having this conversation.

That being said, it is not a "civil" conversation, again by my definition. The tone is ice-cold, nobody's enjoying themselves here, and their words are laced with subtle barbs (especially the woman's response). The air thrums with hidden rage--you almost wish the couple were yelling at each other, rather than faking amity that doesn't really exist (at least, I certainly wished that sometimes growing up in a house like this).

My definition of "civil" is different from superficial politeness. It involves maintaining a positive tone to the conversation, drawing people toward you rather than pushing them away. A polite person has met "polite society's" basic requirements to not get kicked out of the country club, but is not necessarily trusted or respected--indeed, they may well be hated or resented by most people they come across. A civil person on the other hand behaves such that, when they speak, others want to hear them out, even if they disagree. Nancy Pelosi is usually "polite" in her public political communications; Amy Klobuchar is usually "civil". Mitch McConnell is usually "polite"; Russell Moore is usually "civil". That's my definition, as best as I can articulate it right now.

(Some might think I'm essentially describing charisma here; I am not. Charisma is more about being personally interesting than being effective at reaching people with your ideas. Trump and Kanye for example are charismatic, but thoroughly uncivil)

Beyond that, I meant to imply that people (1) in the center, who (2) look down their noses at partisans and their "incivility" from the safe perch of studied neutrality, don't feel as strongly about the issues that animate right and left as the right and left do. If you're firmly on the "fetuses are people and it's murder to kill them" side of the abortion issue, you're not dithering in the center on that issue, so this doesn't apply. Likewise if you don't look down on pro-lifers who act uncivilly.
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Re: Is Incivility Necessary?

Postby Kate » Fri Nov 09, 2018 9:58 am

I didn't even need to watch the clip to know what it was, that's unfortunate XD and I agree it is not a civil conversation, and our definitions of civility match.

But if moderates are defined not by their behavior or their center position on the left right or even authoritarian libertarian spectrum but instead specifically by, essentially, the level of fucks they give about any given issue, it makes even less sense to hold them responsible for anything. Because they don't care. If you are saying anyone who is passionate about an issue is by definition not a moderate because they have definitive feelings about an issue, then it makes even less sense to say moderates should be responsible for making allowances for people who are uncivil. They inherently disagree that the situation merits extreme action. And I am hard-pressed to think of anyone on TCS who fits this definition of moderate or centrist. There's at least one issue of justice for everyone I know here that they feel passionately about, so who is this aimed at? Where are the moderates here?

I hope I have made it very clear, I absolutely condemn amd regularly speak out against pro-lifers acting terribly. But apparently, I should be joining them in harassing clinic workers at home and making excuses for Operation Rescue's antics because their actions should be immaterial compared to the issue at hand. I don't know how that would do the pro-life movement any favors and it would be an objectively terrible way to treat human beings whose biggest crime is one not of intent and comes from having a different world view than I do. And if I think that, from my position of "babies are dying" why should someone who literally doesn't care look at that behavior and call it excusable? If it was, cares but doesn't know what the solution is or doesn't think the solution lies with either the left or the right, that would be one thing. But if we are defining moderates as not caring one way or the other, I don't see how we can justify holding them to a standard of putting up with bullshit they wouldn't normally tolerate from anyone when they can't even relate to the cause. It is infantilizing to people who do solidly care and unfair to the moderates themselves.
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Re: Is Incivility Necessary?

Postby Windy » Fri Nov 09, 2018 12:12 pm

AsamiSato wrote:Overall, white moderates tend to overestimate how important their irritation is and underestimate how important it is that the issue is even being raised in the first place.


The problem is if your enemies don't start sending minorities into concentration camps, all of your extremism is unjustified. Your views and incivility are only justified if your opponents are actually Nazis who are going to start rounding people into concentration camps again and make minorities sit in the back of the bus. This bias you have is why you overestimate the likelihood of the USA going back to the Jim Crow era. You don't fear the Nazis taking over the government, you want it to happen, because otherwise your entire purpose for living is a lie.
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Re: Is Incivility Necessary?

Postby Marcuse » Fri Nov 09, 2018 2:06 pm

Crimson wrote:My definition of "civil" is different from superficial politeness. It involves maintaining a positive tone to the conversation, drawing people toward you rather than pushing them away.


That sounds to me like you're describing good faith, more than civility. Maybe that's an important distinction to make, but it does seem to describe the thing you're getting at better than being civil.

It also affects the nature of the topic we're discussing, because arguing in bad faith is a more serious problem than arguing rudely or uncivilly. One of the wiki examples of bad faith is "a company representative who negotiates with union workers while having no intent of compromising" which is probably closer to what you seem to be questioning. The problem with both political sides arguing in bad faith is that neither of them intend to compromise, so we have this oppositional dance whereby both sides look for total victory instead of an agreed solution to their disagreements.

In that context, is bad faith a useful thing in a debate? I don't think so at all, because it causes either continual running battles, or one "side" capitulates and is subjugated by the other side. One really great example of this is how the Brexit vote was conducted. A majority of less than 2% meant total victory for one end of the debate, and the other side has been victimised by their inability to seek a managed solution everyone can agree with. Their resort to bad faith has been just as disappointing, but it demonstrates how when one side wins an argument the other side is harmed by it. It was, notably, caused by ill considered terms of reference for the referendum caused by the desire on the part of the Conservative leadership to win a "victory" over the right of their party. So I don't think that arguing in bad faith is a good idea, nor is it necessary.
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Re: Is Incivility Necessary?

Postby AsamiSato » Fri Nov 09, 2018 3:26 pm

I feel like people are trying to talk about a bunch of different things here.

My overall point is that 1) there is a time and a place for incivility and 2) people should not focus so much on being indignant about the incivility of the oppressed that they lose sight of the oppressors. I see #2 happening all the time, and white people who want to stay friends with their racist relations are some of the biggest offenders (myself included, I have done this, that's part of why I get it). Too many people let racists frame the conversation as being about the left's 'incivility,' which is just a bullshit diversion tactic that is in bad faith. I am arguing that people should instead stand up for what they believe in, even if it means risking being perceived as 'uncivil.'

What people *should* do is different from the question of whether or not people *will.* Clearly white moderates are going to moderate and my expectations of what they will actually do in this moment are extremely low (and getting lower by the day). I'm just saying that if they truly do want to express solidarity with the oppressed (like many of them say they do), what they should do is show some backbone and not let racists unilaterally dictate the terms of the conversation. So like, don't feel the need to jump in and defend Mitch McConnell and make the conversation all about how the left is going 'too far.' Instead turn it on its head and be like, well Republicans have been going 'too far' in ways that are actually leading to people being killed so let's put this in perspective. But the risk of being seen as uncivil will be too much for most, and I understand why even as I am disappointed by it.

Am I arguing that every single time protesters go out and scream at someone that it is strategic? No. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't. It is often hard to know which a particular incident is without the benefit of hindsight. People have discussed being turned off by protesters and that being a problem. I think that if a person's support for a cause is contingent on not being annoyed at all by anyone advancing that cause, then his/her 'support' is very weak and not that helpful anyways. Like telling the left their main priority should be to keep the most annoying SJWs in check is ridiculous given what racists on the right have been up to (putting Trump in power and also literal murder). If people are being willfully blind to that discrepancy, is that the protesters' fault? I would say no. But they are an easy scapegoat for people who don't really like their agenda to begin with.

I do know that no major social change has occurred without the temperature being turned up to incivility at some point. In the Civil Rights Movement, the genius of the leaders was that they provoked and wielded the racists' own incivility against them. At Stonewall, the bar patrons' incivility was in and of itself revolutionary because they were fighting back for the first time. Every movement has its moments of incivility and in many cases you can point to how they propelled things forward, particularly with regard to forcing decisionmakers' hand or empowering the minority community itself (aka nothing to do with how white moderates feel about the situation). So in practice the "The main priority is to never be uncivil and stay friends with everybody" argument is just another way of saying "let's keep things exactly the way they are" (whether or not the person believes or intends that, it is just the truth).

I feel like I have some credibility for what I'm saying for the following reasons:
1) I understand what people are saying about not turning people off by being too extreme, I really do. I practice intentional civility every day and that is actually my default setting. I 100% apply that way of presenting information in the classroom. Most of my students are white and from upper middle class backgrounds so my goal is to present race, feminism, etc in a way that is palatable to them. I do not allow incivility in the classroom environment. I do believe in 'the slow way' of changing hearts and minds. HOWEVER, the fact that social change does occur that way doesn't mean there is no place for contestation.

2) I have to be honest, throughout this conversation I have felt like Nate Silver's tweet the other day where he expresses frustration about people who spend 15 minutes on something and think they are savants when he has spent the last 10 years studying it. That is me with race and social movements. I have a PhD on this exact topic, my life's goal/work has been to understand the dynamics of social change. You can disagree with me, but honestly so many of the arguments people are making about why incivility doesn't "work" just don't hold up to basic scrutiny from my perspective because they are clearly based on only a surface-level understanding of the topic. I'm not trying to be mean or rude, but it's just where I'm coming from.
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Re: Is Incivility Necessary?

Postby Crimson847 » Fri Nov 09, 2018 5:23 pm

Kate wrote:I didn't even need to watch the clip to know what it was, that's unfortunate XD and I agree it is not a civil conversation, and our definitions of civility match.

But if moderates are defined not by their behavior or their center position on the left right or even authoritarian libertarian spectrum but instead specifically by, essentially, the level of fucks they give about any given issue, it makes even less sense to hold them responsible for anything. Because they don't care.


They/we do care; just not so much about the issues the left and right care about. What folks in the center tend to care about more are issues like fair play in politics, maintaining social peace and comity, preserving the legitimacy of core institutions like the media and the government, and so on. That's why we gravitate toward the center--we're more interested in trying to ensure everyone gets along than in victory by one side or the other, since helping one half of society beat the other half doesn't generally serve our interests of promoting cohesion. We'd rather work out some kind of agreement so everyone can get along again.

Is that wrong? Of course not; it just occupies our attention and can blind us to other considerations, same as any other dominant political priority. In this case, I think it's blinding us to the sheer depth of the rage that exists outside our bubble, with terrible consequences for our ability to promote those interests above. We keep thinking that what the culture warriors need to calm down is a simple instruction to do so or the social/verbal equivalent of a smart rap on the knuckles to curb future acting out, when in truth the problem is too serious to be effectively handled with such methods. Tell someone to "calm down" when they lose a minor bet and they might listen. Tell someone to "calm down" when their spouse is killed in an accident and you'll be lucky if they don't take your head off. Likewise, telling people to make like a bunch of Fonzies and chill might work after they lose a normal election to a party they consider legitimate, but will just make things worse if they think they're witnessing the rise of the fourth Reich or second USSR.


If you are saying anyone who is passionate about an issue is by definition not a moderate because they have definitive feelings about an issue, then it makes even less sense to say moderates should be responsible for making allowances for people who are uncivil. They inherently disagree that the situation merits extreme action. And I am hard-pressed to think of anyone on TCS who fits this definition of moderate or centrist. There's at least one issue of justice for everyone I know here that they feel passionately about, so who is this aimed at? Where are the moderates here?


Pretty much everyone I've read or talked politics with has at least one issue on the left-right binary that they're very concerned about, including people I'd class as "moderates" or "centrists". Likewise, most of the liberals I know hold at least one conservative belief and vice versa, and almost every extreme partisan I've encountered has shown some concern for issues that obsess moderates like those mentioned above--nobody outside of the most radical fringe of the far left and far right appears to want to wipe their opponents off the face of the earth. I'd consider moderation/radicalism to be a spectrum just like the left-right and libertarian-authoritarian ones, with few people at the extreme edges and most clustering somewhere between them.

As such, I'd say the answer to your question about who this thread is directed at is "pretty much everyone", albeit to varying degrees, since as far as I can tell pretty much everyone cares to some degree or another about the issues I'm talking about and is to some degree or another susceptible to the sort of behavior I'm railing at moderates for when issues they don't care about as much come up. However, to the best of my recollection the anger I described feeling at "my tribe" after the Ford-Kavanaugh hearings was largely directed at people outside TCS, including most of my favorite political commentators in the media.

I hope I have made it very clear, I absolutely condemn amd regularly speak out against pro-lifers acting terribly. But apparently, I should be joining them in harassing clinic workers at home and making excuses for Operation Rescue's antics because their actions should be immaterial compared to the issue at hand.


You can if you want, but I wouldn't agree with it. I don't think I said in my original post that people who care about civility should forget that shit and put society to the torch; what I'm advocating is learning to tolerate incivility in the sense that a firefighter tolerates the heat of a burning house. A firefighter isn't there to make more fire and his hose (no jokes) doesn't spray napalm. But he needs the ability to tolerate the fire, to control the natural fear reaction he has to fire, so he can run to the fire and put it out at its source rather than freezing up, running away, or panicking and spraying water wildly.

Likewise, to be blunt, moderates are scared of incivility. We fear and mistrust it because it threatens the social peace and cooperation we tend to view as paramount. And since the best way to fight fear is with knowledge, we must understand incivility and its role in political change if we want to play our role well.


ETA: @Marcuse: "Good faith" might work; it's at least pretty close. As to your objections about the merits of its opposite, hopefully my response to Kate addresses that question adequately.


ETA2:
Windy wrote:
AsamiSato wrote:Overall, white moderates tend to overestimate how important their irritation is and underestimate how important it is that the issue is even being raised in the first place.


The problem is if your enemies don't start sending minorities into concentration camps, all of your extremism is unjustified. Your views and incivility are only justified if your opponents are actually Nazis who are going to start rounding people into concentration camps again and make minorities sit in the back of the bus. This bias you have is why you overestimate the likelihood of the USA going back to the Jim Crow era. You don't fear the Nazis taking over the government, you want it to happen, because otherwise your entire purpose for living is a lie.


There's truth to this, but as with many applications of psychoanalysis to political disagreements, that sword cuts both ways. Could one not argue that we simply don't want one side to be intrinsically worse than the other, because if that's the case then we've allowed tyranny to rise while we preened and wasted time with false equivalences? People are going to act on what they believe to be true, and those actions will reinforce their commitment to that belief regardless of what it is.
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"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
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