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When did we give up on persuasion? Culture warriors on both the Left and Right are too scared of changing their minds

Are you on Team A or B? (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Are you on Team A or B? (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)


February 16, 2021   7 mins

When was the last time you read an article, an opinion piece, that you felt was trying to persuade you of something? To argue a position that you don’t hold, and make you believe it?

I suspect such experiences are rare. It is easier to write things for people who already agree with you: to make them cheer or feel clever, or to remind them how dreadful the other lot are. It’s also more fun. 

I’m not talking about reading a column that disagrees with you. I’m sure you read them regularly, or at least the headlines: pieces get hate-shared all the time among people who disagree with them. But they are not written to persuade, and readers are not persuaded. The intention, I think, is to provoke a reaction, to elicit cheers and boos. Not, primarily, to change minds.

On Saturday, a long-awaited New York Times article was published, about the blog Slate Star Codex (SSC). To get you up to speed: SSC is a blog by Scott Alexander, a pseudonymous Californian psychiatrist, part of a community of Bay Area nerds and weirdos, widely known as the rationalists. They care about human biases, artificial intelligence and doing good with charity. (I’ve written about them in my book.)

In June, the NYT’s tech reporter Cade Metz contacted Alexander, and said he was going to write a piece about SSC, and particularly about how remarkably good the rationalist community was at predicting the course of the Covid pandemic. I spoke to Metz, and reassured Alexander and the Rationalists to the best of my ability that I thought it would be in good faith, rather than a hit job.

But then Metz and the NYT said they would reveal Alexander’s real name in the piece. Alexander thought this would endanger his relationships with his patients, and took down his blog. He has since quit as a psychiatrist, re-ordered his life, and set up a new website. Now, half a year later, the NYT piece is out.

I don’t want to get into whether or not it is a hit-job; others have done that. I will say that it comes perilously close to outright misrepresentation. For example, Metz says that “in one post, [Alexander] aligned himself with Charles Murray, who proposed a link between race and IQ in The Bell Curve.” But the line in which he “aligns himself” with Murray is on whether there is a genetic component to poverty (which surely there must be), not race: race is not mentioned in the post at all. It is, in essence, guilt-by-association.

What interests me, though, is that SSC, and the rationalists, are seen as gateways to hard-right thinking: to “race realism”, to men’s rights activism. And I think that persuasion is a key part of the story.

Because, on the face of it, the idea that the rationalists are secret fascists is strange. A 2019 survey of SSC’s readers found that self-described “conservatives” were outnumbered 8:1 by self-described “liberals” and “social democrats”; there were rather more “libertarians”, but still far fewer, and weirder subcultures like “alt-right” and “neoreactionary” existed only in slightly larger numbers than “Marxists”. They are far more anti-Trump than the American population. 

But the NYT piece is far from the first article to suggest that, nonetheless, the rationalist community is an “an on-ramp to radical views” that allows “extremist views to trickle into the tech world”.

Partly, that’s because the rationalist community is explicitly a place for reasoned, polite debate, and almost any views are welcome as long as they are expressed respectfully and can be backed up with evidence or reasoning. Inevitably, that means precisely those views which cannot find expression elsewhere tend to gravitate to it. But also, I think, it’s because SSC tries to persuade people.

Read something of his, on some controversial subject. Billionaire philanthropy, for example, is not always popular: long articles have been written about why it is actually a bad thing, because it whitewashes billionaire reputations, allows them to control society, and is unaccountable to democratic institutions.

All of which is reasonable. Scott Alexander, though, thinks that on balance, billionaire philanthropy does more good than harm, and that the movement against it will hurt the world. 

It’s easy to imagine a newspaper article that attacks “billionaire-bashers”, that lists all the great things that Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos have done with their philanthropy, and makes fun of the idiots who think that stopping them doing that will improve things. Alexander, on the other hand, talks directly to people who disagree with him, who think billionaire philanthropy should be curbed: “I’m against this. I understand concern about the growing power of the very rich. But I worry the movement against billionaire charity is on track to damage charity a whole lot more than it damages billionaires.”

It seems a small thing, a single phrase, “I understand concern” — but it is not. It demonstrates that the piece is intended to change minds. It says to those anxious about billionaire philanthropy that their worries about inequality and democratic unaccountability are real — I’m on your side! — but look, there might be these other things that you’ve not thought about. Whether or not you end up agreeing with Alexander on the particular case, he’s trying to win you over.

Another example. “Free speech” has become a left-right battleground issue, and the instances we read about are always of right-wing speech being limited by left-wing activists. So, inevitably, left-wing people think it’s a partisan attack on them, or a smokescreen for people who just want to say unpleasant things (which, let’s be clear, it often is). But Alexander takes a different tack. In one post, for example, he calls attention to a woman fired for “having a Kerry-Edwards bumper sticker on her car” by her George W Bush-supporting boss. The point is, or at least the effect on me was, to drag the issue away from partisan sniping. It wasn’t firing shots in the culture war, it was talking to liberals and left-wingers, trying to persuade.

I should, nervously, admit that I was persuaded on one topic that is much more highly charged: the gender imbalance in various professions, notably tech. Alexander argues that straightforward discrimination can’t be the only factor behind the male dominance of some fields: he points out, for instance, that sexist attitudes kept almost all women out of almost all professions until relatively recently. Law, medicine, academia, journalism, you name it.

Now, though, he says, lots of professions are female-dominated: “men make up 
 only 25% of new psychologists, about 25% of new paediatricians, about 26% of forensic scientists, about 28% of medical managers, and 42% of new biologists.” Women make up half of new medical students, half of new law students, the large majority of new journalism students and psychology students. Most of these jobs are comparable in pay and status to computer programming. “Yet for some reason, engineering remains only about 20% female.” 

He argues convincingly that there is no detectable difference in ability in maths, or computer science, or engineering between the two sexes. But, he says, women are on average more likely to be interested in careers where you deal with people, rather than with systems or things. 

And this distinction explains why, for instance, women make up the large majority of gynaecologists, paediatricians, psychiatrists and family doctors (American GPs), while men make up the large majority of radiologists, anaesthetists and surgeons. Either we have to posit that radiologists are much more sexist than psychiatrists, or we have to say there’s some other, major, factor going on.

Alexander suggests that it’s about interests: that there are large and systematic differences in what men and women are interested in, and that translates into systematic differences in their choice of profession. And it does seem to me that anaesthetists and surgeons can treat patients as “systems” or “things” to a much greater degree than GPs or paediatricians. Of course this is just a statistical difference, and individual men and women vary widely — but, he says, it is probably part of the story at a population level. 

That piece, and others by him on the topic, persuaded me that sexist discrimination alone is not enough to explain the gender difference in tech or many other fields. (Do read the post, rather than arguing with my short synopsis of it, if you disagree.)

This is why, I think, he and the rationalists are seen as a gateway to the hard right. If you are on Team A in the big internet fight, and you want to beat Team B, then someone who comes along and talks, in Team A language, to Team A people, to make them believe things that are associated with Team B — then that person is worse than the most fire-breathing Team B zealot. He’s not a foreigner, he’s a traitor. He’s not a combatant, he’s a spy. He’s a fifth columnist. 

Of course, Alexander would say that he’s not trying to win people over to Team B. He’s a member of Team A; he just wants to understand things! But, of course, this is exactly what a traitorous spying fifth-columnist would say. He comes here talking the language of inclusion and diversity and liberalism, but he actually tries to convince people that sexist discrimination in tech is less of a problem than you think.

And the worst thing is – it works. People do change their minds. I did; I am less sure about a lot of things than I was before I read SSC, and I think that’s what caused it. (I’ve changed my mind the other way, too, towards more stereotypically liberal positions: he has convinced me that trigger warnings are good.)

That is scary. Particularly if you’re a Team A partisan, and you see other Team A partisans losing their will to fight, as they become less certain that Team A actually has all the right answers. Or if your identity is heavily tied up with your political beliefs, and changing them would feel like changing who you are.

Maybe radicalisation is a real problem; maybe these controversial debates are fine in some tiny gated community of nerdy weirdos, but then when they come out into the wider world, they take it too far and end up in some strange corner of the internet. Rationalism is indeed a gateway to dangerous beliefs, says Scott Aaronson: “insofar as once you teach people that they can think for themselves about issues of consequence, some of them might think bad things. It’s just that many of us judge the benefit worth the risk!” 

But I don’t think that’s the real problem. I don’t think that’s really why rationalist writers are seen as dangerous. I think it’s because if you think all of this is a big fight — if debate is war, and arguments are soldiers — then someone coming along and killing your soldiers behind your lines is simply the enemy, even if they’re wearing your uniform. And at the end of the day, traitors and spies get the harshest punishments of all. 

 


Tom Chivers is a science writer. His second book, How to Read Numbers, is out now.

TomChivers

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Vikram Sharma
Vikram Sharma
3 years ago

There is a difference between changing one’s mind and having to acquiesce in lies. I have changed my mind about how much tax is fair and where the burden should fall. But asking me to believe that gender is a social construct is asking me to lie to myself. This is what the Left has done. It has broken the spirit of people by getting them to agree with lies. I suggest that everyone reads an essay by Asimov about how much wrong is wrong.
https://chem.tufts.edu/answersinscience/relativityofwrong.htm
There are very few cultural warriors of the hard right variety and hardly anyone listens to them. Leftist thinking pervades every aspect of the Anglospehere. So please, no false equivalence between tight wing wrongs and left wing wrongs.

David Morley
David Morley
3 years ago
Reply to  Vikram Sharma

But asking me to believe that gender is a social construct is asking me to lie to myself. 

true, but that’s because the evidence doesn’t back it up and the arguments are poor. It’s also an extreme position. Few would disagree that gender is to some degree a social construct. No one claims human behaviour is 100% determined by DNA.
But if new and convincing evidence emerged then it would be right to listen and be prepared to be convinced.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  David Morley

Being a woman is a social construct? Seriously? We’re not being told to believe that a woman can drive a tractor or that a man can be a nurse. We’re being told that men can get pregnant or have periods or do other things that are impossible for them to do. And this mentality is equally destabilizing to gay people. If a little boy with certain tendencies now becomes the subject of medical experimentation to make him into a little girl, the question of someone being “born that way” is tossed out the window.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Aren’t there aspects of being a woman that are social and vary from society to society?

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

In terms of societal norms, sure; in terms of biological function, not at all. We’re at a point where “only women get pregnant” is treated as heresy.

jimmy.kent
jimmy.kent
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

You seem to be conflating gender and sex here. I agree this is something the modern left does frequently, so perhaps you’re pointing at their error. But that confusion itself does not negate the possibility of gender being a social construct, not much different than, for example, roles in an TTRPG or video game (healer, tank etc.).
Conflicts over whether the terms “man” and “woman” refer to sex or gender further confound the issue. Only an idiot would dispute that “only biological women get pregnant,” but not all biological women can or do. I don’t see any reason to balk at a biological woman who identifies as a man in terms of their social role going through pregnancy.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  jimmy.kent

Only an idiot would dispute that “only biological women get pregnant,” but not all biological women can or do.
And yet, not only do “idiots” dispute this, they attack anyone who says it. We now have the ridiculous “chest feeding” because someone’s thong got in a twist over ‘breastfeeding.’
I’d say the confounding part is the attempt to make sex and gender interchangeable. Roles typically associated with one sex are far different from biological realities.

Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Or having males compete with females in female only sports. We really have totally lost our minds. We probably deserve to all be locked down and masked for putting up with this nonsense. Maybe I should support corona hysteria after all.

Kathy Prendergast
Kathy Prendergast
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

I agree; it seems these arbitrary language-altering decisions are made at a higher level, then suddenly all we underlings have to go along with them or else. An example is the change from the word “disabled” to “differently-abled”. What exactly is wrong with “disabled”? Well, it has “negative implications.” But isn’t it negative, not to be able to do things that most people can do, which is precisely why such people need help? It makes no sense, but you aren’t allowed to argue with it.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
3 years ago

We are now seeing those who have degrees but are only educated idiots.

Micheal Lucken
Micheal Lucken
3 years ago
Reply to  jimmy.kent

The term gender does seem to be somewhat elastic. As I understand it came about when to describe the whole array of differences between sexes in scientific research as opposed to just the sexual element. It has morphed over time to mean the social presentation to many. Certainly in secondary features such as body shape, hair growth etc there is a biological predisposition. I would say that going further down the line there is a correlation between social presentation and biology that drives the social construct and it varies between cultures the way that is interpreted.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
3 years ago
Reply to  Micheal Lucken

You’ve lost me. A man is a man and a woman is a woman. So called social constructs do not change this.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
3 years ago
Reply to  jimmy.kent

You make it too complicated. Sex can be used for gender or vice versa. Nothing will persuade me that a man is really a woman or vice versa, no matter what the transgenders say. It’s all wishful thinking not based on truth or as Vikram says we are being asked to lie to ourselves by those who have swallowed the deception.

David Morley
David Morley
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Alex – you’re arguing against someone who isn’t even in the room!

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
3 years ago
Reply to  David Morley

Ha! Ha!

Simon Baggley
Simon Baggley
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

Of course but they all have one thing in common unlike biological men – they can have babies

Alex Delszsen
Alex Delszsen
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Baggley

Men with uteri may have babies. I am interested in how the very young are processing the 100 genders.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Delszsen

There are only two.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Baggley

And they need private places without male transgenders prowling about.

David Morley
David Morley
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Just because there are crazy people out there doesn’t mean I agree with them by accepting what is obvious – that gender (or gendered behaviour if you prefer) is in part socially constructed.
if we oppose the views of dumb people, we should not do so by being equally dumb ourselves.

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
3 years ago
Reply to  David Morley

Your implication is that gender = behavior (or possibly vice versa)

David Morley
David Morley
3 years ago

Close to, yes, or personality.
To say the genders differ is to say that there are average personality and behavioural differences between them.
the real question then is to what extent this is rooted in biology (rather than socially determined), and whether the binary distinction sex/gender makes any real sense.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
3 years ago

It’s getting to the place where we cannot ask what gender a person is as the meaning of it is being taken away. What sex are you may be the way forward.

Walter Brigham
Walter Brigham
3 years ago
Reply to  David Morley

Science requires data. Data is classification. Meaningful classification requires consistent, broadly accepted definitions. When the logical (scietific) result is not what the culture warriors desire they seek to change the definition. Ultimately everything must be meaningless to appease their ideology (war is peace, etc).

David Morley
David Morley
3 years ago
Reply to  Walter Brigham

Well yes. Way too much is just juggling with concepts.

robert scheetz
robert scheetz
3 years ago
Reply to  Vikram Sharma

You’re right. It’s the tyranny of Orwellian group-think. Argue against abortion or Israel or pro “conspiracy” and you’re a racist-sexist-nutter. But there’s no question of civil dialectic. But, like the Commie bashing of my youth, it’s concerted class war strategy, depriving the other side the ability to form class consciousness.

Allan Dawson
Allan Dawson
3 years ago
Reply to  robert scheetz

It’s not so much the arguing against abortion…it’s the bulls78t that goes with it…the ‘freedom lover’ who shouts that individual liberty is key….right up until that ‘freedom lover’ decides what a woman choses to do….
…like Jacob Rees-Mogg who continually rabbits on about how HMG should have no business ‘interfering’ in personal matters tht are not against the law….but then in the next breath he’s in the Press making it clear that if it were up to him, abortion would be ruled out even in the cases of r8pe or incest…that’s right a so-called libertarian would force a woman to have her rapists baby….
..maybe it’s that sort of hypocritical s78t that annoys people…

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
3 years ago
Reply to  Allan Dawson

It’s the choice of the woman I suppose but the baby doesn’t really deserve to die. Jacob Rees-Mogg is a welcome voice in our parliament though. Few make the stand that he does. We have now killed 9.5 M since the 67 act mostly as an inconvenient result of sexual liasons.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Vikram Sharma

I’m open to persuasion but I thought the very definition of gender is that it is a term relating to a societal construct?

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

That’s my understanding too.
Jordan Peterson used the following:
Hardware = your biological sex (e.g p***s or vagina)
Software = your behaviour (e.g you do what a particular gender definition normally does)
I.e. if you are what most people call a “man”, you would be biologically male – and behave like men typically do.
If you are what most people call a “woman” you would be biologically female – and behave like women typically do.
The most problematic situation for people to accept (it seems) is the biologically male person frequently adopting the social behaviours of someone of a female gender – but wanting to be fully classified as a woman for all legal purposes.

Last edited 3 years ago by Ian Barton
David Morley
David Morley
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

But JP emphatically does not see the “software” as being entirely a product of socialisation.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  David Morley

Good addition- thanks

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

But do they have to change our language to do that. They are not real women but want to be called women. They cannot have it both ways.

David Morley
David Morley
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

I thought the very definition of gender is that it is a term relating to a societal construct?

thats precisely the problem. The sex/gender distinction is usually seen as biology/physical v socially constructed. That leaves no space for biologically determined behaviour. It’s a piece of conceptual sleight of hand.
the real question is something like: “are there average differences in personality and behaviour between the sexes, and, if so, to what degree are these a. biologically determined b. Socially determined. With consideration given to the possibility that the two, in fact, strongly interact.”

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

To me it still means the sex you are. ie A man or a woman. At least that is what it has always meant. The LGBT stole the word gay from us which always meant happy and made it mean something else. That is what is happening to gender it appears, but whatever they do to our words the truth remains.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Vikram Sharma

Donald Trump could be seen as a cultural warrior of the hard right, and many listened to him. He won one US election – two if you believe him – and garnered 74 million votes in 2020.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

So Trump wanting to end all the insane wars and wanting US workers to have jobs is ‘hard right’?

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

He wanted to end the wars about as much as Obama wanted to close Guantanamo. He vetoed a resolution to pull the US out of the war on Yemen.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

Do you know what is happeing in Yemen, does anyone ? Conflict in Yemen probably started with the arrival of humans.

Josie Bowen
Josie Bowen
3 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

What a good, pertinent question. I’m thinking of putting it on FB. Does anyone care? If we cared we’d stop doing silly things, like buying coats for dogs or having our lips enlarged or wondering if we should be an alternative gender. For heavens sake. I think what’s wrong with us is that we don’t have any real worries.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

So what do you do about terrorists?

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

I don’t know what hard right is. They say it is people like Hitler who was a dictator but there have been far more left wing dictators than so called right wing ones.

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
3 years ago
Reply to  Vikram Sharma

Reading that essay reminded me of Greta and friends – the science is finished!

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago

It can’t be finished-Greta’s carbon fiber sailboat is big science, and so are the jets she utilizes, but like John KJerry and DiCaprio, their “work is what matters”.

earl king
earl king
3 years ago
Reply to  Vikram Sharma

Believe the science turns out to be an idea of convenience. Schools should be open and they are relatively safe until a favored union political contribution is threatened. Now we are being asked that a male who has gone thru puberty can be a women in a sports competition. That their feelings matter more than female athletes who have to compete against a biological male. Somebody explain where the science is showing xx chromosomes and xy chromosomes are fluid and not meaningful.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
3 years ago
Reply to  earl king

He made them male and female. Full stop.

Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
3 years ago
Reply to  Vikram Sharma
Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
3 years ago
Reply to  Dennis Boylon

I’ll pretend you are right as I don’t want to go to re-education camp but in my mind 2 + 2 = 4.

Alison Houston
Alison Houston
3 years ago

How much persuasion and ‘rationalism’ would it take to make you comprehend there was more to reality than liberal-leftist nonsense with regard to women working in male dominated professions if the discussion were focused on tarmac gangs, or refuse collection or scaffolding or roofing?

Is it rational and scientific and questioning, to think that biological differences between sexes are only important where they occur in relation to the mind and cushy, well paid middle class work?

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Alison Houston

Biological differences between sexes are certainly not important where they arise in dirty or dangerous work. 97% of those killed at work in the UK each year are men, but I hear no calls for this to fall to 50%.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Exactly.

But, I mean to say, where’s the money or status or pleasant conditions in being a refuse collector or working on a trawler or a building site?

Much of the pressure for women’s equal participation at work is about board memberships, professional positions, high earnings, and so on.

It’s less to do with female solidarity, more to do with ambitious (greedy? pushy?) individuals, using the pretext of female solidarity to increase their own personal chances of getting what they want. While appearing virtuous (unlike those unworthy men who currently have the desired board memberships, professional positions, high earnings, and so on).

In other words, it’s not really a division of men on one side and women on the other, so much as certain individuals using the anxiety about that division as a useful lever to get what they want.

Last edited 3 years ago by Wilfred Davis
Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

The forces should be 50% female and 50% male. Fair is fair.

robert scheetz
robert scheetz
3 years ago
Reply to  Alison Houston

Thank you for noting the class war character of this “culture” issue.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago

That piece….persuaded me that sexist discrimination alone is not enough to explain the gender difference in tech or many other fields. 

The problem, Tom, is that for the left – and it is always the left – this just isn’t acceptable.
On any issue, for the left there is one acceptable view. To the left, the reason women are under-represented in tech is because sexist discrimination. End of. That’s it.
To suggest otherwise is to equate yourself exactly with every other person who disagrees, whatever the reason. Fundamentalist misogynistic Islamofascists, rationalists looking for data, German Protestants with their Kinder, Kueche, Kirche – you’re all equivalent fascists, and there is not a sliver of difference between you. None. You’re all equally evil and you should all be silenced. It doesn’t stop at silencing, of course.
Time and again, we see this from the hard left. Fatcha was a fascist, but so was Blair. Look at the left’s reaction to anyone questioning climate change orthodoxy. There are dozens of nuances in such challenges but to the left they’re all just “deniers”. Every last one, no distinctions.
Orwell wrote that “What is new in totalitarianism is that its doctrines are not only unchallengeable but also unstable. They have to be accepted on pain of damnation, but on the other hand, they are always liable to be altered on a moment’s notice.” Thus do we get from a Women and Equality minister in 2010 to a denial in 2021 that women objectively exist.
Wake up and smell the coffee Tom. Being leftish yourself wont save you. If you’re not an obedient doctrine-swallowing hard left drudge, you’re a sexist, racist, fascist exactly like Donald Trump.

Last edited 3 years ago by Jon Redman
stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

My wife and I can no longer go out to eat in Wash., D.C., as the danger of being harassed and attacked by crowds with megaphones is always possible…they are not conservatives, and I will not kneel.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Sounds like you’ve made up your mind and nothing’s going to change it.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

No, it sounds like he has seen or experienced the mindless viciousness of BLM/Antifa at first hand.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

Why would they want to change their minds about not kneeling in submission to a mob??

Sheryl Rhodes
Sheryl Rhodes
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

I certainly have. I will not bend the knee. I will not comply voluntarily, even if a Mob were to demand that I give obeisance to a principle in which I deeply believe.

Nick Wright
Nick Wright
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

To qualify as “left”, a movement should surely have at least a vestigial connection with the traditional mainstream left. The annoyances and excesses you describe have nothing to do with the thinking of Marx, Trotsky, Gramsci, let’s say, let alone the authors of Britain’s one-time welfare state: Beveridge or J M Keynes. So why you describe over-ardent climate-advocates, say, or intolerant trans-thinkers as “left” is rather a mystery to me. How much better it would be if you could pinpooint in depth what it is that you are actually opposed to, rather than just reaching for the nearest clichĂ©.

Walter Brigham
Walter Brigham
3 years ago
Reply to  Nick Wright

The connection is the solution. Government intervention to lift the ‘have not’ victims of the haves, classic class warfare (just the classes change). To point out the have not’s position doesn’t improve while the position of the government interventionist does is to be banished.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Nick Wright

Exactly. I’m forever reading the left says xyz, when it’s woke hipsters or the US Democratic Party saying these things.

David Morley
David Morley
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

Your quite right, of course. But we are all waiting for the “left” to distance itself from this stuff, while in actual fact it is being taken over by it.

VĂłreios ParatiritĂ­s
VĂłreios ParatiritĂ­s
3 years ago
Reply to  Nick Wright

You make a good point but it is not an exculpatory one for the left. What we are witnessing today is the wholesales coopting and harnessing of left wing concepts and social arguments to serve the interests of the corporate neo liberal power elite. The activist left has allowed itself to become the bosses henchmen, in bashing down the workers, the deplorables, the populace that would oppose the powers that be. This dynamic is clearest when examining how anti racist ideology has been deployed to destroy national populist leaders and their demands for elite accountability in economic and social policy.
It’s tragic and it also explains why many traditional hard leftists do not badmouth the trad populists, they see power dynamics correctly; guardian journalists, not so much.

Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
3 years ago
Reply to  Nick Wright

What used to be ‘left’ or ‘right’ twenty to thirty years ago is now considered right-wing. The reason the ‘Left’ gets a bad rap these days is because politics, journalism and education have teamed up with the Left’s more extremist elements in order to engineer a mass social shift that no-one wants.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
3 years ago
Reply to  Nick Wright

True but it is amazing that having one of these doctrines so often correlates to all the other doctrines know as the left.

Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
3 years ago
Reply to  Nick Wright

Indeed. These people are a type of liberal, and they reject basic leftist ideas. Confusingly, a great many people who are called conservatives are also really liberals who reject conservative economics and social views.

I think the non-choice between liberals and liberals is part of what accounts for the polarisation in politics.

Chris Mochan
Chris Mochan
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

“What is new in totalitarianism is that its doctrines are not only unchallengeable but also unstable. They have to be accepted on pain of damnation, but on the other hand, they are always liable to be altered on a moment’s notice.”
Reading that, I was immediately reminded of the bizarre episode when a supreme court nominee was criticised as homophobic for using the phrase ‘sexual preference’. Despite its common usage by people of all political persuasions and the neutrality of the language, it was suddenly deemed unacceptable once it had been uttered by a political adversary. It was then reported as if this was a longstanding convention of Anglosphere discourse and something akin to a racial epithet or a crude insult aimed at gay people. It is impossible to keep up with these demands, and it seems to me like it is intentionally so.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Mochan

Yes I’ve noticed that and I think it is deliberate. Remember how Benedict Cumberbatch got hammered for saying ‘coloured people’ rather than ‘people of colour’? Intention meant nothing. It was presented as if he had said the ‘n’ word when in reality the 2 are basically the same term. And besides maybe he, like many of us, hadn’t gotten the memo yet that the crazies had changed the language and that we all have to bow to it or else. A couple of my black friends HATE the term ‘people of colour’ but apparently the crazies speak for them, and black people have to be part of a hive mind.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
3 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

When I was young (1950s), one ‘N’ word was totally unacceptable; one must use another ‘N’ word. Now that word is unacceptable, too. You may be able to tell that I’m having difficulty in keeping up.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Mochan

Orwell was also spot on when he suggested in Nineteen Eighty-Four that language was acceptable or not according to who was using it.

“There is a word in Newspeak” said Syme, “I don’t know whether you know it: duckspeak, to quack like a duck. It is one of those interesting words that have two contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it is abuse: applied to someone you agree with, it is praise.”

Last edited 3 years ago by Jon Redman
Walter Brigham
Walter Brigham
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

The problem dictates the solution – government intervention. To challenge the problem thus checks the government interventionists. Since logic does not refute the challenge banishment must occur. To justify banishment the challenge must be abhorrent. And the challengers deplorable.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
3 years ago

Surely, if the left sees reason and rationalism themselves as the “gateway” to the “hard right” – notice the ludicrous, libellous drugs analogy – then it is surely the left which is in the more serious moral and intellectual trouble. Trying to make this an even handed pitch is dishonest. It is not the right which cancels people. Indeed, it remains willing to engage with arguments – hence, no doubt, the “accusation” that it “colludes” with rationalism. If someone on these threads wrote suggesting that women are “under-represented” in martial arts, for example, I would offer vigorous opposition – but I would not query the freedom to make the point in the first place. The left is actively denying such freedom – witness the career of Charles Murray, mentioned in the article. And it has repeatedly demonstrated the power and the willingness to act on that denial.

jimmy.kent
jimmy.kent
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

“It is not the right which cancels people.”
I don’t think this is true. I agree the scales are probably not even in the current era, but there’s a long history of cancel culture on the right, and it is still ongoing. Mary Whitehouse, Life of Brian, Jerry Springer the Opera, the Dixie Chicks, Freedom Fries, Bill Maher, right up to Kaepernick and Vindman. Even the attempt to paint Biden and James Gunn as paedophiles is part of a desire to cancel them.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago
Reply to  jimmy.kent

There is a vast difference between the “desire to cancel” and the actual successful canceling that takes place…indeed, Kaepernick is far better off than he was before…and ‘Freedom Fries”? Please. Most of your examples are doing just fine, unlike those whom have had their lives disrupted and destroyed by the “tolerant and peaceful” left. None of your examples need protection from violent MAGA mobs threatening their houses and families.

wardfamily1234
wardfamily1234
3 years ago
Reply to  stephen f.

Especially the (probably more numerous) people who got cancelled at the beginning of their career that will never be heard from again. I have a young teen daughter with a slime business (of all things) and she came to me and explained that slime accounts had to do things like supporting Black Lives Matter, donating profits to the organization, could never mention not supporting abortion, etc. or her business would be cancelled. She came to me on her own to explain this, we had never talked about it. It will effect writers that will never be heard, journalists, etc. etc.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  wardfamily1234

That is very scary.. You don’t say if your daughter was ok with this or not.

Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
3 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

In my experience as a teacher, children’s inclination to do good is being capitalized on by promoters of left-wing causes.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  jimmy.kent

let’s consider your list:

  • the Chicks offended their fan base which then stopped buying or listening to their music. No one demanded that their label fire the women, who are still performing.
  • Freedom Fries faded away almost as quickly as it began.
  • Bill Maher currently hosts a show on HBO.
  • Kaepernick was a backup qb when he took up kneeling, which has paid quite well.

If those are the examples of right-wing cancel culture, the right has a lot of work to do in catching up to the left.

David Morley
David Morley
3 years ago
Reply to  jimmy.kent

Yes it’s true. And you fail to mention Lenny Bruce. But the tables have largely turned. Woke is the new conformism, and it’s just as censorious as the old form.

Allan Dawson
Allan Dawson
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

” It is not the right which cancels people. Indeed, it remains willing to engage with arguments – hence, no doubt, the “accusation” that it “colludes” with rationalism.”
I wouldn’t be so sure…it strikes me than a few on the right get very cross if you suggest the likes of Jordan Ps books are nothing more than warmed over self-help rubbish.

Last edited 3 years ago by Allan Dawson
Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
3 years ago
Reply to  Allan Dawson

The problem is warmed up self help rubbish is now commonn sense which today is the rarest of senses.

David Bottomley
David Bottomley
3 years ago

I can’t but help think that as ‘The West’ becomes increasingly unable to control its own destiny, let alone the destiny of world economics and power, it is turning in on itself with what are pretty meaningless arguments which, in the long run, will do nothing other than take up a lot of time and energy that would be far better spent elsewhere.

Miguel Reina
Miguel Reina
3 years ago

Here, here. I’m off.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Miguel Reina

Where to?????

Alex Mitchell
Alex Mitchell
3 years ago

I would have thought the ‘maybe there is another reason than sexism’ in engineering was so ridiculously self-evident that anyone claiming to be a rationalist would not need persuading.

Mark H
Mark H
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Mitchell

On the other hand someone claiming to be a rationalist would probably be sceptical of anything that is apparently self-evident?
Especially as from time to time science is held back by the self-evident, e.g. the theory of caloric.

Alex Mitchell
Alex Mitchell
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark H

Although this is self-evident falsification rather than proof.

Terry Needham
Terry Needham
3 years ago

I think that the mistake too many people make is to assume that if you are intolerant and dismissive of dissenting views, your opponents will somehow disappear. They won’t, they will turn into Donald Trump.

Last edited 3 years ago by Terry Needham
Judy Englander
Judy Englander
3 years ago
Reply to  Terry Needham

How do you edit posts in this new system, Terry? And how to you see replies without trawling down the thread?

Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
3 years ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

After you submit your post, you should see an edit icon at the bottom-right corner.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
3 years ago
Reply to  Brian Dorsley

Not on my posts. But thanks for replying.
Edit function now magically appeared on my posts!

Last edited 3 years ago by Judy Englander
Andre Lower
Andre Lower
3 years ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

I have the same problem here. Wrote to Unherd, but haven’t got an answer on how to deal with this latest “improvement”…

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

The worst thing about this new comments system is that the default setting is to display the most popular comment first. I want to see the most recent comment first because that is the best way to follow the debate. Yes, I can change the setting, but I have to do it every time. And not everyone else will change their setting. The result is that we are not all one the same page, so to speak.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

The worst thing about this new comments system is that, in every way, it is vastly inferior to Discus. I cannot think of a single improvement.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  stephen f.

Yes, if this carries on I’ll be resubscribing to The Spectator again. (After 40 years as a loyal reader I didn’t renew due to the constant presence of Robert Peston, and I can read the article via Archive). Anyone know what the comments system is like at The Spectator these days?

Andre Lower
Andre Lower
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Fraser, let’s hope that at some point those that implemented the recent interface “improvements” realise that without instructions describing how the new system is supposed to work, people may ultimately leave.
Am not holding my breath tough.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Spectator comments system seems to be working well.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

This seems to be a mixture of yesterday’s piece by Mary Harrington, some findings that Jordan Peterson highlighted some years ago, mixed in with the debate around the guy who was fired from Google for pointing out that women, on the whole, are less attracted to the job of software engineering.

Caroline Galwey
Caroline Galwey
3 years ago

Note that the headline sets up a moral equivalence between the left and the right which the article itself does little to support.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

I don’t want to get into whether or not it is a hit-job; others have done that. I will say that it comes perilously close to outright misrepresentation. 
So, it was worse than a hit job; it was a lie. Which may be true but it goes a long way toward answering the question. When a blogger is attacked in a newspaper article for no tangible reason, simply because the newspaper can, it is no longer journalism. That piece didn’t even try to inform, let alone persuade anyone of anything other than Alexander is a horrible human being who should be shunned by society.
Social media doesn’t help, either. Hard to persuade someone in 144 characters and no one wants to read manuscripts on FB, either; it’s not a good forum for it. That leaves sniping, snark, personal attacks, or short phrases of agreement from the already persuaded.

earl king
earl king
3 years ago

I have found that the easiest way to change my mind is with facts. Sadly facts don’t change people’s mind. Even when presented with facts some cling to their notions. Example; ethanol, a horrible idea and environmental disaster. It’s more CO2 to make than you might save and pollutes the Mississippi and the gulf with nitrates and phosphates. It’s simply awful yet here we are making corn farmers millionaires while causing way more pollution than any benefit I can think of. You’d think environmentalist would be clamoring to rid us of it but nope. They cling to its a clean fuel.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  earl king

Some environmentalists pretty much dismissed it a scam from the start.

Walter Lantz
Walter Lantz
3 years ago

I’m not sure what to make of this article.
In the “war” of ideas persuasion and debate are usually the diplomatic overtures to some sort of negotiated peace process often observed or mediated by third parties who may or may not have ‘skin in the game’. Until recently, schools and MSM either provided a neutral ‘Geneva’ for this process or at least a training ground for persuaders and debaters to hone their skills.
But in my view the war of ideas has been supplanted by the war of ideologies which in which diplomacy is seen as an unnecessary and unwelcome delay to victory in the form of unconditional surrender. Diplomacy in the form of ideas exchange and persuasion, cleverly re-packaged by ideologues as weak and defeatist, has been disavowed by the very diplomats themselves.as they scramble to align themselves with what they are gambling will be the winning side.
Consequently we have now entered the ideological ‘total war’ which history has shown, with Bolshevism, Nazism and McCarthyism to name but a few ‘isms’, will get worse before it finally burns itself out.
Hopefully, and history suggests this will likely happen, the art of persuasion will be recovered from the ashes.

Julian Hartley
Julian Hartley
3 years ago

Permit me to savour the irony that this (very good) article seems to be intended not to persuade but to explicate.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
3 years ago

I had a quick look at the post on the benefits of trigger warnings and I have to say, I’m amazed that a psychiatrist would make the argument. Flagging up the possibility of being offended before reading ignores the power of suggestion: that a trigger warning primes us to feel a certain way.
On the contrary, a text should literally be an ‘open book’. We can never be completely unprejudiced in our choice of reading, but how can adding to our pre-judgements help?

David Morley
David Morley
3 years ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

I haven’t read the post, but my own view is that trigger warnings may be appropriate in extreme cases (some viewers may find this disturbing), but seem to be hopelessly overused.
and the problem is not so much with the trigger warnings themselves as with the idea (right or wrong) that young people at university cannot stand a bit of emotional discomfort, or even ideas they disagree with.

Sheryl Rhodes
Sheryl Rhodes
3 years ago
Reply to  David Morley

I too think that trigger warnings can be appropriate in extreme cases. For instance, in my career as a criminal prosecutor I have attended training sessions where some incredibly gruesome and disturbing photos and videos were displayed. In more recent years, the presenters have mentioned that they were about to put up a picture of a crime scene with dead bodies etc. and that’s an improvement. Trigger warnings for every little thing are harmful overall but a quick heads-up for the extreme cases makes sense to me.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
3 years ago
Reply to  David Morley

‘Overuse’ rapidly comes to mean ‘of no use’.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
3 years ago

“That piece, and others by him on the topic, persuaded me that sexist discrimination alone is not enough to explain the gender difference in tech or many other fields.”
Do you mean that you previously thought it was sexist discrimination alone?
I mean, on the basis of your observation of human behaviour up until that persuasion, you really and truly thought that it was?

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  Wilfred Davis

In fairness, can you blame him? For decades, we have been fed a steady diet of unwavering belief that any real or perceived disparity is purely the result of one ism or another. It’s as if individual agency stopped being a thing somewhere along the way.

Paul Savage
Paul Savage
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Yes you can blame him. He represents himself as a reasonable and rational person writing for an educated audience yet has to be “persuaded” that there may be other factors than sexual discrimination at work. The piece reveals more about Mr. Chivers than he would perhaps like.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Savage

He reflects exactly what he and tens of millions just like him have been conditioned to believe. When you are taught that every disparity in outcome is the work of an ism, and when questioning the dogma is not allowed, he is what you get. Sure, I can blame him but I also understand how he got there.

Norman Powers
Norman Powers
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Both positions are quite understandable. I like Mr Chiver’s writing but only people very skilled in the art of self-delusion can believe this narrative about women in tech. What’s terrifying is that so many people either manage this self-delusion, or are too afraid to reveal the truth, meaning our entire society has flushed itself mentally down to the toilet.
All it takes to understand the gender ratio in tech is to know some women outside of the industry and then try talking to them about computers. They don’t care. They will never care. They’d rather talk about nothing at all than the latest computer tech. They love tech as much as men love handbags. Most geeky men realise this before they reach 10 years old. The few who somehow don’t realise that will do so when they notice that talks at conferences / meetups supposedly for “women in tech” seem to be invariably be about women and not tech.
The only people who could genuinely not realise this are people who have never in their entire lives been themselves interested in computers and thus have never tried talking to a randomly selected woman about them. In fairness, the female programmers I know don’t actually care about “women in tech” efforts and find the constant efforts to rope them into sexist recruiting efforts quite annoying.

Last edited 3 years ago by Norman Powers
Alan Girling
Alan Girling
3 years ago
Reply to  Wilfred Davis

It’s possible he was merely being rhetorical to make his point. That’s how I take it. The article persuaded him, it was ‘persuasive’, regardless of what he believed previous. It doesn’t necessarily mean it changed his mind.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
3 years ago
Reply to  Alan Girling

Possibly, and I do accept that it is very easy to misinterpret ‘tone of voice’ from the written word.

On the other hand, the author also says a very similar thing elsewhere in the piece:

I should, nervously, admit that I was persuaded on one topic that is much more highly charged: the gender imbalance in various professions, notably tech. Alexander argues that straightforward discrimination can’t be the only factor behind the male dominance of some fields:..”

And note the ‘nervously admit’ phrasing, so he would have to be laying the rhetoric on with a trowel if it is meant ironically.

In general, the piece seems to me to be treating as novel and revelatory certain matters which, personally, I find obvious and unremarkable.

All in all, though, I find the subject-matter – rational discussion in the hope of persuading – is a vital topic. So thank you, Tom Chivers, for that.

Jeff Mason
Jeff Mason
3 years ago

One of the biggest problems with ‘reasoned debate’ – the first step of persuasion – is being allowed to discuss anything the progressive media disagrees with in the first place. Look no further than JK Rowling. She has been pilloried for suggesting (gasp!) that a man who takes female hormones and puts on a dress does not magically become a woman all because he ‘identifies’ as one. I am not suggesting that such a person should not be allowed to live their life as they wish but let’s be real, desire does not translate into fact. If it did, as a teen I would have been 7-feet tall with a 36-inch vertical leap, great coordination and a killer outside jump shot. (Sadly, I had none of these.) One can only just start making a logical argument on one of the non-approved topics of discussion before being shouted down, canceled, censored and deplatformed. There are thousands of opinions I disagree with but all of them should be open to free discussion.

John Wilkes
John Wilkes
3 years ago

One of the problems in the UK is that people are never taught HOW to think, only what to think. I have seen this in many undergraduates whose attitude is just to ‘give me the facts please’. I have tried to introduce them to critical thinking with limited success.
Most people appear to have a rigid opinion and only read things that confirm this, avoiding exposure to contrary views. I find this odd as I have always preferred to have my views challenged. This will sometimes persuade me that my opinions are faulty or may sharpen up my reasoning.
The idea that people could weigh facts and make informed decisions is also anathema to a media which accepts no dissent from its point of view.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
3 years ago
Reply to  John Wilkes

I’m sorry to say that what you say seems true.

I have mentioned elsewhere on this page two books of which Jonathan Haidt is either author or co-author. One of his concerns is that young people have come to believe that views other than their own are actually dangerous to their well-being. They therefore do not get exposure to other ideas (which might harm them), never learn critical analysis, never learn to see the weaknesses in their own arguments, or the value of others’ arguments (i.e. the arguments of people who are wrong, and probably wicked).

They cannot learn. They will not learn. And why would they bother when they are already right, after all?

Anindita Doig
Anindita Doig
3 years ago

The real change in the last 30 years or so is the extent to which doubt and certainty are viewed as virtues.
30 years ago, people often lightly ventured their opinions in school or college debating societies. You were not required to be fully formed or have total certainty about your views, and everyone in the discussion was there to learn and to persuade. For that you need to hold some doubt about the completeness and correctness of your starting position.
But today – partly due to social media which rewards pithy statements which can be “liked” – doubt is no longer regarded as a virtue (qv attacks on politicians for flipflopping and u-turns etc) and certainty is hugely prized.
Look at the debate around Covid and lockdowns: why can’t everyone accept that it will take many years – 5 or 10 years to perform a complete cost / benefit analysis of lockdowns. Everyone with an opinion should be prepared to be proved wrong.

Norman Powers
Norman Powers
3 years ago
Reply to  Anindita Doig

I agree with your first three paragraphs.
In fairness to anti-lockdowners, a key plank of their argument is that the global data from the last year doesn’t show any correlations between lockdowns and reduced mortality. Additionally, they argue that the modelling which was used to justify the policy was wrong.
Those are arguments based on what’s already happened so waiting a few years won’t change them. For their opinion to be unfixed by this point would require the possibility that the models retroactively become correct and new lockdowns behave differently to prior lockdowns – very tricky to see how that could happen. If lockdowns don’t save lives and the justifications were wrong, then they have no benefits and must therefore be purely costs. The resulting cost/benefit analysis would thus really be just an analysis of how bad the policy is, not whether it ends up being good or bad in totality. And if you believe that, there’s no reason to wait to form an opinion.

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
3 years ago

I posted this in another forum recently, in a discussion with someone who assured me that “The notion of ‘rational argument’ is a fig leaf.”
What is the purpose of a discourse which in part uses the language of rational argument, but begins with and from the proposition that rational argument is a cover for something else? It means that such a dialogue is about something different from persuading others of the correctness of a point of view, or about developing a deeper understanding of some topic by mutual engagement.
It might be any or all of the following. It might be none of them: this is a mere amateur catalogue devised impromptu with no particular application to any given person. These are just some of the things that a discourse might be once rationality has been abandoned.

  • Gibberish or duckspeak: sounds having the form of words but with no connexion to any mental process, or one woefully inadequate to achieve the expression of complex thoughts.
  • Expression of the speaker’s emotional state or relief of emotional pressure: “Wow”, “Ugh” or “You [expletive deleted]”.
  • Joke, deception or cruelty. The speaker finds it amusing to waste the time of others by enunciating propositions irrespective of belief or validity that provoke others, waste their time or make them unhappy; or intends them to believe something false for private amusement or fraud.
  • Expression of the speaker’s superior status, education or privilege, an act of self-gratification or a debating tactic intended to make others argue less effectively. “Whether do you judge the analytical investigation of the first part of my enthymem deficient secundum quoad, or quoad minus, and give me your reasons too; give me your reasons, I say, directly”
  • A call to arms: a slogan intended to attract attention or to stimulate action: “All power to the soviets”, “Education, education, education”
  • An application form. A public expression of views consistent with some political programme to signify acceptance of that programme and a desire to join it and become one of its beneficiaries: Widmerpool.
  • An act of surrender, accepting the necessity of uttering formulae not believed by the speaker in order to avoid unpalatable consequences: a libellus under the Dacian persecution.
  • A slogan signifying membership of some group: “Great is Diana of the Ephesians”, “Come on United”
  • An act of power. The coercion of others into agreeing with things they do not believe or which are simply false, as an instantiation of their lack of power: thanking Big Brother for raising the chocolate ration.
  • Gaslighting: an attempt to diminish the agency of others by causing them to doubt their own powers or reason, memory or perceotion.
  • Spiritual pride, Gilmartinism.

I hope this little catalogue may be of some use to those old-fashioned enough to still believe in reasoned discussion using rational arguments based on solid evidence, for the purpose for furthering mutual understanding and common good.

Last edited 3 years ago by Richard Pinch
Peter Ormerod
Peter Ormerod
3 years ago

I’m quite astonished by the number of people commenting on here who use the phrase “the left” in such a broad and generalising manner. There is no such single, monolithic entity; if anything, leftwing politics is characterised by a lack of unity and a tendency towards infighting. A rather more nuanced view of people with whom you disagree may prove helpful. It’s precisely this flexibility of thought to which this article appeals.

Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Ormerod

I agree with you, but I think of it as a placeholder until a better word comes up. What was traditionally the left is now extreme right-wing. Maybe Identitarian or Totalitarian Left is a more appropriate moniker.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Ormerod

The fact that the left consists of smithereens of bile doesn’t mean there’s no left at all nor anything shared in common. Of course there is.

Alan Girling
Alan Girling
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Ormerod

The infighting is mostly around the purity of their thought, who is in, who is out, based on perceptions of heresy, In that sense, they are mostly of apiece. It’s true though, that one should pay attention to such instances. As Leonard Cohen says, there’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

Funnily enough I am currently working with a company that designs and builds computer games specifically for women. All the games involve something to do with cooking or being a nurse/caring/serving in some way. All the visuals are quite feminine. In other words, these games are the opposite of computer games in which you fight others or drive around a track etc.
What is interesting is that this company is very, very successful at the moment, which surely tells us something.
I am sure there are many women who like to play computer games in which fighting and driving fast etc are involved. I wouldn’t really know, as I no interest in any type of computer games. But the success of games tailor-made for women is surely significant.

Penny Heater
Penny Heater
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

I am not a gamer either and I also bet there are significant gamers of any gender who would want to play games that aren’t just about armed combat, as so many of them seem to be (I have teenaged sons!).

Tad Pringle
Tad Pringle
3 years ago

Steven Crowder, a Christian conservative, regularly films long-form unedited discussions in public with “Progressives” on controversial topics under the banner of “Change My Mind”. I know of no equivalent on the Left, yet writers persist with this “they’re just as bad as each other” canard. Tiresome.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
3 years ago

“…I spoke to Metz, and reassured Alexander and the Rationalists to the best of my ability that I thought it would be in good faith, rather than a hit job…”

My interest in the contents of the two sides’ arguments is secondary. Same with the rationalisation (pun intended) about persuasion. Instead I sometimes have the knack of unerringly homing in on the true pain point that causes an internal squirm of embarrassment, the individuals in the systems, the ghosts in the machine if you like.

So, Tom Chivers, what of your relationship with Metz now? Will you ever trust what he says again? How will Metz react to this piece? Ditto the relationship and reaction of Alexander.

It is not just the observed that are altered by the observation, but the observers also. Entanglement cuts both ways.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago

‘“Free speech” has become a left-right battleground issue, and the instances we read about are always of right-wing speech being limited by left-wing activists.’
Really? I get regular emails from both right-leaning sites such as The Daily Wire and PragerU, and left sites like Mintpress and the WSWS. Both sides complain, with good reason so far as I can see, of various forms of censorship (in the wider sense) and deplatforming.

Gary Cole
Gary Cole
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

Check the chronology though – it’s nearly always instigated by an iconoclastic attack from the ‘Progressive’ left who then complain of ‘Culture Warriors starting a culture war’ when there’s a defensive conservative reaction in response.
The ‘Rule Britannia’ incident from ‘The Last night of the Proms’ is an excellent example.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Gary Cole

McCarthy and the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Though no doubt it’s possible to extend the chronology still further back and find counter-examples.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

Almost everyone who talks of McCarthy leaves out the fact that the US government and media were riddled with spies and fellow travelers aligned with the USSR. Yes, McCarthy was loathsome, but the active undermining of the US was being attempted…

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
3 years ago
Reply to  stephen f.

McCarthy died 63 years ago. At the time of the McCarthy hearings, the early 1950s, the left wing regime in Russia was executing scientists for upholding the scientifically correct Mendelian theory of genetics, and the left wing regime in China was executing people for being capitalists. A generation later, the left wing regime in Cambodia was executing people for wearing glasses, the left-wing regime in Romania was killing women who did not want abortions and the left wing regime in East Germany was executing people for wanting to leave the country.
No-one of sense suggests that people with views from all and any end of the political spectrum have never ever been put at a disadvantage because of those views.
None of these things bear on the topic in hand, which is, what is going on today on social media, something not available to people in the 1950s. The author of the article suggests that “cancellation” is far more often applied to people with centre-to-right-wing views by people on the left than it is to people with centre-to-left-wing views by people on the right. This is a question that can only be decided by evidence, and evidence drawn from the present day, not from past history. A preliminary view of the evidence suggests that the author is correct.

Allan Dawson
Allan Dawson
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Pinch

Don’t mistake Totalitarian for Left Wing…the CCP isn’t Left Wing or Right Wing…it is Totalitarian…just as Franco wasn’t Right Wing but Totalitarian….

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

can you name some instances of a right-leaning platform kicking a leftist off simply for being a leftist? We just had the incident of the actress fired by Disney for asking a question that Disney’s response answered quite loudly. I would be interested in hearing of a right-wing equivalent.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

The answer that is not forthcoming, is: “no”.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

The UK government has banned schools from teaching using materials produced by organisations in favour of ending capitalism. Teaching materials produced by organisations supporting free market capitalism are not similarly banned.

Don Gaughan
Don Gaughan
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

While the subject is on persuasion and the rationalists, I have to say this type of moral equivalency fact is a distortion and evasion of a serious issue, like a general who pits his army in an all out scorched earth war against a neighboring country but when a defender shoots his rifle in defense, ” well , they engage in war too.”.
The widespread systemic muzzling ,persecution, deplatforming impoverhment and cancelling of non compliant voices by the left woke progressive cancel cult reported by every free democracy in western civilisation is all too real, Your reach for some relatively minor tidbit to try and claim both sides are doing it is weak and evasive, as massive injustice and harm to people and civilisation ,thought and knowledge continues .

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

organisations in favour of ending capitalism

The wording is “organisations that take extreme political stances on matters” with examples being

a publicly stated desire to abolish or overthrow democracy, capitalism, or to end free and fair elections

opposition to the right of freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of assembly or freedom of religion and conscience

The abolition of capitalism is indeed an extreme political stance, but not one confined, as suggested here, to the far left. State control of the economy is also a doctrine of fascism and nazism, the latter being explicitly opposed to free-market capitalism.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

McCarthyism was directed primarily against the left.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

How long ago was that and who today supports it? Ironically, the left is engaging in the very same tactic.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

It was a mere sixty or seventy years ago, and its effects shaped Hollywood, and hence the general direction of much mainstream Western culture, for decades after.
And some sections of the left have been resolutely against this deplatforming and so on from the start.

Norman Powers
Norman Powers
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

It was directed against Soviet agents, not the Democrats in general.

Alan Girling
Alan Girling
3 years ago
Reply to  Norman Powers

Maybe 99% of Hollywood is Democrat. Back then, it wasn’t so different, and Hollywood specifically was targeted and a blacklist created banning actors, directors and screenwriters. None of them Soviet agents.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago

Who is in charge of the “waiting for approval” button at UnHerd? Even statements that I post that are not profane or remotely threatening are held up…

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
3 years ago
Reply to  stephen f.

A question to be asked, I agree.

Paul N
Paul N
3 years ago
Reply to  stephen f.

The filter does seem a bit overenthusiastic.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

why did you folks think this new format is an improvement?

Paul N
Paul N
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

We did?
I’m not sure that a single up/down-vote score is a good thing. I realise both tend to be based heavily on groupthink, but I’d say that upvotes are more often also based on how well argued an article is. I’ve upvoted people who disagree with me if they make a good case. Downvoting seems to mean, “I dislike what you say and absolutely will not defend your right to say it!”

Paul N
Paul N
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

There seems to be no obvious way of flagging abusive comments.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

When a blogger is attacked in a newspaper article for no tangible reason, simply because the newspaper can, it is no longer journalism. That piece didn’t even try to inform, let alone persuade anyone of anything other than Alexander is a horrible human being who should be shunned by society.
Social media doesn’t help, either. Hard to persuade someone in 144 characters and no one wants to read manuscripts on FB, either; it’s not a good forum for it. That leaves sniping, snark, personal attacks, or short phrases of agreement from the already persuaded.

mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago

Chivers somewhat missing the point with the NYT/SSC debacle. NYT did not set out to persuade people SSC is mistaken, or even that it’s white supremacist or oppressive etc. They set out to do deliberate personal damage to a writer who was putting their opinion out there backed by their research and the facts they have discovered. This is not “canvassing opinion” It is negative propaganda as practised by Goebbels, Beria etc. Persuasion may not even take the form of argument and debate. As a fairly hard core tea party type with a lot of time for libertarian economics i was very well persuaded, and moved by Cori Bush’s acceptance speech. This is because she was honest and true to herself and her voters, and any sane person would agree the US and UK do not do right by the poor and marginalised. Critical theory nut jobs can no more be persuaded than Aryan Brorherhood guys with nazi face tattoos. They are just the bourgeois verson of the same nut job. For every 1 that reforms 1000 don’t. I think the best way the UK readers can understand it is by the slogan “Milwall for Life”?

mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago

Chivers somewhat missing the point with the NYT/SSC debacle. NYT did not set out to persuade people SSC is mistaken. They set out to do deliberate personal damage to a writer who was putting their opinion out there backed by their research and the facts they have discovered. This is not “canvassing opinion” It is negative propaganda as practised by Goebbels, Beria etc. Persuasion may not even take the form of argument and debate. As a fairly hard core tea party type with a lot of time for libertarian economics i was very well persuaded, and moved by Cori Bush’s acceptance speech. This is because she was honest and true to herself and her voters, and any sane person would agree the US and UK do not do right by the bottom half of the wealth table. Critical theory nut jobs can no more be persuaded than the QAnon brigade. They are just the bourgeois verson of the same problem. For every 1 that reforms 1000 don’t. I think the best way the UK readers can understand it is by the slogan “Milwall for Life”?

kennethjamesmoore
kennethjamesmoore
3 years ago

Having reviewed the responses and reasoned points made therein. Be careful guys that we are not tagged as rationalists and secret facists 🙂 Or can we start yet another sub-group; ‘Reasonists’

Charles Rense
Charles Rense
3 years ago

You can’t persuade monsters. They are born monsters and cannot change. Here’s an article showing Scientiffic PROOF that these monsters are morally and intellectually inferior to us, the good people, on a biological level (if you miss it we will publish some version of it several times over numerous election cycles for you to share on your social media feeds until you have it baked into your reasoning) Because they aren’t people, they are monsters, and we cannot afford to tolerate their existence.

This is the thinking at play. And the natural conclusion from this assumption is depressingly obvious to anyone with an understanding of history.

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
3 years ago

There’s a certain asymmetry which the author, perhaps unwittingly, accepts in the statement “the instances we read about are always of right-wing speech being limited by left-wing activists.”

Some people would say that the instances we read about are at least as often examples of mainstream or middle-of-the-road speech being limited by left-wing activists.

Last edited 3 years ago by Richard Pinch
stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago

Suggestion for a new essay: When did we give up on Discus?

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
3 years ago

Jarrow March 1936 men protesting about poverty; many who had served in the trenches in WW1. 1968, spoilt brats, having temper tantrums like two year olds; they just happened to be students. This was the change.
in 1968, the rioters were comfortably off, if not wealthy students who had never been tempered by seeing death and suffering, hardship,adversity and pain. In the 1930s there were men who worked in the mines and on the trawlers when death and injury were common place. Men whom have worked in these conditions know that the most important quality is to be able to look someone in the eye ask the question ” Can I trust him with my life ?”.When you have to trust someone else with your life; it breeds civility. If you doubt me, read the accounts of Shackleton in The Endurance.

Allan Dawson
Allan Dawson
3 years ago

I wonder why the writer only looked at ‘high status’ jobs like being a medic….I what is holding women back from being s98t shovellers at a waste tip or road mending…

Colin Colquhoun
Colin Colquhoun
3 years ago

That’s a nice piece that makes an important point. I already agreed with most of it of course.

Cassian Young
Cassian Young
3 years ago

The NYT piece is clearly a drive by shooting.
But I found the article by Matt Yglesias @ slowboring in support of SSC more shocking. The reasoning is so poor and the evidence adduced so obviously false, I would be disappointed if my child reasoned this way at 15.
If this is what the leading US millennial journalists believes is rational debate, the world is in big trouble.

Angus J
Angus J
3 years ago

“Alexander suggests that it’s about interests: that there are large and systematic differences in what men and women are interested in, and that translates into systematic differences in their choice of profession.”
That seems to me to be the key to it.
I would also like another professional gender imbalance to be addressed: why are there no top-class female snooker players? Are women not interested, or do they not have the requisite skills?

Sam D
Sam D
3 years ago

I’ve always been surprised at how little thought goes into some of the scope of inequality debates. For example, roughly 99.7% of the people on this planet don’t work as software engineers. Out of those that do, there is an insignificant percentage who possess what people call “power” or “social influence”.

(Also, keep in mind that it’s people who don’t write any code that impact technology most dramatically in our lives, not software engineers, but that’s a separate point.)

Yet no one seems to be bothered with using this statistically insignificant slice of the global population as a proxy and a mechanism to prove “profound systemic issues across our society”. (Society usually means Western society obviously, everyone else just didn’t catch up with us, so they don’t get a voice yet, nor any statistical sampling.)

What’s worse, there are those who accept the proxy and also claim that it can be extrapolated and generalised to draw broader conclusions about our society. Ironically, this almost invariably comes from people who won’t tolerate any other kind of generalisation.

For clarity, the gender imbalance in decision-making positions across various industries makes me feel deeply concerned. I just don’t think that constantly banging our heads against, and singling out any specific industry is helpful. Worse, because of it’s reductive scope, when we to incur change, it can give us a false sense of having solved some big problem.

Last edited 3 years ago by Sam D
Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  Sam D

For example, roughly 99.7% of the people on this planet don’t work as software engineers. 
That’s a good point and a version of it applies to most every other area where some perceived disparity is noted. Take CEOs. The mental makeup required to work 80-100 hours a week, to put everything else in second if not third place, is primarily found among men. This does not make it good or bad; it just makes it true. As your example states, the vast majority of people are not software engineers. But those in the field tend to be male.

Andre Lower
Andre Lower
3 years ago

Perhaps the problem is not that people are no longer trying to persuade people that disagree with them – the problem is that it is no longer possible to find facts that people acknowledge as such.
In these times of ours, narratives have destroyed facts for good. I see two causes for that – the first is the sheer power of ingenious misinformation, the second the narrative’s ability to either twist or disqualify facts.
So why would anyone bother trying to persuade, when it is already established that whatever facts you may try to lean on stand no chance against the adversaries’ narrative?
The destructiveness of populism has been badly misjudged, and populists never get any punishment that is proportional to the damage they do.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
3 years ago
Reply to  Andre Lower

I agree with you on one point, and disagree on another.

It is indeed terrifying that, as you neatly put it, narratives have destroyed facts.

On the other hand, ‘the destructiveness of populism’. A serious problem is defining what populism means before it can be discussed, but I would say it is very risky to use populism as a term of disparagement, when it can equally be interpreted as voters asking for what they actually want (rather than what their betters think the voters ought to want).

Last edited 3 years ago by Wilfred Davis
Andre Lower
Andre Lower
3 years ago
Reply to  Wilfred Davis

William, let me then define populism as I understand it: As practised in our times, populism is the art of crafting narratives that have strong, immediate and ill-pondered appeal amongst those members of society that are itching to find someone to blame for their own shortcomings.
Once the populist creates this image of “I’m on your side, against those that are an obstacle to your success”, whatever the populist says no longer requires fact-checking, as the populist has already “convinced” the victims about his/her eternal righteousness. And any barbarism is readily justifiable by such righteousness. That includes the “ability” to select which facts exist and which are to be dismissed lies crafted by the “enemy” (without ever looking at them).
Do you disagree?

Last edited 3 years ago by Andre Lower
Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
3 years ago
Reply to  Andre Lower

Andre, thank you for your response.

Rather than take up a lot of space here, would you object if I suggested an interesting essay on populism by a political scientist who specialises in that topic? I stumbled on it when it came out around the time of the Brexit vote:

Takis S Pappas ‘The Specter Haunting Europe: Distinguishing Liberal Democracy’s Challengers‘. It’s in the Journal of Democracy, October 2016, Vol 27, Number 4, but I most recently found it again on Pappas’s own website, which is easily searched for.

To clarify what the rather ill-defined term ‘populism’ means, Pappas carefully analyses political parties across Europe, and categorises them by characteristics, including a simple but helpful graphic.

It’s a reasonably serious read, but I found it very enlightening. The principal message that I took away was the demonstration that ‘populism’ is applied to a very wide range of parties that often have very little in common with each other.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
3 years ago
Reply to  Andre Lower

Andre, thank you for your response.

[Please disregard any duplicate comment that appears, as my original went into moderation for some reason, and I got a message that I cannot edit it.]
 
Rather than take up a lot of space here, would you object if I suggested an interesting essay on populism by a political scientist who specialises in that topic? I stumbled on it when it came out around the time of the Brexit vote:
 
Takis S Pappas ‘The Specter Haunting Europe: Distinguishing Liberal Democracy’s Challengers‘. It’s in the Journal of Democracy, October 2016, Vol 27, Number 4, but I most recently found it again on Pappas’s own website, which is easily searched for.
 
To clarify what the rather ill-defined term ‘populism’ means, Pappas carefully analyses political parties across Europe, and categorises them by characteristics, including a simple but helpful graphic.
 
It’s a reasonably serious read, but I found it very enlightening. The principal message that I took away was that ‘populism’ can often be applied to a very wide range of movements that sometimes have next to nothing in common with each other. And that problem of definition can make it a tricky subject to discuss, because there’s quite a lot a preparatory ground to go over before the discussion proper begins.
 
Hope you may find it of interest.

Andrew Baldwin
Andrew Baldwin
3 years ago

Tom says that the NYT hit piece on Alexander comes close to misrepresentation when it links him to Charles Murray and his belief there is a link between race and IQ. It struck me to be a misrepresentation pure and simple, a grossly unfair takedown of a man who wasn’t politically correct enough for the NYT’s liking. This smearing and name-calling of the other side in debates between the left and the right really should stop. We should always be open to another person’s arguments. I was persuaded of the usefulness of a job guarantee program, at least for young people, by an economics professor whose views are much more left-wing than mine. When I confused the job guarantee with a guaranteed annual income he didn’t mock me for my ignorance. Instead, he patiently explained the difference between them, and brought me over to his own way of thinking. If some people, as Tom says, have given up on persuasion, it is high time they got back to it.

Alan Girling
Alan Girling
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Baldwin

Pretty much mendacity, pure and simple, and a feature of much journalism today. Witness, of course, The Times revelation and utter falsehood, blared around the world, that Jordan Peterson was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago

This new format seems to have chased away some of our observers and commenters-they are missed.

robert scheetz
robert scheetz
3 years ago

Reading the NYT piece, I was struck by how conventional the thinking was, trendy Silicon Valley numbers fetish. No poetry.

Miguelito
Miguelito
3 years ago

Well in America the death of persuasion is easy to locate. It ended with Newt Gingrich. This is taken from my upcoming book on “Power”.
Newt Gingrich is an admirer of biology. The lore is that he thought that biological systems should be applied to the US Government. He groomed a group of Congressmen and trained them in Darwinian strategies of win-lose, refusing any compromise that is described in human law. It was a great strategy for gaining power which the Republican Party did. It seemed very bad at governing though. It led to the “Party of No” and the Tea Party of chaos. 
Mr. Gingrich had brought the Law of the Jungle to an institution of human law and the human law, the Constitution, took a beating. The main descriptions of Congress since then have been gridlock and ineffectual. On the Right, compromise is considered a sin. Nature doesn’t compromise. Only humans do that. Nature is simple. Its strategies are win-lose. Humans can make win-win strategies but the Right has rejected those. “Libs must lose”. It’s an instinctive drive for dominance and it will destroy the human creations of law, democracy, and ultimately civilization.

Don Gaughan
Don Gaughan
3 years ago
Reply to  Miguelito

It is one thing to create a one sided subjective opinionated argument and prosecution that clearly shows a biased point of view , but where credibility is further lost when you are obviously guilty of the very thing you accuse.That is is the state of the rhetoric of the left in their accusations that are being forced on western civilisation to gain monopolistic power and control .

Miguelito
Miguelito
3 years ago
Reply to  Don Gaughan

Well OK, but we just had a bunch of folks from the right attack Congress with the express intent of killing the VP and overthrowing the election. That’s the inheritance of Gingrich and seems more like monopolistic power and control than anything from the left so far.

David Bottomley
David Bottomley
3 years ago

I think I am pleased to say that in the real world, the world where most people just get up, go to work, come home, play with the kids, watchTV etc, the so called battle between left and right is looked on with total disinterest or amusement ( and yes, at times more than a little alarm at the more extreme ranting, division and activities as evident in the USA)

Andre Lower
Andre Lower
3 years ago

Not really, David. Consider just how many personal relationships have toxic politics destroyed. Way too many previously dear friends are now strangers. In some cases, families were torn apart. In the real world you are referring to.
This is neither laughable light fare, nor limited to extreme personalities. It could easily tear your country apart.

Last edited 3 years ago by Andre Lower
Walter Brigham
Walter Brigham
3 years ago

Excellent article and I want to learn more. One place I have been learning is how organizations are promoting constructive dialogue generally and ‘Reflective Structured Dialogue’ specifically. At once it became clear the meanings of ‘safe spaces’ and ‘trigger warnings’ have been distorted and misused. A safe space is not a place where you are protected from opinions that might upset you. It is where you are to HEAR opinions that might upset you, respectfully. It is safe to DISCUSS them. The point is you will be TRIGGERED, thus you are warned. But once triggered your responsibility is to pause and then reflectively, respectfully offer your reply. Hopefully with sound facts and reason but minimally with an explanation of why the idea expressed causes such emotional pain. I’m not sure what the rules are on posting links but one organization promoting resolution dialogue is The Fanning Institute in Athens, GA USA.

Sharon Overy
Sharon Overy
3 years ago

Just testing.

Steve Gwynne
Steve Gwynne
3 years ago

Playing devil’s advocate means you can be seen as the enemy by both sides but especially the side that thinks in terms of a zero sum game.

Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
3 years ago

Bill Gates have a very strange “charity” indeed. God Bless the Nation for having the guts to publish this article. hhttps://www.thenation.com/article/economy/bill-gates-investments-covid/

Alex Delszsen
Alex Delszsen
3 years ago

When called out by activists, people should be paid for their emotional labour. Fantastic that they learned they can charge high fees to companies, who pay their employees only their normal wages for this emotional labour.
while I am ranting, it seems that individuals have now outsourced their cognitive dissonance on to others. Not picking on this person, but using them as a convenient example, there is Elliot Page. We now all have to use our energy to process cognitive dissonance that he alone had to process. It is one more thing like paper or plastic, or which kind of milk, to tire our minds. I am wondering how the very young are processing the concept of 100 (approx.) genders?

rhoranwrites
rhoranwrites
3 years ago

Great discussion. However, in today’s radical reality of Q-anon conspiracy theories, butterknife wielders Antifas, and fantasyland bananastan, what person of humble means, common sense, creative logic, and peaceful demeanor would need to argue with anyone about anything, let alone get all worked up about the underrepresented in trades from cobbling to cod fishing? I mean when I was out of college, I worked on a ranch in Texas. There were no women anywhere. I didn’t see a single one breaking colts, rustling cattle, cleaning stalls, or shooting coyotes. I assumed there weren’t any because they weren’t interested in that kind of work. And truthfully, I wasn’t so enamored of it myself. Any kind of political discourse these days that might hint of Constitutional delinquency or misinterpretation, is a fool’s errand. “Have you even read the Constitution?” How many times as some idiot asked you that question. Of course I have. And it’s all plain as the nose on one of those Picasso paintings. I mean Fagetabout it! Let’s talk about real life, like Darwin’s dangerous idea–women’s eye for beauty and personal mating choice, not natural selection and adaptation are what drives evolution. I’ll tell you what destroys evolution, the idiots who get their news from social media! I’d watch out…this could be contributing to the growing idiocracy…

Lyn Griffiths
Lyn Griffiths
3 years ago

Essay Persuasion, I think it fun as long as it does not take us into a dark place. We use persuasion as often as we take in air during the day. It is not unusual for the fertile brain to skip back and forth. Depending on the subject matter and if it is general or personal. I suppose we are all unreliable and can be persuaded. So is it one’s vulnerability and state of mind at a specific time that will make us choose the wrong side by someone else’s thoughts. Are all leaders passive aggressive manipulators. So to conclude are but human and I do not believe that we will give up on persuasion for it surrounds us and is deep within our psyche.1

Steve Craddock
Steve Craddock
3 years ago

What confuses me most is the offering up of the left vs right label with little thought towards the real world meanings.

In my mind both labels mean someone telling the population what to do. For a right wing ideology this seems to be a single strong leader, a left wing ideology the power is a bit more shared via committees etc to give the illusion of shared power but in the greater scheme of things they both end up with the population powerless and potentially living in fear of breaking the ‘new’ rules.

They both seem to quite like to use non-judicial power freely as it bestows authority without the risk of blow back on the professional politicians. This seems to be strongly witnessed in their frequent use of the pre-prepared and orchestrated mob.
I find it hard to seperate the recent TV images from those that were potentially witnessed in the Night of the Long Knives, but this pales into insignificance beside ultimatley the mass genocides committed by allegedly both extremes of the political spectrum.

My new rule of thumb is now anyone who prepares for a political march by wearing combat gloves to protect their knuckles, a uniform so they can indentify each other from the enemy and face masks and helmets to protect their personnel identity are bad and should be opposed. They are seeking to forcibly dictate policy and agenda and are using violence, intimidation and fear as a political tactic with their main decit being the claim of a wider altrusim, but in reality that is nothing but a glamour or perhaps even worse a display of pure self ignorance.

Last edited 3 years ago by Steve Craddock
Jimbob Jaimeson
Jimbob Jaimeson
3 years ago

Dear Tom Chivers. It appears this discusion would be a lot more rational if your comment moderation software would not allow posts with the words “left, left wing, leftist, far left, communist, marxist, right, right wing, far right or fascist. There are many many options both culturally and politically but pushing everything into team a or team b is non productive.

Penny Adrian
Penny Adrian
2 years ago

I’m fine with women choosing different professions than men, what I’m not fine with is male dominated professions being paid more than female dominated professions.
Radiologists, anaesthetists and surgeons should not be paid more than gynecologists, pediatricians, and GP’s.
Also, people tend to feel safer and more comfortable being vulnerable with women than with men.
The sexism is less in the number of men and women in a chosen field than it is in the numbers on the paychecks.
We need to value working with our fellow humans as much as we value working with machines.

Penny Adrian
Penny Adrian
2 years ago

“whether there is a genetic component to poverty (which surely there must be)”
Why the f**k would there be a genetic link to poverty?
Perhaps there’s a genetic link to disability, which leads to poverty, but it is extremely irrational to claim that there are “poverty genes” that make people poor.
I’d love to see the “science” on that BS.
Calling oneself “rational” does not make it so.