Cartoon: How Dare They Call Me A Conservative!


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A few years ago, writing about popular anti-feminist pundits Christina Hoff Sommers and Cathy Young, I criticized their self-identification as pro-choice.

 I only know Cathy, Sommers, and their compatriots are pro-choice because they mention being pro-choice as a credential to advance anti-feminist positions.

…Their pro-choiceness is opportunistic.  None of these writers extend their pro-choice views to publicly  defending the right to an abortion, even though abortion is in desperate need of defense.

It’s hard to take the “I’m pro-choice, so I have credibility when I  say feminists are evil” mantra seriously when saying that appears to be the entire extent of their commitment to reproductive rights.

In the years since then, that tactic – claiming to be progressive as a credential when attacking “social justice,” but without spending any significant amount of time advocating for progressive positions – seems to have become more popular, not just among anti-feminists, but among anti-“identity politics” folks in general.

Matt Jameson, a self-identified centrist, writes:

On Twitter — again, with the help of centrism’s brand ambassadors — it’s  becoming standard operating procedure to display centrist bona fides by  claiming to be on or at least sympathetic to the policy positions and  goals of the left, while vociferously criticizing the left’s excesses.  As if devoting essentially 100 percent of your online energy agitating  against “leftist excesses” is somehow consistent with centrism because  you’re also—in some latent sense—“open to leftist ideas.”

That seems to me quite on-target. It’s fine for leftists to criticize the left (as I’ve done from time to time); but if someone’s public advocacy is virtually all attacks on the left, then their claim to be of the left is empty.

On a technical level, my main worry with this cartoon is that readers might not understand that the “whispering” panels are whispers.

(Special thanks to patron Ari A, who suggested panel 5. Thanks Ari!)


As always, thanks to my patrons for supporting these cartoons. I seriously, honestly, literally could not make all these cartoons without their support; that I’ve gone from six poli cartoons a year to almost fifty a year is incredible! And all thanks to my patreon supporters!

That’s why they got to see this cartoon a week ago. :-p


TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

This cartoon has six panels. All six panels feature a 50ish white man, wearing glasses and a suit jacket over a black tee shirt, speaking directly to the viewer. Two of the panels are much narrower than the other four. In addition to those six panels, there’s also a tiny “kicker” panel below the bottom of the cartoon.

PANEL 1

A medium shot of the man. He is speaking excitedly and angrily at the viewer, holding a fist in the air. We can see there’s a tree behind him.

MAN: Did you read my article in Quibbette? I show how there’s no freedom of speech for anyone criticizing the “woke” fascists!

PANEL 2

A longer shot lets us see he’s standing on a path on what might be a college  quadrangle. It’s a park-like space with trees and a faux-roman style building in the background. He continues to speak intensely, holding up a forefinger to make a point.

MAN: Like I said in the Times, the campus left are coddled, free-speech hating totalitarians!

PANEL 3

In a closer shot, and a much smaller, narrower panel, the man, smiling, cups his mouth with a hand to whisper to the viewer. He’s making a thumbs up sign with his other hand.

MAN (whispering): Psst! I’m pro-choice, and I voted for Obama.

PANEL 4

He’s back to angry rant mode, raising both hands into the air.

MAN: Like I said on Fox: The Democrats have been taken over by identitarian totalitarians who hate white men!

PANEL 5

Again smiling and whispering in a much narrower panel.

MAN: Psst! Have I mentioned I have a Black friend?

PANEL 6

In the final panel, the man has a hurt expression, and is holding one hand flat on his chest.

MAN: And how dare they call me a conservative after I took all those liberal positions!

SMALL KICKER PANEL BELOW BOTTOM OF STRIP

Still talking directly at the viewer, the man looks angry again.

MAN: And why can’t those fascist totalitarian cowardly thugs be more civil?

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38 Responses to Cartoon: How Dare They Call Me A Conservative!

  1. 1
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    I can imagine several of the people who this cartoons could be targetting, and according to them, they often aren’t asked to appear on neworks or platforms other than fox, quillette, reason, perhaps the Atlantic, etc. I recently heard James Lindsay say something to this effect after he was criticized for appearing on Glenn Beck’s podcast (I still don’t think it’s a good idea to go on Beck’s show). A more powerful example is Brett Weinstein. Personally, I think Weinstein has recently morphed into the culture-war scare-monger he used to oppose, but it’s just a fact that only conservative outlets covered his story when it first started to break, and as a result he appeared on Tucker Carlson and lost a ton of credibility with the left.

    I guess I have to wonder do you think these guys are lying, and that they are actually conservatives? I ask because I kinda see myself in much of what a guy like James Lindsay has to say. I do enjoy Quillette, and I do vote democrat. I do think there’s something rotten in what is referred to as “greivance studies” both in the academy and in the way some of this theory is interpreted by laypeople. I’m a real person, so it’s not hard for me to see a guy like Lindsay as authentic.

    Or perhaps “conservatism” is being defined as something like “doing the work of conservatives.” I’m sympathetic to that, because it seems pretty obvious to me that a guy like Lindsay is doing much more to help conservatives than his own side. Brett too. I just model them as a naturally contrarian guys who care more about pursuing the truth than fighting for their political positions, and in the spaces where they spend the most time, that means attacking ideologies that happen to be coded as leftist right now, but don’t necessarily have to be.

  2. 2
    desipis says:

    That seems to me quite on-target. It’s fine for leftists to criticize the left (as I’ve done from time to time); but if someone’s public advocacy is virtually all attacks on the left, then their claim to be of the left is empty.

    But who gets to define and claim “the left”. If a group of people who consider themselves “leftists” are criticising another group of people, then why is it that group who are no longer “left”, why not see the group they are criticising as no longer left?

    This is basically the far-left trying to get the moderate-left into submitting to their ideology or surrendering the label of the “left”. That’s crap. If the far-left wants to get less criticism from the moderate left and centre then perhaps they should stop being so radically extreme.

  3. 3
    Ampersand says:

    Joe, I moved your comment to the open thread – hope you don’t mind.

  4. 4
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    desipis:

    This is basically the far-left trying to get the moderate-left into submitting to their ideology or surrendering the label of the “left”. That’s crap.

    I think you’ve identified a real tribal dynamic here, but I also think I agree with @roguenotary too. There may be something to what Matt is saying in the above quote. A group that is radically open to criticism is at risk of having outsiders who actually oppose the interest of the group try to influence that group, and a good norm to protect against that might be something like “does this person fight just as hard to defeat our outgroup as they do to change the norms of our in-group?”

    I realize such a norm may target good-faith actors for exclusion, because I think there really are people who are better at criticizing and shaping their own group than attacking the outgroup. This is especially true if “fighting the outgroup” is definied to mean something like “being woke.” I tend to really like the sort of person who criticizes their own tribe, and fear those who are most willing to go to battle, as I find their moral certainty offputting. Then again, there are definitely people who dress up as their opponents for strategic advantage.

    I follow Matt’s twitter feed pretty religiously, and have for over a year. It’s worth pointing out that he argues that many actors within the IDW may be part of a Peter Theil plot to undermine the SJ left- his arguments are actually somewhat compelling, especially when it comes to the Weinsteins. Matt’s worth a follow.

  5. 5
    Patrick Linnen says:

    @Jeffrey Gandee;

    because I think there really are people who are better at criticizing and shaping their own group than attacking the outgroup.

    Well, sure! There are a number of criticisms of the Left coming from the Left. Some of them are even useful. Others, not so much. (Remember “Identity Politics?” Sure. I knew you could.)

    Supposed “In Group” criticisms that are plain copy-pasta from the right shouldn’t get any benefit of doubt. And most self-proclaimed ‘woke’ dudes (ever wonder why they are always dudes?) have a definite smell of “I was liberal then 9-11 / Sandra Fluke / Sandy Hook, now I outrage about Chappaquiddick!”

  6. 6
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    Supposed “In Group” criticisms that are plain copy-pasta from the right shouldn’t get any benefit of doubt.

    This is a really bad norm that assumes the right can never possibly be correct about anything, which is historically innaccurate, especially if “the right” is defined too broadly.

  7. 7
    Kate says:

    desipis @2

    If the far-left wants to get less criticism from the moderate left and centre then perhaps they should stop being so radically extreme.

    Who on the left is being radically extreme? What extreme positions is anyone with any actual power on the left putting forward? Because, aside from a few college activists with no real power, I’m not seeing any Leninists or Trotskyites, much less Stalinists or Maoists, running around. No one’s talking about seizing assets, socializing the means of production, or collectivizing agriculture. I am seeing Nazis and Klansmen, though. I’m also seeing Latinos being put in concentration camps.
    Patrick @5

    Supposed “In Group” criticisms that are plain copy-pasta from the right shouldn’t get any benefit of doubt.

    Jeffrey Gandee @6

    This is a really bad norm that assumes the right can never possibly be correct about anything, which is historically innaccurate, especially if “the right” is defined too broadly.

    It assumes no such thing. Patrick didn’t argue against reasoned arguments or acceptance of contradictory data. He specifically was referring to “copy-pasta”, which obviously means right-wing talking points and propaganda.

  8. 8
    Polaris says:

    The whole;
    “Argument X is less valid because the person making the argument is a conservative/leftist/black/white/feminist/anti-feminist/man/woman.”
    Is a Ad Hominem and a logical fallacy.

    Besides the whole US left/right binary politics is irrational.
    Just because someone is pro-choice doesn’t mean that they should support gay rights and vice versa.
    Just because someone supports gun rights doesn’t mean that they should support strict immigration and vice versa.

    Yet by knowing one, one could likely predict the rest of political opinions of a American.

  9. 9
    desipis says:

    Jeffrey,

    a good norm to protect against that might be something like “does this person fight just as hard to defeat our outgroup as they do to change the norms of our in-group?”

    That needs to be normalised against how much that person has faced internal attacks from their own in-group. One of the reasons centrists and the moderate left spend so much time criticising the far-left, is that the far-left has been spewing so much hostility at everyone, including centrists and the moderate left.

    Everything is “racist”; everything is “sexist”; everything is “transphobic”; attack, attack, attack; get employees fired, get students expelled; de-platform speakers; attack, attack, attack; demonise those who don’t ascribe to the dogma, vilify those who try to think for themselves, ostracise those with different values; attack, attack, attack. When you’re the target of so much noise and vitriol from one side focusing on the the opponents on the other who are quietly chipping away at their political goes isn’t really possible.

  10. 10
    LTL FTC says:

    Kind of a bind, isn’t it? One of the main criticisms of the left is that it has self-policed itself into a purity spiral. If you can tar anyone as crypto-right for writing just that in an “unclean” publication, doesn’t that sort of prove the point?

    Also, what exactly is the acceptable ratio of us-v-them criticism, anyway? How many anti-right articles must I publish before I’m allowed write one about, day, cancel culture? What if I write 20 and the right publications won’t publish them because of my unclean associations?

  11. 11
    LimitsOfLanguage says:

    The policing on both the left and the right of those who speak out against excesses on their own side is exactly what got us this much polarization. We need more people doing that, not fewer.

    Note that inside criticism is often much more potent and useful, because it:
    – actually tends to occurs in spaces where the people who get criticized are, rather than in a space where everyone agrees that people who are not present should change
    – is less likely to depend on beliefs/axioms/etc that the ingroup rejects

    Ultimately, I can’t see this kind of criticism, where it is demanded that people spend more time criticizing the outgroup, as anything but tribalism and an attempt to neutralize critics. Critics of the ingroup are already in low supply. If they have to spend a lot of time opposing the outgroup, this makes them far poorer at being critics. Job done.

    Kate,

    Because, aside from a few college activists with no real power, I’m not seeing any Leninists or Trotskyites, much less Stalinists or Maoists, running around. No one’s talking about seizing assets, socializing the means of production, or collectivizing agriculture.

    Communism became greatly marginalized on the left when the many communist crimes (resulting in tens of millions of deaths) became known. So mainstream leftism became intolerant of it and justly so.

    However, a worry by some is that many on the left changed their beliefs to be still quite radical, by seeing a gender struggle, race struggle, etc, rather than a class struggle; where mainstream leftism doesn’t have immune cells to counter the excesses that come from dividing society in oppressors and the oppressed based on unchangeable traits.

    In fact, due to this framing, one of the criticisms of the modern left that has power, is that their favored policies tend to be far-left on social issues, while working out remarkably badly for the poor, despite the rhetoric ostensibly being in favor of helping the poor. Surveys also strongly suggest that the left has radicalized a lot on social issues during the Obama presidency.

    Communists with a certain amount of power tend to play into this dynamic, being fairly silent on their economic views, while playing up their Social Justice beliefs. For example, Alicia Garza, founder of BLM, is a Marxist-Leninist. You won’t see stuff like that mentioned in WaPo or the NYT of course, because they have a Social Justice narrative, not a commie narrative.

    What extreme positions is anyone with any actual power on the left putting forward?

    I’ve given very many examples in the past. You yourself are very much the radical, however, so of course none of this seems extreme to you.

  12. 12
    Ampersand says:

    The irony of a few of you – with cookie-cutter anti-SJW views, who basically never criticize your own camp in any substantial way – one after the other, posting piously about the importance of self-criticism of one’s own side, is apparently completely lost on y’all.

  13. 13
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    Kate:

    He specifically was referring to “copy-pasta”, which obviously means right-wing talking points and propaganda.

    I took him to mean this, and I think sometimes conservative “talking points” are correct. I think the American right as it exists today isn’t correct about much at all, to the degree that I can even find any coherent stances. Ideologically, the right is a divided mess at the moment. Still, there are some talking points that ring true to me, and since this cartoon is about a generic quillette writer (or perhaps it’s specific, I don’t really know) it’s worth pointing out that quillette seems to zero in on the best talking points conservatism, centrism, and libertarianism have to offer, as a challenge to what many see as leftist dominance in the academy. A few:

    1) A big problem today is the raising of children in single parent households. I grew up in a house with a libertarian stepfather who gradually moved to the right over his life, and this was one of the most common social critiques I’d hear from conservatives, like Rush Limbaugh. I think there is now a pretty good empirical case that conservatives were actually right about this point all along.

    2) Throwing more money at education just doesn’t work to address the disparities this tactic is meant to address. Probably because…

    3) Disparities between populations are more often than not multi-causal, and not necessarily proof that oppression or discrimination contribute to a large share of the variance. Not nearly enough work is done to disentangle all the various causes of group disparities because any argument that challenges the supremacy of the oppression narrative is seen as justification for perpetuating racism or dismantling anti-racist efforts(see the Harris/Klein shitshow for this sort of argument in action by what I consider a mainstream liberal)

    4) There really is a sort of new pop-variant of postmodernism running amok, and the result is a sort of skepticism of the validity of certain categorical boundaries. Quillette attacked this phenomenon head-on, but this twitter thread and the thread embedded within it: https://twitter.com/SwipeWright/status/1124406797916409856 is an absolute KO. I’ve tried making arguments like that here at Alas, but I can’t seem to write with this guy’s clarity.

    Colin Wright demonstrates examples of the uni-variate fallacy in mainstream publications. This isn’t just a problem limited to a minorities studies classroom or campus activists. It’s in Nature and the NYT. That thread alone is a good justification for why people should read quillette alongside of other sources like NPR ad the NYT.

  14. 14
    Ampersand says:

    Desipis, you in particular seem invested in demonizing the left and making totalizing, insulting statements that come down to little more than “everybody on the left sucks.”

    Everything is “racist”; everything is “sexist”; everything is “transphobic”; attack, attack, attack; get employees fired, get students expelled; de-platform speakers; attack, attack, attack; demonise those who don’t ascribe to the dogma, vilify those who try to think for themselves, ostracise those with different values; attack, attack, attack.

    Is this how you’d describe my views? And the views of the other leftists here?

    If so, then why hang out here so much?

    And if not, then why do you consistently paint with such a broad brush, as if there isn’t a single person here (other the right-wingers) who isn’t human garbage?

  15. 15
    Ampersand says:

    The whole;
    “Argument X is less valid because the person making the argument is a conservative/leftist/black/white/feminist/anti-feminist/man/woman.”
    Is a Ad Hominem and a logical fallacy.

    But that’s not at all the argument that my cartoon makes.

    Rather, my cartoon is a response to the “Argument X is MORE valid because the person making the argument, me, is a leftist criticizing the left” position.

    Suppose that I started saying I’m a libertarian (I do have some views that overlap with libertarians, after all) – and then used that self-labeling as a platform from which to attack libertarians again and again and again, while rarely if ever taking any public position that would align me with libertarians. In your view, would it never be okay for anyone to question if I’m actually functioning as a libertarian in the public discourse?

  16. 16
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    Communism became greatly marginalized on the left when the many communist crimes (resulting in tens of millions of deaths) became known. So mainstream leftism became intolerant of it and justly so.

    This is a good time to point out that anti-communism was once considered a “rightwing talking point.” See Malcom Muggeridge and his attempts to reveal the true horror of the Ukrainian famine.

  17. 17
    LimitsOfLanguage says:

    1. How would you know?

    2. What is ‘my camp?’

  18. 18
    RonF says:

    I’m curious as to why you depicted a male in this cartoon when the primary examples you give in your commentary on it are female.

  19. 19
    Ampersand says:

    Ron, although there are a bunch of people this cartoon applies to, the specific thing that galvanized me to write this strip was a comment by Peter Boghossian. (I no longer remember what the exact comment was, sorry). So it seemed natural to use Boghossian as a physical jumping-off point for my character.

  20. 20
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    Amp, there are people in libertarian spaces who do nothing but criticize actual libertarians from either the right or the left, while also identifying as libertarians.

    I think a big part of this is that many libertarians hold silly positions that make libertarianism look bad. I don’t know what it’s like now, but back in the day, the comment section at reason.com was lively and full of debate, often between anarcho-capitalists and more moderate libertarians. There were a whole bunch of anarcho-capitalists and they dominated every discussion. What’s clear to me is that the comment section there didn’t represent the average American who identifies as libertarian. The resulting debate meant that the reasonable libertarians appeared anti-libertarian from the POV of the radicals, and it didn’t help that the reasonable libertarians were relatively quiet.

    I stopped calling myself a libertarian initially because the most radical libertarians are just way too loud. Just look at the joke that is the libertarian party. I think something similar is happening with both the right and the left now, and where I think some of the Quillette types are wrong is in their insistence that the left is radicalizing faster than the right.

    It’s just obvious that so long as fucking Donald Trump is popular within the Republican party, the right is in a state of widespread radicalization. I won’t waste more time making the case.

    I think it’s less obvious the left is radicalizing without looking for signs in less obvious places than the makeup of Democratic politicians. I think the signs exist and are noteworthy, but probably overblown as a result of the way social media amplifies the voices of radicals The leftist purity spiral is definitely a real thing , though, and exhibit A is Sam Harris.

    Sam has done more than anyone here to attack the current Rebuplican party and their president. He’s also attacking from a more effective position precisely because he is so popular among centrists. It makes his arguments more, not less valid. He’s dedicated hours to discussing Trump’s deficits and the risk we take every minute he stays in office. On his podcast I’ve heard the very best case for the legality and necessity of Trump’s impeachment. He’s spent years railing against the harmful effects of Christianity, specifically the beliefs of hardline conservative christians.

    I don’t think I can ever remember a time when he’s endorsed a republican, but he was definitely a fan of both Obama and Hillary, and a critical of their opponents. Sam Harris is not a conservative by any definition, and yet, he’s smeered as a neocon all the time, and much of that is because he’s critical of what he considers leftwing dogma, especially identity politics. He’s constantly doing the dance depicted in the cartoon above as a result. I think this is both unfair to Sam, but more importantly the purity spiral is bad for the country as a whole because radicalism is actually dangerous.

    I still think there’s something to be said for norms that protect against Trojan Horses. For example, I think it’s reasonable for conservatives to question Maggie Haberman’s conservatism, but it would be a shame to do the same to the never-trumper, David French who is both a critic of today’s conservatism and an obvious conservative. Ultimately, though, I’m not sure why this matters. I think David French and Maggie Haberman both make good critics, and wise people would listen to both of them.

  21. 21
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    The irony of a few of you – with cookie-cutter anti-SJW views, who basically never criticize your own camp in any substantial way – one after the other, posting piously about the importance of self-criticism of one’s own side, is apparently completely lost on y’all.

    Ugh. Somehow I missed this.

    Amp, not only do I attack my own side from time to time (libertarian-ish, centrist-ish democrat-ish I’ve frequently used libertarianism and it’s excessess to describe some of my problems with SJ politics) I regularly engage in good faith with critics of my own side, and more importantly my own expressed uncertainty implies that I recognize weaknesses in my own positions. I’m simply anti-radical pretty much all the time, with a little voice in my head telling me “eventually, you’ll be wrong about that when radicalization is actually necessary.” I’m essentially a pluralist who thinks things work best when people coexist with different ways of seeing the world, knowing we’ll all be wrong from time to time.

    You call some of the veiws expressed here cookie cutter. Do you truly believe that? I could read your blog and dismiss your ideas the same way, you know. Or I could find out what you actually believe, including some nuance, and possibly learn something. And I have. I look at stand up comedy differently than I used to, and this really hit home when I watched Bill Burr’s latest during dinner a few weeks ago, and thought about how much better the set would have been without the avalanche of fat jokes. I discussed it with my wife, who being to my right, didn’t really agree at first . I try hard not to add to the shitty misogynistic attitudes that in the culture surrounding my hobby, and have talked one on one with the guys I have some report wirh who are sometimes unkind, gross dismissive, etc of the women in our male dominated sport. I’m sure I have more to learn, though, and I’ll keep trying to reading here mostly because your blog is just way better than other feminist blogs I encounter.

    I think people in your “camp” have much to learn too. I think the SJ left has a real problem with science denialism when it suits them. I think asymetric demands for rigor are rampant (and at times laughably hypocritical, I mean feminists attacking evolutionary psychologists for the occasional just-so-story is rich) I think members of the SJ left, like most people, have a hell of a hard time admitting and/or reasoning with uncertainty. Julia Galef should be required listening. By far, the most morally certain and obnoxiously righteous people I’ve met in my life have been Christian hardliners or people in your “camp.” I think a whole bunch of people on your side could actually learn something if they read Colin Wright on the univariate fallacy, and come away with a much better understanding of how most of us construct category boundaries. They won’t read that if you and others paint Quillette as some sort of Trojan horse trying to covertly flip SJ activists into conservatives. They won’t read it if you paint them as cookie cutter and worthy of dismissal. They won’t know the science behind IQ testing and why most criticism of psychometrics is outdated or unwarranted, most people who oppose psychometrics don’t even know what iq and g even are, but damnit they know it’s wrong.

    You said it yourself, Boghossian inspired this cartoon. Well at least he’s actually reading and responding to the theory he criticizes while writing for Quillette and other outlets. He didn’t simply turn his opponent into straw mannish charachters in a cartoon, or call their veiws “cookie cutter.” Even if his reading is uncharitable, he’s developed an understanding of the theory sufficient to publish academicly in the field. That’s fucking amazing! It’s above and beyond what we should all demand from those who take strong positions on controversial topics. And what’s more, if a group of SJ activists studied psychometrics, or evopsych, developing an understanding that enabled them to publish, but also criticize the science as practiced, that would be a win for science, and Quillette would probably publish their article.

  22. 22
    Ampersand says:

    Aargh. Just lost a long reply to Jeffrey.

    So, this time in brief:

    1) Jeffrey, I didn’t mean to suggest that your views are cookie-cutter. You weren’t who I had in mind.

    2) I read that Wright thread back when you linked it, thought he made a couple of good points which I am thinking about. But I also thought he was arrogant and full of obvious, sneering contempt for those who disagree with him, even people who are on the face of it much better qualified to discuss the fields he’s concerned about. (Even if he’s right, that’s not a super persuasive approach to take, except to those already inclined to agree with you.)

    And I think that maybe some of the things he sort of implies are “no reasonable person could disagree with me” issues are actually issues where experts within the fields can, and do, disagree in good faith. And I think – at least judging by that thread – he sometimes overlooks more benevolent readings of the work he’s criticizing.

    3) Are you seriously suggesting that this writer never caricatures people on the SJ left?

    You contrasted Boghossian’s work with political cartoons. I think that everyone understands that policartoons like mine are exaggerations and mockery. I expect that when I read right-wing cartoons, and I assume the right-wing cartoonists expect that when they read lefty cartoons. But just because I engage in that in my cartoon work, doesn’t mean I think all fields should use the “exaggerations and mockery” approach.

    I think that Boghossian, in a comment like the above, makes things worse and gives male feminist students at PSU real cause to doubt that he’ll be able to treat or grade them fairly. I think that renaming academic fields you disagree with a mocking name like “grievance studies” is great for playing to the converted, and would make sense in a policartoon, but not good if you want a good-faith discussion with people you disagree with.

    Which is fine for a cartoonist. Not so sure it’s the right approach for an academic and teacher.

  23. 23
    LimitsOfLanguage says:

    Ampersand,

    I think that renaming academic fields you disagree with a mocking name like “grievance studies” is great for playing to the converted, and would make sense in a policartoon, but not good if you want a good-faith discussion with people you disagree with.

    Which is fine for a cartoonist. Not so sure it’s the right approach for an academic and teacher.

    This is quite rich, as mocking and dismissive terminology is par for the course in Social Justice, including among academics and teachers.

    See the defense of these studies that you linked to in your link farm, where opposition to a certain narrative is characterized as “white fragility.” The similar “male fragility” is even worse, as it employs “toxic masculinity” to advance Social Justice.

    So if you actually mean what you say and are willing to apply it consistently, rather than just against the outgroup, shouldn’t you be very upset with academic Social Justice for doing this?

  24. 24
    desipis says:

    Ampersand,

    Is this how you’d describe my views? And the views of the other leftists here?

    No, I consider you to be reasonable it your views (for the most part), even when I disagree with you. I think there are other interesting people with left wing views on this blog. My comments weren’t about this blog or the people that comment on it. It wasn’t even a comment about the left as a whole. It was a comment about a particularly toxic part of the left.

  25. 25
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    The Boghossian tweet Amp linked to is pretty shitty, and if I was his boss I’d talk to him about that.

    Colin Wright comes off as arrogant, but that his criticism of the way leftist arguments abuse category boundaries is 100% on point, even if eventually he comes to the wrong conclusions (I don’t think he does, though). I believe academics who commit the univariate fallacy should know better, and it’s really frustrating to see these kinds of mistakes in print. The multidimensional universe that is “thing-space” is under-discussed among lay-people so quillette is doing good work bringing this model to people’s attention. It best reflects how most categories boundaries are constructed by actual people. I mean, you and I can’t even discriminate between cats and dogs if only given a single variable, we just rarely stop to think about it.

    I concede that my comparison of Boghossian’s work criticizing SJ scholarship in places like Quillette, and your work as a cartooninst is unfair to you as a person, but I actually think it’s fair to compare the relative harms of each project, because i think both have potential to harm. Clearly, if Boghossian discredits the work of people who are actively making the world a better place for the disadvantaged, his work has the potential to harm those people. Likewise, if SJ activists convince themselves that Pinker, James Lindsay, Claire Lehman, and Sam Harris are actually Trojan Horses, trying to make the world safe for racist, sexist, and/or reactionary politics, they risk harming their own understanding of how the world works if they happen to be wrong about that, while also making it harder for other academics and thinkers to practice open inquiry. The risk is real, and it’s rammifications underconsidered. Tyler Cowen is the first person I encountered who suggested that such a dynamic is especially dangerous for moderate leftists. Afterall, conservative are less afraid of being labelled as conservatives or even a fascist or a racist. The moderates will go silent and the radicals on both sides gain more market share.

    Finally, a common thread that runs through quillette writers is a frustration with political discourse norms entering academic spaces that are traditionally apolitical. Some people just don’t want to live in a politicized world, and would rather spend time exploring discourse and inquiry under a different set of rules more applicable to the sciences or certain kinds of philosophy. This is how I see a person like Sam Harris, who just can’t understand how it is that people get so upset when he conducts thought experiments that involve a preemptive nuclaer strike on the middle east. He’d rather live in a world where that kind of inquiry can’t be politicized, by either his opponents who would like to smear him, or racist who’d like to cite his work as a reason to turn Iran into a sheet of glass. I think a better world does include a safe space for people to explore ideas divorced from politics, because as I keep pointing out here and other places, good politics is downstream from good epistemology. We have to know what’s true before we can know what is right.

  26. 26
    Chris says:

    Kate:

    No one’s talking about seizing assets, socializing the means of production, or collectivizing agriculture.

    Well.

    Almost nobody.

  27. 27
    Chris says:

    desipis:

    Everything is “racist”; everything is “sexist”; everything is “transphobic”; attack, attack, attack; get employees fired, get students expelled; de-platform speakers; attack, attack, attack; demonise those who don’t ascribe to the dogma, vilify those who try to think for themselves, ostracise those with different values; attack, attack, attack. When you’re the target of so much noise and vitriol from one side focusing on the the opponents on the other who are quietly chipping away at their political goes isn’t really possible.

    The flip side of this is the people for whom almost nothing is racist or sexist. Not even videos where the whole joke—revealed in the title!—is “Deporting a Mexican” or “Feminist Eaten by Pigs.”

    http://amptoons.com/blog/?p=24987&cpage=1#comment-389935

    These same people think it’s the height of oppression when websites choose not to host such videos.

    So while I think there may be a valid argument that some on the left are too quick to label things as bigoted, I am not sure why you seem to believe that people who deny even obvious, overt bigotry are the best messengers for that argument.

  28. 28
    LimitsOfLanguage says:

    Chris,

    You don’t seem to distinguish between something being racist/sexist and things being censored. However, Mills basic idea is that bad speech should be countered with good speech, not with censorship.

  29. 29
    Chris says:

    First, LoL, that’s a deflection from my point. If the argument is that YouTube should leave up sexist and racist speech, fine—I don’t agree, but that’s a view I can at least respect.*

    What I cannot respect is the argument that the videos in the discussion I linked to weren’t racist or sexist at all. And if someone who argues that then wants to argue that liberals just call everything they don’t like racist and sexist, I’m going to consider my point made for me: anti-SJWs will often defend overt bigotry and then cry oppression whenever someone doesn’t give them a platform to spread their bigotry. They are not the proper messengers to tell us when SJWs Have Gone Too Far.

    Second, YouTube has speech rights as well. Choosing to take down content they don’t want on their site is an exercise of speech. I don’t care much if YouTube “censors” content they don’t want, because YouTube is not the government, and it doesn’t owe anyone a platform.

    *EDIT: Provided, of course, that the conclusion to that argument isn’t “Therefore, the government should step in and stop social media from censoring us!!!” which is an incredibly stupid and hypocritical argument that I have thankfully not seen any right-leaning people here make yet, despite its growing popularity on the right.

  30. 30
    Ampersand says:

    Second, YouTube has speech rights as well. Choosing to take down content they don’t want on their site is an exercise of speech. I don’t care much if YouTube “censors” content they don’t want, because YouTube is not the government, and it doesn’t owe anyone a platform.

    I do care a little. Youtube is not the government, but it’s one of the three or four largest public platforms in the country that are genuinely accessible for the public to post on. I don’t like the idea of a megacorporation deciding who to cut off from those platforms.

    On the other hand, I also don’t like the idea of YouTube not having the right to decide what sort of platform they’ll be, and being able to set policies for what kind of videos they accept is essential to that.

    IOW, I’m bothered by the status quo, but I think it may still be the best available option.

  31. 31
    desipis says:

    Second, YouTube has speech rights as well. Choosing to take down content they don’t want on their site is an exercise of speech.

    Meet the new left; defending the rights of multinational corporations.

  32. 32
    LimitsOfLanguage says:

    Chris,

    I concur with Ampersand. See the debate in the other thread about how voluntary it is to be detained in ICE facilities. I think that the most sensible view is that there is a spectrum of how voluntary something is. Most people have a ‘breaking point’ that lies way below something being truly forced on them by threat of violence or death. In fact, the very idea behind prison is that mere social isolation is considered to be extremely unpleasant by most people.

    The issue with social media is that it is has become a major way for people to socially interact, while people are now much less likely to interact when encountering each other in public. So people can be isolated (even from neighbors, as many neighborhoods have WhatsApp groups) by being excluded from them.

    Similarly, people read physical newspapers, pamphlets and such much less, while reading much more online. So again, the protections that once were considered crucial for those, presumably are also very important for online papers, blogs, etc. However, a crucial difference is that the online infrastructure is more centralized and/or harder to sidestep or replicate than in the past.

    So the very laws that were considered important to defend freedom of speech in public and for newspapers/pamphlets, cover much less of the actual speech that is going on. So if we want similar protections, we will have to limit the power of those who control the infrastructure and perhaps also social media.

    Ampersand,

    I would be in favor of banning coordinated deplatforming, by using antitrust legislation, which seems correct, as it is a form of collusion.

  33. 33
    Chris says:

    Similarly, people read physical newspapers, pamphlets and such much less, while reading much more online. So again, the protections that once were considered crucial for those, presumably are also very important for online papers, blogs, etc. However, a crucial difference is that the online infrastructure is more centralized and/or harder to sidestep or replicate than in the past.

    So the very laws that were considered important to defend freedom of speech in public and for newspapers/pamphlets, cover much less of the actual speech that is going on.

    What laws prohibit newspapers from exercising discretion in which letters from the public they will publish?

  34. 34
    Jacob Steel says:

    Chris, newspapers are classified as publishers, not as platforms. That means that they are totally free to accept or reject any letter they receive, but it also means that they are held legally responsible for the contents of anything they publish.

    Facebook and YouTube cherish they’re status as platforms, under which they don’t automatically accept responsibility for anything anyone posts on them. But the flip side of that is that they shouldn’t necessarily have the same freedom to accept or reject content at will that a publisher has.

  35. 35
    LimitsOfLanguage says:

    Chris,

    My point is that in the olden days, if no paper would publish your writing, you could make your own paper or pamphlet and flog it in the streets. People would come by and you would get a chance to ‘sell’ it to random people.

    With the diversity in companies, it was hard to convince all channels to not sell your newspaper, pamphlet, book, etc.

    With life moving much more to the Internet, this can be made nearly impossible. If Google/YouTube doesn’t show your video in a search, if Google doesn’t show your website, if Facebook refuses to show your post to others, etc; you will never get a chance to convince people. With the desire of various companies to not merely censor, but actively target those who may be receptive to certain ideas with counter-propaganda, it’s a wet dream for soft oppressors.

    Imagine a reality with different politics: the elites in Silicon Valley and the media are rabidly anti-immigration and think that taking in refugees is a radical belief that will destroy society. When you search for migration on YouTube or in Google, they show you search results about criminal migrants. When you do find a pro-refugee YouTuber, they demonetize him, so he has to stop making video’s for lack of money. Even though you like his video’s, they refuse to recommend similar channels.

    You, unlike most people, don’t just accept what you are shown and find a Reddit where people talk about the positive sides of migration and the problems of refugees. However, this gets shut down by Reddit for hate speech when it becomes too big. You and your Reddit pals start your own website, but domain registrars refuse to register a pro-refugee name, hosting sites refuse to host it, etc.

    This is the fear, basically. Your politics may be winning right now, but the pendulum tends to swing. Ultimately, the safest for everyone is to be fairly tolerant, including of what you consider intolerant or harmful to the groups you like, because otherwise the only options are to be the oppressor or the oppressed.

  36. 36
    Chris says:

    Jacob, the platform/publisher distinction is absolute bullshit. See Popehat on this issue.

    https://twitter.com/Popehat/status/1137032910421127169?s=20

    LoL:

    Imagine a reality with different politics: the elites in Silicon Valley and the media are rabidly anti-immigration and think that taking in refugees is a radical belief that will destroy society. When you search for migration on YouTube or in Google, they show you search results about criminal migrants. When you do find a pro-refugee YouTuber, they demonetize him, so he has to stop making video’s for lack of money. Even though you like his video’s, they refuse to recommend similar channels.

    The idea that it is currently hard to find anti-refugee or other bigoted content on YouTube is ridiculous. The fact that people are often recommended such videos—even while perusing videos that are not even explicitly political in nature—has been well documented, and I’ve confirmed it with my own students, who are YouTube obsessives: when I asked them to raise their hands if they spent a lot of time on YouTube, then keep their hands up if that’s they had seen racist content on YouTube, every hand remained up. Kids are being radicalized by videos from white nationalists. I have seen leftists approach this problem by petitioning YouTube to make it harder for such videos to be recommended, or to ban racist users. What I have not seen is them demanding that the *government* step in and make YouTube do what they want it to do. That’s a common right-wing demand now, though thankfully some on the right are pushing back against it.

    https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/06/josh-hawley-internet-censorship-bill-unconstitutional/

  37. 37
    Ampersand says:

    LoL, I think you overestimate how effective flogging a self-published paper on the streets was. Even if you’re not allowed on YouTube or on Google or the other big sites, it’s STILL much easier to reach more people today.

    Also, in a time where the right wing controls the presidency, the Supreme Court, half of congress, most state governments, and is able to access and use every big social media site as well as creating their own, it’s disturbing that you say “your politics may be winning right now.” I wonder how much total control the right would have to have before you’d think that left/Dem politics aren’t winning?

    Chris, thanks for that Popehat link (and for your other points). Although I am disturbed by the power a few large companies have over our most effective “public” squares online, the proposed solutions seem worse, and that thread really points out some of the problems.

  38. 38
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    it’s STILL much easier to reach more people today.

    So true, and the “reaching” occurs on multiple dimensions. It’s easier to reach more people economically too, and the way I see it, this new ability to reach people everywhere is among the most powerful forces of our time radically shaping systems of power, wealth distribution, and the way we behave every hour of every day. An entire blog could be dedicated to nothing else.

    I realize this is a massive off-topic aside probably more appropriate for the open thread, but people are killing it in there talking about the border crisis and I’d rather not interrupt.