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Building a Movement, Socially

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Jesse Singal puts together some advice for lefties who want to protest Trump:

Take the anti-abortion activists who were the subject of Munson’s book The Making of Pro-life Activists: How Social Mobilization Works. “I went back and I tried to determine what were their beliefs about abortion the first time they were involved in some kind of pro-life activity,” whether a protest in front of a clinic, the March for Life, or whatever else,” he explained. “At that moment, only half of them would have considered themselves pro-life.” Moreover, a quarter “would have openly said they were pro-choice.” So why do they get involved? Someone asks them to. In one instance, for example, a woman’s eventually intense, long-term involvement in anti-abortion causes began simply because her doctor, whom she respected a great deal, asked her to come to an event. Prior to that, it just wasn’t something she had thought of.

Now, imagine if this woman, or the other half of the activists Munson had interviewed who didn’t identify as anti-abortion, had been told at the outset that they were only welcome if they had certain preexisting beliefs about abortion. It very likely would have prevented them from becoming effective members of the movement. That’s a lesson Munson thinks today’s organizers should keep in mind: The more your movement broadcasts ideological demands, the more you drain the pool of potential members. There also appears to be a tendency, among lefty protesters, to bundle together all sorts of disparate causes — Black Lives Matter is paired with climate justice is paired with freeing Palestine, and so on. From the point of view of a potential newcomer, it can be daunting. [emphasis mine] “There’s this strong tendency in these protest groups to want to be ideologically pure,” said Heaney. “They’re much more concerned that they say their own piece and that they believe that they are right — that’s more important to them than actually achieving policy changes.”

Munson took that critique even further. “This has historically been one of the differences between the left and the right,” he said, “and it’s one of the things the left can learn from the right. What my research has found is that the right has far fewer ideological purity tests for activism than the left does. So they’re taking all comers and they’re converting people in action. Just come, and just do it. By contrast, there’s a whole language you need to know from some of the left groups — your ability to be involved often depends on already having a healthy résumé of doing other lefty things. I think that that basically makes it a kind of echo chamber, and it doesn’t allow you to bring in new blood.” The right, he said, has historically been more inclusive. “The anti-abortion folks are the ones that I know the best, but the right, they set up internships and they have summer programs and they organize these campaigns, and anyone who shows up they just take. And you’ll either be turned off and leave or you’ll become one of them.”

The fact that it’s usually social ties and networks, not hard-nosed ideology, which creates and cements newcomers’ activism offers hints not just about how protests should be framed to maximize the size of the crowd that will show up, but also what the next steps should be. After all, if most of the protesters who converge on Washington in January subsequently return home and never participate in fighting Trump’s agenda, they won’t have accomplished much. What’s key, said Munson, is to create the potential for newcomers to get enmeshed in activist-y social networks, but to not make the initial ask of them too intimidating. “I think it really does require that you figure out how to keep people involved in lots of everyday ways,” he said. “And in ways that involve more than simply sending in a check every six months or every year, or forwarding things on a Facebook feed — to get people actually practically involved, but not involved in huge ways, ways that are costly in terms of time and effort and things like that.”

I commented on ideological bundling recently on Twitter and got a nice response from OT Commentarian Dan Miller who said that the left has a long tradition of it because it’s good for recruiting. All hands on deck, so to speak. When Planned Parenthood tweets support for protesters of the Dakota Access Pipeline or Black Lives Matter, it draws attention of both groups to both causes. This is true, as far as it goes, but it can also be, as Heaney says, daunting. People who are unsure about one may not want to get involved in the other, or be made to feel unwelcome. Responses to this notion are sometimes that if they’re not on board with this other cause, they’re not really allies. Or something to that effect. Sometimes, though, it’s a question of not being on board with it yet. Or, alternately, not having thought about it. Either way, it can be a barrier to entry. It may be tactically wise, or it may not be, but there is certainly a downside.

A while back, Katherine Miller wrote the following:

Anyway, the point of all this was that we’d go, and we’d read the readings (George Orwell and Tom Wolfe and so forth), and we’d put out the paper, and meet other people who put out the paper, and who liked doing the things we did, who thought like we did, the kind of friends whose weddings we might someday attend, and in the end, set in our conservative beliefs, we would go forth into the media and change it from within.

The thing is, I wasn’t really about it. I didn’t want to protest for the cause of liberty; I’d never read William F. Buckley or G.K. Chesterton. I was unromanced by that prospect, and I remain so. I joined the paper because they let me write whatever I wanted, and I got involved because the people involved — so smart, so cool, I thought — were so nice, so welcoming, [emphasis mine] to let me into this literary club. And in the place in my heart where I am forever a little lonely, where I am forever hoping that I can pass through the day silently and avoid some mistake, I can see my future unfurling from that kindness.

A lot of conservatives were really non-plussed by that part. Wait, this was being written by someone who wasn’t even conservative? But I read that part and nodded. I’d seen those dynamics at work, and they were effective.

I don’t ascribe my own (now in remission) partisan leanings towards my experience with the Colosse Review, but it was certainly something that was there. I had already lurched to the right (as far to the right as I’d get, which is still no very far to the right) by the time I became involved, and I became involved at the tail end of the enterprise, but it was a great opportunity to write something and have it published. You were invited to events and parties. You met congressional candidates (usually the hopeless ones), the County GOP Chair. And very little was required of you, ideologically speaking.

Obviously, you weren’t going to write something in the Colosse Review about the Means of Production rightfully residing with The People, but heretical beliefs were accepted without judgment. In my case, it was gay marriage. Both of the top two writers opposed tort reform, which was a big deal at the time. Another thought that limiting access to abortion was insane. The focus tended to be the commonalities.

I don’t know how such a venture would work today, if it would. But Miller herself remains an example of how it might. There was a Twitter discussion recently on rightward Twitter about an increasing number of conservative-publication journalists going mainstream. Their conservatism couldn’t be vouched for, but it was considered a positive development by conservatives because at least they speak the language. They have the exposure, which for conservatives is good even if they don’t write from an especially conservative perspective (or don’t believe in it).

At times the barriers to entry may be too low, of course, leading to the inclusion of people like Southern Avenger, but there is something to be said for a model that recognizes how social politics is. We come by our views by way of ideology, self-interest, self-image, and the social. As Singal has pointed out, it’s the “social” that is most likely to be overlooked and the ideological that is most likely to be overstated. Most people don’t have well-formed worldviews, and those that do tend to be subject to change. The Ordinary Times commentariat is not normal. And when people have shallow or incomplete worldviews, the gaps are most likely to be filled by the people around them. And if views aren’t, then the views of the players almost certainly are. You’re less likely to fall prey to overly simplistic versions of who “they” are when you’ve spent a lot of time around them in a cooperative environment.

Political science tells us that once people vote for a particular party for a couple of cycles, they become reliable voters for that party. That might seem to contradict the part about not having well-formed worldviews, but in fact it reinforces it. Political parties and loyalties are, as much as anything, a social activity. Political parties change over time, and huge chunks of the party change with them. They often take their cues from party leaders (or somebody), and those views filter down to the rank-and-file. Or they start to spread through the rank-and-file, and it becomes the consensus view. Not because everybody has carefully examined the pros and cons and come to a determination, but because they start hearing, from people they trust, asymmetrical arguments of fact and opinion. Unless there is a strong resistance to the notion, it will as often as not take hold.

Sometimes resistance does occur. Even the most superficial of us are not blank slates. It didn’t matter how much everybody else at the Colosse Review thought that gay marriage was a bad idea. I wasn’t budging. If we’ve spent a good part of our lives sincerely believing something, social pressure is going to be hard-pressed to change our perspective. It can happen, but it’s not terribly likely to happen quickly, if it happens at all. But a lot of views are not especially deep. They’re gut reactions, or immediate self-interest, and subject to persuasion. if, that is, the people around us are attempting to persuade us.

It’s also the case that new issues come on the horizon, and we haven’t even had time to consider them. The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is one such issue. Now, some people are pro-environment and others are pro-energy and come into the discussion with a bias towards one or the other, but few are against all pipelines and few favor pipelines everywhere, so the question of this particular issue is often informed by who we’re talking to. War often works the same way. Some people are naturally dovish, while others are naturally hawkish. And in any given place, we have preconceived ideas at how important it is for us to get involved, or not get involved, in a particular region. But for a lot of us it depends on the details, and the details depend on who we are talking to, who we trust, and what they have to say.

This, of course, is the biggest argument for bundling. If we like and trust Planned Parenthood, then their endorsement of the DAPL protesters becomes enough for us. If we like and trust Planned Parenthood, than what they have to say about Black Lives Matter becomes enough for us. So they do risk alienating Blue Lives Matter folks, and Team Drill Baby Drill, but given their popularity and resources perhaps they can afford to. The DAPL protesters on the other hand are trying to make their case, and maybe it’s best to focus on the task at hand. An alliance with anti-fluoride people could be useful, and everything worked out for them (despite some conflict with the anti-fluoride folks, but it’s more likely to distract. Similarly, one of the head honchos at the Colosse Review became very involved in criminal justice reform as a conservative cause. I follow him because he invited me to Christmas parties when I was 22 and I agree with his cause, and I notice that his organization is meticulously neutral to everything but the task at hand. They took no stance on Trump and lauded Rick Perry’s work on the subject both when he was for and when he was against Trump. He has his cause to pursue, and he wants as many people on board as possible.

So Singal’s and Heaney’s advice is worth considering, up to a point. The more success you have, and the more popular you become (at in the pertinent circle, though preferably outside of it as well), the more you can use your influence for tangential causes that you support. But know when you’re not operating from a position of strength, and focus accordingly. Inclusiveness is not just an ideal, but often a tactical advantage.


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Will Truman is a former professional gearhead who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He also writes fiction, when he finds the time. ...more →

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206 thoughts on “Building a Movement, Socially

  1. Reading this made me think of the differences between the union that has organized my workplace and the union that organized the grad student workers when I was a grad student.

    The union that has organized my workplace does a (in my opinion) very good job of sticking to its last and welcoming what people can bring to it and not forcing too many ideological demands by political endorsements and whatnot. They did make what in my opinion were some false steps of the ideological purity sort, and I dissent from that union because I think unionizing makes more problems than it solves. But for the most part, the union makes the right choices and is generally smart about neutralizing people like me, not through ostracizing, but taking away reasons for me to criticize them.

    The union that organized me and my fellow grad student workers, when I was a grad student, was much different. If you questioned something about what the union was doing, the (paid) organizer’s response was usually something like, “well, form a committee and fix it….it’s your union!” Um, no–that response might work with some people, but not me. And the union was pretty quick to endorse things that were very far from its professed interest in representing graduate students’ interests as employees.

    Both unions seem to have had success. They’re both still around and they have contracts that seem satisfactory to the members. The union contract I work under has in a material sense benefited me enormously, although I fear at too a high price. I do think, though, that in the current anti-public employee union context, the first union I described is better positioned to fight that sentiment.

    ETA: “fight that sentiment” is probably the wrong way to put it. I should have said “survive despite that sentiment.”

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    • I have had similar experiences as with the unions I was part of in the past. Having been part of overtly “political” unions in college and grad school, I find it much more workable to have a union practice what Sam Gompers called “pure unionism.” The minute your union is involved in politics not directly related to the day to day business of its members, you are going to make for division. Now that I am a member of a teacher union, I wish the state organ of my organization would stick to school-specific issues.

      Having said that, there is a long history of unions fighting for greater social change. Standing in solidarity with other workers around the world in their struggles for justice has been a positive force.

      So I guess I don’t know how I feel about this.

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      • What the IWW did with the Free Speech fights and their general social radicalism during the early 20th century in contrast to the Samuel Gomper’s approach. A lot of people find the “pure unionism” approach very unsatisfying because it suggests that people are fine with things as they are for the most part. The people who want more activist unions want a big reform or revolution of the entire system rather than better pay, benefits, and working conditions for members of the union plus anything else that might relate to the field like opposing charter schools for teacher’s unions.

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        • I think it depends on what the union is getting activist about. A machinist union getting political about animal rights seems odd, but getting vocal about international trade deals could be very topical.

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          • Yeah, if you’re looking at trade — that’s still in line with your general model — “we help our workers”. (of course, by the same token, the KKK would be in line as well, if repulsive to think about).

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      • Unsurprisingly, I agree. I should add that while my own union plays (in my opinion) a very smart game, it’s larger affiliate plays a game similar to what I imagine your teacher’s union plays. Every time an election rolls around, we get glossy pamphlets telling us how to vote, for example.

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        • When I built cars I was a member of the UAW. I was told by my father to expect some “hostility” by the union guys since I drove a Honda at the time, and was “a college boy”.

          Other than some ribbing, I got “stay in school, you don’t want to do this for a living” from the majority of the people there were very industrious, often having second jobs or their own businesses (catering or such). I found that there were a LOT of folks who had major problems with the UAW, unions in general, and were Reagan voters. It was a fascinating experience. I heard stories about parties on the roof (with booze and women), folks casually dropping cars from high up to the floor, drug use, etc. The facility had a “guy” who’d cash your check and ran the private lottery. Another guy brought in out of state cigs and had a collection of pens, lighters, reading glasses, etc. he’d sell if you wanted them. I was also told, that “I was ok for a white boy”.

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            • Well, my dad spent years in HR as a union negotiator, so he did have a perspective reflective of some rough battles I expect. I received either a neutral, or fairly positive response from my presence. The job was somewhat interesting, but the people were very interesting. I found it fascinating.

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        • To be clear, I don’t have strong objections to a union endorsing some candidates over others (although I think it gets us into sticky territory). My main problem with those glossy pamphlets is that they leave no room for discussion. Perhaps if the union published its pamphlets/newsletters with maybe one or two counterpoints from union members who felt differently from the majority, I’d feel better disposed.

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  2. Ideological bundling can also kick the Left in the ass at times. Many liberals believe that the protests against Iraq II were not as effective or broad-based as they could be because of ideologically bundling. What started as a protest to stop a particular war ended up being about so many leftist causes that it scared away a lot of people. Sometimes staying strictly on message is a good thing.

    The Further Left also has a long history of having its ideological demands kick them in the ass. Many Leftist positions require an extraordinary high degree of consensus to carry out in practice. The demand for ideological purity stems from this. There is also a strong dualistic vision in the Left, a sharp divide between good and evil and don’t you dare find yourself on the wrong side of the line. When Saul posted Freddie’s article on cultural appropriation, one of the commentators said that a white man named DeBoer has no right commenting on cultural appropriation because its a Dutch name and the Dutch were some of the worst imperialists. Instead he should sit back and listen to disadvantaged people. When pointed out that this is not how people operate, the poster doubled down. He or she really seemed to believe her point.

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  3. A frequent debate on LGM is whether or not politicians really need to believe in liberal causes in their heart of hearts or whether it is sufficient for them to support the right policies for whatever reason. The more pragmatic people say it doesn’t matter what a politician really believes but more than a few really think its important that sincere belief be there because otherwise a politician could abandon liberalism if it is opportune to do so. We had a similar debates about voters in the wake of the 2016 Presidential election. Many just wanted the Democratic Party to abandon any attempts to get the white working class to vote for them because they will never be into Social Justice/Identity Politics enough and others believed that we need some of them to vote for the Democratic Party because of demographics and even if they aren’t really into Social Justice/Identity Politics they should still be allowed in. The reason why ideological purity is important to the Left is because it is seen as insurance by some and a way to make sure the right decisions are made in perpetuity.

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  4. People who do “research” on Astroturf and delude themselves into thinking they’re working with actual causes need to rethink what they’re researching.

    The left is being deliberately poisoned by the Powers that Be, and any research that doesn’t take that into account isn’t doing anyone a lick of good.

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  5. I’ve heard it said that “a person can’t feel passionately about that which he doesn’t experience personally“.

    A lot of my liberal history has been involvement in issues which didn’t affect many of us liberals directly. 3rd World labor injustices, abstracted environmental issues, issues affecting other people in other places.

    For better or worse, the conservative capture of government has moved actual paycheck issues, life or death health care issues to front and center.

    Paul Ryan isn’t talking about taking away someone else’s Medicare, he’s talking about mine, the health care I am relying on in 10 years time. Offshoring and automation aren’t coming for someone else’s job, its coming for mine, my wife’s job, my son and daughter’s paychecks are under threat.

    In the other thread Jaybird and I were discussing how to market the liberal message, and I mentioned I don’t have a surefire clever marketing campaign to appeal to my counterparts in Kansas or Michigan.

    But all I can do is express my honest heartfelt conviction that we are all under attack, our paychecks and income is threatened by these large global forces that don’t have a simple fix.

    As much as this election turned on social issues and identity, I think the pressure- the personal financial pressure and anxiety of job loss is going to provide an opening, a glue that will weld very disparate political factions together.
    If Trump has proved one thing, its that those Rust Belt voters are eager for a government that will take direct action, aggressive intervention in the economy to help them.

    Or so I hope.

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  6. I believe your account, Will. I reckon you honest and thorough. I expect that it is not a unique snowflake.

    And, you’re speaking of a political movement that gave us “RINO” and “cuckservative”. It sounds like “cuckservative” is meant to describe the sort of people you mention. Perhaps Trumpism doesn’t represent conservatives (there’s a good case to make that he isn’t conservative). But the conservatives that are visible to me are all taking victory laps. But Trump pressed his case so effectively by loudly and forcefully denouncing people as “other”. This is how he gained both attention and trust. It has the opposite effect on me, but that’s ok, I was never the target of that rhetoric.

    I’d like to believe and trust your narrative. After all, you are describing my program. It’s just that my program has got so little traction that I am on the brink of despair, looking down at the primeval lava that fills Mt. Orodruin, and wondering where my ring has got to.

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    • It’s not that the movement as a whole is inclusive, but that ground level operations often tend to be. The Colosse Review, YAF, pro-life organizations, etc. Even higher up in some of these organizations. Higher up even in a lot of media (though obviously not all). Where things get locked down are when it comes to the electeds (and conspicuous appointeds).

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      • Right. I think there’s a whole lot to be said for organizing around purpose rather than organizing around identity. And the left has done far too much of the latter, but I know some groups that appear to be learning this lesson.

        I’m not sure what’s going on here. Why should the standard-bearing group for tolerance and inclusion be so bad at the nuts-and-bolts of it? And vice-versa? How do we get more congruent on this? What’s in the way?

        I don’t know, but I want to share a story. I spent a lot of sweat and emotion in a discussion the other day on other social media with an acquaintance who had feeling of betrayal. By me. We were discussing a Vox piece with the title “the case for normalizing Trump” The title, as is so often true, was clickbaity and not very good. The piece advocated for a political strategy that would focus on what Trump actually does, and whether his policies are actually having a beneficial effect, whilst ignoring the circus he’s always stirring up.

        To my friend, this felt like throwing him, and people he cared about, under the bus, because of the rhetoric. I wonder now, is this a common dynamic? Do we pledge allegiance to so many things because so many of our allies find it so hard to trust people? (For the record, I think the difficulties a POC might have in trusting a white person, like me, have been fully earned by other white people).

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        • These seems to be the current trend for Democratic/Left infighting and I think it will continue for the foreseeable future.

          You have people who look at HRC’s defeat and stating that the Democratic Party needs to expand its base and move forward with a broadly populist message. A lot of people seem to read that as throwing their issues under the bus and what is important to them. I don’t know when this infighting will stop. I hope we can unite to prevent the GOP from dismantling everything. But I worry we will not.

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        • The recent riposte from your smarter breed of conservative to arguments about inclusivity and diversity is that diversity of thought is just as or perhaps even more important than diversity of indentity.

          Honestly, I think they have a pretty good point on the matter. The North American politically active left has developed a consensus opinion on apparently every subject which allows every allied interest group to be on board with the collective. But while this consolidates your insiders and most active members, it tends to leave your potential fringe supporters out in the cold.

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    • Another interesting thought. The Vox crowd is generally big on stating that Clinton lost because of racism and/or sexism. I happen to think that this is largely true but the Vox crowd also has an ulterior motive for this. They are largely neo-liberals and firm and adamant believers in free trade uber allies. They go against the rortybomb essay we were discussing yesterday and just want to say there are no more manufacturing jobs for you…

      So they can promote the kind of identity politics but do so to keep the free trade neo-liberalism alive.

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      • If Will’s theory is correct, then a large number of conservatives don’t support Trump out of racism. Could it be that lefties assume that people on the right accept every principle ever voiced by anyone on the right, because they’re more likely to accept every principle ever voiced by anyone on the left? Wouldn’t that thinking lead to the broad over-characterization of conservatives?

        How many times have I seen the conversation that goes like this:
        L: All you conservative think that (X).
        R: No we don’t. All you liberals think that (not X).
        L: Every decent person believes (not X).

        And might this not explain the Haidt observation that conservatives are able to understand the other side’s arguments better than liberals?

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        • You can count me as someone who thinks that a large number of conservatives don’t support Trump out of racism. I think that the number of overt white supremacists in the country is about 5%, maybe 8% tops.

          The thing I find distressing is that Trump’s comments didn’t disqualify him with that large number of conservatives. That whatever else they thought they would get out of him was so damn important that, well, never mind, he can just say whatever he likes about Mexicans and Muslims and trans people and gays and whatever. They’ll still vote for him. They’ll say, “Oh, don’t take him literally”. They’ll say, “Oh, he was just being hyperbolic.” I need you to know that this is personal for me, and it is inescapably personal. He used the identity of people I love as a punching bag, for his political advantage. I’m not about to forgive that, or “not take it literally”. If he didn’t mean it sincerely, that makes it worse.

          To me, that felt like a betrayal on the part of all those Republicans I know and love.

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          • I voted against war. Because you can get over hurt feelings, but you won’t get over a dead body.

            (And yes, you’re still right to be incensed with people voting Trump in the Primary. But, please try to remember — That was HILLARY’s OWN Strategy.)

            So, um, Hillary used the identities of people you love as a punching bag, for her political advantage. You needn’t feel betrayed by the Democrats, but by Hillary’s team? Sure buckets.

            Still a democrat over here, mind, and looking forward to helping get the left back on track.

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            • First, let me say that I agree with the major premise: Hurt feelings are much easier to get over than dead bodies.

              However, I’m stunned. You think Trump is less likely to get into a war than Hillary is? Do I understand you right? He’s gonna pull out of Syria and stop the drone killings and whatever else?

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              • Have you not met Kim? She thinks AI’s live on the internet. Until Trump won, Trump was a Clinton catspaw run to make Clinton look better, so she could lead us into…something something WWIII something.

                On many subjects Kim is channeling information from someplace that makes Bizarro world look normal.

                Clinton seems to move her up to 11 or so, with extra tin-foil.

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              • Dr. Jay,
                I know someone who works for Hillary (helped run her campaign, helped punish people on her Enemies List). He said that she had basically gone bonkers (after around March or so), and that she was likely to respond intemperately to deliberate provocation. As in a 1 in 3 shot of a limited nuclear war within her first 200 days.

                First Democratic Woman President — you think someone’s not going to rattle her chain, just to see if she’ll back down? She wouldn’t — wasn’t in that state of mind. She’d overreact.

                This is a person whose campaign decided to claim that RUSSIA stole the e-mails. (Please note, Wikileaks is claiming that their inside source to the DNC is dead. Assassinated. Whatever).

                Trump MAY be forced to stop the drone strikes, if we can get enough lefties together. (Rally the troops, i’ll be the first to sign up). Clinton would never have lost that privilege.

                A hated executive is the quickest and surest ticket to losing executive privileges. (and even then, I’d give it less than fifty fifty).

                Trump is less likely to get into a war.

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                    • To be fair, he wasn’t the one screaming at walls for extended periods of time — rather than campaigning
                      Or getting the secret service to break mirrors when she lost.

                      But what about that time that Donald Trump assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, starting WWI?

                      How does *that* compare with the fact that Hillary Clinton is secretly the granddaughter of Hitler?

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              • You think Trump is less likely to get into a war than Hillary is? Do I understand you right? He’s gonna pull out of Syria and stop the drone killings and whatever else?

                There was a time, early in his bid for the nomination, that I thought so. I don’t think so anymore.

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          • I agree with a lot of your comment. But that’s been repeatedly discussed, and it will be for the next 4 years and a lot longer. I find the subject of this article much more interesting. I can tell you that no pro-life group I’ve ever been a part of would think of sharing their mailing list with the NRA or linking to an anti-AGW site. We’re the party of the three-legged stool, and we accept that most people aren’t going to feel equally passionate about all three legs. The idea that the Dems expect uniformity is pretty shocking to me. I’m wondering if it explains their ability to get turnout for rallies for every cause, and if it explains their lack of detailed knowledge about some of the causes they espouse (how’s that for polite phrasing?). I’ve got to think about this a lot more.

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            • Like I’m talking about with elsewhere, it isn’t that the Dems expect uniformity, it’s that a very loud, very unyielding, and frankly very abusive minority expect conformity, and they use social media as a megawatt megaphone.

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              • Twitter really isn’t the thing, except maybe as a symptom. The right has a lot, too. The asymmetry, if there is one, is that the people on the left (even if better behaved) are organizers under their real names and bylines and cred and the people on the right are more likely to be lone wolf types and keyboard cowboys who probably don’t get out much. And/or some rando who didn’t exist two years ago. Not always, but those are the tendencies.

                If I go to some liberal group, it seems like I’m much more likely to be confronted there by one type more than the other.

                It’s a ground level organization thing.

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                  • Pinky,
                    Astroturf is a faked “grassroots” movement — like those “anti-trump” protests that Clinton had organized to win her the election (as a backup plan). Or like the Teaparty, or BlackLivesMatter.
                    Things that are pushed by the Powers that Be (and often involve paid leaders).

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                    • Oscar,
                      Julian Assange brought up killing — and that was ONE person. I’ve discussed an enemies list, which is a very different story.

                      I’ll occasionally use spyjargon around here, and sure, I might could do a better job of explaining it.

                      But is astroturf really all that foreign a concept?

                      I can start at the beginning, and explain how the KKK and Black Lives Matter are two sides of the same coin — which is, as usual, being spent to distract the masses.

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                      • An astroturf campaign is one that has money but doesn’t have people, so it buys the appearance of support. Are the KKK and BLM hiring people who don’t believe in their causes? They both seem like the exact opposite of astroturf to me: race fanatics who believe what they say and use the threat of violence to cover for the fact that they have no real power.

                        I mean, the whole phrase “deliberately astroturfing the narcissists” doesn’t make a lick of sense. Astroturfing isn’t a transitive verb. You don’t astroturf narcissists. You astroturf. This is more than semantics: astroturfing doesn’t have a selected target.

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                        • If the leadership is bought and paid for, but the rank and file is actionalized mostly by propaganda, will you call the movement as a whole astroturf? I’ll understand if you want to consider the “antitrump protests” and the Black Lives Matter movements differently, due to their longevity.

                          The Powers that Be want a racewar, and they’re busy moving pieces to get it (it’s a grande distraction). They may not exactly control the media, but it’s not terribly difficult for them to get the media to do what they want.

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                          • The term “astroturf” is a play on the term “grass-roots”, which refers to a natural groundswell of support. Astroturf is fake grass. Therefore, astroturf doesn’t refer to the leadership, but to the foot soldiers. If there is a rank and file which is motivated by belief, it’s natural grass roots, not astroturf.

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                            • A grassroots movement is something that springs up organically. Jena’s a great instance. OWS as well, Arab Spring.

                              I won’t call something where people wouldn’t have shown up without paid organization to be grassroots.

                              That means: TeaParty, BLM, etc.

                              If you want to coin a word that isn’t grassroots OR astroturf, I don’t mind using it. I think calling all those movements “brownshirts” is a bit on the nose, though.

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  7. How does the success of building a ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ social movement have to do with recognizing individual agency?

    How does ignoring individual agency result in the ‘good’ or ‘bad’ perception of the movement?

    How does the ignoring of individual agency lead to the build up of equal and opposite social movements?

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  8. Similar to what Doctor Jay says, I’m seeing the same mission creep on the right, with the probable exception of the pro-life/anti-abortion movement.

    The one that springs immediately to mind is the NRA, which used to be GOP leaning (cause that’s where the voters were), but were fine with Democrats that towed the 2nd amendment lion.

    Nowadays, though, they’re much more reflexively pro-Republican.

    And if anything, on pure ideology, the NRA should be more on the side on Black Lives Matter than it is on Blue Lives Matter, but the complete opposite is the case.

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    • I think you’re right about the NRA. I’ve noticed the same thing.

      My original observation (that Miller responded to) was non-partisan. It was only after I read the Singal piece and thought about it that I realized that while BSDI, I don’t think they do it equally. (They may be converging though.)

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      • Wasn’t it Mike Dwyer who wrote a post a while back about the change in the NRA and the hunter culture, that it has grown into a complete cultural identity?

        I see this a lot in other sites and threads, where hatred of “liberals” becomes all-encompassing to where it doesn’t seem grounded in anything more than tribal identity.

        But tribal identity weakens ideology.

        That is, our respective tribes can accept a change in policy, provided it is cloaked in tribal robes.

        Like, does anyone remember how in 2004 I think it was, GWB had the Treasury literally cut a check for $600 to every single taxpayer?
        How many conservatives wailed and sneered at that welfare handout? How many of them rushed to the bank to deposit it?

        Rather than fixate on the hypocrisy, I’m seeing more and more how much room there is for the acceptance of New Deal style government action within the conservative tribe.

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    • In the right social construction of the NRA you see that creep. As far as individuals getting together and open carrying in urban population centers, things move in a different direction.

      Again, we will see division of the social constructors versus the individual constructors, even in the right.

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  9. I think the concept for Planned Parenthood tweeting in favor of the Dakota Access Pipeline is the view on the left that successful coalition building comes from the concept that “an injury to one is an injury to all.”

    I can see the appeal in this logic because I think the Democratic Party and the left more broadly has to hold together much more diverse coalitions and factions and you also have multi-identity issues. There are minorities who are conservative but the GOP and the right-wing doesn’t need to deal with the fact that various minority groups have different needs, wants, and desired policy goals. African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Asian-Americans, and LBGT-Americans might have overlapping or related desires but not all the time and often there can be a direct conflict.

    On the other hand as you note, this can create rigid ideological purity tests and lead to alienation because it eventually becomes impossible to maintain an “injury to one is an injury to all” front. I’ve mentioned the example before of the Los Angeles Bus Riders Union ended up alienating a lot of potential supports because they went out of advocating for transit issues for poor residents of Los Angeles to handing out anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian literature on buses.

    Los Angeles has one of the highest concentration of Jewish-Americans outside of NYC-Metro. It might be the second highest. Many of these voters are liberal and can be brought to care about transit issues. They also tend to be connected and have sway/influence. They are also generally pro-Israel. There is nothing wrong with individual members having pro-Palestinian beliefs but it seems to me that it is a big strategic mishap to speak to this instead of staying on issue.

    The same was true when CUNY students protested high tuition by saying it was the fault of a “Zionist administration.” How does rising tuition get caused by Zionists without going into Protocols of the Elders of Zion territory? To the students realize that they are alienating a lot of potential allies? Do they care?

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  10. The mistake of libertarianism is that it says “okay, from Enlightenment Culture, we need to do (or have the government *NOT* do) the following things to achieve the following goals…”

    And so here we make the same mistake.

    It’s not about building a movement.

    It’s about building the community. In the petri dish of the community is the important work actually done. The people showing up and sharing meals. The people sitting next to each other and cracking jokes. The hugs at the end of the meeting and the affirmation that they’ll be here next week, too.

    You get a community together and it doesn’t matter what the reason is. Anything becomes possible.

    Now, when you start to leverage that community in service to some particular goal (pro-life, pro-gun, whatever), you will have short-term gains for that particular goal and long term costs imposed on the community that made those short-term gains possible.

    Do it often enough, you’ve got people coming up with the term “cuckservatives” (shudder).

    The important part is the creation and maintenance of the petri dish. It’s not about the movement. The movement is the excuse.

    The point is to get people to consistently show up and eat potluck dinners.

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    • My experience with Libertarians suggests that there is a problem of a significant corpus of the activists consisting of people with prickly personalities and insistence upon philosophical and ideological orthodoxy. Ayn Rand disciples and the “marijuana-legalization-is-the-cure-for-literally-every-problem” contingents in particular. The preaching becomes quite boring after a very short time.

      The more diplomatic, socially apt, and generally friendly the people working the front of the house tend to be, the more likely the party inside will grow large.

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      • The more diplomatic, socially apt, and generally friendly the people working the front of the house tend to be, the more likely the party inside will grow large.

        I agree with this.

        But this also seems to indicate that the phenomenon of growing large has little to do with ideology but with the pleasantness of the petri dish.

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        • See: successful churches.

          A church that demands virtuous behavior & condemns those that fail is going to be less attractive to new members than the one that encourages and forgives.

          ETA: Perhaps this is evidence in support of the OP thesis.

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          • Mega-churches.

            My Southern Babtist remnants in the back of my head look at someplace like New Life Church (Christian Singles, Christian Movie Night, Christian Bowling) and think that they’re just a bunch of charlatans who spend more time talking about fun stuff to do together in a wholesome environment than talking about the Blood of Christ and the Grace of God.

            And my old Southern Babtist church might have had 60 people show up on one of the big Sundays.

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            • Well, what we’re dealing with are imprecisions in what we call strict… or where the strict lands.

              You can have strict rules as long as you don’t require people to fulfill all the strict rules just to join.

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            • I’ll echo , how strict are they really? Or perhaps a better metric, how forgiving are they of those who stray/fall from grace?

              This is the problem the Twitter liberals have – one slip up, and you are branded for life unless you endure some humiliating ritual to win back the approval of the mob.

              Catholics confess, say 10 Hail Mary’s, and move on with their day.

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              • People like me have to say 10; but the going rate these days is 3.

                But, on the other hand, Lee is correct… the places where people even bother to line up to get their 3 Hail Mary penances are the ones where the rules are maintained, even strict. And the lines are surprisingly long.

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                    • Fair point. But still, what does it take to get expelled from the community?

                      This is the problem liberals have right now. Those raging twitter mobs are turning a lot of people away before they ever get to the door. No one cares that the twitter mobs are fueled by high schoolers or college students, especially if they don’t feel like the rest of the community will have their back.

                      If the rage-addicted are screaming to burn you, and everyone else is, at best, saying that would be a bad idea because you aren’t made of wood (and trying to prove it by tossing you in the water)…

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                      • It’s not a community. There’s no gatekeepers. There’s nothing to prevent you from naming yourself a member of whatever, and saying whatever you want.

                        It’s not like it’s a one-sided affair — ask the National Review staff how they felt getting hammered with Trump’s own Twitter mobs.

                        It’s just weirdly that “the left” seems to get saddled with their crazies (despite the fact that, by and large, they’re exiled from any actual power) and “the right” doesn’t — despite the fact that Steve Bannon actually exists in his current job.

                        That’s the weird imbalance. “The Left Turns People Off With Their College Twitter Mobs”. And the right’s antisemitic racist Twitter mobs don’t turn people off?

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                        • If you aren’t racist, do the twitter mobs of the right try to excoriate you about your lack of appreciation for white power? Sure, some might, but not enough to care*, and the ones that do tend to go after people of power & influence (re: Milo & Leslie Jones).

                          But if you write or show some behavior that meets whatever definition of racist is du jour, the leftist twitter mobs will descend. Doesn’t matter if they don’t have any real power. You think Justine Scacco cared that everyone going after her was powerless nobodies?

                          It’s shitty, I fully agree. If I could think up a good way for the more moderate left to actively resist such mobs, I’d offer it, but I think that, by & large, the left is also afraid of such people. They just know how to avoid the bullies (and they are bullies, make no mistake).

                          Listen, I lean left, and the twitter mobs (and the people behind them) turn me off from a lot of leftist activism (and from twitter). I have no desire to get mass scolded by people who appear to be unable to understand nuance and tolerate differences of opinion.

                          *Of course, if you are someone like our estimable Veronica, the twitter mobs of the right are a grave concern, and I wish I had a good way to resist them as well. The difference being, they go after a person for who they are, not what they believe. If I express an opinion that Veronica deserves all the rights I enjoy and should be able to fully participate in society with fear or restraint, I might get a few comments; but if I was trans, or gay, I’d be a target for the mob. It may not seem like much of a distinction, but for someone like me (cis-het-white-male), it means I only get it from one side, and over things I (possibly) consider trivial.

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                          • Frankly, I think the world would be better if Twitter died in a fire.

                            That said – as you know, as a cis-het-white-male it takes a lot more for you to ‘get on the radar’ of right-wing twitter idiots. You’ve got…call it protective coloration. And even then, you’re mostly aware that you’re dealing with…idiot college kids whose opinions matter very little to anyone other than themselves at the moment. (Whereas try getting doxxed or harassed by guys with guns. Or having them show up at your Pizza parlor…)

                            But the biggest problem (and leaving aside the NON partisan twitter mobs entirely) goes back to kind of inbred understandings of “numbers” when it comes to people.

                            10,000 angry strangers at the National Mall? We’d roll our eyes. 10,000 angry strangers yelling at you because you’ve won the worst lottery in the world on Twitter? A nightmare.

                            It gets worse, because you don’t need 10,000 people. You need, max, 100 folks that speak your language. 10 in a pinch. They can make it feel like 10,000.

                            It’s easy to get…shouted down, overwhelmed, online by a tiny handful of people. To be convinced those are some large majority of people, representative of something huge…

                            When you’re talking a number of people that wouldn’t fill a movie theater.

                            But there’s no conception of numbers on the internet. 100,000 people turn out to a march in the middle of the day and it “feels the same” as 200 angry people on Twitter organizing together.

                            Maybe a generation that grows up with it will have a better grasp on it.

                            Our guts shout at us that it’s so many, many more people than it actually is.

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                            • I agree with everything you said (including twitter going the way of MySpace). But that 10, or 100 giving you hell or doxxing you for expressing an opinion or sentiment or joke that is no big thing, that is a poison pill that ruins the community for many fence sitters.

                              PS WTF is wrong with people, re: the pizza place?! “I was just going to personally investigate, with a rifle, to see if there is anything hinky going on.”

                              Dude, no, the only thing wrong is you, enjoy your day in court.

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                              • Yeah, it’s a huge problem. But for some reason despite being, as best I can tell, entirely equal opportunity, one side gets to shrug it off as “fringe” and the other is called to the mat for it.

                                And the side that gets the “fringe” excuse is the one with Steve Bannon running things.

                                And in the end, there’s nothing “the left” can do about people online. (Or the right, for that matter). Nothing’s stopping anyone from claiming to represent anything and creating a crapstorm online in the name of…whatever, really.

                                “How come you won’t stop people you don’t know from being mean online!”

                                “Well I can’t. I don’t know them. They’re nobodies. I mean if it was an elected official or something we could kick them out of the party, but they’re just…people. Random people. Shouting online. Sometimes in weird masses, like a verbal fatberg”.

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                                • like a verbal fatberg

                                  OMG! That’s awesome! Disgusting imagery, but awesome all the same.

                                  As to why the left gets called to the mat, my best guess is lefty twitter mobs have a target rich environment and are trigger happy. The righty mobs are scarier, but their targets are less available, and can, as you say, many have protective coloring online, etc.

                                  If we look at this from a “who is more dangerous” POV, the right wins. But if it’s about who hurts the building of a community to support ideological goals through friendly exposure – that minority on the left is busy shooting themselves in the foot.

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                                  • There’s literally nothing anyone can do but shout back.

                                    I mean we’re not talking members of the Blue Dog Democrats, or DLC folks, or the AFL-CIO or anything. There’s no organization. Heck, I’d be shocked if even a fraction were registered for a given party’s primary.

                                    “You should police these people you’re utterly unaffiliated with, except in the way that sometimes they say things that seem like they’re on your side of the ideological fence”.

                                    What? Denounce them? Sure, it won’t make a difference. It won’t stop them, won’t change anything, and won’t stop blame from being apportioned to people who have nothing to do with it and no power over them.

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                                    • I don’t recall saying the left can, or should do something about twitter mobs. That would be like saying we should do something about solar flares.

                                      I’m saying it hurts them. It hurts their ability to create a friendly welcoming environment to gain soft converts. Hell, you can’t even shame the twitter mobs or explain why they are hurting, because many of them are ideologues who don’t want people who are not fully committed to the cause, and the rest just really enjoying their virtue signalling.

                                      It’s a shit sandwich, and you can’t find the mustard or ketchup.

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                                    • Right-twitter and left-twitter are different. Hard to compare, in ways. If I did, I’d say Right-twitter if worse in more ways than otherwise for the uninitiated. Almost all of the people I’ve blocked (a short list) have been right-wing.

                                      But one of the ways where Right-twitter is less bad is that left-twitter is much more of a closed-circuit. If you don’t know much going in, you’re going to have a really hard time understanding a lot of the rules. It’s going to exhaust you trying to keep up, if you try. The likelihood of you unintentionally breaking some norm and getting blocked or trashed is high.

                                      Right-twitter is much easier to understand. If you violate their norms, you’re likely to know you’re doing it. Or you will be informed in language you can understand.

                                      The OT crew is blocked by a fair number of people. Almost all of the blockers are people on the left.

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                                      • Yes but this cycles back to politics — are these people, to be blunt, actually anybody?

                                        If you’re running into problems with Democratic party members, or politicians, or organizers — that’s one thing. If, on the other hand, it’s a bunch of people associated with far-left movements that consider the Democratic party sell-outs and corporate whores (at best) or just random collections of people of vaguely leftish views…

                                        What is, say, the DNC supposed to do with that?

                                        Or me, for instance. I’m liberal. But if PETA does something stupid, what am I supposed to do? Apologize? I’m not a member of PETA. I don’t know anyone who is a member. I’m pretty sure they consider me part of the problem.

                                        That’s kind of the point: “The left has this problem” — who is the left? How do they have a problem? We’re just tossing them all into a giant lump based on the loosest possible association (“Your politics seem on THIS side of center”) — which is like claiming Canada needs to reign in Peru because they’re on the same half of the Earth — and saying “Fix your problems”.

                                        My point is, you know, Canada is not only not Peru, it has no authority over Peru. And telling the average Canadian citizen that people hate Canada because of what some citizens of Peru do….even if that’s true, what’s he supposed to do about it?

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                                        • That gets to a point I made with Oscar below, which is that one difference is that Left-Twitter are actually more likely to be people that are involved at the ground level. Or, at least, more likely to be like those people. The same just isn’t true to the same degree on the right. One set of people is considerably more likely to tweet under their real name, list real organizations and connections in their bio, and so on. The other… gives the impression of not getting out much, going by some variant of Deplorable, no picture, and no history dating back more than a couple of years.

                                          I suspect that if I go to a liberal event, I’m more likely to run into one type of person than another (whether they are on twitter or not). I could be wrong about that, though Don Zeko’s comment suggests that I’m not.

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                                          • I don’t go to a lot of events, and I’m a Texas liberal which is…probably not the same.

                                            That being said, I’m pretty sure if you removed the 14-25 year old crowd from any equation, things get a lot more sensible.

                                            And I’m not speaking of JUST our 14-29 year old crowd. I mean removing the opinions of the 14-25 group from any point throughout history would probably make things more sensible.

                                            Less passionate, which is probably a big loss, but more sensible.

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                              • PS WTF is wrong with people, re: the pizza place?! “I was just going to personally investigate, with a rifle, to see if there is anything hinky going on.”
                                Dude, no, the only thing wrong is you, enjoy your day in court.

                                I have to utterly disagree with this.

                                We live in a world where the right uses a *lot* of emotional language they don’t believe, and has for decades, and has recently started using a lot of supposed *facts* they don’t believe either.

                                As I’ve said before to abortion protesters, if you actually thought that abortion clinics were killing babies, you’d be setting up a rota to *drive cars into their front doors* every night. Or welding their doors shut. Or all sorts of things. Even if you don’t want to resort to violence against *people*, well, there’s an *empty building* there, and there’s plenty of things that you, personally, can do that will stop that clinic for operating for a day or two, and it will just cost you your freedom.

                                You won’t do that? You’ll just stand where you’re legally allowed to stand and yell? You wouldn’t get arrested to SAVE THE LIVES OF BABIES? What sort of monster are you? Or, perhaps, maybe you don’t actually believe the rhetoric you’re spewing?

                                And it’s the same with this goddamn conspiracy theory. People on the right were passing around information about how a *single specific public location* was a child trafficking den for pedophiles.

                                Exactly *one* of them decided to fucking go there and look into it. Yes, he was armed, and that probably was a mistake, granted, but at least no one got hurt, and, honestly, if I was confronting child traffickers I’d want to be armed also.

                                *That* man that got arrested was just *wrong*. He made a mistake, and believed some liars, and tried to save some children.

                                What the *fuck* was everyone else doing? Deliberate horrendous slander of innocent people, or apathy in the fact of child trafficking? You decide!

                                I think the headline, frankly, should be: EVERY SINGLE HUMAN BEING WHO SHARED THIS ARTICLE EXCEPT ONE PERSON DECIDES TO IGNORE CHILD SMUGGLING RING OPERATING IN BASEMENT OF PUBLIC LOCATION

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                                  • I haven’t said Trump is a tyrant, and I don’t particularly believe that to be true.

                                    I think he is so corrupt that the concept of *not* being corrupt doesn’t even occur to him, and I think he’s a manchild in how he acts and responses to people, and I think he’s manifestly unsuited to be president *even if* his policy ideas weren’t really stupid…but I don’t think he’s a ‘tyrant’.

                                    However, even if I did, I fail to see what sort of things I could do that would even inconvenience his tyrannical actions. Ramming my car into the White House fence is unlikely to render the White House unusable for a day, and rendering the White House unusable is not particularly useful at stopped tyranny anyway! (Please note my premise was ‘even if they draw the line at violence against people’, which is basically my line too. And also note that, even if that *wasn’t* the line, there are obvious practical problems with attempting violence in this particular regard.)

                                    Whereas shutting down an abortion clinic for a day, or, even ‘better’, having a rota whereupon the clinic is shut down whenever it’s ready to reopen, could in fact stop some abortions.

                                    If there was some sort of point where I thought *my actions* could stop some baby murder or child trafficking, or, stop some unjust execution, and the outcome to me would just be jail time, yes, there would be a valid question of what I was not doing that.

                                    Please notice the world ‘stop’ is not the same as ‘draw attention to’, and I’m not talking about *protesting*…in fact, I’m specifically dumping on protesting as logical thing to be doing towards *baby murder*. I’m talking about obvious, concrete actions that could legitimately stop the process for some amount of time.

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                                    • However, even if I did, I fail to see what sort of things I could do that would even inconvenience his tyrannical actions.

                                      I have a handful of movies that I could recommend.

                                      Please note my premise was ‘even if they draw the line at violence against people’, which is basically my line too. And also note that, even if that *wasn’t* the line, there are obvious practical problems with attempting violence in this particular regard.

                                      Oh, so you don’t have the strength of your convictions.

                                      Fair enough.

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                                      • I have a handful of movies that I could recommend.

                                        Yes, movies, the sanest methods to figure out how to assassinate the president.

                                        Oh, so you don’t have the strength of your convictions.

                                        My convictions are, as I said, that he’s *not a tyrant*. Not in any actual sense of tyrant.

                                        Perhaps you should be having this discussion with someone who actually claims Trump is going to start killing people.

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                                • Is there some number of people we need to kill in order to prove our intellectual consistency? I’d hate to get the number wrong… one is too few but twenty is too many? After we do, do we win? Are you convinced? Is this what we’ve been missing? Just give us a number and I’ll see what we can do.

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                                  • Is there some number of people we need to kill in order to prove our intellectual consistency? I’d hate to get the number wrong… one is too few but twenty is too many? After we do, do we win? Are you convinced? Is this what we’ve been missing? Just give us a number and I’ll see what we can do.

                                    Is everyone here on drugs?

                                    I *specific*, very very very specifically, said that I understand not resorting to violence against people. I could not have possibly been clearer.

                                    And, yes, if you think babies are being murdered, there are, *in fact*, specific things you need to do to stop that from happening. (Or you are, in fact, a sociopath.)

                                    Minimum actions include sabotage of the building in which babies are being murdered. Bomb threats. (Not actual bombs, although you might consider the IRA-style ‘putting a bomb there and telling everyone about it’.) Parking vehicles so that no one can access the building. Driving big rigs *into* the empty building.

                                    Hell, just *forming barriers across the sidewalk* in violation of the law.

                                    If those people screaming outside abortion clinics truly believed women were walking into those buildings to murder babies, if I actually thought they believed their rhetoric, they would be *monsters* for *standing behind goddamn lines painted on sidewalks*.

                                    But they don’t believe it. They do not actually think that abortion is murder. They just use that as a rhetoric device.

                                    If there was a building near *my* house where I knew innocent people were getting murdered every day, you damn well better believe I would be doing *something* about it.

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                                    • David,
                                      so, are you just not looking?
                                      I’m certain we can quantify the number of people killed by intentional drug overdoses (fentanyl variety).
                                      I’m certain we can find out where the drugs are being packaged.

                                      Are you blind, or are you willing to let them die because they asked for it?

                                      (and we’re not even getting into the “killing children” angle, as I’m really not going to suggest you take on assassins, even incompetent ones that make snuff porn).

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                                • David,
                                  Where I come from, you don’t go anywhere near the sex trafficking places. You get photos, and you send them to the police.
                                  Of course, I’m not fucking stupid enough to go after Bill Clinton’s racket (which, of course, has absolutely butt-all to do with pizza places. He’s a goddamn former president of the United States!).
                                  There’s a phrase…. “too big to fail…”
                                  Ya know? Donald Trump called off the “let’s go prosecute Hillary” for a reason, ya know.

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                                • I agree that the fake news conspiracy-mongering is bad enough that I hope the business not only sues for libel & defamation, but also for some manner of public endangerment.

                                  That said, the rest of your comment flies in the face of the social contract you yourself have voiced support for. You can’t be upset with people for not engaging in vigilante acts of violence or vandalism, and then use that as a basis to discredit their position.

                                  If it is good & proper for people to work within the system to cause change, then those who decide to take police powers into their own hands (outside of the narrow confines of legitimate self defense) are breaking the contract. Alternatively, the contract is bunk and merely a tool of the powerful to maintain power, and people should be free to pursue justice by whatever means they can.

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                                  • Oscar,
                                    People I trust should be free to pursue justice by whatever means they deem necessary. People I don’t trust? Well, they might be crazy. Or irrational enough to like getting blood everywhere.

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                                  • That said, the rest of your comment flies in the face of the social contract you yourself have voiced support for. You can’t be upset with people for not engaging in vigilante acts of violence or vandalism, and then use that as a basis to discredit their position.

                                    Social contracts fly out the window when society allows the murder or abuse of babies.

                                    I wonder if anyone here remembers my comments that I would be perfectly fine with society classifying human traffickers the same as pirates, aka, ‘it’s okay to murder them on sight’. Slavers are outside the social contract. (The only qualm is, of course, mistaken classification, which is why I wasn’t entirely serious about that as actual law. But it should be, like, an affirmative defense. ‘Why did you kill him?’ ‘He owned a slave.’ ‘Okay then. You’re free to go.’)

                                    Well, let me state the corollary to that: If society accepts completely outrageous behavior such as slavery or the mass murder of innocent people, fuck the social contract. If the trains full of Jews are running on the rail road tracks near by house, I’m hopefully going to be out there dismantling the rails. (Assuming I can do it in a manner that just makes the trains stop and not derail. Whatever.)

                                    If not, feel free to condemn *me*.

                                    (And let’s not get into the whole ‘People base their ethics off society’. Yes, if I were raised in actual Nazi Germany, I probably wouldn’t do that. I like to think I would, but I wouldn’t. But that hypothetical is not important here: This current society, that we’re actually in, absolutely does frown on baby murder.)

                                    If it is good & proper for people to work within the system to cause change, then those who decide to take police powers into their own hands (outside of the narrow confines of legitimate self defense) are breaking the contract. Alternatively, the contract is bunk and merely a tool of the powerful to maintain power, and people should be free to pursue justice by whatever means they can.

                                    I am not sure how you are disagreeing with me. Those *are* the two possibilities. Nicely stated.

                                    If you believe we live in a world where the US government demands that everyone allow baby murdering clinics to operate openly, for 40 years, you *really really* should have moved to the second option at this point.

                                    If I thought that US government had openly allowed murder for 40 years, and was going to continue it for the foreseeable future, killing half a million babes a year, I sure as hell wouldn’t be working within the system. There is a certain point where working within the system isn’t…hey, wait!

                                    You’re confusing the issue. The people protesting outside abortion clinics aren’t working within the system either! This has no interaction with ‘the system’ at all. The way to work within the system would be to go into politics or law and try to change the actual setup. Or, hell, protesting in *Washington* or at local statehouses. How much this ‘working within the system’ would work is unknown, but that is what it looks like.

                                    What ‘protesting’ outside abortion clinics is attempting to slightly reduce the amount of abortions by direct action. As in, discourage women from seeking abortions. They are choosing to do that *within the law*, but that’s not the same thing as trying to accomplish political goals ‘within the system’, because they are not attempting any political goals with that.

                                    It is one thing to attempt *political goals* outside the law. That is bribery or extortion or voter fraud or terrorism or any of the many other ways people can behave, stuff we really frown on.

                                    It is another thing to attempt to *save someone’s life* outside the law.

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                                    • David,
                                      So some kids voluntarily chose to leave American Detention Centers in order to be slaves in Mexico. Does this mean you need to start shooting Americans? Or only Mexicans?

                                      Private prisons work as a decent analogue for slavery, for that matter. (Ditto “forestry camps”?)

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                                    • Plenty to digest here, but you hit the crux of it right here:

                                      The only qualm is, of course, mistaken classification, which is why I wasn’t entirely serious about that as actual law. But it should be, like, an affirmative defense. ‘Why did you kill him?’ ‘He owned a slave.’ ‘Okay then. You’re free to go.’

                                      I mean, owning a slave, or trafficking in slaves, or openly raping a child, is an easy mark, but there is still a great deal of consternation over such extra-judicial acts. It’s not an argument I’d make casually.

                                      Still, I get your overall point about the rhetoric. If a person truly thought such evil was happening, they should engage & break the law. Much like abolitionists and the underground railroad did at one time. Such rhetoric has consequences, and lucky for the purveyors of such, we have been staunchly conditioned to consider such extra judicial action as criminal, or terrorism.

                                      Perhaps I wasn’t so far off when I said the system exists to secure power…

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        • [T]he phenomenon of growing large has little to do with ideology but with the pleasantness of the petri dish.

          Yes indeedy that’s exactly what it implies. Politics is about people, feelings and belonging and team-building. And money. Sweet, sweet, money.

          The ideologues can go hash it out with the subject matter experts at the policy workshops. That’s ultimately not a big part of what this politics business is all about.

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  11. Speaking of these issues which I brought up above, the Atlantic has a great essay on the contradictions in whether Jews are white or not in the United States and world:

    https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/12/are-jews-white/509453/

    On the extreme right, Jews are seen as impure—a faux-white race that has tainted America. And on the extreme left, Jews are seen as part of a white-majority establishment that seeks to dominate people of color. Taken together, these attacks raise an interesting question: Are Jews white?

    “Jewish identity in American is inherently paradoxical and contradictory,” said Eric Goldstein, an associate professor of history at Emory University. “What you have is a group that was historically considered, and considered itself, an outsider group, a persecuted minority. In the space of two generations, they’ve become one of the most successful, integrated groups in American society—by many accounts, part of the establishment. And there’s a lot of dissonance between those two positions.”

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    • This sums up the complexity of Jews racial status in the United States. Activists on both sides of the conflict have a very dualistic world view and Jews aren’t easy to classify as white or as of color.

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      • Asians are next. They already get discriminated against in college admissions, and they don’t count as diversity in tech. They get a little slack from the left for being visibly non-white, but being a high-earning ethnic group is a sin that can only be overlooked for so long.

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      • That’s going to leave Jews in a place where we can be screwed frequently. The Far Right will place towards people of color but the people of color but the Far Left do not need to let us into their group because we are white.

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        • Lee,
          How often the Jews put themselves in places where they can be screwed?!
          Whose Idea was it to take over that particular segment of the financial system?
          (disclaimer: of course it wasn’t someone’s idea! Natural evolution of risk takers entering a staid business climate).
          Whose idea was it to piss off the edge of the diving board?
          (I blame bibi — just because he’s convenient).

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          • Popehat has something called the “goat maxim.” It goes something like this:

            There are people who will say, “Sure, I’m f[ish]ing a goat, but I’m doing it ironically.” They are, however, still f[ish]ing a goat. Whether your motive is sincere or ironic, you’re still a goatf[ish]her.

            Similarly, ironic, frivolous, or even “light-hearted” anti-Semitism is still anti-Semitism. And there needs to not be any of it at Ordinary Times. Jewishness is relevant as a descriptor of a shared cultural experience, a faith tradition, as an indicator of being on the receiving end of thousands-year-old tradition of utterly undeserved oppression and discrimination. Stereotypes like “Jews control the media” are as benign as “Asians are good at math” or “Blacks run faster than whites,” which is to say, not benign at all. Even ironically.

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            • What, do I need to post the math on this one? Seriously, it’s one thing to talk about generalizations, and a different thing to talk about stereotypes. WASPy businesses wouldn’t hire jews. As a result, Jews started their own financial companies. This is not controversial, is it? (if it is, I can cite sources) Because certain niches were already being served well, the Jewish companies specialized in particular, risky business models. (Ahem. Financial Companies think “risky” is a little different than say, what a lawyer thinks is risky.)

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        • I just think the idea that people (individually or collectively) are one thing always and only problematic. I understand the rationale to resist getting middled like this — especially for a group that has such a terrifying history of being abused and oppressed — but if something is true, well, it’s true… no?

          In a way that is similar but also very, very, VERY different, I feel this sense of being “middled” as an Italian-American. No one would ever mistake me — phenotypically, culturally, or otherwise — as anything other than white. And yet the experience of Italian-Americans is different than that of other white/European groups in America due in large part to when they came to be considered white. There are many elements of white culture that remain fairly foreign to me in large part because they were aspects of society that Italians were excluded from. Those walls are largely gone but the cultural legacy of being excluded from those things means there are varying experiences of whiteness in America… another truth we often deny (sometimes with good intent and sometimes due to ignorance).

          When I think about the many Jewish people I’ve gotten to know — ranging from my bat mitzvahed ex with a Swedish protestant mother to the Haredi neighbors I had in Monroe, NY — I see times where their experiences very much parallel those of other groups of white Americans and times where their experiences are anything but.

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          • Kazzy,
            ” There are many elements of white culture that remain fairly foreign to me in large part because they were aspects of society that Italians were excluded from.”

            …Details?

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    • On this topic, I posted this on Facebook:

      For trans folks, someone came up with the idea of “provisional cis privilege” instead of “passing privilege” — which, let’s set aside the never ending series of “privileges” and how silly that gets. In any case, the idea is, if you can manage to live stealth, you can bypass much of the bullshit that non-stealth, and in particular non-cis-conforming, trans folks must endure. But all the same, it is a provisional privilege. It can evaporate in a moment, if you’re revealed. Furthermore, you have to listen to all the bullshit said about trans folks, by cis folks who do not realize their words target you.

      I think something similar might operate for Jewish people and whiteness. Sure, in some contexts, Jewish people are basically white. But then, that is geographically constrained. It is one thing to be Jewish in Manhattan. But that doesn’t mean you can just jump in your car and drive anywhere in the USA and expect your Jewishness not to burden you. Plus, you just never know when you’ll encounter some rotten antisemitism. This “privilege” can vanish in a heartbeat.

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  12. For all that I’ve resisted a lot of the circular firing stuff about identity politics on the left since the election, I do agree that this is a problem for a lot of organizing on my side of the aisle. When HB2 passed this spring, my little brother got me to go with him to a protest in front of the Governor’s Mansion run by Black Lives Matter, which turned out to be done in perhaps the most alienating way possible for people that weren’t already converted. They literally asked the people in attendance to stand in concentric circles in order of privilege, with trans people of color in the center and lame white cishet folks like myself on the outside. Then they proceeded to talk about basically every lefty cause other than the ones directly related to HB2, repeated the phrase “trans people of color” a lot, since presumably HB2 didn’t do anything to white trans folks or gay folks, and did their level best to cause a nasty confrontation with the very polite, very professional police that broke things up after they blocked a street for about an hour and a half. I didn’t leave feeling very kindly toward the priorities or tactics of the activists running the whole thing.

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    • Wow. Can’t you just imagine the brainstorming session resulting in that being decided upon as a good idea. And was someone who was trans-and-white inside or outside the circle of the people who were not-white-but-also-not-trans? Who got to decide how to tier those levels of privilege?

      Instead of a sign that reads “#BLM Opposes HB2” or maybe “Human Rights For Everyone”? Simpler is better.

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      • Exactly! HB2 was such a barrage of bad policy it needed an inclusive message that tied diverse opponents together. Heck, I was mentally composing just such a message while I listened to these BLM blowhards alienate people and hijack the proceedings to be entirely about their hobbyhorses. Fortunately they weren’t the only organization protesting

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    • @burt-likko

      That sounds like a lefty protest!!

      IIRC BLM works under the theory that people should be made uncomfortable by their privilege or whatever you want to call it. They are not in the “wear our Sunday best and prove we are good bourgeois” kind of civil rights protest. They are “how can you enjoy brunch when kids like Tamir Rice are being killed” kind of activists.

      Jaybird used to write about how Gamergate gave him a sense that Trump could win. I can tell you that from my observations on various parts of the left that people are really angry. They are angry that it is seemingly impossible to get a conviction when a police officer kills a black person. They are angry that you can vote for Trump but be absolved of bigotry (see Morat above). Lots of people are angry and if you look at LGM, I think they find the idea of conversion impossible. Lines are drawn so critiquing a way of protesting merely signals being close to the enemy.

      Anger also leads to inchoateness.

      The protest seemed based on visibility but also protection perhaps. Don Zeko was a human shield inadvertently

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      • If they don’t believe in convincing others, how do they expect to get what they want? Do they expect their opponents and neutral people to just magically disappear or give them what they want if they protest enough?

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        • They expect a magical day of reckoning when one morning everyone wakes up and fully embraces the entire intersectionality dogma in its most vulgar form. It’s more like religion than politics.

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          • I suspect that this is how they see the world to based on my past interactions with them online. Some of the Social Justice crowd really does seem to believe that if you make enough speeches and do enough activities like the concentric circles of privilege that there will be a day of great understanding when people convert to their cosmology. The fantasy politics article makes a lot of sense.

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      • BLM benefits from and suffers from the leaderless structure that made OWS famous.
        The weakness is that they lack message discipline and experienced leadership.

        Just about any political organizer could have predicted what a shitshow the concentric circles of privilege thing would be, but without a hierarchy and effective discipline, there as no way to stop the idiots who bray the loudest from taking over.

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        • Chip,
          Ya-huh. BLM is a movement, like the Tea Party, that has been actionalized (yes, neologism. ask me if you don’t get it) by television. Astroturf, in other words — pushed by the Powers that Be.
          (the movement people who were around before the television made it An Issue — they’re different).

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    • This protests reminds me of this essay from 2002 that argued that 9/11 was meant to be a fantasy rather than an act of war. These protests aren’t really meant to convince people or do anything but to make the organizers of the protests feel good about themselves. In the essay, the author points to an Anti-Vietnam protest that involved disturbing the commutes of people in Washington, DC. When pointed out that this wasn’t going to turn people against the Vietnam War, the organizers said that they knew this but it was good for their soul.

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    • — On this:

      “…lame white cishet folks like myself…”

      Did anyone utter these words? Were you described as “lame” or any other pejorative? Was anyone hostile toward you?

      Do you have any idea the demographic makeup of the crowd? (Keep in mind that people tend to overestimate diversity. In other words, they’ll see a meeting with 18 white men and 1 black guy, 1 white woman, and perhaps a couple Asian dudes as being “diverse”, despite the fact that an objective count would show white men are dominant.)

      Do you have any experience in attending an event that is, ostensibly, about issues that touch you personally, only to find that you are wildly outnumbered by people who do not deal with the issue personally? If everyone gets “equal voice,” that means that those affected will get drowned out by those who are not affected.

      I have experienced this. It is exhausting.

      Do you need to be centered? Do you understand that their is a natural tendency for majority groups to “capture” events and organizations that represent minorities? Furthermore, can you imagine that the people organizing that event probably have long experience with this?

      Can you approach politics with a no ego and a “beginner’s mind”?

      Is it enough to lend your “weight” to an issue, without having to speak-over or stand-out or be-recognized?

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      • Both you and Don are right. Your right in how majority groups tend to capture minority events and organizations. Don is right in that when your trying to get the majority group to change than you need to convince them of the justice of your cause or at least for pragmatic adoption of your cause. Routinely arguing that the majority group is evil per se is not the way to do this. Its why less militant minority groups tend to gain many more victories than more militant minority groups.

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        • Speaking as a straight, white male — there comes a weird point when you realize this group/event/setting isn’t about you and that can come as a shock.

          Because, you know, most things are. Most big budget movies? Aimed at me. Most mass market events? aimed at me.

          Until fairly recently, I occupied the intersection of “money/# of people/people who mattered”.

          Knowing that intellectually is far different from the first time you experience a major event that really isn’t about straight white males (in my case). You’re…superfluous. Not unwanted, but…unnecessary.

          Which is quite an unusual feeling the first time. Hopefully developed my sense of empathy a bit, though.

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          • “How did the rest of the people vote?”

            “Well, they voted for the guy who put together a campaign that was about them.”

            Edit: Though this narrative is confounded somewhat by the transphobic governor losing re-election.

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            • I find it interesting that you take my own personal reaction, which was not at all negative, to realizing I was at a (non-political in this case) even that did not cater to me, or the other “obvious” choice in my experience (white women).

              At no point did I feel unwelcome.

              It was just the undeniable realization that this was something revolving around a culture and set of experiences that were both mainstream, yet very far from where I lived (metaphorically). Something I’d known, but not really experienced so vividly.

              Do you find the idea that the world doesn’t revolve around you upsetting? An America where the default player isn’t “white male/white female”?

              If you don’t find that deeply upsetting, you’d have had a good time. If you do, well, you wouldn’t have. And not because anyone said anything or was trying to prove a point. It was just how it was.

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              • Geezus fucking crispies, let us drop a truth bomb here.

                It is certainly reasonable to discuss strategy, and how “the left” [1] can better sell its message. However, THAT IS NOT THE CONVERSATION WE ARE HAVING.

                That is the conversation we are pretending to have. Let us cut the shit. Let us be honest. Please, be honest.

                There is a fuckton of white fragility out there. Likewise there is a fuckton of male fragility. A lot. Scads. An enormous amount —

                — enough that it put a clown like Donald-Fucking-Trump in the white house. This is tragic. It is America’s original sin.

                And it is thick on this forum, even among the so-called “liberals” and “leftists” here. After all, most of you are white (or white-passing). Most of you are men.

                This thread is very little about an honest exploration of strategy and very much about thin-skinned whites-and-or-males expressing their fragility, expressing their frustration that contemporary leftism has taken to challenging these things. However, these challenged are not in the “separatist” sense that emerged in the 1970’s, as women, queers, and minorities realized that the white dudes who ran the counterculture were just as sexist and racist as the crunchy old fucks who worked for Nixon.

                So we pass through the second wave and beyond, learn to struggle with the interactions between identity and radicalism and solidarity and rejections of “pulling up the ladder behind you” and so on. “Intersectionality” develops, but like any movement it means different things to different people. Plus honestly, there is still plenty of separatism out there. After all, it is the only thing that keeps some of us from suicide.

                — and then we get social media and the “SJWs” and gamergate — except basically gamergate can win a national election now —

                And it all sucks. Fine. Sometimes people are smug. Sometimes they are bigots. Pick which you think is worse.

                But privilege is real and communicating these things is hard, and if we have to choose between truth-telling and resentment-selling, I choose truth.

                But resentment-selling wins elections. This thread shows why.

                [1] except I’m a liberal, not a leftist

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                • I’ll start listening to your truth bombs when you can start policing the SJWs so they aren’t lying on national television.

                  I mean, seriously, this isn’t me calling on you to police the internet (That’s illegal). This is me saying “Gee, lying on air is probably NOT the way to get people on your side.”

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                • It isn’t about fragility or thin skin, it’s about time, energy, & frankly, patience; as in, if your movement can not stay focused and present a coherent & consistent message & goal(s), the amount of any of those I will be willing to dedicate to your cause will be extremely limited. Not because I don’t think your cause is just, but because have very limited supplies of all three & I am going to make sure I dedicate them to something that has the clear potential to get shit done.

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                  • I think fragility has a place in this discussion, because loss of privilege is a rather painful process. Even if no-one is taking it away from you, even if it’s just the natural movement of social demographics, losing it is unpleasant.

                    It causes backlash.

                    I once witnessed a conversation between a group of women. They were talking, a guy came up to them and joined in. Except he had no real interest in what they were talking about, and kept trying to change the topic to one he did. They kept switching back, he left. Clearly annoyed.

                    His opinion of the women was…far different….than if it had been a conversation of men.

                    I doubt the disparity in responses crossed his mind. It’s not like he was sexist. He was just used to a different response. One that catered to him.

                    Failing to do so felt like a rude rejection, even though — from the outside — this was him trying to butt into an established conversation and change the topic to suit himself.

                    I only noticed this, at the time, because my wife pointed it out to me. I’d never call that man sexist. He didn’t think about it in those terms. He didn’t even notice it in those terms. And neither would I, had it not been pointed out to me..

                    In terms of the nation, this can be a pretty good analogy. Random SJW’s crying on twitter aren’t the issue. The issue is the metaphorical group of women are no longer allowing the conversation change because ‘it’s polite’.

                    You don’t need a SJW to make the man feel he’s been insulted. The pattern change makes him feel that way.

                    Which leads to the problem: The metaphorical group of women have every right to, you know, continue their conversation rather than catering to him. His feelings of being rejected and that they’re being rude are very real, even if — from the outside — they’re clearly misaimed.

                    And trying to explain, however gently, to him the outside viewpoint is….often futile. Any therapist will tell you that upset and unhappy people are rarely open to alternative points of view, especially ones that conflict with their POV.

                    In the end, metaphorically letting the women have their conversation means hurt feelings for the man. Even if they’re really polite about it, they’re still breaking the pattern of deference.

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                    • morat20,
                      Sometimes loss of privilege causes butthurt, sure.
                      Sometimes people simply adjust. In this case, you see a deliberate clash of normative rules.
                      You take a black family moving into an all white neighborhood? Often, you get significantly less butthurt (if any at all — the anecdotal stuff I’m thinking about had all the “butthurt worrying” done before the people actually showed up — as if black people honestly meant “gangbangers”), and you’re still losing “privilege”.

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                    • — I would say the man in your story is sexist, and obviously so.

                      But let’s talk about that. He’s probably not sexist in the “system two; slow, deliberate thought” sense, but instead in the “system one, unconscious assumptions sense” [1]. Which means, it is hard work to unpack these assumptions. It is unpleasant. However, it is part of him, and indeed it is sexist.

                      I don’t know a good way to talk about this stuff. But it is real.

                      #####

                      Your median Trump voter was not some rebel-flag-waving hillbilly. It was a white guy from the exurbs with an above average income. This guy won’t claim to be racist, but he is the sort who hates “diversity training” and will begin conversations with his white friends by saying, “I don’t mean to sound racist, but…” Likewise he probably doesn’t spout open “men’s rights” bullshit. But he’s privately resentful of attractive women. He loves his wife. He claims to like strong, independent women. He probably watched Buffy. That said, he feels privately uncomfortable when he encounters women stronger than him, independent of him.

                      He craves the moral praise that comes from being a good, open-minded fella. However, he still things gender should work the way it works in his favorite books. He still thinks race should be hidden, and racism is something that involves hoods and nooses and lunch counters in the south — not him.

                      He’s probably a nice enough guy, I suppose, but he’s painfully naive.

                      [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dual_process_theory#Systems

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                      • What an excellent comment.
                        I just wanted to say — your median trump voter, particularly in the Midwest, didn’t have much hope that Trump would do anything particularly helpful. These are the people he won for outflanking Hillary on the left (tariffs and protectionism are lefty things, union things).

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                      • Well yeah, he certainly is sexist. But not in the “slap a coworker on the butt” way, which is the only ‘allowable’ way to call someone sexist.

                        Somewhere between cultural and unconscious bias.

                        And god help you if you call him on it.

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                        • Which, in a perfect world, is an argument for calling our actions rather than people. In practice, though, vanishingly few people doing even slightly racist/sexist/trans-phobic things will be willing to hear that distinction and try to improve themselves.

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                      • What if half the group would have found his interjection appealing and started to engage? Would it matter that he was rude because his topic overcame the threshold of interest required to overcome the amount of rudeness?

                        Is it rude to interrupt or interject? Who decides that? What if the norm is half the time the group just let’s him in and half the time the group rejects him? Why was the groups agency weighted more than the individuals?

                        What is happening here is social objectivity is dynamically loaded and the response to that load varies. What really bothers me about the liberal factions position is they have a crystal clear perspective about what social objectivity is the most correct at any given time.

                        This isn’t a swing at all liberals, just the ones engaged in claiming social objectivity.

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                        • — I’ll answer your questions as best I can.

                          What if half the group would have found his interjection appealing and started to engage?

                          Then the other half would have been mildly annoyed, and the conversation would play out as many boorish conversations do. Perhaps the parties split up. Perhaps we get one of those weirdly dysfunctional social situations. It depends on the personalities involved.

                          Would it matter that he was rude because his topic overcame the threshold of interest required to overcome the amount of rudeness?

                          Social calibration is a complicated topic. However, if you interrupt something interesting with something more interesting — well what does that look like? Is it time critical? Then interrupt away. Was the conversation lagging? Did the participants look bored? Did you join the conversation in a respectful way? There are a thousand variations.

                          Is it rude to interrupt or interject?

                          Usually, yes.

                          Who decides that?

                          It doesn’t work that way. Do you have any social experience at all?

                          What if the norm is half the time the group just let’s him in and half the time the group rejects him?

                          That is not the norm. I don’t know what that would be like. It sounds weird.

                          Why was the groups agency weighted more than the individuals?

                          I don’t know. Social stuff is complicated.

                          #####

                          The point to understand is this: Boorishness certainly exists in ever gendered permutation. However, there are certain gendered patterns that occur often, which are in many way invisible to men, but readily apparent to women.

                          There is a reason the Men Explain Things To Me essay was a hit. Women said, “OMG YES THIS!” Men (some men) grumbled.

                          Women can talk to each other about what they experience, discuss whether they like it or not. We can examine how social power works, and decide what role we play in that matrix. Men likewise will discuss their roles. People will play the elaborate social dance.

                          Identity groups exist. For some they are a ubiquitous fact of life. Now certainly I’ve been in social settings where the fact I am visibly transgender didn’t seem to matter much, but such social settings are rare and tenuous. The fact is, things like race, gender, accent, etc., profoundly effect how we treat each other. (Utopia doesn’t exist.) In other words, a social theory built on the notion that all people are unmarked agents has very little application in the world.

                          Those of us who operate within a frequently marked identity will, quite bluntly, have to navigate a world of shit that those usually unmarked will not.

                          And “markedness” is not a strict binary. There are certainly cases where the standard white-cis-st8-man is marked compared to others, but for most white-cis-str8-men in the United States, these are quite rare, avoidable, and can be regarded as a “quirky anecdote” (“this one time…”) rather than a never ending burden.

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                          • I suppose a more succinct way to explain privilege (and why losing it, even ever so slowly and gently) is so unpleasant.

                            When you have it, the world bends to accommodate you. When you don’t, you must bend to accommodate the world.

                            Now, most people I would say experience both, but it’s the sudden realization that you’re having to accommodate things in a situation where you didn’t before that accounts for the discomfort and often anger.

                            “I want things to back to how they were before! When it was BETTER”.

                            I don’t doubt it. I would too in your shoes.

                            Which is where you find a great deal of anger — the world changes, and in a way that forces you to change. To make deals, make accommodations, that you never had to do before — or even to think about.

                            And you can find that anywhere from the remotest rural community to the top of the ivory tower.

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                          • This is pretty good, but still I would take this as Veronicas view of social objectivity, because when I ask the same questions of someone else I will get different answers, and that doesn’t really bother me, answers will vary. What gets shaky is the differences in frame of reference, and starting points. The social objectivity really starts moving around.

                            The markedness is different for everyone as is the social norms and the dance. Horse apples around, every turn, but how do we get to the point that social objectivity doesn’t make demons of us all?

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                            • — I guess we turn to Nagel. There is no true “view from nowhere,” not that we can fully occupy. That said, certainly it is possible for one person to have a broader perspective than another person. Likewise it is obviously possible (and sadly commonplace) for someone to believe their perspective is more broad than it actually is.

                              In any event, we have social science (be it ever so flawed) and plenty of anecdote. Certainly gendered social dynamics are real, as are racial dynamics, etc. They are hard to simplify. Aphorisms that gesture toward the truth are never the entire truth, which is to say, something like “men fear women will laugh at them; women fear men will kill them” is true in a way, except I’m physically tougher than 90% of the men I deal with, and I know men who were physically abused by women. So it goes.

                              That said, I still get frightened when I’m on the subway and some creepy guy gives me that “look.” (Most women know the “look.” I suspect most men do not.) It means I am about to be harassed in an unpleasant way. Its mere presence, just the “look” alone, invades my psychological space. I must react, even if that reaction is to ignore the man in an obvious way.

                              But see, I’m not really ignoring him. I cannot. That alone is an affront to his ego, so I keep a weather eye. Most women know this dance.

                              #####

                              Is he being “rude”?

                              #####

                              I don’t know what it is like to be black in America. I can read stuff black people have written. From that, given enough variety, I might get a sense. I dunno. Empathy is neither perfectly impossible nor trivially achieved.

                              I am clever. But what happens when I encounter a black woman who is more clever, whose perspective exceeds mine? Would I even know?

                              One thing that I bet is commonplace: a smart black women is accustomed to having her perspective dismissed because she is black and female, by people who will claim that race and gender play no role in their thinking, but they do.

                              However, few will admit that. And she is probably wrong sometimes, attributing something to racism that was not. But she doesn’t have to be right 100% of the time to have a point.

                              I know what is like to be a white person in this situation, when I did not intend to be racist, but a black person took racial offense at something I did. It is not pleasant.

                              That said, if I show you a video of such an encounter, which party will you more naturally empathize with?

                              I suppose that might depend on how it is filmed, what “viewpoint” the director of the video took. But let us imagine a fairly neutral viewpoint. (It is possible.)

                              I doubt you would remain perfectly objective. I bet, to some degree, you will (kinda automatically) “take a side.”

                              Which side? Why?

                              A few times I’ve thought someone was doing something transphobic, which later when I learned more I realized was not. That said, I’m surely right a lot. There is a ton of transphobia out there.

                              #####

                              Perhaps each of us should accept we will be accused of racism sometimes, even when we did not intend to be racist. Also we should be willing to see how, even if we have good intentions, maybe there is some racial hierarchy present in the situation, that the accuser is responding to a real shit sandwich.

                              You might get a long way if you can think to yourself, “Yeah, if I had to deal with the pressures she faces, and cannot avoid, I’d be pretty pissed off too.”

                              #####

                              If I were Kim Davis, I would wake up and stop being a bigot. If I were black, I’d have to deal with being black — ain’t much I could do to fix that.

                              It is there we break the symmetry.

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                              • v,
                                The view from nowhere is understanding the functional perspective, the game itself, the strategies people use — and why they do them.

                                Of course, one still needs evidence for ones views, but understanding the hows and the whys is a different way to gain perspective.

                                Particularly when self-report is so ineffectual. I mean, really, this whole thing about privilege, and shutting the fuck up and listening — it’s all about self-report, right?

                                If you don’t understand Black Lives Matter through the lens of Race War, well, you’re missing out on significant portions of propaganda, and will probably underestimate the opposition who is enabling your movement. [This is not to say that we don’t have a problem with police. But this movement isn’t Jena. In fact,it looks suspiciously different from Jena.]

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                              • I hold no viewpoint, even my own, as neutral. Justice or empathy carry the lense of subjectivity. So this is the way I meet society, a person at a time, each with their own objectivity.

                                I often think this is the forgotten metal of the liberal faction. Through asymmetrical exchanges of our own individual humanity, we suffer or enjoy each other. Through parsing and partitioning we divide.

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                                • — Fair enough, if it works for you. I’ll drop a section here, which happens to be from the White Fragility essay, but is not specifically about “fragility” as such:

                                  Whites are taught to see their perspectives as objective and representative of reality (McIntosh, 1988). The belief in objectivity, coupled with positioning white people as outside of culture (and thus the norm for humanity), allows whites to view themselves as universal humans who can represent all of human experience. This is evidenced through an unracialized identity or location, which functions as a kind of blindness; an inability to think about Whiteness as an identity or as a “state” of being that would or could have an impact on one’s life. In this position, Whiteness is not recognized or named by white people, and a universal reference point is assumed. White people are just people. Within this construction, whites can represent humanity, while people of color, who are never just people but always most particularly black people, Asian people, etc., can only represent their own racialized experiences (Dyer, 1992).

                                  The discourse of universalism functions similarly to the discourse of individualism but instead of declaring that we all need to see each other as individuals (everyone is different), the person declares that we all need to see each other as human beings (everyone is the same). Of course we are all humans, and I do not critique universalism in general, but when applied to racism, universalism functions to deny the significance of race and the advantages of being white. Further, universalism assumes that whites and people of color have the same realities, the same experiences in the same contexts (i.e. I feel comfortable in this majority white classroom, so you must too), the same responses from others, and assumes that the same doors are open to all. Acknowledging racism as a system of privilege conferred on whites challenges claims to universalism.

                                  Obviously one can say similar (but not identical) things about sexuality, gender, class, etc.

                                  #####

                                  Have you read Finite and Infinite Games? You strike me as the sort of person who might like it, at least to a degree.

                                  I’m pretty sure Carse would dismiss identity politics as a kind of “self veiling,” which perhaps it is. But then, Carse is the sort who will acknowledge material oppression, only to dismiss it and move on to his point. Which fine. But this is limited. We can acknowledge that the slave clings to their life of bondage, instead of choosing a life of brief, brutal terror as they are whipped to death.

                                  Yes, there is a choice. Carse insists on that. He calls it a kind of “freedom.”

                                  Indeed it is. I choose to live openly transgender, to go into public (for example on mass transit in the rougher parts of Boston) without fear. This is factual.

                                  The “self veiling” is when I treat my gender as a pre-societal essence. That would be an error. However, identity politics requires no such thing. My transness cannot be separated from my social context.

                                  My point: there are brief moments when I can totally eclipse the limitations of my identity. They are precious and wonderful. But I cannot take them for granted, because I am social. Other people matter. They effect me. Systems matter. Most people are “self veiled.” Most people see me as “trans first, human second.” Our society is structured in such a way that these are the default, low effort perspectives. I have to deal with that.

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                      • I’m late to this subthread (which I think is an excellent discussion, by the way), but I just wanted to chime in and say the guy you describe is pretty much like me. There are some exceptions. I’m not a Trump voter, and I’m probably a little less naive by virtue of the fact that I realize what you say applies to me. But for the most part, what you describe are similar to my thought processes and feelings.

                        Thanks for writing this (and thanks for your other comments in this subthread).

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                • But privilege is real and communicating these things is hard, and if we have to choose between truth-telling and resentment-selling, I choose truth.

                  Let me start by saying I generally agree with you. But a significant portion of the country not only does not agree with you, but finds the other side to be doing the actual truth telling while liberals are the ones selling racial resentment. Because whether it’s white fragility or not, the fact of the matter is that the way (some) liberals talk about these issues has turned off many potential allies.

                  I mean if a conservative protest put people in concentric circles of ‘Americaness’ or some such silliness, with white men on the inside, we would all agree that they are sending a message to the Trans POC on the outside and that it’s not a particularly effective message to send if your trying to bring those people around to your side. Saying as much isn’t necessarily evidence of white fragility.

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              • It’s one thing to see Heroes, and to understand that you’re no longer looking at an American-only Audience.
                That’s not exclusionary, even if some of the jokes only made sense in the original Japanese.

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          • I do think that a lot of the current reactionary backlash, especially in fannish communities, is because the makers of video games, comic books, etc. are discovering that there is a huge and largely untapped market in fan communities among women and/or people of color. It is no longer white boys in their treehouses and safe space basements.

            That being said, politics and policy stuck and often involve changing hearts and minds of people who are skeptical of your claims. Such protest actions are not going to convince a lot of people.

            What people seem to want is an impossible world of perfect justice.

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          • “there comes a weird point when you realize this group/event/setting isn’t about you”

            ah-heh.

            “cishet white males are required to stand in a specific place” is not at all the same thing as “not about you”.

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          • Morat20: Speaking as a straight, white male — there comes a weird point when you realize this group/event/setting isn’t about you and that can come as a shock.

            Eh? It wouldn’t occur to me to expect an event to be about me, unless it was literally about me personally, like my birthday party. I’ve been to plenty of events and been involved in groups where there were few if any other straight white men, but I never felt anything like what you’re describing here.

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      • nobody used those words; they were my own facetious editorializing. What the organizers asked was for everyone to arrange themselves in concentric circles with trans POC in the center, then trans white people and cis POC, then cis white people. I didn’t have a problem with them making a point of giving trans folks the loudspeaker at all. But asking people to arrange themselves like this seemed incredibly likely to make marginal white folks, whose support is absolutely critically necessary to win elections in NC, feel like they were bring excluded from the event and that their support wasn’t wanted. I’m sure that wasn’t the intent of the organizers, but come on. The point of the protest is to help create change, and this was (predictably) not helping.

        As to the diversity of the group, I don’t remember extremely well; this was months ago. I’d say it was probably 100-200 people, maybe a third to a half POC, with something like a dozen trans folks in the center of the circle.

        I’d also reiterate that the people with the loudspeakers were often talking about anything but HB2. Mass incarceration and police brutality are very important issues, sure. So is the israeli-palestinian conflict. But they have nothing to do with the cause of this protest, a particular law passed by the NC state government, and yet they got extensive discussion. The same goes for people that yelled “fuck the police” at the courteous, respectful cops that eventually arrested the people that decided to engage in civil disobedience and get arrested when they refused to clear the road. I’m not saying that these were bad people in any way, but you’ve got to be real with yourself about how effective this is at persuasion.

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        • And , I want to be clear that none of this is about my substantive disagreement with them. I’ve learned a lot from your posts here and I appreciate you as a commenter. I have been 100% appalled by HB2 from the start; I’ve argued with my bigot relatives in favor of trans rights, and I stayed at this protest and held a sign and chanted along. I was unhappy precisely because I thought that the protest wasn’t helping, and that with a savvier and better disciplined approach it could have done far more to move the ball.

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        • This is a classic leftist fantasy politics protest. They were talking about every grievance under the sun rather than the topic on hand and the protest was designed to make the organizers feel good about themselves and their souls rather than to effectuate change. The protests against Iraq II would have been more successful in the sense of bringing together more people if they kept on message rather than rattling off on everything under the sun.

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          • I hadn’t thought about it in a long time but your comment reminded me of an anti-war rally I went to in college where a substantial amount of time was spent on factory farming. Not saying that isn’t a subject worthy of debate but at the time it struck me as totally bizarre. And this was of course back before anyone had heard of safe spaces and identity politics were at a very low ebb compared to now.

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            • That sounds like every single lefty protest I went to including a protest in NYC during the 2004 RNC.

              This is where I think the left is too broad and is hindered by a lack of anti-authoritarian attitudes and non-hierarchal association. The protests against the RNC in 2004 had everything from fairly center-left Democrats with well-reasoned arguments against Iraq II (think Obama’s critique of Iraq II) to anarchist types who looked like professional squatters and with politics designed to appeal to less than one percent of the American population. It also included allowing everyone to have their pet issue on placards.

              Conservative protests tend to be about one subject at a time. The anti-tax protest remains an anti-tax protest. The anti-abortion protest remains an anti-abortion protest.

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              • I think you’re correct and it’s quite frustrating. I think those tendencies kept Occupy Wall Street from channeling enthusiasm into reform of the financial sector and I think it’s starting to harm the credibility of BLM. The more these movements get caught up in arcane ultra lefty causes the easier they become to dismiss as agitators and hippies disconnected from reality.

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                • The thing that struck me about most of OWS is that it seemed from Day One it was controlled/dominated by alternative-looking people. Maybe in a just world, this would not be a concern but we don’t live by a just world. The image I have of an OWS person is of someone with weird hair, punk or hippie clothing, and multiple body piercings screaming against Wall Street and the evils of Capitalism.

                  In short, these are people who would have never worked on Wall Street for a billion years.

                  Now OWS could have been effective if they went for radically different optics. What if they talked about a elementary-school teacher (perfectly respectable looking) lost her job and/or home while some banker got a big bonus and spent it on Champagne. That is good optics but something happened to the left and they don’t want to wear their Sunday best anymore and find it offensive and morally repugnant if you suggest doing so might help.

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                  • it’s the corporate scum I’ve become talking but optics matter. It isnt entirely fair but the pitch needed to be from people who looked like the kid next door, did things mostly right, yet was stuck with mountains of student loan debt. It seems like during the civil rights movement in the 60s activist organizations got very good at controlling their images to make themselves sympathetic to mainstream, uncommitted Americans. Something of that has been lost.

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                    • Social Media has clear downsides.

                      I imagine that a 100% fully sympathetic press would be able to take pictures of the photogenic students holding hands in a prayer circle, the fresh-faced activist passionately speaking into the microphone, and the multicultural beautiful people holding a banner as they march peacefully… and ignore the protesters wearing keffiyehs, holding “FREE MUMIA” signs, or making giant paper mâché heads.

                      Now that everybody carries a camera with them at all times and posts the footage to youtube… well you’re going to see it all. Including the embarrassing footage.

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                    • – Not to get into the larger argument, but this isn’t actually true.

                      What actually happened was that LBJ won a big enough landslide because the GOP nominated Goldwater that as a result, there was a big enough coalition of Northern Republican’s (who already believed in Civil Rights) and Northern Democrat’s (who already believed in Civil Rights) that they could get past a Southern filibuster.

                      62% of white people in America said that black people were treated equally in 1963. In 1967 it was 75%.

                      In 1964 most white Americans believed that mass demonstrations for racial equality were actually hurtful to black Americans’ cause.

                      In 1966 that number had risen to 85%.

                      http://www.crmvet.org/docs/60s_crm_public-opinion.pdf
                      http://media.gallup.com/GPTB/specialReports/sr010711.PDF

                      Black people never convinced the median white American.

                      They convinced white people with power who decided to take the political backlash.

                      Your average White American was saying the same things about the CRM in 1964 despite their politeness that White Americans are now saying about BLM.

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                      • Accepting the above as true, it just demonstrates another problem with modern protest movements. Most of them spend too much time in the more theatrical aspects of politics rather than getting people who agree with them elected into office. Actual policy change happens through the legislatures and executive offices and courts and not through protest. If the above is true we need more electoral politics and less protest politics.

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                        • They convinced white people with power who decided to take the political backlash.

                          What the civil right protesters *actually* did was show rich and powerful white people is that black people would not go back to ‘their place’. It was the threat of a general strike, the threat that black people would forever just be wandering around in the street screwing up traffic, which presumably leads to wandering mobs looting grocery stores and everyone squatting in random houses and buildings.

                          Black people basically threatened to stop participating in society *at all*. And you can’t have 10% of the population suddenly refusing to participate in society, just sorta wandering the streets aimlessly…and actually *have* a society. (1)

                          Hell, black people were breaking things earlier just *refusing to ride the bus*. Seriously. People often do not realize *quite* how fragile the system we have built is, and that if even a *small* number of people stop playing along, it breaks.

                          When 10% of the nation stops playing along, especially if it’s the 10% of the nation that has been doing the gruntwork and also happens to live in major cities where disruptions have much more impact…

                          So they convinced the rich and powerful that they had enough people with them to break the system, and the rich conceded, and forced the politicians to concede.

                          1) Before anyone asks, criminals do participate in society. They rent apartments, they buy food, etc.


                          Actual policy change happens through the legislatures and executive offices and courts and not through protest. If the above is true we need more electoral politics and less protest politics.

                          Actual policy change, not to be too cynical about it, happens because either a legislator is interested in said policy change, or a rich person or a lobbyist can *make* them interested in it.

                          Which means if actual protest movements are going to accomplish anything, they have to cause real pain.

                          I’m not saying this is the best way of doing things. Honestly, the best way of doing things is to convince one of the super-rich and letting them spend 100 million to make it happen.

                          I’m just saying if someone wants to use protest as a tool, that protest has to *impact rich people* in some manner, or it is completely pointless.

                          EDIT: And, of course, by ‘the rich conceded’, I mean ‘the rich then immediately sent their children to private schools and spent the two next decades trying to argue states rights about that, and set up their own little whites-only enclaves’. The rich conceded civil rights, if you will, on behalf of the *poor*. Not for *them*.

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                          • I don’t think your reply to Jesse is right. By the late 1940s, elite whites were coming to a consensus that it was time to put an end to American segregation. This consensus was motivated by liberal idealism, horror at Nazism taking racism to the ultimate conclusion, and cynical real politics. Many Cold Warriors saw Jim Crow as America writing propaganda for the Communists. It was at this time that Hollywood started to show African-Americans

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                    • This whole post and thread can be summed up by optics matter and you are right and wrong about the 1960s. In the 1950s to mid-60s, the big thing that the Civil Rights Movement did was have everyone dress up in their Sunday Best. No jeans or overalls even for the Freedom Riders. You always wore your Sunday Best.

                      Sometime in the 1960s, this changed and you got the hippies and the Nixonian backlash began at the same time. You also had the Watts Riots on TV.

                      I’m not that particularly a radical person. I don’t have tattoos or piercings and have no desire to get them. I like living in rather mainstream or even upscale accommodations. Burning Man offers nothing to me. I’m not interested in the DIY or what ever alternative community there is. I am pretty bourgeois.

                      The thing I see in a lot of alternative/DIY communities is that they think they are the best thing ever.

                      Which is exactly what we are talking about here. I’m sympathetic to the idea that Dakota Access Pipeline should not be built near or on tribal lands. I’m not anti-pipeline though and I am going to roll my eyes if you post a meme about how we all need nature and money is just bad. Money is an incredibly useful concept that makes the exchange of goods easier.

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                    • My guess is that the Bohemian/Revolutionary elements of the Left became prominent in the 1960s because of the Counter-Culture and romantic attraction to the anti-colonial movements. A certain loathing of middle class norms always existed in Leftist circles. The Left was able to suppress this at times but the parts of the Left that grew to dominance during the mid to late 1960s were the parts most hostile to middle class norms. Second waive feminists, the early LGBT movement, and company would not be into the Sunday Best mode of operation.

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              • I’m starting to suspect that many politically conscious center-left types have a story about how they either got curious or had a friend invite them or cared enough for a cause to show up for one of these things. Then this stuff happens and they make a decision to not get involved like that every again.

                Mine was the global warming event that was mostly about aboriginal rights, repression of third worlders by evil corporations, ending industrial society and bashing Stephen Harper. Carbon dioxide was pretty much incidental to the whole thing.

                There is a pretty core failing in that the people who run these things don’t grok that you can come to support that particular cause through a completely different viewpoint than your own. Since BLM is topical, I note how there are low-hanging libertarians out there that can be riled up about government jack-booted thugs on the subject of police brutality that they completely failed to build bridges with. I remember back in 2015 when Rand Paul was BLM curious.

                Maybe its because for the left-wing set, activism is more about a lifestyle than tangible goals that they seek permanent coaltions for permanent revolution rather than building ad hoc alliances on an issue by issue basis. The people leading the other causes are your friends and social circle and you all go to each others events because that’s what you do.

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