Tuesday, March 22, 2011

In Reply: Treat people as individuals, not tribe members. Punish the guilty, and praise the good.

In reply to the following comment from "Assistant Village Idiot, at Lee Stranahan's "Why I’m Writing About Lockstep Liberalism" post.
Repsac3, you are articulate, thoughtful, and sound even-handed. And I think you are putting enormous energy into convincing yourself of something that isn’t so. That is as easy for intelligent people to do as unintelligent – no, actually it’s easier."

I have certainly encountered fools and fanatics on the right, and there are sites I don’t bother to go to, or commenters I no longer engage on sites I do visit. But as for whether it is about even-up among the various political groups in terms of viciousness, it’s not even close. I gradually came off the left years ago, work in a liberal-dominated field, and look like the stereotypical aging hippie. I am unintentionally undercover, and liberals just come and tell me things. In my other life, I attend a mainstream-evangelical bridge church and blog as a “postliberal.” So conservatives come and tell me things also. And libertarians and communitarians. Greens, not so much for some reason. I must not quite look the part.

Liberals, both online and live, are more likely to say insulting, vicious, and bigoted things. I’m thinking 80-20.

That you cited not having the time or inclination to do an exact count, and effectively dismissed all other data as biased anecdote because the claimant had not sought such data is quite telling. It is an effective shield against hearing anything you don’t like on the subject. That you spend time on whether Lee is a real liberal and offer hypotheses without evidence for why liberals resent his claims more than they might only reinforces this. You are playing chess against yourself, and can choose which side wins in this argument.
My replies (revised and extended from the LeeStranahan.com comment):

@Assistant Village Idiot

As articulate and thoughtful as you obviously are, I hope you don't believe that your ability to anticipate my reply argument, that you're offering nothing more than very possibly biased anecdotal evidence, in any way negates the veracity of that reply argument.

I mean, I could very easily make similar claims. In my experiences with conservatives I have seen--and frequently been the target of--all manner of invective, along with specious allegations of racism, bigotry, unmanliness (Either by "femininity as slur," or "homosexuality as slur"), criminal behavior... All from conservatives, and generally the result of challenging them to back what they say with supporting evidence, or to measure political "friend" and "foe" with the same yardstick.

It's all true, every word. I can't go as high as 80/20, but 60/40 for sure, and maybe even 65/35.

But no matter how earnestly and confidently I present my case, I cannot imagine your response being anything other than some version of "anecdotal testimony is a far cry from empirical proof, but thanks for playing." And of course, you'd be absolutely correct.

So, unless you're saying that you would not dismiss my narrative, and would instead proclaim that I've met the burden of proof as to which political tribe is really better/worse, I don't really understand why you believe I shouldn't dismiss yours, using the same criteria.

The question is over the data, AVI... Either anecdotal evidence is sufficient, or it isn't. But as I said above, whatever scale we choose, we use the same one. Your anecdotes are no more sufficient than mine, and mine are no less sufficient than yours.

I suspect you'd find yourself using a very similar shield to the one you accuse me of using.

"That you spend time on whether Lee is a real liberal and offer hypotheses without evidence for why liberals resent his claims more than they might only reinforces this."
So after trying to deflect my replying to you with a call for evidence rather than anecdote, you now call for evidence from me? Very interesting...

I have no evidence, only the hypothesis. But to be fair, it wasn't simply a hypothesis as to why liberals might be kinda peeved about a guy speaking conservative positions being billed as a liberal, it was a hypothesis as to why any political tribe might be peeved about having someone rumored to be one of their own, but spouting the "other" tribe's verbiage, tossed back at 'em. It wasn't specific to Lee or even to liberals. Look up the right wing reaction to David Frum, for example. David Brock at MediaMatters used to be a movement conservative... There's currently a little pushback against Scott Baker for not towing the con line on O'Keefe and his home movies.

It is just a hypothesis, but there are some data points in support of it, from both the liberal and the conservative side, AVI. Whether justified or not, folks feel betrayed...

As for whether or not Lee is a liberal, I've come to the conclusion folks are liberal and conservative, depending on the issue in front of 'em. So, yes, Lee has expressed liberal thoughts and opinions. And, he's expressed conservative ones, as well. This is one of his more conservative posts... ...and I daresay, most of his more recent verbiage, here and elsewhere, is in the same vein. What that makes him, I don't know, except to say I'm not so sure that any of us ARE any one ideology. We are the ideas we express, and we're not locked in to any one ideology. We say what we think and feel, and folks'll judge us and attach labels based on our words and deeds, for better or worse.

Posted March 22, 2011 at 8:35 am, LS blog time

As I was moving it over here, I noticed a line that I'd missed replying to, but that really bugged me, and so:


My point, AVI, isn't to even things up. It's to say that I think folks (including you, if I may be so bold as to say) waste a whole lot of time and energy trying to convince themselves and others that one political tribe is objectively worse than the other, that the tribe that's objectively worse is the one that they don't belong to, and that it really makes a damned bit of difference which side is "worse," in the first place.

When you find a liberal/conservative that is misbehaving (whether with rudeness, bigotry, hatefulness, violence, lying, ..., ...) deal with that one liberal/conservative. Expose them. Try to set them straight. Ignore them. Avoid them. But don't generalize their behavior to the others in their political tribe, any more than you would generalize those behaviors to the others in their racial tribe, or their religious tribe, or their ethnic tribe. It's bigotry, and it's neither good nor just.
(If you don't believe me, try substituting the race/religion/gender/ethnicity you are for the word "liberal" in some of the comments that appear in this thread, and imagine them being said by a person of a different race/religion/gender/ethnicity than you.

"So you have discovered that Christians are unscrupulous b@stards?"

"There is no mind more closed than the American Female mind."

"I, for one, have rarely had an honest debate with a Black Person on the internet."

"Judaism is a stunted religious philosophy the tenets of which cannot stand up to analysis. Just a fact."

And there's plenty more to choose from... Pick your comment, and go to town.)

I mean, I know that all the conservatives here take great pains to note that Liberal Lee Stranahan is one of the few good ones, but I still fail to see how you can post all these generalizations about how liberals, lie, and are more violent, and more closed-minded, and on and on, while still insisting that Lee is a member of the liberal tribe. Even if he's the only "good" liberal, isn't his being a liberal proof that your generalizations lack a certain degree of veracity... or that Lee has you snookered?

Of course, I don't understand Lee, either. Even though y'all are saying such sweet things about him personally, I can't imagine that, being a liberal, he's not the least bit offended by what you folks are saying about liberals in general. Does he really believe that he ever was a violent, lying, closed-minded so-n-so, or that those liberals he calls friends still are?

All this generalization is for the birds, if ya ask me... Treat people as individuals, not tribe members. Punish the guilty, and praise the good. Addendum over.

Posted March 22, 2011 at 9:20 am, LS blog time

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