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September 20, 2010

Political “moderation” isn’t moderate
Posted by Patrick at 07:50 AM *

I disagree with Glenn Greenwald often enough, but he’s dead right about this. The premise of Jon Stewart’s “Million Moderate March” is vacuous. There’s no inherent virtue in political “moderation.” The “moderates” weren’t the ones who were right about whether we should have marched into Iraq; it was the so-called extremist peaceniks who had it right from the start. The “moderates” aren’t the ones who are right about the priority we should be giving to the threat of global climate change; again, the people who are correct on this issue are labelled as “extremists.” And contrary to Jon Stewart’s foolish assertion, while it may be “moderate” to reject charges that the Bush Administration committed war crimes, it’s also wrong. Because in fact they committed war crimes. (Nor are the current administration’s hands much cleaner on this score, and those who point this out continue to be marginalized.)

There are many senses in which “moderation” is a virtue. We should generally strive for equinamity in our dealings with one another. Courtesy, extending the benefit of the doubt, eschewing extreme rhetoric when it isn’t necessary—these are all things that make human social life possible. But as a term in politics, “moderate” has come to mean something quite orthogonal to all of this. When Jon Stewart claims a parallel between the racism of the “tea party” movement and its insane alternate-world beliefs (Obama is a Kenyan-born Muslim Stalinist, etc) and the idea that the Bush administration committed war crimes, what he’s promoting is a “moderation” that is about nothing more than identifying the range of socially-acceptable beliefs and planting one’s self safely in the center of that range. It has nothing to do with discerning or respecting the truth, and everything to do with assuring one’s social status. In that sense it is radically self-centered—not actually “moderate” at all.

Comments on Political "moderation" isn't moderate:
#1 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 07:54 AM:

Being moderate is no guarantee that you're right. It's just a strategy for limiting how wrong you can look afterward.

#2 ::: jdb ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 08:23 AM:

That may be true, but the purpose of the “Million Moderate March” is to take the mantle of sanity for the Democrats and paint them as a contrast to the 'extremist' Republicans, who do things like fight against social security, take money from the poor and give it to the rich, and start unwinnable foreign wars.

Battles are won by seizing the center of the field. We're not going to get anything we want if we don't win.

#3 ::: Remus Shepherd ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 09:53 AM:

You're correct, Patrick, about of all those specific political issues. But there is a value to moderation, even when the right course of action is clear. Extremists may be one hundred percent correct, but the remedies they insist upon may be impossible to enact no matter how much they stamp their feet.

The moderate course is to mix the idealism and clear thinking of the extremists (the correct extremists!) with the pragmatism of the center, so we can find solutions that are both helpful and practical. That's a better option than to insist on courses of action that nobody will follow.

Of greater relevance, however, I suspect that Jon Stewart is just having fun and is not trying to generate any political movement at all.

#4 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 09:56 AM:

This may be another case of US disguise politics. We see it on the right with its use of coded language. Just as everyone in the US is middle class, everyone's a moderate.

It does surprise me that he doesn't want to investigate war crimes.

#5 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 09:57 AM:

A moderate approach to everything would be somewhat extreme.

Despite Jim Hightower's assertion that "There's nothing in the middle of the road but yellow stripes and dead armadillos", the middle is where things get done.

#6 ::: Baz ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 10:02 AM:

I've seen the "Bush war crimes" thing crop up in coverage of Stewart's announcement, but not in the announcement itself. His direct comparison was between those calling Obama Hitler and those calling Bush Hitler-hence the joke on his first placard, "I disagree with you but I'm pretty sure you're not Hitler". Greenwald (who appears to have a second hand take on things, quoting other media rather than Stewart himself) says that Stewart is trying too hard to equate what is not equal. I don't see how the Hitler example could be /more/ equal.
The clips of "crazies" though did cover some war protestors-turning up at rallies with fake blood on their hands, for example. Which did look a bit nutty; he didn't pick out the protesters in general though.
So I'm not sure what to make of this, since it's based on an opinion piece based on something which wasn't even said? If that was what Stewart did say in the announcement, he'd have been wrong but...he didn't?

#7 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 10:20 AM:

See Stewart's actual announcement (and Colbert's as well) here. I remember the segment as a plea for sanity and non-hysteria, not as a limit on what should be discussed (except Hitler), and being Stewart, he poked fun at himself as well.

I'd watch it again, but my connection is being rather, um, moderate today.

#8 ::: Michael Alan Dorman ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 10:27 AM:

I believe the moderation he desires is in the rhetoric people use to express themselves---a slogan of "Take it down a notch for America" would suggest that to be the case---and the related issue that if you're always shouting at others, you're unlikely to actually get anything done.

This is entirely consistent with his appearance on Crossfire in 2004.

#9 ::: Barbara ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 10:43 AM:

I don't care right now if being moderate is being wrong. I care very much if the right wing gains a majority. So, if appearing "moderate" on the Washington Mall will help in an election strategy, Man, call me Moderate Millie...Look how calmly and reasonably I laugh at fear and extremism!....Ha ha ha! So funny! Vote for us!

#10 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 10:43 AM:

I think Jon Stewart erred in succumbing to the temptation of alliteration, and used the word 'Moderate' when he meant "reasonable." Moderate language and lack of hysteria is not the same as being politically moderate, but he's confusing the issue by a poor choice of words.

He does have several weeks to clarify a few things. I'll decide closer in whether I should go.

#11 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 10:48 AM:

Oh, thinking about moderation, the article in the sidebar is wrong. McConnell's wearing a Union uniform.

#12 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 10:48 AM:

Extremists are sometimes right. When they're right, though, they're often right for the wrong reasons; their rightness, when it occurs, is not as strongly correlated with their beliefs as they may hope.

Our second invasion of Iraq was, I think, an example of this. As I saw it, the extremists opposed the concept of war, including the concept of invading Iraq, even if Iraq actually had real weapons of mass destruction.

The moderates were willing to consider the need for doing something drastic about a vile dictator with weapons of mass destruction, but were doubtful about the evidence that those weapons existed.

And the extremists on the other side were damned well gonna invade Iraq no matter what; I have no idea why (the theory that's the most believable is that Bush wanted to finish what daddy started).

I'd say the anti-war extremists were wrong in principle but right in this case, and that the moderates were right both in principle and in this case (but were ineffective, they were unable to counter so many top administration officials lying their heads off claiming evidence of WMDs; however the anti-war extremists were also ineffective).

Then again maybe the anti-war extremmists are right anyway; maybe even if the WMD evidence was true it still wasn't worth going to war over. I'm unsure. Lots of my formative SF holds as a premise that violating anti-proliferation laws is valid grounds for nuclear obliteration, but I'm not sure, either pro or con, for myself.

Lots of the simple ethical arguments seem to me to break down in a state of uncertain information; and the real world IS a state of uncertain information. Bombing a lab doing uranium enrichment might be okay, but is that what that plant is really doing? A rocket attack on the car of a top Al Qaida planner might make sense, but is he really there, and who else is around him?

Going back to the base article -- indeed it is not a law of logic that the truth exists somewhere between the extremes being put forward in the discussion.

It is however a rule of practical politics that what can be accomplished any time soon is somewhere between the extremes of what is being put forward as goals by various groups.

#13 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 11:01 AM:

Taking it down a notch is essential.

Current example: on that mailing list, there's someone who's gotten an eviction notice. The tenant has responded that the landlord is anti-Semitic. This does not help the case, nor does it solve the problem.

We have found ourselves in the later loud stage of an argument where we have forgotten what we're arguing about, but we know we have to win. What we are hoping for is to avoid the type of argument that can only end in a gunshot.

And in the larger political arena, since most of the inflamed emotion goes against clear-headed thinking, getting cooler heads to prevail is probably a good thing. I have rarely seen angry mobs improve any situation.

#14 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 11:03 AM:

ddb @ 12
But the bar has moved so far to the right. My mom's family comes from a standard, working-class, populist, union background. Yet I consistently get told how extremely liberal my values are. YES, if you define everything to the left of the 80's republican party platform as extreme!

I find it frustrating that we're so focused on whether people are "moderate" enough (in their behavior or in our generalization of their political leanings) that we lose sight of the critical policy discussions. Annabel Park, for example, and the direction in which she is taking the "coffee party."

#15 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 11:11 AM:

DDB @12: Most people opposed the concept of war with Iraq because Iraq hadn't done anything to us. They were certainly right on that principle.

Even more opposed the war with Iraq because the evidence of WMDs were non-existent, because our own troops weren't even being prepped with countermeasures for the possibility that there were WMDs. Right on that logical principle.

And still more people were opposed because if the case for war was any good, there would be no need to lie about it. Again, right on THAT principle.

#16 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 11:45 AM:

Any chance that Stewart already understands this? He's had to explain before that he is a comedian and his show is satire.

#17 ::: Mishalak ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 11:52 AM:

On the subject of Bush and Warcrimes, I think something can be both right and yet the wrong thing to do. The problem with bringing a former national leader to trial are the bad feelings that it will produce and the chance that it could be seen as a political prosecution. And what of the outcome? Given the money that will be spent on the defense by Republican donors I think it very unlikely that the prosecution actually suceeds in getting a conviction. As with lower level crimes, people who are assigned lawyers get convicted of war crimes. People with access to legions of lawyers who'll say anything to get their client off, get hung juries or conviction on lesser charges. See also Rod Blagojevich.

#18 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 12:02 PM:

"I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection."

-- Martin Luther King, Letter from a Birmingham Jail

(Just taught that, seemed á propos...)

#19 ::: Keith Kisser ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 12:05 PM:

Stewart's Moderation is fence sitting of the highest order. It seeks to elevate apathy to the level where it is falsely equivalent to respectable. It's political agnosticism.

"I neither believe nor disbelieve in any of that petty bushwa you extremists cling to. So there." As if being indecisive were a virtue.

"If I have to choose between crazy and unpopular I'd rather just not choose." is his motto.

What nincompoopery.

#20 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 12:05 PM:

jdb@2: Yes, and the right - not the Republicans, although it's frequently to their benefit, but sometimes (like now) they're being used as loss leaders as well - has been winning the war for the middle for the last 30 years at least.

There are two ways to win the middle - one is occupying it, and the other is to move the battleground so that where you are occupying *is* the middle. And that has been happening, with little comment (from inside the U.S., at least) as long as I have been capable of understanding politics.

The Democrats have to stop trying to take the middle, and start convincing people that they already *are* the middle. Not going to happen, I know.

Thought experiment: Which is the most recent Republican U.S. President that Obama's policies and ideology is to the right of? My outsider's guess is Ford. And, of course, Obama's a screaming loony leftie liberal, no?

#21 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 12:07 PM:

And I must admit I'm surprised at the level of pro-moderation support here, particularly with regards to Bush's war crimes.

I have to say I think the "split the difference on any issue" tendency of the media is perhaps its most harmful habit in present times. Given how accurately Stewart skewers our contemporary discourse in so many ways, his recourse to this most pernicious of rhetorical flaws is distressing.

#22 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 12:18 PM:

Prosecutors go for cases they think they can win, or that become politically impossible to ignore. Where would a Bush war crimes case fall?

#23 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 12:27 PM:

Steve C@22: Well, there's been rather a lot of pre-trial publicity, and would no doubt be more if a case were to be brought. This might make it hard to find a jury pool that wasn't polluted.

If a case were to be brought, I think it would be settled during jury selection. Lots of people seem to believe the President has extremely broad powers to do "what needs to be done"; if they got the jury, and they're around half the population, the case would fail.

I suspect the actual outcome would end up being an endless series of mistrials on hung juries.

#24 ::: BFSCR ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 12:31 PM:

Having watched both rally announcements as they were originally broadcast, I felt that Stewart did not call-out Code Pink et al but did leave things open to a "pox on both their houses" crowd. This was seized upon in reporting about the announcement but I think was more projection then substance on their part.

Still, my initial reaction was that I was much more appreciative of Colbert's Keep Fear Alive march and not just because I'd get a chance to put my Tea-bagging parody into the public sphere.

#25 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 12:53 PM:

"I disagree with Glenn Greenwald often enough, but he’s dead right about this. The premise of Jon Stewart’s 'Million Moderate March' is vacuous."

I don't watch Stewart regularly (we don't have cable), but I did watch the announcement segment online, and it looks to me that the premise is entertainment. A "ha ha only serious" bit of entertainment, of course, but it seems his main goal is fun and publicity, not getting a particular political point across.

I can't really fault him for that. I might if he were in fact saying that people *shouldn't* accuse Bush of being a war criminal. But the two very brief "war criminal" clips I saw in the segment weren't simply showing people having the audacity to say that Bush was a war criminal. Unlike a number of the other clips, they were showing protest stunts -- in one case, someone yelling and charging a speaker's podium with a big banner; in another case, a group of folks who seem to have shown up at someone else's meeting with lots of blood-like paint on their hands.

Now, one may still take issue with someone saying that stunts are immoderate. Maybe being polite at events staged for another purpose is wrong when there's injustice to be righted. I have a certain sympathy for this view (though I'm still glad that discourteous folks in *this* meeting get shown the door if they insist on disrupting things, even if they might have a point.)

But the issue of reasonable forms of protest is quite different from the war criminal issue, or with the idea that folks should split the difference between extremes (another idea I don't recall hearing anywhere in the segment I watched).

The Stewart-Colbert event is of course its own kind of stunt as well. But it's one that that seems to me more fruitful to play off of than tear down. Your mileage may vary, though.

#26 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 12:58 PM:

Well, maybe the Overton window will do a bit of slouching away from its present bizarre Right position, as a result of this event.

#27 ::: MM ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 01:09 PM:

My first assumption is that this is pure entertainment. (Remember, folks. The march is being paid for by the people who also bring us South Park, Tosh.0 and endless reruns of Scrubs.) If it's not, then it's also a bit brilliant, strategy-wise. A few people upthread have pointed out how thoroughly the conservatives have painted the "moderate" space on the map as theirs, despite the fact that when you talk to people who describe themselves as moderate, you get positions that line up under the Dem umbrella far more than the Repub one. Stewart is using plenty of clips of the Tea Party, and a few to counter from the left (including clips of himself, as was mentioned) to redraw the line and say, "This is what it means to be a moderate. We're already here. And so are you." Meanwhile, Colbert will do what he does best and make the fear crowd look even more ridiculous.

The point today isn't whether or not Jon Stewart thinks it's actually extreme to want to bring up Bush on war crimes charges; I'd bet money that he'd love to see W at the Hague. But as unlikely as that is to happen, it's even less likely if the midterms swing enough for the news headlines to be about how much America has embraced the Tea Partiers.

#28 ::: Keith Kisser ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 01:16 PM:

Steve C. @22: There's also the problem that a significant number of establishment career politicians are of the opinion that trying a president for war crimes would set a bad precedent, even if the case is warranted. It could open up any president, past or future, to the possibility of politically-motivated reprisals for unpopular decisions made during their presidency.*

I think it's worth pursuing the truth even though it's not popular or could cause problems but then I'm not a politician, just one of the little people who don't matter. Our terribly broken political discourse has led us to the point where we treat the office of the President like a rotating assortment of Kings and all the other high ranking offices as a cabal of lords and barons. And they must protect their own. Noblesse Oblige, and all that.

_________
*There could be something to this argument. I don't think anyone sane would want to sit through the trial of Obama for being a Socialist Muslim traitor, as pursuant to the case brought by president Palin and Secretary of the Treasury Beck.

#29 ::: Walter Hawn ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 01:27 PM:

Stewart's 'march' is a meta march. He's, I suspect, thumbing his nose at the lack of viable extremism on the left. Since Abby Hoffman's demise, the left has run scared from any taint of the anarchist. The right has filled the vacuum and taken up the cause.

Stewert's march is intended to point that out.

Also, he is a comedian. He thinks it will be both amusing and notorious.

#30 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 01:39 PM:

It's important to distinguish different meanings of moderation:

a. The stuff that you commonly hear people say without being challenged on it, which for most people means the MSM take on the world as filtered through the current agendas of the partisan screaming heads and the paid shills of various interest groups. This takes as acceptable truth anything that won't cause someone with a voice to yell.

b. The form of politeness that amounts to being unwilling to say some true or plausibly true things (the previous administration committed crimes against humanity, which the current administration is shielding from further scrutiny) because those things would be inflamatory. The Obama administration's decision to suppress the torture photos, Peggy Noonan's "walk on by" column, the widespread decision by US media not to call our torture torture, all are examples. You'll sometimes see similar notions about racial issues (should anyone ever discuss the racial differences in crime rates, IQ scores, school performance, etc.).

c. Moderation in the sense of agreement with the consensus view of the powerful that powerful people and those who obey their orders must rarely or never suffer serious consequences for their actions. A moderate understands that Lynndie England deserves the dishonorable discharge and jail time she got, but that taking away John Yoo's law license or tenure would be an unreasonably harsh criminalization of policy differences and, well, simply not done. More generally, demanding consequences for people in the ruling and media classes is taken as out of bounds personal venom, whereas demanding consequences for "not us" nobodies is simply good sense.

d. Moderation can also mean remaining civil and reasonably polite while not filtering reality to avoid unpleasant ideas/discussions/consequences.

I'm not sure which ones Jon Stewart intended, but I think the reaction of Glenn and others is based on (a-c), which is widespread and destructive as hell.

#31 ::: Rafe ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 01:47 PM:

It's pretty clear to me, as someone who has watched The Daily Show nightly for over a decade, that Jon Stewart is referring to definition (d) in the post above when he talks about moderation. He means people who are willing to take a reality-based view of current events. And people who are willing to be polite, even when they violently disagree. I think that's why it's the "Rally to Restore Sanity."

#32 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 01:47 PM:

ddb: I think you paint with too brad a brush. I an pint to a lot of people (myself, actually sort of among them, though in retrospect I was wrong) who supported war: in Afghanistan, not Iraq.

As to the question of Iraq, and possible justifications for a war such as was started; The question cannot be, “Does “x” possess WMD. The Question must be, is “X” an active threat to it’s neighbors. The Cheney Doctrine, is horrific in its implications, because, on the basis of the evidence, we are provably more than 1 percent likely to attack nations; for no other reason than they pissed us off.

If that rubric (actual threat, and the means/inclination to carry it out) makes my views extremist, then I’d much rather be so called, than join the moderates.

Part of the problem with, “moderation” is the way the media have warped the term. When being between two positions is defined as moderate, then the winner is the more extreme position, because by moving out from center, the center moves.

Now, the evidence of the past 30 years shows this is even worse than it appears, because The Media, have been endorsing Rightward Memes, and making it damned difficult for the actual moderates, to get any traction.

It’s also a truth, almost universally acknowledged, that being seen as less than passionate is a sure road to electoral defeat. Obama gained when he was populist. When he staked out a position. A lot of the loss he’s suffered among the more liberal Dems is where the things he stood solidly on (net neutrality, openness in gov’t., repeal of DADT, abandoning torture, Universal Health Care) he’s waffled on.

Better to stake a piece of ground, and lose fighting for the right, than to compromise to a “win” which makes the other side look strong. Even worse to cede the battle to the opponent, and claim it a moral victory.

#33 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 01:57 PM:

And contrary to Jon Stewart’s foolish assertion, while it may be “moderate” to reject charges that the Bush Administration committed war crimes, it’s also wrong. Because in fact they committed war crimes. (Nor are the current administration's hands much cleaner on this score, and those who point this out continue to be marginalized.)

It's "moderate" to reject the charges of war crimes because only extremists are willing to take those charges to their logical conclusion.

If Bush committed war crimes*, then hundreds of thousands of US soldiers carried out war crimes. Thousands of so-called "heroes" were killed in the furtherance of war crimes. Millions of people who think themselves good paid their taxes every April to fund war crimes.

Plus, if we accept charges that Bush carried out war crimes, then what is our responsibility for making things right? Massive reparations to the nations we illegally invaded? National disarmament? Reduction of the military to a token force with the tools only for things like helping in natural disasters? Loss of the US veto on the UN security counsel? Occupation and rule by outside nations that were sane enough to see what we were doing and object to our doing it? Imprisonment of our armed forces, with mandatory education to learn when to recognize a war crime and that such orders must be refused? Reworking of ordinary school curricula, so that children are taught to recognize and resist dangerous leaders?

If the leader lead us to war crimes, the rest of the nation followed, with more or less enthusiasm. The following may even have been reluctant - but it is still following down that path. Just punishing the leader does nothing to fix the problem of being the sort of nation that can be led into committing war crimes, or to prevent it from happening again.


****

* Remembering, always, that aggressive war and conspiracy to commit war of aggression count as war crimes and crimes against humanity.

#34 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 02:01 PM:

ddb @ 12, you point at the problem with the moderate middle; when there are two choices, they have to pick the extremist who best represents their interests. I'm not sure about your example, though. How many Dems voted against the war?

Stephen Frug, I'm fond of that example, too. But it wasn't just white folks; he included "middle-class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security..." King was cautious about sounding like an extremist, but he was effectively targeting the middle class.

Rafe @ 31, ditto.

#35 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 02:08 PM:

I love the idea that I only get half credit for being right about Iraq because I'm a dirty hippie.

If WMD's of an unsuspected type had been found in Iraq, in a place that no one expected them, then the people who were right but for the wrong reasons would still be right in the media and the popular culture. But the fact that I saw how badly the justifications for the invasion smelled, how much the people evaluating the evidence were looking to prove things they already believed, is somehow less valid because I don't like war.

This is another flavour of the Overton Window, where any flavour of warmonger may be excused if they're right this time, but the pacifists are always extremists.

Sorry, no, that's not the way it works.

#36 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 02:09 PM:

ddb: "[T]he extremists opposed the concept of war, including the concept of invading Iraq, even if Iraq actually had real weapons of mass destruction."

That's an assertion that denies the existence of literally millions of Americans and Europeans who opposed the Iraq invasion before it happened, not out of ideological pacifism but because they could see that it was an insanely bad idea in terms of their countries' practical self-interest. Teresa's hand-made sign at the last pre-war demonstration in DC read "Not this war", and she was hardly alone in that.

Not that, in retrospect, ideological pacifism seems like such a far-out, wacky idea. Most wars aren't about stopping Hitler or overthrowing evil tyrants. Most wars are crap. Vast numbers of people are conned into slaughtering one another so that an elite cohort can get one-up on another another elite cohort. "Good wars" are rare--and even those wars that qualify as good, when you look at them in detail, aren't very damn good.

#37 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 02:14 PM:

Will Shetterly #34: "But it wasn't just white folks; he included "middle-class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security..." King was cautious about sounding like an extremist, but he was effectively targeting the middle class."

Oh, absolutely. I just grabbed that one paragraph, but there are more where it came from too. And of course in the end he does embrace the "extremist" label:

"But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . ." So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime--the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists."

- Letter from a Birmingham Jail

#38 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 02:19 PM:

I'm also surprised to see multiple outbreaks of the "come on, he's just being an entertainer" argument. Leaving aside the fact that it's perfectly possible to be funny and serious at the same time (see the R. A. Lafferty quote on Making Light's sidebar for the definitive statement about that), the fact is that Jon Stewart has always been serious, when he's joking and when he isn't. He wouldn't be worth criticizing if he was the kind of comic who chronically retreats into the kind of "aw, it was just a joke" defense being offered by some people on his behalf. He acts like what we say matters, which is one of the main reasons I like him.

#39 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 02:33 PM:

I wonder if you could have fun threading the needle between albatross's (c) and (d) cases of "moderation".

You could, for instance, show up on Oct 30 with signs saying things like "I'm willing to listen to arguments that Bush should not be tried for war crimes", "I still talk to my birther parents", and similar messages. Hopefully things that are clever, pointed, and not too wordy to show up well on camera.

#40 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 02:36 PM:

Ideological pacifism is a far cry from being opposed to initiating a particular war. One can oppose a war, or even all wars, without being a full-blown ideological pacifist.

And "the extremists opposed x" is not at all the same claim as "only extremists opposed x".

I'm doubtful about any war that doesn't start with enemy forces coming over the border, certainly. But I'm very very far from being an ideological pacifist; so far from it, that I'm a 2nd Amendment activist and have been a carry permit instructor (and have my own carry permit, of course). So, please, let's not confuse them!

I think what a lot of people, including me, thought in the run-up to Iraq-2 was that the argument for preemptive strike due to WMDs was not completely convincing -- and the claims of WMDs were quite unconvincing. I didn't have to decide the first, given the second.

Democratic representatives have a problem; they're widely perceived among the voters as "soft" on crime and national defense. Hence they seem to feel that they need to be out in front in big cases. It all comes down to the idiot voters, in the end; it was really obvious that there was no WMD evidence to anybody who paid attention -- but some people seem to take authority figures much more seriously than I do; the president and cabinet members harping on WMDs, without evidence, was something they took seriously, whereas it made me more deeply suspicious (they were clearly using their position to convince people by blatant assertion, without presenting evidence).

#41 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 02:49 PM:

ddb @40:
Ideological pacifism is a far cry from being opposed to initiating a particular war. One can oppose a war, or even all wars, without being a full-blown ideological pacifist.

Indeed. But one can also be an ideological pacifist and still have been right that the proponents of the Iraq war were cooking the evidence to fit a plan they were already committed to, or that you can't just invade a country because it's ruled by a "vile dictator".

One of the things that politics at it best can be is a forum for people from various ideologies to ally over matters where their objectives coincide.

Writing off one set of allies because you didn't like the grounds under which they drew their conclusions, or didn't agree, philosophically, with their beliefs (even if their conclusions were right) seems...immoderate.

#42 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 02:56 PM:

ddb@12

Lots of my formative SF holds as a premise that violating anti-proliferation laws is valid grounds for nuclear obliteration, but I'm not sure, either pro or con, for myself.

You may be aware that I live in Turkey - I seem to have mentioned it one or two times in recent threads.

I'm going to credit you with having some idea of whereabouts in the world Turkey might be, and what countries it borders on. If you don't, you've certainly got the nous to pull up a map and check. (Alternatively - you may remember that it was something of a big deal that the Turkish parliament wouldn't allow American troops to access the Turkish border; and you cazn probably figure out why that might have mattered).

You're almost certainly also aware that nuclear bombs produce fall-out; that fall-out travels beyond borders; and that death from radiation sickness is in many cases slow, lingering, and painful.

I don't feel all that comfortable taking part in a conversation with someone who is 'not sure' whether it would be worth inflicting such a death on me and my family if Saddam Hussein had been violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, even if I agree with them that the evidence that he was was utterly cooked. (It's not an entirely academic issue for me, given that Turkey is also down-wind of other possible violators).

Maybe you could consider coming off the fence on this small part of what you had to say.

#43 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 03:04 PM:

Patrick, while you're right about the dubious value of political moderation, you and Greenwald are missing the point that Stewart's making.

The only mention of war crimes in Stewart's announcement came in a series of clips showing bizarre and overly-dramatic behavior on the part of protestors (and over-the-top rhetoric by professional political commentators); one of these was someone interrupting a Bush speech by running onto a stage with a big banner shouting something about war criminals. (I think it was this event, which was also graced by a protester dressed in prison stripes wearing a big papier-mâché Bush head.) It's not the content of the accusation that's equivalent in that series of clips, it's the form. He's not rejecting the accusation of war crimes, he's rejecting the tactic of heckling a speech by jumping on stage with a banner.

Consider the similar point you made six years ago.

I suspect that the actual purpose of Stewart's rally is to get a bunch of people who've never been to a rally before out from in front of their TVs and computers, and talking to each other. He pretty much says as much:

Anyway, you may be asking yourself right now, sitting at home, but am I the right type of person to go to this rally? The fact that you would even stop yourself to ask that question, as opposed to just, let's say, jumping up, grabbing the nearest stack of burnable holy books, strapping on a diaper, and just pointing your car towards DC, that means I think you might just be right for it. [...] It'll be like being in a chat room, but real.

#44 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 03:21 PM:

pgbb@42

Oh b----. Forgot to close a tag.

/pile>

(Must get better with tages and parentheses.Or maybe the pet tulum got that one too.)

More substantively, the fact that a view is expressed in moderate tones doesn't make it a moderate view.

I think this cuts more than one way in the current context

#45 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 03:28 PM:

DDB @12: Lots of my formative SF holds as a premise that violating anti-proliferation laws is valid grounds for nuclear obliteration, but I'm not sure, either pro or con, for myself.

One of the important steps on a young SF fan's path to adulthood is realizing that the authors of the stories one read during one's formative years were just ordinary human beings, not divine dispensers of supreme wisdom.

#46 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 03:35 PM:

abi @41, "Writing off one set of allies because you didn't like the grounds under which they drew their conclusions, or didn't agree, philosophically, with their beliefs (even if their conclusions were right) seems...immoderate."

Writing off people's opinions on some issues on the grounds that their opinions on these issues are essentially based on a fundamental unwillingness to think- and, as far as I can tell, that's what ideological pacifism is based on- seems perfectly reasonable to me.

#47 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 03:44 PM:

Raphael 46:
Writing off people's opinions on some issues on the grounds that their opinions on these issues are essentially based on a fundamental unwillingness to think- and, as far as I can tell, that's what ideological pacifism is based on- seems perfectly reasonable to me.

Because pacifism is such a natural mindset, never the product of long thought about the nature of right and wrong, the tradeoffs between the individual and the communal, and the fundamental character and goals of civilization.

That's why all two-year-olds are pacifists. It's an unthinking state of being, right?

I'm not going to walk you through how I have come to the views I hold. But to assume that they're the product of a refusal to think? From where I'm sitting, the person in this conversation who seems to have come to an ideological and unthinking conclusion is not me.

#48 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 03:44 PM:

Having gone and watched at Stewart's segment (gasp!) he seems to make many good points and a few poor ones. Naturally, the secondary-source reporting focuses on the poor ones. There's immoderation, all right, but it's in the media who reported on Stewart--the reports in the NYT and Politico seems to badly want to fit everything into a "both sides are bad, it's the center that's good" narrative. Very convenient. If all the focus is on the failures of extremism, then there is no need to look at what the "center" (of what, pray?) has done.

Croak!

#49 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 03:45 PM:

Raphael @46, are you saying that such people as George Fox and William Penn were unwilling to think?

#50 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 03:52 PM:

Raphael@46

I'm not sure what weight you give to 'ideological' but you appear to be writing off as useless an entire religious tradition

(Not mine, I should add. But one I feel I've learned a lot from engaging with.)

#51 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 03:57 PM:

Avram@43,45,49: I seem to be cross-posting with you a lot this evening.

#52 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 04:01 PM:

pgbb@42: Heinlein's stories on the topic include a man sacrificing himself by radiation sickness to prevent a takeover using the weapons, and people who they expected to lock in the brig during the actual time their home town had to be nuked, but whose theoretical loyalty included even that.

I also lived in the midwest while we conducted some of our own above-ground tests upwind from me (though farther than you are; I do know roughly where Turkey is, and as you say I'm capable of using a map if I need more detail).

Which is not to say that "collateral damage" is not a concern to me; but it's not an absolutely instantly winning concern.

The question is, what's the damage from proliferation? Perhaps it's not that big a concern -- the USA, Britain, France, Russia, and China have managed to avoid nuclear war for a while now. Perhaps Pakistan is a bigger concern than the USSR was (Russia is arguably a bigger concern than the USSR was). Or perhaps it's the inevitable extinction of the species. In the first case it's not worth much collateral damage at all; in the second it might be.

Didn't come up in the runup to Iraq 2, since it was obvious after the first week of rhetoric that there was no serious evidence of WMDs.

#53 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 04:02 PM:

Avram@45: Always the cheap-shot, eh?

#54 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 04:12 PM:

Raphael #46:

I'm not a pacifist but I don't think that pacifism (a philosophical position that can be traced back for thousands of years) is the result of an unwillingness to think. There are a lot of positions that can be called unthinkingly reflexive, opposition to war is surely not one of them.

#55 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 04:12 PM:

Raphael @46, that Einstein--what a dummy!

#56 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 04:42 PM:

abi @47, "Because pacifism is such a natural mindset, never the product of long thought about the nature of right and wrong, the tradeoffs between the individual and the communal, and the fundamental character and goals of civilization."

Oh, it's often the product of long thought about the nature of right and wrong. It's just, as far as I can tell, never the product of long or even short thought about the nature of cause and effect, because even a few thoughts about pacifism in relation to cause and effect would lead anyone to the obvious problems with pacifism.

Avram @49, Not generally unwilling to think, just unwilling to think in directions that might have led them to figure out the obvious logical contradictions in their ideas.

praisegod barebones @50, not as useless, just as having some basic mental blind spots.

Fragano Ledgister @54, not a complete unwillingness to think, just an unwillingness to, well, go to certain places in one's thoughts.

will shetterly @55, again, not dumb, just with some glaring mental blind spots. Those can happen nto the smartest people.

#57 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 04:44 PM:

ddb 52:

There are concerns about collateral damage; and then there's - apparently unapologetically - saying that you're not sure that you'd be unwilling to see your interlocutor's family destroyed in pursuit of certain political goals.

It's the second of those that I'm objecting to here. As I say, the fact that you express it in moderate, hedged terms doesn't make it a moderate view.

(As you say, it didn't really come up in the 2nd Gulf War since the evidence of WMD was so obviously shoddy. But take a closer look at the map, and you'll see that there are other countries nearby that raise a similar concern.)

#58 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 04:50 PM:

DDB @53, OK, that was a bit of a cheap shot, I'm sorry. Let me try making the same point another way:

You're, what, in your mid-fifties, right? You've got over half a century of experience living in a world that has nuclear weapons in it. Those SF writers whose works you read when you were a kid, none of those writers had any near as much experience as you do with that situation. Why let their writing influence you?

Especially given how the world has developed since then. A lot of SF writers who lived through the early-to-mid decades of the 20th century seem to have decided that the two world wars constituted a pattern, that the trend of history was towards bigger and badder wars. The actual history that we've lived through has been one of many smaller wars, the opposite of what they expected.

So why even bring up those old SF writers? Why continue to let their opinions influence yours, given how much more you know than they did?

#59 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 04:51 PM:

Patrick @ 36... Most wars are crap. Vast numbers of people are conned into slaughtering one another so that an elite cohort can get one-up on another another elite cohort. "Good wars" are rare--and even those wars that qualify as good, when you look at them in detail, aren't very damn good.

I dunno.

They left the camp quickly, without looking back, and began to walk along the road to the train station. The road was hot and dusty and they rested often. Occasionally they passed soldiers on leave or refugees traveling in groups carrying all their possessions between them. No one stopped to look at them, the tall man in the long black coat and the pale young woman in the new town-bought dress and shoes.

Kicsi thought that none of this could be real - not the people, or the well-kept houses, or the trees and shrubs flowering by the roadside. Sometimes when she passed a soldier, she marveled that there could be anyone so healthy left in the world.

(From Lisa Goldstein's The Red Magician)

#60 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 04:57 PM:

Pacifism certainly has a long philosophical history.

Pacifism and non-violence have been politically effective in various fights for rights and freedom -- in the Indian struggle for independence from Britain, and in much of the American Civil Rights movement, for example. I'm reasonably certain that had Gandhi or King taken a violent approach, things would have played out VERY differently, and very probably in much worse ways. I admire their tactical genius, and I admire the courage it takes to use this tactic effectively. (I suspect Gandhi of having adopted pacifism as a conscious tactic; I've read things of his that suggested that to me. But it may have been a case of a sincerely-held larger belief that he also realized worked tactically.)

I think some people who call themselves pacifists really just mean that their society resorts to violence too readily, and they wish to work against that tendency. I suspect that many of them are correct (I think the USA resorts to violence too readily, both internally and externally).

I can't respect -- actually, I can't really take seriously -- the full-blown pacifist position that denies all self-defense and defense of another and any use of violence whatsoever. I think it's socially pernicious; it encourages violent predation.

#61 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 05:03 PM:

Raphael

Have you ever talked to any Quakers about pacificism? Because I have, and the ones I've spoken with seem pretty clued up about cause and effect.

A commitment to peace isn't just (or even, for many people, most of the time) a commitment to not fighting, but a commitment to trying to make a world in which a life in which wars are not fought is possible.

Figuring out what that might entail requires a pretty good grasp of cause and effect. Which is why there are institutions like
this for example.

Yes, there are some obvious problems with pacificism, just as there are some obvious problems with the command to love your neighbour as yourself. But what makes you think that people who embrace the first are any more blind to them or haven't thought about them with the same degree of intelligence as those who embrace the second.

(You'd presumably be wiser, or more circumspect than to attempt a quick one-line dismissal of the second in these parts. At least, I hope so.)

#62 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 05:12 PM:

pgbb@57: Philosophically, I must be as willing to sacrifice myself and my family as you and yours, if I take the position that it's worth it in principle. I understand that I have the privilege of living in a place where I'm not likely to be collateral damage on this issue; on the other hand, the narratives that introduced me to this concept did have the hometowns of the enforcers really at risk.

I agree, it's not in fact a moderate view; it's one extreme approach to non-proliferation. And, I say again, one I'm not fully convinced of; I'm just also not fully convinced against it.

Avram@58: Yes (56 tomorrow, to be precise).

I certainly have more history to look at than people did writing 50s (and 40s) SF. What I'm not so sure on is whether 50 years of no nuclear war means it's not a risk. Especially since we had at least one instance where we were saved from a launch, it seems, by a Soviet officer refusing to follow his orders. (That could also be used as evidence that the risk is LOWER than we thought.) How do I satisfy myself that we didn't just have a very lucky 50 years? Given that I'm interested in things staying non-glowing for hundreds and thousands of years, 50 lucky years is possible.

The same arguments can be made against paying attention to Plato and Aristotle and Nietzsche and Marx and Kant; things have changed, and the world they saw isn't the world we now live in, and some of their clear beliefs about how things will be in the future have been demonstrated to be wrong. And I strongly suspect things would be better if people did stop paying attention to most of them, actually. So maybe you're right.

(Oh, and just for formality, apology accepted of course.)

#63 ::: Jon Baker ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 05:16 PM:

I might think about going, but it's on a SATURDAY. For all that (intermarried) Stewart plays up his "Jewiness", his choice of date (which is reasonable considering his show's travel schedule), locks out observant Jews.

#64 ::: Annalee Rockwood ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 05:16 PM:

Raphael @46, How many times has someone come up to you on the street and said "so you think violence is justified, huh? Do you think the holocaust was justified?"

As a religious pacifist, I get asked to justify my beliefs on a regular basis (usually by being presented with Godwin-invoking hypotheticals). Which means that I actually have far more opportunities than the average person to think about and try to articulate my reasoning.

Pacifists examine the problem from a different perspective, and often have difficulty articulating their thinking to people who can't get their heads around that perspective. That does not, however, mean that we don't think things through. It just means we think things differently.

#65 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 05:54 PM:

DDB @62, hey, happy birthday-minus-one!

Did you notice something interesting about the examples you've cited?

The fictions in which nuclear death is the penalty for any nation that violates non-proliferation, those are stories in which global nuclear armageddon can only be avoided via ruthless hard-assery.

The actual historical example, that of Vasili Arkhipov, was one of someone preventing global nuclear armageddon by showing compassion, individual judgment, and faith in the better nature of his fellow human beings.

As far as Plato, Aristotle, etc, go, well, yeah, in some cases their beliefs have been invalidated by later knowledge. In other cases, well, some of those things they believed had to do with complex matters of metaphysics where people living today don't have more life experience than the ancients did. (Except to the extent that we have longer average lifespans.)

#66 ::: Annalee Rockwood ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 06:01 PM:

I can't respect -- actually, I can't really take seriously -- the full-blown pacifist position that denies all self-defense and defense of another and any use of violence whatsoever. I think it's socially pernicious; it encourages violent predation.

At the risk of sounding snarky, do you also think that wearing short skirts encourages rape?

If you believe that it is the individual's responsibility to protect themselves from violence, and that any harm they come to is their failing in that regard, then I can see why you would hold pacifists who reject self defense in contempt.

Personally, I believe that upholding law and order is a communal responsibility, and that when someone is the victim of violent crime, it is a communal failure. The alternative, as far as I see it, not only blames victims, but ignores the basic reality that self-defense-as-individual-responsibility encourages violent predation against the physically and financially weak.

I can't say if I would defend myself if I had no alternative, because I've never been there. I can say that you'd be amazed how many other options open up to you when you're thinking to look for them. I've gotten out of more than one potentially-violent situation by resorting to other means than violence. If it had been the first or the only conflict-management tool at my disposal, I probably would have been badly injured instead.

#67 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 06:02 PM:

dd-b, "I can't really take seriously -- the full-blown pacifist position that denies all self-defense and defense of another and any use of violence whatsoever."

Can you name anyone who took or takes that position? Gandhi didn't. Einstein didn't.

#68 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 06:16 PM:

Praisegod:

Just as an aside, the only anti-nuke defense anyone has got working so far goes "if you murder millions of my people (and those downwind), I shall murder millions of yours (and those downwind).". In that context, preemptively murdering those millions (including downwinders) isn't obviously much worse that doing it after the other guys launch.

This is indeed monstrous, but nobody knows how else to do it.

#69 ::: Annalee Rockwood ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 06:21 PM:

Will @67, There are several religions whose members (or a significant number of whose members) commit themselves to nonviolence even at the cost of their own life. Their reasons for this are vast and varied, but often include holding their beliefs more valuable than they hold their life. Which is by no means a trait unique to pacifists.

#70 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 06:32 PM:

Avram@65: Yep, did notice. It's an anecdote, not data, of course. But relevant for all that.

Annalee Rockwood@66: The majority of the classroom time in the Minnesota Carry Permit training is trying to get people to understand the importance of not escalating, disengaging, seeing trouble ahead of time and avoiding it, and so forth. All the major modern American writers on self-defense treat the use of a gun as a late (and expensive) option in the decision tree. And my (and apparently lots of other instructors') greatest fear is a student who seems to want a chance to use his gun.

I do indeed feel that it's a personal responsibility to protect yourself, your family, your friends, and your society. I'm all in favor of being smart about it, though, rather than thoughtlessly reacting with violence or whatever.

Will@67: At least some Quakers go that far. And many, many college pacifists :-) .

#71 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 06:59 PM:

övgütanrı çıplakkemikleri 42: I, for one, would like to go on the record as saying that nothing that has happened in the world so far, or that I think is likely to happen in the future, would be IMO a good enough reason for using nuclear weapons.

I'm willing to listen to arguments to the contrary, but that's what I think now.

ibid. 51: Great minds.

ddb 52: You should think back to the runup, and remember that the Bushistas used the term 'Weapons of Mass Destruction' to make everyone think they were talking about nukes, when actually the only WMDs Saddam ever had were chemical weapons. In fact, of course, chemical weapons are not actually weapons of mass destruction; only nuclear weapons really are. But they were and are a pack of dirty lowdown lying skunks humans (decided not to insult skunks).

ibid. 70: And you don't think it's possible for a reasonable, thinking person to come to a different conclusion?

I think the world is better off if we take more responsibility for each other, frankly. That's why all this talk of "personal responsibility" puts me off; it's not that personal responsibility is a bad thing, it's just that so many of the people who talk about it are really saying "I don't care about my neighbors."

#72 ::: jdb ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 07:01 PM:

'Moderates' are also called swing voters. Swing voters like think of themselves as moderates using the positive connotations of that word. Getting swing voters to vote for the Democrats isn't a statement of values, it's about keeping majorities in the House and the Senate. If you think a progressive agenda is difficult with a congresswoman from progressive California as speaker, think about getting a progressive agenda done with a GOP majority led by a man who believes in his heart that the post office is a socialist conspiracy.

It's important to paint the people that have taken control of the GOP for what they are - extremists with crazy, impractical and dangerous ideas. If that involves calling the Democrats moderate for an election cycle then so be it. If the left wins enough elections, the liberals of today are the moderates of tomorrow.

#73 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 07:13 PM:

Steve C. @ 5:
the middle is where things get done.

If that's true, then why didn't Obama's insistence on taking a middle position relative to the Republicans on one side and the Progressives on the other result in getting any of the promises he made fulfilled*? Sometimes if you keep insisting on staying in the middle you end getting nothing done but staying in the middle.

* He promised to get health care reform, not higher premiums for health insurance.

#74 ::: Chris Adams ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 07:15 PM:

I'm with Avram: I read the [few] attacks lefties as mocking their tactics; given the degree to which the GOP and the newsmedia helped spin a number of extreme positions as moderate, more effective advocacy could have been really useful.

I'm reminded of the comments people have made recently that the recent improvements in public opinion on gay rights are likely almost entirely due to millions of people coming out, undercutting the right-wing smears.

#75 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 07:31 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 73 -

If that's true, then why didn't Obama's insistence on taking a middle position relative to the Republicans on one side and the Progressives on the other result in getting any of the promises he made fulfilled*? Sometimes if you keep insisting on staying in the middle you end getting nothing done but staying in the middle.

I should have qualified my statement by saying that usually the middle is where things get done. There are no absolute rules in politics. But, in general, I stand by the statement.

In a way, it's like the weather. We have a range of normal, but on occasion we slide down (or up) into territories we usually don't reach. Politically, one such territory is government funded health care. It took us a long damn time to get to Medicare (thirty years after SS was enacted). That indicates that Medicare was a much more radical change than is usual. The big things seem to come along once in a generation or so.

As regards to what candidates promise, I have never voted for a president based upon promises. I vote for them based upon my judgment of what kind of CEO he or she would make for the nation.

#76 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 07:37 PM:

albatross @ 68: "Just as an aside, the only anti-nuke defense anyone has got working so far goes "if you murder millions of my people (and those downwind), I shall murder millions of yours (and those downwind).""

Having visited Hiroshima I'll add that "Please, don't. Look at what it is--it's horrible," is a second and (in my opinion at least as) effective form of deterrent.

#77 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 07:53 PM:

The migration of the Overton Window is part of a general shift of positions and definitions that seems to have left us a good part of the way to the standard Orwellian vocabulary: "War is Peace" isn't very far from "We have to continue fighting in Afghanistan to protect ourselves in the US".

It seems that every area of the political arena shows this shift. Yesterday, Chris Bowers wrote a post on Daily Kos arguing that the US has not moved rightwards in the last couple of generations, but instead "The country has shifted dramatically to the left from where it was 40, 30, or even 15 years ago." His evidence was public acceptance of interracial marriage, greater acceptance of gay rights, more equality of income for men and women, and greater acceptance of marijuana. He completely ignores the massive increase in military spending and military decision-making in government, the continuing attacks on social safety nets, the public acceptance of "tough-on-crime" legislation that increases prison sentences and the privatisation of prisons and the vast increase in prison populations, the reduction in civil rights, especially in the day to day operation of local and federal police forces, the extra-legal institutionalization of racism ... Sure, a few things have gotten better, but that doesn't come close to balancing out the massive changes in the way the US behaves towards its own citizens and the rest of the world.

Many states have cut back severely on welfare programs, food and medical support for poor children, etc.
Police profiling, DWB, widespread stereotyping of non-whites, seriously skewed prison population statistics and sentences, etc.

#78 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 08:01 PM:

Will Shetterly @ 67 -- I know a couple of people who used to state that they were absolute pacifists. (I'm not sure what their views are now.) They were convinced that if they absolutely refused to take any kind of violent action, even to defend themselves or their children, then any would-be attackers would respect their views and leave them alone. They refused to engage in any discussion of recent or longer-past genocidal atrocities as potential evidence against their beliefs.

So yes, one can find some people with such views. I think that most pacifists' views are a bit more nuanced, or at least involve a more realistic awareness of the possible consequences of their beliefs.

#79 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 08:34 PM:

I absolutely believe it's entertainment as well as publicity for their shows. Have you seen the posters and their similarity?

#80 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 08:53 PM:

Annalee, oh, sure, Jesus and Buddha and some Jain and (I strongly suspect, but know too little to be sure) Hindu saints were absolute pacifists, but who ever paid any attention to them?

#81 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 10:32 PM:

re pacifism: I've known a number of absolute pacifists. None of them ever thought that world pacifism was going to happen in their lifetimes. They merely refused to add to any of the violence (this is a different stand from the political pacifists, who think personal defense is OK, but war is never an option).

None of them ever thought their pacifism was some sort of magic mojo which will prevent them from being harmed. They, in fact, expect to be harmed, if not killed, should someone attack them. Some have asked me to not interfere, if I happen to be present when such a thing might happen. I have not made such a promise, because I can't be sure I could keep it.

re the obliterating of anyone who isn't a member of the "We Get to Have Nukes Because We Got Them First" club: There is a big difference between living downrange of a test ground, downwind of e.g. California, when all of it's major population centers have been, "turned to glass".

Perhaps more to the point, the only nation running off at the mouth about using nukes these days, is us. We had pundits (and politicians) saying we reserve the right to use pocket nukes on people we don't like, who might be pursuing nuclear tech of which we don't approve (while violating the requirements of the Non-Proliferation Treaty to aid non-weapon states in peaceful power projects, while refusing to lend any nuclear aid to nations nations [cf India] pursuing bombs).

We also had that promise being made in the event Hussien used Sarin, or VX.

So really, saying "rogues" ought to be "glassed" is asking for someone to come along and wipe us off the map.

None of which, actually addresses the real question: What is the best way to actually get the bad extremism out, and keep the passion in play?

#82 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2010, 11:32 PM:

Joel @ 78: I do hope you're not including me in that generalisation, though I do know you and I am an 'absolute' pacifist.

If you are I feel I must note that you've misrepresented my views egregiously. If not, well, carry on.

#83 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2010, 12:35 AM:

ddb: I'm still trying to figure out how you're fitting "The Long Watch" into the class of narratives where all nuclear proliferation is punishable by nuking. Wasn't the conflict in that story that there were members of the ship's crew intending a political coup and intending to use the ship's nukes as a show of force to enact their coup? Where does the proliferation come in?

The hero's sacrifice (and I say that rather than protagonist because I do see him as a hero) was to prevent anyone using the weapon at all.

It still makes me tear up some.

#84 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2010, 01:42 AM:

Terry @81, yeah. I don't know any absolute pacifists, but I've read a fair bit about the position. Absolute pacifists are the bravest people I know of. I would do my best to be one, and maybe I could hold onto the principle if I was the only person involved--I kept from fighting back when some poor guy off his meds attacked me on the street in L.A.--but if someone else is attacked, fuck saintliness.

I think a fair number of saints would agree. Most models of "just war" are attempts to feel good for stealing other people's property, but everyone has a right to self-defense.

#85 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2010, 05:17 AM:

Suddenly, a discussion of science fiction broke out....

Space Cadet has a violation of Chekhov's gun rules-- we get a mention of a highly dramatic situation-- the Patrol nuking somewhere which is threatening a war, possibly even the hometown of someone on the spaceship-- but that doesn't happen in the novel. (I think there was a mention of the Patrol nuking someplace in the past, but it's been a while since I've read the book.)

Instead, we get a story about successful non-violent diplomacy.

On the one hand, I think Heinlein talked about the need for violence a lot more than he portrayed his characters using it, though I'd have to do a detailed overview to be sure of this. He certainly had a lot of non-violent working things out. On the other hand, I think readers are more likely to remember the ideology.

***

I've been inclined to think that nukes are what kept us from having WWIII with conventional weapons, but this is based on the same countries (not counting Japan) fighting two world wars in fairly quick succession rather than specific scenarios. If nuclear and atomic weapons had never been invented, would a WWIII seem plausible?

#86 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2010, 05:20 AM:

I read somewhere recently -- probably it's mentioned in Patterson's biography, and came up in the discussions of that on tor.com -- that Heinlein did actually intend to have Matt Dodson have to nuke Iowa, and then either he or his editor decided that was too dark, so he had the cadets go to Venus instead.

#87 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2010, 08:05 AM:

David: Heinlein himself decided it would be wrong for the story, not the editor.

DDB: In re the unauthorised invasion of Iraq by the US and the UK, it wasn't just loony leftist pacifists who opposed it -- Jerry Pournelle was against it. It's perfectly possible to be an honourable patriotic militarist and still oppose one's country starting an aggressive war for trumped up reasons. For that matter there were German generals in 1938 who were opposed to Hitler's plans to invade Czechoslovakia.

#88 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2010, 09:27 AM:

heresiarch #76:

True, and I think those images did play a part in preventing more nukes being used. But in order to get a stable situation, you need everyone to be so convinced. There are plenty of people in power in many countries, demonstrably including the US, who can think of situations where those horrors would be worth achieving some policy or domestic political goal.

More generally, deterrence is the only defense we know for any kind of attacks remotely on the scale of warfare. Look at the way the war on terror has got this country wrapped around the axle. The 9/11 attacks weren't someone getting nykes, they were someone managing an attack that would be relatively minor in wartime, but without supplying a return address. Note that we're apparently expanding our war into Yemen, largely because of a mass-shooting and a couple failed attacks that, had they succeeded, might have killed a couple hundred people. We don't know how to defend ourselves without the threat of massive organized violence against easily-found targets.

#89 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2010, 09:56 AM:

Marna @ 82 -- Good heavens, most definitely not you. (We've never had any discussions on the subject of pacifism as far as I can recall.) Other locals; I don't know if you know them.

I have no objection whatsoever to a philosophy of absolute pacifism with an awareness of the possible consequences (though my own inclination towards pacifism is more moderate). I have trouble with those few who believe that their own refusal to defend themselves will somehow stop anyone from attacking them.

#90 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2010, 10:29 AM:

Joel: I am certain such people exist. I've not met them. I've known a lot of absolute pacifists, e.g. Maia's entire family, and none of them have every expressed such a belief.

Which is not to say I doubt you, but that the implication of your comments paints with a very broad brush, and that brush makes it seem absolute pacifists are silly and delusional.

Which reinforces the common stereotype that they don't have any idea about the "real world" and can be ignored.

#91 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2010, 10:35 AM:

Rikibeth@83: It's part of the future history that ends up with the nukes all in custody of the patrol, and an important step in establishing that as workable and good.

#92 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2010, 10:48 AM:

Terry -- In both of my comments, I've referred to the few who hold such beliefs in contradistinction to the majority who have a more realistic view of the world. I'm not sure how I could have made myself clearer.

I could probably dig out the old APAs in which the discussion took place (in part), though they're not very accessible at the moment.

#93 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2010, 11:11 AM:

jdb@72: "Moderate" swing voters don't have to be allowed much influence at all. In fact, in 2006 and 2008 the Democrats did quite well not by appealing to them, but by rousing the voting enthusiasm of people in general agreement with their campaign positions who usually don't vote. Half the eligible voters don't, give or take, and quite a few of them will vote when properly motivated. The confused narcissistic crowd of swing voters matters only when candidates act as though no hypothetical voter can be made an actual one.

#94 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2010, 03:47 PM:

re 77: That's precisely why I don't really have much use for left/right labels in US politics; it doesn't seem to me that those principled positions are what drive voting patterns. There are some purely principled positions that do show up, but by and large they are pretty marginalized (e.g. the libertarians). I think US politics are more cause-driven than principle-driven.

One thing that strikes me about the lists of left-right issues is that there are some clear qualitative differences between items in the various lists. All of the "left" things that we are getting, for instance, are personal freedoms that particularly are available to the upper middle class (that is, other factors don't get in the way). Then we get a bunch of issues where one could very much argue that traditional left-right axes-- where left==communism-- put our current progress to wards either extreme (e.g. the police-state tendencies). Some of use would argue that the centrists get to lay claim to progress on these issues, not the left. Finally there are a set of very complex issues where the etiology of problems is where one finds the left/right dogma differences. xctly hw mch f th dffrnc btwn blck nd wht prsn ppltns s d t rcsm? Cn't blck cmmnts, fr nstnc, rdc thr prsnc n prsn by chsng th lss-pnlzd "wht" crms vr th mr pnlzd "blck" crms, r fr tht mttr, schw crmnl cts n th frst plc? On this last set of issues I do not think I could be called a moderate, but I think I would call myself a centrist because I think the dogmatic positions of the "left" and "right" don't satisfactorily tell us what to do.

As far as moderation in rhetoric is concerned (which is I think what the original point was), the point of using language like "war criminal" is to suppress discourse. You don't have to deal with Bush or his associates as politicians, because they are after all not real people, but only war criminals. It's the same thing as calling Obama a socialist, except that Bush the war criminal is more plausible than Obama the socialist. But that level of rhetoric isn't about persuasion; it's about enforcing social boundaries. It's paradoxically about reducing opposition, because it puts people who might be persuaded in the position of anathematizing themselves if they choose qualified assent or dissent. I mean, how can you qualify agreement or disagreement with such a statement? I can't say, "well, I don't think he's really a war criminal," because that gets spun as me saying, "well, actually I'm OK with him."

That's what I see in Bruce's response in 93: the political strategy of the present is to try to drive anyone who is subject to persuasion out of the picture, because they are unreliable especially subject to disillusionment with the Cause. Or rather, it's not so much a strategy as it is a consequence of the current media of discourse.

#95 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2010, 05:59 PM:

C Wingate @94, lucky for you, I think, that most of the ML community's attention is currently focused on another thread.

#96 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2010, 09:44 PM:

... popcorn? I can't have any; my jaw dropped so far I can't find it to chew with...

#97 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2010, 10:18 PM:

C. Wingate #94: the point of using language like "war criminal" is to suppress discourse

No, the point of using language like "war criminal" is to capture and punish war criminals through the proper application of the rule of law.

#98 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2010, 11:17 PM:

C. Wingate, disemvowelling made it really, really hard for me to make sense of what you said. And now that I have, I'm still missing the sense part. Was that a joke that misfired? It sounds like a line from a villain in something like Blazing Saddles.

#99 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2010, 11:23 PM:

C. Wingate, war criminals are people who commit war crimes and get prosecuted for them. Like, oh, water torture. Please google "Yukio Asano" and tell me why the people who authorized waterboarding in Iraq should not receive comparable sentences.

#100 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2010, 11:24 PM:

If I rant about Bush spending money like a drunken sailor with a stolen credit card, I realize that that sort of immoderate language is disparaging to sailors and bartenders and should only be used when ranting is appropriate. But the term "war criminal" is a lot more specific and precise - torture is a crime, he was directly responsible for it happening in a war in which he was Commander in Chief, and he was aware of it and didn't stop it, and belongs in jail, being President doesn't excuse him from any of that, and there's a court in Den Haag which needs to decide whether to prosecute him since Obama's apparently not going to.

It's not just talking about him being responsible for the war in Afghanistan, in which innocent civilians were killed but it's possible to have a two-or-more-sided discussion about whether we needed to attack the country to defend ourselves against terrorists, or even the war in Iraq where there's a less credible argument that killing their dictator was done with good intentions and just implemented incompetently. You could argue that using the term in those contexts is done more to suppress discourse than to inform it, and while I'll agree that some people might use it that way, it'll be a hard sell to claim most people use it that way.

#101 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2010, 11:28 PM:

Is it my imagination or did someone make false equivalences again?

#102 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2010, 11:35 PM:

Will Shetterly @ 98... At the end of 2008, when Turner Classic Movies did its traditional homage to those who had passed away during that year, can you guess which movie they ran an excerpt of for Harvey Korman?

#103 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2010, 11:38 PM:

Will @98, I should have made it clear: I was the one who took those vowels.

#104 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2010, 11:45 PM:

By the way, one reason I enjoy reading Ann Coulter (in small doses), is that she's articulate and creative and deliberately way-over-the-top wrong. When somebody like Rush Limbaugh or Charles Krauthammer or Bill Kristol is wrong, they're wrong, and annoying, and in some cases there are people who take their wrongness seriously and actually think it should be implemented, which is depressing.

But when the Evil Ms. Coulter is wrong, she's usually wrong with such a high fractal dimension that I can't get half a sentence formed about how wrong she is because she's even wronger than that, and that kind of sputtering incoherence can be fun. She's somewhat better in writing, when she can have more time to be thorough, but does ok in real time with somebody like Bill Maher.

#105 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2010, 11:48 PM:

C., your ignorance is just appalling. I had thought better of you.

Avram, thanks. I reimvoweled with an automated tool, and couldn't quite believe I was seeing what I thought I was seeing. The warning and delay of having to do so lessened the impact. Still, O M fucking G.

#107 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 12:43 AM:

Joel @ 92: well, you've accidentally run headlong into a known strawperson, and that doesn't help.

Everyone claims to know that sort of pacifist, and while they do exist, there just aren't that many of them. I've had it taken for granted, after I've clearly said otherwise, that I am that sort of pacifist, enough times to be a bit suspicious, you know?

And, well, I'm not. I'm not a pacifist because I'm naive, or innocent, or unnaturally nice, which is the other one I get a lot, and which makes me laugh really hard, given that it's more true to say I became a pacifist the way people join AA.

I'm a pacifist because, taking it all in all, it seems the best approach to the world.

I've gotten hurt - not badly, thus far - doing non-violent activism/conflict resolution, I've certainly been scared green. I've done a couple of mildly stupid things.

I've seen other people get hurt. I know James Loney slightly. I remember when he and the rest of his peacemaker team were kidnapped. I remember when Tom Fox's body was found.

But, you know, it's not like people don't get hurt while engaging in wars and violence, either.

Most of the pacifists I know have done some to a lot of training in non-violent tactics. Like anything else, there are actual skills and techniques, ranging from how to get hit without getting (too much) hurt to how to keep your temper under great provocation to how to get someone to back down without making them feel threatened. Creative thinking and taking advantage of one's environment is encouraged, as is a decent grasp of basic psychology.

Will @ 84:

if someone else is attacked, fuck saintliness.

Well, you know, I'm not exactly a saint myself. And you're certainly not going to hear me preaching nonviolence to someone who's being attacked. My job at that point is to pile in on their side, as effectively as possible.

I don't know that I'd never respond violently in such a case myself, only that so far I've managed not to. I've gone to some trouble (see above) to ensure I've a few strings to my bow that don't involve violent response, but just as I'm quite sure that I would under some circumstances lie and steal to protect others, I might at some time encounter a situation in which I would be violent. I would just feel about it as I would about lying or stealing, i.e. that I'd done wrong.

Hypotheticals don't really work in this sort of discussion, because so much depends on the situation as presented and the materials at hand.

#108 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 12:56 AM:

C. Wingate @ 94:

I feel I ought to draw it to your attention that someone is borrowing your identity to make statements of such lunacy and vileness that they can only be intended to draw your good name into disrepute.

#109 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 01:09 AM:

Marna @ 107:

I've met a few pacifists in my time, and I've admired most of them; being an effective pacifist does require skill and talent, and a firmness of purpose that's found in few people of any political or ideological stripe. One thing that seems common among them is the ability to look at events and actions very broadly, to see their causes and effects as clearly as possible, and not to cast them into specific viewpoints.

For instance, violence can occur in many kinds of contexts, and it's important not to assume a context and respond in it without careful thought. Thinking in military terms can often lead to military responses when responding in civil police terms, or diplomatic terms, or counseling terms will produce a better outcome for all concerned. As an example, the response of the US government to the increase in illegal drug sales has been largely para-military in nature, with a side order of harsh police action and prison sentences, when treating the problem as a public health situation would be more effective.

#110 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 01:30 AM:

Bruce @ 109: it's true, people do get hypnotised by the romance of the hard choices (cf Bujold).

Hence the common hypothetical posed to pacifists "if your spouse was being attacked would you fight to protect them or just let them get hurt?" when the correct response is often more like "create a suitable distraction, attract the attention of the whole street, then split".

#111 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 01:47 AM:

C Wingate: I don't quite know what to say. There is so much in that statement (even the parts I can read in plaintext) which is both wrong in general, and wrong in specific, and also wrong^3 in this community, that words are going to fail me.

I mean to say that thing like the false equivalence of Left = communist, gives me pause; much less the implication that the present trend toward a police state is somehow tied to left side of the aisle politics is so out of touch with the facts on the ground, as to be risible. It's not that I don't decry the failure of the, putative, left to really stand against them, but the drive to institute them didn't come from the Dems, and the folks who have been decrying it are those people the Dems won't let play the game because they are depicted as, "The Radical Left".

As to war criminals... yes, some people do use it to shut people up. Some people also use other button pushing phrases that way; left and right.

But... and it's an important but, when I say I'd like to see Bush, Cheney, Bybee, Yoo, Rumsfeld, haled before the bar and tried, it because I think they have committed crimes which rise to the level of crimes against humanity.

I, personally, take grave offense at my experience, and expertise, in such matters being dismissed as cheap rhetoric to shut people up.

I also take umbrage at the way in which accusations of such blind partisanship get tossed around. Because when someone stoops to accusations such at that (X = STFU, not actual opinions held after weighing the facts, and available evidence), what it does is what's happening now... derails the conversation to make it about how people say things, rather than the things they say.

In short... this was an abusive comment, and (even if not meant to be so) it is disruptive, because it assumes that previous conversations, on all of these subjects, were full of people telling lies, and pretending to believe the things they said.

I should like to think better of you. I prefer to think people I know, (or am at least familiar with) here are acting in good faith.

I don't know quite what to make of this; If I take it as read, I am gravely disappointed. If I try to read something else into it... I can't.

Which is to say, what credit of faith you had earned in the past, is expended. I don't know quite how I will take the things you write in future; because, at present, I cannot trust your reasoning.

#112 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 02:07 AM:

I had an ex (a Quaker) to responded to someone saying I wasn't a pacifist with, "Terry is a pacifist, he's just not non-violent."

I have been half-convinced she isn't quite right.

I am peaceable. Maia was surprised at how non-aggressive, even anti-war, my fellow soldiers were.

I am not non-violent. I am, in fact, quite capable of very violent action. I am, however, not prone to it. I control it. I've not had to engage in it in decades. Part of this is a circumspect attitude.

Part of it is being willing, push come to shove, to be very violent. I suspect it shows. It may be that my willingness to be violent, makes me look like a poor target. I don't know.

I do know that I have not initiated violence. I have tolerated hugely abusive, even belittling comments. I have also allowed some amount of physical abuse.

But I've tried (and so far been successful) to make it seem that violence against me, wasn't going to get the offender the desired result.

What I have seen of pacifists in the same situation, is much the same. The lack of escalatory response is very effective at defusing the situation.

#113 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 03:06 AM:

On the question of pacifism, I note that some of us just are not physically or mentally suited for violence, and are better off focusing on honing those abilities that enhance our instinctive responses to threat. I don't kid myself that keeps me magically safe from harm, but I can tell you from multiple experiences going back to early childhood -- every time I've been really threatened, my reaction has been to try to find a way to talk myself out of trouble. Every last time. My world narrows, and I default to the mind game. So I'd better spend my time getting damned good at that, rather than worrying about whether I can hit someone...

That said, I've done physical training -- I'm okay at a limited range of things, mostly evasion and blocking tactics -- but with my periodic physical limitations, I'm better off just not antagonizing people in the first place, learning how to avoid trouble before it ever gets to me, and learning how to get out of trouble in situations in which the other guy WILL be stronger and better at fighting than I am. For me, threatening or using violence just makes me look like a potential threat (which perception I can't reliably live up to), inviting further violence, when if I'm nonagressive, they may do me the favor of underestimating me, and at very least, I haven't escalated the violence of the situation. Cause and effect, that.

Pacifism can be an entirely practical strategy, in addition to being a defensible philosophical choice. I've done the cost-benefit analysis, and indulging in violence is actually a dangerous reaction for me to have, for an entire huge long chain of reasons (but I think this post is too long already). Pacifism isn't perfect either, but it plays to my strengths, and maximizes my chance of survival in a way that violence really doesn't.

Also, I really strongly want to note that there's a huge difference between actively using nonviolent tactics and passively submitting to violence. Myself, I choose the former. I'm not proud....

#114 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 08:54 AM:

Of course "war criminal" is both a moral/political label, and a description--very much like "socialist." And that kind of label is shocking, and can take away from someones willingness to hear your argument. (There are perfectly sensible criticisms of Obamas policies in terms of deficits and propping up politically important companies. But when someone starts that criticism by calling him a Socialist, I have a hard time not tuning out.

As far as the disemvoweled bit, I have a feeling that didn't quite come out right, but maybe I just reemvoweled it wrong in my head. I'll admit I'm not quite clear why it was disemvoweled, though. The underlying issue is worthy of discussion, IMO, but probably won't work as a throwaway comment in a post about something else entirely. But I'm a serious outlier in this group (I wouldn't have thought it needed disemvoweling), so take my opinions with a grain of salt.

#115 ::: Bombie ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 09:26 AM:

Albatross @114

The disemvoweled bit is hardly relevant to the conversation currently going on, and a severe case of blaming-the-victim. With a ridiculous 'solution' incorporated to boot*. I read it prior disemvoweling, so I'm not reemvoweling wrongly. Yes, the subject is worthy of discussion, but not here, and not starting from such an un-nuanced, daft, vile remark.

--
* which I have a hard time not repeating here, to emphasise how wrong it is, because I cannot wrap my mind around someone being earnest when saying that.

#116 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 12:01 PM:

Marna @110, "the romance of the hard choices" is a lovely phrase. Is it Lois's? I googled it and only got one hit.

But as for the hard question, it's rather like whether you would kill Hitler if you had a time machine. I usually say it's the wrong question, because if I get a time machine, I go change the terms of ending the first World War.

But we don't get time machines, and sometimes your beloved is being brutally attacked, or it's 1942, and because no other nation would take in the Jews and war has hardened the minds of many Germans, the Final Solution begins.

Hmm. Okay, trying to make the case for the other side, I think I see the one for mine. Ben Hecht's famous "For Sale To Humanity 70,000 Jews Guaranteed Human Beings at $50 A Piece" ad appeared in 1943. It's almost never too late to try to get people to do the right thing.

But the other side would note that Hecht's ad had no effect at all. War is not a good time for peaceful solutions.

#117 ::: Annalee Rockwood ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 12:10 PM:

Marna @107: Tom Fox was one of the adult mentors in my high school youth group.

So, yeah. People telling me that pacifists are cowards, or that they're "asking for it," tend to provoke in me a visceral and rather uncivil response.

And yes, the delightful "if your spouse was being beaten" question. I don't deal in hypotheticals. I live in the real world. And in the real world, my spouse and I train parkour three nights a week, and are equipped with a variety of other prevention and avoidance tools. And if all else fails, there's always standing in the way.

#118 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 12:20 PM:

"What about my question?"
"Huh? Huh? Oh, you mean the one about Hitler?"
"What would you do?"
"I don't like this, John. What are you getting at?"
"What would you do? Would you kill him?"
"All right. All right. I'll give you an answer. I'm a man of medicine. I'm expected to save lives and ease suffering. I love people. Therefore, I would have no choice but to kill the son of a bitch."
"You'd never get away alive."
"It doesn't matter. I would kill him."
- 1983's The Dead Zone

#119 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 12:21 PM:

Marna 108: That must be it. What a relief.

#120 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 01:13 PM:

Annalee Rockwood #117: The story is that Lytton Strachey was asked by the conscription board during the Great War "What would you do if a Hun was attacking your sister?" He replied "I would try to get between them."

#121 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 01:16 PM:

praisegod barebones @61

"A commitment to peace isn't just (or even, for many people, most of the time) a commitment to not fighting, but a commitment to trying to make a world in which a life in which wars are not fought is possible."

I simply don't see how that's possible without resorting at least to implicit potential violence. And I have the impression that even when pacifists try to come up with models of how pacifist solutions could work, they usually ignore a lot of the "what could go wrong" questions, and implicitly take things for granted that can actually only be taken for granted in non-pacifist settings.

"Yes, there are some obvious problems with pacificism, just as there are some obvious problems with the command to love your neighbour as yourself. But what makes you think that people who embrace the first are any more blind to them or haven't thought about them with the same degree of intelligence as those who embrace the second."

Hmm, not sure about that. I suspect the biggest "problems", so to say, with the command to love your neighbour involve whether people really have the strength to go through with that. With pacifism, IMO a lot of gaps, flaws and condradictions still remain if you assume pacifists who have the strength for that.

Annalee Rockwood @64,

"How many times has someone come up to you on the street and said "so you think violence is justified, huh? Do you think the holocaust was justified?""

Since I'm not always or even most of the time for violence, that question simply wouldn't make make as much sense as asking the opposite question of someone who always against violence.

"As a religious pacifist, I get asked to justify my beliefs on a regular basis (usually by being presented with Godwin-invoking hypotheticals). Which means that I actually have far more opportunities than the average person to think about and try to articulate my reasoning."

First, given that you support an ideology that, as far as I can see, is illogical, fundamentally flawed, and has both the potential to do great harm and a track record of doing harm, I don't see how you're in a position to complain that you often get confronted with criticism or harsh questions. And when people make a specific point against your position, "I hate it when people say that" usually isn't much of a response. You have no right not to be criticised.

Second, those "hypotheticals" you talk about aren't necessarily hypotheticals. To a good deal, they refer to actual events, past or present.

Third, to the extent to which these hypotheticals really are hypothetical, what do you think why they're hypothetical?

"Pacifists examine the problem from a different perspective, and often have difficulty articulating their thinking to people who can't get their heads around that perspective. That does not, however, mean that we don't think things through. It just means we think things differently."

As far as I can see, the problem with your different perspective is that it simply leaves out a lot of crucial points, not necessarily that I just can't wrap my head around it.


Annalee Rockwood @66,

"If you believe that it is the individual's responsibility to protect themselves from violence, and that any harm they come to is their failing in that regard, then I can see why you would hold pacifists who reject self defense in contempt."

Not the individual's responsibility, but the individual's right. And yes, I don't think much of pacifists who reject the idea that it's ok for me to try and stop people from harming me.

"Personally, I believe that upholding law and order is a communal responsibility, and that when someone is the victim of violent crime, it is a communal failure. The alternative, as far as I see it, not only blames victims, but ignores the basic reality that self-defense-as-individual-responsibility encourages violent predation against the physically and financially weak."

I agree that protecting people, especially the weak and vulnerable, is a communal responsibility. That's one reason why I get so angry about the idea of pacifist principles influencing community behaviour. (Of course, the main responsibility is that of potential attackers not to attack, but since there's usually at least a few people who don't live up to that responsibility, the next level is the communal responsibility to first, make sure that less people want to attack, and second, stop those who still want to attack.)

I find it interesting how you move from someone's comments about self-defense to attacking the idea that everyone is responsible for their own safety, though.

As for victim blaming, I think pacifists should be careful with pointing fingers on that matter. Pacifist ideas about peaceful conflict resolution can all too easily lead to debates about how the victim of this or that act of violence didn't do enough to de-escalate the situation.

"I can't say if I would defend myself if I had no alternative, because I've never been there."

Now what do you think why that's the case?

"I can say that you'd be amazed how many other options open up to you when you're thinking to look for them. I've gotten out of more than one potentially-violent situation by resorting to other means than violence. If it had been the first or the only conflict-management tool at my disposal, I probably would have been badly injured instead."

You're attacking a strawman.


Terry Karney @81,

"They, in fact, expect to be harmed, if not killed, should someone attack them. Some have asked me to not interfere, if I happen to be present when such a thing might happen. I have not made such a promise, because I can't be sure I could keep it."

Ok, but how likely is it that any of them would still be alive today if, a while ago, everyone had made such a promise to them, including the authorities? And if that promise had become generally known? It is brave that they are willing to die under certain circumstances, but I think they forget how much of a role other people's fear of possible violence already plays in making these circumstances less likely.

Terry Karney @90,

"Which is not to say I doubt you, but that the implication of your comments paints with a very broad brush, and that brush makes it seem absolute pacifists are silly and delusional.

Which reinforces the common stereotype that they don't have any idea about the "real world" and can be ignored."

Well, what if that's what I think? Not necessarily silly, but at least delusional?

Marna Nightingale @107,

"Hypotheticals don't really work in this sort of discussion, because so much depends on the situation as presented and the materials at hand."

Any possible combination of circumstances and materials might happen. And I think there are some things most or all conflict/tension situations involving both pacifists and non-pacifists have in common. And, what difference do the materials at hand make, given that pacifists aren't supposed to use them in violent ways anyway?

And, again, what keeps hypotheticals hypothetical?

Marna Nightingale @110

"Hence the common hypothetical posed to pacifists "if your spouse was being attacked would you fight to protect them or just let them get hurt?" when the correct response is often more like "create a suitable distraction, attract the attention of the whole street, then split"."

What good would attracting the attention of the whole street do if everyone in it would be consistently pacifist the the attacker(s) would know that?

KayTei @113

"For me, threatening or using violence just makes me look like a potential threat (which perception I can't reliably live up to), inviting further violence, when if I'm nonagressive, they may do me the favor of underestimating me, and at very least, I haven't escalated the violence of the situation. Cause and effect, that."

That is, of course, perfectly true, but only because there's the risk that other people might react violently". Without that risk, that chain of logic wouldn't work.

That's one of the paradoxes of pacifism, really: If you know that other people might act in non-pacifist ways, pacifist approaches might make the most sense. But if you can be sure that other people will act in strictly pacifist ways, non-pacifist approaches will often be easier.

Annalee Rockwood @117

"I don't deal in hypotheticals."

In other words, you don't want to think about the potential consequences of your actions and attitudes, and you get angry when people remind you of them.

#122 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 01:36 PM:

Does anyone have some recommended reading for Raphael? I think there's some education needed*, but I haven't the oomph for a 101 lecture right at the moment. I have better places to spend my energy.

----
* Assuming arguendo that he wants to understand what he currently does not, rather than just keeping on with the "you guys are wrong wrong wrongety wrong" dance.

#123 ::: Annalee Rockwood ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 01:53 PM:

I don't have time or energy to 101 somebody right now either. Especially not someone who's going to lecture me on 'potential consequences' while quoting the comment where I said someone important to me died for his nonviolent principles.

So I'm done.

#124 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 01:57 PM:

One of the most famous stories about Quakers ends with the punchline (spoken by one of the Quakers, to a trespasser, robber, home-invader, or some such) "Friend, I would not hurt thee for the world, but thou art standing where I am about to shoot."

A Quaker who was an absolute pacifist would presumably find this insulting (or would just ignore it). However, among the people who tell it, and find it amusing, it's seen as a positive story about Quakers. The real joke is that the Quaker in the story is what I might call a rational pacifist (by analogy to Prof. Bernardo de La Paz's "rational anarchy" in Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress); he doesn't let his pacifism interfere with necessary actions. (An absolute pacifist, obviously, will not see it that way.)

(To repeat, I'll freely agree that Americans (I'm an American; it's what I know; I rather suspect this applies to most other ethnicities as well though) would generally benefit from being less willing to resort to violence, and from knowing more about non-violent approaches to conflict resolution, and to resolving disputes. I think our willingness to go to war is far out of proportion to the demonstrated past or reasonably expectable future benefits of doing so.)

"Pacifism", to me, does not denote attempts to avoid violence when reasonably possible; it denotes a wholesale rejection of violence (possibly within broad limits -- totally against war, say, but okay with violence for personal self-defense if really necessary). Not, however, necessarily totally absolute; merely very very broad and strong.

One of the key definitions of "libertarianism", of course, is the rejection of initiating force.

It's interesting that the most convincing arguments against violence, and in favor of de-escalation and so on, have been presented to me in two contexts: martial arts classes, and handgun self-defense training. I think that, as violence becomes less mythologized, it becomes less attractive.

#125 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 02:04 PM:

Raphael, you are engaging in a particularly vile variety of One-True-Wayism. Furthermore, your "what if your spouse was being attacked" strawman is the precise equivalent of the "ticking time bomb" torture-apologist's scenario. You are so wrong that I don't have the words to describe how wrong you are, and contemptible to boot. I do have one piece of advice, however: STOP DIGGING.

#126 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 02:37 PM:

Raphael, you're making a common mistake, confusing pacifism with "passive-ism." This makes that clear to me:

"What good would attracting the attention of the whole street do if everyone in it would be consistently pacifist the the attacker(s) would know that?"

If you've got a whole street of people watching, getting in the way, obstructing violence, holding people without hitting them, etc. there's not much the attacker(s) can do.

For 101 purposes (apologies for the condescension in the phrase, but it's the one going around right now), I'd suggest reading about successful pacifists like Gandhi and Martin Luther King. They did seem to be on to something that worked for them.

#127 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 02:44 PM:

Coming in very late (I've had a tiring weekend with elderly relatives) ...

Because in fact they committed war crimes. (Nor are the current administration’s hands much cleaner on this score, and those who point this out continue to be marginalized.)

Spot on. But the significance of the problem is only now becoming clear, and it's much more serious.

Between 9/11 and the end of 2008 it was possible to believe that the problem was George W. Bush and his cronies, and if only we could have a Good Tsar instead, everything could be fixed.

It's now pretty bloody obvious that the problem is a structural one. I say this not to exculpate Bush -- he didn't exactly rise to the occasion he was dumped into -- but in view of the fact that two years into the Obama administration we still have Guatanamo and military tribunals and flying killer drones executing foreigners without benefit of legal process, the very fact that Obama isn't doing any better suggests that there is something fundamentally wrong with the American machinery of government this century. (That, or Barack H. Obama lied like a rug about his electoral intentions and George W. Bush was better than we remember. Which counter-argument I reject, in the absence of actual evidence.)

This in turn suggests to me that a movement towards moderation ain't going to work. Nothing short of a revolution will change things now because it's the actual mechanics of running an empire that dictate the pattern of events, not the guy tugging (futilely) on the rudder up top. And my call for where the revolution is coming from is a hideous combination of infrastructure collapse and capital flight.

#128 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 02:45 PM:

Both the ticking time bomb, and the person attacking loved ones, are standard questions precisely because they get at really basic (emotionally strong) points of opinion. Waving them away is refusing to engage on those basic points.

For the ticking time bomb, the answer is simple and (I think) well known locally: torture is not a good way to get reliable information. To be of any use, the information obtained needs to be reliable. Engaging that point, rather than decrying it as a straw man, may actually educate somebody. And we can afford to engage that point, because we have a very solidly-supported and quite simple answer.

#129 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 02:50 PM:

Lee, I dunno about your furthermore. The ticking time bomb scenario fails because torture is not reliable. But violence can stop someone attacking a spouse. There are extreme cases where nothing else works. I mentioned being attacked on the street by a guy off his meds. I basically protected myself as best I could until other people gathered, the guy ran away, and the cops ultimately got him due to superior numbers and training, not violence. (Yes, there is room for police in a pacifist society, though they wouldn't have potentially-deadly weapons.)

Anyway, had Emma been along and the guy attacked her, I would've tried to pull him away first. And if he kept coming, I would've done something violent to put him down as fast as possible. Essentially, he had temporary rabies. Reason was not an option. I could take the blows. I couldn't watch Emma take them, knowing she has neither my strength nor my (limited) background in martial arts.

#130 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 02:53 PM:

ddb @128:

Both the ticking time bomb, and the person attacking loved ones, are standard questions precisely because they get at really basic (emotionally strong) points of opinion. Waving them away is refusing to engage on those basic points.

But focusing on them is putting the improbable edge case in the center of the discussion. Most of the important, and interesting, work of a political or ethical philosophy doesn't happen there. It's one thing to bring it up. To focus on it as a way to express your disdain for an entire group of people doesn't, as PNH would say, make anyone smarter.

As Ursula K Le Guin said, given the choice between real-world harm and imaginary harm, I'll avoid the real-world harm. I note that people are dying right now in wars of choice, more than are dying because they're being attacked while their partner neither fights for them nor uses other means to protect them. Just as there are people who have really-o and truly-o been waterboarded, while we have exactly one case that's kinda sorta a kidnapped child + time constraint case.

#131 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 02:57 PM:

Charlie @128, if Obama was really being frustrated by the system, he could tell us that. Eisenhower waited until the end of his reign, but he did warn us about the military-industrial complex.

Adolph Reed Jr. got Obama right back in 1996: "In Chicago, for instance, we’ve gotten a foretaste of the new breed of foundation-hatched black communitarian voices: one of them, a smooth Harvard lawyer with impeccable credentials and vacuous-to-repressive neoliberal politics, has won a state senate seat on a base mainly in the liberal foundation and development worlds. His fundamentally bootstrap line was softened by a patina of the rhetoric of authentic community, talk about meeting in kitchens, small-scale solutions to social problems, and the predictable elevation of process over program—the point where identity politics converges with old-fashioned middle class reform in favoring form over substance. I suspect that his ilk is the wave of the future in U.S. black politics here, as in Haiti and wherever the International Monetary Fund has sway."

#132 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 03:00 PM:

abi, when speaking of absolutism, you have to be willing to examine the extremes. That's where absolutism lies.

#133 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 03:04 PM:

It's now pretty bloody obvious that the problem is a structural one. I say this not to exculpate Bush -- he didn't exactly rise to the occasion he was dumped into -- but in view of the fact that two years into the Obama administration we still have Guatanamo and military tribunals and flying killer drones executing foreigners without benefit of legal process, the very fact that Obama isn't doing any better suggests that there is something fundamentally wrong with the American machinery of government this century. (That, or Barack H. Obama lied like a rug about his electoral intentions and George W. Bush was better than we remember. Which counter-argument I reject, in the absence of actual evidence.)

I don't think the "machinery of government" is any worse - or any better - than it's ever been. To paraphrase James Elroy, America never lost its innocence; it started out with its cherry popped. What has changed is the propagation of information and the rise of other societal structures that wield their own power.

IMHO, of course.

#134 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 03:06 PM:

Will @132:

We're lumping an awful lot of forms of pacifism, with different levels of absolutism, together here. A number of people are doing so primarily and specially to dismiss anyone who follows any flavor by focusing on this edge case.

For my part, I do not know what I would do if someone attacked someone I cared about. I might betray my principles, and feel guilty about that. I might intervene in a way that I was not uncomfortable or unhappy with.

But not knowing how I would act in that circumstance doesn't make me any more in favor of violence as a solution to problems either personal or political. All it does is mean that people like Raphael look down their noses at me.

How is this making anyone smarter?

#135 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 03:28 PM:

Abi, very true about the lumping.

I think there's a spectrum of pacifism that goes from, say, the patriotic pacifist who will to defend a nation but not attack one, the pragmatic pacifist who will abandon pacifism in extreme circumstances, and the absolute pacifist who simply will not use violence under any conditions. I respect all three, but I'm the pragmatic one.

Looking down your nose at anyone for their beliefs is being very human in the worst way. Respectful disagreement is tough.

#136 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 03:31 PM:

Abi@130: I don't suggest bringing it up or focusing on it, no. I suggest that, when other people bring it up, it's dispatched most efficiently by showing that it doesn't work, rather than by pointing out that the scenario isn't common enough to be important in the real world.

That's strictly a rhetorical analysis; I think the people who bring it up can be refocused on real issues faster by showing that their favorite example doesn't support torture, rather than by showing that their favorite example isn't common enough to matter. The fact that it's vanishingly rare is too abstract a response to a point they're already emotionally engaged with, I would argue.

But it's all tactical. In the long run I certainly want them to understand BOTH that torture doesn't work to get useful information AND that ticking time-bombs that only one person knows the secret to are vanishingly rare.

#137 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 03:34 PM:

Oh! If it helps to balance Raphael's take, I respect absolute pacifists the most, I accept the intellectual argument--Newton's third law applies--and I wish I could be one.

#138 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 03:47 PM:

abi@134: The question of what actual people would do when suddenly confronted with danger is another complicated one, but is largely separate from the question of people's principles. For the record I'm not sure I would perfectly execute my own principles in an emergency either.

I do hope you're not including me among those attempting to dismiss all flavors of pacifism. I'm not even completely dismissing the absolute flavor (though I may well not have made that completely clear previously); I find it personally distasteful, but am not at all sure that people holding that position don't accomplish considerable good by getting people to consider workable alternatives to violence anyway. And I've expressed some approval for less absolute forms several times. So I'm guessing not. But just in case wanted to mention it. (You're probably trying to avoid being as aggressive as labeling specific people as holding that position, which makes sense, but that leaves open the possibility of some of us worrying "does she mean me?")

#139 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 03:53 PM:

ddb @138:

In point of fact, I did take you that way in comment 12; thus my comment 35.

I appreciate the clarification. I know you have the kind of nuanced view of these matters that someone experienced in weapons (or martial arts) will often develop, and I was deeply bothered by the fact that you sideswiped me (and many other people I respect) in that comment.

So thanks.

#140 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 03:55 PM:

Steve C.@133: I think this may be part of the "everything" that 9/11 changed (I hate that meme).

A huge number of Americans, big enough blocks of voters to be really important, think we're at war with completely barbaric people (suicide attacks as the primary technique don't compute for most Americans, and neither does stoning people to death and cutting off their noses) who claim they're acting in the name of Islam and appear to be supported by many Islamic nations. This has changed political reality for all politicians.

(Bush's attempt to separate the terrorists from Islam as a religion is one of the few things I admire him for. He did it promptly, consistently, loudly, and he sounded sincere. Unfortunately it doesn't seem to have worked; though things probably could be even worse in that area, so maybe it helped.)

#141 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 03:57 PM:

abi #130:

Yeah, really many of these hypotheticals (ticking time bomb, murderer attacking your children, etc.) amount to meta-questions about whether your moral principles are really absolute, or whether you should be willing to compromise them in extreme circumstances.

The first thing to understand about that is that it is always possible to set up a hypothetical situation in which only by violating your principles can you avert some truly horrifying evil. If you won't torture the terrorist to save a million people from a nuke, how about saving the earth from destruction by a nova bomb[1]? Or all of existence from a universe-destroying paradox involving time travel[2]? What if the hypothetical is set up to guarantee that if you don't torture this one terrorist, some other government will torture a million innocents to death? And so on. It's like you're solving an equation with a zero on one side, by multiplying through by really, really large numbers, to find out whether that zero is really zero or really just something very close to zero.

The second thing to understand is that those hypotheticals, while they're of some value in understanding the limits of your moral rules, are extremely commonly used to justify violating the principles in much less extreme circumstances. As abi points out, even assuming there are cases where torture is the optimal way to get information that saves lives, the information that's come out from the US torture program shows a hell of a lot of people being tortured, many to death, with no hint of a ticking time bomb anywhere. Similarly, the argument that starts with "wouldn't you be willing to fight a war in self-defense against the invading Nazis" somehow ends up justifying invading third-world countries for murky purposes.

My rule of thumb: If a man makes an elaborate argument about how, in some hypothetical situation, it would be okay for a married man to sleep off on his wife, he's not discussing philosophy, he's planning adultery.

[1] Hey, ddb isn't the only one whose formative literary experiences thinking about this involved RAH!

[2] Which is not to say that Spider Robinson didn't have some effect later.

#142 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 04:00 PM:

Raphael: First, given that you support an ideology that, as far as I can see, is illogical, fundamentally flawed, and has both the potential to do great harm and a track record of doing harm, I don't see how you're in a position to complain that you often get confronted with criticism or harsh questions. .

Which is an apt summation of those who aren't against violence/support the idea of the Doctrine of Just War (both ad bellum and in bello), but, and this is where the difference lies, when the Pacifist asks the hard questions, they get insults, much as you are using now, as with the example above.

And yes, I don't think much of pacifists who reject the idea that it's ok for me to try and stop people from harming me. Strawman. Oft referred to, and pretty much always in the abstract way you posit it here. The groups of pacifists (e.g. Quakers, Jehovah's Witnesses, Jain) don't say you don't have the right to defend yourself with violence, they say it's wrong. There is a fundamental difference there; the importance of which should be obvious.

Well, what if that's what I think? Not necessarily silly, but at least delusional? [emphasis in original]. Flawed rhetoric. Again, look above, you make categorical statements of fact you don't get to turn around and play the, "It's my opinion card to weasel out of being called on it.

You keep asking what keeps the hypotheticals hypothetical. The answer is, nothing. Tom Fox, Maia; who got pelted with things, singled out and abused for not fighting back, Ghandi, the people who sat in, and got beaten; by the very forces you imply keep them from being harmed when they enage in pacifistic acts meant to change behavior. They take their stand, and they take their lumps, or they don't. But the (again) cheap rhetoric of implying only the implicit violence available to the State; being in their back pocket, is what makes them able to be pacifists. Arrant nonsense.

What makes it possible is that, in it's way, it works. The decision they have made is the cost, to the broader polity, is better paid by them, if the system fails, then to escalate it to affecting others. They have decided there is no way to keep systemic violence out of the equation if they allow themselves to engage in personal violence; no matter how moderate, measured and rational it may seem.

When you ask "why" it is that so many people say they don't know what they would do when faced with violence against someone else... and do it in that same dismissive way you've been handling your end of this entire conversations, I can tell you.

For the same reason so many people who are gung-ho for violence in the defense of self and other fail that test when put to it. Right up to people self-selected and carefully trained to engage in it (e.g. lots of soldiers fail to pull the trigger when people are shooting at them). Those people say they don't know because they are brave enough to honest enough with themselves to realise they may fail to live up to their ideals.

To mock them for it, is indecent. I'm not a pacifist. I can say, with a fair bit of certainty (having done so) that I will stand up to someone, to the point that I react to them being violent in defense of someone else, by beating them. He swung at me, and I knocked him down and sat on him. When an asshole decided that made for a boring fight, and pulled me off to make it, "more fair", and the kid I'd knocked down started swinging again, I beat him some more.

I've also avoided fights, because the threat didn't harm things I thought were important. It was just someone hitting me. I knew that all it was was embarrassing to be seen putting up with. I also knew that, push come to shove, and the violence offered to me became a real threat, I'd not be going to the hospital alone.

So, I've been put to those tests, and I've "passed" them. I've been assaulted, and not responded with violence. I got some bruises, and various levels of reinforcement for my behavior (self-reproach, and outside praise). I wanted, desperately; more than once, to beat the snot of out people who were threatening/shoving/hitting me. I chose not to.

And the situation defused. So, at least one fewer person was hurt. Did I do good, maybe. I don't care. I did what was right for the time, as I saw it. You are being ideological, in the extreme, but denying agency to those who are pacifists. For whatever reason you seem to think them immoral, and are unwilling to allow that what they see as right action might just be right action.

Which is as blinkered as you accuse them of being; and far less tolerant than I know them to be, after all, I am welcomed, with loving arms and joysome heart by Quakers, both in the abstract, the decidedly personal.

#143 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 04:02 PM:

Abi@139: I wasn't thinking of pacifism that early, it hadn't entered the discussion. (My Vietnam-era political experience acknowledges huge swathes of anti-war people who are in no sense pacifists.)

Anyway, good to get things straightened out a bit. (I've put sections supporting non-absolute forms of pacifism into several messages since then, too.)

#144 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 04:15 PM:

We can plan how we'd like to act in extremis, but until one actually experiences it, it's nearly impossible to say. That's why people who are expected to encounter extreme situations are trained.

#145 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 04:23 PM:

Charlie #127:

It has become clear over the last several years that the class of powerful people in government and the media and to some extent in the top tier of industry in the US shares certain beliefs, and that it is almost impossible to challenge those beliefs politically.

Some of those are probably functional beliefs--things that are in the interests of the powerful to believe/have believed by others. For example, everyone in power seems to agree that nobody important may ever suffer consequences for certain decisions, even if they are both illegal and immoral. Similarly, despite the fact that everyone pays lip-service to the idea that "just following orders" isn't a defense for serious crimes, the public discussion makes it clear that the powerful and the talking heads who take their orders absolutely think that's a defense. (Not for nobodies from West Virginia, of course, but for real people.)

Many people had serious questions about the wisdom of bailing out the big banks and financial companies during the financial meltdown. Blogs were filled with intelligent, informed discussion of these views. But I don't recall seeing much or any of it covered in the big US media in an intelligent way. I think the consensus among the powerful was that those companies had to be bailed out (I think more from ideological capture than from some kind of class solidarity or something), and alternative views were not going to be seriously considered.

After 9/11 and the anthrax attacks, this class pulled together in a big way. For several years, US mainstream media read like some kind of propaganda organs, in part by uncritically passing along all sorts of obvious bullshit that came from the white house, but also in part by self-censoring any opinion that didn't look like self-conscious patriotism and war-boosterism and yay-us-ism. I think the US MSM has returned to something like its old form by now, but of course, that form (with its continuing dishonesty, blind spots, spin, "responsible" journalism that decides I don't need to know some things, ass-kissing of the powerful, etc.) has become a lot clearer by the example of the last decade or so.

#146 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 04:28 PM:

ddb @143:

I saw your comments about "anti-war extremists" as being pointed at pacifists, particularly here: Then again maybe the anti-war extremists are right anyway; maybe even if the WMD evidence was true it still wasn't worth going to war over..

Combine that with Extremists are sometimes right. When they're right, though, they're often right for the wrong reasons; their rightness, when it occurs, is not as strongly correlated with their beliefs as they may hope. and you have my goat.

I was against the Iraq war. And my rightness in this war is based partly on my beliefs about war and violence. I think the idea of war is to a certain proportion of the population like [some] drugs: attractive, addictive, and destructive. I think that people were hypnotized by the prospect of a "just war", attracted to it beyond their ability to evaluate the evidence about WMDs in an unbiased way.

I did evaluate the evidence, and it stank.

So I was against the war twice over, once because I think war is poison, and once because it was clearly based on a lie. But had every word Powell spoke to the UN been Gospel truth, I'd still have been against the adventure.

I'm glad you weren't thinking of pacifists in that context, but it did seem to describe me pretty well.

Shorter me: careful where you point that thing next time! But here's my hand in friendship. Pax, as it were.

#147 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 04:49 PM:

Terry Karney @ 142:
For the same reason so many people who are gung-ho for violence in the defense of self and other fail that test when put to it. Right up to people self-selected and carefully trained to engage in it (e.g. lots of soldiers fail to pull the trigger when people are shooting at them). Those people say they don't know because they are brave enough to honest enough with themselves to realise they may fail to live up to their ideals.

Just as it takes intense training to turn an average person into a soldier capable of killing another when required (and the training does not always work, as you say), so it takes training and forethought to turn an average person into a pacifist capable of not killing another when goaded to (and the training may be just as unreliable). We're jumped up plains apes who aren't good at consistent behavior in the face of loud noises and bodily threats; that doesn't absolve us from that most human of behaviors: attempting to to make long-term plans and optimize our behavior to match them. Insisting that everyone know how they will behave beforehand is clearly not useful.

That's the problem with those low-probability hypotheticals: they abstract out all the really hard parts of the moral decisions. Ostensibly that makes them clearer; actually it removes from them many of the tradeoffs that have to be made in real-life decisions. This sort of card-palming reminds me of the reason why physicists should not be allowed to comment on the modeling challenges of other fields (see xkcd).

#148 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 05:04 PM:

I wonder if anyone has designed a boot camp (similar in intensity to military boot camps) to prepare pacifists for how the world works?

#149 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 05:06 PM:

Earl @148:
...how the world works?

Do you think you might want to rephrase that a little bit, considering how much of this thread has been accusations of unworldliness and unrealistic worldviews on the part of pacifists?

#150 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 05:07 PM:

We -- the spouse and I -- clearly are not pacifists. We woke to a man in our bedroom and we attacked him. We did not ask him questions. We attacked him together with everything we had, bare-assed wearing only t-shirts. We attacked and shoved and pushed and screamed and cursed at the top of our voices until N got the front door unlocked and open and shoved him outside. Then called the cops. N made the conscious choice not to shove him right over the edge of the porch onto the jagged rocks at the bottom. I, however, terrified and triggering like I was from other violent events in the past, was not capable of making a conscious decision. I'd have just shoved him on the rocks.

He was a way over-privileged, way over-drunk kid who was sober enough to break into our place when he couldn't find his own. His buddies lied right into the faces of the cops insisting this intruder wasn't 1) part of their group; 2) didn't exist; 3) was either black or asian, and they were niether.

We watched him come out with his hungover buddies in the morning. We recognized him by his messed up face where I'd clawed him.

We were so lucky not to have had a gun in our bedroom, for N would have shot him, and he'd probably be in jail. This fellow's father is very rich, and we are not.

IOW, violence will often get you into more trouble than out of trouble.
Love, C.

#151 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 05:15 PM:

abi@146: My native terminology doesn't particularly associate anti-war activists with pacifists, remember. Vietnam-era; lots of WWII veterans against the Vietnam war (like my father). Lots of people who couldn't possibly argue for conscientious-objector status who were still morally against THAT war. Maybe I just associate "anti-war" with being against one specific war, which is often situational. So maybe I'll remember the association as something other people make more strongly next time.

Pax, in any case, is good.

#152 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 05:24 PM:

Earl Cooley: I don't know that I understand you. Pacifists know how the world works. Most of them don't like aspects of it.

Basic Training/Boot Camp aren't meant to teach how the world works, but rather how one's branch of service works, and how to deal with a decidedly abnormal circumstance (i.e. war).

So no, I don't think such a thing can exist.

#153 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 05:24 PM:

Constance@150: Glad you're okay (I don't think this was a recent event? But either way, glad you're okay). And glad you didn't do more damage than you really wanted to the intruder, and that you didn't do more damage than the legal system could accommodate to the intruder.

This is the exact situation that "castle doctrine" laws are intended to cover. They essentially make it the default presumption that the homeowner has the legal grounds for use of deadly force against an intruder in their home. And, in some states, preempt civil suits as well.

#154 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 05:28 PM:

abi #149: Do you think you might want to rephrase that a little bit, considering how much of this thread has been accusations of unworldliness and unrealistic worldviews on the part of pacifists?

I was not thinking of a pacifist boot camp as a deprogramming effort, but as a practical teaching experience. It could include some basic Aikido training, but even that might be pushing it for some folks.

#155 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 05:35 PM:

ddb: I think comment 12's problem isn't your native terminology, but the connotative structure of the first sentence.

Allow me to ask you to read that sentence again... as if you were first seeing it written by someone else.

Extremists are sometimes right. When they're right, though, they're often right for the wrong reasons; their rightness, when it occurs, is not as strongly correlated with their beliefs as they may hope.

There is nothing in that which couches it as being about any specific thing. It's about, "extremism", which is 1: usually not a consensus definition, and 2: is also usually perjorative.

Given that you followed it with discussions of the Iraq War, and it seems there were, in your construction, two kinds of people opposed to the war. Those who doubted the stated casus belli, and those who were, "extremists", and who were right, but not from any real merit in their position, but by the happy circumstance of the people on the other side being wrong.

While you may not have intended it, the rhetorical content of your comment has all of that in it.

Which is why you got so strong and, I am certain, unexpected; and persistent, a reaction.

#156 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 05:50 PM:

I've been thinking about what was, in retrospect, a pretty poor explication of how I think, and I've come to the conclusion that it isn't salvageable, especially since it is acceptable to single me out for an act of public humiliation.

Perhaps a better way to express what I said, the part to which people took the most offense, is that while I recognize that (for instance) people may be serious about trying Bush for war crimes, the political impracticality of doing so sets up social meanings to talking about it that are strongly group-reinforcing and limiting to discourse. And it matters a lot who we are when we say these things. When someone who has taken to calling members of the other party "rethuglicans" talks about putting Bush on trial, I quite frankly am not all that interested, because using a constant stream of extreme rhetoric is, as far as I am concerned, exactly the same thing as crying wolf all the time. It says to me that this person is of a certain class and persuasion, and that they are probably not going to be responsive to any push-back on what they say.

I am not necessarily against prosecutions, but if it were to look like an act of retribution from the left (or far worse, from the Democrats), then I think the long term political damage would be terrible. I think it would it would put the most statist, neo-con Republicans in a position of righteous indignation to which the electorate would respond in the most favorable (to the Reps) terms. That's what I was trying to express in my concerns over the rhetoric.

#157 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 06:03 PM:

it is acceptable to single me out for an act of public humiliation

Oh puh-lease!

#158 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 06:09 PM:

C. Wingate: @156: I will take most of that as read (I would have to know what you are thinking when you say singled out for public humiliation. The reactions were strong, because the idea was, at best, very poorly expressed. Since you were alone in the field, it was certainly singular. Avram's comment was, I think, a reflection on how things might have gone, were he not the first person to see it, some two hours after you posted it. As for Vowel loss... no harm, no foul, no shame. That is a singular event as well. Xopher's lost them... I've sort of lost them [in the brtn thread of infamous memory] there is no external shame in the loss of them. We all get intemperate, or his post without review somtimes).

I don't, actually, take issue with your core thesis (that name-calling, as a general behavior) is counter-productive. I don't care for it, I care for it a bit less when the Republicans do it, not because my side of the aisle is somehow more deserving of the privilege of marginalising speech, but because the Republicans have institutionalised it. "Liberal" as an epithet, and "the Democrat Party" as a means of reference are not things one see only in the comments at Free Republic.

The second part... I don't think it would matter if you had Bush admitting in a memo to Blair that the War was a done deal, and nothing anyone could to do stop it was going to work; and the intel would be "fixed" to make it possible to cover their respective asses would be enough to make the present day Republican entertain an investigation much less an actual trial.

Since this is the same party which spent six years hounding Clinton, and has members saying Obama needs to be imeached (or at least investigated for the possibility of vote fraud [re ACORN], or not being a US citizen), I don't think the charge of, "The appearance of partisan investigation" has a whole lot of traction.

Because, actually, that memo does exist.

#159 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 06:10 PM:

C., if you think that was the most offensive part of your post, you need to go back and look at what part lost its vowels. THAT was the offensive part. I barely remember you saying this other stuff at all.

#160 ::: Bombie ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 06:29 PM:

C. Wingate @156

the part to which people took the most offense != the part to which most people responded
(which was in line with the current thread, and in no need of disemvoweling)

I'm glad you're taking the effort of trying to express yourself more clearly. I deplore that it has a passive aggressive tone about it.
(Which is in no way meant to be humiliating*, just as a mild criticism)

--
* I say this in earnest, not aiming for some kind of cruel sarcasm here

#161 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 06:43 PM:

abi, because I've become increasingly aware that different generations use the same words with very different meanings, I'm dittoing ddb here: to those of us who were involved in opposing the Vietnam War, antiwar =/= pacifist. The Weathermen might be the most extreme example of the antiwar not-a-pacifist, but there were many, many folks like my dad, who served in WWII and thought it was a good war, but the Vietnam War was not. They don't even fall into the patriotic pacifist category, because they did not think they were fighting in WWII to defend the US. They thought they were fighting to liberate Europe.

#162 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 07:04 PM:

#153 ddb

That happened in 2005. I wasn't able to talk for days because my throat had gotten torn out with the screaming, which was partly terror and partly consciusly strategy to make as much noise as possible to terrorize the invader and alert the neighbors.

However, we objected and marched against the invasion of Iraq post 9/11. We continue to protest that invasion as illegal and based knowingly on lies for reasons that the VP and his cronies had on the top of their agendas for a long time.

Almost always we are anti-war and anti-violence, because, as is so easy to see, usually violence create more problems than it solves.

But neither of us are pacifists, and probably more people are like us than not. Except for those who want guns carried everywhere, including church, schools, etc. See the post above, and that reason I return to, which reason I have knowing my own character: violence almost always creates worse problems, including more violence.

Love, C.

#163 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 07:22 PM:

Will Shetterly @ 161... many folks like my dad, who served in WWII and thought it was a good war, but the Vietnam War was not

Actor Robert Ryan was a Marine drill sergeant during WW2, and a boxer. He spoke against the Vietnam War and for nuclear disarmament.

#164 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 07:25 PM:

Constance: I don't know how to do this, and turning this, already fragile, thread into a GUNS thread, seems a bad idea, but your circumstance is why I, who have guns, am leery of keeping them ready to hand.

I am leery of that, even knowing how I wake up in such situations (pretty damned clear headed).

Even knowing that I have been waked from a sound sleep to shoot something (raccoons and opossums will come for your chickens in the dead of night).

Even knowing that I have spent a fair bit of time with a loaded weapon in my bed.

Because, capable of violence though I am, and rationalised as I have made the proper use of force, I am terrified I will over-react. Because no matter how legally allowable shooting that sort of intruder might be, I don't want to do it.

So I keep lesser means of violence ready to hand... ones like clubs, and swords, which are not so likely to do lethal harm by happenstance, and which have a lesser chance of collateral damage.

Which is to say, with weapons, I have the same reservations about escalation as I do with hands, and the home is a place where reactive, instead of cognitive behaviors are more likely to kick in.

#165 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 07:28 PM:

to expand: Rationalised as I have made the proper use of force, for me.

I don't think I can pretend to know what is the Platonic ideal of proper force.

#166 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 07:56 PM:

Will Shetterly @ 161:

I was also involved in the Vietnam anti-war movement. While the vast majority of the people I met in the movement were not pacifists, a few, mostly members of the American Friends Service Committee, were, and I learned a lot from their thoughtful explanations of their philosophy.

But the pacifists I most admired, I think, were a small group of civil rights workers who went South on the Freedom Rides in 1963 and '64. These people knew there was a real chance that they would face deadly force, possibly their own deaths, and they accepted that the end purpose they were working for warranted that (not unlike soldiers willing to give their lives in defense of their comrades and their nations). The Freedom Riders agreed not to defend themselves with violence, because they believed that doing so would be harmful to their cause, and some of them asked that others (such as the Deacons for Defense and Justice, a southern black self-defense group) not defend them.

I think this is an example that shows clearly how pacifism, even pacifism that accepts death rather than violent self-defense, can be a reasonable and an admirable philosophical position.

#167 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 07:57 PM:

#164 Terry Karney

We were living in an extremely dangerous part of th world when this happened (this part of the world is also other things as well, which is why we were there and return so often).

The day after this event N went shopping for a gun. He spent a lot of time talking with gun sellers, trying things: a side arm? a shotgun? etc. He's been to ranges and enjoyed himself, but even with ear muffles shooting isn't really good for someone who makes his way in the world as a musician first.

Also, the more he thought about it -- again, for we have talked about this a lot over the years -- we thought this was the wrong solution. Particularly for when we moved back to our long-time residence in such a densely urban space.

So he got a police club. And a baseball bat. And a few other objects of this nature. We brought two of them with us down here, though nobody even locks their cars here and leave the windows down. (But kids at the college are having crimes committed against them, such as robbery -- they are such targets, drunk often, money to burn, looking to buy drugs and booze.)

He grew up where many people have guns as a matter of course, with hunting, farming and ranching. His father had some.

I am the same. My dad owned many, many kinds of guns, partly for use, a lot because he liked them. He didn't sleep with any in the bedroom. They were all kept in one place. From the time we kids were walking we were instructed to never ever touch one of the without him present. Instructed, with force, if it had been necessary, but it wasn't. We were on a farm. Animals often needed to be put down. There was hunting. We knew what rifles did.

It's a different world there, one in which we are responsible citizens with our weapons. Though with our cars, maybe, not so much, considering that drunken driving is the cause of the majority of deaths of young people in that part of the world.

We have so much heavy machinery and tools of every kind. Every one of those can as easily be a weapons as not, if one were so inclined.

Love, c.

#168 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 08:00 PM:

I just wanted to add something about considerations like ticking bombs.

I find them boring because they're so irrelevant. How many people have ever had to deal with a genuine ticking bomb situation? Not many. But a lot of people have had to deal with tests of their character when it comes to exerting power over innocents, and a lot of them have been failing such tests very badly. (There are 200 dead Iraqis and 600 Iraqi refugees for every person who died at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania on 9/11/2001. Just for a bit of context.)

Extreme cases can be interesting in figuring out if you're an absolutist, I guess, but who cares about that? I'm a lot more interested in how people deal with the challenges they actually face. I've been working a fair amount in the last year on expressing some kinds of disability-born frustrations and complications in ways that add less stress to my family and people who care about me, and it doesn't matter at all for that kind of purpose whether I'm an absolutist anything. It matters whether I can internalize rules of conduct to apply when I'm confused and hurting and have trouble thinking straight and am an emotional wreck, so that I don't add unnecessary hurt or grief to anyone trying to help me.

That's part of the practical reality of my life, and I do see an interest in advancing peace applying here. I'm trying to reduce tension, which drives conflict, and to avoid later ground for recrimination or self-condemnation of the sort that makes it easier to lapse into bad behavior out of self-loathing and regret. Kindness matters.

Other people have comparable challenges of their own: something that comes up often for them and is hard, for any of a bunch of good reasons. It's work to be peaceful. And it matters a lot more what we do in our actual lives than what we might do in some weird hypothetical case. Peacemaking is a practical art, and I just don't see that much good comes from fringes very much of the time. Peace can break out, or can be rejected, where we are, every day.

#169 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 08:50 PM:

CNN has a good take on Stewart's intention:

http://www.cnn.com/2010/OPINION/09/22/avlon.jon.stewart.rally/index.html

I so want more civil discourse in this country. Passion and civility are not antithetical.

Bruce @166, agreed on freedom riders. I mentioned 'em in Dogland. Dad wasn't a pacifist, but he respected MLK as much as Malcolm X.

Constance, Dad kept a shotgun in the closet in case the Klan came through on their threats. He taught me how to carry it to him when I was nine or ten. If I was to get a weapon for self-defense, that's what I would choose. For one thing, it'd make such a mess that I, at least, would be extra-reluctant to fire it. A good weapon should make its user pay a price.

#170 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 09:14 PM:

Raphael@121

"That is, of course, perfectly true, but only because there's the risk that other people might react violently". Without that risk, that chain of logic wouldn't work. That's one of the paradoxes of pacifism, really: If you know that other people might act in non-pacifist ways, pacifist approaches might make the most sense. But if you can be sure that other people will act in strictly pacifist ways, non-pacifist approaches will often be easier. "

Dude. And somehow I'm the one with an unrealistic view of the world? There is always a risk that others will react with violence. Basic human nature. Even if everyone in the world were indoctrinated to be pacifists, we'd still have to look out for the crazy ones.

But the pacifism I describe isn't just about attracting attention until someone big and powerful notices and rescues poor helpless sweet little me. It's about de-escalating situations, so that violence isn't necessary. It's about escape, and evasion. It's about making myself more hassle than I'm worth. It's about letting other people know there's a problem, so they can take their own defensive measures, regardless of whether I get away.

And in cases where people I care about are threatened? Yeah, I'll call 911. I don't have a right to impose my pacifist tendencies on them, when they'd rather be rescued, and police are also trained in de-escalation tactics. But I'll also look for ways to de-escalate the situation without violence, and look for ways to help them escape, and look for ways to interfere with the attacker WITHOUT deliberately harming them (such as creating a distraction, or getting in the way, or attempting to restrain them (as that doesn't violate my definition of pacifism)...

You're oversimplifying, and that's a big part of why it doesn't make sense to you. There's a lot you can do, without ever having to escalate to the use of damaging force.

#171 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 10:41 PM:

albatross @ 68 writes: "Just as an aside, the only anti-nuke defense anyone has got working so far goes..."

Not strictly true. Assured Counterstrike can be successfully augmented by another notable defense strategy called Cooperative Threat Reduction.

In fact, it's arguable that Assured Counterstrike has not been shown even to be a successful strategy in the absence of Cooperative Threat Reduction. It's merely not yet been shown to fail, whereas Cooperative Threat Reduction is a proven winner.

#172 ::: Chris W. ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 11:40 PM:

J H Woodyatt:

I don't mean to derail the thread, but I'm curious what you mean by Cooperative Threat Reduction. A quick Google only turns up a program to secure and decommission nukes in the former Soviet Union. Good and important work no doubt, but only relevant to the question of nuclear defense in the same way that avoiding bad neighborhoods after dark is relevant to the question of what to do if you get mugged.

#173 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2010, 11:49 PM:

One thing I'm noticing in the pacifism subthread: there are a lot of people talking about alternatives to violence when faced with violence. But the people arguing the anti-pacifist side seem to view "more violence" as the only feasible response to being faced with violence.

Violence is a tool. It's one out of many possible tools. If you posit a situation in which violence is the only tool available, you're the person whose only tool is a hammer. At that point, how many things are going to start looking like nails?

#174 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2010, 12:02 AM:

Will: I disagree on the subject of what firearm to reach for in close quarters, but I am not going to let this derail into a gun-thread.

If there is interest in this, I will be happy to host a conversation on the subject of the practical applications of all sorts of violence... at my blog. Not here, not now.

There is already enough heat here, I am not going to start a different fire.

#175 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2010, 12:26 AM:

Will@ 116: yes, it's Lois'.

War is not a good time for peaceful solutions.

Perhaps, perhaps not. There are some stunning counter-examples from that war as well: Schindler, Denmark... but before war breaks out is certainly a better one, which is why pacifism, done with any seriousness at all, is a full-time endeavour.

ddb @ 128: Oh, I'm not waving them away at all; they are both wrong questions as posed.

Terry has done a fairly good job in the past of deconstructing the ticking bomb scenario, I won't even try to compete, merely repeat the gist of his answer: if you can satisfy the conditions of the hypothetical, i.e. you absolutely positively know you have the right guy - you have enough to find the damned bomb. Time spent torturing him is precious time wasted.

In the same way: Attacked by whom? Where? What resources are to hand? Who's around? Where does that alley go? What's the apparent reason for the attack? I've had beloveds attacked or threatened with attack. It never went the same way twice, and that's all the answer I can do ya.

It doesn't get at the emotional question you want to get at. Which I can't answer anyway, and I'm okay with that: I have no idea what I might do in the future. I do know what I need to do NOW to improve the odds that I will successfully avoid violence then, and that's keep working nonviolence.

Will @ 129: taking someone out of the game in that scenario ... this is a hard call. If someone is not in control of their actions, preventing them from harming themselves or others, or harming themselves BY harming others, even at the cost of risking injury to them, is kind of an edge case. To offer a highly imperfect analogy, I've picked up my stepson and taken/put him where he did not wish to go in order to stop him hurting himself or someone else.

Steve C @ 144: Yes.

Earl Cooley @ 148: Oh Hell yeah, there are.

I've done trainings with Quakers, Alternatives to Violence, Peace Brigades, and Christian Peacemaker Teams. People planning to do the sort of work CPT and PBI do (witnessing/unarmed escort, various other things) in dangerous places do intensive training.

Techniques and tactics, though important, are not the most important part, though: non-violence training teaches you how YOU work.

I am not at all kidding when I say this: I am capable of, and have willfully committed, verbal, physical, and emotional violence. I am quite certain that I am capable of doing so again. Violence brings a sense of power and safety that is horribly addictive, and damned hard to kick.

The thing which most irks/amuses me about the "hard cases" is that in many ways they aren't. Living one's daily life nonviolently - genuinely nonviolently, not just without actually hitting anyone - is the hard stuff. When the big dramatic stuff comes along, well, it's sort of like all those damned hours I spend working out and then suddenly it's a lot easier not to have a bad fall on the ice.

Will, ddb: Agreed. I am, in no particular order, opposed to the war in Iraq, opposed to the war in Afghanistan, opposed to war, a war resister, non-violent, a pacifist. They all mean slightly different things.

#176 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2010, 12:27 AM:

Terry, the word from the Klan was they would burn us down, so he wasn't expecting close quarters. As for personal defense, the advantage and disadvantage of a shotgun is it doesn't call for a lot of training. If you don't have a known immediate threat to worry about, I fully agree with folks who say to get the training, and then do the research about the best weapon for your situation.

#177 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2010, 12:31 AM:

Chris W, you're finding references to a program that implemented a policy based on the strategy of the same name. The theory behind the strategy is to improve defense posture by providing incentives for opponents to cooperate in mutual threat reduction rather than compete in mutual threat escalation.

Because it depends on putting your diplomats out in front and keeping your submarines in extra-quiet mode, it tends not to be very popular with the blood-guts-and-veins-in-mah-teeth types, so that's why everyone forgets about it, but it's still a strategy that's A) theoretically sound, and B) proven in practice.

#178 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2010, 12:35 AM:

Marna, was Schindler being a pacifist or only practical, given the circumstances? I keep thinking that to be called a pacifist, you have to do more than come up with a nonviolent solution. You have to be committed to pacifism to some degree. "Pacifist" only occurs once in Schindler's List (yay, google books!), and there, it says he didn't like the military, not for pacifist reasons, but because of the discomfort.

#179 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2010, 12:42 AM:

ObTopic: I see what Stewart and Colbert did there. Stewart is playing the straight man so that Colbert's "Keep Fear Alive" schtick can work.

p.s. I don't mean for this to be interpreted as an argument that Stewart shouldn't be criticized for his remarks about moderation and the Bush war crimes on the grounds that he's merely trying to be an entertainer. I do, however, think that Colbert's gag is a lot funnier with Stewart having chosen A) to play the straight line on this, and also B) to perhaps mistakenly shove his foot deep into his mouth in the process.

#180 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2010, 12:50 AM:

Marla Nightingale @107:

Where can one find such courses (in non-violence, de-escalation, etc.)? I'd be interested, but I don't know where to start looking. Is there a "Conflict Resolution" section in the Yellow Pages, for example? Are there certain organizations one can contact?

#181 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2010, 01:33 AM:

Will: Not here. I'm willing to open the topic elsewhere.

Not here, not now.

#182 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2010, 01:36 AM:

Juli Thomson: Where do you live?

Look for "The Religious Society of Friends", or "Alternatives to Violence Project"

Those are both good starts.

#183 ::: Will Shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2010, 01:51 AM:

Terry, I'm not interested in the best choice for defense argument 'cause my choice is d) none of the above, so I'm sorry my sloppy writing implied that's what I was getting after. I was fumbling toward a different point:

Dad's shotgun is extremely pertinent to me when thinking about pacifism. The Klan never showed. Did they not show because they knew he had a shotgun or because he sent us children away for safety and put the business on the market? I can see either or both as the answer. But I can't see going back in time and telling Dad he shouldn't have the shotgun.

#184 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2010, 02:34 AM:

Will @ 178: I don't know, actually. But certainly it was a brilliant use of non-violent tactics, and succeeded far beyond what he could have managed using violent ones.

#185 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2010, 10:19 AM:

Bruce Cohen@166: The Freedom Riders are the sort of example I admire as well. Probably some of them were "absolute" pacifists, and some of them were making a tactical choice for that situation, and to me they're both equally admirable in that case; both were putting their lives on the line for an excellent cause, and doing it in a thoughtful and effective way. (Um, I suppose it's possible, among a group that size, that there was somebody shallow or silly, too; I don't know of one, but if they stuck it out and did the job, they can take the credit too.)

Terry Karney@174: If you do get a practical applications of violence thread going elsewhere, I'd like to hear about it, it's a topic I care about.

Marna Nightingale@175: The people who bring them up do not see them as "wrong questions"; they see them as the core defining question. But, as I say, my interest in that bit of the discussion is highly tactical; I think it's rhetorically better to give the clear, definitive, and not-what-they-want answer to the ticking bomb question first and get them to understand the other problems later.

#186 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2010, 10:43 AM:

The "ticking time bomb" question is designed to expose inconsistency in the respondent, with the idea that if one allows particular exceptions to general rules, then one must acknowledge the usefulness of torture.

Screw consistency. Human's aren't. We're perfectly capable of maintaining separate, conflicting ideas in our head, and our emotional response to a highly stressful situation doesn't illuminate how we behave 99% of the time.

So, my response to the "ticking time bomb" idiocy is this: "Regardless of how I may act in extreme situations that may never arise, those potential actions don't dictate policy. Adults recognize this."

#187 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2010, 10:45 AM:

ddb: The fact that some people regard a particular question as definitive doesn't mean the rest of us are obliged to do so. "Here's why I disagree with your priority" is a reasonable response too.

As Lee and others have already noted, it's striking just how much more the side of peace advocacy is dealing with actual life circumstances, while the self-styled realistic, practical champions of violence want to spend all their time on ludicrous hypotheticals.

#188 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2010, 12:02 PM:

Bruce Baugh@187: Agreed, we're not obliged to do so.

It's merely rhetorically useful.

It's not ALWAYS right to address the question they wanted to ask instead of the real question. But refusing to address "their" question is setting up an oppositional situation (arguing about what questions will be addressed), and leaves them the rhetorical claim that we "couldn't answer" it.

Since, in this particular case, we CAN answer it, with bells on, ruffles, flourishes, a big spike and a hammer, I'm arguing for exploiting the potentials there. That's all.

#189 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2010, 12:11 PM:

All the usual caveats apply, but I don't actually know anyone who's been persuaded away from endorsing torture and the like by solid answers to their hypotheticals. I do know people who've made the same general move I have, away from the hypotheticals as subjects of interest. I'm curious how often accepting the hypothetical's ground and acting on it actually does lead to overall improvement in anyone's outlook.

#190 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2010, 01:56 PM:

ddb @ 185: well, we all have our tactics. That kind of argumentation isn't one of mine.

Juli @ 180: What Terry said. Also, most of the groups I've mentioned have a web presence, so that's a good place to start. You could also take a look at Starhawk's _Truth or Dare_, skipping over the theology if you like and giving attention to her observations on group dynamics.

#191 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2010, 02:30 PM:

Bruce Baugh: I deal with the hypothetical in re torture, all the fucking time.

There is no way to ignore it. As Marna says, the only way to deal with it is to demolish it. If (and it's hard) you can demolish it, then the hold it has is gone too. If you try to work around it then the lack of, "answer" allows the interlocutor to assume the problem is 1: irresolvable, 2: you are a coward, not willing to face the hard truths, or, 3: don't want to admit they are right.

#192 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2010, 03:13 PM:

Re the ticking time bomb scenarios: I think the general principle here is that hard cases make bad law. There may indeed be horrible unlikely cases that would cause us to fail to stick to our principles, or to forgive someone who abandoned them in the crisis. It's worth noticing those.

But as several people have pointed out above, most of life isn't spent anywhere close to those hypotheticals. Despite being in principle willing to steal bread to feed my kids or to use violence to defend my life, I've never been in either situation, and probably never will be.

And the bigger problem is that those extreme special cases are often used to justify a lot wider abandonment of principles. Having decided you're willing to torture a known terrorist with a ticking nuke in Manhattan, you find yourself torturing thousands of guys picked up on suspicion of knowing something about Al Qaida. Having decided you're willing to use military force in self-defense, you find yourself invading a different country every couple years.

#193 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2010, 03:21 PM:

Terry: Okay, that surely counts as good reason to engage with it. I'll take that and remember it for next time. Thanks, seriously.

#194 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2010, 03:23 PM:

Will @116:

Sorry to take so long to come back to this, but it's been niggling:

War is not a good time for peaceful solutions.

Well, defining war slightly loosely*, John Hume didn't think so.

(I don't know that he's a pacifist, but I don't care either. He made peace. That'll do for me.)

-----
* I think there's a fair case for a sustained bombing campaign against a civilian population being "war" enough for this conversation.

#195 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2010, 03:25 PM:

albatross #192: Having decided you're willing to use military force in self-defense, you find yourself invading a different country every couple years.

My guess would be Yemen is next.

#196 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2010, 03:35 PM:

Earl:

I thought the agenda was to do Iran sometime before they got nukes. Though I think right now we're doing stuff in Yemen and Pakistan and Somalia and God knows where else that would be called war, if someone else were doing it to us or to some country we cared about.

I really liked the story yesterday about the CIA's large private Afghan army. This stuff keeps coming out in trickles, and hardly anyone knows or pays attention or cares. Blowing up civilians, running death squads, and operating completely unaccountable private armies in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Yemen and wherever else is not even an issue--much less important for the impending elections than whether Obama is a Socialist Muslim.

I wonder if this will ever come back to bite us. Probably, it has many times (cf "blowback"), but it's not clear that there will be any widespread recognition of that fact. Pretty much anytime anyone talks about the whole blowback issue in US politics, the result is a two-minutes'-hate about how they're saying we deserved the 9/11 attack.

#197 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2010, 04:15 PM:

As an aside, I have seen debates on libertarianism run aground on similar hypotheticals. (The one that comes to mind involved whether a water seller in the desert could refuse to sell water to people of the wrong color, or maybe just people he didn't like.)

#198 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2010, 04:31 PM:

abi@194

I didn't read Will's comment the way I think you are reading it. (I may be being obtuse here: I'm tired; it's late; I've had a bad day; and I probably know Will less well than you do. Still it doesn't really strike me as a point against pacificism that war is a bad time for peaceful solutions. War's bad time for lots of things I value; it doesn't make me any less convinced of their value.)

#199 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2010, 04:48 PM:

C. Wingate 156: When someone who has taken to calling members of the other party "rethuglicans" talks about putting Bush on trial, I quite frankly am not all that interested, because using a constant stream of extreme rhetoric is, as far as I am concerned, exactly the same thing as crying wolf all the time.

I wasn't going to comment on this, but I've decided a clarification is in order.

I for one make a distinction. (I may not have done so at all times, but I've never claimed to be perfect.) I call them Rethuglicans when they're acting like thugs, and Republicans when they're acting like civil participants in a Republic.

Sometimes, Rethuglicans run against Republicans. For example, Rick Lazio in NY is a Republican; I disagree with him and would never vote for him, but as far as I know he's not a bully, a moron, or a madman. Carl Paladino, who won the primary, is a Rethuglican; he's a nutbar who thinks it's OK to use Eminent Domain to block building the Cordoba Center.

I would never call Bob Dole a Rethuglican. Even George H. W. Bush isn't one. His idiot son is practically the Platonic Ideal.

Sometimes, a whole group of Republicans gets together and behaves more thuggishly than some of them would alone (thuggishness increases when other members of the pack are present). For example, it was a Rethuglican filibuster that blocked the repeal of DADT. Olympia Snow could ordinarily not be tarred with such an epithet; but all 41 GOP Senators were Rethuglicans that day, and that includes her.

#200 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2010, 04:54 PM:

Sorry, that was probably opaque: I've a feeling I came across as slighting John Hume and I didn't mean to be.

Here's what I was trying to say spelt out in a bit more detail.

Yes, war is a bad time for peaceful solutions. It's a bad time for almost anything.

But that doesn't show there's something wrong with pacificism. If it shows anything - and I'm not sure it does - it shows that if you're committed to peace you need to be in the situation of potential conflict before the war has started.

But I'm not sure that it even shows that. Yes, peaceful solutions are less likely to succeed once a war has started than beforehand. But so are any other solutions. Everything is harder in war-time. so its scarcely a point against pacifism.

#201 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2010, 06:08 PM:

Earl Cooley III @ 195... Lichtenstein.

#202 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2010, 06:13 PM:

Xopher:

Whether just or not, I don't suppose one republican or conservative in a hundred, hearing you spout off about rethiglicans, will hear anything else you say. Sort of like if I want to point out bad Obama administration economics policies, and I start by calling him a socialist, most people not on the right will tune me out, even if they would otherwise have agreed with me on some of my criticisms.

Cf libtards, glibertarians, etc. Same deal. When you start the conversation with an insult, you make it even harder to communicate.

#203 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2010, 06:40 PM:

Abi @194, I don't think pacifists should give up during wartime. If anything, we should struggle harder. But we're not going to be very effective until the flames of war have burned down.

I protested in Sierra Vista, a military town, when the US went to war with Iraq. For a couple of hours, our little group mostly got abuse. Then we got a young soldier who thanked us for being there, and it was all worth while.

#204 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2010, 06:54 PM:

albatross @ 202... When you start the conversation with an insult, you make it even harder to communicate.

True. Mind you, the Republicans in charge at the beginning of this century didn't seem too concerned about how it'd affect communicating with others, as long as they were able to communicate to others what they were to do, say or think.

#205 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2010, 07:37 PM:

albatross @ 196:

By some measures, the attack on Iran may already have begun in cyberspace (Stuxnet-worm-targeted-Iranian-nuclear-power-station). The black hat is being identified as Israel, but I have trouble believing that some agencies in the US government didn't know about it (possibly not the commander-in-chief, of course, since he's apparently not in the loop on military policy).

#206 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2010, 08:36 PM:

Sitting on the fence is a dangerous cause.
You might even catch a bullet from the peace keeping force...

#207 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2010, 08:37 PM:

I think I have mentioned before that when I was in college, there was a student organization called the Moderate Caucus. It later changed its name to the Campus Republicans.

#208 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2010, 08:38 PM:

There ain't nothing in the middle of the road but a bunch of dead armadillos, slouching toward Bethlehem to be born.

#209 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2010, 09:04 PM:

Erik @206, isn't it course, not cause? Rhymes better, and makes more sense.

#210 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2010, 09:14 PM:

Bruce Cohen #205: possibly not the commander-in-chief, of course, since he's apparently not in the loop on military policy

[*]

#211 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2010, 12:16 AM:

Serge:

How do you feel about letting those guys decide how you communicate with your fellow citizens now? How have the rest of their decisions worked out for the country?

#212 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2010, 08:43 AM:

albatross @ 211... Oh, I haven't let them decide how I communicate with my fellow citizens. And by them, I don't mean the giant ants that went after James Whitmore and James Arness. My point is that it ill-behooves them to complain about our side sometimes lapsing into incivility. That being said, this very week, I received an email from a lady who said I always behave in a gentlemanly manner.

#213 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2010, 12:53 PM:

albatross @ 88: "True, and I think those images did play a part in preventing more nukes being used. But in order to get a stable situation, you need everyone to be so convinced."

I don't know--I think the visceral distaste that many, though not all, people hold towards nuclear weapons effects the decisions even of those who have no personal objections. After all, those people of power are accountable to anti-nuke people, electorally in the US and in less direct ways in other countries. It doesn't have to be one or the other: it seems to me that MAD and distaste can simultaneously contribute to the decision not to use nuclear weapons.

"More generally, deterrence is the only defense we know for any kind of attacks remotely on the scale of warfare."

Isn't "Let's not, for humanitarian reasons," a form of deterrence?

Relating to the earlier (later) discussions of the romance of hard choices and non-violent problem-solving, I get that a real and perceived willingness to commit violence are strategies that can be effective in deterring violence. But they aren't the only effective strategies, nor are they the most effective in every instance.* Allowing one's vision of the solution space to shrink to encompass only the violent options is a dangerous trap.

* And I have a lot of sympathy for the pacifist argument that they are rarely if ever preferable.

#214 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2010, 01:15 PM:

Xopher @ 199: I see the distinction you're drawing, but I'm afraid it isn't always clear during use. When a group label is turned into a slur, my assumption is that the person using the slur is applying it to the whole group, not designating a new subgroup.

I guess my basic rule is call people what they prefer to be called, and if that's what I demand for me and mine, then I'd better be willing to return the favor.

#215 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2010, 01:50 PM:

heresiarch@213: Agree that leaving things out of the solution space (by sloppy, careless, blinkered thinking) is bad. The solution space for the serious problems is NEVER so big that it's inherently good to make it smaller, and the solutions are NEVER so good that others aren't worth looking at.

In terms of effective deterrence / prevention, though, I do think it's worth thinking about the people most likely to attack one, and about what they will see as a bad and good outcome. I think the people most likely to initiate violence against others are largely the ones with somewhat narrow views. I'm most certainly not arguing for giving up on other alternatives; just reminding people that non-violent solutions depend on the other side deciding they like the solution better than they like the expected consequences of their initiating violence.

#216 ::: linnen ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2010, 03:32 PM:

Serge @201
Maybe the Duchy of Grand Fenwick?

#217 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2010, 03:51 PM:

linnen @ 216... Ruritania next?

#218 ::: linnen ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2010, 03:55 PM:

Serge @ 217:
War has been declared on a verb, so ... Why not?

#219 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2010, 04:31 PM:

No, on a planet. It's the war on Terra.

#220 ::: alsafi ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2010, 05:15 PM:

While I am very clear on the "more flies with honey" point that those who are calling people on their tone for using epithets like rethuglican are making, my heart is very much with Xopher on this one. I'm queer. These sociopaths don't, as a general rule, even really think I'm human, to any worthwhile degree. Most of them don't give a sht what I have to say simply because I'm female, or not rich, even if they don't know my orientation. I'm not worried about convincing anyone who self-identifies as a Republican of anything--they've firmly convinced me that the only thing I have to worry about with them is protecting myself from violence. Compared to that, I shouldn't dehumanize them or hurt their feelings by name-calling? Cry me a river.

#221 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2010, 05:49 PM:

We know who the rethugz are, who the rethuglians are, and they never ever lose an opportunity to call people names, to belittle and bully, and do it by what they call people. Then they whine when it happens to them, and go all righteous and wide-eyed shock that anyone would call anyone names.

I'm so sick of these people's behaviors. How dare they complain of being called thugs when they behave always like thugz. They don't compromise. They don't discuss. They only take, bully and cheat.

No. I am not ashamed to call a thug a thug. I know intolerance and liars when I see hear and read them.

That is that.

No love today, not on this subject.

#222 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2010, 06:06 PM:

Something that came up in the weekly group counseling I go to for folks with long-term disabilities reminded me of this thread.

Here's a much more interesting-to-me question than the boring old ticking bomb question:

You see someone who looks less able to protect themselves than you are being verbally harassed by someone who looks more powerful than them. Do you have an obligation to do something about it? If so, what?

And then things evolve with multiple offenders and more force.

And finally, what have you actually done when situations like this came up?

It seems to me that taking questions like that seriously is much more likely to teach something worth knowing about oneself.

#223 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2010, 06:12 PM:

alsafi #220:

Are you sure the set of people you're mad at and the set of people you're being rude to are the same folks?

This Pew Center Poll from 2009 is worth looking at, because the polling data is so very different from the common media-driven perception of what's going on.

They break down their respondents into five political categories, of which the relevant ones are conservative Republican and moderate/liberal Republican.

From this survey, 14% of *conservative Republicans* (aka, these psychopaths) support gay marriage. 43% support civil unions for gays.

For moderate Republicans the numbers are even better: 36% of moderate Republicans favor gay marriage, and 59% favor civil unions.

Now, it seems to me that the Republicans who want you to be able to get married probably think you're human, or at least human enough to deserve the same marriage rights the rest of us have. (Or maybe they're all divorce lawyers hoping to drum up some business.) Most likely, even the ones who think you should be able to get a civil union think you're human.

It may even be that among those Republicans, you can find people with whom you could make common cause on other issues. Say, people who don't want us torturing prisoners, or executing people for crimes committed when they were 15, or handing great gobs of cash to investment bankers, or continuing our apparently endless clstrfcks in the Middle East.

By the way, the same poll says that 45% of Catholics and 27% of Protestants also support gay marriage. (17% of Evangelical Protestants.) And that's exactly the image of the world you'd get from watching TV news and reading the blogosphere, too, right? Seriously, go read the poll summary.

This ties back to the discussion on another thread about the brokenness of US media. Here's a place where the picture of the world provided by US media is radically, massively wrong. Whether by design or (more likely) negligence, this wrong picture of the world serves to divide us, make it harder for us to talk to each other, and generally makes us easier to manipulate and turn against one another.

#224 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2010, 06:17 PM:

alsafi, #220, I always wonder why someone wants flies, anyway.

#225 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2010, 06:29 PM:

alsafi @ 220: "Compared to that, I shouldn't dehumanize them or hurt their feelings by name-calling? Cry me a river."

You think not dehumanizing other people is a favor you do for them? It's a favor you do for yourself. Because they are human, and to convince yourself otherwise is to convince yourself of a lie. It is to forfeit understanding for the sake of comfort.

#226 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2010, 06:29 PM:

Bruce Baugh@222: The first question, always, is do I really understand what's going on? (This is in some ways harder to judge with actual physical fights; the guy on top may be the previous good Samaritan still keeping the attacker away from the victim over there.)

I don't recall ever intervening in an argument between strangers. It's certainly high-risk; not as bad as police going into a domestic disturbance (people at home are a lot more dangerous than people in public), but risky.

If I were going to, I think I'd start with a question like "Is everyone okay here?"

Just taking notice can defuse things some; many abusers have enough self-control not to do things in front of witnesses.

#227 ::: TrishB ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2010, 06:31 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 205: I read about Stuxnet for the first time last night, and began to wonder if being laid off from the quality department of a certain company's* IT division wasn't a blessing in disguise, after all. Not that being unemployed is good in any manner, but it might just beat some of the issues my ex-coworkers will be dealing with in the coming months.

*I am not allowed to bad mouth said company per a provision in my severance agreement. I don't need to find that line the hard way. That said, "Don't change the default passwords." What!?

#228 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2010, 07:09 PM:

albatross @ 223:
Whether by design or (more likely) negligence

I'm not at all sure I agree with that "more likely"; the biases of the MSN seem more consistent than negligence, incompetence, or laziness would explain.

#229 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2010, 07:22 PM:

linnen #216: There's a fellow named Tully Bascomb wants a word with you.

#230 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2010, 07:57 PM:

albatross 202: Whether just or not, I don't suppose one republican or conservative in a hundred, hearing you spout off about rethiglicans, will hear anything else you say.

Of course. This why I've repeatedly said here that I'm not a good person to argue with Republicans. I don't try, in general. I think Republican politicians generally are callous and power-hungry (yes, more than Democrats), and I think Republican voters generally don't share my values to an extent that makes political conversations with them productive on either side. They're either completely ignorant or lack sufficient (in my view) compassion for their fellow humans. These traits appall and anger me.

When I do, though, I don't say Rethuglican to them. I'm not stupid, contrary to your apparent opinion of me. And yes, I did need some extra time to cool down before responding to your 202.

heresiarch 214: Oh, absolutely. See above. But sometimes I don't follow that naming practice with people who don't follow it themselves, in an effort to make the point. People who call me Chris sometimes get called a shortened version of their name to make it clear. People who call the conservative pro-business party in this country "the Democrat Party" will have me bluntly correct them, once, and then call their (crazy right-wing wacko) party the "Republic Party."

That's if I bother talking to them at all. Usually I don't.

alsafi 220: Hear, hear! My sister! :-) I'll let the people who won't be in concentration camps if the right wing of the GOP totally takes over talk to them. Right now I think only about 40% of Republican voters would just as soon put me in a Zyklon-B shower, but the number keeps going up.

Constance 221: Again, hear, hear.

albatross 223: From this survey, 14% of *conservative Republicans* (aka, these psychopaths) support gay marriage. 43% support civil unions for gays. For moderate Republicans the numbers are even better: 36% of moderate Republicans favor gay marriage, and 59% favor civil unions.

I have to admit, those are better numbers than I expected.

Most likely, even the ones who think you should be able to get a civil union think you're human.

This seems like an unjustified assumption to me. Why on Earth do you think that? In my experience most people who favor civil unions but not marriage equality do so because they know that civil unions don't provide the same rights and privileges as marriage, no matter what the law says; it's a dodge they use to seem reasonable while continuing to deny us the same rights as everyone else. I think choice in marriage is a human right; to deny it is to deny the humanity of the people you deny it to.

It may even be that among those Republicans, you can find people with whom you could make common cause on other issues. Say, people who don't want us torturing prisoners, or executing people for crimes committed when they were 15, or handing great gobs of cash to investment bankers, or continuing our apparently endless clstrfcks in the Middle East.

Probably...as long as you say "or." You won't find Republicans who believe ALL of those things. Unless they're mentally ill, because the Republican Party stands FOR torture, FOR treating teen offenders as adults, and FOR the massive transfer of public funds into the private hands of the wealthy via continued stupid wars. Anyone against all of those things who still votes Republican is a fool—or so selfish that all those things weigh less to them than having their own taxes stay low.

This ties back to the discussion on another thread about the brokenness of US media. Here's a place where the picture of the world provided by US media is radically, massively wrong. Whether by design or (more likely) negligence, this wrong picture of the world serves to divide us, make it harder for us to talk to each other, and generally makes us easier to manipulate and turn against one another.

98% agree (I think it's entirely deliberate, not more likely negligence). Hence Faux News, hence the Tea Party, hence the fact that the Republicans who got us into this mess in the first place are about to take more power in the fall election.

heresiarch 225: Oh, I acknowledge their humanity. Woe to the human race.

#231 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2010, 08:46 PM:

Xopher, I was thinking that it would be really, um, helpful (for some values of helpfulness), if it were possible to have certain politicians have food poisoning (preferably a full blown episode) hit them while they're pontificating in front of live TV cameras. There are several I'd appreciate having it happen to. Sympathy will be available afterward.

#232 ::: linnen ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2010, 10:27 PM:

Fragano Ledgister @ 229;
As long as it is not Lord Julius or Captain Geoffrey T. Spaulding. Those two could talk anyone into buying shares in a mustard mine.

#233 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2010, 10:45 PM:

Angus Johnston at studentactivism.net concurs with Greenwald, and quotes Orwell repudiating the notion that pacifism is objectively pro-fascist to support the point. Part one is here, and part two is here.

Note that Orwell disavowed his own use of the "[political opinion] is objectively [unrelated bad political outcome]" construction two years before he wrote Politics and the English Language. (He could write against offenses of this sort precisely because he committed them.) Yet those words still pop up.

#234 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 12:26 AM:

Whether just or not, I don't suppose one republican or conservative in a hundred, hearing you spout off about rethuglicans, will hear anything else you say.

I can guarantee that *I* won't hear anything else, and I'm a bleedin' heart liberal who votes Democrat.

The moment I run across that sort of name-calling in a post, even if the post is by someone I admire greatly (like Xopher), I simply stop reading that comment.

Set aside the issue of failing to make allies or convince the opposite number. The very simple effect of a word like "rethuglicans" on me is to signal "We have left adult discourse and descended into playground rhetoric." Which is a place I never intended to visit on my tour though Serious Political Discussion Land, and I'll change trains rather than get taken on an unexpected detour there.

Also, I'm very sorry, but the whole "I only call them Rethuglicans when they act like thugs" thing has an intensely painful resemblance, for me, to people in my life defending their use of the n-word.

#235 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 12:29 AM:

Clarification: I don't have the same reaction when someone says, "The republicans are all thugs." My problem is not with the meaning intended. My problem is with the immature-sounding name-calling.

That's all.

#236 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 01:39 AM:

Nicole @ 325
I'm confused. What's the difference? To me, it's still name-calling, it's just phrased a little differently...

Though... for myself, I tend to view it as less a sign of immaturity, and more a sign that dialogue has broken down to such an extent that people really don't see any hope of finding common ground, so they're no longer trying to persuade but just publically expressing their pain and anger, because everything else is just overwhelmed and demonstrably useless. I think, to a great extent, the perceived values gap between the two parties is so wide that Democrats can't any longer conceive of any way to get through to Republicans who seem intent on repeatedly violating moral principles that are extremely important to the Democrats. And it's exactly the same view from the other side.

#237 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 02:34 AM:

Since I can't say "Republicans are thugs" any more without being judged harshly for it, how about this: "Most Republicans are not nearly progressive enough to satisfy me; I admit that not all of them are war criminals or cynically evil sociopaths."

#238 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 02:54 AM:

Nicole @234:

We appear to be on the same train. Is this seat taken?

More seriously: I do continue reading comments with namecalling, because there often are often useful points in them. And, of course, when it's someone I know and care about talking, I listen because of that, too. But I think it's ineffective, even among ourselves*; it raises the emotional temperature to the point where it's difficult to also make cogent, usable arguments.

There's a value to venting, of course, but the one venting comment can so easily turn into a habit of speech, and then, as I say to my kids about swearing, what words do you have left when you hit your thumb with a hammer.

Besides, you can call people much worse things using five-dollar words than fifty-cent ones.

-----
* To the extent that posts on the public internet are among ourselves.

#239 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 03:02 AM:

Earl @ #237: "I admit that not all of them are war criminals or cynically evil sociopaths."

I'd say: "I admit that some of them are not war criminals or cynically evil sociopaths."

It's up to the reader or listener to determine which is more subtle.

#240 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 04:05 AM:

abi@238, it is a nice train, peaceful... not that I always have the sense to take it.* (And by the way, the Democrats have been othering "the rich" a lot more than they should, even though the rich aren't like you and me.)

On "I admit that not all of them are war criminals or cynically evil sociopaths." Most of them aren't, most of them aren't even thugs or haters, but the folks who run their propaganda are trying to fix that. They got them to be afraid during the previous administration, and that was a good start, and now they're building on it. They're also getting their followers to deal with liberals by namecalling (which gets easier once you've made "liberal" a bad name) instead of conversation, and calling them names right back just means that you've closed down the small window they might have had for listening.

(*In some cases, like Dick Cheney, I find it hard to get more civil than admitting that he doesn't actually eat live puppies for breakfast, but he at least seems to have mostly done his damage and handed the torches on to other people, as opposed to many of the others who are still in the game.)

#241 ::: Cadbury Moose spots fishy spam ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 05:06 AM:

Please smack the folks at #241 with a large trout.

#242 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 09:02 AM:

Earl @ 237: While "all Republicans are thugs" may be out of bounds, it is certainly fair play to say "the Republican Party, as a whole, is guilty of irredeemably thuggish behavior." Attach the name to the crime, not the actor.

#243 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 11:41 AM:

Mark # 243
Yes, this.

#244 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 12:10 PM:

On the other hand, I shouldn't be too subtle; although the whoosh sound often produced is, to a certain extent, satisfying, it doesn't do much perceivable damage to the Enemy.

If the Enemy succeeds in damaging health care reform, the gloves will be off.

#245 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 12:22 PM:

"Whether just or not, I don't suppose one republican or conservative in a hundred, hearing you spout off about rethuglicans, will hear anything else you say."

Hey, they aren't listening anyway, instead they're too busy making up lies that they need to believe, so it's all moot and a waste of my valuable time to talk to them -- or to listen to them, for that matter. Say I'm just lkike them? No. I am not. I know the difference between what they are and what I am not.


#246 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 12:38 PM:

As as been observed, "... anything said or done in the name of conservatism is inherently good and therefore justifiable, whereas anything said or done in opposition to conservatism is inherently un-American. One might say that, to them, lying in an attack on President Obama is no vice; consistency in the pursuit of power is no virtue..."

Why listen? Why not call them what they are, which is lying bullies bent on the destruction of equality, democracy and any public good. Drown that federal government in the bathtub and then toss out the water!

#247 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 12:40 PM:

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why American politics is a dialog of the deaf. Because everyone is too darned good and righteous to be the grownup in the situation, to de-escalate the language and demonstrate some maturity.

What are you namecallers going to do about all the Republicans who are as sure of themselves as you are of yourselves, as sure the libtards are traitors and elitists? They're each possessed of one vote, just like you, and they're not going to be persuaded to use them in ways we'd like if we're all flinging poo at them. No matter how much we think it should stick.

Go on, propose a workable solution that doesn't involve talking to the other half of the country. I am all ears.

</rant>

#248 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 02:54 PM:

A workable solution? Become much, much worse than the enemy: criminalize non-compliant political thought; confine and concentrate ineducable enemies for compulsory psychiatric repair. (I just finished reading Ford's "Chromatic Aberration" from the "Heat of Fusion" collection.)

#249 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 02:55 PM:

(There are, of course, some downsides to that cunning plan...)

#250 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 03:43 PM:

abi @ 238: "Besides, you can call people much worse things using five-dollar words than fifty-cent ones."

Yes--I'm not the slightest bit opposed to saying bad things about Republicans; I just don't think making up slurs is a meaningful, accurate, or useful way of doing that.

In order for an argument to have any chance of persuading anyone at all, it has to start from a set of presuppositions that everyone in the conversation shares. If your presupposition, embedded in the very terms you use, is that Republicans are thugs then you can't convince anyone who doesn't already agree with you of that fact. You're not progressing through an argument anymore, you're spinning around inside a tautology, deflecting away anyone who isn't already in there with you.

And honestly, it's appalling to hear liberals put forth "no worse than Republicans" as a worthy standard of behavior.

#251 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 03:55 PM:

albatross: The problem with the Pew Poll is that the people those moderate Republicans vote for aren't moderate. So they can support same sex marriage all they like but the net effect of that support is zilch. Which mean s the media model isn't wrong it's that the actions of the people those people elect reflect a different set of values then they say they hold when polled. On the ground, that's not practically different from believing the things they are thought to believe.

Because even if they, like the Log Cabin Republicans, try to tell me they are trying to change the party from within... I can say, OK, that's fine, but when your party leadership... guys like Ken Mehlman, are gay, and spouting off about how the issues they support aren't going to change, not while they are in charge, I have to wonder just what it is they value, and the answer which comes across (actions not words) is they may like the idea of same sex marriage, etc. but they don't care if the people being affected by the lack of such things neve get them, so long as the things they really care about (lower taxes, corporations being allowed to participate as if they were just the same as any person in the body politic, etc.) go their way.

So on that scale, making it seem less than savory to identify with the Republican Party; in the same way that being called "liberal", is something of an insult; in no small part because the Limbaughs of the world run around saying, "Lie-berals. No, they may not listen to Xopher, but when someone more moderate in rebuttal speals, the sense of anger, and disrepute they detect in the zeitgeist will color the interpretation they give to honest facts which make the party (that same one not acting in accord with their wishes on things like same sex marriage) seem less comfortable to remain in.

It's a form of Overton Window, and, to tie it back to pacifism, not calling them names; or otherwise pushing back with heat, and vigorous passion, is to seem weak, even unprincipled, and encourages both the idea that non-Republicans are ineffectual, and two, encourages the rabble-rousing demagogues to continue with the foul brand of identity politics which has "Democrat Party" and "Lie-berals" and the like as it's mode of expression,

That I don't do it is more to do with the ways in which I, personally argue (and the purpose I have, for myself, in making such posts public)... but that said, I won't refrain from harsh descriptions when someone steps outside the pale of civil behavior, but it doesn't invalidate it, across the board, as a rhetorical tool for changing the political landscape.

I would prefer that it weren't the case, but it's not as if there ever was a "golden age" when such things weren't done, taking the high road doesn't seem to be having any positive effect.

abi: I am going to keep on keeping on, and try; though my modest example, to show others, perhaps more frustrated than I, other ways to argue (or a place to point to, when they cannot make less heated ones of their own). I can't hope to make the pain/frustration anger go away; and don't really expect everyone to be calm in the face of provocation, oppression, and abuse: all the time..

#252 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 04:16 PM:

I'm not so sure I should point this out, but there's a meme that's floating around on both sides of the aisle that is frankly, untrue. And that meme is the idea that when either side takes control of the legislature and the presidency (whatever that side is), the political direction of the country is radically changed.

It's just not so. For one thing, the fundamental structure of the American government is so built as to make that nearly impossible. Thus, we did not become some socialist clone of Western Europe when Obama took office, and we did not become some theocratic Randian state when Bush was elected.

We bend a little. In a political sense, a turn the equivalent of 5 degrees becomes OH CRAP WE'RE GONNA CRASH!

Radical change is going from a republic to a fascist dictatorship, like Germany in the 30's. It's going from the USSR to what they have now. It's going from Iran in the 70s to the mullahs running the country. That's radical change.

#253 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 05:39 PM:

Steve C. @ 253:

Many things did in fact change when Bush was selected: we entered several wars that we should not have, and remained in them when we should not have; a number of important government agencies and posts were hollowed out and staffed by people chosen for reasons of personal and ideological loyalty, and intelligence agencies were allowed (in fact ordered) to perform illegal and unconstitutional acts of detention and torture. And when Obama was elected, very little of that changed; in fact we are now involved in yet a third, undeclared, war being waged by agencies that aren't even in the military chain of command.

#254 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 06:19 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 254 -

Find me a decade in the last century when we weren't screwing around, militarily and otherwise, with foreign countries. From the Philippines to the Balkans, we've kept our hand in. We're just more prone to acknowledge the recent and contemporary.

#255 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 06:23 PM:

254
And with an administration which claims it can order the execution of citizens without charges or trial of any kind, and the reason for the execution order is a state secret.
(srlsy, they're arguing this in court.)

#256 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 07:43 PM:

Steve C.:

These wars were more than the average military adventure, e.g., Nicaragua (at least a couple of those) or the Philippines. We're not talking about "advisors", "instructors", or "drug interdiction" here, we're talking about full scale combat operations involving hundreds of thousands of ground troops and combined force operations with thousands of air sorties from both air bases and aircraft carriers. In two wars simultaneously. We haven't been involved in such massive actions since Vietnam (Gulf War I was considerably shorter, though it did involve more troops initially), and Vietnam didn't last as long.

#257 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 08:36 PM:

Digby has an example of the kind of trash which arrives in the email inboxes of the true believers and the easily-persuaded.

It's ludicrous, but it's scary too.

#258 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 09:18 PM:

#248 ::: abi

The last time it was like this we had the Civil War -- because they would not listen, not to their own moderates either, who insisted that if slavery was not confined to the region where it was already established there would be a war because the rest of the country wouldn't stand for the expansion of slavery into all of the new territories.

But they wouldn't listen. They wouldn't observe the many compromises already made in their favor.

They were determined to have it all their own way.

And were willing to have a war to get it.

They really expected to win, despite their own moderates telling them it wasn't going to happen.

This happens. This has happened. There is no reason at all to think it won't happen again. This nation is not exceptional, except in its mythology of itself.

It only takes one to make it happen, not two. Unless the second, of course, lays down to be walked on, which of course the confederacy did expect the union to do, because, well, it always had before, starting during the period between the end of the War for Independence, when Washington let the Southern slaveholders have it their own way in the Constitution because otherwise they (meaning particularly Carolinas) would not join. Washington also didn't believe in political parties, which was the basis for the split between himself and Jefferson, and always was willing to compromise (which is another story, constand of U.S. political life from the gitgo) -- though really Carolina needed the feds more, because of the Indian wars.

And because they controlled the government almost the entire time between Washington and the Civil War.

#259 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 09:24 PM:

In fact things do change when one side has that much control.

Buchanan as president moved the nation's munitions and supplies -- to the southern states. They were already planning and expecting the Civil War. He also sent the U.S. navy to a bogus mission to the Pacific coast of Peru.

#260 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 09:42 PM:

Abi: I want to challenge an assumption. The folks we're talking about aren't half the country. They're a quarter of the eligible voters at most, maybe less. They can't be effectively contained by a roughly equal number of Democrats, many of them busily collaborating with the other side. But it's not a law of nature that no more than half the eligible voters remain inert always. Getting them roused to civic action may not be feasible, but it's certainly possible, and I think that on a whole lot of issues, this is the only hope of a lasting cure - getting an electoral result closer to the country as a whole.

Americans at large have a lot of faults, but the half who are currently unengaged are in general a lot less monstrous than that 10-25% busily tearing us all down.

So I tend to feel that anything that might work to make bystanders feel that it's both possible for real change to happen and worth their while to try is a presumptively good idea. Particularly in the wake of the massive betrayal of the 2006-8 effort to get folks roused that way, only to have their votes used to strengthen a lot of what's responsible for our deepening mess. But basically, I don't feel that there's any point in trying to win over that 10-25%, and a lot in doing everything that may connect with some folks in the quiescent 50%.

#261 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 12:39 AM:

Linkmeister #258: Digby has an example of the kind of trash which arrives in the email inboxes of the true believers and the easily-persuaded.

How dare they criticize Government Cheese! That stuff was wonderful.

#262 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 03:21 AM:

Constance @259:

So fine. Don't compromise on principles. But don't stop talking, stop trying, stop reaching out. Don't stoop to language that needlessly widens the division. Because I think that hurling insults brings us closer to that brink, and I dread it as much as you do.

I look at it this way: the epistemically closed are in a jail of their own and others' making. But if we build a brick wall around their jail, then when they try to break down their own prison they find they're still enclosed in our othering and dismissal of them.

Basically, you seem to conflate not using juvenile taunts with being a pushover. I strongly dispute that view.

Bruce Baugh @261:

The folks we're talking about aren't half the country.

No, but the folks who will (a) think you you're talking about them, (b) identify with the people you're talking about, and (c) just get turned off by the level of your discourse are.

(a) includes a lot of tribal Republicans who vote the way they do because their parents and grandparents before did. They see this kind of byplay and think it's politics as usual, an ugly game; why should they get active enough to find out the basis of our complaints?

(b) includes right-leaning independents and many libertarians, who occasionally vote Republican on specific issues. They could be persuaded to vote Democratic on specific issues; we do actually have policies that more closely align with them (or did, until we caved on police state matters)

(c) includes many people who really, really dislike talk radio, and wonder why we're trying to match that level of discourse. These people don't vote at all; we could persuade them to be more politically active if politics weren't such a swamp.

(This last group includes my father, for instance, who all but made me faint by putting an Obama sign in his window. He felt that Obama represented a chance to get politics out of the sewer. He regrets his hopefulness, in retrospect.)

So I tend to feel that anything that might work to make bystanders feel that it's both possible for real change to happen and worth their while to try is a presumptively good idea.

A lot of what bystanders want to change about politics is the race-to-the-bottom mentality. They (we) hate that you have to have skin thicker than your actual body to participate in the civic life of the nation. Schoolyard taunts don't demonstrate much commitment to that kind of change.

#263 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 04:54 AM:

Abi, I don't actually disagree with any of that. I just wanted to pipe up for the idea that efforts to somehow win over a significant fraction of the irredentist minority strike me as doomed to failure. "What does the rest of my potential audience and my potential allies think?" is a good question; "What might make enthusiastic hatemongers less so, short of road-to-Damascus moments?" probably isn't.

#264 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 05:02 AM:

Addendum: I notice in the accounts of ex-members of movement conservativism that the trigger is pretty much always disgust at their comrades. It might be the Terry Schiavo debacle, or being gay and getting tired of the homophobia, or whatever, but it starts with "I'm in the wrong place because of what the people right around me are doing" and then looking for some other place to be. I'll bet there are people who've studied the rhetorical risks and opportunities specific to that sort of situation, but I'm not one of them.

That last part is a request for links and such. :)

#265 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 08:22 AM:

One of my best buddettes at work is a Republican. She's in Minneapolis, I'm in Albuquerque, while the rest of the team is in the Bay Area. Neither of us talk politics, but we have a lot in common, besides the telecommuting and besides thinking our team is being run into the ground by overall incompetence.

#266 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 09:33 AM:

I've been sick since Thursday morning, and it took a fair bit of work to restore what Avram mutilated. But now, looking back at it, the course of the attacks on what I said illustrates pretty well the point I was attempting to make in the section that included the mutilated passage. The answer to the two questions I raised at that point could, after all, have been "no", or an admission that those questions represented a very old bone of contention. The response instead was to treat me precisely as a speaker of heresy: that the point couldn't be discussed at all, or even mentioned, and that I should be subjected to a deliberate act of public humiliation. And the 45-year-old slur was trotted out yet again.

I'm not interested in discussing the suppressed questions here, more or less because of the attacks on my character which indeed have already begun; the point was that in conventional liberal-conservative politics, the questions aren't up for discussion. One side subscribes to one dogma, the other takes an opposing view, and anyone who wants to suggest that both ways are inadequate gets cast out-- or better still, re-characterized as the opposition even though they may have even stronger objections to that position. It's really telling that the mention of a point of controversy should be held to be more offensive, after all, than that I assigned others a position which they could object that they do not hold. I consider the latter the greater sin of discourse, but I really do not dare object that (for instance) I do not "blame the victim".

#267 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 10:13 AM:

'Victim' incoming...

#268 ::: Bombie ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 10:31 AM:

C. Wingate @267

Before I try my hand at a response (I should go for a walk, first), two questions: What attacks on your character are your perceiving? As what opposition did you get re-characterized?

Note that by asking these questions, I'm not trying to dismiss your claims. I just fail to see what they are based on, and would like to hear your side first before responding.

#269 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 11:12 AM:

I'm not comfortable with name-calling really; but my observation is that years of attempting to engage them, argue with them, make our points, has resulted in nothing but more regression. It seems that constructive engagement is viewed as weakness by that crowd. I think it's reached the stage of "failed policy", and that some other approach is now needed.

#270 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 11:21 AM:

C Wingate #267:

A suggestion: Perhaps we could try to examine this issue of the parties excluding a large fraction of the plausible views of the world from discourse, in a way that's independent of some potentially hairy issue involving race and crime? You know I'm willing to talk about those issues, and to take unpopular positions based on what I see as the truth. But that example will inevitably turn this thread into a race and crime and privilege and prejudice sort of discussion, instead of the discussion we're having now.

Two examples of what I think you may be talking about here, because I wasn't entirely clear.

a. The war on drugs. There are a few people in both big parties who oppose it, but the main thrust of both parties is that we're going to keep fighting it, as demonstrated by its endless continuation. (Other examples abound, to cross threads.) The rhetoric of the two big parties simply doesn't include legalization as an issue.

b. Executive branch power grabs. Here, both parties have rhetoric that seems like it should guide them to push back on such power grabs. And yet, the party of small government and the party of civil liberties basically compete with each other for how quickly they can claim new powers for the president and executive branch, when they hold the office.

#271 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 11:24 AM:

Not long after Obama's winning the Election... And speaking of which, yes, he's been disappointing, but I always expect 'my' politicians to disappoint me, but he's still better than the other bunch. Remember the suppression of scientific conclusions that didn't fit in with the Dubya ideology?

But I digress.

Not long after Obama's winning the Election, I was getting money out of the ATM in our office building's lobby when the security guard made a crack about my not needing to worry about money now that my guy had won. I simply calmly denied the charges, and pointed out that, at least, my guy didn't plunder the country's Treasury to make his buddies rich. I don't know if it had the effect I intended, but he didn't deny THOSE charges and had what appeared a cynical smile that led me to believe he might actually agree with me.

#272 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 11:51 AM:

Terry #252:

The problem with the Pew Poll is that the people those moderate Republicans vote for aren't moderate. So they can support same sex marriage all they like but the net effect of that support is zilch. Which mean s the media model isn't wrong it's that the actions of the people those people elect reflect a different set of values then they say they hold when polled. On the ground, that's not practically different from believing the things they are thought to believe.

Is that a principle you hold to for Democrats, as well? ISTM that whatever liberals say they believe, the actions of the people they elect reflect a different set of values. On the ground, that's not practically different from believing in endless wars, no accountability for war crimes, domestic spying in violation of the law and constitution with no consequences, industry-friendly regulation for industries that are generous with political campaign contributions, etc. Or are you planning to vote Green this year?

#273 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 11:59 AM:

albatross, without attempting to speak for Terry, if there was a party available to me that was to the left of the Democrats, I'd be in it. As it is, my choices are limited.

(I'd consider the Greens, but I have family members that left it a couple of years ago, apparently because it was both ineffective and being taken over by conservatives.)

#274 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 12:10 PM:

Abi -- Any attempts to deal in any rational manner with these people is doomed.

Some of them are far worse than the merely irrational ones. They have an agenda of complete domination. I seldom call names, but a thug is a thug, and these people employ the tactics and strategies of thugs, that include not 'merely' intimidation, but violence, and they do it in the name of their party. Therefore - Rethugs.

It also looks rather different here on Ground Zero than it does on the other side of the Atlantic. We are personally threatened here from all sorts of directions for not toeing their line, including employment.


#275 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 01:13 PM:

abi @ 263: "Basically, you seem to conflate not using juvenile taunts with being a pushover. I strongly dispute that view."

Hear hear. I am sick to death of being told that I am surrendering to the enemy because I refuse to indulge myself in schoolyard posturing. No. I will decide for myself when I am finished fighting.

"No, but the folks who will (a) think you you're talking about them, (b) identify with the people you're talking about, and (c) just get turned off by the level of your discourse are."

Right. Conversations rarely happen in perfect solitude: there are almost always bystanders who are watching and listening. Realistically, in most arguments they're the only ones in play: it's a rare thing when an active participant in an argument changes their mind. If you're not thinking about how you're coming across not to the person you're talking to but to everyone else around, then you're missing a big chunk of the picture.

So using slurs isn't going to convince one's opponents of anything, and it doesn't help sway undecided bystanders either. But it hurts the user as well: treating your opponents like an undifferentiated mass of awful makes it harder to understand them. This makes it harder to fight them.

If there is one advantage that the left wing has over the right, it is that we understand more. We encompass more, we are broader, we see with clearer eyes. That is how we win: not by hating better, not by fighting dirtier, not by being more mindlessly tribal, but by acting with nuance and precision and understanding. I'll not forsake that for the comfort of righteous hate.

#276 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 01:27 PM:

C Wingate @267:

Regarding Avram's "mutilation": look at the address bar of your browser. Note how it contains the unique surname of two individuals. They host this loose and unstructured party in the Internet equivalent of their living room, with the help of a few people whom they've asked to distribute the drinks and the goodwill of the guests as a whole. But this is their place, associated with their names.

You did the equivalent of tracking dogshit onto their carpet. Avram cleaned it up before it got everywhere. Now I find out that you didn't do it unconsciously, which is in some ways a relief—I was concerned that you are so far into whatever subculture believes that stuff that you didn't even know it smelled. But in other ways, it's not pleasant to know that you deliberately brought that to this party. I had thought you had better manners, or at least better sense.

Now, albatross @271 has proposed two ways forward for the conversation. Personally, I would recommend option b, because it's further from having a racial element, and the air still has that sharp and unpleasant smell despite Avram's cleanup.

Take the "humiliation" of not being able to start a flamewar about race on this thread on the chin and go on with the conversation, please. Or don't; I'm not compelling you. But don't blame anyone but yourself for posting such markedly inappropriate content.

#277 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 01:45 PM:

C Wingate @267, that wasn't humiliation, it was mercy.

It's possible that you'd actually prefer to have had a number of other commenters angrily flame you for racism, but on this blog, that's not your call. You don't get to have a flame war here, even if you want one (and I'm pretty sure you don't actually want one; that your sin was one of stubborn ignorance, not aggression).

To keep that flame war from breaking out, I figured I had four options: (1) Disemvowel the two offending sentences, (2) disemvowel the whole comment, (3) remove the comment, (4) lock the thread. To choose (4) would be to punish the whole commentariat for your actions, which would be inappropriate. Of the other three, (1) seemed the least severe.

The fact that you don't even understand what was offensive about what you said, that you regard it as merely "the mention of a point of controversy", tells me that I did the right thing.

#278 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 01:51 PM:

Abi and I cross-posted. (That'll teach me to read read web comics in one tab and a contentious comments thread in the other.)

#279 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 02:10 PM:

Avram @278:

The fact that others took the hint and addressed the remainder of comment 94 as though those two sentences did not exist* is another indication that you did the right thing.

-----
* although I suspect that the awareness of them contributed to the sharp tone of the conversation

#280 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 02:13 PM:

Sometimes people accused of elitism are actually elite.

#281 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 02:21 PM:

Earl @281:
Sometimes people accused of elitism are actually elite.

True, but in a surprising number of cases, so are the people making the accusation.

#282 ::: dlbowman76 ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 02:24 PM:

On the subject of violence...

With gun in hand, I stand in my doorway
My brow sweaty, and my hand trembling,
A decision. It could go either way -
Time stops, all is flux, I stand wondering -
Is this where it ends? Do I kill today,
Become a murderer? Become vengeance?
Cast Christ aside in passion…Far away
My thoughts of mercy, pity. Remembrance
Of who I used to be. I was a man!
I held courage close to my chest, My heart
Beat strongly. Now, I'm an "also ran",
The sum of my whole, now a single part.
With gun in hand, I see myself now true -
Maybe I saved myself - but who will save you?

#283 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 03:03 PM:

heresiarch at 276: well said. Thank you.

Some comments about personal violence: I have been studying martial arts for 40 years, and teaching for almost 20. Doing so has given me a range of responses to threat, from walking away to verbal response to (might I be forgiven) breaking an assailant's neck. My study has also given me insight into my own and other people's emotional reactions to threat (fear, confusion, rage, etc.) and a good deal of control over my own. In a situation where I or another person is threatened, my trained response is to evaluate the situation and to respond in a way that will, to the best of my ability, neutralize the threat and protect all involved -- even, if possible, the person who is presenting the threat. That is because the art that I study insists that I recognize the humanity of the person presenting the threat, rather than dehumanizing or demonizing him or her. My spiritual practice requires the very same thing. I am not allowed to forget that everyone I meet is a fallible and fallen human being -- just like me. Protecting someone who is attempting to do harm, in my perception, means first stopping them from doing that harm swiftly and efficiently.

Forty years ago, when I first started training, in Chicago, one of my fellow students arrived at the dojo one night shaking and in tears. She had been attacked on the el platform, and acted to protect herself. Her assailant ended up flat on his back with a broken arm.

She was crying partly because of the emotional stress of the physical confrontation itself, and partly because she was ashamed that she had hurt someone. It took a little while before she was able to recognize that she had responded entirely appropriately. (I should mention -- she was 14 years old.)

Was her response a violent one? I would submit -- not at all.

#284 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 03:28 PM:

Avram @ 279... Which web comics were they?

#285 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 04:58 PM:

"Help, I've fallen and I can't get -- oh, hey, thank you."

#286 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 05:13 PM:

abi, I feel certain that you're right in 248. I'm just not one of the people who can have that conversation. I'm too angry. I hate the fact that these people are able to goad me into immoderate responses, but my recognition of that foible in myself means that you don't have to have me at the table when you're trying to have the conversation.

#287 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 05:22 PM:

Xopher @ 287... you don't have to have me at the table when you're trying to have the conversation

Xopher on the table would become the subject of the conversation.
("Serge, it's at the table, not on it.")
Oh.
Nevermind.

#288 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 06:33 PM:

C. Wingate: The problem isn't that "the questions" aren't up for discussion, it's that they aren't good questions.

As for the claims you specifically make, I'm not interested in discussing the suppressed questions here, more or less because of the attacks on my character which indeed have already begun; the point was that in conventional liberal-conservative politics, the questions aren't up for discussion.

Shenannigans. You are, indirectly, trying to address them, and two... what attacks on your character? I, for example, made an observation on what I can see of your judgement and discernment. I didn't say you were a bad person.

The problems with your disemvowelled comment (and one wonders why it's so hard for you to reconstruct your own words), is that they aren't really asking questions. Saying that blacks ought to, "eschew crime" is inane. Why single them out? What is the point of the tautology, "if "x" don't want to end up in prison" they ought not commit crimes,"? To add insult to injury you started by saying they could just commit the sorts of crimes white folks do, and so end up with shorter sentences. This begs the question of disproprtionate sentencing; because when we look at parallel crimes (e.g. murders) we see that non-whites get, as a rule, longer sentences.

It was for that you were disemvowelled. Disemvowelling isn't, as you ought to know by now, public shaming; unless one makes a stink about how one has had one's words, "mutilated", or censored, or whatever plaintive cry of agrievement one chooses to use. There is no inherent shame to it. There is a personal one, for those who belong to the community, but when a regular crosses that line, and loses vowels, it's done. The next comment will keep its vowels, even on the same subject, so long as the lines of civil discourse aren't crossed.

I keep trying to recast the comment you left as some sort of comment on the meta-issue, and, try as I might to be more charitable, I can't. Your examples, and the use of motive in the way you cast the solution, make it impossible to see it as an attack on a corrupt system, but rather an accusation of moral/intellectual failing on an entire group.

Which is, in my book, unacceptable rhetoric.

#289 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 06:52 PM:

albatross: Is that a principle you hold to for Democrats, as well? ISTM that whatever liberals say they believe, the actions of the people they elect reflect a different set of values. On the ground, that's not practically different from believing in endless wars, no accountability for war crimes, domestic spying in violation of the law and constitution with no consequences, industry-friendly regulation for industries that are generous with political campaign contributions, etc. Or are you planning to vote Green this year?

No, I am not planning to vote Green this year. I used to to that (vote for a minor party, in a race which was settled) in the vain hope having a block of votes for a view not being represented in the present platform would change policy. That was a failure. Given the way the Republican Party has been manipulating the minor parties in the hope of splitting the Democratic Party's voters (see Ariz., IIRC, where they have been qualifying, and bankrolling, non-viable Green Party Candidates, at all sorts of levels).

But for the rest of it, I agree. Which is why I support people like Digby, who are publicly calling for the people we have in office to actually do the will of those who elected them. It's why I supported Ned Lamont (and railed at Clinton, Obama, et al., who didn't tell Lieberman that running as an independent would cost him his seniority; and then point that out to the voters of Conn.).

The difference? I see the membership, the active base of the party trying to change it. I see them pushing for more liberal candidates, people who don't back those things. I don't see that on the Republican side of the aisle. So, the effect of my, and my fellow-travellers, efforts may be failing, but I don't see any O'Conells, and Paladino's.

Is the system perfect? No. But the direction of the two parties is radically different. Obama is letting me down, in a bigger way than I expected, but the party isn't, per platform, getting horridly worse. If (and this is the sticking point) the Republicans weren't able to get away with making anything to the left of Nixon seem, "socialist" there might actually be a chance of moving the left more toward what was centrist when I was 20.

#290 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 06:57 PM:

oops, got lost:

Given the way the Republican Party has been manipulating the minor parties in the hope of splitting the Democratic Party's voters (see Ariz., IIRC, where they have been qualifying, and bankrolling, non-viable Green Party Candidates, at all sorts of levels), doing so is worse than just sending a message vote; to be ignored, but actually supporting the agenda of the more destructive party.

Which is truly counter-productive.

#291 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 07:31 PM:

Terry Karney #290: Given the way the Republican Party has been manipulating the minor parties in the hope of splitting the Democratic Party's voters (see Ariz., IIRC, where they have been qualifying, and bankrolling, non-viable Green Party Candidates, at all sorts of levels).

See also the Libertarian/Tea Party bankrolling connection1,2,3

#292 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 07:50 PM:

Earl: I don't see that as parallel. The Koch's and the Murdoch's of the world want the Tea Party to win, because it will make the Republicans more corporatist.

#293 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 08:21 PM:

Terry, the Teapartiers think that they aren't Republicans. (They claim that in public, anyway. They also tend to get people laughing and pointing at them, in some of the places where they put that claim forward.)

#294 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 08:37 PM:

Serge @288, possibly if Xopher were etherised upon the table, we could follow that tedious argument of insidious intent. (On the server the comments come and go, sometimes missing ay, ee, eye, you, oh.)

And @285, mostly Lin Visel's "Effort Comics". (Very NSFW!)

#295 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 08:42 PM:

P J: I know that, but the issue isn't what the group thinks of itself (the Tea Party thinks it's rebelling against an Establishment which has abandoned them for "Liberal" causes), but (in the example used) what the people bankrolling them expect out of the deal.

The Kochs, et al. expect the Tea Party to move the Republicans more to the right. Which is different from the backing of the Greens. They aren't being backed in the hope they will move the Dems to the left, but rather the Left/Progressive vote will be stripped from the Dems, and the Republicans will win.

As a lagniappe it will make, "Left-wing" ideas seem even more marginal, because not only to they lose, their fellow travelling Dems lose too; proving that "America is a Conservative Nation"™.

#296 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 09:01 PM:

Avram @ 295... Very NSFW? I duuno. At least, it's not so brightly colored that someone (for example a manager) would notice and come see what you're up to. Meanwhile, when one is reading Girl Genius, people notice from afar.

By the way, do you still read non-webbed comics? I do, but I've become very selective. In fact, the only mainstream comic-book I still read is "Captain America".

#297 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 09:46 PM:

*waits until everyone is out of the room, climbs up on table, puts on ether mask, passes out*

#298 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 10:37 PM:

Terry, I keep pointing out in those places that the Greens aren't an alternative, any more than R Effing Nader was, or Kucinich (who I last described as being past his sell-by date, if he even had one), because the people who think the Greens are a viable alternative also tend to like R Effing Nader and Kucinich, for reasons which totally escape me. (I'd rather vote for honest Socialists, myself. And so would my formerly-Green relatives.)

The Teaparty folks are maybe willfully (and willingly) self-deceived. They think they're going to have power, and I don't they've noticed that it isn't going to be that way - they have a small child's view of the world, in some ways: wish hard enough and it will come true and everything will be Happily Ever After.

#299 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2010, 11:54 PM:

(patiently waits for ether bunny.)

#300 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 12:10 AM:

(puts rabbit ears on Xopher)

#301 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 12:35 AM:

(meanwhile, at L'éthérique Lapin Agile, the evening's show is about to begin...)

#302 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 12:53 AM:

(notes that they are Dutch rabbit ears created specially for this purpose†, which makes each one an ether-oor*)

-----
† and purchased in one of the many specialty shops full of Very Surprising Things one finds in Amsterdam
* pronounced like the English "oar"

#303 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 01:17 AM:

(patiently waits for ether bunny.)
WiFi is more convenient and flexible, if a trifle slower.

#304 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 02:47 AM:

albatross, #197: Oh, yeah. That was the one which moved my opinion of Libertarianism from "not based on reality" to "actively toxic". I've seen nothing out of the party since then to change that opinion.

Bruce, #228: This is because most of the MSM are owned and controlled by one of a small group of people (Rupert Murdoch and a few others) who are in basic agreement about what policies should be promoted. It's not the least bit surprising that they all seem so similar, and not the least bit coincidental either.

heresiarch, #251: And honestly, it's appalling to hear liberals put forth "no worse than Republicans" as a worthy standard of behavior.

Yes. This is EXACTLY EQUIVALENT to "But Clinton did it too!" in discussions of individual politicians' transgressions. We can do better.

(Note: this is not to say that I myself have never descended to that level*. But it is a precept that I try to keep in mind.)

C. Wingate, #267: Y'know, quite a few of us have said things in the heat of passion, from time to time, which have ended up losing their vowels; you have most certainly not been "singled out for public humiliation" in any way. And most of us, after it happens, think of it as the equivalent of a good friend attempting to help us maintain our reputations as decent people. If you claim not to understand why what you said was worthy of disemvowelment, you should be ashamed of yourself -- and for that you apparently said it with malice aforethought, the more so.

abi, check your e-mail. :-)

* Case in point: having decided that "teabaggers" has lost its humor value, I now think of, and occasionally refer to, the Tea Party people as "TP-ers" -- rolling yards all over America.

#305 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 08:06 AM:

"I'm not only the Hare Club president, I'm also a client!"

#306 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 08:45 AM:

"Knock, knock"

"Who's there?"

"Nutter"

"Nutter who?"

"Nutter ether bunny here to see you!"

#307 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 08:50 AM:

Ginger #307: I'm not sure I gopher that sort of thing.

#308 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 09:06 AM:

Fragano@308

You're just digging yourself in deeper.

#309 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 09:20 AM:

Michael I #309 I am a mere cat compared to others here.

#310 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 11:20 AM:

Fragano @ 310: I must sheepishly admit that you can pullet out of the fire, and do so while lion about; this is a talent not to be carped at.

#311 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 11:46 AM:

Stop kidding around, people.

#312 ::: alsafi ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 11:56 AM:

Much like Xopher, this is why I just don't come to the table--I've given up trying to reach across that divide, and I stick to safe subjects. It's not because I truly don't think of the folks on the other side of it as human (I don't know--in the flesh--a whole lot of people who aren't conservative, down here in Memphis, TN. Please send Universal Healthcare and Belgian chocolate). It's because I am too hurt and angry to express myself without that hurt and anger spiking everything I say.

Just being who I am, where I am, invites a constant trickle of criticism and humiliation which is corrosive to the soul and occasionally sends me into black despair. So I get a little raw at what comes across as castigation by people I regard as allies that the problem is that some of us are too angry and insufficiently nice. I, at least, have tried nice, nasty, and for the past while, silence because people who still have it in them to be nice have told me that's the only way they can negotiate something like progress--but I'm not seeing a lot of that, where I sit.

I don't think that's the fault of the nice folks on either side, but the fact is that they're all being drowned out by the screamers on the far right, and the Overton Window just keeps moving that direction.

I think Terry Karney may be right--maybe the Left needs us angry people, too. People even further left than I am, maybe, to start trying to push the range of available discourse away from where it's been going.

Also, ymmv, but I found this to be really helpful about different types of activist communication. I think someone on Slacktivist linked it a little while back.

#313 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 12:07 PM:

abi @303: You don't even have to go into Specialty shops to find Very Surprising Things in Amsterdam. I went into the equivalent* of Holland & Barrett** in Amsterdam and was somewhat surprised to see "p*n*s ticklers***" for sale. You wouldn't see that in Holland & Barrett in London.

* exact equivalent,obviously owned by the same body, as indicated by extremely similar packaging etc.

** a health food chain

*** asterisks inserted not to save the blushes of anyone on ML, such as myself, who didn't recognise a fair few of the words blocked by Google, but to avoid unhelpful trolling.

#314 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 12:49 PM:

heresiarch@312

Or we'll get your goat?

#315 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 12:51 PM:

alsafi, Xopher, Constance:

Fair enough. I'm not the target of the nastiest of the name-calling, so it's easy for me to tell you to buck up and deal with the rain of crap which is conveniently only splashing me around the feet, but is pouring onto your head. I understand the desire to scream names at people whose self-described representatives scream names at you. I'd probably feel the same way in your places. I think it's bad tactics, and as heresiarch said, probably not very good for you, but God knows I've gotten mad as hell with far less justification than you have.

#316 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 01:14 PM:

heresiarch #312: I see your goat has been got.

#317 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 01:27 PM:

If, in fact, a big part of the widely-reported general movement rightward is because of the loud loons screaming hate on the far right, as has periodically been asserted (and occasionally denied), it does seem on the face of it premature to dismiss the potential value of loud loons screaming hate on the left.

The warnings that it may be bad for the people doing it I would take seriously, however. It's one thing to blow off a little steam among friends now and then; that's often good for you. But to make screaming hate a major occupation will probably change you in ways I won't like. (Yes, that's deliberate; and you may not care how I like any changes in you.)

I also find the practice extremely unpleasant.

But I'm running short of other ideas that might accomplish anything useful.

#318 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 01:35 PM:

This article is an example of thinking that strikes me as well-thought-out and rational, though it comes from someone on the right. However, it's not "moderate" in the normal media sense of the word. The center in US politics, at least among the powerful, is broadly in favor of all kinds of scary police state measures.

#319 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 03:37 PM:

I'm no saint, Lord knows. I have been known, on occasion to lose my shit, even here; where the level of discourse/support is usually enough to make it possible to take a step back when I am livid.

But, in person, I have been known to scream at people; not quite foaming at the mouth. It's rare, and the subject matter on which someone can do that is rare.

I don't know that this is the best of reactions, but in some ways I think it better than the step just below that.

At that level, usually when I am merely observing/listening, I get quiet. The right descriptor is probably deadly quiet.

Because, to be confessional, I am getting closer to violence. At that point I don't dare get into the discussion, because I will be very cold (lacking affect), and my metaphors, etc. will be carefully chosen to use as much rhetorical skill as I have to punch, intellectually, the person I am disagreeing with, to beat them into submission by force of will.

It's a dangerous thing. That sort of verbal abuse can lead to physical response. By that point I am so wound up that I am not likely to be too restrained my response.

So I just watch, and vent elsewhere.

When it come to debate, in public places, my philosophy is best summed up as, the dead cat school of logic.

#320 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 05:35 PM:

Bruce 304: WiFi is more convenient and flexible, if a trifle slower.

I always wondered why people thought they could catch ether in a net. Hel-LO, it's a GAS, people. (Or sometimes a liquid. But even so.)

alsafi 313: Thank you for putting it so well. I feel the same way.

albatross 316: Thanks for this. I tend to use my derisive names for the "other side" when I'm among friends, not when talking to those people. Because screaming IS bad for you—but laughing is good.

#321 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 07:40 PM:

320 Terry: if the deadly quiet is anything like mine, it's the step *above* "lose my shit". There's a step above that, too, and in me it's unreasoning. It's been verbal, it's been physical, and *it scares me*, because the only thing I know of those times is what I've been told, and what I've worked out from where I ended up after I came out of it. But yeah, I know. Unhealthy, and unhelpful.

That doesn't mean that steps don't get skipped - frequently, given my lack of interest or ability in violence, the "lose my shit" one. That one's more unsafe in the wrong community than very quiet and calculating, so I frequently jump to minimal communication.

Two things, though: I don't think I *try* to wound with my speech there - I'm just good at it... I'm concentrating very hard on ensuring that what I say is *exactly correct*, because I don't have the "oops, that's dumb" filters or "if they misunderstand me, I can notice and correct" any more. But yeah, the cold, the clipped, I know from that.

Second - I'm an introvert with extroverted training, and almost certainly, Aspie. And my body language is "wrong". It seems easy to me to tell the difference between "Mycroft's quiet because he's concentrating", "Mycroft's quiet because he's peopled out and needs to be alone for a while" and "Mycroft's one step from *BOOM*" - but I know from being told that it's not so easy for "most" people. That's also scary, and I'm trying to learn to say explicit "not now" or "drop it, please" or "I need to be alone" when I get there before I start hurting people.

Part of my problem with the discussions being discussed here is that with many, reason doesn't help. "duckspeak" and "doublethink", in the true Newspeak definitions of the terms, apply so often on the other side, and the Ingsoc goal for those states of mind was to route past the brain. When that happens, reason doesn't work. I know not how to retrain a duckspeaker (on any side).

#322 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 07:42 PM:

Argh, in case it isn't clear, that last paragraph was not aimed at any of the discussions here - it is assumed by nature of entrance that one is willing to think; and I do not see (m)any situations with non-drive-bys where that assumption has been incorrect.

#323 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 08:15 PM:

"Knock knock"

"Who's there?"

"Stella"

"Stella who?"

"Stella nutter ether bunny out here!"

#324 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 08:52 PM:

#316 albatross

I don't scream. I sneer. I do it coldly and quietly.

Nor am I ashamed. These people want me dead, they have done everything they can to deny me a living, health care and a roof over my head, they deny my humanity.

I sneer at their hypocrisy, ignorance and sheer state of vileness.

#325 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 09:12 PM:

Constance #325: These people want me dead, they have done everything they can to deny me a living, health care and a roof over my head, they deny my humanity.

That's a good summary.

#326 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2010, 09:31 PM:

Mycroft: I don't know that losing my shit, and the state of deadly calm are truly related. Once I hit one, the other is pretty much not going to happen.

I keep telling people, I am not a nice person; not even always a good one. What I am is civilised.

Which makes all the difference.

#327 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2010, 12:09 AM:

Let us go, then, you and I
While the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a Xopher etherized upon a table...

Maybe this time the mermaids will sing TO us.

#328 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2010, 02:33 AM:

Why Liberals Are More Intelligent Than Conservatives

"Well, your side hates my side because you think we think you are stupid, and my side hates your side because we think you are stupid."

#329 ::: VCarlson ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2010, 06:29 AM:

WRT name-calling: I try to avoid getting into it, because I've had (most of) a lifetime of training to avoid slipping into "we-they," which makes it so much easier to start thinking of "them" as not really people. (This has been getting more and more difficult for me, as I have been getting angrier and angrier at the way the window has been pushed so far to the "right.")

So I try to avoid using clever derogatory terms about the people who seem to have gone into completely-heartless-about-people-who-are-not-of-their-tribe country and are trying to drag the rest of us with them, even in private, partly because I just *know* that if I do, I'll wind up using it/them in front of someone who might otherwise have been convinceable. Or in front of someone who will use it as an excuse to keep on being offensive towards me and my ilk.

I also try to understand* why they're doing and saying what they are, in hopes of keeping that recognition of "they're human too" going (yep, "them," can't seem to get away from it, in spite of my intentions), and maybe, maybe, being able, by being willing to listen, to convince them that, no, two people of the same gender marrying will not in any way invalidate their own marriage, that, in spite of being female, I *am* entitled to make my own decisions, and any number of other viewpoints that are presently in need of defending (Torture is *wrong* - why is there even any argument? I thought we were a civilized country, but obviously not). I do have to admit, though, that there are some viewpoints I just don't want to even try to understand, because they are so utterly foreign to the way I look at the world. These are the dangerous ones for me, as it would be so easy to slip them into the "not people" category.

Sometimes the best I can do is keep my mouth shut and my temper under control, though batting cages have been a source of help for me, too - a way to channel my urge to just *hit* something, because in addition to violence being bad for me, I know I would also be very bad at it.

*"Understanding" and "agreeing with" or "condoning" are not the same.

#330 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2010, 08:00 AM:

Earl, 329: Oh, nuts. I got all excited and then realized that because I'm a smart liberal with principles, I can't believe it...evo-psych is still nonsense, even when it confirms my biases.

#331 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2010, 08:52 AM:

Rikibeth #328: Do you talk about Michelangelo? Or, in the alternative, wear the bottoms of your trousers rolled?

I, for my part, dare to eat a peach.

#332 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2010, 09:51 AM:

#332 Fragano Ledgister

Where you live you have no choice about eating peaches. No boasting from you, sirrah!

As well, these peaches are so delicious daring has nothing to do with it. Gorging, however, at least in my case with MD peaches, does.

Love, C.

#333 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2010, 10:22 AM:

TexAnne @ 331... Is it a bias if you know you're right? :-)

#334 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2010, 10:35 AM:

Constance #333:

What can I say? I am full of high sentence but a bit obtuse.

#335 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2010, 10:36 AM:

I wrote a poem about aging when I first started losing my hair. I was ridiculously young at the time, and would LOVE to have the amount of hair I had then, but the part of the poem (as far as I remember it) that applies here isn't so ridiculous:

I eat peaches, I'm not afraid.
Mermaids sing to me; I try not to listen:
They want me to drown.
I don't remember much more of it, but I do remember how it ended:
I sometimes dream that it is not my hair
That falls out in the shower, that clogs my drain:
It is my bones.
It is my blood.
I don't dream that anymore, happily. Also don't have the drain problems I used to have!

#336 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2010, 11:01 AM:

Fragano @335:

Whereas I am full of low paragraph and somewhat isosceles*.

-----
* Somewhat Isosceles would make a great band name.

#337 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2010, 11:09 AM:

Xopher #336: Eliot has a lot to be blamed for!

abi #337: Would you settle for medium phrase and occasionally scalene?

#338 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2010, 11:19 AM:

Is a compass heap the place where old theorems are thrown in for re-cycling?

#339 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2010, 12:35 PM:

This Glenn Greenwald post seems to me to cover some of the issues raised in this thread, from the other angle. Having compromised on all kinds of important-to-Democratic-voters issues, the Obama administration is finding it hard to drum up as much enthusiasm as they had for 2008. Guess whose fault all this absolutely is *not*....

#340 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2010, 01:20 PM:

There was a bigger point I wanted to make, w.r.t. the polling data on Republicans and Christians on gay marriage.

Despite widespread, well-justified distrust of the big media sources, we use them to tell us a lot of what we implicitly believe about the world--the sort of background picture we carry around of stuff we aren't well informed about, sort of like the picture we all got from history and civics classes in high school. And much like the picture of the world from those high school classes, a large fraction of what we've absorbed from the MSM is bullshit.

The beliefs held by our fellow citizens, particularly ones we don't know many of, are one of the places where we implicitly tend to believe what the media tell us--almost by definition, we don't really know much that would contradict that picture. Some views disappear. Some are voiced only by people who are inarticulate or repugnant. Some views held by only a few spokesmen are reported as the beliefs of whole huge groups of people. ("And now, let's go to Fred for the black perspective on this question.") Some widely-held views are almost never reported, or are framed in such a way as to seem monstrous.

Protests, riots, mobs, police beatings, etc., are disappeared, shrunk, grown, or reframed all the time by media sources. The antiwar rally gets a very small mention, which shows only pictures of someone in a chimp suit burning a flag.


All kinds of other stuff like this happens. Crime reporting, war reporting, financial reporting, all are filtered, edited, spun, or dropped into a black hole as needed. I don't know why or how this is done, but it seems to happen all the time. (For example, what's the probability of having your kid hit by a car vs snatched by a stranger? What's the ratio of stories on these two kinds of events on the news?)

The point of all this: Try to be aware of what you've absorbed as background from unreliable sources, from the MSM or school civics/history classes or TV shows. When you find yourself believing something about people you've never met, look for other sources of information instead of just saying "well, all the Muslims I ever see on TV shows are terrorists, so probably all the Muslims in town are also terrorists."

Especially, don't trust the background picture when it's flattering to you or your side. Anytime you find yourself thinking "we are so good/smart/right and they are so evil/stupid/wrong," it ought to make you wonder how you know. The alternative is wandering around blind--believing stuff about the others (whether they're Muslims or red-state Republicans) that isn't actually true, and acting on those beliefs.

#341 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2010, 01:20 PM:

Fragano, I just recently, to my delight, acquired a pair of jeans with zippers at the ankles, so it would be difficult to wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled, but I did have a discussion over whether it was plausible for a (fictional) gently-reared young lady to have no knowledge whatsoever of a gentleman's anatomical differences, given the existence and iconic status of the David. So I suppose I do talk of Michaelangelo!

#342 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2010, 01:36 PM:

albatross... A kid who is abducted doesn't result in questioning the social order. An antiwar rally definitely does, and threatens the validity and power of those who are in charge.

#343 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2010, 01:40 PM:

Rikibeth #342: Ah, but were you in The Room?

#344 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2010, 01:42 PM:

albatross... As for your earlier post... Like I said in an earlier post, I expect 'my' politicians to disappoint me, but it'd be nice if they disappointed my disappointment.

#346 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2010, 05:46 PM:

Serge #343:

I doubt that there is any one explanation for the whole weird pattern of media blindness/deception/omissions/spin. Sometimes, I think it's just trying to sell papers, as with pushing the general fear agenda on the news and on crime shows[1]. Sometimes, it seems like it's the reporters, editors, or someone else deciding what we should and shouldn't know, aka "responsible journalism."[2] Sometimes, it seems like the responsible press are behaving almost exactly like a set of mouthpieces for the US government, as with the runup to the Iraq war. Sometimes (as with net neutrality), the media companies have a direct financial interest in the debate. Sometimes, they seem to be operating in concert to push some new bit of agenda, as with the decision of media sources all across the country to spontaneously report on businesses that bring foreign women to the US to give birth to their kids (thus getting citizenship for the kids) in the same week or two. Sometimes, they seem to be helping run a kind of staged show, as with the weird debate about whether KSM should get a civilian trial, which had a distinctly artificial flavor to me from beginning to end.

What's clear is, we're flying around in a spaceship whose sensors are terribly unreliable, sometimes just because they're broken, other times because some enemy or faction within the ship has compromised them and is using them to feed us lies. And because what comes in over those sensors is the consensus reality (that which you must believe in order not to be judged crazy), it's extremely hard to recognize when those sensors are simply reporting that it's 20C and clear out, while in fact it's 5C and raining.

[1] This reminds us constantly that there is a child molester under every bed that doesn't already have a terrorist hiding under it.

[2] For example, after that Rolling Stone article that ended McChrystal's career, a lot of journalists stood up to bravely proclaim that they would never have reported the stuff in that article, for reasons involving patriotism, a desire not to confuse the public with inconvenient facts, power-worship, having a thing for guys in uniform, whatever. Seriously, go Google for it. It will make your stomach hurt!

#347 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2010, 05:49 PM:

Serge:

To steal a line from someone else, perhaps the Democratic party should dissolve the liberal base and elect a new one more to its liking.

#348 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2010, 07:04 PM:

albatross @ 348:
To steal a line from someone else, perhaps the Democratic party should dissolve the liberal base and elect a new one more to its liking.

More and more it seems as if that's what this election year is all about. Obama seems to be upset with everyone left of Nixon and wants us to STFU and go away.

#349 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2010, 08:40 PM:

#338 Fragano

Is Eliot to be blamed for ... this Wasteland?

I r pickin' on Fragano 2day!

I iz mean!

Love, C.

#350 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2010, 08:44 PM:

#347 albatross

"Serge #343:

I doubt that there is any one explanation for the whole weird pattern of media blindness/deception/omissions/spin."

O yes there is. The media, per se, when you're talking the primary mass media: newspapers, television, radio and magazines, are totally owned subsidiaries of giant corporate billionaires, who are not progressives, and not on your side. They have their agenda of total domination, no regulation and no obligation, and particularly no taxes, and paying for anything at all.

They also own the politicians.

It's been progressively so and progressively in our faces since Nixon, and particularly since Reagan.

It's monopolies of corporate domination.

Love, c.

#351 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2010, 09:10 PM:

albatross @ 347... I'm sure there are different reasons for the different actors, but I still think there's one likely reason: reporting fairly if at all about anti-war rallies undermines the power of those above, while over-reporting on child abuse makes people afraid and, when they're afraid, they want to feel safe and their solution is to give additional power to those who run the show. As for how well they run the show, that's another story.

we're flying around in a spaceship whose sensors are terribly unreliable (...) what comes in over those sensors is the consensus reality

Doolittle: Hello, Bomb? Are you with me?
Bomb #20: Of course.
Doolittle: Are you willing to entertain a few concepts?
Bomb #20: I am always receptive to suggestions.
Doolittle: Fine. Think about this then. How do you know you exist?
Bomb #20: Well, of course I exist.
Doolittle: But how do you know you exist?
Bomb #20: It is intuitively obvious.
Doolittle: Intuition is no proof. What concrete evidence do you have that you exist?
Bomb #20: Hmmmm... well... I think, therefore I am.
Doolittle: That's good. That's very good. But how do you know that anything else exists?
Bomb #20: My sensory apparatus reveals it to me. This is fun.

Sorry. I couldn't help it. :-)

#352 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2010, 09:31 PM:

My week this far is pulling a hard vacuum, but having reviewed Terry's response I must admit that the example in the mutilated passage (and no, I cannot read disemvoweled text without going through and writing all the vowels back in, a word at a time) was a poor construction, and I can see how it could offend. For that, I apologize.

#353 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2010, 10:20 PM:

C Wingate @ 353... If I may make a friendly suggestion, let's agree to drop the subject otherwise well have to once again bring up the vision of a bunny-suited Xopher lying supinely on a table.

#354 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2010, 08:16 AM:

Constance #350

Old Possum can haz practical lolcatz.

#355 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2010, 10:24 AM:

Fragano -- Hee!

Love, c.

#356 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2010, 12:01 PM:

Terry, 327: Yeah, that's more like right. Separate codepaths, you get one or the other.

#357 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2010, 02:17 PM:

Constance #351:

But they do sometimes report news that's damning to those interests, or at least to some of them. I doubt that a simple one-parameter model is going to provide much insight here, whether "megacorps own the media" or "the reporters are mostly liberals" or "they're just providing what the people want." Each of those three statements is true, but it's not so easy to work out how they interact for any given story.

#358 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2010, 03:53 PM:

Serge #352: Bomb #20: It is intuitively obvious.

It is intuitively obvious that you are a gentleman of taste and distinction.

#359 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2010, 05:43 PM:

Earl Cooley III @ 359... I wouldn't know about that, but I do have some most excellent friends.

#360 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2010, 06:21 PM:

Another theory postulated about the current political situation: White America Has Lost Its Mind.

#361 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2010, 04:14 PM:

Linkmeister @ 361:

Well, that's true in any case that most White folk seem to have lost it, though it may not explain the current political situation. I'm beginning to wonder if we aren't faced with the same problem that brought down Rome: lead poisoning that enfeebles everyone's brains.

#362 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2010, 05:33 PM:

There's something that's been bouncing around in my head more or less since early on in this thread started (and certainly since around comment 94), and something Abi said over on the Open Thread has just knocked it loose.

First, a bit of context. I'm British and a Labour voter. That's to say, I voted Labour in 1997 - which is the last time I was in the UK for an election - and in 2002 (I had a postal vote); and I've identified as Labour supporter for - as far as I can remember - as long as I've been aware that political parties existed.

I didn't vote in 2005 or 2010. In 2005 the reason was simple enough: I was pretty much convinced that Tony Blair was a war criminal. (More specifically,and slightly more accurately - guilty of the crime of aggression). I'd have had reservations about voting for him anyway - my own political preference is fairly strongly for leaders whose names do sound like units of measurement; but under the circumsances it was a non-issue. You don't vote for war criminals. End of story.

In 2010 it was more complicated. (It would also have been more complicated to register to vote). But at the end of the day I decided that I couldn't vote for Gordon Brown either, on the grounds that if Blair was guilty of the crime of aggression, then Brown was guilty of conspiracy to prosecute an aggressive war. He was Chancellor of the exchequer: he could have resigned rather than be in charge of providing the finances. Not voting for Brown was something of a wrench - I'd always wanted to vote for him; and back when I was an actual Labour Party member in 1994, I'd wanted the chance to vote for war . But still. You don't vote for war criminals. End of story. Again.

But now - and here's the point I've been leading up to - I've been reading in quite a lot of detail on the crime of aggression, and I'm no longer happy to make the judgment that Blair and Brow are war criminals. (at least, on the war of aggression charge. I'm not really sure whatg to say about the torture issue.) So here's the thing. There's a big problem with the crime of aggression, namely that the people responsible for coming up with a legal definition of 'aggression' didn't do so until this summer

Now, that's something which doesn't affect the moral wrongness of the Iraq war. But it dies affect how willing I am to use the phrase 'war criminal'. Because even if we have a legal definition of aggression now, using it to convict Blair and Brown in an international tribunal for actions back in 2002 wsould look very much like legislating retro-actively. So - even leaving aside the question of whether Brown and Blair could be indicted - it strikes me as likely that they couldn't be convicted of the crime of aggression. And if we're going to be strict about 'innocent until proven guilty', that's got to apply also to those who get off - or would get off, if brought to trial - on technical or procedural grounds.

As I say, I don't know whether there's a similar point to make about the torture issue. I think that if there were ever to be a trial a lot would turn on chain of command and mens rea issues that I don't think I have a very good grip on. (Proving the right kinds of intent in long chains of command seems to have been legally tricky in the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia though).

So to cut a long story short: although there's no doubt in my mind that Blair and Brown (but particularly Blair) are morally responsible for war crimes, I no longer find myself wanting to say that they are, categorically, war criminals. That may seem like a fine distinction. But I think it matters. At least, maybe its evidence that not everyone who's using the language of war crimes is doing so just as a a way of bludgeoning disagreement.

#363 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2010, 06:10 PM:

I think it's moot; the major war criminals are apparently above the law, on both sides of the Pond. I suppose History will judge them some day (in a Texas high school history textbook fifty years from now).

I guess this means I'm at Kübler-Ross Stage Four on this topic now.

#364 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2010, 06:10 PM:

praisegood barebones: Nuremburg. One of the charges was, "waging aggressive war", so the precedent exists.

Further, the Downing Street Memo looks to prove they (at least Blair) knew the entire thing was a sham.

#365 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2010, 06:41 PM:

Terry:

From my point of view the problem with the Nuremberg precedent is that there have been aggressive wars since 1945 with no prosecutions.
(More detail: no international trials for aggression since 1946; but a number of instances of the Security Council determining that States had committed acts of aggression.)

From what I understand of International Law, to argue that something is customary international law, you need to show that its been accepted without exception as law over a period of time.

So it would be better to base prosecutions for the crime of aggression on the Rome Statute. Except that although the Rome statute criminalised aggression in 1998, it didn't define it.

About the Downing Street Memo: (I think) I'm completely in agreement with you about this. I've no doubt that in my own mind that Blair knew the war was a sham; and hence he's morally responsible for an aggressive war. But as I say: I'm not sure that gives us enough to make the judgment 'he's a war criminal'.

Apart from the issue of retrospective legislation, I guess there's also the question of the standard of proof. I'd be happy to make the judgment against Blair on the 'balance of probabilities' standard. But in a criminal trial the standard would have to be 'beyond reasonable doubt'. And there I'm not so sure. I suspect that a good lawyer could raise reasonable doubts

(To be clear though: I've no regrets about not voting for Blair or Brown; no doubt that the war was wrong; no doubt that on a reasonable undertsanding of aggression they knowingly started an aggressive war; and so on. I'm saying that I think the principle that you don't get to call someone a criminal until they've been tried and found guilty applies to the case of war crimes as well as domestic ones.)

#366 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2010, 08:03 PM:

There is, to braid this with the OT subthread, a difference between what I know, and what I can prove.

I am willing, from what I know, to call Bush a war criminal. I am willing to call him a plain criminal too; in violation of his oath of office (in re the failure to fulfill the requirements of the AUMF), his illegal; and confessedly so, wiretapping (and apart from his confessing to a black letter violation, the consistent refusal of his administration to allow the courts; notoriously favorable to gov't claims, esp. the Supreme Court, to hear any challenges shows a guilty mind), his misuse of his position to turn public events into closed campaign events, etc.

It's a form of shunning, and it's in a gray area. I don't deny his humanity, I do however reserve the right to not put myself in the same space (for my health, being knocked to the ground and arrested by the Secret Service if I lost my cool and started choking him would be unpleasant, to say nothing of the subsequent arrest, etc.).

I also reserve the right to publicly judge the quality of his performance of office.

And that was criminal.

#367 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2010, 12:00 AM:

Terry Karney @ 367

In case this isn't clear already - I think we agree over much than we disagree about in this area (and the thing we disagree over is very narrow and arguably of limited practical significance, given point Earl Cooley makes at 364.)

One of the big differences between the British and American situations is that, as far as I can see, there's much less of a case for seeing Blair as a domestic criminal than Bush.

I'd should probably also say that in bothe countries, I'd like to see prosecutors make indictments related to torture to see how far vup the chain of command they could get convictions.

#368 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2010, 12:19 AM:

Earl Cooley 364

Mzaybe. On the other hand
here are the headlines in my local paper. Both would have been completely unthinkable until a few months ago.

#369 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2010, 01:50 AM:

praisegood barebones: the url.com link goes nowhere.

#370 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2010, 03:43 AM:

Terry Karney @ 370

Sorry, link should have gone here

Up way too early this morning.

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