Thursday, February 05, 2015

Alyssa Rosenberg: Jonathan Chait, Radicalism, and the Future of the Left

   I think this might be worth a quick read.
   My strong tendency is to disagree with Rosenberg, but she does raise an interesting empirical point. Chait claims not only that liberalism is just and reasonable, but also that it's effective--does he even say, roughly, more effective than radicalism? I can't remember, and am too busy to look. But Rosenberg writes:
Commentators on both the left and right have correctly pointed out that Chait’s praise for reasoned debate fails to acknowledge the ways in which political radicals, immoderate speech and dogmatism have contributed to major movements for social reform.
   Well, I have no doubt that radicalism has often worked. It's a safe bet that it's even occasionally worked for the good. How often it's done more good than harm...well, that's a question for historians. I'd certainly be interested in the answer.
   Problem is--or one problem is--the SJWs/neo-PCs are wrong about so much. Roseberg's point seems to presuppose that they're right about everything, and so it's good for them to be effective. Problem is, they're wrong about a lot, and about a lot more of what they believe we don't know whether they're right or not. But since these people do not believe in reason, nor reasoned discussion, it's all a crap shoot. Better hope they're right, because they don't believe in rational criticism. Whatever they happen to believe is what they're going to push for, and any mechanism for doxastic reform is a straightwhitemaleWesternimperialist plot.
   They're not exactly wrong about everything, least on a fairly loose interpretation of what they think. For example, they think that racism is bad. Hey, nobody disagrees with that, eh? Of course, they also believe that 'racism' means discrimination by a member of a more powerful racial group against a less powerful racial group. So they think that it is logically impossible for blacks to be racist in the U.S., no matter how much they hate white people. Oh and: they by and large think it's ok to hate white people... So it's not exactly accurate to say that they're against racism...
   But, then, the bait-and-switch is crucial to all such groups. They spew hateful, irrationalist (anti-white) racism and (anti-male) sexism when they're on a roll/among other True Believers...they throttle back to racism is bad when challenged. It's a familiar story...
  So, anyway: it's a good question, that question about the effectiveness of radicalism. Just like it's important to ask how effective napalm is...
  In closing, let me say that the WaPo's comments on columns like this often restore my faith in humanity. Here are some:
Even if the assumption is true - knee jerk presumption of guilt/wrong doing has long term benefits - it is just seems wrong and anti American.

A variation on the "we are doing something too important for it to be subject to reason" theme. Radicalism can create change, yes. It can also create something like a runaway train, doing far more harm than good. And when that happens, sometimes nobody can apply the brakes -- not Danton, not Jon Chait, and not Alyssa Rosenberg. We are getting close to a runaway train on college campuses, where due process has been scuttled, misinformation abounds and a kind of mob justice is taking over -- these things cannot be described as moderate.

But thanks for engaging his argument, and not simply attacking him for being a straight white guy, like so many others did, so predictably.

If I've read right, Alyssa's premise is that radical verbage can stimulate more in-depth discussions and thought. However, such verbage can also replace critical thought and close off discussions. Max Blumenthal's "Republican Gomorrah" describes how radical verbage displaced critical thinking and hijacked the Republican party in the Tea Party movement. One part of being 'nice' is respecting another's point of view and allowing the expression of other opinions. Niceness may be misplaced in emergency situations and imminent disasters, but for normal situations, it's a good thing.
I, too, appreciate that Rosenberg is engaging Chait's points, and is trying to be reasonable. That, in my book, is more important than the fact that I disagree with many of her substantial points.


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