Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Dan Crenshaw: "The Outrage Incentive Is Ruining Our Politics"

But this is exactly the problem we find ourselves in: Appreciation for nuance has disappeared in our public discourse. Providing someone even the smallest benefit of the doubt has completely vanished from our list of options. The primary course of action tends to be: Take them as seriously as possible, assume the worst of intentions and label them with the worst of names. And you better do it as quickly as possible. Anything less than that just doesn’t pass muster in our click-driven culture, and you will be seen as complicit. [my emphasis]
One side is currently worse--much worse--than the other in this respect. And you don't need me to tell you which it is. In the past, IMO, it was otherwise. Now, well, it is how it is. Of course these kinds of rhetorical games incentivize straw manning and ad hominems. And that makes public discussions much less valuable--worse than useless in many cases.
   There's no fixing Trump, of course. He's simply too old change. He is who he is. (It's tautology day here at Philosoraptor…) But he's only running the show for another 1.5-5.5 years. (I used to be confident he was a one-termer; but that was before the left completely lost its goddamn mind. Now I expect him to be re-upped as the less crazy of the available evils.) The left can change--and has to. If, that is, the country is to survive. The tide of opinion can turn; liberals might reassert themselves, pushing progressives to the sidelines; progressive millennials are likely to get wiser (hence more liberal (actual liberal) and/or conservative) as they get older, abandoning their current ways. Or they might just get their asses kicked in 2020 and conclude that radicalism is not the road to electoral success. Since almost no one else I know is as gloomy about American politics as I am, I can only conclude that everyone else thinks that at least one of those things is going to happen. And it does seem unlikely that the left can stay as daft as it currently is. A course-correction seems inevitable...but I don't know why I think that. There seem to be forces/mechanisms in play that encourage continued craziness--Crenshaw's outrage incentive being one of them. Another is the one-leftsmanship that drives progressives. If I am left of you, that counts as a kind of win; if I am right of you, that's a problem. There seems to be no internal rhetorical price to be paid for going too far left. In fact, there's dialectical reason to always go leftward, as that counts as outmaneuvering your interlocutor. Criticism will only be external--which means: from the right. And being criticized by the right also counts as winning! And all that's a big, fat blueprint for disaster. Similar things happen on the right, of course...but they seem to have just damn taken over the left. To my mind all that's nearly equivalent to saying that the left (or at least its vanguard, or agenda-setters or public representatives) has been radicalized--which we know to be true.
   Blah, blah, blah.


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