"Never believe that anti-Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti-Semites have the right to play. They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert. If you press them too closely, they will abruptly fall silent, loftily indicating by some phrase that the time for argument is past. It is not that they are afraid of being convinced. They fear only to appear ridiculous or to prejudice by their embarrassment their hope of winning over some third person to their side." -- J.P. Sartre, "Anti-Semite and Jew" (1946)
Debate is an art form. It is about the winning of arguments. It is not about the discovery of truth. There are certain rules and procedures to debate that really have nothing to do with establishing fact—which creationists have mastered. Some of those rules are: never say anything positive about your own position because it can be attacked, but chip away at what appear to be the weaknesses in your opponent's position. They are good at that. I don't think I could beat the creationists at debate. I can tie them.
Dear Sir Oswald,
Thank you for your letter and for your enclosures. I have given some thought to our recent correspondence. It is always difficult to decide on how to respond to people whose ethos is so alien and, in fact, repellent to one’s own. It is not that I take exception to the general points made by you but that every ounce of my energy has been devoted to an active opposition to cruel bigotry, compulsive violence, and the sadistic persecution which has characterised the philosophy and practice of fascism.
I feel obliged to say that the emotional universes we inhabit are so distinct, and in deepest ways opposed, that nothing fruitful or sincere could ever emerge from association between us.
I should like you to understand the intensity of this conviction on my part. It is not out of any attempt to be rude that I say this but because of all that I value in human experience and human achievement.
Remember the U.S. presidential debates of 2016? Remember how the entire liberal establishment thought Hillary Clinton had won, mainly because she made actual points, rather than shambling around the stage shouting about Muslims? What’s the one line from those debates that everyone remembers now? It’s “Nasty Woman.” What’s the visual? It’s Trump literally skulking around Hillary, dominating her with his body. It’s theatre. And right now the bad actors are winning.
"The biggest single change, though, was discovering socialist and anti-capitalist politics in my mid-teens, which I came to through reading feminism and realizing that there were broad economic questions at play that needed bigger answers than simply "close the gender pay gap." Intersectional feminism is the heart of my anti-capitalism, which is why I become so confused and livid when people try to separate class struggle from "identity politics." The two are and always have been synonymous, and anyone who claims otherwise ought to take a good hard look at their priorities. Just as you can't construct a useful feminism that only works for wealthy white women, you can't build a politics of class struggle that does not have feminist, anti-racist, and queer politics at its core. Well, you can, and people do, but they're silly and ineffective and their parties are boring."
I’m not saying that there’s no point in talking to the far right at all. I have interviewed members of the far right in my capacity as a journalist. But academic research and investigative journalism are very different from formal public debate. Public debate — at least the way I was taught to do it at my posh school — is not about the free exchange of ideas at all. You only listen to the other guy so you can work out how to beat him, and ideally, humiliate him. I’m choosing my pronouns deliberately here. The format is fundamentally an intellectual dick-smacking contest dressed up in institutional lingerie, and while there are plenty of women out there who can unzip their enormous brains and thwack them on the table with the best of them, the formula is catastrophically macho.
I noticed Brit Hume defending Tucker Carlson's remarks about diversity today, and it made me think about how ideas go from the political extremes to the political mainstream. I kind of have a model in my head for how this process happens.
Conservative writers and thinkers who under a Reagan or a Bush would support nonwhite immigration now cannot.
Because figures like Carlson managed to turn the issue into a high-profile left-right battle, the entire right must line up behind Carlson's position.
The entire thing hinged on a few media entrepreneurs, particularly Bannon and Carlson.
By seizing on the previously fringe issue of diversity and turning it into a flashpoint for left-right conflict, they harnessed the power of oppositional thinking...
Among the statements Levitt objected to: Manne’s contention that Peterson’s book included “some really eyebrow-raising, authoritarian-sounding, and even cruel things,” as well as her observation that “it doesn’t seem accidental that [Peterson’s] skepticism about objective facts arises when it’s conveniently anti-feminist.” The lawyer and his client were equally unhappy with this line: “I also suspect that for many of Peterson’s readers, the sexism on display above is one tool among many to make forceful, domineering moves that are typical of misogyny.”
Manne, who coined the instantly immortal portmanteau “himpathy” to describe the disproportionate sympathy our society extends towards men, says her fellow academic’s letter is “morally disappointing, but seems quite predictable.” So far, Peterson hasn’t made good on his threat to file suit, though neither she, Cornell, or Vox have complied with his requests. “It’s a classic attempt to chill free speech,” Manne says. “Like many of his ilk, what he really seems to be demanding — when one examines his actions rather than words — is to be able to speak free from legitimate social consequences, such as other people talking back.”
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