Thoughtful, Compassionate, Wrong
December 4, 2018 11:44 AM   Subscribe

 
Getting double or triple trolled by including Liz Bruenig in the 'liberal' section and not the Christian section.
posted by Space Coyote at 11:48 AM on December 4 [4 favorites]


"thoughtful and compassionate people you disagree with."

I have one: Ozy.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:49 AM on December 4 [4 favorites]


Liz Bruenig is a "leftist" (Democratic Socialist), tho, not a "liberal."

The people marked a "Conservative" are neither thoughtful nor compassionate. Rich Lowry is the prime example.
posted by JamesBay at 12:01 PM on December 4 [6 favorites]


Yeah Liz's categorization is in 'not even wrong' territory.
posted by Space Coyote at 12:06 PM on December 4 [3 favorites]


I'd expect the list of people disagreed with on at least one point to be practically identical with the list of people well-enough known to decide whether they're thoughtful and compassionate, for most thoughtful people.
posted by sfenders at 12:07 PM on December 4 [1 favorite]


I like that they are at least looking for this.
posted by corb at 12:18 PM on December 4 [4 favorites]


I love that "Depressing Germans" is a category.

I have to say that I've never found Niall Ferguson to be particularly thoughtful and my usual strategy when thinking about UK issues (which I don't do often, being a US resident) is to see if he has an opinion and pick the opposite.

David Friedman, OTOH, I find very interesting. I think his politics (anarcho-capitalism) is batshit insane unworkable nonsense, but he's really interesting and obviously much smarter than me (or at least has put much more thought into this one area than I have into anything).
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 12:18 PM on December 4


I disagree with almost every person I know on some issue or another and I would use all those adjectives to describe them. In one case an argument actually convinced me. In another it didn't.

This is supposed to be how it works, right?
posted by East14thTaco at 12:24 PM on December 4 [1 favorite]


This week's gross social media love-fest for G.W. Bush has pushed a number of folks I thought were thoughtful and compassionate people that I disagreed with into the "just people I disagree with" category, I think*.

* I'm starting to seriously doubt whether the majority of liberals are either thoughtful or compassionate, after years of thinking they were just blinkered by privilege.
posted by ryanshepard at 12:25 PM on December 4 [23 favorites]


*looks at the list and notes the presence of Charles Murray*

*rereads the intro and notices the link to the Slate Star Codex subreddit*

Mmm hmm.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:27 PM on December 4 [17 favorites]


One person thought Megan McArdle was compassionate.

I suspect that was Megan McArdle.
posted by srboisvert at 12:37 PM on December 4 [16 favorites]


I like that they are at least looking for this.

Perhaps I am just a grouch (very likely!) but I kind of don't. Sometimes yes, there are thoughtful and compassionate people with whom I disagree, and it can be worth interrogating that, but I'm sick of being told that it's my job to find the humanity in people with whom I disagree when often the reason I disagree with them is that the things they think are reprehensible and cause serious harm, or at least prevent that harm from being mitigated. Things like this often feel to me like papering over the issues, trying to find common ground that supports the status quo because some people feel more uncomfortable about the fact that we are "polarized" than about the fact that people are being oppressed. They want to be reassured that we can all just get along without recognizing that there are serious, systemic issues of injustice and inequality.

I feel like "find good in people who are hurting marginalized groups" keeps being used as a cudgel against leftists because so many people think it's more important to be nice to oppressors (don't yell at them in restaurants, they're human beings with families!) than to try to help people who are being oppressed. It feels so WEIRD to me; it's okay not to like people! There's not some universal requirement that everyone get along and respect each other without friction, and it's definitely okay not to respect people who old opinions you think are super bad and dangerous. I get where there is potentially value in this project but it feels like, once again, being "nice" is valued over supporting basic human decency. It's okay to say "I don't agree with these people and think the things they believe are bad and wrong and harmful".
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 12:49 PM on December 4 [75 favorites]


The funny thing about being wrong is that nobody, by definition, knows they're wrong.
Including you.
posted by signal at 12:56 PM on December 4 [6 favorites]


The funny thing about being wrong is that nobody, by definition, knows they're wrong.
Including you.


the wise man bowed his head solemnly and spoke: "theres actually zero difference between good & bad things. you imbecile. you fucking moron"
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 1:00 PM on December 4 [43 favorites]


This is some kind of Slate Star Codex spin-off? Yeah, too galaxy-brained for me. I gave up on that place after reading the first page of a 12-page article they linked to that was going to finally prove using LOGIC and FACTS (and maybe statistics? IDK. There were lots of boring tables) that leftist academics were promoting "grievance studies."
posted by Kitty Stardust at 1:16 PM on December 4 [3 favorites]


Some of the worst people I know are well and firmly within what we'd call "marginalized groups" here. Being oppressed doesn't make you a good person, it just makes you oppressed.

Most of us can look back 10, 15, 20 years or whatever and cringe at a lot of the things we believed were correct and good and acceptable back then. I do not believe we are at the end of history and have reached our Final Correct Opinions; when we look back at 2018 10, 15, 20 years from now, I am certain that we will cringe at some of the things we said and believed. I don't know what those are and I'm not inviting speculation. But Jesus, maybe there are some character traits and values that matter more than where you side on the hot button issues of the day.
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:17 PM on December 4 [20 favorites]


[Reads comments] My god, they've actually unearthed Douthat's fanbase! Apparently, it is people who don't believe gender is a social construct and really like C. S. Lewis.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 1:26 PM on December 4 [4 favorites]


The funny thing about being wrong is that nobody, by definition, knows they're wrong.

IDK, pretty sure the flat earthers do.
posted by agentofselection at 1:33 PM on December 4 [4 favorites]


But Jesus, maybe there are some character traits and values that matter more than where you side on the hot button issues of the day.

I'm confused at the idea that a person could have a position on a political issue that is somehow divorced from the character traits and values that comprise them. Where else would one draw from to get an opinion? Even if the answer is "they were told what to think by someone else and they adopted that position", that still indicates something about their character traits and values. How else are we to ascertain character traits and values than by looking at people's actions and opinions and evaluating them?
posted by protocoach at 1:33 PM on December 4 [19 favorites]


But Jesus, maybe there are some character traits and values that matter more than where you side on the hot button issues of the day.

I wouldn't say they matter more, I wouldn't say the matter less. Different things matter under different circumstances. But some of these hot button issues of today (eg. climate change) may well decide whether there'll ever be some august vantage point from which to evaluate things more serenly or not.
posted by sohalt at 1:43 PM on December 4 [1 favorite]


I tend to treat gentility the same way I treat charisma.

With great suspicion.
posted by srboisvert at 1:57 PM on December 4 [7 favorites]


Liz Bruenig is a "leftist" (Democratic Socialist), tho, not a "liberal."

Maybe she was demoted for her opposition to abortion, which shows the limits of the "consistent" pro-life position, or the other weirdly awful parts of her politics, e.g. "Elliot Rodger was possessed by a demon." The leftists I know grouse about that when she comes up, even as they acknowledge that she's a very nice person with a cute kid and a good prose voice. Sometimes I wonder if the conflicting left and right in her politics clinched her Washington Post opinion-writing gig for her, being more "interesting" than flatly left-wing opinion.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:57 PM on December 4 [4 favorites]


Perhaps I am just a grouch (very likely!) but I kind of don't.

I always fail to see the point to exercises like these. Even conceding that there are certainly "thoughtful and compassionate"—for whatever value of thoughtfulness and compassion we're operating with here—are kind to animals, love their families, are charitable to strangers?—people with whom I'd probably disagree with on nearly everything, what then? What's the point? A) It's not as if I'm likely to find myself at a dinner party with any of these people and B) even as a parlor game the question seems to assume the very proposition is seeks to refute: that disagreement, even deep disagreement, necessarily entails a visceral disgust which we must actively try not to feel. In fact, I have almost no opinion at all on the character of most of the people I disagree with (and not that much more on the character of people I'm likely to agree with if I don't actually know them). I just don't care if Charles Murray or Rich Lowry is a nice person or not.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:58 PM on December 4 [4 favorites]


The funny thing about being wrong is that nobody, by definition, knows they're wrong.

IDK, pretty sure the flat earthers do.


We talking facts or opinions? I mean, people get that their opinions are occasionally wrong, or at least diverge from popular opinions. Isn't that generally what we call a 'hot take'? This is especially true outside of politics. Like for example Johnny SanPhilipino who blogs at Granola Shotgun. I personally find him a doomer and whiner but also think he's exceptionally thoughtful and compassionate and a great writer. Most sports writers, like Bill Simmons would be another example. Thoughtful, and compassionate about sports (or at least used to be) but also regularly wrong.

Music would be another example. I personally don't like pop music that much which is why I listen to other stuff instead. I do think it's wrong for me (and when younger I would grouch that the music I liked wasn't more popular), but I would never accuse it of not being thoughtful or compassionate.

I think politics has fully poisoned the well, but there are other things I can disagree with and love.
posted by The_Vegetables at 2:01 PM on December 4


I always fail to see the point to exercises like these.

I think for me, with the caveat that this is only me and definitely not saying anyone else should think like this, is this serves as a reminder that being right isn't always the most important thing.
posted by FJT at 2:56 PM on December 4 [1 favorite]


I always fail to see the point to exercises like these.

I'm interested in finding people who are (a) on a different part of the political spectrum to me, and (b) worth reading.

This does include Megan McArdle. I also include Tyler Cowen, and Chris Dillow.
posted by HoraceH at 3:11 PM on December 4 [1 favorite]


I cannot characterize people who hold opinions that imply I am not equally worth respecting as compassionate.

I cannot characterize people who hold politeness to be more important than genuine respect and compassion as compassionate, either.

I'm sorry. I can't do this here. Who will stand for the least among us if everyone is busily complimenting themselves on their great inclusiveness while things get worse and worse for people on the edges? Do we ignore the impacts of people's opinions in service of their ability to minimize offending the right people? Do I ever get to be truly angry at a polite, cheerful, even-handed expression of warm and loving contempt?
posted by sciatrix at 3:21 PM on December 4 [27 favorites]


Anyone who is sufficiently thoughtful and compassionate enough to pass muster for me would be a 90% match for my views.

To draw that out: I already feel like the place I've arrived at is more or less an obvious conclusion to anyone who is 1) thoughtful enough to look at the world around them and try to understand, and 2) compassionate (and empathetic?) enough to look past their own nose and try to understand what it's like for a wide variety of people who live under different circumstances, are treated differently, and/or who have different priorities/concerns than their own, and to see those people as humans deserving of basic human decency, respect, and living standards (and everything that follows from that).

Trying to nod my head at efforts like this but as framed it's near-nonsensical to me!
posted by naju at 3:24 PM on December 4 [8 favorites]


The two people that sprang to mind when I read the title were C.S. Lewis and George Will. They both have always struck me as earnest in their desire to seek compassionate ends, and as profound thinkers in the service of their goals. But both, alas, drawing the wrong conclusions.
posted by darkstar at 3:27 PM on December 4 [1 favorite]


but I'm sick of being told that it's my job to find the humanity in people with whom I disagree when often the reason I disagree with them is that the things they think are reprehensible and cause serious harm, or at least prevent that harm from being mitigated.

Well, channeling Sun Tzu or Machiavelli: Always find the humanity in your enemy, because that's the best place to stab them!
posted by FJT at 3:30 PM on December 4 [2 favorites]


Oh, that I'm perfectly capable of. But if I have to consciously think about presenting basic humanity in a form that a person will accept in order to bludgeon them into actually performing basic acts of compassion, I cannot also respect a person as an intellectual equal with whom I happen to disagree.
posted by sciatrix at 3:33 PM on December 4 [9 favorites]


Me. Like, the actual me, not the version of me that likes to go on the internet and claim he wrote Gravity’s Rainbow. I’ve spent like years carefully working out this deeply humane kinda idiosyncratic anarchosocialist value system, values that I can’t find any reason not to live... but when it comes to actually living them, you’ll find me hiding under the bed frantically typing with my thumbs, only occasionally ducking out to pee, grab food, and recharge my phone. thanks, anxiety. thanxiety.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 3:38 PM on December 4 [8 favorites]


I'm sick of being told that it's my job to find the humanity in people with whom I disagree

This perspective baffles me. Finding the humanity in every person I encounter is what I understand to be the literal bedrock of right living. To me, one of the most fundamental differences between being a Good Person and a Bad Person is that Good People view everyone as equally human and Bad People do not. My entire conception of social morality flows from the idea that all people are equally human, even people who I think are themselves absolutely evil. Pretty much all forms of crime and exploitation stem from treating other people as somehow lesser.

I'm trying to wrap my head around this and I just can't do it.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:48 PM on December 4 [25 favorites]


I'll put it this way: I think the actions you take in life matter more than the beliefs you profess.
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:50 PM on December 4 [7 favorites]


Well OK, not the literal bedrock. But it is literally the first principle of my religion, and I've yet to find an argument against it that I think holds water. Disagree with someone, fight against them, find them vile and disgusting, sure. But refuse to acknowledge their humanity? I'm not sure we're actually on the same side.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:54 PM on December 4 [11 favorites]


Disagree with someone, fight against them, find them vile and disgusting, sure. But refuse to acknowledge their humanity? I'm not sure we're actually on the same side.

I learned this while soldiering - for some people, it's really, really hard to fight people with all of their might while still acknowledging their common humanity. Others find it's actually helpful to acknowledge their humanity, mourn the situation that puts us at odds, and move forward. But dehumanization, for many, serves as a way to get them to be able to fight. I don't like it, but it's real for some people. So for some people, asking them to have compassion for others, is like asking them to step out of the fight.
posted by corb at 4:59 PM on December 4 [14 favorites]


But refuse to acknowledge their humanity? I'm not sure we're actually on the same side

The comment you're responding to says "I'm sick of being told that it's my job to find the humanity in people with whom I disagree". That's a very different sentiment from refusing to acknowledge someone's humanity.
posted by edeezy at 5:00 PM on December 4 [9 favorites]


I think the problem is that "find humanity" has become a stand-in for what this article is doing - namely, attempting to find commonalities or spots of moral righteousness on the part of otherwise harmful people, and then turning those around to at least move the conversation away from actual, political concerns.
posted by sagc at 5:11 PM on December 4 [7 favorites]


I don't really think it is particularly different. If you accept that our main job in life is basically to try and be good people, then at least as far as I'm concerned it's our job to find the humanity in literally everyone. I feel quite strongly that if we must fight, then it's right that we should do so with heavy hearts, saddened by the circumstances that have brought us to this pass. To do otherwise is to give in to the Dark Side, to put it in pop cultural terms.

But I'm gonna just step out of this thread now before I start a huge fight because I know people here have really different opinions about this and I don't think that this is going to be the thread where we finally see eye to eye.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:11 PM on December 4 [8 favorites]


Do they have to be thoughtful and compassionate?

I'm interested in finding people who are (a) on a different part of the political spectrum to me, and (b) worth reading.

"People you disagree with but have some intellectual respect for" is a better version of the question, for me, and consequentialist-type Libertarians are probably the most likely to make it on that list among right-wingers. I'll certainly read Marginal Revolution (of which Tyler Cowen is a co-founder I believe) from time to time. Megan McArdle, though, not so much.
posted by atoxyl at 5:45 PM on December 4


I am offended by the Depressing Germans category. I am totally OK with German philosophy, and modern day Germany. Angela Merkel seems liberal enough and certainly compassionate enough. Neener neener neener! Fröliche Weinachten!
posted by Oyéah at 5:45 PM on December 4 [1 favorite]


Yeah, being a liberal means fighting for the rights of groups that include really shitty people. Even bigoted people. Which, for me, necessitates looking for their humanity, their redeeming qualities, etc.
posted by mosst at 5:48 PM on December 4 [3 favorites]


So for some people, asking them to have compassion for others, is like asking them to step out of the fight.

Yes: empathizing with people you are in conflict with is in fact labor. In order to do it, I must exert my cognitive and emotional capacities to identify with that person and construct a model of exactly how they are feeling about a given topic. I must also work out what they are actually concerned about and, possibly, contort myself into a corner so I can work out what to say and just where to push that will soothe them and not set off a further conflict. (I must also model the cognitive excuses made by the person I'm talking to that justifies their self-assessment of themselves as Basically Okay, because no matter how toxic their ideas actually are in terms of impact this is something humans just do.)

I actually do this an awful lot, but a) it is fucking exhausting, and b) it is often terrible tactics if I prioritize this labor at the expense of self-advocacy. It is useful to be able to model what other people are feeling and thinking if it lets you communicate effectively, either with them or with observers. It is less useful to do this when it comes at the expense of eroding your own confidence in your own position (because you are devoting a lot of cognitive energy to disagreeing points of view) and your own confidence generally. It is energetically costly, and of course it is least useful at all to run out of energy completely. And habitually doing it without also practicing maintaining a boundary no matter how effectively you can see into another person's head and feel their own personal pain can totally destroy your ability to manage conflicts directly instead of by attempting to just be the perfect version of yourself that no one can disagree with, anyway.

It is not fucking healthy or wise to take this behavior to extremes. Neither is it healthy or wise to eliminate it from your list of options. The trick is to find the right balance.
posted by sciatrix at 5:55 PM on December 4 [20 favorites]


To contribute to the conversation on thinking everyone else is a real, actual being, that goes both ways. I will see someone who thinks that x-group is less than human and try to understand how they have come to such a damaged worldview where their theory of mind is so broken. But I will refuse to see it as anything other than an impairment in their morality.

I'm just blow away by the inclusion of Murray. In my mind, he's an academic Yiannopoulos. In the spirit of trying to construct an ideology that disagrees with him but doesn't think he's a statistics abusing racist, you either need to be ok with the abuse of statistics or a racist. Or am I missing something?

Douthat doesn't think women are people. There are plenty of rationalists and leftists who agree with that view, so I'm not surprised to see him so popular. I'm more surprised by Ferguson, who was encouraging ratfucking of a leftist student. Also, according to wikipedia, ratfucking is a single word.

I'm actually quite surprised that no one mentioned Madeleine L'Engle. I disagree with her view of the world, but all the things she's written have never left me with any feeling but awe for the woman she was.

I've written before about dropping out of the skeptics movement for unrelated reasons but being very glad I was out when it started to pivot into being a primordial soup for libertarian tech bro rationalists and the alt-right. As someone posted above, this feels very much like one of those.
posted by Hactar at 6:23 PM on December 4 [6 favorites]


Finding the humanity in every person I encounter is what I understand to be the literal bedrock of right living

I mean, yeah, right? I believe this. I think a lot of people believe this. And as I remarked above, I’d never deny the humanity even of people who I think have and perpetuate really shitty ideas. But the question is, having conceded that, what does that concession obligate me to do for people who I will likely never encounter at all? Is this just an obligation to believe that they’re “human”? Because that’s not hard. Of course they are. There! Said! Or is there some other obligation I owe their humanity, like an obligation to take them seriously, or an obligation to engage with their ideas? The absence of any more concrete explanation of what all this means is why I say it’s pointless.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:25 PM on December 4 [4 favorites]


I'm just blow away by the inclusion of Murray. In my mind, he's an academic Yiannopoulos.

Who do you think this list is coming from, exactly? I'm not familiar with the blog, but I see a reference to SlateStarCodex who are a bit uh "radical centrist" and some of the audience are into Charles-Murray-type shit.
posted by atoxyl at 6:35 PM on December 4 [1 favorite]


Anyway, I really do think "thoughtful" and "compassionate" are two different lists. "Which of my political enemies do I think are decent human beings at heart - or if not that, then sympathetic on some personal level - is a question, I guess. "Conservatives" leadoff man Ross Douthat is the furthest thing from someone I find insightful but he is perhaps human in the sense that he's clearly kind of a mess of hangups. I think it is a little more interesting, though, to talk about people who you think are intellectually honest and might be capable of showing you something that is true, even though they are working off of fundamentally different values or even framing it differently. That's why I have some respect for the data-oriented consequentialists.
posted by atoxyl at 6:45 PM on December 4 [1 favorite]


but I'm sick of being told that it's my job to find the humanity in people with whom I disagree

And then later in that same comment ...

It's okay to say "I don't agree with these people and think the things they believe are bad and wrong and harmful".

these are not both saying the same thing. The latter is sort of an opt out. The former feels like a more serious negation. I can understand and accept the latter (you gotta choose your fights etc), but the former -- well, I'm sorry but you're wrong, it is your job to find the humanity in those with whom you disagree. It's mine anyway and I'm pretty sure we're all working for the same organization ... if you dig deep enough. We probably weren't before 1945, but ever since that bloody atom got split ...
posted by philip-random at 6:46 PM on December 4


I do a rather mild version of acknowledging everyone's humanity-- I refuse to try to convince them that they're fundamentally bad people. That sort of attack is a kind of emotional labor which just doesn't suit me.

Furthermore, I believe people can change for the better, even though it can take some evidence to convince me it's happened.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 7:03 PM on December 4 [4 favorites]


But it is literally the first principle of my religion, and I've yet to find an argument against it that I think holds water

Sometimes when I have absolutely nothing to say in a person's favor (e.g. the current President), I say, "Well, he's a human being with inherent worth and dignity."
posted by Daily Alice at 7:43 PM on December 4 [17 favorites]


This command to focus on the humanity of groups that would largely deny the humanity of others is ultimately a tactic of unilateral disarmament.

Do I believe that 45 is a human being, that there is a bedrock of inherent worth and dignity that it's not really possible to forfeit, even for him? Sure. Everyone is.

Do I need to ponder that a great deal, unless I am (a) trying to persuade him of something or (b) trying to decide whether he deserves the death penalty, basic civil rights, food and health care, or other matters in which "basic humanity" is the deciding factor? No. And the "nonhuman" answers to (b) are already outside my universe of political discourse for everyone, so when is this going to come up? If he's slated for summary execution, then I will need to invoke his basic humanity. Until then...not so much.
posted by praemunire at 11:14 PM on December 4 [17 favorites]


Who do you think this list is coming from, exactly? I'm not familiar with the blog, but I see a reference to SlateStarCodex who are a bit uh "radical centrist" and some of the audience are into Charles-Murray-type shit.

Specifically, SSC is part of the self-proclaimed "rationalist" movement that's just a pile of right-wingery so obsessed with their own intellectual superiority and cool, emotionless logic that self-identifying as "centrist" is something they do because they think it makes them smart and rational and better than people with actual ideological commitments. Which they very strongly have, mind, but they'll deny to the end that they have an ideology, only logic.

(If this sounds very much like how neoliberals behave, wellllllll...)
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:51 AM on December 5 [13 favorites]


Folks who associate with Slate Star Codex are so committed to being all in on science and logic that 'race realism' is a big part of their brand. Like, this isn't even the usual 'scratch a centrist' type thing - though Pope Guilty's assessment of their belief in their own reasonableness is spot on - they're in bed with the more fucked up parts of the Dark Enlightenment and other pre-alt-right pseudofascist shitlords.
posted by ocular shenanigans at 5:02 AM on December 5 [6 favorites]


Add me to team resenting -the-idea-that by-disagreeing-with-people-I-dehumanize-them-and-need-moralizing-to
posted by thelonius at 6:04 AM on December 5 [9 favorites]


I don't think characterizing someone as malicious is dehumanizing unless you have a very one-sided view of humanity. You can be human and still be totally wrong, malicious, or tyrannical. I take exception to the idea that we need to dig out and uphold the positive qualities of people who have very harmful ideas, especially when those people are public figures with the power to spread their harmful ideas. It actually doesn't give you the moral high ground to find ways to praise bad actors.

I also bristle at the characterization of most of these people as "thoughtful and compassionate," just on the available evidence. Read McArdle's take on the Grenfell Tower disaster and tell me that's a person with compassion. Alex Nichols, in the Outline: "McArdle flippantly attempts to concern-troll one of the most cut-and-dry examples of the human cost of post-recession austerity. McArdle correctly acknowledges that Grenfell might not have claimed as many lives if regulators had required sprinkler systems in the tower, but then proceeds to brainstorm bizarre hypotheticals in which installing sprinklers might have actually killed more people." Very thoughtful and compassionate way to respond to the real and easily preventable deaths of 60 people. But I guess throwing a veneer of intellectual contrarianism over traditionalist/authoritarian impulses are what passes for thoughtful for many people.

And that's picking a fairly benign target when posed with the blatant racism, sexism, & homophobia of some of the people on this list.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 7:23 AM on December 5 [7 favorites]


I should also have noted that this list is immediately invalidated by the inclusion of fatuous asshat Ross Douthat - effectively a younger, even less charismatic retread of David Brooks - who routinely pumps out hateful garbage like this.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:50 AM on December 5 [3 favorites]


$5 says the only reason Jordan Peterson isn't on this list is that it wouldn't occur to the creators of the list that he could be wrong.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 8:20 AM on December 5 [3 favorites]


I have to say that I've never found Niall Ferguson to be particularly thoughtful and my usual strategy when thinking about UK issues (which I don't do often, being a US resident) is to see if he has an opinion and pick the opposite.

A long time ago, Niall Ferguson was an okay but slightly sloppy historian. Then he decided he was an expert on everything, and didn't need to do careful research or listen to the people who actually studied those subjects. Thoughtful, he is not. He's a shame to the profession.
posted by jb at 8:44 AM on December 5 [3 favorites]


I think the problem is that "find humanity" has become a stand-in for what this article is doing - namely, attempting to find commonalities or spots of moral righteousness on the part of otherwise harmful people, and then turning those around to at least move the conversation away from actual, political concerns.

Yes, I think people do mean different things by "finding humanity" or "recognizing humanity".

Some people mean looking for that whiff of truth in what anyone says. But often, there just isn't.

What I mean by "finding humanity" is that I a) recognize them as people and thus resist making them into monsters wholly unlike myself, which means I also have to b) realize that people, real people, can hold not just wrong but also dangerous and horrific ideas - and do hateful and horrific things, spurred on by those ideas. I've just been reading an account of the massacre of the prisoners of the Klooga concentration camp (warning: images of the bodies of victims in photo at the top of the page) - killings that made no sense, even in the context of the Holocaust which makes no sense. This week, I'm hyper aware of how people can be monsters.

But I also keep telling myself that those monsters are also people, because it's only by understanding that normal people - not psychopaths or aliens or beings unlike us - are capable of such inhumanity that we can address why this happens and try to stop it.

Sorry, I realized I've just about Godwinned the thread. But I've been thinking a lot about this issue and Naziism specifically, especially as I've also been involved in local anti-far-right activity.

I'm also a big believer in giving people a way out of wrong-thinking: if you completely dismiss them, then you can't change their minds. But if you look at them as people - complex and irrational as we all are - you have a better chance of unpicking the unhealthy narratives in their head and re-forming them into a healthy one.

Except for Charles Murray. He's a lost cause.
posted by jb at 9:06 AM on December 5 [2 favorites]


this list is immediately invalidated

This list can't be invalidated. It's a list of opinions of individuals.
posted by hat_eater at 9:10 AM on December 5 [4 favorites]


Whew. That Douthat link. He's claiming that "The old ruling class was bigoted and exclusive and often cruel, it had failures aplenty," and yet he laments that they couldn't form a proper aristocracy resistant to the demands of social progress from which to rule over the country forever. Why? Because every once in a while, one of them masked the true cost of extracting their fortunes with charity or sent an empty-headed third-tier heir into the Army. He seems to reserve his disdain for the WASP association with Freemasonry, like it's the 18th C. over here. (I know. If he had his way.) Just the craven bootlicking fantasy on display here is. . . nauseating. Sure. Bring back aristocracy, whatever it takes to keep Incel Rod Flanders here from ever letting a woman or brown person tell him what to do!

As usual, I come away from a Douthat piece just aghast that he gets paid to do this.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 12:05 PM on December 5 [5 favorites]


I grew up in the southeastern US surrounded by Southern Baptists who loved me so much they had to constantly tell me I was going to hell because I went to the wrong church. This was before I had gay friends who they tortured or trans friends who they stalked or they rejected me for marrying a Jewish guy or or or. I've been dealing with this shit my entire life. I am so over making space in my life for people who are "thoughtful, compassionate, and wrong". I am intolerant of intolerance and much happier for it.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:28 PM on December 5 [6 favorites]


Went to original thread, saw Rod Dreher’s name, closed original thread. He may be thoughtful, but he’s absolutely devoid of compassion for those different from him.
posted by wintermind at 4:06 AM on December 6 [4 favorites]


Given the general tone here, I might drop in my reaction, which is "thoughtful" is one of those words people think they know the meaning to, and feel it's good to be, but if you checked their definitions of it, you'd find out that they vary so widely as to make the word meaningless. My, sadly snarky, experience of things generally labelled "thoughtful" I'd tend to characterise as "overthinky". And don't get me started on "compassion".

Personally I'd prefer fewer people concern themselves with performing thoughtfulness and compassion, but rather actually think about other people before doing anything. However, if I were to take that as seriously as it deserves, I'd need to practise it myself, and that's not going so well.
posted by Grangousier at 4:27 AM on December 6 [1 favorite]




Same thing for me, wintermind. I literally laughed out loud when I saw Dreher's name listed. If you want someone who always, always, ascribes the worst and most devious of motivations to whomever he views as opponents, that someone is Rod Dreher.
posted by longdaysjourney at 4:12 PM on December 6 [4 favorites]


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