Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Engaging the Far Left

Yesterday, I got upset because a friend of mine was facing a series of homophobic attacks from folks who are fans of Bernie Sanders.  So, I wrote a few tweets that led to an hour long engagement with such folks.  The funny thing is that they proved my point:

The cascade of responses I got were, well, incredibly dumb.  What did I learn from the experience?
  • That the extremists have contempt for those who are close to the center.  I called myself a moderate to start this discussion, which might have been a bit deceptive since I am fairly liberal, just not knee-jerkingly so.  Anyhow, the venom for those who disagree with the Bernie fans is pretty intense.  That anything other than the purist of the faith is an immoral stance.   
  • The contradictions they are able to maintain is most impressive.  For some reason, the discussion focused much on HRC's support for the NATO campaign in Libya in 2011.  The criticism is that HRC is willing to kill "brown kids."
    • They don't seem to care about "brown kids" in the US as I mentioned Trump's threats--they criticized me for focusing on the domestic ones.  Sure, but they are focusing on the foreign ones--not clear which ones should matter more.  
    • They don't acknowledge that the choice faced in 2011 was not an easy one--that Qaddafi was threatening to kill many "brown kids" and adults.  Had NATO done nothing, we might have seem some serious mass killings.  And then HRC and Obama would have been criticized for not caring about these "brown kids."
  • That these folks suck at basic civics.  The Secretary of State is not in the chain of command.  Giving HRC heaps of responsibility for Libya is just problematic.  The better argument, which I offered them and they rejected, is that HRC has advocated for deeper, more forceful involvement in Syria, which is a BAD IDEA.  Again, the fixation with Libya was just puzzling to me.
  • That ideology blinds one to basic math.  Several believe that Bernie can still win, when the delegate count is very clearly in HRC's favor.
    • That these folks are so engaged in wishful thinking that they still think that the superdelegates can all turn around and vote for Bernie.  He would need a great majority of them, but he used to attack these folks.  As these people are the establishment of the Democratic Party, I was unclear why they would support someone who is not a Democrat.  The answer: because.  
    • Ok, the answer was more about how HRC cannot beat Trump because of the latest polls.  We already know that the new polls are not worth hanging much on.  But when I pondered the question of why the Superdelegates would go against not just the overall delegate count but also the popular vote, I got crickets.
  • That HRC is so awful that Trump is not so bad in comparison.  Not saying he is preferred by these folks, but I do expect the most passionate far left folks not to vote at all.  Which means they could live to enjoy the same level of regret that the Nader fans experienced after abetting Bush "who was just like Gore."  Yeah, sure, not after the Voting Rights Act got gutted, after Citizens United, after Iraq 2003, after Cheney and Rummy and all the rest.
  • That I should stop saying I am confused when I mean that a situation is morally complex and very difficult in practice or that they said something that is incoherent or contradictory. These folks leap on that as they see the world so clearly--it just does not happen to be the real one, but that does not matter to them. 
  • That some folks seeking to vote for the oldest candidate in the field can be hostile to folk with some gray hair (me).  The ageism was just a bit surprising.
  • That I am a sophist!  I think that earns me some long overdue political science points.
  • That these folks have the same level of histrionics about what HRC might do as the right had about what Obama might do: "video makers will be locked up, destruction of free speech."
  • That maybe these folks are Trump fans posing as Bernie fans?  That is my wife's guess, but I am not so sure. 
Anyhow, for months I have been watching a twitter friend who is far more conservative than I have these kinds of conversations with Trump fans, so I thought I would take a whack at it. What did it feel like?  It felt like that day back in Oberlin (no, I have not yet read the piece about intolerant left wing students at Oberlin) where the Oberlin Moderate Caucus (mostly folks slightly left of center that were not so knee-jerky left wing) raised money by offering up heated rhetoric and then serving as targets of eggs.  Yep, we gave people eggs to throw at us as penance for our less moderate colleagues.  Most folks asked to spout right wing ideology (supply side economics is terrific, more money for the Contras, whatever) and then they would throw eggs at us.  Not too many bruises but the suit I bought from a thrift store did not survive the experience.  Anyhow, I had my fun then and didn't repeat it. I will probably decide that I had my fun now, and will not wade into the waters of extremist left wing ideologues again. 


R. William Ayres said...

What fascinates me about these cases is not so much the politics (interesting as those are) as the psychology. Leaving aside the possibility that these are Trump supporters trolling people on the left (a real possibility, but let's assume that these folks were sincere), what strikes me is less what such folks say as how forcefully they say it. I expect people to have beliefs and views different from mine. But I have long since outgrown the expectation that I might be able to bring everyone around to seeing the world my way, especially by yelling at them. What's more, I don't feel the obligation to do so, which is clearly what drives some of this behavior - they feel it is their duty and moral responsibility to "convert" you to their way of thinking. For which they choose the worst possible methods.

I should note that, in outgrowing these expectations, I'm not that old. I have a long way to go before I can claim either curmudgeon status or wisdom on the basis of age. So I'm just perplexed - why do these folks out there think it's their mission in life to yell people into agreeing with them?

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