• VagabondSpectre
    1.7k
    But Shapiro & Spencer don't argue in good faith. Shapiro's thing - much like Peterson (on politics) - is just the aesthetic of reason.csalisbury

    They very much rely on aesthetic appeal. In fact, over the course of hundreds of debates against them on alt-right platforms, in dozens of cases they openly admit that aesthetics alone is the only coherent basis for their political beliefs as they shift the goal posts back inside their own ass-holes in response to my attacks. It's definitely a surreal experience when you say "So you're basing your entire moral, cultural, and political platform on the emotional whim of aesthetic appeal? Like some kind of pretentious post-modern-art critic?", and then your interlocutor says "Yea, so what? Morality is subjective, man", but just getting to that point can be a major victory because the audience then gets to see alt right views distilled into the basic emotional appeals that actually drive them (which must then be worked directly).

    The alt-right believes more than anything that it embraces reason and science over ever every other political group, which I see as a vulnerability of hubris. The scientifically inclined tend to give politics a wide berth, lest their work be co-opted by lay-zealots, but bringing expert knowledge to a debate with someone like Shapiro or Spencer (and an ability to withstand and rebut the memes and rhetoric) regarding those topics the alt-right claims to embrace (sociology, genetics, evolution, economics, psychology, history, statistics, etc...) actually goes a long way to countering them in the eyes of their audience. I'm no scientist, but I have a better understating of most of these topics than the average alt-right pundit/proponent, and I've used that understanding with great success in such debates, despite the unending theatrical pretense they entail.

    While it's true the alt right is mostly veneer and bluster, they do have a general mix of core beliefs that they've internalized as facts, and which they substitute for arguments when required (such as, for example, the belief that because of declining birth rates and interracial marriage,the white race as a whole will cease to exist in anywhere from 100 to 1000 years, depending on who is asked).

    I'm not saying they're not smart, I think they are, but Shapiro's appeal is the smouldering fuck you ('facts don't care about your feelings' etc) underlying his stuff. Everything else, including his ' look-i-like-pop-culture!' is veneer. There are very, very few people who agree with Shapiro who are going to be persuaded through debate, because its all theater. The arguments don't matter - its the emotional stance embodied by the character.csalisbury

    While they don't exactly argue with the same good faith that we try to maintain on this forum, there still is a relationship of good faith between them and their followers, and even if I could never get one of these pundits to fully recant in real-time, it's still possible to be persuasive in the long run, and to the greatest number of listeners. When directly challenged, almost nobody ever recants their views in real-time (especially obeliefs involving emotional commitment), but the challenges they're exposed to might stay with them, and overtime, presumably, cognitive dissonance allows them to organically evolve and change their fundamental beliefs. It might be a lofty and naive goal, but I don't want to give up and accept the less optimistic conclusion that political suasion is now for the birds.
  • VagabondSpectre
    1.7k
    I'm quite pro shame here. If the worst excesses of political opinion are shameful to express in public and in private, it's a much better deterrent than reason. Even if in some cases you might get ressentiment backlash and 'X DESTROYS Y' porn on social media and Youtube as a reaction. If xenophobia and racism are shameful that's a lot stronger than being wrong.fdrake

    Unfortunately, they've immunized themselves against particular sources of shame. Getting called a racist is a badge of honor for them because to them it means "you're too stupid to understand the science". Their platform intrinsically frames itself as struggling against the progressive embrace of diversity and equality, which they fundamentally conceptualize and perceive as the source of all their problems. Calling an alt-righter a racist is like calling Adolf Hitler a Nazi. Shame might still play a role in their pathology, but it would have to derive from other sources.
  • fdrake
    3k
    Unfortunately, they've immunized themselves against particular sources of shame. Getting called a racist is a badge of honor for them because to them it means "you're too stupid to understand the science". Their platform intrinsically frames itself as struggling against the progressive embrace of diversity and equality, which they fundamentally conceptualize and perceive as the source of all their problems. Calling an alt-righter a racist is like calling Adolf Hitler a Nazi. Shame might still play a role in their pathology, but it would have to derive from other sources.VagabondSpectre

    Rhetoric shouldn't be designed to capitulate to politics it despises; this literally sends mixed messages and is easy to co-opt - bad rhetoric. On the level of reactionary politics; or mobilisation by TweetStorm; memorable rhetoric is the identifiable content through the medium's constraints on the message.

    EG: Even facts become rhetorically charged factoids. True or false, people remember things like "More Israeli citizens die per year from peanut allergies than from Hamas rockets' than any of the data analytic context which derives the claim. Or pick any dubious Murdoch statistic citing headline about Muslims for the 'other side'.

    When you're sure you can sit down and have a discussion about it without issues, when everyone agrees the gloves are (mostly) on like here; for sure, skewer stupid ideologies with systemic reason and moral critique. Adapt the level of reliance on rhetorical (or out of the marketplace of ideas, violence and subterfuge) strategy to the amount of good faith (or violence and subterfuge) your opponent shows. Bad faith interlocutors don't care about your ideas, they care about your audience (which is why we made gurugeorge fuck off a while back). In the gloves on case, this goes both ways; @StreetlightX's approach is not likely to work for the rare intellectually honest person who sympathises sincerely with personally (rather than systemically) prejudicial or genocidal authoritarian politics; bigots through circumstance rather than studied conviction. They won't see the conceptual work done to get to that opinion, they (typically white adults eh?) can mistake the vitriol for nothing but the whining of another reactionary nincompoop; even though the union of good reason with precisely articulated contempt is a very potent perturber of belief. For the systemic case with the gloves on, intellectually honest debate about the relative importance of systemic vs personal prejudice and the propagation mechanisms for both is useful; pending good faith. Systemic critique is always a useful intellectual resource, but a poor promoter of itself by itself.

    Edit: when discussing garden variety liberalism or conservatism's inherent weaknesses to fascism, the gloves will almost never be on. It's way too emotionally charged. Though, this metagame of rhetorically motivated exchange makes the marginal strategy of good faith engagement on the topic especially useful to those who are unaware of the arguments or are intellectually honest to a fault.
  • VagabondSpectre
    1.7k
    I don't want to 'dissuade' them. I want them to be terrified for their bodily safety.StreetlightX

    Yes, as I remarked earlier, some proponents of change embrace much more radical and violent methods than others, up to and including inciting terror. It's a potentially valid ethical discussion, but isn't it a bit extreme?

    And while we sit here openly discussing how we're to dispose of them, they're listening in from dark corners, and reporting the worst that they hear back in their own echo-chambers (which is monetarily incentivized through clicks to boot). And so, both sides start organizing thanks to the emotionally galvanizing opposition each side provides for the other.

    If someone who holds fascist views really is the imminent and existential threat you make them out to be, then why don't we arrest them?

    P.S. I realize you're about to say "WELL I NEVER!", so consider the following:

    Fascist 1: "Liberalism was originally a reactionary movement against fascist governments that relied on force and repression to keep power. Maybe we can persuade the liberals to accept Fascism if we don't make that mistake?"

    Fascist 2: "I called this out for the unempirical untruth it is long ago. This is just recycled memes at this point.

    Also consider that perhaps debating a liberal isn't an 'intellectual' issue, but an ethical, lived one. But by all means, continue to intellectualize liberalism. Consider also that I don't want to 'dissuade' them. I want them to be terrified for their bodily safety"

    I know you don't support terrorist activity, but this is precisely the kind of rhetoric that radicalizes both sides because of how it sounds; how it looks.
  • StreetlightX
    4.4k
    this is precisely the kind of rhetoric that radicalizes both sidesVagabondSpectre

    At the point at which you're dealing with fascists, more 'radicalization' - worrying about what's North of the North pole? - is the least of your worries.

    As for arresting them? The force most responsible for protecting fascists has always been the state. At any far right rally, the police are inevitably there to protect them. The state is not your friend.
  • csalisbury
    2k
    I've used that understanding with great success in such debates, despite the unending theatrical pretense they entail.VagabondSpectre

    By 'great success', what exactly do you mean? (& in terms of the venue - are you talking about posing as an alt-righter on a discord or something similar?)
  • VagabondSpectre
    1.7k
    Rhetoric shouldn't be designed to capitulate to politics it despises; this literally sends mixed messages and is easy to co-opt - bad rhetoric. On the level of reactionary politics; or mobilisation by TweetStorm; memorable rhetoric is the identifiable content through the medium's constraints on the message.fdrake

    Good rhetoric is more or less the rub in all of this. In the political climate of today, the gloves only protect the knuckles (e.g: anonymity as protection and the allusion of reason as the high ground), where good rhetoric is not only based on solid facts and sound arguments, but is also emotionally appealing and highly persuasive.

    There's almost no real sitting down with the opposition these days (heck, even Shapiro could scarcely sit with a British conservative lobbing soft-balls down center-plate), where every engagement is a standing affair, usually with a lot of yelling and righteous indignation. Getting an opportunity to put forward substantive arguments needs to happen in spite of the memes and the spittle, so I do see why it looks like actually pulling this off seems like a Herculean task.

    All it really takes is patience and dispassion. In a one-on-one engagement, genuine good-faith does seem to be required, because if one side gets incensed they can just end the interaction. But if there is an audience watching, rage-quitting is really bad optics, and in a one-vs-many situation (my favorite!) the same knuckle-protector-only rules apply.

    Adapt the level of reliance on rhetorical strategy to the amount of good faith your opponent shows.fdrake

    This is good advice, but it only works up to a point. When your opponent hits the rhetorical bottom of the barrel and has nothing left to offer but bad faith nonsense or ridicule, it's better to stay composed and to stick to substance. You might need to deflect verbal flak as they go down in flames, "destroyed" in the eyes of the audience, but in my experience it is worth the result.
  • VagabondSpectre
    1.7k
    By 'great success', what exactly do you mean? (Are you talking about posing as an alt-righter on a discord or something similar?)csalisbury

    Posing as an alt-righter, no; but debating alt-righters on alt-right Discord servers, yes.

    It's a grotesque affair given the rabid nature of internet chat rooms, but it can be done.

    These sometimes tight-knit communities are often run by a vocal few, but there can be hundreds or sometimes thousands of lurkers who do nothing but absorb what gets said (they're also significant entry points for new members). Deploying effective rhetoric against them in that setting can have a strong influence on individual members of its community, especially the less hardened. Specifically, by "great success", I'm essentially referring to the influence I was able to have in those mediums.
  • fdrake
    3k
    This is good advice, but it only works up to a point. When your opponent hits the rhetorical bottom of the barrel and has nothing left to offer but bad faith nonsense or ridicule, it's better to stay composed and to stick to substance. You might need to deflect verbal flak as they go down in flames, "destroyed" in the eyes of the audience, but in my experience it is worth the result.VagabondSpectre

    Yes, like with the intermittent Randroids here. So long as you're willing to see that this is confined to media contexts where shaping the audience's interpretation/ideological commitments is the goal we can come to some kind of consensus.

    Then there'd be a different conversation about tactics 'in the wild'.
  • VagabondSpectre
    1.7k
    At the point at which you're dealing with fascists, more 'radicalization' - worrying about what's North of North - is the least of your worries.StreetlightX
    But the fascists aren't yet in control. For all of Trump's harmful stupidity he is still being checked by a liberal system and the rule of law.

    I'm worried that upon concluding it's a war against fascism, our resulting hasty generalizations of who's the fascist will lead to our self-defeat. How severely conservatism has been minced with fascism in this thread (despite our effort to be clear) is at least some evidence of how easily this can happen.

    As for arresting them? The force most responsible for protecting fascists has always been the state. At any far right rally, the police are inevitably there to protect them. The state is not your friend.StreetlightX

    Police also protect progressive rallies as well, in which case, aren't they our friends?

    If the far right rallies in question were proliferating hate speech, I would like to see them prosecuted where possible.
  • csalisbury
    2k
    These sometimes tight-knit communities are often run by a vocal few, but there can be hundreds or sometimes thousands of lurkers who do nothing but absorb what gets said (they're also significant entry points for new members). Deploying effective rhetoric against them in that setting can have a strong influence on individual members of its community, especially the less hardened. Specifically, by "great success", I'm essentially referring to the influence I was able to have in those mediums.VagabondSpectre

    I've checked out a couple & I think I know the dynamic you're talking about. Let me know if this is your experience as well ( since I'm generalizing from only a couple visits):

    There's usually a couple guys who are charismatic in the way a fuck-the-system senior might be attractive to angst-ridden freshmen. They combine a confident seeing-through-the-bullshit ideology with a seeming easy mastery of christian theology, or history, or something scienc-y or some other Western Knowledge signifier. The appeal seems to be that they echo the same doubts you've had, and they have a bunch of extra knowledge to fill in the blanks. They hold court and the people who have just un-lurked try to get their attention and cautiously advance their own ideas and look for approval and direction. (in another lens: you feel humiliated and powerless? well here is validation that you're actually right plus very powerful [knowledge/culture signifier]

    I do see the potential for arresting radicalization in these venues. I'm too old to have been a young lurker on discord - my charismatic older figure was Zizek (for the same reasons, he echoed doubts I had and helped make sense of them, and knowledge signifier (german idealism, even tho he knows it for real, it still had a signifying aspect) so I lucked out.

    Two caveats:
    (1) While I think this works in the pirate corners of the internet, I'm not sure the logic carries over to larger, more mainstream platforms. My guess, no offense intended, is that you've probably swayed a very small number of people. Showdowns draw blood and attention, but on the enemy's turf things scab over pretty quick.
    (2) How are you measuring the influence you've had? Is it dms confirming you've had an effect?
  • Janus
    8.7k
    My take away is there is no consensus on what qualifies as speech. If "actions speak louder than words" and yet some here insist on a seemingly narrow definition of it involving spoken or written words, then there's a sea of meaningful difference. Not speaking in response to another is "speech" in itself in my view.Benkei

    A simple, unnuanced definition of speech would be to say that it involves words, spoken or written. But the visual arts can obviously also speak to us without requiring any actual words to do so. And then there is body language and facial expression, not so easily used online, although emojis play a part. Not speaking in response to another, per se, could mean many things, when the situation is face to face, facial expressions, body language and non-verbal vocal sounds would give clues as to the attitude behind the silence.

    Considering the alternative (social) media and communications channels available I suspect it inevitably leads to reinforcing existing bubbles, which just takes us farther away from constructive political debate. Plus, I think inviting certain controversial speakers usually isn't about real interest but trolling and then they can attack non-existent neo-Marxists academia and SJWs. Don't feed the trolls.Benkei

    I think the problem of "bubbles" may be due, at least in part, to human beings having evolved to be able to personally interact with, and thus really care about, only a relatively small number of others. Some people care only about themselves, others about family, extended family and friends, then perhaps some community that probably would not exceed 100 to 200 people. Also the number of people one interacts with and more or less cares about will likely not form a cohesive community in modern life.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar%27s_number

    People will pay lip service to caring about other communities, nations, or humanity in general, but this is arguably only on account of having introjected an ethical imperative to do so. As soon as the going gets tough, people will narrow the range of others they care about to the extent that they will be willing to inconvenience themselves in order to help them in times of need or crisis.

    I agree with you that inviting controversial speakers may often be motivated by a desire to appeal to and manipulate the mob's love of sensationalism. On the other, more conventional or "mainstream" side, institutions are generally conservative and the decisions as to who to "platform" are made on the basis of who the administration thinks will say best what they want to hear and have heard by the public. If the platformed one says what the administration does not want to hear, or what it fears will cast them in a bad light in the public eye, then, if they have the power to do so, they will surely de-platform.

    Should we approve or disapprove of that fact of power, or be indifferent to it? Does it depend on the circumstances? What difference would our approval or disapproval make in any case? The only real power "consumers" have is to refuse to consume. As an example if you want to do something about global warming and resource depletion, then don't own a car, have children or travel to other countries, buy only local products and so on. If you want to do something about financial instability then don't invest in the share market, or at least if you do, invest long-term in companies you believe are the most ethical and sustainable. First change yourself before worrying about changing the world, in other words. Lead by example or else keep mum, lest your voice be just another "pouring from the empty into the void".
  • VagabondSpectre
    1.7k
    There's usually a couple guys who are charismatic in the way a fuck-the-system senior might be attractive to angst-ridden freshmen. They combine a confident seeing-through-the-bullshit ideology with a seeming easy mastery of christian theology, or history, or something scienc-y or some other Western Knowledge signifier. The appeal seems to be that they echo the same doubts you've had, and they have a bunch of extra knowledge to fill in the blanks. They hold court and the people who have just un-lurked try to get their attention and cautiously advance their own ideas and look for approval and direction. (in another lens: you feel humiliated and powerless? well here is validation that you're actually right plus very powerful [knowledge/culture signifier]csalisbury

    This is definitely an apt description. To add to this, in some of the more populated rooms the chaos is extreme, where a team of party-loyal lieutenants moderate only spam (and ban people they suspect of recording or "doxing"). The text chat rooms consists of an endless and ever devolving torrent memes and group-signals which scrolls by so quickly that fast and loose rhetoric is sometimes the only means of participation. Live chat rooms for even the most positive and politically neutral venues are often described as "cancerous", so you might be able to appreciate just how bat shit insane a Discord server filled with hundreds of 15-25 year old alt-righters actually is. Words can't describe that level of unhinged verbal lunacy.

    I do see the potential for arresting radicalization in these venues. I'm too old to have been a young lurker on discord - my charismatic older figure was Zizek (for the same reasons, he echoed doubts I had and helped make sense of them, and knowledge signifier (german idealism, even tho he knows it for real, it still had a signifying aspect) so I lucked out.csalisbury

    I don't know much about Zizek but from his "debate" with Peterson I gathered he at least knew what he was talking about. Interestingly, Peterson was adored by the proto-alt right (for them he was one of those charismatic figures, first for his perceived rejection of transgenderism, and second for his overall conservative rejection of the left). The alt-right broke away from him primarily as the result of the strangest damn thing: he was asked by an audience member what his opinion on the "Holodomor" was, and whether the "Marxist Jews" were responsible; and Peterson had no sweet clue what the audience member was talking about. Alt right memes emerged depicting Peterson as intellectually dishonest or cucked, and before long Peterson was publicly disavowing far right collectivism. That whole affair is only the tip of the ridiculous rhetorical iceberg. The stories I could tell...

    1) While I think this works in the pirate corners of the internet, I'm not sure the logic carries over to larger, more mainstream platforms.csalisbury

    Elevated platforms do work a bit differently, where higher standards in discourse are more important. There are, however, exceptions that depend on the expectations of the audience.

    How are you measuring the influence you've had? Is it dms confirming you've had an effect?csalisbury

    The amount of attention and feedback I've been able to gain at those venues was astounding. By merely asking questions and making satirical commentary (and rebuking their responses quickly and persuasively) the loudest among them quickly became obsessive, which ensured I was always the center of attention (my very own triggered town-criers). At any given community, finding success was a prolonged affair, but once I built up a reputation as the competent leftist (by, in their eyes, beating back the many headed hydra that is the alt-right ideological platform, but also by subverting their expectations by not presenting as the caricatured "deluded emotional leftist"), they then wanted to "destroy" me so badly that they had to actually answer my questions and respond coherently to my attacks (lest they lose their high ground of "reason"). The vocal minority spamming me with insults would generally then be silenced by the more highly ranked as they stepped in to "red pill" or "black pill" me.

    They would demand debates in voice chat or that I debate on one of their many youtube live-streams (generally in voice chats I didn't break a sweat, but for whatever reason voice-chats seemed to accentuate their incompetence, and the pool of participants was smaller), while my dm inbox would be flooded, surprisingly, by mostly positive feedback, friendship requests, and invitations to seemingly every other Discord server even vaguely connected to the one I happened to be on at the time). I could see undecideds move in my direction in real time, and at least on some occasions I watched my views begin to defend themselves (their own ranking members were ceding critical ground) and internalize within local communities. Some or all of my successes aren't really that impressive given that what I was actually refuting was beyond reason in the first place ("We're going to create a whites only nation in Antarctica, and because whites are the best, it too will be the best! Huzzah!"), but it's honest work for honest influence. On some of the more serious and seriously pernicious subjects, I often found myself giving lengthy lectures (me? lecture!? HA!) after it had become clear to everyone that none of them bothered to do any fact checking or had a clue what they were talking about (for example, their arguments expounding "white death" based on birth rate statistics are a huge foot-in-the door sales tactic for the alt-right (one of their many fear-based appeals), but the so called statistical analysis they base it off is laughably bad, and an easy target for rebuke). Almost nobody has the patience or the will to entertain their ideas, so they've never really seen them competently rebuked, especially the younger initiates whose only political experience comes from classrooms schoolyards, and especially not on their own turf; down there in the mud and the muck and the merde; and in terms they actually understand.
  • unenlightened
    4.1k
    That's fine for a website,Benkei

    It's also fine for academic institutions, serious newspapers, government advice panels and so on. Even public libraries need to have some quality control.

    Speakers' Corner is where batshit crazy arse-wipes can have a platform of a soapbox and free speech. And sensible folks can go elsewhere while they indulge. For god's sake, even Belgium's Got Talent needs a bit of discrimination!

    In other news, and note that my stunning analysis will not be appearing on mainstream news sources, Physics departments do not discuss flat Earth theories, and political analysis does not discuss David Ike's Alien Lizard theory. And it would be a pretty good idea and long overdue to start de-platforming climate change deniers.

    And in other news again, speech is nowhere free and equal, or at least platforms are not, because people can and do buy time on platforms both openly and, when advertising tobacco is banned, by secretly suborning people like Scrotum to lie on their behalf, by the endowment of academies and by charitable think tanks. Money has always talked a lot louder than hard work, and scandal much louder than virtue, that is why other forms of protest and resistance are legitimate and essential. Peasants are always revolting because nobles are always monopolising the platforms; That's capitalism. And talk that it is the other way round and nobles are being unfairly treated belongs on speaker's Corner, not a sensible debating forum.
  • Maw
    1.6k
    Throwing milkshakes at far right wingers has been good
  • StreetlightX
    4.4k
    Oh its been glorious.
  • Baden
    8.9k


    But the protesters are anti-democratic. Whereas Farage and co. who lied their way to a narrow victory for a cause the most destructive version of which they are now pursuing with gusto against the will of the majority of both Parliament and the public are... Where was I going with this?
  • ssu
    1.7k
    But the protesters are anti-democratic. Whereas Farage and co. who lied their way to a narrow victory for a cause the most destructive version of which they are now pursuing with gusto against the will of the majority of both Parliament and the public are... Where was I going with this?Baden
    Embracing your tribe?

    I remember earlier there was this French guy who attacked famous people by throwing cream cakes at their faces (in the old slapstic comedy way). Once he (and his accomplices) got to cake Bill Gates. When asked about it, he said that the people from the Belgian subsidiary of Microsoft contacted him and asked him to do it, told him where and when he would have the opportunity to cake Gates (which sounds quite likely). They told him, assumedly, that their CEO was starting to take himself a bit too seriously. The thought of that being the truth, that company employees making such a practical joke on their CEO, makes me smile.

    Here's how American media reported the incident:



    Now I don't know if people throwing milk shakes take these issues in similar way, because in the end they seem to be fighting evil.
  • Baden
    8.9k
    Embracing your tribe?ssu

    There isn't a tribe in the world absent of members who can't fire their poison arrows straight, but when they hit the target, I'll applaud. Just highlighting some hypocrisy really.

    Here's how American media reported the incident:ssu

    "Hitmen" is hyperbole but that did look considerably more traumatic than a milkshake in the groin. :brow:
  • Maw
    1.6k
    Well David Frum, who argued in favor for the Iraq War and coined the phrase "axis of evil" said that throwing milkshakes is a "symbolic assassination attempt".
  • I like sushi
    1.8k
    It would be nice if politicians could walk around doing their jobs without being harassed. The guy who threw it felt like doing so - and he cared not for the law (good for him!)

    I’ve seen how some people have been misrepresented in the UK media and find it difficult to trust anything said in the mainstream news (more so today than ever before). I’ve always known it was mostly bullshit, but now the shit is thicker.
  • Maw
    1.6k
    Owen Jones basically summing up my views on the essence of this thread.

  • I like sushi
    1.8k
    I can agree with that, but I’m certainly not inclined to agree with Owen Jones about much else. Just go to show that everyone is capable of making a good point every now and again.
  • Maw
    1.6k
    Listen, I firmly believe everyone should be given a platform regardless of the content of their beliefs, so this means of course that, in addition to neo-nazis and white supremists, pedophiles, Islamists, eugenicists and people who enjoy Kid Rock also deserve platforms to advocate their views I don't make the rules for this, this is what is demanded for free speech
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