Conservatives, Liberals, and social divisiveness
Posted: 17 March 2012 11:53 PM   [ Ignore ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1396
Joined  2010-04-22

I know that I’ll get some great critical feedback from you folks, so I want to introduce a topic about what I see as a significant problem in the United States, at least.

The way a lot of people use the terms ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ seems to me to be rather sinister. The pattern is to define one’s self under one of the words, in glowing terms, and to define the general public segment which disagrees with one’s self under the other word, in quite disparaging terms. The problem is not just someone like Anne Coulter, who is well-known for her anti-‘liberal’ rants, but those who use Anne Coulter as a stand-in for everything that is wrong with conservatives. And the same pattern goes the other direction, too. In technical terms, it is a kind of mass ad-hominum attack.

I recently visited another forum where one member saw a quote about someone who knew the soldier who famously murdered a bunch of Afghans. The quote was to the effect of being concerned about the war effort and the soldier’s family. In this other forum, the quoted person was automatically assumed to be conservative, because the quote did not directly address the loss of life in Afghanistan. Nowhere is the indifference to murdered foreigners a criteria in any definition of ‘conservative’ I have ever seen. And the person who brought the subject up in the forum proudly considers themself a ‘liberal.’

It’s not that its’ not okay to criticize someone else’s arguments or actions. It is not okay to criticize someone else’s arguments or actions based on criteria that has nothing to do with those arguments or actions. And it’s really not any better to classify one’s self as being either ‘conservative’ or ‘liberal’ in terms that separate one’s self from other people than it is to denigrate others with those terms. It’s really no better than doing the same thing with racial terms.

But, it’s currently socially acceptable, on both sides. It is as if people, en masse, want to separate into groups and get in a fight for no apparent reason than ‘just because.’

 Signature 

“All musicians are subconsciously mathematicians.”

- Thelonious Monk

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 March 2012 05:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  15355
Joined  2006-02-14

Interesting and valuable concern, TA, but I think it’s somewhat misplaced. The problem you’re pointing to is one of categorization. And like it or not, categorization is essential to information processing. We do have to end up categorizing people, because although this does mislead us badly sometimes, most of the time it does not. If someone in America tells me XYZ about politics, I can tell pretty accurately a lot of other corollary beliefs they are going to hold. If someone says glowing things about Ann Coulter, I know pretty accurately that they are going to hold a constellation of views roughly the same as “the right wing”. Now, each of us is different, so doubtless they won’t agree to all the ones I would attribute to them, but I submit that on average they will agree to most. And that’s a pretty good hit rate from a single data point.

Further, I don’t think it’s reasonable or even possible to have a conversation if we are forced to verify each assumed belief in the other person before confronting it. That’s just not how human conversation works: it would be pedantic and annoying not to assume anything at all, especially when the other person is right there to correct errors when we make them.

The problem here may be one of refusing to accept the correction. E.g., (although I am unfamiliar with the example) if the person you mention says that he or she is not a conservative, etc., etc., and yet people continue to take them as such on the basis of a single observation, that seems to me unwarranted. It’s not so much (in my mind) a problem of categorization per se, but just one of unfairness.

(But let’s be honest: there are also people who pretend for one or another reason to be what they are not: either because in their mind it is not socially acceptable to assert what they really believe, or because they are trolling, etc. So it’s not always the case that we must accept at face value what someone claims about themselves).

In any event I do not agree with your comparison of denigrating someone based on their stated opinion, as vs. denigrating someone racially. Leaving aside the pernicious historical issues with racism, the thing is that at least opinions and beliefs are theoretically revisable. Someone with incorrect or pernicious opinions can be convinced to change. The same is not true of someone from a particular race. (Or sex, sexual orientation, etc.)

 Signature 

Doug

-:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:-

El sueño de la razón produce monstruos

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 March 2012 10:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4066
Joined  2010-08-15
TromboneAndrew - 17 March 2012 11:53 PM

Nowhere is the indifference to murdered foreigners a criteria in any definition of ‘conservative’ I have ever seen. And the person who brought the subject up in the forum proudly considers themself a ‘liberal.’

I like what Doug wrote.

Just a little specific point I want to hit.
Considering the ease with which “conservatives” railroaded our country into invading Iraq backed by only the most transparent, dishonest and twisted pieces of logic to support it…

Well, given the ease with which all that went down, and then they reelected the SOBs after their lies became exposed…

can leave some with a distinct impression that “conservatives” {although “neoconservatives” would probably be more accurate than good ol conservatives, which seem to have gone into hiding, as the Republican presidential candidates attest to.} don’t give a damned about how many foreigners we need to run over if we deem it necessary.

 Signature 

How many times do lies need to be exposed
before we have permission to trash them?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 March 2012 11:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
Moderator
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  5551
Joined  2010-06-16

One of the problems, as I see it, is that perfectly decent words have been given pejorative meanings by those on some other side.  Many people I know, no longer want to be called liberal.  Rather they now prefer “progressive.”  Similarly, extremist crackpots on the right hide under the rubric of conservative.

The basic meanings of conservative and liberal that I learned in school were that conservatives wanted to protect what is worthwhile in our society while liberals wanted to improve or correct what was not worthwhile.  They balanced each other because, by themselves, conservatives wouldn’t introduce new, improved systems, while by themselves, liberals would introduce some kooky ideas.  If we go by these, we see that both views are valuable to and positive for society.

Another problem is that we tend to accept simplistic generalizations and the words that go wth them to cover a wide variety of people and behaviors.  I’d prefer it if we took the time to identify the negative or positive behaviors the person exhibited and describe them in those terms.

Occam

 Signature 

Succinctness, clarity’s core.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 March 2012 12:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4066
Joined  2010-08-15
Occam. - 18 March 2012 11:42 AM

They balanced each other because, by themselves, conservatives wouldn’t introduce new, improved systems, while by themselves, liberals would introduce some kooky ideas.  If we go by these, we see that both views are valuable to and positive for society.

Good point. 
And though I’m a person of strong opinions and have been somewhat jaded by the monstrosities of the B/C Administration… it seems to me that in the past there was more mutual respect going on.  Such as: I believe in what I believe, but also appreciate that I don’t comprehend the whole story, thus need the input of others to come up with the best real world outcomes.  But, we’ve lost a lot of that these days.

And things seem to be going to hell in a handbag…. hummm wonder if there’s a connection?

 Signature 

How many times do lies need to be exposed
before we have permission to trash them?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 March 2012 01:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1396
Joined  2010-04-22
dougsmith - 18 March 2012 05:28 AM

Interesting and valuable concern, TA, but I think it’s somewhat misplaced. The problem you’re pointing to is one of categorization. And like it or not, categorization is essential to information processing. We do have to end up categorizing people, because although this does mislead us badly sometimes, most of the time it does not. If someone in America tells me XYZ about politics, I can tell pretty accurately a lot of other corollary beliefs they are going to hold. If someone says glowing things about Ann Coulter, I know pretty accurately that they are going to hold a constellation of views roughly the same as “the right wing”. Now, each of us is different, so doubtless they won’t agree to all the ones I would attribute to them, but I submit that on average they will agree to most. And that’s a pretty good hit rate from a single data point.

Further, I don’t think it’s reasonable or even possible to have a conversation if we are forced to verify each assumed belief in the other person before confronting it. That’s just not how human conversation works: it would be pedantic and annoying not to assume anything at all, especially when the other person is right there to correct errors when we make them.

Well, for casual conversation this is correct. But for constructive argument each party has to agree with the other on the basic aspects of the argument, otherwise it’s only a shouting match. But, yes, otherwise I agree.

The problem here may be one of refusing to accept the correction. E.g., (although I am unfamiliar with the example) if the person you mention says that he or she is not a conservative, etc., etc., and yet people continue to take them as such on the basis of a single observation, that seems to me unwarranted. It’s not so much (in my mind) a problem of categorization per se, but just one of unfairness.

(But let’s be honest: there are also people who pretend for one or another reason to be what they are not: either because in their mind it is not socially acceptable to assert what they really believe, or because they are trolling, etc. So it’s not always the case that we must accept at face value what someone claims about themselves).

Some of it is refusing to accept correction, but some of it is assuming wildly infeasible things about the opposition in the first place. Like, the person I referred to in my first post in this thread assuming that ‘conservative’ is basically synonymous wth ‘xenophobe.’ This is not quite the same thing as making assumptions about someone based on their views of Ann Coulter. It is more like making assumptions about someone based on their opinions on global warming, where it is a much narrower subject focus and broad assumptions on lots of other beliefs aren’t really warranted. Yes, it is the case that the statistically ‘conservative’ half of the population may be more inclined to disbelieve global warming, but it is not even close to a good assumption to assume that any particular person who disbelieves global warming is also a xenophobe, simply because both are ‘conservative’ positions. The example I used in the first post is even more spurious than this.

I just had the pleasure to find a Rachael Maddow interview with Rep. James Inhofe, and his reasoning about Rachel was pretty much the same. He assumes that because she is liberal therefore she is ‘in’ on the conspiracy to destroy America through horrible economic sanctions in reaction to ‘fictitious’ global warming. The extremely poor reasoning gets spread around on both ‘sides.’ That is nowhere close to making any kind of reasonable assumptions about the other person’s beliefs, getting some of them wrong, and not making corrections.

In any event I do not agree with your comparison of denigrating someone based on their stated opinion, as vs. denigrating someone racially. Leaving aside the pernicious historical issues with racism, the thing is that at least opinions and beliefs are theoretically revisable. Someone with incorrect or pernicious opinions can be convinced to change. The same is not true of someone from a particular race. (Or sex, sexual orientation, etc.)

Although there certainly isn’t the same kind of history as with race relations, I think that it is similarly despicable, even if not to the exact same degree.

 Signature 

“All musicians are subconsciously mathematicians.”

- Thelonious Monk

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 March 2012 01:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  6012
Joined  2009-02-26

I shall never identify myself again as ‘liberal, conservative, progressive, fundamentalist, right, left’, again.
Those labels are absolutely meaningless because they are much to generic and inclusive of both ethical and/or unethical human behavior.

From now on I shall identify myself as a “secular humanist”.  It pretty well sums up where I stand and what I do. And I have never seen anyone being able to attack that term and not look like an idiot…..  grin

 Signature 

Art is the creation of that which evokes an emotional response, leading to thoughts of the noblest kind.
W4U

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 March 2012 01:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  15355
Joined  2006-02-14
TromboneAndrew - 18 March 2012 01:07 PM

Some of it is refusing to accept correction, but some of it is assuming wildly infeasible things about the opposition in the first place.

Well, depending on the argument, you’re certainly right. There are people who don’t argue ‘in good faith’, as I would put it. They’re not actually arguing in an attempt to learn or teach. They’re arguing as a lawyer would a paid brief: to win the case by any means necessary. And one way to do that is to roll out the rhetorical fallacies, such as straw man arguments, etc.

And in that context I would put virtually all politicians when they are on TV shows. (Which is why I never watch politicians on TV shows anymore).

TromboneAndrew - 18 March 2012 01:07 PM

Although there certainly isn’t the same kind of history as with race relations, I think that it is similarly despicable, even if not to the exact same degree.

Rhetorical games like these are despicable in their way, certainly. But not, I think, nearly the same way that denigrating people for their race, sex or sexual orientation is.

 Signature 

Doug

-:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:-

El sueño de la razón produce monstruos

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 March 2012 01:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  15355
Joined  2006-02-14
Write4U - 18 March 2012 01:08 PM

I shall never identify myself again as ‘liberal, conservative, progressive, fundamentalist, right, left’, again.
Those labels are absolutely meaningless because they are much to generic and inclusive of both ethical and/or unethical human behavior.

From now on I shall identify myself as a “secular humanist”.  It pretty well sums up where I stand and what I do. And I have never seen anyone being able to attack that term and not look like an idiot…..  grin

I think you’re probably being sort of facetious, but just in case you’re not: I don’t think any identifying description is measurably better than the ones we use normally. (Liberal, conservative, etc.) Seems to me the only advantage “secular humanist” has is that most people have no idea what it means, so it’s liable to confuse rather than mislead. But of course, “secular humanism” has been a whipping boy of the religious right (there’s a normal categorization for you) for decades. It’s denigrated as vociferously, and as fallaciously, as being liberal or leftist, and maybe more.

 Signature 

Doug

-:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:-

El sueño de la razón produce monstruos

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 March 2012 01:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  6012
Joined  2009-02-26

Perhaps you are right about the term being denigrated, but those who do will look like idiots to everyone who does understand or appreciates the terms “secular” (non-judgemental), and “humane” (caring deeply).

[ Edited: 18 March 2012 01:41 PM by Write4U ]
 Signature 

Art is the creation of that which evokes an emotional response, leading to thoughts of the noblest kind.
W4U

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 March 2012 03:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1396
Joined  2010-04-22
Write4U - 18 March 2012 01:36 PM

Perhaps you are right about the term being denigrated, but those who do will look like idiots to everyone who does understand or appreciates the terms “secular” (non-judgemental), and “humane” (caring deeply).

Wellll, it’s not as if people who denigrate conservatives and liberals in the same don’t also make themselves look like idiots. wink

 Signature 

“All musicians are subconsciously mathematicians.”

- Thelonious Monk

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 March 2012 03:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1396
Joined  2010-04-22
dougsmith - 18 March 2012 01:15 PM
TromboneAndrew - 18 March 2012 01:07 PM

Some of it is refusing to accept correction, but some of it is assuming wildly infeasible things about the opposition in the first place.

Well, depending on the argument, you’re certainly right. There are people who don’t argue ‘in good faith’, as I would put it. They’re not actually arguing in an attempt to learn or teach. They’re arguing as a lawyer would a paid brief: to win the case by any means necessary. And one way to do that is to roll out the rhetorical fallacies, such as straw man arguments, etc.

And in that context I would put virtually all politicians when they are on TV shows. (Which is why I never watch politicians on TV shows anymore).

Well, yeah, politicians are a special breed.

 Signature 

“All musicians are subconsciously mathematicians.”

- Thelonious Monk

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 March 2012 06:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2651
Joined  2011-04-24
TromboneAndrew - 17 March 2012 11:53 PM

I know that I’ll get some great critical feedback from you folks, so I want to introduce a topic about what I see as a significant problem in the United States, at least.

The way a lot of people use the terms ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ seems to me to be rather sinister. The pattern is to define one’s self under one of the words, in glowing terms, and to define the general public segment which disagrees with one’s self under the other word, in quite disparaging terms. The problem is not just someone like Anne Coulter, who is well-known for her anti-‘liberal’ rants, but those who use Anne Coulter as a stand-in for everything that is wrong with conservatives. And the same pattern goes the other direction, too. In technical terms, it is a kind of mass ad-hominum attack.

I recently visited another forum where one member saw a quote about someone who knew the soldier who famously murdered a bunch of Afghans. The quote was to the effect of being concerned about the war effort and the soldier’s family. In this other forum, the quoted person was automatically assumed to be conservative, because the quote did not directly address the loss of life in Afghanistan. Nowhere is the indifference to murdered foreigners a criteria in any definition of ‘conservative’ I have ever seen. And the person who brought the subject up in the forum proudly considers themself a ‘liberal.’

It’s not that its’ not okay to criticize someone else’s arguments or actions. It is not okay to criticize someone else’s arguments or actions based on criteria that has nothing to do with those arguments or actions. And it’s really not any better to classify one’s self as being either ‘conservative’ or ‘liberal’ in terms that separate one’s self from other people than it is to denigrate others with those terms. It’s really no better than doing the same thing with racial terms.

But, it’s currently socially acceptable, on both sides. It is as if people, en masse, want to separate into groups and get in a fight for no apparent reason than ‘just because.’

I think people do want to seperate into groups and fight; it’s just that in todays world, there’s so many ways you can express your “stance” to the entire earth - anyone who is looking for P.O.V’s is going to be bombarded with them.

[ Edited: 18 March 2012 07:15 PM by mid atlantic ]
 Signature 

Raise your glass if you’re wrong…. in all the right ways.

Profile