Not Playing Political Football

I would like to begin this article with an apology. For various reasons, I have not been able to put any blog posts up on here for some time. I am not under any delusion that people are sat staring at their computer screen eagerly anticipating my next article. But I enjoy writing and I know that people enjoy engaging with the content here on Libertarian Home so I am sorry for my radio silence over the past month.

One of the reasons why I have not been blogging is that I have been recalibrating my outlook on politics. When a big issue comes up or some controversy rears it’s ugly head we are often tempted to fall into a default ‘right-left’ response. Given that it is the world cup at the moment I feel that it is appriate to call this process ‘political football’. Your team scores a goal- you cheer and when the other team boots the ball into the back of the net- you boo.

But this isn’t good for us as individuals or the course of a sensible discussion. Given that we spend so much of our time on social media it would be wrong for us to deny the effect that being part of an ideological tribe. The internet was supposed to bring us all closer together, as one big happy family. Yet, the real impact has been to divide people into groups. This process of isolating ourselves in echo chambers has been well documented. Particularly by Niall Ferguson in his latest book ‘The Square and the Tower.’

Let’s be honest, we have all been there. A serious political issue has occurred, it’s been a busy day we have not had the time to look into it properly and figure out exactly what has happened. Instead of researching the topic we see hundreds of our ideological peers posting on Twitter on FaceBook. We go with the flow. All of a sudden we have an opinion about something that we know nothing about simply by going along with what other people on our team are saying.

That may be an extreme example, but by being part of a tribe we find ourselves predisposed to opinions that would not otherwise have held. I have always had a liberal attitude to immigration and despaired  Christopher Cantwell types who argue that ‘racism is the only way to a free society.’ However, during the Roseanne Barr controversy, I found myself being sympathetic to her cause. Purely because I saw what other people were posting on FaceBook and Tweeting in response to her dismissal. I had never heard of Roseanne Barr or even knew what she said. So it was strange that I even had a view on the controversy.

After spending five minutes looking into what the American comedian said I decided that it was a big mistake to say such a thing. But the experience was a wake-up call. Making your mind up on something based on what other members of your team think is something that should be avoided.

There are good reasons why political football has emerged. In the twenty-first century world of instant information where an hour is a long time, having a default position as a member of the right or the left can be a helpful shortcut to getting a timely social media post. Similarly, we all have busy lives and often don’t have the time or energy to really get to the heart of an issue before we form an opinion.

Ultimately, playing political football is lazy. Taking the time to consider things and apply our principles to an issue takes time and effort but it’s worth it. It shouldn’t be acceptable for us to think “I don’t accept your views because you’re a leftist w**ker.” The term ‘intellectual dark web’ has become popular lately. It describes people who refuse to involve themselves in the maelstrom of petty political goal scoring and advocate a principled and evidence led viewpoint. People such as Joe Rogan, Jordan Peterson, Niall Ferguson, Sam Harris, Eric Weinstein, Dave Rubin etc. are all supposed to be part of the intellectual dark web.

It is much better to be part of this phenomenon than to be part of the ‘right-wing team’ in my opinion. It has been really quite alarming for me, to see how fast I can have my opinions on an issue purely because of what others are saying. I’m going to be a pretentious T**t and finish this article with a quote from Plato.

Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something- Plato 

  3 comments for “Not Playing Political Football

  1. Paul Marks
    Jun 25, 2018 at 2:13 pm

    I think we have to try and be open minded – which is hard for me (given my age, and the bitter disappointment my life has been – que violin music).

    For example., the left accuse us (the non left) of having “authoritarian personalities” (the charge of the Marxist Adorno) – and it is tempting to just reject the charge with contempt. But then one sees such things as Niall Ferguson’s admiration for Frederick “the Great” (a ruthless tyrant who bathed central Europe in blood for his own glory – essentially his own vanity, people who think that Frederick “the Great” King of Prussia did anything for liberty are just wrong) – and one wonders if the left might sometimes have a point. I am, alas, not a man of peace – but war (with hundreds of thousands of dead) without any real justification at all, is too much for me. No doubt there are authoritarian features of my own personality – which outsiders can see more easily than I can (so I am not just having a dig at Niall Ferguson – everyone has to guard against falling in love with POWER).

    Also yesterday I came to the logical conclusion that I hoped the left (yes the Social Democrat left) would win the Turkish elections – as, in spite of all of their economic foolishness, at least the Turkish Social Democrats are sincerely in favour of religious liberty (they are not Islamists) and peace. For me, under any circumstances, to support the left at election time takes a real effort of open mindedness.

  2. Paul Marks
    Jun 26, 2018 at 2:53 pm

    On the internet.

    At the start – back in 1989 (yes I am that old – I am older than sin, and twice as ugly) there were bulletin boards (alt.politics, economics, history, political philosophy…..). I was “Lycrophon” in those days (I pretentiously named myself after someone that Aristotle attacks in “The Politics”, I thought Aristotle’s attack on him was wrong).
    People from all political points of view discussed various subjects and ideas…..

    What happened? Well the left destroyed the civil discussion – yes “he would say that wouldn’t he” but it is true.

    I was not an aggressive person back in 1989 or 1990 and nor were the other libertarians. The left first patronised us – with academics doing “studies” to see how many people “really believed” such things as Adolf Hitler being a socialist (he was a socialist – but they were just not interested in arguments and evidence, they just sneered at us, as they “studied” us). Then masses of leftists were formed into what I can only describe as “hive minds” – such as “Move.on” and “The Daily Kos”, they all had the same opinions (on everything) and even used the same forms of words in their posts (it was very hard to tell one leftist from another – as they did not even have their writing styles, let alone their own opinions).

    It was impossible to have a civil conversation with such leftists – they regarded anyone who was not a leftist as subhuman (fit only to be exterminated), they still think like that. They were like the education system or the “mainstream” media – but with the mask of “civility” removed. They were utterly savage (they still are) – using the most horrible abusive language and ridicule against any non leftist. It was as if large numbers of leftists were following “Rules for Radicals” by Saul Alinsky and applying its rules (be abusive, and LIE, and personalise politics – by playing the man not the ball, and on and on) to the internet.

    Indeed I think that is exactly what leftists started to do on the internet from the early 1990s onwards – and are still doing.

    • Jordan Lee
      Jun 27, 2018 at 9:31 am

      It is rather hard sometimes to keep a cool head when dealing with such people to be sure. The ‘hive mind’ tribal aspect of social media politics is as much a feature of the left as it is of the right.

      My experience, when dealing with people with different opinions is that ‘you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar’. If I put up a post calling socialists ‘leftist scum’ then you are bound to be met with abuse. But if you make something like a well worded argument then you get more reasonable responses.

      There are of course exceptions to this- One notable one is the Tax Payers Alliance. They are particularly polite and mild mannered on Twitter- but everything they post they get abused by leftists for being a ‘sham organisation’ and a ‘cabal of the wealthy elite’. When one of their representatives appeared on the Andrew Marr Show a couple of weeks ago people lost their f***ing minds saying that ‘we shouldn’t give a platform to these libertarian extremists’.

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