Individualism and Solidarity: US Democratic Politics and Teh Blogs

by: Peter Jukes

Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 18:26:08 PM EST

This is a bit of a fly-by-night piece, so I won't frontpage, and apologies if I don't follow up with profound comments. I love the polite friendly atmosphere of the Moose, but that doesn't mean we don't talk about difficult subjects. Indeed, I have to write something, in my usual British contentious unphlegmatic way, about the Moose/Elephant in the room - the sudden welcome influx of New Moozog (the plural of Mooz).

But first some ground rules. This is not about anybody on any other blog, nor indeed a specific kind of administration, or to relitigate any Obamarox/Obamasux wars on any other site, but to explore the problem of defining loyalty versus individuality, collective strength versus personal conscience.

I think if we stick to these rules of discussing those principles of political pragmatism versus moral purity, we can make sure this isn't a comment on any other blog or commentator. Just to remind you - most of us cross post at a number of other blogs, and long may that remain.  

Peter Jukes :: Individualism and Solidarity: US Democratic Politics and Teh Blogs
But let me port over a comment I've just made on Daily Kos (with typos corrected and some site specific phrases AMENDED IN CAPS).

Just to reiterate, this is one dumb Brit commenting on the basis of his limited outsider experience of US politics over a couple of decades. In a way US political blogs are a microcosm of the wider conflict in US society, so when I use the example of 'moderation' below, what I mean is how to resolve conflicts.

A technolibertarian solution to moderation presupposes individual responsibility. Individual conflicts will arise but will be sorted out by the amalgam of individuals: I.e. community moderation

But SOME SITES ARE so big THEY DON'T work like that. There are several different communities. So the worst excesses erive from a form of communalism.

As an individual I might rate you, but thre are 'sides'. A one to one conflict is inflamed by upraters and bystanders who are (and we're all guilty of this) defending 'friends'. The communal conflict periodically sorts itself out by which group is more numerous at any moment.

But the battle is never completed because, following the principle if American individualism, any communal victory is quickly decried as 'groupthink'. The marginalised groups are defended. And the cycle of strife continues

And this is all very dynamic, because there is no equilibrium that can ever be achieved. Indeed it's one of the motors of American dynamism, and part of me would never want to change it

But it's very damaging for the left, which has always relied not on money power, but the ability to form coalitions transcending individual interest through collectivity, solidarity and loyalt cohesion

THOSE with a Civil Rights background understand this, but the majority still cling to an individualised form of liberty which makes every compromise a betrayal. And every coalition a circular firing squad

Of course, this contrast mainly derives from my experience of the British Labour Party which, vitiated almost to extinction in the 1980s, relearned the values of cohesion and loyalty to win three elections, two with landslides.

Some may say that loyalty came at the expense of principle, and the electoral success was misused. But having had experience of three years of Tory rule, not many on the left now believe that 'Tony Blair was as bad as any Tory'.

Please use the comment threads to blow me out of the water.

UPDATE: oh, and I meant to use this diary to say HELLO to all the new Mooq I haven't personally greeted yet. This is very much a collective site,  established by a charter group, so no top down command and control here. You're all in charge. And you're paying the bar bill!

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I don't like labels and strict party identification. Very much an issues (2.00 / 32)
oriented voter and activist. Politics makes strange bedfellows, and all that whatever.  Some of the best activists of my early political involvement were old time republicans. Some progressives I agree with, but I am fiscally conservative (as an accountant I bleed black ink!), and socially I totally fight for the underdog and those needing a safety net.

All that being said, I am fighting tooth and nail against anything that undermines the bit of progress we have made at stopping the rampant tea party insanity gripping politics these days. If it means temporarily supporting 85% voting Dems instead of 100%, so be it. Back to fighting to keep austerity and corporatism, the real enemy, from total control in the US.

Ideologically I am with you, (2.00 / 12)
as well as tactically.

Party affiliation isn't my thing, but I am all for winning battles and that takes teamwork. Liberals are characteristically associated with dis-cohesion, and while I may not be one by any tight definition I have no problem joining the team that I think needs to win.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
No, there is a lot to what you say. (2.00 / 26)
Please use the comment threads to blow me out of the water.

Coherence is critical, particularly in a two-party system.  

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

Thanks for the welcome......and for the ground rules. (2.00 / 29)
I'm looking forward to feeling free to engage in intelligent, nuanced political discussions....along with some good fun of course. I can't promise to be among the intelligent commentators, but I can assure you I am rarely contentious.

Your tags are a succinct reminder of what's important to me....and what to avoid! Thanks again.

Love is the lasting legacy of our lives

I think you're bluffing (2.00 / 10)
You're clearly one of the most intelligent commentators, because you've already got my guard down. :-)

Yes, thinks flow on the Moose. No need to be contentious if you don't want to. On the other hand, though we try to eschew flames and insults, we don't shy away (I hope) from controversy if need be.

But I take reasoned argument and polite disputes as a sign of political maturity, not lack of passion.  

The p***artist formerly known as 'Brit'

[ Parent ]
I'm not sure what you're meaning here (2.00 / 23)
But the battle is never completed because, following the principle if American individualism, any communal victory is quickly decried as 'groupthink'. The marginalised groups are defended. And the cycle of strife continues

I get the whole idea of "groupthink" and the use of the term as an invective. I'm not sure what role the "marginalized groups" are playing, particularly when it comes to cohesion or coalitions.

"cycle of strife" is an interesting turn of phrase. Peter, can you, or anyone else whose got the knowing, speak to how this plays out in the ever shifting dynamics of parliamentary government with multiple parties? From a two party system, I cannot envision any way in which the "cycle of strife" does not continue.

Thank you :)

I was just heading to bed - planning to comment in the morn (2.00 / 30)
But your question drew me in, and needs a more urgent answer

To unpack the groupthink idea a bit more. It seems to me the American left prizes individualism more highly. It' s a classic liberal position. But then again you have to remember 'liberal' parties are usually on the centre or right of European politics. Why? Because the emphasis on individual liberty often appears to the European left as a bourgeois 19th preoccupation - a conservative idea.. I'm not saying they're right, and the illiberal strand of the European left has had some quite terrifying consequences, and its Stalinist version might have conquered the whole of Europe except for US intervention. But there's the difference

Americans seem distrust solidarity and loyalty if they're on the left. For thr European left, based mainly on Unions and working class organisation, loyalty is a key value.

So the lack of equilibrium, and structural instability, mainly pertains, it seems to me, to the US Left, vacillating between organised loyalty and civil libertarian dissent

Hope that makes my assertions a little bit clearer. But I am almost cross eyed with tiredness - so maybe not

The p***artist formerly known as 'Brit'

[ Parent ]
Thank you, Peter. (2.00 / 23)
This helps my understanding a bit.

And mo's comment just below was very helpful as well.

Sleep well!

[ Parent ]
Yes! This strikes me as precisely (2.00 / 27)
correct, and also, you mention the European 19th C. bourgeois, and I mentioned the American Federalist papers; that's note-worthy because what we're discussing is literally so entrenched in our respective histories as nations that it can be hard to see how bound up we are in these perspectives.

And this is why I will always call myself a Socialist or a Leftist; I identify with a European style of liberalism so much more than I do the more American interpretation of it. I'm very wary of Capitalism, for one thing. I'm also somewhat wary of a LACK of solidarity.

Sleepy-head, get some shut eye.

[ Parent ]
And that makes a lot of sense on the individualism side (2.00 / 26)
Growing up in a blue collar, union household, loyalty was a core value. Be it family, work, church, or friends. As an adult I have seen individualism and group loyalty. A good leader or team can make group loyalty built on each individual's strength. Usually this is in a business environment.

Politically I haven't seen a strong leader, based on individual strengths, since Howard Dean in 2004. As a group, I look at Wisconsin last year and see what coalition building can do. It was reverse in that there really was no major leader.

Something to consider...I don't think coalition building and consensus leads to group think. Group think brings up negative connotations, so I'll chew on that part.

[ Parent ]
I find the Obama Alinsky form of organisation fascinating (2.00 / 9)
A central figure with a strong narrative of justice/mobility who animates and appeals to the same personal narratives in a much wider group. It has it's pluses and pitfalls, which I'm sure we're all too painfully aware of (raised expectations, personal admiration, personal abuse).

So I think the circle can be squared, and the Obama model of personal narrative and grass roots organisation is possible one

The p***artist formerly known as 'Brit'

[ Parent ]
To offer a contrast to SallyCat's post, (2.00 / 20)
I think the upper-middle class upbringing I had also emphasized the idea of individualism and respect for the same in political alliances.  Well-to-do, self-made professional families during and after WW2 got that way by "following one's own destiny" and entrepreneurial ambition, both highly individualistic ideals/ideologies.  Amazingly, even people who have gone to work in other people's businesses and professional associations, or even public service, still buy into this mindset.  The cognitive dissonance is simply stunning.    

One of the problems I see in our politics is that this refrain of DIY/rugged individualism has been fetishized to the point that many of those who've "made it" haven't any clue what it is like to not be in the professional class.  And I see that spilling over into our politics.  

I think one reason why so many politically aware professionals from human services careers (teachers, nurses, EMTs, general practice doctors, social workers, etc) tend to be among the first to break some of these barriers is that they see first hand the other side of life, if you will.  They know that the disadvantaged child is at risk and that talk of bootstraps will not provide that child with a healthy meal, a quiet and supportive space to study at home, well-baby and well-child visits and dental care, or even a safe neighborhood.  And they see the price paid, over and over and over again.  It's very hard to argue that the perfect must be attained right now when you know that if that fight fails, the price will be paid by those too vulnerable to survive the defeat.

Just a thought....    

"Fighting Fascism is Always Cool." -- Amsterdam Weekly, vol. 3, no. 18
(-8.50, -7.23)  

[ Parent ]
Excellent contrast Noor B... (2.00 / 14)
I have seen what you describe in business...the individuals that succeed do it through individual effort, or so we are told. Yet the ones that are most successful bring others along and help the whole and 'the rising tide lifts all boats" fits.

We need to get more individuals involved in the 'we' rather than the 'me'. Maybe Wisconsin is an example of where the collective people saw more than the individual and it rocked that state and the nation. We need more Wisconsin nationally and internationally.

[ Parent ]
you make good points, (2.00 / 15)
and this whole discussion of individualism/collectivism in political thought and action is very refreshing.

Even if the voices aren't real, they have some pretty good ideas. -- Anonymous

[ Parent ]
My brain is having to readjust to writing the thoughts that I have only (2.00 / 15)
shared with local friends and activists. This is great...and it is nice that the conversation can go on for an extended period of time. :^)

[ Parent ]
One of the fascinating things about the professional middle classes (2.00 / 11) that often they are unionised too, but through professional organisations, parent teachers organisations, rotary clubs, churches. They also understand the power of collective action, even while vaunting individualism. However, as Puttnam's Bowling Alone makes clear, whole swathes of the US have lost community cohesion and group activity through the atomising effects of exurbia, television, car commuting.

I'm a member of one of the most successful unions in the world, the Writers Guild of America. When British critics say that unions are backward and organising strikes and collective bargaining lowers standards, I point to the greatly enhanced quality of USTV drama relative to the UK over the last twenty or so years (I've written long articles about this if you want to know more): a lot of that can be put down to the power of the union protecting the wages, working conditions and rights of US tv writers.

The p***artist formerly known as 'Brit'

[ Parent ]
How hard is it to join the Writers Guild of America? (2.00 / 8)
I've often thought that the strongest way to show solidarity with the union movement is to join one, and that is one that seems closest to what I do.

[ Parent ]
It's pretty expensive IIRC (2.00 / 9)
I joined ten years ago when I had a USTV commission (with Paul Haggis would you believe) and the fee included the massive subs. I might have lapsed a bit, but they still send me stuff and control some pension funds.

I'd check up on the WGA's sites for current membership requirements. But great to see you here on the Moose.

I have now to write an entire 15 minute radio drama from scratch for tomorrow lunchtime, so forgive me if I go into brief radio silence.

And so great to see you here on the Moose

The p***artist formerly known as 'Brit'

[ Parent ]
I have to admit that whenever I see the word "liberal" (2.00 / 14)
I tend to shudder. No offense to American Liberals - but I have never been able to separate that word from my early training which though not Maoist at all did incorporate one very important work of Mao's - from Combat Liberalism

Liberalism manifests itself in various ways.

To let things slide for the sake of peace and friendship when a person has clearly gone wrong, and refrain from principled argument because he is an old acquaintance, a fellow townsman, a schoolmate, a close friend, a loved one, an old colleague or old subordinate. Or to touch on the matter lightly instead of going into it thoroughly, so as to keep on good terms. The result is that both the organization and the individual are harmed. This is one type of liberalism.

To indulge in irresponsible criticism in private instead of actively putting forward one's suggestions to the organization. To say nothing to people to their faces but to gossip behind their backs, or to say nothing at a meeting but to gossip afterwards. To show no regard at all for the principles of collective life but to follow one's own inclination. This is a second type.

To let things drift if they do not affect one personally; to say as little as possible while knowing perfectly well what is wrong, to be worldly wise and play safe and seek only to avoid blame. This is a third type.

I had this stuff drummed into my head in my late teens, early 20's.  It made it very difficult for me to deal with people who refused to call out the racism on the left (or among Democrats) Who for the sake of not making waves natter on about a colorblind society and keep bigots among their friends.  I wound up appreciating open racists more than smile-in-your-face backstabbing liberals.

Liberalism is extremely harmful in a revolutionary collective. It is a corrosive which eats away unity, undermines cohesion, causes apathy and creates dissension. It robs the revolutionary ranks of compact organization and strict discipline, prevents policies from being carried through and alienates the Party organizations from the masses which the Party leads. It is an extremely bad tendency.

Liberalism stems from petty-bourgeois selfishness, it places personal interests first and the interests of the revolution second, and this gives rise to ideological, political and organizational liberalism.

I realize that the use of the term in American politics has a different meaning I guess, but it does speak to an "individualism" that allows for a collapse of arm-in-arm solidarity.

I'm focused on the midterm elections - which we need to do much better with, but see little  hope that leftist individualists will be able to get it together to focus on forging strong coalitions to get anything accomplished. And liberals will dither.

My apologies if this offends anyone, but I'm on only my second cup of coffee

"If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition"

Bernice Johnson Reagon

[ Parent ]
Well, though I have many... (2.00 / 11)
19th century 'liberal' values about free speech, open markets, etc derived from J.S. Mill or the (much misquoted) Adam Smith, the word 'liberal' will be completely tarnished here for a generation since the Liberal Democrats decided to enable a rightwing Tory government in the Coalition.  

The p***artist formerly known as 'Brit'

[ Parent ]
question - sliding off topic sort of (2.00 / 11)
but when you cite "free speech" I'm curious about what you think of hate speech laws in the United Kingdom?

"If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition"

Bernice Johnson Reagon

[ Parent ]
Ha (2.00 / 14)
Well, there you have me. I believe in free speech, but it's not an absolute right: it's qualified by laws covering libel, fraud, conspiracy, and incitement to racial hatred and violence. I'm actually cool with that, as I am with the banning of Nazi insignia in Germany and France.

The whole saga of Murdoch and the British press, through hacking, surveillance, bugging, stalking and bribery, has proved to me a 'free press' in radically unopen and unfree market is a actually a conspiracy of silence.

I think 'free speech' is often used in exactly the same way, to prevent criticism of vested interests. It more than often suits those in power, who have access to the megaphone of the media.  

The p***artist formerly known as 'Brit'

[ Parent ]
yes the power of the press to bludgeon those (2.00 / 13)
who don't have that type of media monopoly tends to make the idea of "free speech" irrelevant for the powerless.

I actually wind up in long debates here with ACLU friends because I don't agree with protecting hate speech.

"If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition"

Bernice Johnson Reagon

[ Parent ]
I needed to read and re-read this. (2.00 / 11)
I wanted to make sure that I had time to form semi-coherent thoughts before I asked you a question about your comment.

This has been troubling me for a while, maybe because the definition of "community" seems to be ambiguous, at best, and used in self-serving ways, at worst:

To let things slide for the sake of peace and friendship when a person has clearly gone wrong

We build community, I think, to create connections that are strong enough to withstand adversity that may come our way. When we stand together we are stronger than when we stand alone. If we fall, the person next to us will pick us up and we can continue on.

But if the community becomes a thing unto itself ... if the community is formed but then members do not do good or effect change or stand with the others in order to avoid rocking the boat or irritating the powers-that-be ... what value does it have? I am reminded of one of the worst decisions by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in the 109th Congress: the decision to "keep his powder dry" and not push forcefully against the Supreme Court nomination of Samuel Alito. If community is the "powder" we need to expend to get people to push back against things that are wrong, what value does your dry powder ... or your neutered community ... have?

I have no answers, only questions.  

Words have meaning. Our words will reflect what is in our souls.

[ Parent ]
good question (2.00 / 10)
not sure how to answer - will think before typing any more right now.

"If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition"

Bernice Johnson Reagon

[ Parent ]
I will give you more to ponder. (2.00 / 11)
If the community blows itself up to make a larger point, is that valuable? Or is a neutered community, one that picks its battles so carefully that none pass muster, still better than no community? Maybe there are communities that shelter and communities that act. Can they do both?

There are probably no answers but I have had this "What is community?" question troubling me for some time now.  

Words have meaning. Our words will reflect what is in our souls.

[ Parent ]
okay..... (2.00 / 5)
i think, based on my experience in many different groups over the course of most of my adult life (i could qualify more if you want, ha!), that the answer to your question is: both.

if a community decides on a common mission, a singular purpose, the chances are possibly less that they will blow themselves up.  because.  there is always the purpose, the goal, the mission to re-direct thought and action.

the shelter comes from a group conscious that connects one another to the main mission.   the action comes from the same place.

so, what is the goal of the group?   is it broad, is it specific?   is it named?

whether or not the group will blow itself up will depend on how fast the group can get itself back to basics.  

i'm of the let the person know if they've "clearly gone wrong" point of view.  because.  it's okay to tell someone else that you think their pov is off what you think is base, and in return, for that person to tell you back, hey, look, i see it like this, this is base. to say that the communication is civil and respectful is a given.  and if there is any chance for minds to either be changed, or thought expanded to include another point of view, civility and respect have to be a given.  because.   paradox.   it exists.

make any sense?

"From single strands of light we build our webs." ~kj "

[ Parent ]
in all honesty, (2.00 / 6)
there are times however, when civility leaves me.
and i make a decision to burn a bridge.

it doesn't happen often. building coalitions is primary.  but when it is obvious that all good-faith efforts have been tried and re-tried and re-tried again, and no trust or connection has been built over time, then i'll either leave or... have been known to slam a door behind me.   i'm not a saint.  i haven't yet met one.   ;-)

"From single strands of light we build our webs." ~kj "

[ Parent ]
That's part of building communities. (2.00 / 5)
Knowing when you can't.

My step-father has been a civil rights leader since 1945. A Lutheran pastor, he ended up going from church to church helping them work through issues. One church got a letter from a black woman who eloquently requested membership but did not want to offend anyone. Karl called a meeting of the church council, and one person said they were not willing to be part of a church with black people in it. Karl helped that person understand that it would be OK for them to leave.

Sometimes you leave, sometimes you help others understand they can leave.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
what an extremely powerful and potent (2.00 / 3)
story.  it has sort of exploded in my mind.   :-)   so many things.

first, what a wonderful gift your step-father's story is, thank you. know that i will be an active listener for more of these insights of his and yours.

second, the fact that both sides of this story achieved a "yes" is something i truly, truly appreciate.

third and fourth, well, see "exploded in my mind" above.  much to chew on. sample, it has been a very, very long time since i last "killed the father" in layperson's jungian-speak. i know i am going through enormous change, moving locations will do that, but i didn't think in these broad of terms.  very good.

and the slower pace here is also appreciated.  this diary, for instance, might take me more than two or three or four days to digest.

"From single strands of light we build our webs." ~kj "

[ Parent ]
Thanks. (2.00 / 3)
Karl is a pretty amazing person.

In recent days I have thought a lot about the progress we have made in human relations during my lifetime, but Karl has been a witness and participant since long before. In fact he was about my age when I was born.

In 2008 we were all down in Key West visiting my brother on the anniversary of Bobby Kennedy's death. Like seemingly everything else, Karl had a great deal of personal experience of that day to share. As always, his insight was much more than simply as a recorder, but as a insightful interpreter.

I wrote one of my first blog diaries late that night, and posted it to, Rev. Karl Lutze, Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy and the Legacy we Carry for All of Them.

Bobby Kennedy, April 4, 1968

Seeing that video sitting here in Key West, Karl sleeping upstairs, all the current foolishness being said in today's media, the amazing speech Senator Obama gave that I watched again with my brother last night... It's hard to comprehend the magnitude of where we have come from, hard sometimes to reconcile where we are, and impossible to allow us to not go to where this all leads.

In 2010 Karl turned 90. We all got together at Mom and Karl's home in Valparaiso and late in the night before his birthday I wrote another article here on the Moose, Happy Birthday, Karl Lutze!

You haven't heard of Karl Lutze except from me, which is one of the minor tragedies and great glories of our time.  Unlike others who have made a career out of being race relations figures, Karl has simply been doing the job.  He was already doing the job when Martin Luther King Jr. first stood up to speak.  He had been doing the job for a decade when Rosa Parks refused to move from her seat on the bus.  Karl has been doing the job all along and you haven't seen him doing it, which is the greatest measure of anyone's success I can imagine.

Still today, literally today, Karl has done more direct good in the world than I will be fortunate to accomplish this year, or perhaps in my life. He is working on another book, providing advice and support to people in his community both involving projects he instigated years or decades ago and doing random good works in his community.

Karl is receiving an honorary doctorate degree, and he is quite upset about it.

He doesn't believe he has earned it.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
:-) (2.00 / 1)
off to read your diaries about Karl.
probably just exactly what i need to read this morning, too.
thank you.

"From single strands of light we build our webs." ~kj "

[ Parent ]
My favorite work of his is (0.00 / 0)
To Mend the Broken, which you can find used online at Amazon for next to free.

Karl challenged the Christian Press in 1965, that the church had been silent on the issue of black/white race relations. Concordia Press responded that if he felt so strongly he should write the book, he insisted that they change not a word, and so he did.

The terminology is of the period so he is not entirely comfortable with reprinting it, which is too bad. But as a insightful window into both the topic as well as the view from that period it is priceless.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
I think it may be simply semantics. (2.00 / 3)
My problem, I think, may come from conflating the terms "community" and "coalition" in my mind.

A coalition is a group of people gathered together for action, like the coalition that Van Jones speaks of ... labor leaders, environmental activists, civil rights advocates, women's groups and others ... coalescing around Barack Obama and Democratic candidates to effect change through electoral politics.

The coalition may develop aspects of community after it is formed and, indeed, many who join may be friends who first came to know each other elsewhere so it may involve the overlap of many communities.

The hardest thing, I think, is when you realize that people in those other communities you are part of do not support your coalition's work and, in fact, distance themselves from you when you need to expend some of your powder.  

I guess there will always be that friction. We then have to, as individuals, decide if the community and the friendships formed there can be kept separate from the work you are committed to doing.

Ha! I have probably made it even more muddled. Still processing, I think.

Words have meaning. Our words will reflect what is in our souls.

[ Parent ]
Sorry to be tediously academic about this... (2.00 / 2)
But I wrote a book on this many moons ago, apropos Cities and urbanism (I think Chris and other Moozog (pl) bought a copy).

A community, gemeinschaft in German, is a collection of individuals who know each other, have some common bond of filiation.

The extension of that is a society, a gesellschaft, of strangers, who affiliate through discovering a joint interest.  

It's like the difference between a village or small town and a city.

A city, polis in Greek, is the origin of the idea of politics, that one has to negotiate differences and find a common ground with those whose particular interests may compete, but who - in general - can both benefit from co-operation.

So it seems to be like this on US blogs. They are filled with different communities of interest. Holding them together, creating a coalition and society is vital, but even more difficult, as its so easy to create alternative spaces, and devolve into echo chambers and interest groups.

Just a few more thoughts to add to yours.  

The p***artist formerly known as 'Brit'

[ Parent ]
bookmark. (2.00 / 5)
i gotta go, will be back and start reading down (and up!) from here.

"From single strands of light we build our webs." ~kj "

[ Parent ]
It was such a good comment, so I'm pleased (2.00 / 30)
to see it expanded into a full diary.

I see this as a basic schism between Libertarianism and Socialism, at its root. To me, this binary is less apparent to many Americans, who haven't seen a full exposition of these political systems, as say, Democratic and Republican or Pragmatic and Progressive. I would even say that the Libertarian, individualist strain of thinking vs. the Socialist, collectivist model is a far greater and less bridge-able schism than the others since Dem/Rep is a matter of parties and Prag/Prog is a matter of methods; Lib/Soc is a matter of ideology outright.

Within the Democratic sphere as well as within the Progressive sphere, I see a Libertarian/Socialist splitting all the time which values either a more collective enterprise and which includes matters of social justice OR it values a more individualistic mode. I see some Populists misidentify themselves as Progressives because of this when they are probably more like Left Libertarians.

I'm moving afield of my response, sorry.

What you're talking about here is the kind of logic which literally deconstructs itself. On the one hand, it says, "To be effective, you must build coalitions," and then with the other hand, it proceeds to start a circular firing squad, shouting, "To be effective, you must not allow factions to form!" That creates a situation of endless inefficacy and instability as well, plus a kind of avalanching tumult. And it's very, very American at its core because it's more invisibly divided with less noticeable Libertarian-Socialist-driven division within the ranks, so to speak. That's of ANY Party, moreover.

I think this goes back to around the time of the Federalist Papers in terms of the weirdness of this paradox. A paradox which really seems to be particularly American. I wish we could decide if we're fighting for freedom or just fighting because it's become habit. I wish we could decide if we believed ultimately in the greater collective good, and an orderly good at that, or whether we just all said "Yeehaw! Let me get my freedoms on here, you authoritarian fucks!"

Fascism can happen on the Left as readily as on the Right. Solidarity is an antidote to that.

Sorry to be disjointed.  

I found this very interesting. Don't have (2.00 / 15)
anything to add except that I will be thinking about this.

[ Parent ]
Interestingly enough (2.00 / 8)
The original comment gained an important rec. So maybe the recent problems on other sites might be being addressed.

The p***artist formerly known as 'Brit'

[ Parent ]
Could you unpack this, please? (2.00 / 7)
Prag/Prog is a matter of methods

[ Parent ]
I'll try my best (2.00 / 10)
Short again on time, but here, what I mean by this is that Pragmatics, definitionally, are interested in approaches that are realistic and obtainable. This is by dictionary definition of the term, not my definition. The word "pragmatic" means to work within the realm of what's realistic and obtainable. Pragmatics is an interesting thing because there aren't just political applications of it: you'll find it discussed in Philosophy and Linguistics and other fields as well, basically because it's a methodological approach one can take, interestingly, even in the field of Philosophy, which seems to be an "unrealistic" field. Regardless of which area ones' discussing, the common thread is that pragmatics deals with approaching things from a position of likelihood, obtainability, and even sort of "view ability," dealing with the seen rather than the unseen or invisible, the real rather than the metaphysical. So this is a method by which one looks at the world: other into the world or "beyond" the world at hand.

"Progressive," by definition, means to move forward step-by-step. In other words, it's a direction (forward), but also a method (how to move forward? In steps or stages). Obviously in politics, it's picked up a different tenor for some and has commonly come to mean not only forward, step-by-step progress, but also moving toward the ponies and unicorns, as the saying goes, which is sort of the flip side at first glance of "Pragmatic." Instead of dealing with the immediate world, like pragmatics aims to, it intends to deal with the speculative, future world that has not yet happened and in that world, everything is still possible. So that's another method one can try to work through -- by achieving the "not-yet-possible."

To me, they're not full binary approaches because they're only a matter of degrees and also, a matter of how unobtainable one perceives the future to be. If pragmatic means to work with the real world in an obtainable way, and progressive is to move forward step-by-step, then these are by no means at odds with one another: a person can be both pragmatic and progressive.

Of course, because the goals (not the methods) of today's contemporary Progressivism are often stated to be sort of out of reach or lofty -- which is just one interpretation of what Progressivism is or stands for, right now -- and the goals of Pragmatists often are stated to be what we can do with what we've got, the two are SEEN as at odds, but these odds are less at the level of method and more at the level of current interpretation of goals.

I consider myself a pragmatic and a radical: I seek very radical change as a goal, but I will only approach this through highly realistic, visible channels. Also, I'm a little skeptical about the term "progress." But that's another conversation for another day. Any sane person would call me a Progressive (I would say I'm a Socialist-Marxist or something of that very classic Leftist stripe).  

Okay, that was longer than intended, sorry.

[ Parent ]
"Progressive" as a term drives me a little crazy. (2.00 / 6)
It means nothing and everything and has been used by both (assuming there are two) political sides to describe themselves. It implies an opposite opposition (like "Pro Life" vs. Pro Death) and therefore an implicit nose-thumb at "Regressives". And when debating the word here and elsewhere, it is often lamented that [sic]"but, conservatives say that liberal is a bad word!".

If the word applied to anyone (as opposed to everyone) it might apply to folks like me. I am neither particularly left or right but rather care only about what progresses the state of the world.

But I wouldn't use it for at least some of the above reasons, but mostly because only every single person worth ever talking to feels the same way. Nobody wants more suffering, less freedom, more poverty, dirtier air, more illiteracy, worse medicine, etc etc ad infinitum. The idea that anyone does is often the root cause of dissension and the lack of progress.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
I suspect progressive only applied (2.00 / 6) strange people who once liked Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer

I suspect both you and I, Chris, have some major confessions to make

It's OK. You should see my haircut circa 1976

The p***artist formerly known as 'Brit'

[ Parent ]
I'm laughing because I can't wait until DH comes home (2.00 / 6)
and I can tell him he's strange.  I can't tell you how many times I wanted to break a particular Emerson, Lake and Palmer album...can't remember the title now though.

[ Parent ]
Dunno Blasky... (2.00 / 6)
You actually 'had me' up until your last para/sentences.

Nobody wants more suffering, less freedom, more poverty, dirtier air, more illiteracy, worse medicine, etc etc ad infinitum

There a those who want to slash all regulations for food, air, and water quality.

There are those who want to maintain the status of  LGBTs as a lesser people, immigrants as a lesser people...and who want to regain the status of blacks as a lesser people, and women as a lesser people.

There are those who want to rid the nation of food stamps and free school lunches.

There are those who want to eradicate the Dept of Education and keep teacher's pay at the pittance that it is.

There are those who will fight to their, literal, dying breath to keep free and quality health care from being available to everyone in our Nation no matter their socio-economic status (or current level of health...or projected FUTURE level of health).

I guess the only way that I can bring myself to agree with the last of your to look at it differently.

There are those who just want MONEY and POWER more than they want less suffering, more freedom, less poverty, cleaner air, more literacy, better medicine, etc etc ad infinitum.

Just sayin...


[ Parent ]
Note I said: "Anyone worth talking to". (2.00 / 7)
The people who actually want more bad and less good are psychos, and while perhaps congregate to some extent on one political side I wouldn't bet on even that.

Conservatives who argue against social assistance do not do so (except for Ron Paul [see: psycho]) want people to suffer more, they think these programs gone too far keep people in poverty.

Likewise with education, those you mention believe that education could be better done with their methods (and I often side with them on some of those points, Canadian teachers being paid like kings with no increase in performance, and in my experience less).

On healthcare, every conservative I talk to both opposes Obamacare as well as recognizes the health care system is fubared. Their concern is not that poor people will get health care, it is that everyone will get less.

Sorry, don't agree at all about the Evil Opposition. The Right does as good a job at pointing at the Left for "wanting less freedom" and other negative points, which is as true of a fringe and as false of a majority as the contrary.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
/grin (2.00 / 4)
I still mostly agree with you.

And I still disagree with you on some points (but, I bet you already knew that!).

We will have to let those points fall into the 'agree to disagree' pile. /grin

Totally off topic----do you use your chrisblask email still? I get weird ping emails from it and I've not seen you reply 'in person' to one in a while.


[ Parent ]
I do, (2.00 / 4)
It was dead for a while but I revived it. Send me one of those weird pings so I can see whazzup.

Been following the herd thread discussions, just hadna spoken up. :~)

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
That is all it is... (2.00 / 4)




[ Parent ]
Not a word too long - thanks very much! (2.00 / 6)
They are rich words, and it is good to know how you are using them.  

[ Parent ]
Hello, new poster here (2.00 / 24)
I do agree with your observations regarding community moderation, but can't think of more to say while staying away from mentioning specific sites so I'll just say, "Hi." I've been looking around at this site and like what I've seen so far.

Hi - great to meet you (2.00 / 23)
I meant that rule merely to stop relitigating auld flame wars, not to chill debate. Please break it if continues the dialogue  

The p***artist formerly known as 'Brit'

[ Parent ]
Coming from a strong union environment (2.00 / 28)
I do feel a loyalty to a larger group and find myself being very bothered by various factions of Democrats attacking each other. Disagreement is fine but to me it seems hurtful to the collective group when the attacks turn to name calling and expressions of superiority rather than sticking to policy disagreements.

I feel that community moderation in a large environment seems to lead to a "pack mentality" which then makes moderation of very little value.  When a true troll comes on the scene the various "packs" may band together to counter the troll. But once the troll is gone they're back to attacking each other.

[ Parent ]
Very well said. (2.00 / 18)

Ho'oponopono. To make things right; restore harmony; heal.

[ Parent ]
Yes, there's a thin line (2.00 / 16)
between community policing and vigilantism, to throw the whole mess into high relief.  I know it's really not that polar, but I can't find a better pair of contrasting analogues.  If anyone has a better set of examples, please enlighten me, because I'm not comfortable with using so extreme a term as vigilantism -- I just can't come up with another.

"Fighting Fascism is Always Cool." -- Amsterdam Weekly, vol. 3, no. 18
(-8.50, -7.23)  

[ Parent ]
As far as blog moderation it is surprisingly simple. (2.00 / 13)
Some sort of "not so open a mind that it falls out" analog.

I have always thought "trolls" are much less common than people think, and real ones are much easier to spot. When I have final responsibility for moderating a forum I typically create some sort of light-hand/heavy-fist system where the vast majority of moderation is called out by the community, most of that is correct, and when I have any doubt I just toss them back into the soup.

The Open Source group on Linkedin has 95,944 members at the moment and I've moderated it for about four years. It is wide open (unlike many LI groups) and takes very little effort to moderate. I did it myself until about 75K users and now have two folks who volunteer and it stays incredibly clean. I just checked and booted three headhunter spammers (95,941 ;~), similarly in poliblogs you just let the community manage most of it but have no qualms about nuking anyone who just cannot abide.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
But what about those who come to hide or rec (2.00 / 9)
based on their friends calling for help?  If someone is popular they can get enough uprates to get away with saying anything.  If various factions do that it becomes a back and forth "slugfest", for want of a better word and curtails meaningful conversation.

[ Parent ]
That's what I mean by... (2.00 / 9)
...communalism: she's the enemy because she's not one of us. I uprate everything he says because he's from my group.

It's the amplification of this audience of friends and foes which makes the individual arguments so nasty.  

The p***artist formerly known as 'Brit'

[ Parent ]
That is where someone has to take responsibility to make hard choices. (2.00 / 10)
Also, if the conversation gets that bad before that point there is already a deeper problem with the conversation.

I am happier to take heat for killing an ugly conversation by fiat than to let the whole community go south. Honestly it does not often get to that point in forums I am to blame for, for much more subtle reasons than resorting to nuclear options.

It is kind of like the gun debate. While being someone who reserves a place for guns as self defense, I push that line far, far further to the edge than most folks. The vast majority of dangerous situations can be defused with words better than the threat or use of violence. Been there, done that, have the T.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
Thanks, I think I'll like it here n/t (2.00 / 7)

[ Parent ]
there's a lot of red meat to chew here. (2.00 / 31)
Everyone who compares the President to a gamer (Checkers, chess, even poker) has a couple of big gaps in the analogy. One is that the game of governing never ends.  Achievements (not wins) are always subject to revisit. Another is that the game's objective is at best poorly defined.  There is a mathematical theory of "hypergames," in which players are actually playing different games with incomplete information about not only the opponents' potential moves but also about what the opponents define as winning.

Here's an example.  A guy walking down the road comes across a lady with a trunk full of iPod boxes.  The lady offers to sell the guy an ipod for $50, saying that she bought them from a small business owner in desperate need of cash.  The guy is thinking "on the plus side, I get a cheap ipod.  on the minus side, it may be stolen."  He decides after some agonizing to pony up the Grant and walks away.  Opening the box, he discovers it is empty.  The lady was playing a different game...

relative to individualism and groups, you raise some interesting ideas.  I've long droned on (yikes) about the individualist vs. group divide of the rural vs. urban interpretation of red v. blue in this country.  Coalitions are another animal all together.  to watch coalitions form and dissolve in parliamentary gov'ts is fascinating to me, as our coalitions have ossified into the current two party situation, with no hope, since at least the '94 GOP revolution, of movement.  At the local level, it can often be a different matter, but national politics are in bad shape.

one aspect among many (2.00 / 16)
contributing to the present state of unfortunate affairs in national political discourse and understanding is the dramatic change in means of communication following the Communications Act of 1996 (97?). We went from a nation with 60-plus companies that published newspapers, ran radio and TV stations, published books to one in which five, count 'em five, megacorps control nearly 100% of non-internet communications.

And while we live and breathe internet, not everyone does. The numbers of people who have access regularly and easily is still shockingly low, and our infrastructure is so poor that download speeds are much slower than in other parts of the world.

Clearly, this isn't the only reason for the state of things, but it's one that is, I think, often overlooked, or not noticed at all.

Even if the voices aren't real, they have some pretty good ideas. -- Anonymous

[ Parent ]
it's also the case that the family owned papers and stations (1.91 / 11)
had their agenda but were at least someone independent of corporate influence.  The situation now in the consolidated landscape is that the profit motive completely drives everything.

[ Parent ]
I work for such a paper although it was sold to the corporation long before (2.00 / 12)
I got there.  While the content choices remain local to a large degree monetary influences from Corporate obviously affect the quality of the product.  And it has suffered.  Less staff means less quality in more ways than one.

Of course, nothing beats the time a couple of years ago when the CEO and others came up for a townhall.  When asked, in front of people who knew they were about to lose their jobs, to justify his million-dollar bonus the CEO replied that he had met his goals.  Yep, on the backs of employees.  With the stock price in the toilet and subscriptions continuing to decline.  The publisher was visibly mortified that the question was asked but he's a brown-nosing corporate shill.

"When Fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in teh stupid and waving a gun" ~ Esteev on Wonkette

[ Parent ]
Vermont, eh? (2.00 / 8)
I worked for what what then a great family-owned newspaper a bit south of you, and was lucky enough to do so while it was still arguably one of the great newspapers, run by a tough old bird who lived and breathed newsprint and had a fierce dedication to covering all the news in the circulation area.

And I mean all. Zoning boards, courts, town meetings, we were out on the road at all hours and in all weathers, but bygod people got to read about what was going on in the larger community.

Unfortunately, and as often happens, the third generation wasn't awfully bright and got greedy, and so the excellent small chain was gobbled up by a bigger chain that stripped the newsroom of expensive reporters and calls recycled press releases "news."

It's a pattern repeated all too frequently across the country in recent years. The coincident rise of the iternet just exacerbated the problem.

Even if the voices aren't real, they have some pretty good ideas. -- Anonymous

[ Parent ]
One of the biggest reasons we get from people dropping their (2.00 / 6)
subscriptions is the lack of "local content."  We cover Burlington and the surrounding Chittenden County pretty well but the smaller towns aren't covered much any more because there is no news staff with which to do so.

"When Fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in teh stupid and waving a gun" ~ Esteev on Wonkette

[ Parent ]
one of my old compatriots (2.00 / 6)
worked up there for a while, finally decided that a writer's life wasn't what he was supposed to be doing, and now he makes and sells (quite successfully) high-end pottery, which is a kind of poetry in itself. Strange world.

Even if the voices aren't real, they have some pretty good ideas. -- Anonymous

[ Parent ]
And I've taken up knitting. Hmmm. :) (2.00 / 5)

"When Fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in teh stupid and waving a gun" ~ Esteev on Wonkette

[ Parent ]
taking orders? (2.00 / 9)
i'd like some itch armor, plz


Earth is the best vacation place for advanced clowns. --Gary Busey

[ Parent ]
this is simply bizarre (2.00 / 6)
Someone had waaaaaay too much time on his/her hands.

Even if the voices aren't real, they have some pretty good ideas. -- Anonymous

[ Parent ]
Also some young ladies (2.00 / 3)
"knit bodysuit images" via Uncle Google

[ Parent ]
That's posted on (2.00 / 4)
Yet another site with images of young people with subcutaneous implants and snakes in their ears.

[ Parent ]
Somehow I knew that comment was from you. (2.00 / 5)
But I was expecting something more on the order of a jockstrap.

"When Fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in teh stupid and waving a gun" ~ Esteev on Wonkette

[ Parent ]
Love your Ipod box story (2.00 / 11)
At one level it suggests to me that the problem with US politics, compared to the UK, is that decades of personalised culture wars have so exacerbated the blue/red divide, neither side trusts the other even to establish the rules of the political game.

This was true here during the 80s, when a Labour supporter wouldn't even date a Tory, or vice versa. Meanwhile, I lived in Boston for a year, and was amazed by the number of cross party votes and bipartisanship. Now the positions seem completely reversed. A republican wouldn't date a democrat. But in the UK, even with the asinine Coalition in power, I wouldn't seek to culturally judge any Tory friend or associate. Indeed, they could well support gay marriage, disapprove of religious intervention in politics, oppose the death penalty and gun ownership, even if they were very right wing on other issues.

The polarisation has gone, and I hope it disappears sometime soon in your country too.  

The p***artist formerly known as 'Brit'

[ Parent ]
trust seems gone. (2.00 / 7)
and I think that is a big issue.  The GOP has for some time demonstrated a complete lack of trust in Democrats.  Obama stands alone in the sense that he seems to want to trust the GOP to do something.

Just before the election, 60 minutes on CBS did a fluffy little piece on partisanship.  The one striking thing was when they had McConnell and Reid on, together.  The body language showed me that these two despise each other.  Didn't exchange a single pleasantry... went straight to talking points designed to criticize opponents.

Another image comes to mind from my old undergrad stats book.  I've attempted to recreate it here:

[ Parent ]
An interesting dilemma in Wa. State.... (2.00 / 30)
'Bipartisan' state Senate means rejecting voters' own values

Republicans in the state Senate dropped a political bomb last month when they announced that they were seizing control of the majority with the help of two renegade Democrats. Calling themselves a philosophical majority, Republicans detailed their proposal for what they say is a power-sharing arrangement, and talked about bipartisanship, centrism and "putting the people of Washington first."

As a member of the deposed majority, I would be lying if I said this didn't initially feel like a hijacking. But wounded pride aside, this is politics, and as a member of the new minority, I would be foolish if I didn't take the Republicans up on their invitation to move toward a more collaborative way of governing when the 2013 Legislature reconvenes on Jan. 14. Cooperation, moderation, policy over politics - these are good things.


What initially felt like a hijacking to me has turned out to be a hijacking after all. Senate Republicans have hijacked the legislative process under a cloak of bipartisanship, in order to block critical legislation supporting women's rights, social programs, education and the environment. This does not reflect the values of our great state. These policies were thoroughly rejected at the ballot box in November, and will make harmful, polarizing public policy or, worse, stop positive policies from advancing or even seeing the light of day.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out....and it is certainly going to require a focused response from the Dems in supposedly safely blue Wa State. Working for a bigger and more honest Democratic electoral majority seems to me of utmost importance!

Love is the lasting legacy of our lives

It is indeed a mess..... (2.00 / 15)
Both a governing challenge, and a challenge to my perhaps idealistic political beliefs. My hope is that neither side will trust the 2 renegade Dems, thus diluting their power. And that hubris will trip them as it so often does.

Regardless it is going to impact the ability of the newly elected Democratic Governor to be as effective as he could be.

Love is the lasting legacy of our lives

[ Parent ]
Too tired to be cogent so I'll simply say thank you for the more than (2.00 / 28)
warm welcome to we weary travelers.

"Pin your money to your girdle and don't talk to strangers."  My Grandmom's advice when I went away to school.  I don't wear a girdle and have never met a stranger.  Sorry Grandmom!

Hi nannyboz, and welcome. Hope you are ok. (2.00 / 25)
I am tired too, but trying to catch up on a lot.

Rest well.

[ Parent ]
Hey Regina (2.00 / 14)
Happy to see you out and about. * waves *

Even if the voices aren't real, they have some pretty good ideas. -- Anonymous

[ Parent ]
Hi Regina! Hope you're doing well! Lots of familiar faces here. Nice (2.00 / 9)

"Pin your money to your girdle and don't talk to strangers."  My Grandmom's advice when I went away to school.  I don't wear a girdle and have never met a stranger.  Sorry Grandmom!

[ Parent ]
Seconded. (2.00 / 21)
Brain a little fried right now. Much to digest in this diary; need to come back tomorrow.

But so, so grateful for the warm welcome.

Ho'oponopono. To make things right; restore harmony; heal.

[ Parent ]
Interesting thoughts. (2.00 / 18)
I'll chew on 'em.

How ya been?

The civil discussion I'm seeing above (2.00 / 26)
is what I used to see ... elsewhere.

Debate the policy, debate the philosophy, not the personality.

You guys get it.

But it's very damaging for the left, which has always relied not on money power, but the ability to form coalitions transcending individual interest through collectivity, solidarity and loyalt cohesion

THOSE with a Civil Rights background understand this, but the majority still cling to an individualised form of liberty which makes every compromise a betrayal. And every coalition a circular firing squad.

This observation has so much truth.  And explains much about what's going on (or down) ... elsewhere.

The diary and comments are worth a re-read for further digestion.

you are most certainly not a dumb Brit :) (2.00 / 20)

And yes - most of us who were formed during the Civil Rights Movement (though we had a spectrum within) had to have  solidarity - blackness in the face of unrelenting racism in the States tends to enforce that.

Oh there are a few mouthpieces who have opted for the adulation of the white left and gone their own way but they are the exception rather than the rule. And are ignored, by and large by the masses of black folks who are just trying to struggle on each day with surviving.

It also plays a part in why there is such rock solid support for Democrats (these days) in the black community who line up behind the POTUS, even if there are individual issues that folks have critiques of.  The minute a whiff of racism and/or privilege crops up from our white leftist friends we lock arms.

We know what we have to lose. Have fought too damn hard to claw to where we are today.

Hell - the Wilmington 10 just got "pardons" after 40 damn years.

This is one of the reasons we are able to have genuine camaraderie on the front porches and stoops of our communities.

When you can never forget you are black and hated by a very large segment of your fellow citizens it is sobering (to say the least) and creates bonds that are bone deep.

"If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition"

Bernice Johnson Reagon

I occasionally try to point out to other white people (2.00 / 11)
That we really have an obligation to listen to what black people have to say about racism, regardless of how we feel about what black people say, because black people are the experts on racism directed towards black people, not us. It's striking how often this does not go over well, especially with white men.

I use exactly the same arguments to explain to men that they should listen to women about sexism.

How hard is it to listen to something that makes one uncomfortable? How hard is it, compared to living one's entire life dealing with the scarring effects of discrimination, always fighting against being marginalized, dragged down?

[ Parent ]
Forget about ObamaROX/ObamaSUX... (2.00 / 18)
I'm all about the ObamaSOX:



need 'em, got 'em, got 'em. (2.00 / 13)

Earth is the best vacation place for advanced clowns. --Gary Busey

[ Parent ]
I am a Obamabot! We were referred to as fanboys by the famed blogger from (2.00 / 13)
My dreadful dead blog..

[ Parent ]
for me it's the Obama Box (2.00 / 8)

[ Parent ]
and thanks to whoever deleted the duplicate. (2.00 / 6)
as we used to say in the old country, "GACK!"

[ Parent ]
What a pleasure to read such intelligent discussion. (2.00 / 12)
Thank you all.

It really is wonderful when it works, eh? (2.00 / 13)
The difference between intelligent discussion and pie-flinging is a much narrower divide than most think. Most folks will talk intelligently given the right opportunity and subtle cues.

The rot in a conversation is kinda like a fire. If everyone lets the first licks of flame take hold the whole structure is gone in minutes despite heroic efforts. Conversely, those first licks can be stopped by whomever is closest with a moist towelette, with no effort at all.


John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
Excellent analogy on the fire... (2.00 / 12)
In real life there was a lightning strike that started a small fire in Lassen Natonal Park in 2012. Two people nearby went to put it out with shovels and were stopped. Official policy was / is let it burn. 3 weeks, millions of dollars, thousands of man hours later, thousands of acres were destroyed and the fire was contained.

Blogging, politics, life in general...we need to step up and do our part to keep things on a reasoned and logical level whenever possible. I know it is not always possible, but too much damage can be done to reputations, coalitions, attitudes, and as above huge costs if we do nothing.

[ Parent ]
Note to Self - (1.75 / 4)
Nurture Inner Moist Towelette.

[ Parent ]
Hey miki! (2.00 / 5)
Not sure you got a Moose welcome, so

Welcome to the Moose!

Yes, indeed, the moist towelettes are an under-appreciated accessory. A nice touch of lemon helps, too. ;~)

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
ty - intro to come later. eom :-) (2.00 / 4)

[ Parent ]
I mean absolutely no offense to any commenter but :) (2.00 / 9)
Man, I wish Strummerson and/or Shaun Appleby would pop up.  Two fabulous minds that are sorely missed in this conversation.  (Although I frequently have to read them twice to understand.)

"When Fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in teh stupid and waving a gun" ~ Esteev on Wonkette

[ Parent ]
Concur. (2.00 / 7)
Missing those two just now.  Worried over Strummy, per usual.  Appleby, well, you know how he gets when he's deep in a project.

I'm busy designing a platform to test Roman naval battle scenarios and flight tracking interesting aircraft out of Iranian airspace.

When I think of Appleby, I see Matt Damon.  How is Shaun not CIA?


Earth is the best vacation place for advanced clowns. --Gary Busey

[ Parent ]
I've been thinking about your contrast between (2.00 / 15)
individualism and communalism, and in particular, its uniquely American flavor. And it occurred to me that my life revolves around yet another example, both in contrast and American flavor, and that is American Protestantism, particularly as manifest in the Evangelical style that is so bemusing to Christians of the European variety.

Church (ecclesia-which referred to community), is by its nature a communal beast, a union or organization with specific goals in mind and a tendency to come together around those goals. However, there is also a VERY strong whiff of individualism in the emphasis that has grown, particularly since the First Great Awakening (thanks EVER so much Jonathon Edwards), of the importnace of church as being simply the context in which the individual "get's their Jesus on," so to speak. I can see this particularly in the rise of the "mega church," "nondenominational church," or "unaffiliated church," which eschews denominational ties or identification. Not uncoincidentally, there is more than a touch of radical Calvinism and prosperity gospel to many of them, and even those that downplay these aspects with an emphasis on grace, seem to revolve still around a cult of an individual leader and the breaking into cliques.

This tension between the individual and the community, has manifest in various ways in American Protestantism, which, in spite of the increasing acknowledged secularism, maintains an outsized power and influence that does itself, and the nation, nothing but harm. In some ways, I see this tension within the lives of the faithful as a significant part of the motor driving the paradigm being discussed in your post, Peter.

And I'm also beginning to speculate that, as far as America is concerned at any rate, this tension is our default state. I won't go into the concept of "original sin" here, as this rambling comment has already monopolized too many bytes. :)

Brilliant addition to the conversation (2.00 / 14)
Yes, yes and yes.

Really insightful point about the collective/communal role of religion. This is also going to be very handy for my next book, which looks at Scientology, but against the background of the Great Awakening and unique free market forms of American faith.

Thanks for such an informed reply.  

The p***artist formerly known as 'Brit'

[ Parent ]
this is a very interesting comment. (2.00 / 10)
were i a conspiracy theorist, i would be wondering if these mega-churches had as a goal the weakening of community ties.

[ Parent ]
My off the cuff sense (2.00 / 10)
is that, while the weakening of community ties is not a goal, the strengthening of very specific and closed community is, with the resulting weakening of ties outside of this very specific and closed community. The paradox rears its ugly head again here, as the individual, particularly the individual relationship with Christ, is emphasized to the point of possibly weakening the community they are trying to build. Part of the way this is addressed is to encourage the "individual" to see themselves as special and rejected by the "community" at large (thus the incredibly annoying victim mentality), therefore protected by the specific community.

Cognative dissonence-you're soaking in it. And I don't honestly know if this is an intentional thing, but I would speculate not, as this does not create a healthy community in any sense, and I am giving the particpants/leaders the benefit of the doubt that they really are striving for a healthy faith community. I speculate that it is an inevitable result of the feedback loop of individual/community and the cycle of strife, as Peter describes it. Think of all aspects of "community" in America as,maybe, fractal representations of this paradigm as a whole.

Now I'm really talking out my nether regions, and would appreciate any assistance in cleaning this up.

Fractals, pfft. What do I know about fractals....

[ Parent ]
can't help thinking of an old Eyebeam cartoon. (2.00 / 10)
the main character, Eyebeam, built a chair that could be jacked up through an opening in the roof of his house, so that he say about three stories high.  This gag lasted several days, but the panel i'm remembering had him sitting up high in the sky, reflecting..."only in solitude can one find one's true self" or some such.  After a moment of silence, he started jacking the chair back down, saying "but it's my friends and family that define my place in society, who I am..."  after a moment, he's frantically jacking the chair back up into solitude "I've got to get my identity from those turkeys?!?!?!?"  

'tis an undamped oscillation.  no fractal necessary. nether regions undisturbed.

[ Parent ]
Another great visual incapsulation (2.00 / 9)
I also like the Russian idea of cold porcupines... I think you can fill in the details.  

The p***artist formerly known as 'Brit'

[ Parent ]
This is part of what I find heartening in the Episcopal church. It is rooted (2.00 / 14)
in the idea of church as a body with many parts, that the diversity of the members is a feature, not a bug, and that coming together as church not only means we together can do more but that each of us is more fully our own proper selves. I would find it very hard to be in one of the individualistic protestant churches.

[ Parent ]
The British Labour Party is always described as a broad church (2.00 / 8)
(Not a church for broads - though it is that too)

Something about that ecumenical spirit, from the agnostic liberalism of my mum, to the high church near Catholics, and the nigh on Puritan evangelicals, always appealed to me

And I was a choirboy for seven years at an Anglican Church school. Our Vicar, who had been a missionary in Africa and was already in his 70s in the 60s, once played   'my Sweet Lord' at one of the services. He heard the Hari Krishna chant and said "that's really interesting"  

The p***artist formerly known as 'Brit'

[ Parent ]
And we can laugh at ourselves, as you can see in the summary: (2.00 / 9)
High and hazy,
Low and crazy,
Broad and lazy.

[ Parent ]
A reasonable sociological analysis (2.00 / 11)
that you've obviously put alot of thought into.

But, its possible the problem could is much simpler.  in all my time at a certain blog, it became obvious to me that much of the angst derived from inequality in the treatment of different segments of the community; an inequality that the powers-that-be tried very hard to deny it even existed. The denial was often masked in dismissive adages like "Both sides do it", "Roxxers and Suxxers", while figuratively throwing their arms into the air feigning helplessness. The cure? "arbitrary and capricious bannings". Unfortunately, the random and arbitrary bannings were clearly one-sided, one side clearly favored, while the other side harshly treated. In my experience, these rifts amongst the community are a reflection of rifts amongst the PTB. Some of the PTB fully dedicated to a mission of electing more and better Democrats, while others amongst the PTB more interested in the politics of the far left and not necessarily Democratic politics, while defending some of the most aggregious offenders on that blog. In fact, some of the more vocal of the far left are not even Democrats, despise Democrats, and either voted Third Party or not at all in the last election. Yet, they are coddled. Until a true unity of purpose exists on that blog, the problems will persist. IMO, this dystopia is a result of and a reflection of the imbalances most of the regular users see but don't discuss and the failure of leadership to address it in an honest way.

I've probably broken one rule or other by posting this. If so, feel free to delete it. I won't be offended and I'll refrain from this type of commentary in the future. I only posted it because your thoughtful diary sort of made me think about all this.

That was a great comment (2.00 / 7)
Which, though clearly inspired by experiences on an unnamed other blog, speaks to broader problems on the US blogosphere. The problem of moderation is, to me, the problem of conflict resolution. All politics revolves around conflict: it's famously 'war by other means'. Resolving that conflict with some kind of justice, so both the rights of the individual and the democratic desire of the majority are both preserved, is one of the trickiest and most complex tasks to pull off. We should all learn lessons from it.

So no, your thoughts are valuable. And you expressed them without any personalised rancour. Cheers.  

The p***artist formerly known as 'Brit'

[ Parent ]
Here here! (2.00 / 7)
Well stated. And I fully concur. For me, I find it strange how we approach the Internet dialogue with the basic premise that "we shall argue," whereas we approach conversation with the basic premise that "we shall exchange thoughts." At least that's how the net's always seemed to me: awfully contentious. Thus the need for moderators online at all. Real life isn't filled with moderators other than in incredibly limited situations. Presumably we really do, some of us, act differently online than in real life then? If we could stop doing that, but then, we're also forced into a position of inventing ourselves through our textual medium solely a la Walter Benjamin. Perhaps it's an ontological problem, this act of be-ing online and how we "be" here, and thus we have these odd and different needs.

I think it's a different sort of conflict resolution than IRL where the stakes are... how do I say this without sounding like a Philosophical twaddler? More somatic. More bodily. It's just that way though. We come online and act as though we've stepped into a teflon suit because online, no one can hurt you physically. Where am I going with this again? Somewhere not quite this circular. At any rate, I think all the comments about having to have thick skin online (there's that metaphor of a disembodied online self which is re-embodied with a different human suit altogether, to quote Donnie Darko, sorry)... I think we need to seriously question the wisdom of that and also, show again and again how unreal it is because we are still perfectly embodied behind our online disembodiment.

Sorry if that gets way off topic; it's a bit of an aside that strikes me as highly important given the very NEED for moderation at all online and what the root cause of this even is, and I think it's a very deep ontological issue which could change with enough critical consciousness about it.

[ Parent ]
"it's an ontological problem" (2.00 / 6)
Can one conceive of a blog more contentious than which nothing can be conceived?

[ Parent ]
Thank you for the kind words, Peter (2.00 / 6)
I firmly believe if there is dysfunction in a community or organization, the likely cause is a failure of leadership. IMO, the root cause for failure of leadership in this case is because there lacks a unity of mission or purpose. If I'm told the purpose or mission of a blog is to elect more and better Democrats and the PTB acknowledges that many times, but then I see rank and scurrilous attacks on Democrats, open advocacy for third parties, open advocacy for not voting or protest voting, then the community is left confused and conflict results.

[ Parent ]
This whole thread is my greater interest in the Moose than the political context it carries. (2.00 / 7)
How we evolve our ability to share knowledge in this new medium is of more interest to me than politics. From my perspective it is also the answer to how we do politics in future.

The first (or fifth, or however we choose to count) wave of online forums we see in the poliblogoshpere is very much still an evolutionary stage as opposed to an end. Aspects of leadership errors loom large in this stage, and their causes seem quite clear.

We want to have a limitless discourse. Early adopters carve from the wilderness zones defined (or undefined) by their own whim, where No Authority is Going To Tell Me...(!) In groups of homogeneous inhomogeneity we revel in our freedoms.

That goes the way of a cliche sixties commune, dissension arises, and a few strike off to do it Right themselves. Kingdoms arise, where benevolent autocracy reigns.

The Moose is perhaps a slight sign of what comes after all of this. A social grouping of not-entirely aligned interests which has to work through issues to maintain itself. Still an experimental platform as likely to fail to rise above a given Darwinian plane, it is a fragile lifeform which may not directly antecede future life forms but may be one of many tidal-pool indicators which foreshadow future trends.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
As someone recently (2.00 / 8)
punished in an extremely not fair or equal manner, I couldn't agree more. I totally get pet issues, frustration at how hard it is to get our voices heard, etc. What I don't get is shouting for the sake of shouting. Abusively speaking to people that support the current administration and about the current administration. You cannot simultaneously be committed to electing democrats and disparage democrats as a group. I am not even saying that everyone needs to be a democrat, I hope that is not what I am conveying, I just mean that a conversation cannot happen about what is good, what is bad, and how we can affect change when you approach it from such an aggressively dismissive and insulting manner.

Shake it like a Polaroid picture.

[ Parent ]
You have a reputation as a reasonable and thoughtful (2.00 / 7)
poster. I don't know what happened to you,  but its indeed unfortunate.

[ Parent ]
Thanks a lot, (2.00 / 7)
I appreciate it. I really could learn so much if the dialog was more conducive to discussion and less to insulting and demeaning others, which I am sure will be the case here so I am excited. I appreciate your thoughts on this. :)

Shake it like a Polaroid picture.

[ Parent ]
I can never quite get over (2.00 / 6)
How rude other blogs are. Especially liberal ones. It's quite staggering really. And not conducive to debate. You're not likely to change your ideas if someone is calling you an idiot - nor likely to persuade them if you're doing the same. But most conversations start off with 'Bullshit' and go down hill from there. Perplexing and enervating at the same time.  

The p***artist formerly known as 'Brit'

[ Parent ]
Exactly! (2.00 / 5)
I don;t even mind swearing and passion when it comes to someone trying to get their point across about something that is very dear to them, but when arguments are nothing but "you're a fucking idiot, clap louder", the discussion doesn't even qualify as a discussion. If that makes sense.

Shake it like a Polaroid picture.

[ Parent ]
Oftentimes (2.00 / 5)
Some are very insulting, they get recs, and if someone points out the insult, they simply don't see what they had to say as insulting. That blindness is rooted in self-righteousness: "Calling you a dumbs is not an insult, if I'm right that you're a dumbass".

[ Parent ]
Yep, and the (2.00 / 5)
overall tone is so filled with anger and condescension, there is no where really to go with it.

Shake it like a Polaroid picture.

[ Parent ]
this is a fascinating and productive thread (2.00 / 8)
(my contributions notwithstanding)

thanks, everyone.

Earth is the best vacation place for advanced clowns. --Gary Busey

I think one of the problems (2.00 / 8)
that arises, er, elsewhere :) is kind of a tangent from what you said. Those that distrust any sort of communal action tend to paint people that do trust it in the broadest brush possible.

I am a pragmatist. To me, that means I live in the real world, and I try to understand the world around me. To me, that means I have internalized, as a core part of my philosophy, the title of the Rolling Stones song, "You Can't Always Get What You Want," except I've changed always to often. Or sometimes ever. To me, this is, above everything else, pessimism. I'm a pessimist extraordinaire.

What being a pragmatist does NOT mean is that I'm a "centrist", a "right-wing troll", a "DINO", or anything else. I would love to be able to vote for somebody for president whose even to the left of Bernie Sanders, and have 300 in Congress and 60 in the Senate just like him.

Not. Gonna. Happen. Ever.

That is why I'm a pragmatist. And some people will never understand that. The world is not ideology. I can't wave my Harry Potter Wand and make this country what I want it to be.


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