Guest post: Everything has completely shifted

Originally a comment by Artymorty on The very definition of adult public discourse.

It’s quite true that we should avoid relying on “us vs. them” mentality too much, and I suppose it’s healthy to reach across the left/right divide every now and then. I’m probably giving myself way too much credit here, but I believe I’ve always been the type to at least try to give the right’s ideas the benefit of the doubt — I wouldn’t dismiss them out of hand simply because they come from the bad guys. I’m trying to find an old Jon Stewart joke from the early 2000s I used to be fond of, that went something along the lines that you could make the left turn against any idea by simply getting Joe Lieberman to endorse it. I’ve always been aware that there’s a lot of that kind of tribal in-group thinking on the left, and I’ve always tried to put myself above it and ground my political stances on reason rather than tribal identity. (Or at least, that’s what I’ve flattered myself into believing.)

But in practice it rarely mattered whether one’s leftist beliefs came from merely identifying as a leftist or from reasoning one’s way into them, because the two were almost always in alignment, at least as I saw it. There were enough reason-minded people at the helm of leftist thought to keep the herd on course. No matter how hard I looked, I almost never found instances where the right’s position seemed more reasonable than the left’s. There were some examples where the left was wrong, though, and I kept them in mind as important lessons the left should learn from: their betrayal of Salman Rushdie; their knee-jerk attitudes about religious rights; Noam Chomsky’s genocide denialism in Bosnia and Cambodia; etc.

But things feel different now. Everything has completely shifted. The leftist herd is now led by emotional soundbites spread through social media, and it’s drifted far from the course towards reason. The right recognizes this and are seizing on the opportunity to position themselves as the shepherds of reason, and some young people are getting behind them. And it makes me sick to my stomach with fear, because mingling in among the right-wing herd are a lot of dangerous, harmful ideas that could quite literally destroy the planet.

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