TLP, then and now, 7/23
maybe we can't have civil conversations; and clarifying the term "enabler"
A few years ago, there was a Thing where some pro football players would kneel during the national anthem before a game.
To Progressives, the football players were drawing attention to black Americans as an oppressed group. They were showing that the American flag in part represents oppression of blacks.
To conservatives, the American flag represents our civilized value. Showing disrespect for the flag put the players on the side of barbarism.
To libertarians, the ritual of playing the national anthem and saluting the flag comes across as state-worship. It amounts to praising state coercion.
In 2013, when I first wrote The Three Languages of Politics, my idea was to show how the same issue could be interpreted differently according to three axes: oppressor-oppressed; civilization-barbarism; or liberty-coercion.
By 2016, when I wrote the second edition, I decided that the three axes were not used so much to interpret issues. Instead, a better use of the model was to describe how each tribe chose to demonize those who disagree. Progressives characterize those who disagree with them as on the side of oppression. Conservatives characterize those who disagree with them as on the side of barbarism. Libertarians characterize those who disagree with them as on the side of the coercive, intrusive state.
My thinking by this time was that most people hold nuanced views. Although they might use a preferred axis to signal to their own tribe and to demonize another tribe, they are capable of escaping from their preferred axis in order to understand other points of view.
But I have come to hold a different view of Woke Progressives. For them, the oppressor-oppressed axis is not just one possible way of interpreting issues that seems particularly useful to progressives. For the Woke, it is the way. They cannot be persuaded, because for them the traditional tools of persuasion—logic and facts—are illegitimate.
So my original hope with the three-axes model was to promote accommodation across political tribes. But I do not think that accommodation is helpful in dealing with the Woke. Instead, I have come to label those who accommodate them as Enablers.
The Enabler is someone who is conflicted about Woke activists. The Enabler believes that the Woke are correctly pointing out aspects of oppression. But the Enabler also is uncomfortable with activist tactics that violate freedom of speech and inquiry. But the Enabler is unwilling to punish activists who shut down others’ speech.
I'm disappointed in the conclusion here. It's an attempt to de-humanize our woke opponents and characterize them as non-sentient, machine-like ideologues, to argue with whom is like (as the old saying has it) "talking to a wall". And as we all know, walls don't respond to incentives, have feelings, or seek tribes. Once you see your enemy as less human than yourself, it's easier to kill him. This is the old, old run-up to war: "My enemy won't listen to reason. The only thing he understands is force."
Doesn't the woke left say the same thing about us? Don't they see us as obtuse and unreasonable? Don't they think that we can't be persuaded? It's especially shocking to see the author of the ground-breaking "Three Languages of Politics" abandoning his powerful thesis and making an exception of the woke, simply because they are so irritating.
And the rôle of politicians in Government is supposed to be moderator between the tribes, brakes on too quick social change, filters to keep out the extremes.
Nowadays those in Governments no longer know these functions, instead are enablers, supporters, even instigators of any tribal posture that gives some political advantage and to that end rather than filter out extremes, adopt them as policy and accelerate social change with no consideration of the consequences.