On Crying Wolf

Ever since the election, a huge number of articles, videos, and discussion comments associating Trump with white supremacy have catapulted across the internet. There has been a lot of this:

“I feel like personally apologizing to every POC, LGBT+ person, and woman of childbearing age. I want to live in a Stronger Together America, not a white nationalist fascist America.”

and this:

“White supremacy and white denial helped Donald Trump win the White House.”

and:

“No Trump, No KKK, no fascist USA.”

and:

“So how long before whites are simply outnumbered by non-whites, so that a strategy based in White Nationalism isn’t enough?”

and:

“Today we saw that in the 21st century, you can run an utterly incompetent campaign headlined by a man utterly and obviously unfit for office, and as long as your guiding star is white nationalism you have a good shot at the win.”

and:

“If you voted for Trump, your vote encouraged the language and actions in this video [of white supremacists giving Trump the Nazi salute]…. Stand up, tell your chosen candidate that he needs to do more than say ‘stop it.'”

In light of this elevated state of concern regarding white supremacy/nationalism, I have been investigating the topic quite a bit, because if it were true that Donald Trump is in favor of white supremacy, that would be extremely concerning.

A few days ago, though, I stumbled across a powerful and well-researched counterargument to the claim that Trump is openly white supremacist and the candidate of the KKK. This author’s counterargument is important and should be considered.

You don’t have to like Trump even slightly to read this, as the author himself is anti-Trump. The conclusion is especially powerful, so read the whole thing.

Two good excerpts:

This, I think, is the first level of crying wolf. What if, one day, there is a candidate who hates black people so much that he doesn’t go on a campaign stop to a traditionally black church in Detroit, talk about all of the contributions black people have made to America, promise to fight for black people, and say that his campaign is about opposing racism in all its forms? What if there’s a candidate who does something more like, say, go to a KKK meeting and say that black people are inferior and only whites are real Americans?

We might want to use words like ‘openly racist’ or ‘openly white supremacist’ to describe him. And at that point, nobody will listen, because we wasted ‘openly white supremacist’ on the guy who tweets pictures of himself eating a taco on Cinco de Mayo while saying ‘I love Hispanics!’

“But as I pointed out in Part 4, a lot of these accusations [against Trump] shy away from the word ‘racism’ precisely because it’s an ambiguous thing with many heterogenous parts, some of which are understandable and resemble the sort of thing normal-but-flawed human beings might think. Now they say ‘KKK white nationalism’ or ‘overt white supremacy’. These terms are powerful exactly because they do not permit the gradations of meaning which this subject demands.

Let me say this for the millionth time. I’m not saying Trump doesn’t have some racist attitudes and policies. I am saying that talk of ‘entire campaign built around white supremacy’ and ‘the white power candidate’ is deliberate and dangerous exaggeration. Lots of people (and not just whites!) are hasty to generalize from ‘ISIS is scary’ to ‘I am scared of all Muslims’. This needs to be called out and fought, but it needs to be done in an understanding way, not with cries of ‘KKK WHITE SUPREMACY!’

Please read it. For peace.

You Are Still Crying Wolf

To the Left

Why do politics divide us? Really, why do they?

All people, whether they admit it or not, hold beliefs which are based on other, more fundamental ideas which are based on deeper, even more fundamental ideas which together form a “philosophical pyramid,” if you will. Politics, which rests at the fourth level of this pyramid, concerns itself with defining and enacting a proper social system. Below politics is ethics, which deals with discovering and defining the moral values that people should live by. You can’t decide on the best social system without first having some sort of ethical code (whether you hold that code implicitly or explicitly) that you use to weigh and judge a political system. Beneath ethics sits epistemology, which deals with the question of how humans can claim to know anything at all. You cannot determine which kinds of human behavior are good and which are bad, for example, if you do not have some sort of method by which to know anything at all. To be specific, some people believe that the Bible is an appropriate method of acquiring knowledge; others believe in their innate intuition; others believe in logic; others believe in some mixture of all of these methods; etc. Epistemology provides an answer to the question, “But how do you know?” And finally, below epistemology lies metaphysics, which concerns itself with the question, “What even exists in the first place?” Metaphysics is the investigation into the nature of the universe itself and the kind of world we actually live in. (Do we live in seven dimensions? Or one? Or inside a computer? Or in the hands of a god? Or in an illusion or a dream?)

Why do politics divide us? Because people hold vastly different beliefs about things that lie quite low on the philosophical pyramid. People do not actually agree on the kind of world we live in or on the proper method for acquiring knowledge. They especially do not agree on the proper moral code for human behavior. And so these people will obviously disagree on what kind of social system is the best kind to have in America.

Do politics really divide us in America today because some people are just ignorant, miseducated idiots with hate and fear and sexism and racism in their hearts? Really? Is that the essential reason why this is happening?

I posit no.

And I posit that nothing is going to get better until we face our disagreements for what they actually are: disagreements about the deepest, most important questions of life.

Please stop treating this era in American history like it is the most obvious thing in the world, because it isn’t. If you cannot clearly define the metaphysical, epistemological, and ethical positions of the opposing team, you should not present your opinions about the election as authoritative.

This is for you, Left.

A Revision

I would like to qualify my statements from Two Minutes of Hate last week. Throughout the whole (brief) post, I referred to the object of my hatred simply as “politics,” which was an imprecision. I said, for example, “Why hate politics? Because politics puts a crown on the head of the worst methods of human thinking and enshrines those methods on a comfortable throne.” 

My use of the term “politics” did not make clear the distinction between contemporary politics and politics as a vital branch of philosophy. My statements failed to differentiate between politics in essence and politics in the manner in which they are carried out today in our compromised, pluralistic, unprincipled, mixed-bag of a collectivist quasi-democracy.

In philosophy, politics is the fourth level of the pyramid. Politics sits on top of ethics, which sits on top of epistemology, which rests on metaphysics. Politics uses ethics to set goals and determine the proper actions to take in order to bring about the best future for humans living together on Earth. Political philosophy is, according to Ayn Rand, “abstract theory to identify, explain and evaluate the trend of events, to discover their causes, project their consequences, define the problems and offer the solutions” (from Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution). In this sense, I actually love politics.

Compromised, pluralistic, unprincipled, collectivist, quasi-democratic politics are “an affront to the good, the noble, the just, and the true” (to quote myself), but they are not all politics.

I think this distinction matters. I would like to revise what I said.

Two Minutes of Hate

Read “Apolitical Reasons to Hate Politics,” by Bryan Caplan.

Why hate politics? Because politics puts a crown on the head of the worst methods of human thinking and enshrines those methods on a comfortable throne.

Politics utilizes fakery, hyperbole, lies, bandwagons, group-think, and compromise to get its way. With a smile.

Politics is an affront to the good, the noble, the just, and the true.

Politics acts like there is no other way.