Trump’s joke was that if he murdered someone on Fifth Avenue, his supporters wouldn’t care. And for some, that’s likely true. Can the same be said for Michael Avenatti, at least for the moment?
So, if you’re counting, this makes at least three media outlets @MichaelAvenatti has made blustery, buffoonish legal threats to. But, by all means, keep being an uncritical worshiper. https://t.co/twMepfDKAB
— Popehat (@Popehat) May 17, 2018
What made this curious is that Ken has been calling out people who threaten defamation suits for years, invariably to the applause of those who despise the blustering assholes who try to silence criticism. But this time was different.
Ooh! What a pithy rejoinder! Musta won the Debate Queen title in high school, huh? If you are attacking Avenatti, the world can safely assume you are a Trump Troll. Buh-bye.
— Steve D. (@SDuskin) May 17, 2018
The only difference is that the blustering asshat wasn’t some random jerk, but the lawyer-of-the-moment, Michael Avenatti. And so the unduly passionate turned on Ken. A Trump Troll? What else could he be, there being neither intelligence nor integrity in the battle for social hegemony.
This reaction to anything perceived as negative to the tribe is common. It’s how fools respond. But of course, this won’t turn Ken to the dark side. It is, however, a reminder that no rational person wants to be a member of this idiot’s tribe either. And that’s the nuance vehemently denied.
Bari Weiss tried to explain it, only to start a flurry of similar reactions giving rise to its very own trope: If you call someone a Nazi, they become a Nazi. It’s a reductio ad absurdum trope, but serves to deflect from the point, that frivolous and knee-jerk attacks on anyone who fails to adhere to your orthodoxy do not persuade them to join your tribe, but drive them away.
Conor Friedersdorf tried to add some nuance to the discussion as well.
Weiss’s concerns did not imply the need for any great progressive concession—merely describing people like Sam Harris accurately would suffice to address them.
Yet they were met with anger and mockery.
Among the many dismissive retorts:
- “Anyone who moves further right bc they’re called alt-right was headed there anyway.”
- “I remember when conservatives called themselves the party of personal reaponsibilty. Now they’re the party of ‘Its your fault somehow that I choose to be human garbage.’”
- “‘If the left would just stop being so left, then the right wouldn’t feel the need to be so right’ is a SWELTERING take”
- “I get that logic. Someone once insulted me in grade school by saying I waddle like a penguin. Now I’ve spent the last 15 years of my life naked in the Antarctic, plunging into the icy depths to catch fish, and warming eggs underneath my crotch everyday.”
An observer could be forgiven for supposing that the progressive left has always rejected the notion that promiscuous labeling can push people toward extremism. Yet progressives have long championed a variation on that same position.
And as day follows night, Conor’s point was proven.
Once again @conor64 expresses greater concern over left rhetoric than right bigotry. What’s fascinating here is that in paralleling conservative bigots with Muslim extremists he’s acknowledging that these guys are the cultural equivalents of radicalized agents of terror. https://t.co/xm6TSPOags
— Jeff Yang (@originalspin) May 16, 2018
“Greater concern”? In the scheme of comparative evils, there is no evil worse than the one you hate, and thus no discussion to be had. After all, evil must be thwarted by all means necessary. Even if that means being no more honest, no more intelligent, no better.
No, Ken White won’t turn into a Trump troll because some blithering idiot called him that. But he surely wasn’t endeared to the idiot’s cause because of it.
The desperate denial of this slightly subtle point doesn’t serve to change the point, but to prove it. No one is going to become a white supremacist because some fool on twitter calls them that. But there is a better than decent chance they will realize the social justice mob is irrational, its positions nonsensical and hypocritical, and a club they don’t want to be a member of.
What eludes the screamers is that there is a middle. A vast middle of people who are principled, who reject the simplistic stupidity of the mob and want nothing to do with it. They will never join the other tribe, no matter how often they’re the target of infantile ad hominems, but they will never join your tribe either.
As it happens, all of this social justice shrieking has made one thing clearer than it has ever been. There is far more in common between the right and left in the middle than there is with the insane fringes of either side. There is a commonality based in reason where centrist conservatives and liberals can talk, can agree, can agree to disagree but still share ideas without being called a “Trump Troll.”
Both Bari Weiss and Conor Friedersdorf are smarter and stand atop bigger soapboxes than a trench lawyer, so it’s worth listening when they have something to say. It doesn’t mean you have to agree, or agree entirely, but to dismiss them, or ridicule their points with simplistic tropes, is to demonstrate that you either lack the intellectual capacity to grasp their message or are so hellbent on your tribal ideology that you can’t bear to consider any point that might undermine your beliefs.
Thus, there’s a litmus test in here. One of intelligence and integrity. One of tolerance. To pass the test doesn’t require agreement, but acknowledgement that screaming racist and misogynist, and “Trump Troll,” isn’t going to score any points. You’re just substituting one trope for another. You’re just a useful idiot for one tribe or the other. Nothing more.