I often wonder why I take the time to write an entire article, when many of you just read the headline and start a pissing match in the comments. You beg for short reads, and then criticize the lack of nuance.
Well, there is no tl;dr version of this one. But it needs to be said.
Today’s podcast episode continues the set of conversations with Richard Dawkins, Michael Shermer, Adam Carolla, Pete Boghossian, and Lawrence Krauss on Dogma Debate.
This article, and those individual podcast discussions, are long-time coming wake-up calls to liberals, leftists, and everyone in the barely surviving “Secular Community” about what it means to be reasonable.
We’re eating our own. We’re destroying our message. We’re disintegrating.
And this is an article on why it’s happening and how we can fix it.
In this world of black-and-white thinking, just refusing to be extreme in any direction will have the mob headed your way.
If you share a post from a Black Lives Matter advocate, then you obviously hate cops and white people.
Backing the Blue bumper stickers used to mean you understood the tough jobs police have. But now, it means you’re a racist asshole.
If you think Milo has reached the limits of free speech by abusing it and bullying people, you’re a “Social Justice Warrior Snowflake” who can’t stand to be disagreed with.
If you think Milo hasn’t reached those limits, and should still give those speeches even if he’s completely wrong, you clearly hate everyone in the LGBT community, you piece-of-shit neo-con.
If you’re against sucker-punching a neo-Nazi, that can only mean you are in fact, a neo-Nazi.
If you accept the existence of a deity based on someone else’s personal experience, you’re called an idiot.
But if you refuse to avoid particular people due to harassment allegations based on someone else’s personal experience, you must approve of all harrassment.
If you voted for Bernie, protested Trump, and have marched with liberals for 20 years, but disagree with a “No-Whites Day” at a college campus, you’re a bigot.
If you’re an atheist, and think religion is poisonous to culture, that by definition includes Islam. But if you say that Islam is a poisonous religion, you’re an Islamaphobe racist who hates all brown people.
Here’s a reasonably controversial reality check: Black Lives Matter. And cops have really tough jobs.
It is possible for an unarmed person to threaten the life of an officer, and some police departments are riddled with racism all the way up to the chief.
Both happen. And of course, it’s so reasonable that it’s controversial to state either position.
Here’s another reality check: One can believe that Muslims are good people while also believing that Islam is a poisonous belief structure. Just like we can say that Christians can be good people while Christianity poisons American society.
These aren’t mutually exclusive properties. We’re talking about people vs. their ideas.
It’s also possible that someone who doesn’t pick up on the social clues of a particular stranger can come off as “creepy” to one person, “clueless” to another, “harmless” to you, and “flirty” to someone else.
But subjective interpretation of private events hasn’t been accepted as evidence to ruin the accused since the witch trials.
Stating any of these facts shouldn’t warrant ridiculous insults of “racist,” “Islamaphobe,” “rapist,” “Nazi,” or “Libtard.”
But it happens… constantly, as we divide ourselves on social media.
If you even hint at one of the obvious facts above, you can expect an assumption, followed by an insult, and then likely, a mob-attack from keyboard warriors who are giving liberals and skeptics a bad name.
Then, we splinter.
Our lists of blocked people is growing. Our small groups are splitting into smaller ones. And private Facebook groups are becoming more elite and strict on word-policing by the minute.
Then we attack our allies for the 5% difference we see, instead of unifying on the 95% and working to combat the common enemy against science, freedom, and reason.
And we wonder why we’re losing elections, losing funding, and our conferences are getting smaller.
It all comes down to us having a serious problem with active listening in this community.
Here’s a good rule of thumb: If you can’t restate someone’s argument back to them in a way in which they agree, then you’re not yet ready to form an argument against them.
Read that again.
Only then, can you begin to make a coherent rebuttal.
But reason rarely occurs in our reactionary world of social media where quick one-liners get “wows,” “likes” are trophies for screenshots, and human allies are expendable rubbish.
Here’s what usually happens:
Al: “I can’t believe Joe hates X-Men!”
Fred: “Whoa… what evidence do you have for that?”
Al: “Here’s a video.” [with 12 views, highly edited with tiny clips taken out of context.]
Fred: “That seems more like propaganda. I didn’t really see hatred there. Have more?”
Al: “Wow, so you hate X-Men, too!”
Fred: “I didn’t say that!”
Al: “By saying you don’t see hatred like I do, you’re saying X-Men aren’t significant!”
Fred: “OMG, I just want better evidence before I jump to conclusions.”
Al: “How dare you minimize the plight of X-Men. What a piece of shit.”
Fred: “I’m just trying to…
A world where asking for additional evidence is considered hateful can only be called regressive.
On the left, it’s becoming quite common for us to beat one another into submission with extreme false claims, accusations, and assumptions.
We tell the other person what they’re “really saying” instead of asking them to clarify their own points.
We use statement A to assume statement B and then base all of our hatred on our assumption, and stick that person into a box they never agreed to be in.
And then you sit back with wine, and refresh Facebook, seeing how the masses will vote you into popularity with the like button as your cult grows.
And to avoid being attacked, the vast majority of reasonable people stay silent.
You sit and watch, wondering if your online reputation is worth supporting a fellow reasonable person who is being swarmed.
Now let me explain why this behavior is referred to as the Regressive Left.
Take into consideration, the Horseshoe Theory…
The center-most point at the bottom of the horseshoe is where your moderates are. At the two points furthest from one another (in the middle of each side) are true Right and true Left. This is where all the reasonable people are, who disagree without trying to ruin each other, cause violence, or silence the other from having an audience.
But as either side becomes more extreme (far right and far left) they start to converge back toward the same extreme ideology of control, with witch hunts, false accusations, tone policing, body language policing, and violence: each fighting to become the new oppressor and silence the opposition.
An extreme leftist protestor punching a white nationalist on television looks a lot like racists in the sixties punching blacks for trying to vote.
Liberals shutting down a conservative speaker with violence and force at a university looks a lot like fundamentalist Christians blocking the entrances at abortion clinics.
Of course I understand the differences and nuances here. But the call for violence and force to become the new oppressor is the common denominator causing both extreme ideologies to converge at the tip of the horseshoe, making you both appear out of touch with American values of freedom and compassion.
We worked so hard to become progressive, liberal, and ‘Left.’ But your extreme actions are leading us back to oppressing those who you feel are wrong, and stripping those people of the same rights you have.
They should be silenced, punched, banned, fired, ridiculed, and blackballed.
In essence, you’re regressing the liberal goals away from equality, human rights, and peace; back to old conservative ideas of war, violence, force, and blasphemy laws.
So this is a call for all liberals to return to being reasonable, even in the face of leftist mob attacks.
I am controversial simply because I am reasonable, and think through issues out loud on my podcast. I make myself vulnerable, admit ignorance and strive for compassionate compromise to gain peace. But I refuse to let either side adopt me as a cohort.
As an example, my solution for the Milo vs. University situation was this:
Milo should be allowed to give his talk, but put into his contract that if he uses his platform to single out or bully a specific student, the talk will be stopped and he will be fined a percentage of his speaking fee for breaking the bullying policy of the university. All protestors must remain 300 feet from the entrance to the auditorium to reduce the concern for violence.
Both political extremes hate it because neither of them get to dominate the landscape.
Exactly. Neither of you get to be the oppressor. Reasonable people want equality.
So here’s to being reasonable, even if we lose friends over it.
And here’s how we can save ourselves from the road of regression:
Let’s agree to focus on reason, logic, and evidence instead of clique mobs.
Let’s stop assuming that since you overcame that one big illusion of religion, that you’re somehow immune to believing false things.
Let’s acknowledge group psychology, and refuse to succumb to it.
Let’s re-embrace the love for skepticism and apply that to all parts of our lives, not just the ones in our comfort zone of criticism.
Let’s stop demonizing those with whom we disagree.
Let’s allow questions to be asked without assuming that horrible motives are fueling them.
And finally, let’s communicate with active listening skills.
Once we do this, we can move forward without fear, re-unite for the greater good, and be stronger to fight the enemies that are trying to destroy the future of democracy and science.
With a little effort, self-control, and active listening, I believe we can win in the long run…