The Uncomfortable Moderate

In my recent online activities, I have become involved with a group of people united against an online phenomenon known as “doxing”, which involves the releasing of an opponent or offense giver’s private or personal information, generally for the intent of cowing somebody into shutting up.

I am a progressive, and due to this, take a favorable view of feminism.  To me it is merely a way of seeing the world through the eyes of a woman, who wants rights, without having to be one (unless some radical feminists get to decide), and this helps develop feelings of empathy.

To have a sense of how the world looks to somebody else can only be a good thing (with a few exceptions).

Moderation?

Moderation?

Part of the values system of feminism is attempting to treat others with respect, and this involves avoiding the use of numerous words.

For example, “faggot” may well be edgy and cool to use in a conversation, but a gay person who has dealt with the word their entire lives as a way of belittling them, might not feel the same.  “Whore” has come to mean less a derogatory word literally meaning a prostitute, but merely a woman one doesn’t like or who is promiscuous.  I also cannot use it genuinely.  My brain simply doesn’t function in this manner.  “Nigger” referred to human beings literally as property, but due to appropriation, has changed radically over time.  To use it in it’s intended sense today is the most hideous ugliness a decent person can imagine.

O'Reilly

O’Reilly dropping some truth bombs (not literal bombs)

I feel I can use it occasionally, but solely in a joking manner, sometimes inspired by it’s flippant use by gangster rappers, or while explaining an aspect concerning it (as I did above).  If I refer to it (not use it) in a serious way, or in a context in which saying it would be inappropriate, I change it to “the N word”.

If I ever seriously meant the word I would need to reexamine my entire life.  I find myself unable to use any of these words in any other way than a disingenuous and purposefully satirical fashion, making fun of the people who sincerely do.

Some will take this as “word policing”.  People pummel you with bizarre accusations of authoritarianism, as if the freedom to offend is the defining factor of freedom of speech, rather than dialogue and expression (and to some, offense IS their expression, sadly).

Or they accuse you of “white guilt”, or “male guilt”, or even “white quilt” (which was particularly offensive), rather than a very basic and simple desire to respect others, not knowing what they may have experienced.

"White quilt", the worst quilt of all.

“White quilt”, the worst quilt of all.

There is no PC police of which I am a member, but there is also a difficult tension within me.  My desire to not cause harm is sometimes at odds with wanting to have a free and open debate.  I have developed a passionate hatred for “doxers” who try to silence others on YouTube and Twitter through intimidation tactics, but in recent exchanges with anti-feminists have noticed the rampant use of “whore”, “faggot” and others.

This puts me in an odd place.  Do I say “hey guys, let’s lay off the faggot stuff” or start “policing” the chat, potentially derailing the conversation?

In this age of edgelordism, coolness is often measured by the amount to which one can appear to not give a fuck about the words one is spewing, but I want mine to have meaning and not be littered with pointless hateful rhetoric.  I am at odds with the views of others, but we are united in disdain for doxing and censorship.  I’m also (personally) anti blocking and muting, and never disable comments or ratings.

Total freedom.


 

A screen you will not see from me.

A screen you will not see from me.

The doxing crowd themselves freely throw out “nigger” and talk about Muslims with outright hostility, and all are united in strong dislike for feminists.

I have zero problems causing offense.  That gives me no pause.  But I do have problems causing harm.  When I know I have hurt someone my entire demeanor changes, I only want to help them.  An ex accused me once of hurting her on purpose, because when she started crying I was so conciliatory.

I had argued so forcefully from strong feelings, but realised upon seeing their effect the worthlessness of that argument versus hurting the person I was talking to.  Even if I still believed I was right.

It’s true.  I hate hurting others.  I don’t enjoy it.  That’s why the fucking tough guy stuff makes me cringe.  Smack talk doesn’t rile me up, especially on the internet.  I feel embarrassed for the person who is doing it.  If you have to smack talk, you must have such awful self esteem.

The opposite of me.

The opposite of me.

Why are we expected to care about your job, girlfriend/boyfriend, income, qualifications, looks, life, anything?  Why the fuck should I or anybody else care about that?  Particularly if you are an unpleasant person, or say stupid things?  I would feel sorry for myself to ever envy such people, I’m so glad I don’t.


In the recent spat between “new atheists” (who would refer to themselves as simply “old atheists”, but whatever, hardly as offensive as “regressive atheists” is it?), and progressives/liberals, progressive commentator Kyle Kulinski attempt to play the ‘moderate’ in the following video:

His goal was to bring to mind for “new atheists” the importance of geo-politics in the radicalisation of Muslims and the perpetuation (and arguably creation) of ISIS.

I admired these efforts by Kyle, though it’s easy to see both sides are fairly intransigent and good faith dialogue is potentially wishful thinking.  Other commentators such as Dave Rubin, alongside Sam Harris who later went on an angry rant about people like Glenn Greenwald and Reza Aslan on Kyle’s channel, expressed an admiration of what he was trying, but emphasized that “regressives” argue in bad faith, so it wouldn’t work.  Whether it was hopeless or not, I respected Kyle for taking a real middle-ground in terms of how he approached the dialogue.


Kyle had decided that instead of placing the progressive or the “new atheist” narratives above the other, he would recognize that both contain valid concerns.  This could be seen as fence-sitting to some, and as a progressive, in some ways it is.  I think the “new atheist” narrative of religion and scripture being  the primary drivers of Islamism, particularly in the modern context, is far less relevant than the historical, geo-political and sometimes cultural considerations that define the progressive narrative.

However, I could see the worth in legitimizing each side for the purpose of bringing people together who disagree, to create a broader understanding among all involved.  That could only be a good idea.

Not long after however, Kyle unequivocally came down on the side of the “New Atheists”, destroying his own forced neutrality in one fell swoop by justifying the “culture wars” narrative that often (in my opinion) walks hand in hand with “new atheism”:

I believe mocking university “guidelines” for speech revealed Kyle’s complete lack of genuine moderate intent.  The “war of civilizations” idea is constantly pushed by “new atheists”, particularly in the blog of one Michael A. Sherlock, who is implacably determined to prove that ISIS are indeed Islamic experts, scholars and the representatives of the religion: Dear Isis (so polite).

The idea that the worst people who fall under a certain umbrella are the most legitimate representatives of that movement, is analogous logic to the idea that university “guidelines” are necessarily Hitlerian, or that radical feminists are where to look when assessing feminism as a whole.

If this is the logic Kyle goes for, how could he not buy the “new atheist” narrative?  The segment betrayed his lack of moderation and excessive cultural bias.


The Third Way

The Third Way

In the 1990s Bill Clinton and Tony Blair were advocates for a style of political moderation known as “Third Way”.  This attempted to balance left-wing and right-wing policies.  However, finding a middle ground between a generally correct stance (in my opinion), and a generally incorrect one (again, my opinion), only leads to injecting bad ideas into the good one.

This lead to “left-wing” politicians ponying up to banks and financial institutions, and in the case of Tony Blair, terrible wars (though Christian solidarity with Bush could have factored there too).  Later, the “Blue Dog” democrats in America were nothing more than a bunch of corporate shills, not ‘moderates’.

The idea of political moderation has become (rightfully so), synonymous with “selling out”.

Is it possible for “new atheism” to mold to progressivism and vice versa?  Substantively, I would think not.  Exclusionary “new atheist” rhetoric simply doesn’t gel with the progressive ideals of religious and cultural tolerance, of which I am an adherent.

But minds can change, and “new atheists” can become more progressive, so to me it is not a pointless exercise if, through extending an olive branch and trying to have civil discussions, we can show them that we do not have demonic “regressive boogeyman” views in regards to radical Islam.  We merely have a different opinion in what we see as the most important perpetuating factors, and have facts to back those opinions up.


This kind of moderation pertains to how we choose to debate.  We can be moderate in our style of addressing political and philosophical opponents, without “selling out” our values or deciding to take on false narratives in order to please others.

I had somewhat of a disagreement with a friend, who felt that there is no reasoning with closed minds and that “moderation” leads to corruption of the moderating individual, like in the case of Kyle.  However, I know where I stand, and what I believe, and am not about to abandon my values to opportunism.

I suppose the question is, what can we do to encourage others to not do what Kyle did?  To think critically, and not buy false narratives, just because these narratives are being espoused by your friends and colleagues but are not necessarily accurate?

I don’t know for sure, but I will think about it.


Avoiding well poisoning, fallacies, ad hominems and so forth, and trying to understand people even if I disagree, to me would be the “ideals” of “true” moderation (in debate).  But to unquestioningly agree with others would betray this, and that’s what Kyle did, uncritically reporting biased information put forth by YouTuber Sargon Of Akkad as fact.

I’m trying to think of a scale, on one end of which is well-poisoning and other low tactics, on the other sycophantic agreement and fan-boyism.  Unfortunately this scale doesn’t quite make sense, but if readers have any ideas about how it might work, drop me a line!

Just make sure to place all the good stuff that brings people together, in the middle.

Fuck you, quilt!

Fuck you, quilt!

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One thought on “The Uncomfortable Moderate

  1. Atheism for many operates like a stealth religion now. Since science is uncovering more evidence everyday that religions are actually a stabilizing, selfishness suppressing force for society, and that goes against the core antitheist beliefs, it looks to me like antitheists are just the latest addition to the growing family of anti-science activists.

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