Politics, recent, Review

Politics and the Practice of Warm-Heartedness

A review of Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America From the Culture of Contempt by Arthur C. Brooks. Broadside e-books (March 2019).

“While politics is like the weather, ideas are like the climate,” Arthur Brooks explains. “However, even a climate scientist has to think about the weather when a hurricane comes ashore… Political differences are ripping our country apart, rendering my big, fancy policy ideas largely superfluous.”

Brooks, outgoing president of the American Enterprise Institute and author of a shopping list of bestselling books, is now taking on the challenging question of how to bring together a divided country. In his latest book, Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America From the Culture of Contempt, he makes the case that Americans are sick of bitter, personal fighting and want a more united nation. The challenge is to work out how to get there.

Brooks blames America’s bitter politics on the “outrage industrial complex”: the media, politicians and commentators who entice voters, attract television viewers, and sell books and event tickets premised on hatred of the other side. These individuals take advantage of “motive attribution asymmetry”: the belief that you are motivated by love and your opponent is motivated by hate. This moral righteousness makes for aggressive conflict. Shockingly, research suggests that Democrats and Republicans in America display similar levels of motive attribution asymmetry to Israelis and Palestinians. In Britain, the conflict between Remainers and Brexiters appears to be reaching similar levels of fury.

The tendency to believe in the righteousness of your own side links closely with New York University professor Jonathan Haidt’s “moral foundations theory,” which identifies how political views are motivated by divergent moral appetites. Haidt found that progressives exclusively prioritize care and fairness, and while conservatives consider these first two moral foundations important, they also value loyalty, authority and sanctity. So it’s not that conservatives don’t care about refugees, they just place greater importance on protecting the nation from perceived danger. Meanwhile, it’s not that progressives want to steal your money and spend it on useless government, it’s that they genuinely care about the poor and believe more government is the solution. In sum, both sides believe they have their views for the morally correct reasons—but those on the Right are marginally better at understanding their opponents because they attach some value to care and fairness, whereas those on the Left often struggle to see the point of loyalty, authority and sanctity altogether.

This sense of righteousness and the associated conflict grows when we only interact with, and therefore only understand, people similar to ourselves. Brooks points to the growing tendency to cocoon ourselves in like-minded social groups and the herding effects of Facebook and Twitter. The lack of exposure to different viewpoints—other than when they are presented in the most negative light—allows us to dehumanise the other side.

Brooks does not just bemoan the state of political debate in America, he explains how to reduce tensions and improve the quality of public debate. The solution, he says, is to remember that your political opponent is not evil and that you and she have quite a lot in common—we are certainly more similar than we are different. “Just because you disagree with something doesn’t mean it’s hate speech or the person saying it is deviant,” he writes. Fundamentally, what we all want is the same: a prosperous, free society, where our kids can go to school safely and have plenty of opportunities, and where our wants and needs are satisfied. You should not just tolerate the other side, you should embrace them, show affection, and be happy that they are there, engaging with you and being part of the discussion. In other words, you should love your enemy.

Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama

Easier said than done of course, but Brooks has some tips from the Dali Lama about how to achieve this. “Your Holiness, what do I do when I feel contempt?” he asked him. The Dali Lama responded: “Practice warm-heartedness.” To do so, according to Brooks, it’s important to separate a person from their views. A person’s views might be wrong, misguided or downright evil—but that doesn’t mean the person is. This is much harder online, where a mixture of anonymity and aggression can cause some of the worst human behavior.

Brooks advises us to begin with listening respectfully to other people’s perspectives, be positive and not overly critical, try not to show contempt or hatred, and seek out places where people disagree to build new friendships and understanding. Even if you’re not inclined to do this—and as a loud-mouth, excessively-opinionated over-talker myself, I feel your pain—but making a real effort to follow this style of discussion will, apparently, make you a better person.

To build yourself up, it’s important to find the people with whom you disagree but with whom you share fundamental principles. With these people, you can engage in serious discussions, not with a view to beating them but, rather, building understanding and sustaining an idea in the face of competition. Brooks writes that “if we bring people together and emphasize our common stories, we can discover the new and broader ‘we’ required to overcome mutual contempt.”

This will not only make you calmer, but it will also improve your arguments and even your health, according to Brooks. Those who play the politics of hate do not change people’s minds; they just make both sides more bitter and polarized. In practice, insulting someone makes them more likely to oppose your perspective. It’s better to listen, understand and then try to change minds. Research also suggests that contempt makes you unattractive, unhealthy and unhappy. Nobody wants to be friends with or date a mean person—despite the myth that the mean guy gets the girl.

Identity politics makes it hard to treat people, particularly those you disagree with, as individuals with whom we share common aspirations for a better world. Demographic characteristics can, of course, have a meaningful impact on people’s life experiences and worldviews, but we get little out of focusing on them excessively. Brooks writes that “the key to overcoming prejudice and discrimination is not to double down on what makes people different; rather, it is to undermine prejudice with something more powerful: the empathy and compassion we all naturally feel when interacting with actual people and connecting with them as fellow humans.” Brooks talks about establishing “brigading identity”—that is, finding our common humanity in spite of our demographic differences. This means searching for the shared “why,” not the divergent “what.”

Brooks fills out the book with plenty of cases of what can happen when people who disagree figure out that we are all still human. He discusses Black Lives Matter activist Hawk Newsome addressing a crowd at a pro-Trump rally. What could have turned into a violent mess became a unifying moment when Newsome opened by saying “I am an American” and calmly explaining that he is not anti-cop, just anti-bad cop. Newsome goes on to read from the American creed: “We don’t want handouts. We don’t want anything that’s yours. We want our God-given right to freedom, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The video of the affair has over 2.1 million views on Twitter alone. This shows, Brooks claims, a real appetite out there for those who want to bring people together.

Importantly, Brooks explicitly rejects the popular “centrist” notion that compromise and moderation is the solution. There is nothing virtuous in abandoning your principles. There’s nothing useful about everyone agreeing with each other. What we need to do is work out how to argue better. Competition between different ideas and values is not the problem. In fact, competition fosters and sustains excellence. We should be arguing, in good faith, from a variety of perspectives about the best way to improve society.

Good arguments are essential to humanity’s advancement. As J.S. Mill explained, “It’s hardly possible to overstate the value, in the present state of human improvement, of placing human beings in contact with other persons dissimilar to themselves, and with modes of thought and action unlike those with which they are familiar. Such communication has always been… one of the primary sources of progress.”

Brooks says that “disagreeing better, not less, is what we need to lessen contempt in America and bring our country back together.” We should do this while remembering our shared ends and our friendships and family bonds with those we politically disagree with.

There’s nothing simple about following this approach. It’s much easier to deride your opponent than take her seriously. It’s much easier to dismiss her as a loony rather than engage with her arguments and evidence.

In the end, however, you will be much stronger says Brooks if you can figure out how to love your enemies.


Matthew Lesh is the Head of Research at the Adam Smith Institute in London and author of Democracy in a Divided Australia. Follow him on Twitter @matthewlesh

104 Comments

  1. the gardner says

    I have tried many times to have a civil discussion with a progressive. The discussion usually derailed when I used facts to make my point. The progressive seemed unfazed by facts, rejected them. They were driven by feelings. So, eg, “it is just morally wrong for some people to have too much money” was a point of view that could not be challenged. I even debated late term abortion with a fellow scientist, and she refused to acknowledge the viability of a 20+ week fetus that could be C sectioned to save its life. The mother’s “right to choose” trumped everything. I find it is just easier not to even try with such people.

    • Sydney says

      @the gardner

      Oh, ‘such people’! If only they understood!

      You clearly believe you’re on the correct side of the abortion argument; and you’re utterly shocked that your colleague doesn’t bend to your morally superior viewpoint. You should read this post (book review) a few times, plus some pro-choice websites, and then consider it all again.

      I’m NOT ‘progressive’ or left, and I’m on side with your colleague. My right of ownership over my body – something you cynically place in quotation marks – is THE most important right above all others when discussing pregnancy termination/abortion. Indeed, the fact that my choice is a public discussion at all is profoundly offensive and wrong to me, and possibly to your colleague as well. But you swatted that ‘right to choose’ away like a bothersome mosquito.

      Pregnancy termination/abortion is a great example of the difficulties of opposite sides communicating constructively. And it’s because the sides cannot be bridged except if they say: As a nation we leave this issue to be decided privately by a woman and her doctor. You don’t need to ‘like’ abortion, and you don’t need to have one or to counsel a woman to have one.

      Don’t like abortion? Don’t have an abortion. As simple as that.

      Since you brought it up, I’ll add that it’s an interesting issue since it’s not a ‘divided America’ issue or a ‘Trump’ issue. Pregnancy termination/abortion is an impossible issue ALL the time, which is why it needs to be removed entirely from the hands of the general public and from government.

      The biggest irony about abortion is that conservatives wail that the government needs to be removed from our lives…except for where it should control women and their bodies. Sharia, anyone…? So Western conservatives and Islamic fundamentalists share a common goal after all: Control over women’s bodies.

      A woman carrying a pregnancy must be free to make decisions regarding her body for herself. Do you make decisions for your own body? Your ‘straw 20-week fetus’ argument of it being magically ‘C-sectioned to save its life’ is absurd and horrific many times over. You clearly lack the implications of your own argument. But, alas, you thought ‘the discussion derailed’ when you cleverly used your ‘facts’, hahaha!

      No, the discussion derailed because you consider a woman’s body to rightly be the property of the state, and your colleague doesn’t share that view.

      As mentioned in this piece, you need to reconsider YOUR belief that YOUR moral vision is THE correct vision. It’s not the correct vision for the millions of women terminating pregnancies across the world at this very moment.

      You see, abortion (pregnancy termination) is a fundamental necessity. Women have ALWAYS terminated pregnancies; we are terminating pregnancies this very second; and we will always terminate pregnancies. In the real world, punitive legislation only serves to create misery, injury, and deaths of women and children. (Fortunately, the availability of the termination pill will help move it out of everyone’s greasy, grubby hands.)

      Good luck with your next discussion on pregnancy termination/abortion.

      • Derdernichtduist says

        Aren’t you ignoring the message of the article aswell though? Instead of engaging with his arguments and respectfully explaining to him, why he’s wrong, you’re choosing to be unnecessarily aggressive and make fun of his position.

        About the actual topic:

        The question of abortion seems to me like a moral dilemma. You have to weight the interests of the mother against the interest of the child. Latter lacks the power to defend it’s own interest, therefore the state gets involved.

        In order to answer the question of abortion, you have to ask yourself “at what point becomes a human being a human being?”. This is essentially the question the “straw 20-week fetus”-argument seeks to answer. If the answer lies within the timeframe of the pregnancy, your position clearly would be wrong. Since murdering someone most people would consider highly immoral.
        Furthermore I would argue, that reducing unnecessary pain is another important factor. 27 weeks (roughly the point where a fetus can feel pain) seems like more than enough time to make an informed decision, whether you want to keep the child or not.

        To me personally believing that child can only be considered a child after birth seems as ridiculous as considering a single cell a human beeing. In the end it comes down to the dominant value system of a society. There is no factual “right” or “wrong” on this topic.

        TL;DR: Don’t like getting kids? Don’t get pregnant. As simple as that.

        • cora says

          Don’t like women terminating pregnancies? Get a vasectomy. Use a condom. Better yet, keep it in your pants.

      • Lert345 says

        Sydney

        “Don’t like abortion? Don’t have an abortion. As simple as that.”

        Well I think a lot of people can agree with that, but the problem is that too many abortion supporters believe that those that don’t like abortion should be forced to pay for them as well. All that bleating about “choice” doesn’t extend to who has to pay.

      • Sasha says

        Have you ever considered the selfishness of your point of view. Does the child have no rights or the husband? Is this the basis on which we should live our lives where everything is me, me me.

        Maybe people genuinely believe this . Perhaps you should have said SOME women have always terminated the life of the child whilst most women consider it an amazing privilege that only the female sex has the ability to conceive. Perhaps it may be a good thing that the contraceptive pill has saved the trauma of having a mother who has no ability to cope with another person in their lives. I don’t agree with legislation to control morals because the law has never stopped crime its only used as a punishment.

        I do believe we are cursed with a very selfish mentality that seems to grow larger with each generation. The solution to this …I don’t know . There are clearly women who should never consider having a child just as there are men who will make monstrous fathers. Next time a simple act is considered why not ensure at least a basic responsibility of all humans is considered.

        • peanut gallery says

          Past cultures also kept slaves of conquered foes and threw unwanted babies off cliffs. So “we’ve always terminated pregnancies” may not be the best argument. We’ve done a lot of things we shouldn’t repeat. I’d rather work towards needing less abortions than making it a free-for-all or outlawing it. Equating it to Sharia is a serious false equivalence. In this context they are respecting what they think of the life of the child, whereas Islam has basically controls everyone on everything all the time as a main tenant of the faith. There’s also WAY more stoning and marrying children. YMMV.

      • Asenath Waite says

        @Sydney

        “Don’t like abortion? Don’t have an abortion. As simple as that.”

        I’m pro-choice but even I can see that it’s not remotely as simple as that. Pro-life people are concerned for the life of what they consider to be a human child, whether it is their child or someone else’s. Obviously they would not have an abortion themselves, but they also don’t want it to be legal for other people to kill children (as they see it). In your comment you seem to be doing a much worse job of following Brooks’ guidelines than the OP was, in that you are being openly hostile and derisive and making no attempt to understand the perspective of the person you are disagreeing with.

  2. Saw file says

    ”Can’t we all just have a group hug and carry on, while swaying and singing kumbaya?” ?

    I doubt I would take away much from a book with such a premise.
    I’ve little interest in searching out ludicrous ideologs who’ve lost their ability to reason.
    Unlike so many of them, I don’t continually seek out fresh, new enemies. But if they’re determined to constantly mind my business, then they will have found a fresh, new enemy that’s wholly committed to dieing on that hill.

  3. Lightning Rose says

    Political/media wonks write this stuff for each other. I read a poll the other day that showed as much as 36% of the American public consider themselves “politically disengaged.” As in, “having better things to do than worry about the opinions of political/media wonks.” 😉

  4. K. Dershem says

    Interesting that the first three comments (as I write this) are from conservative ideologies who reject the premise of the book out of hand. I haven’t read it yet but have heard Brooks interviewed several times and think his message is extremely important.

    • Saw file says

      @K. Dershem
      Interesting that you have judged me as to ” conservative ideologies (ideologues )”, being that I am not wholly such. But hey, if you want to interpret “I doubt I would take away much from a book with such a premise.” as, “(I) reject the premise of the book out of hand”, then possibly you’re engaging in a form of projection? Kettle meets pot?
      I am also aware the Brooks. I place less value in the importance of his “message” than you do. Is that OK with you?

      • K. Dershem says

        It’s completely OK. I think it’s kind of sad that you’re on the prowl for “fresh, new enemies,” but to each his own.

        • Daniel E Hofford says

          +K Dershem That’s a complete distortion of what Saw File said.

      • Ray Andrews says

        @Saw file

        Perhaps this is a perfect little example of what the book is on about.

        “I’ve little interest in searching out ludicrous ideologs who’ve lost their ability to reason.”

        I myself strongly agree with every word of your sentiments in that post. I consider myself to be in a state of totaler krieg with PC/SJW/(so called)Progressivism.

        But K offers you a moderate and reasonable discussion of the subject and you retort with sharp, brittle sarcasm. Judging by what you just said, it would appear to be you who has lost your ability to reason, not to mention your ability to be polite. So, whatever your ideology, rather than immediately dropping napalm on K, why not regain your ability to reason, and see if you and he can’t understand each other better?

        • Daniel E Hofford says

          Because K didn’t do what you claim. K didn’t offer a moderate and reasonable discussion. K started out with a slap in the face, unwarranted assumptions, and an implied smear of ‘conservatives.’

    • the gardner says

      @K Dershem—- have I rejected the premise of the book? I said nothing about the book. I described a couple of my futile attempts to use facts with people who aren’t interested in facts to inform their views. Only feelings matter. Does this sound like anyone you know?

      • David of Kirkland says

        They are just proving the point that some cannot differentiate between an idea and the person who expresses the idea. Debate is hard, which is why it’s not practiced much. Jesus taught (and he wasn’t the first) to love your enemy, yet it’s a teaching few can accept.
        Divisiveness may be a preferred state of thinking among a people who are not otherwise homogenous. And unless the idea is expressed as not their own, the idea and the person who presents the idea are in reality one and the same.
        If I were to suggest that LGBTQ people should be exterminated, the idea is foul, but most likely you’d rightfully suggest I am foul too.

        • Stephanie says

          The irony of chastising people as “conservative ideologues” because they don’t sufficiently effuse about warm-heartedness in politics.

          • K. Dershem says

            It’s not about “warm-heartedness” — it’s about the difficult and necessary effort to find common ground instead of demonizing one’s political opponents. Far-right commenters on this site frequently make sweeping statements about liberals and progressives, constructing straw men instead of practicing the principle of charity. They’re the mirror image of extremist SJWs, and are just as destructive to civil society.

      • K. Dershem says

        Sorry, but it’s absurd to suggest conservatives have a monopoly on “facts” and progressives only care about “feelings.” You may have interacted with some factually-challenged liberals, but I’ve had conversations with plenty of misinformed and grievance-driven conservatives … some of whom comment on this site. People at all points along the political spectrum have varying degrees of knowledge and intellectual integrity. Only ideologues refuse to acknowledge this obvious fact.

        • Kencathedrus says

          @K. Dersham: I think conservatives have been ‘going along’ with progressive ideals for a long time. They tolerated lifestyles they felt were unhealthy and harmful, but as long as it didn’t bother them personally it was ok. Now that ‘progressive’ ideology is considered the only viable world view, conservatives are made to feel like hopelessly outdated dinosaurs at best or far-right extremists at worst. What we are experiencing now is push-back, not just by conservatives, but also by people who normally would consider themselves moderate centrists.

          Progressive ideology has become increasingly authoritarian to the point that many people are worried that ethnic and sexual minority grievances are being used to limit their freedoms, while at the same time their children are being mass-indoctrinated through education, news media and entertainment to celebrate lifestyles that were once considered degenerate and perverse.

          While I’m with you on finding common ground, I don’t think it’s going to happen any time soon, because the politics of today are no longer about mere economic policy, but about our very core identities. When people’s sense of self is at stake the struggle becomes one of survival rather than one of mere ideas.

          My own view on this is, as a college professor, is that the Education system is of itself toxic because educators and administrators are too scared to challenge their students’ world view and risk possible financial loss to their own jobs and institutions through dissatisfied student surveys. Rather than showing young people what a fun and exciting world they live in, professors are all too eager to confirm to students that they are victims of patriarchal oppression, which is a narrative that preys on young people’s natural resentment toward the everyday authority figures in their own lives. Unfortunately, this mentality is now being transported from the college campus to the mainstream with devastating effect. Speech is being monitored and wrong-think can lead to loss of reputation and livelihood.

          The conclusion to this is that we will soon be governed by over-educated cry babies with zero life experience and a huge chip on their shoulder towards their perceived oppressors. As a result people will turn to far-right politics to free them of this nonsense, not because they are racist bigots but because there are no longer any other political groups representing their interests.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @Kencathedrus

            You are a professor sir? Well then all is not lost. I hope you are not purged. Your comments could hardly have been more reasonable yet powerful. It is just as you say. If our institutions of learning are to be retaken it will be by people such as yourself.

          • K. Dershem says

            @Ken,

            I despise the Regressive Left and agree that they’ve betrayed the core principles of liberalism. However, I have to take issue with some of your comments.

            I think conservatives have been ‘going along’ with progressive ideals for a long time. They tolerated lifestyles they felt were unhealthy and harmful, but as long as it didn’t bother them personally it was ok. This simply isn’t true. Until the Supreme Court removed samesex marriage from the political arena, conservatives fought hammer and tongs against marriage equality. Employers and landlords are still legally permitted to discrimination against gays and lesbians in over half of U.S. states; there’s no federal protection for GLBT individuals due to Republican opposition in the Congress.

            Now that ‘progressive’ ideology is considered the only viable world view, conservatives are made to feel like hopelessly outdated dinosaurs at best or far-right extremists at worst. This may be true in elite academic institutions but it certainly isn’t true in the U.S. as a whole. Conservatives currently control the Presidency, the Supreme Court, the Senate, and the majority of governships and state legislatures. There’s a vast right-wing ecosystem of think tanks and media outlets that promote conservative ideas. Evangelical churches are mostly right-wing, as are Catholic churches on certain issues.

            My own view on this is, as a college professor, is that the Education system is of itself toxic because educators and administrators are too scared to challenge their students’ world view and risk possible financial loss to their own jobs and institutions through dissatisfied student surveys. This certainly isn’t true at the college where I teach. Perhaps you don’t have tenure, but tenured professors have an extraordinary degree of job security and should probably consider another career if they’re unwilling to challenge their students’ worldviews. That’s one of the fundamental purposes of education.

            As a result people will turn to far-right politics to free them of this nonsense, not because they are racist bigots but because there are no longer any other political groups representing their interests. I agree that the excesses of the Regressive Left have contributed to the rise of right-wing Populism, but it’s one factor among many. In my view, far-right politicians are part of the problem.. Like their far-left counterparts, they’re exploiting (and intensifying) people’s grievances instead of offering real solutions to the problems facing our country.

        • Stephanie says

          K, same thing. You’re doing exactly what you’re accusing others of doing, except worse because attacking leftists or progressives in general is addressing an ideology, while you are singling out specific individuals for demonization. That is a far less charitable approach than making statements about conservatives in general.

          If you make generalisations people can dispute the accuracy of those, just as you can dispute generalisations made about progressives. When you make it personal that’s when it gets nasty. I’d suggest you stop the frequent insulting comments you make about the people here if you value finding common ground.

          • E. Olson says

            Good comment Stephanie (as usual). It is interesting how often Leftists take any broad criticism of the Left as a personal insult, and feel such a strong need to “correct” such “injustice” with personal criticisms. Also interesting that “correcters” such as K never seem to take offense or feel a need to correct “extreme Left” articles and comments, despite their claim at desiring “balance” and “fairness”.

          • Here Today, Gone Tomorrow says

            Anecdotal evidence that trying to have a reasoned discussion with a progressive is next to impossible.

            Progressive tells me that police “just went into someone’s back yard and killed him because they thought he had a gun, which turned out to be a cell phone.”

            Me: Why would police just go charging into someone’s backyard? Sounds like he was being chased as a suspect, in which case he should have stopped and put up his hands. It’s certainly not OK that he was killed, but if the police are chasing you, you have to stop and put up your hands.

            Progressive: Puts up story on phone that says a man was killed in his backyard.

            Me: Looks up online the reason why police went into the backyard. Finds helicopter footage of the chase, along with a police report that (clearly this guy) was going about the neighborhood breaking vehicle windows with a crowbar.

            Progressive looks at this and calls me a racist.

          • K. Dershem says

            Stephanie, fair enough. However, Olson is an extraordinarily repetitive instantiation of hyperpartisan, far-right ideology who makes interchangeable comments about the perfidy and perversity of “Leftists” in response to nearly every Quillette article, so I think it’s fair to call him out — especially in the comment section of an article that’s criticizing ideologues exactly like him.

            E., I don’t take your “broad criticism of the Left” as a personal insult. It’s absurdly exaggerated and bears no resemblance of the actual range of positions that progressives hold. It’s a cartoon caricature that takes the worst excesses of far-left extremists and attributes them to everyone who holds left-of-center views. This is precisely the problem that Brooks is talking about.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @Stephanie

            “you are singling out specific individuals for demonization”

            K did use an overly wide brush and he did dip it too deeply in the paint. But was his casual error so bad that Charity could not overlook it? Which of us has not on occasion done exactly the same thing? Where his intentions clearly bad?

            “Interesting that the first three comments (as I write this) are from conservative ideologies who reject the premise of the book out of hand.”

            Ok, that one sentence is perhaps slightly immoderate, but in my view the better person could overlook it. Is anyone ‘demonized’? Were the first three comments not at least somewhat dismissive? K is you ideological opponent, but deal with him thus:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p53B0Ku-4BE

          • Ray Andrews says

            @E. Olson

            “correcters” such as K never seem to take offense or feel a need to correct “extreme Left” articles and comments, despite their claim at desiring “balance” and “fairness”.

            On the contrary sir, K has on many occasions expressed a revulsion of Leftist excess no less strongly than yourself. If you will forgive my boldness, you have just taken a cheap-shot and as you are a gentleman I hope you will retract it.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @K. Dershem

            “I despise the Regressive Left and agree that they’ve betrayed the core principles of liberalism.”

            Yes, and anyone who says otherwise is slandering you and should apologize.

            “This may be true in elite academic institutions but it certainly isn’t true in the U.S. as a whole.”

            It’s complicated. As you say, much of the government is in the hands of the Right, but surely the academy and the MSM and the twitterverse are entirely ruled by the woke? Even the mainstream Right (if there is still such a thing) will never admit to an unPC opinion. What percentage of American politicians would admit, for example, that the main reason we do not see more female math professors is that, at the ‘high tail’ of the bell curve, males are hugely more numerous than females and we should expect males to outnumber females by not less than 10:1? It is unthinkable isn’t it? You’d sink like a stone even tho the facts of the matter are absolutely clear. PC rules!

        • Ray Andrews says

          @K. Dershem

          ” They’re the mirror image of extremist SJWs, and are just as destructive to civil society.”

          Exactly so. Fundamentalist memes insulate themselves in our heads by the simple trick of convincing us that is it them who suffer from fundamentalism (so why would you waste time talking to them?) Thus the meme preserves itself from challenge.

          • K. Dershem says

            Thanks, Ray. Although we disagree on some issues, I think you’re a model of the charitable approach that Brooks is recommending. Comments like yours give me hope that constructive dialogue is still possible, even on the Internet!

          • Stephanie says

            Ray, I could have not said anything, but K frequently makes disparaging comments about fellow commenters, seemingly whenever the opportunity comes up. He doesn’t name names, but we know who he’s talking about. When I see such comments, often posted in response to similar comments by newbies or less regular commenters, I feel it makes this board more hostile. We should be maintaining courtesy even when we disagree. That was the main point of the article, so I thought it fair to call out K when he was hypocritically making personal attacks on people.

          • K. Dershem says

            Stephanie, the posts I respond to are extremely hostile — do you think left-of-center people feel welcome here when they’re described as evil idiots? I’ll acknowledge that my reference to individual commenters is hostile, but please don’t pretend that I haven’t been provoked. It’s intellectually dishonest to claim that everyone on the left is represented by the most extreme SJW activists. I’ve never used the same tactic to smear all people on the right. Which is worse? Caricaturing and demonizing an extremely diverse group of people, or accurately describing the hyperpartisan rhetoric used by an individual? My comments may have been discourteous (and they’re definitely futile), but that doesn’t make them false.

        • Daniel E Hofford says

          Just as absurd as the assumption that only Progressives are compassionate, caring, loving people with any sense of morality. Which is exactly what your opening salvo seemed to make. While I’m at it, let’s examine the notion of ‘loving your enemy.’ That notion is not understood and used in a way that diminishes Christianity to the doggerel of dogma. Should you love people who fly planes into buildings? Serial rapists? Murdering pedophiles? The idea to keep everyone’s humanity in mind is a good one. It keeps us from sliding into a hole that would not be good for us. But some people need to go back to the manufacturer for defects that are not repairable. The weepy eyed ‘compassionate’ who treat compassion as a moral virtue usually get people killed. Those who wear their ‘compassion’ on their sleeves are usually Progressives who love nothing more than reveling in their feelings of self-righteousness [often without have done a thing but move their mouths] and have no idea how to deal with social issues. It’s not that feelings of compassion should be ignored or that mercy should be denied but Progressives who are not professionals need to grow up and add some reality to their thinking.
          And let’s not forget that it was the Progressives, the Leftists, who spent two years in mental derangement, seething with hatred and lying their backsides off. Everyone of you owe the rest of us an apology while some of you deserve jail time. My compassion is for the people who were hurt and harmed by the unleashing of this ‘group think’ that is so popular on the Left.

      • UJN says

        Well it’s not like feelings don’t matter at all.

        • Ray Andrews says

          @K. Dershem

          And thank you Professor. It’s really all I have to offer, at the risk of patting myself on the back, I’m a very fair guy. Furthermore it’s reasonable Lefties like yourself that are in such short supply right now. I honestly believe that the future is in your hands because only guys like you can offer people a sane alternative to either the Warriors or the Trumpeters — it’s not a happy choice.

          • E. Olson says

            Ray – K is a reasonably polite Lefty, but not a reasonable Lefty. He may say he despises the “woke Left”, but all I ever see is his silence or defense for its positions. He won’t admit the Left controls the mainstream media and social media, and claims to never see any “woke politics” on campus, which would otherwise make me believe he teaches at Hillsdale or Liberty because I otherwise don’t know very many schools that aren’t totally controlled by Leftists. He also likes to state that Conservatives control so much of the government, and yet never admits that even when the Left can’t get elected they still control things through the courts (9th District is a favored venue) or through the permanent Leftist bureaucracy. K may prefer a less “woke” Left, but his silence or defense regarding their positions is why the “woke” Left dominants and defines the Left, and why classic Liberals he claims to prefer are now almost entirely on the Right.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @E. Olson

            “all I ever see is his silence or defense for its positions”

            That’s because the actual contest here between you and he is to the right of himself. To you I look like a Leftie, to K I look like a Rightie because I am to your Left but to his Right. Arguing with you, I have no cause to worry about folks even to the right of you nor would K and myself worry about Maoists — we’d worry about the differences between us which are to his right and to my left. Dredge up a true Wokeist and you might see K combating them, but as it is, that’s not where the battle lies. His guns are aimed to starboard.

            “claims to never see any “woke politics” on campus”

            I’d take that as data. Unless he’s lying, perhaps it really is the case that on his campus at least the Woke are not too much of a problem. Others have noted that the worst of it is on the coasts and that flyover country schools are still mostly sane. We have both noted that Wokeness is the religion of the pampered white elite. Maybe the less pampered people at his school have no time for it. Possible?

            “even when the Left can’t get elected they still control things through the courts (9th District is a favored venue) or through the permanent Leftist bureaucracy”

            But there does seem to be some truth in that. The ‘permanent Leftist bureaucracy’ is something I’d expect you to believe in. It is insidiously always there. No surprise that bureaucrats love bureaucracy is there? I don’t think K would deny it. Meanwhile the voters now (praise the Lord) seem to have had enough of Wokeness, at least for the moment. Is there really any disagreement there?

            I suspect that if you were more reasonable with him, he’d be more reasonable with you. Some of your previous comments today were ungentlemanly and extreme. Remember, that on many issues I’m closer to you than to him. I’d like to draw him closer to the center, but I will try to do it respectfully. But I’d like to draw you to the center as well.

        • Ray Andrews says

          @Stephanie

          “We should be maintaining courtesy even when we disagree.”

          Of course. But K is in the minority here, most are quite far to the right and he takes shots from many people. It is understandable if he gets a bit defensive. You’re an honest person, put yourself in his place.

          You know it’s an open question for me whether the civility of being indirect when criticizing someone is a virtue or a fault. I think of Jeff Flake’s parting address to the Senate, in which he talked about those who demean their high office with their disgraceful conduct and their intemperate talk. There was zero doubt who he was referring to, but it seemed dignified to be indirect. K prefers to be direct. Mind, E has boasted about being direct as well. The solution is Charity — don’t take offense if there is any alternative. We have better things to talk about that who insulted who first. For me a better question is who was restrained enough not to answer in kind and thus let it die.

    • Daniel E Hofford says

      +K Dershem You think the message is extremely important? How so? Perhaps if we distinguish between our neighbors and the professional Left, which I consider to be out and out evil. They have no interest in solving problems unless it’s totally on their terms and their terms always aggrandize their own power at the expense of everyone else. And the Leftist media is absolutely appalling in the lies they tell on a daily basis to create conflict. But Jerry Nadler? Chuck Schumer? Adam Schiff? All the people in the DOJ and FBI who acted to clear HGC and investigate DJT! They all belong in Prison Orange. These people are evil. The only reason they don’t appear to be evil is that they don’t have access to unrestrained power to direct their desires at people. Thank God for the Constitution and a system that, though beaten on and pummeled everyday by the professional Left, still has enough clout to prevent these whack jobs from getting the power they desire.

  5. Thomas Barnidge says

    Perhaps Arthur C. Brooks has not heard the saying “sincerity is very important in politics; once you can learn to fake it, you’re in like Flynn.” Talk is cheap; when you are having a civil chat with a political opponent, you don’t notice his associate stabbing you in the back until it’s too late.

  6. Mec B says

    I’m not sure where they get the data about “centrists” condition to disregard their principles. Finding solutions in debating, acknowledging each group hard as it may be is the “actual” principle. It is possible to debate between each group for eternity in a “warm heartedness” way, but eventually you do need to come up with real solutions and strategies that may not be the favorite option for all.
    Perhaps the author is mistaking centrism as a political tool rather than as a debate tool. I’ll give the author the benefit of the doubt in light of the article!

    • Ghatanathoah says

      @Mec B

      I think there are two different definitions of “centrism” going on here. The kind the author discusses is what is also called the “golden middle fallacy,” the idea that if two sides have different principles they must both be wrong and the answer is a compromise principle.

      The good kind of centrism is finding a compromise principle, not because it is the correct answer, but because it’s better than continued fighting. You aren’t disregarding your principles, you are compromising because it’s the only way to further the higher principle of “living peacefully together.”

      • Ray Andrews says

        @Ghatanathoah

        Thanks. We do not ‘compromise our principles’ but we compromise our laws and our policies because ‘we’ do not own the state, we rather share it with other people who also do not want to compromise their principals but who, like us, should understand that unless we come up with something that all sides can live with, we face either gridlock or civil war. To whit: in every democracy, every law is a compromise. Every last one.

  7. Morgan Foster says

    “Brooks has some tips from the Dali Lama about how to achieve this. “Your Holiness, what do I do when I feel contempt?” he asked him. The Dali Lama responded: “Practice warm-heartedness.””

    Since 1951, the Dalai Lama has been practicing warm-heartedness toward the Han people of China.

    Any day, now, it may work.

    • scribblerg says

      @Morgan – And many brave Tibetan Buddhist monks fought the Chinese. As do Buddhists in Myanmar against the marauding Muslims. But listen, whenever some supposed thinker is using treacly throwaway lines from the Dalai Lama, you know you he’s a ponce. And knows nothing about Buddhism. I do, was a practicing Buddhist for 10 years. Go tell the Zen masters to no longer cane their acolytes, Mr. Brooks, lol.

    • Morgan, I agree with you. Being warm-hearted works for someone like the Dalai Lama but is extremely difficult for average people like yours truly. For sure, being bitter and angry at someone who has wronged one does not improve the situation; it would be better to just move on. Bitterness is hard on oneself. But being warm-hearted to all and sundry is too much to expect from mere mortals.

    • Ray Andrews says

      @Morgan Foster

      So what then? Should Tibet go to war against China? How would that be likely to end?

  8. Democrap says

    What we need to do is work out how to argue better … We should be arguing, in good faith, from a variety of perspectives about the best way to improve society.

    How do you propose to do this when progressives have major influence over the landscape that different kinds of argument take place in? You are talking like this is some simple case of one argumentative agent (or node) that can make a difference purely based on their argumentative skill, when the problem is large scale systems of disagreement that are set up by powerful groups and allied networks. Take academia for instance, what normatively should be a place where your ideal open-minded arguer could thrive, but instead most kinds of debate or argument are default pro-leftist, and merely disagreeing with leftists on campus is tantamount to being a fascist and even possibly being cast out. This is also pretty much the case at the global governance level now among NGOs and IGOs. Progressivism is the default policy view. Another case is “folk” argument or public internet debate, Google and Facebook have banned some pretty tame arguments, explanations, or description of facts that aren’t extreme, but go against the narrative, e.g. child grooming gangs in the UK and connections to immigration. This is while the mainstream elite media of what is supposed to be high standards of debate, e.g. the NYT editorial pages, push utter bullshit opinions (more rightly; propaganda), yet are never held to the same standards of argumentation, evidence, or facts by — what should be — their peer disagreement networks of other media (they push the same stuff by smug twitter bluechecks). In the NYT’s case, see the wars for the last 20 years, or their pulitzer for the russia-trump bullshit.

    The problem is not better arguers, we have 2000 years of cumulative culture in philosophy and science that has plenty to provide on that front; the problem is social technology and the argumentative landscape. How do you propose to build a better way to argue in such an environment? It’s like trying to patch up a sinking boat in a storm.

  9. Etiamsi omnes says

    Try, for example, arguing with a Jehovah’s Witness. Or just having them consider your point of view. See what good that does…

    • Indeed, or the continuing struggle between Christian theists and evolutionary scientists. The scientist says: “Here are my fossils… ” the Christian replies: “Well it says in the Bible….” There is no possibility that those minds will ever meet. The strength of each other’s arguments is irrelevant.

      • Kencathedrus says

        @Pete Smyth: a struggle I deplore, because the two views aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive.

  10. Jean Levant says

    That’s common sense but it is worth to be said. The fact that acting this way is not always easy doesn’t discredit at all what Brooks says, and some others before him.

  11. E. Olson says

    “In sum, both sides believe they have their views for the morally correct reasons—but those on the Right are marginally better at understanding their opponents…”

    “Research also suggests that contempt makes you unattractive, unhealthy and unhappy. Nobody wants to be friends with or date a mean person…”

    Actually the research says that the Right is VERY accurate in understanding the Left’s position on all major political/economic/social issues, but the Left has zero understanding of the Right’s position on the same issues, because why should they bother understanding Nazis (which shows how much the Left knows since the Nazis are Leftist). The research also finds the Left are perpetually unhappy and much more likely to be mean and “unfriend” people they disagree with, while the Right is much happier, more forgiving, and more generous with their own time and money (but to be fair, the Left is more generous with other people’s time and money). So how do you persuade a Leftist whose position is inevitably based on “feelings”, who typically has little or no objective knowledge, thinks anyone to their Right is evil for disagreeing, and seems to enjoy being miserable?

    • K. Dershem says

      Another Quillette article, another comment from E. Olson using straw men to show how stupid and evil Leftists are. The tides go in, the tides go out …

      “Brooks advises us to begin with listening respectfully to other people’s perspectives, be positive and not overly critical, try not to show contempt or hatred, and seek out places where people disagree to build new friendships and understanding.” Or we could follow E.’s approach and imply that everyone on the left is an irrational, intolerant, ignorant masochist.

      • E. Olson says

        Thanks K for illustrating my point. Did I say all Leftists are anything? Did I say anything inaccurate about the attitudes and behavior most vocal and visible Leftists, or the research on differences between Left and Right? The answer is NO, but once again you get all bent out of shape because I dare point out any weaknesses and ignorance of the Left. It isn’t being overly critical if the comment is accurate, and if you see hatred in my comment you are the one being overly emotional (but then again that is a characteristics of the Left), but sorry the truth hurts you so much. By the way – how have you enjoyed shoveling that global warming this past week?

        • K. Dershem says

          E., you’re claiming that these statements are accurate and “proven” by research? These are absurdly exaggerated slurs. And this is a waste of my time … I need to go back to ignoring your comments.

          the Left has zero understanding of the Right’s position on the same issues

          the Left are perpetually unhappy and much more likely to be mean

          a Leftist whose position is inevitably based on “feelings”, who typically has little or no objective knowledge, thinks anyone to their Right is evil for disagreeing, and seems to enjoy being miserable?

          As a “fact-based” conservative (who apparently thinks that a late winter storm invalidates climate change!), you may be “much happier, more forgiving, and more generous” in real life. Online, however, you come across as “perpetually unhappy and much more likely to be mean,” perhaps because you think that anyone to your left “is evil for disagreeing.” Or maybe you just “enjoy being miserable?” Perhaps you should read Brooks’ book.

        • Ray Andrews says

          @E. Olson
          @K. Dershem

          Gentlemen, you have both used a bit of rhetorical exaggeration and you have both complained about it. We too quickly find ourselves in a pissing contest. It is an act of discipline to force ourselves to behave properly. Myself included of course.

          • E. Olson says

            Ray – while I appreciate your “peace” gestures, I never like false equivalences. I am not the one making personal insults with my observations and comments. There is a difference between me saying “the Left always does something” and K saying “Olson always does something”, because when I say the Left is responsible for some ill behavior or bad policy it does not mean every Leftist is guilty, only that it is members of the Left who are the instigators and promulgators. If K can’t defend his viewpoint without making personal attacks then perhaps he should just refrain from commenting, and if he can’t resist making personal jabs I will continue point out his sins and errors.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @E. Olson

            Let’s see how things unfold going forward. One can spend too much time nitpicking past issues, no? You and K have different styles, his is more forthright but I myself do not find it more objectionable, but that’s just me.

          • K. Dershem says

            E., it’s my fault for taking the bait. I’ve resolved on multiple occasions to simply ignore your posts, every one of which is some version of an attack on “Leftists” for being stupid, evil, ignorant, etc. We obviously have different reasons for engaging in conversations on Quillette. I assume you’d agree that you’re a right-wing polemicist who frequently engages in hyperbole — e.g., your claim that “the Left doesn’t have any understanding of the Right and doesn’t want any understanding” is absurd if taken literally. (People on the left have written dozens of books and thousands of articles trying to understand and engage with conservatives, especially since 2016.) I think those kinds of statements belong in the comment sections at Breitbart, not Quillette, but to each his own. Since we almost certainty have nothing to learn from one another, I’ll strive to be more disciplined in the future by mentally redacting everything you write.

      • Here Today, Gone Tomorrow says

        Anecdotal evidence on irrational leftism:

        Friend who should know better posts a meme on Facebook that shows a white guy on one side, a black guy on the other, with the words ‘this one lived through his arrest, this one didn’t. This is what white privilege looks like”

        This in reference to black man killed in backyard because police mistook his cell phone for a gun.
        As mentioned above, another progressive friend told the story this way, prior to interaction on Facebook:

        Police just go into your backyard to kill you if you’re black.

        Me: They must have been chasing him. How would they even know someone was in a backyard to shoot? And when you’re being chased you have to stop and hold up your hands. It’s terrible that he got killed though. (Go on internet, find police helicopter footage of perp — this same man — throwing the crowbar he’s been breaking windows with, then leaping over fences into a backyard.) Show this to progressive, who then calls me a racist.

        On Facebook, a few days later, in response to meme (with no context whatsoever — perhaps the ‘privilege’ was that the white guy stopped and put up his hands?) friend of friend writes: Another innocent man gunned down for his race.

        Me: It looks like he was being chased for allegedly committing a crime. So maybe not innocent? Thought it’s certainly unacceptable that he was killed.

        Friend: Calls me a racist. Posts on my wall an article on a woman who lost her job for saying this guy deserved to die, saying THIS IS WHAT YOU BELIEVE. He then proceeds to tell me that now forty of our mutual friends know that I am racist.

        Progressive STRAW MANNED ME.

        Sad, too, because I have a long history with this person, who over the years on social media has turned into a religious zealot.

        Finally blocked him.

        • Ray Andrews says

          @K. Dershem

          “you’re a right-wing polemicist who frequently engages in hyperbole”

          He sure is. I do the same sometimes for effect. It’s reducto ad absurdum. But it seems to end up being taken at face value too often. I’m trying to ween myself off the practice of being hyperbolic or sarcastic.

          But I hope you and E engage in the future because it’s such conflicts that I find most instructive. I consider you evenly matched intellectually and both essentially honest. And I’m nearly right between you. Mind, I can easily find a comfortable chair on your side of the room, but with E, I can get close but not all the way.

    • Ray Andrews says

      @E. Olson

      “Actually the research says that the Right is VERY accurate in understanding the Left’s position on all major political/economic/social issues, but the Left has zero understanding of the Right’s position on the same issues,”

      Overlooking the hyperbole (because we should be charitable with others even when they are not charitable with K), it seems to me that what you say is, on balance quite true, and we should expect it to be true for theoretical reasons: The emotional/moral vectors of the Left are protective and idealistic, thus the Left protects us from nasty ideas even as mother protects her child. And the Left Imagines the coming utopia where everything is perfect all the time because Big Mother — the nanny state — makes it so. Nasty ideas are to be kept away. The Right’s vectors are to offer opportunity and gritty realism, so the idea of shutting out other points of view is inherently contrary. Mind, in practice we see that Righties can be every bit as closed minded as Lefties, but not to the same degree or in the same numbers. The fundamentalist Leftie is proud of her ideological purity, the fundamentalist Rightie might be somewhat ashamed of the same.

      • Jim Gorman says

        The left does much more than that. It is a fact that overall, conservatives give much more of their income to charity than do liberal/leftists. In other words they try to help their fellow man through private giving to a much greater extent than liberals. It irks me to no end that liberals turn around and say I’m better than you because I want government to help people.

        Conservatives basically want government to leave them alone. Liberals want it the other way around and prefer that government sticks its nose into many, many things.

        I want to utilize my time and spend my money making something for my descendants. I believe this is charity to the future. However, liberal/progressives want to use the steel hand f the government to take my money/time and use government to decide the best way to spend it in helping people. Why can’t liberals convince people through their arguments to contribute money and time in helping people rather than using the confiscatory power of the government. Is it perhaps most people don’t really rank these priorities very high in deciding where their time and money goes? How does taking peoples property and time make liberals more moral and better than me?

  12. derek says

    As predicable as the seasons someone comes out with this. If we were nicer things would get better. Inevitably they come from people who ensconced in the media political environment where they are immune to harm from any given policy implementation.

    This same plea has been repeated again and again in Canada.

    So tell me Mr Brooks. If you are a coal miner or employed in some way by that industry and Hillary campaigns on putting you out of a job, how are you supposed to feel? Our if you are a teacher in Wisconsin how are you to feel about the changes in labor laws in that state?

    In the last four elections in Canada except the last one all the parties campaigned on shutting down the Alberta oil patch except the Conservatives. (I believe that Trudeau won because he reversed liberal policy on that issue). Someone in an Eastern city who commutes on transit, recycles and holds the standard environmental positions will hate the family man in Alberta who is a pipefitter or electrician and makes twice the money working in the oil patch. And via versa. Each believe strongly that the other is doing harm.

    “War is the continuation of politics by other means.” Or to twist that around politics is to battle intractable differences in zero sum conditions without bloodshed.

    The events in France with the yellow vests show that it can take a turn for the worst of these various interests aren’t vigorously represented in the political debates. It is one thing to lose a political battle and regroup for another go around. If the fights aren’t occurring at the political level, and there is a political consensus that excludes large numbers of value concerns, the war will be done a different way.

    This nastiness and division are the sign of a healthy polity. Brooks would be better to apply his skills in the fights that are happening which will have real effects and consequences.

    • derek says

      The only real solution is to remove government, or national governments from the stores that are meeting in and let people live their lives and deal with the consequences of their decisions. But that will has sailed long ago.

  13. Sam says

    “Shockingly, research suggests that Democrats and Republicans in America display similar levels of motive attribution asymmetry to Israelis and Palestinians.”

    How much of that is attributable to the AEI under the leadership of Brooks?
    His books smack of hucksterism, as he tries to rebrand himself.
    Perhaps he and Wolf Blitzer could start a business as ‘compassion consultants’.

  14. Serenity says

    Brooks explicitly rejects the popular “centrist” notion that compromise and
    moderation is the solution… “disagreeing better, not less, is what we need…
    to bring our country back together.”

    Great idea. Progressive radicalism ++.

    There is no need to reach a compromise, to come to an agreement between parties who have incompatible interests. Just love your enemies and enjoy arguments.

  15. Jim says

    Good article. I think people on the left and right often engage in debate with the mistaken notion that the goal is to “win” and convince the other party to change their minds on some issue. This rarely works. Consequently, people get frustrated, and become convinced that the other party is unreasonable, illogical, lacks compassion, or is just plain stupid. They turn the other person into an enemy. At this point, further debate may be counterproductive. People start calling each other names, and two sides become increasingly polarized and entrenched in their own beliefs. The solution, I think, is to be the person who takes the higher ground. Engage in debate with a genuine commitment to learn from the other party. The other party may not appear to be genuinely interested in learning from you, but that’s okay… change takes time. Speak your truth honestly, patiently, with humility, and without anger. Look for places where the two of you agree. Try to understand the other person’s perspective. Don’t villainize the other party, and don’t lash out, which will only give them a chance to villanize you. It takes time, but I think it’s worth the effort. I have friends who are much more progressive than I am. We can discuss politics over a beer and generally we end up agreeing to disagree. But we also both learn something while doing that.

    • Stephanie says

      I agree, Jim. You should never expect a political discussion to change anyone’s mind. The best you can hope for on that front is giving them something new to consider that might compel them to research a little more and change perspective weeks or months down the line.

      Particularly online, people who talk politics should not aim to persuade the person they’re debating, but rather observers on the fence who are reading but not participating. With that in mind, being mean or condescending is counter-productive to your goal, and thus should be avoided out of total self-interest. Concise, impersonal, data-heavy arguments work best.

      • Rod Paynter says

        @ Stephanie –

        “You should never expect a political discussion to change anyone’s mind. The best you can hope for on that front is giving them something new to consider that might compel them to research a little more and change perspective weeks or months down the line.”

        And, what the hell, maybe they might give me something to think about too.

        More generally, I’m not trying to pick a fight with you, just looking for implications.

        • Rod Paynter says

          Sorry Stephanie, I’ll take out ‘what the hell’.

      • Ray Andrews says

        @Stephanie

        “people who talk politics should not aim to persuade the person they’re debating”

        But supposing that the atmosphere changed from one of looking for absolute Victory, to looking for reasonable and practical accommodation? If giving an inch must mean total defeat, then folks won’t give an inch will they? If we are to save our civilization we are going to have to work together with folks we don’t 100% agree with.

  16. the gardner says

    Another example of the futility. A few years ago a new couple moved into my neighborhood. The husband asked to facebook friend many of us. Over time and at neighborhood social events it becomes apparent which way various couples swing politically. Lots of conservatives in my neighborhood. Nevertheless, this guy posts the most hated filled, anti conservative stuff on his FB page, for all his neighbor “friends” to see. Then at social events, this guy will come up to you, smile big and give you the “hey, great to see you! How ya’ doin?”. It is seriously creepy. Does he think his comments on FB aren’t offensive? He even has said some incredibly tacky things to R friends, like, “I told my kids they could marry a Jew, a black, a Muslim, just not a Republican”. Which sounds sorta racist. Guess it’s not when he says it. As I said at the beginning, the futility of it all.

    • Kencathedrus says

      @the Gardner: I think we live in the same neighborhood. I have a friend like that too.

  17. codadmin says

    It’s too late.

    Leftists already believe those on the right are ‘literally Hitler’.

    The only thing that’s changed is that right wingers now believe leftists are ‘literally Hitler’.

  18. George says

    From my experience many of us start left wing and become more conservative as we age and acquire assets that we don’t wish to lose. If you’ve managed to cross this Rubicon you tend to be tolerant of those that haven’t because you’ve been there. Those that resist doing the same have either haven’t acquired any assets and resent that you have or see your transition to common sense as desertion and refuse to follow you on principle.
    The trick is to start with a point of mutual agreement and backpedal to that when you sense you are losing them. For instance we can probably all agree that for society to function we all have an obligation to look after it’s weakest members. Start there and you establish mutual respect though you may differ substantially on how to achieve that.

    • the gardner says

      My neighbor described above posted on FB that Americans are irredeemably racist and they need to pay reparations to African Americans. So I asked him, OK, how much are you in for? He replied, well HE didn’t have to pay because his family didn’t show up til the late 1800s. Sorta like Pelosi being welcoming to illegals, until Trump suggests sending some to her city. Then he’s being “unpresidential”. Huh?
      No book can provide guidance for communicating with this kind of hypocrisy.

  19. William E. Kimberly, Sr. says

    Wonderful! We certainly need more people searching for peaceful ways to bridge the gaps.
    Here is a suggestion: As you begin a conversation with someone with whom you disagree, start with a request to find three points on which you can agree.

    • K. Dershem says

      Excellent suggestion. I think it’s also useful to view conversations as collaborative efforts to find the truth rather than zero-sum competitive contests. Of course, this is impossible if someone is already convinced that they know what’s right and have nothing to learn from anyone else.

  20. Jean Levant says

    My guess about the whole discussion is if you don’t agree with the basic point of this review/article, you’re not fit for a real discussion except with your tribe’s buddies.

  21. Euan MacIsaac says

    Humility is strength.
    Ideology is disempowering.

  22. Kevin Herman says

    I don’t see anybody on the right forcing people out of restaurants or refusing to serve them for wearing a hat they dont like or threatening to piss on people’s food or calling for boycotts or calling people racists or nazis for support Republican candidates. The main problem is a small group of ultra progressive who make up no more then 20% of the population poisoning the well. Unfortunately within that toxic 20% is most of the media, academia, and hollywood. They arent interested in civility because they see everything as a zero sum game. They cant win until you lose.

    • E. Olson says

      Good comment Kevin. As I’ve said before, the Right already knows the Leftist position because the Left dominates the media, academia (and education more generally), and popular culture. In contrast, the Left doesn’t have any understanding of the Right and doesn’t want any understanding, which is confirmed by research by Haidt. And unfortunately the “reasonable” Left are too cowardly or too supportive of the extreme Left to call them out on their craziness – perhaps because they don’t want to be deplatformed, unfriended, fired, not hired, or physically beaten for not being woke enough.

      • Ray Andrews says

        @E. Olson

        “And unfortunately the “reasonable” Left are too cowardly”

        Yes. If there is one group I’d like to awaken, it is the reasonable left. Whatever their excuse, if they do not start disciplining their children then the Right will do it for them. It is now a tired truism, but most of us understand that ‘Trump’ et al is a reaction to the excesses of the woke Left. If anyone can deliver a second term for Trump, it is AOC.

  23. Daniel says

    Some people out there demonstrating this effectively. Kudos to them. It sure would be good to see — and participate in! — more discussions between people who totally disagree.

    Though far from perfect, I’ve somehow managed to refrain from calling sleazeball commie exploiter hypocrites any of those things online, or to anyone’s face. And yet I’m jolly well sick and tired of being called racist and sexist. Furthermore, I’m sick and tired of polite, calm, rational people who are presenting dispassionate, fact-based arguments also being called racist or sexist. Because I agree with their arguments, I take those verbal assaults personally. (I forget the psychological term for that. Anyone remember?)

    It’s tough when the other person wrote their dissertation on Saul Alinsky, who taught to never talk to the other side, because when you talk with someone, it humanizes them, and your goal is to demonize them. It’s significant that when Hillary Clinton got to that part of his book, she didn’t throw it away, as any decent person would have done.

    • the gardner says

      The new insult is “white nationalist”. Not sure what it means, but it sounds like a racist slur to me. Anyone calling you that should be asked to apologize. Good luck with that.

      • K. Dershem says

        Here, I’ve googled it for you.

        “White nationalism is a type of nationalism or pan-nationalism which espouses the belief that white people are a race[1] and seeks to develop and maintain a white national identity.[2][3][4] Its proponents identify with and are attached to the concept of a white nation.[5] White nationalists say they seek to ensure the survival of the white race, and the cultures of historically white states. They hold that white people should maintain their majority in majority-white countries, maintain their political and economic dominance, and that their cultures should be foremost.[4] Many white nationalists believe that miscegenation, multiculturalism, immigration of nonwhites and low birth rates among whites are threatening the white race,[6] and some believe these things are being promoted as part of an attempted white genocide.[6]”

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_nationalism

        • Ray Andrews says

          @K. Dershem

          So what would be wrong with any of that? Why would it be wrong to want to see one’s race and one’s culture preserved? When Africa was reasserting African-ness in Africa, the whole world applauded. In Swaziland they are proudly Swazi-supremacist and whole world stands with them. Whitey go home! Except that whitey has no home if you ask the Correct. Me, I don’t Hate anyone, I wish the Muslims and the Africans and the Latinos every happiness, but all things equal, I would prefer to keep my home a place where I am not a stranger, where the people share my language and my culture. Why is that wrong?

          • codadmin says

            “which espouses the belief that white people are a race.”

            WTF did I just read???? So if you think that white people exist, it makes you a white nationalist???

          • K. Dershem says

            Ray,

            My heritage is Northern European. Although I celebrate and defend Enlightenment values (which owe a great debt to Christianity and the Classical World), I don’t take any particular pride in them since I didn’t earn my cultural inheritance. At the same time, I don’t feel any guilt for the crimes of my ancestors (slavery, colonialism, etc.), which were no worse than comparable atrocities committed by other imperial powers. So, I’m neither proud nor ashamed of being “white.”

            The area in which I live is over 85% white, but has become more ethnically and religiously diverse in recent decades due to the influx of Somali immigrants. If they attempted to impose Sharia law on non-Muslims or forced us to abandon the use of the English language, I would be outraged — but that hasn’t happened and I see no evidence that it ever will. They are, and will remain, a relatively small minority. Moreover, the children of these immigrants are every bit as American as their European-descended classmates. Like every previous wave of newcomers, they’re assimilating into the broader culture. Studies suggest that the same is true across the United States — I can’t speak to Canada. I would be much more concerned if I lived in a European county that has been less successful at integrating immigrants (Germany, France, Sweden, etc.)

            According to demographic projections, the U.S. will be majority-minority by 2045 or 2050. This doesn’t concern me in the slightest. I don’t think that non-whites will turn on whites once they have the power to do so — indeed, whites are already in the minority in states like Texas and California, and no race wars or purges have taken place. One of my main objections to the Regressive Left is its obsession with racial differences and its rejection of the colorblind ideal that MLK envisioned. By vilifying white males and calling out people for purported instances of racism, anti-racist activists fuel white racial resentment. Cynical politicians exploit this anger to distract attention from fundamental issues of class and power. See, for example, https://portside.org/2019-03-13/dying-whiteness.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @K. Dershem

            “My heritage is Northern European ….”

            A completely respectable view as always K, you mostly avoid the hateful stereotypes of those who somewhat disagree.

            “So, I’m neither proud nor ashamed of being “white.””

            That makes me think. As you phrase it, your idea sounds almost self-evidently correct. Yet I’m ‘proud’ of the achievements of the ancient Greeks even though I’m hardly a Greek. I can’t take any credit for past accomplishments nor (as you say) am I guilty of past sins committed by others. Dunno … perhaps it’s more about a sense of continuity. A person can be proud of their family’s achievements and feel an obligation to carry on the family tradition, this is good IMHO. It is a very tricky thing to say that Western civilization is a ‘white’ thing, but whereas whites themselves are repelled by the idea, it may not be entirely a coincidence that decent countries are almost always ‘white-supreme’ countries:

            http://www.worldvaluessurvey.org/WVSContents.jsp

            ” … due to the influx of Somali immigrants”

            America can be justly proud of having done better than Europe when it comes to peaceful Islamization:

            https://www.facebook.com/groups/242266202906909/permalink/593798494420343/

            But I can’t help but say that the more Somalis you import, the more your country will start to resemble Somalia. If I were a Yank, I’d be standing right up on my hind legs and saying out loud that, all else equal, I’d rather my country did not become more like Somalia and I’d be voting for whoever shared that view.

            “Like every previous wave of newcomers, they’re assimilating into the broader culture.”

            That’s almost the entire battle. In Europe we find the 2nd generation less assimilated than their parents. Whereas it might be true that there is something wrong with what the Swedes are doing, my suggestion is that the real problem is ‘too many, too fast, too easy’. Official muticult tells folks to bring their culture with them and European Muslim and African migrants take that at face value. America has traditionally had an assimilationist policy and IMHO that is the right one. There is enough fragmentation already, I’m sure you agree.

            “I don’t think that non-whites will turn on whites once they have the power to do so”

            I’m not so optimistic. Mind, the essential problem is the Identitarians continual efforts to divide and conquer, and on that I know we fully agree. We already have notions of ‘implicit whitness’ and one can openly say that someone is ‘too white’. And the radfems openly say that their goal is to ‘smash the Patriarchy’ (that’s you and me and most of civilization).

            “Cynical politicians exploit this anger to distract attention from fundamental issues of class and power.”

            Absolutely. Frankly I’d rob them of the chance by reducing immigration to non-inflaming levels. From that book review:

            “to some kind of white American “greatness” at the expense of other people”

            That’s typically slanted. If folks want to remain the masters of their own homes I don’t see what’s wrong with that. I have a door on my house, and you probably do too. I admit who I want, and on my terms. I am not under obligation to let my neighbor move in after he has trashed his own house, and support him and accept that he now makes the rules. In my house I am a Ray-supremacist. You?

        • the gardner says

          Thanks. Other than the KKK, I have not heard of any of the organizations, individuals, or media associated with “white nationalism”. It appears the problem with this belief system is that people who ascribe to it do so at the expense of non-white groups. I can’t imagine the population of people in the US who ascribe to all its dimensions is very large. Calling people who voted for Trump white nationalists is a bit over the top and unfair, wouldn’t you say? But this is happening.

          What about white people like me who just think my heritage and culture are positives and would like to see them continue? I don’t think that precludes others’. For example, I think Shakespeare is incredible and taking his works out of college study because he’s an “old white guy” is actually reverse racism. Am I just supposed to stand by while college students engineer the vilification and erasing of my culture?

          • Sydney says

            @the gardener

            “Other than the KKK, I have not heard of any of the organizations, individuals, or media associated with ‘white nationalism.'”

            Yes, there have been lots of terrible, weird, fringe, white-nationalist hate groups and individuals in North America over the past decades (search: Aryan Nations, for one of the most ‘successful’). But they generally disappeared due to police/intelligence infiltration, in-fighting, murder (of each other), and whatnot. They’ve always been fringe, criminal, and never represented the mainstream or took hold in any meaningful way.

            The left’s current strategy is heinous and nation-destroying. It wildly exaggerates the issue (which is negligible by any normal standards), and conflates normal national pride and respect (things that used to be taught and celebrated in history and ‘civics’ classes!) into something heinous and scurrilous.

            It’s a good strategy: Lefties point to anyone who disagrees with their crazy concepts and brand them a ‘white nationalist’ or ‘white supremacist.’ But the strategy will fail as long as we (the common-sense majority) keep calling it out.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @the gardner

            “Am I just supposed to stand by while college students engineer the vilification and erasing of my culture?”

            No. Standing by is not nearly woke enough. If you apply for a job, they might ask for you DIE credo and credentials. What work have you done to actively help with the vilification and erasing of your culture? The goal is suicide, but not before we’ve first cleaned up the mess we made. First whitey must replace himself everywhere, then he must erase everything he’s done. Then he can liberate himself from his rotten existence.

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  25. David J says

    There’s a very good critique of this book, titled ‘A Remarkable Exercise In Inanity’, on amazon.co.uk. It’s well worth a read.

  26. Joana George says

    I’d like to share a technique I have found very useful in the past with casual ideologues (I doubt it would work on the extreme cases).

    In short, find one sub-topic you actually agree with them on and defend the people on the other side. Point out how those people could have put in just as much effort as they did into researching a topic and still come to a different conclusion. Challenge the way they get their information and point out how they are vulnerable to the same google algorithms / media bias / misinterpreted or bad science as the “enemy”.

    I think the first step should be to defend the people on the other side, rather than their ideas. More importantly, if you make that argument enough times, you might start to believe it and the accompanying humility can go a long way.

  27. The trouble with Arthur C Brooks’ argument is that a great deal of what I call “prestige progressivism” is based squarely on the idea that their attitudes make them morally superior people. Moralised status claims are built-in.

    Better arguing techniques, particularly separating a person from their ideas, are hardly going to reach across that divide, as morally grading people by their ideas is the point. Add in economising on information (creating “wrong facts”) and the status-bubble becomes almost impenetrable.
    https://areomagazine.com/2019/03/05/virtue-signal-or-piety-display-the-search-for-cognitive-identity-and-the-attack-on-social-bargaining/

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