Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Progressive Non-Contradictions - Responding to Elijah

On Twitter I saw a Elijah, an apologist I've had pleasant interactions with in the past go off on his own created hashtag called #ProgressiveContradictions. He's compiled a list of them in a post on his website.

I was a bit disappointed at reading some of these because frankly I expected better from Elijah. In very few cases did he highlight any actual hypocrisy that could be traced to the larger progressive movement.  But the vast majority of cases were going after the most superficial kinds of supposed contradictions - either interpreting statements in the worst ways, or ignoring underlying philosophy which underlies most of the statements and renders it non-contradictory, or just simply presenting views from two sides of the spectrum within progressivism and pretending that individuals hold both views on a topic that is internally contested. 

Honestly this is some kind of bush-league Fox News talk show kind of stuff that you wouldn't expect an educated thinker to engage in.

I pointed out how if an atheist or liberal did this, then Elijah would go nuts and pen blog posts detailing how wrong or stupid the critiques were. Like lets say:

Conservatives say they're pro-life, but for the death penalty! #ConservativeContradictions

Christians believe their god is perfectly mercifuly and perfectly just, but they're mutually exclusive! #ChristianContradictions

Christians say they believe in a god who is three persons, but there is only one god. #ChristianContradictions

Christians believe Jesus was fully man and fully god, but a being can't be completely two different things! #ChristianContradictions

In each case the conservative/christian can give an underlying philosophy or understanding to resolve these problems. While I may not agree, that doesn't mean the statements are inherently incoherent.

Elijah challenged me to show how his examples were not contradictory, and so that's where I intend to get to work.

Elijah at least starts off well and this is one of the areas where his complaint is legitimate.  There were far too many on the left who turned a blind eye to Obama's war mongering and then feigned outrage once a Republican started dropping bombs. Except there were plenty on the left who called out the problems with this. Consistent left wing thinkers did call out the problems with these kinds of criticisms.

Elijah 1, Progressives 0

The first statement here is true - denying climate change is anti-science. But then Elijah misrepresents liberal positions.  "Life begins after conception" isn't a majority view on the pro-choice side. Hell the sperm and egg are already "alive" before meeting. Pro-Choice people simply think that at conception the embryo is not a morally relevant life, so that it can be terminated by things like Plan-B without any kind of moral dilemma.  In terms of GMO's, nearly ever skeptic page on social media or the wider left-wing community regularly repudiates the anti-GMO bullshit. That's a very small minority of liberals who hold anti-GMO views, of which there are plenty of nutty conservatives who hold to it as well.   As far as genders - biology doesn't limit things to only two genders - there's plenty of intersex combinations in terms of organs/genitals or chromosome combinations to narrow things down to 2.  That said, classifying gender as wildly as something like a bunch of teenagers on Tumblr is going to do is hardly representative of progressive politics in general, let alone what is espoused by LBGT organizations.

Elijah 1, Progressives 1
There is not even a contradiction. Just because something is a social construct does not mean it is not real, let alone can not be a basis for oppression.  After all, various religions are social constructs and various religious groups are oppressed in various places around the planet.

Elijah 1, Progressives 2

"Healthy at every size" is a ridiculous position that is analogous to Young Earth Creationism on the right and is hardly representative of broader progressive views.  One can still think that body-shaming is wrong even if being overweight is unhealthy.  Also I'm not sure where the hell Elijah is conjuring up the straw man of "without gov't you'd all be fat and die of heart disease".  Maybe because progressives campaign to have calorie counts be mandatory on fast food advertisements?  But that doesn't entail the straw man view Elijah is putting here.

Elijah 1, Progressives 3

Increasing costs of a consumer good will decrease purchases, but that's not directly analogous to saying low-skill jobs should pay more as a baseline.  After all, you don't need cigarettes to live, but businesses still need some level of low-skilled employees to function at all.  The point isn't to increase costs of goods, it's to say that "companies should reduce their profits in order to pay their employees a better wage" which has all sorts of positive follow on effects for society.  What's more is that the market can have an effect on preventing costs from rising too high, or higher than necessary to achieve better wages at the expense of profit for stock holders.

Elijah 1, Progressives 4

Considering "crony capitalism" is a buzz word you hear on the right, not the left, this immediately seems off the mark, but that's not the end of where the problems here lie.  One can be against corrupt funneling of money from the government to big businesses via contracts, etc, but also be for the government subsidizing certain industries or technologies so as to bring about a better social good.

One area could be environmental technology.  One can think that subsidizing renewable energy tech companies is worthwhile so that we can replace environmentally harmful energy sources with ones that don't increase the CO2 levels of the planet.

This doesn't mean that liberal politicians won't engage in crony capitalism themselves (as do plenty of conservative politicians), or that they won't use the guise of social benefits to engage in crony capitalism - but there is no contradiction between hating corporatism and supporting government subsidies of private industry developing things that can promote a social good. That's how the internet got started after all.

Elijah 1, Progressives 5

I want to know what world Elijah lives in where liberals in general want to make it so that boys can't like trucks or that girls can't like dolls. What they want to do generally speaking is make it so that boys and girls aren't railroaded into only playing with trucks or dolls, and to remove any stigma from boys who want to play with dolls or girls who want to play with trucks.  This doesn't mean taking away from those who already enjoy something "stereotypical".

Elijah 1, Progressives 6

Much like the previous tweet Elijah confuses a problem with policing stereotypes with the stereotype being bad in and of itself.  Progressives don't say women can't wear makeup, wear dresses, or have long hair done up real fancy at a salon. What they want to say is that women don't have to do those things in order to be considered valuable or even classed as "real women".  The same would go for men and all the stereotypical male gender role BS.  So there's no problem with women or trans people "looking femme" and embracing/enjoying it, or not.

Elijah 1, Progressives 7

Straw man right up front. Progressives don't say "no one should have guns" and "police need to have guns".  Even the most gun controlled countries still arm most police officers with firearms.  The progressive position is that civilians shouldn't be able to own firearms, or maybe not semi-automatic firearms because the risk to society is too high.  It's not contradictory to say that the only people who can be armed with guns are those who are controlled by a representative government that citizens have a say in the policies that govern what situations those firearms are allowed to be used.

Elijah 1, Progressives 8

This is simply not a contradiction. If one accepts that race/gender don't determine someone's ability to do their job and Trump's cabinet consists overwhelmingly with white men - then that shows a clear unjustified bias towards one race/gender combination.  This also ignores that while race/gender don't determine someone's ability to do their job, it can have an aggregate adverse effect if there is no diversity on an entire team, especially in terms of focus.  If you create a task force to handle women's issues and that panel contains zero women, that's a problem. That doesn't mean that men can't also be on the panel, or vice versa.

Elijah 1, Progressives 9

Another strawman right up front. The progressive idea is that women and men should have equal rights and equal access to employment opportunities, not the idea that women and men are inherently equal in all respects. One can acknowledge that in the aggregate men have higher upper body strength than women, but at the same time allow women access to jobs that require higher upper body strength than average assuming they can meet the requirements for the job.

One can also acknowledge that while overall capacity is the same, differences of background and perspectives create a more efficient outcome, or don't neglect some needs/preferences in the end design of a product.

Elijah 1, Progressives 10

Straw man of progressives as embracing wholesale cultural relativism in totality doesn't represent actual progressive thought on the whole.  This is akin to saying all Christians believe in a literal Adam and Eve, and all the incest that entailed to produce the entirety of the human race today.  Progressives do condemn practices like FGM or denying womens rights in other cultures.

As far as cultural appropriation goes, that is it's own contested topic inside of progressive politics, especially in terms of what counts as appropriation vs. cultural assimilation and how it should be treated in various contexts.  This is like saying that there's a contradiction between Calvinism and Arminianism and therefore Christianity is incoherent, when those positions represent two opposing views in the larger Christian community.

Elijah 1, Progressives 11

This is just straight up not a contradiction. Women's rights can exist without men's rights being violated. Similarly if one accepts that men can become women, that doesn't mean that women somehow lose the rights they have.   There's a larger issue of Elijah ignoring philosophical views on sex vs. gender, but that's a larger issue that I don't want to get into here.

Elijah 1, Progressives 12

Here Elijah conflates a pro-choice view and extrapolates it as an absolute, when it isn't that inherently. It is valid to say that a women has the autonomy to decide whether or not she wants to carry a fetus to term since that doesn't affect society as a whole, vs. saying vaccines should be mandatory for children since that does have an immediate affect on society as a whole, especially when education is mandated.

Also since vaccines are mandated for children, or for adults in specific professions - the idea that "you don't have a choice regarding your body" doesn't really apply. Adults aren't forced to be vaccinated, kids in the custody of adults are - and jobs that mandate vaccination can be quit if the adult doesn't want to get the vaccine.

Elijah 1, Progressives 13

I'm convinced one of Elijah's hobbies is ignoring/strawmanning pro-choice views.  Pro-choice views entail that either fetuses aren't human in a morally relevant sense, not in terms of strict biology. In fact they can think that they are human in a morally relevant sense after a certain point - but that a women's right to bodily autonomy trumps a fetus's right to life.  In either case, the pro-choice view isn't rejecting the scientific fact about human genetics.

While I'm sure there are some progressive idiots online that will deny that fetuses are human in a biological sense, they're akin to creationists who say "if evolution is true and we descended from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?"

Elijah 1, Progressives 14

Elijah ignores that if there is a gov't "monopoly" (and I'm not sure that makes sense in a republic/democratic society), that in general we citizens have a say in how things are done. School boards exist and have a high amount of local control available.  This is in contrast to privately owned monopolies in which citizens don't have a say.  This is a relevant difference between the monopolies which resolves any contradiction.  Also, progressives would be opposed to a gov't monopoly in some kind of totalitarian/fascist state in which citizens have no say in what gov't policy is.  Progressives also allow private schools and private medical practices in places with state education and healthcare.

Elijah 1, Progressives 15

Very few progressives will say that "only" those kinds of people voted for Trump.  At best you see arguments about how even if a person isn't homophobic/sexist/etc voting for Trump tacitly supports a homophobe/sexist/etc and so gets the voter guilt by association.

Similarly, it's not an insult or name-calling if the charge actually fits - and there are plenty of noted sexists/homophobes/islamophobes/racists who openly supported Trump - David Duke and the KKK being a prime example. One could make the argument about morons, which is different than the other charges, but that involves pointing out people voting against their own economic interests - but I'm not sure that line of argument is defensible.  So Elijah has some point here, the leftwing response to Trump in terms of rhetoric has been over the fucking top, but at the same time this is a bit of a straw man to say that "only" those people voted for Trump.  I'll call this one a draw.

This is a straw man.  Liberals say that Trump shows fascist and authoritarian tendencies and could move in that direction, they do not claim he is now a dictator.  There is fear that he will use the Presidency to erode the strength of institutions that can oppose his authoritarian tendencies, but that doesn't mean we think he's actually a dictator.

Elijah 1, Progressives 16

Straw man. One can think that in the aggregate that policing policies and laws are skewed in racist ways - penalizing crimes that are racially correlated more harshly (ie mandatory sentencing disparity for cocaine vs crack use) and that police tend to use unjustified force or killing of minorities vs. enforcement with white people - but not believe that "every cop is a racist murderous thug".

This is distinct from the idea that yes, only law enforcement should have guns, or certain classes of guns (ie. semi-automatics and better). One can think that and also want to reform law enforcement to have a more equitable criminal-justice system.  That's not a contradiction.

Elijah 1, Progressives 17

This doesn't even have enough context to be meaningful. How many view free speech is a right but at the same time think the government should censor the alt-right?  How many calls to censor the alt-right are for platforms like Twitter or Reddit or a newspaper to deny them a platform - the vast majority seem to be the latter, not the former.  Yes there are some cases of far left wing people calling for government colleges to deny platforms to speakers invited by conservative groups - and in almost all cases the schools have given them a platform because of free speech rights.  It's practically routine to see liberal articles decrying the anti-free speech tendencies of the radical left.

Elijah 1, Progressives 18

Progressives believe military spending needs to be cut, but I don't know what large group of progressives Elijah sees that is calling for us to be militarily involved "everywhere".  Typically progressives are anti-war, and want out of the middle east, and do not favor military action in say Syria, or want to go to war with North Korea as Trump is currently threatening.  Elijah is pulling this one out of his ass.

Elijah 1, Progressives 19

I have no idea where Elijah is getting the idea that progressives believe people who don't like taxation need to leave or should leave the country.  Governments require taxation, you can't have a gov't without some form of taxation.  Also there's no context to what he's claiming about "telling an employee to leave their job", certainly progressives support people leaving jobs they can't fulfill or firing people.  We think people shouldn't be fired because of their gender, gender identity, orientation, or race. We don't think people should be fired because of their religion, at least not when their religion or politics doesn't inherently conflict with job requirements.  A person who works at a bucher shop who becomes a vegan will need to leave their job and that's not oppressive.

Elijah 1, Progressives 20

While many progressives are hostile to capitalism, especially in it's more pure forms, I'm not sure it's on the basis of "promoting materialism" so much as it is cruel and puts profits ahead of the well being of people.  Most if not all progressives are in favor of some kind of capitalism, at least in some aspects of society or markets, but not in others.

However to get a contradiction Elijah attacks progressive policies which pragmatically try to work within our capitalistic system since they acknowledge we can't change that yet, or want to have a stronger mix of socialism and capitalism than we already have. Even socialist economies are still economies, and so stimulating the economy by giving money or resources to people via socialist policies (ie. healthcare, etc) can be a stimulus to the economy.  That's not a contradiction.

Elijah 1, Progressives 21

Elijah starts off with yet another straw man.  The progressive argument for gun control is to say that the blanket "right to bear arms" as it's interpreted currently doesn't make sense since when it was written gun technology wasn't foreseen to be as destructive as it is now.  As such we should review/revise the right to bear arms in light of modern firearms. It is not to say that "the 2nd amendment only protects muskets" which is akin to the "evolution-monkeys" objection. Maybe some idiots use it, but it's not representative of the whole or educated progressive thought.

Also the idea that "everything on the internet is protected by the 1st amendment" is another straw man.  First off, that kind of stupid view, where it is embraced, is pretty bi-partisan. You'll find plenty of right wing wackos claiming their 1st amendment rights are violated when their posts are taken down or they are banned from some platform, just as much as a left wing wacko will say the same.

Similarly, speech on the internet isn't any more or less protected than speech in other context. Immediate incitement to violence isn't protected, nor are threats or libel, or a host of illegal things. Porn is legal online and off, but porn involving minors is illegal in both context.  Finally the increase in capability for speech because of the internet isn't as relevant in terms of social harms as the increase for killing power in a smaller firearm is in terms of why we allow free speech vs. private firearm ownership.

Elijah 1, Progressives 22


This post has gone far too long, because it takes an order of magnitude worth of effort to refute bullshit than it takes to simply state it.

In the end, I have to wonder what kind of thinker Elijah wants to be considered.  Does he want to be like Alvin Plantinga, a respected intellectual on the right who fairly represents his opponents and provides well reasoned arguments, or does he want to be like Sean Hannity and come up with blithe misrepresentations of his opponents to create strawmen he can easily burn down to get fans and viewers?

Because right now he's acting a whole lot more like the latter than the former.

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