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The Smug do mockery as a substitute for progressive argument

Posted By Jo Nova On April 26, 2016 @ 4:11 am In Global Warming | Comments Disabled

The state of “progressive” national debate has been reduced to backslappin’ self-congratulation about the dumbness of the other side. There is no need to discuss morals or ponder imponderables, it’s enough to crack jokes, point and snigger.

In left-leaning media-land, it’s one long empty selfie. For a change, left-leaning Vox has published a serious article that hits one  mark exactly — even if the writer is unaware how his arguments apply to climate change and other areas. There is admirable self-awareness on the glorified issue of gay rights versus the undeserving interests of the poor.

Emmett Rensin is persuading his fellows to be more respectful of the rubes they disdain, apparently in the fear that Trump is reaching those same rubes and may win come November. He foresees his colleagues saying “What the fuck happened?“. But there is insight as he disassembles the vacuity of at least some channels of political correctness. It’s worth reading, because Rensin is trying to solve a problem conservatives face — how to overcome the empty mockery and get the mockers to engage in honest discussion. Its not enough to have the right arguments if there is no debate.

Rensin hints briefly that “there is money” to reward the mockers (he’s referring to media-land), but doesn’t appear to realize that there is money driving things from the core. When half the population are dependent on Big-Government the darkest shades of mockery come from the parasites caving to base instincts to justify their free lunch.

Emmett Rensin The smug style in American liberalism

The smug style says to itself, Yeah. I really am one of the few thinking people in this country, aren’t I?

Ridicule is the most effective political tactic.

Ridicule is especially effective when it’s personal and about expressing open disdain for stupid, bad people.

You can’t be legitimate if you’re the butt of our jokes.

The working class left the Democrats over the last fifty years and the core of Democrat intellectual “centre of gravity” shifted to universities, media and elite enclaves. Rensin argues that the professionals can’t figure out why they couldn’t convince their old worker buddies to follow them. Rather than self analysis, or coming up with a better argument, they took the easy road, blame those who didn’t “get” their wisdom and called them stupid.

Finding comfort in the notion that their former allies were disdainful, hapless rubes, smug liberals created a culture animated by that contempt. The rubes noticed and replied in kind. The result is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Financial incentive compounded this tendency — there is money, after all, in reassuring the bitter. Over 20 years, an industry arose to cater to the smug style. It began in humor, and culminated for a time in The Daily Show, a program that more than any other thing advanced the idea that liberal orthodoxy was a kind of educated savvy and that its opponents were, before anything else, stupid. The smug liberal found relief in ridiculing them.

Smugness is a perfect circle. Once a person has decided that all their opponents are terminally stupid, all their arguments are “therefore” wrong, no discussion needed:

The smug style created a feedback loop. If the trouble with conservatives was ignorance, then the liberal impulse was to correct it. When such corrections failed, disdain followed after it.

The smug can’t lose. If a conservative was won over, the smug was right. If a conservative was not won over, the conservative was stupid (and the smug was therefore also right about the conservative being stupid). Geddit?

– And if cheap, bullying tactics of mockery “converted” someone, it’s pure genius right?

Rensin talks about “Good Facts” — pointing out that the Smug seem to feel they are not tainted by ideology. Without saying it Rensin is describing people who think they are scientific, logical and armed with “The Science”:

It is the smug style’s first premise: a politics defined by a command of the Correct Facts and signaled by an allegiance to the Correct Culture. A politics that is just the politics of smart people in command of Good Facts. A politics that insists it has no ideology at all, only facts. No moral convictions, only charts, the kind that keep them from “imposing their morals” like the bad guys do.

 He has the insight to recognise the act of “knowing” the Good Facts, is a form of virtue signaling :

What is important, after all, is to signal that you know these things. What is important is to launch links and mockery at those who don’t. The Good Facts are enough: Anybody who fails to capitulate to them is part of the Problem, is terminally uncool.

In the climate debate those who don’t capitulate are not just uncool, they are terminal deniers. Rensin doesn’t make that leap at all. Unaware he’s running in parallel towards it through another debate.

This, I think, is fundamental to understanding the smug style. If good politics and good beliefs are just Good Facts and good tweets — that is, if there is no ideology beyond sensible conclusions drawn from a rational assessment of the world — then there are no moral fights, only lying liars and the stupid rubes who believe them…

The mockers will protest that it’s just for fun, a harmless joke, which it would be, if it were not standing in as a substitute for national debate:

We have long passed the point where blithe ridicule of the American right can be credibly cast as private stress relief and not, for instance, the animating public strategy of an entire wing of the liberal culture apparatus. The Daily Show, as it happens, is not the private entertainment of elites blowing off some steam. It is broadcast on national television.

It’s double or nothing for the Smug style:

It would be unfair to say that the smug style has never learned from these mistakes. But the lesson has been, We underestimated how many people could be fooled.

That is: We underestimated just how dumb these dumb hicks really are.

On politics, Rensin is rightly suggesting the progressives mockery alienates voters:

Abandoned and without any party willing to champion their interests, people cling to candidates who, at the very least, are willing to represent their moral convictions. The smug style resents them for it, and they resent the smug in turn.

There is useful insight in Rensin’s article. He is aware of the psychological studies and surveys that show that Republicans can be smarter, more open minded, and adaptable than the Smug. He’s aware of the contradiction that The Smug paint themselves as more concerned about the poor while they disrespect and mock the poor for being so stupid that they don’t Know What’s Best for The Poor.

This is not a call for civility. Manners are not enough.

Manners may not be enough, but without them there is no national debate at all, just yelling, empty gloating and namecalling. Progressives need to start with manners — honest conversation, accurate English, and acknowledging errors. Some apologies for bad behaviour are long overdue.

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