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The Power of Making Friends with Ideological Enemies – Article by Sean Malone

The Power of Making Friends with Ideological Enemies – Article by Sean Malone

The New Renaissance Hat
Sean Malone
September 10, 2017
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Daryl Davis can be a model for how to change people’s minds.

“How can people hate me, when they don’t even know me?”

This is the question that drives the subject of a fantastic new documentary on Netflix called “Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race, and America,” directed by Matt Ornstein.

For the past 30 years, soul musician Daryl Davis has been traveling the country in search of an answer in the most dangerous way possible for a black man in America: by directly engaging with members the Ku Klux Klan.

He’s invited KKK members into his home, he’s had countless conversations, and as unlikely as it seems, now considers a number of them to be his friends.

Daryl might say that he’s not really even doing anything special besides treating his enemies with respect and kindness in the hopes of actually dissuading them from their hateful views.

Yet, that’s something almost no one else has the courage to do, even when the risks are considerably lower.

Disagreements are stressful and difficult, and the more horrifying someone else’s viewpoint is, the easier it is to dismiss the people who hold those beliefs as inhuman garbage who simply can’t be reasoned with. Social media has also made dehumanizing people considerably easier, as we all get to interact with people from around the world without ever seeing their faces or considering their feelings.

As a result, we live in an increasingly polarized time when a lot of people are saying that the only answer to hate and awful ideas is to meet them with even more hate, more anger, outrage, and even violence.

And it’s not just a problem when dealing with the worst ideas in human history like racial supremacy and fascism. Some people now take this approach for even trivial and academic disagreements.

Don’t like a speaker coming to campus? Silence them and prevent them from getting into the auditorium.

Don’t like what a Facebook friend has to say? Block them.

And of course, if you think someone you meet is a white supremacist or a neo-Nazi, the only thing left to do is punch them in the face.

Punching Doesn’t Work

But consider that most of human history is filled with people allowing their disagreements to turn into bloody, horrific warfare; it’s only our commitment to dealing with our adversaries peacefully through speech and conversation that has allowed us to become more civilized. So escalating conflicts into violence should be seen as the worst kind of social failure.

And besides, punching people who disagree with you doesn’t actually change their minds or anyone else’s, so we’re still left with the same deceptively difficult question before and after:

When people believe in wrongheaded or terrible things, how do we actually persuade them to stop believing the bad ideas, and get them to start believing in good ones instead?

Judging by social media, most people seem to believe that it’s possible to yell at people or insult and ridicule them until they change their minds. Unfortunately, as cathartic as it feels to let out your anger against awful people, this just isn’t an effective strategy to reduce the amount of people who hold awful ideas.

In fact, if you do this, your opponents (and even more people who are somewhat sympathetic to their views, or just see themselves as part of the same social group) might actually walk away even more strongly committed to their bad ideas than they were before.

The evidence from psychology is pretty clear on this.

We know from studies conducted by neuroscientists like Joseph LeDoux that people’s amygdalas — the part of the brain that processes raw emotions — can actually bypass their rational minds and create a fight-or-flight response when they feel threatened or attacked. Psychologist Daniel Goleman called this an “Amygdala Hijack,” and it doesn’t just apply to physical threats.

People’s entire personal identity is often wrapped up in their political or philosophical beliefs, and a strong verbal attack against those beliefs actually creates a response in the brain of the target similar to a menacing lunge.

Even presenting facts or arguments that directly conflict with people’s core beliefs or identities can actually cause people to cling to those beliefs more tightly after they’ve been presented with contrary evidence. Political scientists like Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler have been studying this phenomenon for over 10 years and call it the “Backfire Effect“.

And when the people whose minds we desperately need to change are racists and fascists (or socialists and communists, for that matter), a strategy that actually backfires and pushes more people towards those beliefs is the last thing we need.

Principles of Persuasion

The good news is that in addition to knowing what doesn’t work, we also know a lot about how to talk to people in ways that are actually persuasive — and the existing research strongly supports Daryl Davis’s approach.

In the psychologist Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence, he describes what he calls the “Principles of Persuasion.”

One of these principles is called “reciprocity”, and it’s based on the idea that people feel obliged to treat you the way you treat them. So, if you treat them with kindness and humility, most people will offer you the same courtesy. On the other hand, if you treat them with contempt, well…

Another principle Cialdini describes is the idea of “liking”.

It’s almost too obvious, but it turns out that if someone likes you personally and believes that you like them, it’s easier to convince them that your way of thinking is worth considering.  One easy step towards being liked is to listen to others and find common ground through shared interests. This can be a bridge – or a shortcut – to getting other people to see you as a friend or part of their tribe.

You might think somebody like Daryl Davis would have nothing in common with a KKK member, but according to Daryl, if you “spend 5 minutes talking to someone and you’ll find something in common,” and if you “spend 10 minutes, and you’ll find something else in common.”

In the film, he connects with several people about music, and you can see these connections paying off — breaking down barriers and providing many Klan members with a rare (and in some cases only) opportunity to interact with a black man as a human being worth respecting instead of an enemy.

Even better, over time, forming these relationships has had an interesting side-effect.

In the last couple decades alone, over 200 of America’s most ardent white supremacists have left the Ku Klux Klan and hung up their robes and hoods for good.

Many of those robes now hang in Daryl’s closet.

And in a lot of cases, these individual conversions have much bigger consequences and end multi-generational cycles of bigotry. When a mother or a father leaves the darkness of the Klan, they’re also bringing their kids into the light with them. A few of these cases are profiled in “Accidental Courtesy”, and they’re indescribably moving.

Daryl Davis can be a model for how to change people’s minds and with everything that’s going on in the world today, we need successful models now more than ever.

Making Friends From Enemies

There’s another point to all of this that I think often goes unsaid.

Unlike Daryl, most of us aren’t actually interacting with KKK members or trying to change people’s minds away from truly evil ideologies, and yet we all fall to the temptation of yelling and name-calling, and using all those techniques of influence that have the opposite of our intended or desired effect.

It’s easy to allow outrage and emotion carry us off into treating other people as inhuman enemies to be crushed rather than human beings to be persuaded.

But if Daryl’s techniques can work to convince die-hard white supremacists that a black man — and perhaps eventually all black people — are worthy of respect, imagine how effective they can be when disagreements crop up with your friends, neighbors, and co-workers who don’t actually hate you or the things you stand for.

Who knows, if you have more genuine conversations with people outside your bubble, you might even find yourself changing a little bit for the better as well.

“Accidental Courtesy” teaches us that the way to deal with wrong or evil ideas isn’t shouting them down or starting a fight; it’s having the courage to do what Daryl did and making a friend out of an enemy.

Sean Malone is the Director of Media at the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). His films have been featured in the mainstream media and throughout the free-market educational community.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author. Read the original article.

The Rational Argumentator’s Fifteenth Anniversary Manifesto

The Rational Argumentator’s Fifteenth Anniversary Manifesto

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
August 31, 2017
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As of today The Rational Argumentator has been in publication continuously for fifteen years – half of my lifetime to date. The more time passes, the more the value of continuity is reinforced for me, and so I hope that these fifteen years have only been an auspicious beginning for The Rational Argumentator. TRA shall continually endeavor to improve and expand in new directions, but always by building upon the old and by remaining rooted in a core identity – the championing of the principles of Reason, Rights, and Progress – the ideas that made Western civilization great. These ideals will hopefully be applied to forge a new global, universal human (and transhuman) civilization which we – all reasonable and decent people who wish to join this effort – can assemble by picking up the pieces of the wreckage of our unfortunate, downward-spiraling moment in history.

We live today in what Robert Heinlein prognosticated in his science fiction as the “Crazy Years”, which he described as exhibiting “Considerable technical advance during this period, accompanied by a gradual deterioration of mores, orientation, and social institutions” – gradual deterioration that became quite sudden and cataclysmic in 2016 and 2017. The climate of contemporary societies and political systems, particularly that of the United States, evokes William Butler Yeats’s famous lines:

  Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

The deterioration cannot be attributed to any particular individual or even faction (these are, at most, symptoms), but rather to the fraying general fabric of contemporary Western, particularly American, life. Those who have regularly read the pages of The Rational Argumentator will not be surprised at my view that the deterioration is primarily due to the abandonment of upward aspiration both within mainstream culture and among various subcultures – a rejection of 18th-century Enlightenment meliorism and an embrace of postmodern aimlessness. To reverse this tendency, now, more than ever, it is essential to emphasize the importance of rational inquiry, civil discourse, and the mindset of building a civilization – as opposed to militant subjectivism (where a person considers his or her feelings to be unquestioned dogma – and woe to those who challenge them!), coarse crudity in manners, riotousness, and the mindset of “tearing down the system” in a futile attempt to start from scratch. We cannot and must not start over – for the primitive state of humankind is far worse than our admittedly deeply imperfect morass of institutions and norms. But we can – and we must – repair and build upon the achievements of the past, combining them with new technologies and insights to forge the next great era of our civilization, a project I outline briefly in a two-party video series, “The Great Transhumanist Game”.

Amid the turmoil, I was pleased to see that The Rational Argumentator has gained notice and achieved significant increases in its visitation, receiving 1,087,149 total page views during its fifteenth year, as compared to 823,968 page views the year prior. Cumulative lifetime TRA visitation stands at 10,979,785 page views, and I am confident that the 11-million mark will be exceeded in September 2017. Perhaps more readers are seeking an antidote to the Crazy Years. Reason is that antidote, and these pages provide it in abundance.

During its fifteenth year, TRA published 140 features. While this was a lower rate of publication than the 208 to 314 features published per year in the preceding five years, TRA has at the same time become allied with the United States Transhumanist Party, of which I became Chairman in November 2016. The U.S. Transhumanist Party website has been brimming with new content, contributed by a wide variety of forward-thinking minds, and I am proud that this young but steadily growing organization has published 105 features during my tenure as Chairman thus far. I am also proud of the cadre of volunteer Officers that the U.S. Transhumanist Party has assembled – a team of dedicated advocates for the future, which will hopefully greatly expand with time and become the core of a movement that will transform and redirect society and culture back toward the ideals of reason and amelioration.

Thus, for the upcoming year, I pose an ambitious task for The Rational Argumentator and its readers. Let us make sure that Yeats’s words remain a warning rather than the ever-present reality. The center must hold, and we must ensure that it holds. Each of us can participate in this project. We must become the center upon which human civilization depends for its survival, continuity, and growth. Through both great endeavors and small, routine maintenance tasks; through creation of elevated and noble works, as well as everyday kindnesses to the people in our lives; through the rhetoric that inspires great aspirations and the decorum that conveys respect and uplifts our sentiments into the realm of good will – we must be the agents of cultural transformation – a New Renaissance, a Re-Enlightenment, indeed, a Recivilization to follow the Crazy Years. One of my most inspired moments of the past year has been seeing the finished painting of the City of New Antideath, which I commissioned from artist Ekaterinya Vladinakova. I invite you to gaze upon this colossal cityscape to gain glimpses at an era where all of our major aims – the return of reason as the paradigm for life, the attainment of indefinite longevity, the liberation of humankind from privation and conflict – have been attained. May it inspire you to go forth and take the many necessary incremental steps toward such a world.

This essay may be freely reproduced using the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike International 4.0 License, which requires that credit be given to the author, G. Stolyarov II. Find out about Mr. Stolyarov here.

Why Free Speech on Campus Is Under Attack: Blame Marcuse – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

Why Free Speech on Campus Is Under Attack: Blame Marcuse – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

The New Renaissance Hat
Jeffrey A. Tucker
July 27, 2017
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This article was originally published by the Foundation for Economic Education on April 22, 2017.

It’s become routine. An outside lecturer like Charles Murray or FEE’s own Lawrence Reed is invited to lecture on campus, just to give a different perspective than students might be hearing in the classroom. It seems like the way academia is supposed to work: many ideas are presented as a contribution to a rich education and the student is given the tools to make up his or her own mind.

But instead of a fair hearing, the invited lecturer is met with protests and gets shouted down. Aggressive and belligerent students accuse the speaker of every manner of evil. It’s not even about providing an intellectual challenge. No one minds that. The protesters want to stop the speaker from saying anything. They intimidate, threaten, scream, shout, and drive the guest from campus. The victors claim that the campus has been made safe again.

Outsiders look at the attacks on visiting lecturers on campus and wonder why. What could be the harm in hearing an alternative point of view? Isn’t that the point of a university, and a higher education generally? Aren’t students supposed to be trusted with discernment enough to be exposed to a broad range of ideas?

None of it makes much sense, unless you understand a bizarre ideology that has exercised a massive influence in academia since the rise of the New Left in the late 1960s. In the old days, people associated the Left with an ethos akin to the ACLU today: the right to speak, publish, and associate. The turn that took place with the New Left actually flipped whatever remaining attachment that the Left had with freedom.

Blinded by Ideology

There was one major influence here: Herbert Marcuse, the father of the New Left and perhaps the most influential Marxist of the last half century, and his most famous essay from 1965: Repressive Toleration. It is here that you find the template for an upside-down view of freedom held by so many students today. In this essay, Marcuse explains that free speech and toleration are illusions so long as society has yet to conform to the Marxian ideal. So long as that is true, in fact, free speech must be suppressed and toleration itself must not be tolerated.

In some ways, this essay is a blueprint not only for an oppressive campus life dominated by left-wing hegemony; it also offers a rationale for the totalitarian state itself. But in order to understand where he is coming from, and why those under his influence can be so controlling and even terrifying toward basic standards of civility, you need to know the background of his thought.

Marcuse was born in 1898, one year before F.A. Hayek, whose life and ideas serve as a foil for the Frankfurt School that Marcuse represented. And like Mises, Marcuse was driven out of of his home by the Nazis and spent time in Geneva before coming to the United States as an emigre. Unlike Hayek and Mises, Marcuse was a dedicated Marxist, and a main influence in the extension of Marxist economic theory to cover a broader range of philosophical topics.

Both Marx and Marcuse were successors in the long tradition of left-Hegelian thought that opposed every aspect of the rise of laissez-faire commercial life in the 19th century. The Hegelian view was that what we call freedom for average people was a social mask for a meta-narrative of history that was grim and dreadful. Impersonal forces in history were at work creating struggles, clashes, and wars between large-scale social aggregates. The free market (and freedom generally) might look like harmony but it is an illusion to cover a terrible exploitation that the workers and peasants might not directly perceive but could be discerned by enlightened intellectuals.

The goal of history, in this view, is to realize some grand conclusive stage in which the social order ceases to be a messy place of marginal improvements in living standards and instead resembles some utopia as defined by intellectuals. The trick for this point of view is finding the necessary path from here to there.

Recall the strange way in which Marx’s view that the state must “wither away” became an ideological cover for the realization of the total state itself. It’s all about the transition. Yes, Marx said, the state will go away forever, but only once the new socialist man had been created and the reactionary forces keeping scientific socialism at bay were entirely expropriated (or exterminated).

Suppress Freedom to Gain It

As a dedicated Marxist (and left-Hegelian generally), Marcuse believed that the same was true for other bourgeois institutions like free speech, free press, and toleration. Yes, he shared the goal that we need all those things. “Tolerance is an end in itself,” he says with some promise that he could make some sense. “The elimination of violence, and the reduction of suppression to the extent required for protecting man and animals from cruelty and aggression are preconditions for the creation of a humane society.”

Right on! And yet, he says, “Such a society does not yet exist; progress toward it is perhaps more than before arrested by violence and suppression on a global scale.” Every exercise of freedom as it exists is loaded and dominated by existing elites, who skew the debate to favor their position. It’s not a level playing field because social inequities are so prevalent as to be decisive in all outcomes.

As with Marx, in other words, we’ve got a problem in the transition. The masses of people are being deluded by anti-Marxian practices by governments and power elites, practices which have unleashed every manner of horror: neo-colonial massacres, violence and suppression, racist exploitation, police state oppression, and the domination of society by forces of power.

You know the litany of evils, of course. But the more you read, the more you realize that the real problem according to Marcuse comes down to one word: capitalism. So long as that survives, the masses will be lacking in proper discernment to see and know what is true. In this case, toleration will only provide opportunities for the perpetuation of evil. “Tolerance is extended to policies, conditions, and modes of behavior which should not be tolerated because they are impeding, if not destroying, the chances of creating an existence without fear and misery.”

If we allow free speech and give a platform to non-Marxist ideas, the great Hegelian moment when we reach the end of history will continue to elude us.

For this reason, we need to adopt full-scale repression – at least until the end of history arrives. As Marcuse wrote:

They would include the withdrawal of toleration of speech and assembly from groups and movements which promote aggressive policies, armament, chauvinism, discrimination on the grounds of race and religion, or which oppose the extension of public services, social security, medical care, etc. Moreover, the restoration of freedom of thought may necessitate new and rigid restrictions on teachings and practices in the educational institutions which, by their very methods and concepts, serve to enclose the mind within the established universe of discourse and behavior – thereby precluding a priori a rational evaluation of the alternatives.

And to the degree to which freedom of thought involves the struggle against inhumanity, restoration of such freedom would also imply intolerance toward scientific research in the interest of deadly ‘deterrents’, of abnormal human endurance under inhuman conditions, etc.

Wait just a minute here. Did you catch that? Marcuse says that if you oppose policies like social security or Obamacare, you should be denied the freedom of speech and assembly. You should be shut up and beat up. The path toward true freedom is through massive real-world oppression. If you have the wrong views, you have no rights.

The entire essay is born of frustration that the Marxists have not yet won, that they continue to have to make a case for their perspective in the face of tremendous opposition. Given that he and his friends are part of a priesthood of truth, shouldn’t they just be declared the winners and contrary views suppressed?

In other words, it is possible to define the direction in which prevailing institutions, policies, opinions would have to be changed in order to improve the chance of a peace which is not identical with cold war and a little hot war, and a satisfaction of needs which does not feed on poverty, oppression, and exploitation. Consequently, it is also possible to identify policies, opinions, movements which would promote this chance, and those which would do the opposite. Suppression of the regressive ones is a prerequisite for the strengthening of the progressive ones.

What about freedom and stuff? We’ll get there, but first all opponents of how Marcuse defined freedom must be eliminated. In other words, this is not real freedom. It is a big excuse for suppression, despotism, and the total state.

Or as Marcuse said with characteristic bluntness, we must push the “cancellation of the liberal creed of free and equal discussion.” We must, he said, be “militantly intolerant.”

Who Rules?

Now, the question is: who should be in charge of deciding “the distinction between liberating and repressive, human and inhuman teachings and practices.” The answer is readily at hand: properly enlightened intellectuals like Marcuse and his friends, who must be put in charge of the regime managing the transition. As he puts it, a decider should be “in the maturity of his faculties as a human being.”

It is they who should speak and be charged with putting down contrary views. To Marcuse, it is no different from how society tries to control juvenile delinquents. They don’t have rights and freedoms. Neither should unenlightened adults persist in the failure to be Marxists like him.

Here we have a classic demonstration of the power of dogma. It can distort the world around you to the point that black becomes white, up is down, and slavery is freedom.

It reminds me of the time that Leon Trotsky visited the New York subway and noticed that there were machines dispensing gum. He concluded that gum was a capitalist plot to keep the jaws of the workers moving so that they would not perceive their status as slaves having their surplus value stolen by capitalist exploiters.

And yet: sometimes gum is just gum.

So you wonder: where are these attacks on free speech coming from? They are coming from the academy where this stuff is taught to students of sociology, politics, and literature, from day one. It doesn’t mean that people are literally reading Marcuse or even that their professors have done so. Philosophy works this way. Bad ideas are like termites: you can’t entirely see them, and suddenly the whole house falls in.

Astute readers will notice a strange parallel between the ideas of Marcuse and those of the alt-right that imagines that violating the rights of people who disagree is the way to make progress toward real freedom. The model for the alt-right is the world of Pinochet: dissidents must be thrown out of helicopters.

Indeed, there is not much substantial difference between the Nazi politics of Carl Schmitt and the Marxist politics of Herbert Marcuse. They both exist within the same Hegelian ideological bubble, operating as mirror images of each other. One gives rise to the other in alternating sequences of action and reaction. Two sides of the same coin.

Each wants to suppress the other, which is why the complaints of alt-rightists are so disingenuous. They complain about having their free-speech rights violated, but they aspire to do exactly the same to their own enemies.

And, incidentally, censorship is like socialism: it works in theory but not in practice. Suppressing ideas subsidizes the demand for the very idea being put down. You can’t control the human mind by controlling speech alone.

What about Real Freedom?

As you read through this material, the question keeps coming back to you. What about actual freedom right now? What about actual speech right now? Not freedom and speech toward a specific goal, a spelled-out end of history scenario, but rather just real freedom and speech, right now. And what about commercial freedom itself, which has done more to improve the lives of regular people more than any imagined end-state of history as cobbled together by intellectual elites.

Exploring this left and right Hegelian literature makes you appreciate the absolute genius of the old liberal creed, and the handful of great intellectuals who upheld it through the 20th century against these dangerous and illiberal ideologies. Only in this literature will you discover the great truth that freedom right now, right where we are in this stage of history, is the only social goal truly worth fighting for.

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Content for the Foundation for Economic Education. He is also Chief Liberty Officer and founder of Liberty.me, Distinguished Honorary Member of Mises Brazil, research fellow at the Acton Institute, policy adviser of the Heartland Institute, founder of the CryptoCurrency Conference, member of the editorial board of the Molinari Review, an advisor to the blockchain application builder Factom, and author of five books. He has written 150 introductions to books and many thousands of articles appearing in the scholarly and popular press.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author. Read the original article.

Is Reality Winner “One of Us”? – Article by William Sims Bainbridge

Is Reality Winner “One of Us”? – Article by William Sims Bainbridge

The New Renaissance Hat
William Sims Bainbridge
July 26, 2017
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This article originally appeared on the website of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET) and is republished here with Dr. Bainbridge’s permission. 

Amidst the raging chaos in modern advanced nations, aggravated or rendered more visible by emerging technologies, an occasional individual person stands out, now notably Reality Winner.  Her Wikipedia page begins: “Reality Leigh Winner (born December 1991) is an American intelligence specialist employed by Pluribus International Corporation. Winner was arrested on June 3, 2017, on suspicion of leaking an intelligence report about Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections to the news website The Intercept. The report suggested that Russian hackers attacked a U.S. voting software supplier.”  Despite considerable journalistic attention, we cannot be sure we know exactly what Reality did, what its legal implications really are, and how her fate may be decided.  Yet today is not too early to consider the possible meaning of her remarkable story.

As soon as I learned about her arrest, I explored her Facebook page, and saw much that resonated with the humanistic values of future-oriented scholars and techno-visionaries, but soon that page vanished from public view.  Intense exploration of a host of online commentaries and information sources raised a profound general question illuminated by her specific case: Can futurists gently guide existing social institutions toward progress, within the context of conventional norms, or have we reached a grim point in history at which we must risk building a replacement for the civilization that is collapsing around us?

Reality Winner’s Facebook page was not awash in political radicalism, but presented a thoughtful person who was intensely dedicated to perfection of herself.  The five public Facebook groups to which she belonged were all real-world organizations promoting personal improvement in physical fitness.  CrossFitters of Augusta and CF 10-10 Members Group were local chapters of CrossFit, a network of organizations promoting a physical exercise philosophy advocating high-intensity training.  Another group was more specialized, GB Handstand Challenge, in which GB stands for Gymnastic Bodies.  The fourth of her public groups was vegetarian:  Vegan Recipes for Everyone.   During the brief time it was still visible, I checked Reality Winner’s Facebook page for “vegan” and saw that she used “#veganlifters” as a hashtag for an Instagram message she had posted at 6:10 AM on May 22, 2017: “Those days when you remind yourself the sacrifices you made to be here, now, every day.”  It struck me that her values seemed very similar to those of Transhumanism, seeking to attain human perfection, but through investment of personal effort and commitment to achieving difficult goals, rather than passively adopting some new technology.  Indeed, these four groups were technological, but advocating techniques that required well-disciplined human action, rather than taking some hypothetical nanotechnology vitamin pill.

The fifth group was a martial arts movement, Krav Maga Maryland, dedicated to “a military self-defense system developed for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Israeli security forces (Shin Bet and Mossad).”  Wikipedia summarized the public information currently available about Reality Winner’s military career: “Winner served in the United States Air Force from 2010 to 2016, achieving the rank of senior airman with the 94th Intelligence Squadron.  She worked as a cryptologic linguist, and is fluent in Farsi, Dari and Pashto.  Winner was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal.”  Farsi is the Persian language of Iran; Dari is a dialect of Farsi spoken in Afghanistan, and Pashto is the language of a major Afghan ethnicity.  Of course, we are not able to administer college advanced placement tests to Reality Winner, given her current incarceration, but she seems to invest the same energy and dedication into intellectual development, with respect to other cultures, as she does in physical fitness.

What about her humanity?  Many news websites copied the picture Reality Winner had posted on her Facebook on May 29, showing her overlooking Mayan ruins.  The day before, she had sent via Instagram another picture from the same archaeological site, with this comment: “Carved head at Lamanai, Belize, 100bc. This has been such a spiritual journey for me.”  We may all find spiritual significance in ancient ruins, but news reports mentioned that her father had died just a few months earlier, and she posted this touching paragraph on her Facebook page:  “There is nothing that can fix the hole in my heart that you left behind. I still don’t know who I am without you here or how to keep moving forward without the one person who believed unconditionally in everything I want to do in life. Old habits die hard, I still find myself making time to call you in the evenings or jotting down notes or stories to tell you next time we speak. Somehow, though, I feel like you are a little closer, here, among the pyramids you used to endlessly tell us about, and always hoped to see. It’s like I have a little piece of you here with me. I miss you, Dad. You would have loved to be here, though I’m sure you would have been bitching about the hot weather every minute.”

There is ample room to debate what punishment, if any, Reality Winner deserves for releasing classified US government information.  Many other people are currently leaking secret government information, and we may note that prominent people like former CIA director David Petraeus do not seem to suffer much when they commit similar acts.  There is some concern that Reality Winner will be given a harsh prison sentence, not because she deserves it, but to deter others from releasing damaging information, and to express the anger of the US President.  Her family seeks help in defending her through a Facebook group, named Friends of Reality Winner, and an online fundraiser at www.gofundme.com/2d9rnm64 that has not yet reached its modest goal to hire a good lawyer.

A number of political action groups briefly used her case in their campaign against the US President, and the document she made public is directly relevant to concerns about the election outcome.  However, it may be a mistake to blame one gang of politicians for our problems, investing false hopes in a competing gang who are not any better but employ different rhetoric and tactics.  Politicizing Reality Winner’s situation may only increase the harm she may suffer.  Following her family’s request to send her good wishes and contribute to her defense would seem to be the most immediately beneficial course, yet not satisfying our long-term ethical obligation.

Can current laws be changed to provide better protection for “whistleblowers” and others who provide information to journalists, scientists, and the general public that is needed for careful decision making?  Perhaps the secrecy laws should be changed so that they are strict only during the period of a formally declared war, which has not been the case for the US since 1945.  Whether from incompetence or corruption, both major US political parties fed false information to the public in escalation of the Vietnam War and the Second Iraq War.  It is hard to know the extent to which current public debates are poisoned by the desperation felt within the dying old-fashioned news media, as the information technology revolution erodes their influence and profits.  Yet there seems good reason to believe that the general public really should not trust the government that currently holds Reality Winner captive.  We are all journalists now, in the era of Facebook, Instagram, and the IEET website, so Freedom of the Press should be defined much more broadly, now that printing presses are obsolete.

This brings us to the most difficult pair of questions: How can we design a better civilization?  How could we bring that dream to reality?  Perhaps the answers cannot be based upon a hope that somehow progress in science and technology will automatically achieve such goals.  We may need to work exceedingly hard, as Reality Winner did in her self-improvement campaigns, transcending our human limitations through directed personal effort as much as through collective technical innovation.  We will need to reinvent modem culture, which requires honestly experimenting with many alternatives, not merely marching in lockstep to a single drummer.

Information technologies are having uncertain impacts on human societies, and the case of Reality Winner raises a host of related ethical issues, while calling into question our ability to extrapolate from the past, and asking for new policies.  Oh, those are the four principal questions raised by IEET!

Yes, Reality Winner is One of Us.

William Sims Bainbridge, Ph.D. is an IEET Senior fellow, and a prolific and influential sociologist of religion, science and popular culture. Dr. Bainbridge serves as co-director of Human-Centered Computing at the NSF.

The Radicalism of Reading – Article by Eileen L. Wittig

The Radicalism of Reading – Article by Eileen L. Wittig

The New Renaissance Hat
Eileen L. Wittig
July 13, 2017
******************************

It’s Peak Reading Season: too hot to go outside, too lethargic to do much inside, no holidays coming up for a while. Polls and anecdotes are probably telling you that reading is on the decline – people just don’t read like they used to! – but it turns out that depends on what demographic you’re looking at, and it’s a bit embarrassing for the old people shaking their heads over “kids these days.”

If you’re looking at people over the age of 65, your thought is right. Only 67 percent have read a book in the past year, regardless of format. But if you look at people age 18-29, a.k.a. the ones who supposedly do nothing but scroll through the internet all day, that number jumps up to 80 percent. Awkward.

Granted, that’s only talking about people who have read an actual book, and I’d argue that reading educational articles counts. If we include that, the reading statistic would jump even higher.

And that would’ve been horrible a century ago. And in the century before that. And all the way back to ancient Greece.

The modern obsession with reading is just that: a modern obsession, created by technology, new genres of literature, and advances in class, gender, and socioeconomic equality. It took about 2,500 years, but we made it.

Technological Advance, Copyrighted

You’d think the ancient Greeks would’ve been all about writing things down, but there was resistance from Socrates. He was a huge supporter of the previous technology: oral tradition, when knowledge was passed down through the generations by talking.

Thankfully Plato ignored him and recorded, for the millennia, that Socrates said writing would be terrible for society, causing “forgetfulness,” giving “not truth, but only the semblance of truth,” making everyone “appear to be omniscient, but knowing nothing,” creating nothing but “tiresome company.” Thus did literature have its first great irony.

For hundreds of years, we wrote things down. Most books were either religious or historical, regardless of country, culture, or religion of origin, and as the times changed, this general rule became alternately stricter and looser. Strict class structure, long work days, and the lack of publishing technology resulted in relatively low literacy rates.

The next big step forward was Gutenberg’s printing press. No more hand-writing everything! Suddenly books could be mass-produced, and with that ability came books in many different genres: poetry, technical knowledge, morality stories, and even sheet music. It took a while for people to realize they could start printing books in their own native languages and not only in the then-universal literary language of Latin, but it got there eventually.

Unfortunately, as happens now, with this new technology came new laws, particularly the Ordinance for the Regulation of Printing, issued in England in 1643. The Ordinance proclaimed that

Nor other Book, Pamphlet, paper, nor part of any such Book, Pamphlet, or paper shall from henceforth be printed, bound, stitched or put to sale by any person or persons whatsoever, unless the same be first approved of and licensed under the hands of such person or persons as both, or either of the said Houses shall appoint for the licensing of the same, and entred in the Register Book of the Company of Stationers, according to ancient custom, and the Printer thereof to put his name thereto.

In other words, you couldn’t print anything unless you had express permission from a government-appointed person. You couldn’t submit your book to the registry without government permission, either.

Needless to say, this didn’t help publishing progress. However, after the Glorious Revolution of 1688 created the Declaration of Rights, which included the right to free speech, England’s society opened up, and the Ordinance was allowed to lapse in 1694. Free speech combined with less regulation resulted in many more printing presses and publication houses in both England and the American colonies, and publication of books, newspapers, and pamphlets started going up. With more things available, more people could start reading, and the literacy rate in the West went up.

And then a brand new literary genre was invented, and the literary world changed forever (not even hyperbolically).

But the Women!

Up to this point, “the literacy rate went up” has referred more to men than to women. Some women could read, of course, but it was a male-dominated sphere until the end of the 19th century. Women didn’t work outside the home as much, and they were still considered to be inferior to men, so they often did not have comparable educations. The rise of female literacy came when the novel was spreading across the world, but the genre was not welcomed like it is today.

There’s disagreement over what the first novel was – most people say it’s Don Quixote, published all the way back in 1605, but others say it’s Pamela, published in 1740 – no matter which author was responsible for it, there was a lot of antagonism, even from the medical world. Novels were considered to be evil, destroying not only the morality but also the physical health of their “susceptible” female readers. Even in 1899, people were still warning against the “evils of reading” for women.

The problem was that they couldn’t actually agree on the details. One doctor wrote that novels would detrimentally accelerate a girl’s physical maturity, while another wrote that reading, and education in general, would cause of the opposite problem by preventing women from being able to have children. Reading novels could even make a woman uppity and encourage her to disrupt the status quo – the horror! Some went even further, warning that reading novels would cause insanity and even death.

Other people were more subtle in their predictions, believing novels would merely blur the line between fact and fiction. Authors themselves were torn: Gustave Flaubert ironically wrote a novel about this idea in Madame Bovary, while Jane Austen sensibly wrote against it in Northanger Abbey.

As more and more novels were written, and as women themselves entered the writing world, the hostility and sexism eventually died away. Today, we’ve progressed far beyond the old sexism: women now read more books than men, and the best-selling book series in history is a set of novels written by a woman: J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter.

Lowering the Threshold

Even with the lapsing copyright laws and the increased demand for books thanks to women’s literacy, publication was expensive, so books were expensive too. Reading was generally reserved for the higher classes who were, first off, educated, but could actually afford the money and time to read. Even Benjamin Franklin’s library required a subscription only a few tradesmen could afford. But that trend started changing when Charles Dickens and New York entered the sphere, thanks to the Industrial Revolution and the Enlightenment.

New York’s publishing houses – including Harper Bros. – were big enough to afford both large-scale publications, which made the books cheaper to publish and buy, and the vast expanse of the American West opened by the creation of the Erie Canal in 1825. The invention of the paperback book lowered the cost of books even further, giving people the “dime novel.” Publishers also took advantage of the lax international copyright laws and published whatever they wanted, including the works of one of the world’s first celebrity authors, Charles Dickens.

Over in England, Dickens was doing a strange thing and successfully writing about the poor. Taking from his own experiences growing up, Dickens used his talents and popularity to promote equality among the classes, greater education, and sympathy for people historically ignored. But he was also creating a new medium of publication: the magazine serialization, which ultimately became the standard form of novel-printing for the era all over the world. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Alexandre Dumas, Henry James, Gustave Flaubert, Leo Tolstoy, and Harriet Beecher Stowe all published serial works. Printing in magazines allowed a greater audience to enjoy literature that would otherwise be reserved only for the people who could afford the time and money to read them in book format.

Speaking of Stowe, the literacy gap in America between whites and all minorities was huge for the first 200 years of our history. Just after the Civil War, in 1870, 79.9 percent of blacks and minorities were illiterate. That rate dropped steadily until 1910, at which point the illiteracy rate among minorities was 30.5 percent. The literacy rate continued growing, albeit slower than before, until the race gap was finally closed in 1980.

21st-Century Reading

All the technological, social, and economic advances made during the explosive 18th and 19th centuries carried through into the modern era, spreading literacy and dispelling weird rumors until the world literacy rate went from 12% in 1800 to 85% in 2014. With the internet, e-readers, and all our smart devices, people are reading more now than ever; and the availability and variety of content is unlike anything even imagined just a century ago.

So when a relative or stranger tells you to put your phone down, ask them when they last read a book, and then quote something smart from the article you’re reading on your phone.

Eileen Wittig is an Associate Editor and author of the Lazy Millennial column at FEE. You can follow the Lazy Millennial Twitter here.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

What the Self-Esteem Movement Got Disastrously Wrong – Article by Dan Sanchez

What the Self-Esteem Movement Got Disastrously Wrong – Article by Dan Sanchez

The New Renaissance Hat
Dan Sanchez
******************************

One of Saturday Night Live’s most popular skits in the early 90s was a mock self-help show called “Daily Affirmation with Stuart Smalley.” Smalley, played by now-Senator Al Franken, would begin each show by reciting into the mirror, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and, doggone it, people like me.”

This was a spoof of the “self-esteem movement,” which in the 80s had been all the rage. In that decade, self-esteem became a hot topic for motivational speakers and almost a book genre unto itself. In 1986, California even established a self-esteem “State Task Force.” But by the next decade, the movement had degenerated into an easy late-night punchline. Even today, Smalley’s simpering smile is the kind of image that the term “self-esteem” evokes for many.

Generation Barney

The self-esteem movement is also widely blamed for its influence on American schools and families. In the name of building self-esteem, teachers and parents showered children with effusive, unconditional praise. In the name of protecting self-esteem, kids were sheltered from any criticism or adverse consequences. The sugary rot spread to children’s television as well. Many of today’s young adults were raised on Barney the Dinosaur, who gushed with “feel-good” affirmations just as sappy as Smalley’s.

I am reminded of a moment from my own education career in the early 2000s. I had designed a classroom game for preschoolers, and one of my colleagues, a veteran early childhood educator, objected that my game involved competition and winners. “Your game can’t have a winner, because that means other kids will be losers,” she explained.

According to critics, this kind of mollycoddling has yielded a millennial generation full of emotionally fragile young adults who, in the workplace, expect praise and affirmation simply for showing up, and who can’t cope with (much less adapt to) constructive criticism. It is also partially blamed for the rise of politically-correct university “snowflakes” (aka “crybullies”) and their petulant demands for “safe spaces” on campus.

An Unknown Ideal

Ironically, these criticisms would be heartily endorsed by the father of the self-esteem movement. The whole thing was kicked off by an influential 1969 book titled The Psychology of Self-Esteem, written by Nathaniel Branden (1930-2014), a psychotherapist and one-time colleague and lover of Ayn Rand. It was the first of a long series of books by Branden about self-esteem, which included The Disowned Self (1971), Honoring the Self (1983), How To Raise Your Self-Esteem (1987), and The Power of Self-Esteem (1992).

In The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem (1994), his definitive book on the subject, Branden expressed deep dissatisfaction with prevailing discussions of the concept, especially after the movement became an explosive fad in the 80s. In that period, the concept of self-esteem was distorted by what Branden called “the oversimplifications and sugar-coatings of pop psychology.” Branden declared that:

“I do not share the belief that self-esteem is a gift we have only to claim (by reciting affirmations, perhaps). On the contrary, its possession over time represents an achievement.” [Emphasis added here and below.]

As Branden understood and explained it, self-esteem was an action-oriented, tough-minded concept. If Branden had been Stuart Smalley’s therapist, he would have advised him to stop mouthing empty self-compliments into the mirror and instead to start building real self-esteem through deep reflection and concrete action.

Branden especially deplored how badly education reformers were getting self-esteem wrong. He wrote:

“We do not serve the healthy development of young people when we convey that self-esteem may be achieved by reciting “I am special” every day, or by stroking one’s own face while saying ‘I love me’…”

He elaborated that:

“I have stressed that ‘feel good’ notions are harmful rather than helpful. Yet if one examines the proposals offered to teachers on how to raise students’ self-esteem, many are the kind of trivial nonsense that gives self-esteem a bad name, such as praising and applauding a child for virtually everything he or she does, dismissing the importance of objective accomplishments, handing out gold stars on every possible occasion, and propounding an ‘entitlement’ idea of self-esteem that leaves it divorced from both behavior and character. One of the consequences of this approach is to expose the whole self-esteem movement in the schools to ridicule.”

Branden further clarified:

“Therefore, let me stress once again that when I write of self-efficacy or self-respect, I do so in the context of reality, not of feelings generated out of wishes or affirmations or gold stars granted as a reward for showing up. When I talk to teachers, I talk about reality-based self-esteem. Let me say further that one of the characteristics of persons with healthy self-esteem is that they tend to assess their abilities and accomplishments realistically, neither denying nor exaggerating them.”

Other-Esteem

Branden also criticized those who:

“…preferred to focus only on how others might wound one’s feelings of worth, not how one might inflict the wound oneself. This attitude is typical of those who believe one’s self-esteem is primarily determined by other people.”

Indeed, what most “self-esteem” advocates fail to understand is that other-reliant “self-esteem” is a contradiction in terms. Far from building self-esteem, many of the counselors, teachers, and parents of yesteryear obstructed its growth by getting kids hooked on a spiritual I.V. drip of external validation. Instead of self-esteem, this created a dependence on “other-esteem.”

It is no wonder then that today we are faced with the (often exaggerated) phenomenon of young, entitled, high-maintenance validation-junkies in the classroom and the workplace. Their self-esteem has been crippled by being, on the one hand, atrophied by the psychic crutches of arbitrary authoritarian approval, and, on the other hand, repeatedly fractured by the psychic cudgels of arbitrary authoritarian disapproval.

Almost entirely neglected has been the stable middle ground of letting children learn to spiritually stand, walk, and run on their own: to build the strength of their self-esteem through the experience of self-directed pursuits, setting their own standards, and adapting to the natural consequences of the real world.

Branden also noted that self-esteem is not promoted by:

“…identifying self-worth with membership in a particular group (“ethnic pride”) rather than with personal character. Let us remember that self-esteem pertains to that which is open to our volitional choice. It cannot properly be a function of the family we were born into, or our race, or the color of our skin, or the achievements of our ancestors. These are values people sometimes cling to in order to avoid responsibility for achieving authentic self-esteem. They are sources of pseudo self-esteem. Can one ever take legitimate pleasure in any of these values? Of course. Can they ever provide temporary support for fragile, growing egos? Probably. But they are not substitutes for consciousness, responsibility, or integrity. They are not sources of self-efficacy and self-respect. They can, however, become sources of self-delusion.”

This helps to explain the emotional fragility of young people obsessed with “identity politics,” especially the perverse pride in group victimhood that pervades the campus left. It also speaks to the agitation and resentment of today’s crop of white nationalists and other right-wing “identitarians.” As Ayn Rand wrote:

“The overwhelming majority of racists are men who have earned no sense of personal identity, who can claim no individual achievement or distinction, and who seek the illusion of a “tribal self-esteem” by alleging the inferiority of some other tribe.”

Authentic self-esteem promotes, not codependency and fragility, but independence, enterprise, resilience, adaptability, and a growth mindset: exactly the character traits that individuals, young and old, need more of in today’s economy and political climate.

It is nothing short of tragic that the confusions of the so-called self-esteem movement have turned an indispensable concept into an object of ridicule and blame. Far from being the source of our problems, self-esteem is the missing solution.

dan-sanchezDan Sanchez

Dan Sanchez is Managing Editor of FEE.org. His writings are collected at DanSanchez.me.

This article was originally published on FEE.org and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author. Read the original article.

How To Survive a World of Instant Feedback – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

How To Survive a World of Instant Feedback – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

Jeffrey A. Tucker
******************************

I first started writing before the Internet existed. We all wrote for an audience we mostly had to imagine in our minds.

The only way to give an author feedback was to write a letter, put it in an envelope with an approved stamp, and give it to a government employee who would slog across the land and then drop it at the writer’s physical locale a week after he or she wrote the initial piece. People did it but not that often.

Yes, I know there are people reading this who find this hilarious and embarrassing. It seems as long ago as the War of the Roses. Actually it was that long ago. But the distance between then and now seems like eons. That how much and how quickly we’ve advanced.

The dark ages: everything before 1995.

Because no one really knew what readers were thinking – actually hardly anyone knew anything about anything in retrospect – you had to assume some rule of thumb about any feedback you were lucky enough to get. I assumed that one letter equalled the views of one thousand readers. Two letters saying that same thing represented five thousand readers. Three letters with the same opinion suggested near unanimity: this is the view of every reader.

Now We Know Everything

Times have dramatically changed. I could right now post a thought and get hundreds of reactions within a few minutes. There’s no shortage of input, that’s for sure. There’s email of course, but also comment boxes, forums, social media posts, and lightning-fast Twitter interactions.

Twitter is often called a cesspool of toxicity. This is mostly untrue. It’s just that the toxic parts stand out in our minds because they have a bigger impact on our psyches.

This is how it is with all feedback. I once knew a world-famous soprano who received her fans following concerts. One hundred fifty people would tell her she was fabulous and amazing. One person would say: “You were fine but it wasn’t your best night.”

Guess which comment she remembered?

So too on Twitter. Not all commentary is thoughtful. In fact, no matter what I post, unless it is completely innocuous, I’m very likely to face a flurry of outraged opinions, some of which is laced with profanity and some of which trends toward the deeply disturbing. These are the reactions we tend to remember. They rattle, shock, and alarm us. They give the impression that humanity is a teeming mass of angry, unthoughtful, and even cruel people.

It’s mostly an illusion. But it takes some experience to figure out why.

Everyone Hates You

We live in a highly partisan world generally divided between right and left, and each side is ready to pounce on anyone it perceives to be an enemy.

One day this week, I was simultaneously hammered by the left and right, and it made an interesting study in contrast.

The Twitter Left

I had written a defense of “child labor,” which is to say I wrote against laws that forbid tweens from getting a paying job as a supplement to education they are otherwise forced by government to endure. This would be a wonderful opportunity for them, and give them an awesome preparation for life. The law forbade this back in the 1930s. Today, kids are basically banned from working or face such hurdles as to make it not worth it. They can’t really be fully employed until the age of 18.

To me all of this is rather obvious, and I don’t get why I seem to be one of the only people on this beat. Regardless, the article took off and received 100,000-plus views. Some of the readers were dedicated leftists, who regard the legal abolition of “child labor” to be one of the great signs of progress in the world.

The flurry of loathing began. I was called out for being a bad person, a cruel person, a man with a heart of stone, a complete jerk who lacks a shred of human decency. In each case, I would reply asking my accuser to explain why he or she is saying this. They would respond with shock: “for God’s sake, man, you are defending child labor!”

Again, that only raises the question. One person said that I dreamt of throwing kids back in the salt mines. I don’t even know what that means. Is there a salt mine around here that is looking for 12-year old inexperienced kids to exploit? Actually, I’m thinking more of kids working at Chick-Fil-A or Walmart or a lawn company.

Anyway, this seems to be a left-wing penchant. Anyone who disagrees with their policies is a bad person. End of story.

The Twitter Right

Then you have the far-right, the sector of Internet life that has most mastered the art of trolling. Users in this camp don’t tend to use their real names. They create dozens of sock-puppet accounts. They send blast after blast designed to make the recipient feel as if he or she is being bombarded.

The same day as my child labor piece came out, I tweeted that I had doubts about the theory that Seth Rich was shot for leaking DNC emails. I raised the problem that there is a lack of evidence to support the theory. If you know about this conspiracy theory, there are hundreds of thousands of people who believe, thanks mostly to Sean Hannity, that there is a huge coverup going on, and that someone in the Hillary Clinton camp is guilty of outright murder.

I have no special intelligence on the topic. I was only asking what I thought were intelligent questions.

Then came the bombardment. I was accused of being a toady of the Democrats. A dupe. A snowflake. An apologist for Clinton. A cuck. A member of the mainstream media. In the pay of the deep state. And so on. Then the memes started. Here is where things get wicked. They use your face and plant it in cartoons, being thrown out of helicopters, being burned alive in gas chambers, and so on.

What you discover from Twitter is that when you are trolled by the right, you are only one degree separated from real Nazis. Of course they say that they are not really Nazis. They are only ironic Nazis, people using free speech to annoy the left with extremist rhetoric that is not authentic but only play acting.

As if ideas don’t matter. Of course they matter! No one wants to wake up in the morning to 150 notifications from Nazis. That will indeed take your breath away and get your heart pumping. It is supposed to. That is precisely what it is intended to do. If you then go public and write a bleating post about the rise of Nazism in America, they all cheer because that is what they hope for.

How To Deal With It

Dealing with instant feedback from anyone in the world is something new. It is no longer the case that three interactions with the same opinion represent multitudes. It could mean only three people. Even 300 interactions means only 300 interactions. There are 328 million people on Twitter.

Keep that in mind.

Other strategies I use include retweeting insults (this very much confuses your tormentors), calm and rational argumentation, and of course blocking. I feel like I block constantly. It’s not actually true: last I checked, I’ve blocked 140 people and have 26,000 followers. That’s not a huge army of trolls. That’s really a minor annoyance, even if it feels otherwise.

Most of all, I would suggest feeling nothing but gratitude for the spread of information technology. People complain constantly about fake news, internet trolls, hate armies, and so on. But you know what’s worse? Living in the dark ages. No one wants to go back.

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Content for the Foundation for Economic Education. He is also Chief Liberty Officer and founder of Liberty.me, Distinguished Honorary Member of Mises Brazil, research fellow at the Acton Institute, policy adviser of the Heartland Institute, founder of the CryptoCurrency Conference, member of the editorial board of the Molinari Review, an advisor to the blockchain application builder Factom, and author of five books. He has written 150 introductions to books and many thousands of articles appearing in the scholarly and popular press.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author. Read the original article.

The White-Owned-Restaurant Outrage Is Wildly Misplaced – Article by Liz Wolfe

The White-Owned-Restaurant Outrage Is Wildly Misplaced – Article by Liz Wolfe

The New Renaissance Hat
Liz Wolfe
******************************

The latest political correctness outcry is a series of “white-owned appropriative restaurants” in Portland. While there are legitimate grievances to be made against white people who mock other cultures and then use them to profit once they become trendy, tirades like this list don’t level the economic playing field. More often than not, they breed resentment as political-correctness fights tend to back people into their respective partisan corners.

I read all the articles listed on the first page of the list –I should educate myself about hardships other people face while I remain immune. I’ll give credit where it’s due: many of these articles center around the idea that systemic disadvantage creates poverty, and many people of color don’t have the same financial resources to open restaurants that their white counterparts have. It follows, then, that white people get to profit from rich cultural traditions while the people who have claim to that origin don’t. I see how that feels viscerally unfair.

But are white entrepreneurs really the culprits here, or is it a larger system of historic disadvantage that has created these differences in wealth? Which system should we rebel against?

Appropriating Tortillas and Hip-Hop

Portland’s Kooks Burritos food truck, one of the restaurants listed, recently closed their doors for good, presumably as a result of all the hate they’d been getting. In a profile by the Willamette Week, founders describe being entranced by the tortillas they had on a trip to Mexico. This inspired them to ask local ladies about the ingredients, but they would only reveal part of the recipe, not the techniques, leading the two Kooks founders to peek into windows of nearby restaurants attempting to learn the art of tortilla-making. Two white women spying on resistant Mexican cooks to open a trendy food truck sparked outrage.

There’s a tough balance between co-opting traditions and voluntarily sharing customs. Perhaps the owners of Kooks Burrito erred too far on the side of co-opting, as they attempted to steal recipes from locals instead of engaging in voluntary exchange. But demonizing them is yet another foolish battle that won’t right the wrongs of the past or teach fruitful lessons to white restaurant owners.

Cultural sharing isn’t something to be intrinsically discouraged. Appropriation, as a concept, often seems logically inconsistent. When an American university fraternity tried to throw a theme party with a play on the song “Bad and Boujee,” administrators objected, citing “cultural appropriation” as the problem. But which culture are we talking about? Which people are being subjugated and what is the true origin? “Latin, French, Marxist, Urban hip-hop?” suggested Catherine Rampell at The Washington Post. In other words, is any iteration apart from the true origin an offensive act?

I doubt it. When we wade down the slippery slope of condemning people for well-intentioned practices, we often create enemies and become a culture where people are brutally shamed for their missteps, never learning from their mistakes.

How does this work when practices like yoga come under fire? Is yoga a less heinous thing to take part in because the origin is often explained more thoroughly? Perhaps yoga classes in US-based ashrams should continue to exist, but what about my less-conscious local YMCA? And still, who should make these judgment calls?

Using these Opportunities for Good

There seems to be a lot of gray area, and I doubt attempts to exercise more control over the individual would create good outcomes. Generally speaking, let’s reserve use of authority and force for the direst situations in which people are directly harming one another.

A hardline reaction either way is misguided. The truth likely lies somewhere in the middle – marginalized groups have been historically disadvantaged, and that disadvantage often remains for many decades. But cultural appropriation isn’t necessarily bad, nor is it as easily defined, as social-justice advocates might hope. It’s through cultural sharing, in its many forms, that people are able to make a living, spread knowledge of a particular topic, and advance current practices.

If a white business owner is spreading popularity of Burmese food, for example, and creating more demand for it, could that be a good thing for hopeful Burmese immigrants intent on entering the industry?

I went to a white-owned Burmese restaurant in Thailand where the owners had pamphlets on current events – namely the ethnic cleansing that has gripped much of the country. Although my appetite was reduced, exposure to Burmese culture made me more invested in Burmese current events. Now, headlines stick out to me. I remind traveler friends that they should be conscious of where their tourism money goes, as much of it unintentionally ends up lining the pockets of corrupt government officials.

White ownership isn’t the problem in Portland. Instead, it’s a complex web of systemic disadvantage, fear of ignorance on the part of proprietors, and worries that hard-working immigrants will be shoved out of the market. Those are more than worth fixing, but filing this cleanly under the “cultural appropriation” label doesn’t give proper weight to the many sides of this important issue.

Let’s stop condemning the wrong practices.

Author’s Note: I reached out to the creators of the “white-owned restaurants” spreadsheet with several questions. They said, “We can answer questions off the record to further your own understanding, but we are uncomfortable providing a statement due to the news media’s tendency to offer racist counterpoints in the name of ‘fairness.’ Let us know if that is agreeable.”

Liz Wolfe

Liz Wolfe is managing editor of Young Voices. You can follow her on Twitter: @lizzywol.

 

This article was originally published on FEE.org and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author. Read the original article.

Disagreement Is a Bad Reason to Unfriend – Article by Sarah Skwire

Disagreement Is a Bad Reason to Unfriend – Article by Sarah Skwire

The New Renaissance HatSarah Skwire
******************************

I have an interesting meeting next week. A young woman in my community is working very hard on a set of policy suggestions for environmental measures, and she wants a libertarian perspective on the ideas she has drawn up. So we’re going to get together over coffee and talk about her plan and about what I think libertarians might think of it.

But I don’t want to write about her plan today.

I want to write about her invitation to talk about it.

I want to write about it because I think it’s an enormously important counterpoint to something that I see more of every day on my Facebook feed, in the media, and in the small daily interactions of people around me.

That’s the obstinate insistence that people who disagree cannot be friends or colleagues—that they cannot even be reasonably expected to communicate with one another.

Some disagreements, we are told, are just so profound, so deeply seated, so indicative of the other person’s moral turpitude that no reaching over the division is possible.

Shunning? Really?

That may be true, in some cases. Cultures all over the world have long had methods for shunning those whose behavior was so counter to cultural norms that they were viewed as potentially destructive threats to the culture’s continuation. I’m not saying that such threats don’t ever exist.

But in the last little while, I’ve seen claims that anyone who voted for Trump should be “cut off” from communication with “civilized society.” I’ve heard people argue that voting against the continuation of the ACA reveals people to be morally bereft and outside the bonds of normal human interaction. I’ve heard college students and faculty argue not that they should not have to attend or listen to speakers with whom they disagree, but that no one else should be allowed to do so.

That’s a lot of people to vote off the island.

Excluding Others Isn’t Brave

Worse than the sheer numbers involved, though, and even worse than the ever-expanding list of offenses that are considered dire enough to excise whole swathes of people from civil discourse, is the insistence that all of this exclusion is being done because the excluders are brave.

The rhetoric is familiar. “Stand up” against this offense. “Speak out” against that one. “Refuse to tolerate” X. “Give no quarter and make no compromises” with Y. “Shut down” the language of the other side. “Refuse to even entertain” opposing views. “Give no platform” to this person.

I think there’s bravery in resistance to wrongs. I don’t think there’s anything brave about shutting down speech and debate and refusing to interact with people with opposing views.

I think it’s much braver, and much harder, to look for ways to cross those barriers, to find the humanity in the people with whom you disagree most strongly, and to work to solve the problems that plague us rather than retreating to separate camps.

I think it is a brave thing to contact someone with whom you disagree politically and say “Let’s have coffee and talk about stuff. I want to understand how you see this problem.”

And I think we all ought to do it more often.

Sarah Skwire is the poetry editor of the Freeman and a senior fellow at Liberty Fund, Inc. She is a poet and author of the writing textbook Writing with a Thesis. She is a member of the FEE Faculty Network.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

Why Iceland Doesn’t Have an Alt-Right Problem – Article by Camilo Gómez

Why Iceland Doesn’t Have an Alt-Right Problem – Article by Camilo Gómez

The New Renaissance HatCamilo Gómez
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With the recent rise to prominence of right-wing populist parties across Europe, it’s refreshing that Iceland has remained largely immune to such nationalistic rhetoric. On the continent, figures like Marine Le Pen in France and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands are capitalizing on what political scientists are calling a third wave of European populism that began after the international financial crisis of 2008. These parties are characterized by their anti-immigrant, and specifically, anti-Muslim sentiments. They fashion themselves the “protectors” of their homelands’ traditional culture against cosmopolitan globalism.

Yet, tiny Iceland has resisted this dirty brand of politics because of the rise of social movements that challenged the power structure of the Icelandic political establishment after the financial crisis of 2008. Unlike in other European countries, these social movements transformed themselves into a political movements, filling the vacuum of traditional center-right and center-left political parties, while also preventing far-right political projects from succeeding.

For starters, Iceland is a relatively young country that only became independent in 1944. It is a parliamentary democracy, based on coalitions because the Althing (parliament) has 63 members but a single party rarely has a clear majority. Unlike other Nordic countries, Iceland has been governed by the right for most of its history, either from the liberal conservative Independence Party or the center-right agrarian Progressive Party.

This changed after the international financial crisis of 2008, which led all three Icelandic commercial banks to default. The crisis generated massive anger as Icelanders didn’t know what was going to happen with their savings. This led to massive protests that culminated in the resignation of the Prime Minister who was a member of the Independence Party.  Consequently, in April 2009, a left-wing coalition by the Social Democratic Alliance and the Left-Green Movement formed a government together for the first time in the country’s history.

This grassroots activism led to the appearance of outsider political projects like the now defunct Best Party, which started as political satire but ended with its leader Jón Gnarr winning the mayoral election in Reykjavík in 2010. More importantly, grassroots activism was further encouraged by the Panama Papers, which revealed that the Prime Minister of Iceland, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson of the Progressive Party and his wife, had an undisclosed account in an offshore tax haven. The ensuing protests became the largest in Iceland’s history, and made the Prime Minister resign. This led the way for the Pirate Party — a loose collection of anarchists, hackers and libertarians — to rise in prominence. Because of the Pirates, the national discussion shifted to a more socially tolerant narrative of a society willing to be open to the world.

Thus, Iceland’s 2016 elections presented very different options from the relatively traditional Independence Party and Progressive Party or the Social Democratic Alliance and Left-Green Movement. In addition to the Pirate Party,  voters could also choose from the Bright Party, an eclectic socially liberal party, and the Reform Party, a new liberal party formed by defectors of the Independence Party. The elections led to a center-right coalition between the Independence Party, the Reform Party and the Bright Party.

Rather than blaming immigrants for their problems, Icelanders confronted the political class and created new parties that didn’t resemble the wave of far-right populism. Now even the government realizes that Iceland needs immigrants, skilled and unskilled, to fulfill the demand in different aspects of the Icelandic economy. Contrary to other countries in Europe, and despite its size, Iceland had been willing to receive refugees, and the number of immigrants in Iceland keeps growing year by year. In times of demagoguery, Iceland remains friendly to foreigners. One can only hope that the world learn from this small country that foreigners bring prosperity.

Camilo Gómez is a blogger at The Mitrailleuse and the host of Late Night Anarchy podcast. He can be found in Twitter at @camilomgn. He is a Young Voices Advocate.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author. Read the original article.