The obsession with "purity" in left-wing circles

TBL

Post-Left Leftist
Posts
616
Reaction score
1,081
Location
SF Bay Area, CA

This article is well worth a read.

"In 1967, Mao’s Red Guards took to the streets determined to root out the ‘four olds’ of traditional Chinese culture, killing hundreds of thousands in the process. By 1968, they had fallen apart as factions fought each other to represent the truest version of Maoism. In 1794, Robespierre found himself on the same tumbrel he had prescribed for so many other problematic persons. In both cases, a bidding war for morality turned into a proxy war for power."

"A purity spiral occurs when a community becomes fixated on implementing a single value that has no upper limit, and no single agreed interpretation. The result is a moral feeding frenzy."

Do you think the demand for "purity" among left-wingers is hurting them? Have you been caught in a "purity spiral"? Should left-wing circles be more tolerant of dissent?
 

Chew Toy McCoy

Pleb
Vaccinated
Site Donor
Posts
5,785
Reaction score
8,822
I think the amount of people on the left who are demanding purity is way overestimated by the media and that perception is hurting them, but that's the media's prime objective...expose and elevate the extremes, pitch the extremes as the normal, let us fight amongst ourselves based on their narrative so we'll leave the top alone to continue business as usual.
 

lizkat

Deep deep blue
Vaccinated
Site Donor
Posts
5,906
Reaction score
12,527
Location
Catskill Mountains

This article is well worth a read.

"In 1967, Mao’s Red Guards took to the streets determined to root out the ‘four olds’ of traditional Chinese culture, killing hundreds of thousands in the process. By 1968, they had fallen apart as factions fought each other to represent the truest version of Maoism. In 1794, Robespierre found himself on the same tumbrel he had prescribed for so many other problematic persons. In both cases, a bidding war for morality turned into a proxy war for power."

"A purity spiral occurs when a community becomes fixated on implementing a single value that has no upper limit, and no single agreed interpretation. The result is a moral feeding frenzy."

Do you think the demand for "purity" among left-wingers is hurting them? Have you been caught in a "purity spiral"? Should left-wing circles be more tolerant of dissent?

Fascinating piece. This guy hits the nail on the head.

Professor Timur Kuran is Professor of Economics and Political Science at Duke University, and the father of ‘preference falsification’. His theory relates to things like the fall of the Soviet Union, where almost no one saw the end coming, because they hadn’t realised that an entire population was falsifying their experience to each other. He sees a clear parallel.

"People who are trying to prevent members of society from speaking the truth will often punish minor criticisms,” he told me. “Simply to send the message to the rest of society that no dissent will be tolerated and no attempt to form an opposing group — even one that differs only slightly from the status quo — will be tolerated. If you allow minor differences, you allow people to coordinate around minor differences, and that can encourage even greater opposition. If people get that sense, then the whole process can unravel.

The left is torn between staying consolidated "for the win" or debating in public and actually listening to each other's proposals for measures that --whatever their relative positions along the spectrum of Democratic Party politics-- are at least more progressive than what the GOP has proposed (when it bothers to propose anything now past saying NO or kissing Trump's ring).

But to listen always involves chance of changing one's own views. And to speak to a difference, to defend it, likewise opens the possibility of changing a listener's views. To allow for change is always to sign up for the unknown to some extent.

Seems to me that increasingly, ordinary people who are either centrists or lefties in the Democratic Party's fold are both afraid to do that. Yet what does the overall left achieve in deciding instead to just hammer on the rigidity of the right? We're not going to change any minds in the GOP-leaning electorate that way.

And we're getting farther and farther from the understanding that laws in the USA really do get made by consensus, and that consensus always involves debate and compromise, yeah even within a given party.

However, when debate on policy proposals (or actual draft legislation) is self-censored into go-alongs with one or the other of two major parties' perceived majority takes on various issues, it's essentially corrupted, and when that process is corrupted enough, so is the eventual outcome of lawmaking.

It's bad enough we have to deal with the inherent corruption of industry lobby money buying congressional positions. When potential voters won't even speak their own minds, the legislative process is doubly corrupted if you ask me. How do we even know if people know their own minds or are just parroting what they hear from groups they perceive as rightful "winners"? When did it become unpatriotic (or just too dangerous?) to think for oneself and then speak to a position, in the expectation that free speech is still a thing in the USA?

I'll grant that a lot of what passes for "debate" of ideas nowadays takes place on social media, and so the very concept of "free speech" is blurred by the fact that a website owner can in the end pull the plug on someone who insists on defense of ideas that the site owner disagrees with or feels might result in litigation against him.

So does that bring us back to what part "the media" have to do with our politics (and partisanship, and "purity") these days? I don't know. Presumably the more traditional forms of media nowadays, largely owned by either publicly traded mega-corporations or by privately held and also powerful behemoths, are mainly interested in making a dollar, even when it's glossed over by language on the editorial page that at least pretends to speak to public service. Maybe they need to ask themselves if they are a net contributor to the problems inherent in any political concept of "purity" or if they actually look to illuminate new ideas offered up by people of any political persuasion. Maybe as individuals we need to push them in that direction. Letters to the editor are still a thing!
 

Chew Toy McCoy

Pleb
Vaccinated
Site Donor
Posts
5,785
Reaction score
8,822
I heard a recent related theory. The right thinks the left is a lot more organized, united, and structured than it actually is and that's based on the right's own echo chamber experience. The right might get a unifying and organized message through something like church but there really is no equivalent on the left. So while their preacher might be yelling that CRT is evil and white replacement theory, there really isn't any big organization on the left saying CRT is awesome. The right just assumes there is because that's how they work on their side.

Also there's a big difference in the definition of freedom and individualism. On the right it tends to be of the stake some land and guard it with your guns variety and they're all pretty united on that. On the left the definitions are more about flying your freak flag and trying to get the best quality of life while doing so. There are many different kinds of freaks and they don't all agree or get along. So again, an organized unified message point goes to the right and there is no equivalent on the left. The right just thinks there is.
 
Top Bottom