In Extremis

der kindervolks biergarten

I seem to argue a lot about extremism of late. The latest conversation I tried to join didn’t go that well.

I wanted to point out that in my opinion (and as a general consensus) Megyn Kelly is a fair and talented journalist. Moreover, I do think shutting out different opinions is not only a bad idea, but the worst kind of extremist thinking that undermines the very core of democracy.

But let’s start at the beginning.

I rarely have a set opinion. That makes me… a moderate, I guess?

I’m the only one who’s not dramatically doing anything. (Don Keefer, The Newsroom)

I find it fascinating, in a terrifying way, how constructive disagreement is becoming more and more impossible. Seems like nuance is no longer recognized or accounted for in any discourse. Not just politics, but let’s stick to that.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking where I’d stand on the political spectrum, and came to the conclusion again and again that I stand outside of it entirely. I’m a progressive liberal on social issues; a fiscal conservative; and I think the smaller the government is the better.

I believe in common sense when it comes to politics. Can’t remember exactly where the “you don’t need a reason to make something legal; you need one to make something illegal” quote comes from, but it’s true.

I never understood why any government would need to create laws that grant rights descending from universal human freedoms. Gay marriage, freedom of speech, women’s rights, civil rights. Historically and culturally I do understand why these needed to be “legalized”, but politically I don’t think they have a place in a modern society.

Extremism is extremism, no matter where it’s pointed at

Can I make a suggestion that doesn’t involve violence, or is this the wrong crowd for that? (Wash, Serenity)

This is the point I feel most of the people can’t fully grasp. The left recognizes right-wing extremism, but doesn’t recognize its own. The right cries extremism as a way of some kind of kindergarten-level argument of “but Mommy they’re doing it too!

Talking about US politics specifically, there’s apparently no layers and no nuances in either side’s arguments. All Republicans are nazis and all Democrats are bleeding heart liberals, right?

Wrong.

There’s plenty of validity in a conservative argument. And there’s value in progressive thinking. Do you know what creates results? A balance between the two.

Free speech means sometimes you get offended, and democracy means sometimes the other side wins.

Hacking politics

More and more I think politics and political discourse (if we can call it that) is being hacked through emotion. Politics, which was supposed to transcend emotion and become the mediator between opposing arguments became driven by nothing but emotion.

What we end up with is a polarized populace getting more and more extreme.

In defense of… logic?

Taking a point from the thread I opened this post with, I was asked if I would defend Hitler’s good points.

I would. If he had any.

On a more practical note, if Donald Trump would ever say something sensible, I’d defend that statement. I can do that without agreeing with anything else he said up to that point or will say after it.

This kind of critical thinking is almost completely gone from most people’s conversations. Whether that’s about government officials or journalists.

I defended Megyn Kelly for her integrity in her profession. That comes not only from my own personal opinion (but even if it did that’d be enough and shouldn’t need to defend it, but whatever) but from most of her peers who judge her by the work she produces and not the beliefs she holds.

I don’t agree with everything she says, but I do trust she’ll do a good job as a journalist.

In the same vein I’ll condemn any and all unprofessional hacks (most of whom seem to be working for Fox News). And I will say that Fox News as an institution is becoming an instrument of right-wing extremist propaganda (of which there are varying kinds) but I’ll refuse to say that every single person who works for Fox News is a puppet whose only function is to spew lies.

My favorite example — apart from Megyn — is Shepard Smith. Shep, a Fox News anchor, has been dissecting the Trump administration and that buffoon of a President since forever.

Do I agree with his personal politics? I have no idea. Maybe, maybe not. I’d love to find out. Which is also my point: you can’t make informed decisions without at least hearing out all relevant information.

I’m happy to hear out conservatives, and heck: I’m even interested in listening to Vladimir Putin’s interview. Once I did that I can form my own opinion.

“Only a Sith deals in absolutes”

Giphy

There’s no absolute right or absolute wrong. (Which is an absolute statement, which — apart from it’s generic sentiment that’s also not to my liking — paradox is a discussion for another time.)

If you lean to the left, you don’t have to hate all conservatives, or even be on the left in every issue. And being on the right doesn’t mean you have to become a nazi either.

There are people in the Congress and the Senate whose names you never hear in the news. There are moderates on both sides of the aisle. Those who disagree, but still try and work together with the others.

Extremism is extremism, no matter where it comes from. When I talk about politics I tend to quote Aaron Sorkin a lot. Let me close with a quote from the West Wing’s ‘The Portland Trip’ episode:

I agree with 95% of the Republican platform. I believe in local government. I’m in favor of individual rights rather than group rights. I believe free markets lead to free people and that the country needs a strong national defense. My life doesn’t have to be about being a homosexual. It doesn’t have to be entirely about that.

This one stuck with me.

Being passionate about an issue, any issue, is good. Being vocal about it, absolutely essential to a democracy. But never surrender to an entire platform for a single issue. There’s plenty of room for disagreement, agreement, and compromise — all without surrendering what you believe in.

Cover image from der kindervolks biergarten.


Originally published at blog.dinchamion.com on June 1, 2017.