Is the Authoritarian Left Responsible for the Rise of Trump?

Well no, of course not, but that’s just my opinion. Others think differently apparently.

Last week Quillette published an article by philosopher Peter Boghossian (Portland State University) and James Lindsay (mathematician and author) called ‘The Article About Trump Nobody Will Publish‘. It came to my attention when I read Jerry Coyne’s take on it this morning over at his website, Why Evolution is True. I was going to comment there, but I had so much to say I decided to do a whole post on it.

According to the editor of Quillette, “… 45 different magazines, periodicals, and journals across the political spectrum: Far left, left, center, unaffiliated, right, far right, and libertarian” rejected it. Perhaps he or she should have been the 46th.

As Coyne states, “… the authors’ main thesis [is] that Trump’s success is largely due to pushback against the Regressive Left,” which is an interesting idea to think about, but I don’t think they’ve made their case. It seems Coyne and most of the commenters on both his site and at Quillette agree with that assessment.

The article starts off saying some pretty negative things about the potential US president that I not only agree with, but have said myself on several occasions:

Trump is a monstrous choice for president. Monstrous. He’s a demagogue with a clear bent to authoritarianism. He’s completely politically inexperienced and has no clear idea what constitutes successful, appropriate, or even legal behavior for an elected official. He has repeatedly proven himself to be virtually incoherent on foreign policy, economics, diplomacy, and the military. His only true assets are self-promotion, juvenile tweets, and belittling his enemies. He’s barely qualified to be president of anything, especially anything with a military.

I’m not even sure that “… juvenile tweets, and belittling his enemies…” can be classed as assets. As far as I’m concerned they’re just more examples of his negative character traits.

Then they speculate about what would happen if Trump did become president:

On the Right, President Trump would force the GOP to completely reorganize—and fast. It would compel them to abandon their devastating pitch to the extreme right. The Republican Party would have to get back on the rails, and do so quickly, to reclaim a stable position in American politics. On the Left, the existence of the greatest impossible dread imaginable, of President Trump, would rouse sleepy mainline liberals from their dogmatic slumber. It would force them to turn sharply away from the excesses of its screeching, reality-denying, uncompromising and authoritarian fringe that provided much of Trump’s thrust in the first place. And underlying it all rests the question of influence and utility of big money in American politics. That is, after all, largely how we got here in the first place, with astroturfed populism combined with huge corporate campaign donations for political tools and extremists short-sightedly planting most of the seeds for these newer, louder issues.

I don’t think though that there’s any evidence a Trump presidency is necessary for, or would help, any of these things to happen.

Trump vs GOPFirstly, the contention that it “… would force the GOP to completely reorganize.” If Trump was president, that would actually be quite difficult because he would be the leader of the party. If and when Trump loses in November, as I think will be the case, you can bet there will be a big reorganization of the Republican Party. Much of the leadership is hating the situation they’re currently in of being forced to support a man they clearly have no respect for. They know that he got to be leader because of their own failings and you can bet they’ll make sure someone like Trump can never win a primary again. There’s hardly a day goes by when Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell aren’t making a statement disavowing something Trump has said. Several of the party’s senior members, including their last nominee, Mitt Romney, have said they can’t in good conscience vote for Trump. Many others have said they’ll be holding their noses as they do it. Some have even gone so far as to say they’ll vote for Hillary Clinton.

Secondly, that it would force mainline liberals to stop tolerating “… the excesses of its screeching, reality-denying, uncompromising and authoritarian fringe.” I’m not sure that mainline liberals do tolerate the authoritarian left. Unlike them, we respect the right to free speech, but many of us speak out against them frequently. The aforementioned Jerry Coyne along with Sam Harris, Dave Rubin, Eiynah (Nice Mangoes), Stephen Knight (Godless Spellchecker), Maajid Nawaz, Gad Saad, Bill Maher, and many others all speak out against the authoritarian left. (Please give me names to add to the list in the comments – I’m really bad at names and would like more of these people mentioned.) Sam Harris in particular has suffered because of it. It may seem like that’s not happening so much to those who are working in US universities like the authors are, but I would suggest they’re victims of their environment.

Thirdly, they say that a Trump presidency would inspire a movement against big money in politics. However, I don’t think the US needs a Trump presidency for this to happen – I think it’s going to happen anyway. Bernie Sanders has started that movement already. He’s not going away because he lost the primary – he still has an important voice in US politics and I have no doubt he and his supporters will continue to demand to be heard. President Obama spoke eloquently against big money in politics before the last election, though he ended up taking advantage of super-pacs to counter those against him. I expect he would lend his voice to any campaign against super-pacs once he has ensured a Democratic victory in November.

Big money in US politics is something that more people are becoming aware of without Trump’s help. In February Politico published a story that reported that so far the one hundred biggest donors had given US$195 million in the 2016 cycle while the combined donations of the two million smallest donors was US$155 million. Four of the six top donors supported Ted Cruz with a total of US$37 million so he possibly couldn’t even have run without just those four supporters. Jeb Bush received even more from the top 100 – US$49 million. Clinton at that point came in second with US$38 million from the donors on the top 100 list.

Billionaires' Primary

In short, a Trump presidency is not required to motivate USians to do something about the appalling Citizens United Supreme Court decision that enabled this situation.

Boghossian and Lindsay go on to note “…  the GOP’s grotesquely partisan behavior during the entire tenure of Obama’s two terms in office,” and how:

Over the past two decades, and especially the last eight years, the Republican Party has allowed ideological corruption to rot its once stable, corporate structure from within, and meanwhile a constant gale of far-Right pressure has shoved upon the party from at least two sides, the religious Right and the anti-government Tea Party and its sympathizers. Even an institution as old and robust as the Party of Lincoln is not sustainable against these forces, and so the house of GOP condemned itself. Then, in walks a take-no-prisoners real-estate mogul, declares the entire enterprise a loss, and becomes the very wrecking ball that smashes it to pieces.

This part of their thesis is one I agree with, and this is I think the major cause of the Trump rise. The increasing partisanship of US politics has, in my opinion, a great deal to do with what has enabled him to take over the Republican party. The party elite have alienated many of their traditional voters by taking them for granted and now Trump is appealing to them by hate- and fear-mongering. When Mitch McConnell said on the eve of the 2010 mid-term elections, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president,” it  gave a wrong impression to voters what politics and government is all about. He actually went on to say, “… if he’s willing to meet us halfway on some of the biggest issues, it’s not inappropriate for us to do business with him,” but that, of course, is not the part of the interview that ever gets reported.

Protest votes

Voters went on to elect a whole new load of Tea Party members who, despite their small number, took control by their tactics of “all or nothing.” Antics like those of Ted Cruz’s filibuster that shut down the government were admired instead of being condemned for the selfish, unproductive, showboating they were. The work of government hasn’t been done properly for years because of the inability of a small number to compromise, then when Obama takes actions like taking his pen and phone to try and get something done he gets abused.

In October 2014 the Boston Globe published an article called ‘Americans grasp on civic knowledge is shaky at best, study finds‘. It followed the release of a survey from the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Its findings included:

35 percent of respondents were unable to name even one branch of the federal government; only 36 percent could identify all three. Nearly three out of four Americans didn’t know that it takes a two-thirds vote in each house of Congress to override a presidential veto. Asked which parties control the Senate and House of Representatives, only 38 percent of respondents answered correctly. And one-fifth of the public believes that when the Supreme Court decides a case by a 5-4 majority, the decision is sent to Congress for reconsideration.

That’s worrying, but perhaps explains why so many voters think that electing Trump would fix the system. It’s clear that Trump himself also either has a poor knowledge of civics, the law, and the constitution, or is deliberately misleading voters about what he’d do. In his prepared speech to the Faith and Freedom Coalition on Friday, Trump told his audience that he would make sure that Christians could talk about politics from the pulpit without limit. Churches don’t pay taxes and one of the legal conditions of that is that they don’t tell their congregations how to vote. There is a group of Christian Churches that defy that law every year on Pulpit Freedom Sunday – in 2014 there were 1,500 – but because of the privilege that religion has in our society they have always got away with it. After pressure from the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) the IRS (equivalent of our IRD) agreed to investigate those churches flagrantly breaking the law, but it doesn’t appear to ever have actually occurred. In fact, most articles about the situation appear to support the churches and attack the FFRF. (See here for an example.)

The younger, emerging leaders of the party – people like Paul Ryan, Susana Martinez, Scott Walker, and Marco Rubio – are, whatever you think of their policies, basically decent people. The old guard like John McCain, Lindsay Graham, John Kasich, and Mitt Romney, again with the same proviso, are honourable men. Yesterday on CNN, Ronald Reagan’s son Michael (the one who says his half-brother Ron Reagan, as an atheist, is an embarrassment) said his father wouldn’t vote for Donald Trump and wouldn’t like the lack of dignity with which Trump conducted himself.

Boghossian and Lindsay go on to say:

The question to our minds, then, isn’t whether a Trump presidency would be bad for America—it unquestionably would—but whether America might survive the medicine and come out better for the noxious treatment.

We think it may. The United States is a carefully constructed democratic republic with divided powers, and a terrible president, while coming at a serious cost, will prove limited in the scope of his capabilities. Congress is very unlikely to back much of what Trump proposes, for instance, and they just spent eight years demonstrating that if only half of our elected legislators have such a mind, they can grind American politics largely to a halt.

This just doesn’t make sense. It’s likely that many of the things Trump wants to do wouldn’t be able to get done thus grinding “… politics largely to a halt.” But this is not, as the authors contend, better than the disease. They use the analogy of chemotherapy and cancer, but a dose of Trump would have side effects worse than the disease. While it’s likely that the United States would survive a dose of Trump, the damage that he could do doesn’t bear thinking about. And then, like many USians do, they’ve forgotten about the rest of the world.

Trump has already said he’s going to rip up the Paris climate deal and the Iran nuclear deal, both of which took years of careful diplomatic manoeuvring to negotiate. Imagine him sitting down to negotiate a treaty with Putin? He thinks he’s such a great negotiator, but his lack of knowledge and understanding when it comes to foreign affairs is embarrassing and Putin would run rings around him. He would get Trump to promise all sorts of things without him even realizing how badly he was screwing up. We would see things like Trump tweeting he and Putin and decided Ukraine would be part of Russia in return for a great deal on access to the Russian market for US poultry farmers. The diplomats might be able to get out of it, but not without huge negative consequences for the US and much of Europe. That’s the sort of thing that would happen with a Trump presidency.

Next they say:

Even if he is able to unduly pressure Congress, Trump would still have the Supreme Court to reckon with, and it would rarely go in his favor even were he able to stack the deck slightly to his favor by placing a few justices.

He would be able to do much more than “… stack the deck slightly to his favor.” The Justices would stop egregious legal moves, but a series of conservative appointments could delay the social progress of the US for a generation. Even worse, it could reverse some of the progress already made. Trump has already made clear, for example, that he intends to nominate anti-choice judges to the Supreme Court. In addition, it could stop the moves to remove big money from politics Boghossian and Lindsay hope for as that would require a previous Supreme Court ruling to be overturned.

Boghossian and Lindsay conclude:

Is it a risky bet? Absolutely. A Trump presidency cannot be seen in a more flattering light than an attempt to drink a little chemo, get sick, and kill a handful of political cancers at once. Is it flirtation with fire? Yes. The whole gambit rests upon the horror of a Trump presidency creating a political backlash that repairs our most damaged institutions. Are we going to vote for Trump? No. No one should. What we’ve written constitutes the only reasonable case for supporting Trump, and it’s weak. That there’s even such an argument to be made, though, tells us a great deal about what’s going wrong in our society.

They say the case for supporting Trump is weak. I say it doesn’t exist. I’ve heard the reasoning over and over again from those who do support him – I watch a lot of Fox News. The only real case they have is that they would prefer him to Clinton, and the only real reason for that is to control the Supreme Court. What that says to me is that it’s religion that’s the problem because almost the only rulings where there is disagreement is social issues, and those are about the conservative religious wanting to force their views on everybody else.

44 Responses to “Is the Authoritarian Left Responsible for the Rise of Trump?”

  1. Ken says:

    The “authoritarian left” seem barely mentioned, let alone a case made for their responsibility.

    I won’t rehash old arguments about Sam Harris, et al, Heather. Rather, I’ll just look forward to watching jam have conniptions over this piece.

  2. j.a.m. says:

    As Obama has shown, his radical ilk are hellbent to abuse the power of all three branches of the federal government to reengineer American society to impose their sick values. Putting an end to this is in the country’s urgent interest and at this point that means voting for Trump, at least in any contested state.

    Defending the right of conscience and right to life are vital issues in the fight to restore the federal courts to their lawful role, but they’re hardly the sole ones. Federal overreach in furtherance of leftist ideology threatens the entire Bill of Rights and our fundamental liberty.

    Yes, Bernie will go gently into that good night. He lost. He’s near the end of his nearly invisible Congressional career, and nobody owes him anything. If he’s a good soldier and Clinton wins by a nose, he’ll get a pat on the head.

    If the GOP loses, there will be a lot of debate about the nominating process, but the blame will fall squarely on the candidate, not the so-called establishment.

    If the selection of Trump proved anything, it is that money is vastly overrated by the consultants who profit by raising and spending it. As for Citizens United, the Court held that politicians cannot limit speech criticizing them, a finding so obvious that even the ACLU concedes you can’t be for free speech and against Citizens United.

    • I’m not sure how the right of conscience is being threatened by anyone on the left whether centrist or radical, and we’ve debated abortion rights before so there’s no much point in re-hashing all that.

      It’s not about limiting the speech criticizing politicians, but who gets to have the loudest voice. In a democracy, everyone should have an equal voice but super-pacs mean that the wealthy get a much louder voice than everyone else. A candidates abilities as a fundraiser are more important than their ability as a politician in the US. The lobbying industry just enhances that.

      I’m at a loss to see how the Bill of Rights and fundamental liberty are being threatened, unless you’re talking about the freedom to starve to death because there’s no social safety net.

      Since Trump’s ability to promote himself got him about $2 billion free advertising he didn’t need to raise much. He said he was self-funding, but it wasn’t true. He got donations and he didn’t give money to his own campaign, he loaned it. Now he’s seeking donors just like anyone else. I even received a begging e-mail, and since it’s obvious from my e-mail address that I’m in NZ, it’s illegal. I should try and donate a small amount to see if it’s accepted.

    • Ken says:

      And of course he obliged. I do agree with one thing amongst the drivel though; there is nothing we know about the current GOP that suggests it will learn from this fiasco. And Heather, to say any of those men are decent is to redefine decency almost to the point of meaninglessness.

      • Yes, he did oblige, but you’re sometimes only better because I agree with more of what you say. This is why I have such a problem with the Greens in NZ politics – they’re so effing negative and spend all their time whining. It’s not cool to criticize the Greens, but I can tell I’m not the only one who feels like this when I see people coming out with comments like, “The Greens even have Deborah Morris-Travers working for them now,” and they say it with incredulity. Just like Labour has something to prove with this new alliance, so do the Greens.

        Just because someone is a Republican, doesn’t make them all bad. If more were able to recognize that there’d be a lot more cooperation and a governance would be a lot more effective. No one can have everything they want, but steps can be made in the right direction.

        • Ken says:

          Heather, it is never my intention to offend you. I apologise that my language was not up to the clear standard you set.

          But while your criticism of me is fair, that of the Greens is not. I guess if they were supportive of govt policies, they’d be part of it and not in opposition. But as one of the opposition’s jobs is to hold the govt to account, I’m not sure what you expect to hear. Their other job is to present a positive alternative and this they do relentlessly. You never hear it? That’s because the media only cover controversy as I’m sure you know. Winston doesn’t grab headlines all the time for being constructive, does he, and you’ve noted yourself the value of free media Trump has had just by being outrageous. But the positive is there in the Greens public utterances and in others’ too. I can tell you that the daily media conversation in opposition political parties is whether to put out positive statements that voters might actually want to hear but won’t because they will get zero coverage, or to participate in what’s called “game stories”, all about scoring political points. It’s nearly irresistible because not only is it nearly the only way to get in the media (stunts is another, but Greens get criticised for that too, of course), but if you don’t play, they actively talk you down for not playing, as invisible, ineffectual and irrelevant. The Greens strike a very reasonable balance despite this, but you won’t know it unless you look for it. I don’t understand what you mean re the Morris-Travers comment, so can’t say anything about that, though happy to if you post a link.

          Re the Republicans, I don’t know how you can talk of their relentless blocking of Obama, yet also say there would be more cooperation if only people would show them greater respect. No one plays meaner politics, regardless the cost to people’s lives. The Dems have tried to work with them and given in way too much. If they stood their ground more, they’d have more support. Hillary is not so unpopular only because of right wing smears. Everyone has decency in them. Even horrible Trump is probably nice to animals or gives to the poor or something. But it is what people do when they wield great power that matters here, and pointing out that those Republican leaders act despicably every single day is just reality, not lack of respect. They are the ones that need to show some decent human respect to others (and I’d include plenty of Dems in that statement too).

          • Your comments about the media is a fair one, and it must be very difficult for political parties knowing that a controversy is much more likely to get coverage than a positive message. And I agree that it is the oppositions’ job to hold the government to account, and wouldn’t want them to stop doing that. Much of what the Greens do in relation to that is good, and even if I don’t agree with some of their criticisms, I still think those criticisms should be made. The government needs to know there is someone honourable who will call them out, which the Greens are good at.

            The Morris-Travers thing I heard on Q & A on Sunday morning.

            My comments about the GOP got a bit mixed up. I believe there are good people in the party, though most of their policies I disagree with. However, the party has been taken over by a small number, mainly 50-60 Tea Party gits, who won’t cooperate etc and they do not deserve respect – I completely agree with you there. They hold their colleagues to ransom. Also, they’ve got GOP voters thinking that cooperation is a bad thing and the tactics of the Tea Party caucus are a sign of strength and standing up for what’s right. They’ve raised the expectations and promised things they can never deliver and know they can never deliver, then blame others when they don’t deliver them. The dishonesty of their tactics seriously pisses me off, especially because they’re a big part of the reason we’ve ended up with all these popular but incapable candidates like Trump. Being a good politician is not necessarily a bad thing it’s just that a lot of bad people have become politicians.

        • Ken says:

          Have caught up with the segment mentioning Morris-Travers and the discussion was about whether Winston would work with the Greens. James Shaw said their relationship was much better than in the past and that Morris-Travers used to be an NZF Cabinet Minister, so knows Winston well. The panel commenting at the end all seemed to agree that Winston was careful not to rule out working with the Greens and that the Morris-Travers appointment would help. Seems like reasonable observations from all sides to me.

          • I agree the observations were reasonable, but I was commenting on the body language and intonation of the TVNZ guys. I think the Greens can do it, but they have yet to do it. I have a lot less faith in Winston.

  3. Let’s not forget that Trump would be an emotionally retarded egomaniacal psychopath with his finger on the nuclear button. His ‘cure for cancer’ might not be just an unpleasant does of chemo, but the destruction of the entire cancer ward.

    • Exactly! With an excellent allusion to Solzhenitsyn to boot.

      To tell the truth, Cancer Ward was an assigned book in the sixth form for me, which means, of course, that I never actually read much of it, so I mostly only know what I’ve been told. Much as I love reading, I never read anything we were assigned at school except Hamlet, and that was only because we read it allowed in class and I read the part of Rosencrantz.

  4. Yakaru says:

    I also found the idea of the authoritarian left causing Trump to be a completely silly idea. As if people who think Obama is a leftist radical would take the time to make further distinctions among their leftist opponents.

    I do think that in a way it’s a good sign that “outsiders” can still get voted in despite the manipulations of the mega-rich, it’s just that in the case of the Republicans, the two top outsiders (Trump & Cruz) are what they are.

    A Trump presidency would do several generations worth of damage to the US and god knows what to the rest of the world. Here in Germany the crazed racist right wing has started to get even stupider lately, complaining about brown skinned footballers in the national team getting their photos on chocolate bars, and such like. They were always mad as hatters, but it seems to me that Trump’s pride in his extraordinary dumbness is an open invitation for others to follow suit.

    • You could just about replace my whole post with your first paragraph!

      There’s some screwy stuff going on in England, France, Germany and a few other places with the far right. This whole idea of Brexit, which is so stupid, seems to be getting lots of popular support – I heard “Leave” is ten points ahead in the latest poll. Do they really think their problems will be fixed overnight if they leave the EU? They’re like a lot of Trump supporters believing every lie they’re told. Then there’s the rise and rise of Marine la Pen and the right in general in France.

      • nicky says:

        I think that, in Europe more than in the US, the Regressive Left’s (someone called them the Struthious Left, which I like -despite austriches not actually hiding their heads in the sand-, the extreme PC crowd, the SJW’s, call them what you want) excusing muslims behaving badly, no matter what, has been instrumental in the resurrection of the ‘extreme right’. Due to the aggressive Regressive Leftist stance, that decries any criticism of Islam and bad Muslim behaviour ‘racist’and ‘islamophobic’, the more moderate left has ‘bent’ (of course not all, but the mainstream).
        So the ‘right’ and ‘extreme right’ are the only ones perceived to recognise the problem.
        Now, I do not want to blame Trump on the Struthious left, but I’m sure it played a role. Difficult to assess how great a role.

        The notion that (particularly in a democracy) things have to get ‘worse’ before they can get ‘better’ is bonkers and despicable. It virtually never works. And if it works, that revolution itself is generally worse than the evil before, from the French Revolution and the end of the Weimar Republic, to Russia’s Revolution or Iran’s Ayatollahs.
        It is what we can -and I do, more than 15 years after the fact-reproach Nader (I recently found out he preferred a baby Bush to Gore presidency for that reason, he deliberately tried and succeeded to sink Gore), and Stein, and now Boghossian and Lindsay. Disappointing.

        Sorry for the late reply, don’t know how I missed this post.

        • I agree. I think the stance of the Authoritarian Left failing to admit there’s a problem has encouraged the revolting bigoted reaction by many on the far right.

          In the US I’ve partly blamed Obama for it due to his failure to name Islamist terrorism. It’s why I think so many in the US don’t know the difference between Islamist and Islamic. He worries about upsetting allies, but they, of course, know the difference perfectly well, and aren’t upset by the use of the word Islamist.

        • Ken says:

          Yes, it is bonkers for Nader or Stein to let themselves be seen as preferring any other candidate. It is also bonkers to blame Nader for Gore’s loss when about six times as many registered Dems in Florida voted for Bush than Nader. And it is bonkers to tell any party we’ll support them no matter how corrupt they get.

          • I saw an interview of Bill Weld yesterday (on CNN I think) where he basically said if people aren’t going to vote Libertarian they should vote for Clinton and not Trump. He was quite clear in saying that Trump was not qualified and Clinton was.

          • Ken says:

            Yes, Weld never seemed to have his heart in it, did he.

          • I think he felt a bit let down by the performance of Johnson. They were doing quite well until the Aleppo moment, when they plummeted. They got even worse after the less well advertised tongue-wiggling thing. Their percentages were always going to go down as they got closer to the election, but if Johnson had done better they probably could have got 5% in the current environment, which would have been great for them in the future.

          • Yakaru says:

            I’ve seen Weld a couple of times clearly implying that he thinks people should vote for Clinton. I am stunned he didn’t already know how much of an idiot Johnson is.

          • nicky says:

            No, I do not ‘blame’ Nader for the 2000 disaster, but I blame him for contributing to it.
            However, until recently I thought he was just honestly mistaken about his impact, but now I learned he was deluded by the self-defeating ‘must get worse before we can make it better’ meme.

          • Ken says:

            I don’t believe it must get worse, but am wary that some may use that as another excuse to justify supporting corrupt Dems forever. Because while it doesn’t have to get worse, doing that will ensure it does.

          • nicky says:

            Well, Ken, you have been served.
            The corrupt democrats are out. Out of House, Senate and Presidency (not to mention SCOTUS soon).

          • Ken says:

            Not served, but unfortunately proven right.

  5. Lee Knuth says:

    Thanks for this article. Hope it gets wide distribution since it is definitely worth reading.

  6. paxton marshall says:

    Well said everyone. The article illustrates Ken’s point that the more outlandish the claim, the more notice it gets.

  7. paxton marshall says:

    This comment has been deleted by me. Paxton knows why. He was warned several times.
    – Heather

    • Yakaru says:

      I’m genuinely surprised at the standard of your argumentation here, Paxton. Jerry Coyne is not alt-right, nor is Sam Harris. They both openly, repeatedly and unequivocally condemn and oppose anti-Muslim bigotry, and both trenchantly opposed Trump, and both expressed dismay at liberals like Asra Nomani who voted for Trump.

      Coyne recently approvingly posted a podcast of Nick Cohen demolishing the anti-Muslim bigotry of the alt-right-leaning Gad Saad. He did so in a manner that exposed Saad’s rightist sympathies and left his reputation justifiably in tatters.

      (Rubin probably isn’t alt-right either, but rather probably merely just a tacit supporter of their odious politics, by giving them a platform without challenging their idiotic bigotry.)

  8. Yakaru says:

    Thanks for your very sensible and civil response, Paxton…

    I would still take issue with a few things there.

    Coyne’s opposition to hysterical anti-Trump rhetoric on the HuffPo (I assume that’s what you’re referring to) was always accompanied with calls to vote for Clinton, and also noting — correctly, it turns out — that such over top identitiy politics is a failure to engage any of the arguments that Trump voting liberals ultimately raised (eg., Asra Nomanie).

    Actually I think where I disagree with you most is the way you approach this whole matter. Calling Coyne an Islamophobe lumps him (and me) in with people like Trump simply because we criticize Islam. I think that waters down the word so much that it loses any effective meaning. If you want to call Trump an Islamophobe, fine by me, but I prefer the term anti-Muslim bigotry – that puts the focus where it should be, namely on people who reflexively group all Muslims together.

    What Coyne does is treat Islam as a set of ideas, and distinguishes between the person and the ideology — a distinction which “Islamophobia” fails to make. This is of course, exactly the same logical fallacy that that Trump and other anti-Muslim bigots fail to make: leading to ideas like a blanket bans on Muslims.

    This is also why so many liberals who use that term accuse those who publish pictures of Mohammed of “offending 1.6 billion Muslims”, as if all Muslims have identical ideas, an identical set of reactions encoded into the their autonomic nervous systems, and an infantile incapacity to control their emotions and impulses.

    It’s the same error that makes them fail to defend the rights of Muslims who criticise or leave their religion: only Islamophobes criticise Islam, so Eiynah or Maryam Namazie are Islamophobes, and “it’s the wrong time” for them to be saying that it’s wrong to behead people. (This is literally what the BBC told Namazie when deciding cut her out of an interview with an apologist for beheading.)

    Coyne opposed the burkini ban, and has been supporting liberal and ex-Muslims for many years. Harris’s recent podcasts have featured people from both these categories. They have both played a role in raising the profile of such people.

    • Hi Yakaru

      Paxton’s comments have been removed by me. His initial foray back broke several warnings he has been given in the past regarding his comments.


      • Paxton marshall says:

        So much for free speech.

        • If you want to attack my friends in a public forum, you can find somewhere else to do it, I am not obliged to provide you with a platform. You’ve pushed your luck once too often.

          • Paxton marshall says:

            Ok snowflake. You’ve got your safe space.

          • Paxton marshall says:

            Sorry my words were so hurtful. I should have provided trigger warnings.

          • Paxton marshall says:

            I’ve been deplatformed by the two arch enemies of deplatforming. Irony or hypocrisy?

          • You’ve been de-platformed by your own failure to be fair or courteous. As it says in the Comments Guidelines, this is an extension of my home. I expect people to behave as they would there. You have repeatedly abused and insulted a friend of mine despite my asking you repeatedly not to. Perhaps you have forgotten that you e-mailed me this snarky comment (among several others):

            Thanks for the reprieve Heather, but clearly it is time for me to move on. I will never be able to satisfy your restrictions on what I can say. Now you can join your friends in stoking fear and loathing of Muslims, without the inconvenience of hearing the other side of the story.

            I’ve had enough. Your inability to understand the difference between criticizing a belief system and individuals is frustrating in the extreme. And, when it comes to Jerry, you’re like a petulant child. You have made me choose between him and you by your behaviour. He is my friend, and I don’t abandon my friends.

  9. Yakaru says:

    My apologies to both you and Paxton for stirring up trouble, Heather! 😉

    • No need to apologize – you’ve already expressed yourself properly here. And I certainly understand the desire to respond.

      • Diane G. says:

        “Your inability to understand the difference between criticizing a belief system and individuals is frustrating in the extreme.”

        Exactly. Seemed more like a decision to play dumb rather than an “inability to understand,” as P seems smart enough to get the idea. Or, rather than “playing dumb,” just refusing to ever address the subject, effectively ignoring the many times any of us went to great lengths thinking we could explain it to him. Very Trumpian of him.

        (Sorry if this violates the rules too, Heather. Please feel free to delete it if so.)

  10. Yakaru says:

    Seeing as you mentioned me as if I would disagree with Heather, I did not know about previous discussions between you and Heather on this topic, otherwise I would not have initially responded.

    It’s perfectly normal and in order to set rules for commenters, especially when a topic starts rehashing old territory — a blog is not an open discussion forum, and the articles Heather writes are carefully researched and made freely available. It is her right to decide how and if she wants discussion after her writing to proceed. It is not a free speech issue. And your views are well known here and you have been given a very generous amount of space to express them, including a guest post.

    Your statements about Jerry also come across to me as personal and unfair attacks on his character.

    Sorry Heather if this comment is out of order.

    • Yakaru says:

      I have heard of plenty of people being de-platformed but I have not heard a single one of them claiming it deprives them of free speech. I think you have completely misunderstood this whole issue from start to finish. The criticism is that it’s a poor way to deal with ideas you don’t like.

      To *repeatedly* generalize about someone’s character and motivations after you have been asked to stop, and after you have made the same accusation dozens of times already, is, I’m sorry, simply lack of manners.

      I met Jerry this year briefly — I went to his talk in Poland 2 hours from Berlin where I live. I wouldn’t go to listen to a bigot who “stokes fear and loathing of Muslims”. It’s ridiculous.

      • I have deleted Paxton’s new comments (four).

        I think it is notable that we always have to make a point of noticing when he makes a “very sensible and civil response.”

        Yes, you can do that Paxton. That’s what makes it particularly annoying when once again you resort to vitriol and abuse.

        To make it clear Paxton, I told you months ago that if you continued your unwarranted attacks on Jerry Coyne you would be banned. Your personal obsession with him, and the warped lens through which you view him, means your ongoing slurs have not stopped. You do not have evidence as you claim, you have an opinion, and it is distorted.

        As I said earlier, this is an extension of my home, and your own actions mean you are no longer welcome here.

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