How big a bubble ?

We[1] are often urged to “get out of our bubbles” and engage with a wider range of viewpoints. This mostly turns out to be a waste of time. As I experienced from my side, engagement with the political right consists mainly of responding to a string of talking points and whataboutery, with little if any content. On the rare occasions these discussions have been useful, it’s typically because the other party in the discussion is on the verge of breaking with the right[2]

To restate the case in favour of getting out of the bubble, it’s easy to see examples of people on the left putting forward arguments that don’t stand up under criticism, but haven’t faced such criticism within the limited circles in which they’ve been discussed. But the most effective criticisms of such arguments is likely to come from people with broadly similar political aims and understandings.

As Daniel Davies once observed, opinion at Crooked Timber, the group blog of which I am a member, runs the gamut from social democrat to democratic socialist, and I have traversed that range in both directions. I get plenty of benefit from arguing with other people in that range and with some a little outside it, such as liberaltarians and (not too dogmatic) Marxists.

Opening up the discussion bubble now.

fn1. At least we on the left, I rarely run across this suggestion in the rightwing media I read.
fn2. TBC, I don’t think the powerful force of my arguments has converted them; rather it’s that people making this kind of shift often have interesting things to say,

14 thoughts on “How big a bubble ?

  1. Question: in these less-than-satisfying discussions you’ve had with right wingy people, was the subject a large, world-view type of issue … or something specific? I ask bc I find that discussions are better the more specific they are. I don’t know that I’ve noticed any intra- or inter- difference in this regard. But then again, I’m kind of a hermit (which I should change).

    Plus, I am less interested in general issues. They may be very important, yes. But usually not very good for discussion, ime.

    Moreover, where I live, I don’t really have this luxury of an intra-group discussion, because where I live (California), the power structure in the state – politicians and media – are almost completely Dem. There is very, very little real discussion. So, count yourself lucky if you get any real talk at all. (Mind you, I am pretty much weaned off of FB these days. And I don’t like tweeter either.)

    Why don’t you name a topic on which you’d like to be lobbied, and I’ll give it a try.

  2. I don’t really have the luxury of much in-bubble discussion. There’s just aren’t a .lot of “the climate catastrophe is a real problem and I am doing something about it” out there. Someone recently challenged me on the “what are you actually doing” front and I lost interest after about 20 bullet points. I’m sure my local MPs would love it if I would do the same for them. Speaking of which, los federales are currently seeking input on the question of building standards. The open question is whether they should account for climate change or be focused primarily on short term profit. Like all the best BDSM manuals advise, you should submit. Quickly (you have until the 15th)

    Right now I have two (formerly?) close friends who I have significant differences of opinion with. One is an ongoing source of fun, but right now they’re not an anti-vaxxer, they’re just not getting vaccinated because {stream of antivaxxer talking points}. I mean, anthopologically it’s kind of interesting hearing someone fairly smart explain it, but they’re not keen on the discussion and I suspect that’s because their spouse is the driving force behind their decision.

    Another we differ on a bunch of stuff centred on whether someone being unfaithful to a spouse is any business of their mutual friends. Or should busy-body know-it-all’s just stay in their lane and STFU. That one is harder because the friend really, really does not want to talk about it and is using anger and threatening behaviour to enforce that. Their spouse was apologetic but has decided that in the interests of keeping the peace we will pause our friendship for a while.

    Politics is easy by comparison 🙂 I get the full gamut of opinion, from anarchists through to watermelons, with a sadly all to real dose of “I don’t care, give me money”.

  3. Pr Q said:

    We[1] are often urged to “get out of our bubbles” and engage with a wider range of viewpoints. This mostly turns out to be a waste of time. As I experienced from my side, engagement with the political right consists mainly of responding to a string of talking points and whataboutery, with little if any content. On the rare occasions these discussions have been useful, it’s typically because the other party in the discussion is on the verge of breaking with the right[2]

    I don’t think there is any hope that the Prog Left can escape its bubble. However, that bubble can be popped. The arc of progress in science and in politics is bending, but not towards SJWs.

    It is idle to peeve about the Rights “talking points and waddaboutery” whilst pretending the “political Right” still sits on an orthodox part of the spectrum. It doesn’t and there is no going back. The intellectual running on the Right, since about 2002, has all been with the Alt-Right. This movement developed out of the “Californian” critique of American globalism, specifically the populist reaction to the elitist Invade-the-World/Invite-the-World/Indebt-the-World project. It has managed to get the UK out of the EU and the REPs out of the US Establishment. Its elite pundits tend to be quants who make ascerbic predictions, rather than indulge in windy pontifications. It is not even that Right wing, you should hear Sailer, Cochran or Kaus get stuck into the Pentagon, Silicon Valley and Wall Street. You would think that this movement deserves serious consideration.

    You would be wrong. The Prog Left, very far from “getting out of its bubble”, has done its level best to ignore, cancel and now criminalise the Alt-Right. Pr Q, to his credit, doesn’t go in for dobbing the other side to the Thought Police. Of course he is just showing his age with that bit of old fashioned Aussieness. His younger comrades possess no such scruples. Although even he draws the line on topics of anthropological sensitivity, which face a “Not in front of the children!” taboo on this site. His loss.

    More generally, the Prog Left has degenerated into uncontrollable farce over the past decade. I’m not just talking about the irruption of Wokeism, which has now infested formerly august institutions like Lancet. These indignities are best passed over in shameful silence. It has ignored, travestied or calumnied the most momentous developments in both anthropology (the basis of social science) and ideology (the compass of political action). Specifically, the spectacular progress in behavioural genetics and paeleogenomics and the earth-shattering success of the PRCs model of technocratic state corporatism. There has been zero atremot to engage with inconvenient truth. The cognitive dissonance would shatter too many delicate snowflakes. And too many cushy sinecures are at risk to be dabbling with Thought Crime.

    These are world-historic developments. Yet the Prog Lefts response has been obscurantist at best, when they are not actively agnotological. (To be fair, there are some liberal scientists like Reich and Harden who are trying to “break it to them gently”. They have to speak in careful code to avoid cancellation, so the message never gets through.) Take two high profile examples,, Adam Rutherford and Noah Smith. Rutherford has decided to step into the shoes of Gould and Lewontin as a scold of human genetics. He has chosen this moment (of all!) to flog the dead horse of Blank Slatism. And doubling down with an attack on “eugenics“, at the moment when Crispr, PGD and Personalised Genomics are going commercial. His idea of fruitful dialogue is to writes books with titles like “How to argue with a racist”, whom he identifies as his “enemies”.

    Noah Smith can’t really accept that the “socialism with Chinese characteristics” works because that would mean his own pet ideology of “socialism with Woke characteristics” might not catch on. His idea of reaching across the aisle is to name call his critics as “Tankies” (look it up), as if that explains the PRCs ascent. He styles himself as tech-savvy Prog economisr and doesn’t understand that high tech is evolving towards a command economy.

    I’m afraid Pr Q is right, although not for the reasons he adduces. There really is no chance of constructive exchange when one side wants to get its opponents censored, fired or jailed. However, the Prog Left cannot cancel the PRC under Xi Jingping. A command economy which embraces anti-Woke bio-realism whilst becoming a superpower “welt modell” will cause their heads to explode: “does not compute”. Which is why Progs of all parties pray most fervently for “the collapse of China”. Fat chance, given the way it sailed through covid with flying colours.

    How ironic that the Wests last, best hope for intellectual progress is in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.

  4. Historically, “The Right” refers to monarchists and “The Left” to anti-monarchists in France. At least from the perspective of Europe, The Left was ‘progressive’ in the sense that it demanded some form of people power – democracy – instead of monarchs; an institutional change.

    The idea of a ‘third way’, now associated with Tony Blair, isn’t a new idea at all in the UK; it is merely a reincarnation of the idea of putting something (parliament) on top of or beside what already exists (monarchy).

    “How ironic that the Wests last, best hope for intellectual progress is in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.” Where is ‘the West’, jackstrocci?

    The German Buendniss90/The Greens party has received enough votes during the very recent election to be the third strongest party (SPD 25.7%, CDU 24.1%, Greens 14.8%, FDP11.5%).
    SPD is classified as centre-left, the CDU as centre-right, the FDP more right re business but more left re personal liberties than the CDU. (The …. right, the AFD and the … left, Die Linke lost seats).

    So, what about the Greens? They are progressive, IMHO, in the original sense of wanting to bring about an institutional change, albeit very modest when compared to those in France at the time of the Right/Left division.

    Their policy program contains the proposal of having a Ministry of the Environment that has the same overarching function as that of the Ministry of Finance. That is, all policy proposals have to be cleared not only by the Ministry of Finance (as now) but also from the Ministry of the Environment. Finally, there is a political party which understands the 4th condition in the definition of a general equilibrium (real resource feasibility in aggregate). (My private pleasure). I don’t believe this intellectual progress was copied from the Chinese Communist Party. This stuff was definitely developed by Europeans.

    The Greens are also progressive in the social democratic (SPD) sense in so far as their specific policy proposals aim to halt and reduce the diverging income and wealth distribution, including on CO2 reduction policies (that is they take the 1st condition in the definition of a general equilibrium seriously). They are also progressive in the FDP sense (innovation) which relates to all desirable productions must be possible (2nd condition). Where they differ from the FDP is on the 3rd condition, namely all productions must be profitable. I look forward to getting some hints on how Dr Robert Habeck (Greens, Philosophy and Germanistik) is going to explain to Christian Lintner (FDP) that their difference is due to business people use a notion of profitability that is inconsistent with that in economics, which deals with the material welfare of humans, allowing them maximum freedom of choice (something the FDP says they defend). (I’d like to be a fly on the wall while their pre-coalition discussions take place).

  5. Do I have to put “atremot” up there with “covfefe”? Perhaps not. “Atremot” resolves fairly easily into “attempt”. An “atremot at covfefe” would be an attempt at coverage. Perhaps. If I were to make a serious atremot at covfefe of this topic I would certainly add to the confusion.

    This topic is an inkblot test, intended or not. It provokes confused responses. In ruminating about it I can see any attempt of mine to address the topic seriously would also be confused, at least to others. Why should that stop me? Existentially, everyone is in a bubble of one. Those of us who have lived long enough (too long?) begin to see that. The intellect is no way out of the bubble. More semiotically, formal signs (beyond body language) are no way out of the bubble. Signs serve to rationalize and hence to confuse. Tomisquote the Rutles, “One man’s rationalization is another man’s confusion, yeah.”

    As a wild hypothesis, does the increase of signs, without the potential for touch, body language, facial expression, the hearing of the timbre and expression of voices and so on, increase human confusion and misunderstanding? The invention of emojis was an attempt to deal with this very issue. Hence, leaping over a chain of rationalizing deductions, I rest my case. We are now taking the “Tragical History Tour”:

    Absurdism is the large refuge of the rational.

  6. The objective is to win the argument, by any means possible. Misinformation, fabrication, denial, deadly force – any tool is reasonable and justifiable when it’s used by your side against the other side.

    The only facts that matter relate to the control of resources.

    The bubble moves with the victors.

  7. “The bubble moves with the victors.” – akarog.

    True… until the big bubble bursts. Then there are no victors. Only losers.

  8. It would make sense for “get out of your bubble” to be mostly coming from the left — at least the centre-left — if you believe the pol sci research on different views about compromise vs sticking to your guns [pun intended?]. What could be more indicative of centre-left wishy-washiness than telling your fellow travellers that they need to give *more* air-time to their opponents?

  9. There’s been an interesting parallel debate in philosophy in recent decades about how to respond to peer disagreement. “Conciliatory” views hold that when you find that you disagree with someone who is your approximate epistemic peer (i.e. they’re no more ignorant or irrational than you are), you should lower your credence in whatever the point of disagreement is. A good analogy is when two people are separately doing a mental calculation: if I think there are 57 jelly beans in the jar, it seems reasonable that I should become less confident of that when I hear that you think there are 63.

    I would expect that different views on this correlate with background political beliefs/mindsets. Two leading anti-conciliationists also happen to be major philosophers of religion, which is another way of saying “Christian apologists”; the reason Christians would oppose conciliation is obvious…

  10. There are clearly basic personality types of the left and of the right .The two sides are not playing by the same rules ,this makes communication and negotiation difficult . In general leftists value inclusiveness ,compromise and peace more . They do not fear the unknown so much and can trust strangers, they aren’t so ready to use violence . The further right society moves the less likely it is that those on the right will listen at all. When does a rightist ever say ‘we need to make a genuine attempt to understand these leftists ‘ ? – never ,its not in their nature. Leftists often say that it is essential to understand the other and compromise – this is axiomatic on the left . The right simply say ‘how can we crush the left’ ,lets compromise and understand them only to the extent necessary to eventually totally defeat them. This is how the right wing ratchet works on a culture. Speaking generally ;- rightists have little faith in human nature, they are more paranoid, selfish,violent ,and afraid ,they value winning more than truth .

  11. sunshine, one of the headline results from the personality psychology of political science is that openness to experience is correlated with left-wing views. [apologies if you already know that] That said, I take the research with a grain of salt, given the replication crisis; dunno how well that particular area replicates but it certainly has the feel of something that wouldn’t, or as least would replicate with a much weaker effect than in published studies. (It’s the sort of thing you’d hear in a TED talk, which is generally a bad sign for replicability)

  12. What sort of bubble must the NSW Premier Parakeet be in when he “forgets” to bring Kerry Chant to the news conference, won’t say what her advice is, then gets on his high horse in surprise when some ask, “pourquoi”?

    Surely, rather, a realist would be asking what the hold up is with Morrison and emergency medical funding?

  13. Leftists trying to understand rightists is a literary genre of its own now. I am reading an Australian one at the moment – Gabrielle Chans ‘Rusted Off – Why Country Australia Is Fed Up ‘. I have been having some problems with an old friend who is a farmer that hasn’t got time to read a book but does seem to have time to watch facebook and youtube videos. He is becoming more right wing and defensive and conspiratorial .I am virtually a left wing extremist by today’s standards so I suppose problems weren’t unexpected sooner or later .I feel like I have always successfully made an effort to understand and accommodate him .Now that I have engaged with him in argument more than was usual he seems unable to do the same for me ,he just feels threatened and has trouble controlling his emotions. I think part of the problem is that leftists are used to living in a world not designed for them but conservatives are not used having their position questioned. He is a white male Christian sympathetic farmer so it has always been easy for him to feel like he is on the right side of history. He has a hatred of vegans that seems way out of proportion to their actual position in society (I am flexitarian) .Bill Gates is running the world for the benefit of vegans and the Saudi royal family is turning vegan too. He doesn’t do basic fact checking . One of the Saudi kings grandsons is an outspoken vegan tho ,and Gates is into broad acre cropping big time.

  14. I suppose so, sunshine.
    For my part, reason and critical thinking actually lead to a clear and tranquil conscience- mno lies, no coverups, no docs unreleased or experts silenced. I can’t see how false consciousness can be a happy option, either for Ice addicts or denialists or people walking along a cliff blindfolded…eerrkk.

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