No enemies to the right?

Anthony Albanese has a piece in the #Ozfail (not linked) restating standard [1] claims that political life is increasingly characterized by echo chambers and that we ought to make more of an effort to engage with those whose views differ from ours.

He mentions, as example of the dire consequences of not doing this, some international examples

this polarisation in global politics has seen the demise of many of the historically successful progressive political parties such as France’s Socialist Party, PASOK in Greece, the Partito Democratico in Italy, the Social Democrats in Germany and many other affiliates of the Socialist International.

In many countries, parties of the radical Right have emerged with disillusioned working-class people as their social base.

What’s striking about this list is that most of the examples lost votes at least as much to parties on their left, which rejected their complicity in austerity: Syriza in Greece, Melenchon’s la France Insoumise, and the Greens in Germany and the Netherlands. Yet there’s no hint in Albanese’s article that the centre-left needs to be open to the views of such groups and their supporters: apparently, we need to be talking to the supporters of Golden Dawn, Le Pen, AfD and so on.

Albanese’s position in Australian politics is exactly the same. He’s happy to talk to Andrew Bolt and the Oz in the interests of an open debate, but as far as I know he has never had a good word to say about the Greens, let along sought to open a dialogue with them. Apparently some alternative views are more equal than others.

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Trolls (crosspost from Crooked Timber)

I’ve decided that life is too short for me to deal with any more trolls. From now on, I’m following the same zero[1] tolerance policy regarding blog comments as I do on other social media. Snarky trolling comments will lead to an immediate and permanent ban from my comment threads.

More generally, I’ve come to the conclusion that the best way to look at the ‘Intellectual Dark Web’ and what remains of the Republican intellectual class is the light of my experience as a blogger.

Put simply. the IDW and others are trolls. Their object is not to put forward ideas, or even to mount a critique, but to annoy and disrupt their targets (us). As Nikki Haley observed, a few months before announcing her resignation as UN Ambassador, it’s all about “owning the libs

Once you look at them as trolls, it’s easy to see how most of the right fit into familiar categories. They include
* Victim trolls: Their main aim is to push just far enough to get banned, or piled-on, while maintaining enough of an appearance of reasonableness to claim unfair treatment: Christina Hoff Sommers pioneered the genre
* Concern trolls: Jonathan Haidt is the leading example. Keep trying to explain how the extreme lunacy of the far right is really the fault of the left for pointing out the lunacy of the mainstream right.
* Quasi-ironic trolls: Putting out racist or otherwise objectionable ideas, then, when they are called out, pretending it’s just a joke. The alt-right was more or less entirely devoted to this kind of trolling until Trump made it acceptable for them to drop the irony and come out as open racists.
* Snarky trolls: Delight in finding (or inventing) and circulating examples of alleged liberal absurdity, without any regard for intellectual consistency on their own part. Glenn Reynolds is the archetype in the US, though the genre was pioneered in UK print media by the Daily Mail’s long running obsession with ‘political correctness gone mad’
* False flag trolls: Push a standard rightwing line, but demand special consideration because they are allegedly liberals. Alan Dershowitz has taken this kind of trolling beyond parody
From what I can see, the latest hero of the Dark Web, Jordan Peterson, manages to encompass nearly all of these categories. But I haven’t looked hard because, as I said, life is too short.

I’ve used US examples here, but most of them have Australian counterparts. Feel free to point them out.

fn1. Not quite zero. Commenters with a track record of serious discussion will be given a warning. But, anyone who wastes my time will be given short shrift

What I’ve been writing in the last seven years or so (Part 1)

Now that I’ve finished a draft manuscript of my book, Economics in Two Lessons, I’m getting around to jobs I’ve been putting off for a long time (I started the book in 2011), such as updating my CV. At the moment, I’m working on publications in Internet outlets such as Aeon, The Conversation and the ABC’s (sadly departed now), The Drum.  I’ve listed  a bunch over the fold. The titles are mostly self-explanatory, so please take a look at any that seem likely to be interesting. If you’re so inclined, please comment.

There are plenty more to come, as and when I get free time and the inclination.

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User experience

As I mentioned a while ago, after years of having the blog managed for me by Jacques Chester (thanks again!) I’m now out on my own. I’m working through WordPress.com. A reader has mentioned that the process of commenting has become burdensome, something I’ve noticed with the default WordPress setup. I’ve tried to fix this by removing the requirement for an email address.

I’d appreciate it if readers could comment on what happens when they try to post a comment. If you can’t comment at all, please email me at j.quiggin@uq.edu.au

Migration

Hi everyone. As you can see, there have been a few changes. For many years, Jacques Chester has kindly hosted this site and other Australian blogs. He’s had to move on, and the site has been migrated to WordPress.com. In the process, the theme has been lost and some recent comments may also have gone.

At the same time, I’ve had a lot of commitments that have slowed me down. I’ll be restoring as much as I can over the next week or so, and trying to resume normal posting.

Mostly, I’d like to thank Jacques for the massive effort he’s put in to supporting this and other blogs.

For socialism and democracy

As I mentioned a while ago, in the years that I’ve been blogging, I’ve described my political perspective as “social-democratic”. In earlier years, I mostly used “democratic socialist”. My reason for the switch was that, in a market liberal/neoliberal era, the term “socialist” had become a statement of aspiration without any concrete meaning or any serious prospect of realisation. By contrast, “social democracy” represented the Keynesian welfare state I was defending against market liberal “reform”.

In the decade since the Global Financial Crisis, things have changed. Socialism still describes an aspiration, rather than a concrete political program, but an aspiration to a better society is what we need now as a positive response to the evident failure of neoliberalism.

On the other side of the ledger, nominally social democratic parties nearly all failed the test of the crisis, accepting to a greater or lesser degree to the politics of austerity. Some, like PASOK in Greece, have paid the price in full. Others, like Labor in Australia, are finally showing some spine. In practice, though, social democracy has come to stand, at best, for technocratic managerialism, and at worst for capitulation to the demands of financial capital.

So, I’ve changed the description of this blog’s perspective to socialist. I haven’t however, adopted the formulation “democratic socialist” which was used, in the 20th century, to emphasise a rejection of the Stalinist claim to have produced “actually existing socialism” in the Soviet Union and elsewhere. That’s no longer necessary.

As has been true for most of the history of the modern world, the only serious threat to democracy is now coming from the right. So, it’s important to defend democracy as well as advancing the case for socialism.

Welcome to mailing list subscribers

Here’s the letter I’ve sent to (I hope!) everyone who’s signed up for my mailing list.

Hi everyone,
I’ve now received more than 60 requests to join the mailing list, so I thought I would send a quick note to everyone thanking them for their requests and the kind words many of you have added. I’ll be checking for messages that bounce and I’ll also post on my blog and social media pages so that people who miss out can tell me about it.
My plan at this stage is to send the email once a week on Mondays. I’ll include links to blog posts and tweets, and I have a few other ideas to try out. I’m also open to suggestions, as long as they don’t involve too much work. If you have suggestions, go to my blog johnquiggin.com and post them there, once I’ve put this message up.
Best wishes
John