Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby psyck0 » Tue Feb 09, 2010 5:23 am UTC

Vanivier, you ignored the fact that we are condescending towards idiots. I don't make fun of intelligent conservatives, there just happen to be so few of them right now that conservatism as a whole is a great target for laughter. If they'd get their head out of the asses of their jesus base and start talking economics instead of homosexuality as a sin and creationism in schools and other equally moronic bullshit, they'd get some respect.

I mean REAL economics, not just yelling "free market is the solution" as well. The democrats have no clue either, to be fair.

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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby Garm » Tue Feb 09, 2010 5:37 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:
Lucrece wrote:Liberals just happen to deem themselves as the intelligent ones, while conservatives deem themselves as the good ones.
That's a really good way to put it! I spend most of my time in libertarian circles I sometimes forget just how much moralizing goes on in some traditional conservative circles- things like Treason mirroring Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot.


Lucrece's summation of the condescension is good but lacking in explanation. Over the past twenty or thirty years there's been a rise in anti-intellectualism that is linked in some ways to the social conservative movement. Coupled with the works of pundits such as Anne Coulter and David Horowitz (the guy who bashes universities as being liberal all the time) and the conservative movements tendency to embrace these people, I think that it's easy to see where this intellectual condescension comes from.
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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby Nordic Einar » Tue Feb 09, 2010 6:28 am UTC

Garm wrote:
Vaniver wrote:
Lucrece wrote:Liberals just happen to deem themselves as the intelligent ones, while conservatives deem themselves as the good ones.
That's a really good way to put it! I spend most of my time in libertarian circles I sometimes forget just how much moralizing goes on in some traditional conservative circles- things like Treason mirroring Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot.


Lucrece's summation of the condescension is good but lacking in explanation. Over the past twenty or thirty years there's been a rise in anti-intellectualism that is linked in some ways to the social conservative movement. Coupled with the works of pundits such as Anne Coulter and David Horowitz (the guy who bashes universities as being liberal all the time) and the conservative movements tendency to embrace these people, I think that it's easy to see where this intellectual condescension comes from.


Very much this. To deny the link between America's anti-intellectualism and the modern social conservative is to be disingenuous to the extreme. It is not unfair to mock a party for being anti-intellectual when they rapidly embrace anti-intellectual standpoints in an attempt to pander to their base.

It is also important to highlight that conservatism does not have to be intellectually decrepit. I fully believe there are conservative ideologies, theories and groups out there whom could serve a valuable role in balancing the general incompetency of the Democrats. However, they are a minority group who needs to replace their party or be drowned out by the Palin/Teaparty crowd. It's shitty, but there it is.

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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby Vaniver » Tue Feb 09, 2010 6:42 am UTC

JonScholar wrote:Edit: http://www.dailykos.com/statepoll/2010/1/31/US/437

Very interesting polls for you to look at
I'm interested by the questions which look like they were intended to skewer the Republicans, but backfired- more conservatives responded in favor of gay marriage than opposed to women working outside the home.

psyck0 wrote:Vanivier, you ignored the fact that we are condescending towards idiots.
That was actually my entire point. If they are idiots, how do we know, and does that justify it? Part of the problem that Alexander identifies is that a lot of people take conservatism as monolithic, and if one part of it is crazy then clearly all of it is crazy. The lumping of moderate conservatives with hardcore conservatives is another thing that's happened here- the recent incident that comes to mind is Lucrece assuming Scott Brown was against abortion because he was against gay marriage (I apologize if you mind me mentioning this; I'm trying to support things beyond "I've seen it happen."). 23% of Republicans in a poll paid for by an opponent think their state should secede from the US; does that mean all conservatives are idiots? If we want to say "good riddance" to those people, should we figure out what percentage of Democrats think Europe is a nicer place to live than the US and say "good riddance" to them too?

Of course there are going to be idiot Republicans. Idiots exist, they vote, and they join political parties, and dealing with that is a hell of a lot better than dealing with the government deciding who is and isn't an idiot (especially if they're looking at policy preferences!). There are also undoubtedly idiotic Democrats.

One of the other problems here is the liberal ideological hegemony; as they pretty much dominate the cultural and political discussion, most discussions occur in their terms and on their terms. Conservatives have to begin by defending their axioms before they can move on to discussing their ideas. The case in point is "Communism is good in theory, but fails in practice"- Communism is horrible in theory, and yet to make the shorter point (that empiricism should guide policy preferences, and that Communism is on the ash heap of history) they ignore (and thus bury) the longer point (that individualism, rather than collectivism, allows people to maximize happiness, that individual happiness is important, and that freedom and responsibility are inherent parts of being an adult). It's hard to describe how amazing the difference is between discussing things with people who share your values and discussing things with people who don't share your values when you're not used to the first.

Garm wrote:Lucrece's summation of the condescension is good but lacking in explanation. Over the past twenty or thirty years there's been a rise in anti-intellectualism that is linked in some ways to the social conservative movement. Coupled with the works of pundits such as Anne Coulter and David Horowitz (the guy who bashes universities as being liberal all the time) and the conservative movements tendency to embrace these people, I think that it's easy to see where this intellectual condescension comes from.
Yes, but I'd suggest that the anti-intellectualism is the response to the condescension, rather than the other way around (obviously it's going to be a spiral or positive feedback loop instead of an arrow pointing one way, but one part of the loop can be stronger than the other). The ivory tower egghead doesn't need a demagogue to convince him he should look down on others; the demagogue does need someone looking down on him to rail against.

Nordic Einar wrote:Very much this. To deny the link between America's anti-intellectualism and the modern social conservative is to be disingenuous to the extreme. It is not unfair to mock a party for being anti-intellectual when they rapidly embrace anti-intellectual standpoints in an attempt to pander to their base.

It is also important to highlight that conservatism does not have to be intellectually decrepit. I fully believe there are conservative ideologies, theories and groups out there whom could serve a valuable role in balancing the general incompetency of the Democrats. However, they are a minority group who needs to replace their party or be drowned out by the Palin/Teaparty crowd. It's shitty, but there it is.
I'm not sure this is a fair way to present that link. If academic departments moved left, particularly in the social sciences where these conversations are important and the lack of hard facts make ideology and interpretation important, wouldn't the right respond by reacting negatively to the academic departments?

When you see a Republican railing against the Liberal Elite and their control over education, think about a Democrat railing against Wall Street and their control over the economy. Should we mock liberals as being anti-business, ignorant of finance, and other things? Or is the natural response to exclusion dislike and alienation? (I'm aware that many Democrats are mocked for that; that hardly makes it fair or desirable.)


Going back a bit:
JonScholar wrote:People have patterns of behavior. The fact that republicans ignore evidence for evolution, shows a deliberant ignorance of the overwhelming evidence against their viewpoint. It doesn't mean they are automatically wrong on all issues, it just means they're partial to following their biases over logic.
How much do you personally know about the evidence for evolution, and the evidence questioning evolution? Unless you happen to be a biologist (and most of us aren't), my guess is the answer is going to be "not much." Knowledge is costly, and when that knowledge doesn't have direct utility, opposite facts can be equally valuable. Unless I go into evolutionary algorithm design, my knowledge about evolution is likely to do little more than satisfy my curiosity about how life as I know it came to be. Life being designed by God would be about as satisfactory an answer (and some, even once they're familiar with the evidence, find it superior).
Basically, the vast majority of people don't know the evidence; they just have to choose between how Pastor Rick or Dr. Richard make them feel. Let me repeat that: decisions on issues where the person isn't an expert are settled by feelings. You can't reliably extrapolate from those feelings to scenarios where someone is an expert, unless all you want is a litmus test to determine whether or not someone is like you.

(Standard disclaimer: I believe in evolution, I think spontaneous order is beautiful, I think there are lots of applications in economics. I just understand people who don't become an expert on every issue (since that's kind of impossible) and understand why people would prefer intelligent design to spontaneous order. It is interesting that the group that believes that history must have a designer tend to think the economy shouldn't, while the people who proclaim that history couldn't have a designer tend to think that the economy must have a designer.)
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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby Jahoclave » Tue Feb 09, 2010 7:19 am UTC

The case in point is "Communism is good in theory, but fails in practice"- Communism is horrible in theory, and yet to make the shorter point (that empiricism should guide policy preferences, and that Communism is on the ash heap of history) they ignore (and thus bury) the longer point (that individualism, rather than collectivism, allows people to maximize happiness, that individual happiness is important, and that freedom and responsibility are inherent parts of being an adult).

Which, I'd like to point out, is ideological rather than factual, as it merely bases the assertion off the present and asserts a static future. Especially since there's a counter-point that greater collectivism provides a better social safety net, allowing for greater freedom, and thus increased happiness. Unless we're only specifically limiting ourself to Communism as a praxis of various forms of Leninism and Maoism rather than more modern variants of leftist theory like democratic socialism.

I do, however, agree that the cliche is terrible, laden with sentimentality and a mixture of nationalistic pro-capitalist cold war pride, and fails to really address any important issue of the entire later half of the 20th century, much less negating an entire realm of leftist theory without actual discussion by falsely lumping anything derived from Marx as a failed theory because of one dead evolutionary branch. It's kind of like declaring Capitalism a failed theory because laissez-faire Capitalism was absolute shit.

In a shortened form, declaring all leftist theory dead and Capitalism the triumphant theory of the ages is rather short-sided considering every western economy is a socialist-capitalist hybrid. That, and there's a difference between what Marx wrote (which is rather non-specific in a lot of cases) and what Communism was, so that it's important to understand the difference when declaring Communism a failed theory.

Then again, I imagine that having this actual discussion is problematic for the very reason that people are so found of ending the discussion with the emotionally charged phrase that doesn't actually mean what they believe it to mean. If only politicians stopped treating the voting base like the ignorant-in the proper non-pejorative denotation-people they tend to be. A simple commitment to the idea that, hey, you may not quite understand this discussion, but in order to properly govern and examine the nuances of what we're doing we have to have the discussion at this level. Talking points do, a shitty government, make.

The healthcare bill. When's the last time you saw somebody on either side go before the people and discuss what they're doing like an adult? (Hint: never)

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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby Telchar » Tue Feb 09, 2010 7:26 am UTC

Vaniver wrote: But in the meantime, welfare policies that discouraged work, marriage and the development of skills remained in place, with devastating effects.


This is really what I have a problem with. Both sides are biased against each other, and both appeal to emotion, but the left has a virtual monopoly on well written, and SOURCED, material. If the positions held by conservatives are backed up by data, we wouldn't know it because few of them can articulate and/or gather it well enough to write a coherent paper.
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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby JonScholar » Tue Feb 09, 2010 7:34 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:How much do you personally know about the evidence for evolution


Fossil records, mitochondrial DNA trails, similarities in chromosomes (chimps and humans have some chromosomes that are identical. Also see the fusion of what is now human chromosome 2), parts of the human body that are remnants of ancestors (appendix, tail bone), observed evolution at a microscopic level (HIV and why evolution makes the virus virtually incurable).

and the evidence questioning evolution?


The bible (and a bunch of junk science), unless we're talking about something more specific than the overall theory of evolution.

Unless you happen to be a biologist (and most of us aren't), my guess is the answer is going to be "not much."


Information on evolution is freely (I guess most scientific journals have subscription fees..) available. You don't have to be a biologist to read the studies and see the findings.

Knowledge is costly, and when that knowledge doesn't have direct utility, opposite facts can be equally valuable. Unless I go into evolutionary algorithm design, my knowledge about evolution is likely to do little more than satisfy my curiosity about how life as I know it came to be. Life being designed by God would be about as satisfactory an answer (and some, even once they're familiar with the evidence, find it superior).


It still shows a lack of integrity to be so vocal about something you know so little about. Like I said, people follow behavioral patterns, if they're completely unwilling to do the research before forming an opinion on one issue, chances are they'll follow a similar process in forming views on other issues. This is not to say they should be ignored. Rather I'm simply trying to say I understand people feeling skeptical (or I suppose as Gerard Alexander would put it,
'being condescending') when the republicans/conservatives start making bold claims about economics/social issues/etc.

Edit: I think we agree by the way. I don't think a conservative should have to avoid ridicule just to present his ideas. I'm 100% for civil debate.

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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby Jahoclave » Tue Feb 09, 2010 7:50 am UTC

JonScholar wrote:
Unless you happen to be a biologist (and most of us aren't), my guess is the answer is going to be "not much."


Information on evolution is freely (I guess most scientific journals have subscription fees..) available. You don't have to be a biologist to read the studies and see the findings.

An entire course on basic evolution is freely available online if you're willing to spend five minutes searching for it. To be honest, even more than a basic course is freely available online. To be even more frank, you can find it all on youtube so you don't even have to read it. People have a real penchant for filming biologists when they talk, especially if their names are P.Z. Myers or Richard Dawkins, and they often hammer the bloody shit out of distortions being made about evolution so you tend to get a very nice exposure to the current situation of what the creationists are claiming and what is actually true about evolutionary theory.

Knowledge is costly, and when that knowledge doesn't have direct utility, opposite facts can be equally valuable. Unless I go into evolutionary algorithm design, my knowledge about evolution is likely to do little more than satisfy my curiosity about how life as I know it came to be. Life being designed by God would be about as satisfactory an answer (and some, even once they're familiar with the evidence, find it superior).


I'm rather hoping the sense of cost being used here is in a reference to the time cost of gaining the knowledge rather than in a more standard direct materialistic cost. Granted it translates down, but I feel the abstraction is actually more relevant to a proper discussion on actual use-value.

And as Jon alluded to, if you don't know the facts about the subject, then you're not really qualified to claim that your opinion on the matter is more valid than somebody who already knows.

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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby LuNatic » Tue Feb 09, 2010 8:45 am UTC

JonScholar wrote:The bible (and a bunch of junk science)

It still shows a lack of integrity to be so vocal about something you know so little about.


So, you've run their tests then? You've reviewed their research papers? You've written a point by point analyses of their works, scientifically refuting all the parts you disagree with?
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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby Arrian » Tue Feb 09, 2010 10:56 am UTC

Garm wrote:Lucrece's summation of the condescension is good but lacking in explanation. Over the past twenty or thirty years there's been a rise in anti-intellectualism that is linked in some ways to the social conservative movement. Coupled with the works of pundits such as Anne Coulter and David Horowitz (the guy who bashes universities as being liberal all the time) and the conservative movements tendency to embrace these people, I think that it's easy to see where this intellectual condescension comes from.


As Vanniver said, the condescension of democrats feeds and feeds off of the anti intellectualism of republicans. I think these are really two sides of the same coin: Basically, all policy decisions boil down to subjective, value judgments. Which is more important, funding NASA or feeding poor children? Science can't tell us, all science can do is estimate the probable costs and benefits of each course of action. We have to decide, based upon our own value system, which is more important and how much we are willing to give up in order to try to achieve a goal.

Democrats use science and fact to support their moral views. This is purely a debating tactic, whether or not they realize it. Take climate change for an example, say the science is incontrovertible and we face a 95% probability of seeing 1-5 degrees of warming a century at our current rate of emissions and that much warming will cost between 10% and 50% of world GDP growth from 80 years on. We have a certain number of options with different efficacies and different costs to address this, from doing nothing about it to completely abandoning modern society for a stone age level of existence. Fine, great, science can tell us all that, it can't tell us _which_ option to take.

So, by saying that there is a scientific consensus and there is no room for debate, what democrats are trying to do is actually avoid the true debate, which is "How much am I willing to give up to prevent this future sequence of events maybe." They've made their decision, based upon their answer to the question, and in order to get their decision enacted, to win the debate, they claim science is on their side and therefore the debate is over.

I personally think the condescension comes from people who don't realize that they're using facts as an excuse to support their own worldview, they don't understand how someone can look at those facts and disagree because they don't realize that the policy conclusion they draw from those facts are based on their own values and aren't self evident in the facts.

Republicans, on the other hand, seem to go to the opposite extreme, they realize that political decisions are inherently subjective and use moral arguments to support their sides. Since these are value based decisions, they tend toward the other extreme from democrats and ignore science and facts in a lot of cases. After all, what do poverty, crime and violence rates matter when abortion is murder and murder is simply wrong? The Bible says so!

This is just as disingenuous as democratic style argument because by ignoring facts or science they ignore the trade offs that every decision requires. And you have to understand those trade offs, the costs and benefits before you can truly form an opinion, because you need to know them in order to determine the course of action which most closely matches your value system. Furthermore, they short circuit argument of the real, subjective value based issue by claiming morals, or the Bible, already tells you whether or not something is right or wrong.

Both methods can be cynically exploited. Science and facts are subject to errors, omission and outright lies and the you can find a passage to support just about any course of action in the Bible.

It's curious, though, I don't know why the two parties ended up using the methods they do today. Was it a result of some core issues they hold, or were they influenced by certain leaders?

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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Tue Feb 09, 2010 2:37 pm UTC

JonScholar wrote:
TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:The nature of politics is that you don't always really get a say in who has power. Just as Obama's victory does not indicate that he is unanimously accepted by voters, the religious Right's alleged* dominance of the Republican Party does not indicate that it is unanimously accepted by Republicans.


The nature of democracy is that the politician who espouses the most popular views gets elected. Do you honestly deny that such stances on issues like evolution, gay rights, and climate change don't get at the very least majority support from the conservative base?

*yawn* I've said nothing of the sort. I'm only criticizing what you already agree to b a generalization.
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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby Heisenberg » Tue Feb 09, 2010 4:29 pm UTC

JonScholar wrote:And yes, I am generalizing, but if this isn't the message the republicans want to put forth why have they let people who believe these things completely take over their party?

You're speaking as if there are no crazy people in the Democratic party. Didn't a seriously blue group just come out and demand that we call all fish "Sea-kittens?" Now, I could criticize the entire party for not somehow ejecting them, or I could just assume that they're tolerated because they vote the right way.

Now, we can quibble about which crazies are worse: The butter-is-a-hate-food group or the My-AK-is-for-home-defense crew, or we can assume that the majority of Americans are crazy, and thank the FSM that they're NOT all in one party.

I think that people do treat their party like a sports team, but I don't think this has always been the case. And obviously, the problems are much worse when you're talking about politicians who make our laws than when you're talking about a team of 12 guys a thousand miles away. We have gotten away from rational discourse, and we need to get back to it.

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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby Velict » Tue Feb 09, 2010 5:03 pm UTC

Arrian wrote:Republicans, on the other hand, seem to go to the opposite extreme, they realize that political decisions are inherently subjective and use moral arguments to support their sides. Since these are value based decisions, they tend toward the other extreme from democrats and ignore science and facts in a lot of cases. After all, what do poverty, crime and violence rates matter when abortion is murder and murder is simply wrong? The Bible says so!

This is just as disingenuous as democratic style argument because by ignoring facts or science they ignore the trade offs that every decision requires. And you have to understand those trade offs, the costs and benefits before you can truly form an opinion, because you need to know them in order to determine the course of action which most closely matches your value system. Furthermore, they short circuit argument of the real, subjective value based issue by claiming morals, or the Bible, already tells you whether or not something is right or wrong.


The interesting thing about an argument based on ethics is that ethics can very often supersede facts. The moralist might (and often does) adhere to a deontological system of ethics, such as that found in Christian writings, and argue that the intrinsic nature of an action like abortion is such that the only acceptable political stance is to oppose abortion, regardless of good might be gleaned from allowing abortion. Your objection to moral argumentation is that it often ignores the consequences of its decision, but the moralist would argue that consequentialism is an inhumane moral theory.

And while it is true that different people hold very different moral viewpoints (making morality subjective in a sense), it is not true that all people believe morality to be objective. If I think that abortion of morally repugnant (and objectively so), and you think that it isn't, I would simply regard you as wrong, just as I would regard a man who told me that the sum of two and two is five.

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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby The Reaper » Tue Feb 09, 2010 5:11 pm UTC

Velict wrote: I would simply regard you as wrong, just as I would regard a man who told me that the sum of two and two is five.
Unless you're using large values of 2?

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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby Garm » Tue Feb 09, 2010 5:26 pm UTC

Heisenberg wrote:
JonScholar wrote:And yes, I am generalizing, but if this isn't the message the republicans want to put forth why have they let people who believe these things completely take over their party?

You're speaking as if there are no crazy people in the Democratic party. Didn't a seriously blue group just come out and demand that we call all fish "Sea-kittens?" Now, I could criticize the entire party for not somehow ejecting them, or I could just assume that they're tolerated because they vote the right way.

Now, we can quibble about which crazies are worse: The butter-is-a-hate-food group or the My-AK-is-for-home-defense crew, or we can assume that the majority of Americans are crazy, and thank the FSM that they're NOT all in one party.

I think that people do treat their party like a sports team, but I don't think this has always been the case. And obviously, the problems are much worse when you're talking about politicians who make our laws than when you're talking about a team of 12 guys a thousand miles away. We have gotten away from rational discourse, and we need to get back to it.


The Democratic party, by and large, does a much better job of marginalizing the crazies than the Republican party. Yes, PETA has a lot of liberal adherents but you can't seriously call it a wing of the Democratic party. Over on the right, you've got Republican congressmen who actively call for Obama's birth certificate. There's also the "purity" test that actually made it to a vote in the RNC. The result is that the Democrats support fewer crazies than the Republicans.
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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby Heisenberg » Tue Feb 09, 2010 6:52 pm UTC

Garm wrote:The result is that the Democrats support fewer crazies than the Republicans.
Believe what you want, but it's not reasonable to expect either party to renounce the large minority of Creationists and other single-issue crazies out there.

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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby Vaniver » Tue Feb 09, 2010 7:00 pm UTC

Jahoclave wrote:Which, I'd like to point out, is ideological rather than factual, as it merely bases the assertion off the present and asserts a static future. Especially since there's a counter-point that greater collectivism provides a better social safety net, allowing for greater freedom, and thus increased happiness. Unless we're only specifically limiting ourself to Communism as a praxis of various forms of Leninism and Maoism rather than more modern variants of leftist theory like democratic socialism.
Well, almost all of those statements are ideological. The point was that discussing the conservative ideology and values was avoided- with the result that the liberal ideology and values were essentially taken for granted (if we could find a way to make communism work, then clearly it would be preferable, since the only stated objection is practicality).

Jahoclave wrote:It's kind of like declaring Capitalism a failed theory because laissez-faire Capitalism was absolute shit.
Indeed. We gotten around as close to ideal laissez-faire capitalism as we've gotten to ideal communism (that is, close enough to be mistaken for that by its enemies). The statement also highlights how liberal assumptions can be the dominant assumptions- when people discuss periods of near laissez-faire capitalism, the focus is almost always on the protections workers didn't have then that they have now (and thus is part of a story about the progressive victory). When people discuss companies like Standard Oil, the viewpoint is almost always Ida Tarbell's, not Rockefeller's or the customer's. It is conveniently forgotten that those places in those times practically invented wide-spread, productive wealth as opposed to concentrated, coercive wealth; and yet people are more likely to call Carnegie and Rockefeller robber barons than captains of industry.

Indeed, it's easy to see how much it all boils down to value judgments- is unlocking the future worth child labor? Is lowering prices for everyone worth destabilizing and destroying some businesses? Is individual control a moral good or a social failure? It's also clear how poor many education systems are at pointing that out- instead of casting, say, Native Americans and settlers as human (and thus imperfect) contemporaries who both often resorted to violence, Native Americans are cast as noble savages and victims of the settler's expansion. I make no claims as to which view is better in an objective sense (though I prefer the first), but want to point out that the hegemony of assumptions is visible there. Conservative rejoinders (Native Americans weren't monolithic and frequently warred with each other; why would the settlers not war with individual tribes? Perhaps the settlers displacing the natives was a good thing, because the settlers were preferable for X reason?) are mostly limited to conversations between conservatives.

Continuing my rambling- history is written by the victors, and in the minds of educators, at least, progressives are the victors. It's interesting to me, though, that this seems to translate to that history is written by the losers- at one point it was a necessary counterbalance to the dominant view, but as a dominant view it seems sickly. A better way to put it, perhaps, is history is written by the dispossessed- instead of treating the settlers and Natives equally, we focus on the plight of the Natives. There are things like the 'civil rights era'- a time when the dominant concern of historians is the cultural and political relationship between the dispossessed and the possessed, as told by the dispossessed. Don't get me wrong, people moving up from the dispossessed is a magnificent thing- but economic historians are quick to point out that the 'civil rights era' narrative gets the times wrong. African American poverty declined more in the period before the civil rights era than in the period after it. I should be quick to point out that this isn't a condemnation of the civil rights movement; it came second, and so improvements will be harder as many of the low-lying fruit will have already been picked. The point is that the civil rights era wasn't the beginning of African Americans losing their status as dispossessed (on an economic scale, at least), but a continuation of a trend that had started before.

You can also see some of that feeling in the Obama campaign. It was consistently described as "historic" by the media- an interesting way to convince people to vote. For some, the issues were probably secondary to being able to look back and say "I followed in the footsteps of my schoolday heroes and voted for progress." (This is, by the way, an entirely rational position. Your vote has a vanishingly small chance of changing the election, so your happiness is maximized by voting for the person who gives you the strongest emotional return on your vote for them.) That rationale, unspoken almost everywhere but mentioned constantly, was an interesting contrast and complement to the claims that some differences between Obama's vote totals and poll results were due to racists being unwilling to admit it over the phone, but willing to vote against him that way.

Telchar wrote:This is really what I have a problem with. Both sides are biased against each other, and both appeal to emotion, but the left has a virtual monopoly on well written, and SOURCED, material. If the positions held by conservatives are backed up by data, we wouldn't know it because few of them can articulate and/or gather it well enough to write a coherent paper.
Actually, the example that he gave there was a good example. Some time ago, liberals argued that external social pressure was keeping blacks down, and conservatives argued it was cultural (i.e. internal social pressure); the government responded with the liberal approach. It didn't do particularly well, and also in response to claims that there were genetic differences, liberals started adopting the cultural viewpoint. The focus on reducing racism and on building up African American pride turned to a focus on fixing the African American family unit when it became clear that boys without fathers and self esteem without accomplishments are dangerous.

As well, if by well-written and sourced material you mean academic papers, you might find it interesting to look at what it's like to be a Republican trying to get, say, tenure in a sociology department.

Indeed, we can also look at things like John Lott and Less Guns, More Crime- the conservative position was that concealed carry laws decrease violent crime, and the liberal position was that concealed carry laws increase violent crime. The facts were that they either had no effect on violent crime but decreased murder, or decreased violent crime- not a complete vindication of the conservative position, but a definite win for it compared to the liberal position.

Or Lott's approach to the abortion-crime link; he critically approaches the "less unwanted babies means less crime" hypothesis, showing that the legalization of abortion actually led to more out of wedlock births, and thus predicted an increase in crime. Everyone's heard the Freakonomics story about how abortion reduces crime because of that link, and while Freakonomics mentions that there was an overall increase in birth rates due to Roe v. Wade (which was associated with a decrease in condom usage by the increase in STD transmission), I don't remember it mentioning that out of wedlock births increased (but I read it years ago, so I might be misremembering!).

Here we also tie back into Arrian's point- liberals like to use facts to support moral views as a debating tactic. Liberals claim that legal abortion should be a woman's right, is a better alternative than people having illegal abortions, and reduces crime. But the last bit is a highly contentious and probably wrong fact- but it seems clear that even if the evidence were incontrovertible that legal abortion reduces crime and that legal abortions are on the whole worse for society than illegal abortions, the liberal position would probably stick to the moral position that legal abortion should be a woman's right. The other two are just there to give that moral right a veneer of credibility and a justification for its place in an empirical society- a counterpart to the conservative view that even if abortion has demonstrable positive effects to the society that remains, it is evil and thus should not be tolerated by the law.


We keep on coming back to the hegemony problem, though- one of the standard defenses (as used here!) is "if there were good conservative ideas, we would listen." The problem is that if there were good conservative ideas, you wouldn't know. Not only would you not know where they were, how would you know that an idea is good without listening to it in the first place?

Heisenberg wrote:I think that people do treat their party like a sports team, but I don't think this has always been the case. ... We have gotten away from rational discourse, and we need to get back to it.
I am hard pressed to think of any times that were not like this. In one-party states, the sports team mentality tends to be worse, not better (the dictator tends to get miffed if you decide to be independent).

A better way to put the latter bit would be "we need to find a way to get to rational discourse"- it's pretty clear that the methodologies we've been using so far don't work particularly well, and we should look for new ones, not nostalgia for an imaginary past.

Garm wrote:The Democratic party, by and large, does a much better job of marginalizing the crazies than the Republican party.
Alternatively, the implication of "crazy" is easier to make against Republicans than Democrats when you're operating under liberal assumptions. Is Jesse Jackson crazy? (he was a racist as recently as 1984 (amusingly, his response to claims that he was racist against Jews was that Jews were conspiring against him), has been pro-life and still has some tendencies that way, supported keeping Terry Schiavo alive, and so on. Even beyond those mostly side issues, there's significant conservative opposition to his primary positions.

That's just one example, and perhaps liberals are more willing than I expect to call people like Jackson crazy or consider him marginalized.
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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby Heisenberg » Tue Feb 09, 2010 7:51 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:Continuing my rambling- history is written by the victors, and in the minds of educators, at least, progressives are the victors.

I'd like to offer a challenge to this. While I have no substance to back it up, a friend of mine with a graduate degree in history told me he thinks the viewpoint of historians vary by generation. The people who grew up learning history from a conservative viewpoint are likely to offer history from a progressive viewpoint, and vice-versa. So the perspective of history writers seems to oscillate with every generation.

Edit: I think the justification for this argument was that the currently progressive history book writers grew up during the Cold War where a America was fiercely defended (to fight the Reds).
Vaniver wrote:I am hard pressed to think of any times that were not like this.

I didn't live through the past, so I can't speak to it. But I think that we have an obstacle to rational discourse not present in past generations, and that is blatant media bias. It's hard to hold a rational discussion when the talking heads encourage irrational (entertaining?) pandering.

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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby Arancaytar » Tue Feb 09, 2010 8:36 pm UTC

Lucrece wrote:while conservatives deem themselves as the good ones.


The paradox is that social Darwinism (a la Ayn Rand) appears to be more wide-spread among extreme conservatives than extreme liberals...
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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby Ixtellor » Tue Feb 09, 2010 8:44 pm UTC

I reject the entire premise of the article.
Conservatives/Republicans are just as likely to engage in that behavior.

Go read the townhall forums, or any Republican forum. Its no different than here, except they tend to use bible quotes more. Their enemies are morons who don't know the truth, who hate America, who are too stupid to realize if we dont' waterboard people we will lose the war, we are morons following communist doctrines instead of common sense, etc, etc.

Every night FOX pundits tell liberals how dumb/duped/gullible/naive they are and how only Conservatives are smart enough to know the truth and resist our elitest liberal overlords.

On another note, at no point have the two sides been more civil. Look up the history, they were worse in the 1700/1800's than they are today.
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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby Velict » Tue Feb 09, 2010 9:40 pm UTC

Ixtellor wrote:I reject the entire premise of the article.
Conservatives/Republicans are just as likely to engage in that behavior.


Does this justify condescension (as we discuss it in a broad sense)?

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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby Ixtellor » Tue Feb 09, 2010 9:44 pm UTC

Velict wrote:
Ixtellor wrote:I reject the entire premise of the article.
Conservatives/Republicans are just as likely to engage in that behavior.


Does this justify condescension (as we discuss it in a broad sense)?


I happen to believe no, but I know a lot of politicos who disagree based on the premise that politics is a rough business for good reason. By making it brutal and ugly, only the cream rises to the top since it takes a tough person to weather the storm of mud and hate.
Fairly certain Chris Matthews is that type who likes it ugly .

Also, I think its basically human nature so I don't see an end to it, and more importantly it works. Calling Sarah Palin stupid over and over and over can serve to hurt her ability to win elections, hence favor my ideologoical brethren.
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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby Heisenberg » Tue Feb 09, 2010 9:56 pm UTC

Ixtellor wrote:By making it brutal and ugly, only the cream rises to the top since it takes a teflon douchebag to weather the storm of mud and hate.
Fairly certain Chris Matthews is that type who likes it ugly.

Chris Matthews likes it ugly because that's how he gets paid. Did you happen to see Jon Stewart interview him? He's a vapid troll whose only interest is money. I mean, I agree that Sean Hannity wants an America where screaming insults at your opponents is the paramount of political discourse. That doesn't mean we should go there.
Ixtellor wrote:Also, I think its basically human nature so I don't see an end to it, and more importantly it works. Calling Sarah Palin stupid over and over and over can serve to hurt her ability to win elections, hence favor my ideologoical brethren.

But it HURTS AMERICA.

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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby Jahoclave » Tue Feb 09, 2010 10:09 pm UTC

Heisenberg wrote:
Ixtellor wrote:Also, I think its basically human nature so I don't see an end to it, and more importantly it works. Calling Sarah Palin stupid over and over and over can serve to hurt her ability to win elections, hence favor my ideologoical brethren.

But it HURTS AMERICA.

But it also happens to be true in this case, which is sort of the problem. She's not well endowed in the brains department and especially not in the presenting an actual coherent argument.

Now if he were constantly referring to a Republican that were presenting a halfway decent argument then I think the example would work better. I believe you'll find these people under the "purity test" primary contests.

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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby guenther » Tue Feb 09, 2010 10:37 pm UTC

Jahoclave wrote:
Heisenberg wrote:
Ixtellor wrote:Also, I think its basically human nature so I don't see an end to it, and more importantly it works. Calling Sarah Palin stupid over and over and over can serve to hurt her ability to win elections, hence favor my ideologoical brethren.

But it HURTS AMERICA.

But it also happens to be true in this case, which is sort of the problem. She's not well endowed in the brains department and especially not in the presenting an actual coherent argument.

Because someone is stupid, we can publicly call them stupid over and over again? If you met a mentally challenged person, this would be suitable behavior to you? (I'm not comparing Palin to someone mentally challenged, rather I'm using an example of a person who can be objectively described by the term "stupid", even if it's politically incorrect.)

There are a lot of subjective terms that people throw around as if their objective (stupid, inferior, hateful, ugly, etc.), and then use them to defend treating others poorly.
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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby mmmcannibalism » Wed Feb 10, 2010 12:51 am UTC

The paradox is that social Darwinism (a la Ayn Rand) appears to be more wide-spread among extreme conservatives than extreme liberals...


This is using some misdirection; your using an atheist conservative's position as an example of religious conservatives. Pretty sure Ayn Rand wouldn't be a big fan of the religious right.
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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby TheAmazingRando » Wed Feb 10, 2010 1:24 am UTC

mmmcannibalism wrote:Pretty sure Ayn Rand wouldn't be a big fan of the religious right.
I'm sure Rand would dislike them (she being an avowed atheist, as far as I know) but that doesn't stop them from championing her ideology when it suits them. I know quite a few religious conservatives who love Ayn Rand, or at least claim to. Glenn Beck certainly likes her, and while I'm not sure he counts as a member of the "religious right," he certainly has a lot of influence over them.

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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby BlackSails » Wed Feb 10, 2010 1:48 am UTC

guenther wrote:Because someone is stupid, we can publicly call them stupid over and over again? If you met a mentally challenged person, this would be suitable behavior to you?


If he was running for political office? Sure.

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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby guenther » Wed Feb 10, 2010 3:50 am UTC

Well, do as you please, but I suspect you'd be panned pretty heavily for being insensitive and possibly hateful. My experience is that it's OK to call someone who's not stupid stupid, but it's not OK to call a stupid person stupid.

I believe we are better served by using words that carry much more precision, much more objective value, and much less subjective negativity.
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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby Ixtellor » Wed Feb 10, 2010 2:34 pm UTC

Heisenberg wrote:
Ixtellor wrote:Also, I think its basically human nature so I don't see an end to it, and more importantly it works. Calling Sarah Palin stupid over and over and over can serve to hurt her ability to win elections, hence favor my ideologoical brethren.


But it HURTS AMERICA.


Well its been going on for our entire history. I think you underestimate America's ability to endure ugly politics.

Many would argue that the hardcore partisanship creates gridlock or hyper-pluralism and that this is a good thing. The government that governs best governs least mentality.

I don't really subscribe to the gridlock theory in totallity, but I think your being over reactive. America is doing well.
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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby tzvibish » Wed Feb 10, 2010 4:04 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:[D]ecisions on issues where the person isn't an expert are settled by feelings.


That pretty much sums up most of this discussion. If everyone was an expert in the political battlefield they fight in, it wouldn't be much of a fight. The facts would win. The unfortunate truth is that ever the lawmakers who legislate our lives aren't experts in the laws they craft. This is why ideology will never go away in legislation.

I'll take a pondered and mature moral ideology over misinformation and loaded research any day.
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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby mypsychoticself » Wed Feb 10, 2010 5:46 pm UTC

This is why I dislike our current political parties. I hold no hope that we might eventually leave the two-party system, but I do think that some reorganizing of the existing parties might be beneficial. I'm sure many of you know that the current Republican party came from an alliance between the religious right and economic conservatives (also called Classical Liberals).

Here's what I want to happen:
  • Religious right forms their own party
  • Republican party becomes more libertarian, switching the focus from Christian values to freedom from government intervention.
  • The more conservative Democrats (especially those unhappy with the bailout) join the new Republican party.

To be honest, that's just because I dislike the religious right.

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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby EMTP » Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:50 pm UTC

I thought James Foser over at Media Matters took this argument apart fairly effectively:

The Washington Post picked the wrong week to run a lengthy op-ed excoriating liberals for being condescending to conservatives. Not that there would have been a good week to run University of Virginia professor Gerard Alexander's screed, which was filled with more holes than a donut shop.

Alexander began by asserting that "liberals, to a degree far surpassing conservatives" are condescending -- a claim about the relative quantity of condescension on each side that he never even attempted to support with anything beyond his own assertions that he is correct.

He then moved on to providing examples of liberal condescension that, well, aren't. Like President Obama's statement that some opponents of health care reform are peddling fear of a "Bolshevik plot." That is happening, and Alexander made no effort to explain why pointing it out constitutes condescension. Instead, he moved on to his next example: Obama's statement that he and his allies need to do a better job of "speaking directly to the American people about what their core values are" -- the kind of utterly unremarkable comment politicians of all stripes make whenever the political winds seem to shift against them. And those two examples -- neither of which is actually an example of condescension -- are the ones Alexander chooses to lead off his argument. That is not a good sign.


Spoiler:
It was, however, representative of Alexander's argument, which consisted largely of identifying "four major narratives" liberals promote about conservatives -- narratives that Alexander seems to think are condescending, but which are not. Like this:

The first is the "vast right-wing conspiracy," a narrative made famous by Hillary Rodham Clinton but hardly limited to her. This vision maintains that conservatives win elections and policy debates not because they triumph in the open battle of ideas but because they deploy brilliant and sinister campaign tactics.

Yeah ... that isn't condescension. Neither is this: "It is now an article of faith among many liberals that Republicans win elections because they tap into white prejudice against blacks and immigrants." (And if Alexander is going to convince anyone that is a condescending belief for liberals to hold, he might want to have a few words with Ken Mehlman, who -- as chairman of the Republican National Committee in 2005 -- admitted the GOP had exploited "racial polarization" for decades.)

In short, Alexander offers a series of liberal criticisms of conservatives, which he mistakes for condescension. Those criticisms can, of course, be made in ways that are condescending. But that isn't what Alexander argues -- he argues that they are inherently condescending. They aren't -- not unless we want to rob the word of all meaning.

. . .

And all the while, Alexander pretends that conservatives only rarely make condescending statements -- and even then, the statements tend to come from the movement's fringes. It's as though he's never heard the patronizing, mocking comments about "community organizers" and effete coastal elites -- or he thinks his readers haven't. As though he's never heard Rudy Giuliani give a speech. Or Sarah Palin. Or Karl Rove. Or seen Bill O'Reilly dismiss liberals as "pinheads."

So running Alexander's poorly-considered piece -- which, it should be noted, the Washington Post solicited -- would have been a mistake at any time. What makes this week, in particular, so bad? Well, it certainly doesn't help that it ran the morning after Sarah Palin's speech at the Tea Party convention in Nashville, in which she mockingly asked the 69 million Americans who voted for Barack Obama, "How's that hopey, changey stuff working out?" Now, that's condescending.


Spoiler:
But the bigger problem is that Alexander's piece ran at the beginning of a week in which the conservative media did everything it could to justify every drop of condescension liberals can possibly muster. Some arguments are so brazenly stupid that to treat them as though they have merit is to participate in the dumbing-down of public discourse to an extent that can only lead to ruin.

And that's what the right-wing media narrative that a few days of snow in February disproves global warming is -- brazenly and willfully stupid. Not because it contradicts the overwhelming scientific consensus, but because of the way in which it does so. It pretends short-term weather is more meaningful than long-term climate changes. It privileges small sample sizes over large. It's like using a single baseball game to argue that Mark Whiten is the best hitter in the history of the game -- he had 4 home runs and 12 RBIs! Or pointing to the fact that Bill Gates doesn't have any money in his left jacket pocket as evidence that he's poor. Or flipping a coin, seeing that it comes up heads, and concluding that flipped coins always land heads-up. It's absolute nonsense.

And conservatives have been gleefully peddling this quackery all week.

Among the culprits: Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, The Washington Times, Sean Hannity, Andrew Breitbart's Big Government, Glenn Beck, and Human Events. Not to mention other conservative leaders like Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, Sen. Jim DeMint, and Newt Gingrich.

Now, I'm sure that Gerard Alexander would try to argue that Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, the Washington Times, the Senate Republican Leader, and Newt Gingrich are not representative of the conservative movement. That's essentially what he did during a Washington Post online Q&A whenever anyone brought up examples of condescending conservatives: He stipulated to the examples, but asserted they weren't representative, often asserting by way of evidence that National Review doesn't engage in the tactics in question. So, apparently National Review is the only example he'll accept for his rigged little game. Fine by me. National Review's Deroy Murdock, Tom Gross, and Greg Pollowitz (again and again and again) have all dabbled in cold-weather-disproves-global-warming nuttiness.

The next time the Washington Post wants to promote an inane column asking "Why are liberals so condescending?" (and, sadly, I'm sure there will be a "next time") they should try it in a week in which the nation's leading conservative media voices aren't quite so busy demonstrating why liberals have reason to be more condescending.


I recommend reading the whole thing. It's funny as well as cogent.
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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby Rockberry » Sat Feb 13, 2010 4:01 am UTC

Modern American conservatives are just f*****g nuts. What happened to all those Goldwater Repubs? Where did they go?

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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby Lucrece » Sat Feb 13, 2010 4:05 am UTC

Rockberry wrote:Modern American conservatives are just f*****g nuts. What happened to all those Goldwater Repubs? Where did they go?


People get shaken up less by technical discussions on economics than they do on social issues. Goldwater's approach just doesn't mesh with the current climate of partisanship ( people treat politics like sports).

And honestly? Progressives want to make me choke a ho as well. They may not be nutty in the same way, but they're equally obnoxious.
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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby Jahoclave » Sun Feb 14, 2010 5:33 am UTC

Rockberry wrote:Modern American conservatives are just f*****g nuts. What happened to all those Goldwater Repubs? Where did they go?

Probably where we put the rest of the people who thought nuclear war wasn't such a bad idea. Sure, he may have disliked the christian right, but he was still fucking nuts; however, I'd still prefer forty-one of him to the current lot of nutjobs.

Honestly, we can't have gays in the military because you don't like the pooper? What are you: a senator or a sixth grader? Grow the fuck up.

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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby jakovasaur » Sun Feb 14, 2010 11:48 am UTC

Lucrece wrote:And honestly? Progressives want to make me choke a ho as well. They may not be nutty in the same way, but they're equally obnoxious.

Why would they want you to do that? Also, if you were going for some kind of pop-culture reference, I think it's either "slap a ho", or more accurately "slap a bitch".
Edit: Maybe even "choke a bitch" a la Wayne Brady. But the point is, I don't think progressives want to make you do any of those things.

Jahoclave wrote:Honestly, we can't have gays in the military because you don't like the pooper? What are you: a senator or a sixth grader? Grow the fuck up.

This is not only condescending, but also a very poor representation of the military's stance on gay people in the military.
Last edited by jakovasaur on Sun Feb 14, 2010 1:42 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Sun Feb 14, 2010 12:13 pm UTC

As it turns out, the military doesn't make that policy.
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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby jakovasaur » Sun Feb 14, 2010 1:35 pm UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:As it turns out, the military doesn't make that policy.

...what does that have to do with anything?

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Re: Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?

Postby Nordic Einar » Sun Feb 14, 2010 7:46 pm UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:As it turns out, the military doesn't make that policy.


That's funny, because I was under the impression that the Pentagon counted as "the military", and they're definitely the ones claiming a full repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell is years away.


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