David Thompson


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September 19, 2012



punishing or censoring of unpopular views

It isn't just punishing or censoring.

I was at a dinner party in the last 4 weeks and inevitably the subject turned to the Paralympics. Before I say any more, let me be clear that I have no problem with the games themselves nor the coverage of them and the winners deserve every credit. However the conversation turned to how wonderful the games were for "raising awareness", "changing attitudes" and other clichés. And that's the thing that irritates me. Partly it's the assumption attitudes needs to be changed, but mainly that the speaker already has the correct attitude.

I recommend you don't draw people's attention to that. Talk about change of atmosphere. As the collective breathe was sucked in. there was a perceptible change in air pressure.

Old Badger

Yes. It didn't go down too well when I described the S14 class as "a bit simple".



“As the collective breath was sucked in, there was a perceptible change in air pressure.”

And what’s remarkable is just how easy it is to scandalise supposedly worldly people by raising the wrong kind of question or stating certain facts, even politely and with endless qualification. An attempt to discuss, say, IQ and heredity or gender ratios in certain professions is likely to be met with an extraordinary reactiveness and clutching of pearls. Nowhere more so than in academia, where our best and brightest learn what not to think about.

This, by Fabian Tassano, seems apposite:

A mediocracy encourages people to react personally. Instead of considering whether something is true, people ask themselves, “How does this affect me? Should I have an emotional reaction to this?” An example. When I once suggested to my younger brother — who, like me, spent part of his education in the state sector — that state schools seem to be bad for many people, and to damage them psychologically, his response was, “Thanks a lot, that makes me feel really great.” The only way my brother could apparently regard the hypothesis that state schools are awful was in terms of a possible insult to himself. I understand my brother’s reaction, and I suspect many alumni of state schools have a similar attitude. The trouble is, if no one who attended a state school is able to have an impersonal/objective approach, and be willing to admit it was damaging, those responsible for perpetuating the state school system can go on doing so unchecked, while claiming the moral high ground...

There are certain issues that have become so ideologically loaded that not only are they taboo for discussion, but it is impossible even to come within a hundred yards of them, by alluding to them. Thought immediately stops, to be replaced by an emotional reaction. As the issues in question become more and more loaded, the radius of the area which is unanalysable increases. There also seems to be a desire to have as many such issues as possible, clogging up as large an area of thought as possible, since their number appears to be going up.

Among people who regard practically everything as political, and who want the political to be personal, i.e., emotional, this is a feature, not a bug.


"...there was a perceptible change in air pressure..."

You should see what happens if you suggest, in 'polite' company, that Israel isn't all bad or that Jade Goody may not have been a racist. The level of atmospheric disturbance generated by these propositions is really spectacular.

Jonathan Apps

TDK: I wouldn't go to those dinner parties. Why even bother spending time with people who exhibit that level of mindless, animalistic groupthink? If I was sitting in a pub and everyone around the table agreed in chorus that the Paralympics were great for "raising awareness" and "changing attitudes" I'd make a sharp exit. That's not intolerance; it's just wanting to have friends that are at your level.

Sam Duncan

“You don’t satisfy greed by lending to people who can’t pay you back.”

That's another good one for shutting the bien pensants up. It doesn't horrify them, but they do go very quiet. Whatever the details, whatever the solutions might be, and regardless of their contempt for anyone who disagrees, their entire “narrative” of the last five years has a gaping hole under the waterline. They don't appreciate having that pointed out to them.


"Why even bother spending time with people who exhibit that level of mindless, animalistic groupthink"

Ah now I have to disagree with you strongly.

I live in a place where it's very hard to ignore the liberal left. And because there are so many of them they are twice as confident in the foolish attitudes, which they spend time agreeing with each other on. So it's merely a challenge to me: can I reason with people who are most certainly not receptive to my point of view? Part of the challenge is for me not to get annoyed, to be honest.

It's not easy, I admit - people's initial gut instinct in politics runs very deep indeed. But I don't think we can just dismiss such people as idiots and ignore them. Firstly because the nonsense is so pervasive, secondly because I see reasoning with people on these issues as a duty (he said portentously). And you're eminently suited to it.

For this reason I do sometimes find time to frequent the CiF pages and state my views, and I try never to resort to anger or insults - I do not always get very many recommendations, but sometimes we get somewhere...

Besides, a good debate can make a good dinner party, although there was one amusing occasion with a feminist at a friends birthday party...

Jonathan Apps

Fair enough; perhaps I get angry too easily. But it's exceptionally hard to go up against a group (with a single individual it's fine). You will be interrupted, aggressively shouted down (in chorus), have your words twisted and get personally insulted. It takes every ounce of one's intelligence, awareness and willpower to keep cool and not lose it. There's no way you could drink.

This is paricularly true when the group has a larger, fashionable zeitgeist behind its views and thus feels at a subconscious level that it is on the moral high ground without ever having analysed that. Believe me, I've been there. I'd rather have a good time and relax with people I respect and trust. But your attitude is less selfish :-)


For some reason this came to mind. Easier said than done, of course.


Easier said than done, of course.

David, I've always admired your patience with rv. He doesn't deserve it but still...


I met some random lady recently walking her dog. She was dressed like a lefty primary school teacher, and very quickly she started going on about the "rich" and "the banksters". She couldn't quite understand that I had absolutely no problem with other people getting Scrooge McDuck rich.

Anyway, at a certain point I said "Aah, you have the fashionable prejudice of our age".

She thought about it for a moment, and replied "I guess I do!"



Re JohnnyApp:
This is paricularly true when the group has a larger, fashionable zeitgeist behind its views and thus feels at a subconscious level that it is on the moral high ground without ever having analysed that.

To me, this is the very reason to engage. I don't want to cause a ruckus, per se, but there is always the remote possibility that someone else agrees and even if they don't speak up, you've at least given them some satisfaction that they are not alone.

Jonathan Apps

"and very quickly she started going on about the "rich" and "the banksters". "

I really wonder if that sort of thing is actually an opinion at all, or just mindless regurgitation of whatever comes out of the media. Utterly hypothetically, if the BBC started blaming the Jews for every other problem (or say the Martians), I wonder how long it would be before you met random people walking their dogs who very quickly started going on about the Jews (or the Martians) more or less apropos of nothing.


TDK wrote: "However the conversation turned to how wonderful the games were for "raising awareness", "changing attitudes" and other clichés"

Indeed. The thing is when you are of the correct mindset you don't need to know anything about people or what makes them tick, or what their foibles and shibboleths are. You just *know* what they are like and therefore what they need. You have divined they are ignorant but lo, you can help the awareness and appreciation of the unwashed increase tenfold -- and you were so wise to appreciate it because, hey, you had already arrived at the summit of human understanding. Youth is no barrier to this understanding either, because apparently with angry opinion comes wisdom.

I recall a student 'rag' writer in the early 70s complaining about 'the world billiards championships' at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre -- though in fact it was snooker -- and frothing in the column that the oppressed workers would be far better off seeing political (i.e. left-wing) plays to raise awareness rather than watching a few balls being knocked around a green table. Well, Sheffield slowly lost its number of workers (though not its left-wing council for many years) and but I did see some of those downtrodden workers thoroughly enjoying the billiards (sorry, snooker) and not giving a damn about the height of their awareness.

But what do the peasants/workers know? They have no opinions, no 'insights' and no intellectual training so they just live their lives anxiously waiting for the great and good to illuminate their darkness.

Bill Lee

“You don’t satisfy greed by lending to people who can’t pay you back.”

In the big picture this is true, but at the micro level it is false, and responsible in a large part for the bubble of the real estate market. People who stood to make commissions from selling properties and knew that the buyers could never make the repayments went ahead and made the loans knowing that their commissions would never be rolled back, due to three reasons: they thought the rise in property prices would rise forever, they knew they would never be called to account since the bad loans were amalgamated with good loans and sold to someone else, or they didn't plan to be around when the crash came.

All neatly described by an insider in the US banking industry, Aaron Clarey, in his book Behind the Housing Crash: http://aaronclarey.com/index.php/behind-the-housing-crash/. Many seemed to know what was going to eventually happen, but were willing to put their greed above moral considerations.


What's a dinner party? Dinner, yes, a party, yes, but a combination of the two? Sounds messy.


"the Marxist pseudo-philosopher Nina Power rails against the “ideological devastation of the education system” and demands more public subsidy for Marxist pseudo-philosophers"

Further subsidy would be very beneficial--if it were in the form of a one-way ticket on the Golgafrincham Space Ark B. :-)

T.K. Tortch

Bill Lee's comment above is correct, and I bet Sowell would agree. However, given what Mr. Sowell's written, I bet he would also add than the behavior Mr. Lee describes was a response to bad incentives caused by government policy.

In the U.S., at least, the government (starting in the early '90's) began to vigorously encourage lenders to relax their standards for granting home loans. The encouragement included the prospect of punitive government fines for perceived bias in granting or refusing to grant loans.

Mortgage providers complied, and regulators likewise relaxed the scrutiny applied to such transactions. There was no incentive to hew to prudent lending practices, a bad incentive to make imprudent loans, and wider space to lend for purely opportunistic reasons.

One of Mr. Sowell's persistent themes is that people respond to good and bad incentives, and well-meaning governments often create bad incentives for people to indulge in.


Bill & T.K.,

Sowell isn’t trying to exonerate banking institutions. His point is that the role and fallout of such political interference – imposed in the name of “social justice” - is somehow, rather conveniently, overlooked - to the extent that Clinton and others (of all political stripes) can feign innocence with such chutzpah. It therefore seems likely that the same kind of mistakes will be demanded again, and made again. And of course we have Occupiers vehemently denouncing the current economic woes while demanding more, very similar “social justice” interventions. As if the words “social justice” were some kind of talisman against disastrous practical consequences.


TDK: I wouldn't go to those dinner parties.

I don't agree for two reasons

1. Progressives surround themselves with like-minded people. I, on the other hand, have no fear of being with people with whom I disagree on many subjects.
2. People's politics are not the only reason for social engagement. I live near you, My kids are friends with your kids, We share an interest in Squash, We both catch the same train, and so on.

I find that there is no point in going into full on politics mode in large groups. As a group, people are keen to reinforce their prejudices and be seen to have the required group think. When you talk to someone one on one you often find there are chinks in their ideology. And to be honest I find I change my mind as well.


Lost a sentence there

...ideology. There's more a meeting of minds. They can acknowledge the things they might not do in another setting. And to be honest I find I change my mind as well.

Bill Lee

Yes, I agree with both T.K and David above: that the key take away from all of this is the fact that the people who were responsible for the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) are denying that their policies and legislation brought about the conditions in which the bubble grew and grew until it inevitably burst. By denying responsibility as well as denying the causes for the GFC, they show that they not only have learnt nothing, but seem to be deliberately heading down the same path again. By distorting the free market, by providing incentives for unsustainable behaviour and reducing/eliminating consequences of bad decisions, they further the cause of "private profit, public debt" and demands for 'social justice'.

The fact that student loans (exceeding the credit card debt in the USA) coupled with these unemployed ex-students unable to pay off these loans is somewhat akin to the housing loan crisis that started off the GFC, and also similar to the problem of Greece, Portugal, Spain, etc with their debt that is unlikely to ever be paid off.

free speaker

Progressives surround themselves with like-minded people.

Exhibit A.

Spiny Norman

Bill Lee,

...not only have learnt nothing, but seem to be deliberately heading down the same path again.

In other words, Statists, both Left and Right, truly believe money grows on trees.

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