The Dim-Post

September 26, 2016

Notes on the Lionel Shriver controversy, or whatever it is

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 1:42 pm

Shriver is a novelist (I haven’t read her latest book: people tell me it’s pretty good) who gave a speech at the Brisbane Writers Festival criticising identity politics. Someone walked out and wrote a withering blog post which went viral. Shriver’s column about it all – with the awesomely stupid title ‘Will the Left Survive the Millennials?’ which I hope was assigned by a sub-editor because surely no novelist would be that banal? – is here.

It would be a lot easier to support Shriver as a hero of free speech and artistic expression if she didn’t give her speech on identity politics wearing a large novelty sombrero. Also, she writes:

Protecting freedom of speech involves protecting the voices of people with whom you may violently disagree. In my youth, liberals would defend the right of neo-Nazis to march down Main Street. I cannot imagine anyone on the left making that case today.

Did liberals really defend the rights of neo nazis to march? Really? Ever? Noam Chomsky defended the right of a holocaust denier to free speech. Once. And it was hugely controversial.

Anyway, something the critics of identity politics don’t get is that it isn’t really about being ‘offended’. The theory is that speech shapes culture which shapes behavior. So identity politics activists would oppose the right of neo-Nazi’s to march, because that perpetuates a culture of racial hatred, which has many terrible real-world consequences. That’s the argument. You don’t have to agree with it – and there’s no empirical evidence proving that culture works the way left-wing cultural theorists say it does – but it is more substantive than the straw-man argument people like Shriver make, which is that millennials – or whoever – just can’t stand to be offended or have their ideas challenged.

Edit: Graeme Edgeler writes in the comments:

The ACLU represented the National Socialist Party of America all the way to the US Supreme Court in National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie

wiki reference

It’s a pretty famous case, so I would imagine Shriver was referring to it when she spoke.

 

78 Comments »

  1. I think you are missing the point.
    Who gets to decide what speech is offensive or not? You? University Leftists? Me?
    Why do you think that many nations’ constitutions include free speech provisions?
    There is PLENTY of evidence that restricting free speech is bad for free politics, and it such restrictions usually start with ‘That is a culturally offensive thing to say’.
    Look at Turkey at the moment.
    Leftist need to realize this. You are convinced you are defending others, but all you are achieving is taking away peoples rights, and setting yourself in judgement as to what is permitted.
    You have probably seen this. http://www.vox.com/2015/6/3/8706323/college-professor-afraid

    Comment by Greg Hampsire — September 26, 2016 @ 1:59 pm

  2. Did liberals really defend the rights of neo nazis to march? Really? Ever?

    Yes. The ACLU represented the National Socialist Party of America all the way to the US Supreme Court in National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie

    wiki reference

    It’s a pretty famous case, so I would imagine Shriver was referring to it when she spoke.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — September 26, 2016 @ 2:02 pm

  3. edit: the street Nazis wanted to march down in Skokie was literally called Main Street.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — September 26, 2016 @ 2:04 pm

  4. Final edit: (promise)

    Quotes from this page at UCSB:

    This defense of the Nazis caused dissension in the ACLU and criticism of the organization. When asked why the ACLU would defend Frank Collin, Senior Director Aryeh Neier replied, “Everybody has a right to express their opinion anywhere in the United States and even if we find the opinion despicable, we’re going to protect their right to express it.”

    David Goldberger agreed “We are in the business of supporting the first amendment. We do not support the ideas of this particular organization, nor have we ever, nor will we ever. But the issue is not the content of their views, the question is what is the power of government to pick and choose among speakers in the marketplace of ideas?” The ACLU was not defending Nazis; it was defending freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. If Nazis can be silenced by laws, Jews, Communists, or White Anglo-Saxon Protestants can also be silenced. As Samuel Rabinove, Director of American Jewish Committee wondered, “Once you go down that slippery slope, the question becomes, where do you stop?”

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — September 26, 2016 @ 2:12 pm

  5. Shriver made important points in her speech. And it’s well past time someone like her who has a voice speaks to those truths. Particularly how literature is under threat from identity politics more than from any recent evil, because it holds up identity only as a jail.

    It’s not the offence and umbrage taking, as infantile as that and the idiot safe place nonsense is, it’s the end logic that you can’t speak to or acknowledge anything but the narrowest, pre-determined experience. That difference separates us, with no chance of reconciliation, rather than unites (and to the marginalising of our similarities).

    Comment by Mark Hubbard (@MarkHubbard33) — September 26, 2016 @ 2:21 pm

  6. Yeah, Village of Skokie v. National Socialist Party of America was required reading in first-year law. It’s the case that IMMEDIATELY pops to mind when “freedom to march” is mentioned.

    Comment by @simongarlick — September 26, 2016 @ 2:21 pm

  7. Thanks Edge. I have to admit, I was thinking more about left-wing activists defending neo-nazis rather than something like the ACLU, who would, presumably, still argue the same case today.

    Comment by danylmc — September 26, 2016 @ 2:22 pm

  8. Is it ‘hate speech’ to criticise Islam?
    Islam says that the punishment for apostasy (i.e leaving Islam) is death. Is that hate speech?
    Is it hate speech to criticise Israel? The Act party? John Key? Some of what was said about Key and his daughter last election sounded like ‘hate speech’ to me.
    The Leftist identity politics crowd only apply their ‘hate speech’ provisions to people they don’t like, usually men of European descent – and ignoring any others. This gives a huge advantage to any haters who aren’t men of European descent.
    Identity politics is SIGNIFICANTLY about being offended , and using that offense to restrict the behaviour of others.

    Comment by Brian Carter — September 26, 2016 @ 2:34 pm

  9. Though I like her writing, I can’t take Shriver’s socio-political views seriously after reading a recent piece about her (New Yorker I think).
    She came across as a brittle, neurotic crank with – weirdly for a writer – a strangely limited capacity for self-reflection.

    Comment by Gregor W — September 26, 2016 @ 2:41 pm

  10. Particularly how literature is under threat from identity politics more than from any recent evil, because it holds up identity only as a jail.

    A handful of students complaining on the internet isn’t a threat to literature. No one really cares what these people say.

    Comment by danylmc — September 26, 2016 @ 2:45 pm

  11. Personally, I think that it has been necessary to spotlight speech that falls into the hate speech category. One of the downsides though has been having to listen to a certain type of leftist and their self promoting self righteousness.

    I wouldn’t put that just on millenilals of just leftists, Greenwald is neither.

    There is something going on though that looks like a deliberate attempt to poison political debate (from that Shriver piece):

    As a lifelong Democratic voter, I’m dismayed by the radical left’s ever-growing list of dos and don’ts — by its impulse to control, to instill self-censorship as well as to promote real censorship, and to deploy sensitivity as an excuse to be brutally insensitive to any perceived enemy. There are many people who see these frenzies about cultural appropriation, trigger warnings, micro-aggressions and safe spaces as overtly crazy. The shrill tyranny of the left helps to push them toward Donald Trump.

    Looking at the Trump/Putin alliance of concern trolling by commentators on the internet, that seems to me to a more worrying trend than over reacting either way to free speech dilemmas.

    Comment by NeilM — September 26, 2016 @ 2:49 pm

  12. But, NeilM what is hate speech?
    By defining such a thing, you encourage every invoker of ‘cultural appropriation, trigger warnings, micro-aggressions and safe spaces’ to claim they are a victim of it.
    Threatening to kill, threatening behaviour, etc have long been crimes. Why do you need more?

    Hone Harawera publicly referred to ‘White motherfuckers’ and said he wouldn’t want a his daughter to date a white guy.
    Where were the howls of outrage from the left? The accusations of ‘hate speech’?
    If a white politician had said that, his career would be over.

    Comment by Greg Hampshire — September 26, 2016 @ 3:03 pm

  13. It’s not just a handful of students on Twitter, Danyl. Although they are a threat as readership. But the publishing channel is Progressive and more and more conforms to the identity politick censor via aesthetics.

    Comment by Mark Hubbard (@MarkHubbard33) — September 26, 2016 @ 3:08 pm

  14. Looking at the Trump/Putin alliance of concern trolling by commentators on the internet, that seems to me to a more worrying trend than over reacting either way to free speech dilemmas.

    NeilM – I honestly can’t tell whether you are serious or some form of prose performance art.

    Comment by Gregor W — September 26, 2016 @ 3:09 pm

  15. … addendum. I wrote an 18k blog post on it if you’re interested. (Oh, you’re not.)

    Comment by Mark Hubbard (@MarkHubbard33) — September 26, 2016 @ 3:09 pm

  16. Did liberals really defend the rights of neo nazis to march?

    Er, this one still does.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — September 26, 2016 @ 3:41 pm

  17. What people miss from the whole “Nazis in Skokie” story is that there never was a march:

    When Frank Collin and his little band of Nazis held a rally in Chicago’s Federal Plaza, surrounded by a dense cordon of police and a raging crowd of six thousand “counterdemonstrators” who drowned out every intelligible sound, one of the more dramatic debates of recent years about the meaning of free speech reached its conclusion. Collin had originally intended to demonstrate in Skokie, a suburb of Chicago whose heavily Jewish population includes a number of concentration camp survivors. Under pressure from a group of these survivors, Skokie’s leaders decided to pursue a policy of active opposition to the demonstration. They obtained several injunctions against it, and passed three ordinances to prevent its future occurrence. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) then came to the Nazis’ aid. It won four court decisions that overturned all the ordinances and injunctions, and lost 30,000 members in the process.

    The Nazis were thus legally authorized to proceed, but plans by Jewish groups to converge on Skokie for a huge counterdemonstration, and suggestions to Collin that the local police could not prevent the counterdemonstrators from slaughtering him, persuaded him to change his mind. After intense bargaining with the Justice Department’s Community Relations Service, Collin agreed to trade the right to demonstrate in Skokie for a long-denied right to hold one rally in his home neighborhood of Marquette Park and another at Federal Plaza.

    http://scholarship.law.berkeley.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2028&context=californialawreview

    So … the Nazi’s event was met with “a raging crowd of six thousand “counterdemonstrators” who drowned out every intelligible sound”. After being faced with “Jewish groups … converg[ing] on Skokie for a huge counterdemonstration, and suggestions to Collin that the local police could not prevent the counterdemonstrators from slaughtering him”. Isn’t it a shame that we’ve moved on from the golden days when offensive speech was tolerated in such a fashion, and instead have a bunch of millennials who are going to kill it?

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — September 26, 2016 @ 3:57 pm

  18. That’s the argument.

    No, it is not the argument.

    Any political argument that exists based on a nebulous and ultimately non-falsifiable idea, is at most understood by a few experts who have somehow gained a wider audience. Identity politics has found a wide audience who do not like to be offended, these easily offended have little idea more than a vague notion of the underlying theory.

    “The theory is that speech shapes culture which shapes behaviour” is an argument to be had in dry academic literature, between Pedant A and Pedant B. People like Shriver do not give a toss about that silly theory, nor should they. People like Shriver are concerned by the censorious tut-tutting of varying twits, who try to sensationalise a wave of offence-taking to restrict what can be said.

    Comment by unaha-closp — September 26, 2016 @ 3:59 pm

  19. I have to admit, I was thinking more about left-wing activists defending neo-nazis rather than something like the ACLU, who would, presumably, still argue the same case today.

    Yes. They would. https://www.aclu.org/news/aclu-em-defends-kkks-right-free-speech

    Apparently those pesky millennials haven’t ruined it as an organisation yet.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — September 26, 2016 @ 3:59 pm

  20. Two things. First, the starting point for this discussion is that someone attended a speech by Lionel Shriver, strongly disagreed with it, and wrote a column explaining why. This is not the end of all things. Nobody has issued a fatwah, started burning books or tried to get anyone arrested. This is not some kind of attack on free speech – quite the opposite. It is free speech in action. Second – those who scorn identity politics are perfectly entitled to mock them as being preoccupied with themselves and privileging their own offense (or supposed right not to be offended) over others’ rights of free expression etc. But what always undermines the free speech warriors of the right is any evidence that they are actually being oppressed. They usually resort to examples involving student union debates about no platforming or the like, which kind of suggests that this is not a serious problem.

    Comment by Nick R — September 26, 2016 @ 4:16 pm

  21. A handful of students complaining on the internet isn’t a threat to literature. No one really cares what these people say.
    Comment by danylmc — September 26, 2016 @ 2:45 pm
    </blockquote.

    Well literary awards can come complete farces – see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sad_Puppies . The really farcical bit was the "progressive/liberal/left wing" bloc voting against a female black author because she was on the sad puppies voting list.

    Comment by Robert Singers (@glassfugue) — September 26, 2016 @ 4:16 pm

  22. The background to Skokie is the bit missing (i.e. it wasn’t in the movie with Danny Kaye, so it doesn’t count).

    That background is widespread housing discrimination against blacks. Who themselves had moved to Chicago’s suburbs from the inner city, and to Chicago itself from the Jim Crow South. An acclaimed history is “The Warmth of Other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson. It should be required reading for any “liberal” (or lawyer) who thinks that the battle for freedom only begins at the end.

    I suppose you could argue for the “freedom” of businesses, towns and even states to freely exercise (abuse) their power of choice. But don’t be surprised if the response from the victims – after decades of patience in courtrooms and ballot boxes – is to stand with reality, not theory.

    “Separate but equal” WAS identity politics. And the oppressed slowly learned – to fight on their turf. Not surprisingly, they are in no hurry to give back what they weren’t given.

    An ACLU lawyer could honourably disagree – but only after going to expensive and selective law schools. Principles cost big bucks.

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — September 26, 2016 @ 4:33 pm

  23. I hadn’t realised Shriver was reacting to allegations against her of cultural appropriation.

    The writer who walked out claimed:

    The kind of disrespect for others infused in Lionel Shriver’s keynote is the same force that sees people vote for Pauline Hanson.

    Slightly more sympathetic to her view.

    Comment by NeilM — September 26, 2016 @ 5:06 pm

  24. Shriver’s view that is.

    Comment by NeilM — September 26, 2016 @ 5:07 pm

  25. But what always undermines the free speech warriors of the right is any evidence that they are actually being oppressed. They usually resort to examples involving student union debates about no platforming or the like, which kind of suggests that this is not a serious problem.

    The “free speech warriors of the right” do absolutely fine out of this mess, their audience buys into the mockery of identity culture leftist twits. This debacle is one of the right’s tools in the on-going denigration of the left.

    However Lionel Shriver is very left wing and her audience might be shrinking a bit right now.

    Comment by unaha-closp — September 26, 2016 @ 5:10 pm

  26. However Lionel Shriver is very left wing…

    Say what? This must be another Lionel Shiver you speak of.

    Comment by Gregor W — September 26, 2016 @ 5:14 pm

  27. “A handful of students complaining on the internet isn’t a threat to literature. No one really cares what these people say.”
    Wow. You kinda missed the point. Maybe because your own ivory tower rises from a hard science department?
    These “handful of complaints” have made their way into the workplace, into politics (less so in NZ) and into commerce. It has seen many an advertisement or campaign withdrawn amid apologies for offence caused. Perhaps you’ve not been amusing yourself in quiet moments with the viral videos from US and UK campuses, showing angry and triggered students.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — September 26, 2016 @ 5:33 pm

  28. “So … the Nazi’s event was met with “a raging crowd of six thousand “counterdemonstrators” who drowned out every intelligible sound”. ”

    And this tradition occurs today, with leftists and liberals “counterdemonstrating” every attempt at free speech with which they disagree. Witness the disruptions at marches about the Electoral Finance Act. And witness guests being “uninvited” if the hysteria is strong enough, e.g. Germaine Greer failing to pass muster, lol.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — September 26, 2016 @ 5:47 pm

  29. It has seen many an advertisement or campaign withdrawn amid apologies for offence caused.

    Commercial decision = freedom. Protesting = freedom.

    If such advertising is restricted by legal censorship, that would indeed be an affront to freedom. But the people you need to talk to in the USA are the religious right and their corporate chums. They have vastly more power than a few angry students.

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — September 26, 2016 @ 5:52 pm

  30. Witness the disruptions at marches about the Electoral Finance Act.

    Now you’ve tumbled into full-on parody. That’s the issue top of … er … nobody’s mind. Democracy was under attack, wasn’t it?

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — September 26, 2016 @ 5:54 pm

  31. It has seen many an advertisement or campaign withdrawn amid apologies for offence caused.

    Oh noes!!! The humanity! Oh, the humanity!! Won’t someone please think of our corporations!!!

    And this tradition occurs today …

    So … there never was a golden era of free speech tolerance which now is under threat? Meaning your previous comment was wrong?

    Comment by Flashing Light — September 26, 2016 @ 5:54 pm

  32. But the people you need to talk to in the USA are the religious right and their corporate chums. They have vastly more power than a few angry students.

    I think Clunkin’ Fist had in mind “leftists” and “liberals” like Paula Bennett and Shane Reti and their campaign against Wicked Campers.

    Actually, speaking of that, whatever happened to it?

    Comment by Flashing Light — September 26, 2016 @ 6:01 pm

  33. I think cultural appropriation exists but also that claiming Shriver is like Pauline Hanson proves Shriver’s point – that it can be misappropriated itself.

    But in terms of large scale politics at this very moment, the really unhealthy nexus developing opposing Clinton and supporting Trump, Putin and Assad is a much bigger threat.

    Comment by NeilM — September 26, 2016 @ 6:23 pm

  34. “I have to admit, I was thinking more about left-wing activists defending neo-nazis ”

    Shriver mentioned “liberals”, not “left-wing activists”. I know in the USA the two terms are conflated, but the ACLU is definitely a liberal organisation in both the classic and American sense of the word.

    Comment by Ortvin Sarapuu — September 26, 2016 @ 6:26 pm

  35. Mr Edgeler kinda undermines your “liberals never defended the rights of Nazis” argument?

    The problem with the speech->culture->behaviour argument is that it demonstrably doesn’t work and is easily end-run. The right (and NZ National is brilliant at this – look at the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act, which is Labour’s Foreshore and Seabed Act with some te reo in the title to make it all ok) have realized that they can concede as much ground as they want on language whilst fucking everyone royally in the area of real-world action.

    Or take the University of California at Berkeley. Sticklers for the correct use of language and tone, but help manage two atomic weapons labs (which also develop conventional weapons for the US and her allies to maim and kill People Of Color).

    Comment by richdrich — September 26, 2016 @ 6:36 pm

  36. Say what? This must be another Lionel Shiver you speak of.

    Lionel Shriver is an anti-war, pro-abortion, environmentalist, anti-private healthcare, pro-gun control American author who used to write for the Guardian and works hard to sustain community libraries.

    But y’know, if somebody on the internet says she is not left wing…

    Comment by unaha-closp — September 26, 2016 @ 6:53 pm

  37. But y’know, if somebody on the internet says she is not left wing…

    She wrote a book and not every character shared her gender or ethnicity so she’s equivalent to Pauline Hanson.

    Comment by NeilM — September 26, 2016 @ 7:01 pm

  38. #37 gloriously sums up the nullity, but harm, of progressive, identity politics. End of times BS on the road to the next gulags.

    Comment by Mark Hubbard (@MarkHubbard33) — September 26, 2016 @ 7:16 pm

  39. “…And this tradition occurs today, with leftists and liberals “counterdemonstrating” every attempt at free speech with which they disagree…”

    The odd good riot between two opposing groups could be seen as a thriving democracy in action.

    Comment by Sanctuary — September 26, 2016 @ 7:42 pm

  40. She’s an author in the post-modern apocalypse For God’s sake! In present circumstances, this puts her up with people who wheel shopping trolleys around looking for recyclable aluminium. I mean, on what level does anyone give a flying one for what she thinks when she’s not authoring?

    It’s not like she’s Mary Shelley or Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

    I think it’s hugely ironic that the only way that the vast majority of people will get a minor inkling about this apparent monolith of cultural relevance is because she stood up and criticised ‘identity politics’ – in a big hat, apparently.

    Comment by Lee Clark — September 26, 2016 @ 8:04 pm

  41. I know several Twenty-one something’s personally who will stop any conversation in its tracks to express their outrage and disapproval because you used any number of words they have decided address unacceptable due to cultural appropriation, LGBT something, disability other thingy, trans/CIS/something….. And so on.

    Even the weather can be a touchy subject.

    Comment by truthseekernz — September 27, 2016 @ 2:26 am

  42. Well, in earlier times those guys had religion they could berate you with for a holier-than-thou feeling of self-satisfaction. With the demise of religion they need something else to tell you off for, and this is the replacement. It’s annoying, but like the poor, the sanctimonious will always be with us.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — September 27, 2016 @ 6:38 am

  43. As Voltaire didn’t say: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.

    Comment by Ross — September 27, 2016 @ 6:47 am

  44. the local police could not prevent the counterdemonstrators from slaughtering him…

    As a character in Lone Star said: “it’s always heart-warming to see a prejudice defeated by a deeper prejudice.”

    Comment by Ross — September 27, 2016 @ 6:56 am

  45. Even the weather can be a touchy subject.

    Maybe you should stop saying things like “the temperatures this spring are more bizarre than a cross-dressing indian shaman”.

    Comment by Flashing Light — September 27, 2016 @ 8:23 am

  46. ^Gold.

    Comment by Phil — September 27, 2016 @ 9:36 am

  47. Two things going on here; the person in the audience who created all the fuss is emotionally immature and has yet to learn how to moderate their responses to even quite modest levels of stress. A common outcome of the over-protected, cotton wool padded up-bringing of Generation Snowflake.

    And then there is the is the wider leftie cultural game that feeds off this immaturity:

    http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com.au/2016/04/american-narratives-rescue-game.html

    Comment by RedLogix — September 27, 2016 @ 9:59 am

  48. Lionel Shriver is an anti-war, pro-abortion, environmentalist, anti-private healthcare, pro-gun control American author who used to write for the Guardian and works hard to sustain community libraries.

    Unaha-closp – I guess inside of the definition of what constitutes ‘left-wing’ in terms of the US, that’s probably a pass. Outside the US though these are all pretty uncontroversial centrist positions of your average modern social democrat.

    Shriver is also on record talking about the pettiness / arbitrariness / general uselessness of the British Civil Service, the loathsome authoritarianism of the EU, the silliness of safety regulations and is opposed to raising taxes to address social deficits; all of which sound a bit centre-right.

    In terms of your list above, I know / work with a number of Americans (some now NZers) who hold many of the same or similar views who vote Republican.

    Remember that Sanders also identified as a “socialist” holding very similar position, and socialist, he ain’t.

    Comment by Gregor W — September 27, 2016 @ 10:58 am

  49. I know several Twenty-one something’s personally who will stop any conversation in its tracks to express their outrage….

    I know several people who will stop the conversation in it’s tracks and go off on one when you touch the subject of politics. They are impervious to debate or rational discourse.

    The thing is, as an interlocutor, you’re not compelled to buy into it.
    It’s perfectly acceptable to indulge in a little micro-aggression / nullify their safe-space by laughing in their faces and walking away.
    You’re not going to get arrested for it.

    Comment by Gregor W — September 27, 2016 @ 11:06 am

  50. @48 You consider social democrats to be centrist! Jeepers, does one have to be a Marxist before even entering centre-left on your spectrum? What is a full-blown left winger then?

    Comment by sam — September 27, 2016 @ 11:59 am

  51. Of course social democrats are centrist. And Gregor’s (not complete) list is hardly controversial, is it? Key, Turnbull, Merkel, most mainstream centre-right leaders in Europe … they would be liberal Democrats in the USA, just by suggesting the world wasn’t created a few thousand years ago.

    A “full blown left winger” might by Corbyn, but it wouldn’t be Hollande or Clark or Schroeder or Rudd.

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — September 27, 2016 @ 12:28 pm

  52. You consider social democrats to be centrist!

    Pretty much, certainly in the NZ context. I think the political gap between moderate left and moderate right is vanishingly small.

    Not many modern social democrats would – I think – be shy of rejecting Marxist economic determinism while embracing, say, equality of opportunity and what they might deem to be natural and desirable government intervention in some areas to efficiently maintain that equality (and the social contract more generally).

    Who would be a full blown left winger? Corbyn.

    Comment by Gregor W — September 27, 2016 @ 12:36 pm

  53. Well everyone is entitled to centre their political spectrum differently, but I sense this is a problem for parties like Labour, if being social democratics is not even centre-left. Would you regard the social democrats in Sweden as centrist?

    Comment by sam — September 27, 2016 @ 12:40 pm

  54. I would argue that social democrats have always generally been part of the broad sweep of liberalism (an approach that encompasses liberals, libertarians and some conservatives (those that are not overly authoritarian). A commitment to economic determinism would more be the preserve of democrat socialists or outright Marxists. I would also argue that in general economic determinism is largely out of vogue in most centre-left parties in the west. If a commitment to economic determinism is your litmus test of left-wingness, you will find most political parties, academics and politicians wanting.

    Comment by sam — September 27, 2016 @ 1:02 pm

  55. Would you regard the social democrats in Sweden as centrist?

    Definitely, although that is predicated on a moderate shift to the right since the mid 90s.

    Interestingly, their more recent shift back to their historical / natural position against a backdrop of Swedish society continuing to shift to the right (mostly on the back of the immigration boogeyman) cost them the last election, but I expect they will distance themselves from the Greens and the Left Party accordingly.

    Similarly the liberal-conservative Moderate Party who control the current coalition I would regard as centrist given that while they have moderated their nativist / conservative pitch over the years to become more appealing (certainly during the 90s-00s), they have edged to the right in line with the boogeyman politics above.

    Basically, I think that what defines centrism is the ability to in some sense direct as well as reflect the popular narrative, effectively being able to triangulate policy to capture the centre.
    As society swings either leftward or rightwards, that triangulation also shifts; ergo, so does the point that reflects centrism within that electorate.

    Comment by Gregor W — September 27, 2016 @ 1:03 pm

  56. If a commitment to economic determinism is your litmus test of left-wingness, you will find most political parties, academics and politicians wanting

    My example of economic determinism was meant to be instructive, not binding.
    Another example might be that your average democrat probably thinks unionism and collective bargaining is great, but that the idea of compulsory unionism is mad.

    Comment by Gregor W — September 27, 2016 @ 1:12 pm

  57. Gregor wrote “I think that what defines centrism is the ability to in some sense direct as well as reflect the popular narrative, effectively being able to triangulate policy to capture the centre. As society swings either leftward or rightwards, that triangulation also shifts; ergo, so does the point that reflects centrism within that electorate.”

    Well put. Captures the effect concisely. Some years ago I was pondering the resurgence of NZ First, and arrived at the same perception. Pundits keep misreading NZF by looking only at their relative lack of policy thrust and assuming that the conservative vote is largely captive to National. The fact is, Winston gravitated into the centre as a result of the power vacuum created there when the Green Party vacated it in the nineties, and he’s profited from their mistake – not so much due to his conscious grasp of the strategy at first, I suspect, but due to learning from trial & error.

    Not all centrists drift left or right with the political wind; some are strongly principled yet pragmatic enough to vote for a change of government when the country seems to need it. This subset of the centrists has learnt to empower Winston when necessary. Currently a 2% shift is all that is required to change the government: this subset is therefore the crucial determinant factor in regard to the next election outcome.

    Comment by Dennis Frank — September 27, 2016 @ 1:58 pm

  58. Sammy 2.0 @ 29 “If such advertising is restricted by legal censorship” Eh? We are not talking about legal censorship. (Actually, we will be soon: hate speech legislation in Australia, Canada, UK, etc.) We were talking about students and protest. Being of the left wing persuasion, you’ll either be unaware (or willfully blind) to how agents on the left shut down the free-speech of people and groups they don’t approve of. It’s not just at uni campuses, but that’s where all the attention is at the mo (if you are following this stuff, that is).

    “”Witness the disruptions at marches about the Electoral Finance Act.” Now you’ve tumbled into full-on parody. That’s the issue top of … er … nobody’s mind. Democracy was under attack, wasn’t it?”
    Parody? How so? Many folk attended the anti-EFA marches as pretty much their first. And we witnessed with amusement the counter-protesters who came and shouted abuse. At the Wellington march, one of them was invited up to speak. From memory, they were a bit light-weight. With Brexit, we saw a lot of counter-demonstrators at Leave rallies. The most colourful example was probably when Bob Geldof did his best to shut down a rally by Farage and UK fisherfolk on the Thames. Folk trying to attend Trump rallies in the US often had to run a gauntlet of counter-protesters, spitting, shouting and throwing things.
    It may not concern you that “these people” (folk who don’t think the same way as you) are having a hard time congregating, expressing themselves, etc. But it’s exactly Shriver’s point: free-speech for me, but not for thee.

    Disrupting someone’s rally is not free-speech, it is breech of their rights. Hold your own rally is you have something to say.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — September 27, 2016 @ 2:23 pm

  59. Is the centre in NZ really pro-abortion?

    Comment by Clunking Fist — September 27, 2016 @ 2:28 pm

  60. I ask, because there’s a difference between accepting that it should be available as a last resort, and demanding it as a right and as a valid (and taxpayer funded) birth control method. (And I really upset someone the other day when I genuinely laughed at them: they are a vegan AND pro-abortion.)

    Comment by Clunking Fist — September 27, 2016 @ 2:55 pm

  61. Assuming you mean pro-abortion rights, yes I think it is. Rolling back women’s reproductive rights is only for die-hard conservatives these days.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — September 27, 2016 @ 2:58 pm

  62. @CF – As per P. Milt.
    People can be against abortion (from a moral perspective) but still pro-reproductive rights (from an personal sovereignty perspective).
    I certainly don’t see those positions as mutually exclusive and regard both positions as politically centrist, reflecting the amalgam of NZ’s default cultural conservatism and 40+ years of feminism.

    Comment by Gregor W — September 27, 2016 @ 3:26 pm

  63. @CF

    “Free speech for me, not for thee”.

    Again with the caricature. Utterly unrelated to what I say, or anybody else is saying here.

    You’ve described the following, in NZ and the UK: Public places. Protest. Counter-protest.

    Which is freedom. For all of us. Please correct me if you’re trying to describe something else. Preferably based on what we’re saying, not what you’re inventing.

    (and of course “spitting” or other physical action is assault, by nasty right wingers or left wingers on whichever fringe. Do you think there was a golden age when that didn’t happen at the fringe of crowds, before the Identi-Lefties turned up? When was that? Which century?)

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — September 27, 2016 @ 4:03 pm

  64. Disrupting someone’s rally is not free-speech, it is breech of their rights. Hold your own rally is you have something to say.

    Hooray! Clunkin’ Fist is here to tell people how to use their free speech rights, before lambasting the liberal left for telling other people how to use their free speech rights!! The thread dissolves into a vortex of logical incoherence!!!

    Stick to climate change denial, CF. At least that’s funny.

    Comment by Flashing Light — September 27, 2016 @ 4:42 pm

  65. Do you think there was a golden age when that didn’t happen at the fringe of crowds, before the Identi-Lefties turned up?

    This: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJRmrlkYdsQ

    Comment by Flashing Light — September 27, 2016 @ 4:51 pm

  66. If speakers with horribly illiberal views are invited to speak at a public forum, there should at the very least be a counter-weighting voice to call bollocks on them.

    Fun question for the Mark Hubbards in our midst: would The Communist Manifesto and ‘Das Kapital’ count as ‘hate speech’?

    Comment by Kumara Republic (@kumararepublic) — September 27, 2016 @ 6:00 pm

  67. “their more recent shift back to their historical / natural position against a backdrop of Swedish society continuing to shift to the right (mostly on the back of the immigration boogeyman) cost them the last election, ”

    Didn’t the Swedish Social Democrats win the last election?

    Comment by Ortvin Sarapuu — September 27, 2016 @ 6:06 pm

  68. Ortvin – I thought it went to a centre right coalition. Could be wrong though. I’m sure Wikipedia has the info.

    Comment by Gregor W — September 27, 2016 @ 6:10 pm

  69. edit: the street Nazis wanted to march down in Skokie was literally called Main Street.

    I guess there are no fans on The DimPost of The Blues Brothers, with that classic scene:

    I hate Illinois Nazis.

    Comment by Tom Hunter — September 27, 2016 @ 6:27 pm

  70. Re #66 I don’t even understand the point. Of course they’re not hate speech, despite they’ve caused more human misery and death than any other creed.

    Comment by Mark Hubbard (@MarkHubbard33) — September 27, 2016 @ 6:32 pm

  71. Addendum: noting I wouldn’t outlaw hate speech. Getting back to what the point of the comment was.

    Comment by Mark Hubbard (@MarkHubbard33) — September 27, 2016 @ 6:34 pm

  72. 22

    “Separate but equal” WAS identity politics.

    It still is:

    California State University Los Angeles recently rolled out segregated housing for black students.

    The arrangement comes roughly nine months after the university’s Black Student Union issued a set of demands in response to what its members contend are frequent “racist attacks” on campus, such as “racially insensitive remarks” and “microaggressions” by professors and students. One demand was for a “CSLA housing space delegated for Black students.”

    Progressive?

    Comment by Tom Hunter — September 27, 2016 @ 6:35 pm

  73. @Tom Hunter,

    Pretty shitty that African American students feel that way, and a gross indictment on the USA as a place. But there’s a big difference between a minority group saying “we want to live together because we feel the majority culture is so hostile to us that we want to avoid it” and a majority saying to a minority “you have to live separate from us because we think you aren’t proper people”.

    Comment by Flashing Light — September 27, 2016 @ 7:13 pm

  74. This whole debate’s a bit bizarre, really. On the one hand, some over-reactions by a few. On the other hand, there’s the people who run the world. Are we supposed to pretend there’s any kind of power equivalence here? If anyone needs help, rank the following: Military, Corporations, Smelly Student Protestors.

    Perhaps that Forbes Power List needs revising …

    Beware the Beast Identity
    It is so Dangerously PC
    It really caused the GFC
    It keeps millions in Poverty
    And soon it will be World War Three.

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — September 27, 2016 @ 7:44 pm

  75. Tom Hunter@ 69 fantastic scene,

    Comment by Cliff Clavin — September 27, 2016 @ 11:08 pm

  76. On the other hand, there’s the people who run the world. Are we supposed to pretend there’s any kind of power equivalence here? If anyone needs help, rank the following: Military, Corporations, Smelly Student Protestors.

    According to the strictures of identity politics “speech shapes culture which shapes behaviour”. The military and corporations with compliant engagement to a framework of gender neutral and identity positive outcomes are completely harmless.

    According to identity politics what we “really” need to worry about are people saying mean things on the internet and/or possess an identity of privilege. Military, Corporations, Espionage Agencies – meh.

    Comment by unaha-closp — September 28, 2016 @ 9:42 am

  77. Wait, Lionel is a chick?

    Comment by Eltalstro — September 29, 2016 @ 1:11 pm

  78. Eltalstro: Yes, as much as Johnny Cash sung about a boy named Sue.

    Comment by Kumara Republic (@kumararepublic) — September 30, 2016 @ 11:48 pm


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