The self destructive left

There has been a lot said about Steve Bannon lately, and what could be described as the partially successful but ultimately self destructive right in the US.

But the left of politics also has major problems, some of which are also self inflicted, repeatedly.

Andrew Doyle: On the self-destructive left

Which came first: the alt-right or the social-justice movement?

Will Donald Trump eventually be toppled by leftist activism, or will such activism guarantee his second term in office?

Is Katie Hopkins right to describe herself as the creation of her enemies, as the ‘monster’ to the liberal-left’s Dr Frankenstein?

Do attempts to shut down free speech on university campuses prevent the dissemination of extremist views, or make such views more likely to gain traction?

These are complex issues. Political activism is sometimes productive (for a cause), and it is sometimes counter-productive.

It’s a circular pattern that appears to be accelerating, largely thanks to the nuance-free arena of social media. As politics becomes more polarised, each side is resorting to increasingly distorted caricatures of the other.

Left wing and right wing politics may be getting more polarised. I think that’s debatable in New Zealand, they represent just a small minorities, but they can be the most vocal and visible in social media.

Less debatable is “each side is resorting to increasingly distorted caricatures of the other”. We see this here to an extent on Your NZ (I discourage it), and prominently elsewhere on political blogs – you don’t need to look far in comments at Kiwiblog or The Standard, or posts at The Daily Blog and Whale Oil, to see this in action.

This leaves us in a quandary. More than ever, we are in need of frank discussion about the issues that matter most. But with figures on all sides of the political spectrum so determined to double down on their alienating and ad hominem strategies, the possibility of debate is seriously curtailed.

This is a real problem in political discourse and debate. I have tried to combat this in this forum, but that’s an ongoing challenge as some seem determined to double down on their alienating and ad hominem strategies. In the past I have tried to confront this on other forums with limited success (I have certainly provoked reactions and believe that has resulted in some changes but they are minor at best).

The rapper Joyner Lucas has addressed this problem in his recent viral hit ‘I’m Not Racist’, which presents two men – one white, one black – candidly airing their grievances. One commentator found the conceit ‘exhausting’, claiming that ‘the notion that social divisions [can] be reconciled through “honest” conversation’ is ‘hopelessly outdated’.

Unless there is a seismic shift in attitudes to those who choose to be actively involved in political debate in social media then, while I will not concede they are hopelessly outdated, honest conversation is under serious threat of being trashed by those with ill intent in political forums.

It’s an attitude that is entirely self-defeating.

I’ve been trying to make that point for years, but the worst offenders are deaf and blind to the damage they do to their own causes.

Smearing one’s opponents as ‘racist’ or ‘stupid’ may be satisfying in the short term, but it’s unlikely to change any minds.

It’s more likely to entrench differences, and I don’t see how it can be satisfying to anyone except for those who try to deliberately disrupt decent debate (and those offenders are often the most active participants).

Nor is it supported by the facts. A recent study by the think-tank Open Europe has revealed that although immigration was a major factor in the referendum, the vast majority of voters have a ‘far more nuanced and sophisticated’ attitude on the subject than is generally acknowledged. Likewise, the inaccurate and promiscuous use of terms such as ‘Nazi’ and ‘fascist’ has been a boon to the far right, particularly in the US. It has enabled vile fringe groups to claim a level of support they simply do not have.

Not just ‘vile fringe groups’. Political forum trolls and harassers may think the lack of opposition to their destructive behaviour means they have wide support, but I think that most people just avoid them – and they forums they operate on, one example of defeating one’s own purpose.

Is there any way of turning this around and finding better ways of debating and of airing differences in preferences and opinions without getting sucked into shit fights and personal abuse?

It’s easy to get drawn into the worst of political discussion – berating rather than debating – and to get dragged down to the worst level. Most of the time I think I’ve managed to resist this, and that can annoy the hell out of deliberate disruptors and harassers, but it doesn’t seem to stem their affliction or attempts at destruction of debate on anything they disagree with.

One reason (a major one) I don’t feel like putting more effort and resources into expanding content and functionality and participation here is because I don’t want to waste time enabling others to trash discussions. I think what we have here is worthwhile I don’t see it as worth my while putting more effort into having a forum that is abused.

Perhaps to an extent that’s an admission of defeat in my primary aim. Or perhaps I’m happy to chug away, learning more about what might work.

It is not just the left that’s self destructive – political forums across the spectrum are plagued by destructive behaviour by some of the most prolific contributors. Martyn Bradbury and Cameron Slater are examples of that – both say they want to create thriving alternatives to what they call a fading and failing traditional media, but despite some useful contributions they largely ruin their own chances of succeeding.

Andrew Doyle makes some good points but it is a wider problem in politics than his focus.

Is there a better way of appealing to decent debate?

Or is it futile to resist it’s self destruction?




  1. PartisanZ

     /  January 10, 2018

    @Doyle – “Which came first: the alt-right or the social-justice movement?”

    Start out with a stupid, pre-polarized question and you’re likely to end up with an even more stupid, more polarized answer …

    • Missy

       /  January 10, 2018

      Great example of some of the points he brought up in his article there. Let’s not debate the issue just insult those that raise it….

      I find that the left here in the UK tend to do similar things, if they have no substantive argument they resort to insults and name calling, or suggest the point being made is stupid and polarising.

      • PartisanZ

         /  January 10, 2018

        Great example of alt-right reactionary extremism …

        Pete’s “seismic shift in attitudes” does not begin with a statement like “Which came first: the alt-right or the social-justice movement?”

        He’s playing the same old Left-Right polarization game … the msm and socmedias ‘stock in trade’ …

        Personally Missy, as I’ve said before on here, I believe that today the labels ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ can only be applied to specific issues, not to political ideologies or Parties – other than minuscule groups like my ‘Right Brigade’ – any of whom with any influence whatever are all essentially ‘neoliberal centrist with slight leanings one way or other on specific issues’ …

        Gareth Morgan is correct … Not Left, Not Right, What Works …

        Evidence-based or evidence-informed policy …

        • Missy

           /  January 10, 2018

          Where is the extremism in my comment? I am not showing any form of extremism, I just pointed out that many on the left who cannot argue a point resort to insults or suggesting the opposing comment is stupid and polarising.

          To suggest that I am resorting to alt right reactionary extremism is another tactic of the left I have come across, using terms with negative connotations to try and label the person they disagree with in order to close down a discussion, or to make them feel more virtuous.

          Labelling people is the easy way out of an argument, labelling them with something that has become something negative in the world is lazy and inhibiting. It is a way to quieten dissenting voices and try to enforce groupthink, a bit like the bullies at school who label the smart kid ugly, friendless or boring, they say it enough everyone – including the child bullied – starts to believe it, and soon everyone is thinking the same way, the way the bullies want them to think. It is a form of control.

          • PartisanZ

             /  January 10, 2018

            In the statement ““Which came first: the alt-right or the social-justice movement?”, where exactly is the point worth arguing?

            Okay, I insulted him after he insulted my intelligence …

            Sorry if you felt insulted enough to insult me in turn … because nor are you arguing any points, are you? You’ve spent two comments pointing out that I’m an example of what the Left do to the Right when the Left can’t argue the non-points the Right put up …

            A point worth arguing, IMHO, is: Why are some people against the idea of social justice? What is it about the combined concepts ‘social’ and ‘justice’ that some so vehemently disagree with?

            If it came, for instance, to a civil war, would these people take up arms against ‘social justice’ … and if they did, what the f%ck would they actually be fighting FOR? Something New Zealand Legion-like perhaps?


  2. Missy

     /  January 10, 2018

    A radio presenter here in the UK refers to the extremes of the right and left in this way:

    Alt Right (no explanation needed on that phrase) and Control Left (basically the far left want to control our lives and how we think & act).

    A phrase he uses a lot is Control, Alt, Delete – Control Left, Alt Right, Let’s delete them both.

  3. Griff

     /  January 10, 2018

    The horseshoe theory asserts that the far left and the far right, rather than being at opposite and opposing ends of a linear political continuum, in fact closely resemble one another, much like the ends of a horseshoe. The theory is attributed to French writer Jean-Pierre Faye.

    • PartisanZ

       /  January 10, 2018

      And an excellent theory that is too … thanks for the heads up Griff …

  4. sorethumb

     /  January 10, 2018

    It has been going on a long time but at last we are seeing pushback.

    The War on Human Nature in Australia’s Political Culture: Collected Essays
    The social sciences’ rejection of human nature has impoverished the West’s political culture. Radical ideologies feed on ignorance of human instincts for reproduction, family, and identity. Ignoring the vast knowledge accumulated by the disciplines of behavioural biology has led to maladaptive policy and doctrine. Effects include the colonization of Western societies by non-European immigration, the inverted ethnic hierarchies enforced by political correctness, and radical gender ideologies. The trend is evident in Australia, where university departments of sociology, cultural anthropology and political science are devoid of biologically-oriented courses.

    • PartisanZ

       /  January 10, 2018

      Australia have their very own ‘Right Brigade’ … KiwiFrontline-style Alt-right ‘rearguard’ race-hate groups with an intra-group publishing industry … ?

      Color me surprised! Color me stunned beyond belief!

      Australia!? Really? Land of the aboriginal hunting-party!?

  5. Missy

     /  January 10, 2018

    The more the left agitate and actively try to shut down conversations they don’t like, or get those they disagree with sacked, the more they will push those in the centre, or on the centre right, to the extreme right, and the more they will alienate the more moderate & centrist left.

    The UK has seen two examples over the last 3 days of this kind of behaviour, which is bringing out and encouraging extreme rhetoric from some on the right.

    First up a right leaning journalist was posted to a position on a Government body, about 8-10 years ago he tweeted some pretty sexist things, much of which was indefensible, the twitter lynch mob got into action helped along by a number of Labour MPs, and the person in question has had to resign as his position has become untenable. This is in contrast to how they reacted to a Labour MP who sexually assaulted a young woman about 8 months ago, he had apparently been young and stupid and gone on a journey. The extreme reaction to the journalist & their double standards over how he should be treated vs their own MP is doing nothing but entrenching many of the views of those who are to the right of them (including some centre left people who are moving more to the right to disassociate themselves from the left).

    Today in the cabinet reshuffle an MP was appointed to the position of Minister of Department of Work and Pensions, what has happened since is a lot of vitriol, name calling, and calls for her to be sacked from the left. This MP was in a more junior position in the Department a number of years ago (she lost her seat in 2015 then regained a seat in the 2017 election). About 5 years ago the current Shadow Chancellor also called for this MP to be lynched. It is these extreme reactions that turn good people off politics, and off the left and attracts the thugs and bullies to the left that we see on Social Media.

  6. Alan Wilkinson

     /  January 10, 2018

    I am tired of idiots trying to control our lives. Simple as that.

    • robertguyton

       /  January 10, 2018

      Why do you tolerate it, Alan?
      Cut loose, be the captain of your ship, grasp the nettle!

      • Zedd

         /  January 10, 2018

        LOL RG 😀

        I was expecting the usual AW ‘Loony Left’ comments :/

        • Griff

           /  January 10, 2018

          when some say such things i always question why they dont migrate to a county with no functional government
          Somalia or Syria spring to mind’
          but that’s different eh.

          We are a spices that relies on collective strengths to survive
          As such we need some over arching government to provide the framework so our society can thrive.
          Once this would have been on a tribal level and use might to apportion power .
          Our democracy’s are better in our large collective society were the barriers of distance no longer apply.
          One would suggest what Alan really means is no rules were he can benefit but rules when it is to his personal advantage.
          Liberalism is anarchy for rich peploe.

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  January 10, 2018

            Silly crap, Griff. In Somalia and Syria the same idiots have guns.

            The proper role of Government is to protect life, liberty and property. It is not to determine what you can smoke, eat or do with your own body, life or property so long as it does no significant harm to others.

            • Griff

               /  January 10, 2018

              Well done Alan
              The powerful have guns in an anarchy without laws.
              In a society like ours the rich have lawyers and other ways to enforce their desires.
              Same effect they have far more power than an average person.
              Hence the need for rules and laws to protect us from their excesses.
              I agree with some of your philosophy but think you take it too far.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  January 10, 2018

              Irrelevant and simply wrong. Once you get past the basic rights the more laws and rules you have, the more the wealthy benefit with their ability to manipulate them and surmount the obstructions.

            • PDB

               /  January 10, 2018

              AW: “It is not to determine what you can smoke, eat or do with your own body, life or property so long as it does no significant harm to others.”

              I agree to an extent but what about the ‘harm’ to taxpayer pockets when the smokers, obese people etc end up prematurely in hospital/govt care or on benefits for instance?

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  January 10, 2018

              @PDB, you should thank them for dying young and not costing you pensions or dementia care.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  January 10, 2018

        I don’t tolerate it, Robert. But that doesn’t stop you trying.

  7. David

     /  January 10, 2018

    Open Europe is a George Soros funded promoter of open borders and have a particular agenda to push.

  8. Alan Wilkinson

     /  January 10, 2018
  9. Corky

     /  January 10, 2018

    ”Not just ‘vile fringe groups’. Political forum trolls and harassers may think the lack of opposition to their destructive behaviour means they have wide support, but I think that most people just avoid them.”


    • Gezza

       /  January 10, 2018

      I think that most people just avoid them.

      That’s probably the best idea. I do that sometimes. 👍🏼