Friday, October 29, 2010

On moral bullying

This came up in a comment exchange from an earlier post, and I thought it was important enough to post on its own:

We all would like to think of ourselves as good people, right? And to be thought of as such. But this is exactly what provides the leverage point for the moral bully -- the ones who, big with a sense of their own swollen rectitude, like to morally push around anyone they think might be vulnerable. This is an old story within religions,  with the self-righteous inflating their own egos and sense of power by denouncing the sins of others. But it's a modern story too, especially within the quasi-religious politics of the modern liberal-left, where the sins take the form of failing to re-cycle, for example, or exhibiting one of a number of "phobias" (homo-, Islamo-, etc.) or -- the most popular form of denunciation by far -- of racism. Some of which, of course, may well be genuine forms of bad behavior or consciousness, but that's not the point here. Because the characteristic of the bully is his/her focus -- it's not really on the sins as such at all, but rather on the putative sinner, and the point is not to correct or change anything, but rather simply to morally dominate. This is what makes such tactics so prominent and ugly a part of political debates, after all, and all the more so when one side or the other is losing the debate on substantive grounds.

Now, in order to be a target for such bullying, whether of the older religious sort or the more recent political sort, you have to have bought into the mind set from which it emanates, and this is what makes the pseudo-elite of the fashionably orthodox today, the bien pensant, so easy to herd -- that reflexive anxiety that they might have strayed  in their mind from the path of correctness, and so in danger of stepping on some lurking social landmine by expressing one of the many forbidden thoughts. As, for example, did Juan Williams quite publicly recently, and look what happened to him. So in order to build a defense against the moral bullies, the first thing you have to do is reconsider your engagement with the socially fashionable, particularly in politics -- and this is true on both political wings, by the way, depending on your social context. That is, the first step is a declaration of personal independence from the tyranny of political labels and fashions. The problem is that the next steps will require some thinking on your own, as opposed to the ease of simply putting on whatever everyone else is wearing.


  1. Given the recent curbstomping of the MoveOn person by Rand Paul supporters, the GOP appears to be the current leader on the bully-o-meter (not that I really admire MoveOn Co, but no one, especially a young woman, deserves that sort of treatment). And add to that the loudmouths of Foxnews, the usual Rush Limbaugh carney noise, Annie Coulter's shrill moralism, etc--. The firing of Williams may have been blown out of proportion--but who was uh doing the blowing? O'Reilly and company. The demos and liberals have loudmouths as well, but they can't compete really--and its a different tactic (Olbermann-style, pathos, teary-eyes, whines...tho he has a point at times).

    Again, you, a self-professed atheist, seem to be asking for fair play, civility, politeness--jus' because, presumably. Maybe instead of focusing on yr heroes Hayek and Rand (as in Ayn), or the daily Foxbot show, check the footnotes to ..Nietzsche. He had no illusions about human decency or false propriety in a godless world gone mad.

  2. The demos and liberals have loudmouths as well, but they can't compete really--and its a different tactic (Olbermann-style, pathos, teary-eyes, whines...tho he has a point at times).

    Aww, there, there, J. It's not so bad -- you've got your SEIU thugs, your ACORN crooks (at least you had them), your Daily Kos noise machine (among a thousand others), and of course you've got your very own Whiner in the White House.

    But, (as usual) you misunderstand what I'm saying -- I'm really pointing out how moral bullying operates to keep in line the liberal-left sheep, who are the ones mainly affected by accusations of racism and the like. For everyone else, sadly, such denunciations have become like crying wolf -- so routine that they've been emptied of much real meaning.

  3. You seem to think there's like some consensus among non-conservatives --that anyone not along with Sarah Palin, or Beck or Fox therefore supports d-Kos, supports ACORN, if not the communist party. Another fallacy (false dichotomy).

    Im against pathos, anyway, of whatever party, including the corporate PC liberal sorts (ie Olbermanns)--but that's not typical of all leftists. Zizek's no Olbermann. You're whining about bullying.

    As far as crooks go... go back a couple of years and look into the misrepresentation and BS --"WMDs"--leading to the iraqi war (as even some repubs granted, via the Robb-Silbermann report).

  4. You seem to think there's like some consensus among non-conservatives --...

    No, just among the whiny ones. Some of my best friends are non-conservatives actually -- and so, for that matter, am I.

  5. Actually morf hints at (probably inadvertently) a somewhat interesting issue regarding, shall we say, agency. Who's stupider, Repubs, or Demos? (conservatives vs liberals, Tory vs labour, etc). Traditionally the right was considered the party of the elites, the well-educated, the sophisticates. That has changed over the last few years--WF Buckleys are now rare, but Mike Hucklebees are common. Conversely the Democrats formerly appealed to blue collar workers, mostly urban, the poor, the elderly, and public employees (teachers, cops, etc). But that has changed as well--the Demos now include many "elites"--corporate professionals, intellectuals, collegetown hipsters, etc. In fact that's one of the Limbaugh crowd's complaints: Demos are elitists. So much for WF Buckley (or even Ayn Rand, at least wannabe intellectual).

    There are most likely education stats/demographics which might prove the education level of voters, which would be sort of site-specific (ie Boston demos/GOPers are probably more educated than Boca Raton demos/GOPers). Collegetown tends to vote liberal (what might you infer from that, morf?).

    Taken as a whole, a cursory glance at the evidence suggests the Right rates lower in terms of educational achievement (tho I think the evidence might be skewed in some areas by blocs of poor urban minorities voting Demo, but that might be counterbalanced by redneck idiots). Indeed someone like Palin appeals to many in the Heartland because of the "jus folks" schtick. Now, re-read that carefully and think before you write.


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