PG admits a mistake

After receiving a couple of emails, PG realized that his comments about Critical Race Theory broke his personal unwritten rule to keep politics off of The Passive Voice.

PG has friends of many years standing with whom he has never had a discussion about politics.

Had such a discussion occurred, PG would likely not have agreed with the political views of those friends, but he would never sacrifice friendship because of political differences. Rather than bring any sort of cloud over these friendships, PG is happy to discuss other items of mutual interest and learns something from virtually every such discussion.

Unfortunately, at present in the United States, there is a lot of vitriol exchanged by people of differing political views. Some people in a variety of political spheres seem to feel that politics is the most important topic at all times and in all places and are quite intolerant of those with differing politics.

PG suspects that a lengthy and very stressful period of economic and social shutdown due to Covid plus a nasty political season last November have robbed more than a few people of a sense of community feeling with fellow citizens and residents who believe differently than they do.

PG certainly hopes there will be a resurgence of comity, a feeling joint local and national purpose and greater respect for those whose views are different. PG would love to see a huge surge of politeness from sea to shining sea.

9 thoughts on “PG admits a mistake”

  1. Hmm. Well, I have not seen a great deal of impoliteness in the comments, myself. (Unless, like all too many seem to believe, a disagreement in opinion is “rude.”)

    PG, I really don’t think that you can possibly eliminate all politics from discussion, unless you shut down the blog entirely. Perhaps the electoral kind of politics, although even that is difficult, as elected officials constantly seek to interfere in what is published and read by we “commoners.”

    Even avoiding that – politics and ideology will rear their heads in just about any discussion. That you stick to publishing/reading (mostly, with the exception of photos of beautiful places and cute grandchildren), rather than, for example, commenting on the terrible price of chicken these days – that is what makes this place a special one.

  2. PG certainly hopes there will be a resurgence of comity, a feeling joint local and national purpose and greater respect for those whose views are different. PG would love to see a huge surge of politeness from sea to shining sea.

    As I’ve said before, read Evil Geniuses by Kurt Andersen, that will explain what has been going on over the past sixty years. It has accelerated over the past ten years.

    – The “discord” is not about people being less civil, it’s about the deliberate stirring up of trouble by the flood of paid trolls that are simply doing their jobs.

    – The old word for this was “shill”. There is a long tradition of “shills” spinning the debate a certain way. Now “troll” is the trendy word.

    In the past ten years those paid trolls now exist everywhere, posting their “talking points”. Making sure that the “correct” narrative is active and suppressing discussion that the “Evil Geniuses” don’t want. The paid trolls range from “news” reporters and anchors on TV down to people posting on blogs. The flood of paid trolls is like playing whack-o-mole, not worth arguing with.

    – I more or less stopped watching the news. It is hard to eat supper when I’m constantly chanting, “Liar, liar, pants on fire” at the TV “personalities” on the Nightly “News”.

    Decades ago there were ads, “You can make $10k, each month, working from home on your own computer” Those ads never said what you would have to do to earn the money, but basically they were ad agencies hiring people to post on blogs. They would be given scripts, and shown how to create sockpuppets. They were paid by the post. They also had to sign NDAs and could never mention what they were doing. Whole blogs were filled by comments from these paid trolls. It got so bad that places like Popular Science shut down their blogs because nobody real was posting.

    I just checked google and the articles that talked about this are no longer found. I did find one book from 2013 that is about robot generated twitter accounts.

    Sock Puppets on Steroids: The Internet’s Fake Personalities
    Charles Seife

    Sock Puppet

    It’s not just people posting on blogs, it’s also paid trolls writing articles on certain subjects. As an example:

    – For years articles on “transhumanism” were routinely published. It turns out that Jeffery Epstein was paying for those. When he died in jail, the money dried up and the articles stopped.

    Civility will return once the money stops and the paid trolls have to get real jobs. But since the Supremes ruled that “money is speech”, I don’t see that happening soon.

    BTW, I was finally able to track down those original library books — the A. M. Lightner and Jean & Jeff Sutton books, etc… — once I retired, and have been meaning to read them again.

    Now is a good time.


    • I don’t see that happening ever – it certainly hasn’t in the past. I misdoubt that several drachma were spread around to various Athenian “influencers” before the trial of Socrates.

      • Shills and paid sock puppets do exist.
        (From time to time they screw up and are identified. Wikipedia among others has found a few. Even a relatively minor place like Mobileread caught one.)
        But the paid ones are a tiny minority.
        There are also “trolls” who simply spead conflict as entertainment but again, they’re a small minority.

        The bulk of the… uncivil ones, shall we say, are actual citizens who have invested tbeir self-worth in their beliefs and are committed to enforcing it. Absolutists who simply will not accept alternative thought and are compelled to try to stamp it out. In today’s time and place the myth has spread that absolutism and its derivative, autocracy exists solely among certain political and religious beliefs that *must* be stamped out. Riightt…

        A bit late, some academics have “woken” to the realization is is a common phenomenon that is a part of human nature. As you point out, it existed in Ancient Athens and elsewhere all through history. Purges are just another expression of human tribalism.

        Absolutist thinking is all over, it’s not just politics or religion. People can and have invested tbeir self in things as trivial as a choice of gaming console (Sony fans are so strident Sony itself has publicly admitted they have been leaving money on the table by not doing PC ports of tbeir first party games out of fear of blowback from tbeir customers. Which has indeed appeared once they “experimentally” released for PC a port of a two year old game. To those folks–and not a few loudmouths–it isn’t enough that they got a good game to enjoy, it must be reserved solely for true believers like them. Forever. For them it is *personal*.

        Examples abound of both the trivial and mortally serious expressions of such thinking from product boycotts to genocidal rampages. It’s not a modern development nor is it solely financially motivated (Sony doesn’t pay their “ponys” to spread lies and rumors, most of which end up making their products look inferior when the outright lies are disproven), but rather it is another way humans delude themselvrs and rationalize their emotionally driven actions. It is what we are at core, it’s been with us since tbe caves and it will remain with us until it is generally acknowledged and actively moderated.

        In the meantime all we can do is try to be as cold and rationalistic as lossible and continually try to act as civil as possible as often as possible, understanding that with emotions driving responses, tbere will be lapses so tolerance is essential.

        As for PG’s mea culpa?
        No harm, no foul, as far as I’m concerned.
        No need to fret, sir.
        Comity remains, methinks.

        • BTW, notice the warning on the paper pointing out absolutist thinking:

          ” Notice: Due to a recent spike in spam activities, we have increased our measures to flag spam content on OSF. Contact support if you believe your content has been flagged in error. ”

          This, in an academic paper-hosting site.
          No better proof of the paper’s thesis needed.

          Its abstract might explain it:


          “Authoritarianism has been the subject of scientific inquiry for nearly a century, yet the vast majority of authoritarianism research has focused on right-wing authoritarianism. In the present studies, we investigate the nature, structure, and nomological network of left-wing authoritarianism (LWA), a construct famously known as “the Loch Ness Monster” of political psychology. We iteratively construct a measure and data-driven conceptualization of LWA across six samples (N = 7,258) and conduct quantitative tests of LWA’s relations with over 60 authoritarianism-related variables. *We find that LWA, right-wing authoritarianism, and social dominance orientation reflect a shared constellation of personality traits, cognitive features, beliefs, and motivational values that might be considered the “heart” of authoritarianism.* Still, relative to right-wing authoritarians, left-wing authoritarians were lower in dogmatism and cognitive rigidity, higher in negative emotionality, and expressed stronger support for a political system with substantial centralized state control. Our results also indicate that LWA powerfully predicts behavioral aggression and is strongly correlated with participation in political violence. We conclude that a movement away from exclusively right-wing conceptualizations of authoritarianism may be required to illuminate authoritarianism’s central features, conceptual breadth, and psychological appeal. ”

          Emphasis mine, btw.

    • PG: Critical Race Theory is both a right-wing Liars conspiracy rather than an actual theory anyone teaches, and the hottest button around for those liars. The KKK and the American Nazis approve of labeling anything truthful about race in our history (US history) as Critical Race Theory without, of course, there actually being any conspiracy to teach any lies, just a group of people who wish to discuss the truth as they see it and not pretend our horrible history or race relations, abuse, murder, lynchings, and arson did not occur. Fans of truth applaud what you wrote. Unless you’re up to date on current anti-truth crusades, you couldn’t possibly have known the storm of discussion you would set off by defending the truth. -tc
      (What I’m saying is both political, controversial, and furthers the discussion. If you don’t want to let it show up on your blog, I’ll entirely understand! I just didn’t want to stand aside while people do evil to your reputation without defending you.)

  3. PG: I don’t blame you in the least for avoiding politics (or religion) or frankly, most other non-related (to book publishing, e publishing, the law, etc) from your blog. Fact is, everyone has opinions, and as you note, our ability to discuss opinions rationally and without angst seems to be an art of conversation and conviviality that’s losing its place in polite society.

    Heck, polite society is losing its place in society!

    I”ve run a forum (anonymously) for approaching 20 years, and politics and religion were verboten. For a few years, we ran an experiment where we had a section of the forum where those topics were allowed, and sadly, people who were online friends and cohorts were broken up once they found out the political affiliation of the others.

    To this day, I find that fact disturbing. It’s not like anyone was literally racist, or literally a nazi or literally an anarchist, or whatnot.

    What seems to happen is that people can’t seem to separate an opinion from the person. Or, they hold such strong opinions, that they start to really consider someone with the opposing opinion to be EVIL. Not just a different opinion, but actually EVIL, and that said opinion holder is only one step away from … who knows? Mass murder? Or worse yet, that just holding the opinion is (crazily enough) equivalent to violent crime.

    So, while this type of wildy antagonistic attitudes have become more and more prevalent in the past ten years, the seeds of those feelings have been around for a long time. Probably for as long as humans have been capable of speech.

    It’s just crazy that as civilized as we think we are, it seems like we’re still ready lumber out of our caves filled with drawings and find a fellow home sapien and clobber them over the head with a sound club if they think differently than we do.

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