Over several posts last week, we had some heated complaints in comments about how the site had become “center-right”. We found this accusation to be bizarre. We don’t particularly like being force-fit into the right-left frame. We consider ourselves to be social justice oriented, but also strongly empirical. Thus while we are opposed to anti-egalitarian, anti-New Deal policies, that doesn’t mean we necessarily subscribe to orthodox left positions, since some are not well thought out and are unlikely to deliver the benefits their proponents believe they will. One reader (witters) summed up his views as follows:
I see NC as beyond the stupid virtue signalling of Left/Right labelling. I see it as concerned with a conception of social justice that actuallly connects with life conditions of decent people – and a justifiable faith that, all things being equal, pretty much all people ARE decent people.
For some commenters, it turned out that the real bone of contention was that we now have a few Trump supporters who comment regularly. They have not broken any house rules and we are not about to run them off.
As Outis said via e-mail:
If the site actually does anything, then presumably its effect on people is to push them to consider views that they would not have looked at previously, and to force them to defend their own views. In other words, far from being seen as a sort of “contamination,” if there are “non-left” people on the site, it should be seen as an opportunity. (If they’re organic, of course – but over time we do a pretty good job of eliminating the true trolls.)
People complaining about having to debunk newcomers’ arguments are ultimately complaining about being given an opportunity to do effective politics. Politics isn’t an academic seminar where only the smartest people are allowed to speak. Nor is it a salon of uniformly right-thinking people who congratulate each other on their virtue while disagreeing on minor tactical points. It’s about trying to persuade other people, even including those who start out with views that are in some ways problematic or misinformed. Yes, it can be somewhat repetitive. So what? If making the same argument more than once drives you crazy, find another hobby.
1. This site’s overarching mission is to promote critical thinking. Having a variety of points of view is consistent with that objective.
2. As Outis alludes, we have run off people who looked like Trump trolls (as well as Democratic party stalwarts, lefty purists, and others who look to be propagandizing, whether formally or out of professional loyalties) for a host of reasons: bad faith argumentation, getting abusive, making stuff up, thread-jacking, etc. We try to be evenhanded in applying the same standards across topics.
3. There is a tremendous amount of noise in the news. While Trump is doing things that give plenty of cause for concern, a lot of what he is doing is talk rather than action (for example, quite a few executive orders that are not much more than press releases reiterating positions he has already taken). Getting upset about Trump merely restating his intent, no matter how dodgy that intent is, makes him seem more powerful and effective than he is. It isn’t helpful if the goal is a clear-eyed appreciation of the current political situation, but playing to anti-Trump outrage has given a big boost to newspaper subscriptions and online views and so is in the interests of the media.
Debunking Trump hysteria, whether by the site or by readers is not being “pro Trump.” To make that argument convincingly, one would first have to show that a dualistic, Manichaeistic perspective offers the only legitimate view of Trump: that he is so exceptional that every debate, even about questions of fact, should be filtered through a lens of “Does it seem to help or hurt Trump? Moreover, if one is serious about opposing Trump, then relying on bad or incomplete information about Trump violates one of Sun Tsu’s cardinal rules of combat: Know your enemy.
4. Some readers also seem bothered by the fact that this site is hard on the Democratic party. The reasons are simple. The Democrats have not changed despite hemorrhaging losses at all levels of government. They are not the friend of anyone outside the 10% and the transformation of the party to one for the professional classes and the 1%, complete with identity politics gestures and performances, took place via the Clintons (see Thomas Frank’s Listen, Liberal for details).
If you oppose Trump, you need to recognize that the Democrats are at best feckless. Trump’s presidency may all too readily become an excuse for the party to become an even worse version of its former self. So a key question is, “What if anything can be done about that?”