Keep Your Friends Close, But Don’t Unfriend Your Enemies Either

This was a bitter election. The candidates were bitter. The media fanned the flames. And it stretched many friendships as people realized that those they knew and loved supported a bad candidate. Because both of them were pretty bad.

But political polarization has been rising even beyond the terrible candidates that were put up for President, and it’s exposing an ugly side of this new internet world. And the reaction I’ve seen from many in places on Facebook–unfriending anyone who supported the other candidate–is only going to make this worse.

In the old days, you had 3 major networks, and the newspapers. While one can certainly claim that some of those outlets were biased, we each had the same news. We each saw the same stories. At the end of the day, we each worked under the same–albeit flawed–reality.

But in this new world of fragmented media, blogs, alternative news sites, it has now become possible to construct our own reality around ourselves. It’s not hard to get sucked into reading only the news sites with which you agree, watching only the cable news station that supports your side, and surrounding yourself only with information which conforms to your views. And that’s extremely dangerous, because it turns anyone who disagrees into “the other”. Once we lose that shared connection of humanity and start seeing our political foes as fundamentally different from ourselves, it will destroy us.
Trump & Clinton
And this is where unfriending people comes in. We used to make friends through all sorts of ways. Maybe it was through college. Through work. Through shared social activities. And there are of course the bonds of family. You formed friendships and bonds based on things completely orthogonal to politics. And you learned that even though you and your friends didn’t share the same political views, you shared the common bonds of humanity. You could learn to disagree without discord.

But as we’ve become increasingly marginalized and living in “virtual” communities, we’ve increasingly made it possible to turn our private lives into an echo chamber of people who only agree as well. If you only surround yourself with mirrors of agreement, your beliefs are never challenged, never reconsidered, and never truly examined. If your response is to unfriend or mute someone on Facebook simply because they disagree with you, you’re decreasing your own ability to understand what you believe and why.

And that’s confirmation bias, one of the most dangerous ideological filters in the world. Surrounding yourself with only friendly sources of information makes it impossible to figure out when you’re wrong. And we’re all wrong about something. If you can’t figure out when you’re wrong, you can have NO real confidence that you’re ever right.

I’m somewhat lucky in that I’m a libertarian. I didn’t vote for Trump or for Hillary. I don’t agree with Republicans or Democrats. Heck, if you pay any attention to libertarians, you’ll realize that half the time, I don’t agree with libertarians either! If I unfriended everyone on Facebook with whom I disagreed, my feed would be really goddamn quiet.

So I don’t do that. I refuse to insulate myself from those with whom I disagree. I actively read not only the Trump and Clinton supporters in my feed and worked to understand and humanize them, but I try to read ideologically diverse blogs and news sources to insulate myself from confirmation bias. Am I 100% successful? Undoubtedly, no. But I make the effort.

And I highly recommend you all do the same thing. Seek out those friends of yours with whom you disagree. Accept them. Humanize them. Engage them (in productive and non-vitriolic ways) in discussion. You might learn something.

We all need to do this, for two reasons:

  • Despite my provocative post title, we’re not enemies. If you voted for Clinton, a Trump voter is not your enemy. If you voted for Trump, a Clinton voter is not your enemy. We’re all part of the shared society aboard a rock hurtling through space. We’re all trying to do our best, to raise families, to have happy, productive lives. I know great people who voted for Trump, and great people who voted for Clinton. I’m pretty f’ing great, and I voted for Johnson. If we’re friends, I don’t care who any of you voted for. I’ll still happily sit across the table from you, hoist a beer, and toast what makes us friends. (Then I’ll tell you why you’re wrong. Respectfully, of course.)
  • Because the fight against confirmation bias is the hardest fight for any person attempting to remain a free and independent thinker. It’s one of the most insidious forms of bias, and one of the the worst because it lets us believe that we’re right, we’re enlightened, and our ideological opponents are dumb, craven, and wrong. It allows us to turn the opponent into “the other”. And if you’ve studied the most heinous and terrible aspects of human history, bad things happen when we allow our tribal instincts to be manipulated into turning someone who doesn’t look like us, doesn’t talk like us, or even looks and talks just like us but believes differently, into “the other”. That’s an instinct that must be guarded against at all times, for the good of human history.

If you voted for Trump, or if you voted for Clinton, I may not agree with you. But you’re always welcome at my table, at my door, or in my Facebook feed. Because the bonds that connect us as humans and friends are FAR stronger than political ideals.

An Open Letter to Democrats on the Day After

Dear Democrats640px-barack_obama_takes_one_last_look_in_the_mirror_before_going_out_to_take_oath_jan-_20_2009,

I get that you’re in shock right now. You’re wondering how and why this terrible calamity has befallen the country. And I need to tell you something you’re not going to like: Look in the mirror.

As a libertarian, I have had the luxury of watching this horrid presidential campaign play out from a distance. While both major parties were fighting dirty, while both Hillary and Trump are awful, untrustworthy people, I saw one really disturbing trend: Trump and the Republicans went after Hillary, Hillary and the Democrats went after Trump’s supporters. This cost Hillary the election.

Economics played a large role in this election. Over the last eight years, Democrats and the media have touted certain numbers as key indicators that the economy was recovering. The stock markets, the number of jobs created, and the official unemployment rate told us things were better, they said.

It turns out that the real story of the American economy was under the surface. A deeper look shows the effects of the recovery were concentrated in certain demographics and regions. Highly-educated people in urban areas have done pretty well since 2008. Those less educated and those in the middle of the country have not. They are, if anything, worse off than they were eight years ago.

Now imagine you are someone who has a high school education in a state like Ohio or Nebraska. Listen to the way you’re perceived by Democrats. You’re bitter clingers, you’re rubes, you’re deplorables. Your work is mocked. Farmers are ignorant rednecks who couldn’t do anything better. Coal miners are so evil it’s better for the country if they’re put out of work entirely. Not even the land you live on gets any respect. It’s flyover country, mere scenery to be observed on the flight from SFO to JFK. How exactly do you feel about that?

Imagine now that a candidate comes along who feels your pain, who promises to make America great again, to bring back the jobs and prosperity to desolate communities. Yes, he might be an awful human being, a sociopath, someone who has time and again failed to deliver as a business man. You’re not dumb, you know this. You see Trump for exactly what he is–a charlatan.

Then you look back at Hillary and the future she and the Democrats promise. You see nothing but more poverty, more despair, and more marginalization at the hands of the urban elite. You realize that even if Trump is a charlatan, he is the lesser of two evils for you.

Now, if you’re a Democrat and you’ve made it this far, look in the mirror. Look. Did you nod knowingly when Hillary described Trump’s supporters as deplorables? Have you cracked jokes about rednecks? Did you cheer when Hillary talked about putting coal miners out of work? Do you talk about everything between the coasts as flyover country?

On the other side of the coin, did you try to understand where Trump supporters were coming from? Did you try to understand what might be motivating them other than presumed evil and stupidity?

Look in the mirror again. Were you part of the majority of Democrats that created a tidal wave of hate that pushed rural Americans right into Trump’s camp? Be honest here, because it’s time to learn.

Every time you are tempted to look down on someone because of the color of their skin (white), their gender (male), their sexual orientation (straight), their education (less than yours), where they’re from (the country), or the work they do (manual labor), stop. Stop and picture Donald Trump in the Oval Office. That is the consequence of your elitism over the last eight years.

The time for change is now. Stop talking and start listening. When people you look down on are concerned for their future and livelihood, take it seriously. Make the effort to look behind the convenient narrative to see if there really is something there. Question the numbers that look conveniently positive.

Or don’t. Stick to the narrative, keep piling on Trump supporters as stupid evil morons who make you so angry you want to punch them in the face.

Whether Trumpism is a short-lived fad or the new normal is entirely in your hands, my Democrat friends. Don’t make the same mistake twice.

Sincerely,

A Disappointed Libertarian

Election 2016: Thoughts in the Aftermath

president-trump
  1. This is how libertarians feel after every election. We learn to live with it. So will you.

2. I believe in free trade. Trump doesn’t. I’m for a strong First Amendment. He isn’t. I want to reduce the size of government. He wants to make more of it. I think he’s divisive and mean and uniquely unfit to be president. He emboldens an unnerving group of racists, xenophobes and misogynists better relegated to the fringes. And since he will be serving with a Republican-controlled House and Senate, I won’t even get gridlock.

3. We all have a choice about where to focus our emotions. POTUS is one office in one branch of government at one level. Last night, good things happened — amazingly good things, things so amazingly good they brought tears to my eyes — in down ballot races and on ballot issues.

4. There is no denying some of Trump’s supporters are racist, misogynistic xenophobes. But that’s NOT the ONLY source of his support. For people who literally don’t know the reasons that non-bigots support Trump — because they won’t accept that such people exist — maybe instead of dismissing the world as a terrible, awful, irredeemable place that you weep to explain to your children, maybe try something else:

Listen to what his supporters are saying and engage in some self-reflection.

5. Listen when they say the jobs have left their areas. That they can’t afford their health insurance premiums or the penalties for not having it. They can’t afford their tax rates. They can’t afford to take their kids to see the doctor, can’t afford to take vacations with their families, live in fear one-paycheck-to-the-next of missing their mortgage payment. Listen when they say they are afraid of losing jobs to overseas and to immigration. Listen when they say they are afraid of terrorism inside the U.S. Listen, and don’t reflexively dismiss their concerns as closet racism.

6. Listen when they say how seriously they take their right to own and bear arms. Don’t reflexively dismiss them as redneck fetishists. Don’t sneer on social media about how they must have some anatomical shortcoming for which to compensate. Listen when they say they will die on the hill of the Second Amendment because they are afraid of an authoritarian leader taking control of the country.
That burning?
That’s irony.

7. Listen, as well, to why they didn’t like the other candidate. How they feel about entrenched political dynasties who sell access to make millions, who conspire to rig the economy for their friends in the 1%, and do nothing while the poor and middle class fall further behind. Dismissing those concerns as manufactured manifestations of sexism is lazy.

8. You guys could have had Jim Webb. Are you even kidding me? Jim. Webb. Instead, you nominated an intensely disliked career politician with serious ethical shortcomings and no real vision to fix the problems facing our country. A war hawk and a drug warrior who is as bad as Trump on the First Amendment and worse on the Second.

9. Have we learned yet that money doesn’t buy elections?

10. There are reasons our founders gave the Executive branch limited powers and implemented a system of checks and balances. Voters and politicians who turn their heads at expansions of powers while their own people are in office — welp … chickens … coming home … to roost.

11. Remember who exercised the nuclear option.

12. If it’s any consolation, the GOP probably won’t change things that much. Why not? Because they love the status quo too! Gitmo didn’t go away and the ACA probably won’t either.

13. Jocelyn Baker called this shit a year ago. Her basis: wide support for Trump among far-left multiculturalist types in Los Angeles. “That…doesn’t make sense,” you say. Who cares? It happened.* Your mission, should you choose to take it, is to figure out why.

14. Now who “threw away” their vote?

 

___________________________________________

*I don’t mean he won California. I mean his wide support among that group suggested something was going on that traditional paradigms didn’t explain.

Safe Spaces Aren’t Just for SJWs

spAs much as I despise Donald Trump, on some level I understand why he has die hard supporters. The most popular reason for this phenomenon is he seems to be the answer to the political correctness of our time. Trump may be many, many, horrible things, but being politically correct isn’t one of them.

Indeed, political correctness is a significant problem in our culture. Participation trophies, zero tolerance, and the very Orwellian PC language in which the Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) insist we use in our public discourse are doing great harm to the Millennials. The concept of ‘safe spaces’ on college campuses wraps all of the above (and more) in one tidy bow which infantilizes young adults. Not too long ago, college campuses were once considered the place to debate and explore controversial ideas, now have spaces to protect the precious Millennial snowflakes from debate and controversial ideas.

Yes, the SJWs certainly do suck. I’m sure that SJWs who read the above two paragraphs are angry I didn’t include a trigger warning before challenging their world view but here’s the thing: it’s not just SJWs who retreat into safe spaces nor just the generation raised in this very PC culture. As it turns out, some of the very people who are most critical of political correctness, Millennials, and safe spaces don’t want their worldviews challenged either!

I can’t speak for anyone else’s social media feed other than my own but I have seen people leave controversial comments followed by something to the effect of ‘I’m not going to debate this, if you post something that disagrees with me on my wall it will be deleted.’ Or s/he will simply delete the post without explanation (I’ve seen this behavior from conservatives and progressives alike).

Of course, having different opinions and refusing to debate opinions is one thing; being upset that someone shares an inconvenient fact completely destroying the basis of an opinion is another. Around Memorial Day Weekend, someone posted on my FaceBook wall about how awful it was that President Obama went to Hiroshima, Japan on Memorial Day instead of the traditional laying the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. There was just one problem with this person’s complaint: it wasn’t true. All it took to see if this person had a legitimate beef with Obama was a five second Google search (in the age of information, ignorance is a choice). In fact Obama visited Hiroshima on Friday, May 27, 2016 and visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Monday, May 30, 2016 (AKA Memorial Day).

In response to my posting readily available news articles reporting that Obama attended both of these ceremonies, I received a private message asking me: ‘Why are you always defending Obama?’ I don’t remember my exact response but it would have went something like ‘I’m not always defending Obama but the truth matters.’

The same sort of thing happened when someone blamed Obama for pulling the troops out of Iraq too soon and I dutifully pointed out that Obama was carrying out the troop withdrawal signed by President Bush.

These were just two examples off the top of my head; there are certainly other examples I could have used. As we are getting mercifully closer to the end of the 2016 campaign, conservatives, progressives, and yes, even some libertarians are retreating to their safe spaces refusing to be challenged at all.

The worst offenders IMO are the Trump supporters who are oh so critical of safe spaces on college campuses and Trump himself. The Trumpster divers tell us that all of Bill Clinton’s sexual assault accusers are to be believed while Trump’s accusers are all liars. Why did they all wait to come forward until a month before election day? Surely, they are all either opportunists and/or working directly for Hillary!

This is entirely possible. It’s possible that some if not all of them are lying. It’s also possible that because the world has now been exposed to Trump being Trump, these women now feel like the public will listen when prior to the leak the public otherwise would not.

Then there’s the issue of Trump’s poll numbers. As I look at my FaceBook feed, I see several Trump supporters posting articles from Trump friendly sites claiming that Trump is polling at 67% to Hillary’s 19%. In contrast, Real Clear Politics, averaging the leading scientific polls show Hillary leading Trump 44.7% to 39.4%.

Of course in terms of the election itself, it’s the electoral college map that matters not the popular vote. How are the candidates fairing on the electoral map? The Real Clear Politics Map is showing 262 electoral votes for Clinton, 164 for Trump, and another 112 are considered toss ups. The candidate who receives a minimum of 270 electoral votes becomes the next POTUS. By my math, that means that HRC is within 8 electoral votes of the magic number in this projection. This doesn’t provide much room for error for Mr. Trump. In order for Trump to win based on the above, he would have to win just about every one of the toss up states and not lose a single state projected to be in his column. If he wins all of the toss up states except for Florida, Trump still loses.

Clearly, either Real Clear Politics with its scientific polling or Trump biased Arizona Freedom Alliance will be proven wrong on Election Day, safe spaces be damned. One would think that but with Trump openly saying he won’t necessarily accept the election results (whatever that means!), he and his supporters will remain in their safe spaces for a bit longer.

It’s not too difficult to see how damaging the safe space phenomenon will be to our culture. Verifiable facts are ignored while rumors and provable falsehoods are considered truth when it aligns with an agenda.

As a people, we need to realize that being skeptical isn’t a bad thing. We must be careful of confirmation bias. We should read articles we disagree with and have friends we can argue important issues with (and remain friends at the end of the day).

And if you want to take a short break in your safe space (we all do, don’t kid yourself), then do so. Just don’t make it your permanent address. One can deny reality but cannot escape its consequences.

Why I’m Not #WithHer

FILE - This May 14, 2014 file photo shows former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaking in Washington. On any given day, Republicans call Hillary Rodham Clinton a deeply flawed future presidential candidate. Or a formidable one. Or, with the right amount of Republican-led scrutiny, one who might not run after all. As the former secretary of state, first lady and New York senator prepares for a high-profile book tour in June, Republicans are using a variety of approaches to try to define Clinton and drive down the mostly positive approval ratings she built while in President Barack Obama's Cabinet. At the same time, the GOP is building an anti-Clinton infrastructure that aims to undercut her appeal more than two years ahead of the presidential election. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)

Some right-leaning libertarians have expressed annoyance that I reserve so much scorn for Donald Trump as opposed to the Democratic candidate. It’s not that I think Hillary Clinton is optimal or even better in any significant sense. It’s just that Clinton’s particular form of evil is banal and boring and old news. Trump is new and freakish and unprecedented – hence more interesting.

That being said, the following are among the reasons I am not #WithHer:

Clinton is a war hawk. She supported the invasion of Iraq, which spilled blood, deposed a secular dictator, destabilized the region and created a vacuum for groups like ISIS. See also, Libya. Since she first entered national politics, there has never been a U.S. war not for self-defense that Clinton did not support.

Clinton is a drug warrior whose tough-on-crime policies have included mandatory minimums, three-strikes laws, more drug enforcers, more prisons, more funding, and violent intervention in foreign countries. The policies she has supported have resulted in lost lives. They have also resulted in mass incarceration of people separated from their families and left rotting in prisons. She claims to support reform but rarely moves beyond platitudes to identify specific policy proposals, such as by supporting Rand Paul’s criminal justice reform bills. During the ’08 campaign, she criticized Barack Obama for being soft on crime for opposing mandatory minimums.

Clinton is not committed to the rights enshrined in the First Amendment. She has repeatedly supported government interference with Constitutionally protected speech. She has blamed artistic media for violent crimes, tried to ban the sale of violent video games to minors, supported mandatory content-filters on electronics, and supported bans on expressive acts like flag burning. She thinks the government should forcefully limit spending on political speech, wants to deny space to extremist speech on the Internet, wants to overturn Citizens United, and demands back-doors for encryption.

Clinton is not committed to the rights enshrined in the Second Amendment. She thinks District of Columbia v. Heller was wrongly decided. She repeatedly dodges questions about whether she thinks the Second Amendment guarantees any individual right. She (like Trump) wants to deny the fundamental right to bear arms to people, never charged with any crime, who have been placed on government “lists.”

Clinton’s economic policies would further strain our economy and place unprecedented burdens on taxpayers. Overregulation and excess government spending stunt the economy and make it harder for the poorest of people to get ahead. Minimum wage hikes and corporate tax hikes kill jobs. Punishing corporate inversions makes consumer prices artificially high. Government handouts as reparations are not sufficient to put people in the positions they could achieve if they were simply provided a free market in which to participate.

Clinton is delusional on government healthcare and education. Government subsidies cause the price of things to go up – not down. Increased costs necessitate rationing, which is what you see in virtually all of the nations that have attempted to find a way around this simple economic truism.

The ACA is imploding. There is no way to use insurance to increase access while simultaneously bringing down costs. If we want increased access at lower costs, then we have to address the root causes of high costs. Democrats don’t want to accept that those root causes are universally government interventions in the marketplace.

Government subsidies have also caused the cost of higher education to skyrocket, indebting students for decades with loans for an education they didn’t need and that took years to obtain. “Free education” shifts the pain to taxpayers, but does nothing to address the unnecessarily high cost.

Forget the economic absurdities, though. Where does the Constitute allocate to the federal executive or the federal legislature the power to provide people with education and healthcare? It doesn’t.

Clinton is a big-government statist whose instincts are always either authoritarian or evasive. She doesn’t like being specific about policies because she doesn’t have good ones and doesn’t care to develop them. Her interest in government is mainly self-interested: trading access for gratuity.

I am not and never will be #WithHer.

1 2 3 940