I strive to treat people I disagree with as intelligent persons of goodwill.  I don't always succeed.  It helps that many, even the majority, of my friends and family disagree with me politically.

A reader sent me Evil Greedy Stupid Sheep: 4 Modern Ways to Win An Argument.  The only quibble I have is the word "modern".  I am pretty sure that if we had better historical sources we would find people accusing Ramses or Sargon of being evil and in the pay of grain merchants.

I would add a fifth category to this I would call "out-group".    I don't have to listen to you because you are from group X.  There is a famous quote from WWII from a man I believe was in the British Foreign Office, who, when asked about stories of Nazi atrocities, said that they needn't take seriously a bunch of "wailing Jews."

As I grew up, I thought we might actually be getting beyond this.  You know - the sixties and tolerance and racial understanding and all that.  But it turns out that tolerance does not mean the end of out-groups, it simply means that the out groups are changing.  "Check you privilege" is the common campus shorthand nowadays for "shut up white male."  Males, whites, the religious, the well off -- these are the new out-groups whose origins are used to automatically invalidate anything they say.


  1. Onlooker from Troy:

    Yeah, I'm doubting the "modern" part too. Sophistry has been around a loooong time.

  2. Daublin:

    Libertarians, too. I have encountered many a discussion where someone's perspective was dismissed due to the speaker being a libertarian.

    As a response, I have tried to focus less on statism in theory, and more on Washington as a particular place and set of institutions. Whatever you think of a theoretically optimal government, the actual Washington that exists in the real world has proven itself to suck huge amounts of resources while not being very competent at the promises it is making us.

  3. Kevin:

    Was going to mention it yesterday, but Scott Alexander had a great post on this last year: (long)

  4. ECM:

    Aren't you just describing the genetic fallacy, re: out-grouping?

  5. Nehemiah:

    "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." Ecclesiastes 1:9

  6. Nimrod:

    You left out the part where two "in groups" get into a conflict over who's the bigger victim. For example a gay activist criticizes Islam for its sharia belief in executing anyone who commits homosexual acts, after which the activist is called "racist" (even though Islam isn't a race).

    I guess the gay guy should "check his privilege"? Or is it the Muslim? Or should they only check their privilege if they're white male and gay or Muslim?

    Is it just me or am I right to be confused?

  7. me:

    Ah, but then again, you know that guy who keeps vocally disagreeing with a group of people he dubs "Leftist" on the internet? ;)

  8. mesocyclone:

    Human nature hasn't changed, no matter how much people imagine otherwise.

  9. Nehemiah:

    To your point, lesbian woman walks into a barber shop for a haircut, barber (muslim) refuses due to religious reasons. Now what -

  10. Nimrod:

    I don't know but I'm sure that someone in this situation is supposed to "check their privilege", I just have no idea who that is. I'm sure some Marxist conflict theory followers out there probably have some convoluted explanation of who it should be and why.

  11. bigmaq1980:

    Far too often folks, either in direct statement, or in tone of their language, claim the other side are "stupid". This happens from the left, right, and libertarian viewpoints.

    They (we?!) use the terms in the sense of "slow of mind" or "lacking intelligence". It makes for good theatrics, and may make themselves feel good.

    There are a lot of "stupid" people on each side of an argument, but not everyone making those arguments are stupid.

    Those in power positions are likely far from stupid. They are more likely formulating and putting forth those "stupid" ideas for their own benefit.

    To ascribe "stupidity" to them is to underestimate their ability to gain power and do damage with their dangerous (to us and our society) ideas, and paralyzes (lulls us), or renders ineffective, any (of our) efforts to stop them.

    IMHO, as soon as we stop using these dismissives, the better off we will be at giving our arguments a chance to break through

    Coyote's been one of the best example of such blogs around.