32 Comments

Bravo Yascha!

What I like to call "polarized morality"--the belief that the world is divided into Pure Good and Pure Evil, and all we have to do is utterly destroy the Evil side and the Good side will live happily ever after--is deeply embedded in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic worldview. It takes a LOT of effort to unlearn it. One of the things I've always loved about Barack Obama is that his life forced him to unlearn it better than most. Which is no doubt why so many of his policies were too complicated (i. e. not polarized enough) to be popular, why he left so many liberals feeling like the most successful liberal Presidency in at least half a century (and even to say that LBJ was better, you have to set aside that little Vietnam thing) was accomplishing nothing--and why in the wake of that "failure", polarized morality is back with such a vengeance.

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I don't know that the absolutism being described is taught. How would it then be learned?

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Sorry I took so long to get back to you.

Try this analogy. Can we agree that the America of a hundred years ago was indeed a white supremacist country? A place where even if you weren't specifically taught to believe that Black people are inferior, you were likely to pick it up from the culture that surrounded you? Polarized morality may only be explicitly taught these days in some religious context (and maybe in some of the more religion-like aspects of wokeness), but it's been taken for granted for so long that, unless you've made an explicit effort to rethink it, when people get passionate about right and wrong it's what they'll generally be drawn to.

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1) How is that an analogy?

2) No. I see no evidence to support those claims. Please advance any you can find.

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I truly appreciate the handful of independent voices on the left, and I make a point of supporting them. However, Jonathan Haidt’s assessment of the deep polarization between the left and right still seems to apply to even the somewhat more thoughtful writers that I find in this forum. The right understands the left, but the left cannot understand the right. My sense is that you understand little of conservative positions, which are often addressed as little more than a caricature. You pat yourself on the back for being open minded. I am sure that you mean to be, and I give you credit for that. But your understanding or at least it’s presentation, is inch deep and somewhat patronizing. Most on the right are, unavoidably, constantly, immersed in the world view of the left. I see that most of those on the left are genuinely good people, just terribly blind, arrogant, and utterly unable to grasp that this is the case. Each side judges themselves by their highest ideals and objectives, and judges the other side by the worst of what they see among a relative handful who claim their banner. However, it is the left who are the worse hypocrites, because they are rarely challenged, and so easily remain blind. They live in an echo chamber where they are rarely confronted with either the flaws in their arguments, or the negative consequences. And every effort to silence those who disagree only worsens this blindness.

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Cordelia, I think you are being unfair; you're idealizing the right while caricaturing the left.

Are you aware that roughly 2 out of 3 Republicans think that the 2020 Election was stolen from Donald Trump?

You want to talk about silencing those who disagree? Virtually every elected Republican who has stood up to the Big Lie has been censured by their local Republican party. Liz Cheney lost her leadership position over it. Even worse, election officials who did their jobs and certified valid election results (like Brad Raffensberger from GA) receive persistent death threats over it.

And how has this happened? Because these people have long lived in "an echo chamber where they are rarely confronted with the flaws in their arguments or the negative consequences". This once consisted principally of Fox News and right wing talk radio, and now consists of various propaganda websites and "news" stations like NewsMax (which makes Fox News look like the Wall Street Journal), and "OAN" (which makes NewsMax look like the New York Times).

Don't misunderstand, I am happy for the opportunity to engage conservatives here, because the purpose of this site is to challenge the orthodoxy on the left. We are all aware of the bubble on the left, and this site, among others, exists to counter it.

But we can't very well fight the orthodoxy on the left without good conservatives willing to do the same on the right. We understand conservatives just fine. Many of us regularly engage with, read, and listen to principled voices on the right. On his podcast, Yascha has spoken to conservatives like Glenn Loury, Jonah Goldberg, Jonathan Rauch, and Sarah Longwell.

But one thing that most of these folks will tell you is that there is something dangerous happening on the American right, something which threatens the stability of our democracy. We literally just had a President try to overthrow an election by flooding our information space with a deluge of falsehoods and conspiracy theories that politicians on the right are mostly afraid to counter. The result is that a substantial portion of Americans believe that they are living under an illegitimate government, and are becoming more amenable to the idea of seizing power through anti-democratic means.

At the very least, the excesses of the right fuel the excesses of the left, and vice versa. To the extent that we claim allegiance to a "side" in these culture wars, neither of us can afford to be ignorant of the ills currently sickening the minds of our ideological compatriots.

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Eric - Smart skeptical people are often surprisingly susceptible to being conned if a ruse is tailored to their prejudices.

Roughly 2 out of 3 believe what, exactly? Because people can believe the results and still believe there were some shenanigans. Please provide more detail supporting this claim.

And every elected Republican? I'm skeptical.

It is easy to believe a headline referencing the results of one bad poll, filtered through two tweets. You simply gut-check them with your normal biases, assume it's "close enough" and therefore probably Gospel Truth.

And if you ever encounter a right-thinking Republican, you must believe you've found a rare bird indeed.

Unfortunately, encountering smart, thoughtful outside of your "tribe" is the rare thing. This is particularly true online, where the Big Algorithm put us into contact with people we like - and people we can aggressively hate. Not with people who challenge our worldview.

This is why places like Persuasion are so important.

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Michael, I understand your skepticism. This isn't the kind of thing that should be true, and believe me, I wish it weren't. I wish there was even some plausible doubt.

But this is not the result of a single poll, nor is it something pulled from a headline. This is the overwhelming consensus of polls that have asked this question since the election, from Monmouth University, Economist/YouGov, Ipsos/Reuters, Quinnipiac, CNN/SSRS, Yahoo News, AP/NORC, ... Really, you won't find it difficult to locate this info. And the phrasing of the questions varies, ranging from something like "Did Joe Biden legitimately/fairly win the 2020 election" to straight up asking "Do you think Donald Trump or Joe Biden won?"

Here's a FiveThirtyEight article discussing the issue:

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/most-republicans-still-wont-accept-that-biden-won/

A smattering of polling links:

https://www.ipsos.com/sites/default/files/ct/news/documents/2021-04/topline_write_up_reuters_ipsos_trump_coattails_poll_-_april_02_2021.pdf

https://docs.cdn.yougov.com/wvjmyy0dlk/econTabReport.pdf

https://harvardharrispoll.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/February2021_HHP_Crosstabs_RV.pdf

https://poll.qu.edu/poll-release?releaseid=3810

As for the comment about Republicans facing censure for their opposition to Trump, fair enough; I'll be more precise. Firstly, I should note that I was speaking about U.S. congressional Republicans (sorry I was unclear on that). The numbers as I have them are that 7 of the 10 Republican House representatives and 4 of the seven Republican Senators who voted to impeach Trump over his post-election conduct have been censured by local chapters of the Republican party in their respective states. It's hard to imagine that could happen if the opinions of Republican voters weren't so strongly skewed in support of Trump's claims.

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Thank you for elaborating. We're getting way off topic from the 180-ism article, but I guess that's what the comments section is for.

I'm going to stay engaged, since I'm particularly bothered by this persistent logic error. The line of thinking that goes roughly: polls find lots of Republicans "think the election was stolen" and are therefore disconnected from reality, woe to the republic and all our futures.

First, the supremacy of the moment, and the preoccupation with the present tricks people into thinking that we haven't faced this much trouble before. We have, and we're doing fine.

Second - POLLS FIND that "the election was stolen" because that's what they want people to say.

It is interesting to contrast the polling done on this topic with the polling done after the 2000 election was decided. Here's a Gallop poll done in June of 2001

https://news.gallup.com/poll/4687/seven-americans-accept-bush-legitimate-president.aspx

The key question they asked voters was: A. Bush won fair and square, B. he won, but only on a technicality, or C. he stole the election.

Unfortunately, the cross-tabs showing party breakdown aren't available for this poll, but the overall results are: 48% fair and square, 33% technicality, and 17% stole.

Contrast this with the question from the Ipsos poll linked above: Was the 2020 election: A. Legitimate and accurate, or B. The result of illegal voting or election rigging.

There isn't even a third option for people who don't think it was "accurate." And what's meant by "accurate?" Could there have been illegal votes cast? It's possible that Biden won, and received illegally cast votes, and that the votes were accurately counted. But the pollster has removed any possibility for nuance here.

The overall result was 57% legitimate and accurate, 27% rigged. Considering the pollster's forced-choice into loaded language, we're not so far from where we were at this point in 2000. The republic may survive yet.

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Matthew, I'd love to believe that you're correct about this - but not enough to deceive myself.

Take a look at the very next question in the Ipsos poll after the one that you referenced:

"To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements? [The 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump]"

Among Republicans, 38% said they "Strongly Agree", 22% said they "Somewhat Agree". There were also options for "Somewhat Disagree", "Strongly Disagree", and "Don't Know".

No forced choice here, room to express degrees of agreement or disagreement, and most importantly, the question is unambiguous and straight to the point.

If you look at the other polls, you'll see fairly straightforward language as well. The YouGov and Quinnipac polls simply asked if Biden's win was "legitimate" - nothing about being "accurate". The Harvard/Harris poll straight up asked if "Donald Trump or Joe Biden won" (64% of Republicans said Trump won) and the numbers were almost identical to those on the previous question asking if it was a fair or unfair election. Here's a Monmouth Poll asking if he won it "fair and square or only due to voter fraud" with an option for "don't know" (with Republicans saying "only due to voter fraud" consistently in the mid 60s over several months of polling):

https://www.monmouth.edu/polling-institute/reports/monmouthpoll_us_062121/

One can always take issue with the way polls are worded, but here you have a situation where numerous polls ask the question in different, though all fairly direct ways, and are all coming up with pretty much the same results. Polls don't get much more convincing than this.

Also, I think that there is a world of difference between this and the 2000 election. Firstly, the "technicality" option was not a middle ground for nuance about whether the election was stolen. It was meant to account for people who felt that losing the popular vote but winning the electoral college by a hair's breadth (something that no living person at the time had ever before seen) was not exactly in keeping with the spirit of democratic elections. So we have about half the proportion of Americans in the "stolen" category then as we do now.

More importantly, the 2000 election was an election that literally hinged on a few hundred votes in a single state, as opposed to tens of thousands of votes across three states. People in the "stolen" category had real, legitimate issues to base their gripes on: the unusual butterfly ballots, the so-called "Brooks Brothers Revolution" attempt to stifle the recount, and the Supreme Court stepping in and explicitly stopping the recount on partisan lines. Nobody thought that the election was stolen through deliberate fraud on the part of the Republican Party, and Al Gore openly conceded.

Contrast that to now, where the allegations of deliberate fraud were, to the best of anyone's knowledge, complete fabrications, and were vociferously pushed by the candidate himself, who *still* has not conceded the election (a first in the modern era), who is *still* pushing nonsense conspiracy theories and encouraging bogus "audits" like the one in Arizona, and who, at the moment, is the front runner for the Republican nomination in 2024.

I'm sorry Matthew, but we have not been here before. This is new ground, and I, for one, am terrified. I am not the type that is given to drama, and I am sincere in my intent to help forge common political ground between left and right. But we have to share a common reality, and it is clear that at the moment, the political center is living in a different world than the political extremes, and the extremes are becoming far to large to ignore.

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I think we can agree that the extremes are becoming far too large, and far too unfamiliar with each other. Their movement to the extremes has left something of an opening for centrists like us.

I also wish I could give you comfort on this topic. You seem like a well-reasoned person who I'd be happy to call a friend. If you're in the NYC area, maybe we can get together and try to understand things better.

I think one of the problems here is that you're trying to understand a group of people from the outside-in, using polls and other incomplete observations. This is compounded by the tendency we all have to believe that "the other" is capable of profound evil. If they were good, they would be on our side.

Maybe I'm doing the same thing, but conversely. Maybe I'm willing to dismiss the idiots on the right, because I've known many and they've been eccentric but few and harmless. I certainly didn't expect anything like "storming the Capital" would happen, yet here we are.

I'm willing to concede that this subgroup has grown, and is too vocal and too empowered. But I will not accept that it is anything like 60% of Republicans. My estimate is that it's something close to the size of the Occupy movement. It is objectively small, but even a small cancer is a problem.

I feel the need to attempt an explanation of the 60% polling. Bear with me for a bit.

Republicans believe, even though there's scant evidence, that some Democratic voters will vote multiple times under multiple names. So they pass Voter ID laws. Again. let's set aside whether or not people are actually voting multiple times. It could make no difference in the number of ballots cast, or the election result. But simply having the Voter ID law increases Republicans' confidence in the election result.

And as a whole, changes to our election laws are done with bipartisan support after much deliberation, to continue having high confidence in our election outcomes. For example, some states let you do early voting at any precinct. They combine this with a centralized voter database, voter ID, and monitoring by both parties. This is a high-confidence scenario.

Third-party ballot collection, or ballot harvesting, is another issue. It has been criticized by both parties since it jeopardizes the secret ballot and opens people to coercion. Or the ballot can just be discarded. The practice is banned in many places because allowing it degrades the confidence in our election outcomes.

The accommodations arising from the temporary COVID-19 election procedure changes universally moved the needle toward "less confidence" and away from "more confidence." They were hastily enacted without much deliberation or compromise. That was a necessity of the pandemic, but it didn't help with confidence.

Many states, mine included, sent absentee ballot applications to all registered voters. Nine states, plus D.C., sent unsolicited ballots. Nevada was a swing state, but the others weren't closely contested. This is a far cry from universal Voter ID requirements.

Also, third-party ballot collection was allowed in 37 states.

So I think you can imagine that the people who insist on having voter ID laws were skeptical about the election's integrity, before election night.

And then they lost. Winners tend to like the outcome and trust the process. Losers grasp for excuses, and they had plenty of process-related excuses.

Let me not leave out that Donald Trump bears a lot of blame here, too. He gave voice to these concerns and seeded a lot of pre-election process-related excuses. Donald Trump has a very high opinion of Donald Trump. According to him, if Donald Trump doesn't win, that's not Donald Trump's problem; it was the fraud.

I think that 60% number is unlikely to change. There was just so much about this election that was unique.

We'll see how subsequent outcomes are accepted. If Congress passes HR1, which makes permanent and universalizes most of the temporary pandemic accommodations, then I will join you in worrying about our future. We can't keep having low-confidence elections.

There have been many well-reasoned pieces in Persuasion that have reenforced the need to respect people who disagree with us on the issues, and get to a point where we can disagree with civility. The need for leadership who gives voice to these issues is acute.

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I don't want to just blame the pollsters here, but why are they still asking this question? The election is over and we need to move on to the next one.

As long as the pollster keeps asking "Did Joe Biden LEGITIMATELY get enough votes to win the election" they'll keep getting the same answer. If they cared to actually know why people think this, they'll probe the word LEGITIMATELY for some more details. Was it COVID accommodations that favored one side over another? Was it double-voting? Was it a giant conspiracy of Diebold and hundreds of county election officials? What made it illegitimate?

I won't hold my breath. I think they're happy to conduct polls that give you the impression that Republicans are crazy.

I think what's happening is large portion of Republicans are blaming the process, because it's easier than blaming themselves. It's hard to take blame for your failures. Lots of people aren't mature enough to look at an election result, take stock, and alter their beliefs. Some can understand that they tied their fortunes to Trump, and it didn't work out. Others may come around, but it takes time.

Many will simply blame their losses on others - they like Trump; the problem couldn't be Trump.

This is not unique to Republicans, though. How many "not my President" chants did you hear during the Trump administration? Some people just can't take defeat with grace.

So, again. Don't despair.

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They have to ask this question, Matthew. Whether or not Americans have confidence in their electoral process is of enormous importance. Once we lose this, we lose the presumption that losers of elections will concede, and people will increasingly support non-democratic means of "rectifying" losses, like allowing state legislatures to override the results of elections in response to dubious claims of fraud.

Again, I think you're engaging in some heavy rationalization in questioning the meaning of "legitimate", which ought to be clear enough, *especially* in the current cultural context where we all just saw the previous President try to get the election overturned by explicitly claiming it was stolen. People know what that means when asked, as evidenced by the near identical agreement in the Harvard/Harris poll between the questions "Was this a fair or unfair election" and "Did Donald Trump or Joe Biden win?"

And I'm not saying this to beat up on the right, but the fact that many Trump opponents refused to accept him as "their president" was not the same thing as saying they thought the vote was rigged. People were upset, especially given the efforts by Russia to push disinformation through social media, but there were no serious allegations that the Republican Party won through voter fraud. Hillary Clinton conceded the morning after the election. More importantly, Democrats pushed forward with enormous confidence in their chances of defeating Trump through the electoral process.

These differences matter when assessing the nature of the problems we have on each side of this accursed "culture war". The problems on the left are compromising academia and starting to infect corporate culture in places. The problems on the right have compromised the Republican Party beyond normal political parameters.

Again, I hope I am overreacting to all of this. I don't think I am, and I fear for our country, for my son, and for all of our children.

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Excuse me, Matthew. Sorry for getting your name wrong in my orignal response.

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We must know different conservatives and lefties. I don't see either as particularly better at recognizing their own myopia about the actual ideas or motivations of the other. Is your claim that the right understands the left better than the reverse sourced from Haidt? I am not all that familiar with his work, but my sense from what little I have read is that he doesn't privilege either group as having a lot of clarity around the other's position.

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I agree with all of this, but there is a faction of the left, small but growing, that doesn’t succumb to the 180ism you’re describing, and I’d love to see center-left people like yourself and others engage with them! I’d recommend checking out some old episodes of The Michael Brooks Show (RIP), he pushed back against this 180ism in thoughtful and articulate ways. Most of his guests, too, are dedicated to the intellectually consistency and free-thinking that you’re trying to cultivate on the left. Cornel West is good on this as well - he was interviewed on Brie Joy’s podcast a few weeks ago and they touched upon these issues. I don’t watch Kyle Kulinski regularly, but from what I’ve seen he’s intellectually consistent. Some smaller voices to look at would be Matt Lech and David Griscom (alums from the Michael Brooks Show),m and their podcast Left Reckoning, and The Woke Bros podcast with Wosney Lambre and Nando Orvila (the title is sarcastic). I’m sure all of these people are further left than yourself, but there is a lot of common ground there and I think both factions would benefit from exploring it.

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Thanks, Tim. I'd like to investigate those shows myself.

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A rejection of 180ism is a big reason why I find this Persuasion community so valuable, so thank you Yascha, though I do wonder if the furious agreement contibutors and subscribers here so often share has created (to bastardise your term) a "90ism" of moderateness. Like you, I consider myself broadly a member of the left tribe, but that used to feel more vital than it does now. I'd love to have my comfortable, sensible-centre-left sensibilities shaken up every now and again by some erudite but somewhat more radical contributors from both the left and right.

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Most of my friends are liberal and most of my siblings and their families are conservative, some former liberals 'born again' into conservatism - the most strident I can't stand knee-jerkiness from either side, so I find myself arguing against it on the Left almost as much as I do with it on the Right These days, independent thinking is not valued and I believe that drives both sides to argue against what they 'think' their opponent believes or their concepts about what all 'Democrats' or all "Republicans' believe This is insulting as much as it's infuriating i'm generally left-of-center but argue against the anti-religion and race-reductionism on the Left I have fought for years against conservative family members who assume I oppose all restrictions on abortion or the Green New Deal So I know how to make my case while respecting the sensibilities of both sides If more partisans went deeper and asked why that friend thinks NATO should be expanded or why the economy needs trillions in new stimulus, maybe we'd all be better off You can even make a game of it by switching sides for argument's sake once in awhile

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I like the new term Yascha has coined. 180ism encapsulates the new reductionist zero-sum perspective held by a society now divided into diametrically opposed camps, each side bent on eliminating each other over the soul of America…or at least over the control of the soul of America.

You can plot all of the glib and pithy labels each camp employs along that binary axis. Here’s a few of them:

Truth

Freedom

Liberty

Prosperity

Equality

Fairness

Faith

Family

Tomorrow

Labels like these are as attention-getting as they are repeatable and easily digestible. They’re quick and easy by design, and what’s more they carry a great deal of cachet. They’re the pocket change in today’s influence economy. ‘Time is money’ as the saying goes, and the quicker you are at getting your currency into circulation and encouraging consumers to spend it, the greater your chances at dominating the win-at-all-costs competitive arena that is daily living.

“Common Sense” is another one of those handy labels. It’s being adopted in support of a mindset that prioritizes gut instinct and sensory intuition, advocates retribution justice, and defines humanity according to its lowest hand-to-mouth level of existence. It’s a mindset where not only all the answers are simple but also all the problems. If the club had a motto then it would be “C’mon, it’s plainly obvious!” This is why I’ve been referring to 180ism in my own circles as “C’mon Sense.”

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I would like to see some scholarship that establishes that the effects being described exist at all, and exist outside social media.

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How much credibility does Internet Policy Review have? This abstract was published in December 2019 and delves into algorithmic-driven disinformation and keywords that generate high placement and active engagement:

https://policyreview.info/articles/analysis/disinformation-optimised-gaming-search-engine-algorithms-amplify-junk-news

Granted, my perspective concentrated on what I perceive to be the adoption of specific words and phrases as brand labels by card-carrying 180ists. I didn't address SEO optimization and online call-to-action statements specifically, and the IPR article doesn't provide any sort of binary trigger chart . Still, peer-review journals - at least the ones of sound scholarship - may help us identify which words and phrases have been and are likely to be manipulated towards that zero-sum endgame.

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Hi François.

Interestingly (to me) I have never heard of Internet Policy Review, so I cannot comment.

Weaponization via SEO is an interesting topic. Thanks for the post. Will look into it. Just started an online cohort based class that is distracting me.

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Ironically, I doubt you'd find such uniform leftist resistance today to conservative attempts to "deplatform" either Lolita or the Harry Potter books-- though leftist reasons for going along, especially in the latter case, would be quite different from conservative motivations.

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Very true!! #Metoo and the TERF wars have made those books completely untenable on the left.

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Totalitarianism = common cause

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A few thoughts:

"My friends’ reluctance to admit that al-Qaida really was, well, evil struck me as morally obtuse."

By your retelling, they made no comment whatever on al-Qaeda. They made a comment on viewing reality within a g-vs-e framing not being useful.

It seems a bit odd to react to that with an insistence on framing al-Qaeda that way in the next breath. One reason is that it is a statement that cannot be shown to be true. As such, its utility indeed seems challenged. This perhaps is what they were getting at.

One reason it cannot be shown to be true is that lack of any objective moral standard. If one cannot point to an objective moral standard, how can one then assign the labels of a subjective moral standard? One cannot. Not usefully.

As to the question of why so many "have embraced a reductionist world view that is now taking over public discourse", I would advance the following notions:

1) Your characterization of 'so many' invites the question: how are you counting? Upon what basis do you draw the conclusion of 'many'? One might hope the answer to be an empirical one, but that isn't obvious.

2) I wonder if what is happening, to the degree it is happening at all, is that there is what appears to be an increasing tendency to rely upon received wisdom rather than to engage in thought. The degree to which a person is distanced or distances themselves from primary sources, which with their gaps require more work to synthesize knowledge from, may be the degree to which they are vulnerable to the deficits of received wisdom. In this sense, I suggest that received wisdom is a proxy for thought. Once one outsources thought -- all bets are off.

As to the question of Dr. Seuss:

I agree that it is undesirable to seek to eliminate offense. It is intrinsic to liberal democracy, if not thought itself.

As to private companies:

This comes up a lot at Persuasion. I wonder if the desire to keep intruding upon private domains stems from a under-examined surrender of the public sphere. It came up in the conversation about Twitter censorship, and the amount of resistance to the observation that a private company is not the public square was alarming.

This was particularly true given the person I was going back and forth with on the question was a lawyer!

I don't know that the seizing of the private sphere is the answer. Why not cultivate the public sphere? Why is it not even considered? That a retail store controls a large part of the market is an anti-trust question. That is the answer. Enforce the law.

Do not, do not, do not, try to solve the problem by slowly or quickly trying to seize the private sphere.

As to letting books disappear:

Given that I believe that the moral panic being conducted in the service of a power grab, I think that part of these stabs are performative. In other words, part of the exercise of a power-grab is to grab power. If one is unsure of the outcome of an outright revolution, one incrementally revolts. These little plays seem as much of a test of the boundaries as they are of an expansion of the boundaries. A boil-the-frog-slowly strategy?

As to state legislatures:

Are state legislatures telling teachers what to say, or are they telling teachers what they cannot say? The former seems illiberal, whereas the latter has sat neatly within liberal democracy almost since its inception.

As to racial identity:

It is a big topic, but the concern I detect is the compulsive prescriptive framing of a child's racial identity along ideological lines. This is pretty hard to accept as anything less than antithetical to the charter of a liberal democracy.

This is true in at least two ways: the replacement of the concept of individualism with collective identitarianism, and the notion that an individual is free to choose how to live their life with the idea of making prescriptive racial identity the context from within which an individual must live their life.

On the question of enormous pressure:

This is not a bug -- it is a feature. As an intellectually honest individual, this is a significant measure of the utility of public discourse. You have ideas to advance. When you do they will be tested. Having your ideas tested hurts. It hurts because some of the time, if not most, you will be wrong.

This is non-trivial, but it is not a bad thing, it is a good thing. On the other side, you are a better thinker and a better participant in public discourse.

On the question of moral equivalence:

Of what utility is the quest for moral equivalence absent a uniform conception of morality?

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Reason. That's the operative word here. Defend reason. As Rauch points out, it's only held sway for a brief sliver of human history. That era may be ending. If reasonable people leave the field, it will.

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The phenomenon of this 180˚ thinking is just as little new as the conviction of people that they are 200% in possession of the truth. However, it becomes threatening when this mindset becomes socially dominant and, eventually capable of gaining a majority, comes into possession of the instruments of political power. In retrospect, it is easy to see that fascism was able to assert itself democratically as the will of the majority. And the question of how this could happen cannot be answered if one disregards which social forces expected to benefit from it.

As correct as Yasha's call is to think as self-determinedly as differentiatedly and to swim courageously against the tide, it seems to me essential to find an answer to the question of which forces are driving the development so powerfully. Some will blame the inadequacies of human nature, others will discover the causes in the nature of monotheistic religions, still others will blame the driving forces of capital. Perhaps there is no either-or here. Perhaps it is a dangerous mixture of all these ingredients. Dangerous because this mixtum compositum has what it takes to really unfold its explosive effect only when we have all come to the conclusion that we must unite against a common enemy.

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You don't even need a majority. All you need is a powerful minority and a majority willing to shut up and not make waves out of fear, apathy, confusion, uncertainty, or all of the above.

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I'm afraid you're right. But that makes these fatal circumstances even more threatening.

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