This is a good piece and I know you're trying to be fair but as someone who spends a good deal of time on the right and left - it happens much more on the left. I don't know what that ultimately means but it's just an observation. Perhaps because the left believes its side to be the moral side while the right is the side pushing back against that notion.

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Maybe consider not only the perspective of the grandstander but also that of the audience. After all, if moral debates were solely happening in the dim lights of one’s living room, amongst friends over cocktails and snacks, the outrages would be limited. It is the over-sized audience courtesy of social media which promotes, eggs-on, and inflates the issues into deformed monsters. We need not only consider the grandstander but also the actions of the audience. Twitter put a teaching tool in play for its users when it developed the pop-up that questions a retweeted on whether they would like to read the article they are offering up to their followers. More thoughts here: https://home-economic.com/2020/12/03/the-role-of-the-audience/

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Moral grandstanding is a serious problem, particularly on the extreme left as Sasha Stone points out below. So I’m glad to see Tosi and Warkme taking it on. But it’s not so easy to identify as they think, and their do-nothing solution (“ignore them” and “don’t do it yourself”) will surely fail.

That solution is rightly contradicted by the well-known proverb, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing.” It is also contradicted by the example of the most famous moral grandstander of all − Senator Joe McCarthy of Communist-witch hunting fame.

On June 9, 1954, the 30th day of the Army–McCarthy hearings, watched by 80 million people, McCarthy continued his four years of immensely damaging grandstanding with an implicit charge that Fred Fisher was a Communist. Finally, someone took a strong public moral stand against him. The Army’s lawyer, Joseph Welch responded:

“Until this moment, Senator, I think I have never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. Fred Fisher is a young man who went to the Harvard Law School … and is starting what looks to be a brilliant career with us. …” And then came the still famous words that turned the tide against the 50’s red scare, “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”

Now compare this to Tosi and Warkme’s example. The angry attacker said that the hairstyle did not constitute “space buns” but “afro puffs,” and that the gamer was racist, and “If you’re not BIPOC, it’s not meant for ya. dumb bitches,” outdoing even Joe McCarthy for shear baseless vitriol.

The defender of the young gamer (who was innocent of any offense and only trying to brighten an online conversation) shot back, “You’re super privileged AF if your life is SO EASY that you can complain about crap like this [totally on point, in my view]. I wish my problems were as small as yours. Do better and strive to become less fragile.”

Now the defender was harsh and so with Joseph Welch. But both had good reason to be angry, while the “afro puffs” attacker had no legitimate reason for her verbal violence. And the defender did not accuse the aggressor of racism, the worst charge possible in the context, but only suggested she “strive to become less fragile,” an entirely constructive suggestion (and one that cleverly turned the tables on the “White Fragility” putdown).

To miss this extreme asymmetry, and see only the similarity of the attention-getting aspect of the two tweets, is like missing the difference between witch-hunting and defending the innocent.

The angry cultural revolutionaries of the extreme left are not going to vanish because we remain silent. In fact, our silence is their primary objective.

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Grandstanding accelerates the moralizing of politics and effectively shuts up those who disagree. I see this process in my university classes often. Left to their own devices, students who represent the most "cutting edge" progressive position on every issue stake out the acceptable viewpoint and amplify each other. Students who disagree or are uncertain remain silent. I ask questions that suggest there may be other legitimate positions to take on the issue. Or I ask the group how they would process information that seems to complicate some aspect of their argument. The silent students often tell me later about having learned that a view they held was unacceptable through some unpleasant experience with their peers. After that, they report, they keep those views to themselves.

The fact that I invite all perspectives doesn't change this dynamic; there's too much at stake for students in admitting that they hold an unwelcome view or even that they haven't yet decided what they think. In the world these young adults inhabit, there's only Left and Right. Right's wrong, Left is right, and the moralizing grandstanders keep everyone in line.

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Great article. But I think that grand standing is not the only path towards extreme views. Also what is believed to be extreme views are also subjective. For instance, let us assume that at some point in history a culture/society exists without having a police force. If you happen to visit this society and your native society has had a police force since time forgotten you'll find the views of the other society extreme, but they on the other hand would think the idea of a police force would be extreme.

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Thanks for that very thoughtful piece. Let me suggest one way to detect moral grandstanding both in what we receive and in our own statements. If a comment simply condemns without otherwise providing a response to whatever is at issue, if it advances no argument, it is probably a case of moral grandstanding as you define it, but regardless, it doesn't merit a response for there really is nothing to respond to. As to detecting it in oneself, one should first of all read a response carefully before sending it with the thought in mind, Am I

responding to advance the conversation or to present something that the other person might not have considered or to try and understand the other person's viewpoint. If the honest answer to all three questions is no, you probably shouldn't send it.

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