[After writing this post I discovered a Scott Aaronson post with a similar theme. Needless to say his is 10 times better, and is the one to read if you only have time for one. And if you have time for both . . . well, you should reconsider how you allocate your time.]
The Chinese Cultural Revolution killed roughly 1,000,000 people. America’s version will kill approximately zero. So let’s get that off the table right away. Nonetheless, I’m beginning to understand why so many Chinese-Americans see a parallel between China’s Cultural Revolution and America’s PC insanity. Here’s J.K. Trotter:
At the same time, most of Altman’s frustration is self-imposed. True, there is a compelling argument to be made that a person should not be fired over their support of a particular political candidate; in the most abstract terms, nobody wants to live in a world where a person’s employment is threatened by their political beliefs, so long as those beliefs do not bear on their job performance. Whether or not this argument holds water for someone of Thiel’s stature and power is open for debate.
That doesn’t sound too unreasonable. But then it gets worse; he insists that Thiel should be removed from the board despite that high-minded rhetoric about freedom.
And then it gets even worse. Trotter then says that Sam Altman should resign if Thiel is not removed.
So let’s see. Not only should Trump be shunned for his appalling political views, an otherwise highly respected Silicon Valley entrepreneur who just happens to support Trump (along with 80 million other Americans) should also be shunned. And a person who despises Trump and works against him but who defends Thiel’s right to his own political views should also resign. Does that mean I should be shunned too? After all, I’m a guy who hates Trump, writing a post that defends a guy who hates Trump, who wrote a post defending a guy’s freedom to support Trump, who in turn supports Trump. And suppose my mother sticks up for me? Should she also be shunned?
It’s almost enough to make me vote . . . no, just kidding.
Question for Trotter. Which people on the left are beyond the pale? Suppose Thiel had supported Hugo Chavez? How about Castro? Mao? Pol Pot? Perhaps the degrees of separation could be calibrated to the awfulness of the left-winger:
Chavez: One degree of separation. (Corbyn, Sean Penn, etc.)
Castro: Two degrees of separation is still toxic.
Lenin: Three degrees of separation.
Mao: Four degrees of separation.
Pol Pot: Five degrees of separation.
Remember the Monty Python routine where there was a joke so funny that listeners died laughing? Now there are jokes so toxic that the listener (Billy Bush) gets fired. And in the comment section it gets even worse:
It’s ridiculous to argue that we should all just get along—that nobody can ever choose to stop associating with certain individuals or groups—in the name of some abstract ideal of comity. We should treat each other with respect, obviously, but if our politics doesn’t affect our actual lives, then it’s just an elaborate kind of sport.
So Trotter is saying what? That you should stop being friends with someone because you don’t like their politics? As a libertarian, I’d basically have no friends if I followed that rule. I certainly never dated any libertarians when I was younger. I have good friends who are borderline Marxists—who regard Hillary as a conservative. It doesn’t make me not want to associate with them. I recall one colleague who once defended China’s one child policy. That’s far worse than almost anything Trump’s proposed. (OK, except stealing Iraq’s oil.) I mean seriously, if we followed Trotter’s suggestion then what would it do to our society? And why is “comity” just an abstract ideal?
I would have thought that the belief that one should break up with friends over politics was some sort of shameful secret, like a preference for child pornography. I’m 61 year sold—has our society actually changed to where politics is splitting up friendships? Are we that immature?
At this point some silly commenter will always bring up the Nazi example. Obviously if your friend is advocating mass murder, that’s not acceptable. But there are millions of sweet little old ladies who plan to vote for Trump because they are Republicans, and lots of them are nicer people than am. I’m not going to shun them for having different views from me. Most people are well intentioned, they just disagree as to the best way of achieving a good society. Thiel seems very well intentioned, passionate in all the various political causes he engages in. I think Trump is more likely to get us into a nuclear war, but lots of his fans sincerely believe Hillary is more likely. Opinions differ.
BTW, like politics, religion is also not “a sport”. Should people be shunned for having a different religion? They often were 100 years ago in America. Haven’t we progressed? What about conservative Muslims—they believe some awful things. Should they also be shunned? And if so, how’s that different from Trump?
Liberals used to pride themselves with having more empathy for “the other”. I think there was even some truth to that claim. They were more likely to go to an independent film on what it’s like to be a black person in the inner city, or a Palestinian on the West Bank. But when it comes to politics it’s just the opposite. I find that right wingers have a much better understanding of why left wingers believe what they do, than vice versa.