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    « Racism, Unchanged | Main | How to Talk to a Far-Right-Winger »

    How to Talk to a Far-Left-Winger

    Normally I don’t take requests, but the feedback from my last post, “How to Talk to a Far-Right-Winger,” was so strong that it seems only fair I respond.

    If you’ve read that last post, then you likely already know what response I’ll give to this post’s titular statement: “Don’t.” I give this answer for the same reason I advised people not to waste time with a far-right-winger: You aren’t going to change a single mind, a single opinion.

    It’s much harder to see far-left-wingers because they haven’t, as a group, organized and succeeded with the fervency of the far right. But that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Going all the way back to 2011 (when I first started the Twitter experiment that led to Chasing Glenn Beck), I found it easy to find far-lefters that were just as angry, just as recalcitrant, just as vicious and crude as any far-righter—and just as willing to ignore facts and figures that might jeopardize their bubbled utopian visions. At the time, I wrote this:

    When I separate content from tone, it’s clear to me that the right is simply nicer than the left. The left is where I found nearly all of the foul language and most of the name-calling, where dismissive attitudes were punctuated with just-plain-rudeness. Many sounded like Little League parents who were really, really pissed off at the umpire and had decided to throw beer bottles on the field while their kids stared on in disbelief. Such behavior exists on the right, but…I’ve found that the ratio is completely inverted from what I had primed myself for.

    In the four years since my opinion has moderated somewhat; my ad hoc analysis (i.e., my gut) suggests that things are pretty much even-up in the who-can-be-a-bigger-jackass contest.

    So yes, they exist. But how do I identify them?

    My first clue is often the so-called “GMO debate.” There’s some pretty clear science indicating that GMOs are safe, unless you’re a far-left-winger, in which case there isn’t. Ironically, these same people will argue that the science of climate change is settled (it is) and the science of vaccination is settled (it is, too). But not the one they don’t like.

    My second hint is the undeniable (and compulsive) belief that companies are fundamentally evil, while conveniently forgetting that “evil” is a people trait and that companies aren’t people (despite what SCOTUS says). Also, they seem to want lots of these corporate leaders in jail, thrust into the same system that they claim puts too many people in jail (it does), but which apparently is no longer a concern as long as the right people get put there.

    Those two hints, though, aren’t near enough to convince me that I’ve accidentally engaged with a far-left-winger. Many would argue, in fact, that what I’ve so far described is just routine, walk-in-the-park liberal thinking.  The real test for me is when I notice a desire for some good-old-fashioned wholesale anarchism, a desire to take a collectivist approach; to unionize everything that’s not nailed down (as if all unions are equally wonderful and can do no harm); to nationalize banks, utilities, and health care; to dismantle the military; and to guarantee not just opportunity (a good thing), but equivalency, as if all people were the same, with the same skills, drive, and talent. 

    Sometimes the conversation is even punctuated with cartoonish “burn-it-down” language or a wistful sigh over what Occupy Whatever might have been. And, on top of it all, there’s the absolutely silly belief that such a system would somehow be better, stable, and fair—a notion that completely ignores the fact that there are greedy and evil and bitter people in any system just waiting to emerge into positions of power.

    How do you even begin to discuss such a worldview rationally?

    And so, back to my original answer. If you find yourself talking to far-left-winger, you’re pretty much wasting your time and breath.

    I want to add another note though, and an important one. There is no attempt here at creating a false equivalency because that’s exactly what it would be: False.

    There is no way—NO way—that the farthest of the far left is anything like the farthest of the far right. The former seems annoying while it once in a while manages to get something done, while the latter is dangerous. The right is so listed, so skewed, so radically outrageous when compared to the far left that any attempt at equivalency is rather like comparing a mosquito bite to a swift and vicious testicular whomping. One’s a bit of an itch you feel compelled to scratch at while the other is so devastating you wonder whether you’ll ever sire children (provided you can even manage to get up off the floor). Not the same thing. Not at all.

    Don’t believe me? Then let me ask you this one question: How many elected far-leftists are there in Congress these days?  (And note the use of the word “far.”) There are leftists, certainly. Likely all the Democrats are certainly left of center (else why would they be Democrats?), but you have to go all the way to Bernie Sanders to find an actual socialist. Some might argue Elizabeth Warren is pretty far tilted (I might even argue it myself), but there is nothing—NOTHING—equivalent to the Ted Cruz’s, Marco Rubio’s, and Rand Paul’s of the Senate, nor to any member of the recently formed (and ironically named) “Freedom Caucus.”

    So for those who requested the “other side” of my original essay, here you go. But don’t think for a minute I’m letting the far-righters off the hook. Far from it. I expect to continue pushing that hook in as far as it will go.

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    Reader Comments (12)

    So the only thing that gets me is the equivalency statement. No, not everyone has equal drive. But that doesn't mean that every rich bastard does either. Most people in the world with any kind of real wealth were in fact born with it. So no, it's not fair that some snot nosed brat gets to start the game with thousands of average lifetimes worth of resources, while other, more worthy people, slave their whole lives just to buy a little house. If they're lucky. It is a truth that the human dynastic ambition must be braked before we can advance as a species. Even in this modern democratic civilization, people everywhere try to create little empires.

    April 6, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph Hunt

    Geez, buddy. Your article is really weak. Here's why.

    1) The issues around GMO are far more complex than your assertions. GMOs are labelled in Europe by law in a manner that is not even in consideration in the US. There are many, many reasons for legitimate concerns about GMOs in addition to the overt "GMOs are bad." First of all, you need to actually think about the matter. WHO is producing GMO seed? Largely one corporation, Monsanto. As you should know, GMOs are modified in order to be non-resistant to one chemical, Roundup, which Monsanto also makes. Roundup is the same chemical we all put on our yards to kill weeds - the stuff they warn you not to expose your dog to, or you to. The same stuff they say you should never get on your skin. Or breathe. That stuff. GMOs are modified to non-resistant to Round Up, so farmers can spray the field and kill everything but the Round Up resistant crop.

    The large majority of Round Up resistant GMO crops are grown for one purpose: to feed the giant meat industry: beef, pork and corn. These industries, in turn, support one other mega-business: fast food. Fast food and its mindset, where everything is Super Sized, is the largest reason Americans are overweight, which causes a myriad of health issues from heart disease to diabetes. It IS a BIG issue, literally and figuratively.

    It should be obvious to you that the organic/good food business is very, very popular in the US. It's popular for good reason. People look at their fellow Americans and see them suffering and dropping dead from a rafter of illnesses, cancer specifically, that other countries don't have to the degree we do. Many of us have concluded that the old adage, "you are what you eat" makes common sense, particularly in the face of our poor national health and skyrocketing healthcare costs. We have the largest per capita healthcare costs in the world, more than double any other first world country in the world. And we die earlier as well. The extreme healthcare costs are also the fault of for-profit corporations that control the healthcare business.

    So concerns about GMOs are wide-ranging. They are also clearly quite rational, unlike your argument.

    This dovetails onto the 2nd point about corporations.

    To fail to see the shadow of American super-corporations in my arguments above about GMOs and food would be blind. Yes, corporations are made by people. But, like any fiction, like, say, a board game, this fictional person DOES have a character. It DOES have form. And there is a sense to this form.

    All for-profit corporations are, after all FOR profit. That means one thing: they are designed to make their pile of money as large as possible, at all cost. Secondly, publicly held corporations are designed to do one thing only: maximize profits for shareholders. Period. To the exclusion of anything else.

    Corporations are designed, as well, BY LAW, to jettison risk at every turn. If they can make something, pollute a river, and get away with it, without paying the clean up costs, they will. In fact, they MUST. If their leaders have to become total assholes to raise profits and make more and more money, so be it.

    It should not be difficult to see the necessarily selfish heart of the corporate form. It it about ITSELF ALONE, to the exclusion of any REAL people's needs. It has been well said that the corporate form enables sociopaths to be viewed as a "success". All one has to do is watch "The Apprentice" and its dullard host, Donald Trump, to be able to see the epitome of such a model, with his sycophant kids surrounding him to tell daddy, "Yes, you're right" no matter what he does.

    Does the word "evil" come up in YOUR mind when pondering these clear facts? If not evil, then what OTHER words arise? Selfish? Mindless? Shortsighted? Sociopathic? Delusional?

    April 6, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJR

    GMO comes in two sizes, plants that can live with less water, and those with Roundup Weed killer inside the cells, which we eat. Now inserting DNA from one plant into another, is not hybridization. Since American GMO food can not be shipped to even China, for animal food, I'm still researching. You can stop washing food before you eat it if you think about it, the weed/bug killer is inside for your kidney to deal with.
    Want to narrow down the left/right thing? People on the left can learn, change their minds, and not loose sleep over it.

    April 6, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterincognito-ergo-sum

    JR, can you substantiate any of your claims? A quick Google search shows nothing of the sort re: general rates of cancer in the US vs. Europe:

    If you're going to make wild assertions in opposition to the established science about GMO food, you need to provide some evidence. Otherwise, you're just as bad as anti-vaxxers or right wing talk show hosts, thinking that you're right only if you shout loudly enough or believe strongly enough. Science doesn't work that way.

    April 6, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKyle

    Which claims? My claims about cancer? I live in the US. AS your own reference shows, there are many, many other countries with lower cancer rates . My statement was:
    "People look at their fellow Americans and see them suffering and dropping dead from a rafter of illnesses, cancer specifically, that other countries don't have to the degree we do."
    Your reference has the US rate at 335 cases/100,000
    Canada - 325; Israel, 303.7; Norway 299; France 315; UK 280; Japan 247

    If you want to imagine the pesticide-laced food is better for you, have at it. There were no "wild assertions" in anything I wrote. Apparently you can't even read your own links, Kyle. Try reading. You might actually learn something.

    I'm sure there are places you can now find that will aid in taking your foot out of your mouth.

    April 6, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJR

    To claim that all GMO's are bad because one company does bad things with them is not valid. There is nothing inherently bad or evil about GMO's, just like there is nothing inherently bad or evil about nuclear technology. The problem is that the biggest player in the GMO world is using the technology irresponsibly in order to increase its profits. Railing against Monsanto makes sense, railing against GMO technology doesn't.

    April 6, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGene

    It's also not valid to claim they have NO negative value when ALL that we can see right now IS the work of one company, Monsanto. Here in the US, farmers are being sued by Monsanto for storing seed - a practice that is as old as agriculture itself. Monsanto admits doing so:

    Monsanto has huge control in the US government. They have former employees working in the FDA:

    To fail to see a problem here is myopic. In a few short decades, a relatively small number of corporations have had a radical influence on all life on earth, Monsanto included. Through the rapid evolution of banking, largely spurred here in the US, we all saw how a handful of profiteers moved the entire world economy to near collapse in 2008 that threatened the entire world. Nothing has changed since. Monsanto acts no differently than any other corporation - hence the problem. GMOs are a symptom; I have no intentions of ignoring the symptom OR the disease.

    April 6, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJR

    The Union of Concerned Scientists has a very balanced review of the pros and cons of GMO technology. I'd suggest having a look at it. There are actually inherent problems with GE technology, and not just with the way it's used by Monsanto. I completely understand that most of the science shows that the health impacts of GMOs are either insignificant or nonexistent (and there are indeed some people out there who just don't accept that, which is a problem), but to completely flip to the other side of the coin and fervently defend GMO technology to the death as if there's no concerns about it whatsoever is just as intellectually dishonest.

    April 6, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoel

    "There’s some pretty clear science indicating that GMOs are safe..."

    I won't add the fray much, except to add this: "...though the pesticides they put on GMO-resistant crop plants are not." Let's not forget the reason why most GMO crops are out there: to enable pesticide application in large doses. Now, with the effectiveness of Glyphosate on the wane, as you undoubtedly know, the USDA and EPA have given the green light to 2,4,D-resistant GMO crops.

    There's a reason why more and more of us are going Organic. We are neither all fringe kooks, nor all mean, rude and angry. (And on the occasions when we are outraged, that's often because we are paying attention.)

    April 6, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPeterTHooper

    I have to disagree about your GMO assertion, since GMOs, especially corn, soybeans, wheat and cotton, are legally registered as pesticides - NOT foods, and scientists NOT linked to Monsanto or other pharma/chemical companies are finding cancer and genetic dangers in eating or drinking GMOs over a period of time. I also disagree with your vaccine assertion because as 'fillers' and 'activators' for the non-live viruses in vaccines - the use of arsenic and mercury is well known, both of which can lead to brain damage and nerve damage. Bernie Sanders has often been right on the money about the republican party and what they are up to, and he has done a lot for veterans and the middle class and poorer citizens of this country, even if he calls himself a socialist. Far left wingers are truly a lot more harmless than right wingers are or ever could be, and the right wing is destroying this country from without and within, even committing treason against our Constitution and President.

    April 7, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterauntienanny

    If GMO is so safe, why not let GMO foods be labelled? And, why not (Monsanto!) publicize raw data? And, if GMO is so safe, why not make the case before the public in advertizement, while letting clearly GMO-labelled foods compete on an even footing in the marketplace?

    You can't have it both ways, GMO folks!

    April 10, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPeterTHooper

    JR, Joel, auntienanny et al. ,
    I highly recommend you listen to this debate:

    April 13, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Z

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