Please help identify this passage about right-wing political discourse
July 6, 2018 1:00 PM   Subscribe

There's a quote from somewhere I've seen a few times now, I think in the political megathreads on Metafilter and elsewhere, that discusses the fundamental difficulty of arguing with certain right-wing groups because you (the hypothetical arguer) are attempting to engage in good faith while they are not. [CW: 2018 politics]

I thought it was Umberto Eco or maybe Camus or somebody, in the context of recognizing and dealing with fascism. But it doesn't seem to be in Eco's Ur-Fascism article at least, and my google-fu seems to be failing me.

It's essentially the same point as has been attributed to Karl Rove, the "reality-based community" bit, but it's definitely a separate instance of this idea, a multi-paragraph passage by a single author. Does this sound familiar at all?

For context -- was recently having a discussion with a friend about the value of engaging with people on the other side of the political spectrum. He made some good points and I agree in principle that understanding the other side's motivation and reaching common ground is a great idea. My position was that we've reached a point where common ground is no longer possible in many cases, because the other side is not attempting to engage in good faith and we no longer share a consensus reality, and that the time and energy we might spend engaging with those folks would be better spent elsewhere. And in fact that this failure to engage in good faith is itself a cynical strategy to keep good-faith arguers engaged in a pointless exercise while the bad-faith folks continue advancing their own agenda.

I'd like to identify the specific passage I had in mind here, at least to confirm that I didn't just imagine the whole thing, but if you have similar passages or other resources that are relevant to these kinds of discussions, specifically around the point at which diminishing returns start to apply to one's efforts to find common ground, please feel free to share. However I definitely don't want to turn this into an offshoot of the megathreads, so if your main inclination is to weigh in with yes-i-agree / no-i-don't / grar-everything-is-terrible please feel free to meet me in the current megathread or the fucking fuck thread or just ping me by memail if you like. Thanks!
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape to Society & Culture (4 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Are you thinking of the quote by Jean Paul-Sartre?

“Never believe that anti-Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti-Semites have the right to play. They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert. If you press them too closely, they will abruptly fall silent, loftily indicating by some phrase that the time for argument is past.”
posted by tllaya at 1:13 PM on July 6, 2018 [59 favorites]

Oh god, how did I miss that? Yes I believe that's it tllaya, thanks very much! I think I was probably focused on the political framing and forgot that it was more specifically about anti-Semitism. Also I can never seem to keep my French existentialists straight.

(Well normally if this were an askme about fun stuff I'd say, anyone please feel free to add your own favorites or whatever... given the context and the ongoing terribleness and toxicity of everything related to 2018 politics though, maybe it'd be better not to.)
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 1:26 PM on July 6, 2018

There is also the Jonathan Swift corollary: "Reasoning will never make a Man correct an ill Opinion, which by Reasoning he never acquired.." i.e. You can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into...
posted by Jacob G at 7:16 PM on July 6, 2018 [10 favorites]

This is also very close to Popper's "Tolerance Paradox" - if you are tolerant without limit, the intolerant will use that to defeat you:
posted by scolbath at 10:59 AM on July 7, 2018 [2 favorites]

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