Thursday, May 24, 2012

My comments at CT are gone; I'm surprised they even made it.

Henry's favored literary critic is George Scialabba, who prefers Shaw to Shakespeare. He's a petty moralist. ["Geo's" response is still up and the original discussion is here] What are Intellectuals Good For? is a defense of intellectuals, not novelists or literature. Both Farrell and Bertram have made arguments against full free speech rights. Eric Rauchway defended academic freedom as more important than free speech because historically it preceded it. Henry is still uncomfortable with adversarialism; the word doesn't appear in the piece. Habermasian blablabla is no more than an attempt to extend polite technocratic discussion to the larger sphere, but drag queens and hustlers marched for gay rights long before earnest liberals or responsible leftists did, and no one at CT, even now, has had anything interesting to say about Israel and Palestine. [As always when making a point about the ME to earnest Habermasians, I link only to Jewish critics, or Christian pacifists. Angry Arabs give liberals an easy out.]
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Duncan Black
The basic lefty-liberal critique is that, for whatever reason, Dems are always playing in the Right's rhetorical playground, aiming their argument at David Brooks and Joe Scarborough. Sometimes you just do the right thing, and people might get on board with it.
Black's post is titled "Leadership". The embedded link is to Michelangelo Signorile.

Signorile
The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll shows that in the wake of President Obama's support for marriage equality, opposition to it is at an all-time low, at 39 percent. For the first time, strong support exceeds strong opposition. Moreover, there is now greater support for marriage equality among African Americans -- a whopping 59 percent -- than in the general population, breaking long-held stereotypes.

Look at that: Leadership happens.

And there's a lesson here for all progressives -- and for the Obama campaign. We were told by the Democratic strategists and the campaign pollsters, the Democratic establishment, that coming out for marriage equality would be harmful to the president. The establishment pundits, gay and straight, were defending the White House, giving the president a pass, as were the establishment gay groups. The DNC's openly gay treasurer, Andy Tobias, continually defended the president's record and continually predicted disaster if he were to go further on LGBT rights.

But the opposite has happened.
Henry Farrell titles a post: Cognitive Democracy
Over the last couple of years, Cosma Shalizi and I have been working together on various things, including, inter alia, the relationship between complex systems, democracy and the Internet. These are big unwieldy topics, and trying to think about them systematically is hard. Even so, we’ve gotten to the point where we at least feel ready to start throwing stuff at a wider audience, to get feedback on what works and what doesn’t. Here’s a paper we’re working on, which argues that we should (for some purposes at least), think of markets, hierarchy and democracy in terms of their capacity to solve complex collective problems, makes the case that democracy will on average do the job a lot better than the other two ways, and then looks at different forms of collective information processing on the Internet as experiments that democracies can learn from.
The market is one form of adversarialism, the courtroom is another, with the system of the latter not only regulated but as formal as a tennis match. The refusal to see adversarialism as central to democracy weakens democracy.

Philosophers descend from theologians and in their public form, as technocrats, from the European model of Investigating Magistrates. Philosophers of democracy, the descendants of philosophers of monarchy, fantasize a populace of enlightened beings or of flawed beings serving an enlightened or an enlightening machine. [See the tags below for reference.] The model for democracy is not theology but theater and the theatrics of a courtroom. Prosecutor and defense attorney are collaborators only in conflict. Blacks, women and sexual minorities did not gain their rights by friendly collaboration with the larger public or with power.

The issue isn't leadership as such but the willingness to follow principle and push. In fact Obama could have lead but didn't. He was pushed by accident, when Biden stumbled.

I'll read Farrell and Shalizi this afternoon, but I doubt their previous simple, self-serving, professorial and technocratic preference for collaboration has changed at all.
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It's changed, but not enough. And like Duncan Black, Henry forgets his own history.

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