Pluralistic: Incomplete vs. overshoot (26 Feb 2024)

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Incomplete vs. overshoot (permalink)

You know the "horseshoe theory," right? "The far-left and the far-right, rather than being at opposite and opposing ends of a linear continuum of the political spectrum, closely resemble each other, analogous to the way that the opposite ends of a horseshoe are close together":

It's a theory that only makes sense if you don't know much about the right and the left and what each side wants out of politics.

Take women's suffrage. The early suffragists ("suffragettes" in the UK) were mostly interested in votes for affluent, white women – not women as a body. Today's left criticizes the suffrage movement on the basis that they didn't go far enough:

Contrast that with Christian Dominionists – the cranks who think that embryos are people (though presumably not for the purpose of calculating a state's electoral college vote? Though it would be cool if presidential elections turned on which side of a state line a fertility clinic's chest-freezer rested on):

These people are part of a far-right coalition that wants to abolish votes for women. As billionaire far-right bagman Peter Thiel wrote that he thought it was a mistake to let women vote at all:

Superficially, there's some horseshoe theory action going on here. The left thinks the suffragists were wrong. The right thinks they were wrong, too. Therefore, the left and the right agree!

Well, they agree that the suffragists were wrong, but for opposite reasons – and far, far more importantly, they totally disagree about what they want. The right wants a world where no women can vote. The left wants a world where all women can vote. The idea that the right and the left agree on women's suffrage is, as the physicists say, "not even wrong."

It's the kind of wrong that can only be captured by citing scripture, specifically, A Fish Called Wanda, 6E, 79: "The central message of Buddhism is not 'Every man for himself.' And the London Underground is not a political movement. Those are all mistakes, Otto. I looked them up."

Or take the New Deal. While the New Deal set its sites on liberating workers from precarity, abuse and corruption, the Dealers – like the suffragists – had huge gaps in their program, omitting people of color, indigenous people, women, queer people, etc. There are lots of leftists who criticize the New Deal on this basis: it didn't go far enough:

But for the past 40 years, America has seen a sustained, vicious assault on New Deal programs, from Social Security to Medicare to food stamps to labor rights to national parks, funded by billionaires who want to bring back the Gilded Age and turn us all into forelock-tugging plebs:

If you only view politics as a game of elementary school cliques, you might say that the left and the right are meeting again. The left says Roosevelt got it wrong with the New Deal (because he left out so many people). The right says FDR was wrong for doing the New Deal in the first place. Therefore, the left and the right agree, right?

Obviously wrong. Obviously. Again, the important thing is why the left and the right think the New Deal deserves criticism. The important thing is what the left and the right want. The left wants universal liberation. The right wants us all in economic chains. They do not agree.

It's not always just politics, either. Take the old, good internet. That was an internet defined by technological self-determination, a wild and wooly internet where there were few gatekeepers, where disfavored groups could find each other and make common cause, where users who were threatened by the greed of the shareholders behind big services could install blockers, mods, alternative clients and other "adversarial interoperability" tools that seized the means of computation.

Today's enshitternet – "five giant websites, filled with screenshots of the other four" (h/t @TVEastman) – is orders of magnitude more populous than that old, good internet. The enshitternet has billions of users, and they are legally – and technologically – prevented from taking any self-help measures when the owners of services change them to shift value from users to themselves:

The anti-enshittification movement rightly criticizes the old, good internet because it wasn't inclusive enough. It was a system almost exclusively hospitable to affluent, privileged people – the people who least needed the liberatory power of technology.

Likewise pro-enshittification monopolists – billionaires and their useful idiots – deplore the old, good internet because it gave its users too much power. For them, ad-blocking, alternative clients, mods, reverse-engineering and so on were all bugs, not features. For them, the enshitternet is great because businesses can literally criminalize taking action to protect yourself from their predatory impulses:

Superficially, it seems like the pro- and anti-enshittification forces agree – they both agree that the old, good internet was a mistake. But the difference that matters here is that the pro-enshittification side wants everyone mired in the enshitternet forever, living with what @Saurik calls "Felony contempt of business-model." By contrast, the disenshittification side wants a new, good internet that gives every user – not just a handful of techies – the power to decide how the digital systems they work use, and to be able to alter or reconfigure them to suit their own needs.

The horsehoe theory only makes sense if you don't take into account the beliefs and goals of each side. Politics aren't just a matter of who you agree with on a given issue – the real issue is what you're trying to accomplish.

Hey look at this (permalink)

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This day in history (permalink)

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#5yrsago Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will pay every staffer a living wage, ending the longstanding practice of Congressional staffers taking second jobs

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#1yrago This is your brain on fraud apologetics

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"When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla" -Joey "Accordion Guy" DeVilla

It’s my hypothesis that “horseshoe theory” is a disingenuous ploy by the right to a) try and prevent centrists from moving left, and b) to try and instill a sense of futility in the moderate left in the hope that they disengage from the political process.

After all, “They are just as bad we are” and “We are both the same, in many ways, you and I”, are famously the apologetic self-justifying pleas of the “bad guys” in myths and stories since time immemorial. (Or “look, both sides are just as bad as each other” is the call of the bad guys’ plant pretending to be a non-committed bystander.)

OTOH, so far as “horseshoe theory” has any truth at all, I think there is a tendency for extremists on any axis to tend towards populism and authoritarianism, and that’s definitely something to be wary of. I’m sure most people could come up with a number of authoritarian supposedly right- and left- wing leaders from the last 100 years without too much difficulty. But I think one side of the spectrum is openly a lot more in favour of one group of people amassing influence and making their way to the top of the pile while others flounder at the bottom, whereas the other… shouldn’t be.

Magnitude and direction!

However, they don’t have to be the same for me to disagree with both of them! :metal:

Horseshoe theory has always been the domain of smug centrists who are wedded to both the status quo and the both sides fallacy, and it’s also yet another way to flatten a myriad of competing takes on a variety of subjects into a single, monolithic "with us or against us " expression.

One bit of nuance that seems to be missing from the comments section is the difference between left and right as Cory was using them, e.g. FDR New Deal vs. Reaganomics, as opposed to say Neolib Democrat vs. GOP Republican.

Some people seem to think the groups at either end (respectively) of those spectrums (assuming for the sake of argument they are both indeed spectrums) are the same, but the realities of what has happened to money in politics, corporate personhood, and hyper-monopolization in the intervening 40+ years would like a word.

I’m 100% in agreement with Cory’s argument as he applied it. If you want to start applying it to the current moment and our current political reality in the U.S. though… we need to talk. Biden is obviously and objectively not Trump, but when you want to argue against Horseshoe Theory and say there aren’t disturbing similarities between our political parties and many of our elected officials, regardless of the D or R next to their name, we need to dig deeper.

I find it instructive to understand the degree to which the sides of government that oligarchy bought are “not the same” by looking at the (very few these days) “bipartisan” bills they pass, which if you’ve been paying attention are often hopelessly out of touch and self-serving, or gigantic “must pass” omnibus bills full of horrifying riders which is where the real sausage gets made (and they make good on their true employers’ investments). These are the kinds of bills that have AOC tweeting out what a disgrace it is that she had to vote for it, or Bernie sitting on the steps outside looking utterly defeated. This is directly to Cory’s point, what are they trying to accomplish. Through that lens the message is loud, clear, and unified. They are bought and paid for.

“Ah, but when the queen proclaims one king and the Hand another, whose peace do they protect?” Lord Petyr flicked at the dagger with his finger, setting it spinning in place. When at last it slowed to a stop, the blade pointed at Littlefinger. “Why, there’s your answer. They follow the man who pays them.”

George R. R. Martin, A Song of Ice and Fire, chapter XII

They can loudly blast on social media all their ideological differences and cosplay as New Deal Democrats or Reagan Republicans all they want. They can make very long, impressive, and almost convincing state of the union addresses where they keep promising a slightly worse version of what they promised four years ago and still didn’t deliver (while almost managing to convince us they aren’t octagenarions), but words are wind. What I really care about is what they actually do. They can point fingers at one another about why we can’t have nice things, but you would be a fool to believe it. We can’t have nice things because the people funding the super PACs don’t want us to have nice things.

The culture wars are a distraction (don’t misunderstand me, a distraction with very real victims) and while some of these perps no doubt have true ideological goals (the scariest ones, our future -Adolf Hitlers- EDIT: IG Farbens, the OG PE firm), there is one ideology they can all get behind: SHOW ME THE MONEY.

Until you fix that, nothing will mend.

This isn’t Nihilism, it’s a call for demanding more and better. It’s not enough that Biden isn’t Trump, not by a light year. Of course we’re going to vote blue no matter who, but if this is actually a democracy then please, let’s discuss the blue who and make sure Horton isn’t out of his gorram’d mind. The American people are being conned one election after another in the greatest demonstration of anchoring the world has ever seen. We’re so afriad of the alternative that the rest doesn’t even matter anymore.

I’m not a smug centrist because the center of greed cosplaying as a good guy and greed cosplaying as a bad guy is still just greed and I don’t believe those are my only two choices. If we do, then we’ve lost before we’ve begun because we’re playing a rigged game. Stop playing the game. It starts with being able to talk about literally anything besides the game and not just trying to silence or dismiss anyone like me is a good first step.

EDIT: go read which I hadn’t before I wrote this but it makes the point better than I ever could’ve.

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