Another Armitage retweet

Screen shot 2016-06-25 at 6.53.00 PMThis was the article linked. I have mixed feelings about this type of argumentation (see post on “when empathy is a lie,” regarding Trump voters).

~ by Servetus on June 26, 2016.

12 Responses to “Another Armitage retweet”

  1. This article sums up my feelings pretty much exactly.


    • I dunno, calling the people you disagree with part of a “lizard brain” is pretty inflammatory. It is the author’s right to do that, naturally.

      To me this kind of writing is symptomatic of what I called “when empathy is a lie” a few days ago, even if the author is not friendly to people with whom they disagree. People thinking they understand why people did something and then slamming the view without really trying to understand the reasons for it. (Not saying you are doing this — saying that is what the article does).

      Part of the problem in this whole discourse is that the British national media commentaries that I have seen seem to be excluding the voice of the ordinary people who actually voted Leave (I don’t mean pundits, here). I would really like to see an open piece from one of the people who are constantly criticized in these articles as uninformed, xenophobic, infected with false nostalgia (which the author of this article is as well). Everyone talks about other people who allegedly have these views but I’m not seeing any commentary in a national or international outlet that actually espouses it.


      • Here you go:

        They’re not “lizard brains” but they are motivated by fear, a nostalgia that is unique to their white pasts, their own self-interests, their entitlement, their lack of wealth, jealousy over London, and unshakeable optimism in the future and the Labour Party, which is presently tearing itself apart, and a contrarianism streak.

        They do have legitimate concerns about immigration policy but I don’t know if they are capable of being persuaded by reason or whether their intuitive response – “they took our jobs, our houses” – is stronger.

        These are “ordinary people” but so are the people who are posting “Polish vermin” signs.


        • Thanks for the link. I saw the article. (Guardian reader)

          I don’t think that pro-Leave voters are the only people in Britain motivated by (false) nostalgia. Or in the world for that matter. I say this as someone who’s spent years on history. Nostalgia is a part of political discourse that does not distinguish among its victims. I have a nostalgia for a particularly multi-cultural and somewhat crunchy moment of the 1970s that is quite obviously not shared among most Americans. Nonetheless, I have to live in a country with them and make political decisions with them.

          I’m not glorifying the views of the average Leave voter. I’m just saying that I don’t find them accurately represented in most of the respectable press. (That is a problem in the US, as well.) And as long as that continues, the problem with “anti-elitism” will continue. I’m as horrified by actual xenophobia (Polish vermin signs) as anyone, at least. As long as there is little representation of what actually moves these voters, there will be no understanding at all of whether or how they could be moved. It’s always much easier to talk with our picture of our opponents than it is with our actual opponents, who behave in unexpected ways and don’t conform to our expectations.


      • You have hit upon something that I think is very close to the heart of the problem. People who voted to leave have tended to be older, more rural and not educated to such a high level (I am not trying to be disparaging here, I think this is backed up by the statistics.) And guess what, their viewpoints are not well represented in the media. They don’t tend to write thinkpieces in newspapers or get interviewed on TV politics shows. We as a society have not been listening to those who have been badly hit by austerity politics and this is our payback. The incident that sums it up is when Gordon Brown was cornered by a woman who wanted to discuss immigration and he dismissed her as a “bigoted woman” as a way of shutting down the debate. That should have warned the political class that the electorate were beginning to blame their woes on immigration. Political opportunists took advantage of this to further their own careers (looking at you, Boris Johnson) and here we are. The trouble is that I think this vote will worsen economic conditions (stock market down, pound down, loss of access to single market meaning businesses will leave UK) and possibly cause a recession making things even worse for the average voter .I really don’t know where we go from here, but I suggest that politicians start properly listening to voters and addressing their concerns instead of demonising those who disagree with them.
        I spent the weekend at a barbecue with friends and tried hard to listen to the reasons of those who voted leave and not express my anger by calling names etc. but it’s hard not to attribute blame when you feel a massive mistake has just been made.


        • re: Gordon Brown, I blogged about that at the time. Funny to reread this now as my mood has changed so much over the years.

          I have a Trump voter more or less in my pocket and it’s very hard sometimes because we talk so much about politics in my family. It’s complicated by the fact that some people can really articulate a reason for voting for Trump and some cannot, they are just responding to their feelings, and this person is in the latter category. So I acknowledge that not everyone voted Leave has comprehensible, rational reasons for doing so — but those people still get votes.


  2. Nostalgia – I agree. Somewhere I saw a reference to Barthes’ concept of myths. Ultimately while we are capable of recognizing that everybody has nostalgia we are always going to prefer our own version.

    As I tend to generalize, I think these 10 people people are probably are all white poor to working class. What percentage of the voting population are they? Will catering to them mean not addressing some other voting population I.e. Black poor to working class?
    I think two causes why they are not “accurately represented” in “respectable press” – (a) some of their views are too fringe to be addressed in “respectable press”; (b) they themselves are proud to be outside of the “respectable press”.
    I’m sure there are decent articles on some of their concerns – immigration, austerity, NHS – but if you showed those articles to these people they will probably not recognize their concerns about these issues as articulated, and may even take offence at the articulation as being too London, Starbucks expresso snobs (as one of them said).
    In order to engage in dialogue with these people there has to be a significant education competent invested in by political elites, which Labour did not do. How to explain why Sunderland who is dependent upon a foreign car manufacturer for jobs voting exit? Corbyn should have said to them that their worries about austerity would not be addressed if they voted brexit as they would be still stuck with a Tory government who never gave them anything in the first place. A leading Labour candidate to replace Corbyn is an ex-military guy because people think that disenchanted north labour voters will be more likely to listen to him then a London intellectual.
    In order to talk to our actual opponents, how much of ourselves do we have to suppress/repress for fear of offending them?


    • I would never say they aren’t responsible themselves for leaving the political mainstream, or that they should not be better informed. But for better or for worse they seem to be holding the UK and the world economy hostage at the moment. So if they are to vote as wished, they either need to somehow be brought back in, or something must happen to either remove or overpower their vote.

      If you’re asking about political education — all I can talk about is education in general, and in that sphere, the teacher will always be better informed and potentially more flexible than the student, but it usually doesn’t help the situation to let the student glimpse this difference fully. The teacher always has to be the “bigger person.” In that setting it’s always been my strategy to try as much as possible to be who the student needs me to be for them to learn something. I realize that is a very high demand. It has often meant, however, hiding significant pieces of myself that might be threatening to students’ notions of who a professor should be. In the classroom as in relationships, allowing oneself to display contempt is always the beginning of the end for learning (even if it can have shock value). So it’s important for a teacher to try not to feel contempt even if that would appear rational or justified under the circumstances.


  3. I agree, Serv. While I would never deny anyone the right to feel or express anger, the personal attacks and generalizations seem more likely to deepen divisions than promote understanding or healing. I feel the same about insults and generalizations toward Remain. Some leaders are going to need to be grown-ups and strike the right tone to. help with this. Hopefully pols or else people respected in some other arena.


    • You can see this in Armitage’s twitter feed right now — even a statement as innocuous as “let’s remind migrants that they are welcome here” gets greeted with “don’t call us racists” from some quarters. That’s not really a rational response, but the problem is that kind of sentiment is easily contagious.


      • Yes…. people can start anticipating insults even if none are forthcoming. Which unfortunately means they stop listening.


        • I never know how to resolve the difficulty between the statements “racism is happening here, you are doing / making /speaking racism” and “you are a racist.” I just read a page that collected over 100 incidents of harassment in England this weekend — people threatening or bullying or saying cruel things to people who they thought were not English / UKers.

          How I have usually handled that in a classroom, i.e., hothouse, situation is to make sure students who point this stuff out know the difference between “I have a problem with what you said” and “I have a problem with you.” One thing that blogging has taught me is that a lot of people in the world out there struggle with this distinction. Certainly they are not necessarily wrong (philosophically speaking) and yet saying one thing at least carries the possibility to defuse the situation. And there’s no reason any human should have to tolerate racist speech directed at them. It’s natural for someone in that situation to be angry and to respond with anger.

          [jumping issues a bit], it may be related to something that Bartlett really skewers in Love, Love, Love, which is this idea that a certain generation of Brits always got what they wanted because there was plenty and they can’t countenance any kind of perceived disruption to their privilege. I don’t know what to do about that but the angry method of calling out privilege gets us nowhere. If you say nothing we end up where we are, which is nowhere good.

          Liked by 1 person

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