Monday, February 24, 2014

The Nice-Guy Trap

I was going to take today off from blogging, but perhaps fortunately, I stumbled across an exceptionally important piece from James Delingpole:

In the Spectator recently, my old friend Toby Young described a dilemma which all those of us right-wing persuasion must face up to in the end: should you soften your position in order to find some common ground with people whose stupid political ideology you loathe and despise? Or should you stay true to your principles and risk being marginalised as, at best, unreasonable and, at worst, as a fruitcake, a crank, a dangerous extremist?

Young was talking in particular about his battles with the hard-left educationalists who were trying to sabotage free schools like the one he helped set up in West London. Some parents urged him to take a more emollient line with his attackers. And for a moment Young was tempted:

"Shouldn’t I offer to meet with the school’s opponents, such as the shop steward of the Ealing branch of the NUT [National Union of Teachers], and see if there were any concessions we could make that might secure their support?"

But then he took some advice from Lord Adonis - a fellow warrior in the battle against the progressive educational establishment (aka The Blob). Lord Adonis's view was that with an enemy like this, negotiation was out of the question.

‘They’re not interested in “constructive dialogue”,’ he said. ‘Don’t you get it? If you extend any sort of olive branch to them they’ll see it as a sign of weakness and move in for the kill. I dealt with exactly the same people — the Socialist Workers’ Party, the Anti-Academies Alliance, the National Union of Teachers — for most of my ministerial career and, believe me, they would rather stick pins in their eyes than admit they have common ground with someone like you. Their attitude to free schools is the same as their attitude to academies: they won’t rest until every last one has been razed to the ground.’

This is an insight made all the more striking because Lord Adonis was a member of the Tony Blair government -- a Labourite who, in America's political lexicon, would be termed a centrist-liberal. All the same, the peer recognized something about politics in our time that many American politicians have yet to learn: the difference between clashes over means and clashes over ends.

Delingpole goes on to provide an unpleasant yet colorful and memorable comparison:

So in what way, may I ask, would it be a sensible policy to halve the difference between those two extremes in order to reach some kind of "reasonable" consensus?

It's what I call the 'Dogshit Yoghurt Fallacy'.

On one side of the argument are those of us who think yoghurt works best with a little fruit or maybe just on its own. On the other are those who believe passionately that what yoghurt really needs is the addition of something more earthy, organic, recycled - like maybe a nice scoop of dogshit.

Now you can call me a dangerous extremist if you like, for refusing under any conditions to accommodate the alternative point of view. Or you could call me one of those few remaining brave souls in a cowardly, compromised world still prepared to tell it like it is: that dogshit into yoghurt simply doesn't go, no matter how many expert surveys you cite, nor how eco-friendly it shows you to be, nor how homeopathic the dosage.

Indeed. Or, as I've said on more than one occasion: If you pour a cup of wine into a barrel of sewage, it remains a barrel of sewage, but if you pour a cup of sewage into a barrel of wine, it becomes a barrel of sewage.

The great Marshall Fritz, founder of the Advocates for Self-Government, made that point equally colorfully. In response to those who categorically decried "extremes," he would ask, "How AIDS-free would you like your blood transfusion to be?"

Compromise is potentially constructive only when it's strictly about means: i.e., when the two sides angling toward a compromise sincerely agree on the end to be sought, and are both willing to allow that they might be wrong about what means would best serve that end. Under those conditions, everyone involved will be watching the outcome and judging the means applied by that standard alone. When the ends are opposed to one another, compromise must disserve one or the other. It cannot be any other way.

If your end is political liberty -- the maximum possible freedom from coercion or constraint for peaceable persons -- there's absolutely no reason to "dialogue" with persons whose end is an expansion of State power. Compromising with statists means promoting their end, which is the exact opposite of your end. Yet many a freedom-minded person will feel a tug toward such a "dialogue," and the ideal of compromise, despite the clarity of the above. This is the Nice-Guy Trap in action.

We're indoctrinated practically from birth about the goodness of "sharing," and how Nice Guys should "try to see both sides" -- of everything. Nice Guys mustn't declare others to be The Enemy even when The Enemy has already done so in the plainest possible ways. That's because confrontation is bad, don't y'know. At any rate, it's unpleasant, which in modern "thought" amounts to the same thing.

Hidden beneath the Nice-Guy Trap is a pair of steel jaws that can snap any principle cleanly in half. This is so obvious as to be tautological: He who compromises on principle has surrendered it to some other end.

But then again, most people have no slightest idea what a principle is, either. It's not just something you value. It's not just the way you'd like things to be. It's a fundamental rule about right and wrong. Any given action will stand either on the right side of a principle, or on the wrong side. Even one exception made in favor of a wrong action that's been claimed to produce "desirable" results destroys the principle.

The dark forces of the world -- the collectivists; the power worshippers; the propagandists against all conceptions of natural law -- seek to destroy all principles. Their most effective method is the Nice-Guy Trap: entreating those who stand against them to compromise on principle.

Need I say more than DON'T! -- ? Even at the cost of being declared "not a Nice Guy?"

Food for thought.


WomanHonorThyself said...

love the quote and sad to say this does not portend well for our collective futures~! Have a great day though!:-)

Guy S said...

There was, years ago, and old Bob Newhart skit, that he did on SNL. In it he played a psychologist (playing off his old "Newhart" persona at that time). In the bit, he was listening to a young lady describing her current condition....forget exactly what it was...but she goes on about how it is really a concern to her, and asks "Dr.. Bob", just what could be done about it...expecting a long drawn out couch visit. Instead, he looks at her kindly, and says it's really very simple, "Just stop it!!" Her jaw drops, the audience laughs....and she stammers....But Dr, what about.... And Bob goes..."No!! Just stop what you are doing! Don't do it anymore! It's that simple."

And that's kinda what we have now. Lots of folks are looking for compromise...for new and better ways to contort themselves into positions of .... well, whatever it takes to be viewed as someone who is NOT extremist/homophobic/transphobic/racist...etc. When all along they should have been just saying "No! Enough is enough! Stop it!"

Robert What? said...

Very compelling article. Good stuff. It is undoubtedly difficult though, since they keep coming at you and coming at you with no respite, especially having most of the propaganda outlets (read: MSM) at their backs. The thing that most of them fail to realize is that should they get the glorious socialist dictatorship they crave, huge numbers of them will be purged just like they were in Stalin's reign. There will not be sufficient numbers of producers left to keep them in the style they think they will be entitled to. So those at the very top will have huge numbers of their underlings just disappeared.

Xealot said...

Quite true. Compromise with Statism inevitably results in Statism -- it simply takes over more slowly. Patient Progressives, possessing the Fabian mindset, are willing to accept this. They were actually far more dangerous than some of the modern Leftist ilk, simply because the populace couldn't detect the slow boil of the frog.

Obama and his ilk seem somewhat less patient with the slow march of Progressivism. That, at least, is a silver lining. It's easier to detect the Nice Guy Trap when the enemy is being so unreasonable and even partial compromise becomes impossible. Not that you'd notice, based on how quickly the Republican Party is to break out the white flags of surrender...

Talitha said...

There is evidence to suggest that these... Republicrats already think of us as the enemy within. What are we going to do, change their minds by playing nice? Whose to say they won't just keep on keeping on with the same agenda that the Dems have got? Seems like everybody's operating on the same time table. It's the SMOFs on the Hill who are in charge IMO, and only the Tea Pariters who aren't playing along.

PJ said...

Well, I can go along with some of this, with (perhaps) some exceptions. Let's assume 10% of the people are unrepentant statists, 10% are unrepentant liberty-lovers, and the rest are "confused".

Most times, it makes no sense to have a "dialog" with the unrepentant statists. About the only exception is if the "confused" are watching the exchange, and you intend to get them thinking about things. Of course the statist will never be converted, and that should not ever be your aim.

Often, it makes sense to have a dialog with the "confused". What you should focus on is fundamental points (e.g. "Is it ever right to coerce innocent others?" or "What is the difference between taxes and theft?") rather than trying to meeting half way or compromising. I don't think your message should ever be watered down, but I do think it helps to deliver it without resorting to crap like logical fallacies, and keeping a respectful demeanor. There are better and worse ways to deliver a message, even if you have already decided not to water things down.

Drew said...

Bravo! Another one hit right out of the park. Thank you for you efforts and labors.

I plan to print numerous copies and mail to my representives in all gov't (FED/State/Local).

I know in my head this will not be solved by voting, but since it isn't time to shoot the bastards yet, I will keep at it.

And PJ, I disagree, the Statist can be converted, thru the righteous application of justice.

Kelly McCrady said...

" as I've said on more than one occasion: If you pour a cup of wine into a barrel of sewage, it remains a barrel of sewage, but if you pour a cup of sewage into a barrel of wine, it becomes a barrel of sewage."

I have been searching for a full article I read on this topic, somewhen way back, and have been unable to find the link. Was it your blog, perchance? Would you be willing to post the link to that article, please, if so?

Kathy said...

Fact: 2+2=4.
But there are delusional people who desperately want to make 2+2=5, and they routinely organize mobs to march around and demand that we agree with them that 2+2 can indeed equal 5, if only we say so.
So do we "compromise" by "meeting them halfway" and deciding that 2+2=4½?
Hell, no.
Won't do it, and more importantly, CAN'T do it.