The inevitability of blog tribalism?

Apparently some US journalism academic named Tanni Haas  has written a book called Making it in the Political Blogosphere: The World’s Top Political Bloggers Share the Secrets to Success .  I’m not interested in the subject per se, because I long ago concluded that the recipe was both obvious and inherently boring: adopt a predictable, aggressively tribal stance that will attract a loyal audience wanting to have its prejudices confirmed in a way that allows members to see themselves as the true cognoscenti without ever actually needing to think, question or doubt.

I’m much more interested in the comments of a couple of “top political bloggers” about the greatly increased tribalism evident today by comparison with the early days of the political blogosphere.   Kevin Drum, for example, says:

When I started out, there was much more of a tendency to engage with the other side.  Liberals and conservatives would attack each other, but we’d also engage with each other in at least a moderately serious way.  Today, you get almost none of that.  There’s very little engagement between left and right.  And what engagement there is tends to be pure attack.  There’s no real conversation at all.  That’s a difference that I think professionalization has brought about.  The political blogosphere has become more tribal.

Tyler Cowen agrees with the observation but has a slightly different explanation:

A good point, but I blame professionalization less than Kevin does.  Maybe some of us are simply are a bit sick of each other, and the accumulated slights and misunderstandings weigh more heavily on our emotional responses than does the feeling of generosity from working together in the same “office.”  I predict that a given experienced blogger is likely to feel more sympathy for new bloggers, but on average I doubt if the new bloggers are better or more tolerant.

Which means we mostly have ourselves to blame.

As I’ve already foreshadowed, in my view it’s unquestionably true that that there’s much less “inter-tribal” communication than there was when I first started blogging around 2002.  However I’m less sure of the reasons than Drum or Cowen.  Troppo tends even now to retain a greater level of “inter-tribal” communication than most other Australian political blogs, but it’s certainly at a much lower level than it was years ago.  I must confess I don’t miss visits from the Bolt/Blair attack dogs or their extreme left equivalents, but there were also at least a few occasions when interesting conversations actually occurred.  I have always regarded the ideals of deliberative democracy championed by Habermas and others as a tad naive, but I ‘m still attracted to the notion of “agonism” (as opposed to antagonism) propounded by Mouffe and Laclau:

Agonists are skeptical about the capacity of politics to eliminate, overcome, or circumvent deep divisions within our society—of class, culture, gender, ideology, etc. As such, they find liberalism, communitarianism, and multiculturalism wanting. These theories—which have been the backbone of political theory for the past thirty years—are essentially optimistic about the possibility of finding a harmonious and peaceful pattern of political and social cooperation. Agonists, then, both claim that this optimism is unjustified and, hence, re-orient political theory to another question: how should we deal with irreducible difference? In the view of agonists, proponents of the aforementioned traditions, in keeping their eyes fixed on forms of utopian cooperation, have failed to respond usefully to the messiness of contemporary political practice….

Agonists believe that we should design democracy so as to optimise the opportunity for people to express their disagreements. However, they also maintain, we should not assume that conflict can be eliminated given sufficient time for deliberation and rational agreement. In other words, conflict has a non-rational or emotional component. These two positions mean that they are opposed to aspects of consociational and deliberative theories of democracy. The former, because it wants to mute conflict through elite consensus, the latter because it gives a rationalist picture of the aspirations of democracy.

Chantal Mouffe says, “I use the concept of agonistic pluralism to present a new way to think about democracy which is different from the traditional liberal conception of democracy as a negotiation among interests and is also different from the model which is currently being developed by people like Jürgen Habermas and John Rawls. While they have many differences, Rawls and Habermas have in common the idea that the aim of the democratic society is the creation of a consensus, and that consensus is possible if people are only able to leave aside their particular interests and think as rational beings. However, while we desire an end to conflict, if we want people to be free we must always allow for the possibility that conflict may appear and to provide an arena where differences can be confronted. The democratic process should supply that arena.”

Mouffe suggests that the aim of any political deliberation is not “consensus”, because that will usually be impossible, but a workable accommodation between competing interests and viewpoints. Democratic deliberation should aim at turning “enemies” into mere political adversaries or rivals, and potentially violent antagonism into “agonism” where peaceful accommodations/compromises between opponents are not only possible but the normal and expected outcome of political disputation.

However, the success of extremist movements like the US Republican Tea Party, media tribalism fostered by Fox News and local attack dog imitators like Tony Abbott and Andrew Bolt, makes even the limited aims of “agonism” seem naive and unachievable. Prominent local left-leaning equivalents are harder to name (although maybe I’m just exposing my own biases), but bloggers like Antony Lowenstein and the entire silly brigade at “The Political Sword” spring to mind.

Despite those depressing developments, I still see serious, civil political blogs like this one as a potentially valuable arena for fostering agonism.  However that isn’t likely to occur if people increasingly retreat to their tribal enclosures, emerging only for occasional mass attacks on opposing camps.  Unfortunately I can’t actually think of any feasible ways to reverse this tribalist tendency.  Anyone have any ideas?

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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whyisitso
whyisitso
10 years ago

although maybe I’m just exposing my own biases

At least you can see through yourself a little, Ken. I’ve seen a lot of rather partisan (to use a kind word) left commenters on this blog back to the early days. Of course Homer is still commenting (does anyone take him seriously?), but Dave Ricardo seems to have retired years ago. While I regard you as leftish rather than your own description, “centrist”, when you went into semi-retirement your successors have been well to your left, although by far your most intelligent successor was Geoff Honnor, who I placed to the right of centre (although he denied that).

I do think Andrew Bolt is a cut above Tim Blair, although the premier right-wing blogger is undoubtedly the recently resurrected Professor Bunyip, an anonymous blogger, who by reason of that alone would get up Nick Gruen’s nose.

Another excellent rightie was Currency Lad, who still comments at Catallaxy. Jason Soon still occasionally comments. Right wing commenters seem to move on after a while, mainly because a lot of them get real jobs, as distinct from the lefties, who tend to be employed as academics.

The nastiest lefty in the old days was Tim Dunlop.

Yobbo
Yobbo
10 years ago

Agreed that Geoff Honnor is sadly missed as a blogger. Not that I can blame him for jumping off the titanic around the time that Chris Sheil turned up.

whyisitso
whyisitso
10 years ago

Thanks Sam. I couldn’t think of Chris’ name. Appalling, yes.

I was always a regular reader of yur blog, too and regarded it as always a good read.

Kien
Kien
10 years ago

Hi, deliberative democracy and agonism seem similar. Both acknowledge that society is plural and there are legitimate differences; agonism (as you describe it) seem to stress social identity as an important source of pluralism. Both also seem to promote deliberation as the main means to reach a rational position, while acknowledging that “rationality” is a broad church. While it is not possible to get complete agreement on every matter through rationalism, there are many matters where broad agreement is possible. It’s not clear to me what solutions agonism would suggest in addition to deliberation.

I used to think of “rationality” as something very precise and narrow; I now think of “rationality” as a very broad church. Amartya Sen suggests using “reasonableness” (which is a concept the common law courts use) as a term to describe a more exacting standard than rationalism. “Reasonableness” implies/assumes there is an external reference with which to judge a matter, even if that external standard is an abstract one like “a reasonable man”. Where “rationality” seems to assume it is possible to reach a view on a matter through discussion within a society, religious tradition or discipline (e.g., economics) alone, “reasonableness” also encourages a search for an external perspective on the matter, taking account of the experience of other societies in other countries or in another time, or of other religious traditions or of other disciplines. But this requires us to transcend parochialism, which is very hard to do.

KB Keynes
KB Keynes
10 years ago

Chris was okay.
Terrible taste in music and sport and couldn’t tell a decent lead guitarist at all but Backpages was the best ever election blog.

We will not see it again because of the imported US disease.

conrad
conrad
10 years ago

I think that two things make a difference in terms of tribalism on blogs:

1) A reasonably strict abuse policy — many normal people get fed up with constant abuse every time they say something that doesn’t happen to be the flavour du jour of the other commentators of the blog (it’s probably also a reason the Blogosphere is rather blokey). This seems to a be problem with many blogs (notably but certain not only Catallaxy — John Quiggin’s blog, for example, had the equivalent left-wing nasties for quite some time, e.g., Alice seemed to be able to come up with a pile abuse every time you happened to post even rather non-controversial things, although they seem to have disappeared or got booted of late).

2) Posts that cover a reasonably broad range of stuff, including some relatively non-politically aligned ones. For example, at least to me, politically Catallaxy and LP have rather opposing views, but LP gets more and more varied discussion going and also seems to have a broader array of commentators and posters (like Robert Merkel, for example, who often posts on things that he finds interesting but are often not politically aligned). Apart from the abuse problems at Catallaxy, I think part of the reason for this is that even if you’re not nearly as left as the average LP commentator, it’s still possible to potentially read interesting things, whereas Catallaxy is more limited to economics and a few rather stereotyped political issues (e.g., global warming), as are a number of the left-wing sites. I note that many of the commercial sites (e.g., The Economist) which would be otherwise fairly unidimensional in terms of their stories often have interesting stuff that isn’t about economics also. This makes them interesting for people who arn’t economists to look at. This is not to say more uni-dimensional sites are bad at all (indeed, many sites aim to be rather focused — I read Language Log now and then, for example, which not surprisingly seems to be read by mainly people interested in weird stuff to do with language), but I don’t think it’s surprising that they tend to attract a less diverse group.

Yobbo
Yobbo
10 years ago

or example, at least to me, politically Catallaxy and LP have rather opposing views, but LP gets more and more varied discussion going and also seems to have a broader array of commentators and posters (like Robert Merkel, for example, who often posts on things that he finds interesting but are often not politically aligned). Apart from the abuse problems at Catallaxy, I think part of the reason for this is that even if you’re not nearly as left as the average LP commentator, it’s still possible to potentially read interesting things

Possible to read them but not write them. The reason the debate at Catallaxy is more ribald is that Catallaxy doesn’t ban commenters who disagree, they just throw them to the resident wolves.

On the other hand, nearly every regular Catallaxy commenter (myself included) is either permanently banned or on permanent moderation at LP for continually breaking the “no right-wing comments” rule. It’s impossible to participate in any kind of discussion when your comments go into a moderation queue which is deliberately left unchecked for 48-72 hours at a time.

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[…] Parish has put up a post at Club Troppo in which he criticises “the blog tribalism” that he believes has […]

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
10 years ago

“While I regard you as leftish rather than your own description, “centrist”, when you went into semi-retirement your successors have been well to your left, although by far your most intelligent successor was Geoff Honnor, who I placed to the right of centre (although he denied that).”

Oy! He still does. FWIW, whenever it’s a toss-up between cutting my toenails or succumbing to the allure of those ‘map your political/ideological position” thingos, the toenails lose out. I tend to come out a bit left of centre on the graph and FTR, the ALP generally gets my vote – though they shouldn’t get too comfortable about it if they’re reading…..

And thanks for the compliment, mate, but to clarify, Ken actually invited me to blog here with him back in the days when Mark Bahnisch, Chris Shiel et al were also Troppo regulars. I certainly didn’t ‘succeed’ Ken – it’s hard to think of anyone doing that successfully. When Parish posts the place lights up like Sydney Harbour on NYE. The man is incapable of composing a turgid, navel-gazing yawn-maker though, given his can-do, frontier spirit, he’s been willing to give it a punt on the odd occasion.

Declaring oneself a centrist is of course to issue a crazy/brave challenge that mobilises armies of keyboard analysts determined to ‘prove’ otherwise and Troppo has had more scrutiny on that topic than Julia Gillard’s bum gets on Catallaxy. But the fact that this place accommodated a bunch of bloggers as diverse as the mob aforementioned might indicate otherwise. Up until the Great Sophie Masson Schism, Troppo was the beating heart of the Ozblogosphere and the cardiac monitor still beeps impressively when Parish surfaces.

I agree with Ken that things have become much more tribal. Quiggin’s site used to be a must read for me until his comments thread became populated by what appears to be a bunch of bad-tempered Trots albeit, devoid of Leon’s generosity of spirit and open-mindedness.

I still drop by LP and it can still chuck a good post up – particularly when it’s a topic that divides the hivemind that LP stoutly insists it does not have.

The Cat is colourful, prolific, often very funny and actually (given the laissez faire mod policy) one of the few places where comment threads regularly offer a diversity of perspectives – though you’d wonder at the possibility of masochistic tendencies in some of the lefty regulars. It feels more ‘five schooners down, a punch in the head and a tramadol’ anarchic than ‘Libertarian’ – but maybe the former is an authentic rendering of the latter? Then it’s Andrew Norton – specialist blog but always a good read – and the always excellent After Grog and that’s pretty much my regular Ozblog read.

I don’t think the brave new world of stimulating, free flowing online citizen discourse – optimistically envisaged back in the neolithic era of blogging in the early 00’s – is going to come anytime soon. Tribalism is comforting, reassuring and instinctive and anonymity offers perfect cover for chucking the buckets of vitriol not possible in face to face or other identity-disclosed settings. A read of some of the comment threads in the Brit online broadsheets (which are – incredibly – moderated) is a depressing testament to its corrosive effect. No-one discusses the content much, instead writers are frequently attacked for having the temerity to submit vile, squalid, unprofessional work, traduced for being fat, bald or fascistic, raged at for their laziness and failure to grapple effectively with some esoteric point of grammar – and thats’s just the Lifestyle section.

The noble Athenian ideal envisaged back in the day has turned out be some sad, lonely keyboard jockey in stained undies downing a longneck while he types up a storm of the sort of abuse that aims – but doesn’t come to close – to compensating for being him.

Regardless, I reckon the principles of a good blog are eternal and pretty basic:

Lively, intelligent, accessible, entertaining, a bit unexpected, a bit off the wall. Don’t be too earnest or soulful, it engenders ‘dickhead’ responses – unless it’s about someone dying.

Don’t write for the academy in ostensibly mainstream blogs. Save it for peer-reviewed journal submission or ritual student humiliation. Specialist blogs are interesting to specialists some of the time, maybe.

Pomposity is magnified online and any hint of being a bit up oneself attracts destructive critique like blood does sharks.

Finally, tribalism is wuckin tedious and basic self-corrective rule here: The ABC is neither a hotbed of radical leftism nor a den of Coalition supporting stooges. Ditto Annabel Crabbe.

If you’re writing about Economics chuck some nudie pix up to engage the 99% of punters who’d prefer you didn’t.

Finally, if your kneejerk reaction to reading something you disagree with (in some MSM rag you never read) is to go online and demand that the organ be closed down and the staff burned at the stake, you’re almost certainly over-reacting. If you can analyse the worth or otherwise of an article, chances are that millions of other people can do exactly the same. And don’t panic – 90% of the people you see reading the Demon Tele on the train to work in the morning are not being mind-controlled by Tim Blar. They’re just reading the Sport section or celeb trash. Most of the others can’t read and are just looking at the pix. And no-one reads Piers Akerman. Ever. They make up the comments thread in Holt St over a few beers

Paul Montgomery
Paul Montgomery
10 years ago

The Cat is colourful, prolific, often very funny and actually (given the laissez faire mod policy) one of the few places where comment threads regularly offer a diversity of perspectives – though you’d wonder at the possibility of masochistic tendencies in some of the lefty regulars. It feels more ‘five schooners down, a punch in the head and a tramadol’ anarchic than ‘Libertarian’ – but maybe the former is an authentic rendering of the latter?

As one of those Cat masochists, even I am not sure why I keep going back. It’s a bit of a pattern of mine, seeking out the trolliest dungeons on the Internet and trying to fit in. I have done the same thing at League Unlimited, which is full of ridged-brow throwbacks. I’m sure a pat psych analysis would be damning.

In both cases, my original thought was that maybe I would like to start content businesses targeting these audiences (I’m an entrepreneur), but that idea has long since been abandoned. These days I think the reason I keep posting at these places is that it keeps me on my toes, I don’t get the chance to be lazy or complacent under such rates of fire. I am always trying to improve myself and hone my skills, so the bareknuckle bear pits of the Cat and LU are where I feel like I’m getting the best mental work out.

As for what this says about the Cat, I do not entirely agree with the laissez-faire moderation policy which leads to ritualised abuse, but I don’t think that’s the main problem. I’ll reproduce here what I said over there on a recent thread:

The main operational problem with this site’s ideology, in my view, is that in promoting zombie economics from the 1930s, it’s difficult to make it interesting or current. Most of Steve [Kates]’s OPs consist of 150 words of him stating, yet again, what he believes, and then saying this or that story from the news proves he’s been right all along. This is not a recipe for reasoned debate. He’s reduced to a barking dog, who only knows the word WOOF. That’s not a good way to start a discussion, unless you like reading 50 posts in every thread from CL, Dot and JC yelling WOOF back at him like a suburban backyard orchestra.

There are ways to engineer civil debate without explicit moderation. Posting interesting and thought-provoking OPs is the main one, I think, as that is the best way to set the tone. I fully agree with conrad’s point about posting about things other than the narrow remit of the blog, as that engenders positive community effects better than anything else, reminding commenters of shared interests and that they are actual human beings rather than anonymised attack dog personae. That has to come from the OP writers, I think, as open threads are not enough to accomplish it.

Pedro
Pedro
10 years ago

Mutual back-slapping is bound to become painful after a while, so it is with tribal blogs.

I suppose the proper definition of a tribal blog is where members of other tribes are chased away.

I don’t think catallaxy is tribal because it really does have a variety of posters, but some of them on either side are extremely partisan and deaf to the other side. Some of the regular commenters are amazingly closed-minded and that is super tedious.

I like this blog because there are less of the extremely partisan and not so much, but still some, deafness. It’s nice when people commenting are intelligent and most seem so.

Pedro
Pedro
10 years ago

“The main operational problem with this site’s ideology, in my view, is that in promoting zombie economics from the 1930s”

A good expression of tribal allegiance. Along with the “intellectual collapse of the right”, the zombie claim is just a snarky slogan that doesn’t survive much critical review. The most you can find is that sometimes some people on the right say stupid things. But who wants to pretend that doesn’t happen on the left? Other times the claimed stupidity is a downright misrepresentation of what was actually said.

Paul Montgomery
Paul Montgomery
10 years ago

In this case, Pedro, the Cat is explicitly pushing Mises, Say and other theorists who lost the debate 80 years ago. Zombie economics seems to me an accurate way to describe this phenomenon.

KB Keynes
KB Keynes
10 years ago

The big difference between John Quiggin and even LP and than Catallaxy is that the former strive to promote debate.

Catallaxy doesn’t do that at all. Steve Kates for example has never addressed the IMF and BIS papers which demolished classical economics.
It was never allowed to be talked about. When he makes an absurd judgment that Australia got to full employment after the Depression the ignoranti simply accept this. no questions are ever asked on why it fell 3-4 fold after WW2 started if it was at full unemployment.

You will see John Quiggin enter ‘hostile’ blogs to debate issues but rarely ever anyone from Catallaxy.

Pedro if even Hayek can admit he got it wrong about policies in Germany under Bruning then you might expect his ‘followers’ to as well.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
10 years ago

“nearly every regular Catallaxy commenter (myself included) is either permanently banned or on permanent moderation at LP”

I reckon it’s the ‘Yobbo’ nick, Sam. At LP, it pretty much reeks of that whole 1788-1972 boring Anglo-Australian wasteland of blowies, blokes in 1950’s hats looking morosely into the great spiritual emptiness, ANZAC Day and meat and three veg somnolence – punctuated only by Dad rolling home from the boozer and whacking Mum for under-cooking the cabbage – that existed until Gough came to office and bought Blue Poles, opened 5,000 Thai restaurants and appointed Anne Summers as his advisor on Women.

Chuck “Foucauldian” in front of “Yobbo” and see what happens.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
10 years ago

“It’s time for a blogging comeback Geoff”

I’m persuaded, Ken – pretty easily, obviously. And I’m on leave from 9/12. E me and we’ll talk.

Tom N.
Tom N.
10 years ago

While there is occasionally some interesting stuff on Catallaxy, the site’s downward trajectory has been evident for a while. Presumably, the increase in the site’s block-headed tribalism and associated abuse of counterview-holders is one reason why former quality Cat posters, like Andrew Norton and Jason Soon, left or have dramatically reduced their input.

The Cat does serve a useful function though: it has releived Troppo of the burden of serving as a respository for Rafe’s long, turgid eulogies of Mises et al, which typically included fascinating (to Rafe, anyway) details such as what brand of ink Mises used and his grandparents’ favourite holiday destinations, along with almost sentence-by-sentence descriptions of what Mises wrote in his various missives.

Richard Tsukamasa Green

Something that I find irritating about tribalistic comments is that I often find myself deliberately loading posts up with more jargon than is necessary, just to make sure the footy fans get bored after a paragraph and go off to interminable and boring fights in other threads. Enough jargon means that the minority that reads to the end are much more likely to say something interesting, but it almost certainly deters many intelligent and interesting people who could have been drawn in by a more inclusive choice of language. But if I use any terminology that is related to a talking point, the oxygen in the thread is quickly driven out by the decomposing mass of redundant opinions repeated ad naseum by a narrow selection of commenters.

I’m far less concerned with the abuse and antagonism (although they are formidable barriers to anything interesting) than with the fact that tribal comments are so goddamn boring.

These rehashed positions are very low quality, but very cheaply reproduced, where insight is costly. The nearest biological equivalent is cockroaches. And like them, the tribalists seem destined to inherit the earth.

Jason
Jason
10 years ago

Ken,
Yet when I last posted on this site, you asked because my surname is “Hand” was I a ralative of the former “Keating” minister “Gerry”! I’m not as I said, but even if I were related,so what? I would like to post my thoughts not his!

murph the surf.
murph the surf.
10 years ago

At this rate Margo will be asked to reappear too.

KS
KS
10 years ago

Much of what you are talking about also relates to the well known psychological phenomenom of confirmation bias. Anyone who does not think they are themselves subject to confirmation bias is a genuine fool. We all are. We accept information that fits with our views already held more easily than contrary opinions.

Google et al accentuates confirmation bias because it allows anyone to easily and immediately confirm their own bias. It seems to me that this basic human psychology has almost neutered the information superhighway benefits of the internet.

KS
KS
10 years ago

“KB Keynes said:

The big difference between John Quiggin and even LP and than Catallaxy is that the former strive to promote debate.”

Keynes, that may be true but I think when it comes to the subsequent comment treads themselves there is equal tribalism which is I think what has been raised here?

Alternative comments are equally disregarded or diparaged at both Catallaxy or Quiggin. However, Quiggin hiimself does indeed often engage alternative views if itelligently framed.

Perhaps all you display KB Keynes is more of your own confirmation bias ……. which when you think about it is simply a psychological underpinning for tribalism.

debbiep
debbiep
10 years ago

~ “silly brigade at “The Political Sword” spring to mind.” ~

I’m not sure what gives you the right , or better still, the qualifications you have to judge OR label others as silly . So out of curiosity , who ARE YOU to be able to do this?

Yobbo
Yobbo
10 years ago

I reckon it’s the ‘Yobbo’ nick, Sam.

It’s not. Like I said, there are dozens of Cat commenters who are banned/moderated from LP. They don’t all use the nickname “Yobbo”.

TerjeP
TerjeP
10 years ago

The mindlessly abusive comments at most blogs, including the Cat, come from a small band of committed individuals determine to police their neighborhood and rid it of any carriers of dissenting opinion. It is quite disappointing. In theory it could be fixed with small amounts of moderation but who has the time for that?

kelly liddle
10 years ago

“local attack dog imitators like Tony Abbott and Andrew Bolt”

Just wondering why you chose those attack dogs. The attack dog that is currently unliked by many including myself is the Prime Minister and several of her ministers. You might think what am I talking about, well I just have to speak one word “DENIER”. How do you think this goes down for those who don’t believe in climate change computer modelling which at the moment seems to be failing. Especially how do you think it makes people such as a former CSIRO head Dr Art Raiche feel? Another example could be the attack on Qantas management just after saying I don’t want to take sides but…

Tom N.
Tom N.
10 years ago

Over at Cattalaxy, Rafe has claimed:

On Troppo I wrote that the only hope for the future was civil dialogue between rival parties. Ken described me as the grand old man of Aust blogging and Nicholas called me a gentleman and a scholar. Next thing I was dropped from blogging on Troppo, without even access to comments!

Of course, there were good reasons for dropping Rafe from the Troppo posters roll, disucussed at the time, to do with the extent that he had eschewed posting serious commentary and analysis on topical issues on Troppo in favour of retailing simplistic RWDB-style talking points interspersed with turgid Mises et al eulogies.

However, I had not realised that he was banned from the comments threads too! Is this really the case and, if so, I wonder whether that was a step too far?

2dogs
2dogs
10 years ago

Agonistic discussions about climate change would be a really good idea.

There is a lot of missed potential for agreement on the science, and we do need to discuss adaptation costs. Adaptation can not be avoided, and we need to plan for it.

TimT
10 years ago

Just popping up to put in a good word for Rafe – I’ve been enjoying many of his posts on the Cat, even – and perhaps especially – his historical surveys of Mises’ favourite pencils, etc. It’s a relief actually after all the partisan blog commentary to read something taking the long historical perspective. Long may the Rafe Reign of Terror continue.

Pedro
Pedro
10 years ago

“local attack dog imitators like Tony Abbott and Andrew Bolt”

The people you least agree with will always seem the most strident. It’s another aspect of confirmation bias. Not counting paul keating, the current govt contains the most abusive crowd I’ve seen at Fed level. But some people around here probably believed that the Howard govt was crushing dissent.

The first step in a reasonably civilised debate is understanding that you and your opponent will naturally think things that the other regards as biased.

Paul M, even Homer has said in the past, though he will deny it now probably, that Keynsian claims are really only relevant to the special circumstances of the liquidity trap. Therefore, homer would agree that classical economics has a lot to say in other times. Now that some liquidity traps exist around the place it is the modern monetarists that seem to be providing the way forward and taking some noted keynsians with them So the zombie claim remains reflexive abuse.

“that existed until Gough came to office and bought Blue Poles”

LOL, first he opened China to the West and then he opened Australia to modern art!

conrad
conrad
10 years ago

“The people you least agree with will always seem the most strident.”

When did post moderism start affecting Troppo? There is certainly a range of behavior various people exhibit and some people are certainly are more attack-dog like than others, and if one was bothered, it would certainly be people possible to even quantify that (you can have Derryn Hinch for an attack dog with alternative politics if you like).

On this note, one of the great things about the internet is that anyone can express their opinion. So if kelly wants to convince the rest of the world that Gillard is about as bad as Abbott or everyone’s favourite Irish Bloodhound who thinks killing mosquitos with a sledgehammer is a good idea (in a cooling daily climate), it should be simple if there really are such arguments (why not just post them on the site that is linked with the name?) and if they’re good enough, I’m sure everyone will listen.

Pedro
Pedro
10 years ago

I’m the last person for post modernism conrad, it’s just natural that the attack dogs you disagree with will seem the more vicious.

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

Conrad: actually it’s psychology; both reactance and Terror Management Theory are germane here.

jtfsoon
jtfsoon
10 years ago

The blog culture has changed tremendously from when it first started and the phenomenon can’t really be pinned down to just one or two blogs. of course maybe this is just illusory nostalgia from a relatively old hand but it did seem as if the Athenian spirit prevailed for a brief period in early blogdom. I remember having quite fruitful exchanges with Quiggin and Dunlop. I remember when there was less mean spiritedness around (and incidentally i prefer Blair to Bolt – Blair strikes me as a happy warrior, there is an amiability to his proddings that is missing in Bolt who personifies the new spirit of blogdom. While I deplore the use of legislation against him I have never been a fan).

There are some topics I just try and avoid discussing seriously nowadays because they raise my hackles and blood pressure and have become so relentlessly mired in partisanship, namely global warming and Islam/Muslims (with the latter many people seem unable to distinguish between the two).

Tom N.
Tom N.
10 years ago

ATTACK DOGS A PROBLEM FOR CAT

I’m the last person for post modernism conrad, it’s just natural that the attack dogs you disagree with will seem the more vicious.

And there’s your problem, Pedro: you think its fine to be an “attack dog”, just not a vicious one.

Ken is actually calling for attack dogs to be put down, or at least muzzled or impounded, to allow thoughtful, civilised debate and interchange to take place. Alas, however, the presence of death beasts – whether left or right – and the low tone they set tends to crowd out more reasonable contributions. This can be clearly seen at Catallaxy where, despite some interesting posts from time to time that might warrant, and benefit from, some sensible debate, the usual suspects in the comments threads spoil any attempt at such.

Of course, this afflicts not just the Catallaxy echo chamber. Quiggin’s blog has gone seriously downhill since Alice and other “enforcers” took to badmouthing – and burying in a mountain of niggling missing-the-key-point comments – any non-PC view on that blog too.

Mother Hubbard's Dog
Mother Hubbard's Dog
10 years ago

Gough brought us Vietnamese restaurants, not Thai. They came later.

conrad
conrad
10 years ago

I don’t doubt people’s attitudes have an effect on how one individual perceives another. However, it’s still not simply attitudes.

For example, if I made a ratio between the number of negative and positive comments Abbott made (or policy vs. criticism), would it be higher than, say, Malcolm Turnbull, John Howard, Alexander Downer, or etc. ? Seems likely. So we have a very simplistic attack-dog measure.

If you wanted more detailed measures, you could cluster the comments of different individuals on various dimensions and pick out the centre of the clusters.

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

I think that’s conceptually sound, but easier said than done:

As it happens, I don’t mind a bit of a stoush.

But I’m also conscious of the need to offer coherent alternatives; it’s pretty much useless (probably worse than useless) to just hate on others’ positions without attempting to offer a coherent alternative.

So, I hope that even when I am giving some vampire squid both barrels, it is in a constructive and positive spirit and, I hope, getting people thinking.

What’s my measure on the attack-dog-o-meter?

(Incidentally when there was the student walkout on Mankiw I posted on Catallaxy – first time – and said words to the effect that I agreed with the students that their education was probably of an abstract and technocratic nature, and that economics students should be taught economic history before neoclassical theory. No one even replied! They’re more interested in stoushing with straw men than articulate opponents, I think.)

steve from brisbane
10 years ago

It’s the Right as exemplified in America, and its spillover influence in Australia, which has moved away from evidence and practicality and has become more ideologically driven and tribalist in outlook. We see this with the absurd “purity tests” that the Republican candidates are being put through now on climate change, health reform, and (to an extent) tax and wealth issues.

I am not exactly sure how this has happened – the influence of libertarianism certainly seems part of the mix – but it has basically meant that the Right has moved away from being the side that previously was more about finding practical solutions (and not letting ideology intrude too much) to the complete reversal.

It is remarkable that the Right blogosphere does not see this, and also does not recognize that to a very large extent its rhetoric against (say) Gillard or Obama has become every bit as hysterical and over the top as that from the Left against Howard and Bush.

The Left blogosphere can still make its silly mistakes – John Quiggin’s post (after Rudd’s win?) about the end of the Coalition as a serious force in Australia for the foreseeable future was a good example – and blogs like LP show Lefties can be so earnest that they make for very dull reading; but the reality still seems to be that they are at least approaching the current key issues with an actual serious regard for evidence which is missing in the poisoned Right.

As to how to reduce this tribalism – I see no way that it can occur at all in the foreseeable future, at least without the current ideological beliefs current poisoning the US Right undergoing some form of embarrassing defeat.

jtfsoon
jtfsoon
10 years ago

I am not exactly sure how this has happened – the influence of libertarianism certainly seems part of the mix – but it has basically meant that the Right has moved away from being the side that previously was more about finding practical solutions (and not letting ideology intrude too much) to the complete reversal.

I am equally disappointed with the conspiracist view of climate change science that has taken hold on the right but to blame it on the libertarianism side is a bit rich. Some of the strongest climate change conspiracy theorists are on the conservative right. On the other hand, me, JC and John Humphreys for instance are all climate change believers but on the libertarianish side.

Having said that, the ‘it’s all a conspiracy school’ is also disappointing because
1)there are much more intellectually respectable cases for policy scepticism and adaptation (e.g. as eloquently put by Henry Ergas) without buying into the package which in its extreme manifestations is almost nowadays bordering on being anti-science and a simple minded populist form of anti-elitism (there was a time when the right was on the side of science and elitism, which was a good thing)

2) the right (and I have made this argument before) could have used the ‘what to do about climate change’ debate to trojan horseits favourite policies more strongly (carbon tax for income tax cuts, nukes). Instead, it is doing the opposite and sections of it are using the same sorts of silly arguments which the left used to deploy against the GST , adopting egalitarian and social justice rhetoric against carbon pricing policies in a way that will bite them back in future.

jtfsoon
jtfsoon
10 years ago

I should also add there are also respectable arguments against the scientific consensus on climate change (e.g. much as i disagree with his conclusions, dover beach on catallaxy is very good on this) and they all deserve a hearing. But flirting with clowns like Lord Monckton is aother thing altogether.

Yobbo
Yobbo
10 years ago

It’s the Right as exemplified in America, and its spillover influence in Australia, which has moved away from evidence and practicality and has become more ideologically driven and tribalist in outlook.

Yes it’s the right’s fault that they can no longer reach a compromise with a left that has become increasingly leftish.

It takes 2 to tango Steve. The right side of American politics pandered to the left for years through the Bush administration, only to realise that it would never be enough. That’s why there’s the blowback called the Tea party.

Republicans finally worked out that the left will never be happy with just social democratic, “third way” government. They want the whole shebang. So what is the point of appeasing them any further?

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

Steve@41, re. your last point: Yes, to see off this sort of positivistic silliness, we’d need some sort of black swan event like tech stocks being tremendously overvalued and the market subsequently crashing. Or a speculative housing bubble where housing values significantly departed from fundamentals, crashing, and requiring governments to bail out over-leveraged banks with all sorts of toxic debt on their books. Or an interventionist stance in an oil-producing Middle Eastern country with no plan for how to succeed, no plan for how to exit, and no understanding of local history and culture, resulting in a dreadful quagmire.

I will from here on refer to these purely hypothetical events as ‘the dot-com bust’, ‘the Global Financial Crisis’, and ‘the Iraq War Mk.II’ respectively.

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

Yobbo@44: Yes, those Communists Clinton and Obama. And Gillard. Shameless.

conrad
conrad
10 years ago

“The right side of American politics pandered to the left for years through the Bush administration, only to realise that it would never be enough.”

In what way Yobbo? It seems to me that Bush #2 was one of the most idiotic presidents ever, and his main achievement appears to have been bankrupting the US via war and tax cuts to the rich which were supposed to pay for themselves by….magic (sorry, did I mean vodoo economics which even the rather right wing Bush #1 didn’t believe). How is this pandering to the left?

Fyodor
10 years ago

Unsurprisingly, Geoff Honnor nailed it early on:

I don’t think the brave new world of stimulating, free flowing online citizen discourse – optimistically envisaged back in the neolithic era of blogging in the early 00?s – is going to come anytime soon. Tribalism is comforting, reassuring and instinctive and anonymity offers perfect cover for chucking the buckets of vitriol not possible in face to face or other identity-disclosed settings.

Both Left and Right are guilty as charged. Catallaxy’s political corrective is largely policed by its commentariat, whereas Yobbo’s correct in blaming LP’s moderation for its present incarnation as Ozblogistan’s hospice for the Green Left Weekly crowd.

That this discussion is taking place on Troppo suggests it’s about as “centrist” as you get these days in Ozblogistan.

Patrick
Patrick
10 years ago

Dan, they may, despite doubtless your best efforts, have failed to realise that you intended to be the latter not the former ;)

Yobbo
Yobbo
10 years ago

Bush was the highest taxing and spending president in US history (before Obama at least). He also passed the No Child Left Behind act and a $7 trillion PBS for senior citizens. He supported amnesty and legalisation for illegal immigrants which lost him a lot of supporters amongst the republican party.

He was willing to bribe the left with anything to get them to continue voting to fight the war on terror. That was really the only thing he was passionate about, he was hardly a beacon of conservatism.