Monday, January 21, 2013

A tale of two discourses

This post on modern vs post-modern discourse should sound familiar to those who will recall my previous post on heterotopic vs sensitivity-driven discourse:
Modern discourse
Following are ten key characteristics of modern discourse, what many professors and students even now consider the normal or standard way to think, study and argue in the academy:

• "personal detachment from the issues under discussion," the separation of participants' personal identities from subjects of inquiry and topics of debate;
• values on "confidence, originality, agonism, independence of thought, creativity, assertiveness, the mastery of one’s feelings, a thick skin and high tolerance for your own and others’ discomfort";
• suited to a heterotopic space like a university class, scholarly journal, or session of a learned society conference, a place apart much like a playing field for sports events, where competitors engage in ritual combat before returning with a handshake to the realm of friendly, personal interaction;
• illustrated by debate in the British House of Commons;
• epitomized by the debates a century ago between socialist G. B. Shaw and distributist G. K. Chesterton;
• playfulness is legitimate: one can play devil’s advocate, speak tongue in cheek, overstate and use hyperbole, the object being not to capture the truth in a single, balanced monologue, but to expose the strengths and weaknesses of various positions;
• "scathing satire and sharp criticism" are also legitimate;
• the best ideas are thought to emerge from mutual, merciless probing and attacking of arguments, with resultant exposure of blindspots in vision, cracks in theories, inconsistencies in logic;
• participants are forced again and again to return to the drawing board and produce better arguments;
• the truth is understood not to be located in any single voice, but to emerge from the conversation as a whole.

Postmodern discourse
Over the past half century, a competing mode of discourse, the one I call postmodern, has become steadily more entrenched in academe. Following are ten of its hallmarks, as Roberts and Sailer describe on their blogs:

• "persons and positions are ordinarily closely related," with little insistence on keeping personal identity separate from the questions or issues under discussion;
• "sensitivity, inclusivity, and inoffensiveness are key values";
• priority on "cooperation, collaboration, quietness, sedentariness, empathy, equality, non-competitiveness, conformity, a communal focus";
• "seems lacking in rationality and ideological challenge," in the eyes of proponents of modern discourse;
• tends to perceive the satire and criticism of modern discourse as "vicious and personal attack, driven by a hateful animus";
• is oriented to " the standard measures of grades, tests, and a closely defined curriculum";
• lacking "means by which to negotiate or accommodate such intractable differences within its mode of conversation," it will "typically resort to the most fiercely antagonistic, demonizing, and personal attacks upon the opposition";
• "will typically try, not to answer opponents with better arguments, but to silence them completely as ‘hateful’, ‘intolerant’, ‘bigoted’, ‘misogynistic’, ‘homophobic’, etc.";
• has a more feminine flavour, as opposed to the more masculine flavour of modern discourse;
• results in "stale monologues" and contexts that "seldom produce strong thought, but rather tend to become echo chambers."

When competing discourses collide
Roberts's original post describes the competing modes of discourse in rich detail and shows how differences between them play out in today's culture wars, as "offense-takers" and "offense trolls" use "human shields" and accusations of "hate speech" to silence opponents. That entire post, long as it is, merits close reading. For present purposes I highlight just one of Roberts's hypotheses: "Lacking a high tolerance for difference and disagreement, sensitivity-driven discourses will typically manifest a herding effect. Dissenting voices can be scapegoated or excluded and opponents will be sharply attacked." 
It's very easy to identify the differences between these two discourse modes when one compares Whatever with Vox Popoli; see how many of each of these ten hallmarks apply in the ongoing discourse, or what passes for it, between McRapey and me.  Regardless of whether one calls it postmodern, sensitivity-driven, r/selection, or rhetorical, there are numerous fundamental and observable differences between the way the Rabbit People and those they hate and fear tend to communicate.

But don't be mistaken.  This isn't just another blog vs blog pissing match.  It's much more than that, as the known problem of mobbing in academia and elsewhere is directly related to the behaviors we are seeing exemplified here.  The same mechanics are at work in your school, your workplace, and your social circles and it is the very problem of which Aristotle warned more than two thousand years ago. 

40 comments:

Shimshon said...

There really is a lot of hate and fear, isn't there? I agree that it's big. Vox, how far do you think they'll go with it?

DennisP2112 said...

> how far do you think they'll go with it?

Until they accomplish their goals; which appears may result in the collapse of civilization as we have know it.

VD said...

How far will who go with what? Scalzi will alternatively launch passive-aggressive attacks and pretend I don't exist. There isn't anything they can do outside of the Three Weapons of the Rabbit People.

stg58/Animal Mother said...

Is one if the three weapons of the Rabbit People a fanatical devotion to the Pope?

Faust said...

It's interesting that he should mention Chesterton and Shaw. You can read one of the debates he's referring to here, and it's very worth your time even if you're not up on who these two people are.

http://www.cse.dmu.ac.uk/~mward/gkc/books/debate.txt

Note the style and graciousness, the sophistication of the arguments and the level of intelligence that's assumed of the reader. Contrast this to "racist, sexist, homophobic" bandied about like it's some kind of magic talisman.

Daniel said...

Postmodern discourse only survives within its own chamber. This is why so much time and effort was devoted on their behalf to gaining monopoly:

At the university, they overwhelmed the ranks. One exemplar result: free speech zones. In the media, they mobbed a handful of channels. One exemplar result: AP wire dependency.

What became a huge problem for them was that they possessed neither the strategic nor dialectic strength to last on level playing fields. When modern discourse ceded the field, it did not usher in the empire of unchecked postmodernism, it was replaced by combat discourse.

Postmodernist discourse has no clue how to fight. They just huddle like victims and hope that they will be the last to be targeted.

Now, the university is in a cannibalistic free-fall, and the media has exploded into more channels than they can ever hope to squat in, and it only takes a few outlets for the combat guard (the modern discourse, modified for counterattack - basically adding "personally detached, but intentionally targeting the emotionality of the postmodern" to the equation) to run roughshod over the poorly defended.

Pepper said...

"...sensitivity, inclusivity, and inoffensiveness...cooperation, collaboration, quietness...empathy, equality"

I'm no scholar, but even I can appreciate the radical differences between this list of values and our Western traditions. I have to chuckle a little. The idea of Zeus as sensitive, or Hera as cooperative or Aristophanes as inoffensive is absolutely absurd. Socrates quiet? Laughable. A casual glance indicates that conflict and dissension produce ideas and growth.

facepalm said...

Are your attacks supposed to be impartial or something? Or not even attacks at all? You have more pet names for this guy than anyone else. You seem to have taken a very personal interest in him and his blog.

The real lesson here is actually about the "sigma". If you imagine what an "alpha" vs "gamma" fight would be like, would it involve such a protracted bitch fest and so much passive agressive name calling? No, it wouldn't happen at all or it would be over very quickly. What this illustrates is that whether or not the sigma "cares" about the social heirarchy, one thing is for sure: when he engages in the social jockying like the rest of us do he is no where near as skilled as alphas are at it. Maybe that's why he's found it so convenient not to engage at all, and then make a virtue of it.

VD said...

Are your attacks supposed to be impartial or something? Or not even attacks at all?

No. And no.

The real lesson here is actually about the "sigma". If you imagine what an "alpha" vs "gamma" fight would be like, would it involve such a protracted bitch fest and so much passive agressive name calling?

And no. Sigma has to do with the fact that the sigma does whatever he wants and pays no attention when passive-aggressive gammas attempt to influence his behavior by sharing their opinions. Haven't you noticed yet that your incessant bitching doesn't have any effect whatsoever here?

You don't understand that there isn't any social jockeying going on between John and I at all. That's not in question. You don't even know what game is being played, and yet you're attempting to engage in color commentary.

Martel said...

This post touches on a very important point that those who advocate modern discourse often miss.

A postmodernist seems more persuasive than the modernist to a stupid audience UNLESS the modernist is aware of what's happening. Calling attention to the stupid tricks of the postmodernist is an incredibly effective framing technique.

Unfortunately, often the modernist will cling to how the debate should be conducted and ignore how he's getting destroyed by nonsense. Because it strikes him as too dumb to work, he assumes that it can't work. He's dead wrong.

Instead, he needs to reframe and attack on moderninst terms. I see this happen all too rarely.

VD said...

Unfortunately, often the modernist will cling to how the debate should be conducted and ignore how he's getting destroyed by nonsense. Because it strikes him as too dumb to work, he assumes that it can't work. He's dead wrong.

Precisely. That is the primary point of this exercise. The secondary point is to show how EASY it is for the modernist.

Mike M. said...

Not modern and post-modern, Vox.

Civilized and Uncivilized. Civilized discourse lies at the foundation of all advanced societies. When a society is no longer able to use this tool, and is only capable of Uncivilized discourse, it reverts to barbarism.

As we are seeing now.

Martel said...

A great explanation for how the Left abandoned modernism is Stephen Hicks' book "Postmodernism". Before socialism had actually been tried and there weren't quite so many facts opposing the dream, the Left would often use rational discourse to promote its views.

Once the evidence started stacking up that socialism is a failure, they worked to de-legitimize the very notions of "evidence" and "reason" themselves.

Of course, lefties will use modernist discourse if they're talking to somebody who doesn't have many of the facts at hand. Their key phrase is "whatever works".

In any case, Hicks's book is incredible.

Jimmy said...

I don't see how this post is about Alpha Game. I don't have the brain power to decipher the whole debate. You already have a complementary debate on the Vox site, which is better suited.

Martel said...

The two concepts are entirely related. I've described my take on the relationship between the concepts here:

http://alphaisassumed.wordpress.com/2012/12/18/a-hamster-is-no-basis-for-a-system-of-government/

VD said...

I don't see how this post is about Alpha Game. I don't have the brain power to decipher the whole debate.

Sure it is. And sure you do. You're just not seeing the pattern. Here is your homework assignment. Read today's post. Then read Rabbit Man is Rabbity at VP and the linked post at Whatever.

Then answer this question: based on your grasp of the socio-sexual hierarchy, what is the rank of the Whatever writer?

tz said...

Discourse v.s.metadiscourse.

Discourse - How many teeth does a horse have?

Metadiscourse - wouldn't it be nice to talk about horses? I like horses. Horses shouldn't be exploited! I speak for the horses. Isn't Equus horrid?

Eyes v.s neighs.

This is [what i say is] objective reality. You say different, let us debate and discuss, I wish to understand your perspective even if I ultimately don't agree, andyou might be right.
v.s.
This is whay I feel and you should feel that way too and if you don't, you are a RSHD!

Pepper said...

"Sigma has to do with the fact that the sigma does whatever he wants and pays no attention when passive-aggressive gammas attempt to influence his behavior..."

Perhaps this is one reason why VD's blogs are ranked among the top conservative websites. His fierce independence and objectivity not only knock down, but also destroy the gamma's weapons. Then the gamma, engaged in asymmetrical warfare for which he is totally unprepared, is forced to retreat back into his cave of ignorance and despair. VD wins the argument. Every time. He is quite masterful, really.

Matthew King (King A) said...

I think I am experiencing "The Loving Mallet of Correction." I am shocked, shocked to see it being deployed at this site.

VD said...

I have always deleted OT comments at will, Matt. I am not interested in your opinions on blog etiquette. If you wish to discuss a subject related to this post, please feel free.

If you're going to try to tell me how I should run my blog again or start trying to discuss me rather than the topic at hand, I will certainly delete your comments.

There is no Mallet here. I don't delete comments for disagreeing with me or having Bad Thoughts. Nor do I edit them. I do delete spam, most anonymous comments, and off topic comments every single day.

I suggest you read the post, consider your past comments here, and note what sort of discourse is indicated by this: "persons and positions are ordinarily closely related, with little insistence on keeping personal identity separate from the questions or issues under discussion"

Aeoli Pera said...

There goes the neighborhood...

rcocean said...

People need to be realistic. The rabbit people are winning and post-modern discussion is the norm not the exception. Once the post-moderns accumulate enough power by means of a media monopoly or a takeover of universities, they win. There was no "modern" political discussion in Pravda. It isn't just enough to recognize the danger, you need to recognize the societal implications.

rcocean said...

And people like Matt are so dull. People like him post on EVERY BLOG. They wish to go off topic and get upset at any rules. Don't like VD's rules? Start your own blog. Oh wait, no one would read it...now I understand.

Mike M. said...

rcocean, I have to disagree. What's needed is for those of us engaging in rational discourse to add in some of the techniques of the post-modernists. There has never been a issue with delivering a coldly rational argument in a rhetorically effective way.

Johnny Caustic said...

What is it about universities that makes them accumulate post-moderns? It's ironic, considering the very purpose of a university is to foster logical thinking, the gathering of evidence, and the unbiased search for truth. Is there something in the structure of today's universities that brings in the rabbit people and repels the K-selected? (Other than the fact that the current faculty are all r-selected; it wasn't always so.)

VD said...

Matt, heterotopic discourse does not concern allowing random people to hijack and monopolize the discussion. Do you still not understand that the game here, at Dalrock's, and at Rollo's is not about who gets to be the Chief Rabbit?

Your comments will be permitted when they are actually relevant to the discourse. No one here is stupid, so stop this transparently passive-aggressive blathering and either take part in the discourse or go somewhere else.

And for future reference, stop asking rhetorical questions. If you have substantive questions, I'll be happy to answer them. But do not ask me if I have considered X or ever thought about Y. You're not fooling anyone, so knock it off.

You should be embarrassed that a place that freely tolerates everything from Tad the Obsessed Queer to Wheeler the Spartan has to keep rubbing your nose in your mess.

Daniel said...

Johnny - here's the thumbnail - the Marxists lost the debate using traditional methods, so went for revolution. The protests of '68 kicked off a student mob push to emotionally shout down the dialectic. Idiotic slogans, all basically amounting to "The dialectic is oppressive!" helped foster an environment of non-debate as debate. Those Marxist students became teachers, and they got their friends in government and finance to inflate tuition artificially through student loans, creating an industry specially suited for the non-productive, non-contributing Marxist, and a work environment especially repellent to the productive.

So now, universities are a Marxist inflated bubble that provide no discernable skill to those students that they indebt to the tune of $100,000 or so, thereby making the "poor professor" a very lucrative career for the chosen few.

Inmates run the asylum and get rich and no one sane wants to go reclaim the razed grounds.

Johnycomelayely said...

Says the guy who constantly rolls out the mensa score...post modern a little bit?

In the spirit of playfulness :)

ray said...

It's much more than that, as the known problem of mobbing in academia and elsewhere is directly related to the behaviors we are seeing exemplified here. The same mechanics are at work in your school, your workplace, and your social circles


yup make no mistake, identity politics, marxism, feminism -- these are mob mentalities... brownshirting-up with The Group for safety and maximum power

it's the ultimate in The People ruling over themselves, evil by group consensus, and for group benefit

as with the old ussr, mob-government requires scapegoats/outgroups, constant propaganda, and absolute adherence to ideopolitical diktat

Toby Temple said...

Vox,

I think we can also consider post-modern discourse as nothing more than a tyrannical attempt to silence any form of dissent.

Conformity is the name of the game. And those who will not play it will be silenced.

VD said...

Says the guy who constantly rolls out the mensa score...post modern a little bit?

Postmodern entirely. For what audience do you think that is intended? What part of "you cannot convince a person limited to rhetoric with dialectic" do you not understand?

Here's how it works. I say X. The modern individual either says "hmm, that's correct" or "no, I think that's incorrect because of Y."

The postmodernist says "I think that's incorrect because you're stupid." To which I respond: "Are you in Mensa?" They lower their eyes and say "no". Then I say "X right and you are wrong because you are stupider."

If you're communicating with rabbits, you have to show them you can hop higher than them.

Anonymous said...

Modern and post-modern are two sides of the same liberal coin. Liberalism is reductionism, autonomous and egalitarian. It cannot envision a world where moderation, inequality, respect and hierarchy exist. Conservatism uses both modern and post-modern discourse. Liberalism just uses one or the other. Never both simultaneously.

LP 999/Eliza said...

This ScaMcR thing was unavoidable.

The critical differences are frustrating for some as these issues are not little contrived internet fights or even internal debates.

These are serious divides of worldviews that will never gel even if superficial friendships exist.

Endless softness, emotionalism and petty insults never fares well for communicating with logicians.

Pepper said...

At first I thought that understanding the differences in discourse between men and women was necessary or desirable for interpersonal relationships, but now I am seeing that it extends much further. We are really seeing differences in philosophy and cognitive development with large scale social implications. These articles explain in part why it is so difficult to run a business. Not only are the young employees conditioned to seek equality and fairness, various states are institutionalizing the mechanisms to reinforce this mentality at the expense of the employer. The injustice system, "bureaucrats with handbooks", arbitrary "government agencies" established with the citizens' tax dollars all function to reinforce this herd mentality at the expense of the businessman, his private property and his freedom.

I thought this problem was on the order of "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus", but really it's like, "Dude, Where's My Civilization?"

Mike M. said...

Vox, you realize you're making a good case for joining Mensa just to smack post-modernists around, don't you? :-)

LP 999/Eliza said...

"philosophy and cognitive development..."

Speaking broadly now. And there stands the issue, thanks to years of societal decline and the lack of personal development, growth, etc., sometimes grown ups find themselves around eternal children that are unable to reason, think or follow through their own logic. So the divide will always exist.

stareatgoatsies said...

Matt. I am not interested in your opinions on blog etiquette. If you wish to discuss a subject related to this post, please feel free.

The post is a comparison of heterotopic vs sensitivity driven discourse and modern vs post-modern discourse.

Etiquette relates to the conventional requirements placed upon social behaviour in a community.

And yet they're so unrelated they deserve deletions? Ooops - rhetorical question. Are they banned too now? And there I go again.

My guess is, the intention of this post was to bait Matthew and provide you with the cover you need to ban him.

MidKnight said...

FWIW, as an example of the two modes of discourse (AND repeatedly missing the point, AND accusing the other as stupid/incapable of logic while using gross logical fallacies, AND.... I give up...) - look at the comments threads here.

http://clarissasblog.com/2013/01/22/should-teachers-carry-guns/

Later, one of the "idiots" comments was excerpted into its own entire blog post to show how "stupid" he was, while missing the point of that section entirely....

http://clarissasblog.com/2013/01/23/if-gasoline-is-freely-available-why-control-gun-ownership/

grey_whiskers said...

@VD on January 22, 2013 at 12:20 AM

If you're communicating with rabbits, you have to show them you can hop higher than them.

Would you agree that "credentialism" is another characteristic of Rabbit People? (e.g. "Person X went to [Harvard, Yale, Princeton, whatever], ergo their feelings are now to be treated as fact, or at least important")?

Note also the leading charges against Dan Quayle, Bush '43, Palin were that "they're stupid."

Not used against Gingrich for some reason, nor Romney. Oddly enough both Romney and Bush '43 had Harvard MBAs--so why did the charge get used against one and not the other? Public speaking skills?

jadoescher said...

Also present in post modern discourse: small errors in grammar, spelling, or word choice are pointed out by opponents to render an entire written statement invalid. Even font choice or page design can be called into question in order to invalidate an argument.

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