I’d like to introduce you to my friends Laura, Amy and Steven. I don’t understand why Laura loves incredibly derivative and often idiotic punk rock, and she thinks that my beloved REM are one of the worst bands in human history. Other than that, we get on brilliantly. I don’t share Amy’s veganism, and she obviously doesn’t share my love of barbecuing steaks. Other than that, we get on brilliantly. I don’t share Steven’s love of country music, and he believes that my book should be banned and that I am a predatory paedophile who should be tarred, feathered and hung from a lamppost. Other than that…
Steven isn’t real, of course, although there are many people who believe exactly what I’ve described. But of course, I’m not friends with those people any more than I would be friends with animal torturers, wife beaters or any other horrific humans. And this apparently makes me a bad person.
One of the most annoying topics in the current awfulness of everything is the trope that the woke censorious left won’t be friends with people who don’t share their political views. That trope is bollocks, and AR Moxon has written an excellent explanation of why.
It’s a very common lament: that there is no civility left these days, as compared to earlier days, and the main reason appears to be that those on the “left” refuse to be friends with those on the “right,” shunning them simply because of their political views.
This implies something rather startling: American conservatives want to be friends with the rest of us. Had you realized? You’d never know it to listen to them, but apparently it is so, and the notion that some of us don’t want to be friends with them is one of the most pressing matters to be found in the opinion sections of our nation’s great newspapers and magazines and newsfortainment television programs.
Moxon argues that the supposed polarity of left/right isn’t accurate, and suggests humanist/supremacist instead. The supremacist political view is that “other types of humans do not matter, and shouldn’t have space to exist and thrive as themselves, and should are abused and punished for any refusal to be dominated.” And yet “they feel strongly that friendship is something they still deserve, though it feels like something they actually want, and more like something they believe they’re owed.”
I think Moxon makes a very important point about the discourse around this.
Something I’ve noticed about professional civility mourners is that when they mourn the divisions over political views, they rarely mention what those views are, or what effect they have.
That’s very true of the reporting around this, which frames “views” as some kind of abstract thing without any actual consequences. So for example the “view” that there are too many trans people and that their numbers should be reduced, which is genocidal, is presented as if it were an opinion about wallpaper or a TV show. All too often, “views” are considered more important than the actual people those views are about and targeted towards.
There is not a debate if one side believes that all Black people, all Jewish people or all LGBTQ+ people should be killed and the other side is the Black people, the Jewish people or the LGBTQ+ people that the other side want to kill. And yet all too often that’s exactly how these things are presented, and have been for a very long time. The BBC famously used the headline “Should homosexuals face execution?” in a piece about Uganda’s anti-gay persecution just over ten years ago. The “should” turns what should be absolute horror into a nice dinner party chat.
Of course, not all views are so extreme. But many supremacist ones are, no matter how politely they’re expressed. And there is not an equally hateful and violent other side.
nobody is trying to strip supremacists of their vote, or ensure that they will go bankrupt over medical care, or force them to give birth to their rapist’s baby, or murder them at the border, or take away their children, or frame the continuance of their lives as a cost rather than a value, as something that must be earned, as something that is undeserved. In fact, these are things that the humanist spirit is trying to ensure even they will be safe from, which actually seems like the friendliest posture a person can take, toward somebody who has decided to be their enemy.
And yet we’re expected to be friends with people who want those things for us. Moxon uses the analogy of schoolyard bullies who want us to sit at their lunch table as sycophants: “If you want to be friends, why don’t you ever come sit with us? Why is the demand that we come sit with you instead? Why do you want so badly for only some of us to sit over with you, and why aren’t the rest of our friends ever welcome at your table?”
If you want friends, why aren’t you willing to be friendly?
Do you want to be friends? Is friends what is desired here?
I don’t think so, actually.
I think what’s being sought is accomplices.
And I think that’s true. It’s freedom of speech as a demand for freedom of consequences all over again: some of the world’s worst people demanding that the world conforms to what they want, and never the other way around. It’s portrayed as a basic human right when it’s nothing of the sort. Friendship is a contract, and the terms of that contract is that if you turn out to be an arsehole, the deal is off.
In a previous piece, Moxon talked about the abuse of freedom of speech in more detail.
It’s almost gotten to be boring, the degree to which people believe that what they refer to as “free speech” should not only allow them to say whatever they want (which it does), but should also prevent other people from understanding them to be the sort of person who says those things.
Moxon believes, as I do, that it’s perfectly appropriate for awful people to be shunned because of the things they say and do.
There are worse things than shunning. There are shelves empty of books. There are people dying from deliberately manufactured medical policy. There are actual attacks upon freedom and speech. There is supremacy. There is genocide.
…At a certain point, it seems to me that we have to conclude that what such people are actually advocating for is not to use sunlight to expose and disinfect our society of bigotry, but simply to have a society in which bigotry is free to dance in the sun.