On Stigmatization

Stigmatization of an idea tends to backfire:

Stigmatization of an idea, by design, intends to convert, not persuade, by bypassing reason and going right for our tribal desire to fit in. But I think the rarely noted effect of this conversion happening is that it robs the converted of the tools to persuade others going forward.  In other words, if you haven’t been persuaded by the merits of a political idea, how do you persuade others? You can’t without resorting to the same sort of stigmatizing argument.

This, I think, at least partially explains the left’s staleness over the past two years, and the cultural center-left elite’s utter shock at the inadequacy of its invincible ascendant coalition. Stigmatization doesn’t just turn off perfectly good people who aren’t racists but supported Trump (as a blasé example). And it doesn’t just make you complacent (which it does). I think it actively contributes to ideological rot.

You don’t say!

But it is worse than that: when your social progress (or stability, for that matter) is based on groupthink and bullying outliers your precious social norms are fragile. It is not a sign of progress that a majority of Americans were against gay marriage one day and in favor the next, but a sign that Americans are shallow and easily led.

I once chatted with someone who as a teen was a devout evangelical Christian attending public high-school in a small Midwestern town. One day some other kids were making some rather vicious gay jokes about an effeminate classmate and this young man stood up for the classmate: you shouldn’t make fun of him behind his back, even if he were gay, he should be respected, etc. Because he stood up for a classmate, these bullies started a rumor that he was gay too.

Fast forward twenty ears, and the exact same bullies unfriended him on Facebook because he was against gay marriage. His convictions had not changed, and neither had his character. The same goes for the bullies: they never had convictions to begin with, and their character was the same. Not wicked so much as shallow, unthinking, and going with the crowd.





One comment

  1. Such is the importance of understanding classical logic and having parameters- and using appropriate language. Stepping away from those things is what allows people to think religious freedom is the right to force other free citizens to follow one’s religion.

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