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Advertising Your Enemies
A Proposal for Settling Bad Faith Attacks from Extremists
An incomplete categorization of guests on The Joe Rogan Experience is currently circulating in an attempt to characterize him as Right-wing. Of course, even if accurately applied, this would be a lacking standard, since it is determined by other factors including whether guests agree to appear on Rogan, what new ideas are most popular, current events, and much more. However, taking a look at the list itself brings quite a different problem to light.
The right-wing column is riddled with progressives and Biden voters. Michael Shermer is a well-known atheist with left-wing positions. Steven Pinker is a cognitive scientist who advocates that we be thankful for the progressive/liberal world order. Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying are long-time progressives, who I argue turned vaccine skeptical due to a logical extension of their left-wing disposition. Tulsi Gabbard was literally a representative and presidential candidate for the Democratic Party. There are many more who I am less familiar with, but from all appearances are well to the left-of-center, including Russell Brand and Peter Boghossian. Yet more have eclectic politics that certainly don’t result in a vote for Trump or the Republicans, such as Tim Dillon, Sam Harris and Eric Weinstein. Another third of the names I don’t recognize at all.
These critiques are often met with attacks along the lines of “who cares about their position on abortion”(or some other traditionally left-wing issue), “the Democratic party is actually right-wing”, “they are right-wing on one issue out of many”, et cetera. Of course, to an extreme right-winger, everyone else is left-wing, while to an extreme left-winger, everyone else is right-wing. A decent standard for dividing people into left or right is to look at their positions relative to the public, specifically relative to public issue polling, but due to a lack of neutral issue polling, as well as the difficulty in capturing specific, nuanced positions, this can be difficult.
To solve this deficiency, I propose the following process be offered to anyone promoting such a list:
A left-winger and right-winger get together and contribute an equal amount of funding.
Each makes a list of people they believe to be left-wing, right-wing, and center.
The left-winger chooses a person from the left-wing category of the other person’s list, while the right-winger chooses a right-winger from the opposite person’s list.
The money is used to commission an ad that lists the positions of both public figures chosen. The left-winger is obligated to sign off with “If you hold most of the positions of this ‘right-winger’, you are not a Democrat, so vote for the Republican party” and vice versa.
Of course, we wouldn’t expect someone acting in bad faith to accept such a deal, as it would be disadvantageous to him or her electorally. If someone truly believed that a list reflected an honest left-right divide, he or she may be very interested in the deal, particularly if the list presented by the opposing party highly differs. In such a scenario we may also see more people hedging their bets and moving figures into the “center” category rather than the opposing side. This is an intended consequence.
A similar standard can also act to expose greater hypocrisy, in which extremists overplay their hand in order to move parties well past the popular opinion of their voters by pretending it is taboo in a party to hold a given position, for example that affirmative action is bad or that the election was fair, when in reality it is a sizeable or majority opinion.
One problem with this standard is that extremists don’t necessarily care about the party closer to them winning elections. They may agree to this standard even when realizing their categorization is wrong because they don’t see sabotaging that party as a real downside. This system doesn’t directly solve this problem, but it creates a much greater incentive for a party to control, fire and distance themselves from such extremists.
Finding the funding to implement this process may also be troublesome. However, there are plenty of political donors seeking to combat polarization and this may be something that you all want to experiment with (really, let me know if you want to coordinate and fund such a trial!). For now, we at least have a useful thought experiment to throw at the bad-faith or delusional.