So, for those of you who do not slavishly read everything I say on Twitter (because what I say is 100% gold and you should bask in the glow of my wisdom), I got into a bit of a brouhaha with a chap called @WyattPRivledge. I came into a conversation he was having with Sargon of Akkad and corrected him on what I thought was a fairly uncontentious point;
@WyattPRivledge the issue is one of experience vs intention, or more simply, what they say vs what they do @WyattPRivledge I’m sure that most of the altright think they are as you say, but are unable to see through their own biases. @WyattPRivledge as an example of what i mean look at how lois and peter thought they played when they were high vs how they actually did.
In case the context is unclear; he was saying that the Alt-Right are 100% intellectually honest to a man. Now, I’m not calling him a liar, but I am going to say that that is not a statement that any group can make. No one is perfect, and even those who strive for intellectual honesty can have a bad day. In the arena of public discourse, it is not intelligence or knowledge that matters most – it is whether you can trust the intelligence or knowledge of another. After all, stats can be misused.
So, lets have a little primer on intellectual honesty. This is presented here not to imply that Wyatt is being dishonest in himself, but to explain why a group as a whole can’t be considered totally intellectually honest.
You cannot overstate the power of your argument. Portraying your opponents as being either stupid or dishonest for disagreeing, is intellectual dishonest.
You also have to be willing to acknowledge that reasonable alternative viewpoints exist. The alternative views do not have to be treated as equally valid or powerful (eg; Intelligent Design vs Evolution), but rarely is it the case that one and only one viewpoint has a complete monopoly on reason and evidence.
Being able to acknowledge where your argument is weak is also a good sign of honesty. Almost all arguments have holes in them, but people trying to sell an ideology tend to obscure or downplay theirs.
You also have to be able to acknowledge when you are wrong.
Consistency is also important. A clear sign of intellectual dishonesty is when someone extensively relies on double standards. Typically, an excessively high standard is applied to the perceived opponent, while a very low standard is applied to the ideologues’ allies. We see this all the time in SJW circles and the more out there micro-cultures.
Ad hominem arguments are a good example of dishonesty. These can take many more forms than you might think – guilt by association and entrapment questions (the gonzo-gotcha questions).
A common tactic of the intellectually dishonest (like the anti-evolutionary movement) is to portray their opponent’s argument in its most ludicrous terms (you believe in a crocaduck?). Typically this takes the form of misquoting or paraphrasing.
Acknowledgement of valid criticism. If someone is unable or unwilling to admit when their opponent raises a good point or makes a good criticism, it demonstrates an unwillingness to participate in the give-and-take that characterizes an honest exchange.
Now that’s out of the way, lets get back to our Twitter brouhaha. This blog post is not intended to have a go at Wyatt or the alt-right, but there are some things that I would like him to address.
The racial demographics for London – Wyatt asserted that whites are a minority in London.
Evolutionary racial specifics – Wyatt asserted that there are racial differences in things such as brain size between the races. Obviously there are differences (I’m white and my next door neighbour isn’t), but I have yet to read anywhere that the differences significantly impact our behaviour.
Evidence for No Go Zones in Europe.
One final piece of business.
Early on in the conversation, we were talking about Safe Spaces. Now, I work with children, so my interaction with Safe Spaces has been quiet positive. Kids, especially SEN ones, sometimes need an area to unpack and reorder themselves. Wyatt and the internet at large, however, know Safe Spaces as, well, this.
I made the point that ‘a SS isn’t defined by its worst aspects – as a member of what is commonly thought of as neonazis I’m sure you cn empathise’.
Wyatt too that to mean that I was calling him a NeoNazi. Wyatt, I’m sorry, but that is not what I was doing at all. You have an apology for any offence caused by that comment, but I was in no way calling you or your group NeoNazi’s. Perhaps I could have stated it better. My point was that ‘x is not defined by its worst adherents’. I brought up NeoNazi’s because there are people out there that call the alt-right that, in the same way that when I am on holiday, I am sometimes confused with an American because I speak English.
I’d like to invite Wyatt to comment below and give his interpretation of events and raise any issues he had with me.