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Isn't that just Matt Breunig

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That definition seems like it's a few decades out of date. Working from home on a laptop with a 401k and good benefits, nourished by DoorDash, and enjoying yearly out of country vacations isn't really what anyone means by Working Class anymore.

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Meaning it's useless.

I work for somebody else out of a home office and make $200k a year. You're not going to seriously argue that I share the same economic concerns and priorities as somebody washing dishes.

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Working for a wage because you need one to live. There are plenty of people, if they didn't have a wage, could still exist off of family wealth. Those people are not working class

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Most of the loud voices come from Twitter, NYT, publishing, etc. These are not working class voices.

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This part, "because most Americans don’t want socialism," makes this part, "conservatives are the ones with the guns," irrelevant.

Even most *liberal* Americans do not want socialism. If we imagine socialism as a spectrum, many Americans would like policies to move leftward on that spectrum, but if you ask "do you want socialism" the answer is a pretty strong no.

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It depends on what you consider socialism. Is Medicare socialism? It has overwhelming support. What about Social Security? It too has overwhelming support.

If socialism is providing a safety net for people who need it, I'm for it.

Socialism with a free market economy.

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"Socialism" has meant a number of things over the past few hundred years, but what most Americans associate with the word is Marxist socialism and / or Soviet socialism, and they consistently and rigorously reject that incarnation. If you were to say "I'm a socialist" in America today, most people will assume you mean something like Marxism (even if that's not really true).

As you mentioned, a number of socialist ideas are well-loved in America. But incorporating socialist ideas into America seems less objectionable than to imply that you want to make America a socialist country. And at its bedrock, socialism is the idea of society owning everything where "society" is defined as some specific form (the government, employees of each business, etc.). Americans are largely not on board with this idea. They pretty strongly favor private property even as they redistribute some portion of it for socialist ends.

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I think most Americans would be happy with social democracy, if one suddenly POOFED into existence. As long as they didn't get too resentful that "those" people were cheating the system (unlike "us" honest people, who deserve support). "Socialism" as a word is so poisoned by decades of propaganda and bad-faith discourse that anything from "you know even St. Reagan supported this" to "Karl Marx thinks you're hardcore" gets folded into one word.

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Remember that Medicare and Social Security were both programs that, *ostensibly* are giving us our own money back. Yes, they are mildly progressive, but ultimately, they are a pay in > get out system (and were sold that way, and that's why "solvency" is even a thing with them).

Contrast those with Medicaid and disability, which are *actually* strongly redistributive, and you see something closer to real public support for redistributive social democracy, and it's not anywhere near so popular.

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I think socialism gets lumped into "command economy" top down, communism. That's a non-starter for me even though I'm very critical of the way "we" focus our energies on ourselves, usually at the expense of others. It's a non-starter because I can't imagine a "top" that would have the wisdom to control the economy over the long term that would benefit everyone, or anything but a small elite.

I believe in capitalism with democratic social control. It's Very imperfect because it requires an informed electorate and most people just aren't interested in policy details. They don't fit into tweets.

Democracy allows change over time without bloody revolution...that eats its own children. Capitalism provides incentives for innovation and creative destruction. BUT it has to be regulated!!! No anti-competition behaviors should be allowed. That doesn't mean scrapping health and safety regulations, those should be strong.

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And even assuming point 1 is possible and desirable, they seem ill-inclined to do the actual, y'know, work that building a post-work world would involve.

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Exactly. Rich kids--mostly white--telling the rest of us how to think. Laughable.

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Great piece. Had yet to have seen someone articulate the curtain call for this damaging twitter driven "drop mic" era. Unfortunately, i do think what they do is effective in the bluest of blue communities around the country which unfortunately helps the Squad and similar attention seekers get elected versus traditional liberals. This is also seemingly true in the reddest of red communities and how you get MTG instead of a regular southern right winger.

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Mar 23, 2023·edited Mar 23, 2023

I don't know about the Serfs, but I would say the 'best' example of what you're on about is maybe the Chapo guys ? I find myself listening to them on the regular just cuz they make me laugh. And I don't think they ever thought for one second they were changing anything. To their credit, they have totally accepted the fact that the Left as an agent of change is dead, worldwide, and will not be resuscitated in any like form. You may say the Left must move on, but perhaps you're the one kicking the dead horse. Especially from a European perspective where the American Left is scarcely leftier than a Macronist or Merkelite.

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Now, typically, I delete comments where it's clear the commenter didn't actually read the piece, as your invocation of Chapi Trap House as sometime I hadn't considered reveals. And if they've given up on left wing change, then shame on them.

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Damn, I'll admit I skipped over the paragraph where you cited Chapo… my bad!

Still, I think the comment is valid about the left being effectively dead on the world stage.

As ever, it seems that the "ni dieu, ni maitre" population is incapable of governing even itself as good socialists… Tell me where there is actual resistance agains the neoliberal tidal wave ?

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Mar 23, 2023Liked by Freddie deBoer

No way, the Chapo guys totally believe in the left as an agent of change, or they wouldn't keep interviewing people like union organizers. If they sound jaded, it's only because they actually hope things will change, and know just how hard that is, and the "arc of history" at least for now seems aimed at doom. Meanwhile, jokes. Laughter is good.

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Yes this fits with my impression although again I don't really listen to podcasts.

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The nuance to be made here is that they still believe in doing good things and presenting good people. But they are clearly not deluding themselves about the outcomes.

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I'm still not rewatching Avatar though

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Funny, that was them pushing a totally unironic, earnestly utopian movie.

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Before I even got a few paragraphs into this article -- in fact, upon reading the title -- I was reminded of the Kyle Kulinski show on YouTube. I'm not sure whether it at all qualifies as the type of nihilistic irony-laden leftist Freddie is criticizing (it is certainly hard-core left-wing!), but for me the main outstanding characteristic of Kyle Kulinski is his compulsion to sneer at every opinion he disagrees with by repeating the opinion in a silly voice (the exact same voice regardless of which Republican he's making fun of, so it's not an impression or anything) and adding the word "bro" at the end of every sentence or two. I find Kulinski too unbearably annoying for me to have watched more than very little of his show, so maybe I'm wrongly extrapolating here, but it's very apparent in the little I've seen.

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Never heard of this person but a few of them do the annoying voice thing. The thing I find even more annoying is the text version where they just type an opinion they disagree with iN aLtErNaTiNg CaPs and that apparently is supposedly a good argument (or good comedy)? Freddie's arrested development thing observation is correct, however they are not perpetually stuck in a political moment, they are perpetual 12 year olds.

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Yeah, Kulinski gets old fast.

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Mar 23, 2023·edited Mar 23, 2023

I think of content creators as being similar to pro athletes in that the vast majority have very limited earnings windows. There are a ton of people who want their jobs, and an unending stream of new talent knocking at the door. Very few are able to stay relevant and profitable for 10+ years, and the ones that are tend to be .1% level talents who are consistently able to reinvent themselves. Think Bill Simmons pivoting to a management/podcast/eventual founder role compared to Rick Riley (or compared to a million unknown bloggers from the early 2000s- the equivalent to the minor leagues). I think of the sub-stack household names like Bari Weiss, Matt Yglasies, etc as being part of this select group (like them or not).

This is a long winded way of saying that it's incredibly difficult to adopt new material and businesses and it should be expected that the majority of successful content creators eventually flame out after their material gets stale. The Serfs are the aging veteran who made a few all-star teams and still has a solid fan base today but most likely will not have long-term staying power.

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Well I agree with the point about content creators having short careers.

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I thought you'd appreciate being compared to a pro athlete!

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Mar 23, 2023·edited Mar 23, 2023

Millennial Lefitsm has attempted to delegitimize everything on New Left terms.

Every institution is racist, sexist, phobic, exploitative, etc.

So, it's a movement that is nihilistic and not generative.

Because they're lazy and self entitled, they're not interested in the type of hard fought, incremental gains that accrue over time.

This is a generation that is over socialized, highly rehearsed, and ineffectual. That their politics has devolved to the grievances of ironic midwits is no surprise.

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Great comment. I would offer a slight adjustment to one of your ideas if you don't mind: "This is a generation that is *digitally* over socialized."

I think they are hyper-attuned to online social melodrama, with all its snarky and 'gotcha-infused' rhetoric, but they are generally lacking in everyday face-to-face social norms and mannerisms that a lot of people over 40 just take for granted. I think this is one reason (and not a small one) that a generational disconnect exists in terms of basic communication and understanding. People just tend to act different when they think a camera is rolling, and I'd imagine younger folks not only think a camera is always rolling, but that that is also completely normal. It's not.

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Absolutely. The internet generation. The iPhone generation.

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I think the lazy part is often overlooked. What so much of our political landscape lacks is a desire to grapple with tough issues or do the hard work necessary to make a difference. These are people who want to save the world and still make happy hour.

On top of that, my working theory is most people's political views are now largely personality traits more than anything else. They posture online to feel better about themselves. Helping others isn't even part of the equation.

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Yep. You nailed it. Correct. 100%.

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I don't think they're lazy or excessively entitled (that whining about Kids These Days is older than humanity); I think they have no idea where to direct their energy. Peaceful protests accomplish nothing; violent protests accomplish little; voting is increasingly kayfabe; climate change action is Sisyphean.

Now, I do think people are far too used to instant gratification; blame the Internet for that if you want. So the kind of generational work that structural reform requires is frustrating. But gettting some adjunct or content creator cancelled is easy, quick, and rewarding.*

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Mar 23, 2023·edited Mar 23, 2023

Well, let's take a cause which has animated a significant percentage of the left for several years now--policing. Between the BLM movement, defund the police movement, etc., there seems to be a significant number of people on the left that thinks policing needs reform and tons of time and energy have been expended protesting, etc. But as I said on a previous thread, you know what virtually none of them have been willing to do? Go into policing. Yet, that is a direct and obvious way to direct their energy.

And to show how this is not some crazy idea, contrast it with how a significant number of people responded after 9/11. After 9/11, a huge number of people saw a threat to their fellow Americans and were willing to make the personal sacrifice to do something about it by joining the military. Now, I have no interest in re-litigating the merits of those decisions but there is really no argument that a lot of people weren't willing to literally put their lives at risk to right what they saw as a wrong. If it were not a pose, one would expect to see similar numbers willing to make the same personal sacrifice to right the perceived policing problems. Yet, virtually no one has. I'm literally unaware of a single person in these movements who has decided to actually go into policing. That's why I see it as little more than a pose.

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I think Matt Y had an idea about taking young, idealistic, college grads and placing them as police officers in high-poverty neighborhoods for a few years; sort of a counterpart to Teach for America. I'm sure there are dozens of reasons it wouldn't work but it's an intriguing idea.

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That might be the first reality TV show I would watch.

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Would police departments want them? Police want people who'll enforce the law, no questions asked. Liberals looking to change the system wouldn't get hired. Let alone any actual progressive who wouldn't enforce unethical laws (drug prohibition is bullshit).

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I don't think 'kids these days' are lazy. Maybe the opposite?

They're so regimented and have so much work, I worry they don't have enough unstructured time to socialize and have fun.

But I do think that in general kids who are smart and ambitious think technocratic work and the ideological enthusiasms are a dumpster fire (and they're right). So, the people that you get doing their praxis in journalism, academia, etc. are downwardly mobile, narcissistic affluent midwits who don't want to roll their sleeves up and aren't able to keep focus.

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Not really a response to anything you said other than the part about laziness. Someone in the other thread that was closed (I guess due to the George Floyd stuff) mentioned Tony Timba, a young white guy killed by the cops in a city where I used to live. They pointed out that "they had footage" of that even too, but did nothing. Again this isn't a comment addressed to you, but Um, that's exactly the laziness you're talking about here. Just because Black people and social justice warriors WEREN'T lazy when organizing protests about Floyd, white people didn't find it necessary to really do anything en masse like protests over Timba's horrible death (to say nothing about another Texan executed by pigs in Arizona, while crawling on a hotel hallway floor). So in the Daniel Shaver and Tony Timba cases, and likely too many other incidents to count where a white person is killed by cops, it would seem that white people are either too lazy to organize or they expect others to do it for them. But "they had the footage" right? So who's "they" I wonder.

BTW, and this is a response to your comment, while you're over-generalizing a little bit about that generation, the same criticisms apply to the Millennial right, thankfully. Unfortunately they have the power of institutions on their side. And in case you were going to point out the Democrats and the surveillance/censorship state, the corporate MIC Democrats wouldn't be considered "left" in any other country the entire world over.

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Yes. The lefties are no longer interested in change. They seek control of the narrative. Power.

You might enjoy: https://michaelmohr.substack.com/p/george-orwells-politics-and-the-english

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Quite a generalization. Lefties as in who or where? UK, France, US? Or the ones burned in the Odessa trade union building by US / UK sponsored Azov nazis?

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I think this will continue to happen as long as there's a lack of national organization, and everyone with left sympathies is forced into being a kind of political entrepreneur. Why be a foot soldier when there's no officer, general, or even army really?

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Of course the left needs normies but The Left will always reject normies/scare them off with their bizarre identity politics. As a former union organizer/political organizer in the pre-occupy times, I tried my hand at DSA/local socialism and it wasn't worth my time.

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This reminds me of my two years doing lots of Extinction Rebellion activism when it first started and finding that normies would be scared off by one or two of the more intense vegans who interrogated them on whether they were going to have dairy milk in their tea at meetings.

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That's the problem with youth movements; at some point you have to grow out of freaking the mundanes without going Republican. Also, is it my imagination, or am I seeing "normies" used unironically more these days?

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Yeah there's a cohort of people calling for a more normy politics

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Time to reprise your 2021 encomium to Eugene Debs (https://freddiedeboer.substack.com/p/read-the-bending-cross), the kind of socialist even opponents could admire (and whose real political power they needed to respect). Recently reading Adam Hochschild's "American Midnight" reminded this classical liberal of just how appealing a straight-up American socialist can be: Bernie without the "Bros," if you will.

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Good stuff, Freddie. I may as well come right out and say I've never been a serious leftist or socialist, though bits and pieces of the program are okay I guess. The main reason I started following you was because I badly needed someone left-of-center to criticize the insanely mean and alienating social justice politics that developed in the mid 2010s and seemingly took over the world.

But it seems to me like the socialist left has the same problem: endless dunking and yelling on Twitter and not much of an actual popular movement. Social media really ruins everything, doesn't it?

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The global village...or the global high school. Cliques, gossip, posturing, complete lack of context or proportionality. Sad thing is, there's plenty of adults taking part.

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Exactly. I think young people today are largely two things: unserious and apolitical. The second claim sounds wild, but I think it’s true: Data shows the methods of leftists have mostly failed. This means they’re not interested in genuine change; they’re interested in tribal power.

Michael Mohr

‘Sincere American Writing’

https://michaelmohr.substack.com/

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Ouch, that was painful to watch. I like political education, but with way, way less cringe. The Gravel kids are much better. Occasionally funny but mostly pretty straight... https://www.youtube.com/@TheGravelInstitute

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Liberals are far more likely to be unhappy and report worse mental health outcomes than conservatives. Are they depresses and miserable because they are liberals, or are they liberals because they are depressed and miserable?

https://americanaffairsjournal.org/2023/03/how-to-understand-the-well-being-gap-between-liberals-and-conservatives/

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It's about one wing of American liberalism. And given how miserable said wing reports themselves to be is it conceivable that their mental outlook could impact the type of media they produce and consume?

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Isn't one just a subset of the other?

And in terms of mental health outcomes is it really far-fetched to wonder if a population steeped in misery and angst maybe wouldn't turn to self-defeating, destructive media and narratives as an outlet?

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I think that liberals are more likely to believe that their problems in life are due to huge systemic issues with the world - which is depressing, because it's impossible to fix! (Or at least, fixing it is a huge collective effort). It's only natural to feel depressed if you think you're missing out on the better life that would be possible if only we got rid of capitalism/racism/misogyny/greenhouse gases/whatever. On the opposite hand, I think conservatives can be more prone to anxiety - if your success or failure in life is up to the decisions you make, them that's a ton of pressure - but at least if you're doing decently in life you can feel good about that, not just feel guilty for your privilege. And if you're not doing well, then you can beat yourself up for your failings, but at least it's possible to imagine self-improvement. It's a lot easier to imagine than Utopia.

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I think it's partly a free will vs determinism split. Though I guess a lot of folks on the right believe in the free will of the market rather than just individuals? I definitely see my tendency towards being on the left as bound up with my scepticism towards free will existing. It's hard to believe in people being able to pull themselves up by their bootstraps/ the American dream/ carceral punishment and execution as morally deserved/ illegal immigration as being driven foremost by individual selfishness and laziness etc. if you don't believe in individual will to power rather than collective governing forces.

(Which is partly why I find the individualism of so much modern left-wing discourse tiresome, alienating and wrong-headed...)

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If you don't believe in free will there are no tendencies and you didn't choose to be liberal or conservative. That's just how the universe worked out.

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A 'tendency' does not imply free will. It implies an inclination "sometimes amounting to an impelling force". I don't believe I chose my tendencies.

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It does depends on how you define free will as to whether I believe in it, mind (as per God). By some definitions I'm a compatibilist like William James.

I would say a lot of my alienation from the contemporary Left is the constant focus upon individualist self-actualisation via individual consumer choice.

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Personally I prefer policy that can be debated on the merits rather than compatibility with one's personal philosophy.

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Sure... from a British perspective, it seems to me that the neoliberalism of the 1980s onwards has led to social alienation, wealth disparity increases, infrastructural collapse, increased mental health issues, and a degradation of popular culture. On a basic moral level, private prisons, private healthcare, and private schooling all seem wrong to me since I don't think those things should be driven by profit or their access determined by wealth (which has become increasingly uncoupled from productive work).

I can see that if you (not necessarily //you// but anyone!) truly believe that human beings are not determined by their material circumstances but exist as individually free agents who just need to be possessed by the will (which they summon themselves) to succeed and, as such, are deserving of success... then a classically conservative or neoliberal position makes sense. If I felt that way (due presumably to education, my parents, what I'd read as a young person etc. etc.) I would also be a conservative or neoliberal! I'm more sympathetic to the classical conservative position because it at least believed in the importance of certain structures, though I think a lot of its biases are based in religious reactive attitudes.

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If free will does not exist than membership in either the conservative or the liberal camp is completely meaningless. It's not like the arguments in support of one or the other make any difference.

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You're conflating freedom of will with freedom of action. Also, that's like saying "whether the rain falls or not will make no difference to whether the crops will grow". Things (or actants) still act within the world and have consequences irrespective of whether there is a self-willed agency behind them.

That is, unless you're talking about an existential difference rather than a material difference. In that case... yes, arguably so.

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I mean that in the classical Newtonian sense the universe is deterministic and free will/causality is a complete illusion.

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There's plenty of conservatives who are in bad mental health; they just don't admit it. Fox News syndrome is real, and it's unpleasant.

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I mean, you have to speak in broad generalities if you're going to talk about a question like this. Slaw linked to a peer-reviewed research paper showing, specifically, a significant increase in depression among teenage liberal girls compared to other groups, and the link includes several other pieces showing a broader trend of increased depression in liberals compared to conservatives. The author does mention, which you may be getting at, that "liberals are roughly twice as likely to report mental illness as conservatives." So if you're arguing that conservatives are just under-reporting depression, that's certainly a possibility, but it seems researchers may already be taking this into account.

That said, Fox News Syndrome is pretty similar to the "liberal" depressive outlook I described, e.g., "deep-seated powers I can't do anything about are ruining my life." It very well may play differently between liberal teenage girls talking about mental health on TikTok and out-of-work older men who were taught that showing emotion was a sign of weakness.

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Read the article.

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I’ll disagree with one little bit - your writing actually *is* convincing, because you rarely display (the broadly common on the left) contempt for those who disagree with you. I think you do change minds; you’ve certainly changed mine on more than one occasion. And it’s because you lay your arguments clearly, without looking downwards upon your audience. If only more of the left would adopt that style as well, perhaps we’d be better at convincing people to vote for our candidates.

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This is because FdB has a tribe, but he doesn't write to praise his tribe and degrade the other tribe, truth is in the tribe and everything else be damned.

This is also why FdB doesn't get so much support from his own tribe.

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It makes me think, which is good.

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Right. Rare in 2023. Worthy of respect.

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"Of course, there’s the broader question of why people still do irony online at all, totally separate from politics. And I don’t know there, either. That oral history of Weird Twitter I shared above is now ten years old. People from that piece are still doing it, still trotting out zingers after literally a decade-plus of doing so."

I think the answer to the question "why are they still doing it?" is the same as the answer to other relevant questions:

1) Why did they *start* doing it? Has the dynamic that drove it changed?

2) Are they still getting rewarded for it?

Perhaps it's all just inertia at this point, but I suspect the answers to 1 and 2 are they the dynamic hasn't changed very much, and that they are still getting rewarded for it.

As for what the dynamic is -- why did this ironic stance become so popular -- it seems to me that its core is in a couple of things:

1) When you have no power, and nothing you say will ever result in material change, it doesn't matter what you say, so you may as well have fun.

2) When you are in a set of circumstances where you fear having to take responsibility for anything you say, that your earnest ideas will be used against you by your peers (rather than your enemies), well, irony and sarcasm are forms of self-protection. The dramatic increase in moralism and moral ostracism on the left drives the fear that makes people reluctant to state simply and directly what they think.

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Yeah that’s the problem: they’re still being rewarded for it via media and twitter

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