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Steven Brust: “A masterful storyteller of contagious glee and self-deprecating badassery” —Skyler White

On “Splitters” and “Lumpers”

| 43 Comments

Not long ago, for the second time, I was accused of being a “splitter” instead of a “lumper.”  The first time, I figured they were just terms the guy had made up.  But no, apparently there are actually people who think like that.  As near as I can tell, a “lumper” is someone who wants to unite everyone who is against war and injustice and stuff; whereas a “splitter” is someone who wants to divide those who are against war and injustice and stuff, for reasons that remain unspecified.

My intention is not to personally mock the individuals who said that–both them appear to be dedicated and sincere, actively interested in making the world better, and one cannot help but respect that desire, however deeply one disagrees with the person’s method.  But I do intend to mock the concept, because it is well worth mocking.

The first thing that strikes one about these terms is the absurdity.  I was accused of being a “splitter” because I used a term to describe a certain group on the Left (“Stalinist,” to be exact) that members of that group would take as an insult.  I guess if you describe someone in terms that person wouldn’t like, you’re a splitter.  One can’t help but laugh at this, because, evidently, since “splitter” is a term of disapprobation, if you call someone a splitter, you are, yourself, a splitter.  While this is beside the point, it does indicate a fundamental lack of seriousness.

A second issue is that those who use such terms are always, or almost always, supporters of identity politics, the most significant element of which, in my opinion, is “splitting” the working class.  In other words, what is being said is, “It is bad to create divisions among us right-thinking people.  We should get together and make sure the working class is fighting itself instead.  Go us.”  Is it any wonder that I cannot conceal the utter scorn I feel for such ideas?

I think it is safe to say that the logic behind these terms works something like this:

1. A lot of us want to end war and injustice and stuff.

2. Therefore, all of us who want to end war and injustice and stuff should get together.

3. Anyone who says things that prevent us from getting together is working against ending war and injustice and stuff.

There are a number of assumptions buried in this logic.  These assumptions are, for the most part, never examined.  They are also, in my opinion, dangerously wrong.

First and foremost, there is the assumption that how effective a fight will be depends more on the number of people involved in the fight, than in exactly what sort of activity they are engaged in.  I believe that the Democratic Party, as much as the Republican, is working to roll back democratic freedoms and standard of living, and to support wars of aggression, and defend profit at the expense of human rights.  Those of us who believe that will never be willing to support a Democrat; we would consider it nothing short of betrayal.  How, then, can we “work together” with those who want to pressure politicians?  While you organize to send petitions to the President and letters to your congressman, I’m organizing for the overthrow of the State, and am convinced (right or wrong) that appealing to that State is to create dangerous illusions among the working class.  Just exactly what are we supposed to “lump” together to do?

Even more significant, however, is that the argument as stated above utterly removes any discussion of class.  I believe that we live in a class society, and that this economic fact, the foundation of how society fulfills (or fails to fulfill) its mission to provide basic needs to individuals in that society, is at the heart of every other relationship.  I believe that to actually fight for human rights requires mass action by the working class based on a program that puts it in direct conflict with the two bourgeois parties.  In other words, it doesn’t matter how many “people” believe that injustice should end; it matters what program the working class has when it goes into battle to defend itself.

With this in mind, I am supposed to worry about hurting the feelings of those whose program will politically tie the working class to the enemy?  The issue is not (in this discussion) whether I am right or wrong about how to defend human rights; the point I want to make is that, inherent in dividing people into “splitters” and “lumpers” is a complete rejection of any sort of analysis of society, substituting for it vague impressions and the desire to “do something.”  Laudable in itself, but, without actual understanding of the workings of society, useless or worse.  To me, there is a massive contradiction inherent in someone who puts in countless hours and boundless energy fighting to correct an injustice about which he or she feels passionately, yet dares not, in the course of discussing how best to carry on this fight, use the precise term that applies for fear of giving offense.

But, some will say, if you use insulting terms, you will alienate potential allies, whom you might otherwise convince.  Let us examine this for a moment.  What is being said here is that precision, analysis, and comprehension need to be sacrificed in order to protect the feelings of individuals.  When I’m visiting someone’s home, I will do exactly that–I will refrain from saying that the house is a pigsty and the kid is obnoxious.  In personal interactions in which nothing more is at stake than the feelings of individuals, I think it is a good thing to avoid giving offense, and I will sometimes sacrifice honesty to do so.   

But if we’re dealing with the effort to change the world, to actually create a society in which human decency is more important than individual profit, in which the full creative power of the individual is not held in check or (more often) fully suppressed by the need to simply live, in which such problems as global climate change can be addressed without concern for who gains or loses wealth thereby, then consider the possibility that, just maybe, scientific precision is more important than whether someone’s feelings get hurt.  And, to answer the argument, the person who sees that, the one who ignores personal feelings in order to fully investigate and understand the concepts behind such words as “Stalinism”, “Revisionism”, or “Opportunism” to determine if the terms are accurate and precise and what the consequences are for proceeding along these lines, this person is exactly the one who can make a contribution to solving the problems we face today.  The ones who have no reaction other than hurt feelings are welcome to “lump” together and have a good outrage session over it.  I hope they find it validating.

skzb

Author: skzb

I play the drum.

43 Comments

  1. … since “splitter” is a term of approbation…

    Wait, is that what you meant?

  2. skzb

    Ooops. Left a “dis” out. Fixed now. Thanks.

  3. Are you generally opposed to the lumper/splitter concept as a shorthand for identifying diverging epidemiological approaches, or just in this case?

    As an academic, I am a lumper. I identify common threads in diverse material and pull it together, shouting, “Look! Same.” Other scholars, people I know and respect, identify differences in things that might superficially look similar. They shout, “Look! Different!” And my field is richer for it.

    So I get your critique here of the dichotomy as applied to politics, Your argument makes a lot of sense to me. The question then become one of tactics “to actually create a society in which human decency is more important than individual profit…”

  4. skzb

    Just in politics; I lack knowledge to have an opinion of its use in other sciences.

  5. Phew. Cause I really like it as a handy shorthand in my field and if you had a really smart argument against it, well, I was going to lose a handy shorthand.

  6. Dammit, I missed that approbation thing. As penance I have corrected an it’s/its in comments.

  7. This is wonderful. I thank you for – once again – addressing an issue which so desperately needed to be looked at, and addressing it well. Simple, no hooey, no fooling around. Beautiful.

  8. Some people may perhaps remember “splitter” being used pejoratively in Life of Brian.

  9. ‘…inherent in dividing people into “splitters” and “lumpers” is a complete rejection of any sort of analysis of society, substituting for it vague impressions and the desire to “do something.”’

    It also focuses on correcting the individual, rather than addressing the problem itself, which seems like a foundation principle of identity politics–that the revolution will result from all the participants correcting their individual thinking and behavior.

  10. I’m with Emma.

    Are you a uniter or a divider? Is that relevant to the goal?

    There is also an over reliance on technical terms: ‘such words as “Stalinism”, “Revisionism”, or “Opportunism”’. This may make sense to you, but the working Joe hasn’t a clue as to what you are talking about. If you approach him with discussions like that, you will be rejected as being elite (too intellectual) and suspect.

    If the goal is to get the working class to organize for political power and action, you need to address the gut feelings of unfairness and exploitation. They will also be suspicious (rightly so) that this is one more attempt to take advantage of them. Something the unions did, which is part of why unions can be busted.

    As you know, Socialism and Communism have some poor examples of helping the working class. Trading one crooked system for another doesn’t really help workers and I think they are smart enough to know this and that it is high risk to them personally.

    Your goals are not clear to me. Is your goal to set up a socialist government or is your goal to help the worker? They are not necessarily the same.

    I pointed out some roadblocks. Unfortunately, I can’t think of good ways around them. Unionization would be more realistic than a socialist political system. It’s a tough problem.

  11. Lots of people feel comfortable assuming that there are two kinds of people. Those who have God on their side, and those who are corrupted by Satan. It simplifies life tremendously if we can either trust someone for everything or condemn him for everything. It works better for people we don’t really know like celebrities and politicians.

  12. It might be worth it to look at what the individual people who called you a splitter said, just in case they meant something different.

    Biologists like to try to classify plants and animals. Lumpers look at similarities to try to fit things together. Splitters look at differences to try to make more groups.

    There was a time when this was mostly an esthetic thing. Say you have 4 kinds of closely-related fish. Two of them have six teeth and two have 8 teeth. Two of them have 26 vertebrae and two of them have 27 vertebrae. Do you divide them into genera that have 6 teeth or 8 teeth, and then species that vary by vertebrae? Or do you divide them into genera that have 26 or 27 vertebrae and then species that vary by tooth number? Taxonomists used to have fun arguing about which way was more fundamental. But of course a lumper might say it was all one species with variable traits.

    Ideally you could tell species apart by noticing whether they interbred. But if you have 100 kinds of minnows, that’s 9,900 crosses. And above the species level it’s all conjecture.

    Then we got DNA studies. Often it’s possible to tell for sure which species branched off from what. It just takes a lot of DNA sequencing and a lot of computer analysis. Sometimes it isn’t nearly as straightforward as it ought to be which indicates maybe there’s something wrong with the fundamental concepts.

    So anyway, they’re talking about classifying things, and how much they want to focus on differences versus similarities.

    It’s possible that peoplel with that background might call you a splitter based on how finely you analyze different viewpoints. If people have the idea they’re one group, and then you call some of them stalinists based on subtle things about their behaviors while others don’t get the label, you’re splitting your classifications finer than they do.

    Like, I’ve met people who make a big distinction between libertarian and Tea Party. Basicly, libertarian wants human freedom based on rules of behavior they think everybody should and will voluntarily agree to, while Tea Party wants less government spending and less government. They split between libertarian and anarchist-capitalist and minarchist. They split on minor points of doctrine that you’d pretty much have to be one of them to care about. I say it’s spinach and I say the hell with it. But in theory they can work together for common goals even though they disagree a lot about doctrine.

    Do you classify people narrowly on doctrine? That would make you a splitter without necessarily any implication that you want people not to work together.

    But it sounds like you don’t want to work with stalinists. I’m pretty sure they don’t think they’re stalinists. They probably think stalinists are supposed to like Stalin and I’d lay odds they don’t.You are using a private language, one they don’t understand. You think you’re using precise language, and they think you are only trying to insult them.

    “…consider the possibility that, just maybe, scientific precision is more important than whether someone’s feelings get hurt.”

    I guess it depends on whether you’ve already written them off. In discussion with geneticists I have no problem using the precise technical term “segregation distortion”. If I use that with laymen they tend to assume I’m talking about race and it’s harder for them to get the concept. Use precise language with people who appreciate it.

    If you haven’t already written them off, then you’ll want to get them interested. They don’t necessarily know that you’re worth listening to. Let them see that your insights are good, and then maybe tell them about things that don’t work, and mention that Stalin did those things….

    But you know how to do that. You didn’t do it because you’d written them off, and maybe you’re right to do so. Maybe there’s no way to convince them, so any time you spend on them is wasted. I wasn’t there, I don’t know what you should have done.

    Maybe you could imagine talking to your mother about it. What would she think?

  13. Steve

    I appreciate that you believe what you describe as “identity warriors’ are indeed identity warriors, and thus are anathema to you since there are many other things which are really better use of their time.

    I wish that I could agree with you, but I don’t. I have spent many years watching the rich get richer, and in my experience they love people like you; you are, after all, someone who is making sure that they can carrying on laughing all the way to the bank.. Your views are designed to ensure that the ruling class will have no interruption as they absorb everything they want.

    I really wish I could ignore it, but I can’t.

    So, faced with a standoff between you and people who are prepared to fight for their rights, I stick withe people who are prepared to do so. You can carry on arguments to your hearts content, but I stand with the people who want to change things now.

    And as a woman, and as the mother of a daughter, I’m not prepared to wait any longer.,.

  14. I agree with you in your rejection of the ‘lumpers’ and ‘splitters’ false dichotomy, with respect to politics.

    However, as much as I burn to toss hatred at ideas I find disagreeable, I don’t think it helps my cause. It might take a 1000 firm, definite, but fairly worded arguments to make a serious impact on someone’s thinking. But I think showing hatred and using insults just stiffens the resolve of the people you debate.

    Unfortunately this means I finish most political debates so frustrated that I want to bang my head into a wall. But what little progress I make in changing people’s opinions only seems to come that way.

  15. I don’t see how you can get any lumpier than to lump the working class together, and I don’t see how you can get any more spliterific than to infinitely subdivide social identities and parse whose privilege is priviligier in every possible context. But that’s me, of course, and if splittery lumpertastics want to explain how we unite by division, that’s cool. I’ll just be in the next room getting a beer, thinking wistfully of the days when people chanted, “The people, united, can never be defeated,” instead of “the left-handed lesbians versus the brown-eyed trans women will check their privileges and call each other out until the kyriarchy ends.”

  16. LOL. Yes, left handed people are sinister.

  17. This is the funny thin about sophistry. I say “Don,t fence me in”

  18. I see a lot of mischaracterization of both behaviors and intentions going on, here and elsewhere, every time these two groups come up. Call them lumpers and splitters, reformers and revolutionaries, socialists and identitarians, whatever. There are a lot of ways to parse the distinctions (or not parse them). There are a lot of smart, determined people of good will who see a lot of the same problems and who apply very different approaches to trying to fix them. I have a great many friends and a (smaller but still significant) number of people I respect on both sides. And it frustrates me deeply to see the way they talk about one another. I have a hard time comprehending how either can arrive at their conclusions about the other group. But it isn’t as though they haven’t all been a part of the same discussions as I’ve been online, so it’s not like I possess any great redeeming wisdom or fiery eloquence which can persuade either group to see the other as I see them.

    What frustrates me is the knowledge that, if I was less invested in this, just a casual reader, I’d probably think at least one set of theses mischaracterizations was willful, a black-hearted smear campaign by people I would call stupid or hateful or willfully senseless to nuance and distinction. But, knowing these people as I do, I know better (largely. I have my doubts here and there). I wonder what people of good will I’m missing in other debates and divides because I don’t have the benefit of acquaintance on both sides.

    I’m not sure if any of this is relevant. I’m certainly not trying to spout some trite “why can’t we all just get along?” The reasons we cannot are real and material, rooted in pain and experience in the past, in mutual knowledge, in differing opinions about the effectiveness or the virtue of various approaches. Maybe they not only cannot but should not be reconciled. But maybe that’s too narrow, and there’s room for all of this in the same fight, aiming for a future which will, after all, have to be decided upon by compromise and consensus in some fashion.

    I don’t know. But when I’m silent, this is often what I’m thinking about.

  19. Matt, thank you. That was profound.

    “I’m certainly not trying to spout some trite “why can’t we all just get along?” The reasons we cannot are real and material, rooted in pain and experience in the past….”

    I’m convinced that most of us think of ourselves first. The people who choose to be our enemies mostly do it because they think we are in their way. They don’t do it because we are personally important to them. They think about themselves and their obstacles.

    Mostly Israelis don’t want to oppress Palestinians because they hate them. It’s just that they all want to live there, and there isn’t enough water for israelis and palestinians both, much less for Israel, Palestine, Jordan, and Syria. So they have to be enemies. At one point Israel talked about desalinating water from the mediterranean and pumping it uphill to where it was needed. They were going to do it with nuclear power. But it turned out to be a smokescreen for their nuclear bomb program.

    Racist americans mostly don’t hate blacks. They just don’t think the cultures are compatible and they want the laws etc to favor them because they can’t tolerate what they expect to happen the other way round.

    Capitalists didn’t spend trillions of dollars trying to destroy communism because they hated communists. They just didn’t trust communists not to kill them. A degree of hate may have come later.

    It might be possible for large groups of us to get along, though not even a strong common enemy works consistently for that.

  20. “…whereas a ‘splitter’ is someone who wants to divide those who are against war and injustice and stuff, for reasons that remain unspecified…But I do intend to mock the concept, because it is well worth mocking.”

    Although I myself wouldn’t use those two terms, I understand precisely what someone means by trotting out “splitter” in a political discussion. After having spent the last year studying hundreds of writings by scores of Marxists, not to mention Marx himself, I was bored to tears by their sanctimonious self-righteous need to disparage people whose dogmas differ from their own in some tiny quasi-philosophical way. A wonderful graphical example of this need to be right can be seen on the marxist.org site:

    http://marxists.org/history/etol/trees/ustree.htm

    It shows 40 groups forming, splitting, reforming, resplitting … all of them generally whining that no one else is as perfectly correct in their philosophical understanding as they are.

    I wouldn’t have quite the low opinion of these break-away people if any of them could demonstrate they were, in fact, effective. Instead, too many of these parties and their adherents (all that I’ve read, in fact, but I choose to assume I missed some) seem to spend their time writing treatises explaining a) why their ideas are superior and b) how historical conditions conspire to keep them from being effective.

    In short, they give the impression they’re constantly splitting because they can’t accept the failure of whatever plans they’ve formed, and it’s easier to push other people away, slap them with a simplistic label and say they’re wrong than to examine their own ideas to find weaknesses.

  21. L. Raymond, I don’t want to put words in the author’s mouth, but I think there’s a distinction to be made between being petty and refusing to ally with someone that agrees with 98% of what you think is right versus what he is discussing.

    The American right likes to define wherever the Democratic party is standing at that time as socialism. But I think it’s completely fair to say that the overlap between the American Democratic party and socialism is less than 50% depending upon what issues you weigh upon. In that case, many of the people trying to unite socialists under the Democratic banner are at best uninformed and at worst intentionally deceptive – they’re trying to recruit troops for a cause they don’t want to support.

  22. skzb

    There’s a lot of interesting discussion here. Some understood what I was trying to get at and agree, others understand and disagree, others do not understand, and some, by all indications, willfully misunderstand. All of which is fine, and I don’t think there’s a lot of point in my continuing, with the exception of Matt’s comment, which gives me the chance to make an additional point.

    A lot of the confusion, I think, stems from seeing the clash of ideas in isolation. IE, some are reformers, some are revolutionaries, because that is what they believe in. But I believe that underneath those differences–and, indeed, underneath every split, argument, and division within the Left–is the clash of objective material forces.

    Some of those are clear and obvious–someone who is benefiting from capitalism is not usually inclined to destroy it, just to make little tweaks so that his or her personal chunk of capitalism provides him or her with more advantages. In other cases, it is more subtle–the influence of bourgeois culture and propaganda on the workers movement is immense. How could it not be? It takes a thousand forms and has a thousand effects.

    Of course, one can always dismiss an opponent by saying, “You only believe that because of the effect of bourgeois pressure on you.” But that gets you exactly nowhere. The difficulty is to understand, in each and every case, what class forces are at work and how they manifest. Naturally, one effect of this is to give the philistines the chance to jeer about all the divisions within the workers movement, but the jeering of philistines has never had any effect on history one way or the other; it can be ignored.

    More important are those genuinely interested in understanding the nuances–if, and when, and why, a given difference in theory, method, and program that might appear tiny can have huge, decisive effects on history. The differences between the left wing and the right wing of the German Social Democratic Party in the early 20th Century probably appears trivial to most people. But when the crisis came in 1919 (reprised in 1921 and 1923), and the working class had actually taken power, the right wing chose to and was able to give power back to the bourgeoisie. A decade later, instead of a workers state, Hitler was in power.

    But for now, all I want to establish is that underneath the differences in ideology, are differences in material forces, of social classes. Ideological differences do not come from thin air.

  23. I promise, it is just plain simple ignorance. Nothing willful about it. ;>)

  24. I confess, there are many things I don’t get, and one of them is the idea of willful ignorance. It seems to mean “I have explained the truth clearly, so anyone who doesn’t agree with me is choosing not to.” I hear the term a lot from ideologues, but not exclusively from them, of course.

  25. skzb

    There is also, “No, I cannot answer your arguments, so I will not understand them.” There is also, “I don’t like your conclusions, so I will pay no attention to your arguments.” And there’s the, “Your position annoys me, so I’m going to pretend not to understand you in order to have an excuse to say something that will piss you off.”

    I am firmly convinced that willful ignorance is rare on this blog.

  26. skzb, I see a lot of what looks like you describe from the GOP. Of course, without knowing what is in their head, it’s hard to say how deliberate it might be. But when they deny evolution and say the earth is only 6000 years old (used to be 4000), it’s sort of, “come on, really?”

  27. “I will not understand them.” I can’t buy the idea people choose not to understand. Either they understand or they don’t. They may understand and lie, but they don’t choose to understand. Upton Sinclair was right about understanding, imho. If there’s choice involved, it’s subconscious and therefore not pertinent.

    But I’ll drop this now, ’cause I really just don’t get it.

  28. Upton Sinclair — ‘It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.’

    This is what he was right about? I don’t know how subconscious it is. Orwell called it “double-think” and I tend to believe it’s something that people can consciously practice and do more effectively.

    It certainly isn’t just communists who split this way.
    http://www.ahajokes.com/reg38.html

    Gregory Bateson called it “schizmogenesis”. He thought that some sorts of groups just tended to break up, and they would invent ideological reasons to go along with the breakup but the ideological reasons probably weren’t central. I should re-read that. It’s in _Steps to an Ecology of Mind_.

  29. Double-think is hypocrisy: double-thinkers literally do not know they’re engaging in double-think. That’s why it works. There are hypocrites who lie for gain, but most hypocrites simply rationalize, to varying degrees of success, what they do with what they say. Jesus was right about the beam in their eyes: they cannot see it.

  30. “I am firmly convinced that willful ignorance is rare on this blog.” I laughed aloud when I read this.

    Because I can assure you plain ol’ ignorance runs rampant, at least in my neck of the woods. I had to look up “disapprobation”. What’s wrong with “disapproval”? I guess, in looking at the definition, it is a specific disapproval tied to societal mores.

    Anyway, new vocabulary word for me today, and I thank you.

  31. I disagree that understanding is two-valued. There’s a lot of gray.

    But studies have shown that for True Believers, showing contrary facts actually makes their beliefs stronger.

  32. If by gray you mean honest people can doubt their beliefs to varying degrees, I completely agree. One of the reasons I think social justice warriors are a non-theistic cult is that if they have any doubt, they repress it very, very well.

  33. “One of the reasons I think social justice warriors are a non-theistic cult is that if they have any doubt, they repress it very, very well.”

    Here’s a context where that could make sense, bang-bang regulation.

    Say you’re running something like a thermostat, and you want to control the temperature. One way to do it is with some sort of proportional control. You measure the temperature and the colder it is the hotter you run the furnace, while the hotter it is the more you shut the furnace down. For some furnaces that’s a good approach.

    But sometimes a simpler approach works well. You turn the furnace on full blast, and then at the right time you turn it off. Some furnaces work better when they run full out or not at all. Switching from nothing to full blast to nothing again is big jumps, but sometimes it works well. Bang bang.

    If you believe you know what to do to get social justice, and you know we aren’t doing enough yet, then it might make sense to go full out until we get into the right ballpark. Attack anything that slows us down getting there. Rise up in righteous indignation. The time to stop is after we achieve the goal.

    If there’s no doubt that society is bad, then there’s no reason to doubt that we should push to make it better. Doubts about that are useless. The time to doubt is when there’s a chance that we are heading in the wrong direction. If we get there, then when we find out that we’ve gone too far we can put 100% effort into backing up.

    I’m not saying that’s right, but I can understand the reasoning.

    If social injustice is the worst thing in the world and we have it real real bad, then there’s no need to worry about doing more harm than good by attacking it. While we’re so very far from the goal, it’s impossible to do more harm than good by moving us in the right direction.

  34. Some people though wish to get past Winter by turning the furnace on full blast and opening the doors – after all if I’m cold then everybody needs to warm up!

  35. @David Hajicek: It was always 6000 years; about 400 years ago Bishop Usher declared creation happened in 4004 B.C. Someone else even pinpointed the day as October 23, but they probably weren’t true Christians.

  36. @skzb: “But for now, all I want to establish is that underneath the differences in ideology, are differences in material forces, of social classes. Ideological differences do not come from thin air.”

    I have to disagree with this as a blanket statement. Clearly some people who split off from a group they joined have come to recognize conditions are different from what they had thought and they’ve reorganized their thoughts accordingly, but equally clearly some are simply pitching fits because their preferred ideas of how to do things are not accepted by the group as a whole and they storm off. There is nothing magical about political, economic or philosophy groups that makes those who participate in them immune to ego.

    Getting back to the original post, “…then consider the possibility that, just maybe, scientific precision is more important than whether someone’s feelings get hurt.”

    This is a woeful misuse of the word “scientific”. When a new fossil is discovered and one paleontologist says it’s a feline and another says it’s vulpine, they don’t call each other names and go their separate ways, they perform detailed studies on the specimen, analyze the strata in which it was found, consult with experts in other areas as necessary and present their findings to other paleontologists for discussion. Even when scientists do gang up on someone they insist is wrong (cf. Vera Rubin and dark matter), when the data demonstrate that person is in fact correct, they readjust their own ideas accordingly and resume their studies, taking into account changed circumstances. They don’t kick people out, slap labels on them and hold them up to scorn for not toeing the line. They leave that to religious ideologues.

    “…the one who ignores personal feelings in order to fully investigate and understand the concepts behind such words as ‘Stalinism’, ‘Revisionism’, or ‘Opportunism’ to determine if the terms are accurate and precise and what the consequences are for proceeding along these lines, this person is exactly the one who can make a contribution to solving the problems we face today.”

    One of the neatest things about the scientific community is the uniformity of method. Maybe a botanist knows nothing about paleontology, but she uses the same methods of examination, testing and peer review in her work. What is the equivalent for economics? Who is fully investigating these words? Will the meanings be agreed on by fascists, communists, Republicans, Labour, the Lakotas and all other political groupings, or are they jargon used only by a subset (trotsyists) of a subset (marxists) of socialists?

    ” I’m organizing for the overthrow of the State, and am convinced (right or wrong) that appealing to that State is to create dangerous illusions among the working class. Just exactly what are we supposed to ‘lump’ together to do?”

    The religious right felt exactly like this forty years ago. They thought the US was going straight to hell and needed to be saved, and you can see they’ve been wildly successful in taking over. So rather than splitting theological hairs why can’t a determined cadre of socialists simply lump together and duplicate their effort? If it’s truly a superior way of living, people will accept the changes. If the work fails, they can always fall back on the old tried and true excuse “But it will only work if we destroy everything first!”, which will assuage their egos and let them assure their followers they really are better, it’s just that conditions weren’t right yet.

  37. L. Raymond, good stuff.

    J Thomas, the problem is the control hysteresis in politics. The reformers do not stop at the point where it would be appropriate to stop. They continue with the ‘reforms’ until things are way past any logical stopping point. They cannot turn themselves off as they have no sense of perspective and reject the need to stop. I guess that historically has been the problem with revolutions of any kind.

    Or look at the GOP which has been going farther and farther to the right. So far to the right that there is a good chance they will lose their power. Even with Republicans telling them to tone it down and move back left, they double down and head to the right all the harder. It’s a problem with ‘true believers’ of any kind.

  38. I will note that in biology “splitters” and “lumpers” are terms for people who are respectively quick to draw lines to divide genetic subgroups into mulitple species (splitters) and lumpers (who tend to be slow to make such distinctions – to see consistent genetic variation among subgroups being sub-species rather than separate species). For example, there are still people who argue that neanderthal and cro-magnon were a single species. (The fact that it is now proven that we do in fact have neanderthal genes is a point in favor of the lumpers.)

  39. “The reformers do not stop at the point where it would be appropriate to stop.”

    Yes, and the opposing argument could be that we are so far from the appropriate stopping point that it isn’t something to worry about in our lifetimes. Since our enemy is ultimate evil, any little injustices we do while combatting it are totally justified and simply do not matter.

    As an example, if some sexist man gets his feelings hurt by vile epithets thrown at him by a bunch of feminists, that’s utterly and completely irrelevant because rape culture. If they get him fired from his job, that’s fine because after all he’s sexist and even if it seems like an overreaction, it isn’t because rape culture. Anything they do is justified because rape culture.

  40. J Thomas, we were talking about a control algorithm. Now you have bopped over to politics, presenting arguments which prove my point that they do not know where to stop and why they have no sense of proportion. Or was that your intent?

  41. David, I think you have a valid interpretation. But I also think their interpretation is that they believe the time to stop is not yet and they don’t need a sense of proportion.

    The argument would be that since we are so far from equality, there is no harm in pushing as hard as they can to get more power for women. So even if they did not use bang-bank control, they would not need a sense of proportion yet.

    From my point of view they are gaining a lot of power and need to be wise in their use of it so they won’t create new abuses. But from their point of view, while they are dominated by rape culture they have very little power and are so far from equality that they can do no wrong.

  42. J Thomas, I agree women have not reached full equality yet.

    But, (even from control theory) it is never too soon to have a method of feed back (of the signal) and predetermined set points for turning on/off, even if you haven’t got there yet. Somehow the switch needs to be turned off at the right time to work. In politics, there often seems to be no real desire for doing either the feedback or the off switch. So the train keeps going till it crashes.

    I guess I feel that if women view the world through “rape” colored glasses, they will not make the wisest decisions nor will they get all the support they deserve and need.

  43. @D. Hajicek: “They cannot turn themselves off as they have no sense of perspective and reject the need to stop. I guess that historically has been the problem with revolutions of any kind.”

    With many revolutions, yes, but hardly all. Your comment about perspective is unquestionably applicable to ideologues. If they’re successful, they keep pushing for ideological purity until they annihiliate their own party, which we’re starting to see with the GOP. If they fail, they engage in witch hunts to root out ideological impurities. What they never do is study how the opposition succeeded. That is, they don’t study the practical application of ideas, they keep trying to force reality to match their preconceptions of how things should be. In the real world, being able to work within, manipulate and eventually alter existing power structures is the only key to long term success.

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