Pluralistic: Incomplete vs. overshoot (26 Feb 2024)

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Incomplete vs. overshoot (permalink)

You know the "horseshoe theory," right? "The far-left and the far-right, rather than being at opposite and opposing ends of a linear continuum of the political spectrum, closely resemble each other, analogous to the way that the opposite ends of a horseshoe are close together":

It's a theory that only makes sense if you don't know much about the right and the left and what each side wants out of politics.

Take women's suffrage. The early suffragists ("suffragettes" in the UK) were mostly interested in votes for affluent, white women – not women as a body. Today's left criticizes the suffrage movement on the basis that they didn't go far enough:

Contrast that with Christian Dominionists – the cranks who think that embryos are people (though presumably not for the purpose of calculating a state's electoral college vote? Though it would be cool if presidential elections turned on which side of a state line a fertility clinic's chest-freezer rested on):

These people are part of a far-right coalition that wants to abolish votes for women. As billionaire far-right bagman Peter Thiel wrote, he thought it was a mistake to let women vote at all:

Superficially, there's some horseshoe theory action going on here. The left thinks the suffragists were wrong. The right thinks they were wrong, too. Therefore, the left and the right agree!

Well, they agree that the suffragists were wrong, but for opposite reasons – and far, far more importantly, they totally disagree about what they want. The right wants a world where no women can vote. The left wants a world where all women can vote. The idea that the right and the left agree on women's suffrage is, as the physicists say, "not even wrong."

It's the kind of wrong that can only be captured by citing scripture, specifically, A Fish Called Wanda, 6E, 79: "The central message of Buddhism is not 'Every man for himself.' And the London Underground is not a political movement. Those are all mistakes, Otto. I looked them up."

Or take the New Deal. While the New Deal set its sights on liberating workers from precarity, abuse and corruption, the Dealers – like the suffragists – had huge gaps in their program, excluding people of color, indigenous people, women, queer people, etc. There are lots of leftists who criticize the New Deal on this basis: it didn't go far enough:

But for the past 40 years, America has seen a sustained, vicious assault on New Deal programs, from Social Security to Medicare to food stamps to labor rights to national parks, funded by billionaires who want to bring back the Gilded Age and turn us all into forelock-tugging plebs:

If you only view politics as a game of elementary school cliques, you might say that the left and the right are meeting again. The left says Roosevelt got it wrong with the New Deal (because he left out so many people). The right says FDR was wrong for doing the New Deal in the first place. Therefore, the left and the right agree, right?

Obviously wrong. Obviously. Again, the important thing is why the left and the right think the New Deal deserves criticism. The important thing is what the left and the right want. The left wants universal liberation. The right wants us all in economic chains. They do not agree.

It's not always just politics, either. Take the old, good internet. That was an internet defined by technological self-determination, a wild and woolly internet where there were few gatekeepers, where disfavored groups could find each other and make common cause, where users who were threatened by the greed of the shareholders behind big services could install blockers, mods, alternative clients and other "adversarial interoperability" tools that seized the means of computation.

Today's enshitternet – "five giant websites, filled with screenshots of the other four" (h/t Tom Eastman) – is orders of magnitude more populous than that old, good internet. The enshitternet has billions of users, and they are legally – and technologically – prevented from taking any self-help measures when the owners of services change those services to shift value from users to themselves:

The anti-enshittification movement rightly criticizes the old, good internet because it wasn't inclusive enough. It was a system almost exclusively hospitable to affluent, privileged people – the people who least needed the liberatory power of technology.

Likewise pro-enshittification monopolists – billionaires and their useful idiots – deplore the old, good internet because it gave its users too much power. For them, ad-blocking, alternative clients, mods, reverse-engineering and so on were all bugs, not features. For them, the enshitternet is great because businesses can literally criminalize taking action to protect yourself from their predatory impulses:

Superficially, it seems like the pro- and anti-enshittification forces agree – they both agree that the old, good internet was a mistake. But the difference that matters here is that the pro-enshittification side wants everyone mired in the enshitternet forever, living with what Jay Freeman calls "Felony contempt of business-model." By contrast, the disenshittification side wants a new, good internet that gives every user – not just a handful of techies – the power to decide how the digital systems they work use, and to be able to alter or reconfigure them to suit their own needs.

The horsehoe theory only makes sense if you don't take into account the beliefs and goals of each side. Politics aren't just a matter of who you agree with on a given issue – the real issue is what you're trying to accomplish.

Hey look at this (permalink)

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This day in history (permalink)

#20yrsago Education czar calls teachers’ union a “terrorist organization”

#20yrsago Garry Trudeau puts $10K up for anyone who will confirm Bush’s Air Guard claims

#20yrsago Nelson’s Grey Tuesday RSS

#15yrsago Conan copyright trolls censor fan-readings of public domain stories

#15yrsago Unimaginably gigantic cell-phone market in Shenzhen

#15yrsago John Hodgman explains what’s wrong with “Meh”

#15yrsago Bruce Sterling’s The Caryatids, my pick for best book of 2009, a novel of clear-eyed hope for the future

#20yrsago Universal crackpot spam solution rebuttal

#15yrsago Steampunk: Love the machine, hate the factory

#15yrsago RIP, Philip Jose Farmer

#15yrsago Authors´ Guild vs. reality: Kindles and read-aloud

#10yrsago Mozilla’s $25 Firefox smartphone: a free/open device for billions of new netizens

#10yrsago Whistleblower: NSA secretly continues Merkel surveillance by bugging other German officials

#10yrsago Text of Little Brother on an art-litho, tee, or tote

#10yrsago Takei to Arizona lawmakers: we will boycott Arizona if it passes its anti-gay Jim Crow law

#10yrsago How Youtube’s automated copyright system lets big music screw indie creators

#10yrsago DICE: emulator for hardwired, discrete-circuit games from the 1970s

#10yrsago It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens (must, MUST read)

#10yrsago GCHQ’s dirty-tricking psyops groups: infiltrating, disrupting and discrediting political and protest groups

#5yrsago Costa Rican measles outbreak traced to unvaccinated French tourists

#5yrsago France fines UBS €3.7b for helping rich French residents launder more than €10b

#5yrsago German neofascists used Qanon to expand their reach

#5yrsago Lime scooters have a software bug that causes them to hurl their riders to the ground

#5yrsago Artists against Article 13: when Big Tech and Big Content make a meal of creators, it doesn’t matter who gets the bigger piece

#5yrsago Deposition of opioid profiteer Richard Sackler reveals his bizarre defense: definitional games and insistence that words mean their opposite

#5yrsago Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will pay every staffer a living wage, ending the longstanding practice of Congressional staffers taking second jobs

#5yrsago As expected, the EU has advanced the catastrophic Copyright Directive without fixing its terrible defects

#1yrago This is your brain on fraud apologetics

Colophon (permalink)

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