Thursday, May 19

Stop glorifying ‘centrism’. It is an insidious bias that favors an unfair status quo | Rebecca solnit

TThe idea that all bias is a deviation from an unbiased center is itself a bias that prevents experts, journalists, politicians, and many others from recognizing some of the ugliest and most shocking biases and assumptions of our time. I think of this bias, which insists that the center is unbiased, not plagued by destructive agendas, biases, and misperceptions, like a status quo bias. Behind this is the belief that things are pretty good now, that the people in charge should be trusted because power confers legitimacy, that those who want radical change are too loud or demanding or unreasonable, and that we should get along. without looking at the skeletons in the closet and the things hidden under the rug. It is above all a prejudice of the people for whom the system works, against those for whom it does not.

I saw a tweet the other day that said the Secret Service and the United States Capitol Police must have been incompetent or complicit to be caught off guard by the January 6 insurrection. The writer did not seem to grasp the third option: that the Secret Service could not see past assumptions that conservative middle-aged white men pose no threat to democracy and the rule of law, that elected officials in powerful places . They weren’t causing a riot or worse, that danger meant outsiders and others. A decade ago, when I went to northern Japan for the first anniversary of the great Tohuko earthquake and tsunami, I was told that the 30-meter high wave of black water was such an inconceivable sight that some people could not recognize it and the danger that represented. raised. Others assumed that this tsunami would be no bigger than those in recent memory and did not flee high enough. Many people died from not being able to see the unexpected.

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People don’t recognize things that don’t fit into their worldview, which is why those in power haven’t responded adequately to decades of terrorism by white men: killings motivated by reproductive rights, racial violence in churches, mosques, synagogues and other places. , homophobia and transphobia, the misogynistic violence on a pandemic scale behind many mass shootings, attacks on environmentalists and white supremacy in the ranks of the police and military. Finally, this year the Attorney General of the United States, Merrick Garland, called this terrorism by its real name and identified as “the most dangerous threat to our democracy.” The constant assumption has been that crime and trouble come from outsiders, from “them,” not “us,” which is why last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests were consistently portrayed by conservatives and, at times, by the mainstream as far more violent and destructive than they were. and the right wing has found it so easy to demonize immigrants.

The violence and destruction that took place in or alongside the Black Lives Matter protests was often the work of the right wing. That includes the murder of a guard in federal court in Oakland, allegedly by an Air Force sergeant and Boogaloo Boy, as a BLM protest unfolded nearby. It also reportedly includes part of the arson in Minneapolis shortly after George Floyd’s murder, as well as attacks on protesters. USA Today reported 104 of these attacks by cars heading into crowds, many of them apparently politically motivated.

No one has loved the status quo more than the New York Times editorial board, which recently composed a editorial stating that it was a misstep on the part of “the city’s Pride organizers … reducing the presence of law enforcement at the celebration, including a ban on uniformed police officers and prison officers marching as groups until at least 2025.” . They found a lesbian of color who is also a cop and focused on this person who was feeling “devastated”, rather than the logic behind the decision. Pride celebrates the uprising against police violence and the criminalization of queerness at the Stonewall Bar in 1969.

Police officers are by no means prohibited from participating in the uniform if they so wish, but that is not enough for these editorialists of “Can’t we all get along?”, Who also wrote: “But prohibit officers from LGBTQ march is a politicized response and is not worthy of the important search for justice for those persecuted by the police. ”You want to shout that the whole parade is political, because persecution and inequality have made being LGBTQ political, and the decision to include the police would be no less political than to exclude them. And who decides what is worth? The idea that there is some magically apolitical state to which everyone should aspire is the key to this bias and why it refuses to recognize itself himself as a bias He thinks he is speaking from neutral ground, so he always describes a landscape of mountains and chasms as a level playing field.

'Another fallacy of the centrist position is that the right and the left are symmetrically extreme'
“Another fallacy of the centrist position is that the right and the left are symmetrically extreme.” Photograph: Julio Cortez / AP

Status quo bias is something that I have encountered time and again as gender-based violence, particularly as the rejection or inability to acknowledge that a high-status man or boy, be it a movie mogul or soccer player from high school, you can also be a vicious criminal. Those who cannot believe the charges, no matter how credible, often dismiss and blame the victim (or worse: reporting a rape too often leads to death threats and other forms of harassment and intimidation aimed at making a person disappear. awkward truth). Society has a marked lack of imagination when it comes to understanding that such predators treat their low-status victims in secret differently from their high-status peers in public, and that a lack of imagination negates the existence of such inequality even when he perpetrates it.

It is a failure born of undue respect for the powerful. (Here I think of all the idiots who kept discovering “the moment Trump became presidential” over and over again, unable to comprehend that his incompetence was as indelible as his corruption and malice, perhaps because their respect for the institution was inexorably stretched out the scammer – who broke into it.) Centrist bias is institutional bias, and all of our institutions historically perpetrated inequality. To recognize this is to delegitimize them; To deny it is to have both: think that you are on the side of goodness while insisting that no radical change is needed. A person from the extreme right may celebrate and perpetrate racism or police brutality or the culture of rape; a moderate could simply downplay its impact, past or present.

Recognizing the omnipresence of sexual abuse is having to listen to both children and adults, women and men, subordinates and bosses alike: it is changing the old hierarchies of who should be heard and who should be heard. trust, to break the silences that protect the legitimacy of the status quo. More than 95,000 people filed claims in the lawsuit for sexual abuse against the Boy Scouts of America, and what it took to keep all those kids quiet while all those hundreds of thousands of assaults were taking place is a lot of unwillingness to listen and shatter faith in an institution that was itself an institution. Such an important part of the status quo (and in many ways an indoctrination system for it).

Centrists in the prewar era were either apathetic or outright resisting ending slavery in the United States and then, in the decades prior to 1920, giving women the vote. The civil rights movement was not as popular in its day as moderates, who like the kindest quotes from Martin Luther King Jr., think it was. The king himself is famous declared“I have almost come to the unfortunate conclusion that the great stumbling block of the Negro in his journey to freedom is not the White Citizen’s Advisor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, more devoted to ‘order’ than justice; who prefers a negative peace that is the absence of tension to a positive peace that is the presence of justice … ”As King points out, the status quo is always changing, and centrists often resist change that expands rights and justice softer on the efforts of the right to shrink those things in favor of more inequality and more authoritarianism.

TO recent study seems to contain the same biases, stating: “We measured the brain activity of engaged supporters who watched actual political videos. Although all participants watched the same videos, brain responses diverged between liberals and conservatives, reflecting differences in subjective interpretation of the footage. This polarized perception was compounded by a personality trait: intolerance of uncertainty. ”The research seems to assume that many on both ends of the spectrum have strong beliefs and are intolerant of uncertainty, but who is more intolerant of uncertainty than those who want to believe that authority is trustworthy, that no secrets need sunlight, and that urgent change is not desired.

Another fallacy of the centrist position is that the right and the left are symmetrically extreme. Left-wing violence is largely a failed experiment that faded away in the 1970s. Furthermore, in recent years, the loudest voices on the left have mostly spoken important truths and those on the right have promulgated lies while they argued against basic human rights. An obvious example is all the falsehoods about abortion used to justify undermining access to abortion. Another is the conversation about the climate crisis. Activists and scientists have long been saying that we are in a desperate situation that demands profound change. However, the call for change is described as extreme, rather than the necessary response to an extreme planetary crisis. On the right, the call has been for inaction and denial of science. This week the International Energy Agency belatedly I got on board with what climatic groups I’ve been insisting for years: an end to the exploration and extraction of new fossil fuels, an important change that is now recognized as reasonable and necessary to preserve a habitable planet.

Was it radical to be right too soon? What is called the left is often a little ahead of the game, when it comes to human rights and environmental justice; the right often denies the existence of the problem, whether it be pesticides and toxic waste or domestic violence and child abuse. There is no symmetry. Many of the positions that are now considered moderate (also known as centrist) were considered radical not so long ago, when this country supported segregation, banned interracial marriages and later same-sex marriages, prevented women from occupying some queer positions and people from others, and excluded disabled people from just about everything. The center is biased and those biases matter.

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