Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Greg Weiner's When Liberals Become Progressives: Because progress is an unadulterated good, it supersedes the rights of its opponents

When Liberals Become Progressives. By Greg Weiner
The New York Times, April 14, 2018, on Page A19 of the New York edition

Mr. Weiner was a senior aide to Senator Bob Kerrey before becoming a political scientist.

photo: Daniel Patrick Moynihan in the Capitol in 1995. He forthrightly described himself as a liberal, while today the label “progressive” is becoming more common.CreditDavid Scull/The New York Times

WORCESTER, Mass. — On the night of his election to the Senate in 1976, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Democrat of New York, declared: “I ran as a liberal. I was elected as a liberal.” This month, discussing her campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor of New York, Cynthia Nixon called for “progressive change.” The distinction matters.

In recent decades, the label “progressive” has been resurrected to replace “liberal,” a once vaunted term so successfully maligned by Republicans that it fell out of use. Both etymologically and ideologically, the switch to “progressive” carries historical freight that augurs poorly for Democrats and for the nation’s polarized politics.

Historical progressivism is an ideology whose American avatars, like Woodrow Wilson, saw progress as the inevitable outcome of human affairs. Of course, liberals and conservatives believe that their policies will result in positive outcomes, too. But it is another thing to say, as American Progressives did, that the contemporary political task was to identify a destination, grip the wheel and depress the accelerator.

The basic premise of liberal politics, by contrast, is the capacity of government to do good, especially in ameliorating economic ills. Nothing structurally impedes compromise between conservatives, who hold that the accumulated wisdom of tradition is a better guide than the hypercharged rationality of the present, and liberals, because both philosophies exist on a spectrum.

A liberal can believe that government can do more good or less, and one can debate how much to conserve. But progressivism is inherently hostile to moderation because progress is an unmitigated good. There cannot be too much of it. Like conservative fundamentalism, progressivism contributes to the polarization and paralysis of government because it makes compromise, which entails accepting less progress, not merely inadvisable but irrational. Even when progressives choose their targets strategically — Hillary Clinton, for example, called herself “a progressive who likes to get things done” — the implication is that progress is the fundamental goal and that its opponents are atavists.

Unlike liberalism, progressivism is intrinsically opposed to conservation. It renders adhering to tradition unreasonable rather than seeing it, as the liberal can, as a source of wisdom. The British philosopher Roger Scruton calls this a “culture of repudiation” of home and history alike. The critic of progress is not merely wrong but a fool. Progressivism’s critics have long experienced this as a passive-aggressive form of re-education.

Because progress is an unadulterated good, it supersedes the rights of its opponents. This is evident in progressive indifference to the rights of those who oppose progressive policies in areas like sexual liberation.

This is one reason progressives have alienated moderate voters who turned to Donald Trump in 2016. The ideology of progress tends to regard the traditions that have customarily bound communities and which mattered to Trump voters alarmed by the rapid transformation of society, as a fatuous rejection of progress. Trump supporters’ denunciation of “political correctness” is just as often a reaction to progressive condescension as it is to identity politics.

Where liberalism seeks to ameliorate economic ills, progressivism’s goal is to eradicate them. Moynihan recognized this difference between Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, which he always supported — as exemplified by his opposition to Clinton-era welfare reform — and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, which he sympathetically criticized. The New Deal alleviated poverty by cutting checks, something government does competently even if liberals and conservatives argued over the size of the checks. The Great Society partook more of a progressive effort to remake society by eradicating poverty’s causes. The result, Moynihan wrote, was the diversion of resources from welfare and jobs to “community action” programs that financed political activism.

This ideology of progress naturally aggrandizes the fastest route to the future, which is one reason progressivism has historically elevated the presidency to the center of the American regime. This insistence on progress based solely on reason also explains the doomed progressive aspiration, dating to the early 20th century, for “scientific legislation,” which seeks to transform the political into the rational. Yet policymaking in a republic is not, and should not be, purely rational. Constitutional institutions like the separation of powers instead require that policies develop gradually and command wide consensus — at least under normal circumstances.

But neither liberalism nor conservatism opposes rationality. Conservatism holds that accumulated tradition is a likelier source of wisdom than the cleverest individual at any one moment. It fears the tyranny of theory that cannot tolerate dissent. Liberalism defends constitutionalism. One of the finest traditions of 20th-century liberalism was the Cold War liberal who stood for social amelioration and against Soviet Communism. This genus — including Moynihan, Senator Henry Jackson and the longtime labor leader Lane Kirkland — was often maligned by progressives.

One cannot, of course, make too much of labels. But democracy is conducted with words, and progressivism, by its very definition, makes progress into an ideology. The appropriate label for those who do not believe in the ideology of progress but who do believe in government’s capacity to do good is “liberal.” They would do well, politically as well as philosophically, to revive it.

Greg Weiner is a political scientist at Assumption College and the author, most recently, of “American Burke: The Uncommon Liberalism of Daniel Patrick Moynihan.”

Among women, enjoyment of sexualization made them to see themselves as more heterosexual, more attractive, more open to unconventional sex acts, and having greater sentimentality about romantic relationships

Enjoyment of Sexualization and Feminism: Relationships with Sexual Self-Schema and Psychosexual Health. Michael Barnett, Idalia Maciel, Mallory Gerner. Sexuality & Culture, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12119-018-9515-5

Abstract: Feminists have debated whether enjoyment of sexualization (ES)—when women find sexualized attention from men rewarding—represents empowerment or patriarchal oppression. The purpose of this study was to investigate the psychosexual correlates of ES—sexual self-schema (SSS) and psychosexual health—among heterosexual college women (n = 754) and men (n = 389). Among women, ES was associated with a SSS in which women saw themselves as more heterosexual, more attractive, more open to unconventional sex acts, and having greater sentimentality about romantic relationships. Regarding psychosexual health, ES was not linked with general self-esteem but was associated with higher sexual esteem and lower sexual depression. Among men, ES was not related to SSS or psychosexual health. Overall, among women, ES was linked with positive outcomes, and it may represent women conforming to societal norms and using sexualized attention in order to obtain romantic intimacy. Rather than internalized misogyny, ES may represent an open approach to sexuality in which women take advantage of their sexualized position in society for their own empowerment.

Based upon our results, we cannot indicate whether ES is or is not a response to oppression, but it appears that for some women, it may be a strategic response that may have some beneficial outcomes. Our results seem to support the particular feminist view that ES may be a reflection of an open view of sexuality that allows for a sense of empowerment. More importantly, it may reflect women’s sense of awareness of their sexualized roles in society, and rather than falling victim to it, they have decided to use this awareness for their own benefit.

"A great deal of the public outcry against fake news, echo chambers and polarization on social media is itself based on misinformation"

Rolf Degen summarizes (https://twitter.com/DegenRolf): "A great deal of the public outcry against fake news, echo chambers and polarization on social media is itself based on misinformation."

Review of Barbera, Pablo and Tucker, Joshua A. and Guess, Andrew and Vaccari, Cristian and Siegel, Alexandra and Sanovich, Sergey and Stukal, Denis and Nyhan, Brendan (2018) Social media, political polarization, and political disinformation: a review of the scientific literature. William + Flora Hewlett Foundation, California. http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/87402/

Abstract: The following report is intended to provide an overview of the current state of the literature on the relationship between social media; political polarization; and political “disinformation,” a term used to encompass a wide range of types of information about politics found online, including “fake news,” rumors, deliberately factually incorrect information, inadvertently factually incorrect information, politically slanted information, and “hyperpartisan” news. The review of the literature is provided in six separate sections, each of which can be read individually but that cumulatively are intended to provide an overview of what is known — and unknown — about the relationship between social media, political polarization, and disinformation. The report concludes by identifying key gaps in our understanding of these phenomena and the data that are needed to address them.

The current conventional wisdom on the impact of misinformation is mostly based on journalistic reports documenting its spread during the 2016 election. Some of the earliest reporting on this topic was produced by Craig Silverman of Buzzfeed News. In a series of articles published around the time of the election, he demonstrated that engagement on Facebook was higher for fake content than for stories from major news outlets. Additional reporting by other outlets corroborated these initial findings (see e.g., Higgins et al. 2016; Rogers & Bromwich 2016; Timberg 2016). Overall, these reports paint a picture of the online news ecosystem in which misinformation and hyperpartisan stories are shared at rates comparable to news stories by mainstream media outlets, reaching millions of people.

This evidence has provided new fuel to the debate on the internet and social media as ideological echo chambers. The prevailing narrative is that online misinformation is amplified in partisan communities of like-minded individuals, where it goes unchallenged due to ranking algorithms that filter out any dissenting voice (see e.g., Pariser 2011; del Vicario et al. 2016). One of the leading proponents of this view is Cass Sunstein, who in his most recent book, #Republic, warns that balkanized online speech markets represent new threats to democracy because they are a breeding ground for informational cascades of “fake news” and conspiracy theories (Sunstein 2017). The outcome of this process, he argues, would be a society that is ill-informed and increasingly segregated and polarized along partisan lines, making political compromise increasingly unlikely.

However, the consensus in the scholarly literature is not as clear as these accounts would suggest. Boxell et al. (2017) show that, even if mass political polarization has grown in recent times, this increase has been largest among citizens least likely to use the internet and social media. Their results reveal that “the internet explains a small share of the recent growth in polarization” (p. 10612). Bakshy et al. (2015) and Barberá (N.d.) find that Facebook and Twitter users are exposed to a surprisingly high level of diverse views. Wojcieszak and Mutz (2009) provide similar evidence of frequent cross-cutting political exchanges in online discussion spaces. Survey data collected by the Pew Research Center (Duggan & Smith 2016) show that most users report being exposed to a variety of viewpoints on social media. Forty percent of social media users across different countries report being exposed to a diverse range of sources, according to data from 2017 Reuters Institute Digital News Report (Newman et al. 2017). Finally, regarding the spread of misinformation, Allcott and Gentzkow (2017) find that even if “fake news” stories were widely shared during the 2016 election, the average American saw, at most, several of them on social media.

Put together, this body of work challenges the conventional wisdom, but in many ways raises more questions than it answers. Even if average cross-cutting exposure is relatively high on average, there may be pockets of individuals who are indeed fully embedded in politically homogeneous communities, for whom online consumption of information could lead to increased extremism. Given the nearly universal presence of journalists on social media, messages shared on these platforms could have indirect effects even among the offline population. We also know little about the long-term consequences of online news consumption on political disaffection, civic knowledge, political participation, and social capital.

There is a clear need for further research addressing the questions above. In trying to structure the discussion of what is known and not yet known within this research agenda, it is useful to consider three potential mechanisms by which online consumption of political information could be impacting political processes: (1) changes in the volume of information being consumed, (2) the (diversity of) sources of such political content, and (3) how it is framed. The following sections discuss the effect of exposure to (mis)information online in key societal outcomes by focusing on how research on these three mechanisms helps resolve the tension between theory and empirics described above, and informs our knowledge of such broader questions.