I didn't see this when it was first posted, but the bullying lens is one that seems to accurately describe so much of the dynamics of violence everywhere. I am reminded of Graeber's excellent essay "The Bully's Pulpit" (https://archive.ph/tnLSG). Especially pertinent is the idea that what is being sought are accomplices, and what is insidious about it is that bullies press-gang all observers into the conflict - you are either an accomplice or you are the next victim. Bullying can't take place one on one. It requires an audience. And in the grand drama of this planet, all of us are watching.

The key thing to remember at all times when confronting these people is:

"Bullying creates a moral drama in which the manner of the victim’s reaction to an act of aggression can be used as retrospective justification for the original act of aggression itself."

We have to remember this, because guess who is considered in the wrong, the bully, or the victim? What advice is given to the victim? To appeal to the audience, or to "make friends with your bully"? When they want us to be friends, they are telling us that it is our own fault for being the victim, for not submitting in the appropriate way.

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Oct 10, 2023·edited Oct 11, 2023

I just ran across a link to this post today, and man... as we sit here watching the Hamas-Israel-Palestinian conflict bubble over into violence and misery for everyone and online vitriol demanding we all "stand for Israel" without also contending with the idea that putting Palestinians in what amounts to a giant internment camp was also not "non-violent" or "just."

Peace means valuing everyone's lives.

It feels so disgusting to see the same people who were dog whistling anti-semitism for the past 6+ years are now so suddenly pro-Zionist, because their world view very narrowly puts Jewish lives above Arab and Muslim lives, and the profits of the military industrial complex so obviously above them both. The level of bad faith posturing is off the charts.

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Every time i hear someone blame the “coasts” for causing “flyover country” to become trump cultists by looking down on them, i think of my state’s former democratic governor Chris Gregoire’s response to a radio interview question. The interviewer had pointed out that the GOP in Washington state had gutted the education funding that specifically supported schools in poor districts which are in fact overwhelmingly red districts. Why was she still working to find funding for those school districts given the political cost of that effort? In a somewhat harassed tone she replied something like, “I know what you are suggesting, but I just can’t take it out on the backs of those children.” The idea that disrespect of right wingers is the cause of their radicalization is just such bullshit, and so ubiquitous as to almost be received truth, and the worst form of gaslighting.

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This is the most important essay i have read this year. I have forwarded it to several people who have also found it important and passed it along. The gaslighting by those worried more about so called civility provides a very real cover for the most violent and boorish chauvinists of many stripes. Thank you for helping to clear the air of their miasma. Plus, David Brooks is among the laziest and self-congratulatory writers i have ever encountered.

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thanks very much!

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"But I really think it might be as simple as observing that the truly decent people don’t really want to be friends with the assholes who are bullying their friends. Why would I want that? Why would anybody? Why would anybody scold us to?"

I have bad news for people that haven't experienced school bullying in all its non-glory up close; "why don't you try making friends with your bullies?" is extremely common advice given to bullied children. Victim-blaming and identification with the bullies rather than the bullied are common enough to be banal, very much including among teachers and school admins.

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"a spirit that sees humans as a value rather than a cost"

Such an important idea, especially when tens of thousands of refugees show up at your border. I'll be using this as a handy litmus test from now on.

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Also, friends don't let friends shoot them.

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"Leftists can’t understand being friends with people who don’t share their political views, but for most people it's just the norm."

That "most" is doing a lot of work...

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Excellent. One could argue that the bullies truly want sycophants and toadies, which is how they see accomplices. Left and right seem to me to boil down to equality versus hierarchy, which fits humanist versus supremacist. But the accomplice’s motivation is simple - fear. They’re trying to placate the bully so they don’t get bullied.

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Another brilliant and much needed piece. Unfortunately, in addition to not understanding why "the left" (does that include "the woke", and the pizza-slinging paedophile members of the WEF who may or may not be Jewish caricatures?) are so radicalized that they can't just be a gosh darned good neighbor, these people (which includes many on "the right") also have less than zero self-awareness (immortalized by the Costello tune of the same name) and therefore your wonderful dissection of this peculiar notion of amiability will have absolutely no influence upon them at all.

All the more reason the rest of us need this. Thanks again!

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Simply brilliant, thank you

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Not an hour after I read this brilliant post, I read an equally brilliant and eerily apropos article in The Guardian by Naomi Klein, trying to fathom why former liberal Democrat and her apparent doppelganger, Naomi Wolf, had gone to the dark side:


"In my doppelganger studies, I have learned that there is a real medical syndrome called Capgras delusion. Those who suffer from it become convinced that people in their lives – spouses, children, friends – have been replaced by replicas or doppelgangers. According to the film historian Paul Meehan, the discovery of the syndrome likely inspired sci-fi classics like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Stepford Wives. But what is it called when a society divides into two warring factions, both of which are convinced that the other has been replaced by doppelgangers?

Is there a syndrome for that? Is there a solution?

To return to the original question: what is Wolf getting out of her alliance with Bannon and from her new life in the Mirror World? Everything. She is getting everything she once had and lost – attention, respect, money, power. Just through a warped mirror. In Milton’s Paradise Lost, Lucifer, a fallen angel, thought it “Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven”. My doppelganger may well still think Bannon is the devil, but perhaps she thinks it’s better to serve by his side than to keep getting mocked in a place that sells itself as heavenly but that we all know is plenty hellish in its own right."

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In the UK, the far-right (who are in power) are once more floating the idea that the death penalty should be reinstituted, using crimes that have been allowed to happen precisely because of their own morally-vacant, profit-focused approach to humanity and its roll-out through public services.

And it always amazes me that they never stop to think that THEY might find themselves subject to such a penalty. They rely on the fact, as memorably articulated by Steve Bannon, that the right can keep punching ‘the left’ in the face and we’ll just take it...

In the US, guns are so clearly a tool in this bullying process that I don’t really know how we achieve an end to supremacism without serious gun control/prohibition.

On another point, about the outrage at people on the left ‘not wanting to be friendly’, there’s a little industry of Christian organizations out there aimed at the parents of adult children and grandchildren who have shunned them for political reasons, in a kind of modern-day Lysistrata move that I’ve seen my own husband make within his family. In return for $$$, those parents can get a bunch of ‘advice’ which vilifies their offspring whilst ensuring they don’t need to question what drove them away in the first place. And yet the mere existence of these organizations clearly speaks to a deeply felt absence, loss, and bewilderment on the part of older right-wing people which we might call the cost of their vaunted ‘freedoms’: the ultimate realization of their need for love. Maybe that, after all, is what hurts the most.

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Wow, you gotta hand it to capitalism, it finds an opportunity for profit in EVERYTHING.

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Also creating the problem and then selling the solution. Focus On The Family taught authoritarian parenting and when the children of this parenting grew up and became parents themselves, many of them wanted nothing to do with their parents. So Focus On The Family is selling them books and courses on how to deal with this issue. Of course it will never work because the first step would be for these grandparents to divest from the world view.

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'Laura Ann Carleton’s store is a potentially safer place for Matt Walsh’s children than Matt Walsh’s house'

No potentially about it.

Every word out of his mouth will inflict harm on any child he has presumed authority over. Only in the grotesque world of fascists could he be viewed as someone fit to be around a child.

Side note- he has displayed enough, and said enough, to leave the impression he is in fact a sexual predator, and like so many predators, he broadcasts his Christian morality as some sort of cloaking device.

'I think what’s really happening is that an unignorable critical mass of people are done putting up with abusive bullshit anymore—taking it or excusing it—which seems very divisive and dangerous to people who rely on abusive bullshit for either fortune or identity.'


It took me a few decades, but I jumped of the 'be nicer, take the high road' wagon quite a while ago (parting company with Michelle Obama on this point):

'Shaming Trump's voters, his supporters and apologists is exactly what we should do.' (July 2, 2017)


"There is an element of basic morality that is lost when civility and comity are held as higher priorities than directly challenging bigotry or harassment...

We can’t expect that individuals will make the sort of moral reckoning of their choices, if they are not confronted with the immorality they displayed in making it. That is, without moral condemnation— shaming— their choice is merely... ‘something to simply agree to disagree on’.

But of course supporting a patently bigoted autocrat, tacitly or explicitly supporting his views and conduct, is not just ‘a different way of seeing things’. To not label Trump’s conduct correctly— to simply call it boorish, or juvenile, is to minimize it— it is a form of sexual harassment, part of a cultural landscape of male violence against women. To fail to denounce it explicitly, to fail to renounce one’s support of the man, is to condone this culture of violence. This aspect— how failing to condemn, not just the conduct, but the perpetrators of the conduct— serves to endorse and embolden the perpetrators...

Confronting the misogyny, racism, homophobia and religious intolerance broadcast by Trump and his supporters is not optional, it is at the core of progressive politics, just as moral condemnation and shaming have been instrumental in challenging bigotry throughout the history of social justice movements. It may not be comfortable to acknowledge this, but when people are still harmed by bigotry, none of us should be too comfortable...

There are many ways in which bigotry and discrimination can be compared to abusive behavior. Would we say to the abuser ‘I don’t want you to feel bad about assaulting your partner, I just want you to consider why I might not agree with you assaulting your partner’?

I mean this quite seriously— bigotry and discrimination always involve some form of verbal, emotional, physical or sexual violence. It causes real harm to real people. One cannot be innocently complicit in violence or abuse, nor can one disavow responsibility.

Without recognizing that bigotry is shameful, harmful to others, and deserving of our contempt, the bigot can continue to believe they are not the problem. But they are the problem. Bigotry in the abstract is not what we’re fighting, it’s people who hold bigoted views.

Bigotry and discrimination are perpetuated by bigots, they don’t exist as some amorphous cultural phenomena, disconnected from the individuals who perpetuate them, or tacitly support and facilitate them."

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What a fantastic piece.

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This is gonna stay in my head for a very very long time. I'm also forwarding to the folks at my inclusive table... thank you for putting my feelings into words!

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