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The Dipshit Paradox
Profoundly ignorant? Deliberately malicious and lying? Does it matter? The demand to engage in good faith with supremacists in a musky age.
Hey gang! I’m pulling the ripcord and floating on down to vacation island. I’m strapping on my job helmet and squeezing down into a vacation cannon and firing myself off into Vacationland, where vacations grow on vacationnies.
So probably no original content here until oh let’s say mid August sometime.
To keep the fires warm, I’ll probably post a couple favorite fun and silly things I wrote in years previous on The Site Formerly Known as Twitter. I’ll post them here in part for amusement, but in part since the new owner—a fella I’ll call Owner X, whose overall sensibilities seem to have arrested around 7th grade, who seems like the kind of guy who finds it amusing to pull wings off flies—seems intent on wrapping his $44 billion toy around a telephone pole, and so it seems foolish to blindly trust it to stick around in the long term or maybe even the near term, and hey guess what? I enjoy these things that I wrote, and would hate to lose them.
The site upon which I wrote them used to be called Twitter, as I said. Now it’s called “X,” I guess? It’s hard to believe but I guess it must be so. It’s something so ill-conceived and so haphazardly deployed that it feels like it was a whim, though apparently trying to name things and people “X” is a recurring thing with Owner X. It seems that other interests and even other major competitors might already own the brand “X.” It’s being said that the move wiped out $20b in value, which seems like more value than a company that can’t or won’t pay its server bills can probably afford to wipe out. Owner X meanwhile says, without much evidence or reason, that this move will allow X to become up to half the global financial system, which is such a harebrained thing to say it’s hard to do anything but just blink in response. It’s as if somebody handed you a shit-meringue pie and told you to dig in.
This leads to a lot of talk about why. Some believe he’s just a profoundly ignorant fool with a predilection for bullying, in over his head and demolishing something he barely understands. Others think that he’s a deliberately destructive vulture capitalist with a predilection for bullying, who wants to sabotage something of public value to create an environment more conducive to oligarchy.
I get it. I’ve thought both premises likely at different times.
Is he being sincere, which would indicate an ignorance about obvious business matters so profound it suggests a choice?
Or is he lying about his intentions, which would strongly suggest deliberate malice?
Either way he seems to have a predilection for bullying, and the site is crumbling, so maybe it’s all a little too abstract a question to matter, since the result is the same.
I suppose we could find the middle path, could just agree to ignore the specific part of observable reality that Owner X and his sycophants, deliberately or not, are ignoring. For example we could ignore the unignorable truth that Twitter is/was a massively valuable brand, and that getting rid of it liquidates massive value, and we could ignore the fact that unceremoniously replacing it with the letter X pulled off of an open-source font set represents a deeply unserious attitude toward business in general, or we could ignore the fact that a massive amount of value that was built by millions upon millions of creators is being threatened and destroyed at the whim of a person who either is a cruel bully or is so profoundly ignorant about basic empathy that he only seems like one, and he’s able to do what he wants simply because he is balls rich and being balls rich means you get to pull the wings off whatever fly you want.
It’s really a quandary. It’s a quandary we all face these days, almost everywhere it seems. And it isn’t without cost, because it is tiring, especially in a time of serious challenges and real dangers that we all share, to constantly have to explain obvious things to people who seem not only determined to ignore them, but determined to force us to ignore them as well, which appears to be a prerequisite to a dominance that they will call unity.
When we face a proposition that requires us to ignore certain parts of reality in order to establish the domination of the person holding it, then we must in good faith either give the person credit for profound ignorance if we want to accept that they are being sincere, or else deliberate maliciousness if they aren’t.
And those seem to be our choices, if we want to engage in what’s being called (by those who insist they are sitting in the middle) “good faith.”
But still a curious mind returns to the question: why are so many people demanding that we ignore so many things we find unignorable?
I think we’ve all had conversations that make us ask such questions. They’re the conversations we’re told by depolarizing centrists are important to have, in order to have a more civil society. If that were true, I’d think the fact that we’ve all had these conversations almost ad nauseum would have made society more civil by now, and yet, the people we’re asked to have these conversations with just keep getting angrier and angrier, even as they get more and more of everything they want, and those who would have us know that they are positioned in the center between us and them scold us more and more to deal in “good faith” with increasingly nonsense propositions.
Good faith is the dish we’re asked to bring to the table—a very particular version.
Good faith seems to mean not only understanding the perspectives and positions we hear. It seems that “good faith” also means validating that the proposition is a reasonable thing that a reasonable person might believe and pursue in good faith, and is therefore a worthy topic for discussion and debate. And, if you won’t do that, then what you brought to the table isn’t good faith.
I’m going to call this the Dipshit Paradox: Good faith requires positive assumption of awareness, intention, and sincerity on the part of another—yet some arguments are so untethered to reality that assuming good intention means assuming unawareness, while assuming awareness means assuming insincerity and bad intent."
It’s important to recognize The Dipshit Paradox, I think, because it is sort of a rapid card test for the notion that some people matter and should be able to dictate reality to everyone else—that is, supremacy.
Let me give you another example.
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The example I’m thinking of is a subject near and dear to the musky heart of Owner X. That subject is trans people—the existence of them, that is. If we’re not trans, we’re invited to take the pro or con position here1, on a sort of nebulous question that shifts like free-form jazz between “do trans people exist?” and “should trans people exist?” and “how do we solve ‘the trans question?’” depending on whatever is convenient in the moment to the person who thinks that trans people do not and ought not exist.
Owner X bought Twitter in part because the Babylon Bee had been suspended for misgendering U.S. health official Rachel Levine, and once he bought it he reinstated the Bee and removed the policy that made misgendering an offense, and he said that this was because he was a free speech absolutist, but then later he declared that calling somebody “cis”—which is just a way of distinguishing somebody who identifies as the gender they were assigned from somebody who is trans and identifies in a different way than they were assigned—is a slur and would result in suspensions. So much for being a free speech absolutist, I suppose, though we can argue over whether Owner X is just profoundly ignorant about basic rhetoric and thus fails to recognize the obvious hypocrisy, or whether he is not being honest about his intentions and is therefore deliberately malicious.
His actions when it comes to trans people, which are multifarious and upon which I’ve only touched upon here, suggest malice, but I’m told that it is very bad to assume the worst of people, so I’ll assume the best of him, which means assuming that he really means what he says, which unfortunately also means that his rhetoric is so flimsy and his ignorance about his own internal philosophy is so profound that I’d find it pathetic, if, that is, his wealth didn’t give him such outsized power over the lives of others.
Again: it’s a Dipshit Paradox.
Anyway, enough about Owner X. Let’s get into the conservative perspective on trans people. We’re meant to engage the conservative perspective on the matter of trans people in good faith, and if we do we’ll find it often boils down to the idea that they believe God doesn’t like it, and that means they and their children shouldn’t have to see or hear about trans people at all, and we’re meant to ignore the fact that this is clearly eliminationist rhetoric and the fact that they are using it to pursue eliminationist policy, based on the fact that they say “we’re actually being loving.” This isn’t the most common conservative perspective on trans people these days, because the answer to it lately is often “yeah but we have freedom of religion and I don’t care three peanuts in my morning shit what sort of cruel thing you think your God says about trans people,” and then they’re stuck, because they do believe in freedom of religion for themselves, and mostly they know how it sounds if they say they believe in it only for themselves, honestly if you’re a bigot who has decided to worship your bigotry and somebody isn’t scared of the bigot you call “god” where do you go from there? But I think it’s worth mentioning all the same, because these sorts of religious bigots have found five or six people who agree with them at least, and unfortunately all of them are fans of black robes and massive bribes.
Anyway, the argument of enforcing bigotry upon everybody else on the basis of the bigot’s religious belief seems increasingly confined to legal arguments these days. It seems that conservatives have learned it won’t get quite as much play in polite society these days as it used to.
I suspect this is because the sight of religious bigots’ argument being rejected as counterfactual even from a religious perspective has led more and more people to understand that the bigots’ argument is counterfactual even from a religious perspective, which leads them to reject it, which makes the argument less effective. The truth is there’s nothing in the Bible that would compel anybody to shun themselves from trans people or shun trans people from public life … unless, that is, one wants to find it there. The fact is that making such a case is not an unnegotiable part of ancient Jewish texts or somewhat more recent Christian ones, but rather a renegotiating of the texts in order enforce chosen power dynamics that favor a particular bigotry, in ways that are baldly transparent to even a casual observer—and also we can clearly see that there are many other deeply religious people who believe in inclusion and equality for trans people, including many Christians, but also including Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Buddhists … well, the list goes on, but they have scriptures that justify their desire for openness and inclusion just as well as do the passages that bigots use to justify their bigotry, so creating a legal structure that would codify bigotry would impinge upon the practice of their religious conviction, and we’re expected to ignore that, too.
So here it is again, another Dipshit Paradox. Either the person making the argument is sincere, in which case they are profoundly ignorant about the matters they propose to discuss and the inevitable cruel results of their proposal, or they are not sincere, which suggests bigoted malice intending persecution of a marginalized community. And either way, the centrist unity position insists that we understand them—an understanding that cannot result in rejecting their perspective on the merits, but rather one that involves ignoring all these things we know in order to validate their perspective as reasonable—which is also what the religious bigots themselves demand. Whether their insistence is meant to protect their ignorance or promote their malice, harm will be the result, because trans people—who are not asking anyone to ignore realities involving religious expression, and who are not using their own beliefs around religion to persecute them or anyone else—are being persecuted, and will be harmed.
So people are rejecting this premise, even as corrupt judges are codifying it.
And, because people are rejecting the premise, conservatives are increasingly turning to new premises and perspectives when it comes to trans people.
More frequently these days the conservative perspective on the matter of trans people involves an appeal not to religion but to science. Their belief is that it is a clear scientific fact that there are only two presentations of gender: that it is the strict biological binary of chromosomes, and of hormones, and the morphology of genitals, that determines gender, and that trans people are, therefore, in violation of that strict binary, and are, therefore, mentally ill. And they point to their belief that it is a fact that there were never trans people until recently, and that is proof that the existence of trans people is a plot to destroy America.
And that’s OK, I guess … except that none of that is true, either. Neither chromosomal presentation or hormonal levels or morphology of genitals are binaries, and all of these things are biological facts that any of us can know if we want to. And we know that trans people are nothing new, though it seems bloody obvious to say that public awareness of trans people will grow as public acceptance of them grows. So, if we are to engage with this version of the conservative perspective on the matter of trans people, we will have to either give them credit for being sincere, which means that they are ignorant of biological and historical facts that are perfectly easy to know, or else they are insincere, which suggests a deliberate malice.
So it’s the Dipshit Paradox again. They can’t be both aware of reality and well-meaning, by their own argument, which when exposed to reality crawls up its own X and dies. And either way, the centrist unity position would involve understanding them, which again means validating them as reasonable, which means agreeing to join them in ignoring the truths that they ignore, and whether their insistence is meant to protect their ignorance or promote their malice, harm will be the result, because trans people, who are not leaning on an ignorance of biology or science to persecute them or anyone else, are being persecuted and will be harmed.
I could be wrong, but to my perception awareness has been growing about these scientific facts regarding gender. I suspect this is because the sight of bigoted transphobic arguments being rejected as counterfactual from a scientific perspective has led more and more people to understand that their argument is counterfactual from a scientific perspective, and to reject it, which makes the argument less effective.
So people of good faith are rejecting this premise, even as fascist state governors and legislatures in Texas and Florida and elsewhere are codifying it into law.
Another reason I think people are rejecting the premise is that conservatives are turning to new premises, subtler ones, when it comes to trans people.
Now they’ll tell you they aren’t trying to exclude trans people, or harm trans people, at all. They’re worried about trans people, and the damage that medical transitioning is doing to their bodies. And they’re worried about children being groomed by the trans people and women being attacked in bathrooms by predatory trans people (the very same trans people who in a previous breath they so worried might be coming to harm), even though in every other instance when it comes to women’s and children’s safety the conservative position sides with the abuser. They’re also worried about trans women in women’s sports because they’re so concerned about preserving women’s sports, which we might notice (if we’re interested in noticing things) was never a concern before.
And each of these premises, when taken in isolation by themselves, can really seem to involve concern for various people being referenced, and all you have to do is take each premise in good faith within the edicts and strictures of the Dipshit Paradox, which means either believing them sincere in what they say yet ignorant of their own positions elsewhere and their support for policies persecuting the people they propose to defend, or else aware of their positions on similar matters in other circumstances but lying about their beliefs here in order to achieve similarly harmful and abusive ends.
And also we’d have to ignore the fact that their concern over medical transitioning involves cherry-picked data over the bulk of medical consensus, and treating outliers as indicative of main populations of trans people and the experience of main populations of trans people as outliers, and inflating the statistical volume of actual transitions that are actually happening, and not noticing that their concern over groomers and safety in bathrooms and the sanctity of women’s sport requires a practiced ignorance about the reality of who is actually grooming children and who is actually harming women and who is actually threatening women’s sports and women’s bodily autonomy and women in public spaces generally.
And either way, the centrist unity position would involve understanding them, which does not mean understanding that they are ignoring observable truths, but rather validating their beliefs as reasonable, and agreeing to ignore the truths that they ignore—which is exactly what anti-trans bigots insist upon, as well. Whether their insistence is meant to protect their ignorance or promote their malice, harm will be the result, because trans people—who are not engaged in a never-ending Escher drawing of hypocritical arguments that collapse upon themselves when scrutinized, in order to harm them or anybody else—will be harmed.
And we’re talking about trans people, but we could be talking about anything. We could be talking about bad-faith arguments around mainstreamed racism, or antisemitism, or misogyny, or homophobia, all of which have perfectly understandable premises that must be rejected, because they ask us to ignore known things in service of crediting ignorance as awareness or malice as benevolence. Or we could be talking about the demolition of our school system, or free lunch for hungry kids, or housing for homeless people, or healthcare for sick people, or climate catastrophe, or vaccines, or the fact that one of our major parties tried to overthrow the U.S. government and is now running as president the open fascist and multiply indicted criminal who led the charge, or the fact that his main competitor for the nomination is also an open fascist.
My God, we could be talking about Bud Lite. We could be talking about the Barbie movie.
Seriously. We could be talking about almost anything.
I’ve been on this for a while, but honestly it isn’t our refusal to understand these perspectives that is making them so angry.
I think it’s our understanding of their perspective that makes them so angry, actually, because our understanding of it is the reason we have rejected it, and it is our rejection that makes them have to retreat to other, less overt, more subtle arguments.
I think what’s actually wanted is not understanding, but for us to enter their zone of non-reality, to ignore the things they have decided to ignore in order to believe the things they have chosen to believe.
What’s wanted here isn’t a civil discourse or an exchange of ideas.
What’s wanted is to agree that reality is not what it actually is, but what the person you’re dealing with says it is, which means you agree that they are the ones who get to set the terms of reality for everyone else.
And that’s how you know you’re dealing with supremacists, because these are people who want you to ignore things that anybody can know in order to enter a counterfactual reality in which everybody is compelled to not know those things, so that they get to be the people who arbitrate reality.
I think leaving reality behind is, to a supremacist, not a by-product, but the selling point. I think a supremacist believes that they are supreme, which means that they get to name what reality is for everybody else, and it’s far easier to know that you’re doing that if the thing you force people to believe isn’t actually true.
I’m talking about the centrists, by the way.
That’s right, the ones who say they want unity and depolarization, and believe that the way you achieve a unified society is by endlessly entertaining every Dipshit Paradox that comes along, who expect us to enter their version of unity, which validates as reasonable every proposal that will actively harm persecuted people who will never be offered access into that unity, because the Dipshit Paradox we’re being scolded to enter is one in which we will have to agree to not see them anymore, or know what is being done to them.
Because the centrist position is the ultimate Dipshit Paradox.
It’s just the subtlest conservative position, the one that says “I’m not conservative, I’m actually with you.”
It wants us to believe that it stands in the center, even while it place the poles of our great polarization only between people whose malice is detectable and whose targets have been made as plain as their intentions toward those targets, and those of us who are not directly targeted and threatened, and leaves the targets out completely.
It wants us to ignore the fact that it is only by understanding and rejecting malicious premises on their merits that we truly move the argument away from the threat posed by those malicious premises and toward a true safety and unity—not with those who would do harm to others (though we do not propose to harm them), but rather with those who they would harm.
And in the centrist’s Dipshit Paradox, they ask us to ignore the harm—that most of all. In demanding that we make our main concern the contentiousness of the conversation between those being harmed and those doing the harming, they ask us to make malicious propositions bloodless, to not know the history of harm and malice and terror and death that bigotry has already enabled for generations, to not know that laws have already been passed and more have been proposed, to not know the real harm really being done to real people while we all sit around and try to find reasonable propositions that can be understood but must be rejected.
That is the reality that the so-called depolarizing so-called centrist would have us ignore—the supremacist reality, the one that means harm and has done harm, the one that sets its poles between indifference and malice and ignores the rest.
And do I believe them sincere? Then I have to assume them profoundly ignorant.
Or should I give them credit for awareness? Then I must presume them malicious.
I don’t know if these so-called depolarizing so-called centrists mean harm or if they’re just ignorant, but I understand their position very very well, and I know what they’re asking me to ignore.
And I know that harm will be the result.
And I know that decent people rejecting a malicious premise is what truly moves the argument.
We’ve known that for a long time, too.
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A.R. Moxon is the author of The Revisionaries, which is available in most of the usual places, and some of the unusual places, and is co-writer of Sugar Maple, a musical fiction podcast from Osiris Media which goes in your ears. He’s just a small town girl, livin’ in a lonely world.
If we are trans, we’re not invited to have the conversation. Those of us who are trans are invited to stay polite and non-disruptive while the grown-ups discuss what to do about them, and if we’re not trans, this fact is something that we’re asked to ignore as we debate in “good faith.”