Advice for Republicans from the Outgroup

Scott Alexander, formerly of slatestarcodex.com and now proprietor of astralcodexten.substack.com, has just posted an article suggesting Republicans focus on class. Alexander suggests that the GOP declare war on college, experts, upper-class media, and wokeness. Shorn of the general snarkiness, it’s nothing that Tucker Carlson hasn’t been advocating, more sincerely and effectively, especially this week.

Alexander is a superb if long-winded writer, IMHO, but this essay is a tedious read because his useful points are suffused with his cartoonish view of Republicans, who are his “outgroup”. I use that term specifically to reference one of my favorite essays, which is Alexander’s own “I Can Tolerate Anything Except The Outgroup”. What made that 2014 essay particularly insightful was not Alexander’s view of conservatives — which was equally sketchy, proving he’s not made any meaningful progress since then — but for his pithy and (judging from the comments) generally unwelcome commentary on his fellow “progressives”.

I don’t think many of us generally fare well at characterizing our political opposites, but there’s enormous empirical proof demonstrating that “progressives” are especially bad at that. Yet, that’s what makes Alexander’s outgroup essay valuable.

I think I wrote about the Outgroup essay some long time ago at the legacy site, but I’d like to take the opportunity of Alexander’s recent turn as Jonathan Swift to make a few points about it.

The Outgroup essay starts by referencing G.K. Chesterton’s “The Secret of Father Brown”, through which Alexander identifies and criticizes virtual signaling. Real tolerance should come at some discomfort, and Father Brown is telling the signalers that “you forgive because there isn’t anything to be forgiven.”

In section III, he discusses his “outrageously strong” political bubble. “I live in a Republican congressional district in a state with a Republican governor. The conservatives are definitely out there. They drive on the same roads as I do, live in the same neighborhoods. But they might as well be made of dark matter. I never meet them.” There’s a lot to this, but he doesn’t seriously consider the idea that he doesn’t meet these “conservatives” of his imagination because they’re nothing more than figments. That being said, Alexander ends this section with something that shows he is more perceptive than the garden-variety “prog”:

“Conservatives are all around me, yet I am about as likely to have a serious encounter with one as I am a Tibetan lama. (Less likely, actually. One time a Tibetan lama came to my college and gave a really nice presentation, but if a conservative tried that, people would protest and it would be canceled.)”

Nowadays, the Tibetan lama would also be canceled. The Overton window and all that.

Section V is the most insightful. Alexander discusses his expressing relief at Osama bin Laden’s demise and being shamed for that by his oh-so-virtuous fellow “progressives”. “I genuinely believed that day that I had found some unexpected good in people – that everyone I knew was so humane and compassionate that they were unable to rejoice even in the death of someone who hated them and everything they stood for.” And then came the death of Margaret Thatcher and for “these same ‘intelligent, reasoned, and thoughtful’ people – the most common response was to quote some portion of the song ‘Ding Dong, The Witch Is Dead’… And that was when something clicked for me.”

Yup, it clicked for me, too, though for me it was Reagan’s death. Think of Rush Limbaugh’s recent passing. How did our self-appointed betters react to that? Do we do that in return? No, we don’t, and you know why.

Sections VII and VIII were ahead of their time. This was before racist grifters Robin DiAngelo and Ibram X. Kendi but it demonstrates what you already knew: they weren’t that original after all. Section IX has a lot of applicability in my everyday life. And in conclusion, Alexander writes this:

“The Blue Tribe always has an excuse at hand to persecute and crush any Red Tribers unfortunate enough to fall into its light-matter-universe by defining them as all-powerful domineering oppressors. They appeal to the fact that this is definitely the way it works in the Red Tribe’s dark-matter-universe, and that’s in the same country so it has to be the same community for all intents and purposes. As a result, every Blue Tribe institution is permanently licensed to take whatever emergency measures are necessary against the Red Tribe, however disturbing they might otherwise seem.”

Occasionally, albeit not often enough, one of the woke realizes they’re part of the problem.

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6 Comments

  1. it’s nothing that Tucker Carlson hasn’t been advocating, more sincerely and effectively

    Tucker can advocate whatever he likes — it’s nothing I’ll see.  All of Fox is dead to me. 
    They switched sides when it mattered, and like Rand Paul, seem ferocious so  long as there’s no actual chance of winning, but simply kowtow when their actions might bring results. Tucker personally let the Biden crime family up off the mat.  He explained what he was doing and why, right on his show, and that was the last time I watched him.  Done.
    Shifting gears, this Alexander fellow sounds a bit like how I see Peggy Noonan — certainly not on our side, but perceptive and honest. 

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  2. The ref’d article’s author Alexander writes well and has something to say, even if he is only examining the lint from his moral center. His 2014 article raises numerous good points, and expresses them well, although these are the beginnings of thoughts, not the whole package.

    In pointing up what he credits Freud as calling “the narcissism of small differences”, he applies the idea to several situations, but does not credit its core rationale — that something which is similar or proximate can threaten another thing’s identity or existence, respectively.  Distant or unrelated things do not matter.

    And when he describes the absence (in 2014!) of actual conservatives (“dark matter”) on Reddit and whatever “LW” is, he does not credit the mechanism which has caused this: the chilling effectof decades of suppression which has only recently become overt, smug, unassailable.  We have been chilled right out of the visible universe — that’s *why* we are now dark matter to this perceptive if short-sighted author. [EDIT: He partially retrieves this in a later section, allowing for “chunking” effects caused in this case by what calls “tribe” — it’s as good a monicker as any]

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  3. I started watching Carlson’s show last March, as the lockdowns started, and have barely missed an episode since. While I don’t agree with all of his opinions and choices, he says things that need saying, to a sizable audience, and is brave enough to say them. I don’t understand the “he let the Biden crime family up off the mat” comment, especially when his was one of the precious few large-audience TV shows that was actually covering the story.

    Regarding “dark matter” conservatives, I think Alexander is failing to find in real life a composite concocted largely in his own mind and bubble. But, I credit him for realizing he lives in a bubble, and there is universe beyond his own event horizon.

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  4. > ” I don’t understand the “he let the Biden crime family up off the mat” comment, especially when his was one of the precious few large-audience TV shows that was actually covering the story.”

    He had the goods, and WAS covering it. And then he stopped. There was that bizarre episode wherein the smoking gun was lost in transit (and the supposed multiple backups never surfaced), and then Carlson announced that he had gone to school with crack-head Biden, and wasn’t going to kick him any more. Do you remember that?
    Fox News pulled his leash and he sat like a good dog. i get it — it’s their network, and they can do what they like, and Carlson can jump in a lake if he doesn’t behave as his master commands.
    And so he behaves.

    The Hunter Biden thing s was not some irrelevant and tawdry personal attack. Hunter had spilled the details of Joe Biden’s long-standing personal, political corruption, and Tucker helped cover it up when push came to shove.
    Stop honoring these knaves who sing bravely while they march to the front, hide while we get slaughtered, then sing of fighting another day back at HQ.

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  5. Sharyl Attkisson said, at the Hillsdale National Leadership Seminar, that the MSM/Left did the work on the laptop stuff during the primaries ( b/c they didn’t want Biden to be the candidate). Then, they had to bury it.

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  6. The case of the missing flash drive was odd, to be sure. Supposedly separated from a well-sealed package, and then found lying on a UPS floor, or something like that. Many uncertainties — was there a copy of the drive made before the package was sent? If not, why not? Why were the drive contents not sent electronically? Would that have broken some laws? Was there anything else in the package? By some accounts, there were other documents included and it was *those* that were never found.

    My guess: The flash drive contents were a bust, perhaps Hunter’s porn collection or something else not fit to air. Carlson pushed the story as far as it could go. He didn’t exactly let the story die after Election Day — he mentioned Hunter, Bobulinski, etc., regularly. But it meant nothing and it means nothing because those with the power to enforce the law have apparently elected not to do, yet again.

    Even if Carlson balked, even if he lost his nerve in pursuing the Big Guy that time, I would not damn him for that alone. He’s an ally. He’s done more than most of us ever could, even if he has done less than he should have. When we get to the point where we can consider an 80% friend a 20% traitor, we will already have won.

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