Don’t Shoot the Messenger

This is just a placeholder / outline / draft post.

#IdentityPolitics are everywhere this morning.

Labour on Windrush, Kanye on slavery and his #takedown, and his clarification, Peterson on Kanye, David Boston offensive posts as Tory candidate.

Each is struggling to articulate an identity politics point which I “suspect” is valid but which is hard to tell on the surface, because the communication is offensive and the reactions invariably pile on the (presumed) bad intent, bad thinking and/or bad character of the individual and their (actual) bad communication. Communicating about identity politics is a PC problem in terms that get attributed to Peterson.

Inevitably such communications get totally polarised, (a) because there is an identity politics at issue where people might tend to take sides anyway, and (b) the “risk” of giving any credibility to (any valid point in) the offensive position is so great that everyone chooses to dissociate themselves from it, often by way of mocking humour or by supporting the rhetorical “takedowns”, and (c) these are all public parties, so the “power” in the misconstrued and inadequately-conceived messages is enormous, further multiplying the (a) and (b) effects. [And (d) as I keep saying all these effects are ramped-up even further by the immediacy of social media speed and access.]

We have a communication problem-to-the-power-of-four.

To some extent the takedown of Kanye is making the same (valid) point that the problem is in the power of communication, but still nevertheless attributes thoughtless intent to Kanye himself. It leaves no crack for there being any valid point, it’s a total takedown, armed explicitly by objective history, especially in the form edited / circulated.

Reality is complex, and despite best efforts of some analysts and historians, that complexity includes subjective positions as well as objective facts. Articulating specific points within that extended issue is tough because of the complexity, requiring careful nuance AND because – even if ultimately reducible to objective facts – the complexity includes subjectivity, the rules of communication are more than the logical grammar of dialectic and must include rhetorical skills. The rules of fact, thought and speech are different. As well as avoiding conflation in nuanced content, the communications (channels) need to be kept distinct too.

We are free to choose what to say, but choosing how much of what to say when and how and in which context is at least as important as the objective truth of anything thought or said. We really do need space for thinking out loud in dialogue. Transparency of public debate crowds this out. Transparency is ultimately opaque to nuanced reality.

There is (needs to be) a crack in everything, it’s how the light gets in.


Post note: Even intelligent comics (Romesh retweeted by Baddiel) …

… and the whole thread – Gervais etc – oh how we laughed. Funny how these (genuinely) enlightened comedians were only last week applying nuanced thinking to free-speech in the #dankula case, jump straight to one-line mockery in the Kanye case.]

[And Scott Adams agrees it’s about the rhetorical use of metaphor.]


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