We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Dealing with those awkward social moments when someone mentions Labour and anti-semitism

Most of the time I have fairly tight choice over the sort of people I talk to and associate with, which means that I usually have a reasonable chance of not breaking bread, so to speak, with sympathisers with Islamic terror, haters of Jews, haters of capitalism, America, the West, fun, etc. Okay, there are one or two people who are in social circles I mix in who have what I consider to be “out there” views (I know one lady who seems, in her dottily amusing way, to be a full-on Jeremy Corbyn fan), but they are few and I can ignore them without giving offence. A more challenging problem are those family gatherings (I have just been involved in one) where a person I know who is quite close to my family  stating why it wasn’t odd or bad that the inhabitants of Israel should be “transported” to the US (as has been suggested by a Labour MP and councilllor), or some other large continent, far away from the Middle East, and that Ken Livingstone should not be pilloried for saying Hitler was a sort of Zionist, and that Jewish people are over-sensitive, and anyway they control the media, and that this person never buys anything which might have come from Israel…

In that situation, what do I do? (I was sitting at a table, having a family dinner). Do I:

Get up slowly, announce that I am not sharing the same room with this person again?

Try and think of a smart rejoinder that will shut the person up (if so, anyone got a suggestion)?

Send a copy of George Gilder’s The Israel Test?

Put laxative in the coffee?

Also, how do commenters here deal with the “maniac in the room” problem, such as the Uncle who brings up violent opinions or views so batshit ugly that no-one knows where to look? The responses may be different on which side of the Atlantic one is on. In the UK, it has been for a long time considered bad form to have arguments about politics and religion at all, particularly in family settings where there are children around, etc. In the US, it may be different.

I’d be very interested to know what people think.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on Google+Share on VKEmail this to someone

82 comments to Dealing with those awkward social moments when someone mentions Labour and anti-semitism

  • Mr Ed

    Oh those awkward moments, a bit like the time as a young teenager, when my big bro had his German exchange student friend over, and we sat down for our first meal at home after coming back from our boarding school, where anyone who was bossy was termed a ‘Hitler‘ and so on. Big brother told me off for some perceived table manners issue, and I lapsed into habit and put a left hand forefinger above my lip to signify a moustache, raised my right arm in a Roman salute and said ‘Sieg bloody Heil’ before remembering that Stefan was our guest, he looked rather shocked. But I did take him at his request to see HMS Belfast.

    And one set of Stefan’s grandparents had refused to speak to my brother because he was English and they had some issue with the RAF.

  • Cal

    “Get up slowly, announce that I am not sharing the same room with this person again?”

    What would that achieve, though? Not much. And it would make things awkward for your family (by which I presume you mean your parents).

    “Try and think of a smart rejoinder that will shut the person up”

    Yes.

    “(if so, anyone got a suggestion)?”

    You usually can’t work these out in advance. It depends entirely on what is being said. You have to think on your feet. The main thing is to show the person that you don’t think much of their views, without ruining everything for you family.

    “Send a copy of George Gilder’s The Israel Test?”

    You could do. Depends on the person.

    “Put laxative in the coffee?”

    We’re not in a movie. And if you did that he’d probably end up shitting all over your parents’ sofa.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    Ask a neighbour loudly “More tea Vicar?”

  • Lee Moore

    I’d be inclined to agree and suggest the whole idea should be trialled in the USA first, by moving Mexicans back to Mexico. I guarantee there is not a single person in the world who thinks both of the following thoughts :

    (a) Israelis (ie Jews) should be made to move out of Israel and
    (b) Mexicans should be made to move out of the USA

  • Gene

    Lee Moore, brilliant. The old “take an absurd premise to its logical conclusion” strategy!

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    There can be no answer that covers all situations. If, for instance, it would break your grandmother’s heart to have her Golden Wedding party marred by a quarrel between two of her grandchildren, you just have to bite your tongue. On the other hand at a gathering where most of the people are less tightly bound to each other, you could try to make the whole thing a game: can I find a way of putting my side honestly but so politely that even if I can’t convince the anti-semite I can at least avoid open anger and (always a crucial thing in arguments) convince bystanders?

    If it’s a buffet rather than a sit-down dinner, there is always physical evasion. I was once at an event where one of the fellow-guests, misled by a casual remark I made about the possibility extraterrestrial life, really, really wanted to talk to me about how UFOs were regularly visiting the Earth. I slithered away on some pretext the first time and then just kept an eye out with my peripheral vision and darted into another room when they came near. Fortunately it was an open plan house.

  • John Blake

    New York City is especially prone to ethnic pejoratives on astoundingly numerous fronts.

    When anti-Semitic Einsatz Liberals (“exterminators”) bleat-and-squeak, we maintain a facade of genteel respectability: Smile and wave, stroll off remarking that we’re due for dinner with Gold’s Dragoons (qv).

    As Corbyn-types never are the brightest bulbs, the worst they ever do is coil and hiss.

  • ajf

    Isn’t it simply that Labour, under Blair, enormously ramped up the importation of Muslims from the sub-continent for the simple reason that these people could be guaranteed to vote Labour. As we know, these new arrivals are inclined to hate Jews. So now Labour is trapped: it has to remain “nice” to its new constituency so that they show up on polling day, but is in perpetual fear that some high-profile member of this constituency says something gauche about the Jews.

  • Being both confrontational and artfully polite, in a nasty way that a certain ilk of us Public School chaps often are, I like to lure them into following notions to their logical conclusions, grinding them down to thier arbeit macht frei first principles in front of their peers. By their own words they shall be revealed. Strip away any pretense that there is anything nice about Uncle James or Auntie Claire and smile pleasantly whilst you do it.

  • Andrew Duffin

    Just pray you never find yourself in the Caledonian portion of our fair country, where every single person you will meet will have views well to the left of those expressed by Ken Livingstone or the delightful Mr. Corbyn, and where the mere mention of the slightest sympathy with Israel (or Jews), for any reason, in any situation whatever, will render you persona non grata.

    One finds oneself biting one’s lip an awful lot, for fear of social ostracism.

  • Cal

    Fair enough Perry, because they will often try to do it to you as soon as they can.

  • James Strong

    In a situation like this you should try to avoid upsetting other guests.
    If you can reason with the people whose opinions you find so appalling then you should do so, calmly.
    If you can’t do that in the context of this social gathering then you should change the subject or avoid the person. But you might like to try giving them an opportunity to discuss it at another time and place.

    However, and this is important, if you can’t find a reasonable argument to put to people with ‘batshit’ opinions, at an appropriate time, then you might like to consider changing your own views.

  • QET

    If the remark is off-hand, or not specifically directed, or quietly spoken, I let it pass and hope for the best, or I might attempt to introduce a new topic. But if confronted (as I was at a family wedding a few years ago) I will stand my ground, no matter whose feelings might be hurt and no matter what opinion of me might ensue, and I can match almost anyone decibel for decibel if they resort to that tactic. I’m not afraid to be thought wrong (nor even to be wrong, were that ever to occur), though I don’t actively seek such opportunities.

  • HGS

    I’m the uncle with batshit views, the odd one who is held in sad contempt. I say freedom good, free market also good, etc. I’m learning to shut up and day dream at all social events.

  • PeterT

    People who have these views don’t tend to respond well to reason. Sarcasm is probably your best bet, like Lee Moore suggested. It may go over their heads of course.

  • Fair enough Perry, because they will often try to do it to you as soon as they can.

    And I am always delighted to oblige them, because arguing from the position of individual autonomy and free will is a battle fought on ground of my own choosing.

  • Alsadius

    Seeing as how we’re so often the ones considered to be deeply weird about our politics, I’d incline towards tolerance. Argue if you will, but ideas like spiking drinks and loudly refusing to ever associate with them again are foolish.

  • Snorri Godhi

    In this specific case, the position to take seems obvious to me.
    The offending person claimed that “Jewish people are over-sensitive, and anyway they control the media”. Point out to him/her (i’ll use him from now on) that his views are blatantly shaped by what he reads in the media, and it is true that Jews control the media (NB: it isn’t actually true, but you can say it is, and he isn’t going to disagree), and therefore he is a puppet of the Jews. Point out that the Jews who control the media are not the same Jews who live in Israel, and therefore have different interests.
    Be sure not to get angry while you go on about this, and smirk insolently as he gets angry.
    I just googled and “verbal ju-jitsu” is an expression that has been used before, unsurprisingly.

  • I’m learning to shut up and day dream at all social events.

    Don’t do that. Try an approach against people who dislike free trade along the lines of:

    “Well I rather like the idea of people in the Third World being allowed to lift themselves out of poverty. You know, by selling agricultural and other products to people in the First World, without barriers making their products harder to sell by making them more expensive. But I guess if you think entrenched local producers should be protected against foreign coloured people, we will just have to disagree. I does seem a bit racist though, if you don’t mind me saying so.”

    Snorri has the right idea. You are denying yourself some real fun, HGS. The key is do not lose your cool, make them lose their cool. And if you don’t get invited back, is that really so terrible? What with me being English, I am already not on speaking terms with most of my relatives anyway, so who cares, eh? 😉

  • Laird

    I rather like the laxative in the coffee idea.

  • Mr Ed

    a person I know who is quite close to my family stating why it wasn’t odd or bad that the inhabitants of Israel should be “transported” to the US (as has been suggested by a Labour MP and councilllor), or some other large continent, far away from the Middle East

    You could always ask them to elaborate on the idea and ask how it would be done.

    Let’s see:

    Amtrak might struggle as 1. they aren’t really geared up and 2. there are no direct train links between Israel and the United States, and there is an awful lot of work needed to dig a tunnel or build the bridges needed. You might also mention that Israelis might object to being loaded onto trains, due to historic issues with that sort of thing, see if there is any recognition. Or perhaps your guest is suggesting an improvement on the Nazi tactics.

    Ships: Again, boat loads of Jewish (Jewish boat people, a bit like those fleeing socialism in Vietnam), or those kicked out from Spain in 1492, all a bit hard to organise. This Noah’s Ark thing didn’t really happen as the story goes, did it?

    Walking: Too far, and there’s the water.

    Flying: All that CO2, surely the Lefty doesn’t want that?

    First time I met an ‘in-law’, who went on about people starving to death in India because of policy X of the West, I said of the dead: ‘What are their names?‘ ‘Have you seen the death certificates?‘ ‘If not, why do you say this happened?‘.

    I found it funny.

  • Thailover

    It’s not a matter of if I run into someone who disagrees with me, as EVERYONE disagrees with me on something or other.
    I’m a white male pansexual Objectivist atheist living in middle Tennessee, USA, otherwise known as “Jesus country”. I’m pro-Israel and not sympathetic towards the “palastinians” at all. I think Islam is a blight on planet earth and I think “global warming” as a dooms-day scenario is science fiction at best. (Yes, the planet is warming, no we’re not all gonna die).

    I’m a “confirmed bachelor” yet pro-family. I like kids but have zero plans to have any. I think that anything mutually consensual and not permanently harmful is not “immoral” or necessarily wrong. (At least I haven’t thought of any counter-examples). I’m also in stealth mode. That is, I’m a “normal guy” who repairs my own car and drinks too much coffee. I’m not going to be wearing any rainbow tee-shirts to work or intentionally agitating people by saying that statists want you shot (As Stephan Molyneux, a “youtube philosopher” has said).

    I find that most people are completely allergic to any form of actual personal confrontation, though they may be keyboard warriors at home.

    If *I* bring up any, lets say “interesting” or substantive topic at any organized gathering, I find that it and I am usually unwelcome. Gatherings it seems are for innocuous chit chat and such evenings are to survive ’till it’s over and every can go home happy and slightly drunk.

    HOWEVER, if someone else starts the fun by sharing their ‘retarded’ view on a ‘hot topic’, I’ll either look at them with a mona lisa smile, surmising that they’re simply incapable of intellectual enlightenment (as is usually the case with racists, for example), or I may choose to ask them a few pointed questions to quickly show that their “knowledge” is in fact their ignorance.

    A quick example would be “sweat shops are horrible and should be banned”. In truth, “sweatshops” ARE horrible by western standards, BUT they usually pay 2 to 5 times the average national wage (7 times in Honduras) and people, even kids, work in them because they’re life savers. If we western goody-goody bleeding-hearts force their wages higher through agitation, either the company will pull up anchor and move to another poor country, leaving the former workers destitute, or these uneducated, unskilled with no political connections will simply be priced out of a job. Who’s going to get that $5/hr job in Asia, the politically connected, or the extremely dirt-poor illiterate? Yet once again, the illiberal left, no matter how well their intentions, tend to fuck over the very demographic they propose to help. Attempting to explain the economic effects of raising price floors (basic wages/minimum wage) to the unwashed masses, especially the illiberal left, usually turns out to be futile.

    And BTW, when kids lose their jobs in such cases, they often end up prostituting themselves, begging or starving on the streets or rummaging in garbage heaps looking for half-rotten discarded food and products capable of recycling and making a REALLY small fraction of what they earned in the allegedly horrific “sweatshops”, which, comparatively speaking, isn’t so horrific. I’m guessing that a 13yr old sewing 12hrs a day is better than a 13yr old being systematically raped by clients of a pimp that owns them.

  • TDK

    Try and think of a smart rejoinder that will shut the person up

    Some ideas
    1. “Oh you’re indulging in dog whistle politics.”
    because they will have accused someone, sometime of a racism that only the enlightened can detect.
    2. “So you think immigrants should be deported if they don’t conform to the host society’s standards”
    3. “Ah the racism of low expectations” – because such people never criticise Hamas et al
    4. “Ah, the Socialism of fools”

    I wouldn’t get into an argument. Such people work on emotion, not logic.

  • 1) Proportionate response: if you’re talking to the kind of guy who ‘unpersons’ you if you dissent from the latest vagary of the SJWs then the ‘rise from table / “I will not break bread with an anti-semite” ‘ ploy may be fair, but you should think of whether it will achieve anything (or whether it’s a really boring event and an excuse to leave is welcome). Generally, I recommend accepting the chance for discussion whenever the offender seems up for it and is simply someone who has unwittingly strayed out of their bubble.

    2) Property rights: if it’s your table/meal/family/whatever, it may be fair to say “We don’t allow anti-Semitism at mealtimes” or whatever. Again, discussion may be a better first response. If it’s not your place so to control the discourse in that way, do not try to: be able instead to call them on trying to if they do.

    3) Immediate deconstruction: alf (May 3, 2016 at 11:03 am) provides one text for this: “I suppose, given the voters Blair’s imported for you, you Labour sympathisers have to pretend to credit this kind of thing to paper over the cracks … ” and so on. Refusing to be drawn into an insane “Was Hitler a Zionist?” discussion, you instead focus immediately on the motives of labourites in saying this, treating the proposition itself as too obviously absurd to need discussing. This is turning standard leftism on itself, and has the drawback that in formal logic it is indeed preemptive – it treats the discussion as if the point challenged has already been proved. But it may be just to the lefty involved – you’d have to assess that at the time – and it could anyway be a fair opening gambit, to broaden the discussion to include real-world aspects.

    A text of mine could be, “Well, I suppose the kind of muslim who complains that, in all WWII, the Arabs never saw one luftwaffe plane fly over one Jewish settlement in Palestine and drop one bomb, the kind that wrote to their papers about the Eichmann trial saying why didn’t he finish the job and where was all this boasted German efficiency they kept hearing about, would end up saying Hitler might as well have been a Zionist for all he’d helped them achieve their goals. Perhaps silly Ken, canvassing them, took their joke seriously.”

    4) Arguing politely and fairly (this need not mean arguing without passion) can have a value over and above whether it wins. The person whose ego made them argue you down at the time will sometimes turn out, years later, to have been influenced by what you said. This presupposes that opening gambit (3) or similar has led to a discussion rather than a shouting match. Even in the latter case, Natalie is right to say that being the less rude one in the eyes of spectators has value.

    5) It always helps to know plenty, so you might want to prepare yourself with research, just in case you get trapped in discussion with some “a little learning is a dangerous thing” labourite who is sure you only disagree because you know less than they do, not because you know more than they do. Hannah Arendt’s ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem” presents the 30s-Nazis / Zionists interactions harshly enough to have got criticism from Jews when she wrote it, without doubting that expulsion was ever more than a stage. Hannah seriously over-thinks things, and in her desire to avoid the obvious bias is as harsh or a bit harsher than is needful, but if you have only time to read one book, you might like it. (As I mentioned in another comment way back, if you’re looking for the book in Blackwells, Oxford, you may have to look for it in the travel section.) There are of course many other books.

    6) This is a unique case where the labourites are in a bind they often inflict on us. Saying “Hitler was a Zionist” begs the retort, “What are you smoking” from any ordinary member of the public. If you know more history than the ordinary member of the public, you know that in the middle 30s Eichmann and another nazi did travel to Egypt and meet with a Zionist representative, as well as with the Jew-hating Mufti of Jerusalem, etc. Anyone who knows more of the before, the after and the ‘what was happening elsewhere at the time’ will hardly fall for the idea that this makes the nazi movement zionist, – only strong prejudice and very selective attention on these facts will do that – but this is a case where having zero knowledge will put people more on our side of the question.

    I think exploiting this to the limit – using the “don’t be ridiculous’ style of argument – is very fair. It’s worth planning how your rebuttals can include references to the before, the after and the ‘what was happening elsewhere at the time’, and ways of saying it that let you move easily from one to the other. For example: “Zionists who wlecomed the Jews to Israel in the 30s did not start murdering them in the 40s. Hilter did – so isn’t his booting some out in the 30s no more than a coincidence with no meaning. In the 30s, Hitler booted out to Jewish atomic scientists to Britain, where they worked out the critical mass formula; does that mean he wanted us to have the atomic bomb, not him?”

    Lastly, Andrew Duffin, May 3, 2016 at 11:27 am, rightly notes that Scotland is worse than England but he sounds like he’s in a particularly dire part. I think the ‘Hitler was a Zionist’ idea plays badly even here. The aggression of Scotland’s political culture has been worse all my life, but I think it has recently begun to overstrain itself.

  • BTW, just for the record, laxative in the coffee is a bad idea. It is deceitful and cowardly. It has no natural connection with your being right, and obvious natural connection with any such perpetrator probably being wrong. If discovered, it will justly bring odium on your cause. And if you get too heated while arguing, you may pick up the wrong coffee cup inattentively. Far better to challenge your enemy to an actual fight – or, if, which may be wise, you prefer to open the idea as a joke, to an actual joust. (See e.g. bicycle jousting as done in an episode of ‘Last of the Summer Wine”.)

  • Cal

    “I wouldn’t get into an argument. Such people work on emotion, not logic.”

    They do, but that just means that you have to tailor your argument accordingly. Also, your argument is directed more to onlookers than the person you’re arguing with (who probably isn’t going to ever change their mind).

    What you’re also doing is making it clear to this person that they aren’t going to get away with lording it over everyone else with their views without being challenged.

  • Thailover

    Do I:
    Get up slowly, announce that I am not sharing the same room with this person again?

    If I disassociated with everyone who held a daft and potentially harmful view, I’d have to go live in a far off cave.

    (or) Try and think of a smart rejoinder that will shut the person up (if so, anyone got a suggestion)?

    Why would you want to “shut them up” rather than giving them the opportunity of letting everyone else know who and what they are? That’s one reason I’m in favor of free speech. I want all the nazis to expose themselves. And if Bobby Joe hates the rich and wants everyone taxed into submission, I would like to know that so that I know what Bobby Joe is about. Will I then be a patron at BJ’s pub/bar? fuck no. If he falls on hard times, let him try to elicit the sympathy of his keepers. Sorry BJ, you’re a white male. No gravy for you.

  • Also, your argument is directed more to onlookers than the person you’re arguing with

    Indeed! And it would be hard to overstated the importance of always remembering that. That is why it is best not to lose your cool, because it should not be a competition to see who can be the loudest and most forceful arsehole. Far better to encourage them to keep talking until they run out of euphemisms and actually start saying what they really think for the benefit of the onlookers.

  • Steph

    Snorri, surely you mean verbal jew-jitsu 🙂 But I agree your idea is a good one. The idea that jewish folks run the world is a silly one that can be argued against in the way you point out.

  • Ellen

    I’ve had a number of these occasions. Depending on circumstances, I’ve acted differently.

    I treasure the friendship of one woman. She disagrees with me on many things, but she argues fair. If I make a point, she acknowledges it; in return, when she makes a point, I acknowledge it. Can’t recall ever raising our voices.

    I’ve been in groups with common interests, though sometimes with antithetical politics. As long as the politics are simply background noise, I keep my peace. When it comes front and center, I leave. There’s usually an alpha to these groups. I tell the alpha why I left, later, when I’m less steamed. But I don’t go back.

    If my life would be uncomfortable in these groups, why should I stay? I’m the odd person out. They’re happier without me, I’m happier without them.

  • Thailover

    Natalie said,

    “misled by a casual remark I made about the possibility extraterrestrial life, really, really wanted to talk to me about how UFOs were regularly visiting the Earth. I slithered away on some pretext…”

    I once told ghosthunter aficionados that I’m open to the notion of the paranormal. (Absence of credible evidence isn’t evidence of absence. There very likely is existent physical phenomena that we currently don’t have complete knowledge or understanding of.) To their approval of course, but then I shared that I also think that EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon i.e. capturing ghost voices on recordings), and “orbs” are complete and utter bullshit, used to dupe the gullible and the scientifically illiterate (and to sell new cars and deodorant on TV).

    That lit a fire storm as you might imagine. That “debate” was amost as much fun as debating religion.

    Of course, I was called narrow-minded, which is rather curious since apparently narrow-minded means not completely credulous regarding the psedudo-scientific claims made by people who failed basic science and chemistry in high school, and, of course, have NO understanding of physics or electronic theory. These people walk around waving electromagetic field detectors in the air like they’re Egon in Ghostbusters, LOL.

    Yeah, that’s Joe, professional ghost hunter and part-time wallpaper hanger.

  • Perhaps that you should suggest that we move the Celts out of Pictland

    Blue Forever !!

  • Mr Ed

    One of my favourite incidents of Lefty-mocking was at Uni when I accused a Lefty (with whom I was actually quite friendly most of the time) of Zionism when he was watching TV drinking a cup of tea in the JCR.

    The reason for my ‘J’accuse?

    He was also eating Jaffa Cakes.

  • Thailover

    Cal wrote,
    “Also, your argument is directed more to onlookers than the person you’re arguing with (who probably isn’t going to ever change their mind).”

    Exactly. “Debate” is for the benefit of the audience, not the participants. Your opponent will probably just become more entrenched in their parochial views, ‘digging their heels in’ as it were. Debates aren’t won by making the opposition change their mind, lol.

  • Transporting the Jews is a really bad idea since if you start there, next thing you know the Caliph of Europistan will be wanting the Kuffirs in England transported to the U.S. and the French to Quebec.

    For the really persistent lefties, I have a pair of black powder dueling pistols chambered in paintball and a reputation as a passably good shot.

  • When my late dear silver-haired old granny really objected to something she’d come-up with the phrase,

    “It’s neither fair nor right – like the darkie’s left tit”.

    1-2-3 Head explodes!

  • Sigivald

    stating why it wasn’t odd or bad that the inhabitants of Israel should be “transported” to the US

    Especially ironic as such people – in my experience – view the mere fact of the Gaza Strip and West Bank existing to be proof of “genocide” against Palestinians, and ethnic cleansing.

    (Despite a lack of either of those things in any normal use of the terms as we’d expect in any other context.)

    But kicking all those Jews out forcibly? Why, that’s different, of course.

  • Cristina

    Usually staring at the speaker for a few extra seconds do the trick for me. If it was an egregious faux pas, he receives the stare and a tilt of the head. That’s enough.

  • In the UK, it has been for a long time considered bad form to have arguments about politics and religion at all, particularly in family settings where there are children around, etc.

    Actually on that issue if surrounded by “non-combatants” so to speak, I also avoid such topics. But if someone else insists on bringing up politics or religion, well, that’s different 😀

  • Regional

    I remind people that during a civil war you shoot the goons in control centres i.e. water, electricity, traffic lights etc. and you don’t attack through the heavily defended areas but blow a hole through a side wall and so on.

  • TDK

    “I wouldn’t get into an argument. Such people work on emotion, not logic.”

    They do, but that just means that you have to tailor your argument accordingly. Also, your argument is directed more to onlookers than the person you’re arguing with (who probably isn’t going to ever change their mind).

    What you’re also doing is making it clear to this person that they aren’t going to get away with lording it over everyone else with their views without being challenged.

    I pretty much agree with everything after the first sentence.

    The point I’m making is that for such people, more often than not, they are virtue signalling. The important objective is to introduce doubt either for the onlookers or for the person themselves. Challenge their good faith in their own eyes or at least in the eyes of others.

    Making it an argument has a critical danger. Have you ever argued with a SWP member. The average lefty reads a lot of twaddle to reinforce their own opinion and little that challenges it. And they are ready to quote it back to you. Ken Livingstone will have read a dozen tedious tracts by Chomsky or in this case Lenni Brenner. I don’t have the background of Paul Bogdanor to set out a refutation, so the argument would enter a pattern of “well what about X, Y, Z”. All would be some approximation of some real event but with selectivity, spin and fundamental omissions. I’d never heard of the Haavara-Agreement until this week. My gut instinct would have been that this was some trivial treaty that Hitler subsequently reneged on anyway. And when I read up on it 4 hours later, I’d have know I was right but then it would be too late. The onlookers would have seen someone who seemed to be in command of their facts face me down.

  • Snorri Godhi

    “Verbal Jew-Jitsu” … i like that. The principle has a broader application, however. For instance, in at least one instance, when discussing the Iraq war, my interlocutor went off topic with an attack on GW Bush, and i countered that the leader i really admire is not GWB but Chinggis Khan. (Which has an element of truth, by the way.)

    BTW when i wrote: Point out to him […] that his views are blatantly shaped by what he reads in the media, i should have mentioned that that leaves you open to a counter-attack: what about your views? where do they come from?
    My reply would be: my views about the facts, unlike your views, are skeptical: i am aware of uncertainty, and read the news with a skeptical mind. My broader views about politics are not shaped by the media, but by books, most of them written before Israel came into existence, and before the US came to dominate Western culture. One of them was even written by an advocate of jihad, Ibn Khaldun, with whom i completely disagree about values.

    Incidentally, i’d be happy if the Jews were to carve out a second homeland here in the Baltics, as long as they were covered by the Israeli nuclear arsenal. That way, i’d be sure that Putin will never invade. We have plenty of space!

  • Mr Ed

    I suppose that the line to take would be to see how long the guest could maintain face value, e.g.

    So you would like to remove Israelis only from the Middle East?

    Yes, but only to ensure peace.

    So it’s not about Jews then?

    Oh no, Israeils, Jews don’t come into it.

    So, in the interests of peace, and Israelis surviving, you’d move them to the USA in a new homeland?

    Yes.

    And this wouldn’t be, you know, a reservation?

    Of course not, an independent state.

    So you won’t set up an Office for Jewish Emigration, then?

    Clearly not, as I said, it’s not about Jews.

    But when you deport people, you’ll make distinctions based on race, won’t you? I mean, you’ll have to.

    Not at all, this is not about race, it’s about peace and justice for the Palestinians, and security for the Israeils.

    So you’ll deport Israeli Arabs, and Israeli Druze then won’t you?

    Er,

  • nemesis

    What about a simple ‘I disagree with what you say but defend your right to say it’ free speech & all that.

  • Mr Ed

    Good point nemesis,

    Who would raise a finger to physically defend a murderous Marxist?

  • Who would raise a finger to physically defend a murderous Marxist?

    A political Science professor at a state college or university.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Several people think my idea of putting laxative in a drink was silly. It was: I was trying to be a bit light-hearted. You really are a difficult lot sometimes

  • Paul Marks

    J.P.

    You write in terms of of a unpleasant dinner guest.

    However, as you know, there is the larger problem that most of the population of London may be pro Corbyn – ready to elect Mr Khan as Mayor on Thursday.

    As London goes so, eventually, goes Britain?

  • Alisa

    TDK, there has been some very good advice offered here (Ed, Snorri, Perry), but none of it is about getting into an argument. The purpose is not arguing with such people, but rather exposing what their proclaimed positions really mean in practice. And as has been mentioned here, such exposure is, in most cases, for the benefit of the audience. If the actual person in question is also affected and made to rethink his or her positions, then it’s a mere side benefit.

  • Julie near Chicago

    JP,

    There, there. I got it. *Sympathetic :>)*

    I just wasn’t in a good enough mood to to think up something to go along with the gag. :>(

    Paul, are you suggesting that most of the London electorate are unwelcome dinner guests?

    S***.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Alisa — but there is more to it than what must happen in practice. It’s just as necessary to show why the moral principle is wrong. And that’s an even tougher sell, because the adversarial position (oftne — but not always) has a different worldview that is one of the determinants of what that position holds to be among the fundamental moral principles.

    I know you understand this, by the way. But in light of your comment I feel moved to point it out.

    And yes, most of the time it’s innocent bystanders who, we hope, will be subverted by our highly radical! and extreme! and selfish! and heartless! ideas.

    It’s amazing how many people among those who are more or less the Right Sort don’t get that.

  • Alisa

    Julie, morality is about nothing, other than what happens in practice. Principles are the how – how one goes about dealing with practical reality.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Mr Ed, not I.

    Billll, maybe at Southern Illnois U., but otherwise I think they love their skins a little too much.

    SNARK.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Alisa, I think we had a rather lengthy discussion of that fairly recently.

    All right, I take back “I know you understand this.”

    But I still believe that there are moral principles, such as “the foundation of all values lies in the importance of the life of the individual human being.”

    I dislike “agreeing to disagree” when I am so clearly right 😉 , but That’s Life. You tell it your way, I’ll tell it mine. :>))

  • lucklucky

    The person with that opinion have to pay a price for it. If not it is the new law of the land.

  • Nicholas (Excentrality!) Gray

    either get into an argument with the other person, or start another conversation with someone else on a better subject. Never argue with a bigot/idiot – onlookers won’t be able to tell the difference!

  • Nicholas (Excentrality!) Gray

    And here I thought the Israel test was if you could answer this theological question “Is Ra’ El?” Silly me! What else can you expect from someone who belongs not to Gen X, but Gen Tile?

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Coffee that is strong enough to be worth drinking doesn’t need a laxative.

  • Rich Rostrom

    Lee Moore: You’re wrong. There are many American paleocons who are hardcore nativists and also fervent anti-Zionists. The Pat Buchanan crowd.

  • Snorri Godhi

    There are many American paleocons who are hardcore nativists and also fervent anti-Zionists. The Pat Buchanan crowd.

    Not sure how fervent the paleocons are their anti-Zionism: i get the impression that they are mostly interested in blaming “the Jews”, collectively, of a double standard, as mentioned before on Samizdata; that is, of wanting open borders for the US, Europe, Australia, and all Western countries except for Israel.
    I myself don’t know of any individual Jew who holds such a double standard, but of course i cannot prove a negative: the burden of the proof is on the paleocons, and to my knowledge they have not satisfied it.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Going back to Perry’s comment on how to argue for free trade: another effective tactic is to point out the pioneering work of Benito Mussolini in promoting autarky.

  • Nicholas (Excentrality!) Gray

    It’s time to acknowledge that the Grand Old Pachyderm in the room is called Donald. Will Britain be letting in Americans as refugees, or will they move North to the comparative sanity of Canada?

  • Mr Ed

    Nicholas, Canada is run by a young Trudeau, son of Pierre.

    In comparative terms, it’s as if Harold Wilson or Gough Whitlam’s grandson respectively had become Prime Minister in the UK and Australia, and simply kept with the family programme.

  • Lee Moore

    There are many American paleocons who are hardcore nativists and also fervent anti-Zionists. The Pat Buchanan crowd.

    Who want the Joos transplanted from Israel to the United States ? Really ? This is rather an odd form of hard core nativism.

  • Myno

    I’ll start by saying I greatly admire many here for their erudition, insight, and skill at turning a phrase. I am not so able to twist the twisted about my little finger as, say, Perry surely is. My own rude efforts at convincing others of the correctness of free market metaphysics pale in comparison, which does not stop me from trying, and being trying to my occasional audiences. What I have found, personally, to be quite a powerful technique, is to bring a measure of emotion into the debate. I know, we spend so much effort trying to be clear of it, but it has its place. For me this starts with my general nervousness and discomfort when confronting an ignorant bully. So what I do is to say aloud how uncomfortable what they said makes me. And since I am speaking to my own internal truth, I follow that, exploring for everyone who happens to be listening precisely why I am made uncomfortable with their irrational declarations. It gives me emotional space to be as uncomfortable as I feel in the moment, not to have to try and fake a confidence I do not in that moment feel, and allows me to sidle up to the arguments I need to present, which otherwise I’d be too tongue-tied to avail myself of. By making my emotional response personal, to me, not making it an emotional attack, I gain the curiousity (if not outright sympathy) of the audience while I build my case against the perpetrator, rationally. Of course I would not have to do any of this is I could just channel Messr. de Havilland, but for any of our tribe who might feel the least bit hesitant, this might offer a way to break your personal ice, as it were. Use with caution. Your experience may vary.

  • Alisa

    No Julie, our past discussions have been philosophical – i.e. about moral theory. Sure, you could try and convince a person who does not believe in gravity that he is wrong. But seeing as J.P. was faced with someone who essentially said something like: ‘Let all Israelis go and jump off a cliff – it will restore peace in the Middle East, and will make Israelis themselves safer’, arguing about principles (in this case gravity) being right or wrong in theory is, well, impractical. What that person (and not the least the audience) needs is to be shown, step by step, what are the actual practical implications of his suggestion. Try Ed’s script as a good example: Ed keeps asking the guy questions that should lead the guy (and the audience) to realistic logical conclusions, the two central ones, IIUC, being: ‘If you actually follow up on your expressed position, in the end your only practical choice will be to act as a racist thief, and possibly a racist murderer. Now, what are your feelings about that?’ Note that at no point does it make sense to try and convince said person (or the audience) that racism, theft and murder are morally wrong – because that is not for Ed, you or me to decide for them, but rather for them to decide for themselves. IOW, our job is to take people by the hand and lead them to thinking in terms of First Principles – the rest is up to them, each individual and his or her own conscience.

  • Alisa

    Myno, that is very helpful, at least for me – thank you.

  • PeterT

    For me too Myno.

    It’s not advice Trump would take but may work for me.

  • The problem is that dingbat leftie ideas are not just presented at the family gatherings, but are everywhere, all the time, now. I am of an age where I stopped caring what anyone else thinks, and will speak up when confronted, especially with people who assume I *simply must* have an opinion about a hot topic of the day. Oh, I do. I start out in generalities, such as ‘Does the meaning of a word change with the intent of the user?’ If they bite, I get specific: ‘The definition of racism is discrimination by race, whether you are Archie Bunker, or work in the university student selection committee.’ If they defend that, then I make it personal, ‘ah, you are one of those people who are nice to your friends but beastly to your waitress. Got it.’

    And Billll does indeed have a pair of black powder paintball dueling pistols.

  • Fred Z

    “giving offence”?

    The right loses too often because it is too gutless to give offence.

    And the bystanders? Most people respect some level of passion. I have little gift for persuasion by kindness and logic but by fuck I am good at invective.

    For years I stifled that, but no more. I tell them bluntly and immediately that they are assholes and throw them out if necessary.

  • Rob

    2) Property rights: if it’s your table/meal/family/whatever, it may be fair to say “We don’t allow anti-Semitism at mealtimes”.

    Best not – they might interpret that as meaning it is allowed at all other times.

  • Mr Ed

    “We don’t allow anti-Semitism at mealtimes”

    as Rob notes, makes it sound like smoking. It reminds me of the occasion when a German military attaché asked Marshal Mannerheim of Finland if the Marshal would be offended if he smoked before the end of dinner. Mannerheim replied. “I don’t know, no one has ever tried it.”.

  • Ramspace

    “Well, if you’re an antisemite, don’t hide behind Israel. You’re in good company, after all; most of the Labour Party agree with you.”
    “But I’m not. . . .”
    “Of course Red Ken pretends not to be, but he doesn’t try very hard, does he? In fact, I’d probably be on his side, if I weren’t Jewish myself.”
    (that last bit can be a challenge at a family gathering. Unless. . . .)

  • CaptDMO

    Hmmm…you COULD jump across the table and begin pummeling him in the head, all the while shouting “There’s no place for sh1tholes like you, ANYWHERE in MY entire sphere of influence. Consider this your ONLY warning! Now get the fuck OUT, NOW!”
    Or not.
    One way or another, you won’t have to worry about crossing paths at “family” gatherings again.

  • Philippe Hermkens

    My advice after fourty years discussing politics first with commies (always agree with them in smiling sincerely) :

    1. Get to the end of the logic : For instance, if I understand you well you think we have to expell all the Jews from Palestine, actually Israel ?

    2. Yes, OK . But it means hundred of thousands of deaths ..

    3. It’s OK for you ? OK. I can’t stand homicidal maniacs, particurally if they are antisemite. i hope not to see you again ..

  • Johnathan Pearce

    @James Strong: “However, and this is important, if you can’t find a reasonable argument to put to people with ‘batshit’ opinions, at an appropriate time, then you might like to consider changing your own views.”

    Very droll. To be sure, we all like to think that if we put together a devastatingly well-constructed, rational argument, that even the biggest moron on the planet will submit to the force of our reason. But it doesn’t always happen. In fact, as you know from the expression “truth hurts”, some people react badly to having their illusions and bad thinking pointed out to them, however civilly it is done. And on the topic du jour – anti-semitism in the Labour Party – this is a classic case.

    I see that Laird liked my idea of putting laxative in coffee. I was, of course, joking, dear Samizdata readers. Or was I?

  • Laird

    So was I. Or was I?

  • Snorri Godhi

    About the laxative: i realize it was a joke, and i like it as a verbal joke. (Though it was actually put into practice in one of those small, temporary communities in which i was involved when younger, such as summer schools, volunteer work-camps, etc. I bear no responsibility for it, but it was funny as a practical joke, and i cannot think of a more deserving target.)

    The point i want to make is, why is laxative unsatisfactory in this case? because you have not taken a stand! what bothers me when i hear people spewing inanities is that, if i keep silent, bystanders might reasonably assume that i agree.

    If i may, let me tell you a few personal stories about the times when i decided that keeping my mouth shut was the lesser evil; not that i am proud of it.

    There was the time when i sat at dinner with a bunch of Danish academics and a visiting Chinese-American academic. Our guest naively asked what Danes think about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Looking at the faces of my Danish colleagues, one might have thought that he had asked what sexual fantasies they were most ashamed of. I tried to break the silence by mumbling something about not being informed enough to have an opinion.

    There was the time when i had an Arab friend for dinner. Not a devout Muslim: he drank beer and wine; but he was offended by the Mohammed cartoons. I thought there was no point in arguing about that, since there were no bystanders, and he did not seem to be the sort of person with whom one can reasonably argue.
    More interesting was his enthusiasm about UFOs. (Echoing Natalie here.) In this case, it was good for me to listen quietly, because it was very amusing. The only problem was to restrain myself from laughing.

    Most painful to think about, is an elderly relative who argues with the TV screen — that is, with the people who voice their opinions on TV. What would be the point of my defending the people on TV? He is arguing with them, because he has nobody else to argue with: everybody else has given up on him.

  • Ed Snack

    If you have taken a laxative, taking a stand may be a bad idea. Taking a sit would be far more advisable. YMMV

  • Julie near Chicago

    Alisa, May 4, 2016 at 9:42 am —

    I suppose I’ve lost the plot altogether, but it seems to me that your last sentence — in particular the first part of it, before the dash — flatly contradicts the point of the rest of your comment, and in particular the part beginning,

    “What that person … needs is to be shown, … what are
    the actual practical implications of his suggestion,”

    and continuing right up to that last sentence. (I italicized the word “practical” for emphasis.

    I don’t feel any great need to continue this unless you’d like to, but I did want to let you know I read your comment and appreciate your making it. :>)

  • Alisa

    Julie, I’m pretty sure I’ve lost the plot too – so until next time, I guess. And thanks 🙂

  • BFFB_

    Subtly egg them on to making more and more outlandish comments so they look like a fool.