Breaking stereotypes, part II

People are sometimes frustrated when talking to me about news or politics. They might express passion and emotions about an issue but, even when I fundamentally agree with their position, I tend to try to explain the other side and correct misunderstandings I heard from them. This is either interpreted as me always taking the other side, or as me being overly intellectual and aloof–or even worse, a smug know-it-all.

I believe Western civilization is too accepting of outside influence, and not invested enough in its own cultural continuity. But is my personal habit of empathy and nonjudgmentalism a micro level version of the same pathology? Perhaps I should evaluate which positions would, if given the power of influence, result in negative effects to me directly, and then take up a policy of always degrading those positions and antagonizing the people who support them. (That would at least make me appear as a more normal person, anyway.)

Yet I still have an incentive to respond with nonjudgment and rationality to just about any viewpoint, even (with a few exceptions) ones that in practical terms are calling for my demise: I am following my own advice about negative stereotypes. Essentially, the only way to shatter stereotypes is to do it yourself.

I am keenly aware of the negative stereotypes about my race/ethnicity/class, and I try whenever possible to deviate from the ones I don’t like or that I perceive as a source of problems for my race/ethnicity/class. One of the stereotypes about my ethnicity is that we are scornful and look down on other groups of people, especially one particular group for whom the scorn is not mutual, and so I try not to do that.

This is a kind of public goods problem though. Shattering stereotypes is unnatural for most people (that’s why stereotypes with predictive power persist in the first place), and it requires a critical mass of people doing it before the stereotype is actually changed or erased. (It can be done of course; there are stereotypes that were prevalent many years ago about, say, Irish immigrants or software engineers that are no longer true today.)

What we need is a way to incentivize masses of people to break negative stereotypes about themselves. For example, imagine a widely-circulated virtual tool that first collects basic information about the user and tells him what are the most common negative stereotypes about himself. Then it gives practical advice or options for how to break those stereotypes. Not all users would immediately do it, but the message and available courses of action would become more visible, and could enter the public consciousness as an alternative to the unproductive blaming of “hate” or “intolerance.”

The echo

How I realistically see the echo thing* playing out:

1. Mostly, nobody will know what the echo is and will ignore it.

2. The few people who do know what the echo is will mostly be people who already don’t like Jews. The echo will have very little persuasive or informative power with regard to the “Jews enjoy disproportionate levels of influence on [our] non-Jewish society” topic.

3. In the eyes of people who know what the echo is but disagree with it, are alarmed by it, or fail to see its practical worth, anyone who uses the echo non-ironically will simply be branding themselves as “scary KKK” types.

4. This will force the rest of the Alternative Right (AR) to make a choice: either distance themselves from people who use the echo, or accept that same “scary KKK” branding. (Dismantling that branding is a separate project and is much longer-term.) My prediction is the AR will do the former, but I’m only weakly confident in that prediction. Nevertheless, here’s my reasoning: If the AR does the latter and accepts that same branding, its momentum as a serious influential movement will effectively be terminated, since:

a) the next logical place for the AR to attain supporters is rural evangelical Christians (most of whom think favorably of Jews), and/or disaffected young conservatives (most of whom don’t have much of anything against Jews and a substantial portion of whom are themselves Jewish) and so they’ll have trouble expanding beyond their echo chamber (no pun intended);

b) presently, the AR can boast of being intelligent, non-violent, and primarily interested in basic concepts such as American national sovereignty and standing up for white people and their culture—concepts that actually ought not to inspire much controversy. This might still be possible to do while embracing the echo itself (minus the online trolling thing), but it is nearly impossible to do while embracing the current set of echo-users, who tend toward monomania over Jewish influence and who frequently venture into “Jews are lizard people” land. Also, it isn’t clear whether the echo is supposed to be an educational thing or a trolling thing, and if it’s to be both, the path from trolling to education is convoluted and hazard-laden.

5. In 5 years, if the echo is widely used at all, another weak prediction of mine is the echo will simply signal to most people that the person around whose name it’s used is Jewish, and nothing else beyond whatever meaning various groups ascribe to that information. Most groups ascribe very little to it compared to current echo-users. A few interested people might dig and find out something along the lines of “Hey did you know this used to be a way for racist anti-Semites to mark Jews for harassment online?” and that will either be an interesting tidbit to which they shrug and move on, or it will put a bad taste in their mouths and they’ll avoid it. Then the whole thing will fade away except maybe for the people who used it initially.

*The Wikipedia article is of course one-sided and broad-brushed. I don’t know of any neutral treatment of it, so I recommend personally interacting with more than one actual echo-users to get a fuller understanding.