06 September 2021

Sartre on far right speaking in bad faith

I keep needing this observation from Anti-Semite and Jew. It describes not just antisemitism but the sensibilities of the far right in general, in their attack on the capacity for good faith discussion as part of their method of tearing down the conditions which enable liberal democracy.

Never believe that anti-Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti-Semites have the right to play.

They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert. If you press them too closely, they will abruptly fall silent, loftily indicating by some phrase that the time for argument is past.

It's also worth linking a related internet classic:

So I dead-eyed Gene and said, “You don’t really believe that. I know you don’t.” I will never forget the look that crossed his face. Because it was *familiar*.

It was the same shit-eating grin my racist stepfather used to wear when spouting Rush Limbaugh dittohead shit at the dinner table. It was the same wink-wink-nudge-nudge all the fucking white supremacists and Satanic Panic assholes give.

Gene absolutely, positively did not believe that Obama was born in Kenya. But he would continue to say he believed it, no matter who asked, to the end of his life. Because he thought saying he believed it *absolved him of responsibility*.

A useful introduction to methods for responding to these kinds of bullshit.

Here’s what has worked for me, to force logic in a discussion when the opponent wants nothing to do with logic. Don’t do this one-on-one, because there’s no point. You need an audience. It’s all about the audience. The audience determines who wins the exchange. The audience is influenced. The audience is why it even matters in the first place (the second realization.)

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