Poll: Responding to Character Assassination
 

They are beyond hope

Reply with only sources

Just set a post limit

Link them to one super post

 

Defending Character Assassination: Case Point: Sam Harris Racism

 
RudeMatrix
 
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RudeMatrix
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12 June 2017 06:47
 

Against my own sanity, I am trying to engage more people online, to try and work out more about the opposing arguments and try to possibly come up with some rules on how we can dig ourselves out of this binary/identity politics world we find ourselves in.

One of the most frequent battles I find myself having is trying to call out character assassination, particularly in Maajids case or Sams case. One thing that is frustrating boils down to:

“We have sources showing Sam is racist, where are your reputable ones that show he isn’t”

And apparently “actually listen to him” isn’t a decent enough answer as people are so blinded that they either think they have through the sound bites they have heard, OR they only hear the context they want. What is the general advice for this, I usually try and point out why the sources are not reliable but to those who haven’t even opened their eyes to the regressive left they just call this “fanboying” or some other BS. Are their actually people that have written why Sam is not a racist? Nice Mangos has done some pieces e.g.
https://www.jihadwatch.org/2014/10/an-open-letter-to-ben-affleck-from-a-woman-born-and-raised-in-islam
That I feel should be enough but apparently not, especially since the podcast with Charles Murray, it feels I have to defend him too. Which no offence to Murray or his work I don’t have the capacity, skill, knowledge or again sources to do. again I would think this would be enough:
http://quillette.com/2017/06/02/getting-voxed-charles-murray-ideology-science-iq/
These people seem to be interested in source number like they are in body count.

Ignoring it most of the time is definitely the way to go, but I feel ignoring it all the time is not taking personal responsibility and will make things worse in the long run, but perhaps I have been listening to too much Jordon Peterson… I wonder if we could crowdsource a set of articles, sound bites and even bloody memes that would serve as counters to some of the crap people drudge up over and over again (let’s face it, it’s always the same arguments).

My latest pain can be seen in this disastrous thread, well I say thread, I don’t understand how to keep neat lines in Twitter, so here are some of the back and forths
https://twitter.com/PitySexTour/status/873882195626147840
https://twitter.com/PitySexTour/status/873969153962516481
https://twitter.com/amozu16/status/873972769129721856
https://twitter.com/amozu16/status/873972769129721856
https://twitter.com/PitySexTour/status/873975229810229248
https://twitter.com/PitySexTour/status/873976634356842497
https://twitter.com/PitySexTour/status/873977474329190400
https://twitter.com/Sacha_Saeen/status/873980462464630784
https://twitter.com/PitySexTour/status/873982571339685889
https://twitter.com/PitySexTour/status/874252189572530177
https://twitter.com/amozu16/status/874259433005699072
I’m clearly a masochist. Now I don’t think a stream of calling these people idiots and Cucks helps either just FYI I think that does equal damage

 
 
Nhoj Morley
 
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12 June 2017 09:02
 

I sympathize, Mr. Trix. We have better reasons to call each other idiots than for the way we cast our so-called arguments.

It is this poster’s opinion that the key is recognizing a difference in brain mechanics and operation. Specifically, steps of abstract reasoning. These arguments are all two-step affairs. Those who spout them are not beyond hope. Arguing in three or more steps is simply beyond the natural workings of their perception.

Many five and six steppers wander in here complaining that they cannot reach out to people. Here, we can at least reach out to each other.

My advice…
Learn to dance the two-step.
Always remember… they are normal, you’re the mutant.

 
 
Ola
 
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13 June 2017 03:56
 

Hello RudeMatrix, welcome.

I’ve voted for “beyond hope”. I will read all your links but I’ve read the first twitter ones and these people are apparently unable to hear or read or comprehend or research…or something! My eyes started to bleed when it got to the bit where you were forced to explain that Muslims can be from any race because it’s a religion not a gene…

But I admire your attempts. Sam tried the one big superpost idea on his blog but I think it has a limited effect—because it is long and quite sensible, so not everyone’s idea of fun to read.

[ Edited: 13 June 2017 05:12 by Ola]
 
Ola
 
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13 June 2017 05:03
 

Having said that, I am willing to work with you on this mission. We may not save the already fallen, but we might help steer some of their readership toward some independent thinking.

I don’t mind if people disagree with Sam Harris if they understand what he said. That’s fair enough. What dismays me is the character assassination, as you quite rightly call it.

I’m in the process of reassessing my view of Maajid myself. I’ve gone from dismissive to a bit of admiration. It required doing a lot more listening to him and a lot less listening to other people’s assessments of him. Ironically, it was when the Southern Poverty Law Center stuck him on its list of haters that finally turned me. I couldn’t find anything to support their case!

[ Edited: 13 June 2017 05:13 by Ola]
 
RudeMatrix
 
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14 June 2017 06:11
 

Thank you for both your replies, the above episode and others inspired me to write something that has been rattling around in my head for a while. I would love some opinions on it before I take it “public” (not that it will be noticed)

https://medium.com/@RudeMatrix/the-binary-politics-horseshoe-theory-4fed196ca23a

I’m worried it might be a little rambly and lacks any real punch/message, but I do really want to explore and I suppose expose the way sides mirror each other so easily and make such bad repetitive arguments. I would like to write a separate, specific piece on Character assassination another time, but that one will require more expertise.

I am intrigued by your two step point, Mr Morley, by that, do you mean focus on one point and try and keep people on point, rather than trying to put out multiple fires. Or to simply make one point at a time and address its response until it is tired, rather than long threads addressing each fire?

With Maajid, I have listened to a few of his shows on LBC and I listened to his talk with Sam and I felt I had to admire him, at the moment I find myself agreeing with him, but even if I didn’t (for example Sarah Haider made a very convincing case in her talk with Sam) I think I would respect the heck out of him. To me, it’s clear he intends to try and correct the problem rather than exacerbate it and it comes at such personal cost!  My general rule on arguments from people with even shady reputations “consider the fruit from the tree, not the tree, but if the fruit itself is continually sour/infected, stop going back to that tree!”. And take other people opinion on trees with a pinch of salt. And yes I already regret trying to make that an analogy…

Ola good to have you on board smile it might make your eyes bleed but it will be interesting, in a way, until its boring but hopefully, by then there will be a handy cheat sheet of replies. If not a mega post, a spreadsheet or something haha.

 
 
Nhoj Morley
 
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14 June 2017 10:47
 

Tis neither of those.

Some would say that things are simple and clear-cut. Those of us who believe that things are not simple and clear-cut and deserve the most intense examination we can muster tend to deliver arguments that lack simplicity and clear-cuttedness. A good argument from our side tends to require more than a wee bit of following. It is easy to overlook the fact that this is completely disqualifying as an acceptable argument to the other side. It’s a blindspot.

This can easily lead into the weeds of “You’re just stubborn and or stupid!” unless recognized as a perceptual issue. The other side is powered by many who are rigorously trained not to exceed one or two steps of reasoning and some who can’t for more than minute or so without discomfort. This includes our Dear Leader and is clearly visible in the alternate reality the adminstration is serving up to a portion of the populace that has been starving for it.

The excessive complexities of previous administrations have been reduced to simple cartoon escapades that are easy to digest. It is the more comfortable choice if one has not had the benefits of inspiration, training and encouragement to learn what it takes to truly reason, which includes maintaining a mental muscularity that for many does not come naturally.

Can we learn to weild equally cartoon arguments without rendering them vulnerable to cartoon counter-attacks? This contrast of perception and the resulting disconnect in communication should be the most frightening reality of the divide.

Ignore the gibberish, just count the steps. Can you dance on that tiny floor? If not, all your sparing partners will see is clumsiness.

I can’t get your link to work.

[ Edited: 14 June 2017 10:49 by Nhoj Morley]
 
 
RudeMatrix
 
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14 June 2017 13:12
 
Nhoj Morley - 14 June 2017 10:47 AM

Ignore the gibberish, just count the steps. Can you dance on that tiny floor? If not, all your sparing partners will see is clumsiness.

Interesting, are you effectively saying we should fight simple memes with simple memes? I have tried this route in the past, it felt like I was increasing the divide,  the other side played along… but I just felt like we were both talking over one another, perhaps it was because I was using literal meme images….

I have found some success on Twitter lately by trying to stick to the format (i.e. keep to 1 / 2 tweets). It means sacrificing some grammar and nuance, but like you say its more ‘punchy’. My only worry is those statements become easy to take out of context.

Nhoj Morley - 14 June 2017 10:47 AM

I can’t get your link to work.

Strange, I hope it’s not because you need a “Medium” Account, perhaps I chose the wrong platform, hmm I tried it in Edge where I’m not signed in, seemed to work, here is the same article copy and pasted into drive:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1XEnrYYkMEWVFaemsyCZ9i_5x5BIPQWbKVpOgIMaP6xc/edit?usp=sharing

 

 
 
Nhoj Morley
 
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15 June 2017 00:50
 

I would give you much more to worry about.
Even our best efforts in memes and sloganing are easily re-rendered into chum for the other side. Making things short and punchy and easy to digest is a big part of how we got we got into this mess.

I think the only thing we can do is try to change their perceptual habits one at a time. Drag one away from the mob to a quiet place. Insist that you intend to be open-minded and give the attention and scrutiny their cute little memes, I mean mature opinions deserve. Set aside your own views and focus on helping them to navigating their’s. Press for more clarity and detail as they tell it like it is.

This is where our perceptual advantage can be used advantageously. Keep assembling a big picture based on their bits and pieces and echo it back politely like you’re checking for clarity. It won’t take long before you have assembled more of the picture than they ever have. Be like an easel that holds the canvas steady. Press on gently and inquisitively about the dark and foggy areas of the picture. Keep the sarcasm as subliminal as possible.

Alone and dragged helplessly into three or even four steps of reasoning, your opponent is now vulnerable to some unpleasantness that is easy to avoid on a tiny twittering dance floor. That is, real self-inflicted intellectual shame. A good example of this approach is the way The Boss handled Jordan Peterson.

Good counter arguments do not stick. They vanish from view upon returning to two-step-land. Shame is corrosive.

I’ll try the other link. My browser is from 1973.

 
 
RudeMatrix
 
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15 June 2017 04:03
 

Very good summary, I also think an interesting case was Sam talking to Megan Phelps-Roper, where she mentions how that one tweet, highlighting an internal contradiction was like a seed in a crack.

I like the idea of reflecting views back to people. It’s something I have done accidentally and clumsily (see my terrible backfire when trying to steelman the fellow above) through simply trying to be empathetic and never saw it a possible “intellectual trap” (a sinister way of thinking about it perhaps). Eiynah does it beautifully here:
https://player.fm/series/eiynah-nicemangoss-tracks/episode-4-john-semley-is-charlie-hebdo-racist

As Sam later congratulated here for smile. Harder within the noise of Twitter but I can see how it could be done potentially.

It’s funny I quite like JP, his talks on personal responsibility and his interpretation of the religious literature is an interesting angle that I am willing to pursue, it fits with Maajids point about vacuous interpretations. I think there is a diamond in the rough there somewhere. But yes his initial conversation with Sam, oh dear! The second was much more interesting.

If the link still doesn’t work, I could post it here, or provide a pdf link, I suppose if you’re interested anyway. I feel like I am building some undeserved suspense for it now!

I felt this point “change their perceptual habits one at a time”

really resonated with me, because I can think back to myself being trapped in “perceptual habits” particularly around the issue of Brexit in the UK, and I am sure I still do it on occasion, I often feel this is a point I could somehow use to find common ground with someone, but I never quite know how to politely phrase “hey I’ve been in that echo chamber too”. Sadly and somewhat ironically the best example of someone publically discussing a fault of perception is Sams talk with Charles Murray…

The other examples I can think of Eiynahs talk with Sam Harris about Douglas Murray also seems unusable. Or even this rather interesting video on Tommy Robinson:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3grn84gya58

Which falls flat if you look at most of Tommy’s Tweets sadly… (my current position on Tommy is muddy but it can be summarised as ‘I understand his bigotry and even respect his bravery, but he is too unnuanced and brash for this issue”. I am also deeply confused about what actually happened with Quilliam and him, which again Eiynah touches on in her talk with Sam.

The curious case of Laci Green is actually the current best neutral example I can think of, but that is still a hodge podge mess of who’s doing what now…


 

 

 
 
Nhoj Morley
 
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15 June 2017 22:36
 
RudeMatrix - 15 June 2017 04:03 AM

I felt this point “change their perceptual habits one at a time”
really resonated with me, because I can think back to myself being trapped in “perceptual habits” particularly around the issue of Brexit in the UK, and I am sure I still do it on occasion, I often feel this is a point I could somehow use to find common ground with someone, but I never quite know how to politely phrase “hey I’ve been in that echo chamber too”.

Is there a way to quantify that ‘common ground’? Is there anyway it can a two-step dance floor?

I can peek at tweets up to the point where I feel too embarrassed to be human and want to die. I work on it diligently. I can do almost three minutes now. 

I can sympathize with the horseshoe configuration but all points on it have a commonality- short and shallow expressions that are more precursors to combat than mutual understanding. Your views or my views will not be understood by someone who demonstrates a poor understanding of their own.

Look at the components and structure of these messages… they demonstrate what their author is prepared to take in from other facebooters’ messages.

Sadly and somewhat ironically the best example of someone publically discussing a fault of perception is Sams talk with Charles Murray…

You mean a faulty perception of Mr. Murray? Or belonging to Mr. Murray?

 
 
Kalessin
 
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03 July 2017 12:25
 

RudeMatrix

“Against my own sanity, I am trying to engage more people online”

I appreciate and commend the sacrifices in this position and, because of this, have pretty much gone down the opposite route (present company notwithstanding).  There is an often recognisable arc to Twitter trails or other online manifestations which is coldly depressing, unedifying and indeed exhausting.  You can see why narcissists, demagogues and ideologues thrive within such a medium and somehow gain momentum and traction through such hostile, chaotic and apparently fruitless interactions.  Much of the rest of the noise is generic adherence (“yeah, damn right”), groupthink (“yeah, me too”), or the tropes of identity politics (“well, as an elderly Jew CIS, I believe that ...”).

I have a feeling - I wouldn’t call it a working theory, nor claim any ownership - that quite a lot of what is going on is as old as the hills, but amplified exponentially by he scope and breadth of technology.  This might either confirm or oppose a memetic interpretation of current trends, but I won’t know until I’ve chiselled away at it a bit more and have some reference points. 

But sometimes I see what happens on Social Media, particularly the virulent condemnation and pillorying with its often painful consequences, and it makes me think about Mao’s Cultural Revolution (to the extent that I have read about it, and was alive at the time) in terms of the strident conformity and denouncing of people whose views might only be very slightly different, or even just expressed more clumsily.  That part of it at least is not new (it wasn’t new then, either, but was a step up in scale and speed).

I really like Sam Harris’ advocacy of “steel-manning’ positions one feels antithetical to, particularly in dialogue.  It’s at times a rewarding exercise in intellectual discipline at least, with various caveats.  However, while I can get my head around ‘defending the indefensible’, seeing what goes on online brings me closer to Oscar Wilde’s epithet about foxhunting - ‘the unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable’ - and it’s just a place I don’t want to be.

So I really value your obviously conscientious and thoughtful mission, but I would allow yourself the occasional break, for more than just your sanity.  I guess that many or most of the interesting insights about yourself and the world that you have evidenced have come outside of that milieu - maybe in free-thinking about a podcast you have heard, a book or similar, or perhaps in close conversation, or in “eureka moments” etc. etc.  When I have spent time online actively participating in the bearpit of indignant opinions I actually start to feel my own intellectual integrity begin to corrode, so downtime is an essential palliative!  Or maybe it’s just me smile.

Kalessin

PS. On an unrelated note I never quite got to the bottom of the Tommy Robinson story (what happened after the documentary etc.) and am not sure what source would be reliable.  Do you have anything definitive?

 
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04 July 2017 01:43
 
Nhoj Morley - 15 June 2017 10:36 PM

Is there a way to quantify that ‘common ground’? Is there anyway it can a two-step dance floor?

Probably not on the two-step, apart from a simple “I used to think that way too, then I realised it was more complicated than that” by which point you’re already starting a thread! 

Nhoj Morley - 15 June 2017 10:36 PM

I can peek at tweets up to the point where I feel too embarrassed to be human and want to die. I work on it diligently. I can do almost three minutes now.

Cleary I have spent too long on SM I play this game almost to distraction, I actually changed my FB password to something random and logged out, having this battle with actual friends was too much, and best saved for the pub. I follow some interesting people on Twitter that keep me relatively sane but every now and then I peek into the vortex of stupidity and feel the same way you do.

Nhoj Morley - 15 June 2017 10:36 PM

I can sympathize with the horseshoe configuration but all points on it have a commonality- short and shallow expressions that are more precursors to combat than mutual understanding. Your views or my views will not be understood by someone who demonstrates a poor understanding of their own.

Agreed, I’m not sure if the article itself is worth publishing, it still doesn’t feel like it says anything, but it was cathartic to write and, for some reason, read back on occasion.

Nhoj Morley - 15 June 2017 10:36 PM

You mean a faulty perception of Mr. Murray? Or belonging to Mr. Murray?

The first really (although I felt I picked up on some of the latter). My point was that podcast highlights a good example of what pure character assassination can do to shut down a conversation.

[ Edited: 04 July 2017 02:19 by RudeMatrix]
 
 
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04 July 2017 02:18
 
Kalessin - 03 July 2017 12:25 PM

I appreciate and commend the sacrifices in this position and, because of this, have pretty much gone down the opposite route (present company notwithstanding).  There is an often recognisable arc to Twitter trails or other online manifestations which is coldly depressing.

Its often very tempting, and I do try and take breaks!

Kalessin - 03 July 2017 12:25 PM

I have a feeling - I wouldn’t call it a working theory, nor claim any ownership - that quite a lot of what is going on is as old as the hills, but amplified exponentially by he scope and breadth of technology.  This might either confirm or oppose a memetic interpretation of current trends, but I won’t know until I’ve chiselled away at it a bit more and have some reference points.


I very much agree with this point, I think the internet/technology as a whole amplifies human traits, both hidden and unhidden, you can see this with twitter in terms of the love of argument and tribalism but also elswhere in the interenet in terms of fetishes, violence and lust etc. It also amplifies good things, like creation, collaboration etc but it can be hard to look at the breadth of humanity laid bare, as I’m not sure I like the signal to noise.

Kalessin - 03 July 2017 12:25 PM

But sometimes I see what happens on Social Media, particularly the virulent condemnation and pillorying with its often painful consequences, and it makes me think about Mao’s Cultural Revolution (to the extent that I have read about it, and was alive at the time) in terms of the strident conformity and denouncing of people whose views might only be very slightly different, or even just expressed more clumsily.  That part of it at least is not new (it wasn’t new then, either, but was a step up in scale and speed).


Have you listened to anything from Jordon Peterson, (other than his podcast with Sam). He makes some fantastic points on this, I can only hope its doomsday prophetering, but he is damn convincing.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJ8F_HhzkJE

Kalessin - 03 July 2017 12:25 PM

I really like Sam Harris’ advocacy of “steel-manning’ positions one feels antithetical to, particularly in dialogue.  It’s at times a rewarding exercise in intellectual discipline at least, with various caveats.  However, while I can get my head around ‘defending the indefensible’, seeing what goes on online brings me closer to Oscar Wilde’s epithet about foxhunting - ‘the unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable’ - and it’s just a place I don’t want to be.


I love that mix, both men I respect, there is certainly a balance. There are those that are simply beyond hope. I often think that these individuals may be much more bendable in real life, but online, with ready yes-men tribe behind them are just impossible. What I find interesting is when you have two “giants” of each tribe come together, e.g. Sam and Reza is no matter how well Sam steel mans and undercuts Reza completely, both sides (Sam has his own tribe) can simply chime in with “who won” and to me that completely misses the point of having them talk. Its one of the reasons Sam & Maajids book is so rewarding. I think Q&As; are more interesting, when Hitch, for example, slaps down a well constructed answer to an individual “tribesman” I think that can be much more definitive. Because I think those locked in a tribe might feel “Christ I would have asked that”. But Sam had a conversation, I think with Steven Pinker, where Steven says why he doesnt like debates, how they perpetuate this idea of “sides” and I felt I had to agree, but then again it was the IQ2 “Is islam a religion of peace” debate that introduced Maajid to Sam and when I listened to it, and felt myself suprisingly swayed to back the “yes” motion, due to Maajid, I could see some very positive value to it.

Kalessin - 03 July 2017 12:25 PM

So I really value your obviously conscientious and thoughtful mission, but I would allow yourself the occasional break, for more than just your sanity.  I guess that many or most of the interesting insights about yourself and the world that you have evidenced have come outside of that milieu - maybe in free-thinking about a podcast you have heard, a book or similar, or perhaps in close conversation, or in “eureka moments” etc. etc.  When I have spent time online actively participating in the bearpit of indignant opinions I actually start to feel my own intellectual integrity begin to corrode, so downtime is an essential palliative!  Or maybe it’s just me smile.


One of the reasons I sort of stick with it is because one of the first things that started to change my mind on migration was a commenter on youtube and Sams talk with Megan Phelps-Roper, where she mentioned that one seed in the crack from a twitter comment. But yes I will have to disipline myself to pick my battles and set limits.

Another reference point, I actually had a 3-way Twitter conversation with two people I can only describe as a “hard right winger” and a soft Islamist (an American Muslim who defended Wahabism and would vote for a candidate bringing in sharia). It was really interesting, I wish I still had a link to that thread, because we actually managed to be civil to each other, and “yes-men” were shoed away by the other two before I could. I don’t feel any of us left with a changed mind, but it was enlightening on a number of points of their beliefs. I think if they had been willing it would have got more interesting.

Kalessin - 03 July 2017 12:25 PM

PS. On an unrelated note I never quite got to the bottom of the Tommy Robinson story (what happened after the documentary etc.) and am not sure what source would be reliable.  Do you have anything definitive?

Yes and No, the closest I got was Eiynah talking to Sam about it, somewhere in this nice gold mine
https://soundcloud.com/politeconversations/episode-17-sam-harris

Eiynah seems to be the most outspoken on him, but there was a bit more to the story with Maajid and Tommy which is touched on very diplomatically here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lpit8jc3NeI

Of course, because we try and live in a none black and white world, there is actually no definitive “bottom” to the story here, my overall view of Tommy is he is “biased”, like every human being on this planet of course, and his bias is to see Islam as pure evil, & by extension he is biased towards thinking that Muslims are ‘at least bad’. So in that sense he is bigotted, but his bias comes from deep rooted life experience he had in Lutton when he was younger (see his Oxford address) and he really believes, passionately that the UK is in danger (which I can agree with) and it needs defending (which I can agree with) against Islam (which I can partially agree with). So it’s hard to see him as a 100% “ignorant bigot”, he is right some of the time and wrong others. But I think he aligns himself with the wrong people and has the wrong public solutions to problems, he is sort of an “act first, ask questions & think about it later” type person, evident from his barging in on Quilliam. The worst problem he has is his supporters, his own “yes men” push him further to his own extremes, which is a shame because I think there is something there like Maajid recognised, that is really helpful to this conversation… and occasionally still is, just not all the time. For reference, I follow him on Twitter, and 80% the time I am disappointed in his tweets/narrative, occasionally I weigh in, but I have learnt from experience it’s mostly not worth it….

 

[ Edited: 04 July 2017 02:25 by RudeMatrix]
 
 
Kalessin
 
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04 July 2017 16:54
 

All great stuff, truly.  More prosaically, I really just don’t have enough time for that Social Media world! smile

Thanks again for the considered interactions.  The Autobiography of Malcom X (or perhaps more accurately the first-person biography by Alex Hales) has always been for me one of the most compelling, important and readable accounts of a series of transformations in deeply-held personal and political conceptions of race, religion and humanity.  Real-life narratives of any similar sort unfolding in front of us in real time are often somewhat more chaotic and less poetic, so it’s easy to get disheartened.  My feeling is that Maajid Nawaz has a meaningful story that is ongoing ... I don’t really know if Tommy Robinson is the same, but my “current affairs” threshold is desperately low, as I suggested above.  In fact I may be starting to think that listening to Test Match Special counts as keeping in touch with the world these days smile

[ Edited: 04 July 2017 16:57 by Kalessin]