Friday, June 25, 2021


180ism has three core components.

The first and most obvious is that the primary question most participants in public debate ask themselves is not "How do my values inform my views on this matter?" or "What is the evidence for what is being asserted?"  Rather, it is "How do I demonstrate that I am a loyal member of my political tribe?"  As it happens, the easiest way to do that is simple: Look for what the enemy says on any one issue and stake out the opposite position.

The second component is that public discourse becomes dangerously narrow when a lot of individuals with big platforms reflexively contradict whatever their adversaries say.  Complex questions that should, in principle, allow for a large number of different answers are then flattened into a simple referendum between diametrically opposed sides. 

The third component is that the dynamics of 180ism exert enormous pressure on anybody who does not behave as expected.  If, unwilling to let the discourse shoehorn you into one of two sanctioned positions, you insist on giving a third answer, you are denounced as an attention-seeking contrarian.  And if, following your long-held values or principles, you come up with an answer that your political adversary happens to agree with, you are denounced as a traitor.  In a discourse dominated by 180ism, occasionally disagreeing with your friends -- a sign that you are willing to think for yourself -- is widely interpreted as proof of bad faith.

-- Yascha Mounk (1982-), German-American political scientist, The Perils of 180ism, 25 June 2021

No comments: