RE: Extremism

From: Joe Dees (
Date: Sun Jan 07 2001 - 03:57:56 MST

('binary' encoding is not supported, stored as-is) >From: "Jerry Mitchell" <>
>To: <>
>Subject: RE: Extremism
>Date: Sat, 6 Jan 2001 18:49:39 -0500
>[Non-member submission]
>I was simply pointing out that you could only tie the word extremism to a
>set of ideologies relative to some other concept. I don't think it
>cognitively efficient to use the word, meaning it doesn't add any useful
>information to what's being said (other then the fact that the person using
>the word thinks that what is being described is radically different from
>"their" ideas). This was my point in interrupting the thread that was going
>on. It's not a valid word. Sure you can say it, but what do you really mean
>by using it? What your really saying is that an idea differs from your view,
>or the popular view, or some other idea. It's a concept that implies a
>range, but leaves out content, which is not a proper thing to do with
>discussing ideas. How can you leave the content of a concept out and only
>deal with its degree? That might matter for the purpose of comparing ideas,
>but it has NOTHING to do with the truth of the idea. I for one cant find a
>reason to keep this anti-word in our language. If someone can spot a real
>use for this concept, please let me know.
     Extremism is an abstract general concept, it is true, but one that while only gaining particular meaning from association with a particular cause or issue, nevertheless is used to describe one's stance relative to that cause or any cause in particular, i.e. at one 'extreme' end or the other of the spectrum of points of view regarding the cause or issue. The opposite of extremism may or may not be mainstreamism, depending upon how the spectrum is weighted, but it is always opposed to moderation, the golden mean, or the middle way.
     For instance, a person who is in favor of a woman's right to choose abortion before fetal viability but has a problem with killing a fetus that could be delivered live is not skewed to an extreme, but is rather taking a balanced position, just as a person who supports the right of sane and law-abiding adults to buy, keep and bear arms but wishes laws to be standardized and engineered to most effectively keep firearms out of the hands of children, violent criminals and the mentally incapacitated (sorry to mention the g*n issue,; it was only as an example - as most of you know, I have labored to keep extremists from from both sides of both of these issues from co-opting this list). Such people cannot logically be referred to as extremists, but the skewed logic of the extremist sees everyone who does not parrot their position to be an extremist on the 'other' side, either through ignorance or malevolenve, unless the person is indifferent and/or apathetic and can be dismisse!
d as a 'sheeple', thus they refer to moderates as either opposing extremists or as 'sheeple', depending upon how assertive they are in voicing their position. Nevertheless, the fact that they see everyone else but themselves in these ways does not make it so, although the last possibility they could ever entertain would be the possibility that they could be wrong about either their position or their characterizations of others' positions. In fact, it is only the moderate who can truly identify the real extremists, as (s)he is attacked or dismissed or propagandized by them from both flanks. Extremists, for some strange reason, have a cognitive blindness to the fact that everyone either agrees with them, takes no position, or takes a position in one direction relative to theirs; it never occurs to them that not only does no one take a position in the opposite direction from those people relative to them, thus placing them in the middle of the spectrum of opinion on the cau!
se or issue, but also that there is a reason for this absence; namely, that there is no room on that side for anyone else to occupy, since they already occupy that edge; in other words, that they are indeed extreme.
>Extremism cannot be separated from a particular cause; there is no such
>thing as extremism in general, so appeals to extremist generalities, such as
>liberty, health, honesty, etc. have no force; of COURSE everyone is for
>freedom, health and honesty, and NO one is for slavery, illness and
>duplicity. Extremism manifests when it is tied to the end of a position
>spectrum in which people also populate the middle and even the other extreme
>as well; the two most common extremisms in the US, as Aaron Lynch pointed
>out in his memetic treatise THOUGHT CONTAGION, are the radical anti-abortion
>and contraception and three-full-trimester pro-choice extremists, and the
>ban-all-guns-whatsoever-anti-gun-nuts and
>give-kids-criminals-and-crazies-tommy-guns-pro-gun-nuts; when these two
>cross-fertilize, we have such logical atrocities as pro-life murders and
>pressure to deny picketers free-speech rights even when they are not
>harassing clients or orchestrating clinic invasions. Each swears by their
>own camp's statistics, and equally swears that the opposing camps'
>statistics are propagandistic lies, or that the wrong lesson is being drawn
>from them. Neither extreme can admit to themselves that they actually ARE
>extremists, so they portray the vast majority of the people who are
>middle-of-the-roaders as either deceived and ignorant dupes or malevolent
>and lying shills, or sometimes, illogical as it may sound, both at once,
>especially when a pack of extremists is attacking someone who is not
>extreme. Even when they acknowledge that they are not in the present
>majority, each extreme will steadfastly maintain that they are the wave of
>the future, and that when people become more intelligent or enlightened or
>informed, they will flock to their side in droves. Though hesitant to admit
>it, they generally find more in common with their doppelganger on the
>opposite side of their pet issue (as both extremes are ruled by their issues
>and obsessively and compulsively tend them, as people can be with their
>pets) than with the apathetic and indifferent 'sheeple' who really don't
>care that much one way or another. The best way to know when an extremist
>is about to attack is to listen to them get indignantly defensive, which
>typically happens whenever someone does not absolutely agree with them
>concerning their pet issue; some sort of physical intimidation or verbal
>flame is sure to follow.

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