By Nicholas Goroff
Within the context of modern politics, “radicalism” seems to be something that is increasingly unavoidable. Whether it be radical Islam, radical feminism, radical Marxism or other niche ideologies or movements such as fascism, anarcho-capitalism, nationalism (and its given sub-categories,) or anti-fascism (dubbed Antifa,) it can often seem to many that radical politics and its polarizing, black and white nature is increasingly coming to dominate political discourse. This of course is not emblematic of the real politics of most people, however at a quick glance it can very well appear to be so.
Naturally, just as radical Islamism is but a subset within the broader Islamic population, most who adhere to concepts of liberalism, conservatism, progressivism, etc, do so lightly in contrast to those to whom such is an absolutist dedication and devotion. However as with all politics, it is more the loud and provocative speakers who bellow over more calm, nuanced and rational discourse who gain the most attention. It is then seemingly obligatory to ask why a more “radical” rationalism has not taken deeper root, as the masses to whom such bloviating absolutists seem keen to preach to so often find themselves to one degree or another being either embarrassed or offended when such simple and reductionist rhetoric is espoused in the public square.
It is perhaps time then that the voices of the rational, the calm, the mature and the truly egalitarian adopt greater volume when standing to refute the hysterics and authoritarianism of those who would claim to speak on behalf of others without their expressed consent. Merriam-Webster defines radicalism as;
“the opinions and behavior of people who favor extreme changes especially in government : radical political ideas and behavior.”
While one may easily regard radicalism as being itself fringe and external from popular political discourse, as we are increasingly finding, the prevailing accommodations that are being made in modern, western societies for things such as radical Islam, radical feminism and movements such as the racist and hysterical Black Lives Matter movement do suggest that we may be moving towards an environment where such is simply the norm and the establishment. As such, it should then fall to more sensible minds to become the radicals required in order to restore some semblance of rational humanism to the public discourse, even if such requires the sorts of posturing and sloganeering with which its various opposition efforts have thus far found success with. It is as such that I, your author, as well as some (but not all) others within the given circles of atheists, skeptics, humanists and egalitarians propose that it may be time for a more radical rationalists movement that can stand to oppose the creeping menace that is ideological absolutism within our common discourse, public and academic institutions and centers of power.
While it may be true that the concept of a “radical rational” movement is one which seems inherently contradictory, it does come to a certain extent to a question of ends versus means. Within the spheres of political campaigning and ideological branding, the reality that reductionist mass communication and polarizing dialogue has proven to be highly effective in moving public opinion, it has perhaps been something of a principled mistake that so many within more rational, egalitarian circles have relied upon calm, reasoned provision of evidence and argument in lieu of more propagandist or rhetorical tactics. As the classic formats of debate which for so long were held as a centerpiece of public dialogue regarding ideas have become increasingly supplanted by shrieking zealotry and dogmatic posturing, the net effect of such in our modern ‘too-long-didn’t-read’ environments have largely led to a situation where simply convincing one to abandon absolutist certainty in favor of critical examination of strongly held beliefs has gotten to the point where it is often derided by detractors as “red pilling.”
This being the case, it perhaps should be considered that adopting tactics which are facile and even intellectually revolting in their own regards. However having been proven to be as effective as they are, they may be a manner in which those of open and skeptical minds may court greater levels of public support in our attempts to shift public discourse back towards rational discussion. With the use of such devices such as rhetorical ploys, intentionally leading narratives and demands for specific and pragmatic terms of discussion and debate, the enemies of reason, those being hopeless ideologues, religious fundamentalists and zealous radicals have had free reign to not only control the public discourse, but guide it towards a place where their various ideas are given default credibility.
This has gone on for far too long. Additionally efforts to hamper such have largely failed as the reliance upon nuanced and dynamic appeals to reason take too long in their present form to win over many as said shrieking zealots simply thump their chests and signal a righteousness and virtue that many find difficult to resist. With this all being as it is, perhaps it is time to begin discussing ways in which more rhetorical introductions to rational, skeptical and reasoned civil discourse for the public at large may be implemented, so as to at the very least, allow us to craft a means to combat the inanity we see using its own weaponry against it.