Do activists have an image problem?

by on January 13, 2014 at 10:14 am in Political Science, Science, Uncategorized | Permalink

From BPS Research Digest:

When you picture a feminist or an environmental campaigner, what kind of a person do you think of? If you’re like the US and Canadian participants in this new paper, then you’ll have in mind an eccentric, militant, unhygienic person. Nadia Bashir and her colleagues say this commonly held stereotype of an activist is partly responsible for the sluggishness of social change. Large sections of the public agree with activists’ messages, but are put off by not wanting to affiliate themselves with the kind of person they think makes an activist.

…The findings have obvious real-life implications for activists. “…. seemingly zealous dedication to a social cause may backfire and elicit unfavourable reactions from others,” the researchers said. “… [T]he very individuals who are most actively engaged in promoting social change may inadvertently alienate members of the public and reduce pro-change motivation.”

Writers take note.  There is more, including a link to the original research, here.

charlie January 13, 2014 at 10:18 am

Thank god this do not apply to wonks and/or libertarians.

mulp January 13, 2014 at 10:56 am

That’s because they are K Street lobbyists in $1000 suits earning hundreds of thousands per year.

Dan Weber January 13, 2014 at 11:47 am

Except for the college libertarians, who stink of pot.

IVV January 13, 2014 at 10:29 am

For me, it’s more the protest than the activist.

Like the Occupy movement, for example. Yes, I understand you, the economic setup is increasingly unfair. This is not a way to keep doing business long term. So are you going to do something about it or just keep sitting there? I can be fully aware of the issue and still be unwilling to act, or at least only act in my personal best interest.

dead serious January 13, 2014 at 2:00 pm

If you’re honest about it, what does “do something about it” mean? About all a small group *can* do is make a big public stink (preferably not literally) over something that is unjust or broken.

I tend to agree that their message largely got drowned out by the “protest lifers” who just like camping out, dirty communal living, and complaining about everything the government does or doesn’t do. But at least the original intent was meant to shine a bright light on Wall Street’s antics.

IVV January 13, 2014 at 2:17 pm

The issue is that shining a bright light isn’t enough. Wall Street could essentially say, “Oh look, you caught me, now back to the salt mines.”

Now, Occupy is an interesting case because they never proposed solutions, just said, “This is bad,” and left it at that. Yes, a couple groups within Occupy suggested reforms, but those messages got drowned/ignored from actors for and against Occupy. Ultimately, camping out is not a way to create meaningful change. Heck, much of Occupy was dedicated to making sure they didn’t take a concrete stand, in the hopes that their stand could never be disproven. Any true effort would need to have a goal, a target, and come up with a path to get there. Even if they simply would do more to hinder activities they opposed (which, of course, need to be defined first), they would have been able to garner more sympathy.

Their unwillingness to take a stand and act in accordance doomed the movement.

Sigivald January 13, 2014 at 7:22 pm

Heck, much of Occupy was dedicated to making sure they didn’t take a concrete stand, in the hopes that their stand could never be disproven.

Ding!

When you can’t even manage to agree on anything (or manage to be adult enough to keep the park you’re “occupying” clean), you shouldn’t be surprised when you don’t get any results. Standing for nothing in particular apart from “we hate banks!” and “we want free college and other stuff!” (which is all I could figure out that had maybe 90-95%+ commonality among Occupiers) isn’t going to Change the World.

Want to Change the World?

Come up with a specific thing, a specific action or plan, and promote it politely while looking and acting like adults.

That works, because – even though it also lets people attack you – it lets people actually support your plan and your cause, because you, well, have one.

Andrew McDowell January 14, 2014 at 1:42 am

This is not just occupy. It shows up in a section on left-wing protest groups in “Strategy: A History” by Freedman. He emphasizes the importance of coalition-building to strategy. When I pointed this out on rec.arts.sf.written, somebody replied with a quote from Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” – “Splitter!”. Progress in conflict mediation applied to protest groups could change a lot. Paranoid thought – are governments secretly blocking applicable work on conflict mediation and agreement :-).

msgkings January 14, 2014 at 1:09 pm

What also doomed the movement was the economy finally getting somewhat back on its feet.

IVV January 13, 2014 at 2:17 pm

And a small group can usually do much more. It’s just usually far more illegal.

dead serious January 13, 2014 at 2:41 pm

Bingo.

Let’s summarize available options: 1) sue (good luck), 2) sit in protest (accomplishes nothing), 3) do illegal stuff (which then the public at large – rightly – derides.)

So the prescribed option from armchair sympathizers like you and me is: do nothing.

IVV January 13, 2014 at 3:13 pm

Do nothing, protect yourself, exploit any loopholes the bad situation creates (perhaps inadvertently, perhaps by design).

And it’s why it’s possible to look at a protest in disdain, even when you agree with their position.

dead serious January 13, 2014 at 3:25 pm

Agree. I walked past those sorry fools every day with very mixed emotions.

Rich Berger January 13, 2014 at 10:30 am

When I read or hear the word “activist”, I don’t have a visual image in mind. I do automatically translate the term into “busybody” and assume that my liberty or wallet is in danger.

mike January 13, 2014 at 10:40 am

Yeah this is pretty much it. Letting too many Nadia Bashirs into the greatest countries in the world and then having them demand that we change everything to fit their lunatic ideologue aesthetic preferences, mostly starting from their deep resentment of the society that took them in. Go fight for radical change in countries that need it, like the country you were born in that was so horrible you ran away from it.

FTFY January 13, 2014 at 11:09 am

“Yeah this is pretty much it. Letting too many RUDE PEOPLE into the greatest BLOG in the world and then having them demand that we change everything to fit their lunatic ideologue aesthetic preferences, mostly starting from their deep resentment of the society that took them in.”

You know who else has an image problem? … blog commenters. Self-awareness, tolerance, and empathy go a long way, everyone take note.

TheAJ January 13, 2014 at 2:02 pm

Since when did the Steve Sailer crowd start congregating at MR?

Finch January 13, 2014 at 2:42 pm

I’ve only been reading here for a few years, but they’ve been here as long as I can remember. My read, which I mostly infer from his frequenting baiting posts and obvious distaste for Bryan Caplan, was that Tyler is a closet Sailer fan. Maybe not to the extent of being a true-believer.

Finch January 13, 2014 at 2:45 pm

“frequent,” not “frequenting.”

Brian Donohue January 13, 2014 at 2:57 pm

My theory is that Tyler is aiming for a ‘rationalist community’ here, not that he is sympathetic to Sailer’s views per se:

http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/01/12/a-response-to-apophemi-on-triggers/

It’s a dicey strategy, but I applaud the effort.

Finch January 13, 2014 at 3:34 pm

Yeah, I don’t know and I don’t mean to speak for him.

It’s possible to think the affordable family formation framing is pretty clever, or that maybe we have too much low-skill immigration, without embracing the far out views of some of that community.

Tyler hat-tips Sailer a lot. He must read him. Maybe he just buys a la carte?

mulp January 13, 2014 at 11:03 am

You mean all those hippie freak pro-war, pro-draft, pro-war tax protesters in the 60s and 70s that Nixon and Reagan condemned as anti-American and unpatriotic? And then made sure were on the list of public enemies to be spied on by the FBI, CIA, ….

The civil rights activists typically marched on Sunday after church in their Sunday best.

Sigivald January 13, 2014 at 7:32 pm

And the activists of the 80s and 90s who adopted the hippie protest-culture.

If modern “activists” were more like the Civil Rights movement they’d be far more effective – though of course they’ll be effective mostly in proportion to the relative power and justice of their cause.

Being polite and looking like an adult gets you past instant dismissal; having a good cause and working against a real wickedness really helps after that point. As does having arguments that would convince someone who’s skeptical and critical.

Max January 14, 2014 at 5:02 am

In Germany we call them professional protesters, because only a union employee, a student or an unemployed would have the time to protest. The rest has to work for a living. That usually means that only an unimportant fringe portion of the population actually protests in most cases.
There are exceptions were you get more people for more important issues but they are rare.

Also sometimes protesters are hired for the job by unions or big green NGOs.

Axa January 14, 2014 at 7:09 am

This?
To Protest Hiring of Nonunion Help, Union Hires Nonunion Pickets
http://tinyurl.com/klu2q98

Tom T. January 14, 2014 at 11:49 pm

“Also sometimes protesters are hired for the job by unions”

Standard practice here in Washington DC.

Z January 13, 2014 at 10:34 am

This is just another version of , “We are right on the facts, but we did not communicate them as well as we needed to and therefore lost.” Put another way, the pests blame the public for not going along with their crackpot idea. Stereotypes don’t spring from nothing. The reason people hold an unfavorable view of “activists” is people have eyes and are reasonably good at recognizing patterns. The public can usually spot a fanatic when they see one and the normal instinct is to avoid them.

Dan in Philly January 13, 2014 at 12:27 pm

Ditto. Those wholly given over to a limited world view find it difficult for others to not be as devoted as they are to their ideas. Who doesn’t want clean drinking water, good and cheap healthcare, and equal rights? That’s where these activists claim that most people support their ideas. But these ideas at any cost, which the activist supports, is where more hold back, not the hygene of those presenting them.

mike January 13, 2014 at 1:21 pm

“Who doesn’t want clean drinking water, good and cheap healthcare, and equal rights? That’s where these activists claim that most people support their ideas.”

Yeah, I can’t access the original document but I assumed that this was where they were claiming people “support their ideas”. Because these people literally think that their political opponents support “bad things” for the sole purpose of harming people, which they enjoy. Do you want to reduce poverty? THEN WHY DON’T YOU SUPPORT THE COMMUNIST REVOLUTION, IDIOT? It’s the same tired old two-step where feminism is merely the radical notion that women are people, ergo we must pass laws forcing men to pee sitting down. People are wise to it by now.

Besides I think a lot of people don’t like activists the same way guys who play casual monthly poker games with friends wouldn’t like a 24/7 professional poker player horning in on their game. People don’t like no-life loser malcontents dominating participatory democracy.

Careless January 13, 2014 at 1:50 pm

To use a real example, they call people “anti-climate”

Careless January 13, 2014 at 1:50 pm

And think that the people they’re referring to also talk about themselves as being “anti-climate”

Sigivald January 13, 2014 at 7:33 pm

Indeed.

I support clean water – I just don’t support any of the policy moves they typically propose related to it.

I support equal rights – but radically different than the way they want them.

I support reducing poverty – and think their modes of doing so at best do little harm and more typically actively further it.

The Other Jim January 13, 2014 at 10:35 am

>”the kind of person they think makes an activist.”

Ah, I see. The problem is not that activists are eccentric, militant, and unhygienic.

It’s merely that people think they are eccentric, militant, and unhygienic.

Got it. Thanks.

PRW January 13, 2014 at 10:46 am

This is news? Orwell wrote about this; Bookchin wrote about this; I’ve heard it mentioned about William Lloyd Garrison …

CPV January 13, 2014 at 10:47 am

If some aspect of a functioning society’s policy is at 50 on an arbitrary one dimensional scale from 0-100 are you more likely to influence it up or down by staking out a position at 0/100, or 10/90, 20/80, 30/70 or 40/60? Are you more likely to influence it by insulting the people in a position to make change and being openly dismissive of their values?

dan1111 January 13, 2014 at 10:58 am

Exactly. Activists are not the only people working for change. They are a particular subset, with the various selection biases that entails.

My Thoughts January 13, 2014 at 10:55 am

The whole concept, including the research itself, seems like protracted naval gazing to me. That is, social research about social activism. Nice little cottage industry there (only to be outdone by economics professors who always seem to find there way to do “research” which just happens to be funded by and for industry).

Marian Kechlibar January 13, 2014 at 11:01 am

If only … if only the activists started studying themselves and forgot about the rest of the world, how wonderful.

To Nadia Bashir et alumni: If the shoe fits, wear it. Your agenda may seem noble and righteous to you, but lots of people perceive it as fanatic-nonsense-on-stilts. The more you try to stuff it down people’s throats, especially if using intimidation tactics or making yourself a public nuisance, the more you will be resented and disliked.

No one outside the academic circles needs a PhD in psychology to understand that.

JWatts January 13, 2014 at 11:26 am

“Your agenda may seem noble and righteous to you, but lots of people perceive it as fanatic-nonsense-on-stilts.”

It may not even be that extreme. A majority of people may agree with the activists that a problem exists, but disagree as to the magnitude of the problem and/or the solutions the activists present.

Jay January 13, 2014 at 1:08 pm

…if they present any such solution at all as in the latest Occupy movements.

Rahul January 13, 2014 at 12:37 pm

If you compare environmental protections in say 1950 or even 1970 versus now things are a lot stricter. Question is whether this is because of the activists or in spite of them? And for better or for worse?

Marian Kechlibar January 14, 2014 at 1:55 am

Nuclear energy engineering has been bullied into oblivion in a lot of European states, and research into GMOs is in the EU about as taboo as being a heretic in the Middle Ages. There is no question about the involvement of the activists in those developments. This is economic retardation only; but now, with some of their more radical fellow travellers attacking vaccination, it crosses into the realm of mass murder.

This is, in some sense, typical for all “activist movements”. Once the moderate goals are reached, the moderates drop out of the movement, and it is radicalized and radicalized further, with more and more extreme goals; the only ones who stay are fanatics of the crusading type.

Note the development of the women rights, which ended in the broadening of “sexual harrasment” into covering pretty much everything including looks and tone of voice. If this isn’t the new witch-hunt, what is? Once someone is indicted, he is lost.

Rahul January 14, 2014 at 6:40 am

Yes, but that doesn’t preclude activism’s role in inducing desirable changes before its end-stage extremism. Ending child labor, woman’s suffrage, ending slavery, decriminalizing homosexuality were probably all regarded as activist agendas at some point of time.

Criticizing some flavors of activism is a lot different than calling all activism undesirable.

Willitts January 13, 2014 at 11:13 am

The activists ARE researching themselves. We call them “tenured professors.”

Time to play Hobo or Professor again.

ummm January 13, 2014 at 11:01 am

a busybody that wants to waste your time on a lost cause

B.B. January 13, 2014 at 11:05 am

The radical “community organizer” Saul Alinsky would find hippie sorts trying to join his efforts. He would give them money to get a suit and tell them to get a haircut. Alinksy was interested in winning political fights; he wasn’t interested in narcissistic self-expression. He got the idea that the medium is part of the message.

TMC January 13, 2014 at 12:05 pm

Getting closer to the definition of a sociopath.

Ian Maitland January 13, 2014 at 11:09 am

Today’s Times contains a (mildly) interesting report about the different political paths taken by Minnesota and Wisconsin in the last two years or so. My hunch is that the critical event that made Wisconsinites choose the right fork was the occupation of the state house and the accompanying antics. (The two states still vote almost identically in national elections).

prior_approval January 13, 2014 at 11:12 am

‘When you picture a feminist’

I think of Iranian judge Shirin Ebadi. Who also just happened to win a real Nobel prize.

How easily we forget that feminists are dedicated to the fight for justice.

Malala Yousafzai also comes to mind – not many people are shot for defending the right of men to go to school, after all.

Willitts January 13, 2014 at 11:16 am

I think of Donna Shalala, Janet Napolitano, Hillary Clinton – aged, bloated, and foul tempered.

Feminists are dedicated to fighting for themselves at the expense of others.

The Anti-Gnostic January 13, 2014 at 11:29 am

Feminism is wielded to great effect by smart, attractive women to gain access to smart, attractive men. And by smart, unattractive women to obtain sinecures which their looks and/or personality would otherwise put beyond their reach.

When less-smart, less-attractive women wield feminism, they end up alone with cats.

Tununak January 13, 2014 at 11:32 am

The most insightful portrait of a feminist, and “progressives” in general, can be found in Henry James’ novel The Bostonians. These ones are all washed and nicely turned out yet are repellent nonetheless. (There is also a fairly repellent portrait of a reactionary, but on the whole, I believe James prefers him.)

It is that they are “actively engaged in promoting social change,” having already decided what kind of social change is appropriate and politically “correct” (as though there could be incorrect and correct social change!) that leads directly to the alienation of members of the public.

prior_approval January 13, 2014 at 12:15 pm

Interesting – you only think of Americans, whereas Malala Yousafzai is a sixteen year old Pakistani whose apparent feminism is the idea that girls should also be educated.

For that, she was shot in the face – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malala_Yousafzai

But it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if at least some commenters here have a problem with the idea that women should have an equal opportunity of education, while mentioning a number of baby boomer Americans as a reason to oppose such an idea.

Marian Kechlibar January 13, 2014 at 1:06 pm

I think that you can find analogies in the Catholic Church.

In countries where Catholics were persecuted, the priests tended to be courageous “martyrdom types”. See the Roman empire under Diocletian, or Japanese shogunate.

In countries and times where they held power, the priesthood often attracted power-hungry, greedy sociopaths. See the huge corruption of the Church which provoked the whole Reformation movement, from Cathars and Hussites on.

The same applies to feminism in Iran vs. the USA. In Iran, being a feminist is a way to oppose the status quo. In the USA, it is a tool of power.

prior_approval.com January 13, 2014 at 1:21 pm

‘In the USA, it is a tool of power.’

Speaking as an American, this is absurd.

Unless you mean that educated women who aren’t creationists (a minority of the American population at this point, apparently) hold the reins of power – which is demonstrably false, by the way.

mike January 13, 2014 at 1:22 pm

Excellent point.

JWatts January 13, 2014 at 1:46 pm

p_approval: “Speaking as an American, this is absurd. ”

I’m confused, when did you start speaking “as an American” versus a refugee from the failed state of America living in the utopia of Germany?

Marie January 13, 2014 at 3:44 pm

Yeah, I can get behind that.

The people who are attracted to something that will gain them no admiration and may mean poverty or death, that’s totally not the same as the pool of people who are attracted to something that they may get something out of.

I think that’s probably one of the huge kickbacks against “activism”, in fact, the perception that it’s not about the cause, it’s about the activist.

Worked for a nonprofit once, the cause definitely seemed subsumed beneath the salaries of the staff, the admiration of the public for the board, etc. If there was a conflict between doing good and looking good, looking good won. If there was a conflict between accomplishing something and making money, making money won.

This is the image people have of activists, not that they are dirty, but that they are pretentiously dirty. That’s not going to be fixed by telling activists to cut their hair.

Marian Kechlibar January 14, 2014 at 2:02 am

prior approval:

Power is *always* held by a tiny minority of people, that is the definition of power. Even in the Catholic Church of the 15th century, there were poor parish priests living on bread and water, but it does not in any way část into doubt that the Church as a whole was immensely powerful. The power aggregates at the top.

Feminism in the USA is now part of the orthodoxy, and a lot of institutions including the academia now have formal positions of administrators enforcing feminist ideology (see all the Coordinators of Diversity and Equal Opportunity). These administrators have money – last time I read, the newly created chancellor position on UC Berkeley had starting salary of USD 200 000 – and power, including the power to formally try and fire/expel offenders against the code. If I had to explain those positions to anyone from the Middle Ages, the only comprehensible expression would be “High Priests” or “Cardinals”.

Brian Donohue January 13, 2014 at 1:29 pm

You unwittingly raise an interesting point. Why don’t Western feminists put the liberation of women under various obnoxious regimes around the world at the top of their agenda?

Rahul January 13, 2014 at 2:04 pm

Orwell’s reflections on Gandhi might be relevant: “It is difficult to see how Gandhi’s methods could be applied in a country where opponents of the regime disappear in the middle of the night and are never heard of again.”

Mr. McKnuckles January 15, 2014 at 1:44 pm

Odd argument – shouldn’t people who worry about economic freedom put N. Korea at the top of their agenda?

Don’t get all the dislike of feminism here. It’s simply the idea that women should have equal rights to men. Doesn’t mean taking anything away from men.

We live in interesting times January 13, 2014 at 2:12 pm

The American (tampon-earring wearing) shrews are in our faces. Be grateful they’re not in yours.

We live in interesting times January 13, 2014 at 2:29 pm

Maria Shriver Sunday on Meet The Press, via Ann Althouse’s blog:

“…A bit later, Shriver again pairs the idea that women are “the center of the economy” with the assertion that what’s good for women is good for men:

I think women are at the center of our country. They’re at the center, as I said, in electing our political leaders. They’re at the center of the economy. They’re in the center of the family. And when women do well, men do well, and the nation does well. And when women do well, they don’t just support other women doing well, but we support our sons and our daughters….”

Of course this is about power. Power, access & money. Always has been, always will be.

brickbats and adiabats January 13, 2014 at 11:25 am

This is not at all insightful; of course they have an image problem. They know it, too.
see also: http://marketingforhippies.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/562930_10150948881830286_1482827018_n.jpg

CPV January 13, 2014 at 11:27 am

Being “right” and being “effective” are different notions when N > 1.

JWatts January 13, 2014 at 11:29 am

Maybe Activists should try for a “Marginal Revolution” versus a radical revolution. ;)

tylerfan January 13, 2014 at 2:40 pm

the thatcherite TINA line, argued calmly (and phrased as “average is over”), is much more insidiously effective

libert January 13, 2014 at 11:38 am

In other words, ad hominem arguments work.

Marie January 13, 2014 at 12:03 pm

Really?
So when people hear “Tea Party activist” they assume a guy with stubble and no deodorant? Nah, I didn’t think so.

It’s branding, obviously, young progressive activists have a uniform and even if some of them don’t wear it, or even if many of them don’t wear it, that’s the image — up all night drinking coffee changing the world instead of my underwear sort of dedication.

dead serious January 13, 2014 at 1:56 pm

When someone says “Tea Party activist” I picture a foaming at the mouth stupid person who shouts things like “Get Your Government Hands off my Social Security!”

These people are not only mentally off-putting, but visually since they’re always shown angrily clutching misspelled placards and shouting idiotic things.

The Occupy Wall Streeters were generally quiet, but very dirty. The PIRG type people who swing by the house every two years or so are mostly college students.

We live in interesting times January 13, 2014 at 2:19 pm

Just another branding image. After all, after looking at one’s pay stubs for approximately 40 years with the FICA deduction, living through the Social Security wars/tweaks and “lockbox” election rhetoric & almost 80 years of reinforcement & promises, it’s just stupid to think that the government would spend it all and leave IOUs.

dead serious January 13, 2014 at 2:47 pm

Agree. It’s about as ludicrous as the notion that after the largest economic meltdown in the past 80 years, when rampant fraud was taking place and we all knew it, there would be no clawbacks, no perp walks, no real changes in the BAU Wall Street operating model.

We live in interesting times January 13, 2014 at 3:07 pm

Well, the possible total $63 billion from the banks is a start, now I’m just waiting to see what the clawback is from the American citizens.

JWatts January 13, 2014 at 9:04 pm

“When someone says “Tea Party activist” I picture a foaming at the mouth stupid person who shouts things like “Get Your Government Hands off my Social Security!””

“Agree. It’s about as ludicrous as the notion that after the largest economic meltdown in the past 80 years, when rampant fraud was taking place and we all knew it, there would be no clawbacks, no perp walks, no real changes in the BAU Wall Street operating model. ”

The contradiction involved in those two statements is rather amusing.

“Anyone who’s spoken at any length to members of both the Occupy Wall Street and Tea Party movements should have no doubts as to the similarities regarding their respective origins. …At their core, both groups formed in response to populist anger in the wake of the U.S. government’s decision in 2008 to bail out the nation’s largest banks.

Max January 14, 2014 at 5:19 am

Why should there? Most of the big banks got through it without a big failure. Look at deutsche bank or Goldman Sachs. If you never have to pay for your risks your mode of operation will not change. This is what the bail-outs have done.

Jay January 13, 2014 at 12:22 pm

When I hear environmentalist I first think of a terrorist – like someone that would fire a flare gun at a police helicopter – and secondly I think of liars – like someone who would deny there was a flare gun fired at a police helicopter when they knew who fired the flare gun at a police helicopter.

Rachel Thompson – the face of environmentalism.

bellisaurius January 13, 2014 at 12:26 pm

I thought it was common knowledge: The world is not afraid of ____ism, the world is afraid of ____ists.

Anon January 13, 2014 at 2:04 pm

aka PETA problems.

The Anti-Gnostic January 13, 2014 at 2:19 pm

One of the biggest shifts on the Left in recent years is that a lot of environmentalism just is not talked about anymore, and is even considered downright racist. When the Left figured out that things like land and wildlife management and wilderness preserves were on a collision course with open borders and diversity, that’s when the Left moved on to incorporeal concepts like ‘climate change.’

Feminism is a bit different in that there’s never really been a populist element to it. It’s always only been about the First World-problems of higher status women. A good example of this was The Help, which was an excellent telling of how bourgeois women use lower class ethnic minorities to punish their rivals.

IOW, activists don’t have an image problem; they have a substance problem.

Diana January 13, 2014 at 2:24 pm

I think I remember reading somewhere in Henry James’ The Bostonians someone saying, “I’m all for the reforms, but I do wish something could be done about the reformers.”

In other words, it’s an ancient problem.

AndrewL January 13, 2014 at 3:22 pm

Of course a majority of people “agree” with activist message. the question is always “are you for…. the prevention of animal cruelty, or saving the environment” the answer is of course, yes! yes I am for those things!

The question is never: “are you for…. at the cost of:” “are you for: the prevention of animal cruelty at the cost of banning meat and animal products, and outlawing pet ownership” or “saving the environment at the cost of living like North Korea”.

Dan S January 13, 2014 at 3:53 pm

I’m surprised no one has mentioned A Confederacy of Dunces yet. Ignatius’s boss’s wife keeps referring to him as an “activist” to great humorous effect.

mike January 13, 2014 at 8:14 pm

Always a +1 for mention of that wonderful underappreciated novel

JasonL January 13, 2014 at 4:02 pm

People correctly intuit that activists are not to be trusted as sources of information or wise counsel.

Turkey Vulture January 13, 2014 at 4:19 pm

“One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words ‘Socialism’ and ‘Communism’ draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, ‘Nature Cure’ quack, pacifist, and feminist in England.”

- George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier

V January 14, 2014 at 1:45 am

Open borders blogging on Econlog is a great example of this phenomenon. Bryan Caplan (and his colleagues to be fair) voice so many shrill diatribes on the topic of immigration that I sometimes wonder why Steve Sailer just doesnt write Bryan a check given the damage that his cohort does to any reasonable immigration stance.

Max January 14, 2014 at 5:24 am

I don’t think so. The major difference here is that although I have my differences with his stand, I generally respect him because he is polite in his writing.

The best counter example is Krugman. While I enjoy some of his analysis, he is often vile and attacks his enemy’s by badmouthing them. I don’t respect him a lot.

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