Tony Groves

Identity Politics is only as limited as our ability to look at things through the eyes of others. The modern inability to engage with each other, without prejudice, is the hallmark of this age of echo chambers and pseudo intellectualism (myself included).

Mick Fealty, of the excellent Slugger O’Toole, introduced me to a terrific word; askholes. The askhole is an individual who seeks you out, asks your opinion and then promptly ignores it. Brilliant.

When Sally Kohn said “I’m a gay talking head on Fox News” on the Ted Talk Stage she wasn’t saying it as a victory for the Liberals. She wasn’t defending Fox News and the Right Wing media. She wasn’t excusing away the hate mail and tweets that she got.

Sally was railing against political correctness and asking liberals to park their moral superiority; she was talking about what she terms “emotional correctness”.

It is the, all too common, Lefty Liberal habit of being dismissive of anyone who disagrees with them. A situation loosely defined as being “politically right, but emotionally wrong”.

This, she concludes, is why the Conservative Right don’t like Lefty Liberals. It’s why we today have cognitive dissonance on Trump’s “many sides”.

We have people who feel social democracy and progressive values are exclusively the domain of the Left. The fact that an Taoiseach is a Right Wing gay conservative conflicts with the worldview that everyone who marches with a rainbow flag must be a Lefty Liberal.

But that’s not emotional correctness.

The blind spots aren’t the sole domain of the “left. There are hard right economic cliches that stop debate about the best way to tackle social inequality.

Get a Left Wing pre election manifesto, have it fully costed, third party reviewed, and even include a commitment to maintaining the 12.5% Corporation Tax Rate, and watch those on the Right (who haven’t even read it) dismiss it as Lefty Looney Economic Spoofing.

This week the OECD placed Ireland in the top bracket of Tax Transparency and Global Compliance.

Many on the Right, including Brian Hayes MEP, took to twitter to gloat and use this to bash the left. But as a ‘Lefty’, I wasn’t surprised.

Ireland is transparent and becoming positively crystal clear in its tax dealings. Our status as a low tax base for corporations is one of our main selling points globally.

We may as well run an ad.

Small Country, open to trying new things, seeks Corporation for No Strings Attached fun, maybe more. Phone Leo on 1890-LOW-LOW-TAX.

But that’s not emotional correctness.

When elements of the Right express racially abhorrent views about immigration just punching them won’t work. Nor will ignoring them.

Their views must be dragged out into the light, their fears addressed, their hate challenged positively and (where possible) their minds changed. That’s a lot easier to type than to do.

There is so much pushback masquerading as Centrism. We have pro-government Think-Pieces expressing outrage about the outrage of those let down by the government.

We have a Taoiseach who, when asked about the homelessness crisis, went on an ad hominem attack rather than answering the question.

We have powerful influential people who call themselves Centrists, and the only Centre they know is Dundrum Town. We could call them the Alt-Centrist, but that’s not emotionally correct.

There are mobs on “many sides”; high moral ground lefty loonies, far right tiki torch waving nuts and every hue in between. I’m not making false equivalences between any of them. There’s no need for finger pointing and chest thumping. Ad hominem attacks aren’t just a song on the Muppets.

We have countercultures bumping up against countercultures, that are fighting with their own subcultures. Honestly, if we each agreed to host a homeless person in our own little bubble then the crisis would evaporate overnight.

But that’s not emotional correctness.

So when we engage with, or raise our noses in displeasure against, the ‘other side’, try keeping it emotionally correct and leave your sense of political correctness in your pocket. If an idea is contrary to your group-think, ask yourself are you more groupie than thinky.

Try to find that common ground. Look for the areas where your Values Venn Diagrams overlap, and be optimistic. Always bear in mind that we risk becoming that thing we set out to defeat if we don’t engage at all.

Finally, if you can’t spot the Askhole in the room, it’s probably you.

Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly aTrickstersworld

Previously: Tony Groves on Broadsheet

30 thoughts on “Askholes

  1. Nigel

    Hand on, hang on. The right has elected Trump in America, where Nazis and the KKK are marching openly, flung the UK screaming headfirst into Brexit, and a centre right government here is abysmally failing to address, just one example off the top of my head, an appalling homelessness crisis, but let’s focus on what ‘lefty liberals are supposedly doing wrong. And it’s not about a lack of leadership or a failure to effectively pull together what seems to be a huge youth-driven grass-roots opposition to the likes of Trump, Brexit and FG/FF into an effective political force, but an inability to, oh my God wait for it, to get right-wing conservatives (who voted for Trump, Brexit and FG/FF) to LIKE them?

    1. Padraig

      Trump was elected in the US in part due to financial pressures, in part due to identity politics, and you could see it coming. America has always had the KKK and plastic-neo-nazis – if you ignore the troglodytes they soon return to their crusted abodes.

      The neo-left (not the traditional left that died out back in the 50’s-60’s) are driving more and more people to hold neo-right views (not traditional political right views, commerce, small State etc) but hard rightism. We ought to separate US dogma from our commentary, as not only is it irrelevant to Ireland it is toxic and spreading like a virus.

      You speak of plastic-nazis walking but ignore groups like ANTIFA and that other group that I cannot think of. This is the hypocrisy of the left. Full of emotive bluster and hypocrisy, let’s drop the ‘neo’leftism’

      Immigration has a net positive to society, however, for every positive, there is a negative. The notion that racism is the only precursor to the Brexit and the rise of Trump is not only ludicrous it negates that inequality and market pressures underpinning those very manifestations. Brexit was as much about inequality, the destruction of the middle class, and two fingers to the EU as it was about immigration. It does not matter where we look in an economic frame; inequality has accelerated over the last 30 years. Over 80% of all Americans, have gone backwards over the past thirty years, not forward. It is a similar context in the UK, it is widely studied, written about, it is one of the core problems of our times. The effects of inequality create erosion throughout society. Inequality manifests as a breakdown of social trust, causes friction that can lead to a decay in the family unit, and racism amongst many other challenges.

      Brexit was one big pressure cooker of economic and social concerns that blew the safety valve. The go to Patsy was racism while allowing the British government, a get out of jail free card, on the issues that are the real pressure points of the electorate. Inequality, unaffordable housing, lack of publicly owned services. The skyrocketing cost of living, removing of democratic processes and civil liberties, austerity.

      1. Tony Groves

        I think we agree on much, P.
        Our disagreements on the weight we place on the threat from the “far right” and the “lefty snowflakes”.
        All in all you make an excellent summation of all the ingredients that went into the Brexit soup.

      2. Nigel

        You see? This guy just blamed the stupid decisions of the right in the US on… the left. As for Brexit, it was driven by a xenophobic far-right and it was still a stupid decision. There may be lots of ways in which being outside the EU would be of benefit to the UK, but Brexit is a car-crash. Meanwhile, the KKK are deeply, historically baked into the fabric of the US, they’re sort of merging with alt-right Nazis, and even though still fringey, Trump seems to regard them as a core part of his base and they regard him as their guy. The idea that it’s lefty identity politics that’s the problem when the right are kicking up a storm over statues that are more monuments to Jim Crow and anti-civil rights, representing the older, deeper, white supremacist current of identity politics that has dominated the US since its inception is ridiculous. And no, we don’t have much of that here, yet, and I would prefer to keep it that way, and admonishing the liberal left for not trying to find common ground with political opponents when the problem seems to be organisational and leadership dysfunctions that prevents lefty liberals from approaching any common ground from a position of strength ain’t gonna help.

        1. Padraig

          America. We begin the journey to Trump via a country that play’s to corporatism, war, and the very last thing on their list, their people as a whole. When America (and many other countries) started offshoring manufacturing, we began the rust-belt, rust. When Arlie Russell a Sociologist travelled through what would eventually become Trumpland, she noted the desperation and the broad demographic of people. Unrepresented, forgotten about, that would become one of Trump’s voting bases. She noted that the majority of these people were not racists or other pejorative labels that are so often festooned on people, just average people that cannot make ends meet.

          It would seem to me we are spending too much time trying to understand the symptoms of the disease while ignoring the festering disease. Trump, Brexit, mass migration, the rise of racism, nationalism, these are all symptoms of underlying issues. Calling millions of people racists when they have seen their communities die when they cannot find employment, or afford to send their children to third level education; is shallow.

          Blue collar has become a dirty word, honest worker; we don’t speak for you. We are the parties of the professionals, the trendy ‘Hipster’ Creative in pointed shoes. We don’t understand your needs, wants or desires and frankly, we don’t care. However, when you come together, use the power of the vote we will label you xenophobic, bigots, the great uneducated and unwashed. We will continue to ignore and marginalise you, and we will sit back wondering how did it come to this while sipping soy lattes and carrying out designer dogs.

          1. Nigel

            They, if indeed the demographic of his electorate is as you describe since many of the people who voted for him were apparently well-off middle-class non-college educated, voted for TRUMP to solve all those problems you describe. Trump. It isn’t as if he ever made the slightest effort to hide exactly what a con-man he is. Maybe they should be treated like actual adults and required to take some responsibility for that decision rather than incessantly mytholigised, pandered to and infantilised by blaming… hipsters with shoes and lattes and dogs? WTF?

            (Nice ‘racism is on the rise how dare you call people racist’ bit in the middle, though.)

          2. Padraig

            I cooked this earlier, I keep it on hand for people that have a love affair of “racism” and other -ism’s

            The trouble with -isms is the propensity to create divides in the want of compartmentalising people, stick it in a box and add a label. We throw around words like ‘feminist’ or ‘racist’ because they are provocative, emotive, and recognisable, but, in doing so, we fail to realise the binary we have created, in which you are either feminist or anti-feminist, racist or tolerant, liberal or conservative. It is similar to the ambiguity a PC culture entails. A form of self-discipline which does not allow the overcoming of things like racism, creating an oppressed, controlled racism instead.

            It does not mean we should discount -isms but rather look at action over the obsession of defining the other. Again, it creates an ambiguity, where we lose the understanding only finding the difference, or pointing at the other instead of continuous learning. -isms exist only in a sense in how we construct them, as with the variance of people so too is that construction. Each -ism is basically a construct of inconsistent claims. As unique as the person each deconstruction unbinds creating controversy and disagreement. Due to the inconsistency of -isms, there cannot be an exact nature of any -ism, truth and understanding are unique to each person, a relativity of realism in the mind of the person defining the -ism. When we have inconsistency, we have relativism in meaning which transpires there can be no resolution.

            Defining by -ism is forcing an ideological commitment and thus finding the constraint of pigeonholing.

          3. Nigel

            That is, indeed, half-baked, and comes across as the not very coherent ramblings of a young student who is himself fully baked. Discoursing on the evil of -isms without addressing the realities to which these terms are a response, a defense and a tool with which to recognise and deal with, is unmoored from any meaningful context. The tendency to label things in order to try to understand them is universal amongst humanity, it is a cognitive procedure we all engage in, and while it has obvious dangers and limitations, it also has definite practical uses, and to base your entire critique on it is to criticise people for breathing.

          4. Sheik Yahbouti

            Just keep chanting “Loony Leftie” or my personal favourite “Libtard”. That should ensure an entree to “High Society “.

          5. MKG985

            Yes there is a a rise in white nationalism.
            Yes there is liberal arrogance on the left.
            These are not comparable.
            At a guess the risk of getting killed by liberal arrogance is a tiny fraction of getting killed by the 8% of Americans who identify themselves as white nationalists.

            A Snowflake

          6. Padraig

            So once again, you feel the need to be provocative.

            You have managed to embody Tony’s entire point, so congratulations on that.

            I will give you the benefit of the doubt and see if you can comprehend what incubating factors are.

            Compounding the effects of neoliberalism ideology is on a macroeconomic level successive Governments have targeted inflation. What we see play out as in the time of Keynesian Policy is another representation of the Lucas Critique. We now have a situation in which 3 trillion euros have been dumped into the money supply through quantitative easing, and it has not caused inflation. When banks have been bailed out, basically taken over by the Government, however, the debt, saddled to the people in Austerity politics. Exacerbate this with the downward pressure on labour markets through a single currency, and you have all you need to create depressed markets and very depressed people. It is why if we look to America, the Rust Belt, it is very much a financial position that gave Trump ears and votes. (Regardless if he can actually do anything about it.) In Europe, it has become Germany, versus the rest of the Eurozone.

            Putnam would call it the decline of Social Capital, I prefer the term Demographic Rust. I highlight the problems that started with neoliberalism, how our Western World through thirty plus years of broken economic policy has delivered inequality, financial crisis and an erosion of institutional trust.

            Inequality is where the rust starts then it spreads like cancer. It begins eating away at our community structures. Crime, substance abuse, marriage breakdown, marrying later, racism and bigotry, these are just a few of adverse outcomes from inequality, lack of financial stability, an outlook to a not so bright future.

            You seem to like using -isms which do nothing to understand people or socioeconomic pressures. Personally, I prefer to look at problems from the eyes of other people; with some irony what the entire article is about.

          7. Clampers Outside!

            Well said Padraig.

            And a nice job responding to Nigel’s wanton love of -ism’s.

            I would class this bit as classic Nigel – “(Nice ‘racism is on the rise how dare you call people racist’ bit in the middle, though.)”
            An example of Nigel’s often intentional misreading of what you (or other commenters) said, which was in this case, as far as I can see quite clearly…
            That racism is on the rise, but labeling entire groups, such as, all Trump supporters, as racists is “shallow”.

            How one goes from that to… “racism is on the rise how dare you call people racist”, is beyond me…

            His attempts at making it look like people say other than that they have written is consistent with his love of accusation.
            It can be fun though :)

          8. Nigel

            I’m going to take issue with your analysis to the extent that racism, bigotry and inequality have been around a lot longer than thirty years, and that racism and bigotry do as much to enforce and increase inequality as the economic issues you describe, I would also note that marriage breakdown and marrying later are NOT equivalent to each other, and, though the former might be tragic on an individual level, they are also NOT equivalent to the other ‘cancers’ you describe, but represent net increases in personal and economic freedom.

            I would also question your commitment to understanding ‘people,’ given your apparently overwhelming need to promote empathy for Trump voters while limiting your awareness of non-Trump voters to latte-sipping dog-owning hipsters.

            You seem to be dumping a lot of stuff indiscriminately into a pot called ‘economics’ and stirring it furiously, which is not to say these elements do not interact in meaningful ways. Nonetheless I can’t quite shake the impression that this is all in service to letting Trump voters and Leavers off the hook for their choices, effectively blaming liberal lefties for ‘making them do it’ just because they notice stuff like racism etc. It isn’t as if all the economic issues don’t effect non-Trump voters, Remainers, and people who don’t vote for FG/FF.

          9. Padraig

            I will keep this short as my middle aged spread has an appointment with the gym.

            Why the 30 odd year analysis?

            From 1945 through to 1975, Governments concentrated on the full employment model or Keynesian economics. You may or may not have heard of the Lucas Critique. It states that economic policy is open to gaming; there is always a sector that will use to suit their needs. In the case of the Keynesian model, Unions & Employers will and did leverage the system. (which is where Thatcher famously snapped open her handbag, pulled out a dog-eared book, and slammed it on the table. “This is what we believe,” she said. A political revolution that would sweep the world had begun. The book was The Constitution of Liberty by Frederick Hayek.” The ideology was neoliberalism.

            Neoliberalism is a perverted stretching of Adam Smith’s idea of rational self-interest and competition about as far as it can be stretched, stating that “only the mechanism by which the free market determines prices allows the optimal organisation of the means of production and leads to the maximal satisfaction of human needs”. In a nutshell, it places individuals as consumers at the bottom of the food chain with corporations their rightful rulers.

            So with the Unions and the employers gaining much more influence than the desired creating a rise in inflation which in turn did no favours for the creditor class or the financial sector. So they decided to take on the ideas of Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek who in 1938 had coined the term ‘neoliberalism.’ What would become known as ‘Thatcherism.’ It was a programme of deregulating the banks, globalising the labour market, (no longer could you use your strike action as your job could just be offshored, and it was) “Maybe you remember the famous Pink Floyd song, Post War Dream. “If it weren’t for the nips being so good at building ships the yards would still be open on the Clyde Oh Maggie Maggie what are we to do?” – Selling off or privatising state based systems, creating an integrated global economy. Reagan, Thatcher, and Hawke all ran with this. People have realised that for the past thirty years from 1985 onwards, massive amounts of money has been made, but these have all been passed upwards to an infinitesimally small number of people.

            A recent study by Funke et al., a statistical analysis from 1870 to 2014 of how we respond to financial crisis found that political parties of the far-right increased their vote base by 30%. When we start to look at thirty plus years of economic policy, as introduced by Thatcher in the UK, Regan in the US and Hawke in Australia, we begin to draw a picture of compounding problems. By analysing historical data can provide us with a much better methodology for understanding how to avoid the worst parts of history. We know inequality is a breeding ground of social disease. By looking at the data, we see a rise in inequality and financial strain increases crime, substance abuse; it eats away at our communities interconnecting fibres.

            You say ‘letting Trump voters off the hook’ implying a need for punishment; that, in itself, displays a lack of understanding other people.

            You ask why I concentrate on financial pressures, well, it is because they are the largest catalyst for social disease.

            Can I suggest some light reading

            The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better by Richard G. Wilkinson and Kate Pickett.

            Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea by Mark Blyth

            The City: London and the Global Power of Finance by Tony Norfield

            Ages of Discord Paperback by Peter Turchin

            Living in the End Times by Slavoj Žižek

            Now I have to go, and thank you for your engagement I will check the thread later.

          10. Nigel

            Padraig, I must say I find your economic analysis fascinating and challenging, thank you for taking the time to lay it out. I cheerfully concede your superior expertise on the subject, and look forward to reading more of your commentary on the subject.

            On the issue of punishing Trump voters, God no, I don’t want anyone punished, My concerns on that subject are entirely limited to the area of commentary and analysis, and a preference that, when commenting and analysing, Trump voters (and Leavers) be held responsible for what they did, and that blame not be deflected to liberals or SJWs or whatever (which is NOT to say that liberals and SJWs or whatever are without fault.) Unfortunately, I suspect they and a lot of people will be punished, but by Trump, (and Brexit) and a way will be found to blame liberals and SJWs or whatever.

            Thanks for the reading list, and good luck in the gym.

          11. Padraig

            You are more than welcome Nigel, and I apologise for being somewhat fork-tongued in parts. I cannot take credit for financial analysis, a great deal of my understanding comes from Mark Blyth, Wolfgang Streeck & Peter Turchin. Cultural evolution/sociology/history is my bag.

            In my humble opinion, we are quite screwed, as we have an inability en masse to produce good thought. ‘A Person Is Smart; People Are Dumb’ herein lies our Achilles Heel. It is too easy to manipulate people as the average person has no time (or want) in many cases for a broad understanding of subjects.

            Look at a classic debate – pro-life versus pro-choice –

            No society that kills their offspring is a good thing, and we see some shocking ‘propaganda’ used by both sides. However, when was the last time you saw someone bring up the problem of ‘nurture’ – If we want fewer abortions we need to fix the issues associated with the breaking down of nurture. This does feed back into breaking down of the family unit, marrying later, etc. You are correct in people marrying later can be contributed to some extent with more freedoms and less dogma based ‘expectations.’ Yet, that does not answer the entire problem. We also have a sticky wicket that with our female folk having more freedom and ability to pursue their own careers has not turned into a higher level of happiness, quite the opposite.

            We have a foundational problem with our societies, and I am of the opinion it all returns to financial pressures and the breaking down of community spirit. If you are not aware of the book Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community by Robert Putnam (and his other follow on books for that matter) I highly recommend it.

            In Ireland, we see some of our modern issues, not always to the same extent as the US/UK/AUS etc., and we do have a higher level of community here, helped by our small size (and maybe the pub culture which is becoming the gym culture for many)

            Many moons ago when I first went to University, we would be thrown onto the opposite side of the debate team than we were comfortable with. Nevermind the debate team is not almost gone; we go out of our way to insulate youth from ‘upsetting ideas.’ Couple that with the Internet that has divided not brought together (as it was suggested it would) and we can explain many of today’s problems.

            We don’t need to stop the wheel from turning many countries do not have the issues many Western ones have; we just need to reevaluate what [is important] for society, communities, our cultural soup if you like.

            I know that is all somewhat off topic, but it just came out for some reason.

      3. snowey

        Padraig- hats off to you on your commentary.
        It’s well written and validates my view on the world so hoorah.

        1. Padraig

          Thank you Snowey.

          I live in hope we can find a negotiation table over partisan groups of people shouting abuse and throwing bottles of urine at each other.

  2. petey

    “The fact that an Taoiseach is a Right Wing gay conservative conflicts with the worldview that everyone who marches with a rainbow flag must be a Lefty Liberal.”

    the problem with theTaoiseach is that his economic policies are vicious. the worldview you speak of exists only in your own mind.

    1. Gorev Mahagut

      I’d echo this. I’ve never met anyone who actually holds this “worldview”, outside of newspaper subs looking for some kind of “angle” to put in a headline.

      That said, most self-proclaimed “left liberals” are economic conservatives. Outside of a few pet progressive issues (usually important issues, in fairness), they do all right from the status quo and don’t want things to change. They might bemoan the fate of the poor but they don’t want to make systemic sacrifices to help them, let along live on the same street as them.

    2. Clampers Outside!

      What !

      Wrong thinkin’ gays!?

      I never!

      It’s 2017! All the gays are left, everyone knows that!

      *waves right hand in a badly camp manner, as if it meant something*


      Damn gays!

      Not thinkin’ like they supposed to!

      Thinkin’ for themselves!

      Like individuals…

      Next they’ll be free of the group think !

      To the panti-mobile ! …and away !

    3. martco

      +1 petey

      after reading the majority of this discussion I was about to launch into a “oh ffjs spare me this intellectual highbrow noise because I have better things to be doing with my time than going off to read these outer space highbrow level economic arguments when I already know that the reason this country is in the unfair state it is in today is because a Tory party and its vested interests are in control of policy implementation and what I need to do is make sure I use my vote at the next available opportunity to force a change of direction” tirade but you already put it a lot better than I ever could!

      It’s really simple, it doesn’t take complex economic boll__ks to know how to treat your fellow man with fairness and respect (or tell the truth for that matter)

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