Self Help

Grandstanding - Justin Tosi;Brandon Warmke;

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Matheus Puppe

· 34 min read

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Here is a summary of the book “Grandstanding: The Use and Abuse of Moral Talk” by Justin Tosi and Brandon Warmke:

  • The book aims to diagnose why public moral discourse is often characterized by “bad behavior”. It argues that much of this is due to the phenomenon of “moral grandstanding” - using moral talk for purposes of self-promotion rather than to actually engage with moral issues.

  • Grandstanding is described and examples are provided. The social and psychological incentives for grandstanding are discussed, drawing on evidence from social sciences.

  • Three chapters analyze why grandstanding is a moral problem according to the major theories of consequentialism, deontology, and virtue ethics. It has bad social consequences, fails to treat people with proper respect, and is not virtuous behavior.

  • Politics is discussed as particularly prone to grandstanding, as moral stances can be used for partisan purposes. Possible ways to address grandstanding and improve public moral discourse are explored.

  • The book draws on the authors’ research and analysis over several years. It received feedback from philosophy and social science academics. While acknowledging the internet exacerbates some issues, the core problem of grandstanding in moral talk predates modern technology.

  • The introduction draws a comparison between harmful behavior among children (bullying, ganging up, threats) and similar behaviors seen in some adult public discourse and online interactions about morality and politics.

  • Moral talk refers to communication about moral issues like justice, rights, good and bad behavior. It can be valuable when used carefully to discuss important issues, but is sometimes used irresponsibly to humiliate, threaten or feel better about oneself.

  • Some see moral talk as always admirable when used by their side, like it is magic that transforms harmful behavior. But moral talk is not magic - one cannot treat others badly just by invoking moral or sacred words, or by claiming to care about an issue.

  • When moral talk is abused, it turns tools meant to help people against them and can discourage others from engaging in moral discussion at all. But apparently many do not see the downsides of abusing moral talk in this way.

The passage introduces the concept of moral grandstanding - using moral talk for self-promotion rather than to help improve oneself or society. Some key points:

  • Moral talk should aim to make people and society better, but it can be abused if used for vanity or one-upping others.

  • Examples of possible grandstanding are given, like Harvey Weinstein defending himself by mentioning political causes, or Roy Moore repeatedly taking controversial moral stances.

  • Grandstanding is commonly seen in politics and media as people try to prove they are on the “right side of history”. Public discourse has become a “war of moral one-upmanship”.

  • The book aims to get readers to reflect on whether their own moral talk is genuinely helping others or just trying to look good. It will explain what constitutes grandstanding and address potential doubts about how common/problematic it really is.

  • The goal is to spur progress in debates around grandstanding, not create drama, by clarifying concepts and giving an honest assessment of when moral talk can go wrong.

So in summary, it introduces the concept of moral grandstanding and aims to analyze it objectively to improve public moral discourse, not inflame existing divisions.

  • The passage argues that people often engage in “moral grandstanding”, which involves trying to impress others with one’s moral qualities through public moral discourse or expression.

  • The goal of moral grandstanding is the “recognition desire” - grandstanders want to be seen as morally respectable/impressive by others. They may want admiration, respect, or to be seen as morally better than others.

  • Grandstanders try to fulfill the recognition desire through “grandstanding expressions” - saying or doing something publicly to display their moral qualities and get recognition from others.

  • Examples of what grandstanders may want recognition for include their moral beliefs, sensitivity to issues, priorities, or insights into solving problems.

  • Grandstanding can be seen as a way to attain “prestige” social status by getting others to think well of one’s moral qualities, rather than “dominance” status through coercion or fear.

  • The passage provides this framework to define and analyze the phenomenon of moral grandstanding. It argues people often engage in it seeking recognition and status from public displays of their morality.

The passage discusses the concepts of prestige and dominance, which can help understand what motivates grandstanding. Grandstanders seek to elevate their social status or standing, either through prestige or dominance. Those seeking prestige want a reputation for strong moral qualities in order to gain deference from others. Those seeking dominance use moral talk to shame, silence, or humiliate others so they can feel domination.

Empirical research has found grandstanding can serve prestige functions, like wanting one’s beliefs to inspire others, or dominance functions, like sharing beliefs to make disagreeing people feel bad. Grandstanders may aim to impress members of their own “in-group” with similar views, or try to make an “out-group” see them as morally respectable to gain deference in debates. Dominance grandstanding is more likely targeted at out-groups.

When grandstanding, people express something - their “grandstanding expression” - through speech or writing to get others to see them as morally exceptional. While the desire for recognition doesn’t have to be the sole motive, it must be strong enough that failing to impress others would lead to disappointment. Grandstanders use indirect language in their expressions rather than directly stating their moral greatness, to maintain plausible deniability and avoid social proscriptions against boasting.

  • Grandstanders use indirect or ambiguous language like “As someone who has long fought for the poor…” instead of more direct statements like “I am the most morally sensitive person here…“. This allows them to deny they are grandstanding even though their intent is obvious from context.

  • Indirect language provides some cover even when grandstanding is obvious from context. It is harder to prove grandstanding without contextual clues about the speaker’s motives and intentions.

  • Not all grandstanding is done consciously or wittingly. People may engage in behavior that satisfies their desire to be seen as morally virtuous without consciously thinking “I want to impress people with how moral I am.” It can be an unwitting way of impression management.

  • Grandstanders likely believe they really are as morally superior as they want others to perceive them. Psychological research shows people exhibit strong “moral self-enhancement bias” and tend to see themselves as more virtuous than average. This inflated self-view motivates grandstanding behavior.

In summary, grandstanders use indirect language as a way to deny their intent but still satisfy their desire to be seen as morally exceptional, even if they are not fully aware of their own motives in some cases due to psychological biases like moral self-enhancement. Context is still important to identify grandstanding behavior.

Here are the key points about grandstanding based on the summary:

  • Grandstanding refers to making public moral pronouncements or declarations in order to gain status, prestige or attention for oneself.

  • People who grandstand often explain that they are simply standing up for moral issues like helping the poor or oppressed. But underlying motivations may actually be self-serving desires for moral prestige.

  • We often confabulate or rationalize our own motivations in a self-flattering way without fully realizing our true underlying motivations, which can include desires for status or attention.

  • Grandstanding works partly because we assume others are presenting themselves accurately. But hypocrisy or inconsistencies between words and actions can undermine grandstanding efforts.

  • Grandstanding is more likely to succeed when the moral values expressed align with the audience’s beliefs, and less likely to work on those with differing beliefs.

So in summary, grandstanding involves using public moral talk for self-serving status purposes in ways we may not fully recognize due to self-deception about our own motivations. It sometimes succeeds at improving one’s reputation but can backfire in the face of hypocrisy or with ideologically opposed audiences.

  • Meryl Streep made a speech at the Golden Globes criticizing Donald Trump’s election and rhetoric. This speech divided people based on their political views.

  • Those who already agreed with Streep’s progressive values and views of Trump thought she was courageously taking a stand. Others in Hollywood praised her speech on social media.

  • However, those who strongly disagreed with Streep’s views saw her speech as “moralizing hypocrisy” typical of Hollywood.

  • The divergent reactions show that audiences are more impressed by grandstanding when they already agree with the speaker’s views. People are less impressed when they disagree with the views being expressed.

  • The authors argue that accusations of grandstanding have disproportionately targeted the political left, but grandstanding exists across the political spectrum. Their research found no link between partisan affiliation and grandstanding. However, those with more extreme political views may be more likely to grandstand for prestige.

  • In summary, grandstanding is a widespread behavior that cannot simply be dismissed as a “left-wing problem.” Both sides of the political spectrum engage in it.

Here are the key points about “piling on” as a form of grandstanding:

  • It occurs when people contribute to public moral discourse simply to proclaim their agreement with something that has already been said by others.

  • They are essentially just jumping in to “get in on the action” or signal that they are on the “right side” of an issue, without adding anything new to the discussion.

  • Some common ways people pile on include rehashing or repeating verbatim someone else’s earlier remark, stating simple agreement (e.g. “Yeah!”), or making a minimally modified restatement of the earlier point.

  • It prolongs and clogs up discussions unnecessarily by having people repeat ideas that have already been expressed. The goal is for the person piling on to be seen as inclusive and aligned with the prevailing view, rather than substantially contributing.

  • Psychologically, piling on satisfies the grandstander’s desire to be perceived as a member of the group or coalition taking a certain moral stance, without requiring them to put in much original thought or effort beyond a quick statement of solidarity.

So in summary, “piling on” describes contributing redundantly to moral discussions primarily to signal one’s agreement or affiliation, rather than add meaningful new content or perspectives. It’s a form of easy moral grandstanding.

The passage discusses the concept of “piling on” or adding one’s voice to a group condemnation of something or someone, even when it doesn’t meaningfully contribute to the discussion.

It argues that piling on is a form of grandstanding, where people speak out publicly to signal their moral values and show alignment with their social group. Several social psychology concepts are discussed that help explain piling on behavior:

  • Conformity studies show people will align their stated views with the majority to avoid standing out, even if they privately disagree.

  • Further experiments found people will punish those who deviate from the publicly stated group view, to convince others of their sincere belief, even when they privately disagree.

  • The need to conform and fit in is stronger for new group members or those whose identity is tied to the group. Deviating risks becoming a “black sheep” that the group judges more harshly.

  • So piling on allows people to clearly signal their values and avoid criticism, even if privately uncertain, by reinforcing the group view and punishing perceived deviants. This can create self-reinforcing dynamics where public opinion spirals further than private beliefs.

The passage uses examples of online pile-ons and call-out culture to illustrate these concepts in practice.

The passage discusses the problem of grandstanding in solidarity statements and moral discourse. It defines grandstanding as being primarily motivated by a desire for recognition of one’s moral view, rather than a desire to truly help others.

Grandstanding often takes the form of “ramping up” or making increasingly strong claims in moral discussions, not to arrive at the truth but to appear more morally impressive than others. This can cause discussions to escalate unproductively.

The passage also introduces the concept of “trumping up”, which is making spurious or exaggerated claims about a moral problem where none truly exists. This allows grandstanders to present themselves as extremely sensitive or pure on moral issues.

Overall, the key points are that grandstanding involves prioritizing recognition of one’s moral views over substance, and it often manifests through strategic behaviors like ramping up or trumping up claims in discussions to appear morally superior to others.

  • Grandstanding often involves trumping up moral issues by taking non-moral issues and presenting them as moral problems to attract attention. This is like an invasive species that spreads unchecked.

  • Expressing strong emotions like outrage is another common form of grandstanding. People perceive those who are more emotionally aroused as having deeper moral convictions on issues.

  • Social media has given more opportunities for outrage expression. Studies find outrage is commonly expressed in partisan media.

  • Research shows our strongest moral attitudes tend to provoke greater emotional reactions. Grandstanders can exploit this by displaying outrage to signal the strength of their moral views to others.

  • However, outrage expression is not always driven by a pure desire to identify injustice. People may express outrage to alleviate their own guilt over complicity in issues, or to manage their reputation by distancing themselves from wrongdoers.

Here are the key social costs of grandstanding discussed in the summary:

  • It reduces honest, productive debate. Grandstanding is more about political theater than honest deliberation.

  • It promotes nasty exchanges and partisan hackery rather than respectful discussion across ideological lines.

  • It prioritizes self-righteous preening over finding truth or solutions. People are focused on appearing morally superior rather than addressing issues.

  • It stretches or distorts the truth to score rhetorical points rather than have an honest exchange of ideas.

  • It undermines the credibility of public discourse and discussion forums when grandstanding becomes the norm rather than substantive engagement.

  • More broadly, grandstanding fails to deliver the benefits that people expect from public debate - like making progress on important issues through thoughtful deliberation across perspectives.

So in summary, the social costs are that it replaces honest, solutions-oriented debate with shallow political theater focused on appearances rather than truth or progress. This damages the credibility and usefulness of public discourse.

  • Grandstanding refers to using moral language and claims publicly to promote oneself rather than having a sincere discussion.

  • Grandstanding can cause social costs like polarization, cynicism, and outrage fatigue.

  • Polarization means splitting people into opposing sides rather than having overlap in views. American politics has become more polarized over time with liberals and conservatives holding more extreme and opposing views.

  • Grandstanding contributes to polarization through mechanisms like group polarization and reputation preservation. When groups discuss issues, their views can become more extreme as members compete to outdo each other and preserve their moral reputation, rather than finding common ground.

  • Polarization driven by grandstanding is problematic because it can lead people to hold false beliefs and be overconfident in beliefs as they move further from opposing views rather than evaluating evidence. This undermines compromise.

So in summary, grandstanding is presented as having real social costs like increased polarization as people strategically adopt more extreme views for reputation rather than truth-seeking, which can undermine reasonable discourse and compromise.

  • Grandstanding-driven polarization tends to cause people to have false beliefs because the incentives of competitive grandstanding focus on ramping up extreme positions and trumping others, rather than discovering the truth.

  • Grandstanding resembles a Cold War-style arms race where the goal is to impress others with how extreme one’s position is, rather than arriving at an objectively correct stance.

  • Examples are given of politicians taking extremely polarized and exaggerated positions in order to show their opposition or support on an issue in the strongest moral terms possible through grandstanding.

  • However, extremely polarized positions arrived at through competitive grandstanding are unlikely to track the truth. If extreme views turn out to be correct, it would be by chance against the odds.

  • Grandstanding polarization leads people to have wildly mistaken beliefs about both the opposing side and their own side in politics. This widespread political ignorance is problematic for democracy.

  • People also become overly confident in their polarized views as a result of grandstanding, making those views resistant to correction even if they are wrong. This imposes costs on society.

  • Over time, observing Grandstanding behavior can also breed cynicism about politicians’ and public figures’ true motives for taking policy stances or making public statements.

  • Grandstanding, or making public moral statements mainly to boost one’s image rather than promote justice, leads to cynicism about moral discourse.

  • When people observe obvious instances of grandstanding like hypocrisy, it causes skepticism about the sincerity of moral talk in general.

  • Even without obvious proof, the knowledge that grandstanding happens and is hard to detect creates “naïve cynicism” - an expectation that others are more selfishly motivated than they are.

  • News media that focuses on politics as a game also increases cynicism.

  • Too much cynicism devalues moral discourse and makes it less useful for promoting important causes. It makes moral statements more likely to inspire eye rolls than serious consideration.

  • While some cynicism may be warranted, grandstanding-driven cynicism uniquely harms society by undermining moral talk, which is needed for public debate and making moral complaints.

  • Even if studying grandstanding increases cynicism in some, it is intended to shed light on an issue many already recognize and make moral arguments against it. Any increased cynicism would be small compared to what grandstanding itself causes.

So in summary, the passage argues that grandstanding harms public discourse by promoting excessive cynicism about moral and political language.

  • Outrage can be effectively used to motivate people to address serious problems in the world. However, overusing outrage dilutes its power and impact.

  • “Grandstanders” abuse outrage by displaying it indiscriminately over minor issues just to portray themselves as morally pure. This devalues outrage and causes “outrage exhaustion” in others.

  • When outrage is used constantly for petty issues, it loses its ability to signal that a truly serious injustice has occurred. People become habituated to outrage and can no longer muster an appropriate level of outrage for real problems.

  • Seeking outrage for self-satisfaction and virtue-signaling follows the “law of diminishing marginal utility” - additional outrage becomes less satisfying over time. This reduces people’s willingness and ability to feel and act on outrage when needed.

  • Overusing outrage as a way to vent emotions can satisfy people’s anger, reducing their motivation to take meaningful actions to address injustice. Outrage is a scarce resource that should be used sparingly and selectively for important issues. Grandstanding risks depleting this resource.

  • Many people have little tolerance for constant displays of anger and outrage online, as moral accusations and condemnation tend to be “rather repugnant.”

  • Surveys have found that social media users are worn out by political content, find political discussions online angrier and less civil than offline conversations, and have unfriended or blocked people due to political posts.

  • Political moderates in particular are checking out of online political discussions, leaving discourse dominated by extremists. This polarization is problematic.

  • People avoid discussions for fear of social isolation - being targeted as a social pariah if they express unpopular views. This “spiral of silence” effect shrinks the domain of public discourse.

  • While grandstanding may allow people to signal their values to others, its costs like outrage exhaustion, polarization and moderates checking out of discussions outweigh any benefits. Cooperation and trustworthiness are better signaled through everyday actions rather than moral condemnation.

In summary, the article argues that constant displays of anger and moral condemnation online, or “grandstanding,” have significant social costs in polarizing discourse and isolating moderates, outweighing any benefits of signaling values to others.

  • Grandstanding can disrespect others by using them for the purpose of showcasing or demonstrating one’s own moral virtues or qualities. This is called “showcasing”.

  • Showcasing involves publicly using or targeting others for their real or imagined moral failures or mistakes in order to display how morally righteous or superior the grandstander is.

  • Even if the target has done something wrong, showcasing is still disrespectful because it treats people primarily as means to promote the grandstander’s reputation, rather than caring about the target as an end in themselves.

  • Showcasers are not likely to accurately identify only truly guilty targets, since their motivation is self-promotion rather than getting at the truth. Innocent people may get wrongly targeted as well.

  • Overall, grandstanding through showcasing takes advantage of and disrespects others by improperly using them in moral performances designed to glorify the grandstander, rather than respecting them as individuals deserving of dignity.

  • Groups do not always make the morally correct assessment or response to moral problems, even if they have good values. Life is complicated and groups can disagree on how values apply in particular cases.

  • No individual or group is infallible in discovering moral truth. People feel pressure to conform their judgments to what others think. Since groups make mistakes, individuals trying to impress groups will often end up targeting innocent people.

  • Showcasing (publicly calling out others for moral failings to impress one’s group) is likely to blame and shame innocent people by mistake. It is disrespectful to target people this way without being confident they deserve it.

  • Even when the target is truly guilty, showcasing tends to involve ramping up blame disproportionately to gain social status. It contributes to pile-ons where many people collectively shame the target far beyond what they deserve.

  • The motivation behind showcasing, to gain status rather than properly address a moral wrong, makes it wrong even if the target happens to be guilty. Morality should not be used as a convenient excuse to take out emotions on others.

  • Grandstanding, like lying, can be deceptive because it aims to portray an inaccurate impression of oneself to others.

  • Lying is wrong because it deceives people and fails to treat them with equal respect. By lying, you manipulate people for your own benefit rather than considering their interests.

  • Grandstanding can also deceive and manipulate people unintentionally. Research shows people tend to see themselves as more morally good than average, so grandstanding your moral qualities likely deceives people.

  • Even if unintentional, grandstanding runs a high risk of deception since the odds are slim that one is truly as morally great as they portray. It disrespects others by not accounting for this risk.

  • Some grandstanding deceives intentionally. The grandstander knows their portrayal exceeds the truth but wants others to believe it anyway, similar to lying.

  • Grandstanding goes beyond mild self-promotion because it enables exploitative behavior. By gaining undeserved trust, grandstanders can cover for bad acts, ensnare victims, and sow doubts to avoid accountability. Examples like Harvey Weinstein demonstrate this.

  • Ted Haggard was a prominent evangelical pastor who led a large church in Colorado and represented millions of evangelical Christians.

  • He gained national attention in part due to an angry reaction to questions about science and evolution from Richard Dawkins in a documentary. This showed his self-righteous anger towards those outside his views.

  • He also strongly opposed gay marriage in Colorado and dismissed any debate on the issue. This demonstrated that his views were simple and obvious to him.

  • However, Haggard was later accused of having a long affair with a male prostitute, from whom he also purchased meth. He initially denied it but later admitted it was true.

  • His public displays of moral purity likely made his congregation trust him more. But he may have also succeeded in deceiving himself about his own integrity through manipulating his moral emotions like anger.

  • His public outrage and grandstanding seemed aimed at convincing himself he was a good person, despite not living up to his own standards of sexual morality. So he deceived both his congregation and possibly himself through grandstanding.

  • There is a lesson that people should be wary of grandstanding to feel better about themselves, as it can feed self-delusions and drift from an accurate self-view.

Here is a summary of the key points about whether a virtuous person would grandstand:

  • Traditional conceptions of virtue hold that to be truly virtuous, one must do the right thing for the right reason. It’s not enough to just do outwardly good acts - the motivation behind those acts matters.

  • There are three broad categories of motivation - egoistic (concerned with oneself), altruistic (concerned with helping others), and dutiful (concerned with moral duty). A virtuous person would be motivated by altruism or duty, not egoism.

  • Grandstanders are motivated to a significant degree by the “Recognition Desire” - a desire that others think of them as morally respectable. This reveals their motivation is at least partially egoistic rather than altruistic or dutiful.

  • Egoistic or self-interested motivations like the Recognition Desire suggest a defect in one’s moral character, not the mark of a virtuous person. A virtuous person’s concern would be acting with integrity out of genuine care for others or duty, not for recognition or praise.

  • Across various theories of virtue, it is argued that a truly virtuous person would not be substantially motivated by selfish desires for recognition or praise, and thus would not engage in behavior primarily aimed at furthering those desires, such as grandstanding. Their motivations and conduct would consistently reflect good moral character.

In summary, the chapter argues that according to traditional conceptions of virtue and evaluations of moral character, a truly virtuous person would likely not engage in grandstanding given its underlying egoistic motivations. Grandstanding seems more a defect in character than the mark of strong virtue.

  • The passage discusses different types of motivations people can have for volunteering or engaging in public discourse - altruistic, dutiful, and egoistic.

  • Altruistic motivations are focused on helping others as the ultimate goal. Dutiful motivations are motivated by a sense of moral duty or obligation.

  • Egoistic motivations are ultimately self-interested, like Will who volunteers just to further his acting career, or Mary who does it for media attention. These are not considered virtuous motivations.

  • The concept of “civic virtue” is introduced, where a good citizen acts to further the public good rather than private interests.

  • Grandstanding in public discourse is seen as similar to using politics for self-interest - the recognition desire is an egoistic motivation, not altruistic or dutiful.

  • This provides evidence virtuous people would avoid grandstanding, as their motivations would align with civic virtue of furthering public good over private interests.

  • However, an alternative view called “virtue consequentialism” is outlined, which focuses on outcomes over character traits. It argues even egoistic motivations could lead to good outcomes.

So in summary, it examines motivations for volunteering/discourse and argues virtuous people are motivated by duty or helping others, not self-interest like grandstanding, though alternative views prioritizing outcomes are noted.

  • The passage discusses whether vanity, the trait often exhibited by grandstanders, could potentially be considered a virtue from a consequentialist perspective. Consequentialism assesses virtue based on whether a trait typically leads to good consequences.

  • David Hume argued that vanity, or the desire for reputation, is useful as it motivates people to do good things in order to gain recognition and approval from others. This could strengthen social norms and encourage moral behavior.

  • However, while vanity may have benefits in some contexts, grandstanding in public discourse often has negative consequences. It leads people to focus on status and recognition rather than treating others well or addressing important issues.

  • Even if vanity produced good outcomes overall, a virtuous person would not act vainly in every situation. Grandstanding specifically can damage public discourse through status-seeking and point-scoring rather than genuine moral contribution.

  • In the end, the passage argues that grandstanding does not demonstrate virtue, even from a consequentialist view that assesses traits based on typical consequences rather than intentions. Other traits like humility are likely better for public discourse.

  • Nietzsche believed that all animals, including humans, are instinctively motivated by the “will to power” - the feeling of overcoming resistance and achieving goals.

  • He also believed in a view of the good life called “perfectionism” where one excellently pursues objective goods like knowledge, relationships, creative works, etc.

  • Some people are better able to exercise their will to power through achieving excellence, while others fail and must find other ways to feel powerful, like redefining morality. This is what Nietzsche called a “slave revolt” where the weak distort morality.

  • Nietzsche would say grandstanding involves using morality and moral talk to satisfy one’s will to power in an empty way, rather than through real excellence. It’s a way for the weak to feel powerful by putting on a show of morality.

  • Both types of grandstanding - for dominance and prestige - involve using morality as a tool, which aligns with Nietzsche’s view of morality being distorted by the weak in a slave revolt.

  • An excellent person according to Nietzsche would pursue real worthwhile goals, not use empty moral talk to gain status. So a virtuous person from Nietzsche’s view would not grandstand.

Here is a summary of the provided text:

  • The passage introduces the concept of “political grandstanding”, which refers to moral grandstanding that politicians and political activists engage in as part of their political activities.

  • It argues that politicians have strong incentives to grandstand because their goals are to get elected, gain public support for policies, and maintain political influence. Grandstanding can help them appeal to voters and motivate donors/supporters.

  • Voters often care about a politician’s character and values rather than just their policies. They may see character as a proxy for how good a politician’s policies will be. This creates a demand for politicians to display their moral qualities and values.

  • To meet this demand, politics becomes like a “morality pageant” where politicians grandstand to show voters how much they care about certain issues. While grandstanding can be effective, it also has costs for politics and democracy.

  • One cost is the “no compromise problem” - grandstanding undermines dialogue, trust, and open-mindedness needed for opposing groups to compromise on solutions. It promotes polarization and makes divisions harder to overcome.

  • The passage focuses on three potential negative consequences of rewarded political grandstanding that will be explored further.

Political grandstanding often takes the form of displaying ideological purity or being more ideologically pure than rivals within one’s own party. Displays of ideological purity are usually framed in moral terms. For example, a politician may claim that truly caring about justice requires supporting a $15 minimum wage.

These types of moral claims serve a political purpose by positioning the person making them as part of the select few pushing the party in a more radical direction. Those who stake out new moral stances can be trusted not to backtrack. For many partisan supporters, ideological purity is more important than willingness to compromise.

Some politicians will even brag about refusing to compromise as a show of ideological purity. Ted Cruz, for example, told voters he was “not the guy” who would compromise or work across the aisle when running for Senate. Cruz sees his role as defending what is “plainly right” rather than compromising.

The problem is that moralizing issues makes compromise less likely. Once political views become matters of moral conviction, people are less open to compromise. Grandstanding exacerbates this by moralizing more issues and exaggerating moral claims. This expansion of moralized issues hinders compromise and boxes politicians in, making it difficult for them to change positions even if needed to govern effectively.

Grandstanding may also involve attacking the out-group to draw sharp contrasts. Politicians may present caricatures of opponents and scapegoat fringe figures to position themselves as defending their group from threats. This frames the out-group as beyond compromise.

  • Grandstanding makes it easier to portray the opposing side/out-group as extremist by exaggerating or misrepresenting their actual policies and views.

  • Grandstanders build their reputation by pointing out threats from the “enemy” that others may overlook. Their concerns may be exaggerated.

  • Representing the out-group with only their most extreme fringe ideas makes compromise difficult, as any compromise then looks like dealing with the devil.

  • “Alienation grandstanding” involves portraying even the mainstream values of the out-group as extreme. This enhances the status of the grandstander within their own in-group by making the out-group seem like a greater threat.

  • Expressing disapproval of the out-group’s alleged extremism displays the grandstander’s value to their in-group.

  • Grandstanding is counterproductive to consensus building by making groups see each other as fundamentally opposed. It also discourages compromise for fear of backlash from purists within one’s own group.

  • However, democratic institutions provide some incentives for compromise through electability concerns. But grandstanding by the public can undermine those incentives.

  • The “expressive policy problem” arises when policies are supported simply to express certain values or oppose the other side’s values, rather than based on their actual effectiveness or merits. This makes politics more of a morality pageant than a practical problem-solving process.

  • Rent control policies are often supported for their expressive value in appearing to make housing more affordable, even if they do not actually achieve that outcome in practice.

  • People prioritize policies that express values they care about in vivid and intuitive ways, rather than complex policies that may be more effective but harder to understand.

  • Politicians have an incentive to promote expressive policies that appeal to voters’ values in a vivid manner, even if the policies are ineffective or counterproductive, because it allows the politicians to grandstand and show support for those values.

  • Examples given include rejecting Medicaid funding over abortions performed for permissible reasons, and opposing needle exchange programs on moral grounds despite evidence they reduce disease transmission without increasing drug use.

  • The problem arises when voters and politicians focus on what a policy expresses rather than what it actually achieves. Supporting an expressive policy does not mean it will successfully promote the expressed value.

  • Voters should want policies that effectively advance their values, not just policies that express support for those values through intuitive slogans.

The passage discusses a concept called the “Display Test” proposed by Pincione and Tesón, which evaluates whether a politician is willing to disclose the potential downsides or negative consequences of their proposed policy. Disclosing negatives demonstrates the politician believes the policy will overall produce good outcomes, despite the risks. Failing to acknowledge negatives could mean the politician is ignorant of the downsides, or is being deliberately dishonest to gain rhetorical advantage.

The passage argues that when politicians are rewarded for grandstanding and expressing values rather than policy effectiveness, it creates an incentive for them to propose policies that sound good but don’t work. They are motivated to gain favor with audiences rather than doing what is right or effective. If politicians receive status benefits for expressive proposals, they will give voters what they are asked for - proposals that sound virtuous but lack substance.

Overall, the Display Test and willingness to acknowledge policy weaknesses can serve as evidence that a politician prioritizes good outcomes over rhetorical advantages or grandstanding. However, grandstanding may also provide some useful signals to voters on a candidate’s values.

  • The passage discusses the issue of grandstanding in political discourse and debates whether it is ever permissible or can have valuable functions.

  • It acknowledges that grandstanding by politicians may have some informational value in letting voters know politicians’ positions and values. However, not all grandstanding accurately conveys a politician’s true priorities and character.

  • Even if grandstanding provides some information to voters, it raises concerns if it allows “Evil Party” politicians to mislead voters as effectively as “Justice Party” politicians.

  • The key defense of grandstanding is not that it helps voters choose who will do more good, but that it helps people vote according to their own preferences and values. This aspect of democratic self-governance is important, even if other factors may matter more.

  • In conclusion, the passage argues that while grandstanding may sometimes be tolerated for politicians, on balance it likely does more harm than good by damaging political discourse and hindering compromise. However, a complete ban on grandstanding would also be unrealistic and problematic. More constructive approaches to addressing the issue are needed.

  • The passage cautions against publicly accusing or “calling out” someone for grandstanding. Even if the accusation is justified, it typically leads to an unproductive discussion and makes the situation worse.

  • When someone is accused of grandstanding, they will likely deny it and turn the accusation back on the other person, leading to an argument about motives rather than substantive discussion.

  • Terms like “grandstanding” can also become conceptually drift over time and be used to dismiss people for ideological reasons rather than behaving behaviors.

  • Instead of public accusations, the passage recommends focusing on personal change, engineering one’s own situations to avoid temptation to grandstand, and planning specific strategies to succeed in having more constructive discussions.

So in summary, the passage argues that publicly calling out grandstanding is generally counterproductive and advises alternative approaches of self-improvement and situation management to address the issue.

The passage discusses using implementation intentions to help achieve difficult goals. Implementation intentions involve making specific plans about when, where, and how you will pursue your goals.

One study found that drug addicts trying to complete a task were more successful if they formed implementation intentions detailing how and when they would do it. 80% of the group that made implementation intentions completed the task, compared to none in the group that did not. Similar results have been found for goals like getting a mammogram or losing weight.

The passage suggests forming implementation intentions could help people improve their moral discussions online. Some example intentions given are to open a new browser tab if a political post makes you angry, to avoid rushing to correct others, and to apologize publicly if you say something mean online.

The passage then discusses the need to discourage grandstanding by others, not just limiting it in oneself. It draws an analogy to changing social norms around open defecation in India. A strategy proposed borrows from philosopher Cristina Bicchieri’s work and involves three steps - correcting beliefs about grandstanding, setting a good example through respectful discussion, and applying positive and negative incentives to encourage the new norms.

The passage discusses potential ways to discourage moral grandstanding and encourage more productive public discourse. It suggests that instead of directly calling out grandstanders, people could withhold praise and validation for grandstanding behaviors on social media by not liking, sharing, or commenting on such posts. This would make grandstanding less rewarding and effective.

It also tentatively proposes publicly calling out people who use grandstanding to cover up or distract from actual wrongdoings, but only if there is clear evidence of such wrongdoing. The goal would be to sanction bad behaviors, not just perceived grandstanding.

Overall, the authors argue that by gradually changing social norms and responses, grandstanding could become less common over time as people recognize it is ineffective and harms public discussion. While challenging, successfully altering discourse norms is possible if enough individuals adopt new standards of evaluating and engaging in moral debate. Success would require setting a constructive example through respectful, reasoned argument rather than outrage or accusations.

The passage discusses how certain problematic behaviors like blowing one’s nose in the tablecloth were once widespread enough to warrant written warnings, as they satisfied basic human desires and were considered an efficient way of getting needs met. However, over time social norms changed such that these behaviors became seen as embarrassing.

The key point is that while grandstanding may currently seem like a natural way to fulfill the desire for recognition, social norms can shift so that this behavior becomes viewed as inappropriate too. Norm change happens gradually through the promotion of alternative perspectives. Even though changing widespread behaviors may seem unrealistic, it is possible through shaping public discourse. The success of past norm changes regarding issues like etiquette should encourage efforts to shift norms around grandstanding.

  • The passage does not test for false enforcement of explicitly moral views, like views on abortion or same-sex marriage. It doubts people would be more inclined to speak out against popular moral views, but notes there are no direct studies on this.

  • There is evidence people strategically alter their moral judgments to present themselves favorably in different situations.

  • It questions whether displays of solidarity through actions like wearing safety pins are always laudable, as some may engage in it more for self-promotion and signaling virtue rather than genuine care for disadvantaged groups.

  • Discussing political outrage, it notes people use their feelings of outrage to maintain self-righteousness and that moral outrage can motivate political engagement and expression. However, outrage can also undermine tolerance and hinder rational political debates.

Here is a summary of the notes from ed 9/15/18:

The notes contain citations and references to various academic sources on topics related to media, politics, and psychology. Some key points:

  • Research shows people are overconfident in their understanding of policies until asked to explain how the policies work. This forces them to acknowledge their ignorance.

  • Definitions of terms like “cynicism” and “apathy” in political contexts.

  • Discussion of “strategic” and “game” frames in news media coverage of elections and how this can influence cynicism.

  • Notes on biases like the false consensus effect where people think others share their views more than they actually do.

  • References to theories of emotion and habituation, as well as experiments on cooperation and punishment.

  • Links to articles about online shaming and outrage culture.

  • Discussion of virtue ethics and consequentialist approaches to ethics.

Overall, the notes touch on a variety of academic sources and studies relating to political psychology, media effects, and ethical theories. The citations provide supporting references for points made about these topics.

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