Why Tribal Politics Makes You Stupid


I think people naturally gravitate to a political stance that suits them best: centre; left; right; centre left; centre right. This also changes over time – I was pretty left wing when I was young (and as goes the cliche) moved more to the centre right as I grew up. I respect others political stance because they are shaped by experiences that I often haven’t shared. Except maybe Nationalists, because they are frankly often too lazy to get a decent job so they bang on about immigrants.

I am bang in the centre, so there are lots of views / values that I have that are shared by the left wing: social liberalism; tolerance; immigration; anti-war. There are lots of views that I have that are shared by the right wing: self responsibility; free markets; small government; responsible economics. I often find myself agreeing with people & wanting to retweet them, but find they have blocked me on Twitter, because of one common factor: Tribal Politics. Tribal Politics makes seemingly intelligent people incredibly stupid. I said a Labour MP was drama queen – got blocked by a Labour supporter. I criticised Boris once & got blocked by a Boris / Tory groupie. Their message cannot be spread to those that might agree with them, it is only contained with their compliant followers. I think you’ve got to be pretty insecure if you can only debate with people who agree with you. “Hey, I said something smart” > “You did, you’re amazing” > “I’m always right!”…no, you’re not. You’re just preaching to the choir – preaching at Speaker’s Corner is harder.

So what is Tribal Politics? To me it’s this: I am a big Man Utd fan, but imagine only choosing friends because of the team you support? That would be epically stupid. You choose friends on shared values – not shared politics. On Twitter, there is a big Bevan supporter I often debate with who I have the same values when it comes to immigration & granting asylum, but economically we differ. There is another whose views on the environment I think are great, but believes the living wage is incredibly important (something which isn’t to me). My uncle is a life long Tory & we’ve argued until the early hours (he usually wins as he verbally beats me into submission – my Dad gave up years ago). What is interesting about the people I’ve mentioned (and the many libertarians I talk to) is that they don’t subscribe to Tribal Politics. They see the faults of the major political parties, much like a football fan may acknowledge their defence is weak. They might vote Labour but acknowledge Ed is not a great leader; they may want Cameron as PM, but only because they trust Osbourne more than Balls. That is voting a party whose shit stinks the less to you than the other one. Tribal is dismissing everything Thatcher did as PM because you wave the red flag and hate Cameron because he is a Tory toff. Tribal is not acknowledging the Major’s Tory government needed to be replaced by Tony Blair’s new Labour at the time. Vote for who you like, but let’s not put crap MP’s in place just because of the colour of their rosette – surely we’re better than that.

We’re grown ups, so it disappoints me when I see so many intelligent people acting like children on Twitter with their tribal beliefs. If you were in a pub, you’d sit calmly in front of the other person, acknowledge some of their points, find the common ground and realise where you differ. On Twitter, the tribe mentality makes people idiots – calling someone a Tory because they think that more tax is not a great idea / calling someone “leftard” because they point out immigration, economically, is kind of important. You only learn by new experiences, by hearing different views, by reading new things and by having your views challenges. I have had my views challenged, the other person was right and it’s made me listen a lot more to reasoned debate. Tribal politics prevents that. I engage with so many interesting people on Twitter & for me in general it’s been a positive experience (you know who you are, the adults!), just wish it could be even more positive.

Tribal Politics makes you stupid. Life is too short for stupid people.

*@BenJiffy says I need to end this article with “and if you disagree, you’re part of the problem”


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