Nathan Bransford, Author

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Are people persuadable?

One of the things I've found fascinating throughout the election and beyond, is the extent to which people are, or aren't persuadable.
  • Is there really such a thing as a swing voter? 
  • What makes people change their minds?
  • What are the lines in the sand that trigger reversals of opinion?
  • When we sit around talking about politics with people who disagree with us, are we just wasting our time?
In the aftermath of the election, few things have felt more urgent to liberals than to understand why people voted as they did and the need to try to persuade the persuadable.

But is this a lost cause?

Quartz recently published an article on the scientific! proven! way to have conversations across party lines. And then an article in The Atlantic posited that instead of being all conversational maybe you really should just call people racist.

Color me a bit skeptical that there's a formula to persuasion. When people are confronted with information that runs counter to their pre-conceived ideas, don't most people tend to double-down? Don't most people decide first with their gut and then back into the evidence?

But people do change their mind, don't they? What happens when they do?


JOHN T. SHEA said...

A very good question! I imagine conservatives feel the same about liberals. I'm mostly a libertarian but I can be persuaded, or perhaps dissuaded, but not easily. Any debate or argument with another person parallels a debate within myself as to how much of what I'm hearing I believe. I always imagined that about a third of US voters were conservative, another third liberal, and the last third in between and more persuadable, but that's just a rough guess.

abc said...

I think people can change their mind, but I think it is often based on their own experiences and not because someone persuaded them. Of course it depends on the person and their emotional intelligence, critical thinking skills, and circle of influence. I'm going to keep trying though. Even if I'm yelling into a windstorm.

Oldy said...

There is such a thing as a swing voter, but we're very rare. I vote on policy and have, over my 35 years of voting put both the majors and one of the minors first on my ballot sheet.

Seems to me though, that most people are on one team of the other, and that's where they stay no matter what, as though the ideology is a faith position (and thus completely immune to all the facts and data in the world).

My parents always vote conservative, even though the conservatives have halved their pensions, worsened the country's deficit and foreign debt, and appear to have absolutely no vision for what they're going to do with their term in office (apart from holding on to power for its own sake), just because believe the conservatives are better for the country.

Makes no sense, but there it is.

Rebel Rider said...

I think one issue is people naturally like to be part of a group. This means that, if a person lives in a society where everyone in their group votes one way, they're likely to vote the same. However, if they are in the minority and cannot find a circle of like-minded people, they might change their views so they can be in a "herd." For most people, being outside this herd can be stressful, so they'll sometimes change their views somewhat so they fit in, at least that's my uneducated psychological theory.
There is a percentage of voters I know, mostly Christians who write sci-fi and fantasy, who have little loyalty to any political party. I theorize this is because they see both sides of the issue since they probably have friends from both of the major parties. Many of them chose to vote third party. To them, both the major parties have failed.
I see very few cases of older generations changing their ways, but quite a few cases where young people change their political opinions. This could be due to simply growing up, but it's likely got a bit to do with young people moving out of their home and joining a new "herd" that they want to fit in with.

When it comes down to "why the Democrats lost the election," I think it's because this sort of thing runs in nearly-consistent eight year cycles. (Before the election, I guessed Trump would win.) A Republican goes in for eight years, then people get sick of the policies under the Republican president, so the swing voters vote Democrat to see if someone different will fix the problem. When the Democrat fails to fix the issues after eight years, the swing voters go Republican. They swing back and forth, but the problems never get fixed.

Anonymous said...

Is there really such a thing as a swing voter? Yes. I am a swing voter. I'm a registered Democrat, but I never vote straight party lines.

What makes people change their minds? A good line of BS. I think that Milo Y. guy who just got a huge book deal with Simone and Schuster is a good example of this. He's clever, he knows how to zero in on all the weak spots, and he takes full advantage of exploiting the fact that he's gay. And I've seen him make people to think differently.

What are the lines in the sand that trigger reversals of opinion? I think corruption is number one on the list. If someone sees even a hint of corruption, and there's enough proof, they'll change their opinion.

When we sit around talking about politics with people who disagree with us, are we just wasting our time? No. I think it's cathartic for most people. Of course not everyone. But for the most part it helps people heal.

With all that said, I think it's important to mention all the people who didn't admit they voted for Trump. I was a Bernie supporter up until Mrs. Clinton took the nomination. I'm still a Bernie supporter, however, I couldn't vote for Mrs. Clinton no matter how hard I tried. I wound up voting for Trump, against all my better judgment, simply because I wanted Mrs. Clinton gone. I'm not fond of Trump at all, however, he a lot more liberal than most of the other Republican candidates were and I'm not into shaming him for his looks or his personality. My general point here is that I believe it's underestimated how many people voted for Trump and will never admit it aloud. I'd never admit it aloud in public. But I did it, and I still don't have any regrets because it kept Mrs. Clinton out of the office of President.

Nathan Bransford said...


Out of curiosity, why would you never admit it in public (particularly if you don't have regrets)?

Anonymous said...

I want to avoid the bullying. I've seen other authors who openly supported Trump being bullied, shamed, humiliated, and threatened on social media.

I don't have any regrets...yet. But I'll admit that it's too soon to tell.

Anonymous said...

I think a lot of commenters here nailed it, but especially Anon 11:49. I'd add that identity politics are a large part what makes persuasion difficult. It's the same reason the liberal side feels justified in bullying and name calling those who disagree with them. (And vice versa, but since the conservative side won, there is far less of that happening on their end right now--plus liberals rule in a lot of social media platforms so I think we see that group mentality in action.) A good example of this "lack of persuasion due to identity politics" is how people jumped to defend/justify/excuse Obama's 2011 travel ban (i.e. "it's different"), while expressing complete outrage over Trump's. This make absolutely no sense to me. Only people who have their identity wrapped up in politics do this kind of stuff. And they can rarely be persuaded they're wrong. Because then they'd have to admit they are a little bit racist (by their own standards of racism), and they know *for sure* they aren't, so therefore this must be different! Um. No.

Nathan Bransford said...

I'm still a little mystified that conservatives are remaining anonymous here. People say they're scared of trolls/bullying, but there are trolls/bullying on both sides. It's always seemed like people are a little ashamed of their views or of supporting Trump or something. Am I projecting?

Rebel Rider said...

Most of the cases I've heard of people being bullied online were due to the victim saying something that got perceived as being politically incorrect. (I see very few cases of people being bulled for coming out as liberal, at least not in the entertainment industry.) A while back, I saw people attacking Orson Scott Card because he came out against homosexual marriage. (The Duck Dynasty bunch ran into a similar problem, but got more defense than Card got.) Maybe it's just me, but it does seem certain parts of the publishing industry, especially sci-fi and YA, tend to lean liberal. This leads to the conservatives trying to hide so they aren't kicked out of the liberal "herd." Of course, by not speaking out, that leads to these parts of the industry looking even more liberal.

FYI, I voted third party. Trump was too liberal and immoral to get my vote.

Anonymous said...

You're mystified Nathan? Careful, your liberal privilege is showing. ;) Like Rebel Rider pointed out, the publishing industry is largely liberal, and liberals are very keen to identify their enemies right now and punish them. You (and other liberals) have a slim-to-no threat of punishment within the writing community. It's kind of ridiculous to act like everyone is on equal ground here. But for some reason you keep insisting it's so. Like you pointed out, it's convervatives going anon, not liberals. <--clue #1 ;)

I'm not anon with my politics in real life. I'm not straight conservative either. I'm actually very liberal in many aspects, especially in regards to social issues. And I am your mysterious swing voter--I've voted both ways. But if I tell a conservative about my liberal social views, I don't get attacked. <<<Truth. I may get a lively discussion going, but most conservatives are not going to insult me or start name calling. The liberal side is the exact opposite. If I explain some of my conservative fiscal views to liberals, without exception, they immediately fire back with implications (or even explicitly state) that I must be racist/sexist/xenophobic/etc. We don't even get into to a lively discussion about the issues, because they are more interested in venting or attacking my character. This is truth. 100%. With liberals it's all or nothing. You're either in or you're out. In contrast, if you have even one strong conservative view, you are welcomed into the conservative herd with open arms! (Ironically, they are a much more inclusive group.) I also think conservatives are easier to persuade, because they are more open to honest debate. They may not switch to the liberal side on all issues, but on a topic by topic basis, they are WAY easier to persuade (as long as name-calling isn't your tool of choice). Liberals, on the other hand, have their whole identity at stake and will never budge on an issue-by-issue basis. At least, I've never seen it happen.

Anyway, I find conservatives to be slightly less hypocritical and more authentic/genuine than liberals right now, so I don't mind being grouped in with the conservative side. In publishing though, yes, it's like being branded by the scarlet letter. Because I care so much about my writing, and because I have hope that things will change in the future, I have to protect my writing from those who no longer see me as an individual with complex feelings and beliefs, but as part of the conservative group.

Anonymous said...

I hope it's ok that I post a link to a YouTube video below. Though I don't completely agree with everything he says in the video, it pretty much sums up what I've been seeing lately, this shift in what it means to be a progressive liberal. I'm curious what you think about it Nathan. History tells us to expect shifts in political party ideals. It's kind of crazy to see it happening real-time. Thoughts?

Nathan Bransford said...

anon@4:11 -

I don't know that anything feels "privileged" as a liberal these days. I guess what I have trouble reconciling is what consequence people feel they will experience if they speak their beliefs publicly. You may get some trolls, but there are trolls are both sides. And "professional" consequences? This is the same industry that still happily publishes Orson Scott Card and gave Milo Yiannapolous a big fat book deal. This is still an industry with a pernicious ingrained belief that books of/by people of color don't sell, and while it may tilt liberal if you examined voting patterns, it has hardly struck me as liberal in practice. I realize that it may feel differently when you see this or that agent or editor post some political views publicly, but in practice I guess I don't see how it is anything close to a real scarlet letter. There are even people who have said truly stupid things who are doing just fine writing-career wise.

And, on your second paragraph, I guess I'd throw out that you may be concerned about some marginal consequences of expressing your political views, but many liberal people are viewing Trump as an *existential* threat to their existence as Americans. I watched election night with a Muslim immigrant, someone of Mexican descent, and someone who grew up in an authoritarian country who recently became a citizen because she believes in American democracy. Think about election night through their eyes. The issues that are being discussed these days are not an abstraction.


I watched the video. I don't agree with it and think it fundamentally misunderstands free speech. No liberal or progressive (at least, none that I know of), are suggesting that someone like Milo Yiannapoulis should be imprisoned for his beliefs. That is very, very different than thinking someone hateful should be handed a microphone to espouse their beliefs.

Most importantly: Free speech is not the same as consequence free speech. If you say something racist, sure, you have the right to say it, but you also deserve the social consequences that come your way.

What say you?

Anonymous said...

I'm actually both of the anons you replied to. ;)

There are a lot of very privileged people right now claiming not to be. ;) Yes, you in this case, in the publishing world, are privileged. You can say what you believe without retribution. That's a privilege conservative writers don't have right now. All of your examples to prove otherwise are of famous writers or people with established platforms (and it's not as if they haven't been damaged/punished by the liberal gang). Again, I'll just point to your own observation that most if not all anons are conservatives. And when you ask why, you always get the same answer (attacks/bullying). Yet you refuse that could possibly be the case. And we're not talking about attacks from trolls. Who cares about trolls?? We're talking about attacks from people within the writing community, with public profiles, who claim to be openminded, kind, and inclusive. In my life outside of the writing community, I am open about my political views.

(Also, just like to point out that you even posted a link to an article arguing that liberals should continue calling those who don't agree with them racist. Justifying the attacks, not denying it's happening.)

As to your second point, I understand your point of view. But on election night, *your* fears were hypothetical. Because nothing had happened yet. *My* fears, however, were tangible and measurable. They were real. They were currently happening. You can now argue that some of your hypothetical fears have come to fruition (though I believe most of it is still hypothetical or motivated by the desire to be proved right), but make no mistake... On election night, it was you ignoring me. It was you who didn't care about my real, tangible, measurable problems. Because I know how it feels to be ignored and disregarded, I don't want to do the same thing to you that you did to me. Truly, I don't. That is why I'm always open to honest debating on issue-by-issue basis. (I'm not open to character assassinations though ;))

As for the video... I believe in free speech and I'm anti-censorship. We disagree with what the "fundamentals" of free speech are. I would love to be persuaded otherwise, because I don't want this Milo guy to have a platform. And come on, there are ways to censor people without imprisioning them. I mean, imprisionment is a pretty extreme standard to set, almost silly. Do you really think free speech means not being put in prison? There is so much gray-area censorship going on right now in the publishing world. It's unsettling to me. I have seen some openly liberal writers speak out against the censorship, but it's been rare. Mostly, it's this kind of extreme justification, like "we're not putting them in prison, we just want to put ducktape over their mouths, what's the big deal?? It's for the good of society."

Anyway, what about the rest of the video? I'm conflicted about his "Christian baker" example, because it seems like discrimination, but agree that the government shouldn't be allowed force people to act against their conscience. And the final summation really spoke to me.

Nathan Bransford said...


Well, point by point:

- Do you have a few cases you could point me to where people experienced abuse from public figures merely for mentioning their political views? I'm curious. Though, I guess I also don't see how being disparaged by an author, even a bestseller, is the end of the world or anything remotely approaching harm to one's professional career, but maybe I've just gotten inured to public spats over the years.
- I seriously disagree with your premise that I am speaking consequence-free. I am risking alienating half of my audience. Every time I post something with a political lean, I lose followers and subscribers. It would be easier from a professional standpoint to be quiet, but I don't feel like that's the right thing to do. I'm accepting the consequences as the cost of trying to achieve a higher purpose.
- The article I pointed to advocated calling racism racism and racists racist, not calling people who simply disagree with you racist. There's a significant difference there.
- I don't know what you're referring to about your fears and don't quite understand this point. Are you saying you had as much to fear as the people I was watching the election with?
- What is the "gray area" censorship in the publishing industry you're talking about? Look, I believe people should listen to alternate views, I think we should have civil discourse, I think people should be able to print whatever they want on a pamphlet and hand them out in Central Park, I think people . I don't think anyone *deserves* to be handed a $250,000 book deal, nor do I think that people with microphones should hand them to hateful people. Abuse should be banned on Twitter, . That is not *censorship*, which is a government enterprise.
- I agree, the Christian baker example to me is advocating discrimination. I don't think someone's religious beliefs allow them to hang a "no black people allowed" sign in their window, nor should it allow a "no gays allowed" sign. To me there's a "do no harm to others" criteria to this. I would defend wearing religious symbols, whether they were crosses, hijabs or what have you. No harm no foul. But I don't think anyone's religious beliefs gives them the right to deny a service they otherwise offer the public to a minority group. That's discrimination. I would go so far as to say it's child abuse for a parent to withhold cancer treatment from a child because they don't believe in medicine. You shouldn't be allowed to harm someone because of your religious beliefs. The government constrains our actions all the time! Maybe I want to drive 100mph or spend my money on video games instead of taxes. Well, too bad. That isn't tyranny, it's the cost of living in a civil society.
- Lastly, I'm not super moved by an argument that "there's not much on the left for you" if you don't want government interference when core platforms of the right are denying gays the right to marriage, compelling reproductive choices for women, etc. Is that not governmental interference?

Nathan Bransford said...

Oops, posted with one incomplete paragraph but I think you get the gist.

Rebel Rider said...

Just to give the Christian woman side here. I'm not trying to debate, just trying to give you the conservative side.

When it comes to the gay wedding cake deal, I know of no cases where the backers were discriminating against the customers because they were gay. The bakers simply didn't want to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. It's debatable of being gay is a choice, but a wedding is a choice, so there's a bit of a difference there. Some of these bakers would have given the gay couple other things, but they simply didn't want to support a gay wedding. Look at it this way. If you were selling food, you might be fine selling it to Neo Nazis, but you probably wouldn't want to make them something special and unique that would be a centerpiece at their pro-Nazi party. (I'm not trying to say gay people are Nazis, just trying to use an analogy.)
Also, a wedding cake is not a human right. If it was something that was essential, such as medical treatment, I could understand the issue, but in these cases, the couple should have been able to go somewhere and get a different cake. If someone doesn't want to serve you, why would you want them to be forced to make you food? I certainly wouldn't want someone making me a wedding cake if they were only doing it because it was illegal for them to refuse.

On the birth control issue, most of the problem is that people don't want their money paying for someone else's birth control. If someone wants to buy it on their own, I don't see the issue, unless it's likely to harm an unborn baby. I'm a woman and I make the reproductive choice to not have children by choosing abstinence. No lawmaker is telling me that I have to have sex.
When it comes to abortion itself, I, and most Christians, believe an unborn baby is a human, and thus has rights and should be protected by law. This makes a law banning abortion similar to a law banning murder.

Nathan Bransford said...

Rebel Rider-

These two sentences don't go together:

"I know of no cases where the backers were discriminating against the customers because they were gay. The bakers simply didn't want to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding."

The landlord wasn't discriminating against the interracial couple. They just didn't want to rent an apartment to them and support their lifestyle choice.

The shopkeeper wasn't discriminating against the black woman. They just didn't want to let her sit at the lunch counter.

I could keep going on. In the past, religious arguments were used to favor the discrimination against interracial couples and against minorities, just as they're being used to day against gay people.

This probably hinges on one thing you and I seem to disagree on, which is whether being gay is a "choice." I know of no credible person, and certainly no one who actually knows an assortment of gay people well, who really believes homosexuality is a "choice." And if you move past thinking of it as a choice, and one of identity, like race, your analogy starts to break down. (Not to mention the Supreme Court's views on this, which is the law of the land).

Sure, that black person could theoretically go eat at another diner. Sure, that interracial couple could theoretically go rent in another place. But that's how you end up with segregation and endemic racism.

So, sure, you don't *have* to get married, but it's the law of the land and if you allow people to pick and choose how they want to discriminate against gay people it's a slippery slope to the same type of false "separate but equal" that used to exist in the South.

Now, should I be able to kick a neo-Nazi off my blog? Also yes. Having hateful views *is* a choice, and as I've said above, while I think people with hateful views have a right to their beliefs and their ability to say what they want without being arrested, I don't think they have any right to be given a microphone to espouse their views.

And accordingly, I do think the baker should be able to refuse to create a Nazi-themed centerpiece at a gay wedding. So I guess we're in agreement there.

Rebel Rider said...

Being forced to support something you believe is wrong, gay wedding cakes included, is part of the reason so many people voted for Trump. The fear of being attacked by liberals for certain views is another reason people voted for Trump. If the wedding cake issue and Black Lives Matter protests/riots had not blown up so big, there'd have been a better chance for Hillary to win.

I don't know for sure if being gay is a choice, which is the reason I said it's debatable, but I think we can both agree gay sex and marriage are a choice. I believe that these actions are wrong. However, what two consenting adults want to do is none of my business, as long as they don't make it my business.

I think businesses should be able to discriminate for any reason, as long as it's is not going to cause severe harm. (I'm in a minority here, I know.) If someone doesn't want to serve me because I'm white, then I don't want to support them anyway. Even so, as I said, the gay marriage is a choice, which makes it a different issue since these bakers refused to sell a cake that would be celebrating a gay wedding, but there was no evidence they'd refuse to sell a birthday cake to a gay person.

Nathan Bransford said...

Rebel Rider-

Being forced to support something you don't believe in is part of the cost of living in a democracy. You don't get to pick and choose which laws you follow and suffer no consequences, and you're never going to agree with all the laws of the land. I didn't support the Iraq war, it didn't mean I stopped paying my taxes, which went to pay for it. I find it interesting that someone's religious beliefs can lead them to support discrimination, especially when that religion is based on the beliefs of someone who literally washed the feet of the outcasts in his society, but I guess that's why we have laws to prevent that sort of discrimination.

And for this or that leading to Trump winning... yeah, I mean, if people out there are so appalled at seeing black people protest police brutality in an overwhelmingly peaceful fashion and that led them to voting for Trump, I hope you see why it's hard for liberals to then disassociate Trump winning from LBGT issues and race.

This is literally how it feels sometimes:

"Black Lives Matters is why Trump won!"
"What do you have against black people protesting?"
"Are you calling me a racist?"
"Um... maybe!"

Rebel Rider said...

I'm against war too, which is one of the reasons why I voted against Trump and Clinton.

The news most Trump voters listened to showed a lot of violent protests involving broken windows, cars overturned, cars burned, and people throwing stuff at police. A black friend of mine was against BLM, so that leads me to believe racism isn't the sole reason for opposing BLM. Like you said, there are different echo chambers.

Nathan Bransford said...

I saw some of those same things, just not *only* riots, and lots of peaceful demonstrations. As with any mass movement, I feel like it's unfair to characterize the whole movement by a handful of the worst actors, just as I wouldn't call all Trump supporters Nazis just because there are Nazis among them.

Anonymous said...

Original anon here

Nathan and Rebel, I think you both brought up good points. It's discrimination and therefore wrong. But should the gov be allowed to force Nathan to bake a cake for Donald Trump if it goes against his conscience? The baker's conscience may be wrong in our opinion, but he's probably sincere in his beliefs. Do we as a society work toward changing that baker's conscience to believe otherwise, or do we have the gov step in and force the baker to bake against his conscience? Of course, if the gov didn't force the baker, he'll still have to face societal consequences--that baker is going down! I honestly lean toward the gov stepping in on grounds of discrimination, I just think the gov is verging into dangerous territory. We can sympathize with the gay couple in this scenario, so it's a little easier for us to make a call. But if the bakery refused service to all Neo-Nazi's based on his conscience, would we be out there with signs protesting, asking the gov to step in because this is discrimination?

Anyway, back to point by point...
-It's kind of ironic that you want me to prove to you that being a part of the majority in a group comes with privilege. Speaking out when you are part of the majority is not bold, it's safe. It's kind of like saying "look at that brave white heterosexual male standing boldly amongst other white heterosexual males!" I'll just leave it at that, because I'm not sure you're persuadable on this issue. I'll just point at it and call it what it is: liberal privilege. ;)

-In regards to election night... The only reason I would rank my fears higher than yours is because mine were currently happening to me and my family, while yours were arbitrary or hypothetical. Is affordable healthcare a worthy problem? What ranks higher, your concerns for the future of friends who had immigrated to America, or my concerns about medical care for my kids, already drowning in medical bills? On Election Day, I knew there were lots of problems in our country, but I had to rank these problems and make a choice between two candidates that I had little faith in. I'm just asking you to understand that. I acknowledge that you have some valid and legitimate problems and concerns. I'm just asking for the same consideration from you, and to stop dismissing mine as invalid. Because that's how bridges are built. ;)

-So what you're saying is it's only censorship if the gov does it? If, say, a group of parents wanted to ban To Kill a Mockingbird from their school because they objected to some of the content, that's not censorship? Or if a religious group wanted to ban Are You There God, It's Me Margaret from local middle schools, that's not censorship? Since the gov isn't stepping in and arresting the authors, it's not censorship?? No one group gets to decide what the rest of society should read/see/hear. You can censor yourself, and your minor children. That's where it should end. You don't get to decide what your neighbor can and cannot read (even if it's "for their own good!"), and you if block a group of college kids from attending a lecture, racist though it may be, that's censoring others. The justification for censorship is always the same, no matter the content. Writers should be champions of free speech, even when we disagree with what's being said or think it's wrong. I've seen some writers speak up and point out the recent censorship within pub, only to be attacked with gang-like mentally... *by other writers!!* And writers celebrating their censorship "victories"! I never thought I'd see that day.

Anonymous said...

"It's always seemed like people are a little ashamed of their views or of supporting Trump or something. Am I projecting?"

I'm February 10, 2017 at 11:49 AM

I have a fairly large following on Twitter that took years to build, over 30K people. I rarely ever get political because I'm not thrilled with what I see happening these days with the bullying. And it happens minute by minute.

It's not a matter of being ashamed of supporting Trump. In RL I might be apprehensive about speaking up, but not ashamed. Online it's a completely different thing. If you don't fit the profile of being what Hillary Clinton called a "deplorable," you will, indeed, get bullied, shunned, and ripped to shreds.

Think about it this way. Saturday Night Live trended all weekend with slams and parodies of Trump. An actor like Alec Baldwin, who has made some horrific homophobic comments in public, is now being loved and blessed by the left because he's mocking Trump. And if you even try to comment on that you can't win, not on social media with people who absolutely despise Trump.

Meryl Streep goes on a rant. George Takei tweets hate for Trump every fifteen minutes it seems. If you're an independent or a swing voter you can't battle that in public, but you can in private. The PMs and DMs going on behind the scenes tell a lot more than any of the polls did, and the mainstream media got it all wrong this time. And they're still getting it wrong.

I have gay friends all over the country who will NEVER open up about their politics right now. They don't fit the stereotype, and they don't want to suffer the abuse. It's just not worth it. But it's not a matter of being ashamed, not by any means.

The interesting thing is that we probably agree on most issues, Nathan, and I've always leaned more toward the left than the right. But when I saw the way Mrs. Clinton was practically guaranteed the presidency this time, because that's the way it's done, and she had the power and money to do it, I rebelled. And I think other people did, too. If anything, I think I would have felt more shame...personal shame...if I had voted for her instead of taking a chance and voting for Trump. I would have been one of the cool Hollywood kids if I'd voted for Clinton, but deep down I would have felt shame.

In the same respect, I think this is important to add. If Mrs. Clinton had won, I wouldn't have been shaming her or her supporters. I would have waited to see what she was going to do as president. I wouldn't have shamed her looks, her family, or what she wears. Not so much with Trump and the way he's been treated so far.

I also think it's interesting to note that Saturday Night Live has been almost a Trump hate platform for the left since the beginning of the election, and no one seems to think it's important enough to mention that they've also been notoriously homophobic over the years. You can google that. There's plenty that's been written on the subject.

But it's not shame :-)

Anonymous said...

Just to add a quick example...
The football player who took a knee to the national anthem in protest... As a society we are free to disagree with his statement, call him un-American, publish articles about the dangers of this kind of protest, stage our own protests in return, stop supporting his team, call him a privileged idiot who didn't even vote, the list goes on. None of that is censorship. But the second we gather as a group to block the entrance of the stadium in order to stop others from seeing his statement... That is censorship. Maybe it's for a good reason, maybe not. But it's still censorship.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Just wanted to 100% agree with what anon @3:46PM said. Thank you for articulatuing exactly how it is to be conservative in the writing community right now. You said it much better than I could. Appreciate that.

Nathan Bransford said...

Ok, I don't know which anon is which at this point but let me respond again point by point:

anon @ 3:31:

- It took the national guard to allow some black students to go to college in Alabama because whites were "following their conscience." Consider me less than optimistic that conscience and persuasion alone suffices without the support of the government. I agree with you though that this needs to be done carefully and with thoughtful debate.
- I wasn't asking you to prove my own privilege or your lack of it, just asking for examples of cases I may be unaware of that support your viewpoint that people's actual careers are being harmed. I'm challenging the idea that people's writing careers are being tanked for expressing conservative political views. Forgive me for not just taking your word for it, but I'm open to additional evidence.
- I absolutely was not dismissing your election night concerns, I'm sorry if it came across that way, just that I didn't have enough specifics to really understand your point. I'm still a little confused I htink (you rated Trump higher on health care is what you're saying?), but I do know that everyone comes to the table with their own individual concerns.
- I agree that there are additional instances of censorship apart from governmental oversight, but that's what I view as the bedrock principle. Book banning in schools is some serious tricky business and probably worthy of its own discussion, but it sounds like we're by and large in agreement on the parameters. And I do consider myself a champion of free speech, I absolutely think S&S has a right to publish Milo. I don't, however, think they should be free from criticism or boycotts for doing so. And I would cheer along with others if they deemed it in their business interest to cancel the book due to the protests. That's not the same thing as outright censorship. If he wants to peddle pamphlets on the street corner he's welcome to.
- Lastly, in terms of privilege, I know I'm privileged!!! I'm an Ivy-League educated straight white able-bodied male. I have about every card in the American deck stacked in my favor. I strive every day to be conscious of it and to choose instead, with my voting and my day to day life, to not simply further my privilege but to strive to make society a better place. I'm still skeptical that being liberal confers as much of an advantage in publishing as you think it does, especially given my current goals as an author.

Nathan Bransford said...


- Again, I'd love to see some examples of people getting ripped to shreds. I really must not be seeing them and would like to see them to better understand/empathize. Can someone please point me in the direction of some?
- FWIW, I don't know any liberals with unreserved affection for Alec Baldwin, and I'm with you thinking it's stupid if there are people who are glorifying him unreservedly. I admire the performance, wouldn't want to be friends with the guy.
- I know there are a lot secret Trump voters. I unearthed plenty among my friends. And yes, they have varying reasons for doing so, though some of my friends, I'm sorry to say, fit the stereotype among liberals of people whose "unvoiceable" reasons for supporting Trump have a lot to do with racism. If people aren't voicing their thoughts in public, is it because people are censoring them or because they might get called a name for espousing their views or because deep down people know there's something wrong with what they're thinking in their darkest places?
- So what, exactly, am I supposed to take from the fact that you voted for Trump because the "cool Hollywood kids" were for Hillary? The cool Hollywood kids shouldn't have supported her or shouldn't have said so publicly? And you were sickened by Hillary's money and power so you voted for someone... richer, and born into it no less? I think this is just proving my point that most people vote with their guts and back into their reasoning second.

Anyway, thanks everyone for keeping this discussion civil!

Nathan Bransford said...

sorry, I meant Arkansas not Alabama in my previous comment

Rebel Rider said...

Here are a two examples I found quickly.

From Wikipedia: "In 2013, Card was selected as a guest author for DC Comics's new Adventures of Superman comic book series, but controversy over Card's views on homosexuality led illustrator Chris Sprouse to leave the project and DC Comics to put Card's story on hold indefinitely. A few months later an LGBT group, Geeks OUT!, proposed a boycott of the movie adaptation of Ender's Game calling Card's view anti-gay, causing the movie studio Lionsgate to publicly distance itself from Card’s opinions."

Note: This is an example of an author getting in trouble because of something in the story itself, but I think it may still hold true.

Nathan Bransford said...

I do know of examples of authors who have suffered professionally for anti-gay stances, I didn't realize that was the type of political stance you were referencing (though, for what it's worth, I don't think this is simply a conservative thing, liberals have suffered politically for the same thing).

What I had in mind was simply being pro-Trump resulting in professional consequences?

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to formally welcome anon @3:46pm into the conservative group--a ragtag group of misfits with a wide range of thoughts, beliefs, and opinions. And that's ok!

Anonymous said...

I'm anon @ anon@3:46-

It's almost impossible to give you direct links to things I've seen. This kind of bullying is all over social media, and it's in reader/author circles. Here's one sentence from a PM a got the other day. I asked for permission to share it here.

"These posts where they claim "of you voted for Trump, unfriend me now!" Ridiculous, to the point of comical at this point."

That's coming from a published author who is terrified to let anyone know he voted for Trump. And he's openly gay.

I have no reason to lie. I'm not gaining or losing anything. And I'm not that Milo guy with a big book deal.

You're partially correct about people voting with their guts. But I didn't do that totally. I followed this election closely, and I read those e-mails from WikiLeaks. And the thing that bothered me the most about them, aside from the content, was the lack of knowledge about digital technology and e-mail.

And I think that was a big part of this election, in general. Pres. Obama was the first. He raised millions through the Internet and social media. Trump went even further this time. And I think social media had a huge impact on this election, and future elections.

Anonymous said...

This is anon@3:31

-I believe you're talking about a state college in your example? Therefore, no question, it's the gov's job to step in and protect against discrimination. Bakeries, however, are private run, not state run, so that's where the thoughtful debate comes in. Just wanted to make that distinction, though we may agree on this issue.

-On the issue of bullying to silence people within the writing community, you're kind of playing semantics with me. Examples are proof, so you were asking for proof. On top of that, you're asking me to prove a negative. Prove that something didn't happen (like a book deal or a sale) because the aspiring author had conservative thoughts or beliefs. That's a mighty high burden of proof you're setting. And I just don't have that kind of insider knowledge.

Also, in arguing your point, you want to compare me (bottom rung unpublished writer), to bestselling famous conservative writers. You say, hey these famous, established conservative people didn't lose much-if-anything for being open, therefore your concerns/experiences aren't valid. This leads you to conclude that I must be lying to you, that I am really only anon because I'm ashamed of my political beliefs. What reason do I have to lie? I'm anonymous. Ahem.

Anyway, my goal isn't to convince you one way or the other on this issue. You asked why, and I answered (others concurred). I've seen you ask the question multiple times on different posts. I don't think it's a question so much as an accusation, right?

-As far as censorship, I think we just draw the line at different points. For me, censoring others begins when you call for a publisher to stop publication to keep others from reading it. Boycotting, speaking out against the book's content, warning others about it, protesting, blasting them with negative reviews... I don't consider any of that censorship. In fact, I think we should do all those things, while at the same time, protecting that person's right to free speech.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon @ 8:51-

I think that's a good point about Trump understanding how to utilize digital technology in a way Hillary & co didn't.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon @ 9:00-

Sorry, I was't trying to imply you're lying - from my perspective, asking for evidence isn't the same thing as accusing you of lying. I was just trying to say that I haven't seen the type of bullying that keeps getting cited in this thread of ordinary writers getting bullied/harassed/suffering professionally for simply expressing pro-Trump views, and if it's happening I'd like to see it to take it into account. Yes, definitely, it's difficult to prove or disprove someone *didn't* get a book deal because of their professional beliefs. Based on my experience in the industry I think it's unlikely, but I suppose it's possible. That's more agree to disagree territory.

I think I understand the distinction you're making about asking someone like S&S to stop publication, but I guess I'd still say that that is precisely the point of a successful boycott. Especially in an era when anyone can self-publish or launch a website, I don't think someone not getting promoted by a major publisher amounts to censorship. There are many, many avenues for him to publish his book, he doesn't need/deserve S&S's promotional muscle.

Anonymous said...

I'm anon @9:00pm (think my comment has since disappeared)

If the goal is to stop publication, then you can't really argue that this is just about "not giving him a platform." If you successfully stopped S&S and another house picked him up, wouldn't you continue the fight with that house? Why not just call it what it is: Censorship. You want to decide what other people read. My other problem with this mindset is that it doesn't work. Censorship doesn't stop racism, it breeds it.

It's crazy that we're having these author-led calls for censorship. If that doesn't prove the bullying mob-mentally of late, I don't know what will. A worse example of this is what happened with Abrams, since that was satire. I just wanted to shout: take an English Lit class people!!

Nathan Bransford said...


Your 9pm comment had gotten in a spam filter, I freed it

There is a wide, wide spectrum between censorship and getting a $250,000 book deal. Censorship, to me, is about being prevented from speaking. It's not about depriving someone of the publicity apparatus of a major publishing house. I'm not going to protest all the way down to the Internet service provider level and say someone shouldn't be allowed to have a website (unless it poses a direct danger to other people). But anyone who wants to give someone who promotes hate speech a platform, they should suffer whatever blowback comes their way.

Anonymous said...

This is anon@10:14
Ok, I'm glad you didn't decide to "not give me a platform" and delete it. ;)

So say that S&S stopped publication and he had to self-publish. If a group of people then tried to prevent him from self-publishing, your position would change to, "hey guys, that's censorship"? Just trying to understand what the difference is. And taking the question of whether it's censorship off the table, this is just a terrible, clumsy strategy. I'd really like to end racism one day, and you're kind of messing it up. ;)

It's not the person I want to protect, it's free speech that I want to protect.

Anonymous said...

The bullying happens without us speaking at all. It comes as a response to us simply existing. It's a constant stream of threats and intimidations towards trump voters or conservatives all day long. I don't see how anyone could be blind to it. And yes, many of us discuss this problem privately. Half the photos on my phone are screenshots of Twitter insanity that I've texted back and forth with friends.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon @ 3:38-

Threats and intimidations? Like what?

And you think that's unique to liberals, or worse than things going the other way? Honest question.

My kingdom for some real examples, guys.

Anonymous said...

You're totally right, Nathan. There are threats and intimidations happening from both sides. And from what I've seen it's coming from both sides of the most extreme. Weekend Twitter used to be fun, and now it's just one insult followed by another...from both sides. A person can't even play a hashtag game without politics anymore. They're even arguing over cheese. Seriously.

anon @ 8:51- and @3:46

Anonymous said...

You know, I checked your Twitter, Nathan. I found a few things that were interesting. This for one:

"Hey look a protest the size of Trump's hands"

Now, I understand that was sarcasm. I get that. But I only have half as many followers on Twitter as you do, and I could never get away with making a joke/comment like that about Mrs. Clinton, not in publishing. And God knows there are plenty to make about Mrs. Clinton...good, funny jokes, too. It's open season with her. But I wouldn't do that. I wouldn't put that in writing online anywhere. And I'm considered a "deplorable."

I really am laughing right now, because there is a little bittersweet irony in all this.

anon @ 8:51- and @3:46 ...and 12:42

Anonymous said...

This guy voted for Hillary so maybe you'll believe him.

Nathan Bransford said...

He lost me at "I've come around on Ann Coulter."

I guess what I have a hard time reconciling here is how someone could give a sympathetic profile of Milo Yiannopolous, someone who has done far, far worse to others than what this guy's friends did to him, and express sympathetic views of Ann Coulter, who has promoted incredible hate and racism, and then feel he is somehow uniquely a victim here? What, exactly, did he expect the response to be?

Sorry, this feels more like opportunism to me.

My basic premise is that everyone is polarized, and both sides are receiving heat when they step out to express political views. I guess what I'm still not seeing (and maybe I have blinders or something) is how liberals are somehow uniquely privileged to speak out, how liberals are disproportionately responsible for online vitriol, or how everyday writers will somehow have their career tanked for being conservative.

Sorry guys, I'm still not seeing it.

Anonymous said...

I linked to the article.

The best word he used to describe the new liberal in that article is incurious. That really sums it up. You ask all these questions but you don't really want to know the answer. Your questions are just statements disguised as questions. So answering them really seems pointless, but here goes one more try...

You're from a small conservative town, if I remember correctly. I can easily imagine that it would be difficult for you to speak out politically in that setting. Easily. Simply apply the same logic/empathy/understanding to our situation, and voilá!

And the only reason why liberals are way bigger bullies right now is because they are (admittedly) angry. The insane witch hunt has been going on for quite a while ("speak up, or you're a trump supporter!!!"<---um, yikes. I don't really want to find out what happens next...)

Nathan Bransford said...


Not being persuaded is not the same thing as being incurious.

I speak up plenty in my hometown and always have, people know where I stand. But I still listen to people and try to make it a conversation, even if I disagree.

Anonymous said...

I'm anon who posted the article-

Your response to that article actually illustrated liberal incuriousness. He began to have conservative views and the conversations stopped. He was shunned, ostracized, and bullied by his liberal friends. His best friend disconnected from him. And you say yes, as it should be! I say no, as it shouldn't be! That's the crux of it. Writers in the community with conservative views *know* that they face those exact same threats. These threats aren't just implied, they are explicit. You may have a higher threshold of tolerance for conservatives than most, since you set the bar all the way at Ann Coulter, but I would say high tolerance for conservatives is a rarity among liberals right now.

And I'm gonna need to see evidence of you speaking out at a town meeting in your hometown. (Preferably video, because I want to see the look on their faces when you explain to them that their real problem isn't that jobs are leaving, it's that they are all racist.) Either way, though, you don't dream of being a farmer.

Nathan Bransford said...


I see a pretty wide gap between expressing mainstream political views and expressing sympathy for Milo Yiannopolous and Ann Coulter. Do you really think those are mainstream views? Do you really think someone expressing sympathy for hatemongers is worthy of mere polite disagreement? Personally, I would start to question their character and whether I would want them in my life.

Now, someone says they want lower taxes and fewer regulations? It's not like I'm cutting that person out even if I might disagree on specifics.

And yeah, don't have video. You can look at my public Facebook feed if you want.

Anonymous said...

Like I said, you may have a much higher tolerance for conservative views than other liberals. Not everyone is like you. A lot of liberals will and have cut people out simply for being conservative. People on Twitter are literally calling for trump voters to indentify themselves so they can be deleted. They don't really care about the specifics of their political beliefs. I assume that since you haven't responded to this point (which has been brought up several times by other anons) that you see nothing wrong with this. Well, I do. I think it's wrong. I think it's bullying. And frankly, I think it's creepy.

Again, you don't dream of being a farmer.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon, I already am a farmer!

Ti said...

@Anon 2/14 12:26, et al--

-Disclaimer: I'm a liberal. That said, I don't think threatening to "unfriend" or "unfollow" qualifies as bullying.

-Concerning friendship, everyone has deal breakers. For many, electing a monster is one of them. I've been around the internet since Trump was elected, and I've heard every argument out there as to why conservatives voted for him. I listened; I really did. But at the end of the day, the reasons weren't good enough. The reasons were hypocritical, or based on ignorance, or rooted in bigotry. I can almost forgive the people who were merely ignorant. But is that really an adequate defense? Isn't our first duty as citizens to be informed? Regardless, I feel no compunction to be "friends" with such people, and this attitude hardly amounts to "abuse." (Especially where the sentiment is mutual.)

-There is a certain irony in conservatives complaining about online harassment/abuse/bullying, given that until now they have been the sole perpetrators of said abuse and have been extremely outspoken in voicing their contempt for "safe spaces," "political correctness," and, of all things, "feelings." Not to say that two wrongs make a right, but again, the hypocrisy is staggering. The demand that liberals show forbearance in the face of such hypocrisy (which is ongoing in the wake of an alarming spike in hate crimes) and such naked self-interest is incredibly brazen. I don't speak for every liberal, but I am personally of the camp that you have to give respect to get respect. Pretty simple.

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