Disdain

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

The Gorsuch story reminded me of a law professor friend of mine noting, a few years ago, that pressure for ideological conformity often comes through the threat of disdain: Go along with liberal positions on these various issues, or feel your colleagues' contempt and hostility.

Of course, the threat of disdain can be good, and can keep us honest and careful, if it's a threat of disdain for factual errors or logical fallacies. But if the threat is just motivated by ideological disagreement, that can stultify serious debate. And if you give in, and trim your sails to the prevailing winds in order to avoid the disdain, …

That is called paying disdain-geld;
But we've proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid the disdain-geld
You never get rid of disdain.

(The original poem is here.)

NEXT: Fatwa Against ... Buying Facebook "Likes"

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Link for those wondering where the reference came from: http://www.poetryloverspage.co….._geld.html

    Kipling;s poem “Dane-Geld”

    1. I was wondering, but fortunately he included the link in one of the poem’s words.

      “We never pay any-one (dis)Dane-geld,
      No matter how trifling the cost;
      For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
      And the nation that pays it is lost!”

      Love it!

      1. I didn’t have my cursor over it, so I didn’t see.

        1. Yeah, I hadn’t realized that links in block quotes don’t show up highlighted. Annoying. Sorry about that; just added an extra link at the end.

          1. Sure you didn’t know that – very convenient excuse. I think you just got caught trying to pass off that poem as your own!! Good thing someone noticed.

      2. The verse M.L. quotes isn’t the one Eugene tweaked (knowing this makes the pun even better IMO).

  2. ‘Go along with liberal positions on these various issues,’

    Lord help you if you ever encounter anyone on the right, or anyone claiming to be libertarian, especially the ones that comment round here. Disdain ain’t in it.

    1. I’m assuming he means in the legal scholar field at large.

  3. Yikes. He thought of the pun, then tried to figure out what to write to work it in.

    1. Those are the best puns!

    2. Believe it or not, this actually happened: My friend posted the item on a discussion list we were on, and I responded with the disdain-geld adaptation. You don’t get straight lines like that often ….

  4. Of course conservatives are never disdainful or contemptuous of those who disagree with them.

    Anyway, I’m having a hard time understanding the complaint here. Are liberals not supposed to express their views? Yes, it would be nice if everyone were polite, but there’s a reason some people like to stay away from political conversations. They are often rude, all the way around.

    1. When disdain means being shut out by colleagues from both social and professional contact, there is a very real problem.

    2. What? WE are only honest and truthful and respectful. It’s only THEY who are evil and vile and say unkind things…

    3. Liberals, like anyone, can express their views.

      Kipling’s poem wasn’t criticizing the Dane’s for demanding Danegeld. He was criticizing those who paid the Danegeld.

      When adapted, the poem would be criticizing those who give up their own views or position to avoid disdain of others. So, for example: If Gorsuch’s ruling in the upcoming case was based on his wanting to avoid the disdain of the press or liberals, Gorsuch would be worth of criticism. He’d have paid the “disdain-geld”.

      1. Lucia_l: Yes, that’s how I understand the poem as well — the Danes in it were just Danes doing what Danes do.

        1. “do”? Or did? We must practice at this politically correct inoffensive thing, mustn’t we.

        2. Danes gonna Dane!

          and that Danegeld ain’t gonna pay itself!

  5. “or feel your colleagues’ contempt and hostility.”

    So …. you don’t really want us to comment on your re-purposed pun, do you?

  6. As with many of my fellows, I’m interested in the noted asymmetry in which direction the distain-based pressure goes.

    1. There’s plenty to go around.

    2. “As with many of my fellows…”

      So your partners are liberal too, eh?

    3. Remember that whiny college kid from the Blackman protest taking about feeling “silenced” in Texas? He never actually cited a time when someone shut him up physically. What he was really complaining about is the social pressure to conform when your opinion differs from those around you. Conservatives complain about it too.

      Lots there when we talk here on the topic.

      1. The best part about anecdotal evidence is that it allows all the confirmation bias you need.

    4. The point here wasn’t about the threat of disdain so much as the proper response to it. I don’t see many liberals paying the disdain-geld. Whereas such behavior seemed to be a defining characteristic of the Republican establishment. And the idea seems to be that this is to liberals’ great credit and a fatal failure of the Republican establishment.

      But let’s see . . . another word for disdain may be . . . deplore. Does that ring a bell? Disdain-based pressure as a tactic seems to have its limits and potential to backfire.

      1. I don’t see many liberals paying the disdain-geld. Whereas such behavior seemed to be a defining characteristic of the Republican establishment.

        Confirmation Bias 101.

        Each side’s base is contempuous of its own side’s establishment, which it perceives as spineless and accommodationist, while professing grudging respect for their unyielding, principled opponent.

        Now maybe you’re right, and the liberals who are adamently convinced of the flipside are wrong. One thing is certain. At least one of you is wrong. IMO you both are.

  7. Gorsuch can’t escape disdain from somewhere. If he votes one way the Lefties will say he’s an illigitimate Justice, if he votes the other way the Righties will say he’s a sell-out. Best thing he can do is not worry about disdain and vote the way he thinks is correct. Maybe we should all get together and send him a bottle of Disdain Remover.

    1. If Disdain Remover removed disdain
      I think the loss would dwarf the gain

  8. Once you submit to the Dane-geld
    You’ll sing in a higher register

    1. Is that why there’s such an issue today with falsetto news?

    2. Thanks! I always wondered about the etymology of that word:-)

  9. So, you had to post the link,
    thereby treating your readers with disdain.

    1. I read it. Didn’t feel that. I’m thinking you’re in a minority here, in addition to being Unknown.

  10. “Gorsuch Story” links to you framing Prof. Segall’s analysis in a way he found dubious.

    “Go along with [fill in blank] positions on these various issues, or feel your colleagues’ contempt and hostility.”

  11. Before paying attention to disdain, ya gotta ask: “Sez who?”

  12. Disdain is a pain. I just thought of that.

  13. Can’t help but likening this to the obama-israel relationship. It would seem he was knowingly paying additional security money to the state in order to compensate for his disdains of illiberal state policies. It’s pretty clear Israel would have preferred robust moral support over token increases in aid. Going forward, the opposite approach of boycotts would be all the more futile. Hoping some readers would find that idea more refreshing than prior comments, that would betray my disdain for the same.

  14. “You’re a kook!” is lnternet-speak for “You don’t agree with me!” That this attitude has migrated to academia is not at all surprising.

  15. Methinks Professor Volokh doth protest too much.

    Admit it. With all this fuss about not paying dis Dane geld, the only conclusion we can make here is that Professor Volokh is really secretly paying dat Dane geld, and is trying to distract us to avoid owning up to it.

    Come on. We’re not that easily fooled by lawyerly tricks. Dis Dane, dat Dane, it’s still a Dane he’s paying off.

    Just ask the current occupant of the White House. There’s nothing in the world, nothing you can name, that’s anything like one.

  16. Of all people to worry over feeling the effects of disdain, Gorsuch is just about the last one to bother about. It is quickly becoming apparent that disdain is his own principal stock in trade. He has already proven himself a master of working himself up to high dudgeon over small issues and lecturing his peers as if they were errant schoolboys who don’t know the basics of the trade they have plied longer than he has. For example, last week’s condescending dissent in Wilson v. Sellers, where he oozed disdain over a result that had commanded the assent of 6 out of the 7 Circuits that had previously considered the issue, let alone that of six of his fellow Justices — and all over something that he himself thought to be no big deal.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.