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Talk:Horseshoe theory

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Rewriting article, crank magnetism[edit]

I'd think that it would be good to clarify why some of the extreme ideologies attract so much cranks, instead of only trying to find similarities.

My hypothesis: a lot of people are drawn to extreme ideologies because they are alienated from society. This can correlate with beliefs that oppose mainstream thought ( 9/11 conspiracies etc.). Are there any studies done about this?

But I'd like to mention that the far-left is very generalized. Especially under "Pseudoscience promotion", as I already mentioned. There's also this piece in "Criticism".

"Another variant of the same argument is that the term "left-wing" refers to philosophies that promote broader democracy, political participation, and social equality, and that any form of government straying from this ideal is automatically right-wing instead. In considering this criticism it is instructive to look at the origins of the term "left-wing," which originally referred to the people who sat on the left side of the National Assembly during the French Revolution. Among these original left-wingers was Maximilien Robespierre, on whose watch the revolutionary government, still seated on the left wing, staged a series of political purges, executing about 40,000 people in the space of ten months. "

What left politics meant during the French Revolution has little to do with what's now considered left. I'd say that the article should be rewritten, to not generalize the whole far-left.

But to be honest, I'm not a good candidate for rewriting the article since I suffer from confirmation bias myself on this subject (although I hate the authoritarian far-left, some would call me "extreme" too for just wanting workers to own the means of production, I also sympathize with libertarian socialist thought). — Unsigned, by: Somebody / talk / contribs 14:04, 14 August 2015‎

The Martin Luther King quote[edit]

I don't think it's really about horseshoe theory, should it really be there? Christopher (talk) 11:24, 20 April 2017 (UTC)

Yes. It does not specifically mention horseshoe theory by name but it talks about moderates who "are more interested in order than justice", who prefer an absence of tension to the presence of justice. It also presents a counterthesis to horseshoe theory, directly equating moderates with the far right. His assertion is not compatible with horseshoe theory. Cat A. Lonia (talk) 11:34, 20 April 2017 (UTC)
I wonder if the quote wouldn't serve better in some other article, though. As a huge MLK fan myself, I get the impression that forcing his quote into the context of the horseshoe theory skews his message to sound like he was arguing in favor of jonanism (which he wasn't — nor are we). I think the quote might fit perfectly under willful ignorance (or some species of denialism), however? Reverend Black Percy (talk) 11:48, 20 April 2017 (UTC)
The belief that moderates are comparable to members of the far right is no less jonanism than the belief that the far left are comparable to members of the far right. Moderates, the far left, and the far right are all vastly different [edit: groupings of disparate] ideologies. People are entitled to compare vastly different things by analogy (imagine if they weren't), but doing so is not jonanism. And if it is jonanism, then this article shouldn't exist to begin with. Cat A. Lonia (talk) 11:57, 20 April 2017 (UTC) edit Cat A. Lonia (talk) 11:57, 20 April 2017 (UTC)
Just to be clear, I'm not arguing against the making of comparisons (or about whether or not things are comparable). Hell, that's 95% of what humor is! All I'm saying is, comparisons are great — except when they're notWikipedia. Here follows an attempt at clarifying the matter.
The far right and far left are obviously both far (i.e. far from the centre). As such, the distance between "far X" and "far Y" is much smaller than the distance between the centre and anything "far" whatsoever — indeed, by virtue of it being "far". That's horseshoe theory in a nutshell. No controversy there.
Now, you could certainly argue that (for example) the centre is worse (or more dangerous) than the far right is. All that would convey is that you personally happen to favor far right policies over centrist policies — and doing so is not a categorical error.
But merely holding such views doesn't actually lend credence to the categorical proposition that the centre (per definition: not far from itself) and anything far (per definition: not near the centre) approximate each other in the same way that two "far" positions do. This is where jonanism enters into it.
You wrote:
"The belief that moderates are comparable to members of the far right is no less jonanism than the belief that the far left are comparable to members of the far right."
Keeping in mind that I'm not arguing against the making of comparisons (in and of itself)...
I agree that it's certainly not jonanism to point out that things which fall into the category "far" fall into the category "far". Indeed, that's deductively true.
What is jonanism, however, is treating things that belong to different categories (e.g. "far" and "moderate") as if they belonged to the same category on the basis of disagreeing with you.
In other words; everyone who disagrees with you on topic X is not of the same view on topic X.
Grasping that essential difference is vital in the effort to reduce the splittingWikipedia we humans perform automatically (and to dire consequence).
You know the old (and unrelated) adage, "The enemy of my enemy is not my friend"? Well, jonanism would instead give it as "All of my enemies are friends". A more fitting slogan for the psychological defense mechanism known as splitting (see above) would be hard to come by.
Indeed — contrary to the split worldview — it's not the case that either people are with you, or they're with the terrorists. And that's not what MLK meant, either. Reverend Black Percy (talk) 13:26, 20 April 2017 (UTC)
"Far" here is completely meaningless. It's a construction made by people with a particular worldview. It is not meaningful in any sense that it describes any sort of reality of the material world. "Far left" means wanting justice for the downtrodden while "far right" means wanting rule by the strong and the death of the weak. The only similarity here is that centrists use the adjective "far" to describe both... because both disagree with them. That's not a categorical similarity; it's a similarity of the language used to describe them from a certain person's perspective. Cat A. Lonia (talk) 13:54, 20 April 2017 (UTC)
Wait, wait, wait... So; "Far left" translates to "unequivocal good" — getting the more just the further left you go, ad absurdum!? Reverend Black Percy (talk) 15:52, 20 April 2017 (UTC)
You're the one making the value judgment. In some people's eyes, wanting rule by the strong and the death of the weak is good. In some people's mind, wanting justice for the downtrodden is bad. I think these people are trash, but their ideology is independent of my opinion; they exist in tremendous numbers nowadays. Cat A. Lonia (talk) 20:25, 26 April 2017 (UTC)
I also love how you posted that "srs" gif about something I never said, that only you said. Do you normally make up arguments for people and then laugh at them? Because you're the one being a ridiculous asshat. Cat A. Lonia (talk) 20:28, 26 April 2017 (UTC)
Really he says moderates are much worse and much more dangerous than the far right, which is even more clearly damning of "the middle." Cat A. Lonia (talk) 11:37, 20 April 2017 (UTC)
I don't think that's what he meant, and it's certainly a fallacy to just flatly posit that, ceteris paribusWikipedia, a moderate view on a given topic is worse than a less moderate view on the same. Reverend Black Percy (talk) 11:48, 20 April 2017 (UTC)
No more than it is a fallacy to posit that a far left view is comparable to a far right view. But unlike centrists who deal in meta-ideological abstraction, he was obviously not positing this. Martin Luther King had a clear ideology and worldview which he believed was just and which he did not see as being anywhere comparable to the worldview of his enemies. He believed that moderates, by attacking his "extreme tactics" while superficially claiming to agree with him, were getting in the way of material justice for Black people. Cat A. Lonia (talk) 11:57, 20 April 2017 (UTC)
I'm well aware of the impressive amount of concern trolling mitläufers that MLK was up against. And as a feminist, I'm well aware of the flaws of proverbial "extremist" gambits.
Nay, what perplexes me in your reasoning is on the logical side of things (or illogical side, as it were).
For example, your composite claim that:
"flatly posit[ing] that, ceteris paribusWikipedia, a moderate view on a given topic is worse than a less moderate view on the same" is "no more [a fallacy] than it is [...] to posit that a far left view is comparable to a far right view."
A far left view is comparable to a far right view, though. Indeed, most things in the world are comparable (in a basic sense), though not always usefullyWikipedia so.
But it's certainly not true that, ceteris paribusWikipedia, a moderate view on a given topic is worse than a less moderate view on the same. Indeed — we know this not to be the caseWikipedia.
And I don't just say that because I'm SwedishWikipedia. Reverend Black Percy (talk) 14:09, 20 April 2017 (UTC)
Usefully comparable was exactly what I intended by the word comparable; it's a secondary meaning of the word. I apologize for my imprecision. It is fallacious to use the adjective "far" to describe two ideologies that are different from your own on the basis of them being different from your own, then say these ideologies are categorically equal because both are far. It is fallacious because it reduces to the very fallacy you were accusing MLK of. But MLK didn't mean here that everyone who was against him was the same. He meant that white moderates, by valuing order and stability (the standard by which they judge something as being "center") and devaluing tension (the standard by which they judge something as "far"), do far more to hinder racial justice than the KKK does. Cat A. Lonia (talk) 14:25, 20 April 2017 (UTC)
It's possibly sort of about horseshoe theory (I still personally can't see how). I certainly think the bit below the quote should go. Christopher (talk) 11:43, 20 April 2017 (UTC)
Most of the bit below the quote had already gone; I don't think you noticed? Cat A. Lonia (talk) 11:57, 20 April 2017 (UTC)
Most of it had, I still thought the rest should go as well. Don't we already have the same quote in another article? Copy pasting it into the search doesn't give any results but I could've sworn we had it somewhere. Christopher (talk) 12:00, 20 April 2017 (UTC)
I haven't seen it in another article but that doesn't mean it isn't in one. I originally wanted to add it to an article on centrism where I thought it would be most appropriate, but it's just a redirect to the political spectrum. The part I added below was meant to emphasize that being passionate about fighting material inequality does not make one equivalent to someone who, for example, passionately believes in the superiority of the white race. Cat A. Lonia (talk) 12:09, 20 April 2017 (UTC)
What is certain is that we could use more qualitative MLK quotes. I still think the quote would work best in the article on willful ignorance. Reverend Black Percy (talk) 13:28, 20 April 2017 (UTC)

RATIONALwiki (drink!)[edit]

If this is the sort of wiki where people literally think racial segregation is a matter of opinion rather than an action with measurable material consequences, I'm just going to leave now. Cat A. Lonia (talk) 13:54, 20 April 2017 (UTC)

But nobody even impli- Aah, never mind. Facepalm Reverend Black Percy (talk) 15:47, 20 April 2017 (UTC)
Your drinking game rule didn't even apply here; I didn't ever say the word rational or even imply it. It's almost like you are doing this automatically without reading a single thing anyone actually says. Cat A. Lonia (talk) 20:20, 26 April 2017 (UTC)
Also, is "facepalm" your response to every single person who points out the idiocy of your reasoning based entirely on an illusory spectrum? "I call both groups far, therefore they're the same!" Brilliant work. Cat A. Lonia (talk) 20:22, 26 April 2017 (UTC)
Like you are literally just making shit up ("RATIONALwiki", "the far left is unequivocally good") and then acting like I'm the asshole. Cat A. Lonia (talk) 20:30, 26 April 2017 (UTC)

On this article in general[edit]

The political spectrum itself is highly reductionist, though it's not baseless. But when you start turning this helpful-albeit-reductionist spectrum into a horseshoe and using it to draw actual conclusions, you're getting into some serious pseudoscience. And finding anecdotal evidence of where it was true doesn't change the basic fact that it's nonsense. There is a very clear difference between being willing to resort to extreme tactics to increase justice for the powerless, vs. being willing to resort to extreme tactics because you have contempt for the weak and you think they should all die. Members of the far right often talk like members of the far left (e.g. Hitler talking about Jews the way Communists talk about the bourgeoisie), but they can also talk like moderates when they want to; see Milo Yiannopoulos. Cat A. Lonia (talk) 12:20, 20 April 2017 (UTC)

  1. So we're doing pseudoscience, of all things? I'd like you to offer me your definition of that word, because I fail to see how that specific term applies here in the least.
  2. What about our current article appears "nonsensical" to you, exactly? The fact that extremists of all walks share an equal frustration with the vast, non-extremist majority? A majority which always needs explaining away — be they sheeple, reverse racists, blind and/or asleep, inherent oppressors, Quisling collaborators, or just suffering from false consciousness?
  3. "Anecdotal evidence" and "the drawing of actual conclusions"...? You do realize that RationalWiki is original research, right? You know — much like the original research you yourself were inserting into both this and other articles just hours ago? Besides, regarding "the drawing of actual conclusions" — not that it's actually a problem that anyone draws conclusions, but... Have you done anything but draw conclusions today yourself, in mainspace and on talkpages alike? We don't fault you for doing that — so why fault us for doing the same? Finally, regarding your suddenly elevated standards of evidence, here's a wild guess: you'd accept anecdotal evidence which panders to your pre-concieved beliefs in a heartbeat. And I don't say that to sound rude or to single you out in any way. On the contrary, I think we all need to humbly remind ourselves that this is what humans beings do.
  4. So wait, let me get this straight... Assuming I understand you correctly; you seriously think that (quote) "members of the far right" — the actual human beings — are inhumanly uniquely capable of hatred? I'm sorry to say that you're a fool if you think that being a far leftist means you're incapable of hating the harmless, or that being a far righter means you couldn't have deluded yourself into thinking you're actually doing good. I don't mean to sound condescending here, but I feel obliged to just point out that reality is much more nuanced than anything remotely resembling good guys vs. the baddiesWikipedia. Reverend Black Percy (talk) 14:53, 20 April 2017 (UTC)
Yes, you're engaging in pseudoscience. Horseshoe theory is not political science, it is internet bunk. Tell me, what about Kropotkinism is in any way similar to Mussolini's fascism? What do you think of as the center, personally? Neoliberalism? Pinochet has more in common with Hitler than, say, Pancho Villa does, and Pinochet's economic policies are straight out of the Chicago School.
Do you see what I'm saying? Yes, Stalin and Hitler were basically a reflection of each other in terms of atrocity and crimes against humanity (and little else), but that's because of their individual political ideologies. It's because of the specific qualities of those dictators and their regimes. It had nothing to do with their relative positions on the left/right spectrum at all.
There are right wing pacfists and left wing terrorists and vice versa. There are right wing authoritarians and left wing anti-authoritarians. Even movements one on side of the spectrum are vastly different from each other. How is Trotsky anything like Bakunin? How is Hitler anything like Reagan? Were the Maquis and antifa really so similar to Hitler and the brownshirts just because they used violence? Was Durruti really the same as Franco? Is liberation theology really the same as Wahhabism?
Horseshoe theory is how an adolescent thinks. This is the same kind of reductionist pap as "People only do things for selfish reasons." Like, horseshoe theory is so utterly facile and childish that it falls apart at the first glance if you know anything at all about political science. To reduce all political ideologies down to "left" or "right" just speaks to a person's political illiteracy. Even looking at authoritarian and anti-authoritarian socialist/liberal axes, it's still childish, reductionist nonsense. Not all authoritarian and anti-authoritarian groups are the same. Horseshoe theory speaks to an almost complete ignorance of political theory and history. (talk) 15:33, 12 July 2017 (UTC)

A distinction should be made between 'the political beliefs' of the groups, 'the choice of language ('look at us, anti-establishmentarians'/cryptopseudoanarchocaesropapaloimperatorsinsterdextroantidiestablishmentarians)' and 'the tactics used.' (talk) 12:44, 20 April 2017 (UTC)

Change name of article[edit]

It would probably be best if this were called the Horseshoe effect rather than the Horseshoe theory, as it does not always apply; this is the name given on the corresponding tvtropes article, for example: Skadooshbag (talk) 21:10, 15 June 2018 (UTC)

Hey, I have a brilliant idea, why don't I reply months after you posted this, rather than immediately to foster discussion. The easiest answer is: the name has existed for a long-ass time and people(other than weird tv tropes people, apparently) don't say the words "Horseshoe effect". I think it's fair to say horseshoe theory is not in any sense, a scientific theory, but we aren't dictators of the English language here. ikanreed 🐐Bleat at me 18:29, 20 September 2018 (UTC)

Gonna raise the same objection I raised at wikipedia to save time[edit]

Looks like the academic literature in poltiical science does not discuss horseshoe theory as legitimate at all. I spent hours search and literally all I could find was papers that lead with trite dismissals of it, and a few outright refutations, but literally nothing, not even in the post modern journals, using it as an actual frame of analysis. When we crib wp's "in political science" phrasing, we're maybe doing the field a disservice by attributing an idea that exists entirely within the field of punditry to actual academics. ikanreed 🐐Bleat at me 05:53, 2 October 2018 (UTC)

OK, what do you propose to do then? Can you find a serious refutation of it? If not, it sort of exists in limbo as neither validated nor invalidated. Bongolian (talk) 06:02, 2 October 2018 (UTC)
The horseshoe theory of politics may be largely discredited..., The so-called centrist/extremist or horseshoe theory points to notorious similarities between the two extremes of the political spectrum (e.g. authoritarianism). It remains alive though many sociologists consider it to have been thoroughly discredited (Bertlet & Lyons, 2000)(and look at that graph). That's pretty seriously dismissive language for academia. And, as I said, I can't find sources that use it seriously, which would definitely moderate my concerns a great deal. ikanreed 🐐Bleat at me 15:32, 2 October 2018 (UTC)
The links is just to a paper presentation at a conference by Pavlopoulos, so it was necessarily peer reviewed, but have you looked at the book that was cited by Pavlopoulos for the discrediting of Horseshoe theory, @Ikanreed? That might be the place to go to get a good counter-argument for this page: Berlet, C., & Lyons, M. (2000). Right-wing populism in America: Too close for comfort. New York: Guilford Press. Bongolian (talk) 04:36, 5 October 2018 (UTC)
The general absence of papers taking it seriously at all is the whole objection to the wording in the first place. It's just not political science, it's amateur analysis. I don't object to the idea existing, just worry over giving it more credibility than it deserves. ikanreed 🐐Bleat at me 14:27, 5 October 2018 (UTC)

Horseshoe theory is utter nonsense. The far left is much, much broader than the kind of authoritarianism displayed by Stalin, but unfortunately most people in the centre will never accept that their position is not the 'default'. (talk) 04:41, 6 October 2018 (UTC)

I agree that there is far more variety, but I think there are some odd similarities between people on supposedly opposite sides of the spectrum. I mention left wing and right wing anarchism (aka Libertarianism) below, which I believe share similarities not just more authoritarian groups. I think politics is subjective so it is hard to quantify scientifically, but if a group has an absolutist viewpoint, it will resemble others which do.
As for the so called centre, isn't that itself based on where the Overton Window lies? Centrist politics is hard to define because no one is dead centre. A party's membership may straddle it though. There are a number of ways to view what the centre is - some see it as a compromise between the two sides, and others as a less extreme versio of the two... Ironically, in one sense it may be more conservative (in the sense of conserving the status quo) than actual Conservatism.-Albannach (talk) 21:44, 28 July 2021 (UTC)


Saw our article cited in the wild as evidence that horseshoe theory is true and valid, in spite of the objections I raised above. Now I'm concerned that we're too fair to it. ikanreed 🐐Bleat at me 18:08, 13 November 2018 (UTC)

I don't think it is completely without merit, but it is not a perfect model. It all depends how one defines left and right. Jihadism and violent anti-Islamic groups both lie on the far right, and are supposed to be opposed, but even they may share features in common including militantism and a desire for censorship & persecution.-Albannach (talk) 21:47, 28 July 2021 (UTC)

Why is this even a discussion?[edit]

Horseshoe "theory" is something that is only espoused by pundits, with no support from actual political scientists, and in some cases treated with derision. The burden of proof is on the idea that horseshoe theory is real, we don't need peer reviewed studies on it being bullshit to not have an article whose bulk is dedicated to treating it as if it's an actual respected theory. (talk) 00:15, 31 July 2019 (UTC)

I tried to clean up the page by putting refutational material at the beginning. If you have specific ideas for improvement, let's hear them. Bongolian (talk) 01:03, 31 July 2019 (UTC)
Well, a good start would be to rewrite the intro to make it not act like this is a respected scientific theory (especially the "in political science" as this is not an actual concept used by political scientists), pruning the tumorously gigantic anecdote list, and maybe providing possible counterarguments to those specific anecdotes. Anything less is really just sticking a bandaid on a bullet wound. (talk) 17:00, 1 August 2019 (UTC)
You're welcome to try rewriting it. Bongolian (talk) 21:12, 1 August 2019 (UTC)
I added a bit of rebuttal to the lede (including a couple of critical links and a short explanation on why it's crap and why it's popular) and I changed the first sentence to say it's a claim rather than anything else. But definitely could do with more work. I couldn't find any academic studies about why it's bollocks although there was an article by the political scientist Simon Choat. --Annanoon (talk) 10:02, 2 August 2019 (UTC)
I suspect that there are two roots to the problem. The first being the idea that the "far right" and the "far left" are discrete political things. When they are, in fact, collections of things. That means that you will sometimes find things which are similar.
The second is that, as far as they exist, they are both extreme. And that possibility that some people with many extreme views will have some similar positions to other people with many extreme views is quite high.
(There is also the problem with definitions - what is "far"? Is Bernie Sanders "far left"? From a european perspective what I know of him seems quite moderate.)Hubert (talk) 14:05, 2 August 2019 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────I have added a new section, Horseshoe theory#A possible explanation, which from a philosophical perspective at least explains horseshoe theory for conspiracy theorists. Bongolian (talk) 20:31, 6 April 2020 (UTC)

Anti-Chinese Movement[edit]

The anti-Chinese movement that started in San Francisco in the mid 1800s was a political movement that united working class and elite whites against Chinese immigrants. It wasn't really "nativist" because the main opponents to Chinese immigration were Irish immigrants, who formed the "left wing" of the movement, while elite people, lawyers, writers, were the "right wing". There were also some Progressives who supported. It was a racist movement, violent, often burning down neighborhoods to terrorize (and kill) Chinese people.

The unity between "left" and "right" was constructed on a basis of white racism against nonwhite people, particularly Chinese workers. 2600:1700:6710:7A80:3CA8:562B:70DE:CB08 (talk) 04:01, 1 December 2020 (UTC)

Anarchism vs Libertarianism[edit]

I notice most of this article is about authoritarianism, but left wing and right wing anarchists also share a lot in common.-Albannach (talk) 23:52, 18 July 2021 (UTC)

Such as? Oxyaena Harass 12:52, 25 July 2021 (UTC)
Hatred of any current government and power structure, issues of personal autonomy, possible physical resistance to that, unwillingness to pay taxes (or deal nicely with police), and yes, conspiracy theories.
A significant number of both groups favour alternative medicine and hate Big Pharma. (Since the Covid issue is so heavily censored these days, it is hard to tell how many left-wing anarchists are boycotting this year's injections.) They will also be pretty hostile to state-run schooling, and prefer a back-to-the-land existence.-Albannach (talk) 21:06, 28 July 2021 (UTC)

Fish Hook[edit]

The Fish Hook theory doesn't even appear as its own article on Wikipedia. It's mostly a fringe group of extremists whining that they are being compared to their allegedly sworn enemy, or people who use "centrist" as a pejorative. Can we agree on how to fix that part of our article? Cordon (pester) 07:06, 25 July 2021 (UTC)

It's just as accurate as horseshoe theory. Your whining does nothing to change the fact that, historically speaking at least, centrists have almost always bent the knee to fascism when push comes to shove. Fishhook theory is mostly tongue in cheek as it is. Besides, why do you use the term "allegedly?" It's a well known fact that almost immediately upon entering office the first thing the Nazis did was to purge Germany of its leftist element. Oxyaena Harass 12:49, 25 July 2021 (UTC)
The very existence of "fish hook theory" is proof that elements of the Far-Left views normal, everyday people as their enemy. The phrase "silence is violence" is outright declaring that anyone who doesn't immediately ally with your ideas is "violent", and thus any violence committed against the centrists is "justified" as "self defence". Cordon (pester) 17:36, 25 July 2021 (UTC)
The very existence of a binary worldview tends to exclude other viewpoints so if someone opposes you, then they assume that you are allied with their "official" opponents. This doesn't just apply to extremists, but also hard two party systems like the USA, where some people struggle to see beyond the DemRep axis. People who see the world as conservative/liberal, capitalist/socialist or whatever fall into that trap. I see it frequently with post-structuralist types too, even on here.-Albannach (talk) 21:34, 28 July 2021 (UTC)
The Nazis didn't just purge Communists, they recruited some, and found it easier to gain converts from the militaristic far-left than the moderate left. (The Nazis may have opposed Communism, but they weren't above stealing some of its ideas and models.) The Soviets also made the famous Molotov-Ribbentropp pact which favoured both parties... But not the Poles.
Arthur Koestler said that the Communists in the Weimar Republic spent as much time attacking the Social Democrats and calling them Social Fascists, as they did on the Nazis. George Orwell also discussed how Stalinists kept attacking and purging non-Stalinist Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. In both cases, the far left paid dearly (although the Soviet Union eventually gained some satellite states.)
Most extreme groups view "normies" as conformists or sheeple. I'm afraid there appears to be some merit in this, as a lot of people follow whoever's in charge... Even when they're awful.-Albannach (talk) 21:28, 28 July 2021 (UTC)