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What's in a name? Left Wing and Right Wing
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Wiskedjak
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Apr 22, 2012, 02:01 PM
 
Just came across an interesting article explaining the origins of the terms 'Left Wing' and 'Right Wing'.
‘Left-wing’ and ‘right-wing’ don’t fly | Columnists | Opinion | Calgary Sun

During the French Revolution, supporters of reform sat to the left of the president, while supporters of the traditional regime sat on the right. Thus, terms that originally referred to seating arrangements became used as synonyms for political ideologies. “Left-wing” came to symbolize challenging authority and social progress, whereas “right-wing” described supporters of established power and order.
Using the traditional origin of the terms, that author suggests that you cannot have a Left Wing party in power: by definition, a party supporting reform and challenging authority would *become* Right Wing as soon as they became the authority. He also suggests that present parties referred to as "Right Wing" are actually left wing, since they seek reform of the status quo (ie: Opposing gay-marriage challenges the dominant legal and cultural discourses of our time), resulting in parties that self-identify as right-wing whose policies would be more accurately described as left-wing, who disagree amongst themselves as to the definition of right-wing. On the other hand, "Left Wing" parties are actually right wing in that they're defending the reforms already achieved (ie: greater rights for workers, a fair and responsive compensation program for injuries sustained in the course of employment, and a safety net for transitioning between jobs and into retirement), resulting in parties that struggle to portray themselves as maligned victims while in fact their politics reinforce the established mechanisms of power.

The end result: political confusion

I get that the terms have morphed to represent such concepts as returning to traditional values (ie: at one point the Right Wing status quo argument lost out to the Left Wing reform argument, the Left Wing became the new Right Wing, but people forgot to reset the labels). Still, it's interesting to finally understand the origin of the terms.
     
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Apr 22, 2012, 05:38 PM
 
     
subego
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Apr 22, 2012, 05:43 PM
 
I think "right" should mean less government and "left" should mean more government.

Simple.
     
Wiskedjak  (op)
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Apr 22, 2012, 05:55 PM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
I think "right" should mean less government and "left" should mean more government.

Simple.
Simple ... if they actually stuck to it.

In practice,
"Left" means more government here, and less there
"Right" means less government here, and more there.
     
besson3c
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Apr 22, 2012, 06:32 PM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
I think "right" should mean less government and "left" should mean more government.

Simple.

What about social issues?
     
OreoCookie
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Apr 23, 2012, 03:16 AM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
I think "right" should mean less government and "left" should mean more government.

Simple.
But not consistent with anything. Originally, both »left-« and »right-wing« politicians in France back when the terms were coined were radicals that overthrew the old order. The difference between the two was that the »right« was content to guarantee equal rights to anybody, but not doing anything to improve the living conditions of the working poor. The »left« wanted to overcome social injustice. The conditions back then cannot be compared in any way to the conditions now.

Plus, many conservative governments have contributed to fighting social injustice. In Germany, for instance, all social insurances have been introduced by conservative governments. The starkly conservative Bismark government introduced mandatory health insurance for workers in 1883,* for instance, to fight the growing popularity of the social democrats and other workers' parties. Even back then, employers paid a share (back then 1/3, nowadays 1/2) of the insurance premiums. Bismark also introduced insurances covering accidents (1884) and a retirement fund (1891). Obviously, the scope and coverage of these insurances is not what it is today.

So history flies in the face of simplistic definitions of »left« and »right«, and to me, these terms are utterly useless these days. Even more so in countries where you have more than two parties in parliaments. People belonging to different ideologies have different definitions, usually these definitions match their own ideology and what they perceive as threatening to that ideology. Very often these type of people choose a party like a sports team they decide to be a fan of and then stick to it.

* Yes, I did not mistake the century, in Germany mandatory health insurance has been introduced in 1883, not 1983
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subego
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Apr 23, 2012, 06:47 AM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
What about social issues?
If you take care of your social issues with more government, it's left. If you take care of your social issues with less government, it's right.

Simple.
     
subego
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Apr 23, 2012, 06:54 AM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
So history flies in the face of simplistic definitions of »left« and »right«, and to me, these terms are utterly useless these days.
History isn't what a political party claims it is, history is what they actually do.
     
subego
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Apr 23, 2012, 06:57 AM
 
Originally Posted by Wiskedjak View Post
Simple ... if they actually stuck to it.

In practice,
"Left" means more government here, and less there
"Right" means less government here, and more there.
Who is "they" in this context?
     
Wiskedjak  (op)
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Apr 23, 2012, 08:56 AM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
Who is "they" in this context?
Anyone who identifies themselves as either Right Wing or Left Wing, but mostly the politicians who only talk the talk during elections.
     
Wiskedjak  (op)
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Apr 23, 2012, 09:07 AM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
I think "right" should mean less government and "left" should mean more government.

Simple.
Does that mean any platform with Social Conservative items in it is automatically "left wing"? Mandating and policing morality will, by definition, always require More government.
     
subego
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Apr 23, 2012, 09:17 AM
 
The socially conservative parts of their platform? You bet your sweet bippy!

See? Simple.
     
OreoCookie
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Apr 23, 2012, 09:19 AM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
History isn't what a political party claims it is, history is what they actually do.
And how does that tie in with the distinction of left vs. right?
Originally Posted by subego View Post
If you take care of your social issues with more government, it's left. If you take care of your social issues with less government, it's right.

Simple.
That is not a very useful distinction, because if you take it seriously, parties are both, left and right -- and neither. (I'm thinking of the Mortgage Crisis at the end of the Bush 2/beginning of the Obama Administration, for instance.) And it doesn't work in other countries which have a much more tightly knit social system (I'm primarily thinking of Europe and Japan here). German conservatives want to pay spouses (read: women) to stay home if they do not send their children to kindergarten. Their motivation is their view of an ideal family (a conservative Christian value in their view). So they spend money to attack social issues. Yet clearly, the underlying motivation is by no means »left«.
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subego
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Apr 23, 2012, 09:21 AM
 
Originally Posted by Wiskedjak View Post
but mostly the politicians who only talk the talk during elections.
Politicians staple, fold, and mutilate semantics as a profession. It shouldn't surprise you the definitions they use are worthless.
     
subego
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Apr 23, 2012, 09:23 AM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
parties are both, left and right -- and neither.
See? You get it.
     
OreoCookie
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Apr 23, 2012, 09:24 AM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
See? You get it.
No, because it actually jives with my main argument: the moniker left/right is completely useless -- especially your very simplistic definition.
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subego
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Apr 23, 2012, 09:30 AM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
No, because it actually jives with my main argument: the moniker left/right is completely useless -- especially your very simplistic definition.
Taking my money and giving it to someone else so they can raise their child isn't left?

I really don't give a rat's ass why they say they're doing it.
     
OreoCookie
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Apr 23, 2012, 09:44 AM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
Taking my money and giving it to someone else so they can raise their child isn't left?
In the self-conception of German politicians, hell no! That's not just how the German conservatives (CDU/CSU) see themselves, but the other parties actually agree with that assessment. As a matter of fact, it's one of the straws they cling to for defining themselves as conservatives/right-of-the-center these days!

People always find good reasons to spend (public) money to support their causes, be it small or big, be it direct spending or indirect spending (e. g. by granting tax privileges to companies, certain living arrangements or families with children). Not collecting taxes on churches, for instance, is another way to support a social construct, and to cover for the money that the state does not take in from churches, individuals and companies need to be taxed more.
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subego
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Apr 23, 2012, 10:13 AM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
In the self-conception of German politicians, hell no! That's not just how the German conservatives (CDU/CSU) see themselves, but the other parties actually agree with that assessment. As a matter of fact, it's one of the straws they cling to for defining themselves as conservatives/right-of-the-center these days!
So, your argument is the people for whom their very existence is predicated on the meaning of a particular term are going to be good executors of its semantic integrity?

As I implied above, letting politicians decide for you what words mean is truly a mistake of epic proportions.
( Last edited by subego; Apr 23, 2012 at 10:24 AM. )
     
OreoCookie
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Apr 23, 2012, 10:27 AM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
So, your argument is the people whose very existence is based on the meaning of a particular term are going to be good executors of its semantic integrity?
No, not at all, because you confuse the self-conception of others with my opinion.

My point is that there is no good definition of »left« and »right« -- mostly because this 200-year-old term has long been superseded by different political realities. And because I don't think you can cram life into a literally one-dimensional distinction (left vs. right).

Even if I limit myself to US politics, the small government crowd does not consist of conservatives, but libertarians (which encompasses both, Ron Paul-type conservative libertarians and liberal-leaning Bill Maher-type libertarians).
Originally Posted by subego View Post
As I implied above, letting politicians decide for you what words mean is truly a mistake of epic proportions.
It's not my mistake to make.
I don't think there is any value in a notion that (1) cannot be used to distinguish between politicians of different colors (because they are classified simultaneously classified as »left« and »right« according to your definition) and (2) the definition grossly mismatches self-perception of these individuals.

I actually think it's your mistake to attempt to paint a one-dimensional picture of political reality and propose a definition that essentially nobody agrees with.
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subego
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Apr 23, 2012, 12:44 PM
 
You say that as if using a one-dimensional axis to represent politics was my idea.

You also point out the terms "left" and "right" have no meaning in this context as if I haven't said the exact same thing in this thread, multiple times. It's smack yo momma obvious to anyone who has even a glancing interest in language and how it's used.

So of course no one is going to agree with my definition, because just like you said we don't have a definition.

Now, where we diverge here is you're placing value on consensus and self identification. Well, if that's where I put the value, I'd give up too.

The thing is, that's not where I'm putting it. To me, what's valuable is comprehensibility, and resistance to alteration of meaning.

My definition satisfies both of those goals. It can be explained in one short sentence (comprehensible), has a narrow enough scope it reasonably fits within the confines of a single axis (resistance to alteration), and (this is important) describes something quantifiable (also resistance to alteration).
     
besson3c
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Apr 23, 2012, 01:40 PM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
If you take care of your social issues with more government, it's left. If you take care of your social issues with less government, it's right.

Simple.

It is simple and makes sense, but in today's reality in this country this is sort of the opposite.
     
subego
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Apr 23, 2012, 03:17 PM
 
Personally, I'm distressed by that.
     
The Final Dakar
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Apr 23, 2012, 03:25 PM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
Personally, I'm distressed by that.
Because of the possible hypocrisy or that it indicates both sides have faith in government, just not on the same issues?
     
subego
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Apr 23, 2012, 04:07 PM
 
Both. More the hypocrisy.
     
The Final Dakar
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Apr 23, 2012, 04:10 PM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
Both. More the hypocrisy.
Well, there's this thing called compartmentalization...

It certainly seems less hypocritical when viewed through the lens of social vs. economic.
     
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Apr 23, 2012, 04:16 PM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
Now, where we diverge here is you're placing value on consensus and self identification. Well, if that's where I put the value, I'd give up too.
I don't place value in it. I accept that some people use left/right to identify themselves on the political spectrum. I just tend to ignore that, because reality is so much more complicated. I'd rather know where people stand on a specific issue rather than guess from a label.

People who think in left/right are often people who think in black and white. Those who are surprised that someone who they perceive as to the left of them is against government bailouts. Or against further restrictions in gun ownership. Or people who think of them as belonging to the »left« are surprised that some conservatives are for stronger environmental regulations.
Originally Posted by subego View Post
The thing is, that's not where I'm putting it. To me, what's valuable is comprehensibility, and resistance to alteration of meaning.
But your definition suffers from a fatal congenital flaw: it's just not very accurate. What good is a definition that is at odds with how most people see themselves and in practice doesn't distinguish people (since they're both, »left« and »right« at the same time according to your definition)?

Tell me, what good does that definition do you? I'm curious.
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Wiskedjak  (op)
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Apr 23, 2012, 08:45 PM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
If you take care of your social issues with more government, it's left. If you take care of your social issues with less government, it's right.

Simple.
Now, try explaining to a Social Conservative that they are advocates for bigger government.
     
subego
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Apr 23, 2012, 09:35 PM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
I don't place value in it. I accept that some people use left/right to identify themselves on the political spectrum. I just tend to ignore that
If this is you ignoring it I'd like to see what happens when you feel something deserves your attention.

Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
But your definition suffers from a fatal congenital flaw: it's just not very accurate. What good is a definition that is at odds with how most people see themselves and in practice doesn't distinguish people (since they're both, »left« and »right« at the same time according to your definition)?

Tell me, what good does that definition do you? I'm curious.
For your first question I'll just keep repeating this part: I don't care how people self-identify themselves. How is something I don't care about a congenital defect in my own definition?

Your second question is only an issue when someone is an equal quantity of both. If they're not equal, then a differentiation of colors is exactly what you have. If you desire, we can rate ourselves by my metric. Even though we are both left and right, do you honestly think there's any chance by said metric, you'll come off as equally "winged" as myself?

Like the first question, I've answered your third in exhaustive detail. All I can do is repeat myself: the good my definition does for me is it can be simply and completely defined for someone despite 200 years of semantic baggage, and it's highly resistant to alteration of meaning.
( Last edited by subego; Apr 23, 2012 at 10:28 PM. )
     
subego
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Apr 23, 2012, 09:38 PM
 
Originally Posted by Wiskedjak View Post
Now, try explaining to a Social Conservative that they are advocates for bigger government.
I feel if I can get their head to be like from Scanners, I've done it right.
     
subego
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Apr 23, 2012, 10:00 PM
 
Originally Posted by The Final Dakar View Post
Well, there's this thing called compartmentalization...

It certainly seems less hypocritical when viewed through the lens of social vs. economic.
What's ironic (to me at least) is I even though I disagree with it, I can see how one could imagine the economic stuff would work, since it kinda works okay on paper.

OTOH, the social stuff comes right out of some sort of jack-booted, communist nightmare.
( Last edited by subego; Apr 23, 2012 at 10:26 PM. )
     
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Apr 23, 2012, 10:15 PM
 
I just spent way too long looking for the Bloom County strip where Opus lifts his left wing, then his right wing, in confusion over which he is.

Curse you gocomics archives!
     
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Apr 24, 2012, 03:30 AM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
If this is you ignoring it I'd like to see what happens when you feel something deserves your attention.
I have a strong dislike of black-and-white thinking, especially when the criteria that are used are simplistic.
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subego
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Apr 24, 2012, 04:45 AM
 
Black and white thinking with complex criteria isn't black and white thinking.
     
OreoCookie
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Apr 24, 2012, 04:53 AM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
Black and white thinking with complex criteria isn't black and white thinking.
That sentence is a contradiction in itself. If you remove the modifier »with complex criteria«, all that is left is »Black and white thinking isn't black and white thinking.«

Besides, you called your criterion simple -- and I called it simplistic. But none of us called it complex.
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subego
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Apr 24, 2012, 05:10 AM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
That sentence is a contradiction in itself. If you remove the modifier »with complex criteria«, all that is left is »Black and white thinking isn't black and white thinking.«
Please tell me this is a joke.
     
Wiskedjak  (op)
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Apr 24, 2012, 08:09 AM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
Black and white thinking with complex criteria isn't black and white thinking.
It is, when people choose to disregard the complex criteria because they don't fit their predefined notions.
     
subego
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Apr 24, 2012, 08:35 AM
 
Allow me to be more direct.

I submit one of the defining characteristics of black and white thinking is a lack of complex criteria.
     
Wiskedjak  (op)
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Apr 24, 2012, 08:42 AM
 
And, I submit one of the defining characteristics of black and white thinking is a lack of *consideration* of complex criteria.

For example, a Social Conservative would never accept that they're policies would lead to big government, because the complex criteria behind that argument doesn't fit their black and white thinking.
     
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Apr 24, 2012, 08:48 AM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
I submit one of the defining characteristics of black and white thinking is a lack of complex criteria.
I wasn't being facetious in my reply, the sentence as you've written it in your post really is non-sensical. But now I think I understand what you intended to write.

However, I still don't understand where you're trying to go with this: yes, black-and-white thinking is characterized by measuring something against simplistic criteria rather than complex ones. But how does that tie in with your simplistic definition of »left« vs. »right«? Just because you do not use a complex criterion doesn't make it correct -- or wrong, for that matter.
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subego
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Apr 24, 2012, 03:10 PM
 
Originally Posted by Wiskedjak View Post
And, I submit one of the defining characteristics of black and white thinking is a lack of *consideration* of complex criteria.

For example, a Social Conservative would never accept that they're policies would lead to big government, because the complex criteria behind that argument doesn't fit their black and white thinking.
Black and white thinking is an anylitical tool. IMO, the lack of consideration you discuss is a result of user error, and not a defining characteristic of the tool itself.
     
subego
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Apr 24, 2012, 03:28 PM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
I wasn't being facetious in my reply, the sentence as you've written it in your post really is non-sensical. But now I think I understand what you intended to write.
That was the point. The claim it was responding to was nonsensical. To me, saying "I hate black and white thinking, especially when the criteria used is simplistic" is like saying "I hate sand castles, especially when they're made out of sand".

Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
However, I still don't understand where you're trying to go with this: yes, black-and-white thinking is characterized by measuring something against simplistic criteria rather than complex ones. But how does that tie in with your simplistic definition of »left« vs. »right«?
It ties in for the exact reasons you've been complaining about this whole thread. Most people, and almost all politicians try to shoehorn their own complex criteria into black and white, not to mention said politicians are highly skilled at at making the words themselves imply any meaning which fits their agenda.

You can't do that with my definition, or if you can, it's far more difficult. That's where I'm going with it.
( Last edited by subego; Apr 24, 2012 at 04:19 PM. )
     
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Apr 27, 2012, 09:33 AM
 
No such thing as right and left wing anymore : Political compass - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
     
subego
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Apr 27, 2012, 09:38 AM
 
Last time we talked about that I got in trouble for naming the end of one axis "**** you with a plunger".
     
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Apr 27, 2012, 09:47 AM
 
Since when did it depend on right left up or down for the **** you part?
     
subego
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Apr 27, 2012, 09:53 AM
 
That's probably why I got dinged. Didn't spread my "**** yous" around to everyone all socialist-like.
     
mattyb
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Apr 27, 2012, 10:16 AM
 
You see, there is a good part to socialism.
     
subego
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Apr 27, 2012, 10:22 AM
 
I think I heard that as a campaign slogan once. "A plunger in every behind, and all your cars on blocks!"
     
   
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