Not a social justice blog! Stop only reading my posts about social justice!

In Favor of Niceness, Community, and Civilization

[Content warning: Discussion of social justice, discussion of violence, spoilers for Jacqueline Carey books]

I.

Arthur Chu criticizes me for my bold and controversial suggestion that maybe people should try to tell slightly fewer blatant hurtful lies:

I just find it kind of darkly amusing and sad that the “rationalist community” loves “rationality is winning” so much as a tagline and yet are clearly not winning. And then complain about losing rather than changing their tactics to match those of people who are winning.

Which is probably because if you *really* want to be the kind of person who wins you have to actually care about winning something, which means you have to have politics, which means you have to embrace “politics the mindkiller” and “politics is war and arguments are soldiers”, and Scott would clearly rather spend the rest of his life losing than do this.

That post [the one debunking false rape statistics] is exactly my problem with Scott. He seems to honestly think that it’s a worthwhile use of his time, energy and mental effort to download evil people’s evil worldviews into his mind and try to analytically debate them with statistics and cost-benefit analyses.

He gets *mad* at people whom he detachedly intellectually agrees with but who are willing to back up their beliefs with war and fire rather than pussyfooting around with debate-team nonsense.

It honestly makes me kind of sick. It is exactly the kind of thing that “social justice” activists like me *intend* to attack and “trigger” when we use “triggery” catchphrases about the mewling pusillanimity of privileged white allies.

In other words, if a fight is important to you, fight nasty. If that means lying, lie. If that means insults, insult. If that means silencing people, silence.

It always makes me happy when my ideological opponents come out and say eloquently and openly what I’ve always secretly suspected them of believing. It’s even better when the person involved is a celebrity, and I can tell people “Hey! I argued with a celebrity!”

My natural instinct is to give some of the reasons why I think Arthur is wrong, starting with the history of the “noble lie” concept and moving on to some examples of why it didn’t work very well, and why it might not be expected not to work so well in the future.

But in a way, that would be assuming the conclusion. I wouldn’t be showing respect for Arthur’s arguments. I wouldn’t be going halfway to meet them on their own terms.

The respectful way to rebut Arthur’s argument would be to spread malicious lies about Arthur to a couple of media outlets, fan the flames, and wait for them to destroy his reputation.

Then if the stress ends up bursting an aneurysm in his brain, I can dance on his grave, singing:

♪ ♬ I won this debate in a very effective manner. Now you can’t argue in favor of nasty debate tactics any more ♬ ♪

I am not going to do that, but if I did it’s unclear to me how Arthur could object. I mean, he thinks that sexism is detrimental to society, so spreading lies and destroying people is justified in order to stop it. I think that discourse based on mud-slinging and falsehoods is detrimental to society. Therefore…

II.

But really, all this talk of lying and spreading rumors about people is – what was Arthur’s terminology – “pussyfooting around with debate-team nonsense”. You know who got things done? The IRA. They didn’t agree with the British occupation of Northern Ireland and they weren’t afraid to let people know in that very special way only a nail-bomb shoved through your window at night can.

Why not assassinate prominent racist and sexist politicians and intellectuals? I won’t name names since that would be crossing a line, but I’m sure you can generate several of them who are sufficiently successful and charismatic that, if knocked off, there would not be an equally competent racist or sexist immediately available to replace them, and it would thus be a serious setback for the racism/sexism movement.

Other people can appeal to “the social contract” or “the general civilizational rule not to use violence”, but not Arthur:

I think that whether or not I use certain weapons has zero impact on whether or not those weapons are used against me, and people who think they do are either appealing to a kind of vague Kantian morality that I think is invalid or a specific kind of “honor among foes” that I think does not exist.

And don’t give me that nonsense about the police. I’m sure the kind of person who can think up clever exciting new ways to win on Jeopardy can also think of clever exciting new ways to commit the perfect murder. Unless you do not believe there will ever be an opportunity to defect unpunished, you need this sort of social contract to take you at least some of the way.

He continues:

When Scott calls rhetorical tactics he dislikes “bullets” and denigrates them it actually hilariously plays right into this point…to be “pro-bullet” or “anti-bullet” is ridiculous. Bullets, as you say, are neutral. I am in favor of my side using bullets as best they can to destroy the enemy’s ability to use bullets.

In a war, a real war, a war for survival, you use all the weapons in your arsenal because you assume the enemy will use all the weapons in theirs. Because you understand that it IS a war.

There are a lot of things I am tempted to say to this.

Like “And that is why the United States immediately nukes every country it goes to war with.”

Or “And that is why the Geneva Convention was so obviously impossible that no one even bothered to attend the conference”.

Or “And that is why, to this very day, we solve every international disagreement through total war.”

Or “And that is why Martin Luther King was immediately reduced to a nonentity, and we remember the Weathermen as the sole people responsible for the success of the civil rights movement”

But I think what I am actually going to say is that, for the love of God, if you like bullets so much, stop using them as a metaphor for ‘spreading false statistics’ and go buy a gun.

(I just realized I probably shouldn’t say that. If I get shot in the next while, someone point the police here.)

III.

So let’s derive why violence is not in fact The One True Best Way To Solve All Our Problems. You can get most of this from Hobbes, but this blog post will be shorter.

Suppose I am a radical Catholic who believes all Protestants deserve to die, and therefore go around killing Protestants. So far, so good.

Unfortunately, there might be some radical Protestants around who believe all Catholics deserve to die. If there weren’t before, there probably are now. So they go around killing Catholics, we’re both unhappy and/or dead, our economy tanks, hundreds of innocent people end up as collateral damage, and our country goes down the toilet.

So we make an agreement: I won’t kill any more Catholics, you don’t kill any more Protestants. The specific Irish example was called the Good Friday Agreement and the general case is called “civilization”.

So then I try to destroy the hated Protestants using the government. I go around trying to pass laws banning Protestant worship and preventing people from condemning Catholicism.

Unfortunately, maybe the next government in power is a Protestant government, and they pass laws banning Catholic worship and preventing people from condemning Protestantism. No one can securely practice their own religion, no one can learn about other religions, people are constantly plotting civil war, academic freedom is severely curtailed, and once again the country goes down the toilet.

So again we make an agreement. I won’t use the apparatus of government against Protestantism, you don’t use the apparatus of government against Catholicism. The specific American example is the First Amendment and the general case is called “liberalism”, or to be dramatic about it, “civilization 2.0″

Every case in which both sides agree to lay down their weapons and be nice to each other has corresponded to spectacular gains by both sides and a new era of human flourishing.

“Wait a second, no!” someone yells. “I see where you’re going with this. You’re going to say that agreeing not to spread malicious lies about each other would also be a civilized and beneficial system. Like maybe the Protestants could stop saying that the Catholics worshipped the Devil, and the Catholics could stop saying the Protestants hate the Virgin Mary, and they could both relax the whole thing about the Jews baking the blood of Christian children into their matzah.

“But your two examples were about contracts written on paper and enforced by the government. So maybe a ‘no malicious lies’ amendment to the Constitution would work if it were enforceable, which it isn’t, but just asking people to stop spreading malicious lies is doomed from the start. The Jews will no doubt spread lies against us, so if we stop spreading lies about them, all we’re doing is abandoning an effective weapon against a religion I personally know to be heathenish! Rationalists should win, so put the blood libel on the front page of every newspaper!”

Or, as Arthur puts it:

Whether or not I use certain weapons has zero impact on whether or not those weapons are used against me, and people who think they do are either appealing to a kind of vague Kantian morality that I think is invalid or a specific kind of “honor among foes” that I think does not exist.

So let’s talk about how beneficial game-theoretic equilibria can come to exist even in the absence of centralized enforcers. I know of two main ways: reciprocal communitarianism, and divine grace.

Reciprocal communitarianism is probably how altruism evolved. Some mammal started running TIT-FOR-TAT, the program where you cooperate with anyone whom you expect to cooperate with you. Gradually you form a successful community of cooperators. The defectors either join your community and agree to play by your rules or get outcompeted.

Divine grace is more complicated. I was tempted to call it “spontaneous order” until I remembered the rationalist proverb that if you don’t understand something, you need to call it by a term that reminds you that don’t understand it or else you’ll think you’ve explained it when you’ve just named it.

But consider the following: I am a pro-choice atheist. When I lived in Ireland, one of my friends was a pro-life Christian. I thought she was responsible for the unnecessary suffering of millions of women. She thought I was responsible for killing millions of babies. And yet she invited me over to her house for dinner without poisoning the food. And I ate it, and thanked her, and sent her a nice card, without smashing all her china.
Please try not to be insufficiently surprised by this. Every time a Republican and a Democrat break bread together with good will, it is a miracle. It is an equilibrium as beneficial as civilization or liberalism, which developed in the total absence of any central enforcing authority.

When you look for these equilibria, there are lots and lots. Arthur says there is no “honor among foes”, but if you read the Iliad or any other account of ancient warfare, there is practically nothing but honor among foes, and it wasn’t generated by some sort of Homeric version of the Geneva Convention, it just sort of happened. During World War I, the English and Germans spontaneously got out of their trenches and celebrated Christmas together with each other, and on the sidelines Arthur was shouting “No! Stop celebrating Christmas! Quick, shoot them before they shoot you!” but they didn’t listen.

All I will say in way of explaining these miraculous equilibria is that they seem to have something to do with inheriting a cultural norm and not screwing it up. Punishing the occasional defector seems to be a big part of not screwing it up. How exactly that cultural norm came to be is less clear to me, but it might have something to do with the reasons why an entire civilization’s bureaucrats may suddenly turn 100% honest at the same time. I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to say the words timeless decision theory around this point too, and perhaps bring up the kind of Platonic contract that I have written about previously.

I think most of our useful social norms exist through a combination of divine grace and reciprocal communitarianism. To some degree they arise spontaneously and are preserved by the honor system. To another degree, they are stronger or weaker in different groups, and the groups that enforce them are so much more pleasant than the groups that don’t that people are willing to go along.

The norm against malicious lies follows this pattern. Politicians lie, but not too much. Take the top story on Politifact Fact Check today. Some Republican claimed his supposedly-maverick Democratic opponent actually voted with Obama’s economic policies 97 percent of the time. Fact Check explains that the statistic used was actually for all votes, not just economic votes, and that members of Congress typically have to have >90% agreement with their president because of the way partisan politics work. So it’s a lie, and is properly listed as one. But it’s a lie based on slightly misinterpreting a real statistic. He didn’t just totally make up a number. He didn’t even just make up something else, like “My opponent personally helped design most of Obama’s legislation”.

Even Clymer lied less than he possibly could have. He got his fake numbers by conflating rapes per sex act with rapes per lifetime, and it’s really hard for me to imagine someone doing that by anything resembling accident. But he couldn’t bring himself to go the extra step and just totally make up numbers with no grounding whatsoever. And part of me wonders: why not? If you’re going to use numbers you know are false to destroy people, why is it better to derive the numbers through a formula you know is incorrect, than to just skip the math and make the numbers up in the first place? “The FBI has determined that no false rape claims have ever been submitted, my source is an obscure report they published, when your local library doesn’t have it you will just accept that libraries can’t have all books, and suspect nothing.”

This would have been a more believable claim than the one he made. Because he showed his work, it was easy for me to debunk it. If he had just said it was in some obscure report, I wouldn’t have gone through the trouble. So why did he go the harder route?

People know lying is wrong. They know if they lied they would be punished. More spontaneous social order miraculous divine grace. And so they want to hedge their bets, be able to say “Well, I didn’t exactly lie, per se.”

And this is good! We want to make it politically unacceptable to have people say that Jews bake the blood of Christian children into their matzah. Now we build on that success. We start hounding around the edges of currently acceptable lies. “Okay, you didn’t literally make up your statistics, but you still lied, and you still should be cast out from the community of people who have reasonable discussions and never trusted by anyone again.”

It might not totally succeed in making a new norm against this kind of thing. But at least it will prevent other people from seeing Clymer’s success, taking heart, and having the number of lies which are socially acceptable gradually advance.

So much for protecting what we have been given by divine grace. But there is also reciprocal communitarianism to think of.

I seek out people who signal that they want to discuss things honestly and rationally. Then I try to discuss things honestly and rationally with those people. I try to concentrate as much of my social interaction there as possible.

So far this project is going pretty well. My friends are nice, my romantic relationships are low-drama, my debates are productive and I am learning so, so much.

And people think “Hm, I could hang out at 4Chan and be called a ‘fag’. Or I could hang out at Slate Star Codex and discuss things rationally and learn a lot. And if I want to be allowed in, all I have to do is not be an intellectually dishonest jerk.”

And so our community grows. And all over the world, the mysterious divine forces favoring honest and kind equilibria gain a little bit more power over the mysterious divine forces favoring lying and malicious equilibria.

Arthur thinks I am trying to fight all the evils of the world, and doing so in a stupid way. But sometimes I just want to cultivate my garden.

IV.

Arthur goes on to complain:

Scott…seems to [dispassionately debate] evil people’s evil worldviews …with statistics and cost-benefit analyses.

He gets mad at people whom he detachedly intellectually agrees with but who are willing to back up their beliefs with war and fire rather than pussyfooting around with debate-team nonsense.

I accept this criticism as an accurate description of what I do.

Compare to the following two critiques: “The Catholic Church wastes so much energy getting upset about heretics who believe mostly the same things as they do, when there are literally millions of Hindus over in India who don’t believe in Catholicism at all! What dumb priorities!”

Or “How could Joseph McCarthy get angry about a couple of people who might have been Communists in the US movie industry, when over in Moscow there were thousands of people who were openly super Communist all the time?”

There might be foot-long giant centipedes in the Amazon, but I am a lot more worried about boll weevils in my walled garden.

Creationists lie. Homeopaths lie. Anti-vaxxers lie. This is part of the Great Circle of Life. It is not necessary to call out every lie by a creationist, because the sort of person who is still listening to creationists is not the sort of person who is likely to be moved by call-outs. There is a role for organized action against creationists, like preventing them from getting their opinions taught in schools, but the marginal blog post “debunking” a creationist something something is a waste of time. Everybody who wants to discuss things rationally has already formed a walled garden and locked the creationists outside of it.

Anti-Semites fight nasty. The Ku Klux Klan fights nasty. Neo-Nazis fight nasty. We dismiss them with equanamity, in accordance with the ancient proverb: “Haters gonna hate”. There is a role for organized opposition to these groups, like making sure they can’t actually terrorize anyone, but the marginal blog post condemning Nazism is a waste of time. Everybody who wants to discuss things charitably and compassionately has already formed a walled garden and locked the Nazis outside of it.

People who want to discuss things rationally and charitably have not yet locked Charles Clymer out of their walled garden.

He is not a heathen, he is a heretic. He is not a foreigner, he is a traitor. He comes in talking all liberalism and statistics, and then he betrays the signals he has just sent. He is not just some guy who defects in the Prisoner’s Dilemma. He is the guy who defects while wearing the “I COOPERATE IN PRISONERS DILEMMAS” t-shirt.

What really, really bothered me wasn’t Clymer at all: it was that rationalists were taking him seriously. Smart people, kind people! I even said so in my article. Boll weevils in our beautiful walled garden!

Why am I always harping on feminism? I feel like we’ve got a good thing going, we’ve ratified our Platonic contract to be intellectually honest and charitable to each other, we are going about perma-cooperating in the Prisoner’s Dilemma and reaping gains from trade.

And then someone says “Except that of course regardless of all that I reserve the right to still use lies and insults and harassment and dark epistemology to spread feminism”. Sometimes they do this explicitly, like Arthur did. Other times they use a more nuanced argument like “Surely you didn’t think the same rules against lies and insults and harassment should apply to oppressed and privileged people, did you?” And other times they don’t say anything, but just show their true colors by reblogging an awful article with false statistics.

(and still other times they don’t do any of this and they are wonderful people whom I am glad to know)

But then someone else says “Well, if they get their exception, I deserve my exception,” and then someone else says “Well, if those two get exceptions, I’m out”, and you have no idea how difficult it is to successfully renegotiate the terms of a timeless Platonic contract that doesn’t literally exist.

No! I am Exception Nazi! NO EXCEPTION FOR YOU! Civilization didn’t conquer the world by forbidding you to murder your enemies unless they are actually unrighteous in which case go ahead and kill them all. Liberals didn’t give their lives in the battle against tyranny to end discrimination against all religions except Jansenism because seriously fuck Jansenists. Here we have built our Schelling fence and here we are defending it to the bitter end.

V.

Contrary to how it may appear, I am not trying to doom feminism.

Feminists like to mock the naivete of anyone who says that classical liberalism would suffice to satisfy feminist demands. And true, you cannot simply assume Adam Smith and derive Andrea Dworkin. Not being an asshole to women and not writing laws declaring them officially inferior are both good starts, but it not enough if there’s still cultural baggage and entrenched gender norms.

But here I am, defending this principle – kind of a supercharged version of liberalism – of “It is not okay to use lies, insults, and harassment against people, even if it would help you enforce your preferred social norms.”

And I notice that this gets us a heck of a lot closer to feminism than Arthur’s principle of “Go ahead and use lies, insults, and harassment if they are effective ways to enforce your preferred social norms.”

Feminists are very concerned about slut-shaming, where people harass women who have too much premarital sex. They point out that this is very hurtful to women, that men might underestimate the amount of hurt it causes women, and that the standard-classical-liberal solution of removing relevant government oppression does nothing. All excellent points.

But one assumes the harassers think that women having premarital sex is detrimental to society. So they apply their general principle: “I should use lies, insults, and harassment to enforce my preferred social norms.”

But this is the principle Arthur is asserting, against myself and liberalism.

Feminists think that women should be free from fear of rape, and that, if raped, no one should be able to excuse themselves with “well, she was asking for it”.

But this is the same anti-violence principle as saying that the IRA shouldn’t throw nail-bombs through people’s windows or that, nail bombs having been thrown, the IRA can’t use as an excuse “Yeah, well, they were complicit with the evil British occupation, they deserved it.” Again, I feel like I’m defending this principle a whole lot more strongly and consistently than Arthur is.

Feminists are, shall we say, divided about transgender people, but let’s allow that the correct solution is to respect their rights.

When I was young and stupid, I used to believe that transgender was really, really dumb. That they were looking for attention or making it up or something along those lines.

Luckily, since I was a classical liberal, my reaction to this mistake was – to not bother them, and to get very very angry at people who did bother them. I got upset with people trying to fire Phil Robertson for being homophobic even though homophobia is stupid. You better bet I also got upset with people trying to fire transgender people back when I thought transgender was stupid.

And then I grew older and wiser and learned – hey, transgender isn’t stupid at all, they have very important reasons for what they do and go through and I was atrociously wrong. And I said a mea culpa.

But it could have been worse. I didn’t like transgender people, and so I left them alone while still standing up for their rights. My epistemic structure failed gracefully. For anyone who’s not overconfident, and so who expects massive epistemic failure on a variety of important issues all the time, graceful failure modes are a really important feature for an epistemic structure to have.

God only knows what Arthur would have done, if through bad luck he had accidentally gotten it into his head that transgender people are bad. From his own words, we know he wouldn’t be “pussyfooting around with debate-team nonsense”.

I admit there are many feminist principles that cannot be derived from, or are even opposed to my own liberal principles. For example, some feminists have suggested that pornography be banned because it increases the likelihood of violence against women. Others suggest that research into gender differences should be banned, or at least we should stigmatize and harass the researchers, because any discoveries made might lend aid and comfort to sexists.

To the first, I would point out that there is now strong evidence that pornography, especially violent objectifying pornography, very significantly decreases violence against women. I would ask them whether they’re happy that we did the nice liberal thing and waited until all the evidence came in so we could discuss it rationally, rather than immediately moving to harass and silence anyone taking the pro-pornography side.

And to the second, well, we have a genuine disagreement. But I wonder whether they would prefer to discuss that disagreement reasonably, or whether we should both try to harass and destroy the other until one or both of us are too damaged to continue the struggle.

And if feminists agree to have that reasonable discussion, but lose, I would tell them that they get a consolation prize. Having joined liberal society, they can be sure that no matter what those researchers find, I and all of their new liberal-society buddies will fight tooth and nail against anyone who uses any tiny differences those researchers find to challenge the central liberal belief that everyone of every gender has basic human dignity. Any victory for me is going to be a victory for feminists as well; maybe not a perfect victory, but a heck of a lot better than what they have right now.

VI.

I am not trying to fight all the evils of the world. I am just trying to cultivate my garden.

And you argue: “But isn’t that selfish and oppressive and privileged? Isn’t that confining everyone outside of your walled garden to racism and sexism and nastiness?

But there is a famous comic which demonstrates what can happen to certain walled gardens.

Why yes, it does sound like I’m making the unshakeable assumption that liberalism always wins, doesn’t it? That people who voluntarily relinquish certain forms of barbarism will be able to gradually expand their territory against the hordes outside, instead of immediately being conquered by their less scrupulous neighbors? And it looks like Arthur isn’t going to let that assumption pass.

He writes:

The *whole history* of why the institutional Left in our society is a party of toothless, spineless, gutless losers and they’ve spent two generations doing nothing but lose.

One is reminded of the old joke about the Nazi papers. The rabbi catches an old Jewish man reading the Nazi newspaper and demands to know how he could look at such garbage. The man answers “When I read our Jewish newpapers, the news is so depressing – oppression, death, genocide! But here, everything is great! We control the banks, we control the media. Why, just yesterday they said we had a plan to kick the Gentiles out of Germany entirely!”

And I have two thoughts about this.

First, it argues that “Evil people are doing evil things, so we are justified in using any weapons we want to stop them, no matter how nasty” suffers from a certain flaw. Everyone believes their enemies are evil people doing evil things. If you’re a Nazi, you are just defending yourself, in a very proportionate manner, against the Vast Jewish Conspiracy To Destroy All Germans.

But second, before taking Arthur’s words for how disastrously liberalism is doing, we should check the newspapers put out by liberalism’s enemies. Here’s Mencius Moldbug:

Cthulhu may swim slowly. But he only swims left. Isn’t that interesting?

In each of the following conflicts in Anglo-American history, you see a victory of left over right: the English Civil War, the so-called “Glorious Revolution,” the American Revolution, the American Civil War, World War I, and World War II. Clearly, if you want to be on the winning team, you want to start on the left side of the field.

Where is the John Birch Society, now? What about the NAACP? Cthulhu swims left, and left, and left. There are a few brief periods of true reaction in American history – the post-Reconstruction era or Redemption, the Return to Normalcy of Harding, and a couple of others. But they are unusual and feeble compared to the great leftward shift. McCarthyism is especially noticeable as such. And you’ll note that McCarthy didn’t exactly win.

In the history of American democracy, if you take the mainstream political position (Overton Window, if you care) at time T1, and place it on the map at a later time T2, T1 is always way to the right, near the fringe or outside it. So, for instance, if you take the average segregationist voter of 1963 and let him vote in the 2008 election, he will be way out on the wacky right wing. Cthulhu has passed him by.

I’ve got to say Mencius makes a much more convincing argument than Arthur does.

Robert Frost says “A liberal is a man too broad-minded to take his own side in a quarrel”. Ha ha ha.

And yet, outside of Saudi Arabia you’ll have a hard time finding a country that doesn’t at least pay lip service to liberal ideas. Stranger still, many of those then go on to actually implement them, either voluntarily or after succumbing to strange pressures they don’t understand. In particular, the history of the past few hundred years in the United States has been a history of decreasing censorship and increasing tolerance.

Contra the Reactionaries, feminism isn’t an exception to that, it’s a casualty of it. 1970s feminists were saying that all women need to rise up and smash the patriarchy, possibly with literal smashing-implements. 2010s feminists are saying that if some women want to be housewives, that’s great and their own choice because in a liberal society everyone should be free to pursue their own self-actualization.

And that has corresponded to spectacular successes of the specific causes liberals like to push, like feminism, civil rights, gay marriage, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

A liberal is a man too broad-minded to take his own side in a quarrel. And yet when liberals enter quarrels, they always win. Isn’t that interesting?

VII.

Arthur thinks that liberals who voluntarily relinquish any form of fighting back are just ignoring perfectly effective weapons. I’ll provide the quote:

In a war, a real war, a war for survival, you use all the weapons in your arsenal because you assume the enemy will use all the weapons in theirs. Because you understand that it IS a war… Any energy spent mentally debating how, in a perfect world run by a Lawful Neutral Cosmic Arbiter that will never exist, we could settle wars without bullets is energy you could better spend down at the range improving your marksmanship… I am amazed that the “rationalist community” finds it to still be so opaque.

Let me name some other people who mysteriously managed to miss this perfectly obvious point.

The early Christian Church had the slogan “resist not evil” (Matthew 5:39), and indeed, their idea of Burning The Fucking System To The Ground was to go unprotestingly to martyrdom while publicly forgiving their executioners. They were up against the Roman Empire, possibly the most effective military machine in history, ruled by some of the cruelest men who have ever lived. By Arthur’s reckoning, this should have been the biggest smackdown in the entire history of smackdowns.

And it kind of was. Just not the way most people expected.

Mahatma Gandhi said “Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.” Another guy who fought one of the largest empires ever to exist and won resoundingly. And he was pretty insistent on truth too: “Non-violence and truth are inseparable and presuppose one another.”

Also skilled at missing the obvious: Martin Luther King. Desmond Tutu. Aung San Suu Kyi. Nelson Mandela was smart and effective at the beginning of his career, but fell into a pattern of missing the obvious when he was older. Maybe it was Alzheimers.

Of course, there are counterexamples. Jews who nonviolently resisted the Nazis didn’t have a very good track record. You need a certain pre-existing level of civilization for liberalism to be a good idea, and a certain pre-existing level of liberalism for supercharged liberalism where you don’t spread malicious lies and harass other people to be a good idea. You need to have pre-existing community norms in place before trying to summon mysterious beneficial equilibria.

So perhaps I am being too harsh on Arthur, to contrast him with Aung San Suu Kyi and her ilk. After all, all Aung San Suu Kyi had to do was fight the Burmese junta, a cabal of incredibly brutal military dictators who killed several thousand people, tortured anyone who protested against them, and sent eight hundred thousand people they just didn’t like to forced labor camps. Arthur has to deal with people who aren’t as feminist as he is. Clearly this requires much stronger measures!

VIII.

Liberalism does not conquer by fire and sword. Liberalism conquers by communities of people who agree to play by the rules, slowly growing until eventually an equilibrium is disturbed. Its battle cry is not “Death to the unbelievers!” but “If you’re nice, you can join our cuddle pile!”

(I have been to New York Less Wrong meetups, and know that this is also effective when meant literally)

But some people, through lack of imagination, fail to find this battle cry sufficiently fear-inspiring.

I hate to invoke fictional evidence, especially since perhaps Arthur’s strongest point is that the real world doesn’t work like fiction. But these people need to read Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Avatar.

Elua is the god of kindness and flowers and free love. All the other gods are gods of blood and fire, and Elua is just like “Love as thou wilt” and “All knowlege is worth having”. He is the patron deity of exactly the kind of sickeningly sweet namby-pamby charitable liberalism that Arthur is complaining about.

And there is a certain commonality to a lot of the Kushiel books, where some tyrant or sorcerer thinks that a god of flowers and free love will be a pushover, and starts harassing his followers. And the only Eluite who shows up to stop him is Phèdre nó Delaunay, and the tyrant thinks “Ha! A woman, who doesn’t even know how to fight, doesn’t have any magic! What a wuss!”

But here is an important rule about dealing with fantasy book characters.

If you ever piss off Sauron, you should probably find the Ring of Power and take it to Mount Doom.

If you ever get piss off Voldemort, you should probably start looking for Horcruxes.

If you ever piss off Phèdre nó Delaunay, run and never stop running.

Elua is the god of flowers and free love and he is terrifying. If you oppose him, there will not be enough left of you to bury, and it will not matter because there will not be enough left of your city to bury you in.

And Jacqueline Carey and Mencius Moldbug are both wiser than Arthur Chu.

Carey portrays liberalism as Elua, a terrifying unspeakable Elder God who is fundamentally good.

Moldbug portrays liberalism as Cthulhu, a terrifying unspeakable Elder God who is fundamentally evil.

But Arthur? He doesn’t even seem to realize liberalism is a terrifying unspeakable Elder God at all. It’s like, what?

Arthur is the poor shmuck who is sitting there saying “Ha ha, a god who doesn’t even control any hell-monsters or command his worshippers to become killing machines. What a weakling! This is going to be so easy!”

And you want to scream: “THERE IS ONLY ONE WAY THIS CAN POSSIBLY END AND IT INVOLVES YOU BEING EATEN BY YOUR OWN LEGIONS OF DEMONAICALLY CONTROLLED ANTS”

(uh, spoilers)

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533 Responses to In Favor of Niceness, Community, and Civilization

  1. pwyll says:

    I’m guessing you meant to write:
    “I am a pro-choice atheist. When I lived in Ireland, one of my friends was a pro-life Christian.”
    …instead of:
    “I am a pro-choice atheist. When I lived in Ireland, one of my friends was a pro-choice Christian.”?

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  2. Giordano Mirandolla says:

    tbf, if you were less self-flaggellating, wimpy and whitebread, the NRs wouldn’t bother to debate you.

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  3. lmm says:

    You mock your spoiler, but I’ve only read the first book so far :(.

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    • Anonymous says:

      I would like to use this opportunity to explain this “reaction” image.

      The gif itself is from the movie, Citizen Kane. Kane, self-made millionaire and aspiring politician, has an affair with Susan. The affair is discovered by both his wife and his rival. This breaks his political career and his marriage. Kane marries Susan, and forces her into becoming an opera singer; however, she turns out to have no talent for it at all. At the end of the show, infuriated Kane claps nevertheless, and rest of the guests are compelled to follow suit.

      As such, you shouldn’t really use the gif as an actual applause image. The context is much more subtle than that.

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  4. Giordano Mirandolla says:

    Also Arthur made a lot of points, but “lying is okay” was maybe a vague undercurrent and not the whole point you’re supposed to take from it.

    And I’d totally take Dembski. Austrian economicists are boring as shit.

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  5. BenSix says:

    A terrific piece.

    Everybody who wants to discuss things charitably and compassionately has already formed a walled garden and locked the Nazis outside of it.

    There is a debate to be had on who gets locked out of the garden. Almost all of us agree that not every idea deserves a place in polite conversation but our perspectives as to which might qualify are as varied as Western dietary preferences. To take the American right as an example, there’s a line somewhere between neoreactionaries and August Kreiss III at which I’d stop talking to someone but I’m not sure where I’d put it.

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    • ThrustVectoring says:

      There’s varying levels of walled gardens, to take the metaphor way too far. You could talk at a friendly and superficial level to a wife-and-seven-kids coworker that treats his family as his personal fiefdom, but do no more. The same is not true for someone who makes credible rape threats. At the other end, you’d have deep and meaningful conversations and invite over someone who does the whole liberalism thing better.

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    • ChristianKl says:

      If a real nazi makes it into your walled garden, ignoring him often isn’t a solution.

      Should one appear at a lesswrong meetup, the first instinct shouldn’t be to throw him out. Not “Death to the unbelievers!” but “If you’re nice, you can join our cuddle pile!”.

      Throwing him out, in some sense means that you don’t really believe that your own cause is convincing. I would rather pay attention to talk to the person to move him in the right direction if I would feel myself responsible for a lesswrong meetup.

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      • BenSix says:

        Throwing him out, in some sense means that you don’t really believe that your own cause is convincing.

        It depends. Some Nazis – and, indeed, communists, Islamists and fans of other unpleasant phenomena that end in “ism” – are susceptible to rational persuasion but suspecting that this is unlikely is not to admit that one’s position is flawed but that people’s biases are liable to obscure their virtues. I could never talk Wahhabi clerics into accepting the theory of evolution but that doesn’t reflect badly upon Charles Darwin.

        Still, if an actual Nazi did sneak into a Less Wrong meet-up I’d want to chat to them out of morbid curiosity…

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      • therufs says:

        At risk of stating the obvious, you could also throw him out because your garden is full of Jews?

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      • iParallax says:

        I needed to come back and thank you for this phraseology. I will be making use of the “cuddle pile” in the not-too-distant-future.

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  6. suntzuanime says:

    Damn. I was burbling with incoherent rage over that piece, but you have the virtue of coherence.

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  7. Sniffnoy says:

    Well said!

    The “walled garden” thing I feel like is in particular worth pointing out; it’s a dynamic that SJers and such tend to neglect. There seems to be this idea of “our enemies have a superweapon, so we can use ours freely”. But it’s your enemies outside the garden who have such a superweapon. Using yours in here is just destructive to the garden.

    It’s also worth noting that a lot of the threat of e.g. the feminism superweapon is the threat that if you contradict feminism in any way you will be banished from the garden. If you ignore that there is a garden, then you can go around implicitly brandishing this threat and not realize what you’re doing! I mean, there absolutely is a time for banishing people from the garden — e.g. if you go around calling people nasty names rather than making arguments — but the superweapon means you have to be afraid of it all the time…

    (BTW, it seems to be general consensus on LW to now refer to this stuff as “anti-epistemology”, rather than “dark side epistemology”.)

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    • therufs says:

      the threat that if you contradict feminism in any way you will be banished from the garden.

      Do you believe this is true of all feminists, or walled-garden ones specifically?

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      • Sniffnoy says:

        I don’t understand the question. The threat is rarely explicit. And, as I said, feminists seem to generally act as if there is no garden, as if the enemy is always right here on our doorsteps, as if there is no bubble wherein feminists are taken seriously and those who might oppose them are not. Which, as I said, allows them to do go around wielding this threat without realizing it, and not understanding why people consider their behavior a problem. So I’m not sure what distinction you’re drawing. Could you clarify?

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  8. Kaminiwa says:

    ” Or I could hang out at Slate Star Codex and discuss things rationally and learn a lot. And if I want to be allowed in, all I have to do is not be an intellectually dishonest jerk.”

    Amusingly, I’ve been finding myself thinking a lot lately: I really like Slate Star Codex. It’s a nice, well tended garden that actually believes in discussing things like rational adults instead of slinging mud and setting the heretics on fire. And… I’ve always been a bit put off by how much of the world is all for burning heretics.

    But, then, I’m biased. I’m so many sorts of heretic that 90% of the world probably wants to burn me at the stake for *some* reason. So my only real option is to be nice and hope that the rest of the world reciprocates :)

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    • nydwracu says:

      And that’s the thing, isn’t it. It’s a lot easier to talk a big game about how it is terrible and wrong not to write off everything you don’t agree with as evil and only endorsed by evil people who should probably be you know silenced in some manner when you’ve never had bad things happen to you as a result of people like that trying to silence you for disagreeing with them on something about which they are actually wrong.

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  9. adbge says:

    It’s maybe worth pointing out that this another instance of someone on the far-left criticizing Scott for not being left enough.

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    • Giordano Mirandolla says:

      And the NR get criticized by others on the far-far-right for not being alpha enough or being too nerdy. Your point?

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      • Gunlord says:

        Are you referring to the recent NRx-Manosphere dustup? In that case, I’m not sure I would call all the Manospherians “far-right.” Some of them certainly are, of course, but several of the guys criticizing Mark Anissinov, like PlayDangerously, aren’t that political. They just want to get laid and improve themselves (full disclosure: I much prefer them to the Neoreactionaries).

        IMO, the far-far-right would criticize the Neoreactionaries for being too Philo-semitic. Isn’t Mencius Moldbug Jewish? I doubt the Neo-Nazis would be too fond of him even if he has the “right opinions.”

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        • nydwracu says:

          Read “do” for “would”. There are even people who want to purge Matt Heimbach because he dated a Jew once.

          There must be a law of the internet somewhere that says that, for every parody of a belief system, there’s someone who sincerely believes something even more ridiculous than that.

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        • Giordano Mirandolla says:

          Full disclosure: I much prefer the NR who mean everything they say and won’t backtrack on it, to the Manosphere people who say terrible things to get attention and bilk money out of crazy people. This is just a matter of personal taste though.

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        • Gunlord says:

          Matt Forney is one of those attention-seekers, but the Play Dangerously guy is OK. As far as I know he doesn’t actually go out of his way to court attention; I pay attention to his blog and twitter every now and then and it’s more general lifestyle advice.

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        • Desrtopa says:

          This has come up occasionally, and as I recall the answer was no, he’s not Jewish.

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        • Multiheaded says:

          Nah, he definitely dropped his Jewishness in his posts several times.

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        • Douglas Knight says:

          The obvious essay to cite is Moldbug’s Why I am not an anti-Semite.

          My father is Jewish, at least racially. This does not make me Jewish, but surely it makes me suspect, at least to some anti-Semites.

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    • Sniffnoy says:

      Well when you’re on the left, these are largely the criticisms you worry about!

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    • roystgnr says:

      But this piece is even more hilarious because it’s so dripping with irony:

      1. Just like last time, the far-left critic makes themselves look crazy by going irrationally circular-firing-squad on a fellow liberal, but *this* time the author is ostensibly simultaneously arguing *against* just such behavior!

      2. The critic this time specifically argues against exposing ugly truths if that gets in the way of “winning”… and he does so with a famous name, on a public forum, thereby ensuring that the ugly truth of “some famous self-proclaimed liberals will lie to get their way” will be exposed far and wide. Great “winning” move, huh?

      It’s almost enough to make me wonder if Scott is being besieged by right-wingers *posing* as social justice warriors. Seriously, who reads a author calling for greater adherence to accuracy because the truth is on our side, then thinks that *disagreeing* advances their cause? I haven’t seen this flabbergasting argument since I was investigating Mormonism, and even then I had to wonder if the local ward was being infiltrated by people trying to deconvert them.

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      • Alexander Stanislaw says:

        I’m almost sure that Arthur is serious, given that he is using his real name, and one of his friends in real life (Jeff Kaufman) has verified that yes he really does hate the rationalist community for being willing to engage far right ideas.

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  10. Elissa says:

    A confession: I’m not sure you’re arguing against the most charitable reading of Arthur’s position here, but I’m ok with that, because I agree with him a tiny bit more than you do and I think he deserves to lose the argument.

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    • von Kalifornen says:

      I would add a point from some of Scott’s earlier pieces, that sometimes you should fight ruthlessly of that would let you won immediately.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      What do you think would be a more charitable reading of Arthur?

      I have to admit I was mostly responding to Arthur-as-presented-in-Chris’-article, which was wrong of me. I learned when I was almost finished that he had said more things on Facebook, but I wasn’t willing to start over to take them into account.

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      • Elissa says:

        I read him as making a few different claims, a couple of which seem broadly correct and one of which is much more controversial:

        1) “politics is war and arguments are soldiers”– I take this to mean that political arguments are about more than just determining who’s right. They are dominance fights to determine allocation of resources, and there are times when we need to be focused on winning rather than on maintaining a high level of discourse. This seems right to me.

        2) “endless self-criticism about whether your values are in fact right or wrong guarantees that you will lose and someone else’s values will win anyway”– I read this as saying that scrupulous intellectual honesty, like other forms of self-doubt, has real costs. It lowers morale and saps motivation and cohesiveness. Again, I basically agree. We wouldn’t expect to find that most people are systematically overconfident if that were an evolutionary disadvantage.

        Now, I’m uncomfortable with how eager he is to apply these principles, and how broadly, but we’re being charitable here.

        3) “I’m talking about treating memetic cancers as what they are rather than as reasonable worldviews and as something to be excised and cauterized, not engaged with.”– I take this at face value, that some thoughts are too dangerous to think, and more specifically that some political ideologies are too dangerous to engage with. This looks a lot harder to swallow, and he didn’t really develop it as much as I’d hoped. He mentioned the trope that engaging with arguments “legitimizes” them, which if true would just be a case of 1) above. But he also gestures at the idea that our frail, imperfect brains just can’t handle some ideas. The examples he gives of “memetic cancer” are racism and sexism.

        The only argument I can see for this one is that people may be so deeply predisposed to be excessively racist and sexist that arguments in favor of racism and sexism have negative utility.

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        • therufs says:

          Re (3), maybe ‘meme’ is broadly applied to actions/behaviors and not just thoughts.

          So, it’d be not so much that we don’t think about or discuss whether, I don’t know, women are inherently less intelligent than men*, but that we don’t validate the people using those claims for signalling purposes, and moreover we don’t validate the actions they back up with their claims, by giving them the benefit of our attention.

          * Or insert other example of a claim for which there may be statistical evidence one way or another that isn’t relevant to the motivations of the people making the claim. Good examples fail me.

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  11. Aris Katsaris says:

    Two links I can’t open for some reason: the one about “an entire civilization’s bureaucrats may suddenly turn 100% honest at the same time” (http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2002/04/seeing-around-corners/302471/), and the one about “what can happen to certain walled gardens” (http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_md4wxk9vp11rc6co7o1_1280.jpg)… anyone else has the same problem?

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  12. Gunlord says:

    “Hm, I could hang out at 4Chan and be called a ‘fag’….Or I could hang out at Slate Star Codex and discuss things rationally and learn a lot. And if I want to be allowed in, all I have to do is not be an intellectually dishonest jerk.”

    Hey, why can’t we do both? ;_;

    Seriously though, great post, Scott. It’s nice to see such a robust defense of common civility, as much as we’d like to think such a thing wouldn’t be necessary. I’d like to add a bit of nuance, though. There are probably a few instances where taking the “higher road” is impossible, even though, as you rightfully note, it’s necessary for the maintenance of Civilization. To take the example you used already, if the Nazis are invading your country with tanks and bullets, you need tanks and bullets of your own. So there are occasions where “going down to your enemy’s level,” so to speak, is sometimes your only choice.

    I think Chu’s problem is that he doesn’t realize the use of violence, in and of itself, is not just a quantitatively different situation (in terms of harm done) but a qualitatively different one, i.e in a different category entirely from politics or argumentation. The “using bullets to stop my enemy from using bullets” analogy simply doesn’t work, IMO. If someone is literally shooting at you, it makes sense to shoot back, but if someone is “metaphorically” shooting at you with lies and bad arguments, it doesn’t necessarily follow that lies and bad arguments of your own are the only way to fight back. There’s no natural law that dictates truth is unable to triumph over deceit, and I can think of a few examples where the liberal “good guys” won over liars without resorting to lies of their own.

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    • Elissa says:

      There’s no natural law that dictates truth is unable to triumph over deceit

      Well, there doesn’t have to be. All that has to be true is that deceit is, at least some of the time, able to triumph over the truth. If you refuse to use an effective tool, you’re handicapping yourself.

      I can think of a few examples where the liberal “good guys” won over liars without resorting to lies of their own.

      I’m sure we could find cases where a guy with no gun defeated a guy who had one.

      The steelman here is probably that arguing and fighting are qualitatively different because you are justified in unconditionally wanting not to get shot in a way that you aren’t justified in wanting unconditionally to win a debate, because people have intrinsic value and arguments don’t. The trouble is that pretty much everyone (even LW rationalists) does seem to recognize (or at least act as if) debates are status fights at least as much as they are discourse. We identify with our arguments, and we want them to win in much the same way we’d rather the other guy was killed instead of us.

      That’s why people use bad arguments, and that’s partly why they work, and I’m afraid it’s too deeply programmed in to get rid of entirely.

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      • Gunlord says:

        The steelman here is probably that arguing and fighting are qualitatively different because you are justified in unconditionally wanting not to get shot in a way that you aren’t justified in wanting unconditionally to win a debate, because people have intrinsic value and arguments don’t.

        That’s probably a better sentence-length justification for my beliefs than the paragraphs I gave above…many thanks for the steelman.

        The trouble is that pretty much everyone (even LW rationalists) does seem to recognize (or at least act as if) debates are status fights at least as much as they are discourse. We identify with our arguments, and we want them to win in much the same way we’d rather the other guy was killed instead of us.

        I’m not sure I’d agree entirely with this, though. Do a plurality, or even a majority, of people identify with their arguments? Sure. Do all of us? Personally, I can say that I’m not as opposed to being proven wrong about my beliefs on truth as I am to being shot. Perhaps Scott feels the same way. We may not be representative, but if we’re in a place where folks like us congregate, it makes sense to explain why we might not get along as well with folks like Arthur Chu.

        That’s why people use bad arguments, and that’s partly why they work, and I’m afraid it’s too deeply programmed in to get rid of entirely.

        Alas, I can’t argue with that. Much like the poor, bad arguments (and people who see nothing wrong with using them) will always be with us. Still, even if the programming runs deep in the human psyche, I don’t see any harm in resisting it to some extent. We may not be able to entirely extirpate the appeal of deceit, but we can at least lessen it, which strikes me as better than nothing.

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        • Elissa says:

          Personally, I can say that I’m not as opposed to being proven wrong about my beliefs on truth as I am to being shot.

          Pretty low bar there! I only said it was for the same kind of reason, not to the same extent.

          If debates were actually about figuring out the truth, they would look completely different. Everyone would constantly steelman instead of picking at the weak points in one another’s arguments. People would be careful to keep their connotations as neutral as possible. Folks would share likelihood ratios, not posterior beliefs.

          Is this what debates, even between LW rationalists, look like in your experience?

          I’m not saying it’s good that it’s like this. I’m saying debate is terrible and empty and broken, and to the extent it works at all it’s mostly because the skills for winning debates are correlated with the skills for being right. I prefer to avoid it entirely most of the time. But sometimes you find yourself in a situation where you really quite badly do need to win.

          I feel about these situations sort of the way I feel about wars. I wish they didn’t happen, but since they do, I’m going to follow what I understand to be the rules of engagement and try my best to win. I’ll wholeheartedly support any proposed incremental improvements in the rules of engagement, and I’ll even go a little above and beyond by way of setting an example, but unilateral disarmament seems unwise.

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      • Viliam Búr says:

        All that has to be true is that deceit is, at least some of the time, able to triumph over the truth. If you refuse to use an effective tool, you’re handicapping yourself.

        The effectivity of a tool may depend on the whole ecosystem of the given side. There may be tools which are effective for my enemy, but not for myself.

        For example, let’s assume that my opponent already has a deserved reputation of being a liar. Then, trying another lie is a good strategy for them, because the worst thing that can happen is that nothing changes.

        On the other hand, if I invested heavily into my reputation of a truth-teller, and even trained my allies to better recognize truth from lies, the same would would be an extremely bad tactics if used by me.

        This seems like it deserves the obvious “duh, don’t be a truth-teller then; don’t train your allies to recognize the truth” response. But that assumes that truth-recognizing and truth-telling does not have its own huge advantages, which may make it a superior long-term strategy.

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        • Elissa says:

          You are correct that there are cases– in particular, cases where you’re liable to get caught– that favor truth-telling and intellectual honesty. I’m just making the modest claim that there are also cases that favor deception and cheating.

          It is true that being caught in a blatant lie undermines your rhetorical effectiveness with both lies and, to a lesser degree, the truth. No doubt this is why people who use deception and cheating try to minimize their risk of getting caught, make their lies plausibly deniable as honest mistakes, and call out their adversaries’ honest mistakes as lies.

          Maybe the risk of being caught is, in the long term, so high as to outweigh any short-term benefit? Ok, but that looks like a really strong claim. You’d have to show that the risk and cost of getting caught is so very large that there are no circumstances under which lying even once is the best strategy. Otherwise, the person who is willing (but not compelled) to lie has at least a small advantage over the person who isn’t.

          Maybe our judgment isn’t good enough to distinguish when we should use deception and cheating, so it’s just too risky? That may be true for some people, but I’d be very surprised if it were true for everyone, since we evolved to be good at this stuff.

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      • Michael Edward Vassar says:

        I think that you are failing to distinguish between bad arguments having been programmed into people because they work, and bad arguments emerging as a result of cognitive constraints. Report likelihood ratios, not posterior beliefs?!? Seriously? As a general norm?
        err… how? Did you think about implementation even a little?

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      • Desrtopa says:

        “Well, there doesn’t have to be. All that has to be true is that deceit is, at least some of the time, able to triumph over the truth. If you refuse to use an effective tool, you’re handicapping yourself.”

        Not necessarily. Indeed, demonstrating your willingness to use an effective tool can itself be a way of handicapping yourself, because you thereby prove that you can’t be trusted not to use it. When a person is known to lie readily, they’re taken less seriously, because the prior that they would lie is elevated.

        If truth and lies are both effective, that doesn’t mean that you should use both, because using the latter limits the effectiveness of the former.

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    • von Kalifornen says:

      In particular, very harsh and angry argumentation may actually be about purging the Soviet or preaching to the choir, Even if it doesn’t look like it to oneself.

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  13. Andy says:

    To extend the politics-as-war metaphor, arguments like Clymer’s are like being a general and training your soldiers to use guns, and then giving them sticks.
    And then telling them to charge a trench full of machine guns.
    Yeah, that’s not going to work.

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  14. nydwracu says:

    Here one may see the virtue of Moldbug’s passivism: it makes it perfectly clear what game is being played — trying to find the truth, and emphatically not trying to exercise political power. Metaphorical exit from democracy, innit. The only problem with retreating to a secret society is that it’s too damned hard to recruit.

    (Do I sound insane? I’m never sure. Insanity must feel like sanity from the inside.)

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    • Jack Crassus says:

      I hang out in Moldbug’s orbit because *I believe he is right about some things*, and when he’s wrong he’s still a thousand times more interesting than anyone else. Which coincidentally is the same reason I hang out here. Giving up on absolutist egalitarian beliefs leads to a more accurate model of the world, which in turn allows us to make the world more pleasant.

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  15. ozymandias says:

    This essay is extremely weird to read as someone with vague IRA sympathies (mostly because of my family). I am left with the perhaps slightly dubious conclusion that firebombing people is *more* justified than using bad statistics.

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    • BenSix says:

      Am I right in assuming that this is fairly common in the US?

      A sad irony about Northern Ireland is that in a time when Britishness is maintained with so little enthusiasm that the Scots might achieve independence by virtue of grumbling about it I find it hard to see how even staunch Republicans could deny that they would have made as much progress as they have today without the whole “killing hundreds” thing.

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      • Andy says:

        When the other side won’t listen, and won’t listen, and won’t listen, “merely grumbling” won’t do the trick. But the genius f the IRA campaign prior to the Good Friday Accords (as I linked elsewhere: http://exiledonline.com/wn-38-ira-vs-al-qaeda-i-was-wrong/ ) was that it used violence in precisely the right way to bring the Brits to the negotiating table to end the war. This is something that someone like Arthur Chu doesn’t get – it’s not just using the biggest weapons, but using them in the right way to get your desired outcome.

        One of my favorite lines about war is this: “War is not its own end, except in some catastrophic slide into absolute damnation. It’s peace that’s wanted. Some better peace than the one you started with.” (yes it’s from fiction, I don’t care, because I’m more and more convinced it’s got truth to it.)
        What Chu seems to be suggesting is using the biggest weapon you have, regardless of what the outcome would be, on the theory that any blow struck against the enemy is justified. And I wonder how many wars have been lost on using exactly the same thinking.

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      • I wouldn’t call it *common* . . . but I have some pro-Provo relatives. I blame it on listening to the music and not reading the newspapers. Mostly found in pockets of first- and second-generation descendents of Irish immigrants.

        I personally zeroed out my sympathy for the Provos when I found out they were Marxists. Still fond of Michael Collins.

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    • Andy says:

      It mostly reminded me of this:
      http://exiledonline.com/wn-38-ira-vs-al-qaeda-i-was-wrong/

      The only thing I can say in defense of that 2005 article is that I had the facts right; I just read them wrong. By “the facts” I mean the basic difference between the IRA’s strategy and Al Qaeda’s: The IRA never used all its strength, played very cautiously, did just enough mayhem to remind Britain they were still around, hadn’t been broken. They even refused to do vengeance attacks on the UDA/UFF/UVF/LVF “Loyalist” hit squads that would kill Catholic civvies to try to force the IRA into a tit-for-tat Catholic vs. Protestant gang war.

      The British tv stations would replay the footage of wounded and killed civilians over and over and over for years, and eventually the IRA worked out a whole new “nerf” (nerf in a very effective way) method of making war without killing people. They’d park a truck near a financial target like the London stock exchange with a multi-hour timer, then call everybody they could. That was to make sure the Army and Intel Services didn’t decide to sit on the warning in the hope of getting a high civilian death toll, which would have been a big defeat for the IRA.

      The British media was so frustrated by not having bloody corpses to show that they settled for architecture: the bomb shattered some stupid church from the middle ages and they made that the big tragedy, because face it, nobody cries when the stock exchange gets blown up.

      From this, different factions of the IRA make different points supporting Scott’s. the London sabotage squads that helped bring about the end of the war support a notion that the biggest weapons have to be very carefully deployed to be effective. The bloody-gang-war faction – the RIRA that blew up civilians after the Good Friday Accords – showed exactly the problem with unrestricted warfare – the other side has the same weapons and tactics, and might be willing to reciprocate if you go no-holds-barred.
      In rhetoric terms, if Scott (replaced with a pod person for this example) had enthusiastically endorsed rape apologists might come up with some falsified statistics that claim “women are more likely to be struck by lightning than be raped!” Everyone digs the ideological trenches deeper, and we don’t get anywhere constructive.

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    • Protagoras says:

      The IRA may also be a misleading example as a result of being one of the most successful terrorist organizations ever. Terrorism very often produces no change despite all the death, or change only in unintended directions; terrorist organizations very rarely achieve any of their official goals. So the success of the IRA probably shouldn’t be taken as a reason to endorse their tactics; since their success is unusual, it is likely a result of their particular circumstances (including, as others have mentioned already, that the IRA was for the most part unusually restrained in its tactics, especially in later years). Discussion of the track record of terrorism here.

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      • Andy says:

        Though the IRA – especially the specific tactics that brought about the Good Friday Accords – could perhaps be better characterized as irregular or asymmetric warriors rather than terrorists.
        The distinction is subtle, but I like to call terrorists the world’s stupidest irregular warriors. They’re the ones who take the notion that “the enemy is bad, therefore any tactic is justified” and really apply it, and get their cause shot to shreds in the process.

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      • Anonymous says:

        I don’t understand.
        ” the success of the IRA probably shouldn’t be taken as a reason to endorse their tactics; since their success is unusual, it is likely a result of their particular circumstances (including [..] its tactics)”
        What aside from their tactics would you say led to the IRA’s success?

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        • lmm says:

          The history, and the British people’s view of themselves. I don’t think the same tactics would work against another country – they haven’t for the Basques, for example.

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  16. sam245 says:

    I have to say that I was rather shocked by the shear honesty of Chu’s piece (ironic since he’s arguing against honesty it seems) but I have to wonder how he ever intends to be taken seriously again after admitting something like that.

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  17. This seems very strong. I’m not however certain that Clymer’s was deliberately lying. It is very easy to engage in bad statistical reasoning and not look at your first estimate closely when it supports your prior viewpoint. And having had to teach college students training to be engineers to do Fermi estimates, Clymer’s error is pretty close to some of the issues one sees even when people don’t have any ideological basis.

    Also, while you do claim that the feminist movement has more of these sorts of issues, I think that that is to a large extent a function of what sources you are looking at. There is certainly a segment of feminism that does have serious issues here, but you’ll see this in a lot of other movements if you look closely. World Net Daily for example has about as blatant issues or more so almost daily. Another example is the Orthodox Jewish section of blogosphere which has had some real doozies (and not too surprisingly the section of former Orthodox Jews also has some serious issues with fact checking often in the exact opposite direction).

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    • Sniffnoy says:

      This seems very strong. I’m not however certain that Clymer’s was deliberately lying. It is very easy to engage in bad statistical reasoning and not look at your first estimate closely when it supports your prior viewpoint. And having had to teach college students training to be engineers to do Fermi estimates, Clymer’s error is pretty close to some of the issues one sees even when people don’t have any ideological basis.

      Agreed, that seemed a bit harsh.

      Also, while you do claim that the feminist movement has more of these sorts of issues, I think that that is to a large extent a function of what sources you are looking at. There is certainly a segment of feminism that does have serious issues here, but you’ll see this in a lot of other movements if you look closely. World Net Daily for example has about as blatant issues or more so almost daily. Another example is the Orthodox Jewish section of blogosphere which has had some real doozies (and not too surprisingly the section of former Orthodox Jews also has some serious issues with fact checking often in the exact opposite direction).

      I mean, this is basically what you’d expect, right? The difference is that their bubbles are recognizably outside of ours in much the same way the creationists are, and thus not really a concern.

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    • Alexander Stanislaw says:

      I’m fairly sure Arthur is arguing that even if Charles Clymer was lying then it would be justified. That is what Scott is objecting to.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      I find it really really hard to believe that someone could make that mistake by accident. If you look at his article, you wonder why he would even start trying to introduce the average number of sex acts into there unless he was planning to do something sneaky with it.

      However, I have changed the above post to make explicit this line of reasoning and the uncertainty behind it. I have also sent Mr. Clymer a message saying that if he can absolutely swear to me the mistake was unintentional, I will apologize unreservedly.

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      • Tasty_Yoghurt says:

        All that is required to make mistakes like his, is to be very bad at math. And if I learned one thing from being a math teacher, it’s that it is hard to overestimate how bad at math a normal, intelligent seeming person can be.

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        • suntzuanime says:

          Honest mistakes should be uncorrelated. Making several “math errors” pointing in the same direction as your ideological bias looks bad.

          I suppose there’s the filtering issue to consider. Even if an extreme error is unlikely, the extremest error out there is going to be picked up by uncritical feminists and trumpeted to the world. But I still think the odds of it happening naturally are low enough that the one they’d pick up and trumpet would be somebody being dishonest.

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        • ozymandias says:

          I don’t think it’s that unlikely at all.

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        • suntzuanime says:

          I wouldn’t call those honest mistakes. Accepting people’s reckless disregard for the truth when it favors their political perspective while refusing to accept “intentional” twisting of the the truth just leads to more hypocrisy, more people being deceptive and self-deceptive about their intentions.

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        • roystgnr says:

          Sadly, “honest mistakes should be uncorrelated” isn’t true. Sure, if I do math honestly, I will get mistakes in both directions. But if I then check my results to a greater or lesser extent depending on how surprised I was by the results, the remaining mistakes will have an ideological bias.

          Note that the second step here is still an honest one! “Kids these days don’t even notice when their calculator gives them an answer off by an order of magnitude” is a common grade school teacher’s lament, but to notice such discrepancies you have to have some prior expectation about what range you expected your calculations’ result to land in.

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Honest mistakes should be uncorrelated. Making several “math errors” pointing in the same direction as your ideological bias looks bad.

          I suppose there’s the filtering issue to consider. Even if an extreme error is unlikely, the extremest error out there is going to be picked up by uncritical feminists and trumpeted to the world. But I still think the odds of it happening naturally are low enough that the one they’d pick up and trumpet would be somebody being dishonest.

          Simple mechanism: If you make a series of math errors, and roughly half of them are wildly in favor of a hypothesis that you desperately want to believe, and the other half are wildly against that hypothesis, which half are you going to look at, say “THAT can’t be right?”, and double-check? And which half are you going to not even bother to check, because “this seems plausible” has been short-circuited by “this supports a hypothesis that I desperately want to believe”?

          We now have a simple selection criterion that allows favorable math errors to survive while unfavorable ones are filtered out, without requiring that the writer was ever being actively deceitful.

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        • suntzuanime says:

          That process you describe is deceptive, hypocritical bullshit. If we want a decent discourse, we must not stand for it.

          Your standard of “intentional deception” is too low and too exploitable. Raise your standards or we will never stamp out this scourge.

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      • Douglas Knight says:

        Why do you care if Clymer is intentionally lying?

        Judging people by their intentions produces strong incentives for people to honestly claim to have good intentions. It just makes them more divorced from reality.

        Why do you care about Clymer at all? Is he in your walled garden? I thought your main concern was the people who forwarded his post to you. The problem is not the lies, but that some filter, perhaps your circle, perhaps feminists in general, amplify the lies.

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        • Ian Pollock says:

          >Judging people by their intentions produces strong incentives for people to honestly claim to have good intentions. It just makes them more divorced from reality.

          I’m really glad that you made this crucial point, but it’s pretty unavoidable that we have to judge intentions anyway, despite the bad incentives that generates. Differentiating manslaughter from murder has a cost, yes, but it’s worth the cost.

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  18. Pingback: Occultationism or neocameralism | nydwracu niþgrim, nihtbealwa mæst

  19. Sam Rosen says:

    Great essay as always.

    However, I’m a little bit worried that you sometimes equate “civilizational goodness” with what we can generally call the political left. I mean think about Arnold Kling’s three axis model.

    You want to defend civilization. So do I. So do many conservatives. Listen to Evelyn Waugh describe Kipling’s conservatism:

    “Kipling believed civilization to be something laboriously achieved which was only precariously defended. He wanted to see the defenses fully manned and he hated the liberals because he thought them gullible and feeble, believing in the easy perfectibility of man and ready to abandon the work of centuries for sentimental qualms.”

    I might be labeled a conservative (not entirely accurate, but whatever). But I believe in progress. Things can and do get better. I want to make them better. Just because I doubt some of the specific prescriptions made by left-liberals will be justified on preference-utilitarian grounds, or just because I doubt some of the empirical claims made by lefties doesn’t mean I’m not in favor of Making the World Better.

    Civilization will win. But there can and will be fits and starts. It’s sometimes reasonable to worry about how Cthulhu swims.

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  20. bilbo says:

    This was a really good post, thanks. I’m often in debates where I’m criticising someone who figures me to be their ally, and due to the arguments-as-soldiers attitude most people hold in political debates, merely disagreeing with some of their points is enough to mark me as an enemy. It is, as I’m sure you’re familiar, incredibly frustrating being labelled a misogynist or anti-environmentalist when all you asked for was a little bit of intellectual honesty from a group you otherwise mostly agree with.

    On the other hand, there are people who agree with the Dawkins-aligned atheist community in principle, but dislike their (our) tactics. As far as I can tell, ‘new’ atheism’s main contention is that brutal intellectual honestly is better than happy lies, even if that means telling people to their face that we believe their treasured beliefs to be a delusion.

    The meme that says this is bad feels like it might share an origin with that of your intellectually honest walled garden (it does seem like it would have smoothed conflict in days gone by), and yet polite etiquette is to not criticise cherished beliefs.

    So here we have a funny social contract to not be intellectually honest, and criticism of people who break it feels a lot like my own criticism of the intellectually dishonest groups on the political left.

    So this is odd.

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  21. “2010s feminists are saying that if some women want to be housewives, that’s great and their own choice…”

    No, they aren’t, except when they say it as a trick to get more support (hence power) from well intentioned people like you “rationalists.” Feminists are all about socially conditioning men and women to think, feel and act a certain way.

    “Liberalism does not conquer by fire and sword.”

    Tell that to Atlanta, Dresden and Johannesburg (in chronological order of destruction by liberalism).

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    • Andy says:

      Feminists are all about socially conditioning men and women to think, feel and act a certain way.

      Yes, because feminism is a unitary block, not a gigantic umbrella of different and sometimes mutually contradictory groups.
      I identify as a feminist and believe it’s okay for women to be housewives if they have the option to not be. So do several other self-identified feminists of my acquaintance. Some do not, and they are feminists too.
      Repeat after me: FEMINISM IS COMPLICATED.

      Tell that to Atlanta, Dresden and Johannesburg (in chronological order of destruction by liberalism).

      I don’t know enough about Dresden or Johannesburg to say, but in the case of Atlanta, let’s take a look at Sherman’s letter to Atlanta’s mayor:

      But, my dear sirs, when peace does come, you may call on me for any thing. Then will I share with you the last cracker, and watch with you to shield your homes and families against danger from every quarter.

      (source: http://www.rjgeib.com/thoughts/sherman/sherman-to-burn-atlanta.html )
      This is what terrifies me about Sherman-as-liberal (and yes, I am a liberal who fricking worships William Tecumseh Sherman: He used both fire and sword, and conciliation and generosity, in achieving his aims. Here I think Scott is wrong: Liberalism sometimes conquers with fire and the sword, but it is far more effective when mixing force and friendship.
      And yes, I still say burning Atlanta was justified, when stacked against an aristocratic regime that kept people as property, and had absolutely no intention of ever admitting it was wrong, changing, or having a civil discussion with those who disagreed. Remember that secession was kicked off by the election of a President who had no intention of interfering with slavery, but just wanted to keep the institution from spreading! The Southern planter was completely insane, drunk with their own self-righteousness, and they got the reward of hubris.
      So glory, glory, hallelujah. Let the Left go marching on.

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      • BenSix says:

        Many Liberals do attempt to spread their ideas by the sword, as evidenced by the Bermans and Hitchenses of this world. You are right, though, that it is not a winning strategy, as evidenced by the startling grimness of the Middle East.

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        • Andy says:

          it is not a winning strategy, as evidenced by the startling grimness of the Middle East.

          I hold that liberalism can only exist when there’s a strong set of normative sanctions – “Thou Shalt Not Assault Thy Neighbor’s Temple” – backed up by massive, certain, and impartial force – “Or We Will Drop The Hammer On You.”
          My problem with the way leftists have approached the Middle East is that they’ve been far too hands-off. In Syria, I favor an imposed truce backed up by nukes – whichever side breaks the truce gets their favorite sites nuked.
          And believe me, you don’t want to see my Israel-Palestine plan. (Nukes. So many nukes. Nukes for everyone. “A pox on both your houses” is just not going far enough.)
          …it’s possible I may be a little insane.

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        • Doug S. says:

          The problem with mutual assured destruction as a plan for peace in the Middle East is that there are people on the various sides who might very well prefer mutual destruction to mutual coexistence – those who think that implementing “Kill ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out” is a good idea, because they expect that themselves and their friends will be sorted into Paradise…

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        • Andy says:

          those who think that implementing “Kill ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out” is a good idea, because they expect that themselves and their friends will be sorted into Paradise…

          The difference is, I don’t care whether they die or not in the process. The “stick” in my plan is “All your holy *places* will be turned to radioactive cinders.”
          There’s a great exchange in the movie “Kingdom of Heaven” between Balian of Ibelin and Saladin where they’re negotiating the surrender of Jerusalem that’s apropos.
          Balian says “I will destroy Jerusalem. Your holy places, ours. Every thing that drives men mad.”
          Saladin says “I wonder if it would not be better that way.”
          Take that, and enforce it. Can’t agree? The Wall, and the Rock, and all the other holy places in Jerusalem, get reduced to radioactive ash. If the sides can’t agree, then both lose what they’re fighting for.

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      • “an aristocratic regime that kept people as property”

        You seem to think “aristocratic” is somehow bad. Fascinating. As for slavery, which you seem to take for granted was a bad system as well: I suggest you glance at a primary source — say, A South-Side View of Slavery (free on Google Books).

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        • suntzuanime says:

          I sort of question how well-tended this garden is, if it’s sprouting Radishes.

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        • Andy says:

          As a leftist, I think an aristocracy is generally bad for a republic. And as for slavery, would you have consented to slavery, if you had been born a black slave? I’ve haven’t read many pro-slavery primary sources, but I’ve ready Harriet Jacobs’ Narrative of the Life of a Slave Girl and intend to dive into Theodore Weld’s American Slavery As It Is, made up mostly of excerpts from advertisements or articles from Southern newspapers, such as advertisements for slaves for sale, expressing willingness to break up families. And I’ll look at the source you’ve cited.
          But the southern system had one ideal place for black people, no matter how intelligent or civilized – property, to be put to labor or the auction block at the owner’s whim. Livestock.
          Do I consider it ethical to lead an army to destroy such a system? Yes, when the alternative is the savagery and horror of a Haiti-style slave rebellion.

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        • Andy says:

          I sort of question how well-tended this garden is, if it’s sprouting Radishes.

          Radishes may not be tasty vegetables, and certainly not my favorite, but if they can sprout here, so can more delicious and useful plants.
          (In other words: Him being able to say what he wants means I can say what I want. So I smile, even as I snarl.)

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        • “… would you have consented to slavery, if you had been born a black slave?”

          According to what I’ve read of the slave narratives, given your premises, it seems quite likely. Like Oscar Wilde said: “Slavery was put down in America, not in consequence of any action on the part of the slaves, or even any express desire on their part that they should be free. It was put down entirely through the grossly illegal conduct of certain agitators in Boston and elsewhere, who were not slaves themselves, nor owners of slaves, nor had anything to do with the question really. … And it is curious to note that from the slaves themselves they received, not merely very little assistance, but hardly any sympathy even; and when at the close of the war the slaves found themselves free, found themselves indeed so absolutely free that they were free to starve, many of them bitterly regretted the new state of things.” I think a quarter of them died or suffered from disease, for example (sources for all of this stuff in my link).

          Regarding the breaking up of families, you really must read South-Side View, and I hope you do, particularly for the way it shows you the difference between appearances (say, a law against slaves reading, or an advertisement for a human being) and reality (those laws were disregarded in practice, and the system of slave selling was designed to minimize possible abuses—but really, you gotta read the Reverend himself, not my summaries).

          As for the slaves being merely “put to labor,” I again have to refer you to the Rev. Adams.

          As for how to end slavery: Civil War and slave rebellion are not the only options history provides. And that’s assuming slavery should have been destroyed. How’s Detroit doing these days? I hear those good people “require a range of supports to ensure they can participate in education and training (like transportation, childcare, food and shelter, disability services).” Too bad they don’t have Japan’s amazing new “lifetime employment” system…

          Edit: I appreciate that you think I should be allowed to speak. At some point you may also want to consider the possibility that I’m just plain right…

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        • Multiheaded says:

          Your implications are total fucking bullshit, and you, Karl, are a pathetic craven coward who would never, ever have the guts to tell Harriet Tubman all this. Everything you say is rooted in white people’s words, white people’s actions, their hubris, the narcissism of privilege. You invoke the Reconstruction being backstabbed, and that foolish priest’s apologetics, but never give the black people’s perspective, never quote their lived experience! Your foolish, entitled rhetoric mocks the dead.

          (Of course, white liberalism is implicated in this gross distortion of historical memory; you are protected by its vacuousness.)

          P.S. you totally misinterpret Wilde’s intent with this quote, and Wilde himself misinterprets the situation; it is much more forgivable for him, though.

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        • Andy says:

          not in consequence of any action on the part of the slaves, or even any express desire on their part that they should be free.

          BULLLLLL. SHYYYYYYYYYTE.
          even records OF THE TIME record the thousands of slaves – called “contrabands” – who sabotaged the Confederate war effort by stealing themselves and running away to Union lines.
          Received no support from the salves themselves – what about the large number of former slaves, like Frederick Douglass- who supported and wrote and lobbied for abolition?
          Granted, John Brown’s slave revolt was a total failure. But that makes sense, given how hard the South reacted to any *hint* of a slave rebellion. It must have been like being in the Prisoner’s dilemma, except instead of getting ten more years in prison, you get killed, everyone who cooperates with you gets killed, and people in your community who weren’t part of your effort get whipped and tortured just in case they might. The South was hysterical on the subject.
          But for the thousands of slaves who put on the uniform and picked up a musket, they helped end the damn thing. They were mostly rear-area and garrison troops, but when they fought, they were the equal of white soldiers and often impressed the white generals who commanded them.
          And about 90,000 of the US Colored Troops came from the South. I haven’t found specific numbers on the number of black troops who were slaves vs. born free, but that seems the right ballpark. They helped end slavery – by picking up guns and fighting for it. Even knowing they wouldn’t get the same treatment if they were captured – even knowing they’d most likely be executed if they were captured. And probably being much more effective doing that than any slave rebellion would have been.
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Colored_Troops#Numbers_of_United_States_Colored_Troops_by_state.2C_North_and_South
          And yes, Reconstruction was a disaster and a betrayal, partly because the Liberal-In-Chief got shot and replaced with a Southern slaveowner who didn’t have Lincoln’s intelligence or diplomacy, and didn’t care about the freed slaves.
          You might be right. Might. But if these are the best arguments you can make, you need to do a lot of reading too. I’d start with the Narrative of Frederick Douglass, and Harriet Jacobs, and other slave narratives.

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        • Multiheaded says:

          Yeah, like I said; what’s (barely) forgivable for a Victorian aesthete in an essay advocating socialism sounds really awful and ignorant from a 21st century American dude with pretensions to contrarianism.

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        • Andy says:

          Your implications are total fucking bullshit, and you, Karl, are a pathetic craven coward who would never, ever have the guts to tell Harriet Tubman all this. Everything you say is rooted in white people’s words, white people’s actions, their hubris, the narcissism of privilege. You invoke the Reconstruction being backstabbed, and that foolish priest’s apologetics, but never give the black people’s perspective, never quote their lived experience! Your foolish, entitled rhetoric mocks the dead.

          While I agree with the latter part (narrowness of perspective and white privilege) of what you’re saying, Multi, in the spirit of the OP, can you rephrase it a little more nicely? “Pathetic craven coward” is perhaps a little too… direct? Ad hominem?
          And Harriet Tubman, while badass, is also bones, therefore a little hard to be intimidated by.

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        • nydwracu says:

          Multiheaded: Here. There is Richard Toler:

          “Ah didn’t like to be no slave. Dat wasn’t good times.” … “Ah never had no good times till ah was free”, the old man continued. … “I sho’ is glad I ain’t no slave no moah. Ah thank God that ah lived to pas the yeahs until the day of 1937. Ah’m happy and satisfied now, and ah hopes ah see a million yeahs to come.”

          But there is also Joseph Holmes, edited slightly to ensure SSC stays on the right side of the filters.

          Lor’ honey, Virginny is de bes’ place on earth for good eatin’ an’ good white folks. If any body tells yo’ dat de white folks wuz mean tuh dere ninjas, dey nebber cum from Virginny, ‘cayse us wuz tuh near de free states, an den I’se already tole yo’ dey raised ninjas tah sell an’ dey kept dem in good condition, an’ in dose days white folks wuz white folks an’ black folks wuz black folks. Jes’ lac’ Booker T. Washington wuz a river between de ninjas ob dis later generation in larnin’. He had all dat’s fine an’ good an’ he gib ob de tees’ tuh his people, if dey wud take hit.

          “Dats wuz de way wid de white folks den, dey didn’t do no whippin’ an’ mistreatin’ ob de slaves. Oh! once in a while O1′ Miss might slap de cooks face an’ tell her tuh bear ’round dere ‘, an’ if she wanted de servin’ boys to hurry, she wud say ‘cutch hit’, meanin’ fer dem tuh cut sum steps an’ git ’bout in a hurry.

          And there is even Charity Anderson:

          She said “Missy, peoples don’t live now, and ninjas ain’t got no manners, and don’t know nothin’ about waitin’ on white folks. I kin remember de days when I was one of de house servants. Dere was six of us in de ol’ marster’s house, me, Sarai, Lou, Hester, Jerry and Joe. Us didn’t know nothin’ but good times den. My job was lookin’ a’ter de corner table whar nothin’ but de desserts sat. Jo and Jerry were de table boys, and dey ne’ber touched nothin’ wid dere hans’, dey used de waiter to pass things wid. My! dem was good ol’ days.

          “My old Marster was a good man, he treated all his slaves kind, and took care of dem, he wanted to leave dem hisn chillun. It sho’ was hard for us older uns to keep de little cullered chillun out ob de dinin’ room whar ol marster ate, cause when dey would slip in and stan’ by his cheer, when he finished eatin’ he would fix a plate and gib dem and dey would set on de hearth and eat. But honey chile, all white folks warn ‘t good to dere slaves, cause I’se seen pore ninjas almos’ tore up by dogs, and whipped unmercifully, when dey did’nt do lack de white folks say . But thank God I had good white folks, dey sho’ did trus’ me to, I had charge of all de keys in the house and I waited on de Missy and de chillun.

          I am not quite sure what to do with them; there is both “I sho’ is glad I ain’t no slave no moah.” and “My! dem was good ol’ days.”, and I do not think there was an opinion poll. But they are perspectives, drawn from lived experience, and not ghostwritten by abolitionists. (I wish they had been transcribed less phonetically, for many reasons — one of which is that I have absolutely no idea what “gib ob de tees’” means.) I assume there are many more recorded perspectives that I do not know about, but I do not know. But I am not optimistic about the existence of an opinion poll.

          (Perhaps it is an irresponsible exercise of democratic nanopower to discuss all this, but when the drive to question the unquestionable collides with the demands of responsibility, you have to pick one, and picking the latter runs counter to the whole point. I would say there should be a secret society, but they have distinct disadvantages in the realm of drawing in new quality commenters. No wonder academia is so paywalled!)

          Also, workers.org backs up Karl’s 25% figure. And that doesn’t even take into account the death toll of the war itself. Sure, slavery was bad, but hopefully we can agree that a 25% death toll for freed slaves between 1862 and 1870 was also bad.

          Maybe your education was very different than mine, but I learned six ways to Sunday that the South was the closest thing to the embodiment of evil that the world had ever seen before Hitler because of slavery, but that 25% was never mentioned and the Union was a perfect pretty princess that never pooped. Well, you know what they say about winners and history books.

          And Arthur Chu says, “Hmm, I’d endorse the American Civil War long before World War II. I’ve often said that it’s a shame that the Civil War happened the way it did rather than John Brown successfully igniting the mass slave insurrection he wanted and actually putting the South to the torch (rather than the weaksauce burning with fire that they still whine about to this day).”, without either concern for the death toll implied by “actually putting the South to the torch” — good lord, if the deadliest war in American history was ‘weaksauce’, what does he want, the slaughter of every white Southerner? certainly much more than 30% of Southern white males aged 18 to 40! — or any assignment of any sort of moral culpability whatsoever for that >25% death toll.

          There is also this. I do not know whether it is correct, but nowhere have I seen either side of it argued, and it strikes me as too important a possibility to leave unmentioned. The counterfactual is that slavery would’ve lasted forever, but is that really the case? I have no idea. It is not debated; it is simply assumed.

          The secession of the Upper South, when it came, was hardly a bid to protect slave property. Virginia, Tennessee, even North Carolina, with a hostile anti-slavery United States on their frontier, could never hope to maintain slavery as a viable economic and social institution. Their pre-war complaints about fugitives prove they knew it. The mere presence of “free” states nearby in the 1850s exerted an economic pressure that was rapidly draining slavery out of the Border States.

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        • Multiheaded says:

          Thanks for the links.
          About the death toll: yes, in the (inhuman) long view, easily worth it; think of the tens of millions born into (relative) freedom, blah blah. Hell, at least those deaths would be directly in the cause of emancipation (and Reconstruction); and look at how Curtis LeMay burned Tokyo largely because he could, yet most, historians included, still think that the annihilation of the Japanese Empire has paid off. What if killing or at least dispossessing and disenfranchising more white southerners could’ve likewise secured the Reconstruction and defused the Redemption? History remains just that fucking horrible in its more hopeful moments.

          But fundamentally, any such speculation should indeed probably belong to the fallen and their descendants. The thing is, the slavery apologists themselves don’t seem to believe in such a high standard of respect for the fallen, so it seems less unethical to give a heartless reply.

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        • Andy says:

          Maybe your education was very different than mine, but I learned six ways to Sunday that the South was the closest thing to the embodiment of evil that the world had ever seen before Hitler because of slavery, but that 25% was never mentioned and the Union was a perfect pretty princess that never pooped. Well, you know what they say about winners and history books.

          I recommend James MacPHerson’s Battle Cry of Freedom which tends to be quite fir in describing some Southerners as honorable and favorable toward their slaves, and others as… well, bastards. And shows some of the Union’s flaws- pervasive racism among poor whites in the North, colonization experiments, and cruelty and neglect toward contraband slaves by Union soldiers.
          But I recommend the e-book edition because it is an enormous volume.

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        • Douglas Knight says:

          The second quote undercuts itself by saying that slavery in Virginia was good because the slaves were being raised for export.

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        • Hey, dipshit. Yeah, you, “Multihead” or whatever. Regarding this: “the black people’s perspective, never quote their lived experience.” Here’s how fucking stupid you are: an actual, real-life emancipated slave I quoted in my article which I referenced earlier and you didn’t bother to read because you’re so fucking ignorant:

          “Freedom is all right, but de n*ggers was better off befo’ surrender, kaze den dey was looked after an’ dey didn’ get in no trouble fightin’ an’ killin’ like dey do dese days. If a n*gger cut up an’ got sassy in slavery times, his Ole Marse give him a good whippin’ an’ he went way back an’ set down an’ ’haved hese’f. If he was sick, Marse an’ Mistis looked after him, an’ if he needed store medicine, it was bought an’ give to him; he didn’ have to pay nothin’. Dey didn’ even have to think ’bout clothes nor nothin’ like dat, dey was wove an’ made an’ give to dem. Maybe everybody’s Marse and Mistis wuzn’ good as Marse George and Mis’ Betsy, but dey was de same as a mammy an’ pappy to us n*ggers.”

          There’s more in there, of course. Problem is, you’re too fucking stupid and arrogant to learn anything about history, so you live in a fantasy world. Your ideas, all of them, they just aren’t tethered to reality.

          Finally, LOL forever at “white people’s actions” — I guess racial essentialism is the new “anti-racism.”

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Hey, dipshit.

          The hell?

          Yeah, you, “Multihead” or whatever.

          The hell?

          Here’s how fucking stupid you are: an actual, real-life emancipated slave I quoted in my article which I referenced earlier and you didn’t bother to read because you’re so fucking ignorant:

          The hell am I reading?

          Problem is, you’re too fucking stupid and arrogant to learn anything about history, so you live in a fantasy world. Your ideas, all of them, they just aren’t tethered to reality.

          What do you hope to accomplish with this tone?

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        • @ Ialdabaoth:

          Replying to this comment. When in Rome, as they say.

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          and you, Karl, are a pathetic craven coward who would never, ever have the guts to tell Harriet Tubman all this.

          What do you expect to gain from this tone? You can’t possibly think it would make Karl rethink his position, and it’s certainly not the sort of thing that will rally other people in these parts to your cause. All it will do is lower the level of discourse to metaphorical poop-slinging.

          Worse, you’re signalling that you want to engage in a dominance contest with someone who seems MUCH more invested in displaying their dominance than you are. Even if you somehow win, the limb-shaking and poop-flinging will absolutely *wreck* the scenery – and this was such a lovely garden.

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Replying to this comment. When in Rome, as they say.

          Yeah, I was already replying to that one, too; I regret that I replied to them out of order.

          That said, I’m pretty sure you just lost. Multiheaded didn’t have nearly as much “face” to sacrifice as you did, so by dragging you down to his level, he inflicted an impressively asymmetric loss on you. I’d be really impressed with the tactic if I didn’t find it distasteful, and if we weren’t in the very midst of a conversation about why not to do stuff like that.

          (Also, I’m instinctively inclined to see Multiheaded’s attack on you as less problematic than your reply, due to perceived social alliances and a general sense that Multiheaded is one of the ‘good guys’ – my gut-level assumptions say that his attack was inappropriate and unexpected, while yours was beyond the pale but completely in-character. So again – you have a lot more to lose than he does by engaging in that, and you guarantee that you lose it by doubling down.)

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        • @ nydwracu: Sorry dude! You were elevating the discourse and everything. I guess I’m just not fit for civilized company.

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        • Daniel Speyer says:

          To take the idea seriously (because somebody should)…

          They say immigration is the sincerest form of flattery. Throughout slavery, there was a constant stream of runaway slaves seeking freedom, despite serious attempt to prevent it with enforcement and punishment. There was not a corresponding group of free people going south and looking for owners to give themselves to. In fact, I’m not sure if that *ever happened at all*.

          In general, the superiority of slavery is an extraordinary claim that calls for extraordinary evidence. A couple of quotes on that subject (that could easily be cherrypicked, or pressured, or from transition shock) don’t qualify as extraordinary.

          On the meta level, I didn’t even regard this hypothesis as p>epsilon until I saw such anti-epistemological arguments being brought against it. It made me think “If they’re resorting to that, maybe there aren’t any good counterarguments”. Fortunately I could think of some in only a few minutes, but had the matter been more confusing I could have been lead badly astray…

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        • hf says:

          The board can replace Dumbledore with a Death Eater at any time, and where are the house elves then? This is not a difficult concept. Scott just went over this in the Anti-Reactionary FAQ. And three posts ago he went over two sufficient reasons why this guy’s appeal to recent history fails.

          So fuck this mealy-mouthed, cowardly hand-waving in the direction of already-refuted claims. Fuck the whole Moldbug school of unfalsifiability-through-obscurity.

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        • Randy M says:

          Daniel, does that argument disprove American racism vs Mexicans, Africans, Arabs, Asians, or other minorities with which we have an immigration deficiet (more coming than going)?

          ETA: Yeah, that was probably a softball there, but off-the cuff.

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        • Daniel Speyer says:

          Daniel, does that argument disprove American racism vs Mexicans, Africans, Arabs, Asians, or other minorities with which we have an immigration deficiet (more coming than going)?

          Not at all.

          Just like escaping slaves showed that freedom is better than slavery, immigrants show that living in the US is better than living in the origin countries. This doesn’t mean that there’s no discrimination in the US, just that overall the US is still the better option (in some cases because there was nastier discrimination in the host country).

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        • Anonymous says:

          Ialdabaoth, now that you have drawn attention to behavior, I hope you can learn what is in character.

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        • Giordano Mirandolla says:

          Hey I don’t understand your point Karl, you better make a fake trading card game about it.

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        • Randy M says:

          You throw around nerd as an insult an aweful lot. I get the impression that a lot of people here of various stripes might fit that description pretty well, so I don’t think it will prove much.

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        • nydwracu says:

          They say immigration is the sincerest form of flattery. Throughout slavery, there was a constant stream of runaway slaves seeking freedom, despite serious attempt to prevent it with enforcement and punishment. There was not a corresponding group of free people going south and looking for owners to give themselves to. In fact, I’m not sure if that *ever happened at all*.

          If there had been, would you have heard about it?

          If there had been white immigrants going to the South looking for owners to give themselves to for (in theory, not in practice) some predetermined period of time, would you have heard about it?

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        • Multiheaded says:

          Ialdabaoth, I did want to wreck this debate, but with a reason beyond “my opponent is too evil”: I feel that the meta here is already too corrupt. By engaging in an object-level argument as to whether slavery was “good” or “bad” as an institution, we lose track of how insane in a certain way it was, how texts like Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and 12 Years a Slave oppose A South-Side View of Slavery on a very fundamental level that goes beyond the “good” or “bad” treatment of slaves. Inequality and exclusion can fuck up the basic premises of a debate, and the “liberal” side might not even notice.

          Nydwracu, a more nuanced alternative to “History is written by the winners” is “History is written by the writers”; it explains a lot of curious things, such as the simultaneous existence of a slant in favour of empires and the tendency to relative “leftism” (all the way to Macaulay and beyond).

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Ialdabaoth, I did want to wreck this debate, but with a reason beyond “my opponent is too evil”: I feel that the meta here is already too corrupt.

          So, given that, I have two points to make:

          1. From a purely tactical perspective, bravo. That was epic to watch.

          2. From within the perspective of “civilization, community and nice things”, you owe our curator reparations for some reasonably substantial metaphorical property damage. You turned an otherwise reasonably civil thread into a shit-flinging contest, and while I completely understand why you did it, I am disappoint. (Note that you, unlike your rhetorical opponent, can disappoint me. This is both a blessing and a burden.)

          My dilemma is that, one one hand, the psychic damage you wrought is actually outweighed by the value of the information your actions provided me; but on the other hand, this isn’t my garden, so that’s not my call to make.

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        • “Ialdabaoth, I did want to wreck this debate, but with a reason” — namely: that his fake made-up fantasy-land version of “history” (short version: light skin bad, dark skin good) gets absolutely every single thing totally and irredeemably wrong, but it’s very important, for advancing his sick political ideology, that no one catch on to that.

          I mean, to be specific about it.

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        • Randy M says:

          Note how equality is now beyond good and evil, and dissent is actual insanity. Examples of both sacralizing–if not acually deifying–liberal values, and medicalizing dissent from them. (Someone wrote about that recently, no?)

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        • houseboatonstyx says:

          “There was not a corresponding group of free people going south and looking for owners to give themselves to. In fact, I’m not sure if that *ever happened at all*.”

          If there had been, would you have heard about it?

          I’m sure we would have heard about it. The new owners and other pro-slavery people would have made them quite famous. Even if the winners of the war had tried to suppress it, the story would have been too big and too interesting to be suppressed.

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        • Multiheaded says:

          @Randy:
          Dissent is not insanity. Uncritically accepting the insane assumptions of a particular debate does feel insane to me, and trying to instill those assumptions more so. Liberals can uncritically accept the un-egalitarian framing that it’s a matter of slavery being “good” or “bad” for people – as judged, implicitly, by their natural superiors. E.g. Wilde above is as guilty of this as the reactionaries.

          I argue that it’s hypocritical motivated cognition to deride inalienable rights as artificial but stand up for a system that by definition cannot survive without constant coercion and suppressing the voice of the subjects. How can an “equal” and “objective” debate be premised on this inequality of autonomy?

          tl;dr I feel like I have absorbed some libertarian vitriol

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        • Randy M says:

          Multi: Fair enough. It is a more reasonable argument when you use more words (like “when judged by others”, etc.).

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          “Ialdabaoth, I did want to wreck this debate, but with a reason” — namely: that his fake made-up fantasy-land version of “history” (short version: light skin bad, dark skin good) gets absolutely every single thing totally and irredeemably wrong, but it’s very important, for advancing his sick political ideology, that no one catch on to that.

          I mean, to be specific about it.

          Are you having fun beating that strawman? Because it won’t win you any dominance points around here.

           
          I find it depressing that, when your evidence was challenged by multiple people, you chose to respond to the weakest of your attackers, and continue attempting to reassert ideological dominance over that attacker rather than provide anything interesting to the conversation. It makes you look like you subconsciously feel that your beliefs need protecting.

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        • Scott Alexander says:

          A LOT OF COMMENTS ON THIS THREAD WERE REPORTED AND THEY ARE ALL TERRIBLE. YOU GET A PASS THIS TIME BECAUSE IT WAS BEFORE THE COMMENT POLICY WAS ANNOUNCED, BUT ANY COMMENTS REMOTELY SIMILAR TO THESE IN THE FUTURE WILL BE SUPER SUPER BANNED.

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      • Sniffnoy says:

        Yes, because feminism is a unitary block, not a gigantic umbrella of different and sometimes mutually contradictory groups.
        I identify as a feminist and believe it’s okay for women to be housewives if they have the option to not be. So do several other self-identified feminists of my acquaintance. Some do not, and they are feminists too.
        Repeat after me: FEMINISM IS COMPLICATED.

        So, this is true, but there is a problem here which is worth pointing out, I think. (I’ll admit that this probably no longer has anything to do with Karl Boetel’s point.)

        Namely: You don’t get to say “We’re not a monolith!”, and then turn around and act like a monolith. By which I mean, if you don’t actually have any sort of consensus on your side, you don’t get to insist that anyone who disagrees with you must be evil (or, at least, insufficiently feminist). Because this is what you actually get — feminists of all stripes all insisting that anyone who disagrees with them is evil, until you end up trying to believe all of it at once despite the fact that they don’t actually agree with one another and aaaaaaaaa

        Similarly with “Well I can’t speak for all women!” Certainly! But if you can’t speak for all women, then you don’t get to make categorical statements that are essentially speaking for all women. You get this phenomenon of “Act unified when it’s convenient, act disunified when it’s convenient”. I mean I rather doubt this is a deliberate tactic, but it’s very frustrating to deal with, and it’s certainly not an expression of an honest/coherent position.

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        • Andy says:

          Namely: You don’t get to say “We’re not a monolith!”, and then turn around and act like a monolith. By which I mean, if you don’t actually have any sort of consensus on your side, you don’t get to insist that anyone who disagrees with you must be evil

          Where have I, specifically, insisted that anyone who disagrees with me must be evil? Because I don’t think I have.

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        • Sniffnoy says:

          My apologies — you haven’t. I was kind of just reacting to “Repeat after me: FEMINISM IS COMPLICATED.” My point is not that you’ve done anything wrong, but rather that it’s not as simple as “Feminism is complicated”, because they only act like that about half the time. If you’re talking about just what they actually believe, sure, maybe that suffices. If you’re talking about the actual effects of their movement, it isn’t.

          And, I mean, if we want to be charitable to Karl Boetel, we can read his statement as “Many of them say this, and this helps their movement get support, but the actual effect of their movement is not any such thing, and instead is…” (If we instead read his statement as written… well, then we probably shouldn’t be arguing with him, because that’s a damn uncharitable statement he’s just made.)

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        • @ Sniffnoy: Oh, no, that all speaks directly to my point.

          Edit: You should go with the charitable interpretation, in my humble opinion.

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      • As for feminism, I don’t see why you feel the need to adopt charitable ad hoc interpretations of the term when the actual doctrine, cladistically and morphologically speaking, ain’t that.

        I mean, if I were to define Nazism as “a belief in rights and freedoms for the German people,” and then ask why people are so anti-Nazi, you might direct me to a cladistic view of Nazism (the history of the body of ideas that calls itself Nazism) or a morphological view (seeing what Nazism has actually achieved over the years).

        You, I’d wager, are not judging “feminism” by the history of that body of ideas, or examining the (horrible) things feminism has achieved; that instead you’re adopting a charitable ad hoc definition — which, conveniently enough, allows you to adopt the socially acceptable position of saying that you’re a feminist. After all, you wouldn’t want to get fired from your job or something for being anti-feminist. Best to keep one’s head down. After all, this is the Age of Social Justice.

        As for what you “believe it’s okay for women to be,” what interests me is what the power players in gender politics — not you — are able to get the education system to pour into little kids’ heads, and to what extent you’ll let them get away with it, as long as they call it “feminism” and as long as you’re using this charitable ad hoc definition of that school of thought. (Not that you or anyone else has the power to stop them.)

        As for repeating after you: no thanks, I’m not one for chanting, and if I had to pick a cult, Progressivism doesn’t seem like a very fun one.

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      • Jack Crassus says:

        The post-colonial world is full of shocking tragedies caused by attempts to spread liberalism to countries lacking the prerequisites for it. That’s one of Moldbug’s red pills.

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    • iParallax says:

      I agree with the author’s overall point that civilization is the result of people generally “being nice” and setting up “graceful failure modes.”

      However, Karl makes a critical point; liberalism *does* destroy its enemies. While it has done so violently, I think the core of NRx/DE is the realization that liberalism more often destroys its enemies indirectly, through the very mechanisms of niceness the author describes. Social and economic structures, conservative by nature, are disassembled or taxed to ever-increasing degrees to facilitate excessive inclusiveness (“cuddle piles”).

      As just one example, the author mentions the pro-life and pro-choice dinner party as an example of peaceful coexistence, but what society is that taking place in? A pro-choice one. The liberal may freely dine with the conservative he has beaten. The conservative has accepted his defeat. And Cthulu swims a little bit further to the left.

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      • Giordano Mirandolla says:

        “And Cthulu swims a little bit further to the left.”

        I realize that HPL hated THE SAVAGE NEGRO nearly as much as reactionaries do, but Cthulhu is not, and never has been a metaphor for social progressivism and you just sound like an out-of-touch nerd for using a character created by a mediocre 1930s pulp author to badly illustrate a concept that has nothing to do with it.

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        • Andy says:

          Except zie’s quoting (I think) Mencius Moldbug, one of the godfathers of Neoreaction.

          And Cthulhu isn’t meant to be the literal character, Cthulhu’s just a convenient verbal shorthand for “Vast Formless Unknowable Thing.”

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        • iParallax says:

          Thank you Andy.

          Metaphors, allusions, and allegories are helpful to create context without copy/pasting dozens or hundreds of links and quotes, and I use them as such.

          All is forgiven Giordano. This corner of the internet is full of allusions and references; best read up!

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        • Giordano Mirandolla says:

          Except this allusion doesn’t add anything, and is very silly.

          It’s like me saying “Tarzan always swings from the most convenient vine” and acting like it’s a big contribution to the discourse because Tarzan is self-taught and autodidacts tend to use the easiest sources to acquaint themselves with something.

          Except worse because the internet hasn’t developed a collective irritating obsession with Tarzan.

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        • I dunno about that. From The Call of Cthulu:

          “Then, whispered Castro, those first men formed the cult around tall idols which the Great Ones shewed them; idols brought in dim eras from dark stars. That cult would never die till the stars came right again, and the secret priests would take great Cthulhu from His tomb to revive His subjects and resume His rule of earth. The time would be easy to know, for then mankind would have become as the Great Old Ones; free and wild and beyond good and evil, with laws and morals thrown aside and all men shouting and killing and revelling in joy. Then the liberated Old Ones would teach them new ways to shout and kill and revel and enjoy themselves, and all the earth would flame with a holocaust of ecstasy and freedom. Meanwhile the cult, by appropriate rites, must keep alive the memory of those ancient ways and shadow forth the prophecy of their return.”

          Sounds like Progs to me.

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        • Konkvistador says:

          Reactionaries using Cthulhu are exactly like LessWrong using Azathoth for evolution:

          Our local verbose Jewish cult leader used the metaphor and we liked it because it conveyed the right aliefs.

          I like using both.

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        • lmm says:

          LessWrong using Azathoth for evolution also sounds super-dumb and lowers my respect for those who do it.

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      • Giordano Mirandolla says:

        It was dumb when Moldbug did it too.

        As far as the vast formless unkowable thing went, don’t LWers tend to get annoyed at people dismissing things as weird so they don’t have to explain or attempt to understand them? I swear there’s some Yudkowsky article complaining about people calling quantum physics weird.

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        • misha says:

          there’s also a bunch of talk referring to azathoth and evolution as the blind idiot god. So maybe don’t throw anti-nerd stones in your house made out of eliezer yudkowksy?

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        • Giordano Mirandolla says:

          That at least makes some sense, given that Azathoth is supposed to be kind of a metaphor for the blind purposelessness of the universe. It’s still nerdy though.

          If we wanna ride this metaphor train further, we can say that since Cthulhu is the high priest of Azathoth, and reactionaries just loooooooove declaring what’s natural to be good, we can say Cthulhu is actually Steve Sailer.

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        • misha says:

          so the seemingly disorganized and yet consistent nature the actions of millions of people is arbitrarily not worth fearing as an elder god, but the seemingly disorganized and yet consistent actions of animals is?

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        • Konkvistador says:

          Cthulhu isn’t used as a phrase to stop thinking about the phenomena or dismissal. If you read Moldbug at all you would know he spends a lot of time working out an attempt to explain why it is there.

          The skeleton of the theory is quite simple: When mass belief is considered the root of the moral legitimacy to wield power and use force, mass belief will be hacked. A society based on consent will be eaten by consent generating factories.

          If not intentionally as done by many demagogues, the sets of institutions that form public opinion will over time become systematically corrupted, since they will be out competed by those that will escalate the power > public opinion > more power loop of politically viable insanity.

          A current contention is that academia and academic culture outside the hard sciences is systematically compromised and biased in this direction. Hence articles in the Harvard Crimson endorsing the Khmer Rouge and Stalin while berating McCarthyism yesterday. And articles calling for an end to academic freedom for insufficiently leftist research today.

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        • Giordano Mirandolla says:

          Let’s just be clear: I’m not huge on the Y man’s use of Azathoth either, nor am I really a fan.

          Also wow are you changing subjects, Konkvistador.

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        • nydwracu says:

          Isn’t it exactly the opposite? If you don’t understand something, don’t give it a name that makes you think you understand it.

          Divine grace is more complicated. I was tempted to call it “spontaneous order” until I remembered the rationalist proverb that if you don’t understand something, you need to call it by a term that reminds you that don’t understand it or else you’ll think you’ve explained it when you’ve just named it.

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      • endoself says:

        Actually, abortion was illegal in Ireland at the time. It is now permitted only in cases where the mother’s life is endangered.

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      • Aris Katsaris says:

        “As just one example, the author mentions the pro-life and pro-choice dinner party as an example of peaceful coexistence, but what society is that taking place in? A pro-choice one.”

        Scott said this took place in Ireland, and there abortion is illegal unless the mother’s life is at risk.

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      • Julia says:

        I believe the death penalty is a bad idea. I live in a country where execution is still practiced, and yet I’m able to peaceably coexist with people who believe that’s a good thing.

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        • houseboatonstyx says:

          Changing the law by shunning one possible dinner partner, mostly works if that one partner has a lot of political power, and you have some sort of power over zim. Otherwise, you may get a better outcome by using a friendly dinner to gently influence zim, and/or to find out more about the thinking of zis faction.

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    • ozymandias says:

      Jaclyn Friedman is most famous as the editor of Yes Means Yes which, among other topics, is about how women are pressured into having sex when they don’t want to and that sucks. Many of the feminists who criticize her criticize her as a “choosey-choice” feminist: that is, she thinks whatever you choose is feminist as long as you decided it yourself. Indeed, the Jaclyn Friedman article quoted in the linked article is very careful about using I language and “can be” and “potential to” and “if” and keeping open the possibility that you might not want to be a slut.

      Like, lbr here: the most extreme feminists do not think it is okay to fuck men. (In the modern era, this has been changed to “cis men.”) If someone is talking about how happy they are to have fucked lots of dudes, they are not ‘extreme.’

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      • Randy M says:

        “(In the modern era, this has been changed to “cis men.”) ”

        Are you implying those same extreme feminists are okay with , er, hooking up with trans men? Because… why? do they believe they have not become one with the patriarchy or something? But if its a social thing, surely there are some cis men not part of the power structure?

        I’m just wondering if that is consistent.

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      • Jai says:

        “Extreme” seems like the wrong word here. Like, if you start heading in the direction of “women have been historically disadvantaged and should probably have the same rights and opportunities as men”, you don’t ever hit “and therefore never have sex with men”. That seems like a qualitatively different thing.

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      • ozymandias says:

        Randy: Yep. It’s a whole Thing.

        Jai: Yes you do. The question arises: why have women been historically oppressed? The obvious answer is “men.” And if a group of people has been oppressing you for thousands of years, in part via sex, romantic relationships and marriage, it seems simple self-preservation that one should not have sex with, have romantic relationships with, or get married to such people.

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      • Crimson Wool says:

        Indeed, the Jaclyn Friedman article quoted in the linked article is very careful about using I language and “can be” and “potential to” and “if” and keeping open the possibility that you might not want to be a slut.

        I think the problem is that it’s very, very hard to say, “make the choice that’s right for you” and come off as sincere, when you at the same time are pushing for people to consider certain choices as valid. I think your writing does a good job by specifically bringing up examples which run contrary to the more contrarian feminist tendency: e.g. specifically, without prompting, bringing up that it’s okay for men to want to marry feminine, submissive women, or, that it’s okay for a woman to find that premarital sex was a deeply unfulfilling mistake.

        Without that sort of thing, though, all those little extra words like “can be” and “possibly” get mentally edited out as weasel words. I think people just don’t process them as meaningful additions.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      I was under the impression that liberal feminism was quickly becoming the most relevant strain. Am I wrong?

      Also, hi! I like your magazine! Today somebody told me that I needed to see a psychiatrist for being against feminism, and I was going to link him to your article on people who say that, but I decided on second thought that would just make the problem worse.

      [EDIT: Was just informed I have only read two articles in his magazine, which I liked, but that others I haven't seen are horrible and I Should Not Be Endorsing Them.]

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      • ozymandias says:

        The person criticized in the linked article is the libfemmiest libfem to ever libfem.

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      • Konkvistador says:

        To the first approximation Liberal feminism is not so terrible and wrong, radical feminism is terrible and correct.

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      • Jai says:

        These are the things that make me flinch: When someone links to a magazine that opens by criticizing someone they don’t like as “sagging”, and you say “I like your magazine!”.

        I do not understand the rules you are following for “discourse I endorse” and “discourse that I want no part of”.

        Then there’s just the article itself being generally horrifying. What makes you feel like this is worth any of your time and attention, let alone praise?

        My brain is having severe trouble reconciling the idea of “someone who writes SlateStarCodex” and “someone who enjoys reading Radish”. I’d want to be friends with the former, and wouldn’t want to be in the same room as the latter.

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          My brain is having severe trouble reconciling the idea of “someone who writes SlateStarCodex” and “someone who enjoys reading Radish”. I’d want to be friends with the former, and wouldn’t want to be in the same room as the latter.

          This is why the Halo Effect/Horns Effect is such a flawed heuristic.

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        • Multiheaded says:

          Maybe it’s all just blame-free ideological porn to Scott; maybe he’s like the feminists who reblog over-the-top rape/humiliation fantasies on tumblr. I’ve seen quite a few of those and I’m fine with them.

          …yeah, no. This is still somehow troubling from Scott. His general pathological niceness does not feel like an indulgence for even remotely tolerating such ugliness. This might be hypocritical of us.

          Maybe it’s because Scott is really privileged, and the key idea of Radish is congratulating yourself on treating non-privileged people really horribly?

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        • Jai says:

          Ialdabaoth: I don’t think it’s quite that – Halo/Horns implies that the good qualities I see in SlateStarCodex are unrelated to the horror I see in _Radish_. But I’m seeing collision on the same qualities – incredibly well-reasoned and thoughtful discourse v. morally horrifying mostly-insults.

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        • nydwracu says:

          There is merit in the undertaking of consistently steelmanning the unthinkable, is there not?

          Or rather: in at least the vast majority of previous civilizations, there would have been merit in the undertaking of consistently steelmanning the unthinkable, since the vast majority of previous civilizations must have made at least one correct thing unthinkable. (If you believe atheism is correct, there is an obvious example. If you believe gender equality is correct, there is another obvious example.) What property does this civilization have that suggests that it is an exception? And wouldn’t these other civilizations have had a property that would make their members suggest it to be an exception too?

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        • Jai says:

          nydwracu: Steelmanning is great. But hypothesis space is big, there are only so many keystrokes in a lifetime, and this horse has been exhaustively beaten. To make matters worse, it’s a horse that attracts some awful radishes, and most of my friends have a severe radish allergy. Also metaphors are hard.

          If you want nominations for novel unthinkable thoughts, I nominate negative utility of wildlife.

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        • Multiheaded says:

          If you want nominations for novel unthinkable thoughts, I nominate negative utility of wildlife.

          Obligatory link.

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        • Scott Alexander says:

          I have only read two articles in Radish, this one condemning people who treat conservativism as a mental disease and informing me that propranolol treats racism (which is fascinating), and this one which I find informative and hilarious.

          I have been told by enough people now that all their other articles are horrible that I am inclined to believe it, and will check to see if the other articles are as bad as everyone says before praising them in the future.

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        • grendelkhan says:

          Or maybe it has something to do with Scott taking it extra personally when feminists declare him to be a Bad Person, but since he’s not the target of the folks over at Radish, he’s not really offended by them and they can play in his garden?

          (I say this as someone who’s somewhat up in the air, but in general agrees with Scott, that telling the truth matters and you don’t get to pitch the rules out the window even if your feelings are super duper strong.)

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      • Hi Scott. (Gosh, it’s hard to keep track of who’s replying to what sometimes.)

        Heck, I don’t know if “liberal feminism” is taking over. “Liberal” compared to what? The “feminism” of 50 years ago? Or compared to the “feminism” of right now?

        What I see (as important), for the most part, is this so-called “hookup culture” taking over the world and making us think we wanted it all along. This is a statement which, by its nature, cannot be proved with logic or a scientific experiment. It’s a narrative, and it’s one you can choose to try on (much like a hat) and see if the world makes more sense from that perspective. That’s what my last issue is about, after all: showing you a story, asking you how well it fits. Obviously it is inconsistent with the feminist narrative. You would have to temporarily drop the one in order to try out the other. Dang, my laptop’s about to die.

        Anyway, thanks for the compliment. I enjoy your writing too.

        P.S. Apologies for my harsh language in a comment above. A deliberate decision.

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    • Multiheaded says:

      Atlanta? Sherman should’ve finished the job, goddamnit! The Reconstruction might’ve turned out differently then. The conduct of the American Civil War and especially its aftermath was absurdly soft on the treasonous slavers.

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      • suntzuanime says:

        Everybody knows when you conquer the other tribe you’re supposed to genocide them, so that later you don’t have to hear them whine about how their heritage isn’t hate.

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        • Multiheaded says:

          Yup, that’s more or less exactly what the War Nerd says about the issue.

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        • Andy says:

          Everybody knows when you conquer the other tribe you’re supposed to genocide them, so that later you don’t have to hear them whine about how their heritage isn’t hate.

          I agree, it would have made the ensuing fracas less bad. But I’m descended from some of those same slaveowners, so I cannot quite wish they were all garrotted and thrown in Charleston Harbor. Over the long term, I think I’ll accept some people’s right to defend slavery in public, if it brings their bullshit logic and statistics out into the open where it can be smashed properly.

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        • Does the same reasoning apply to, say, American Indians?

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        • suntzuanime says:

          I… I was being sarcastic. I do not endorse genocide. I am generally opposed to most forms of mass murder.

          I’m honestly a little disturbed that multiple people seem to have taken me at face value there.

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        • I figured you weren’t serious. I just wanted to highlight how not all heritages are considered equal.

          Edit: I’ll add that I agree with (what I think was) your original point (the one made through sarcasm), and affirm that of course I don’t think you endorse mass murder.

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    • Kaj Sotala says:

      Feminists are all about socially conditioning men and women to think, feel and act a certain way.

      I don’t recognize myself from this description.

      Report comment

  22. Mantodea says:

    I have greatly enjoyed this blog ever since I started reading. What Arthur interprets as “pussyfooting around with debate-team nonsense” is actually wonderful to read, and on the whole more satisfying than the content of any other blogs I follow. (…now that I think of it, I wish I had more blogs to follow with content as regular and as enjoyable as Slate Star Codex; does anyone have suggestions?)

    This post reminded me of the Less Wrong quote which I think I also first read on a different post on this blog: “Bad argument gets counterargument. Does not get bullet. Never. Never ever never for ever.”

    Anyways. Keep it up!

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    • lmm says:

      I too enjoy reading here, but that alone doesn’t prove this place isn’t some kind of debate-team circlejerk. For someone trying to achieve meaningful political change on the issues it’s not impossible that SSC could be unhelpful or even negative.

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      • Error says:

        But for someone trying to get an accurate handle on said issues without any particular activist bent, it’s amazingly useful.

        One thing that jumped out at me reading quotations from Arthur and Scott’s response is the distinction between rationality as truth-seeking and rationality as intentional winning. The only reason the charge “your community claims to be rational but irrationally fails to adopt the necessary weapons to win” seems to hold water is that we use the same word to describe the two. I’ve never liked that.

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  23. misha says:

    As always I find myself more scottist than any other ideology one could name.

    An important point, as long as we’re talking about ruthless warfare, is just how ABSURD it is to suggest all out war against a side that’s numerically and technologically FAR FAR stronger than you. Conservatives are highly represented in the army, the police, and as far as civilians go they still own WAY MORE GUNS. Literally the only way you can actually win is with their eventual cooperation/surrender.

    Another important point: MOST PEOPLE ARE CIVILIANS. Russian citizens weren’t communist partisans anymore than most americans are in the army. We didn’t beat communism (insofar as it’s been beaten or we is a coherent concept) by going to war with it, but by loudly being better. My parents came here when I was one because this was a better place to live and do science and raise kids. No bullet to the head could’ve done that. When you treat everyone who happens to live under a regime or religion as an enemy(and I’m framing things like sexism as a regime), you’re forcing them to be YOUR enemy, when they could just as happily be your ally, or at least cooperatively neutral.

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    • Andy says:

      An important point, as long as we’re talking about ruthless warfare, is just how ABSURD it is to suggest all out war against a side that’s numerically and technologically FAR FAR stronger than you. Conservatives are highly represented in the army, the police, and as far as civilians go they still own WAY MORE GUNS. Literally the only way you can actually win is with their eventual cooperation/surrender.

      Thus you get things like asymmetric warfare, where the weaker side wears down the stronger by just existing.
      The stronger side’s defeat relies upon it continually chasing the weaker side, and failing to wipe it out completely. Niceness can be seen as a prevention of that failure mode when the stronger side, and ensuring survival when the weaker.

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  24. Francisco Boni Neto says:

    The question: is liberalism a strictly dominant strategy? Or just weakly dominant?

    “Liberalism does not conquer by fire and sword. Liberalism conquers by communities of people who agree to play by the rules, slowly growing until eventually an equilibrium is disturbed. Its battle cry is not “Death to the unbelievers!” but “If you’re nice, you can join our cuddle pile!””

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  25. Sarah says:

    Whacko Randroid that I am, I’ve been ambivalent for a while to the rationalist community becoming increasingly friendly to feminists and social-justice types. Sometimes I miss the good old days, when men were men and wore Vibrams. (I kid, I kid.)

    However, one of the things I’ve noticed is that when rationalists are open to feminism, feminists become more open to rationalism. Funny how that happens.

    I think we can survive some cultural drift. The core stuff is basically the cognitive bias literature and the Sequences. And some sort of shared spirit: youthfulness, aspirations of heroism, a sense that clear thinking can be powerful.

    My current thinking is that it’s wisest not to freak out too much about “OMG there are people joining our community who are Not Our Kind!” They’re coming for the core stuff. It’s not a big deal if they’re not wearing Vibrams, or if they use words like “privilege.” A broad range of cultures and opinions is a sign that your community is successfully growing. Any ideas that are *genuinely* important are important enough to be worth disseminating beyond a small circle of friends.

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    • Nick T says:

      I think we can survive some cultural drift.

      I hope so. The possible scenario where we can’t is the one where political entryism (SJ/feminist, or any kind) can reach a point of no return before becoming a highly visible problem; I don’t know how to tell whether we live in that world.

      I do see more progressive ideas as a good thing if it leads to rationalists extracting and assimilating whatever useful insights into psychology and social structures they contain.

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      • Sarah says:

        Dealing directly with politics is obviously pretty dangerous for individuals. But look at Scott — he engages, battles, comes out clean, and still maintains an attitude of basic benevolence. And we’re probably better off for being able to engage with the wider world.

        I have some concern that we seem to have chosen *this* direction of growth — into effective altruism and social justice — rather than other directions. I could see a world where the more “accessible” or “public-facing” edge of the rationalist community shaded into the world of self-improvers, life-hackers, entrepreneurs, and generally a more cynically competitive outlook. And maybe that path would have led to more “winning” and innovation.

        But we live in *this* world, not that one. And a community of liberal-ish writers talking about the importance of reason and discourse, and becoming the most lively intellectual culture around? That’s not bad either.

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    • Kaj Sotala says:

      Huh. I experienced a minor “does not parse” moment reading this comment, because I’ve always identified as feminist, and therefore also generalized from my own experience and assumed that most of the rationalist community is ultimately feminist too. Especially since there seems to be plenty of stuff with a clear feminist application in the Sequences, like “the map is not territory”, “cached thoughts” and “words as hidden inferences” being great ways of challenging notions such as gender essentialism and demonstrating how many of the concepts around gender are socially constructed, etc. And I’ve previously mentioned how the concept of “privilege” is basically the same thing as overgeneralizing from your own experience, just using different terminology.

      In my mind, the Sequences were, if not exactly preaching feminism all along, then definitely laying a very strong foundation for many feminist arguments that are just a few inferential steps away.

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      • Sniffnoy says:

        I experienced a minor “does not parse” moment reading this comment, because I’ve always identified as feminist, and therefore also generalized from my own experience and assumed that most of the rationalist community is ultimately feminist too.

        Certainly this was my own impression initially wading into LW. We’re reasonable people, and all the reasonable people are feminists, right? Anything that goes against feminism is just misogyny and doesn’t seriously need to be considered. It took a lot of reading HughRistik’s comments and Scott’s LJ (and, to a lesser extent, Sarah’s comments) before it occurred to me that, hey, y’know, maybe it’s OK not to be a feminist. So, I don’t know how common this is, but for me, the community I encountered via LW is precisely what allowed me to say, I’m done simply accepting unquestioned awful feminist epistemology and their extreme uncharitableness and their use of guilt instead of argument and their refusal to consider that any non-feminist might actually have anything worth saying on gender issues and etc.

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        • Kaj Sotala says:

          It’s funny that you mention HughRistik as an example, because he was one of the folks whose comments fed my confirmation bias of LW being mostly feminist. Sure, he writes at a blog called “feminist critics”, but the stuff he was actually saying always sounded very feminist to me.

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        • Sniffnoy says:

          Well, of course; there’s only so far I’m going to go with this! That is to say — I’m still, by background, a liberal, I still basically hold liberal values, etc. The question then becomes, what does that actually cash out to? And on the object level it cashes out to largely agreeing with feminist positions. In a lot of ways the feminist bubble seems to me a rather more sensible place than the outside world.

          And yet despite that I no longer call myself a feminist. Why? Well — Scott’s “straw feminism” post is relevant here. There’s a number of positions that go by the name of “feminism”, some more extreme than others. And feminists in my experience try to get you to agree to the more extreme forms by a sort of guilt-laden equivocation — you agree with these basic things, right? Well, great, you’re a feminist, you’re on our side, you’re one of the good people. So, you also accept these more extreme positions… right? I mean, you’re a feminist, right? You’re not one of those misogynists, are you? No. Of course you’re not. Not agreeing isn’t really an option; you’ll be kicked out of the garden. Or so it’s made to seem, anyway.

          Right, when I say “feminist”, I’m largely not talking about a particular set of positions, partly because those vary so much that as a label for a set of positions, it seems useless; I’m talking about a movement, a social cluster. As the glossary at FeministCritics puts it, “A feminist is a person who is recognized as a feminist by other feminists”. That recognition can be revoked over small disagreements, and since, after all, anyone reasonable and good (anyone who’s not a misogynist) is a feminist, that’s a scary prospect. You probably have more leeway here if you’re a woman, because, well, the prior is lower that a woman is promoting something that is essentially anti-woman. But men are considered suspicious.

          (There was a recent hubbub on the internet over this article. My reaction to this was laughter — oh, now some of the women in the feminist movement are being treated like men in the feminist movement always have been!)

          So when I say “I am not a feminist,” a large part of what I mean is not “I disagree with you on object level positions” — though I certainly do on some things; the issue Scott talked about in his Meditations, or that HughRistik wrote about in this post is really the main one — what I mean is, “Your awful debating tactics have no power here. I may agree with you, I may disagree with you, but I am not on your side, and I will not allow you to guilt me into endorsing positions you haven’t actually convinced me of.” Which is quite compatible with still holding a lot of feminist positions. :)

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        • suntzuanime says:

          Yes, one of the insidious things about the feminist movement is the way they frame things such that the presumption is that all good and decent people agree with them. This gives them offensive power (their pronouncements are not just their own, but the pronouncements of all good and decent people) as well as defensive power (that you would disagree with them marks you as evil and indecent and why should we listen to what you have to say).

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        • Kaj Sotala says:

          Right, when I say “feminist”, I’m largely not talking about a particular set of positions, partly because those vary so much that as a label for a set of positions, it seems useless; I’m talking about a movement, a social cluster.

          Right. So when you say “feminists”, you mean “(some particular subset of) the awful feminists”, while when I say “feminists”, I mean “(some particular subset of) the sensible feminists”, and we don’t actually disagree on anything substantive.

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      • lmm says:

        In several comments on this post you seem to be defining feminism rather nonstandardly. I think the LW/rationalist community was always feminist in your sense, but not in the more usual one.

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        • Kaj Sotala says:

          Possibly? Certainly I seem to be focusing on the sensible sides of feminism while others here seem to be focusing on the less sensible ones, but I don’t think that I’ve said anything that would contradict e.g. this article. For instance, compare my comment:

          like “the map is not territory”, “cached thoughts” and “words as hidden inferences” being great ways of challenging notions such as gender essentialism and demonstrating how many of the concepts around gender are socially constructed

          with this quote from the beginning of the Wikipedia article:

          Therefore, third-wave ideology focuses on a more post-structuralist interpretation of gender and sexuality.[3] In “Deconstructing Equality-versus-Difference: Or, the Uses of Poststructuralist Theory for Feminism,” Joan W. Scott describes how language has been used as a way to understand the world, however, “post-structuralists insist that words and texts have no fixed or intrinsic meanings, that there is no transparent or self-evident relationship between them and either ideas or things, no basic or ultimate correspondence between language and the world”[4] Thus, while language has been used to create binaries (such as male/female), post-structuralists see these binaries as artificial constructs created to maintain the power of dominant groups.

          Now I don’t endorse all of the claims in the latter excerpt – “no basic or ultimate correspondence between language and the world” is a bit strong for my taste, and the notion of binaries having been intentionally created to maintain the power of some group sounds wrong. But if you take a moment to steelman it, there seem to be rather clear connections to the bits in the Sequences that I mentioned.

          The clearest example of this is actually a piece that Scott wrote: Diseased thinking: dissolving questions about disease, which deconstructs the diseased/non-diseased binary, shows that it’s made up of a number of orthogonal components, and uses the results of that deconstruction to make an argument that we should drop the binary altogether and instead focus on some of the things that make up the concept of disease and are usually conflated together. Those are some serious tools of feminist analysis right there: quoting directly from the article that’s cited in the WP excerpt above:

          Among the useful terms feminists have appropriated from post- structuralism are [...] deconstructtion. [...] Although this term is used loosely among scholars-often to refer to a dismantling or destructive enterprise- it also has a precise definition in the work of Derrida and his followers, Deconstruction involves analyzing the operations of difference in texts, the ways in which meanings are made to work. The method consists of two related steps; the reversal and displacement of binary oppositions. This double process reveals the interdependence of seemingly dichotomous terms and their meaning relative to a particular history. It shows them to be not natural but constructed oppositions, constructed for particular purposes in particular contexts.

          The literary critic Barbara Johnson describes deconstruction as crucially dependent on difference:

          The starting point is often a binary difference that is subsequently shown to be an illusion created by the working of differences much harder to pin down. The differences between entities … are shown to be based on a repression of differences within entities, ways in which an entity differs from itself…. The “deconstruction” of a binary opposition is thus not an annihilation of all values or differences; it is an attempt to follow the subtle, powerful effects of differences already at work within the illusion of a binary opposition

          Deconstruction is, then, an important exercise, for it allows us to be critical of the way in which ideas we want to use are ordinarily expressed, exhibited in patterns of meaning that may undercut the ends we seek to attain, A case in point-of meaning expressed in a politically self-defeating way-is the “equality-versus-difference” debate among feminists. Here a binary opposition has been created to offer a choice to feminists, of either endorsing “equality” or its presumed antithesis “difference.” In fact, the antithesis itself hides the interdependence of the two terms, for equality is not the elimination of difference, and difference does not preclude equality.

          The language is a little different from what rationalists would use, and I’m not sure if the described process for deconstructing things exactly matches the one that Scott was using, but the essence seems very similar: I said that Scott’s analysis “shows that diseases is made up of a number of orthogonal components that are conflated together”; the above excerpt talks about how a binary difference is “shown to be an illusion created by the working of differences much harder to pin down” and that binary differences (such as the diseased/healthy-distinction) are “based on a repression of differences within entities, ways in which an entity differs from itself” (e.g. ignoring the fact that different cases of disease may vary between each other on e.g. the rareness axis).

          Now this is just one essay, but it’s also very similar to the kind of stuff that I hear my various feminist friends refer to. And it is very similar to, for example, this bit from the WP article on queer theory:

          Queer theory’s main project is exploring the contesting of the categorisation of gender and sexuality; identities are not fixed – they cannot be categorised and labeled – because identities consist of many varied components and that to categorise by one characteristic is wrong.

          Again, while “cannot be categorized and labeled” is too strong, this too seems to be talking about basically the same thing as Scott’s analysis, just applied to identities rather than disease…

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        • Daniel Speyer says:

          @Kaj Sotala

          To apply the Dissolving “Disease” logic to gender issues would result in saying things like:

          Speaking of “men” and “women” is a crude attempt to describe diffuse clusters in personspace. As such, no statement using these terms can be very precise or true more than 90% of the time. For all important decisions, the terms should probably be tabood and replaced with the relevant attributes.

          I can think of groups that would hold this view. It’s almost a genderqueer manifesto. I’m pretty close to holding it myself.

          I don’t see how it’s consistent with feminism. Feminism’s central dogma is “men are oppressing women”. Under this perspective, that dogma isn’t even wrong.

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        • lmm says:

          @Kaj If you’re talking about third-wave feminism you’re already talking about a quite distinct cluster from the one I think of as unqualified “feminism”.

          I think the paragraph you quote is itself confusing map and territory – the language of binary distinctions with the actuality of them. And while LW does spend some time on the importance of using words correctly and avoiding being deceived by them, far more of LW’s focus seems to be on Bayesian inference which is almost the opposite – it’s about drawing as many inferences and categorizations as possible from the available information. When we talk about priors and Solomonoff induction and minimum message length and computational approximations, we’re talking about binary or at least lossy maps, and making them as accurate as possible within the constraints, and perhaps noticing the situations where these maps are too crude and need more detail. But it’s emphatically not about denying the utility of (even crude) maps in general, whereas that feminist line seems to degenerate into nonpredictive monism, and the true-but-useless “the only accurate map of the universe is the universe”.

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        • Tab Atkins says:

          When Imm talks about the feminism in “the more usual [sense]“, and Daniel Speyer says “Feminism’s central dogma is “men are oppressing women”. Under this perspective, that dogma isn’t even wrong.”, I despair.

          Y’all’s notion of the “usual” definition of feminism is “the definition given to it by people who hate feminism”; possibly also “the definition given by people only casually associated with it”, or “the definition given by those who are angry or hurt”. I hope it’s fairly obvious that all of these are less likely to be “enlightened” than one would like.

          It’s not hard to argue that women, in general, are oppressed by men – there’s tons of evidence everywhere. More generally, patriarchical institutions hurt both men *and* women. For example, a common MRA refrain is that divorce courts are sexist against men, but what gender runs nearly all courts? What gendered stereotype says that a woman’s place is at home with the kids, and emasculates stay-at-home dads?

          Feminism tries to break down these gendered stereotypes and let people interact with each other on their own terms. This is why it’s also not in conflict with queer theory – the idea that gender is socially constructed is completely compatible with the idea that strong and static gender roles are harmful to people.

          It’s unfortunate that so many people have gotten the idea fixed in their head that the stupidest variants of this idea are somehow the “correct” version.

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        • Daniel Speyer says:

          @Tab Atkins

          I came to the conclusion I did — with considerable despair of my own — not from “people who hate feminism” but by interacting with people who identify as feminist or who consistently argue for womens’ interests. I encountered it first from anti-feminists as you describe but I did not update because they seemed to be speaking from hate.

          But perhaps the feminists I met weren’t representative. It’s certainly possible for the least honest members of a community to be the loudest. I have a bunch of heuristics that usually protect me from that, but maybe they failed here.

          And since we’re disagreeing here, perhaps your experience has been different from mine.

          So can you recommend any good feminist blogs? Ones that look for facts and then follow them where they lead, even if they show the balance of power lies with women in some subcommunity (look at enough different subcommunities, and it’s sure to happen sooner or later)? Ones that don’t shut down all possible disagreement with fully general claims about “privilege”? Ones that take the consequences of what they advocate seriously? Ideally ones that avoid loaded language like “patriarchy”, but I’ll settle for ones that define it one way and stick with it?

          I really would like some. If you can provide links, I promise to give them a fair change and subscribe to any that meet these standards.

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        • ozymandias says:

          I recommend Patricia Hill Collins’s Black Feminist Thought, bell hooks’s Feminism Is For Everybody, Yes Means Yes edited by Jaclyn Friedman, and Julia Serano’s Whipping Girl to grasp the theory that SJWs are bastardizing. (If you can only read one of them, read Black Feminist Thought, particularly since you have problems with the use of “privilege” and Collins has an IMO fairly accessible explanation of standpoint theory, which is what modern privilege discourse comes from.)

          The idea that third wave feminism isn’t unqualified feminism is bizarre. Third wave feminism has literally been the mainstream kind of feminism for twenty years. Similarly, the idea that what Speyer describes is inconsistent with feminism is bizarre; he’s essentially describing the political program of Judith Butler, who is entirely inescapable in the feminist academy.

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    • Jai says:

      I consider my current self a result of feminist/rationalist synthesis, resulting in (among other beliefs) “there are probably biological statistical differences between men/women/people-who-don’t-fall-into-either-cluster-in-personspace, there are probably biological statistical differences between groups of people with several thousand years of divergent evolution, there’s probably a lot of non-genetic biological determinism (lead), and all of that is incredibly unfair, and there’s a lot of social unfairness _on top of that_”.

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      • lmm says:

        That’s going to be a very popular answer in the abstract, but what does it mean in practical terms? Do you think it’s acceptable for e.g. employers to explicitly consider gender when hiring? What about if an apparently neutral interview procedure leads to hiring disproportionately one gender or the other?

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        • Jai says:

          I didn’t propose solutions in that comment, just a partial listing of ways the universe is broken and unfair.

          Scott’s something-like-a-left-libertarian-manifesto had a nice partial solution for this (subsidies proportional to demonstrable hiring bias).

          Your absolutely right that it’s a hard and fraught problem – but you have to recognize the scope of the problem before you can fix it.

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        • Tab Atkins says:

          Simple statistics says that most fair hiring procedures won’t lead to a large imbalance. It’ll happen occasionally in individual instances, but it won’t happen over a large industry.

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        • Steve Johnson says:

          “Simple statistics says that most fair hiring procedures won’t lead to a large imbalance.”

          Right, simple statistics and an incredibly stupid (or insane) assumption that you’re smuggling in there.

          Men and women aren’t the same, don’t have the same interests, don’t have the same capabilities and there is no “fair” procedure that will ever produce a balanced mix of men and women.

          On top of that women could be just as capable at everything as men and have the same interests and it still would be a terrible idea to have an equally mixed workforce because men and women make incredibly inefficient teams. Evolution dictates that people will take work orders of magnitude less seriously than mating.

          It’s amusing that people who claim to be “rationalists” believe in things never observed (equality between men and women) that there are giant reasons not to believe (natural and sexual selection for different physical and mental traits) and still think they’re rational.

          As someone once said people who believe in leprechauns are more rational – at least they don’t see leprechauns not existing all the time – whereas you can’t ever meet or interact with people and not see obvious mental and physical differences between men and women.

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        • Andy says:

          Evolution dictates that people will take work orders of magnitude less seriously than mating.

          Funny, because I (a straight male) worked with multiple attractive females my own age without things ever becoming complicated. Or even wanting to mate with them, more than the average amount of male noticing-attractiveness. Even though several of them were my direct subordinates and I could have mated with them without any adverse consequences to myself. And I know dozens of men and women who have been in the same situation without mating.
          This is the thing that baffles me about evo-psych: It reduces humans to, well, this:
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bas-relief_of_fascinus.jpg
          (link has ancient Roman art of legged penis, possibly not safe for work.)
          This (anecdotal, I admit) data even fits in a framework of looking at behavior through a lens of evolutionary theory, but if you expand it with the following observation:
          Making evolution work requires more than eating and mating. Especially in humans, where getting the next generation to produce a next generation requires a lot of work to feed and shelter and clothe. Double especially modern humans, with infrastructure that takes a lot of effort to maintain. Thus, someone can even not have children and still be doing evolution a favor by ensuring that everyone else’s progeny – including the children of parents or siblings, who share much of the same genome – can survive and raise children.
          Your model says one thing but the data says another – which one is more likely to have a problem?

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  26. iParallax says:

    Also, as a military-type myself, I have been batting around ways to connect the nontraditional viewpoints discussed in these circles to certain modern military issues.

    Growing up (as almost all of us have) after two Total Wars and several conventional wars limited only by fear of nuclear escalation, pre-modern warfare seems quaint. The idea that battles would be decided via David and Goliath type single combat seems absurd; why wouldn’t armies fight to the last man? Then I realized that democracy is essentially the same thing; armies show up, get counted, and leave. It is bloodless combat. (And democracy is inherently tribal combat, the idea that democratic elections represent any sort of “collective wisdom” is one I don’t think has much traction around here, and rightly so.)

    Reading Hoppe and a few others really put this into perspective for me. Armies are expensive and their historical function was more of aggressive deterrence; prove that it isn’t a good idea for the enemy to fight, and he won’t. Wear him down with maneuvers and “out-logistics” him and live to fight another day.

    The role of ideology and nation-states as a path from this sort of warfare towards modern total wars of annihilation is something I had never considered. The traditional military understanding of the increasing violence of modern warfare is that increasing *technology* made warfare more bloody…not that the structure and purpose of war itself has changed. These are some ideas I will be attempting to interject into broader defense discourse down the road, and I am sure some ideas contained here about “nice conflict” will figure in somewhere down the road when I begin to write on those topics.

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    • misha says:

      I think classifying groups of people into nations and then people within those nations as enemies is indeed one of the reasons wars got so bloody. Then again, it could just be the massively higher population density.

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    • suntzuanime says:

      There have been some pretty bloody wars in history. Obvious example being the Mongol conquests, which tended to act upon a city that resisted them much like an atom bomb might, only with more actual blood and less tidy incineration.

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    • Prussian Prince of Automata says:

      Have you ever read “On War” by Clauswitz? Chapter 3B of Book 8 (War Plans) deals with that question extensively, too much for me to quote the whole thing, and seems to come down pretty heavily on the politics side. Then again, what do you expect from the man who wrote “war is policy by other means.”

      Anyway, block-o-text incoming;

      “[By the 18th century in Europe, d]omestically almost every state had been reduced to an absolute monarchy; the privilidges and influence of the estates had gradually disappeared. The executive had become completely unified and represented the state in its foreign relations. Political and military institutions had developed into an effective instrument, with which an independent will at the centre could now wage war in a form that matched it’s theoretical concept [AKA, total war].

      [...]

      But, if war gained in power and effectiveness, it lost in other respects.

      Armies were paid from the treasury, which rulers treated almost as their privy purse or at least as the property of the government, not of the people. Apart from a few commercial matters, relations with other states did not concern the people but only the treasury or the government. That at least was the general attitude. A government behaved as though it owned and maintained a great estate that it constantly endeavored to enlarge – an effort in which the inhabitants were not expected to show any particular interest. [...]

      War thus became solely the concern of the government to the extent that governments parted company with their peoples and behaved as if they were the state. Their means of waging war came to consist of the money in their coffers and of such idle vagabonds as they could lay their hands on either at home or abroad. In consequence the means they had available were fairly well defined, and each could gauge the other side’s potential in terms both of numbers and of time. War was thus deprived of its most dangerous feature – its tendency towards the extreme, and of the whole chain of unknown possibilities which would follow.

      The enemy’s cash resources, his treasury and his credit, were all approximately known; so was the size of his fighting forces. No great expansion was feasible at the outbreak of war. Knowing the limits of the enemy’s strength, men knew they were reasonably safe from total ruin; and being aware of their own limitations, they were compelled to restrict their own aims in turn. Safe from the threat of extremes, it was no longer necessary to go to extremes. Necessity was no longer an incentive to do so, and the only impulse could come from courage and ambition. These, on the other hand, were strongly curbed by the prevailing conditions of the state. Even a royal commander had to use his army with a minimum of risk. If the army was pulverized, he could not raise another, and behind the army there was nothing. That enjoined the greatest prudence in all operations. Only if a decisive advantage seemed possible could the precious instrument be used, and to bring things to that point was a feat of the highest generalship. [...]

      The conduct of war thus became a true game[...] In it’s effect it was a stronger form of diplomacy, a more forceful method of negotiation[...] Even the most ambitious ruler had no greater aims than to gain a number of advantages that could be exploited at the peace conference.

      [...]

      It had ceased to be in harmony with the spirit of the times to plunder and waste the enemy’s land, which had played such an important role in antiquity, in Tartar days and indeed in mediaeval times. It was rightly held to be unnecessarily barbarous, an invitation to reprisals, and a practice which hurt the enemy’s subjects rather than their government – one therefore that was ineffective and only served permanently to impede the advance of general civilization. Not only in its means, therefore, but also in its aims, war increasingly became limited only to the fighting force itself. Armies, with their fortresses and prepared positions, came to form a state within a state, in which violence gradually faded away.

      All Europe rejoiced at this development. It was seen as a logical outcome of enlightenment. This was a misconception. [...]

      This was the state of affairs at the outbreak of the French Revolution. [... I]n 1793 a force appeared which beggared all imagination. Suddenly war again became the business of the people – a people of thirty millions, all of whom considered themselves to be citizens. [...] The people became a participant in war; instead of governments and armies as heretofore, the full weight of the nation was now thrown into the balance. The resources and efforts now available for use surpassed all conventional limits; nothing now impeded the vigour with which war could be waged, and consequently the enemies of France faced the utmost peril.

      The effects of this innovation did not become evident or fully felt until the end of the revolutionary wars. [...] But this was really due only to technical imperfections that hampered the French[...]

      Once these imperfections were corrected by Bonaparte, this juggernaught of war, based on the strength of an entire people, began its pulverizing course through Europe. It moved with such confidence and certainty that whenever it was opposed by armies of the traditional type there could never be a moment’s doubt as to the result. Just in time, the reaction set in. The Spanish War [origin of the Guerrilla and Guerrilla warfare] spontaneously became a concern of the people. In 1809 the Austrian government made an unprecedented effort with reserves and militia; it came within sight of success and surpassed everything Austria had earlier considered possible. In 1812 Russia took Spain and Austria as models; her immense spaces permitted her measures [i.e., the scorched earth defense Clauswitz earlier praised but acknowledged was unspeakably costly] – belated though they were – to take effect, and even increased their effectiveness. The result was brilliant. In Germany, Prussia was the first to rise. She made war a concern of the people, and with half of her former population, without money or credit, she mobilized a force twice as large as she had in 1806. Little by little the rest of Germany followed her example, and Austria too – though her effort didn’t equal that of 1809 – exerted an exceptional degree of energy. The result was that in 1813 and 1814 Germany [the various Germanic peoples; this was pre-unification] and Russia put about a million men in the field against France – counting all who fought and fell in the two campaigns.

      [...]

      Since Bonaparte, then, war, first among the French and subsequently among their enemies, again became the concern of the people as a whole [here I think he refers back to a bit about the extent of the 'Tartar' conquests being possible because their army and people were one unit], took on an entirely different character, or rather closely approached its true character, its absolute perfection [again, total war]. There seemed no end to the resources which could be mobilized; all limits disappeared in the vigour and enthusiasm shown by governments and their subjects. Various factors powerfully increased that vigour; the vastness of available resources, the ample field of opportunity, and the depth of feeling generally aroused. The sole aim of war was to overthrow the opponent. Not until he was prostrate was it considered possible to pause and reconcile the opposing interests.

      War, untrammeled by any conventional restraints, had broken loose in all it’s elemental fury. This was due to the people’s new share in these great affairs of state; and their participation, in turn, resulted partly from the impact that the Revolution had on the internal conditions of every state and partly from the danger than France posed to everyone.”

      That closes out his historical analysis, but I just wanted to put the paragraph immediately following the last here because it really tugs my heartstrings. For context, On War was published in 1832.

      “Will this always be the case in the future? From now on will every war in Europe be waged with the full resources of the state, and therefore be fought only over major issues that affect the people? Or will we again see a gradual separation taking place between governments and people? Such questions are difficult to answer, and we are the last to dare to do so. But the reader will agree with us when we say that once barriers – which in a sense consist only in man’s ignorance of what is possible – are torn down, they are not so easily set up again. At least when major interests are at stake, mutual hostility will express itself in the same manner as it has in our own day.”

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  27. Dib says:

    Excellent article, but you missed Arthur’s best quote:

    ‘I am a practitioner of the Dark Arts. I rigorously manage my own thinking and purge myself of dangerous “unthinkable thoughts — “mindkill” myself — on a regular basis’

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      I am not willing to condemn him for that. There’s more to be said in favor of sometimes doing that than is immediately obvious.

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      • a person says:

        What? Isn’t this literally the most important thing that LessWrong tells us not to do?

        I get that you might want to do this on a personal/psychological level like e.g. purging your mind of hateful thoughts about people and replace them with nice thoughts, but in context, he’s talking about politics.

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    • Viliam Búr says:

      That quote feels to me like a trap. Respond to it, and the debate goes too meta, beyond the interest and inferential reach of many readers. And Scott could be forced to rewrite the entire Sequences, which would cost him too much time and a part of audience.

      It is better to just ignore it. To stay on the object level, where good examples can engage our moral intuitions. To reach people outside of the LW circle, make it extremely obvious what are you trying to protect.

      “This is what hurts people, and this is how people can avoid a lot of pain” is what people expect to find on this blog. Rationally explained; but also strongly connected to the Earth.

      If someone announces themselves to be a Dark Arts practitioner, you better not engage them in a territory where they would have a natural advantage: where they can carry a shield of rationalist lingo in one hand, and a mindkilling flamethrower in the other. Resist the bait. Don’t try to “win” an internet debate. Instead, win.

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  28. Daniel Speyer says:

    Of course, there are counterexamples. Jews who nonviolently resisted the Nazis didn’t have a very good track record. You need a certain pre-existing level of civilization for liberalism to be a good idea, and a certain pre-existing level of liberalism for supercharged liberalism where you don’t spread malicious lies and harass other people to be a good idea. You need to have pre-existing community norms in place before trying to summon mysterious beneficial equilibria.

    This paragraph could probably use a blog post of its own. Why was nonviolence a good plan in Burma but not Bosnia? Why does honest political discourse work for most cultural conflicts but the old /r/atheism was needed for religion? Why is scientific integrity* good enough for medical studies with billions of dollars at stake but we need to revert to mere political honesty when dealing with environmental issues?

    I suspect the answer has something to do with how dangerous people outside the garden are to people inside, but that doesn’t explain Martin Luther King.

    * Scientific integrity was described by Feynman as “a specific, extra type of integrity that is not lying, but bending over backwards to show how you’re maybe wrong”. It’s a step beyond what you’re advocating here, and using it toward politically-inclined people tends to cause severe impedance mismatch.

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    • Athrelon says:

      May I suggest some Moldbug? More Right also lightly touched on the issue here.

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      • Daniel Speyer says:

        I’m not sure I understood either of those (this often happens when I try to read reactionary blogs) but would a fair summary be that civilized tactics work only when someone big is prepared to be uncivilized on your behalf?

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        • nydwracu says:

          That’s Multiheaded’s position downthread; Moldbug’s position is the reverse — uncivilized tactics only work when someone big is prepared to be civilized on your behalf, to say that the group using the uncivilized tactics should not be crushed mercilessly, but instead be appeased.

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        • Oligopsony says:

          Both can be true simultaneously, of course. Either position is easily falsified in its strong form, but most movements do seem to profit from a diversity of tactics.

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    • Andy says:

      This paragraph could probably use a blog post of its own. Why was nonviolence a good plan in Burma but not Bosnia?

      I think it has to do with relative power differential and consequences. I don’t know enough about Burma or Bosnia to say in either case.
      In the case of the Civil Rights movement, remember all the cases where the threat of overwhelming force was used against segregationist memes – federal marshals escorting James Meredith around Ole Miss, Army troops walking the Little Rock Nine to school, federal intervention during the Freedom Rides… The segregationists were restrained by needing to keep the good opinion of the North, because the President could, if the North was outraged enough, send in the military to crack heads.
      Against Ghandi, the British were constrained by their self-perception as “teachers of civilization” which he shoved right back in their faces. Essentially saying “You’re more civilized than me? Really?”
      But that would not have worked against the Nazis, who saw themselves as purging rather than teaching “lesser races.” The Mongols wouldn’t have cared. Not sure the Romans would have respected it either.

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    • a person says:

      Why does honest political discourse work for most cultural conflicts but the old /r/atheism was needed for religion?

      Was /r/atheism really needed? I feel like it set the movement back. Four years ago it felt like everyone on the internet basically agreed that religion was dumb, but today it seems like whenever anyone brings up any atheist argument they’re shut down by cries of “So euphoric! Wipe that cheeto dust off your fedora and go back to reddit!”

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  29. Anon says:

    I’m in the middle of the first Kushiel novel, thanks to one of your earlier recommendations. Why be so rude with the spoiler?

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  30. Athrelon says:

    Although on the object level I’m about as far from Chu as it’s possible to get, I’d propose that his model is actually nearly accurate. Namely: most people actually process and engage in arguments as an all out affair, red in tooth and claw. Things don’t devolve into the extreme measures Scott fears due to standard-issue risk aversion, conformism, and lack of creativity, but the mindset is there. As one piece of evidence, when technologies enable entirely new ways (without preexisting traditions of civility) to disproportionately punish individuals for holding opposite-tribe opinions, folks mostly pile on the bandwagon happily, and after the guy gets fired or google-smeared or whatever, the post-game analysis is almost entirely based on “who won, and were they the good guys?”

    Chu is merely noticing that people don’t take their supposed debate strategy seriously enough in ordinary internet debates, and proposes that they take their politics seriously and actually optimize for what they’re trying to achieve, rather than just going through the motions. Being a bright guy, he comes up with some novel ways to do this – ideas that are way outside the norms of debate, but which are actually pretty much in line with what people are actually gesturing towards in their debate tactics. In this, he is suffering from classic smart-person compartmentalization failure, the same kind of thing that leads to New Atheists, existential risk researchers, and Muslim engineers becoming terrorists.

    If anything, in this debate, Scott’s the weirdo, in the sense that he’s developed a sort of aesthetic sense for good argumentation, and mostly processes arguments through that lens. And on the meta level he’s entirely correct that standards for debate are awesome things to have, and that they were painstakingly won by a long process of self-domestication. But – like certain rationalists who’ve developed a taste for theology – this focus on the intellectually shiny stuff risks misidentifying the actual driving force behind folks who engage in debate.

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    • misha says:

      I think scott is sort of approaching an important meta ideology of the western world which has been developing further and further into modernity. A basic and probably terrible way of putting it is “You go do your thing, we’ll do our thing, and we’ll see who does better in the end”, a sort of liberal capitalist survival of the fittest. Or I could be totally wrong.

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      • misha says:

        Or to put it another way, Liberalism is all about playing Dominion and anti-liberalism is more about playing Risk.

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        • suntzuanime says:

          Sometimes liberalism sees traditional Christianity building a Gardens deck so it buys up the Gardens just to spite it.

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        • Sniffnoy says:

          OK, I’m having some trouble untangling the Gardens deck metaphor. Gardens decks are full of junk, which correspond to… poor or otherwise downtrodden people? So, something like, “Liberalism sees traditional Christianity getting the powerless on their side, and so to spite it claims for itself the means of helping such people, away from the side of the people which can actually use it?”

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        • Randy M says:

          I think his analogy was limited to a gardens deck being pursuing their own strategy and not trying to out compete.

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      • Athrelon says:

        This works until groups and memes evolve to produce externalities that are not accounted for under the original rules.

        Example from the left: cultural imperialism. “‘Doing your own thing’ doesn’t include spamming superstimulus fast food and soap operas everywhere!”

        Example from the right: broken-window policing. “‘Doing your own thing’ doesn’t include signalling tolerance for crime!”

        As always when dealing with these clever sneaky apes, the devil is in the details.

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    • suntzuanime says:

      Do New Atheists really tend to become terrorists?

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  31. Oligopsony says:

    Uh, of course liberalism reproduces itself by fire and sword, by murdering its enemies, by tolerating all religions except Jansenism because seriously fuck Jansenism, &c. I know you’re a liberal, for now anyway, but it really oughtn’t commit you to these absurd superstitions otherwise. (Maybe you think they are useful superstitions?)

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    • Steve Johnson says:

      That’s not actually the case – Scott is sort of right when he says liberalism’s preferred method of spreading itself is through “being nice”.

      It’s just that liberalism enforces “be nice” only on the side of the conflict that is the victim of uncivilized aggression (then creates a whole narrative about how the civilized people enjoy “privilege” and so deserve any and all violence and aggression thrown at them.

      Recent example (probable mind-killer for lots of people here, but what can you do? – part of the design of liberalism is that it is a mind-killer exactly where it’s being aggressive): the Travyon Martin / George Zimmerman incident.

      Travyon Martin was an early stage career criminal. He’d be caught with stolen jewelery and burglary tools and would have been arrested except that the “stats” “looked bad” w/r/t the number of African Americans having been arrested – so he was let go. He had brain and liver damage from being a codeine abuser. At no time did liberalism enforce its alleged “be nice” policy on him – in fact it did the opposite and encouraged him to be as non-nice as possible.

      One day he runs into George Zimmerman and under some set of circumstances, winds up bashing his head into a concrete pavement – not nice behavior, no? George Zimmerman does the good liberal thing (if you believe that liberalism is about “be nice”) and shoots and kills him – all good, right? One fewer “not nice” person out there to ruin the commons of being able to own property and not be violently assaulted?

      That’s not quite the reaction. In fact, people seem quite angry that Zimmerman killed someone who was acting in a very not nice way and would have been much happier if he was killed (or just left brain damaged) by Trayvon Martin (judging by the number of incidents that are routinely ignored that end in the more usual way – with the nice person being brain damaged or dead and the not nice person walking away).

      Trayvon Martin was a liberal soldier. Liberals protect uncivilized people from the forces of civilized people so that they can terrorize civilized people who are the enemies of liberals.

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      • Ialdabaoth says:

        Travyon Martin was an early stage career criminal. He’d be caught with stolen jewelery and burglary tools and would have been arrested except that the “stats” “looked bad” w/r/t the number of African Americans having been arrested – so he was let go. He had brain and liver damage from being a codeine abuser. At no time did liberalism enforce its alleged “be nice” policy on him – in fact it did the opposite and encouraged him to be as non-nice as possible.

        Do you agree that it’s possible for me to disagree with you not because I want thugs to beat up nice people who aren’t liberal, but because I disagree connotationally and denotationally with the sequence of events as you have presented them?

        In the case of the denotational claims you’re making, it might help your case if you could link to non-political evidence of your claims (such as actual toxicology reports, actual criminal convictions, etc.) rather than merely asserting that they are out there. And while I’m sympathetic to the claim that the media can and does suppress such evidence, the raw data should still be out there, and if you’re going to make the claim you should present the data to back it up.

        Also, once you’ve established your facts denotationally (that Trayvon Martin had prior convictions, and had liver damage), you still have to strengthen that connotational link – that this proves that he is more of a career criminal than any particular upper-class white boy with a rap sheet and an alcohol habit, for example. (Casting vague aspersions to “those kinds of people” won’t get you very far, here, I’m afraid).

        Also:

        One day he runs into George Zimmerman and under some set of circumstances, winds up bashing his head into a concrete pavement – not nice behavior, no? George Zimmerman does the good liberal thing (if you believe that liberalism is about “be nice”) and shoots and kills him – all good, right? One fewer “not nice” person out there to ruin the commons of being able to own property and not be violently assaulted?

        I’m afraid we have incompatible definitions of “niceness”, given the tools available to citizens today. This might prove to be a harder problem to solve than the mere disagreement regarding the sequence of events.

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        • Steve Johnson says:

          Do you agree that it’s possible for me to disagree with you not because I want thugs to beat up nice people who aren’t liberal, but because I disagree connotationally and denotationally with the sequence of events as you have presented them?

          Frankly, no.

          In the case of the denotational claims you’re making, it might help your case if you could link to non-political evidence of your claims (such as actual toxicology reports, actual criminal convictions, etc.) rather than merely asserting that they are out there.

          Ah, now there’s the thing isn’t it? “non-political evidence”. See, the problem is that when one side declares a holy crusade over an issue then by definition any evidence against the claims is “political” because it’s the job of good liberals to never notice people like Trayvon Martin.

          Here’s some evidence:

          http://www.autopsyfiles.org/reports/Other/martin_trayvon_report.pdf

          Liver damage:

          The liver weighs 1110 grams and presents a brown, smooth, glistening surface. Focal patchy yellow discoloration, due to mild fatty metamorphosis, is present.

          tulanehealthcare.com/util/pdfs/liver-disease-issues.pdf

          A fatty liver is the most common cause of abnormal liver tests when no disease is present. Fatty liver can be caused by certain chemicals, diet problems, or by family heredity. Drugs and chemicals that can cause fatty liver include alcohol, tetracycline, methotrexate, valproic acid, cortisone and cortisone-like medications, carbon tetrachloride, and other solvents. Of these, alcohol is by far the most common cause. Liver inflammation may come from exposure to these toxins and is responsible for the symptoms of fever, tiredness, and yellow skin. People who do not drink and have a fatty liver are classified as having Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. Most people with this also have what is known as the Metabolic Syndrome.

          Kid was 15 years old, 5’11″ and 158 lbs – in other words he sure as hell didn’t have metabolic syndrome. His twitter had posts of his talking about scoring codeine (I’ll leave finding that as an exercise for the reader – his twitter handle was “NO_LIMIT_NIGGA” to help you in your search).

          Brain damage (from the autopsy again):

          The scalp is intact without contusions or lacerations. The calvarium is likewise intact without bony abnormalities or fractures. The brain weighs 1400 grams and presents moderate congestion of the leptomeninges.

          His criminal behavior:

          from http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/03/26/2714778/thousands-expected-at-trayvon.html

          Instead the officer reported he found women’s jewelry and a screwdriver that he described as a “burglary tool,” according to a Miami-Dade Schools Police report obtained by The Miami Herald. Word of the incident came as the family’s lawyer acknowledged that the boy was suspended in February for getting caught with an empty bag with traces of marijuana, which he called “irrelevant” and an attempt to demonize a victim.

          Trayvon’s backpack contained 12 pieces of jewelry, in addition to a watch and a large flathead screwdriver, according to the report, which described silver wedding bands and earrings with diamonds.

          Trayvon was asked if the jewelry belonged to his family or a girlfriend.

          “Martin replied it’s not mine. A friend gave it to me,” he responded, according to the report. Trayvon declined to name the friend.

          Trayvon was not disciplined because of the discovery, but was instead suspended for graffiti, according to the report. School police impounded the jewelry and sent photos of the items to detectives at Miami-Dade police for further investigation.

          That jewelery matched jewelery stolen in a burglary near the school.

          Now, why wasn’t he arrested? Well, that’s where it gets “political”.

          There were “too many” arrests of black teens so these matters were handled as “school disciplinary actions”. Lo and behold, the reported crime rate drops radically and the police tout their success. Unfortunately the media doesn’t really want to know these things so the only reporting ends up on icky Republican partisan sites:

          http://pamelageller.com/2013/07/trayvon-martins-involvement-in-local-burglaries-covered-up-by-media-school-police-prosecutors.html/

          Also, once you’ve established your facts denotationally (that Trayvon Martin had prior convictions, and had liver damage), you still have to strengthen that connotational link – that this proves that he is more of a career criminal than any particular upper-class white boy with a rap sheet and an alcohol habit, for example.

          …and this is why I believe liberals use “nice” as a cover for thuggery. This wasn’t some random kid with a drug habit, violence habit, thug-life posturing twitter, and past record of criminal activity. This was someone who had all those traits who was slamming someone’s head into the pavement. There are indistinguishable from zero “upper-class white boys” who have all those traits but you’ve got a mental habit that forces you to ignore what you see every day specifically because it’s inconvenient to your side. What was the last news story about some “upper-class white boy” who murdered a neighborhood watchman (or put him into a coma) or who got shot when trying to do the same? You think those missing news stories are because of a cover up or because it doesn’t happen?

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Frankly, no.

          So, just to make certain I understand you:

          Your model of me is of someone who genuinely wants lower-status black humans to kill upper-status white humans, as a matter of general principle?

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        • ozymandias says:

          Why neighborhood watchman in particular? Is it less immoral to murder someone who *isn’t* a neighborhood watchman?

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        • Anonymous says:

          It doesn’t matter whether you explicitly think to yourself, “I want lower-status black humans to kill upper-status white humans, as a matter of general principle”. What matters is whether you predictably support that principle in practice.

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        • Randy M says:

          Ozy: “Why neighborhood watchman in particular?”

          Probably either to humanize him (simply as an extra detail) or to make it that much less likely one assumes he offered sufficient provocation for the fight.

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        • Alexander Stanislaw says:

          @Anonymous

          I’m pretty sure it does matter – if you disagree on values then the conversation will quickly grind to a halt. If you disagree on facts, then progress is possible (if unlikely).

          I’m disappointed that Steve made that statement, allowing Ialdabaoth to pull the “Gotcha!” trigger, because this conversation was about to get interesting. I think its fairly obvious that Steve misread Ialdabaoth as saying “It is it possible you are wrong about the facts?” as opposed to “It is possible that I think you are wrong about the facts?”.

          I appreciated Steve’s point about the tendency to dismiss any data that doesn’t support your worldview as “political”. For example, this is why every study related to gay people gets dismissed by conservatives or liberals (depending on what the result is) as “propaganda”. I’ve seen people argue about ridiculously well-supported and intuitive claims such as “having supportive parents makes gay teens less likely to commit suicide”.

          This is not to say that studies on political topics are usually unbiased, but if they are biased – then you can at least look at the methodological design to figure out why instead of setting your filter to: [accept IFF agrees with my worldview].

          The situation with race is even more politically charged.

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          I think its fairly obvious that Steve misread Ialdabaoth as saying “It is it possible you are wrong about the facts?” as opposed to “It is possible that I think you are wrong about the facts?”.

          I didn’t even consider that interpretation. If that is what happened, I’d very much like to continue the conversation. I would very much prefer, however, to not have to argue under the framework of “either you support white people killing blacks, or you support black people killing whites”.

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        • Alexander Stanislaw says:

          @Ialdabaoth

          Now I feel guilty. I assumed you were being sneaky, when you were just assuming the most literal interpretation. You had every right to yell at me for that, but you didn’t – thanks for being nice.

          I do hope my interpretation is right, given how disturbing the alternative is.

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Now I feel guilty. I assumed you were being sneaky, when you were just assuming the most literal interpretation. You had every right to yell at me for that, but you didn’t – thanks for being nice.

          Becoming belligerent within a thread entitled “In Favor of Niceness, Community and Civilization” would be very bad form, indeed. Thank you for reversing your interpretation of my motives so quickly.

          I do hope my interpretation is right, given how disturbing the alternative is.

          I hope so too, now that you’ve pointed it out. I’m afraid I went with the disturbing alternative interpretation based on the general tone of the rest of Mr. Johnson’s comment; I’m hoping that I was being uncharitable and will be given opportunity to apologize, but my initial interpretation is a reasonable one, given typical human behavior.

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        • St. Rev says:

          Regarding the brain and liver damage:

          The leptomeninges are membranes that lie between the skull and the brain. Congestion is consistent with postmortem blood pooling at the back of the skull. This doesn’t imply damage to the brain tissue itself. The autopsy does note “severe global edema” of the cerebrum, but that’s a major medical emergency in its own right–not something you walk around with for months–and almost certainly related to collapsed lungs and a bullet through the heart.

          As far as the liver goes, mild NAFLD is fairly common, it’s not clear why. Fructose consumption may be a factor; Martin had a sweet tooth, judging by the tea and skittles.

          Finally, to the best of my knowledge, codeine isn’t noted for causing brain or liver damage, although acetaminophen can cause liver damage and it is often combined with codeine.

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        • Steve Johnson says:

          Alexander Stanislaw says:

          I think its fairly obvious that Steve misread Ialdabaoth as saying “It is it possible you are wrong about the facts?” as opposed to “It is possible that I think you are wrong about the facts?”.

          I read and answered the second interpretation.

          The facts in this case are so amazingly clear that if you have an opinion on the matter that isn’t “Trayvon Martin was a budding thug who viciously assaulted George Zimmerman” you are operating under motivated cognition. What are the possible motives? Loads of them – you don’t want to be on the same side as people who have blog headers with eagles over American flags (there were lots of those when I searched for the inconvenient facts about the case), you don’t want to be associated with the claim that a particular black teen was a criminal and a thug because you know from real world observation that it is way way way more common for blacks to look and act this way and noticing things is “stereotyping” and the biggest evil in the world (but then why do you subscribe to an ideology that demonizes noticing things?), you don’t care too much about what happened (and have an opinion anyway) because that’s the opinion that your side has (similar to 1 but slightly different), ethnic tribalism – which I assume is not the case – you’re black, Trayvon is black and therefore you’re on Trayvon’s side and finally the malice interpretation where you actively support criminals knowing that they will attack your enemies.

          Ialdabaoth says:
          Your model of me is of someone who genuinely wants lower-status black humans to kill upper-status white humans, as a matter of general principle?

          That’s just insane on both counts.

          Thug-like blacks aren’t low status – they’re high status. 15 year old boys don’t make twitter handles like “INCEL_LOSER”. Trayvon Martin wanted to look like more of a thug because that’s high status. NO_LIMIT_NIGGA was what he came up with to best sum up what he aspired to be.

          Thug-like blacks don’t usually assault high status whites either. High status whites live their lives in such a way that they never encounter black thugs. They live in doorman buildings and their black neighbors are carefully screened affirmative action types. They live in suburbs where blacks are priced out. If they’re poor because they’re an artist they go and live in the least NAMiest place they can find – like Portland.

          Thug-like blacks assault the wrong kind of white people – white people who have to be around black people.

          Anarcho-tyranny. High and low vs the middle. Liberalism / progressivism / communism. Same story.

          Liberalism is just “nice” because it uses lawless savages as it’s enforcement arm.

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Very well, I phrased that poorly and used an unfounded social model. Let me rephrase more generally:

          Do you see me as someone who wants $GROUP_A to have free reign to kill $GROUP_B, for any possible values of $GROUP_A or $GROUP_B?

          Because if your model of me is of someone who celebrates violence as long as it’s “my side” against “their side”, then I need to go back and re-examine some of my base assumptions and behaviors to see where I might have given evidence that I conform to that model.

          If instead, you’re asserting “your only choices are for blacks to kill whites, or for whites to kill blacks; you don’t get a world where no one kills anyone else, because blacks are too inherently violent”, then I think I’m a little more prepared to have that discussion without deep introspection first.

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        • Nick T says:

          Thug-like blacks aren’t low status – they’re high status.

          More like, there are multiple “status” (I’m skeptical that using this one word all the time is a good idea) ladders, and only seeing one of them makes you dumber.

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          More like, there are multiple “status” (I’m skeptical that using this one word all the time is a good idea) ladders, and only seeing one of them makes you dumber.

          The problem is, “It’s complicated and multi-dimensional!” is a REALLY poor emotional argument, while “X are evil and strong, and killing our defenseless Y!” is a REALLY good one.

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        • Steve Johnson says:

          Nick T says:
          “Thug-like blacks aren’t low status – they’re high status.”

          More like, there are multiple “status” (I’m skeptical that using this one word all the time is a good idea) ladders, and only seeing one of them makes you dumber.

          You’re not contradicting me here – you’re disagreeing with Ialdabaoth. My comment specifically pointed out two high status groups – high status whites who get to avoid any non-picked NAMs and high status black thugs – who get to live the life of a 19th century aristocrat – a guaranteed income without work, sexual access to lots of females, life with masculine honor intact, preferential legal treatment (see the coverups of Trayvon Martin’s crimes), etc. When the group with this lifestyle has an average IQ of 110+ you get amateur science (which seems to be proving quite a bit superior to professional science), literature, and other socially positive goods. When the group that is awarded this treatment has an average IQ of 85 and is violently impulsive you get worldstar hiphop and rap music.

          Ialdabaoth says:

          Do you see me as someone who wants $GROUP_A to have free reign to kill $GROUP_B, for any possible values of $GROUP_A or $GROUP_B?

          If you’re a progressive that’s what your principles dictate and what they in practice lead to.

          Progressivism calls everything needed for black people to exist in society without being murderous “racist” and calls you racist for noticing this as well. It’s quite a shocking coincidence that the white victims of black violence just happen to be the enemies of the progressive class.

          If an enemy group of progressives treated a progressive pet group in the same way (permitted and encouraged private, non-state violence against them) progressives would sure as hell assume that the treatment was deliberate.

          “The Slaughter of Cities: Urban Renewal as Ethnic Cleansing” by E. Michael Jones makes the case if you’re interested in a book length treatment.

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        • Multiheaded says:

          Steve, this is absolute fucking bullshit that’s the opposite of what nearly every black observer I’ve read says. The black lumpenproletariat in modern America is universally shown to suffer savage oppression. For instance, not only do blacks routinely receive harsher sentencing than whites for the same crime, employers prefer white convicts to blacks with NO criminal record!

          If you want a deeper look at the awful situation of the black underclass and the responsibility for it, read David Simon’s The Corner. It’s what he did before The Wire.

          Most of these babies are very much wanted by the mothers and fathers alike. What better legacy for a sixteen-year-old slinger who expects to be dead or in prison by age twenty? What greater personal justification for a teenaged girl thirsting for the unequivocal love of another being? To outsiders, the babies are mistakes to be calculated in terms of social cost, as ward-of-the-state harbingers of yet another generation destined to spin through the cycle of poverty. But to the children suckled on the nihilism of the corner, such an outcome isn’t the sum of all fears. Poverty and failure is what they know; it’s what they accept for themselves every day and, by extension, what they accept for their children as well. For the child-fathers, the future is guns and vials and broken pavement; for the child-mothers, it is life as a twenty-two-year-old welfare mother, barefoot on the rowhouse steps, with the toddlers stumbling around her. And what, other than six years, is the substantive difference between a sixteen-year-old and a twenty-two-year-old welfare mother?

          That the government pays something is helpful, of course. But the truth is that the government pays the mothers of Fayette Street only $234 a month and maybe $40 more for each new addition. Add food stamps and free formula from the WIC program and it’s enough to put Gerbers and Pampers in the grocery bag, but hardly enough to justify all the birthing. At this level, the conservative impulse to snatch at the purse seems beside the point: It’s not the lure of check-day that provokes these children to make children; something stronger than a couple hundred dollars is at issue, something that goes to the heart of the matter. Check or no check, the babies will come.

          That we, as outsiders, know better is hardly the point. That we see lives stunted and consigned to poverty doesn’t matter because in the minds of these children, their lives were already consigned there. That we know the young fathers will give up and wander off means little, because on some level, the girls themselves know this too. They know from the get-go that the relationship is emotionally finite and they quickly reap what they can in status, gratification, and babies, then let the boys wander. On Fayette Street, it’s never about relationships, or boyfriends, or marriage, or living happily ever after.

          Down here, a child is answer enough.

          Once again, we know only what it is that works in our world, and so we talk welfare reform, devising middle-class solutions for a middleclass society. But, as they have with drugs and the drug trade itself, the men and women of the corner have judged our moral code useless under the circumstances. And they are right. As every fiend on Fayette Street knows that his place is at the point of a needle, so, too, does every teenager find some meaning in the obstetrics ward at University or the birthing rooms at Sinai. There, a girl acquires some womanhood; she is, for one dependent soul at least, the center of the universe. The father, a morbid and fatalistic boy, gives the infant his name and measures his doomed self to be one shade less mortal. If it didn’t do this much for them—if it was just about condoms, or abortion-on-demand, or abstinence and shame—then there might be a social strategy with some chance of success. Instead, these children have concluded that bringing about life—any life whatsoever—is a legitimate, plausible ambition in a world where plausible ambitions are hard to come by. This they can do.

          To ask more from life on Fayette Street, to expect more from boyfriends, or wives, or parents—even to believe in more for one’s child—is to struggle against absurd odds, to ignore the living example of nearly everyone who came before you and who surrounds you now. Worse than that, to want more is to step beyond your own awareness—and that of everyone else on the pavement as well—about what’s possible. To do anything more than dream is to invite a crushing emotional defeat.

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        • Steve Johnson says:

          For instance, not only do blacks routinely receive harsher sentencing than whites for the same crime

          That study is way way weaker than you need it to be (and in fact doesn’t disagree with my contention at all):

          1) Huge academic bias in favor of finding exactly that – do a statistical analysis and fudge a variable here and there and boom! you’re a famous scholar who proved what all progressives know in their hearts. Fail to find it and well, you don’t publish.

          2) The effect is likely real – different races of criminals who are charged with the same crime likely receive different sentences. If you’re at all familiar with Bayes’ theorem you should immediately understand why. Blacks are a more criminal, more violently impulsive group. If you look at members of two groups chosen at random from the population of accused criminals the black defendant is likely to have more prior convictions, be suspected of a more heinous crime, and (being lower IQ) less likely to have covered it up (and have used a weapon and be a member of a gang and have used more violence, etc.). Check out http://www.colorofcrime.com/colorofcrime2005.pdf for evidence of this (or you could just realize that all the neighborhoods you avoid are all black and that you go through huge contortions in your daily life to avoid the average black person).

          Of course, your academics didn’t account for any of this (from your link):

          In their study, they take advantage of the fact that the criminal justice system randomly assigns cases to judges. “What that means,” Abrams says, “is that if you have a large enough sample of cases, on average across judges they’re going to get the same types of cases, meaning the same mix of race of the defendant, the same mix of crimes. Everything about the cases, assuming they’re randomly assigned, should be the same on average for each judge, including the variables we can’t observe.”

          They look at what they call the “racial gap” in sentencing – the difference between sentences for black defendants and white defendants – and find that it varies across judges, showing that race is affecting sentencing decisions. “We find evidence of significant inter-judge disparity in the racial gap in incarceration rates, providing support for the model where at least some judges treat defendants differently based on their race,” Abrams and his co-authors note in the study. “The magnitude of this effect is substantial. The gap in incarceration rates between White and African-American defendants increases by 18 percentage points (compared to a mean incarceration rate of 51% for African-Americans and 38% for Whites) when moving from the 10th to 90th percentile judge in the racial gap distribution.”

          Now, were you reading carefully enough to spot the problem(s) there*? The study is actually worse than I suspected initially on just reading your summary.

          (*Of course not – progressive crimestop prevented you from seeing them and if an academic critic did see them then progressive censorship stopped him from writing about them).

          We’ll go from most innocent explanations for the pattern to the most sinister:

          1) Black people who commit crimes have factors in common and white people who commit crimes have factors in common – some judges weight those factors more heavily in sentencing than others. For example – some judge is particularly hard on gang members and the gang membership rate isn’t the same between blacks and whites, so there’s your explanation (from the color of crime “Only 10 percent of youth gang members are white. Hispanics are 19 times more likely than whites to be members of youth gangs. Blacks are 15 times more likely, and Asians are nine times more likely”). Gang membership isn’t the only difference. Since we already know that the profiles of black and white criminals are different in loads of ways, that’s it – the study is broken simply because it has as an invisible premise “black accused criminals and white accused criminals are identical if your sample size is large enough” – when the reality is that they are not. In short – a sample of black defendants isn’t the same as a sample of white defendants. They never control for this, they simply assume it (there goes that crimestop again).

          2) The study assumed the conclusion in the worst possible way. The conclusion was that some judges are racist against blacks. The evidence is that there is a sentencing disparity between judges. Zero evidence is shown that there aren’t some judges who are lenient on offenders because they are black. This possibility isn’t dismissed out of hand – it’s not even mentioned. That would account for the results just as well.

          3) This study doesn’t diminish my argument, it strengthens it. The reality is that blacks are weapons being wielded by progressives to hurt people. Judges are lawyers – a class more progressive than the general population – but some judges are more progressive than others. The most progressive judges are the most biased in favor of black criminals – after all in causing mayhem and hurting people they’re just doing their jobs – and give them lighter sentences. The study design will reflect this and spit out the result “blacks get harsher sentences [from some judges than from other judges]“. “Blacks receive more lenient sentences from some judges than from other judges” is exactly as true – and more likely to describe the situation accurately.

          employers prefer white convicts to blacks with NO criminal record!

          and what are the odds that a white convict will commit a future crime? What are the odds that a black without a criminal record will commit a future crime? Remember that this discussion started with Trayvon Martin – who specifically didn’t have a criminal record.

          This response has gone on far too long already but I’ll address the David Simon quote briefly. Re-read it but this time separate what he’s actually observing from what he’s projecting. He observes things like pride and happiness and projects motives of staving off nihilism because he sees the outcome in advance and he considers it a failure. What makes you think the objects of his pity see the world the same way and are trying and failing to live like David Simon? I’ll leave you with a quote here:

          The owner of the house was about 60. His house was disgusting; no electricity or running water, trash everywhere, roaches scattering at our approach, holes rotted through the floor, buckets full of urine and feces in the kitchen. An officer asked him, “How can you stand to live like this?”

          The man answered, very articulately, “Officer, I have no stress. I don’t have to work. I get free food. I get free money. If I want crack, I let a dealer use my house to deal from, and he gives me free crack. If I want sex, I let a crack whore stay here and she lets me have sex with her. I have no stress at all.”

          From http://chrishernandezauthor.com/2014/01/24/ive-never-known-anyone-who-would-rather-live-off-welfare-than-earn-their-own-living/

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        • Sniffnoy says:

          If an enemy group of progressives treated a progressive pet group in the same way (permitted and encouraged private, non-state violence against them) progressives would sure as hell assume that the treatment was deliberate.

          A lot of them certainly would make that assumption, from what I’ve seen. That doesn’t make the assumption any less awful. The fact of the matter is that lots of bad effects are not deliberate and treating them as if they are does not help us get closer to what’s actually going on, regardless of what (if any) “side” we may be on. Are you trying to make a better discussion or a worse one? If you see someone making this assumption, point out their mistake, don’t mimic it! If they continue to insist on it despite its clear falseness, they’re probably not worth talking to. We have “report comment” buttons now. That might be a good time to use them.

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      • grendelkhan says:

        Without wanting to get into the details here–having a deep and abiding desire not to get into the details here–if you’re concerned about an epidemic of underreported crime, you may be interested in the National Crime Victimization Survey, which would pick up on that sort of thing.

        Additionally, your categories may be a bit too broad. Stephen Fry, for instance, was an “early stage career criminal”, who engaged in petty thievery from a young age and eventually graduated to credit card fraud, for which he eventually went to prison. He did not end up being a career criminal, though; he’s a well-respected author, cultural figure, and so on.

        You may also be interested in this study; incarceration of young people, even for minor crimes, strongly increases their chances of recidivism later in life. So, in a sense, the Nicest thing you can do for a young petty criminal is not to arrest them, because if you do, they’ll just do worse things in the future. (Presumably you don’t want to just shoot them either, because then you’d be shooting Stephen Fry, and you’d also probably get some awful knock-on effects, and it’d also be kind of evil.)

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      • blacktrance says:

        This is a very uncharitable representation of the progressive position on a mindkilling topic. Also, progressivism and liberalism are not the same thing – in fact progressivism is often illiberal (just read what some social justice people write). Both the “play nice” and individualist aspects of liberalism are often absent from progressivism.

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  32. Alexander Stanislaw says:

    This is an exquisite takedown. And also an excellent defense of something that I’ve never even thought needed defending – the awesomeness of a place where people can disagree and be nice.

    I’m going to try to get into Arthur’s head a bit. A while back (In your “All Debates are Bravery Debates” piece) you made an excellent point:

    It’s much easier to be charitable in political debates when you view the two participants as coming from two different cultures that err on opposite sides, each trying to propose advice that would help their own culture, each being tragically unaware that the other culture exists.

    So where you disagree with Arthur is that there are actually people who are helped by MRA’s and that while feminism helps some vulnerable people it also hurts some vulnerable people. Arthur only sees the struggles of his own side and attributes malice to anyone who opposes his cause, whereas the reality is much more complicated.

    But perhaps a much weaker version of Arthur’s argument can be made. Yes there are people that are harmed by feminism and there are people that are helped by MRA’s but the people that are helped by feminism are more vulnerable or perhaps more numerous so feminism is overall a more worthy cause. If I believed this, then I might be worried that you’re takedown of bad feminism would turn some of your readers off of feminism in general thus harming the cause. And if believed this, then I might ask you to criticize feminists in a nicer fashion leaving out the statements to the effect that feminists shouldn’t be trusted.

    Anecdote: my feminist friends on facebook aren’t too crazy – their arguments are about the level of a typical Patheos blog. Although one of them did cite an article claiming that 100,000 young women are trafficked in the US every SuperBowl.

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    • Andy says:

      And if believed this, then I might ask you to criticize feminists in a nicer fashion leaving out the statements to the effect that feminists shouldn’t be trusted.

      I’d second this, though I’m slowly coming to the point where I want all feminist bloggers to be put through Rationalist Debate Club Boot Camp (complete with screaming drill sergeants) before arguing as an Internet Feminist, just to prevent any messups.
      Dammit, if you’re arguing for my side, then I want you to be competent!

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      • grendelkhan says:

        There’s certainly enough policing of tone from the Tumblr set. Imagine how careful those people would be with their rationality if they were as terrified of being called out for base rate neglect as they are about being called out for using the wrong pronouns.

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        • ozymandias says:

          I don’t think using the wrong pronouns is an issue of tone. Calling me “he” is making a statement that I am a man, which I am not; being called the wrong pronoun is also unpleasant for many cis people and nearly all trans people, and so people are upset that they hurt someone. I don’t think there’s cause to get angry about an honest mistake, and certainly some people take it into bullying, but it is not a tone issue.

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        • grendelkhan says:

          Good point; pronouns aren’t the best example there. How about terrified of, I don’t know, disproportionate response? Like having something shitty you wrote as a teenager come up, apologizing for it, then realizing that that has done nothing to stem the tide of death threats (seriously, someone sent her a picture of her house)?

          I don’t know; the pronoun thing seems… like, it can be an honest mistake, especially when handles aren’t strongly gendered. I dislike the slide from “that’s the wrong pronoun” to “stop misgendering me” when there’s no indication that someone did anything other than make the wrong guess. That doesn’t make it okay; it’s like stepping on someone’s toes. It deserves an apology, and if it happens a lot, perhaps one should look into being more careful.

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        • suntzuanime says:

          You don’t think tone can hurt people? I mean, the SJ line is that tone policing is bad, and also that we have to police everything that can hurt people, and it’s pretty easy to derive from this that tone can’t hurt people, but I figured it was just a failure to think through the consequences of their beliefs.

          If we divide discussion up into “things which bear on the substantive claims of the argument” and “things which are outside the substantive claims of the argument”, pronoun use clearly falls into the latter category. If you have been taught to boo and hiss at “tone” policing but cheer and throw confetti at pronoun policing, you may want a different word than tone for the latter category, but this is just word choice policing.

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    • lmm says:

      My impression is that the feminist movement is less good at keeping its house in order than others. I don’t think we start with a larger proportion of crazy feminists than there are crazy atheists or crazy environmentalists or the like. But when one of the far-out feminists says something crazy the rest of the movement seems curiously unwilling to (publicly) respond and say that they are being unreasonable and don’t speak for the wider community.

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  33. Multiheaded says:

    This is excellent, but I disagree on a few points. Most importantly:
    1) I believe that every nonviolent social movement requires a “violent” counterpart before it can make any significant progress, as “good cop/bad cop” is the only way to shift the overton window against an entrenched enemy – of course, the bad cop gets vilified/forgotten and the good cop gets all the credit from people who’d hate him otherwise;
    2) I disagree with your conflation of lies and deception with an aggressive stance in general. An intelligent non-liberal can easily discard the former upon seeing the evidence that they harm one’s own side; she might also stick with the latter if she feels she hasn’t the power or cultural capital to make an impact with niceness alone. No honor required, strictly speaking;
    3) Honor, niceness and benevolent neutrality are social constructs themselves, always context-specific, and sometimes hard to twist against the status quo that created them. Think of an “honorable” commander who doesn’t press an unfair advantage over the enemy and causes the deaths of many more men by prolonging the battle; in making the choice, he never even considers the wishes of regular soldiers, and they have no voice. Or see Moldbug say something stupid about the KKK being “democratic”; it totally makes sense… as long as one assumes the then-status-quo of black people being prevented from standing up for themselves and participating in said democracy. What use are reason and niceness if they’re used to choose between two evils and good is orthogonal? Sometimes violence is required to break out of such false paradigms, and niceness can be a red herring mediating a bad choice.

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    • Gay marriage has made tremendous progress from being outside the Overton window in 2003 to being widely accepted today. Who are the violent bad cops who made this possible?

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      • Multiheaded says:

        It might’ve been partly the socially “violent” public shaming of homophobes, contrasting the outward conservatism of demanding more marriage and celebrating families with the “obscenity” of flamboyant “gay culture”, etc… but you’re partly right, it is a relatively minor issue in the grand scheme that has been used as a bargaining chip by the craven and corrupt Democratic Party; they wanted to appeal to the “liberal base” without reversing the rightward drift on economic and civil liberties issues. No doubt marriage equality is extremely important to many queer people, but for the politicians it’s a bone they can throw to liberal America as a distraction from rising economic and social inequality.

        Alternatively, you could argue that there’s a phase for violent radicalism and after it liberalism capitalizes on the opportunities created by the disruption – until reaction eventually grinds it to a halt and then you need more radicalism as an icebreaker. (At least, this is what reactionaries seem to revile; there must be something in it.) “Good” citizens probably didn’t like the Stonewall Riots much; yet it seems clear that homophobia would be more acceptable today without them having happened.

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        • houseboatonstyx says:

          “Good” citizens probably didn’t like the Stonewall Riots much; yet it seems clear that homophobia would be more acceptable today without them having happened.

          Just in general, I tend to be more afraid of people who riot than of people who don’t. Luckily I’d never heard of violent gay riots till recently.

          Though my phrase does sound like it should mean something more interesting, perhaps in Jane Austen.

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  34. Aris Katsaris says:

    “I believe that every nonviolent social movement requires a “violent” counterpart before it can make any significant progress”

    What’s been the violent counterpart of the gay rights movement?

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    • Aris, the Stonewall Riots would be the most prominent aspect. Still, it is a valid point: the degree of violence involved seems comparatively low.

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    • AJD says:

      “The Stonewall riots were a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations by members of the gay community…. They are widely considered to constitute the single most important event leading to the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for gay and lesbian rights in the United States.”

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      • Daniel Speyer says:

        That makes a very interesting case study.

        Civilized discourse didn’t work. They had a few weeks of violence and made significant gains, but nowhere near full equality. Then the violence stopped and civilized tactics have worked *ever since*.

        I suppose one could claim that the memory of Stonewall served as bad-cop to the modern lgbt movement’s good-cop, but that requires the relevant people to have multi-decade memories. Implausible.

        My first thought is that pre-Stonewall gay rights activism was stomped by extremely uncivilized anti-gay forces and Stonewell broke the machinery there, making civilized discourse possible.

        An alternate theory is that Stonewall wasn’t directly effective but allowed small, disorganized gay activists to break the FlockOfWolves effect. One wonders if anything other than violence could have served that purpose.

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      • ozymandias says:

        Civilized tactics have not worked ever since with every gay rights submovement: ACT UP/GMHC were a classic bad cop/good cop pairing for the AIDS crisis.

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    • Michael Terry says:

      What was the violent counterpart to women’s suffrage in the US? How about child labor reform?

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      • Multiheaded says:

        What was the violent counterpart to women’s suffrage in the US?

        That’s a good one, yeah. It might’ve well been sheer pressure and determination combined with the suffragettes gravitating to one male political faction that wanted to make use of their votes.

        How about child labor reform?

        Easy; socialism and the general red scare.

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      • houseboatonstyx says:

        What was the violent counterpart to women’s suffrage in the US?

        Does it matter whether the oppressed do the violence — or just steadfastly endure it with the whole world watching? The Suffragettes were violently force-fed (after physically provoking it by hunger strikes). The Civil Rights marchers were violently attacked by dogs and clubs (after defying orders about where and when to march).

        If there’s a pattern here, was the police violence against Occupy an exception, or has it not taken effect yet, or has Occupy already had a strong effect?

        Most likely, I suppose, some movements do thrive on the blood of martyrs, and some don’t.

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        • Daniel Speyer says:

          Does it matter whether the oppressed do the violence — or just steadfastly endure it with the whole world watching?

          Yes. They’re completely different.

          Which would you rather have someone threaten you with: violence or steadfast endurance of any violence you choose to offer? Remember that you are under no obligation to offer them violence — you can render the latter threat moot with no effort at all.

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  35. suntzuanime says:

    I think the bit about transgender tolerance is the strongest part of this article, after thinking about it for a bit. The fear that I might be wrong is a greater spur to charity than any acausal unsigned implicit contract.

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    • Oligopsony says:

      Unfortunately I don’t think this point can be held without accepting a sort of Anton Wilsonism, or heavily eliding between merely silly and actively harmful behavior, or eliding between (as Scott tends to do) a willingness to accept that you might be wrong and a refusal to act upon your good faith estimate of what is the case.

      Of course if you think (incorrectly) that transgender people are silly, then it is entirely appropriate to be polite to them, as one is polite to various kinds of silliness. Likewise any other x, where x is something you have a good faith belief is silly. But people who advocate not tolerating transexuals, and those who advocate not tolerating transphobes, do not believe that their targets are silly, they believe that their targets are harmful. And abstracting from the correctness or lack thereof of the object-level beliefs at play, this is an entirely appropriate attitude.

      I think what Scott wants is for people of good faith never to attack each other. Which is absurd. He can’t even hold it himself, and good, because this blog would be pretty boring otherwise. Emnity and agonistics make the world go round.

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      • Multiheaded says:

        Emnity and agonistics make the world go round.

        Absolutely. I might not be an authoritarian anymore, but I sure as hell do believe in the Sith way.

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      • St. Rev says:

        Obligatory note that Robert Anton Wilson emphatically did not espouse “Anton Wilsonism”, and “postmodernism” is a better term for what “Anton Wilsonism” is meant to describe.

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      • Daniel Speyer says:

        Nothing so elaborate.

        If I believe p=.8 that X is wrong, and attacking anything causes -1 utils but attacking something genuinely wrong gains +1.1 utils, then E(U(attacking))=-.12. Now add an option “politely disagree” which doesn’t cause -1 utils…

        This leaves open the possibility that uncivil fighting is justified when you’re very, very sure. Sort of like allowing capital punishment only with two eyewitnesses. And distrust in one’s own thinking could set a cap on p below the threshold. Sort of like dna tests throwing doubt on the wisdom of practising capital punishment at all.

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  36. I do enjoy visiting Scott’s walled garden. Thank you!

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  37. Watercressed says:

    Is this an ethical injunction to always be nice and charitable, or is it a description of what you’re doing and reasons why it’s a good long-term strategy for a better world?

    If it’s the latter, I totally agree. If it’s the former, then I think there might be reasons to occasionally, after great thought, start firing bullets.

    Right now, the garden is small, and outside, there are people being attacked by lions. And sometimes, one should go and shoot the lions, to protect the people until the garden has grown larger.

    In one of the linked blog posts, you mention how you consider being opposed to military intervention to end genocides abroad beyond the pale. Are there similar situations where there should be political intervention to stop actions less bad than genocide? If the most effective weapon against genocide was malicious lies, would you support a war, divine grace be dammed? If we need a war, we need soldiers, and I’d rather have my soldiers think like Arthur Chu.

    (Note that pushing feminism in America is clearly not a cause where we should throw charity to the wind; this is on the meta-level)

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    • Watercressed says:

      Tit-for-tat, even tit-for-tat with very high forgiveness, may take over the world, but cooperate bot does not.

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    • I’d rather have my soldiers think like Arthur Chu

      Actual American soldiers are required to abide by Rules of Engagement, sometimes much more restrictive than the Geneva Conventions, even if doing so will result in losing an engagement and/or the death of fellow soldiers. The ROEs are laid down by Generals following the guidance of elected officials, because we value some things more highly than winning a single small fight.

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      • Doug S. says:

        Me, I’m of the opinion that if something isn’t worth killing civilians over, it’s not worth killing soldiers over either. (This is logically equivalent to the statement that any cause worth killing soldiers over is also worth killing civilians over.)

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        • suntzuanime says:

          That seems like one of those principles that sounds nice but leads to rivers of avoidable blood in practice.

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        • Doug S. says:

          That could be. It also sets a pretty high bar for deciding to go to war in the first place – as a decision that explicitly acknowledges that it is a decision to permit the deliberate killing of innocent people.

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        • lmm says:

          Having lots of small levels of escalation available seems like a better system than having to jump up to the big one or not respond at all.

          (I’ve just been reading Command and Control, which argues (among other things) that those kind of options helped humanity survive the Cuban missile crisis).

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    • Viliam Búr says:

      If we need a war, we need soldiers, and I’d rather have my soldiers think like Arthur Chu.

      I can imagine using this kind of soldiers if I absolutely had to, but I know I would always be afraid that tomorrow they will turn their guns against me. If for no other reason, merely because they seem to enjoy fighting a bit too much, while my ultimate goal is a peace of some kind. Which will inevitably place us on the opposing sides sooner or later. I might as well start preparing for that moment now. And if he is as smart as me, he probably already started.

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  38. JRM says:

    Wow.

    First off, this was excellent. I am a big subscriber to the theory that we should be nice to each other. A small subset of my friends think I should burn in a fiery fire for all eternity, yet they drink beer at my house. I considerably prefer post-death punishments to pre-death sanctions, no matter the degree of anticipated post-death problems.

    I’d note that liberalism is hard to undo on social programs, also. No matter how much it doesn’t work, once money goes to a source, it is very hard to get rid of, be it agricultural subsidies or Indian casinos or about anything else. To some of us, that’s a bad thing.

    I agree with Arthur that there are good guys and bad guys. Of course, I think his proposed methods of winning make him a bad guy and Scott the good guy. Ideally, this throwdown will get Scott more readers, something I am unreservedly for.

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    • Multiheaded says:

      I’d note that liberalism is hard to undo on social programs, also. No matter how much it doesn’t work, once money goes to a source, it is very hard to get rid of, be it agricultural subsidies or Indian casinos or about anything else.

      As a post-Soviet citizen: lol, check your democratic privilege. My country might be due for another round of neoliberalism soon, in fact; Putin’s gang is going to gut what’s left of public healthcare. Also, it happens all the time in the West.

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    • houseboatonstyx says:

      I’d note that liberalism is hard to undo on social programs, also. No matter how much it doesn’t work, once money goes to a source, it is very hard to get rid of, be it agricultural subsidies or Indian casinos or about anything else.

      Perhaps it depends on how much money you get, and what you can spend it on. Agriculture and casinos get plenty of money and are able to spend it on lobbyists. Unemployed people and those who use food stamps have to spend theirs on food — and theirs have just been cut back.

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    • grendelkhan says:

      No matter how much it doesn’t work, once money goes to a source, it is very hard to get rid of, be it agricultural subsidies or Indian casinos or about anything else. To some of us, that’s a bad thing.

      It doesn’t really look as monotonic as that seems to imply. Especially if you look at just, say, the 1990s.

      (Also, that just looks at the inflation-adjusted dollar amounts per person; we’ve been getting richer as a country, and as a proportion of GDP, there’s little to no signal there. The recent spike is tied to the recession and the safety net, not to explicit policy changes.)

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  39. Pingback: On some criticism of LessWrong

  40. Jai says:

    (I wrote this late at night – it’s a bit rambly and doesn’t flow particularly well, but tldr: I agree with 90% of this post, but I think Scott’s dichotomy is a false one, there are things between enlightened discourse and throwing bombs that have historically worked really well.)

    If you divide the world with yourself and Gandhi on one side, and your opponent and the IRA on the other, it kind of feels like you’re stacking the deck. There’s a lot to like in this essay, and I don’t want to defend Arthur – but I can’t buy your dichotomy. Equating false statistics with violence is really, really, really wrong. I think you’re packing too many possible courses of action under “harassment” in “list of things liberalism bans”, and that if you taboo that word and unpack what is and isn’t allowed you run into some less-clear choices.

    .

    Gandhi boycotted groups that disagreed with him. The Civil Rights movement picketed. Overt sexism and racism have been heavily socially stigmatized, to the benefit of most of humanity. Surely this is a kind of “harassment”?

    .

    There is more than one Schelling Fence between “be nice to everyone” and “literally setting off bombs”. There’s a place in the garden to be peaceful and cooperative, while still boycotting anti-gay businesses, not friending people who insist on the existence of a global Jewish conspiracy, and straight-up breaking laws you find unjust (the primary tactic of 20th century nonviolent liberal progress).

    .

    I suspect this is a big part of how the garden grows: You make it uncomfortable to be just outside the fense of the garden. You don’t lob bombs outside, but you do pointedly refuse to share your seeds.

    .

    Even would-be bomb-throwers serve to highlight the sanity of the nonviolent actors. Martin Luther King Jr. was probably more effective for having Malcolm X to contrast against. Without “The Ballot or the Bullet”, the most extreme thing out there is “I Have Dream”.

    .

    Here’s an excerpt from “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” that explains this better:

    .

    I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

    Sometimes bad argument doesn’t just get counterargument. Sometimes bad argument also gets sit-in and boycott and social stigma.

    (Later, reading over this, I’m less sure about my argument – I might post something else tomorrow once I’ve thought this through a bit more)

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    • Multiheaded says:

      the White Moderate

      Hear, hear! Exactly what I’m getting at!
      Also, see this excellent discussion

      Malcolm X on Dr. King: “I’ll say nothing against him. At one time the whites in the United States called him a racialist, and extremist, and a Communist. Then the Black Muslims came along and the whites thanked the Lord for Martin Luther King.

      Dr. King on Malcolm X: “You know, right before he was killed he came down to Selma and said some pretty passionate things against me, and that surprised me because after all it was my territory there. But afterwards he took my wife aside, and said he thought he could help me more by attacking me than praising me. He thought it would make it easier for me in the long run.

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      • Konkvistador says:

        I completely agree credible threats of violence are a vital and irreplaceable component behind the social revolutions of the 60s. I just think the revolutions where bad.

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        • Multiheaded says:

          You’re looking at their state post – 18 Brumaire, though, and you’re knowledgable enough to be aware of that (unlike, say, moldbug). Do you really think that Malcolm X should’ve somehow foreseen what Nixon would do to black people? And done what, exactly?

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      • Vilhelm S says:

        Is that discussion really so excellent? The topmost thread seems to arrive at the answer “peace conquers violence! To ask if violence sustains peace is to misunderstand peace altogether!”, at which point I kind of gave up.

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    • ozymandias says:

      Thank you for including that Martin Luther King Jr. quote; I thought of that as I was reading the post but forgot to comment about it.

      I think it’s important that MLK &co did not just boycott people who made arguments they didn’t like; they boycotted people who were engaged in literal acts of discrimination that very moment. And also that Scott makes room in his argument for organized action against creationists, who are far out of the walled garden.

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    • Jai says:

      Replying to myself after a few hours of sleep:

      A lot hinges on the definition of “garden”.

      If you’re talking about the garden of the (loosely-defined) rationalist community, I can wholeheartedly endorse the “be nice all the time” rule. And this seems to be what’s referenced in the bulk of this essay.

      But most of the world is not the garden. Boycotting businesses and urging networks to fire bigoted personalities doesn’t violate the peace of the garden. Heck, most of Tumblr isn’t the garden. The garden is small.

      I don’t defect in the garden. But I’ve worked for political campaigns, fully aware of the inaccuracies those campaigns were putting out. I’m more concerned about policy outcomes than the marginal epistemological harm of attack ads.

      Most of the world isn’t on the SlateStarCodex level of super-cooperative discourse. In most of the world, good discourse has little to do with winning. Winning is winning.

      I love the garden. I respect its inhabitants and a commitment to cooperation and clean epistemology. But the rules of the garden are a _terrible_ guide to getting things done in the rest of the world. The median epistemic hygiene of the world is sufficiently bad that I (usually) don’t worry about making it any worse in the course of actually getting stuff done.

      There’s no contradiction here, just different rules for different environments.

      If tomorrow GiveWell comes out with a convincing, peer-reviewed, exhaustive (etc) study showing that ads declaring “2+2=5″ result in tripled donations to EA causes, I will celebrate. In the garden, we’ll be very clear that, in fact, 2+2=4. Outside of the garden, mosquito nets trump.

      (In the specific case of the Horrible False Rape Accusation Statistics, I unflinchingly Scott’s position – falsehoods do not belong in the garden, and this set in particular probably does more harm than good for the world even outside of the garden).

      tldr: Elitism is underrated.

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  41. Mark says:

    >I am not going to do that, but if I did it’s unclear to me how Arthur could object. I mean, he thinks that sexism is detrimental to society, so spreading lies and destroying people is justified in order to stop it.

    But to him, that’s just accusing him of being “pro-bullet” again. He doesn’t think spreading lies and destroying people is justified. He thinks it’s sometimes justified if it’s in service to certain causes (and the Enemy is sufficiently nasty). So the objection is, in fact, pretty obvious: your lies and destruction are harmful to society, whereas his are beneficial! Epistemologists generally call this sort of thing “externalism:” when the facts “out there” are what license you to do or believe whatever, not just the evidence or feeling of correctness you have subjectively available. But of course this is never very satisfying, and everyone is just going to claim to be the externally justified one.

    More generally, though, I feel your whole post is possibly uncharitable. You value total intellectual honesty and fairness, and you interpret Arthur as advocating for total intellectual realpolitik. You think political discourse should be civil, so you imagine your counterpart might as well be okay with literal assassination. Can you imagine an argument for a middle ground? Reasons for a firebrand to abhor political violence, but not certain forms of unfair and aggressive discourse on particular issues? Or arguments for why such discourse, while not strictly something that should be allowed, you also shouldn’t go out of your way to attack or highlight if it favors a cause you’re nearly certain is correct? Serious questions, by the way. I’m totally on board with your conclusion, but your post left me unconvinced that we should almost always treat the slope as slippery (though I want to be convinced of that!).

    >God only knows what Arthur would have done, if through bad luck he had accidentally gotten it into his head that transgender people are bad. From his own words, we know he wouldn’t be “pussyfooting around with debate-team nonsense”.

    It’s worth underscoring in this hypothetical scenario not just how much damage Arthur might do to transgendered individuals, but also how much more difficult it might be for him to change his mind to the correct view. Nothing raises the emotional stakes in an argument more than viciously attacking your opposition over their perceived stupidity or moral monstrosity or whatever. It’s enormously embarrassing to whoever’s wrong, so of course it makes you pretty desperate to believe that it can’t be you.

    Not that this should necessarily stop you from being vicious. It’s easy to think of scenarios where it’s worth the risk of cognitive dissonance. But I find it hard to imagine it’s worth it as often, or in situations as casual, as I presume Arthur believes.

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  42. Kokomo says:

    Why not assassinate prominent racist and sexist politicians and intellectuals? I won’t name names since that would be crossing a line, but I’m sure you can generate several of them who are sufficiently successful and charismatic that, if knocked off, there would not be an equally competent racist or sexist immediately available to replace them, and it would thus be a serious setback for the racism/sexism movement.

    And these poorly disguised threats–as transparent as Clark’s designs on the Internet–would be of great interest to anyone who bears a grudge, Scott. If that’s what you’re all about.

    (As for me, not only do I not believe in violence as a means of settling intellectual differences, but I think your ideology has so many glaring flaws that you are by far the only type of person who would have a reason to dwell on such thoughts.)

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  43. Jack says:

    That was really interesting.

    I’m glad I’m not the one being attacked like that…

    I think it’s normally the case with internet essays (and almost everything else) that they’re good at identifying a problem, but bad at suggesting a solution.

    I think Chu has a point that the rationalist community could do a lot better at appealing to other people. This would involve *some* dark arts (eg. not saying super-unpopular things, or at least, not deliberately saying super-unpopular things), but not necessarily all out war.

    He’s wrong that a good approach is all-out war — I think your explanation of why civilisation is a good thing is extremely good.

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  44. Vulture says:

    This seems like kind of a one-sided policy debate – would liberalism still be a good idea even if it wasn’t almost universally successful? In particular, I think the joke about the Nazi newspapers is commendably revealing of why we should maybe be suspicious of how much we draw from that Moldbug passage.

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  45. Arthur Chu says:

    X-posting from Facebook because I kind of want Scott to actually read it:

    I’ve already spent way more time and energy on this argument than was ever wise. Mainly this is an emotional reaction to the fact that I find the whole “rationalist community” deeply distasteful and opposed to my values, I became — much like Aaron Sorkin upon finding out Mark Zuckerberg was a fan of The West Wing — deeply distressed on a visceral level to find out some of them liked/admired me as a “rationalist hero”, and I want them to stop.

    To paraphrase Jack Sparrow, you either can accept that someone can be better than average at “rationally” playing a silly game and also be an extreme left-wing “mind killed” social justice warrior, or you can’t. Either way it’s not really my concern.

    For the record:

    I don’t hate LW because they like math, or because a lot of them are libertarians, or even because they encourage people to donate their charitable dollars to a circlejerk that mostly writes blog posts about nonsense about building God in a box and living forever and atemporal basilisks and whatever.

    I hate them because there are people who are the closest thing we have in our civilized drawing-room world to pure evil and they invite them to their parties and shake hands with them and consider it very important to be polite to them. People like Mencius Moldbug and the “Neoreactionaries”, people like the “Manosphere” and the MRAs.

    People who seriously strongly believe in racism and sexism, not just unconsciously or implicitly but explicitly and committedly, who have written at length about wanting to bring back segregation, about wanting to rewrite divorce laws so women can’t possibly leave the men who own them and can be directly punished by society for cheating. Who yearn for a return to kings and queens and a noble class, for patriarchal households where the paterfamilias’ word is law, who make arguments that slavery and colonialism were good things and that the best thing the black man can hope for is to be returned to the state of being coddled by a kind white master.

    This is BULLSHIT. The fact that people like Scott think these thoughts deserve a fair and civil hearing is BULLSHIT. The fact that Scott actually comes out and says he thinks MRAs and their toxic, terrifying mental sickness is a necessary corrective to the “extremism” of feminists is BULLSHIT.

    If you can’t draw the line before the MRAs and the reactionaries where the hell do you draw the line? I’ll give hours of my time to an anti-vaxxer or a creationist or even an Austrian economist before I’ll give it to someone who seriously tries to resurrect the maggoty corpse of 19th-century scientific racism under the cover of “human biodiversity” and peddle it anywhere in any space where I have even the tiniest modicum of control.

    You cannot stand there shaking hands with the Devil and smiling and still be on the side of the angels. You simply can’t. You can’t say “Everyone has the right to their point of view” when you’re talking about people who look at the Hell that the world once was for the poor, the ethnic minority, or the female and who want to bring it back — not just want to bring it back but are actively looking for levers to shove our society back on the well-worn, smooth, familiar path into that mire, who know how deeply rooted the racist/sexist/Great White Father memeplex is in the mind of all people raised in this culture and intentionally push those buttons.

    If Scott wants MRAs and rape apologists and people who fixate on “What about the mens” arguments like trying to quantify the exact probability that any given man has been falsely accused of rape so that any given man who has been accused of rape — who even by Scott’s numbers is still *probably actually a rapist* — gets more of an opportunity to defend himself as “possibly innocent” and contribute to the memeplex of evil lying bitches who are “out to get” men so that we men have to stick together…

    If that’s what he wants in his goddamn “walled garden”, I want no part of it. And if he puts up those walls to give protection to the rapists and the misogynists and those who defend and coddle them because “Life is hard for men too”, I have no compunction about breaking through those walls to get them.

    Also:

    Equating my saying that sometimes you have to be an asshole to people who are assholes with saying that I want to buy a gun and shoot everybody is a crap argument. (For the record, I think the difference between when you should use words, including nasty words, and using armed resistance is a quantitative matter of degree of threat and not some absolute proscription — I’m not an absolute pacifist and most people aren’t.)

    Saying “MLK and Gandhi were perfectly nice people, why can’t you be too?”, aside from leaving me one square away from a Bingo, is also totally and ridiculously and obviously distorting the argument beyond recognition.

    Yes, MLK and Gandhi didn’t pick up rocket launchers and make somebody pay. You know what ELSE they didn’t do? They did not sit down and have cordial debates with scientific racists and pro-colonialists in which they calmly and carefully generated logical arguments based on sound statistical science for why racism and colonialism were, in the long run, a net negative to the global economy.

    To try to bring MLK and Gandhi on your side is BULLSHIT. If MLK or Gandhi met Mencius Moldbug they would not enthusiastically read all his writings and then invite Moldbug’s racist stormtroopers to a garden party to talk over everything and earnestly convince them that supporting governments that quell dissent from uppity ethnic minorities with firehoses and batons is “irrational”.

    MLK and Gandhi were not “rationalists”. They used what the Yudkowskyites call “The Dark Arts” all the time — appealing to the inevitability of their victory through rhetorical invocation of the supernatural/mystical (“the moral arc of the universe”), manipulating the conversation to cast their struggle as a battle between good and evil, emotionally blackmailing their opponents.

    Gandhi never did a fucking social sciences journal survey to gather the best possible data on the British Raj and submit a peer-reviewed paper to the British government indicating that the costs of Empire were untenable. He *went on a hunger strike*. He said “Stick to your principles if you want but if you do *you* will be responsible for killing a beloved old man by starvation”. That’s emotional blackmail. That is nothing even closely resembling a rational argument.

    *And it worked*, which is the important thing. At least, it’s the important thing if you value actually changing things and helping people more than you value being comfortable and well-fed within your walled garden.

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    • Giordano Mirandolla says:

      orsonwellesclapping.gif

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    • Multiheaded says:

      A nitpick, I agree that Moldbug could himself be called “evil” for many values of evil, but he isn’t personally “dangerous” in any way, mostly because him convincing even a lot of tech nerds could hardly result in… anything. No, what’s fucking terrifying to me is that he’s a sign of things to come; certain objective processes within the early 21st century Western society have actually produced “neo-reaction”, and these processes have no reason to abate. At first my visceral reaction confused me too, given the seeming insignificance of some random silly blog; but the world just felt very wrong all of a sudden.

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    • Ialdabaoth says:

      As someone who’s reasonably happy to be part of the “rationalist” community:

      If you can’t draw the line before the MRAs and the reactionaries where the hell do you draw the line? I’ll give hours of my time to an anti-vaxxer or a creationist or even an Austrian economist before I’ll give it to someone who seriously tries to resurrect the maggoty corpse of 19th-century scientific racism under the cover of “human biodiversity” and peddle it anywhere in any space where I have even the tiniest modicum of control.

      Right now, the anti-vaxxers and Austrian economists are doing a lot more material damage than the human biodiversity people. One vital service that I see the neo-reactionary people providing, is reminding us WHY we abandoned those ideas.

      The problem with the neo-reactionaries is that they’re materially harmless, but very good at riling up people’s “danger” signals. They’re pretty much a defeated enemy. But they’re the enemy that you JUST defeated, so you’re still primed to go on the warpath whenever you catch a glimmer of their flag waving.

      You cannot stand there shaking hands with the Devil and smiling and still be on the side of the angels. You simply can’t. You can’t say “Everyone has the right to their point of view” when you’re talking about people who look at the Hell that the world once was for the poor, the ethnic minority, or the female and who want to bring it back — not just want to bring it back but are actively looking for levers to shove our society back on the well-worn, smooth, familiar path into that mire, who know how deeply rooted the racist/sexist/Great White Father memeplex is in the mind of all people raised in this culture and intentionally push those buttons.

      The thing is, the racists / sexists / etc. are pretty much routed. They still have pockets of resistance, which makes things pretty nasty for individual victims within their spheres of influence, but history has pretty much fully delegitimized their philosophies.

      The problem with dishonest methods is not what they do to your enemy; it’s what they do to *you*. The Social Justice Movement has plenty of valid targets to go after, but instead it runs the risk of dressing up innocent victims in the raiment of its last Great Enemy and ritually destroying them. This is a natural human response – you want to keep recreating the good feelings you got from winning that war, without having to re-train to fight a new enemy. But there’s a reason why successful revolutions often turn against the very people they saved,

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      • Multiheaded says:

        The thing is, the racists / sexists / etc. are pretty much routed. They still have pockets of resistance, which makes things pretty nasty for individual victims within their spheres of influence, but history has pretty much fully delegitimized their philosophies.

        I’m afraid they have a superweapon up their sleeve yet, and that superweapon is called capitalism. Racism is profitable because it provides an easy, robust and self-justifying instrument of class discrimination. Sexism is profitable because duh, unpaid and undervalued female labour.

        Also generally some people, specifically those with a high social dominance orientation, will use anything from statistical “race realism” to PUA abuse tactics to get ahead, no matter the cost to society. They are justified in complaining that progressivism is holding them back. I, for one, only regret that this particular boot is not stomping on their faces hard enough.

        I agree that reactionaries in themselves, as a bunch of geeks, are harmless; the problem is that they shouldn’t have formed any coherent ideology. Their existence in the most privileged classes of the most developed nations seems to contradict whig history (although probably not commie history).

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        • roystgnr says:

          Sexism is profitable because duh, unpaid and undervalued female labour.

          This makes sexism profitable to non-sexists (who actually get to use the underpaid and undervalued female labor) but unprofitable to sexists (who have to compete for a pool of overpaid and overvalued male labor). Those seem like the right incentives.

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Also generally some people, specifically those with a high social dominance orientation, will use anything from statistical “race realism” to PUA abuse tactics to get ahead, no matter the cost to society. They are justified in complaining that progressivism is holding them back. I, for one, only regret that this particular boot is not stomping on their faces hard enough.

          Seconded, although neuroscience is developing better and better tools for identifying them. Personally, I’m hopeful for a day when non-consensual social dominance is considered symptomatic of a disorder, and compassionately treated/cured.

          the problem is that they shouldn’t have formed any coherent ideology.

          They didn’t. What they formed is a loose coalition of like-minded malcontents. The ethnofascists and the hyper-Randians and the Dominionists have almost no shared convictions, other than “Boo Liberal Democracy!”; what they have are shared beliefs-as-clothes.

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        • Multiheaded says:

          This makes sexism profitable to non-sexists (who actually get to use the underpaid and undervalued female labor) but unprofitable to sexists (who have to compete for a pool of overpaid and overvalued male labor). Those seem like the right incentives.

          Ahahahahaahahaha!

          You’ve just accidentally proven how deep this sexism is. See, the undercompensated and undervalued labour I’m talking about? Only the tip of this iceberg is in the workplace (like nurses and maids and teachers). There is also the matter of all the vastly important, skilled or semi-skilled, emotionally taxing labour that housewives, mothers and women in other unpaid roles peform ostensibly out of “love”. And the stronger the patriarchy, the more sacralized and gendered “love” is, and the less bargaining power those women have.

          The ethnofascists and the hyper-Randians and the Dominionists have almost no shared convictions, other than “Boo Liberal Democracy!”

          Now you’re literally echoing The Reactionary Mind. The thing is, that book explains how historically such coalitions, united only by anti-egalitarianism, have nonetheless managed to achieve some of the counter-revolutionary aims.

          p.s. Also Ialdabaoth, you are a wonderful person and one of the few people on LW that I could comfortably trust with a moral dilemma.

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Dude, you just like, totally blew my mind. I need to go home and write my wife a check and apologize for assuming her protestations of love were other than a desperate negotiating tactic.

          Isn’t that an example of The Worst Argument In The World? (“The fact that some women genuinely love their husbands proves that no woman has ever been forced to feign love as a desperate negotiating tactic”)

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        • Randy M says:

          Isn’t what? =P

          I deleted it because I was probably taking personal something which wasn’t and therefore not arguing particularly well. I do think that the phrase “Ostensibly out of ‘love’” could be interpreted as saying that (some? all? most?) wives are lying or deluded when the profess love, which is rather insulting and cynical. It would probably be argued, by my somewhat straw image of the speaker, that it’s okay to speak for ostensibly loving wives throughout history because not only are they deluded or lying, they are also powerless?

          Also, there was not a lot of hedging in Multis description of the domestic oppression.

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        • roystgnr says:

          the stronger the patriarchy, the more sacralized and gendered “love” is, and the less bargaining power those women have.

          The purportedly anti-sexist claim here is that wives and mothers are all easily deceived so their husbands (and children?) can profit, and the purportedly progressive answer is that this can only be rectified by Defeating This Lie You Call “Love”!?!

          I’m tempted to foolishly comment on the word “unpaid” and the difference between income inequality and consumption inequality, but I can’t be sure it wouldn’t be a total waste of time; I literally can’t distinguish you from a cartoonish neoreactionary parody of feminism. Is there a “walled garden” around anywhere which *isn’t* subject to Poe’s Law?

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        • A. Nonymous says:

          I’m afraid they have a superweapon up their sleeve yet, and that superweapon is called capitalism. Racism is profitable because it provides an easy, robust and self-justifying instrument of class discrimination. Sexism is profitable because duh, unpaid and undervalued female labour.

          I strongly disagree. Unfettered capitalism is the current “big evil”, but the Reactionaries are actually doing more to expose its evils than propagate them. They’re gathering all the jerks together into easier-to-notice communities, and their attempts to legitimize raw self-interest ain’t foolin’ nobody.

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        • Multiheaded says:

          Re: love – my claim is more complicated and nuanced than that, but I can’t be arsed to elaborate upon it. Try to look up “affective labour” if you’re interested. And “Wages for Housework”.

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        • Randy M says:

          Don’t be surprised when you are misinterpreted when you try to convey a complicated and counter-intuitive position without arsing the nuance.

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        • @Ialdabaoth

          >Seconded, although neuroscience is developing better and better tools for identifying them. Personally, I’m hopeful for a day when non-consensual social dominance is considered symptomatic of a disorder, and compassionately treated/cured.

          I could try to appeal to failing gracefully and not using brute force and transhumanism to rewrite other people to your own twisted political ideals, but that’s just not convincing anymore, apparently.

          Instead, as a humble plea from the powerless to the powerful, if you have any shred of humanity and good left in you, I beg you to stop short of totally destroying us. Send us to concentration camps, vilify us, cast us out of your society, ghettoize us, torture and kill some of us. Fine. But please, for the love of God or whatever ideals you hold, please let some of us be what we are and live the way we see fit.

          Maybe I’m not welcome in your society, fine; I don’t want to live in your society, and you do not want to live in mine. Why is that not enough for you people? Why is your first instinct always to humiliate us, force us by threat or neuroscience to bend to your will, and destroy us? Why does it have to be that way? Why can’t you just leave us alone and let us leave you alone?

          Please forgive my insolent tone.

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        • Giordano Mirandolla says:

          That’s a very long winded way to say “live and let live, despite the fact that my side hasn’t respected that injunction in a loooooooooooooooooooooong time, if ever”.

          But seriously, I don’t want to put you into a concentration camp.

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        • VXXC says:

          Our Super-Weapon is called Reality. We are merely one of many walls closing in on your fantasy bubble.

          Probably not at all the biggest one.

          For instance by all means do try that John Brown solution. Enough Twitter Tough, if you are being so poisoned by repressing violence then get to it. I think first you’d better get your own Army, your own Police neither of which like you, both of which by foul deeds you have given reason to Hate you.

          Or perhaps at last you could do your own work?

          I think you’ll rapidly find you’re very outnumbered and hopelessly outgunned. And that your fatal mistake was in dropping the mask. Behind it’s pieties and status signalling if there’s anything it’s raging, nihilist hate. I suppose the knowledge that your cowards seething with repressed fury can’t help.

          I think it would be very theraputic for you to go and act out. By all means.

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      • @Giordano Mirandolla

        >But seriously, I don’t want to put you into a concentration camp.

        Well then forgive me Master, for presuming such based on you and you friends discussing how much you HATE me, discussing whether I’m worth your time to destroy, if so how exactly to destroy me, and the history of people like you (culturally dominant haters) putting people like me (cultural minorities) in concentration camps. Again, forgive my presumptuous tone.

        >That’s a very long winded way to say “live and let live, despite the fact that my side hasn’t respected that injunction in a loooooooooooooooooooooong time, if ever”.

        That’s a mighty fine excuse you’ve got there, Master, but allow me this retort: “my side” is no such thing. The people who previously engaged in evil cultural imperialism were Non-Progressives. The people who currently engage in evil cultural imperialism are Progressives (half the people in this thread, it seems). It seems to me that the tendency to engage in evil cultural imperialism has a lot more to do with who is culturally dominant than what they believe. It simply isn’t adaptive for minorities to engage in imperialism.

        So under that model, the fact that previously people who disagreed with you engaged in imperialism in no way justifies you, now in a position of dominance, to engage in imperialism against other non-progressives. Under that model, it is simply good for me to resist beg mercy from your imperialism regardless of what your intellectual ancestors went through. Hate and Imperialism is simply evil, and are always engaged in by the dominant culture, so it’s my job as a cultural minority to not get killed, and to do what I can to prevent others like me from getting killed, possibly by questioning the legitimacy of your hate and imperialism, just as it was the job of your intellectual ancestors. But if this whole thread is any evidence, Progressives have lost the title of “cultural minority trying not to get killed”, so please don’t invoke it to legitimize your hatred.

        And note that I said “other non-progressives”. This may be hard to understand, as us non-progressives all look the same to you, but Neoreaction (“my side”) is culturally descended mostly from enlightenment progressivism, with some major differences in perspective. It is not really the same thing at all as the ideology that ruled before Progressivism. That we happen to share with them the fact that we are not progressives, and some empirical and aesthetic conclusions that nearly everyone but progressives agree on, is just a reflection of the fact the Neoreaction is not Progressivism. Again this may be difficult, but the fact that we all look the same to you is better explained as an artifact of your own perspective than by NRs actually being similar to previous ideologies, let alone being somehow morally responsible for their crimes.

        So that’s all just a long way of saying that I don’t recognize your right to make that argument.

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        • Giordano Mirandolla says:

          ” Hate and Imperialism is simply evil, and are always engaged in by the dominant culture, ” So hate and imperialism engaged in by minorities is… what?

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        • >So hate and imperialism engaged in by minorities is… what?

          Examples appreciated. “Always” is probably too strong.

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        • VXXC says:

          “It simply isn’t adaptive for minorities to engage in imperialism.”

          Unless that’s been a consistent and ultimately suicidal adaptation for all of recorded time, and most of these idiots playing follow the leader have no idea who the leader is, or their track record of success .

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      • Umslopogaas McFly says:

        The sexists are simply right. Women hate, passionately, husbands who don’t lead. That doesn’t mean bullying; if you do it right, it’s fun for all (Roissy has at times been very good on how this is done). Women like teasing and play; they loathe obedience or being treated with kid gloves. They loathe a man who lets them boss him around. Consider every straight marraige you know, every single one. It’s a fact, and you have observed it.

        But if you’re too dumb to tease and charm her and treat her inevitable feminine emotional storms as meaningless noise (they hate a man who can’t provide a firm, calm presence immune to their hormonal craziness — is that not what men are FOR, in a woman’s mind?), do at least bully her. Women stay with emotional abusers for decades. They don’t mind being unhappy;that’s their natural state. What they can’t stand is boredom. I repeat: the ONLY thing a woman can’t forgive is boredom. If she’s bored, she’d rather you have an affair than just sit there. At least then there’s drama, and you’ve got some balls!

        If a man puts up with bullying from them, they’re vastly more likely to leave. They can love a man they fear, they can’t love a bore, a man they despise. But be the charmer if you can, it’s a much more fun way to be interesting.

        Share the above with the women you know, see what they say. Remember the dears don’t like to say what they mean; they like hints and play and half-truths.

        We’re right about race too, and you know it. There’s data for that too, in endless profusion. It’s not nice, it’s not fun, but it’s a fact. A lot of individuals can fail in the USA due to “conditions”, but no power could prevent the Chinese as a group from succeeding, nor the Jews, the Japanese, Persians, Armenians, Indians from India, Arabs, you name it. Even the poor stupid drunken donkey Irish like me got far enough to make a decent living. Everybody hated all of them. Over decades, it had no effect. .

        Now go look at Detroit.

        So, we’re right. You’d rather be fashionable and have your wife bully you. We’d rather be right and look forward to coming home from the office every evening.

        To each his own.

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        • Multiheaded says:

          But if you’re too dumb to tease and charm her and treat her inevitable feminine emotional storms as meaningless noise (they hate a man who can’t provide a firm, calm presence immune to their hormonal craziness — is that not what men are FOR, in a woman’s mind?), do at least bully her

          Mein Gott, can’t you try and forgive your Mutter after all zese years? :cigar:

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        • Anonymous says:

          This is an example of the sort of comments I would strongly prefer not to see on Slate Star Codex. Not because they’re closely associated with a despicable ideology, but because they’re derailing and transparently false. (Change to ‘the majority of married straight women’, and that solves the ‘false’; don’t bring it up every time there’s a post even vaguely related to neoreaction and that solves the derailing.)

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        • Scott Alexander says:

          BANNED FOR ONE DAY – REASON: EXTREMELY CONTROVERSIAL VIEWS ASSERTED STRONGLY AND UNCONDITIONALLY WITHOUT EVIDENCE, PLUS MINOR AD HOMINEM ATTACKS

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        • Andy says:

          BANNED FOR ONE DAY – REASON: EXTREMELY CONTROVERSIAL VIEWS ASSERTED STRONGLY AND UNCONDITIONALLY WITHOUT EVIDENCE, PLUS MINOR AD HOMINEM ATTACKS

          Which comment got this ban? Can a ban message include a link to the comment being banned, just to make things really clear?

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    • Multiheaded says:

      Full disclosure: I think this is a little silly and over-the-top, and this is from someone notorious for being a silly over-the-top SJW type. But I certainly do appreciate the sentiment. I just think you’ve misidentified why the problem is so problematic, because this is not the stereotypical SJ enemy.

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    • Jai says:

      I’m sympathetic to the idea drawing a line of acceptable discourse with Neoreactionaries on the other side. There is a width of terminal values I can cooperate with, and the Neoreactionaries aren’t in it. Any community that happily embraces Neoreactionaries is a community I’m going to keep some distance from.

      But Scott is absolutely right to endorse factual rigor when he sees his friends being led astray.

      Arthur, I think you’re falling into a false dichotomy here:

      If Scott wants…to quantify the exact probability that any given man has been falsely accused of rape so that any given man who has been accused of rape — who even by Scott’s numbers is still *probably actually a rapist* — gets more of an opportunity to defend himself as “possibly innocent” and contribute to the memeplex of evil lying bitches who are “out to get” men so that we men have to stick together…

      You seem to believe that anything approaching high epistemological standards are incompatible with fixing the world. This seems like thinking, in 1960, that publishing an article titled “black people never commit any crimes” is a good idea for the civil rights movement, since to admit that sometimes some black people (like all people) commit crimes is to offer aid and comfort to the KKK. Even my pessimistic evaluation of discourse allows for people to hold slightly-more-complex worldviews than that.

      There’s no contradiction between “sexism is a major problem” and “sometimes false rape accusations happen”. Do you really think that perpetuating that sort of falsehood is the best tactic for the progress of humanity? That relying on easily-disproved lies is anything like a viable strategy?

      There are heavy costs to those sorts of tactics (aside from the obvious object-level damage to victims). You alienate potential allies who value accuracy. You lose credibility for any future claims you make. Even your _accurate_ claims become less-believed by way of being associated with a known liar.

      I’ve worked on the inside of major political campaigns, and I understand the value in perpetuating lies in for short-term gain. As our politics attests, in a zero-sum game against a single opponent, it’s apparently a dominant strategy. But notice how no one really trusts politicians. They’ve spent their credibility to attain office.

      Most of the world isn’t a zero-sum two-player winner-take-all game.

      If you rely on plain falsehoods as your primary weapons, and take as an enemy anyone who points that out, you are going to have a lot of completely unnecessary enemies. There are better ways to win, larger coalitions to assemble.

      You act like the only two options are “lie and attack anyone who points it out” and “be best friends with MRAs and Neoreactionaries”. You don’t have to do _either_ of these things. They have nothing to do with each other, really.

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      • Daniel Speyer says:

        I’m sympathetic to the idea drawing a line of acceptable discourse with Neoreactionaries on the other side. There is a width of terminal values I can cooperate with, and the Neoreactionaries aren’t in it. Any community that happily embraces Neoreactionaries is a community I’m going to keep some distance from.

        Maybe I’ve been led astray by Scott’s steelmanning, but my impression is that NR’s terminal values are everyone being happy and prosperous and (individually) free. Their proposed path for achieving this is pretty counter-intuitive, but not obviously crazy. (I specify individually free because self-determinism for peoples is not part of the valueset, but treating that as instrumental to individual freedom strikes me as reasonable.)

        Oddly, I have a lot more trouble finding common ground with mainstream conservatives, who seem to promote ritual purity above human wellbeing.

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        • Nick T says:

          NR’s terminal values are everyone being happy and prosperous and (individually) free.

          Even if this is true (and if there is such a single thing as “NR’s terminal values”), there’s a lot of room for disagreement in the unpacking of “individually free” (see also: libertarian/leftist disagreement). E.g., not valuing political freedom is core to NR.

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        • Daniel Speyer says:

          “Individually free” actually strikes me as a pretty straightforward thing: able to order their own lives to their liking. Yes, some things need to be blocked to make civilization work, but freedom means keeping the options as wide as possible.

          Political freedom is a murkier thing. Something like an institutionally recognized ability to effect the political system, or possibly being ruled by people with whom one has something in common. Historically, this has supported individual freedom, but not very much, and across all of possibility-space it doesn’t. If you were considering living in optimalverse!Equestria or the real United States, would you really favor the latter as being freer?

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        • lmm says:

          I’d unpack mainstream conservatism as: a) standard economic liberalism: the free market is the best way to allocate resources, so the best thing for growth (and therefore the best thing for everyone in the long run) is not to dick around taxing and spending. b) similar faith in social tradition c) a belief in the importance of community and homogeneity, an acknowledgement that the mere existence of seemingly-harmless weirdos has real costs to the rest of society.

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        • Jai says:

          There’s no “like” button in WordPress, but I want to endorse this entire chain of responses as constructive.

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        • Daniel Speyer says:

          I’m not sure if you used the word “faith” deliberately or not. If so, it very much touches my concerns.

          Someone who believes that the free market usually works better than any of the available alternatives and requires extraordinary evidence for claims of an exception is someone I can work with.

          Someone who believes that the free market always works better than any possible alternative regardless of evidence is someone I can’t work with, but can live with.

          Someone who believes that the free market holds definitive normative value, and that any deviation from it is wrong even if the deviation makes everyone happier now and forever (not a strawman) is someone I have trouble living with.

          But the biggest problems come from social tradition. A sincere teleologist (one who places the results of that philosophy above the pull of emotions including compassion) strikes me as about as friendly as a paperclip-maximizer. And someone who holds the reduction of homosexuality as a moral imperative but the killing thousands of civilians in a foreign war as a morally neutral act full of realpolitic falls into the same bucket I use for buffyverse vampires.

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      • Tab Atkins says:

        There’s no contradiction between “sexism is a major problem” and “sometimes false rape accusations happen”. Do you really think that perpetuating that sort of falsehood is the best tactic for the progress of humanity? That relying on easily-disproved lies is anything like a viable strategy?

        Note that there’s a big difference between “sometimes false rape accusations happen” and “false rape accusations happen a lot”. To be more specific, there’s a big difference between “based on crime stats, it appears that false rape reports happen about as often as any other false criminal accusation (not often)” and “women falsely report rape a lot of the time, particularly if they decide they don’t like the guy the morning after”.

        Do you actually believe that anyone is claiming that false rape accusations never happen? If so, why? What leads you to believe this? Can you point to anyone saying it, or at least implying it? Is there any large body of implication that, despite never directly or even sideways saying this, still manages to imply it in aggregate?

        It’s probably useful to consider that people might be afraid of the “those damn women always cry rape” people, and afraid that they’re willing to concern-troll reasonable people, and in so doing make their false position more legitimate. Setting up a Schelling fence on discussions about false rape accusations is perhaps a useful way to deal with this – if someone talks about false rape accusations outside the bounds of citing criminal stats, assume they’re trying to justify discrediting real rapes, or at least were tricked into discussing this by someone who is trying to do that.

        Mixed in with this is the fact that women are routinely disbelieved when they report rape, and victim-blamed, and a hundred other micro- and macro-aggressions that they really don’t need to be dealing with when they’re trying to summon up the courage to report an extremely stressful and shameful crime. Many of the people who choose to talk about false rape accusations seem to not realize this sort of thing happens, or actively disbelieve it.

        The fact that people get tired of talking with clueless people, and sometimes actual rapists, about this subject does not mean they’re sticking their head in the sand and ignoring the problem. However, it does appear that the “problem” is on par with tons of other problems, and thus, while it might be useful to try and reduce, isn’t really worth singling out for special treatment as some special evil.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Thanks so much for responding!

      The fact that Scott actually comes out and says he thinks MRAs and their toxic, terrifying mental sickness is a necessary corrective to the “extremism” of feminists is BULLSHIT.

      Where does Scott say that? I can’t remember him saying that.

      I agree that his urge to talk to NRs is a bit weird, but I’ve always interpreted it as NRs being powerless enough that it didn’t matter.

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      • Protagoras says:

        There are legitimate criticisms to be made of aspects of liberalism, and we liberals aren’t always particularly motivated to make them of ourselves. Some of the NRs are intelligent enough to raise some of the good criticisms, and given their powerlessness, the fact that they also make bad criticisms and that their positive agenda is absurd doesn’t completely undermine the value of encountering the good criticisms. So I don’t find willingness to talk to NRs particularly weird.

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    • suntzuanime says:

      If we’re getting into religious metaphors, I consider associating with NeoReaction less like shaking hands with the Devil and more like breaking bread with prostitutes.

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    • nydwracu says:

      I don’t see why anyone would ever want to interact with people who claim perfect certainty and throw around disease metaphors like confetti — so the solution advanced by “the closest thing we have in our civilized drawing-room world to pure evil” offers itself as the obvious one. Let the people who are sick of being lied to work out the truth for themselves in their corners, drowned out by the holy liars, and go fret about how best to exercise your negligible bit of nanopower in the service of holy mendacity elsewhere.

      There’s a special kind of something in believing that the optimal ruling strategy in a certain political structure is mass gaslighting and not having the slightest bit of doubt as to the desirability of that system. It’s even more special when the exoteric/esoteric divide is thrown out entirely, and there is held to be absolutely no room for anything but mass gaslighting.

      Then again, obviously I wouldn’t hear about it if you were in a secret society.

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      • Giordano Mirandolla says:

        “I don’t see why anyone would ever want to interact with people who claim perfect certainty and throw around disease metaphors like confetti”

        Yeah I don’t either. That’s why I don’t hang out with reactionaries.

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    • Gabriel says:

      “You cannot stand there shaking hands with the Devil and smiling and still be on the side of the angels. You simply can’t.”

      I’m pretty sure you can.

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    • misha says:

      You’re wrong about evil. Tolerating evil is the very cornerstone of civilized behavior. Living in a city is entirely about being able to talk to, shake hands with, and NOT KILL people who you think with your entire heart are evil. Because you know what? At the end of a century, maybe they still seem evil. Maybe one of you realized the other was right, and now both of you are good. BUT NO ONE GOT SLAUGHTERED, and BOTH groups of people, evil and non-evil are happily better off because neither of you went to war.

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      • misha says:

        There’s a reason dramatic mob movies often have a scene where a police officer who is personally entirely certain of someone’s guilt is forced to shake hands with and let go a Mobster. It’s because Police are Civilization, and you can’t just club them over the head and let god sort it out. That’s not what We Do.

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        • Alrenous says:

          The opportunity for shooting the suspected mind-mugger without retaliation is not worth giving the mind-mugger the opportunity to shoot me first.

          Probably should work out a way to just shoot the mobster, though. If everyone knows he’s a mobster but he’s not in jail, doesn’t that mean the court’s epistemology is failing to live up to the crowd’s?

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    • Michael Terry says:

      If Scott wants MRAs and rape apologists and people who fixate on “What about the mens” arguments like trying to quantify the exact probability that any given man has been falsely accused of rape so that any given man who has been accused of rape — who even by Scott’s numbers is still *probably actually a rapist* — gets more of an opportunity to defend himself as “possibly innocent” and contribute to the memeplex of evil lying bitches who are “out to get” men so that we men have to stick together…
       
      If that’s what he wants in his goddamn “walled garden”, I want no part of it. And if he puts up those walls to give protection to the rapists and the misogynists and those who defend and coddle them because “Life is hard for men too”, I have no compunction about breaking through those walls to get them.
       
      Also:
       
      Equating my saying that sometimes you have to be an asshole to people who are assholes with saying that I want to buy a gun and shoot everybody is a crap argument. (For the record, I think the difference between when you should use words, including nasty words, and using armed resistance is a quantitative matter of degree of threat and not some absolute proscription — I’m not an absolute pacifist and most people aren’t.)

      The quantitative degree of threat is what’s at issue in the original post, so it’s a little strange to justify nastiness by the quantitative degree of threat. I smell BULLSHIT.

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      • Steve says:

        > The quantitative degree of threat is what’s at issue in the original post, so it’s a little strange to justify nastiness by the quantitative degree of threat. I smell BULLSHIT.

        That’s a really good point. If bringing out the literal guns is a matter of quantitative threat, and it’s ok to lie about quantitative levels of threat, it is ok to lie about someone until you have to shoot them. QED.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      “I hate them because there are people who are the closest thing we have in our civilized drawing-room world to pure evil and they invite them to their parties and shake hands with them and consider it very important to be polite to them. People like Mencius Moldbug and the “Neoreactionaries”, people like the “Manosphere” and the MRAs”

      I’ve met these pure evil people. I met a scientific racist who donates several thousand dollars each year to charities in Africa, consistently votes Democrat, is scrupulously nice to everyone he meets of every color and gender,but when pressed – and only when pressed – will admit that he thinks there’s probably a five to ten genetic IQ point difference between races. I met an MRA who was raped as a child, was upset that nobody was there to support him, and joined the only movement that would.

      These are your demons. You’re taking an entire category of people, reducing them down to a single characteristic, declaring that makes them are inhuman and evil, and refusing to interact with them because seeing them as human might threaten your prejudices.

      You cannot stand there shaking hands with the Devil and smiling and still be on the side of the angels. You simply can’t.

      I feel like you want to frame this as you being willing to draw fences and me not being so willing. But we are both drawing fences.

      My fence consists of the people who say HATE AND KILL THE INHUMAN DEMONS on the one side, and on the other, the people who donate to charity and respect others and express their opinion – whatever it may be – kindly and compassionately.

      Your fence consists of you shouting HATE AND KILL THE INHUMAN DEMONS on one side, and other people who are also shouting HATE AND KILL THE INHUMAN DEMONS on the other side, only it’s different people who are the inhuman demons for both groups.

      Both of us successfully trap the KKK and Hitler on the outside of our fence. But I get to have a lot more allies than you do – allies against the actually bad people – and you have to put up with some pretty creepy friends. And if your side of the fence wins, you may find that hate is pretty darned transferable and you can’t always ensure it gets directed against the right people.

      Equating my saying that sometimes you have to be an asshole to people who are assholes with saying that I want to buy a gun and shoot everybody is a crap argument.

      I agree that you do not want to do this, I’m just saying you can’t not want to do this consistently.

      You argue that we can’t form spontaneous equilibria to become more civilized (ie your pseudo-Kantianism), but then the social contract has no power over you except as a practical matter of fear of punishment. If you want to have a moral objection to violence that overcomes naive utilitarianism, you need something like timeless decision theory. I haven’t seen you give a good account of how you can reject violence but not also reject other forms of harmful defect-defect equilibria.

      Yes, MLK and Gandhi didn’t pick up rocket launchers and make somebody pay. You know what ELSE they didn’t do? They did not sit down and have cordial debates with scientific racists and pro-colonialists

      Gandhi wrote a letter to Hitler. It began “Dear friend…that I address you as a friend is no formality. I own no foes.” It goes on to say some nice things about him and talk about how much Gandhi enjoyed meeting their mutual acquaintance Mussolini. Then it suggests, very politely, with reasoned arguments, that Hitler not start World War II. It ends: “I am your sincere friend, M.K. Gandhi”.

      I am not endorsing this as a strategy. But you are wrong about Gandhi and would do well to read him. He is pretty neat.

      More specifically, though, I reject your straw man of me – the one claiming that no one may ever do anything other than write a densely-cited journal article suggesting that there may be provisional evidence racism is wrong. If you read the post above, I think I threw a a lot of emotion into it, and I’m perfectly okay with having done so.

      But the emotions I tried to throw in were charity and compassion.

      Yes, Martin Luther King used emotion. And you use emotion. But look at which emotion word you use more than any other in the post above. “Hate”.

      THERE IS MORE THAN ONE EMOTION!

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      • Arthur Chu says:

        Very brief comment:

        “If you want to have a moral objection to violence that overcomes naive utilitarianism, you need something like timeless decision theory. I haven’t seen you give a good account of how you can reject violence but not also reject other forms of harmful defect-defect equilibria.”

        Did I say I rejected violence? I said that I thought violence would, in this particular time and place, probably be a bad strategic move. I don’t categorically reject it, as most people don’t who don’t call themselves pacifists (who are a small minority).

        You’ll note as others have noted that I expressed admiration for John Brown and his plan to put the entire American South to the torch.

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      • Arthur Chu says:

        “Both of us successfully trap the KKK and Hitler on the outside of our fence. But I get to have a lot more allies than you do – allies against the actually bad people – and you have to put up with some pretty creepy friends.”

        I think we have a fundamentally different definition of what “good” and “bad” even mean — different “terminal values”, as they say.

        I am deeply creeped out by many of your friends and while some of my friends might be a little loud and obnoxious, I on the whole admire them. As that Facebook thread said I don’t have the skills or the temperament to be the person who came up with the business model of creating clickbait headlines for Upworthy but I’m glad she exists and would pay money to have more of her.

        Trust me, I try not to live my life around the emotion of hatred but the antidote to that is to get the people that I hate out of my life and out of my world to the best of my ability, not to learn to smile cordially at them. I’m angry at Less Wrong primarily because of the way it’s taken over a certain subset of my friends and the way that has in turn slowly injected racists, sexists and other generally loathsome people into my consciousness.

        I suppose the “winning” thing to do would be to stop jawing about it and start ignoring you. So I’ll nip my own discursive debate-team impulses in the bud and start doing that now.

        Good night.

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      • Arthur Chu says:

        Okay, one more thing:

        There’s a fundamental dissonance between you claiming that the wonderful thing about your philosophy is that you get to have “a lot more allies” and then turn around and complain about how rationality makes no headway, the world and politics are run by evil zealot ragers and Social Justice owns the Internet.

        Less Wrong and the Manosphere and the Neoreactionaries are all tiny, marginal groups — they whine endlessly about it — and if anything I’m the one making the mistake of legitimizing the whole conversation by having it, right now. It’s a weakness of mine, and partly due to the fact that people I at one time held respect for have been sucked into it.

        But whatever. Half the commenters here are right — there are much better ways to either pursue social justice or my own happiness than arguing here.

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        • Gabriel says:

          Can you provide an example of how you “pursue social justice”?

          Report comment

        • Giordano Mirandolla says:

          It’s a trap, Arthur! Justice is a snarl word for these people.

          Report comment

        • nydwracu says:

          Less Wrong is a tiny, marginal group because it appeals to a tiny, marginal demographic. Rationality in general is tiny and marginal for the same reason. You are not in that demographic. Your entire complaint here is that you want a tiny, marginal demographic that you are not in to stop exhibiting the behavior pattern that defines it. Not even form a secret society in which that behavior pattern can be exhibited and its results can be propagated, but why would you do that when you wouldn’t make it into the secret society in the first place?

          Perhaps a more direct way of making the point would be to ask: do you believe that there is any place at all for the search for truth? If you do, it’s not obvious, and you keep saying — and signaling — that you believe there isn’t, and don’t think like there is.

          And, good lord, if you have ties to ‘the rationality community’ and still see no problem with claiming that your received knowledge is perfect and correct and it’s morally wrong and even diseased to so much as believe that it may not be perfect and correct, that ‘community’ is already pretty well screwed.

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      • Giordano Mirandolla says:

        I’d like to see a little more self-policing of extreme members in certain groups. Not YOU MUST IMMEDIATELY PURGE EVERYONE WHO IS NOT COMPLETELY IDEOLOGICALLY CORRECT, but a bit of “hey you’re making my side look bad” and “no, I don’t agree with awful thing following from thing we both agree with”.

        Because as it is, reactionaries, MRAs, and to a lesser degree, Marxists, are very bad at this. Otherwise it’s very easy to go “well this person is being polite, but they just retweeted someone who I’ve seen defend fill in awful thing here so I’ll just save my time and do something more worthwhile”

        Everyone has seen a few horror stories about these small internet movements.

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      • anonymous says:

        I met a scientific racist who donates several thousand dollars each year to charities in Africa, consistently votes Democrat, is scrupulously nice to everyone he meets of every color and gender,but when pressed – and only when pressed – will admit that he thinks there’s probably a five to ten genetic IQ point difference between races.

        I think it’s incredibly unfair of you to suggest that it’s only social justice activists who won’t talk to scientific racists. A subset of Less Wrongers are the only people I know who will. In the UK if a right-wing conservative MP said that he thought there was a racial IQ gap, the rest of the conservative party would immediately disassociate themselves from him, David Cameron would make would make a speech about how scientific racism is nonsense, and the MP would be forced to resign. Pretty much everyone involved in normal politics, in the UK at least, would kick scientific racists out of their gardens.

        I’m not saying that this is the correct attitude, but please stop painting “not talking to scientific racists” as being a fringe position.

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        • Andrew says:

          How is he painting “not talking to scientific racists” as a fringe position? Scott is pointing out that demonizing MRAs and scientific racists on that trait alone is a bad idea by providing counterexamples.

          I very highly suspect he’d claim it is a bad idea that almost everybody nevertheless subscribes to.

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      • iParallax says:

        “I met an MRA who was raped as a child, was upset that nobody was there to support him, and joined the only movement that would.”

        There is a chicken-and-egg thing going on here. The NR/DE crowd aren’t outcasts because they are NR/DE, they became NR/DE as the result of being outcasts. After analyzing the system they were cast out from, they came to some pretty pointed conclusions about the trustworthiness of mainstream institutions.

        My own road to this community began with political correctness in the military; a perfect storm of nonsense enforced by authority. Specifically, it was rape statistics; being told that 1/4 women in college are sexually assaulted. It defied common sense; were 1/4 men rapists? Perhaps 1/8 were repeat offenders? 1/16 were on a 4-rape streak?

        Women in combat was another. Have a Group (1200-ish people) go for a 3 mile formation run, and fewer women finish with the group than fall out along the way. And this is *after* the whole formation’s pace has been slowed to a crawl. And I’m supposed to support a policy based on the belief that women are pretty much as physically capable as men?

        I was as liberal, everyone-is-equal, let’s-all-be-friends as most average Americans are, but somewhere between the guilt trips, the hysteria, and the utter disregard for reason in favor of emotion, I had to start looking for truth. And very, very few communities traffic in truths these days; people clearly prefer Buzzfeed-quality feel-good pieces.

        Does this mean I end up lumped with a lot of eccentric people I’m not in total agreement with? Sure. But we aren’t the ones openly flinging death threats and calling for the murder of people we disagree with. How is it that Jezebel readers get away with that, and yet *we* are the crazy ones? Boggles the mind.

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        • iParallax says:

          To be clear, I’m not disagreeing with the bit I quoted, I’m agreeing with and expanding upon it.

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        • ozymandias says:

          The 1 in 4 number comes from Mary Koss’s studies in the 1980s which were among the first studies of rape. Her actual finding is that approximately 1 in 4 women on college campuses are victims of rape or attempted rape, and approximately 1 in 8 are victims of rape. The 1 in 8 number is an overestimate for the current number of rape survivors on campus, because the rape rate has been declining for thirty years along with every other kind of violence.

          Incidentally, different surveys show different numbers and there has yet to be a nationally representative survey, but between 6 and 13% of men will admit on an anonymous survey to forcing a woman to have sex when she doesn’t want to. I suspect the variance is largely because the studies have been done on different demographics and some groups include more rapists. So, yes, your sarcasm is quite correct.

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    • Doug S. says:

      “You cannot stand there shaking hands with the Devil and smiling and still be on the side of the angels.”

      Like hell I can’t.

      Report comment

    • Lesser Bull says:

      Is this the real Arthur Chu or is it some Moldbug guy pretending to be him to make his position look silly? If so, not cool.

      Report comment

  46. Kokomo says:

    In characteristic fashion:

    1. Create a problem. So we have the Internet, where people discuss things. There are several levels of natural custom that separate the discussions from primate gang violence. Sometimes people waver between the top couple of levels, but rarely lower.

    The government has taken a few months to lower the tone all the way to Matthew Hopkins’ level. “Oops.” Before, progressives and other people would interact convivially, despite large intellectual differences.

    2. Fret about the new problem, as though it were an inexplicable accident. If only there could be non-violent discussion of politics. How could that ever be possible. Hmmmm. What would be inappropriate, should one desire liberal discourse that doesn’t descend to the level of routine threats? So, so hard to imagine.

    I appreciate the problem, that the crappy old progressive system will begin to look very, very crappy and old the longer it is subject to criticism within the ostensible bounds of free speech; rather than the much tighter bounds that Superman & friends have come to expect.

    If we want to solve this problem in the best, fairest way, it would be helpful for those who accept the king’s shilling not to deceive themselves. If any violence and nastiness were to materialise because of Internet discourse, this would be 100% due to the actions of the state. People who work for the state should hold themselves responsible for its behaviour. Stop parroting whatever crap it tells you; get rid of the alief that it’s your surrogate parent. The state is not a tool that human beings can use to achieve anything good, and the one essential taboo we all need–as aspiring, civilised humans–is that no-one, sexist/racist/wrecker, critic, SJ or anything else, should try to capture or use it. It is or could become a threat to all of these people.

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  47. Ialdabaoth says:

    I’ve personally been guilty of a version of Arthur Chu’s mode of thinking; I’d like to try explaining-without-defending, if such a thing is possible when these sorts of sins are committed.

    You (Yvain/Scott Alexander) wrote an excellent post on “Epistemic Learned Helplessness”, which I think is exactly where this sort of problem starts, for me. (Whether it’s where Arthur Chu is coming from, I don’t know).

    Someone comes along, and starts saying a lot of really nasty things that they want to do to $DISENFRANCHISED_CATEGORY people. Or at the very least, a lot of really nasty things that they want society-in-general to be allowed to do to $DISENFRANCHISED_CATEGORY people. And, being the sort of person who thinks that that is Not On, I voice my disapproval like a good little social ape. At which point, they start spewing facts and studies about how, statistically, $DISENFRANCHISED_CATEGORY are actually inferior to us and deserve different treatment.

    Buried somewhere within the Gish Gallop are a collection of actual, salient points that indicate that, yeah, $DISENFRANCHISED_CATEGORY definitely has some statistical differences which justify concern.

    At which point my brain says, “we are not qualified to understand this, and furthermore, MOST people who listen to this screed are not qualified to understand this.” And my brain promotes the hypothesis “this person is lying with the technical truth”, rather than promoting the hypothesis “LOL these $DISENFRANCHISED_CATEGORYs are sub-humans and deserve whatever we superior beings do to them”.

    So, I attempt to communicate the idea “I don’t believe that your facts are organized in an honest fashion, and I am going to disregard them even though some of them seem legitimately worthy of investigation”. And my opponent may now scream at the top of his lungs, “LOL YOU DON’T CARE ABOUT THE TRUTH!”, and thus win the debate.

    This is frustrating, but I don’t know of any way of fixing it without increasing my IQ.

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    • Multiheaded says:

      I know that feel.

      This is frustrating, but I don’t know of any way of fixing it without increasing my IQ.

      The obvious answer is taking the debate meta (in a manner that the audience can follow); to an extent, that’s exactly what feminists (and some anti-racists) try to do. Unfortunately, when you’re this frustrated, don’t have tons of experience debating epistemology, and aren’t feeling up to the task of articulating your complex meta-level priors, you get tempted just to yell “Check your privilege!” as the cognitively cheapest meta thing.

      Gish Gallop

      In this particular context, I’ve seen someone refer to it as the “Galt Gallop”.

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      • Ialdabaoth says:

        …you get tempted just to yell “Check your privilege!” as the cognitively cheapest meta thing.

        I don’t, because I parse “Check your privilege!” as inherently hypocritical: the ability to retort anyone’s argument with “check your privilege!” is privileged.

        The non-privileged version of “Check your privilege!” conjugates slightly weirdly:

        Third-person – “I’m not sure that you or I are qualified to judge $SITUATION, given our lack of first-person experiences of that situation.”

        Second-person – “I’m not sure I’m comfortable with you casting judgment on a situation that I happen to be living, given that you don’t have to live it.”

        First-person – “Check your privilege, $INSULT.”

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  48. Michael Terry says:

    But I think what I am actually going to say is that, for the love of God, if you like bullets so much, stop using them as a metaphor for ‘spreading false statistics’ and go buy a gun.

    Or as Eminem told Source magazine’s founder Ray Benzino:

    If you’re that much of a gangsta, put the mic down/You should be out killing motherfuckers right now!

    http://rapgenius.com/Eminem-nail-in-the-coffin-lyrics#note-790780

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  49. Hainish says:

    Scott, first I want to thank you for blogging. Your consequentialism FAQ was extremely useful to me in organizing my thoughts regarding ethics, and my racetams just came in the mail.

    Second, I want to say that while much of the writing on this blog is amazingly good, your walled garden is not a place I find particularly welcoming. This is because I identify as a feminist and you (and many others in your community) identify as anti-feminist, and while I enjoy rationalist discourse, it seems to turn suddenly and strangely anti-rationalist whenever feminism is concerned. (I had not previously thought that rationalism and anti-feminism could be compatible, but you learn something new every day, right?)

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    • Alexander Stanislaw says:

      Where does Scott identify as anti-feminist? I’ve never heard anyone on this blog identify as such. I happen to think that most of MRA and feminism (the non-stupid bits anyway) are orthogonal and its entirely possible to identify as both, though perhaps the average person isn’t capable of such.

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      • Jai says:

        http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/01/12/a-response-to-apophemi-on-triggers/

        As for being an MRA and a Feminist – you could define each in a way that is compatible. But functionally, as references to social groups, they take opposition as a given. And the functional definition is what most people go by most of the time.

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        • Douglas Knight says:

          If any criticism of any feminist makes you an anti-feminist, then everyone is an anti-feminist.

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        • Jai says:

          Douglas Knight: This is true. My point isn’t so much that Scott is anti-feminism, as Scott attaches much more negative than positive affect to the movement (if not the idea).

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        • Douglas Knight says:

          Yes, Scott is pro-feminism and anti-feminist. Indeed, he is bothered by feminists because he identifies with them.

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        • Hainish says:

          I definitely DON’T think that Scott identifies as an MRA, and did not mean to imply that he does.

          And, in response to the comment below: It’s not *any* criticism of *any* feminist that I found off-putting, it’s the criticism of *all* feminism based on the actions of *any* feminist.

          And also, yes, I do completely get/agree with Scott’s criticisms of feminists who are anti-rationalist (if that’s even the best term to use), but that still doesn’t make this forum any less unwelcoming.

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        • Jai says:

          Scott is pro-feminism and anti-feminist.

          This roughly fits my-model-of-Scott, but I feel uncomfortable asserting that much on his behalf without his saying so explicitly.

          And also, yes, I do completely get/agree with Scott’s criticisms of feminists who are anti-rationalist (if that’s even the best term to use), but that still doesn’t make this forum any less unwelcoming.

          Am I correct in interpreting this as “criticisms of anti-rationalist feminism are fine, but there are other things that make this forum unwelcoming”? I ask because this could (uncharitably) be interpreted as implying “criticisms of anti-rationalist feminism make this forum less inviting”, which I don’t think you mean.

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        • Douglas Knight says:

          Your previous comment in which you gave a link in response to Alexander’s question is itself an assertion. Because you did not feel comfortable saying your opinion, you said a lie that you later disclaimed. I suggest that you examine your priorities.

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        • Hainish says:

          In response to this: “Am I correct in interpreting this as “criticisms of anti-rationalist feminism are fine, but there are other things that make this forum unwelcoming”?”

          Yes, roughly. Specifically, it’s criticisms of anti-rational feminism, that are insufficiently distinguished from criticism of any/all feminism, plus commenters who appear to be against any/all feminism.

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        • Jai says:

          Douglas Knight: I may have failed at communication. It would help if you could tell me what lie you perceive, and how I later denied it. There may be an illusion of transparency thing going on here, where you see a blindingly obvious intent in my post that I did not, in fact, intend.

          I am writing in good faith here – not lying, possibly making mistakes.

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        • Protagoras says:

          In fairness to Scott, Hainish, he doesn’t seem to be entirely thrilled with some of the commenters he’s gotten recently, so I don’t think he deserves to be blamed for them. Sure, there are things he could do to moderate the discussion, but any method of policing comments has costs.

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        • lmm says:

          @Protagoras

          I’d agree with that if we didn’t have Scott’s approving reply to Radish upthread. That has me utterly baffled.

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      • Hainish says:

        No offense to Scott, but yes, I do see anti-feminist statements made by Scott (and others), regularly. See the post on the Clymer statistic for examples.

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      • Ialdabaoth says:

        I happen to think that most of MRA and feminism are orthogonal and its entirely possible to identify as both, though perhaps the average person isn’t capable of such.

        Maybe it’s time to start co-opting terminology again.

        If people can try to make racism and sexism palatable by calling them “race realism” and “gender realism”, I hereby declare myself an “identity realist”.

        As an identity realist, I declare that there are profound and obvious cognitive differences within the human population, and that this spectrum of differences includes people who are profoundly extroverted and people who are profoundly introverted; people who are profoundly cisgendered and people who are profoundly transgendered; people who are profoundly neurotypical and people who are profoundly neurodeviant; people with profoundly exceptional intelligence and people with profoundly deficient intelligence, for all the different kinds of intelligence that a human mind can embody; people who profoundly systemize and people who profoundly discretize; people who easily fit into the default social roles that their society provides for them and people who would rather die than conform with those roles.

        As an identity realist, I recognize that within any sufficiently large social environment there will be people who absolutely fit any particular model of preferred role assignments, and people who absolutely fail to fit that model, and that attempting to force people into roles and identities that don’t suit them creates tension and dissatisfaction and all sorts of mean and nasty and ugly and horrible things.

        Finally, as an identity realist, I recognize that each person has the innate tendency to nurture and defend the identity that seems most natural and healthy to them, and to explore and build upon (or even transform) that identity as they develop and interact with their environment. And cultures which cultivate and guide those tendencies will tend to out-compete cultures which suppress and punish those tendencies, all else being equal.

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    • Jai says:

      1. Remember that rationalism doesn’t define terminal values. There is no reason a rationalist babyeater couldn’t exist.

      2. “Feminism” is a big, big word that seems to mean something different every time it’s written. If Scott hadn’t repeatedly called feminism awful, I’d probably consider him a feminist. He seems to have the values and goals that my-cluster-of-social-space associates with the word “feminism”, but finds the feminist-sphere that he observes (e.g. Tumblr) to be full of bullies and bad epistemology.

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      • Hainish says:

        1. Do you consider equal rights for women a terminal value?

        1a. Or, to address the point more directly: Rationalism doesn’t lead to horrific conclusions, generally. Why should I expect it to do so in this particular instance?

        2. Apparently so, and yes I agree with you that, from some of Scott’s actions and words, I would conclude that he is a feminist (his defense of more-explicit communication in romantic situations is an example).

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        • Jai says:

          1. My initial reaction was “Yes, or at least very close to one.” Then I thought about it more and realized this is a very good question.

          I could imagine an accurate description of my values where “equal rights for women” is an instrumental value in the service of a terminal value like “everyone should be able to live as fulfilling and meaningful a life as possible”. I can imagine a possible world where women can only be happy if they’re denied equal rights; I can imagine a symmetrical possible world where men can only be happy being subservient to women, and so on for any given permutation of groups – needless to say, I don’t think we live in such a world. In that sort of world I would oppose equal rights.

          Many NR’s argue that we live in such a world. In which case the divergence isn’t terminal values, but models of reality. If this is the case, then I rescind my earlier argument about terminal values, and offer in its place “NRs are working off a bad map”.

          In any event – I do hold “something-like equal rights for everyone” as a near-terminal value, which subsumes “equal rights for women”.

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        • Jai says:

          nydwracu: Bookmarked for reading when I’ve gotten more sleep.

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        • Jai says:

          Reply to 1a: I’m slightly confused by this question. Rationalism is for telling you how the world works and how to change it. You might _discover_ something horrifying, but you’re generally not going to make anything any worse by inquiring about it*.

          I’m (possibly reaching here) guessing that you’re (1) taking anti-feminism as a horrific conclusion and (2) wondering how rationality could lead to it.

          (If I’ve guessed wrong, come off as a condescending jerk, etc, my apologies)

          So first we need to unpack exactly what horrific conclusion we’re talking about. I’m guessing that your model of the horrific conclusion “anti-feminism” involves women being confined to strict gender roles, losing the right to vote, etc. That is pretty horrific! But (outside of the NR’s), nobody is supporting this horrific conclusion (and I think the NRs that are are either [1] working off a broken map or [2] carrying extremely alien terminal values).

          I’m pretty sure that when Scott posts about problems with feminism, his complaint is with bad epistemology, bullying, other bad side effects (e.g. some guys getting incredibly anxious that they’re making women uncomfortable), and self-proclaimed feminists who he thinks are doing more harm than good in the world.

          (Outside of NRs) everyone here agrees about the importance of equal rights, women’s suffrage, the injustice of historical inequities, etc. I’m pretty sure there’s widespread agreement about the lingering negative effects of prejudice as evidenced by, for example, Implicit Association Tests.

          So the (less horrific) conclusion that some rationalists come to isn’t that “equality is bad”, but “feminism in its current form has negative effects”.

          I have a more optimistic view of the current feminist movement than Scott does (we may be drawing our samples from different parts of the specimen), but I think we’re all on roughly the same page of terminal values.

          * Yes, some smart ass is going to point out that Omega could kick a puppy if and only if you’re curious about whether Omega kicks puppies or something

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        • lmm says:

          > Do you consider equal rights for women a terminal value?

          No; that seems a very odd thing to isolate as a terminal value. Something like “equality of all humans”, maybe.

          But I don’t think the feminist position obviously follows from desiring equality. What does valuing equality even mean in the context of rape allegations (which is where this extended discussion started)? I mean, women are at substantially higher risk of rape, but a male victim’s odds of getting justice are even worse than a female’s. It’s not at all obvious (at least to me) at what point assigning more or less credence to the possibility of a rape allegation being false increases or decreases equality.

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        • Hainish says:

          lmm, you’re free to choose your own terminal values, of course, but I don’t think it’s odd or narrow to include equality between genders as one of mine (esp. since it’s a necessary requisite for the broader equality you mention).

          “But I don’t think the feminist position obviously follows from desiring equality. What does valuing equality even mean in the context of rape allegations (which is where this extended discussion started)?”

          This may depend on one’s definition of “obvious.” If I think it’s a good thing for women to be able to go about without the looming threat of being raped, then obviously I will want rape to be taken seriously as a crime. With false rape allegations, other terminal values come into play (fairness, justice, etc.). But, I don’t want to turn this discussion into one about that particular issue, which has its own post devoted to it.

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        • lmm says:

          @Hainish I like to keep my terminal values as few and simple as possible. It seems weird and inelegant to have a whole bunch of different equality-across-this-axis values rather than a single general equality value, and for me it seems odd to single out gender or sex (though I appreciate that I’m unusually unattached to mine, so maybe it’s just me).

          I appreciate your restraint. I guess the point I was trying to make was: I believe in equality. But I don’t perceive the cluster that identifies itself as feminism as being in favour of equality, and on many of the issues discussed here, the position I see as “feminist” is an inequitable one. And so I might well (and probably have) make posts that criticize feminism; when I do so, I am not attacking equality.

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        • Hainish says:

          lmm, I responded to your comment in two parts:

          “I like to keep my terminal values as few and simple as possible. It seems weird and inelegant to have a whole bunch of different equality-across-this-axis values rather than a single general equality value, and for me it seems odd to single out gender or sex.”

          Weird and inelegant? Yup, that sounds like me! Though, I had never used the phrase “terminal value” until now, and would have previously described what it refers to as “axiomatic.” I guess I would say that I hold equality in general as an overarching terminal value that can be further broken down into several axis, as needed and as circumstances justify. Do circumstances justify paying particular attention to the gender axis? I think so. That’s not to imply that other axes are less-valued, though. They’re just not the ones I choose to emphasize in every situation.

          “I believe in equality. But I don’t perceive the cluster that identifies itself as feminism as being in favour of equality, and on many of the issues discussed here, the position I see as “feminist” is an inequitable one. And so I might well (and probably have) make posts that criticize feminism; when I do so, I am not attacking equality.”

          OK, that sounds like an accurate description of our differences. I don’t see feminism as a gaggle of people who behave a certain way, but as a basic statement of equality along the gender axis (and many feminist broaden this definition to include other/all axes). I _do_ notice the bad feminists out there, but I don’t conclude from them that feminism is bad, I just try to be better at feminism than they are. So, I end up supporting selective service registration for women (or, preferably, no one), which some feminists can’t bring themselves to do.

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    • Viliam Búr says:

      That’s strange. I always thought that Scott is as feminist as is possible within the constraint of being honest. Which sometimes becomes difficult… and a large part of this blog is precisely about that.

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  50. Walter says:

    In Longfellow’s famous poem King Olaf hears in the thunder Thor challenging Jesus to a battle. 90% of the poem is all about how King Olaf takes up the challenge on behalf of Christianity and goes about fighting the barbarians. Ultimately they prevail over him.

    Then Astrid hears in the seclusion of her chambers the voice of Saint John taking up the challenge of Thor with these words + some more.

    “It is accepted
    The angry defiance
    The challenge of battle!
    It is accepted,
    But not with the weapons
    Of war that thou wieldest!”

    “Cross against corselet,
    Love against hatred,
    Peace-cry for war-cry!
    Patience is powerful;
    He that o’ercometh
    Hath power o’er the nations!”

    To my mind refusing to fight is not refusing to win. Liberalism obliterates its rivals casually and thoroughly, without an overt contest.

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  51. nemryn says:

    Elua is the god of flowers and free love and he is terrifying. If you oppose him, there will not be enough left of you to bury, and it will not matter because there will not be enough left of your city to bury you in.

    See also: Fluttershy.

    And, note that whenever you have two seemingly-unstoppable forces like this, it’s only a matter of time before someone asks, “Well, so who would win in a fight?” And of course, the correct answer here is that they wouldn’t fight; they’d form a Cuddle Pile, drinking tea and braiding each other’s hair. Funny how that works.

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  52. Jeff Kaufman says:

    A brief summary of what I see as the core disagreement between Scott and Arthur: http://www.jefftk.com/p/lying-for-the-cause

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  53. BenSix says:

    A small side-track…

    And yet, outside of Saudi Arabia you’ll have a hard time finding a country that doesn’t at least pay lip service to liberal ideas. Stranger still, many of those then go on to actually implement them, either voluntarily or after succumbing to strange pressures they don’t understand.

    I believe that many influential groups and fingers in the Islamic world imitate the tropes of liberal discourse merely to promote their own illiberal doctrines. Abul A’la Maududi wrote an interesting book called Human Rights in Islam, for example, that skillfully redefined concepts of progressivism in accordance with Islamic dogma. Such tricks have allowed Islamists to obscure the regression of societies such as Egypt and Iran towards theocratic fundamentalism – trends that could be averted by the march of history but, hey, I wouldn’t bet on it.

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  54. Doug S. says:

    “If you ever piss off Phèdre nó Delaunay, run and never stop running.”

    A better plan would probably be to apologize, beg for forgiveness, and stop doing whatever it was that pissed her off in the first place. It’ll probably work. Running away has a lower success rate; it didn’t work out too well for that shape-shifter who fled to Siberia…

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  55. Doug S. says:

    “And yet, outside of Saudi Arabia you’ll have a hard time finding a country that doesn’t at least pay lip service to liberal ideas.”

    You forgot North Korea. (Is it just me, or am I right in thinking that is the only significant difference between North Korea and Saudi Arabia that Saudi Arabia sells oil?)

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    • lmm says:

      North Korea has nuclear weapons. Slightly less cynically, Saudi Arabia is more stable than its neighbours and allows the US to base troops there.

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      • Tab Atkins says:

        Saudi Arabia is “stable” at least in part because it sells oil, and thus is hyper-rich.

        (Even with that, though, they have a large, poverty-stricken underclass, not enough jobs in the economy, and they’ve been holding off youth revolution this generation by paying for scholarships to the best world universities. As those people return home, they’re not going to accept just putting away all those liberal Western values they’ve soaked up…)

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  56. Joe says:

    Awesome post Scott. An excellent take down of secular fideism. Im just afraid the friendly secularism you subscribe to is being squashed, particularly in Europe, by Islam, not by necessarily by direct violence but via birthrates and immigration. Am I just being paranoid or would you agree? I love your attitude towards the Jansenists by the way!

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  57. Brian says:

    Man, I genuinely love everything you write, and reading this made me very happy. Thank you.

    Reading the debate between you and the neoreactionaries has really forced my to change a lot of my political beliefs and values. I went from “everything is awful and people are dumb” to “things are pretty damn okay, and classical liberal policies are probably the best thing going on right now.” I think it’s an improvement.

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  58. Keratin says:

    Am I completely off-base in parsing the Arthur Chu quotes that open this article as a Social Justice version of the crazed self-help talk that a lot of MRAs traffick in?

    Because that’s what it’s sounding like to me.

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  59. misha says:

    “For the enemy is not Troll, nor is it Dwarf, but it is the baleful, the malign, the cowardly, the vessels of hatred, those who do a bad thing and call it good.”
    -
    — Terry Pratchett, Thud!

    The enemy wasn’t men, or women, or the old, or even the dead. It was just bleedin’ stupid people, who came in all varieties. And no one had the right to be stupid.

    Terry Pratchett, Monstrous Regiment

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  60. Nesh says:

    While I think that game theory backed standards of civility and trust and don’t agree with much of the “social justice” methods, you telling them to use respectful and civil methods is somewhat dismissive and shortsighted. You assume they are betraying the structures of liberalism that have helped them but the core of a extreme position is that the social contract is not your ally. If you believe the basic structure of property and . From the prospective of many by simply supporting the current rules, one’s opponents have already broken any basic assumption of community trust. To pull off some ideological acrobatics the key idea is related to the statement that “democracy is war with votes instead of weapons” popular in NR. If someone argues and sends money towards a cause that is against something you thinks is your right, such as arresting people on certain grounds or maintaining basically any property system, delivering and attacking them socially, emotionally, or even physically, is valid option no mater how civil, nice, or rule-abiding they are.

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  62. orthonormal says:

    Scott, I agree deeply with what you write, except that it bothers me your walled garden includes people who mine wouldn’t and vice versa. (There are too many NRs and others here who make lazily terrible arguments and snide insults against autonomous women, for instance; it makes me skip the comments on a lot of posts. Moreover, I can’t recommend your site to some people I care about and can have deep discussions with, because they’d get hurt and angry at several points, and if they commented at all here you might dismiss it as social-justice outrage, where I see it as more contentful.)

    However, I’m OK with tolerance being intransitive: I tolerate you, you tolerate X, but I don’t tolerate X. I wish you’d agree more with my boundaries, but it’s better for our gardens to form a Venn diagram than to be disjoint.

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    • Sniffnoy says:

      I will agree, there is a bit much of NRs slinging insults in the comments some of the time.

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      • sam245 says:

        I think Scott would agree to if his formerly an exception to the don’t read the comments section logo is anything to go by. (Just checked and he seems to have changed it again)

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        • Jai says:

          I’m pretty sure the tagline change was instigated by a (faux-) feminist comment complaining about the perceived sexism of a fable in which the prize was the King’s daughter. This in a fable where the King orders the execution of the protagonist at the end for basically no reason.

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        • houseboatonstyx says:

          Jai,

          I’m pretty sure the tagline change was instigated by a (faux-) feminist comment complaining about the perceived sexism of a fable in which the prize was the King’s daughter.

          (Faux-) feminist? In what way was it faux? And was the sexism perceived by the faux feminist, or by someone else?

          As for the tagline “Formerly an exception to ‘Don’t read the comments’ “, I’m pretty sure the prize for instigation was deserved by some comments on a previous thread including a prolific commentator called ‘JAD’, iirc.

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    • anonymous says:

      I think I agree with this, though I might have to stop reading the comments, because I do find the “all women who aren’t underweight, model attractive 22 year old virgins are ugly sluts who are destroying society” type comments incredibly difficult. I’ll keep reading the posts though.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      I want to fix this. Come up with a good idea for a comment policy that avoids obvious* failure modes and I’ll implement it.

      *in case they are not obvious, shouldn’t be too subjective, shouldn’t require constant vigilance from me, shouldn’t lead to drama and outrage

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      • Stille says:

        For what it’s worth, the best comment spaces I’ve seen tend to have an entirely subjective, what-pisses-off-the-moderator-vanishes policy. These are also the characteristics of the worst comment spaces, so it all depends on who the mod is, I guess.

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  63. Scott says:

    This “not using violence is dumb, because if you have this effective tool and you’re not using it, you’re handicapping yourself” argument leaves me wanting to check if there’s a “short-sightedness at time”, in the way we have myopia for shortsightedness at distance.

    An uncommon but seen-in-the-wild reductio for consequentialism is “you’d kill a healthy traveller to make donations of their organs to five patients in need”. The reductio is of course flawed because it’s trying to argue that the consequences of your decision (that you made based on the consequences) are actually bad, not good – the whole “collapse of trust in medical establishments” causing more harm than the net four lives saved. In which case, allow the consequentialist to predict the second-order consequences of their actions and they’ll just avoid the decisions that are actually bad while superficially good.

    In the same way, “violence is an effective tool” is just wrong. As you so eloquently put it, you allow violence and the edifice of cooperative non-conflict dissolves, into some kind of Hobbesian nightmare world. If you allow us to predict the second-order consequences of using violence to win arguments, we immediately recognise violence is NOT an effective tool.

    So stop saying we’re choosing to lose by avoiding violence. Perhaps if a formidable enough rationalist scrupulously avoids a seemingly-effective tool, you should consider that it is only superficially effective.

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  64. houseboatonstyx says:

    The norm against malicious lies follows this pattern. Politicians lie, but not too much. Take the top story on Politifact Fact Check today. Some Republican claimed his supposedly-maverick Democratic opponent actually voted with Obama’s economic policies 97 percent of the time. Fact Check explains that the statistic used was actually for all votes, not just economic votes, and that members of Congress typically have to have >90% agreement with their president because of the way partisan politics work. So it’s a lie, and is properly listed as one. But it’s a lie based on slightly misinterpreting a real statistic. He didn’t just totally make up a number.

    There’s a tactical reason, to illustrate which I pasted that long quote. There’s a saying in political journalism: “When you have to explain, you’ve already lost.”

    Someone tells a simple lie; it goes round the world. The more complicated the truth is, the longer it takes to get its boots on. And to a superficial audience, the explanation may sound like a confession, or being an ‘apologist’, or whatever. Anyway it gives the impression there was fire behind the smoke.

    Saying “He just made that up” is more effective. So liars avoid just making things up, for some audiences, anyway.

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  65. Giordano Mirandolla says:

    Obviously Scott does not have the wisdom and courage of the first emperor of China in regards to dealing with reactionaries.

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  66. Soundlogic says:

    Sometimes I worry about how much I enjoy being compared to part of a terrifying unspeakable elder god. Yet it makes me feel so warm and fuzzy on the inside.

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  67. VXXC says:

    Let us clarify our actual politics, as opposed to Progressive Religion and it’s detractors.*

    Our actual politics are Global Bankruptcy Settlement, with the USG playing Global Cop to the IMF’s (also part of USG) Global Slumlord extracting Rack Rents. Ukraine for instance seems not to have paid enough in 1994. Although the IMF was the worst thing for the Ukraine since Stalin, or perhaps Hitler. The Ukrainians are quite so mad at Hitler just right now. Then there’s your precious brown Brothers in Latin America. Not so precious they can’t be stripped bare. Our politics is a Bankruptcy Settlement, and while all these fascinating diversions are going on the Adults in the Government are stealing as much as they can before the final bubble (money) pops.

    These are our actual politics, not the Religions of Progressive Canon such as Social Justice. And we are not the ones robbing the world blind, you are. That’s your paycheck oh minions of the State. Your paystub was skinned off everyone but the 1% of the world, including in America. Who’s actual reckoning with Neo-Liberalism is about to begin, that’s why the Stanley Fischer gang is at the Federal Reserve.

    *NSA isn’t watching you, they’re watching all the rest of us. You are the State. NSA is watching everyone else.

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  68. Alexander Stanislaw says:

    It’s occurred to me that the social justice warriors are essentially the Pharisees – they believe themselves to be the holiest and they look down upon those who they think are wicked. Does that make Scott Jesus?

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    • Infact that is a core tenet of Neoreactionary thinking on liberalism – that it is cladistically descended from Christian Pharisees who later dropped Christ.

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    • Andy says:

      Though you can make the argument that every direction of thought will develop some amount of phariseeism – see Objectivism, Christianity, Judaism, parts of Islam, etc etc etc.
      I prefer to call this “righteous zeal,” generally, because I wasn’t raised Christian and the Gospels aren’t part of my frame of reference. So social justice has its zealots, the warriors, and it has people (like Scott and Ozymandias) who embrace the some of the goals without declaring themselves arbiters of all that is holy. I would bet that if Neoreaction grew large enough, especially among oppressed or traumatized people who can be a little messed up) we might well see a form of righteous zeal, though off the top of my head I can’t imagine what it would look like. Catholic traditionalism turned up to 11, mayhap? But even then, the righteous zeal wouldn’t be more than a minority of the Neoreactionary literati. Granted, a loud minorty, probably a very powerful one, but a minority still.

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  69. Cyan says:

    So here we are, two and a half days later, on comment 453. All I want to say is that as an avowed pro-feminist-ideals left-leaning Canuckistani, I’ve read Chu’s rebuttal, Scott’s rejoinder, and Chu’s responses, and I’m calling this one for Scott. There’s a reason why the ancient Greeks imagined the personification of truth as the mother of the personification of virtue.

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  71. Army1987 says:

    This comment thread is so freaking huge that my browser failed to load it all. It’s the first time this happens to me on Slate Star Codex.

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  72. Alexander Stanislaw says:

    The respectful way to rebut Arthur’s argument would be to spread malicious lies about Arthur to a couple of media outlets, fan the flames, and wait for them to destroy his reputation

    You jest, and yet Arthur seemed to be doing a tamer version of that in the Facebook thread – pretty grossly misrepresenting your positions (not relevant to this discussion) as a way of getting people to side with him.

    Also, while the bombast is entertaining to read, do you think it might be hindering your goal of convincing Arthur and the others who also found their way here?

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  74. qbsmd says:

    “He got his fake numbers by conflating rapes per sex act with rapes per lifetime, and it’s really hard for me to imagine someone doing that by anything resembling accident.”

    I’ll call Hanlon’s razor. I can believe that was an accident: it’s fundamentally a unit conversion error. I know I’ve personally put a value in kilometers into an equation that required meters or ‘g’s into an equation instead of m/s^2; it happens. After calculating the result, though, one must have the judgment to stop, scratch ones head and say “that’s not right; how did I screw that up?”, which is often expecting too much from people. This is why high schools teach factor-label unit conversion and college TAs take off points when answers don’t have units labeled.

    Also, thanks for the link to (http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2002/04/seeing-around-corners/302471/) That is probably the most interesting thing written on sociology I’ve read. Before today, I thought Hari Seldon was fictional.

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  76. Neo-Nazis fight nasty.

    Do they? I have neo nazi commentators on my blog. They know more about genetics and darwinism than the average progressive and engage in civil fact based discussion with me when I compare to them to communists. They cannot be trusted to be civil to my Jewish commentators, but neither can I trust my Jewish commentators to be civil to them – though perhaps the Jews have better excuse for incivility.

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  77. aplocar says:

    I feel that this is a good example of the way that certain segments of the Left (as awkward a category as that might be) has tended often to discount its *very best tools*. Consider the attitudes that Arthur wants to expunge most completely, along with other ‘pre-liberal’ notions of the past – under what conditions did these attitudes thrive? What was the approach to determining truth, and the environment of evidence in which that happened? And consider, how long would these attitudes have stood up in an epistemological environment resembling liberal modernity?

    Pre-Liberal Idea – “Kings rule by divine right, and the peasant rabble cannot rule themselves!”
    Pre-Liberal Truth Environment – “It’s right because the king, or the priests, or the nobles said so. And you’re not allowed to say differently!”
    Modern Liberal Epistemology – “Actually there’s no evidence that kings are inherently smarter or better than anybody else, we can actually sit people down and test their performance on various relevant tests about self-governance and organization. And also we can look at history and the record of different arrangements. Therefore people can govern themselves, at least no worse than a king could.” Bam. Easy.

    Pre-Liberal Idea – “With phrenology, we can measure the shapes of people’s skulls, and determine what kind of person they are – good, bad, honest, criminal, moron. Conveniently this corresponds to our group being the smartest and best! Also stupid people should be sterilized.”
    Pre-Liberal Environment – “People are biologically determined, and observable causal factors aren’t necessary to link two phenomena together. Also, what is a representative sample? We don’t care!”
    Modern Liberal Epistemology – “You don’t actually have a systematic way of determining any of your variables. Also, even if this was even slightly scientifically or statistically valid, which it’s not, that doesn’t mean you could say specific things about individuals, nor about how they should be treated, nor about their rights.” Basic empiricism. No problem.

    Pre-Liberal Idea – “Women are so emotional and childlike, they could never hold the sorts of jobs or responsibilities that men do, and their freedoms should be limited because they are not capable of the correspondent responsibility. And they cannot be educated into adult thinking.”
    Pre-Liberal Environment – “It’s fine to assume something can’t ever happen even if we’ve systematically prevented it from happening! We don’t know what selection bias is!”
    Modern Liberal Epistemology – “We actually let women have education and responsibilities and ran this social experiment, so to speak, and it turns out that they can be educated and responsible in basically the same way as men can be. The pre-liberal idea didn’t even try for evidence on this one.” Pre-Liberalism got rekt.

    Basically every single time the Big Lurching Monster of Liberalism turns its giant Eyeball of High Standards for Evidence to one of these issues, it turns out that rights-relevant, systematic human differences are statistically undetectable, individual characteristics cannot be effectively predicted by the classic categories of human division, and all this pseudo-scientific, take-it-on-faith, don’t-look-behind-the-curtain nonsense just disintegrates. From geocentrism to witch-hunting to gender essentialism, it has historically always yielded under the piercing gaze of the Monster.

    And then the Monster turns its Eyeball on something that would be very nice to think for some people. It would back them up, and look bad for their enemies (who after all, are the Monster of Liberalism’s enemies!). And all of a sudden this belief or fact disintegrates. And the calls ring out – “Put a blindfold on the Monster! Don’t let it look over here, only over there, where bad ideas are! Don’t let the Monster look at our things!”

    But why should we do that? The Monster has a *very* good record, after all. It seems to basically always do good things for humans. It has been blindfolded so much throughout history, it seems a bad idea to start doing that again.

    “Well if you won’t stop making it look over here, I’ll poke out its Eyeball! We don’t need the Monster anymore! We never did!”

    But the Monster of Liberalism got us to where we are, and its powers are not diminished! I hardly see how-

    “Down with the Monster! Boo! Damn you, Monster-lover!”

    (And this is where I start to wonder who liberalism’s enemies actually are.)

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  78. Doug S. says:

    How many divisions does the Pope have?

    – Joseph Stalin, missing the point

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