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Weak Men Are Superweapons

I.

There was an argument on Tumblr which, like so many arguments on Tumblr, was terrible. I will rephrase it just a little to make a point.

Alice said something along the lines of “I hate people who frivolously diagnose themselves with autism without knowing anything about the disorder. They should stop thinking they’re ‘so speshul’ and go see a competent doctor.”

Beth answered something along the lines of “I diagnosed myself with autism, but only after a lot of careful research. I don’t have the opportunity to go see a doctor. I think what you’re saying is overly strict and hurtful to many people with autism.”

Alice then proceeded to tell Beth she disagreed, in that special way only Tumblr users can. I believe the word “cunt” was used.

I notice two things about the exchange.

First, why did Beth take the bait? Alice said she hated people who frivolously self-diagnosed without knowing anything about the disorder. Beth clearly was not such a person. Why didn’t she just say “Yes, please continue hating these hypothetical bad people who are not me”?

Second, why did Alice take the bait? Why didn’t she just say “I think you’ll find I wasn’t talking about you?”

II.

One of the cutting-edge advances in fallacy-ology has been the weak man, a terribly-named cousin of the straw man. The straw man is a terrible argument nobody really holds, which was only invented so your side had something easy to defeat. The weak man is a terrible argument that only a few unrepresentative people hold, which was only brought to prominence so your side had something easy to defeat.

For example, “I am a proud atheist and I don’t like religion. Think of the terrible things done by religion, like the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church. They try to disturb the funerals of heroes because they think God hates everybody. But this is horrible. Religious people can’t justify why they do things like this. That’s why I’m proud to be an atheist.”

It’s not a straw man. There really is a Westboro Baptist Church, for some reason. But one still feels like the atheist is making things just a little too easy on himself.

Maybe the problem is that the atheist is indirectly suggesting that Westboro Baptist Church is typical of religion? An implied falsehood?

Then suppose the atheist posts on Tumblr: “I hate religious people who are rabidly certain that the world was created in seven days or that all their enemies will burn in Hell, and try to justify it through ‘faith’. You know, the sort of people who think that the Bible has all the answers and who hate anyone who tries to think for themselves.”

Now there’s practically no implication that these people are typical. So that’s fine, right?

On the other side of the world, a religious person is writing “I hate atheists who think morality is relative, and that this gives them the right to murder however many people stand between them and a world where no one is allowed to believe in God”.

Again, not a straw man. The Soviet Union contained several million of these people. But if you’re an atheist, would you just let this pass?

How about “I hate black thugs who rob people”?

What are the chances a black guy reads that and says “Well, good thing I’m not a thug who robs people, he’ll probably love me”?

III.

What is the problem with statements like this?

First, they are meant to re-center a category. Remember, people think in terms of categories with central and noncentral members – a sparrow is a central bird, an ostrich a noncentral one. But if you live on the Ostrich World, which is inhabited only by ostriches, emus, and cassowaries, then probably an ostrich seems like a pretty central example of ‘bird’ and the first sparrow you see will be fantastically strange.

Right now most people’s central examples of religion are probably things like your local neighborhood church. If you’re American, it’s probably a bland Protestant denomination like the Episcopalians or something.

The guy whose central examples of religion are Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama is probably going to have a different perception of religion than the guy whose central examples are Torquemada and Fred Phelps. If you convert someone from the first kind of person to the second kind of person, you’ve gone most of the way to making them an atheist.

More important, if you convert a culture from thinking in the first type of way to thinking in the second type of way, then religious people will be unpopular and anyone trying to make a religious argument will have to spend the first five minutes of their speech explaining how they’re not Fred Phelps, honest, and no, they don’t picket any funerals. After all that time spent apologizing and defending themselves and distancing themselves from other religious people, they’re not likely to be able to make a very rousing argument for religion.

IV.

In Cowpox of Doubt, I mention the inoculation effect. When people see a terrible argument for an idea get defeated, they are more likely to doubt the idea later on, even if much better arguments show up.

Put this in the context of people attacking the Westboro Baptist Church. You see the attacker win a big victory over “religion”, broadly defined. Now you are less likely to believe in religion when a much more convincing one comes along.

I see the same thing in atheists’ odd fascination with creationism. Most of the religious people one encounters are not young-earth creationists. But these people have a dramatic hold on the atheist imagination.

And I think: well, maybe if people see atheists defeating a terrible argument for religion enough, atheists don’t have to defeat any of the others. People have already been inoculated against religion. “Oh, yeah, that was the thing with the creationism. Doesn’t seem very smart.”

If this is true, it means that all religious people, like it or not, are in the same boat. An atheist attacking creationism becomes a deadly threat for the average Christian, even if that Christian does not herself believe in creationism.

Likewise, when a religious person attacks atheists who are moral relativists, or communists, or murderers, then all atheists have to band together to stop it somehow or they will have successfully poisoned people against atheism.

V.

This is starting to sound a lot like something I wrote on my old blog about superweapons.

I suggested imagining yourself in the shoes of a Jew in czarist Russia. The big news story is about a Jewish man who killed a Christian child. As far as you can tell the story is true. It’s just disappointing that everyone who tells it is describing it as “A Jew killed a Christian kid today”. You don’t want to make a big deal over this, because no one is saying anything objectionable like “And so all Jews are evil”. Besides you’d hate to inject identity politics into this obvious tragedy. It just sort of makes you uncomfortable.

The next day you hear that the local priest is giving a sermon on how the Jews killed Christ. This statement seems historically plausible, and it’s part of the Christian religion, and no one is implying it says anything about the Jews today. You’d hate to be the guy who barges in and tries to tell the Christians what Biblical facts they can and can’t include in their sermons just because they offend you. It would make you an annoying busybody. So again you just get uncomfortable.

The next day you hear people complain about the greedy Jewish bankers who are ruining the world economy. And really a disproportionate number of bankers are Jewish, and bankers really do seem to be the source of a lot of economic problems. It seems kind of pedantic to interrupt every conversation with “But also some bankers are Christian, or Muslim, and even though a disproportionate number of bankers are Jewish that doesn’t mean the Jewish bankers are disproportionately active in ruining the world economy compared to their numbers.” So again you stay uncomfortable.

Then the next day you hear people complain about Israeli atrocities in Palestine (what, you thought this was past czarist Russia? This is future czarist Russia, after Putin finally gets the guts to crown himself). You understand that the Israelis really do commit some terrible acts. On the other hand, when people start talking about “Jewish atrocities” and “the need to protect Gentiles from Jewish rapacity” and “laws to stop all this horrible stuff the Jews are doing”, you just feel worried, even though you personally are not doing any horrible stuff and maybe they even have good reasons for phrasing it that way.

Then the next day you get in a business dispute with your neighbor. Maybe you loaned him some money and he doesn’t feel like paying you back. He tells you you’d better just give up, admit he is in the right, and apologize to him – because if the conflict escalated everyone would take his side because he is a Christian and you are a Jew. And everyone knows that Jews victimize Christians and are basically child-murdering Christ-killing economy-ruining atrocity-committing scum.

You have been boxed in by a serious of individually harmless but collectively dangerous statements. None of them individually referred to you – you weren’t murdering children or killing Christ or owning a bank. But they ended up getting you in the end anyway.

Depending on how likely you think this is, this kind of forces Jews together, makes them become strange bedfellows. You might not like what the Jews in Israel are doing in Palestine. But if you think someone’s trying to build a superweapon against you, and you don’t think you can differentiate yourself from the Israelis reliably, it’s in your best interest to defend them anyway.

VI.

I wrote the superweapon post to address some of my worries about feminism, so it would not be surprising at all if we found this dynamic there.

Feminists tend to talk about things like “Men tend to silence women and not respect their opinions” or “Men treat women like objects rather than people” or “Men keep sexually harassing women even when they make it clear they’re not interested”.

Put like that, it’s obvious why men might complain. But maybe some of the more sophisticated feminists say “Some men tend to silence women and not respect their opinions”. Or “Some men keep sexually harassing women even when they make it clear they’re not interested.”‘

And the weak-man-superweapon model would suggest that even this weakened version would make lots of men really uncomfortable.

From feminist website Bitchtopia (look, I don’t name these websites, I just link to them): Not All Men Are Like That:

I’ve heard this counter-argument almost every single time I’ve tried to bring up a feminist issue with a man: “but not all men are like that!”…

Having to point out that not every man exhibits explicitly harmful behavior allows for oppression to continue because having to say “some men do harmful things” gives oppressors peace of mind…

Sure, white men–you were brought up to feel entitled to anything you wanted and now you see anyone trying to have opportunities equal to yours as a threat…

When you say, “not all men are like that!” what you’re really saying is, “I don’t want to have to think about my privilege as a white man, so I’m going to try to defer the blame to other guys because I clearly don’t act like that.”

Nice try.

Remember, not wanting to be stereotyped based solely on your sex is the most sexist thing!

This is not just an idiosyncracy of Bitchtopia (look! I’m sorry! I swear I didn’t name that website!). There’s also an entire notallmenarelikethat dot tumblr dot com (of course there is) and it’s now a feminist meme abbreviated NAMALT.

But of course, it’s not just feminists. The gender-flipped version of feminism has the same thing. From men’s rights blog “The Spearhead”, which is not quite as badly named but still kind of funny if you think of it in a Freudian way:

Talking about the current sad state of dating and marriage in the USA will often elicit “Not All Women Are Like That” or NAWALT.

The first thing is not to contradict whoever makes that claim. Why? Because it is true. Not all women are skanks, attention whores or predators. The MRA cause is not helped by attacking people who speak truthfully.

[But the consequence of a] false positive is that a man ends up married to a skank, sociopath or gold digger. The cost of bad wife selection is so high that he is forced to turn away good women for fear of mistakenly choosing a bad one.

More polite and scientific than the feminist version, but the point is he expects men’s rights readers to be so familiar with “not all women are like that” that he’s perfectly comfortably abbreviating it NAWALT. Apparently there’s even a NAWALT video.

I don’t know where to find neo-Nazi blogs, but I’ll bet if there are some, they have places where they talk about how annoying it is when people try to distract from the real issues by using the old NAJALT.

VII.

But I shouldn’t make fun of NAJALT. There really are two equal and opposite problems going on here.

Imagine you’re an atheist. And you keep getting harassed by the Westboro Baptist Church. Maybe you’re gay. Maybe you’re not. Who knows why they do what they do? Anyway, they throw bricks through your window and send you threatening letters and picket some of your friends’ funerals.

And you say “People! We really need to do something about this Westboro Baptist Church! They’re horrible people!”

And you are met by a wall of religious people saying “Please stop talking about the Westboro Baptist Church, you are making us look really bad and it’s unfair because not all religious people are like that.”

And you say “I really am not that interested in religion, I just want them to stop throwing bricks through my window.”

And they say “Hey! I thought we told you to stop talking about them! You are unfairly discrediting us through the inoculation effect! That is epistemically unvirtuous!”

So the one problem is that people have a right not to have unfair below-the-belt tactics used to discredit them without ever responding to their real arguments.

And the other problem is that victims of nonrepresentative members of a group have the right to complain, even though those complaints will unfairly rebound upon the other members of that group.

Atheists who talk about the Westboro Baptist Church may be genuinely concerned about the Westboro Baptist Church. Or they may be unfairly trying to tar all religious people with that brush. Religious people have to fight back, even though the Westboro Baptists don’t deserve their support, because otherwise the atheists will have a superweapon against them. Thus, a stupid fight between atheists who don’t care about Westboro and religious people who don’t support them.

VIII.

This gives me some new views on political coalitions. I always thought that having things like political parties was stupid. Instead of identifying as a liberal and getting upset when someone insulted liberals or happy when someone praised liberals, I should say “These are my beliefs. There are other people who believe approximately the same thing, but the differences are sufficient that I just want to be judged on my own individual beliefs alone.”

The problem is, that doesn’t work. It’s not my decision whether or not I get to identify with other liberals or not. If other people think of me as a liberal, then anything other liberals do is going to reflect, positively or negatively, on me. And I’m going to have to join in the fight to keep liberals from being completely discredited, or else the fact that I didn’t share any of the opinions they were discredited for isn’t going to save me. I will be Worst Argument In The World-ed and swiftly dispatched.

In the example we started with, Beth chose to stand up for the people who self-diagnosed autism without careful research. This wasn’t because she considered herself a member of that category. It was because she decided that self-diagnosed autistics were going to stand or fall as a group, and if Alice succeeded in pushing her “We should dislike careless self-diagnosees” angle, then the fact that she wasn’t careless wouldn’t save her.

Alice, for her part, didn’t bother bringing up that she never accused Beth of being careless, or that Beth had no stake in the matter. She saw no point in pretending that boxing in Beth and the other careful self-diagnosers in with the careless ones wasn’t her strategy all along.

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533 Responses to Weak Men Are Superweapons

  1. gunlord500 says:

    I think you’re probably spot-on with this entry, Scott. Alas, if you are, it doesn’t bode well for the willingness or even ability of *any* group to “police” its more extreme members to any appreciable extent. :(

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    • Adelene says:

      Not necessarily, I think.

      One pattern I’ve seen often enough that I think of it as almost a default one is for someone to do the NAMALT thing and get a response of ‘sure, but what are you doing about the guys who are doing the thing under discussion?’, which has the potential to go in good directions both in terms of getting the original problem solved and in terms of defusing the superweapon, if the NAMALT-sayer has a halfway decent answer. I’ve never seen that happen in practice, though – maybe I don’t spend enough time in gender politics circles to see it, but as far as I can tell there are guys who work on those problems and guys who go around saying NAMALT to feminists and those groups don’t overlap at all, which is part of why saying NAMALT has such a bad reputation – it’s weak-to-moderate evidence that someone is like that.

      (Of course, showing that you’re working to solve the problem is only viable when there’s a problem to be solved; in the autism self-diagnosis case, for example, I’ve never seen any actual evidence (or indeed anything beyond completely unsupported bald assertions) that frivolous self-diagnosers are hurting anyone or doing anything worse than possibly being a bit annoying, so there’s really no reason to try to get them to stop, and expecting me to choose between putting time into trying to stop them anyway or letting someone build a superweapon against me would be pretty assholish. Fortunately if the ‘talk about what you’re doing to solve the problem’ script becomes common, it’s pretty easy to hijack that to say ‘wait, what problem?’)

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      • ThePrussian says:

        Thought it was an excellent post. The thing is that many ideological terms are a bit ‘rubbery’.

        On the other hand, I have spent the last few weeks jousting with neoreactionaries and racialists who get all upset when they are lumped in with neo-Nazis and out and out fascists, yet have no, that is absolutely, _no_ compunction about lumping in modern social democracy and capitalism with the slavery of the Deep South, or Stalin’s Russia.

        Argh.

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      • gunlord500 says:

        Heh, that’s a good reply…made me feel a little more optimistic, at least–thanks :) Even so, I’m not sure it’d be that effective. The deflection works if the NAXALT sayer can explain what they’re doing to solve the problem, but in many cases it depends on whether the other person would be happy with it. A guy saying “I’m not like that!” to a feminist and then explaining that he tries to solve the problem of men who “are” like that in whatever way would likely be told he’s not doing enough about the problem, or something similar. :/

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      • Randy M says:

        This reminds me of the lawyer joke, something to the effect of the defense closing with “There was no crime, my client didn’t do it, and he has a perfect excuse for having done it!”

        The defense to “men/women do x” tends to be all of “not all men/women do x, x isn’t so bad, and besides, women/men do x as well!”

        And of course, all of those may even be true at once, for any given accusation of x, or none of them, but used collectively will seem like a weak case.

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        • Adelene says:

          That’s not what I’m suggesting here at all, though – if the x in question is hurting people, certainly you shouldn’t say it’s not bad or that it’s okay for one group to do it just because another group does, and if it isn’t, then the NAxALT argument is a weird one to be making in the first place.

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        • ozymandias says:

          I dunno if someone’s like “all bi people are promiscuous!” I am probably going to want to say “not all bi people are promiscuous! Also there’s nothing wrong with being promiscuous!”

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        • Randy M says:

          The confusion comes in when an emotionally laden charge is made in response to behavior that one side perceives as wrong (or contributing enough to a wrong to earn the name) and the other disputes it. For example, take the radical, verging on strawman (I hope) feminist position of “All heterosexual sex is rape! You are a rapist!”
          I might both dispute that I deserve that label and also dispute that the expanded definition of rape introduced is now a category consisting of only bad things.

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        • Andy says:

          For example, take the radical, verging on strawman (I hope) feminist position of “All heterosexual sex is rape! You are a rapist!”

          Nope, it’s a real radical-feminist position, google “PIV = rape” if you want to find it.

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        • Anonymous says:

          It is real, but it is not common.

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        • bem says:

          I actually think that the three arguments in that lawyer joke do often go together (which is why, as Adeline says, invoking NAxALT tends to generate the suspicion that the speaker, at least, may indeed be like that). For instance, I’ve seen a number of responses to discussions of rape (not radfem discussions!) that go, roughly:

          1-Not all men are rapists!
          2-Men can be raped/women can rape too!
          3-Consent is really confusing, it’s easy to make a mistake.

          1 & 2, to my mind, are not actually functioning as arguments on their own in this instance–they’re there to provide validity-by-association for the last point, which is that rape is easy to commit by accident (and by extension, isn’t that bad). The person arguing isn’t really interested in proving that NAxALT, per se: they’re interested in using NAxALT, which is usually pretty self-evident, to lend validity to whatever other argument they’re advancing, which is often some version of, “This subject is not worth discussing or dealing with, you should stop talking about it.” While some people may be genuinely concerned to prove that NAxALT, it’s frequently not really an argument in good faith.

          (Which, I guess, starts to make it a weapon of its own, because if someone gets trapped into arguing against NAxALT, then suddenly you have, “Alice believes that all men are rapists!” Hi, Bitchtopia!)

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        • Sniffnoy says:

          “There was no crime, my client didn’t do it, and he has a perfect excuse for having done it!”

          I think it’s worth making explicit here that, while this argument is contradictory, there’s nothing contradictory about “There was no crime; furthermore, even if there were a crime, my client couldn’t have done it; furthermore, even if they had done it, they would have had a perfectly valid excuse for doing so.”

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        • bem says:

          True, Sniffnoy, but used all at once, they’re going to look like a bad case of “The lady doth protest too much.”

          It also isn’t entirely perfect as an analogy, because while the point of a lawsuit is to prove individual innocence, NAxALT is usually not just about proving that “I, personally, am not like that.” Scott’s Alice/Beth anecdote is a good example of this–Beth can always decide that Alice simply isn’t talking about her, but instead she introduces her own experience as a representative example of what a self-diagnosis of autism might look like, hoping to replace Alice’s (much less sympathetic) representation.

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      • Meredith L. Patterson says:

        as far as I can tell there are guys who work on those problems and guys who go around saying NAMALT to feminists and those groups don’t overlap at all, which is part of why saying NAMALT has such a bad reputation – it’s weak-to-moderate evidence that someone is like that.

        There’s a confounder here, though: what are the feminists in this example willing to recognise as “work on those problems”? (Oh look, recursively weaponised categories!) As a hypothetical synthesised from a few real-life experiences I’ve had, suppose that a hypothetical (male) NAMALT says, “You say all men support and benefit from rape culture, but NAMALT! I train women to shoot and help them get their concealed-carry permits, on my own time for free!”

        Hypothetical feminist: “You’re missing the point. We need to teach men not to rape; telling women to learn to defend themselves is victim-blaming.”

        The HN is, understandably, upset, because he understands “rape culture” to mean something like “a culture where people are able to rape with few consequences,” and when people are individually trained and equipped to defend themselves from assault, there will be examples of people who successfully defended themselves. Yay consequences! Yay less rape! Isn’t this what the HF wants? Moreover, he’s not just telling women to learn to defend themselves, he’s putting his time, skills and money where his mouth is.

        To the HF, “doing the work” means … something different. I don’t want to straw-man the HF here, because while I can understand the motivation for wanting to educate people about consent and, e.g., intoxication, I am pretty baffled when I see what looks like feminists refusing to consider self-defense a valid response to the population that commits most rapes: serial offenders who know what they’re doing, and who will not be helped by being educated about other people’s boundaries. (Cf. Lisak/Miller.)

        If somebody who understands the HF’s position better could steelman it for me here, I’d appreciate it.

        Edited to add: On reflection, the individual strategy of “do not invest in self-defense training” strikes me as a particularly bad one if the group utility function is that utility is inversely proportional to the prevalence of rape. If this strategy becomes universal, it becomes impossible to drive the prevalence of rape down to zero (assume continued population growth, and assume the continued existence of sociopaths) because every rapist has the opportunity to complete at least one successful rape before being removed from the population (i.e., into prison). Self-defense strategies are aimed at lowering that opportunity.

        “Suspect everyone” is one kind of self-defense strategy, which I suppose explains Schroedinger’s Rapist from a game-theoretic perspective, but gosh that has to be a lousy way to live.

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        • ozymandias says:

          The HF’s position is actually looking at the rape survivor side rather than the rape prevention side. A lot of people freeze up or forget their self-defense training in stressful situations such as assaults (this is true for situations that go beyond rape). So there’s a worry that this would lead to survivors blaming themselves and others blaming the survivor or thinking that if it was a real rape the survivor would have shot them.

          Also, a lot of rapes are committed by a friend or romantic partner, and it is really not realistic or desirable to expect everyone to be prepared to commit violence against their loved ones at any time.

          Alsoalso a lot of feminists are on Team Liberal and Team Liberal doesn’t like routine gun carrying because they’re afraid it increases violence.

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        • ozymandias, I think there are some other pieces to the argument– I’m not steelmanning because I’m not sure I can.

          One is that women have been given advice for a long time about being careful/fighting back, and neither has been shown to be a good general solution to lessening the amount of rape.

          The HF solution, as I understand it, is to move the overton window so that rape isn’t a thinkable action. I don’t think this is completely achievable, but there are obvious cultural differences in violence. For example, there are places where throwing acid in people’s faces is a fairly normal reaction to being very angry at them, and there are places where people don’t do that.

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        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          I would argue that the HF’s position is actually “Don’t undermine my statements about rape culture!” This is basically my reading of Bitchtopia on NAMALT.

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        • anon says:

          The point that sometimes self-defense doesn’t always work also looks like this very same argument made against the concept of victim even trying to defend itself. It seems to encourage actual rape (we can ascribe it to incompetence, but that’s what it ultimately boils down to as more rape would mean a greater problem, and more resources allocated to feminist organizations, so they would have a financial interest to encourage rape).

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        • bem says:

          Okay, here’s my perspective on the hypothetical feminist who’s against self-defense training as a preventive measure for rape. While I have a lot of disagreements with people who dismiss self defense training in all circumstances, there are also valid reasons why it doesn’t necessarily work for as a broad solution to the problem of rape:

          1- As ozymandias said, many rapes are committed by friends or partners, in the victim or partner’s home. Most people will not want to seriously injure their friends (and they certainly won’t be carrying a gun at home and ready to use it at a moment’s notice).

          2- Self defense classes are time-consuming and also expensive. Guns, if that’s the way you want to go, are more expensive, and there are legal issues with carrying one. You can’t bring a gun to a club, or on to a college campus, or carry one if you’re a minor. This means that there are access issues with promoting self-defense as the major component of an antirape campaign: people who can invest a lot of time and money might reduce their risk, but the majority of people won’t be able to. Essentially, it’s an undue burden to expect women to do all this just to maintain bodily safety.

          3-Many rapists use alcohol to incapacitate their victims. This makes self-defense unfeasible. So you either have to make your position “Women should take extensive self defense classes, and not drink,” or admit that self defense won’t really address a large number of rapes. Like #2, this added prescription places an undue burden on women, suggesting that they should abstain from normal activities just to maintain a minimum level of safety.

          So I think.that a lot of people who react negatively to the idea of promoting self defense as an antirape measure are reacting to one or more of these reasons that self-defense isn’t, to put it broadly, scalable, and then worrying that promoting self defense anyway will increase the burden of guilt/blame on survivors.

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        • That particular sort of quite real feminist is also opposed to telling women to not drink.

          On the societal level, I have no idea of what’s likely to work. It’s certainly true that there are a lot of people who are not deterred from drinking by being told they shouldn’t or by having suffered bad consequences by drinking. On the other hand, it’s not obvious that not telling women to not drink (even if accompanied by other anti-rape messages) is going to make rape less likely.

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        • hf says:

          Confused the hell out of me for a second there. (Speaking of Scott’s history with dirty tricks online!)

          My actual position is that you took literally two paragraphs to go from praising self-defense to badmouthing the Schroedinger’s Rapist post, despite the fact that guns don’t help if you let someone get close enough to disarm you because you failed to “suspect everyone”.

          I have seen people on Less Wrong criticizing women for not taking precautions against rape. I have seen them criticize women for being paranoid (and hate on the same old post in doing so). Usually I think these are different people, but I imagine it often feels like society (and nerd-society in particular) will criticize women regardless. I also imagine this leads to either no effect on women’s behavior, general defensiveness, or learned helplessness.

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        • ozymandias says:

          Nancy: I think there’s also a thing where fear of rape is used to control women: don’t drink, don’t go out late at night, don’t dress like that, don’t go to that sort of party… Indeed, sometimes these messages seem to encourage outright constant paranoia: always watch your drink, carry your keys between your fingers, always be aware of your surroundings, always have a rape whistle on you. I think it is a reasonable feminist position that there should not be a burden on women that there is not on men, particularly one that is significantly limiting to women’s lives. Drunk parties aren’t IME fun if you don’t drink, and a lot of e.g. college campus social life revolves around drinking. It is unfair and unlikely to work to tell women they have to avoid their campus social life.

          You also oppose “suspect everyone” and “have self-defense training,” but a fair amount of self-defense training *is* about being suspicious of people. Like, maybe you’re prepared to shoot strangers or home invaders. Are you prepared to shoot a man whose house you’re visiting alone? Are you prepared to shoot your husband or your boyfriend? I’m sure as hell not.

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        • ozy, I just want to underline that I’m *not sure* whether some of the advice in favor of caution is so bad that it shouldn’t be said. I agree that some of the advice is so extreme that it adds up to shutting one’s life down.

          It’s hard for me to be sympathetic on not shutting down “don’t get drunk around people you don’t know” advice because I don’t enjoy drinking or being around drunk people, so I have no empathetic understanding of what people get out of it, though it’s clear that a lot of people want that.

          In favor of shutting down the advice, that advice does imply that people who victimize those who are drunk have no responsibility for their actions, especially when there’s no comparatively pervasive advice about behaving responsibly when drinking, except for not driving.


          At one point of the night of the incident, Westlake, who was sober, determined that his friend Mark Cole was too drunk to make a 10-minute drive home. At first, Cole refused to turn over his keys, claiming he could operate his Volkswagen Jetta just fine. Westlake was undeterred, though, eventually “tricking” Cole by waiting for him to relax and then forcibly seizing the keys.

          Yet maybe a half-hour later, Westlake walked in on the girl, sprawled out naked in the middle of a basement floor. To her side was Mays, exposed and slapping his penis on the girl’s hip. Behind her was Richmond, who, Westlake said, was violating her with two fingers.

          Westlake said goodbye to the guys and kept walking. A good friend with his eye on the safety of others just minutes before was suddenly unaware or unsure of what to do – or simply uncaring enough to do anything at all.

          Now that I think about it, I haven’t seen anything about how people learn what their limits are on alcohol, and how they remember those limits when they’re somewhat drunk.

          We have evidence that “be cautious” advice doesn’t work. We have a hypothesis with some reasons behind it that shutting down “be cautious” advice in favor of “behave decently” will work better, but it hasn’t been tested.

          I believe that “behave decently” will discourage marginal rapists and make life harder for committed predators, but it’s a prediction, not a truth.

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        • Meredith L. Patterson says:

          My actual position is that you took literally two paragraphs to go from praising self-defense to badmouthing the Schroedinger’s Rapist post, despite the fact that guns don’t help if you let someone get close enough to disarm you because you failed to “suspect everyone”.

          I’m sorry that you consider a position I legitimately hold, which I took particular care to identify as an opinion about the extreme case of a type of game-theoretic strategy, to be “badmouthing,” which I take to mean “disparaging without substance.” If you’re using that term some other way, it would be useful to know how you mean it.

          I mentioned in a thread somewhere down the page that I’m a computer security researcher. That work is basically about two things: 1) risk analysis, 2) making risk analysis more effective (fewer false positives or false negatives) or take less effort. I mostly work on 2. So, that’s the perspective from which I look at Schroedinger’s Rapist: “suspect everyone” floods you with false positives for the sheer numerical reason that most people, of whatever gender, do not want to rape anybody. The other extreme, “suspect no one,” still floods you with false negatives, but you don’t run into anywhere near as many of those as you would false positives if you suspected everybody.

          But this is still talking about extrema and honestly either extreme is just silly when we’re talking about an analog problem. So, okay, maybe the Schroedinger’s Rapist shot was a bit cheap, but I promise I was trying to use it to illustrate a point about math.

          Risk modeling is one of the wickeder wicked problems, and learning it requires more time investment than most people are willing to put in. The US military is actually pretty good at teaching the fundamentals, or at least they were when I was in basic training. Engineering schools (not software engineering) are as well. Adapting those fundamentals to social situations has worked out unusually well for me and a lot of engineers I know, but trying to talk about this in anything resembling public tends not to end well for some reason I still haven’t pieced together.

          There’s a second piece to this, of course, which ozy brought up earlier (btw, the “looking at the survivor side rather than the prevention side” insight was enlightening, thanks for sharing that!), namely willingness/ability to respond to violence with violence. There’s certainly a particular mindset that one needs to be able to enter in order to act violently (or, well, several sorts of mindset, really), and consciously deciding “I am going to fuck this person up,” even under duress, even with training, can be legitimately hard. And, hell, sometimes even when you have the presence of mind to grab a coffee cup and brain the drunk guy in your hotel room who doesn’t want to hear “no,” the cops don’t necessarily want to hear about it (as happened to a friend of mine, who blogged about the experience). The whole fucking system is broken, and in keeping with the dolorous tenor of the comments to this post, while it would be really nice to be able to rely on the social systems we construct around us to protect us from bad actors, when those systems fail, all we have is ourselves. It is possible to be proactive about risk in a healthy (i.e., non-paranoid) way. It is possible to model the possible actions of bad actors without becoming a bad actor oneself. But it is really hard to have conversations about that in feminist spaces without getting shot down as a victim-blamer.

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        • Earnest_Peer says:

          So someone upthread asked what is actually effective against rape (I think? at least someone should’ve), and since this seems to be the most important as well as least-discussed part of this discussion, I present to you Dr. Emily Nagoski’s opinion on how to prevent sexual assault and rape: What’s actually wrong with telling women not to drink?

          The short version is: You don’t try to act on either the victims or the rapists. For what you do instead is teach outsiders how to spot and stop sexual assault.

          Also: “Suspect everyone” is not the actual point of the actual “Schrödinger’s Rapist” article, but that fact seems to have caught on nowhere.

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        • Meredith L. Patterson says:

          what you do instead is teach outsiders how to spot and stop sexual assault.

          Well, yes. The thing is, everyone is an outsider (in this frame of reference) at one time or another, so when everyone learns how to assess a potential-sexual-assault situation (i.e., learns some risk analysis skills in that problem domain) in order to perform this role effectively when the need arises, everyone coincidentally also learns the sorts of risk analysis skills that one needs as part of being able to protect oneself effectively in the all-else-fails lifeboat scenario (necessary, but not sufficient). I consider this a win-win situation. One might not be in a condition to use those skills at a particular moment of crisis, but having them broadly distributed among a population is better than not having them, for both individuals and groups.

          And yes, I cop to presenting the vulgar interpretation of Schroedinger’s Rapist, but as you point out, it is also the widespread one. Communication errors happen. Error correction is a thing. None of these texts are sacred. It is okay.

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        • Earnest_Peer says:

          @Meredith: I really don’t know what to answer to you, because you start out with “Well, yes. The thing is…” which sounds like you’re about to disagree with me, but you never really do, or am I reading you wrong?

          You’re saying that teaching people how to identify assault from the outside will also have the benefit of helping people when they are assaulted themselves. I agree! I also agree that this is a good thing and another reason to teach people how to identify assault from the outside and react properly. Why the “The thing is…”?

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        • Meredith L. Patterson says:

          Earnest_Peer: You’re right, I’m agreeing with you. The “The thing is…” bit was meant as a slightly frustrated observation of the fact that there is considerable overlap between the sets of group-defense skills and self-defense skills, including obvious ones like nonviolent communication / talking people down and less obvious ones like identifying and breaking the bystander effect.

          Why frustrated? Because the similarity makes it so easy to pattern-match the wrong category. One would think the overlap between skill sets would be obvious to both group-safety-preferring and individual-safety-preferring people. Ideally, people at all points along that preference spectrum should be able to teach and learn from each other, selecting for themselves which skills they want to develop. But the preferences actually seem to get in the way, in a way that I’m having trouble articulating.

          Let me see if an example will help. Several commenters upthread have remarked that they don’t think they could bring themselves to violence against an intimate partner who was assaulting them. Other people in the world do have that capacity, or the related capacity to respond violently to break up a violent situation in progress. Of people who don’t have the capacity to respond violently themselves, some are okay with third parties responding violently on their behalf and some aren’t.

          I realise I’m generalising from anecdata here, but I typically see “no violence, ever” clustering with survivor-side, group-safety-oriented preferences and “shoot your attacker” clustering with prevention-side, individual-safety-oriented preferences. Again, those are extrema, and it seems like there’s a perceptual distance-from-oneself-in-preference-space beyond which communication breaks down, because even if the person you’re talking to is trying to act in furtherance of your preferences (e.g., help you learn the group-defense skills you want to learn), if they express a preference that feels too “far away” to you, you run the risk of pattern-matching them into the wrong category.

          I feel like I’m doing a terrible job of explaining this. I could use a whiteboard.

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        • Anon says:

          I think HF may (unintentionally) be trying to defend against something similar to the Weak Man Superweapon here. After all, even if providing self-defense training increases the utility of women who are trained it has a spill-over effect of discrediting those who aren’t trained. Someone can easily blame a Hypothetical Victim by claiming that if they really wanted to be safe they would have gotten training. Thus, HF has to defend HV by arguing against training even if the obvious utility of such an argument is negative.

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      • philh says:

        > as far as I can tell there are guys who work on those problems and guys who go around saying NAMALT to feminists and those groups don’t overlap at all, which is part of why saying NAMALT has such a bad reputation – it’s weak-to-moderate evidence that someone is like that.

        There are also guys who don’t work on those problems but are not like that. This is consistent with what you said, but… well, I guess I’m saying “NA(NAMALT)ALT”.

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        • Xycho says:

          Human beings (broad generalisation) generate suffering for themselves and for others, and there’s not much that can be done about it on a grand scale. The most sensible response is to avoid actively generating any for anybody nonconsenting yourself, to neither censure nor condone those who do, and to bask in the schadenfreude generated by those on the receiving end. I’m reasonably sure that I’m one of a small minority who experience civilisation-scale schadenfreude, (unless that’s a never-admitted reason why newspapers have war correspondents?) but it ought to work anyway if observed on a small scale.

          Thus, there are also a fair few who aren’t ‘like that’ and yet really aren’t invested in how the problem is resolved; it’s interesting, and we want to see how it pans out, but there’s no real preference as to the result. If the women arm themselves, great, we have escalation! If the serial rapists start wearing body armour, we have an unexpected level of forward thinking in the unprofitable class of criminal. On the other hand, if a few of them acquire rapid lead poisoning and the general rate of rape goes down, we have proof of firearms as a deterrent. Both results are worth noticing.

          Similarly, if we find ourselves in a society where everyone is equally educated, paid according only to the work they do, and at no risk of finding themselves stoned for infidelity or whatever, that would be awesome – not to mention fascinating as a study on what humans would find to fight over next – but then again our current society is it its own way worth watching.

          There seem to be many variants on the view that X group ‘don’t know’ that Y group is oppressed, or ‘think it’s OK’. I’ve never actually been sure whether that’s supposed to be a condemnation or an excuse; is forgiving people for doing nothing because they didn’t know there was a problem a thing, or are people morally required to be aware of other people’s suffering? In any case, there is no visibility of the concept that human conflict could be consciously recognised and yet regarded with about the same moral tag as gravity, i.e. “it just IS, and we have fun in that framework, but if you find a way to turn it off we can work with that too, once the weirdness wears off”. (Compare “it’s not OK, I’d like to fly and being earthbound makes me cry!”/”It’s OK, we function really well in pseudo-2D and everything floating would disrupt society!”)

          So. NAMALT. NAWALT, either. Probably NA(X)AL(Y) is a valid assumption for the vast majority of X and Y within human mindspace. Is the conclusion from this simply that Not All People [Are] Like Each Other?

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        • philh says:

          I was more thinking of people who acknowledge that there’s a problem, and would prefer there not to be a problem; but don’t do anything to work on it because it seems low-value compared to global poverty or X-risk reduction, or just because of low motivation and akrasia.

          I think that if we vilify people who acknowledge a problem without trying to solve it, we’ll turn most of them into people who don’t acknowledge the problem, not into people who are trying to solve the problem.

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      • Scott Alexander says:

        But do you have to show evidence that you are working on solving a problem not to be stereotyped?

        Like, with the black example above, suppose someone said “I hate it when black thugs rob people”. And a black person said “Not all black people are thugs”. And then the original speaker responds “Fine, but if you don’t want to be called a thug then provide me evidence that you are working to solve crime, oh, you’re not, then I guess you’re one of THOSE black people”. That’s a really really bad response.

        Why should that black person have the burden to personally solve crime? What if that black person is working on curing cancer or something else not related to race instead?

        For some reason this strikes me as much creepier than just saying “Yeah, accidentally stereotyping you is important for these other reasons, sorry.”

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      • Jack Crassus says:

        At my tech startup workplace, feminists feel free to forward feminist articles to company mailing lists. Some of them are full of unfair generalizations and insults directed at men and white men in particular.

        I wouldn’t feel safe to challenge them in public, even to throw out a NAMALT. A NAMALT objection would seem pretty brave at this point, given the institutional support behind tech-feminists.

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  2. ozymandias says:

    My concern about your criticism of Not All X Are Like That goes beyond your point in VII that victims should be allowed to complain. Like… let’s say Earthlings tend to move out of space stations when they reach 10% Martian, which contributes significantly to Martian residential segregation, which has various other negative effects. If I want to have a conversation about why Earthlings are moving out of those space stations and how people can get them to stop, at some point I have to say “Earthlings tend to move out of neighborhoods that are more than ten percent Martian.” Obviously, there are Earthlings who don’t move out of space stations when Martians buy the pod next door, but this is actually typical Earthling behavior. Most Earthlings are actually like that. Is there any way I can talk about this problem without building a superweapon against Earthlings? This problem is potentially fixable once we know what the causes are– but you can’t figure out the causes without acknowledging the problem exists, and as your arguments show that leads to potential superweapons.

    Conversely: maybe Martians are actually more prone to trying to take over the world than Earthlings. The base rate of attempts to take over the world is fairly low, so the vast majority of Martians don’t take over the world. The obvious question is why Martians are more likely to try to take over the world: is it an aspect of Martian culture, an inborn difference in Martian brains, a result of negative stereotypes of Martians? But again if we talk about it we’re creating an anti-Martian superweapon, and if we don’t talk about it we’re ignoring a potentially fixable problem.

    Both cases are particularly problematic because creating an idea that all members of a group are Like That may make the group more likely to act Like That. Talking about the problem itself might increase the problem– but how do we know that if we don’t talk about it? (I suspect a similar dynamic is behind the feminist rage whenever someone points out the fairly obvious existence of gender differences, despite the existence of gender differences being a prediction of pretty much every feminist theory.)

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      Do you think the problem would be solved by quantifiers? Like “Most Earthlings move out when Martians move in next door” or “Some Martians, admittedly a minority, want to take over the world”?

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      • ozymandias says:

        I’m not sure. Like, “some Jews, admittedly a minority, kill Christian children” seems like an obvious incitement to anti-Semitism even though there probably are Jews who kill Christian children.

        OTOH, you could argue that the difference is whether the group is salient. Presumably Jews are not more likely to kill Christian children than Christians are to kill Jewish children, so there’s no reason to believe religion is relevant to child-murder, whereas there is a reason to believe that Martian-ness is relevant to taking over the world.

        On the third hand, black people are more likely to commit homicide in the US than white people, and men are more likely to violently abuse their spouses than women are, and yet people do tend to interpret those statements as racism and misandry even with qualifiers attached.

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        • No one special says:

          (I waited until I was no longer mad to respond. Probably better that way.)

          The problem is that, even when salient, the outcome is to use the rough (and easily observed) categorization as a proxy for the more important, but harder to evaluate condition. Mentioning the link between martians and conquering triggers our sense of incitement, because we can tell at a glance if someone is a martian, but it will take much more effort to determine if they actually intend to conquer the world.

          And because we’re just smart monkeys, we’re likely to take the shortcut, and non-conquering martians will suffer. (Not to mention that earthlings who are trying to conquer the planet will evade detection, and if they are detected, will gain sympathy from their court-appointed anger management therapists who will tell them that they were the victims, because of course earthlings don’t conquer others, they _get conquered_, and those martians who called the police to report your giant cache of ray guns, they’re the real villains here. Why, they used the system to conquer _you_.)

          Which is the contrapositive of the stereotype. We not only assume that martians are all conquerors, we assume that earthlings are in need of protection, and we fail to see their bloodthirstyness.

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      • gattsuru says:

        Even if it doesn’t fix it, at least the inevitable arguments over precisely where “most” turns into “some” actually involve numbers, even of the entirely made up variety, instead of the unending parade of anecdotes “all” and “not this one” do.

        It’d also help avoid at least some of the intrinsic revulsion, at least for me. Even knowing a lot of the claims aren’t about groups I belong to (or are confused with belonging to), watching folk who normally caution against the tendency of humans to consider their opponents the Other start suddenly treat their opponents as a monoculture of highly stereotyped and agentless actions… well, rather makes my skin crawl.

        Plus it’d cut off the response that you’re not considered “one of the guys” (you’re gay!) or “one of the girls” (but you don’t even use that much makeup?) or “black” (articulate!) or “one of the Jews” (the hat thing?) or “one of the Martians” (do you even own a helmet?), which I’d consider a plus.

        On the other hand, it’s explicitly rejected by a lot of folk, including some feminists and including the Bitchtopia article. So, if wishes were horses…

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      • I think more precise language would help, and allowing people to ask “What do you have in mind? How prevalent do you think this behavior is? What is your evidence? How much do you know about members of the group who don’t resemble your prototype?” would help more.

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      • Randy M says:

        “OTOH, you could argue that the difference is whether the group is salient. ”

        Yes, I think this is relevant. if some x do y, but the x-ness doesn’t seem relevant to the y action (because there’s no plausible mechanism, or the differences between x and not-x aren’t statistically significant) then bringing x into the discussion is a sign of malice against group x rather than a desire to prevent y.

        Though the effects of y-mitigation on non y-commiting x’ers can be considered as well; ex: “Does stop and frisk inflict psychological or social harm on minorities worse than the reduction in violent crime it purports to bring?”

        Incidentally, I’ve found “what people may interpret as racism/sexism” less and less useful as a hueristic and the stigma agaisnt racism & sexism (and thus it’s potency as a slur) increases.

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  3. Sniffnoy says:

    Was there supposed to be more to this post?

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      Since you asked – I wanted to add something on “intellectual gang signs”. That is, an argument like “I hate dumb religious people” is not just an attempt to tar all religious people as dumb while maintaining plausible deniability. It’s also a way of marking territory for yourself. Like if I said that on this blog, it would be a way of saying “Hey, religious people, I can insult you with impunity, go away”.

      But I couldn’t figure out a good way to tie it in or justify it, so I decided to abandon the idea or save it for later.

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  4. This post, more than your usual post, makes me hate everything and everyone on the internet and in politics. Thanks.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      I’m sorry you get that effect from my blog. I really don’t try to do this. I know there are some people who like being cynical and discrediting everything, but I’m not one of them.

      I just keep seeing this pattern around and wanted to get it out there to see if people had opinions on it and so that I could reference this post when I want to explain why some things make me uncomfortable or confused.

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      • Steve says:

        I actually feel marginally better after reading this, because it’s an effect I’d just barely noticed–enough to make me uncomfortable–and having it carved out of social-effect-space as a discrete entity gives me a feeling of control.

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      • ElTighre says:

        Don’t change anything. Your stuff wouldn’t have that effect on people if it wasn’t A. true, B. emotionally resonant, and C. relevant. None of these are problems.

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      • Yeah, I wasn’t asking you to change anything. I was just pointing out my emotional reaction, since the gist of this post for me was, “Argument on the internet is always terrible, and it’s not going to get better, because it’s rationally terrible.” Ha!

        This helped me understand my changing reactions to people who bring up Westboro Baptist, however. I used to try to distance myself and my type of Christianity from them, but now I tend to respond with something closer to “Fuck you”. Because the only reason to even bring up Westboro Baptist is to re-center the set, and arguing NACALT is just conceding the frame.

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  5. Anonymous says:

    This is future czarist Russia . . . If it’s typical of the sort of thing that happened in this era, you loaned him some money and he doesn’t feel like paying you back.

    Is the future really *that* unprincipled?

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  6. Eric Rall says:

    I’d like to propose “Tin Man” as a new name to replace “Weak Man” for this concept. There should also be a “Cowardly Lion” logical fallacy, but I’m not sure what it should be.

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    • Kiboh says:

      Something to do with Bravery Debates, I guess?

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      • johnwbh says:

        People who claim to be being brave but are actually being ‘cowardly’ because they’re just parroting in-group norms?

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      • Anonymous says:

        yeah, like people who begin arguments with “I’m sure this will be unpopular but…”

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        • Oligopsony says:

          I think it would be great to have a standard term for such things, but as annoying and all-pervasive as such rhetoric is, it’s not a logical fallacy.

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        • nydwracu says:

          Emotionally manipulative rhetoric isn’t necessarily logical fallacy; that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be useful to have terms for forms of it / crystallize the patterns.

          Another thing of that nature is this: “if you support this thing that you support, you must take on this identity that demands that you support all these other things, but I’m going to pretend that the identity is not an identity, but instead a statement of support for the thing you support.” Maybe it’s not technically a logical fallacy — logic can’t even deal with identity-magic, can it? — but there’s still something nasty going on there.

          But the problem is: is this a good pattern to crystallize? Probably not — crystallizing it shuts down the people who state consensus as if it were not the consensus, but at the cost of shutting down the system of giving contrarian-points to ideas that actually are unpopular — “this is an unpopular thing that challenges a popular thing, so you probably haven’t heard this objection before and you’re probably immune to it and you should be aware of that and not end up getting your memetic immunity tripped and shutting down”.

          A lot of progressive memes have the goal of doing things along those lines: advantaging high-status ideas over low-status ideas. “Redpilled by Moldbug” and so on. (Also the related tactic of discrediting opposing ideas by associating them with low-status sources. “tfw no gf”, “nerds”, etc.) But when it’s not positioning itself as high-status and orthodox, it’s developing whole new strategies toward the allocation of contrarian-points — strategies that are designed specifically to only designate progressive ideas as contrarian.

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        • Oligopsony says:

          But the problem is: is this a good pattern to crystallize? Probably not — crystallizing it shuts down the people who state consensus as if it were not the consensus, but at the cost of shutting down the system of giving contrarian-points to ideas that actually are unpopular — “this is an unpopular thing that challenges a popular thing, so you probably haven’t heard this objection before and you’re probably immune to it and you should be aware of that and not end up getting your memetic immunity tripped and shutting down”.

          Both/all forms of contrarian-point-gathering seem good to squelch, so it seems like a win-win to me. Things that actually violate consensus look bizarre/incomprehensible/intriguing, not brave/repulsive/contrarian.

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    • Vulture says:

      Ooh, that’s good. The Tin Man fallacy! It has a nice ring to it (much like the tin man himself, hehehe. If only this was one of those evil-rather-than-complex/unavoidable fallacies, perpetrated only by the epistemically heartless)

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    • Douglas Knight says:

      Why not just “straw man”? What’s the need for all this precision?

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      • Desertopa says:

        Because if you call it a straw man, then very often, people will say “it’s not a straw man, look, here are some people who actually believe this!” Having a standard term which acknowledges that this doesn’t resolve the fundamental problems of the argument could help.

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    • Anon256 says:

      I found the title of this post confusing as it seemed like it might refer to “men who are weak”; “tin man” partly solves that issue but retains the awkward gendered term. Unfortunately attempts to replace “strawman” with something without gendered connotations have been unsuccessful, but at minimum I think removing the space would help a little.

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      • Earnest_Peer says:

        Maybe we could call this fallacy a fleshman – not sure whether that sounds too bad to work, but hopefully it brings across the point that this is a real person somehow related to a strawman.

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        • Vertebrat says:

          +1 to “flesh man”. It’s memorable, so I remember that I’ve heard it before — I think either here or on LW, so I was surprised Scott used a different term.

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        • Paul Torek says:

          Yeah Vertebrat is right, I used that term here, a while back. It does have the advantage of directly contradicting the implication of “unreal person” from “straw man”, which “tin man” doesn’t do as well.

          Eh, whatever. Tin or flesh. But not “weak” – that’s, well, self-referential.

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      • How about something in the neighborhood of “shaping the prototype”?

        Admittedly, this describes the process in a very neutral way– both sides of an argument could rightly claim the other side is doing it, but one side might have a much better prototype than the other, or might have a strong claim that multiple prototypes are called for.

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    • johnwbh says:

      Can we add a Dorothy fallacy?

      Not using solutions that are available due to lack of experimentation? (The magic shoes were with you the whole time.)

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    • kappa says:

      I agree with the “Tin Man” terminology. We’re not going to get anywhere gender-neutralizing “strawman”, and at least this way the reference is memorable and obvious, whereas “weak man” doesn’t sound like jargon at all unless you already know the term and is therefore highly susceptible to misinterpretation.

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    • Paul Torek says:

      I called it “Flesh Man” about a year ago, not having known until today that someone had beaten me to it. On this very blog or its predecessor. Scott said then, roughly, “I am so using this term!” And here, more or less, it has come to pass. An excellent post it is, too.

      Tin Man is great, though.

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      • Scott Alexander says:

        Oh, that was you!

        The original draft of this article did use “flesh man” and attributed it to “someone who mentioned it on my old blog once”.

        But I decided to let my general policy of trying to use whatever the most popular word is to resolve language disputes take over. I’m not sure if that was a good idea or not.

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      • Sam Rosen says:

        I vote for Tin Man as well.

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  7. Piano says:

    Neoreaction solved all of this. Encourage identitarianism and ethnonationalism and patchwork-as-neccessary, and allow the nations/citystates to excommunicate members.

    Political parties and religious conflict are a symptom of not allowing this to happen; they’re silly and unnecessary for civilization.

    An extreme increase in the ease of travel and moving house might allow enough exit for this to happen even before global neoreaction.

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    • Ravioli says:

      Care to expand on this? Are you saying ‘the philosophy of neoreaction identified this problem and in a world run according to our guidelines it wouldn’t exist’? If so, link to where you identified this problem, explanation of your guidelines and how they avert this, please.

      Or are you saying ‘we never explicitly identified this as a problem, but it’s a side-effect of something we fix and so I predict it wouldn’t exist in a neoreactionary society?’ If so, what is it a side effect of and how confident are you in that prediction?

      Or are you saying something else entirely?

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      • Piano says:

        It’s a side effect of not ignoring human nature. The neoreactionary nugget: violence is conflict plus uncertainty. Humans are inherently different and their views are conflicting. If you remain purposefully ignorant of human nature, then you’re going to have a lot of uncertainty about that way the world works and who would win in a political or reliious fight. Thus silly conflict.

        If you don’t ignore human nature, you realize that people naturally gravitate towards similar people and they desire to form hierarchies with those people. This implies identitarianism, often means ethnonationalism, and (because there are ton’s of different kinds of people) would lead towards a patchwork of nations and citystates.

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        • peterdjones says:

          Which won’t duke it out violently like they did when everywhere was little monoethnic statelets believing themselves to have the one true religion.

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        • Piano says:

          @peterdjones

          Of course not, we have nukes now.

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        • Mark says:

          A patchwork of rivalrous and nationalistic city-states armed with nukes sounds even worse than what you want to do to transsexuals.

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        • Piano says:

          @Mark
          Of course not everyone has nukes. Read moldbug’s original essay on “formalism”. All you need is two nations who everyone knows has nukes, and each of them swears to protect their share of the other nations from the other guy, in exchange for never developing nukes themselves. We’d probably end up having fewer nukes and nuclear countries than today.

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        • peterdjones says:

          So there’s not this great variety of traditions, just two overarching ones?

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        • Piano says:

          @peterdjones
          many traditions. two or more nations that each have some appealing combination of lotsa trade, high gdp, especially trustworthy people, lotsa nuclear engineers, etc. probably end up with the nukes.

          idea is to minimize nukes yet protect everyone and also have all the details out in the open.

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        • peterdjones says:

          What’s in it ofmthe nuclear superpowers? Why should superpower A risk mutually assured destruction from superpower B over some third party with the wrong ethnicity or religion? Do they just buy protection? How do they establish trust?

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        • Mark says:

          Okay. This discussion of radical social engineering has been amusingly farfetched, but at this point I feel you’re adding epicycles. “It’s fine, guys, we can just add a Cold War!” I’m all for non-proliferation treaties and everything, but surely you realize that a million things have to go right that could easily go wrong. The superpowers didn’t stop India and Pakistan from developing nukes. I’m guessing you’re a big fan of Partition (unless you’re disappointed that it didn’t go far enough), but without it we at least wouldn’t have had two nuclear powers who absolutely hate each other’s guts sitting next to each other on a contested border for what looks to be, well, the rest of human history.

          Anyway, when the U.S. or India splits into a dozen vying and very possibly mutually hostile ethnic polities, do you imagine that each successor state may wish to inherit the nukes, especially given your supposition that whoever controls them decides the new world order? Might the struggle over them lead to less rather than more worldwide stability? Perhaps we’d need a plan that wasn’t completely hand-wavy before accepting your suggestion that global Balkanization is a good idea.

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        • Piano says:

          @peterdjones and @Mark
          It’s all in the original Moldbug, one of the first essays, “Nuclear neocolonialism”, actually. Hardly “epicycles”.

          It’s just one design of international neoreaction that A) isn’t that different from today, so doesn’t require radical change and B) works well in the age of nuclear weapons and coming molecular nanotechnology.

          All it’s doing is taking advantage of order and hierarchy to minimize the number of single points of failure.

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        • Mark says:

          I just read that post, and I’m not even entirely unsympathetic, but it doesn’t really address anything I said. In the transition from the current world order to the one you hope for, many many things can go wrong, and when they do go wrong, the multitude of fractious, competing, hyper-nationalistic city-states you propose will exacerbate the consequences, perhaps even leading to an increased rather than decreased chance of nuclear warfare. I’m sure you can posit more and more institutions or processes to take these failure modes into account, but each one will likely assume a great deal of international cooperation in the face of all the international tension and rivalry you’re deliberately introducing.

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        • Piano says:

          @Mark

          At the end of the post: “Note that this system of nuclear law does not come with any transition plan.”

          There’s no pretence. Transition could be pretty or ugly. I see no reason to be confident it would definitely be one way rather than the other. All we can agree upon is that the end result would be stable and it would foster civilization.

          The long-term project about how to (and how to best) unify the formal and the informal is a major neoreactionary research meta-question that you are welcome to help explore.

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        • Mark says:

          If you agree that there’s no obvious way to make your/Moldbug’s plan workable without taking major gambles that render nuclear war and global instability more likely to occur than they otherwise would – such as by splitting up nuclear superpowers into probably oppressive successor states competing for near-absolute dominance over their bloc – then I suppose I don’t have anything more to add. Except that you are not so much offering a solution to anything so much as the barest seeds of a research program.

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        • What’s more, if there are going to be nothing but little mono-ethnic states, not only are a lot of people going to have to move, a lot of people are going to have to give up territory, and that’s going to resisted hard.

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        • Xycho says:

          Human beings fight over so many things, and on so many scales, that the only visible end to the Neoreactionary way of doing things is with every person being allocated a square mile of land with a high fence and told they can do and believe anything they like as long as they never see another human being.

          Since this would need enforcing by a slightly-unfriendly AI and would in addition result in single-generation depopulation, I can’t quite see how it counts as a ‘solution’ except in the most technical sense.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      Sorry, but neoreaction doesn’t come close to solving this. Even if people in one state are only allowed to have one religion and one political philosophy, there’s still men vs. women, not to mention stamp collectors, comic book fans, nerds, athletes, self-diagnosed autistics, bloggers, and ten million other things.

      In fact, neoreaction can’t even solve this problem within itself – even from the outside I’ve observed a huge concern that stupid neoreactionaries identifying with the movement are dragging the reputation of the whole thing down.

      I think a steelman of your position might be to go for Catholic-model subcultures instead of Protestant-model subcultures. For example, political parties are a Catholic-model subculture, in that the Democrats have an official party platform that states what the Democrats believe and you have to kind of agree with it to be taken seriously as a Democrat, and some level of party vetting goes on before you become an important Democratic spokesman. Compare this to a Protestant model like, say, feminism, where anyone can identify as a feminist and there’s no particular agreement on what feminists should believe.

      I think there’s a lot of room for subcultures to be much more Catholic than even the Democrats (I don’t think most Democrats know or care what’s in the party platform, you don’t have to agree to follow any rules to become a Democrat, and the party apparatus can’t police the behavior of individual Democrats). This could work in a patchwork situation – you either join the Democrats and agree to follow their reputation-protecting rules, or you go it alone and don’t get the benefits of coordinating with other people who agree with you. If I had to solve Neoreaction’s current problems, it would look less like founding a new country (a la Anissimov) and more like founding a new Catholic-model subculture (which would look to outsiders like a religion, although it would have no religious content).

      I want to develop these ideas further sometime later.

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      • Piano says:

        > there’s still men vs. women, not to mention stamp collectors, comic book fans, nerds, athletes, self-diagnosed autistics, bloggers, and ten million other things.

        State encourages proper marriage and children, anyone talking of “vs” rather than “and” is excommunicated.

        Stamp collectors, comic book fans, nerds: Institute forced manual labor for everyone, or just let them breed themselves out of existence. poof, no more losers.

        Self-diagnosed autistic: you’re bragging about being autistic rather than not autistic. You have bigger problems and deserve whatever ostracization you get, either way.

        athletes: are not subsidized by the state, poof gone. Forced labor etc makes stregth high status.

        Essentially without “demotism” increasingly bending towards the will of losers, being a loser becomes low status, and being a winner is high status.

        Not everything is solved perfectly by neoreaction, but with it status is “more accurate”, more visible, and it makes much more sense. People are then more certain of status and violence is less likely because everyone knows where they stand.

        Status in a neoreactionary society, of whatever flavor, is more “authentic” and “accurate” and stable than in a Universalist society. Giving status towards “voice” is a monkey wrench that gives disproportionate status towards the losers du jour and those who do whatever devout Christians describe as “the way of the Devil”.

        The online neoreactionary community is not a neoreactionary nation, so I’m not sure what this is critisizing.

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        • Desertopa says:

          Honestly, this sounds to me very much like someone congratulating himself for “solving” problems with methods which would work in a much more simplistic, convenient universe. There’s been no shortage of idealists and revolutionaries throughout history who’ve thought they were correctly accounting for human nature, or the natural order. And from the outside, it really, really doesn’t look like you’re meeting a higher standard. Where’s your data?

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        • DanPeverley says:

          Neoreaction is chock full of nerds and comic book collectors; how many non-sequitur anime pictures have you seen floating around the twitter reactosphere?

          More on topic, ethnonationalism could feasibly lower tension between large scale groups by keeping them away from each other, but it’s not going to solve these kind of troublesome issues all the way down to the hobby/preference/personality type level.

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        • Multiheaded says:

          This kind of thing literally accomplishes the impossible by making me want to defend moldbug; while his ideas of society have been… baroque, he has appreciably less of this 3edgy5me nonsense. This doesn’t even qualify as “evil fascist dystopia”; your society simply isn’t what societies are like, and your notions of “status”, “winners”, “losers”, “normality”, etc are simplistic and confused.

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        • ozymandias says:

          I would just like to point out that nerds as a class include a lot of programmers, scientists and engineers. Programmers, scientists and engineers seem pretty important to the continued existence of technological civilization.

          Like, I guess you can have forced-labor no-nerd-topia if you want to, but don’t come crying to me when the city-state with nerds bombs you to smithereens.

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        • blacktrance says:

          This comment is inviting weak man attacks against neoreaction.

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        • Piano says:

          @ozy my society’s “nerds” will be stronger, healthier, and more attractive, and have many more children per generation. So, we’ll bomb you first and look a hell of a lot better doing so. :)

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        • ozymandias says:

          That wasn’t what we were discussing, Piano, we were discussing that your solution to nerds’ tendency to argue with each other a lot was selective breeding and/or forced labor. If you manage to have a society of engineers and programmers and scientists who don’t argue with each other a lot… well, good luck, I guess? I’m sure Santa will give you a pony along with all those hot, strong, healthy, fertile geniuses who never argue?

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        • Piano says:

          @ozy
          It’s exactly what we’re discussing, I just jumped to the endgame with you.

          Backing up,

          Infighting is reproductively advantageous in a democratic society, as political parties and voting allow for status whoring unreleated to your actual benefit to civilization. In a neoreactionary society, natural hierarchies are allowed to develop be enforced, and there is no such thing is “voice”, and your “actual” status, place in the hierarchy, and approximate actual benefit to society are the things that are reproductively advantageous and attractive, thus infighting goes away both in the long term and in the short term.

          Forced labor and the elevation of virtues like strength are examples of methods of enforcing hierarchy and maintaining character.

          Ideally you have no time and energy or even desire to do anything not beneficial to your family and civilization (such as collect comicbooks or participate in unproductive infighting).

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        • Piano, it’s tempting to invent a utopia optimizied for screwing up your life, but I’m not sure what the limits of courtesy are here.

          Meanwhile, back in the real world, people have reasons for living in mixed societies, ranging from that they’re already living in such and it would be costly to move to that they’re born with some non-standard traits.

          Mono-cultures require a fair amount of force to maintain them, and there are advantages to having multi-cultural trading zones. Does your ideal include Hong Kongs?

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        • gunlord500 says:

          @ozy my society’s “nerds” will be stronger, healthier, and more attractive, and have many more children per generation. So, we’ll bomb you first and look a hell of a lot better doing so. :)

          The funny thing about this, IMO, is that it betrays a laughable degree of naivete on Piano’s part. It’s something you see a lot among young guys (I was tempted to say young white guys, but truth be told I’ve seen it among kids of all races) with more smarts and enthusiasm than knowledge and sense. An almost-endearingly-innocent belief that a hyper-Renaissance man/Aryan superman is possible (and, of course, that either they or their descendants would totally be one).

          They fail to realize that even the most directed of selective breeding favors some traits at the cost of others. It’s near impossible to “have it all,” there are almost always tradeoffs. Let’s say Piano’s utopia breeds heavily for intelligence, law-abidingness, and civility, a la, I don’t know, a neoreactionary-favored country like modern Japan, for instance. Unfortunately, selecting for those traits seems to select against aggression, assertiveness, and martial spirit; all necessary traits for a tiny “polis” to bomb the shit out of all the other ones. How likely do you think it is that the herbivore men of modern Japan are going to re-create the Empire of the Rising Sun?

          Even if Piano somehow manages to breed for *all* those traits–and I’m not sure neoreactionaries would have much success at breeding dogs, much less humans–there are tons of others he’d have to account for. In-group preference, introversion/extroversion, group cohesion, obedience to authority, etc. If *even one* of these is bred the slightest bit out of whack, his society of supermen is going to come crashing down in hideous-yet-hilarious flame.

          Think of it: A bunch of geniuses with the bodies of jocks each crafting superweapons in his basement to toss against his immediate neighbors (because they were bred for strength and smarts, but not cooperation) or spending too much time indoors reading and/or lifting weights to build a functioning society (because the Chief Eugenicist went a little overboard with the introversion)…and that’s not even getting started. There seem to be a zillion ways the neoreactionary utopia could turn into a dystopia faster than you can say “Moldbugger.”

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        • Multiheaded says:

          A bunch of geniuses with the bodies of jocks each crafting superweapons in his basement to toss against his immediate neighbors

          Takes me back. Lol.

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Stamp collectors, comic book fans, nerds: Institute forced manual labor for everyone, or just let them breed themselves out of existence. poof, no more losers.

          Hey Scott Alexander, remember how you said I was being uncharitable in my characterization of what Neoreaction is?

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        • Erik says:

          I condemn Piano as a weakman of neoreaction.

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        • Multiheaded says:

          Ialdabaoth:

          Here is where we disagree, I think that 1) not all reactionaries are remotely like that, but 2) all reactionary politics is still uncommonly awful, because 3) it’s the normal decent nice people adopting some Unfriendly decision-theoretical strategies that you have to watch out for. Lord Lytton might well be a better paradigmatic case for Systemic Rightist Evil than Hitler.

          Really, a brief glance at history confirms that normal decent nice people are really fucking terrifying, and there’s little need for them to be actively sadistic. And the more communitarian/conservative reactionaries (drop the “neo-”) are to some extent correct that they are on Normal People’s side. Which makes them creepier to me than the bros with Nietzschean pretensions.

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          *nod* I intellectually understand and accept that model, but incorporating it into my thinking will require a MASSIVE chain of updates to my System-1 priors. I’m gonna need to get back to you on that.

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        • Oligopsony says:

          *nod* I intellectually understand and accept that model, but incorporating it into my thinking will require a MASSIVE chain of updates to my System-1 priors. I’m gonna need to get back to you on that.

          If my own intuitions are right about yours, your System I priors are shaped by dealing with a lot of actually and so-consistently-it-might-as-well-be deliberate cruelty. I’m not at all in a position to say – in fact, I doubt you are either, but I’m especially not – whether that’s well-adapted to your current environment, but you certainly shouldn’t feel an additional level of guilt for not throwing out survival heuristics just to achieve maximal epistemic virtue.

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        • Updating those sorts of priors is hard, but it can help a lot with quality of life– it’s not just about epistemic virtue.

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        • Piano says:

          @nancy

          Oh right, a lot of you guys live in the bay area with a ton of “diversity” but no actual diversity. Unless you live in oakland. As an example of my point, isn’t it nice that oakland is separated from civilization by a mile of water?

          Hong kong is cool, and works because of the smart and rich founding population providing the necessary tradition/mythos/ethos thing. Same with singapore. Calling yourself a “mirical, due to Dear Leader and our work ethic” is powerful stuff.

          @gunlord500

          “hyper-Renaissance man/Aryan superman”
          Nah, just fitter than 95% of American men, which isn’t that hard to do.

          “tradoffs”

          We have at max two or three generations before singularity, so intergenerational selection pressures are not really that important unfortunately.

          Train men in manliness and masculinity, and women in womanliness and femininity. Certain things are required for masculinity, such as an appreciation of hard physical work. That doesn’t mean we’re all brick layers.

          Sure there’ll be variation, that’s the beauty of human biodiversity. German masculinity is different from Zimbabwean masculinity and should be tought and fostered by Germans and Zimbabweans respectively.

          If you have a plan to solve extreme unemployment from automation without basic income (leading towards boredom and crime, which might be manageable) or forced labor (essentially slavery), without destroying civilization (i.e. put all the useless people into virtual reality), then I’m all ears. Neoreactionaries are honest to goodness thinking of the future here. It’s solving problems of the present and future using lessons of the past. Not very complicated.

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        • gunlord500 says:

          Nah, just fitter than 95% of American men, which isn’t that hard to do.

          Considering how few neoreactionaries fit that description, I’m not sure it’s quite the cakewalk you make it out to be. How long do you think Bryce Laliberte or Mencius Moldbug are gonna last in a forced labor camp–er, I mean, masculinity camp?

          We have at max two or three generations before singularity, so intergenerational selection pressures are not really that important unfortunately.

          That sounds a little optimistic, but okay, let’s play ball. If the Singularity is just around the corner, seems to me that all this bloviating about “small ethnostates” might end up irrelevant anyways. Yes, we all know that the eeeevil Enlightenment edifice is lurching towards collapse, but these things take time–even Rome didn’t fall in a day. If we can stave off the Dysgenic Debtpocalypse for a few more years, that seems like enough time for some geek at MIT to kick off the Second Renaissance, thus bringing about your neoreactionary Singulitopia and obviating the need for your little polises. What’s the point of them when we’re all–Germans and Zimbabweans alike–glorious enhanced transhumans?

          Sure there’ll be variation, that’s the beauty of human biodiversity. German masculinity is different from Zimbabwean masculinity and should be tought and fostered by Germans and Zimbabweans respectively.

          Uh-huh. And you’re sure your “masculine nerds” will necessarily be able to bomb the shit out of Ozy’s? That’s far from a given. Ever heard of specialization? The Renaissance Man, or even 95th+ Percentile American Man, doesn’t take into account the immense, nearly all-consuming amount of time it takes to really master a technical field these days. Your jock-nerds who spend 6 hours of every day in forced labor and the other 18 doing ~*SCIENCE*~ might well get out-nerded by the ones who spend 24/7 on science. And the physical weakness of the latter group won’t count for much if they can construct weapons and equipment even slightly better than what your guys come up with. Everything’s getting automated these days, including war. Your physically strong, handsome Renaissance Men are going to drop like flies if their opponents (no matter how much more ugly, weak, or womanish) are even slightly better at designing robots.

          And considering how few robotics nerds I’ve seen take well to forced labor–or are even in the 50th percentile, much less the 96th, of physical prowess–I get the feeling your polis might not have it quite as easy as you’d like.

          If you have a plan to solve extreme unemployment from automation without basic income (leading towards boredom and crime, which might be manageable) or forced labor (essentially slavery), without destroying civilization (i.e. put all the useless people into virtual reality), then I’m all ears.

          That’s a good question–I’m pleasantly surprised. I have a few ideas, but they’re elaborate enough that it’d be better to make a separate blog post for them rather than an OVER 9000 word comment on someone else’s blog. I might do that sometime, but have two as a quick preview till then:

          1: What’s wrong with a basic income? Scott’s pondered the possibility before. I told him that it might lead to malaise or dissatisfaction, and I’ve read in James Patterson’s work that GMI plans didn’t work as intended in several states, but such problems aren’t necessarily insurmountable.

          2: Expanding the sorts of well-compensated work available in a society. Automation is rapidly expanding, but there are still a few things bots can’t do as well as humans, mainly revolving around art and creativity. Everybody makes fun of the arts major now, but in the future it’s possible “artist” (of any type) might become a lucrative profession, even if one’s only mediocre or outright poor. The resources generated by our machine slaves would subsidize every wannabe writer, painter, or composer, no matter how much they suck, thus redirecting their energies from crime or popping out babies to becoming little wannabe bohemians.

          It’s solving problems of the present and future using lessons of the past. Not very complicated.

          Considering the many ways your “solutions” could go horribly wrong (and that’s not even getting into how a perfectly-functioning Neoreapolis sounds like a Huxleyist dystopia, from your description), it seems a bit more complicated than that. T_T

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        • nydwracu says:

          How likely do you think it is that the herbivore men of modern Japan are going to re-create the Empire of the Rising Sun?

          How likely do you think it is that the reason so many Japanese men are herbivores is that they can’t go off and re-create the Empire of the Rising Sun? It seems likely to me that total and abrupt loss of purpose in a demographic in a society would lead to the behavioral decline of that demographic.

          Also, I have to disagree with the idea that physical strength / athleticism and mastery of a field are incompatible. If masters of a field don’t spend every waking hour of every day working on their field, they’ll have time for hobbies — von Neumann and ancient history, for example — and one of those hobbies could well be developing athleticism.

          I dimly recall having read something once about Turing being a regular player of some sport or other. I’m not sure if that’s true, and I can’t remember the details, but there must be some other example.

          And if exercise is as beneficial to the mind as it’s thought to be today, well, there you go.

          (also, insert signaling against Piano here)

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        • gunlord500 says:

          How likely do you think it is that the reason so many Japanese men are herbivores is that they can’t go off and re-create the Empire of the Rising Sun?

          They were doing alright till the 1990s–was the “Lost Decade” the sudden and abrupt loss of purpose you were referring to?

          If masters of a field don’t spend every waking hour of every day working on their field, they’ll have time for hobbies — von Neumann and ancient history, for example — and one of those hobbies could well be developing athleticism.

          I dimly recall having read something once about Turing being a regular player of some sport or other. I’m not sure if that’s true, and I can’t remember the details, but there must be some other example.

          And if exercise is as beneficial to the mind as it’s thought to be today, well, there you go.

          Sure, but exercise, sports, and other nice, physically-enhancing hobbies are a far cry from ~*forced labor.*~ Geniuses tend to be an independent lot–many of them are happy to work on body as well as mind, but forcing them into some menial labor camp will likely result in declines of creativity and stiff resistance on their part. I suppose it’s conceivable they could be bred to be good little slaves and cogs in the “hierarchy” you guys seem to be fond of, but that’ll take more than the 2 generations Piano says we have before Skynet arrives.

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        • nydwracu says:

          They were doing alright till the 1990s–was the “Lost Decade” the sudden and abrupt loss of purpose you were referring to?

          That’s certainly plausible — you have the one purpose (empire) replaced by another (the corporation), and there’s maybe a sense in which the two aren’t all that different, but then the economy tanks, you lose both, and you can’t even get back the first.

          Sure, but exercise, sports, and other nice, physically-enhancing hobbies are a far cry from ~*forced labor.*~ Geniuses tend to be an independent lot–many of them are happy to work on body as well as mind, but forcing them into some menial labor camp will likely result in declines of creativity and stiff resistance on their part.

          Menial labor camps won’t work. What would work is reshaping archetype-space / changing societal expectations, so that playing the role of genius implies developing general mastery instead of attempting to signal laserlike focus on one specific area through cultivating ignorance and avoidance of everything else.

          Now, part of the reason for the existence of that type is probably selection failure: the British never had that problem, nor do the Americans in the neo-aristocratic sections of the Eastern corridor. Insofar as genius-signaling in the rest of America demands signaling of social disconnect and unawareness / studious avoidance of mastery of social norms, it’s due in part to the fact that those of higher intelligence raised in areas of lower intelligence find themselves necessarily positioned against the dominant culture of the region, which has nothing for them and is itself positioned against them and their very existence. But intelligence-based assortative mating and exit will probably lessen the effects of that in time.

          Another part is the just-world fallacy: we are told that genius cannot exist without some inescapable negative factor, to make things fair. “Oh, there’s no such thing as genius; there’s just people whose brains work differently, so they’re better at math but they can’t socialize. It’s all inherent, and it’s all fair, and if it were any other way then it wouldn’t be fair.” If you’re smart enough that you’re bored by school, you can’t just be smart enough that you’re bored by school; you must have ADHD. If you’re smart enough that you’re bored by people with 80 IQ, you can’t just be smart enough that you’re bored by people with 80 IQ; you must be autistic. And so it goes.

          Of course, if you’re smart enough for either of those two things, you’re probably unwittingly signaling the role of An Intelligent Person, which leads to autistic- and ADHD-like symptoms. This is A Problem — and it demonstrates that smart people aren’t as independent as they like to think.

          And if you want more proof of that: there have been some very smart people who worked for all sorts of totalitarian regimes. Hell, the first Turing-complete digital computer was built at the request of the Nazi government. And then there’s the issue of American postwar science: where do you think we got all those rocket scientists from?

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        • gunlord500 says:

          My my, a blogpost inspired by one of my comments? I’m mildly flattered. Maybe this will be my lucky break.

          “Menial labor camps won’t work. What would work is reshaping archetype-space / changing societal expectations, so that playing the role of genius implies developing general mastery instead of attempting to signal laserlike focus on one specific area through cultivating ignorance and avoidance of everything else.”
          I suppose that’s more palatable than one of Piano’s Fun Camps. I have to admit, though, it’s mildly amusing to see a neoreactionary wax eloquent about “social expectations.” You sound more like someone I’d expect to see on Ozy’s side of the fence.

          “Now, part of the reason for the existence of that type is probably selection failure: the British never had that problem, nor do the Americans in the neo-aristocratic sections of the Eastern corridor.”

          Really, now? What makes you say that? I’m genuinely curious, are you implying these folks adhere to the Renaissance Man ideal?

          “Insofar as genius-signaling in the rest of America demands signaling of social disconnect and unawareness / studious avoidance of mastery of social norms, it’s due in part to the fact that those of higher intelligence raised in areas of lower intelligence find themselves necessarily positioned against the dominant culture of the region, which has nothing for them and is itself positioned against them and their very existence. But intelligence-based assortative mating and exit will probably lessen the effects of that in time.”

          This is debatable. I can think of several geniuses outside of contemporary American who were known for the poor command of the social norms of their days. Isaac Newton (permavirgin extraordinaire) and Galileo come to mind.

          “Another part is the just-world fallacy: we are told that genius cannot exist without some inescapable negative factor, to make things fair. “Oh, there’s no such thing as genius; there’s just people whose brains work differently, so they’re better at math but they can’t socialize. It’s all inherent, and it’s all fair, and if it were any other way then it wouldn’t be fair.” If you’re smart enough that you’re bored by school, you can’t just be smart enough that you’re bored by school; you must have ADHD. If you’re smart enough that you’re bored by people with 80 IQ, you can’t just be smart enough that you’re bored by people with 80 IQ; you must be autistic. And so it goes.”

          Alas, this is less just-world fallacy and more acknowledgment that most things have tradeoffs. The benefits of high intelligence among humans come at the cost of long gestation times and childhood as well as difficult childbirth. On a more particular level, the price of Ashkenazi high IQs is Tay-sachs disease. It’s not at all unreasonable to assume that Smart Guys have to give up something as well.

          “This is A Problem — and it demonstrates that smart people aren’t as independent as they like to think.
          And if you want more proof of that: there have been some very smart people who worked for all sorts of totalitarian regimes. Hell, the first Turing-complete digital computer was built at the request of the Nazi government. And then there’s the issue of American postwar science: where do you think we got all those rocket scientists from?”

          Yes, and most of those totalitarian regimes distrusted the Smart Guys no matter how obediently they behaved. Von Braun was accused of being a Communist and briefly interred by the Gestapo, for instance. This would make a wise man ponder how tightly a neoreactionary regime would wind the chains around its scholar-athletes, regardless of whether or not they displayed much “independence.”

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        • nydwracu says:

          I have to admit, though, it’s mildly amusing to see a neoreactionary wax eloquent about “social expectations.” You sound more like someone I’d expect to see on Ozy’s side of the fence.

          Eh. Jonathan Bowden made the same point about the desirability of establishing certain ideals/types in the place of others.

          And it’s trivially observable, too. I knew a guy who went to my high school and fell very much into the computer-nerd type. Then he moved to Massachusetts and fell into the druggie type.

          Really, now? What makes you say that? I’m genuinely curious, are you implying these folks adhere to the Renaissance Man ideal?

          I’ve met a lot of smart people from the New York area, and none of them fall into the nerd type. I’ve met a lot of smart people from worse areas, and a lot of them fall into the nerd type.

          I can think of several geniuses outside of contemporary American who were known for the poor command of the social norms of their days. Isaac Newton (permavirgin extraordinaire) and Galileo come to mind.

          Counterexamples don’t prove general statements wrong.

          most of those totalitarian regimes distrusted the Smart Guys no matter how obediently they behaved.

          I’ll be lazy here and cite the Nuremberg defendants.

          Of the defendants with >=130 IQ — Karl Dönitz, Hans Frank, Hans Fritzsche, Hermann Göring, Franz von Papen, Erich Raeder, Hjalmar Schacht, Baldur von Schirach, and Arthur Seyss-Inquart…

          Hitler named Dönitz his successor, so he was probably trusted.
          Frank lost his position outside Poland in 1942 for annoying Hitler, but retained power over Poland.
          Fritzsche wasn’t important, but he didn’t cause any trouble as far as I can tell.
          Göring lost a late-stage power struggle with Bormann, but was Hitler’s designated successor until then.
          Papen was almost killed.
          Raeder attained the highest possible naval rank, but resigned after a series of failed operations in order to prevent the scrapping of the ships he had earlier ordered. Later, Hitler called him a man of “unwavering loyalty”.
          Schacht was in the resistance.
          Schirach lost favor when his wife tried to intervene against the concentration camps.
          Seyss-Inquart never lost favor as far as I can tell.

          Disregarding Göring’s power-struggle loss, there’s Dönitz, Fritzsche, Göring, Raeder, and Seyss-Inquart on one side, Papen and Schacht on the other, and Frank and Schirach are less clear. Remember that Nuremberg defendants had an incentive to appear as disfavored by the Nazi regime as they could — and also that they charged people like Papen and Schacht, who had fallen out of favor early on. Even if you count Frank and Schirach as disloyal, that’s still five out of nine — so half of them, when incentivized to prove as much disfavor by the regime as they could, couldn’t.

          USG is much better-designed than Nazi Germany, and any new regime will learn more from the former than the latter. What percentage of its geniuses do you think it distrusts?

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        • gunlord500 says:

          “Jonathan Bowden made the same point about the desirability of establishing certain ideals/types in the place of others.”

          The British nationalist guy? Dear me, maybe your camp has more in common with the lefties than you’d like to admit.

          “I’ve met a lot of smart people from the New York area, and none of them fall into the nerd type. I’ve met a lot of smart people from worse areas, and a lot of them fall into the nerd type.”

          I’ve met plenty of smart people from NY and most if not all could be fairly described as nerds.

          “Counterexamples don’t prove general statements wrong.”

          You need a bit more proof before your “general statement” can even be considered possibly correct. On what evidence do you surmise that the travails of the intelligent are just based on “the dominant culture of the region?” Your buddies from NY? My own experience, as mentioned above, doesn’t support that.

          “Of the defendants with >=130 IQ — Karl Dönitz, Hans Frank, Hans Fritzsche, Hermann Göring, Franz von Papen, Erich Raeder, Hjalmar Schacht, Baldur von Schirach, and Arthur Seyss-Inquart…”

          They were smart, but were they Smart Guys, i.e scientists as opposed to bureaucrats or military men? The skills and personality traits required to be a good scientist aren’t exactly the same as those needed to be a good politician, and how well the Nazis treated the former as opposed to the latter is…questionable.

          “USG is much better-designed than Nazi Germany,”
          Well, I’m glad we agree on something, though perhaps you might want to hand this memo to a few of your fellow neoreactionaries.

          “What percentage of its geniuses do you think it distrusts?”

          Not too many. That might have to do with the fact it’s not a repressive, hierarchical ethno-polis trying to push some Renaissance Man/Aryan Overman ideal on its citizens regardless of their intelligence.

          Also, Scott, your spam detector seems to have gone completely haywire. I’ve had to repost this comment thrice for reasons which are not at all apparent.

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        • nydwracu says:

          Are you really surprised that it is not the official dogma of everything to the right of you that all behavior is completely genetically determined and unalterable by cultural means? Especially since you’re implicitly positing a genetic mechanism differentiating between the two Platonic types of Scientist and Bureaucrat, and another genetic mechanism to explain why smart people tend to act in exact accordance with a stereotype that, as far as I know, didn’t exist in the exact culture that a network-based explanation would predict would give rise to dramatically low amounts of the behavior characteristic of that stereotype.

          Anyway, I don’t expect to be able to come to agreement on something where the evidence is anecdotal on both sides, and, since I’ve personally seen people change away from ‘nerdy’ behaviors upon entering a social environment closer to their intelligence-level, my priors are pretty strong here. But if there’s a culture that contains both strong social-environment selection for intelligence (drawing people of similar intelligence levels to each other, which the British aristocracy did a lot more of than the American system of suburbs) and an endogenous nerd stereotype correlating intelligence with reclusiveness and low social skills…

          Of course, a problem is that, once the idea exists, otherwise-innocuous facts will be amplified or distorted to fit the pattern. (Edison only slept for four hours a day! So did Richard Nixon — and Nixon also got it into his head that there were people who didn’t need to sleep at all, and pestered his doctor for information, and also took breaks very rarely until his entire staff pressured him into taking them more frequently. Kant kept a regular schedule! That’s hardly eccentric. Spinoza was a recluse! No, he wasn’t, and that fact is despite the fact of the writ of cherem — not only did he apparently have many friends, he managed to have many friends after getting completely expelled from the community he grew up in. And everyone knows Erdos and Galois, but who can name a mathematician who lived a normal life? And why would anyone ever talk about a mathematician’s normal life?) People are attracted to that sort of thing — and just-world seems like one of the motivations for it. Another, of course, is that abnormalities are more interesting than their absence. Galois wrote up all his work right before getting himself killed in a duel at the age of 20. That makes a good story! Gauss married twice, had six children, and died at 77, having done nothing in his personal life more interesting than discouraging his children from going into mathematics. Who cares?

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      • think a steelman of your position might be

        Please, no more steelmanning.

        Person A says something that Person B finds strange and unreasonable, something that makes no sense given the rest of Person B’s worldview. So, Person B, “charitably” invents a somewhat similar position that makes sense given person B’s worldview Which worldview person A massively disagrees with, and is indeed violently insulted by.

        Whenever I see the word, I assume, usually correctly, that you are about to demonize your opponents with some version of their argument that only makes sense, only is steel, given that everything that they believe is wrong, everything you believe is correct, and they are evil and stupid.

        And even if you have the best of intentions, and I doubt your intentions are as pure as you think, you are going to wind up inadvertently doing that.

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        • peterdjones says:

          If you don’t
          like steelmanning , make more effort to bridge inferrential gaps.

          Report comment

        • Needs two people to close an inferential gap. Whenever person A says “what person B really means is” he is resisting person B’s efforts to close the gap, erecting walls against B’s bridges.

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        • peterdjones says:

          Well…no, not at all.

          Report comment

        • MugaSofer says:

          We’re on the internet. If someone feels a steelman is not representative of their position, and is in fact a strawman, they can say so and it’s in full view of everyone.

          Also, maybe I’m atypical, but I usually use steelmanning in primarily two-person conversations. It feeds my understanding of their position back to them, not to some watching crowd.

          Steelmanning is a tool for clarification, not rhetoric (indeed, it’s quite counterproductive for rhetorical purposes.).

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        • MugaSofer says:

          I usually use steelmanning in primarily two-person conversations. It feeds my understanding of their position back to them, not to some watching crowd.

          That is what Scott thinks he is doing, or thinks that he thinks he is doing, but what I think he is doing, perhaps not consciously or intentionally, is saying “Burn the witches, death to the evil heretics”

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        • It’s probably a topic for a future article (this is a hint), but a discussion of the process of estimating other people’s motives would be very welcome.

          One of the things which can heat up a discussion really fast is concluding that the other person’s behavior (behavior includes words) is sufficient evidence that they’re inimical. Sometimes they *are* inimical, and it’s important to get it right, but part of what’s been going on is contingents from both the left and the right who are assuming the worst, both of motives and of consequences of actions.

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        • Anonymous_tagged_so_I_can_C-f_this says:

          That is what Scott thinks he is doing, or thinks that he thinks he is doing, but what I think he is doing, perhaps not consciously or intentionally, is saying “Burn the witches, death to the evil heretics”

          This seems maybe like what I think *almost everyone on every side of every argument who *isn’t* Scott, and *only* that set* does, so I’m interested in what you mean. Can you go deeply into one particular example of when Scott did this unintentionally, and how you translate his argument to “death to the evil heretics”?

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        • ozymandias says:

          He’s still upset about the “some homophobes are gay men suffering from typical mind fallacy” thing. Oh hey! It’s an example of Not All Homophobes Are Like That!

          I agree, Mr. McDonald, not all homophobes are like that.

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        • Anonymous says:

          “That is what Scott thinks he is doing, or thinks that he thinks he is doing, but what I think he is doing, perhaps not consciously or intentionally, is saying “Burn the witches, death to the evil heretics””

          >complains steelmanning misrepresents people’s positions

          >strawmans people who do it

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      • James James says:

        While Moldbug advocated the “patchwork” of many small countries, he also advocated the “they say what they want, I do what I want” style of government.

        I envision neoreaction as some large states, similar size to what we have now, which have replaced the state religion with the profit motive, and so allow groups of people with different lifestyles to segregate themselves. For-profit cities run in different ways; the central state doesn’t care how they do it as long as they pass on a portion of the rent.

        This is similar to the neoreactionary take on economics: Misean economics works within its operating envelope — the order imposed by the state. The nightwatchman state doesn’t try to centrally plan the economy, it just enforces the law and allows capitalists to get on it with, and doesn’t care how they do it as long as they obey the law and pay rent. Similarly, the neoreactionary state doesn’t try to centrally plan society. It allows discrimination, freedom of association; it allows things like no-divorce marriage to evolve by just enforcing contracts. This is what Moldbug advocated: for Massachusetts to stop trying to remake society in Kansas.

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        • peterdjones says:

          That’s libertarianism. MM may have a port open to it, but the people who want to recreate Sparta don’t.

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        • James James says:

          Sort of. It’s Moldbug’s take on libertarianism, which fills in some gaps and differs from conventional libertarianism, to the extent that conventional libertarians like the LvMI types wouldn’t like it. The state is viewed as the legitimate owner of all land. The profit motive is what keeps the central state small.

          It’s basically Heathian anarchism: towns are ruled absolutely by sovcorps. The only taxation is land rent. Rothbard wrote favourably about Heathian anarchism only because he didn’t understand it.

          People would be able to recreate Sparta as long as they paid rent. They wouldn’t be subject to the laws and regulations that prevent people from recreating Sparta at the moment. Plenty of libertarians don’t like that either. There are non-LvMI types who only support libertarianism insofar as they think it would decrease inequality and discrimination. They would be horrified by the massive increase in inequality and discrimination under Moldbug’s libertarianism.

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    • ozymandias says:

      As a person who has spent quite a lot of time in the trans community, I assure you, there is no end to the tiny nitpicky differences people will threaten to murder each other over.

      DIE PEOPLE WHO SPELL TRANS WITH AN ASTERISK SCUM

      (I am not excluding myself from this complaint, I too am depressingly prone to “we should be rising up against the common enemy! The people who think drag queens don’t count as trans!”)

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      • Piano says:

        Well thankfully within a traditional society public transsexuality would be punishable by excommuncation or worse, so there would be no real-life trans community and the infinitely silly squables would stay online in hopefully-private forums, or not exist. For everyone, homosexual and transsexual desires are best kept as a private struggle. The maintenance of normalcy and stability are an extremely underrated feature of successful civilization, which neoreaction highlights many times.

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        • gattsuru says:

          The situation isn’t really specific to transexuality/homosexuality — it’s just that these groups /should/ have massive unifying pressures, fairly strong in-group pressures, and have major shared beliefs that adherents claim make up a huge aspect of their individual lives, yet even back in the 1950s were fighting over who could wear pants*.

          * Yes, seriously. The Mattachine Society were gay (and largely communist), and had holy wars over whether women had to wear dresses.

          Stuff that we handle in public, that doesn’t have large external pressures, and that doesn’t have such shared beliefs, are all more subject to this practice. Mandatory XKCD link. You can quite easily find quite a large share of internal wars in prehistory, especially in societies where status-qua-status and strong caste identification occurred, especially obvious in the fall of the Mauryan Empire.

          If you promote social ostracization and excommunication as a norm rather than extreme event, you’ll see those tools used very haphazardly… which, interestingly, we see in the neoreactionary sphere.

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        • DanPeverley says:

          The trans community was used here as an example of how these kinds of problems crop up everywhere, not as an example of how that specific community is the only one with a flaw. You probably knew that already and are being purposely obtuse for some purpose that I can’t grasp, I know it’s not public relations.

          Squabbling and sectarian pettiness certainly exist in the more traditionalist organizations in existence today, so there’s no reason whatsoever to imagine they wouldn’t exist if your particular vision of a reactionary state were put into effect.

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        • Piano says:

          @gattsuru

          Dealing with shitty modern people, excommunication and ostracisation might have to be used a lot, but a quick stabilization is less painful in the longrun than a slow one. Yes, pulling of a bandaid quickly hurts, but that doesn’t mean I’m a sadist or I want a society of sadists.

          Ideally, you’d develop a society where you don’t need to excommunicate anyone. Anissimov thinks we need to start from scratch to achieve this, hence the idaho plan.

          In a society of few rules that are consistently enforced, modern man might mistake the relative harshness for haphazardness, but it’s in fact the opposite.

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        • ASR says:

          If I understand right, your point is that if you suppress individuality and difference fiercely enough, you can avoid identity-driven conflicts. I’m not certain this really works, but even if it did, “enslave or expel everybody who is different” seems like a cure worse than the disease. It’s not a useful remedy.

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        • Piano says:

          @ASR
          “suppress individuality and difference”

          No, just divide people appropriately.

          The entire point of civilization is the development and elevation of the best that humanity has to offer. That requires extraordinary experience with the diversity of human potential.

          But, it must be done appropriately, and with great respect for the stability of the civilization that makes possible such development.

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        • Piano says:

          @DanPeverley
          Sex, both senses of the term, is central to human nature. If you can solved public transsexuality/homosexuality and the silly conflict that it brings upon itself, then you can solve pretty much any other similar conflict. It’s a central example, so I’m hardly being unfair.

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        • gattsuru says:

          Several groups of Leninist Communists have a philosophy they claimed to have invented, and named “democratic centralism”. Under this rule, all members of the party (and everyone’s a member of the party) are required to maintain an action once a vote has been taken. Those who don’t are excised from the party (for extra Lenin points, with an icepick).

          This has not, as a rule, worked terribly well. At least from an outsider’s perspective, the various worker’s parties claiming to use this rule have been just as prone to infighting and splitting as any homeowner’s association, and often over precisely the same sort of matters. And where there are enough people on both sides of a debate to split into two separate groups, it’s usually only a matter of weeks before some /new/ argument comes up.

          You could argue that this is some modern disease of liberalism in general, or certain modern technologies, but you’ll find the exact same sort of bickering in antiquity. The Greeks talked about The First War starting (and being prolonged) over a bunch of gods bickering over an apple, there are dozens of Qin Shihuangdi in most every part of the world, and the whole “bunch of warring tribes” thing doesn’t seem to have worked terribly well in North America, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, those little islands that can only support a couple hundred humans…

          And they don’t stop, after the first giant pile of skulls.

          It might be possible to solve, but I’m really not sure why you’re certain that the solution to “people are too prone to argue others fit into categories of evil people” involves categorism and ostracization.

          In a society of few rules that are consistently enforced, modern man might mistake the relative harshness for haphazardness, but it’s in fact the opposite.

          As a separate critique, I’m not sure how the various traditionalist philosophies can be distilled into a society of few, consistently enforced rules. Levitican law is /very/ complicated, and by the 1700s had a couple millenia of procedural philosophy tacked onto it with tape. Just gender roles alone, speaking as someone who’s had to approach the matter from the outside, are surprisingly frustrating.

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        • ozymandias says:

          Okay, I’m confused. Your previous statement led me to believe that I would get to go hang out in Transtopia with the other trans people and we could excommunicate all the transphobes. I am in general support of that plan! But apparently people only get to be in self-determining small communities if they are self-determining small communities of people you like? That seems mean! And also contradictory to what you said before!

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        • Piano says:

          @ozy
          Via identitarianism/ethonationalism, I really only care about the nation that I personally would be part of. If you create transtopia and somehow get all the trans people from the “my” society to leave and join you (without any children from “my” society knowing anything about any of it), then I wish you queers the best of luck and I look forward to the scientific advancement coming out of your attempts to maintain population levels. And yeah you can definitely excommunicate the transphobes back to my society. Win win.

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        • Andy says:

          Which “Traditional society?” Are we operating on Western European traditions? What about the Native American “two-spirits?”
          Or I can just link to Wikipedia:
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_gender#History

          In a lot of traditions there were third genders – note that ancient Israel might have had as many as six genders.
          I suspect all of these traditions came about through a process of trial and error – much like the period of trial and error we’re going through now as we discover that sex and gender are more complicated than a simple binary set of biological laws.
          Your notion of excluding homosexuality and gender-queer behavior from the public square strikes me as a very common conservative reaction to cultural experimentation – “let them stay in the closet!” – but it denies the opportunity to develop new traditions and practices to adapt a society over time, and keep tradition from becoming ossification.

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        • ozymandias says:

          I am growing increasingly confused about whether Piano’s claim is “when we divide people into small groups they stop fighting with each other so much”, which seems observably not true, or “when we divide people into small groups we the Elite will not experience any conflict,” which also seems observably not true.

          Either way, look at the infighting in the Quiverfull movement between Vision Forum, No Greater Joy Ministries, the Advanced Training Institute, etc. The Quiverfull people are impeccably socially conservative: no LGBT people, no birth control, women are to submit to their husbands, homeschooling. And yet they have tremendous fights over things that seem equally asinine to outsiders. (“Is it okay to kiss when you’re engaged or should you save your first kiss for your wedding day?”)

          Also I think y’all in No-Nerds-Or-Queerstopia should excommunicate the trans people, the nerds, and the homosexuals to our society. I mean, you don’t want them anyway. Maybe we can have a special holiday when everyone trades city-state members.

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        • Piano says:

          @andy

          whatever you can seriously consider your tradition.
          Each society has it’s own tradition and mythos.

          Tradition moves slowly for a reason, if you want to move quickly, you’ll have to create your own society.

          @ozy
          My claim is essentially “when we divide people into appropriately-sized groups, which are probably bigger than a citystate-sized breadbox and smaller than a USA-sized semitrailer, which are each fairly self-sufficient, have their own tradition and mythos, and have not-terribly-lax rules of admission, then any in-fighting is going to be insignificant and sort-lived.”
          @ozy

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        • ozymandias says:

          …can you point to a time when this happened?

          If not, you’re basically like a guy saying “no, this isn’t green, this is grue, the color that is green but will turn blue on January 1, 2020! Aha you can’t prove me wrong!”

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        • peterdjones says:

          Hardly any wonder that they are understated when our civilisation is so much more successful..

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        • Piano says:

          @ozy
          imperfectly, anytime before the mid 1700s. Add on to my claim “given modern technology and communications.”

          I’m not aware of any findings in psychology etc. that would decisively disprove the claim.

          Also, the entire point of neoreaction is stalling for the singularity, so we don’t have really any time to develop deep traditions, that’s why I just picked Roman Catholicism with all it’s ideosyncracies, because it’s old. I’d probably do this even if I was non-cis+hetero. I’m all for self-modifying into fluid omnisexuality and having a society-a-minute, but it’ll have to wait.

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        • ozymandias says:

          Athens, pre-conquering-shit Rome, the courts of Versailles, and the various medieval monasteries were, of course, noted for their lack of tribal infighting.

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        • Piano says:

          @ozy

          read Anissimov’s series of blog posts on monarchy.

          Monarchy != neoreaction, but monarchy is a possibility for an individual neoreactionary state.

          Report comment

        • ozymandias says:

          I’m not saying anything about monarchy, Piano. I’m saying that observably pre-1700s society did include a fair amount of politicking, and probably would have included far more if peasants could write. I mean, admittedly it would be politicking about peasant concerns (“not all millowners steal some of their customer’s grain to make their own bread”) rather than about present-day concerns, but constant infighting, status games, and defense of the ingroup as far as I can tell seem to be a basic trait of humans.

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        • Piano says:

          @ozy
          Monarchy as an example. A neoreactionary society successfully minimizes disorder, of which infighting and status games are particular types.

          Report comment

      • ozymandias says:

        wrong place please delete

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        • Anonymous says:

          you can delete your own comments by 1 clicking “edit” 2 deleting everything 3 clicking save; and 4 confirming deletion at the dialogue box

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      • If the official religion tries to include transexuals and such, it is going to be caught in doctrinal incompatibilities, which require it to persecute everyone, the opposite of what is intended. See for example racefail09, where authors were both forbidden and required to write the other, with the result that all approved literature since then has been crap. Recall how “game of thrones” got into trouble for its entirely realistic and extremely respectful depiction of twelfth century mongols, which the politically correct mistook for Mexicans.

        Depicting Mongols accurate and respectfully is like saying N***ardly. If you say N***ardly, the censorware will ban you for fear that most blacks don’t know etymology, so you have still sinned against the holy other for failure to consider how the other will understand you.

        The most practical solution is that of the Ottoman empire, where they had a quite intolerant high status religion, but numerous inferior lower status religions each with their own proper sphere.

        Christian theocracies tend to rope everyone into the official religion, which creates problems, which problems were somewhat reduced by making all the pagan gods into saints, and having cults of those saints. Don’t like an all male trinity? Try Mary, mother of God.

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        • Desertopa says:

          ” Recall how “game of thrones” got into trouble for its entirely realistic and extremely respectful depiction of twelfth century mongols, which the politically correct mistook for Mexicans.”

          Got into trouble with whom? It didn’t keep it from being a bestseller, or having one of the most popular series on television based on it. I’m a long, long way from being a reactionary, and it’s still my favorite fiction series. In fact, none of the people I know who are fans of it in person, and only a very small minority who are fans online, have reactionary sympathies at all.

          Whatever “trouble” the series has gotten into is trivial relative to its success.

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        • Got into trouble with whom? It didn’t keep it from being a bestseller, or having one of the most popular series on television based on it.

          Seems to me that after the Mongol/Mexican episode and the ensuing grovel fest, the television series turned to crap. This may be coincidence (there is a similar loss of control in the books) or it may be that the scriptwriters were too busy looking over their shoulder in fear of the Stormtroopers from the Ministry of Tolerance to write well.

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        • Oligopsony says:

          Yeah, I agree, the problem with GoT is definitely that it’s not edgy enough.

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        • Randy M says:

          Has “edgy” been edgy any time this decade?

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      • MugaSofer says:

        Wait, drag queens count as trans? I have been wrong in so many conversations lately. This is much more interesting.

        … why do drag queens count as trans?

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        • ozymandias says:

          Before the nineties, there really wasn’t a clear differentiation between people who crossdress for performance, people who crossdress to express something about their gender, people who crossdress for erotic purposes, and people who transition– particularly among fairly marginalized groups of people, such as black/Latino sex workers. For a fairly accessible introduction to what it was like, I highly recommend the documentary Paris is Burning, which also includes some pretty fabulous dancing. The idea of sharp distinctions between those groups AFAICT was invented by healthcare professionals (who wanted to give trans healthcare treatment to people with legitimate gender identity disorder, not just people who get off on it), trans activists (for PR), and social service providers (to make provision of social services easier). It’s not necessarily grounded in what transness is actually like.

          …also “trans” is partially a political coalition and it irritates me to see people claim that drag queens don’t suffer from transmisogyny when they actually observably do.

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        • Anonymous says:

          Isn’t the whole point of saying “trans” to leave ambiguous the second part of the word? So it should include the possibility of “vestite.”

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        • ozymandias says:

          Anon: I think you might be thinking of “trans*,” which was coined with exactly that logic. “Trans” is a pretty routine shortening of “transsexual” or “transgender.” “Transgender” was once inclusive of crossdressers and drag queens and so on, but then people decided it wasn’t, and then someone was like “okay, we’ll use trans* to refer to the group with crossdressers and drag queens and so on in”, but then other people decided it wasn’t, and now we have three words that all mean the same thing and people yelling at each other a lot about how using the wrong one means you’re an EVIL TRANSPHOBE.

          why do I know this, I have wasted my life.

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        • Thomas says:

          Okay: semi-serious question: Am I ever going to get burned for not using the ‘*’ in the tumblrsphere? I understand they mean it as a placeholder, it’s just that no other word in the English language is used that way.

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        • ozymandias says:

          Thomas: The Tumblrsphere AFAICT currently believes you’re an awful transmisogynist if you use the asterisk. I think that argument is dumb, but at least we don’t have to use the damn asterisk anymoe.

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        • Thomas says:

          Hooray for stopped clocks, I guess.

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    • Andy says:

      Political parties and religious conflict are a symptom of not allowing this to happen; they’re silly and unnecessary for civilization.

      Did you miss the part also known as ALL OF HUMAN HISTORY where religious conflict was non-stop?

      The Thirty Years War did not happen because of liberalism.

      Stop treating your little neoreaction community as the answer to all social problems, because back when people were working by Reactionary ideals ALL THESE PROBLEMS WERE STILL PROBLEMS.

      You’re like the Communists who assert that utopia’s as simple as vanquishing capitalism because “WORKER’S PARADISE! NO CONFLICT!” totally ignoring all the reasons for conflict that aren’t economic or ways that carefully-managed conflict improves efficiency or the impossibility of making people get along without conflict without emptying their skulls or unicorn farts or… agh.

      (I apologize for the unkind tone of this comment, but I feel it is both true and necessary enough to justify the unkindness.)

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      • Piano says:

        Yes, there’s been a lot of conflict and people happened to be religious. Such conflict was excusable hundreds of years ago, but it’s not excusable today. We’ve discovered enough about the human condition to greatly reduce conflict and suffering, but some of that knowledge is uncomfortable, so we ignore it and conflict continues.

        It’s a relative utopia, sure. But it’s not utopian because it doesn’t try to perfect the human, human nature is seen as a given and the model of society is built upon that, rather than the other way around. (Strict utopianism is only applicable to post-humans, with post-human nature. Unfortunately the creation of post-humanity will probably coinside with the singularity, so all bets are off and it’s therefore pointless to speculate. Communism and anarchism will work and they’ll be beautiful, but as ideas they are hundreds of years too early in human/post-human/whatever evolution.)

        Conflict is difference plus uncertainty. Human differences are a given. Minimize uncertainty via acknowledgement of human nature and differences.

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        • peterdjones says:

          Difference plus uncertainty actual only models intra society conflict, so you’re effectively staying all conflict is intra society conflict.

          But it isn’t, because if you believe you have the one true religion, you pretty well have to convert everybody else and if yon believe you are the master race, you pretty well have to enslave th others to prove your point.

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        • Piano says:

          @peterdjones
          inter-society situation: two societies that are pretty sure the other one doesn’t have a nuke, so are tempted to bomb them.

          Ethnicities being unequal doesn’t mean you can do any sort of meaningful well-ordering. Every race is their own master race, because there best and what they do best and they like that because that’s the kind of people they are. It’s almost tautological.

          This doesn’t imply enslaving other populations in the slightest. “Why would I want the icky Other to do our work, when our work is the thing that maintain our national character.” etc.

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        • peterdjones says:

          @piano

          If the “inferior” race shows every sign of flourishing, that disproves the theory, intolerably.

          Report comment

        • People can invent their own uncertainty.

          I’m reading Anti-Judaism by Nirenberg (a history of how Jews were viewed by non-Jews), and part of it is fantasies of Jewish power.

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        • Piano says:

          @peterdjones
          So what?

          @Nancy
          So what? The point is to *minimize* uncertainty. With humans, you certainly can’t eliminate it. That’s not the point, stop being so dense.

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      • Doug S. says:

        Did you miss the part also known as ALL OF HUMAN HISTORY where religious conflict was non-stop?

        Actually, I think religious wars were generally a creation of monotheism rather than religion in general. The pagan Romans were perfectly happy to let conquered peoples go on worshiping their own gods alongside the Roman ones; it took monotheism to say “It’s not enough to adopt our religion, you also have to give up your old one, too.”

        I could be wrong though. I know the ancient Greeks didn’t fight over religion, even though they fought over everything else, and I’ve never heard about religious wars being a feature of pre-modern China or Japan. India could be a counterexample, though; I know much less about ancient India than I do other civilizations.

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        • peterdjones says:

          Rome was not reactionary in the neos sense precisely because it was multicultural.

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        • von Kalifornen says:

          IDK. Multicultural doesn’t mean what it used to.

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        • bem says:

          I haven’t worked out a full historical argument to prove this, but I suspect that religious wars in Europe were more of a result of the immense political power wielded by the Catholic Church than because of monotheism in general. Historically and today, there’s definitely been intersectarian violence between nonmonotheistic religions.

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      • Did you miss the part also known as ALL OF HUMAN HISTORY where religious conflict was non-stop?

        And the Cathedral solution to this problem is to forcibly covert everyone in the world to progressivism, a doctrine that becomes more and more intolerant by the day.

        In fact religious conflict has not been non stop. The Roman Empire, in its pagan days, was highly successful in putting a stop to it. Also, no religious conflict in the British empire, back in the days before it was officially an empire. Back when restoration Anglicanism was the official state religion, 1660 to around 1820 or so they quelled Muslims without difficulty, something no one has done before or since.

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      • Stop treating your little neoreaction community as the answer to all social problems, because back when people were working by Reactionary ideals ALL THESE PROBLEMS WERE STILL PROBLEMS.

        We probably have different views of what states exemplify reactionary ideals.

        My preferred example is England under Restoration Anglicanism, from 1660 to 1820, when to get near the levers of power, you had to do an adequate job of simulating adherence to the official government religion.

        And, by and large, the problems in question did not exist in those days.

        Also, that state brought us science, technology, empire, and the industrial revolution.

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    • Multiheaded says:

      Neoreaction solved all of this.

      This long-running if entirely understandable trend in Scott’s comments reminds me of how calling every event “great for bitcoin!” is a bit of a meme in the Reddit metasphere.

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      • Piano says:

        If you consider bitcoin and the blockchain technology as being anti-fragile, which many people implicitly do, then everything and it’s opposite *is* good for bitcoin.

        Replace “neoreaction” with “the thoughts of thousands of great thinkers that developed and attempted to maintain traditional society”, then it’s not so crazy, and might actually be arrogant not to think it’s not self-evident.

        Distilled traditional wisdom plus modern science and technology is another example of something that is antifragile and “actually solves everything”, with the only given being human nature.

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        • Piano says:

          @ozy

          hence “distilled”. If you speak english and some latin an maybe an other language, you’re fine.

          Report comment

        • peterdjones says:

          Has it struck you that modern technology and traditional values ,might have an impedance mismatch?

          Report comment

        • ozymandias says:

          I really don’t think there’s a substitute for reading the classics in the original, particularly since most modern classicists are proggy as hell and that might bleed over into their translations. I mean, you don’t *all* have to speak *all* the languages– getting three or four people to learn classical Chinese is probably enough for an interesting diversity of opinions about Confucianism.

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        • peterdjones says:

          Finding writers under monarchies who praise monarchies is easy for the same reason it is easy to find back issues of pravda saying communism is just spiffy.

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        • nydwracu says:

          Well, I’ve been pushing Old English revivalism for a while…

          (I would say that in Old English if it had an aspect system at all, but I don’t think it did. Wonder how it got there. French influence? Or Celtic?)

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        • Piano says:

          @peterdjones

          Has it struck you over the head with the power of a thousand suns that adding modern values to modern technology is like giving PCP to Andre the Giant? In the end, reality is left far behind and everyone dies.

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  8. I’d come up with a simple version of the idea– phrased as “everyone has a right to care about their group reputation”– but I didn’t feel I had a safe space to promulgate it, so I’m very glad you’ve developed a more complete version.

    I don’t know if it’s worth mentioning that Westboro Baptist Church is more like a bunch of legal trolls than a religion– I’m working on a theory that when a memeplex has some status, it acquires parasites.

    And as for the Jew in the future Czarist Russia, they’re lucky if they’re merely dealing with a default on a loan. I don’t know if I’m just being prejudiced, but I’d expect that Russia to be building towards pogroms.

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    • anonymous says:

      I don’t know if it’s worth mentioning that Westboro Baptist Church is more like a bunch of legal trolls than a religion

      Except that on the inside, when they’re not out picketing, they actually are an abusive cult, which is more or less the limiting case of a religion.

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  9. Amanda L. says:

    I like this post. More generally, I think we are coming full circle with social rationality: the first generation of posts was discrediting irrational thought patterns, and now this generation is explaining why seemingly irrational thought patterns are rational responses to our social environment.

    You have a talent for crystallizing and naming vague ideas I previously couldn’t figure out how to express. For example, this post explains why I, who consider myself a feminist and also a reasonable person, have struggled so much in Keeping My Identity Small with regard to the recent spate of criticisms against certain subsets of tumblr feminism which I AGREE are toxic — because I don’t want the reasonable subsets of tumblr feminism, and feminism as a whole, tarred by that same brush. I’m still not sure what to do about this though. It seems like the standard responses are “defend the fringes” or “abandon the whole feminist memeplex, including the parts you consider true and incredibly important.” I can’t do either of those and still maintain my sense of personal integrity :/

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      “I like this post. More generally, I think we are coming full circle with social rationality: the first generation of posts was discrediting irrational thought patterns, and now this generation is explaining why seemingly irrational thought patterns are rational responses to our social environment. ”

      Yes, absolutely. I totally agree with this. This is what I think of now when I hear “postrationality”, although I don’t know if it was the original meaning of the term.

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      • Alejandro says:

        This process seems related as well to what the other Scott A. that I follow (Aaronson) called a Malthusianism:

        “Again and again, I’ve undergone the humbling experience of first lamenting how badly something sucks, then only much later having the crucial insight that its not sucking wouldn’t have been a Nash equilibrium.

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      • Piano says:

        A lot of rationality presupposes a sane world. When you’re young, you think that you or someone else will finally get it right and make the world a saner place. Learning rationality (at least to a rational actor) is an implicit bet on that. When you grow up, you realize that it’s probably not going to happen and you’ll have to deal with an insane world for the rest of your life. Post-rationality doesn’t presuppose a sane world. So, people starting to get into post-rationality just means that the rationality community is growing up. We’ve finally reached the maturity of a non-manchild in his mid twenties. Someone should make a coming-of-age movie.

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      • Steve says:

        > “…now this generation is explaining why seemingly irrational thought patterns are rational responses to our social environment. ”

        Once you can look G.K. Chesterton in the eye, tell him exactly what you think of his fence, and tear it down with his full approval–do you have a next stage planned?

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        • peterdjones says:

          If you can explain why sentence was built for [bad reason] and Chesterton can’t explain why it was built for [good reason] why shouldn’t you win the argument?

          “There is a good reason for X, but I don’t know what is” isn’t usually a winning move.

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    • Richard Gadsden says:

      The other common response, which works well until it start succeeding, is to adopt a new name (aka, to split). In re feminism, there’s “second wave” vs “third wave”, there’s “sex-positive” vs “radical”, there’s Maggie McNeill’s “archaeofeminism” vs “neofeminism”, et cetera.

      If no-one else has adopted your new term, then you can pin the meaning down, but once it’s popular enough, then idiots jump on the bandwagon and you start having the same problems.

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      • nydwracu says:

        I’m in favor of everyone having their own political label and making sure that that political label means absolutely noth—I mean, Marxism-Nixonism is the Truth and the Way. Marxism-Nixonism is the Truth and the Way. Marxism-Nixonism is the Truth and the Way.

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  10. Ravioli says:

    Seems like this is often averted by criticizing an /action/ rather than an identity. So don’t say “I hate religious people who use their faith as an excuse to picket funerals’, say ‘I condemn the picketing of funerals.” And ‘The Westboro Baptist Church pickets funerals.” Don’t say ‘I hate those Jews who are oppressing the Palestinians,” say ‘I condemn the oppression of the Palestinians.’ And “Netanyahu and his political party are oppressing the Palestinians.” Don’t say ‘I hate special snowflakes who thoughtlessly diagnose themselves with autism’ say ‘people who self-diagnose should see a doctor if they possibly can.’ And “I see a lot of teenagers self-diagnosing without much research.’

    This seems to make it clear the safety has been engaged on the superweapon, and that the author is making a deliberate effort to attack a behavior rather than an identity, and that they’re correspondingly more amenable to discussion with people who have the threatened identity. Now Beth can say to Alice ‘you see a lot of teenagers thoughtlessly self-diagnosing? That’s an empirical claim and it’s one that I doubt. I bet that if we did a study, people who self-diagnose as autistic score the same on tests intended to identify autism as people who have been clinically diagnosed.” (This has been done, and the results came out in Beth’s favor.)

    And not to criticize our gracious blog host or anything, but don’t say ‘I hate those feminists who misrepresent statistics and blatantly lie to make their cause look better’, say ‘I hate misrepresentation of statistics and blatantly lying to advance an argument.’ And then ‘Charles Clymer misrepresents statistics and blatantly lies.’ It’s walking into an argument with your phaser locked on stun. It’s announcing you aren’t planning to deploy a superweapon and people will interpret it as such.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      I’m not sure this works.

      Like, isn’t it important to finger, for example, creationists as people whose arguments are unusually bad? Sure, you could debunk every creationist point individually as “I don’t like it when people ignore carbon dating” and “I don’t like it when people claim there are no transitional fossils when there are”, but if you don’t expect to be able to debunk every creationist claim individually, or if you expect your listeners to encounter creationists when you’re not there to debunk them, isn’t it important to be able to say “There’s a problem with creationism”?

      Or, if Bob is a violent criminal, you can say “I don’t like it when someone murders,” “I don’t like it when someone murders again”, “I don’t like it when someone murders a third time and then eats the corpse”, but at some point you also want to add FOR THE LOVE OF GOD STAY THE HECK AWAY FROM BOB.

      And I realize these are just two examples, but I think they generalize.

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      • Ravioli says:

        You’re talking about issues where only a few members of [identity] match the criticism, right? “I hate the WBC’ is fine, we’re only trying to exclude ‘I hate those religious people who picket funerals.” Criticizing an identity all of whose members you actually do regard as bad or stupid should be fine.

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      • Valhar2000 says:

        Why bother with “I hate misrepresentations of carbon dating” instead of just saying “I hate creationism”?

        Report comment

        • Ravioli says:

          Both seem fine? The one to avoid would be ‘I hate members of [group which includes creationists] who reject carbon dating’.

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        • Richard Gadsden says:

          But “I hate Christians who reject carbon dating” is using the superweapon.

          I think the problem is attacking a small untypical subset of a group; it’s better not to identify them with the larger group they’re untypical of, but with the smaller group they’re typical of.

          So attack the WBC for picketing funerals, but not Baptists.

          The real problem will then be when you regard a behaviour as typical of members of a group, and others don’t (or vice versa). If “abusing women” is typical of “men”, then attacking “men” for it is reasonable – and the rare exceptional man who doesn’t abuse women has to deal with being a rare exception. If it’s atypical of men, then a different group-name (“abusive men”, “abusers”, “wife-beaters”) should be adopted.

          If the substance of the dispute is over the typicality of a particular behaviour in a group (e.g. James McDonald holds that male-male anal sex is particularly prone to spread disease, and therefore referring to gay men as “diseased” is reasonable, as they mostly are; everyone else here doesn’t accept that as typical and therefore rejects that choice of language) then you have a problem, as that’s when the superweapon gets deployed, and the firer thinks they’re being perfectly fair.

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        • High death rates among homosexuals:
          http://theroadtoemmaus.org/RdLb/22SxSo/PnSx/HSx/hosx_lifspn.htm

          This is perfectly obvious to everyone, and has been for a very long time. Saint Paul mentions it. You don’t need an epidemiological survey. You don’t need statistics. That gays are on average, filthy and diseased is as obvious as that blacks are, on average, criminal.

          Perhaps most blacks are not criminal and hostile to whites. But if you don’t make a reasonable effort to stay away from blacks, chances are that sooner or later you will have the crap beaten out of you, and if you don’t make a reasonable effort to stay away from gays, sooner or later you will likely catch some horrible disease.

          And all the swipples who are piously outraged by this statement spend large amounts of money to stay away from blacks.

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        • ozymandias says:

          So your link proves that lgb people over fifty are less likely to participate in the gay community and that AIDS takes a bunch of years off your lifespan. Good to know.

          …I’m still confused about why your hypothesis doesn’t mean lesbians should stay the fuck away from heterosexuals. Filthy, diseased degenerates.

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        • Scott Alexander says:

          James, I’ve been trying to be tolerant of you because I do appreciate some of your contributions here.

          However, remember that the comments policy is that if you’re going to say something controversial, you’re under special burden to make sure it’s being said as nicely as possible.

          When you say things like:

          “You swipples are so ignorant of anything that might get you into trouble.”

          or:

          “That gays are on average, filthy and diseased is as obvious as that blacks are, on average, criminal.”

          It’s hard for me to believe you’re taking those rules seriously.

          I’m not saying you have to agree with everybody else about everything. I would be happy if you said the same thing but phrased it as “It should be clear to everyone that gays have higher rates of sexually transmitted diseases”. But you didn’t.

          Since I already banned you for three days, this time I am banning you from this blog for three weeks. Lest anyone accuse me of political bias, if you look down the thread you’ll see I also just banned a feminist who was similarly causing trouble and being insulting.

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        • Ialdabaoth, here’s some evidence that you don’t need to fear JAD’s coalition-building ability.

          Report comment

        • Alrenous says:

          filthy and diseased
          [vs]
          higher rates of sexually transmitted diseases

          Juxtaposition

          habitually malicious person
          [...]
          doesn’t have the mental flexibility

          Consistency. You know what this looks like, right?

          So, being rude to groups bad but being rude to individuals is okay?

          This is not a call for any outward action. This is a call to notice a pattern.

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Ialdabaoth, here’s some evidence that you don’t need to fear JAD’s coalition-building ability.

          So P(m|e) = 0.5ish * 0.0013(or so) / Cthulhu?

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        • suntzuanime says:

          Alrenous: That JAD is malicious is much more obvious to the mainstream reader of this blog than that gays are filthy, I hope you will agree.

          The comments policy of this blog is that marginalized perspectives have a stricter standard of tone that they have to meet. Whatever you think about whether that policy is socially just or epistemically valuable, it is the rules as stated, and not hypocrisy.

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        • Ialdabaoth, could you unpack the math?

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Ialdabaoth, could you unpack the math?

          Sure!

          So P(m|e) = 0.5ish * 0.0013(or so) / Cthulhu?

          So the probability of m given e (i.e., that I don’t need to fear the coalition-building abilities of people like JAD) is equal to the probability of {seeing JAD get banned}, which I’m calling around 50-50, times my previously-expected probability {that I don’t need to fear the coalition-building abilities of people like JAD}, which I put at around 1 in 800 or so, divided by the total averaged amount of probability space for all possible models, which even the Elder Gods cannot contemplate.

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      • Ialdabaoth says:

        Or, if Bob is a violent criminal, you can say “I don’t like it when someone murders,” “I don’t like it when someone murders again”, “I don’t like it when someone murders a third time and then eats the corpse”, but at some point you also want to add FOR THE LOVE OF GOD STAY THE HECK AWAY FROM BOB.

        Yes, but the flocking behavior seems to be less “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD STAY THE HECK AWAY FROM BOB”, and more “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD STAY THE HECK AWAY FROM PEOPLE LIKE BOB, AND HERE’S A BUNCH OF SUPERFICIAL TRAITS TO TELL WHO I’M TALKING ABOUT!”

        And the question becomes, who can we trust to talk about the dangers that Bob poses without trying to paint Carl as sufficiently Bob-like to deserve Othering? And who can we trust to LISTEN to arguments about the danger of Bob, without deciding to burn Carl’s house down? (Remember that we live in a world where anti-pedophilia rage leads to burning down the houses of pediatricians.)

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        • Look for people who talk about Bob rather than large groups that *might* be like Bob.

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Those people are frequently drowned out by all the people responding to them or misquoting them to talk about those large groups.

          Report comment

        • I know. One of the hard things is somehow making the advantages of living in peace as vivid as the pleasures of hurting people.

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          One of the hard things is somehow making the advantages of living in peace as vivid as the pleasures of hurting people.

          OMG YOU JUST REACHED INTO MY HEART AND SUMMED UP MY SOUL IN ONE PITHY SENTENCE. How did you do that?

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        • Xycho says:

          It’s not phenomenally hard, it just takes realisation that the consequences of actively indulging are rapid, almost unavoidable, and sufficiently dire that they are likely to prevent EITHER option for the forseeable future.

          Hence limitation to vicarious entertainment.

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  11. Douglas Knight says:

    I don’t know where to find neo-Nazi blogs, but I’ll bet if there are some, they have places where they talk about how annoying it is when people try to distract from the real issues by using the old NAJALT.

    Stormfront?

    Didn’t you have a Nazi friend who was quite happy with NAJALT?

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  12. Nick T says:

    On the other side of the world, a religious person is writing “I hate atheists who think morality is relative, and that this gives them the right to murder however many people stand between them and a world where no one is allowed to believe in God”.

    Again, not a straw man. The Soviet Union contained several million of these people.

    ?!

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    • Douglas Knight says:

      I don’t know what Scott meant, but the KGB was half a million.

      Report comment

      • Thomas says:

        I suppose tarring every member of the Communist Party (19m out of 290m in 1986) would be too broad, but looking at their numbers vs. number of fundamentalist Christians in the US it sounds a little bit plausible.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      I approve of the explanation given here

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      • bem says:

        Hmm, I’m not sure. That explanation seems to be working from the supposition that even if we assume people who thought killing churchmen was okay were a small minority, there were still probably several million of them, simply because Russia’s population is enormous.

        But this ignores the reasons you might condone killing churchmen for reasons that aren’t strictly ideological. Off the top of my head, some reasons might be 1-being accepted for membership in the Communist party, with the status and privileges that came with that, 2- a sincere belief that the Communist party was doing good, and that “excesses” like killing churchmen would eventually be outweighed 3- fear of reprisals against oneself/one’s family if one expressed a different opinion, and 4- a desire to profit from the property of said churchmen once they were removed (you particularly see this under Stalin, where people had high incentives to report neighbors for counterrevolutionary work because there was a very good chance that they’d then be allowed to move into their houses/take their stuff).

        These are all people who in one way or another condone killing religious people, but it seems to me that they’re ultimately a rather different group from people who simply believe that killing churchmen is ideologically correct and an essential part of establishing a socialist state. I don’t have a good estimate on how many if this latter group there were, though. My best guess is to look at pre-revolutionary enrollment in the Bolshevik party (8,400 in 1905, 46,000 in 1907), and try to build numbers off of that, assuming that many people who enrolled in the party after that were hoping for social gains or agreed with a lot of Communist ideology, but weren’t specifically on Team Kill the Churchmen. This would probably put the estimate of people who were really, explicitly for killing churchmen at probably under a million. But I’m not sure if it’s really a better system of estimation.

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  13. Multiheaded says:

    Excellent excellent excellent post! I have considerable nitpicks about your hypothetical examples, though, which I’m not bothering to list because they don’t ruin the analogy.

    And also I agree with Ozy’s reservations.

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  14. Michael Edward Vassar says:

    I think that young earth creationists are actually a plurality of religious people. Weighted by something like religious attendance, they might actually be the majority, both in the US and on Earth, though certainly not in Europe.

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    • anonymous says:

      A large fraction don’t have any coherent stance on the question, even to the extent their other religious beliefs are coherent. They could switch between YEC, OEC, and pro-evolution churches without noticing or caring.

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      • A large fraction of progressives don’t have a coherent stance either.

        If you believe in evolution, then, logically, you need to believe in natural selection. If you believe in natural selection, then all those terrible things that Darwin said are necessarily true, yet no progressive will admit to believing any of them.

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        • peterdjones says:

          Inferential gap there.

          Meaning, perhaps, that Eugenics is needed?

          Which it isn’t. And that was Galton.

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        • Randy M says:

          He means that different groups of humans differ in physical and mental traits due to heredity. In ways that might be useful to know.

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        • von Kalifornen says:

          I think that progressives… often haven’t quite fooled themselves. More commonly, they shield their eyes from the deadly light of truth — much like the Radish’s Lovecraft. They say things like “it must never be known”.

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        • Scott Alexander says:

          Is this an example of exactly the phenomenon I’m talking about?

          Anonymous insulted Young Earth Creationists. As far as I know you’re not a Young Earth Creationist, but as someone on the right (like Young Earth Creationists, and knowing that the left uses Young Earth Creationists to discredit the entire right), you feel it necessary to point out that the left also says lots of stupid things, even though that’s not exactly relevant to the conversation and Anonymous never denied (and probably wouldn’t deny) that the left says this.

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        • Inferential gap there.

          You swipples are so ignorant of anything that might get you into trouble, so ignorant of forbidden knowledge.

          Here is a little collection of Darwinisms, that should give you the flavor of evolutionary science before certain thoughts were banned in the late twentieth century

          First the full title of “the origin of species”:

          The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection: The Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life

          And now, some references to human races in “the descent of man”

          the sense of smell is of extremely slight service, if any, even to the dark coloured races of men, in whom it is much more highly developed than in the white and civilised races

          Do the races or species of men, whichever term may be applied, encroach on and replace one another, so that some finally become extinct? We shall see that all these questions, as indeed is obvious in respect to most of them, must be answered in the affirmative, in the same manner as with the lower animals.

          This links the body of “The descent of the man”, with the title of “The origin of species”

          Prof. Montegazza writes to me from Florence, that he has lately been studying the last molar teeth in the different races of man, and has come to the same conclusion as that given in my text, viz., that in the higher or civilised races they are on the road towards atrophy or elimination.

          Some savage races, such as the Australians, are not exposed to more diversified conditions than are many species which have a wide range.

          Professor Schaaffhausen first drew attention to the relation apparently existing between a muscular frame and the strongly-pronounced supra-orbital ridges, which are so characteristic of the lower races of man.

          as the hands became perfected for prehension, the feet should have become perfected for support and locomotion. With some savages, however, the foot has not altogether lost its prehensile power, as shewn by their manner of climbing trees, and of using them in other ways.

          The belief that there exists in man some close relation between the size of the brain and the development of the intellectual faculties is supported by the comparison of the skulls of savage and civilised races, of ancient and modern people, and by the analogy of the whole vertebrate series. Dr. J. Barnard Davis has proved,137 by many careful measurements, that the mean internal capacity of the skull in Europeans is 92.3 cubic inches; in Americans 87.5; in Asiatics 87.1; and in Australians only 81.9 cubic inches.

          Nor is the difference slight in moral disposition between a barbarian, such as the man described by the old navigator Byron, who dashed his child on the rocks for dropping a basket of sea-urchins, and a Howard or Clarkson; and in intellect, between a savage who uses hardly any abstract terms, and a Newton or Shakespeare. Differences of this kind between the highest men of the highest races and the lowest savages, are connected by the finest gradations. Therefore it is possible that they might pass and be developed into each other.

          The strong tendency in our nearest allies, the monkeys, in microcephalous idiots, and in the barbarous races of mankind, to imitate whatever they hear deserves notice, as bearing on the subject of imitation.

          Judging from the hideous ornaments, and the equally hideous music admired by most savages, it might be urged that their Aesthetic faculty was not so highly developed as in certain animals, for instance, as in birds.

          without the accumulation of capital the arts could not progress; and it is chiefly through their power that the civilised races have extended, and are now everywhere extending their range, so as to take the place of the lower races.

          At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes, as Professor Schaaffhausen has remarked, will no doubt be exterminated. The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilised state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian and the gorilla.

          We will first consider the arguments which may be advanced in favour of classing the races of man as distinct species, and then the arguments on the other side.

          The inferior vitality of mulattoes is spoken of in a trustworthy work as a well-known phenomenon; and this, although a different consideration from their lessened fertility may perhaps be advanced as a proof of the specific distinctness of the parent races.

          Now if we reflect on the weighty arguments above given, for raising the races of man to the dignity of species, and the insuperable difficulties on the other side in defining them, it seems that the term “sub-species” might here be used with propriety. But from long habit the term “race” will perhaps always be employed.

          Hence the capacity for high musical development which the savage races of man possess, may be due either to the practice by our semi-human progenitors of some rude form of music, or simply to their having acquired the proper vocal organs for a different purpose.

          Through the means just specified, aided perhaps by others as yet undiscovered, man has been raised to his present state. But since he attained to the rank of manhood, he has diverged into distinct races, or as they may be more fitly called, sub-species. Some of these, such as the Negro and European, are so distinct that, if specimens had been brought to a naturalist without any further information, they would undoubtedly have been considered by him as good and true species.

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        • bem says:

          Hm. I suspect that an argument on this subject isn’t going to be particularly productive, but I think you might want to try reading some modern evolutionary science. Darwin, as the first proponent of evolution, was still developing a consistent vocabulary for talking about the subject, and he had all the prejudices of his time (as we, admittedly, have all the prejudices of ours). Thus the point about races being considerable as sub-species really makes no sense. Many species (dogs are a good example) have much more variation in phenotype than humans, and yet there’s no dispute that they are all the same species (although research developed since Darwin’s time often made the delineation of species more complicated). Likewise, the idea of species atrophy (which will kind of by definition be maladaptive) isn’t really substantiated by empirical evidence. The only counterexample that I can think of would be groups, like pure-breed dogs, that have been aggressively bred for one particular trait at the expensive of other, more functional ones. And even this is a breeding-program problem, not a species-wide one.

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          You swipples are so ignorant of anything that might get you into trouble, so ignorant of forbidden knowledge.

          You REALLY need to stop doing this.

          If you believe in natural selection, then all those terrible things that Darwin said are necessarily true, yet no progressive will admit to believing any of them.

          And this.

          Also, don’t mistake “will not admit to believing in them” for “recognizes that opening up any discussion about them means shoveling hours of bullshit from the likes of… well, to be honest, you.”

          I’m a pretty staunch Progressive, and I will gladly have an honest discussion about my actual beliefs on human biodiversity with anyone whom I think is intellectually honest, polite, and not obviously riding a giant raging agenda of hatred and condescension.

          But you have yet to show me ANY reason why doing so with YOU would appeal to me in the slightest.

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        • I suspect that an argument on this subject isn’t going to be particularly productive, but I think you might want to try reading some modern evolutionary science.

          If you read modern evolutionary science that stays safely away from warm blooded animals, it says exactly what Darwin says about all creatures including humans – that races exist, and that they matter, that the difference between a species and a race is ill defined, that races are the origin of species, and that important differences can and usually will develop even in the presence of massive gene flow.

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    • J. Quinton says:

      It might be true that, for the average reader of SSC, they won’t encounter a YEC. There’s also a spectrum of people who aren’t full-blown YECs, but disbelieve in evolution (old-Earth creationists) which seems to be the main form of the cake with YEC just being the cherry on top. But this all depends on the class/race the reader belongs to an where said reader lives.

      Affluent white men are much less likely to be religious than poor minority women. If you live in an area of the country with lots of minorities, or happen to belong to a job/service that recruits a lot of poor people, you have a much higher chance of encountering a YEC (it should go without saying that the majority of the world isn’t white and also do not live in affluence).

      The majority of my family are minorities, I also was in the military for 6 years, and I went to college in central Pennsylvania; I’ve encountered enough YECs to last me a lifetime.

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  15. Nornagest says:

    “I hate atheists who think morality is relative, and that this gives them the right to murder however many people stand between them and a world where no one is allowed to believe in God”.

    Again, not a straw man. The Soviet Union contained several million of these people.

    I don’t think I’d call Marxism, either orthodox or as practiced in the Soviet Union, a relativist ethical philosophy. Nor do I think there was a particularly close link between Marx’s metaethics and his opposition to religion; it’s no more than two steps removed, sure, but only insofar as the whole philosophy’s wired into the detonation sequence of its ideological superweapon.

    Specifically: it’s more than a little hard to disentangle Marx’s ethics from the rest of his work, since pretty much everything he wrote derives more or less directly from political economy. Insofar as Marxist ethics are a thing, though, they’re rooted in his future history of class and economics. To a Marxist, that is, ideology, including the ideology of ethics, is a property of economic organization, and ideological decisions primarily reflect economic and class conditions; what agency exists within this framework is a property of social groups more than of individuals. Individualist theories of ethics therefore are held to be outgrowths of capitalist economics, and to be superseded over time by a collectivist ethic motivated by class conflict.

    On the other hand, there was some pretty serious persecution of Orthodox Christianity going on in the Soviet Union, especially in the interwar period. Not sure we can say there were millions of people howling for the blood of Christians, but there’s fodder for a legitimate beef there.

    (Lest I give the wrong impression, I’m not a communist nor even particularly far left. I do, however, believe in doing my homework.)

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  16. maia says:

    So, this feeling you’re describing, where it’s like “I know they only said *some* Jews, but this makes me feel uncomfortable because I am in that group”? This is EXACTLY how I felt reading your old blog posts about women or feminism. You put it into words better than I could.

    I don’t get that feeling from your blog anymore, though, usually.

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    • Randy M says:

      Which, discomfort at the criticism, or that you were excluded from it?

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      Yes, and I know I’m doing that and I apologize. Like I said in VII, I don’t know how to argue against people who are actually hurting me or doing bad things without accidentally drawing some people who are probably pretty okay into the mix.

      All I will say in my defense and to separate myself from Bitchtopia is that I am sorry for doing it and will try to speak in a way that minimizes collateral damage.

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      • maia says:

        So I generally don’t feel that way anymore. I think it’s because of a) you explaining that you have had some *really* bad experiences with feminism, which upon reading about them, helped me empathize a lot, and b) you saying things like “yes, sexism and racism are bad problems” extremely emphatically in some posts, c) your association with ozy who has a certain amount of “cred” in this area I guess? And d) things like this comment where you say “I am trying not to do this.”

        It now feels to me like rather than being an outsider tarring a group that I am in, you are someone who is basically On The Same Side in some sense. As in like, “person who will respect me / take me seriously / be nice to me regardless of gender.” I think it’s vital to have that degree of safety to be able to talk about things that might threaten the status of people in the discussion.

        And I think you have done a pretty good job of establishing that on this blog, at least as far as I’m concerned.

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        • Zorgon says:

          There’s an important difference, though.

          I understand that you feel the worry reading Scott’s descriptions of feminism alongside his explanations of the “superweapon” concept, and I can certainly empathise, but… you chose to be a feminist.

          You didn’t choose to be a woman (apologies if I’m wrong but it seems a clear subtext above). I didn’t choose to be a man, and nor did Scott. I didn’t choose to be of Romany origin either. (Or bisexual for that matter, but no-one can tell that just by looking.) So when someone constructs a superweapon against me on the basis of those traits, they’re doing it about something I have no choice whatsoever about.

          That’s what so fucking awful about “Not All Men Are Like That” as a concept. No-one forces you to be a feminist (or a Christian or a cryonicist or whatever else). But you don’t get a choice about being a man. At all. So when someone uses NAMALT to suggest traits men possess, the obvious implication is that I not only automatically possess them, but also have no right to suggest otherwise… entirely on the basis of something I have zero choice about and with no reference to whether the trait in question even applies to me!

          Your described worries regarding Scott’s attitudes might seem the same way, as you seem to associate possession of feminist attitudes with being willing to grant respect and status to women in discussion. But that’s a learned attribute! It’s not actually baseline reality that only feminist-aligned individuals are willing to present identified women with the benefit of the doubt, central politeness and an assumption of no pre-existing malice any more than it’s baseline reality that feminist-aligned individuals are going to automatically dismiss anything I have to say simply because I’m a man.

          If you decide tomorrow that you’re now a member of an egalitarian anti-sexist group called Fishmalks without the specific icky stuff that makes people loathe feminists, you’re basically in the same place you are today (assuming you’re not actually an icky feminist yourself) except you’ve suddenly become magically immune not only to NAFALT as a concept but also to every single superweapon Scott could ever accidentally cook up in his digital basement. That’s not the case with NAMALT, or NAWALT, or NABPALT, NAJALT, or any other inborn trait.

          I would like to reiterate that I really do empathise with your position. I’ve been told I can’t be a sex crime victim because I have a penis, that my friends who are the victims of domestic violence can’t be so because it’s a “gendered crime” and that any disagreement I have with feminism is automatically because I want women to be “put in their place.” As a result I have the same uncomfortable feeling pretty much every single time one of my friends reposts some piece of feminist misinformation from BuzzFeed or Jezebel without so much as even thinking about it. I flat out just don’t go near Twitter. All this is because while my reaction probably doesn’t classify as fully-fledged triggering, it’s definitely somewhere in the vicinity of a panic attack. None of this is rational, all of this is learned behaviour. So I do understand where you’re coming from. But I wanted to make the difference between NAMALT and NAFALT as clear as I possibly could.

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    • Sam Rosen says:

      I think people should be more willing to criticize unpleasant and fringe elements of groups they belong to. And they should be more tolerant when others do so.

      If certain subsets of feminism are toxic, then feminists not criticizing them, and being upset when I criticize them feels really scary.

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      • Piano says:

        Women more than men are prone to overvalue consensus and shy away from giving and receiving criticism well. A male leader in the feminist movement setting public boundaries would be poetic and effective, but is unlikely to happen because A) high quality men don’t usually care about semantic arguments between women and B) the feminists would scream “patriarchy” regardless of the effectiveness of the leader (see Victory Svyatski and FEMEN). So, feminists are SOL. It’s a sad accelerated illustration of Conquest’s Second Law.

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  17. Spencer Cassadine says:

    Insightful post. But, ironically, I think when it comes to the autism example, you missed an important distinction.

    When Alice says ““I hate people who frivolously diagnose themselves with autism without knowing anything about the disorder,” Alice means (and Beth knows Alice means) “REAL autism is earned through a doctor’s diagnosis.” This is a discussion of authenticity, i.e., you aren’t a REAL rap fan because you don’t listen to Run DMC.

    “Without knowing anything” is understood to be rhetoric. Alice knows people like Beth know something about autism. Everyone who goes online or hits on Jenny McCarthy knows something about autism. Alice’s real problem is that Beth spends TOO much time learning about autism without the background training. A ticket into the autism club is supposed to have legible criteria (i.e., decided by a doctor – doctorhood not coincidentally constituting another club with legible criteria, but that’s a different discussion). People like Beth are eroding that.

    So this isn’t really a weak man/inoculation issue, it’s a subtweet. The argument is specifically targeted at the cream of the non-doctor-diagnosis crop, not someone who took a Buzzfeed quiz. When Alice posts, everyone realizes who is being impugned, including Beth. This is possible because the fight is about the borders of a group, so the audience is the group. In the other cases you discuss, the audience is made of outsiders who don’t care about the details. A weak version of the group’s views can easily be extended broadly by this audience. So the group looks to control its image.

    Put another way, the NAXALT fights start with identity and conclude behavior. All men are rapists. All women are treacherous. But the autism fight starts with behavior and concludes identity. Not going to the doctor means you don’t have REAL autism. The former is called bigotry and the latter is called sectarianism.

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  18. Reklaw says:

    Two thoughts in reaction:

    1) You can avoid re-centering a category by omitting unnecessary descriptive terms — for example, you can say “I hate people who think morality is relative” rather than “I hate atheists who think morality is relative.” Or “I hate people who rob people” rather than “I hate black thugs who rob people.” Then, if you believe that one particular category of people deserves to be highlighted for that trait, you can make that case directly rather than through insinuation. For example, you could attempt to argue that “a significant number of atheists, who are not rejected by the general atheist community, believe morality is relative.” Or, to bring it back to feminism, you could argue that “a significant number of men, whose actions are accepted by other men in general, engage in street harassment against women.” The truth or falsity of those arguments aside, at least they are (somewhat fuzzy) empirical facts that can be debated rather than both sides resorting to attacking or defending a group in general. Basically, I think it’s okay to re-center a category as long as you do it explicitly (and therefore allow for rebuttal) rather than through insinuation.

    2) It would be great if there were some commonly-accepted standard for how much negative portrayal a group can receive before it becomes excessive. To go to your future czarist Russia example, it’s one thing if the papers are reporting on the crimes of the Jewish population in proportion to the crimes committed by Gentiles. It’s another thing if the 10 murders committed by Jews during the year receive 90% of the coverage while the 90 murders committed by Gentiles receive 10% of the coverage. Or to take it back to feminism, it’s one thing if a few movies have female characters that are irrational or weak-willed, but it’s another thing if zero movies have a rational and strong-willed female character. Of course, those are the extremes, and there’s plenty of room for disagreement about what the societal standard should be, or how to interpret various portrayals and their social impact. But at least it would be better to focus the debate on overall patterns (i.e., “the crimes of Jews receive far more coverage than the more numerous crimes of Gentiles, and therefore the media has an anti-Semitic bias”) rather than individual instances (i.e., “you shouldn’t report on this crime because it makes Jews look bad”).

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    • suntzuanime says:

      The problem is, overall patterns don’t have anyone you can hold responsible for them. If the Jews only commit 90% of the murders but get 95% of the murder coverage, you can’t go to any particular coverer of a Jew-murder and say “aha! anti-semite!” because he’ll argue his coverage was part of the 90% that was fair instead of the 5% that wasn’t, and 18 times out of 19 he’ll be telling the truth.

      AFAICT the two possible solutions to this are “consider any coverage of Jew-murders at all to be anti-semitism” or “wring your hands uselessly”. Neither is fully satisfying, though the former is obviously much more palatable to Jews, and the latter much more palatable to murder-coverers.

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      • Reklaw says:

        Good point. Here’s a partial solution: you could look at individual media outlets and measure their coverage, then attack the ones that have the most skewed coverage. To return to your example, if the Moscow Times gives 98% of their coverage to murders by Jews and the St. Petersburg Herald gives 92% of their coverage to murders by Jews (and assuming the differences aren’t justified by what’s local news to each paper), then you could argue “the Moscow Times’ editors are anti-Semites because their coverage is heavily skewed towards covering murders by Jews.” Even though other papers like the St. Petersburg Herald are also biased and the difference between the two may be more noise than signal, that sort of criticism would be more justified and would serve to warn other papers that they could also be criticized for being the most biased. Of course, this assumes you can aggregate things up to the media outlets or something analogous.

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        • von Kalifornen says:

          It’s actually worse. In Big societies, what news people hear of is heavily filtered, so you get things like the Jew reading the Czarist papers, and the like.

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  19. Calima says:

    Okay, I agree with your basic argument here – there are some specific extrapolations i take issue with, but that’s not really the point here – and I just want to object to the first example you use. As an autistic person who self-diagnosed, and more recently was diagnosed professionally, I’ve noticed a massive amount of stigma directed towards self-diagnosed autistic people, regardless of the amount of thought or effort they put into their diagnostic process. And this stigma directly leads to people who are most likely autistic failing to find a label that can (in my experience) be incredibly important on a personal and emotional level, as well as limiting their access to a supportive community, resources, information, and possible eventual professional diagnosis. Additionally, thoughtless self-diagnosis is incredibly rare, especially compared to more informed self-diagnosis.

    Even if most self-diagnosed autistic people hadn’t put much effort into their decision to use that label, they still wouldn’t be hurting anyone by doing so. There is no one definite physical thing that is autism. It’s a huge umbrella of different behaviors, mental processes, etc. that we diagnose, even professionally, using a vastly inadequate checklist of external symptoms that don’t correspond to the internal experience of being autistic. The only reason the label autistic exists – or rather, the only reason it should exist – is to help people who are autistic understand themselves and access resources. It’s possible that someone could self-diagnose or be professionally diagnosed as autistic and later find another label is more accurate, and that’s fine, but just the act of labeling oneself autistic is not harmful.

    What all of this means, is that even articulating the idea that self-diagnosed autistic people are “special snowflakes” and “need a real doctor” causes actual, tangible harm by perpetuating sentiments that prevent people from considering self-diagnosis. It’s certainly caused me and other autistic people I know significant stress. Even if it’s phrased that way, it’s pretty much impossible not to feel targeted. It doesn’t matter how much work you’ve done, how much thought you’ve put into it. Most people assume that self-diagnosis is frivolous and motivated by vanity, no matter how much evidence exists to the contrary. And criticism of self-diagnosis rely on the false assumption of frivolity in order to function.

    So I think “Beth’s” response is completely valid. Because “Alice” is talking about people like her. “Beth” is not challenging the assumption that people who frivolously self-diagnose suck. She’s challenging the assumption that people who self-diagnose are frivolous, that professional diagnosis is preferable to self-diagnosis, and that criticizing self-diagnosis, no matter how frivolous it may be, is beneficial or even neutral argument.

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  20. Meredith L. Patterson says:

    What’s especially pernicious about these sorts of category errors is that the categories they’re ostensibly about aren’t necessarily all that well-defined, but people try to talk about them as if they are. This is, in effect, a perpetual superweapon generator. (In my field we’d say that mutually intelligible dialects whose equivalence is undecidable produce an exploit fountain.)

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  21. Sergei Lewis says:

    Again, not a straw man. The Soviet Union contained several million of these people.

    Uh – is that flippancy or an actual belief? Because I dispute that the Soviet Union contained unusually large numbers of people who believed atheism implied permission to murder.

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    • ASR says:

      The USSR committed an unusual number of murders in the name of atheism. Particularly in the first two decades, the state was very brutal in suppressing both the Orthodox church and also other religions. According to Wikipedia, there were about 110,000 Orthodox priests in Russia in 1914. By 1935, 95,000 priests had been killed. In addition to the priests, a vast number of other people were killed due to religion.

      So the question then becomes, what fraction of the population of the USSR supported the killing of churchmen. Even if it was single-digit percentages of the population, that works out to millions of people who believed in using large-scale murder as a tool to suppress religion.

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  22. Doug S. says:

    If you want a better name for the “weak man” fallacy, how about “Niven’s Law Violation”?

    The relevant Niven’s Law is #17, which reads “There is no cause so right that one cannot find a fool following it.” (Meaning that judging a group by the arguments and actions of its worst members is futile, because any large enough group will always contain at least one horrible person.)

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  23. naath says:

    I guess part of the problem is that sometimes what you want to do is talk about a wide-spread *pattern* of behavior.

    So if Fred drives his car into me I could say “I hate Fred, he drove into me, it hurt”. And next week when Bob does the same I could say “I hate Bob”… but maybe it would be more useful to say “I have observed many motorists driving into me, this is bad, what can we do to cause fewer motorists to drive into people”.

    Of course it is not useful to insinuate the existence of patterns when there *is no pattern*.

    Perhaps it is best to make it always clear that you are suggesting a pattern rather than insinuating it “I have noticed that several motorists have attempted to kill me this week” is different to “motorists are all out to get me”.

    I’m also having a bit of a personal crusade against bare plurals – consider including “some” or “most” or “many” or “all” (depending on the prevalence of the described thing) “one Jew murdered a child that one time” or “most men have penises” or “all human need Oxygen to live” etc. Of course then you might argue about the range of percentage-applicability required for “most”…

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  24. sviga lae says:

    Thank you, this is the post that sums up why throwing gang signs about ‘blue/green politics’ and being above it all is ill-considered at best.

    ‘Conservation of politics’ etc. etc.

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    • Oligopsony says:

      Independent of the gang sign above-it-all aspect, I do think terminology like green/blue and equivalents are useful for making it clear that you’re talking about formal features of some conflict, rather than the substantial ones.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      Pointing out reasons why something is bad sums up why it’s wrong to call it bad?

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  25. Zorgon says:

    Gods. I really shouldn’t let myself get aggravated by sites with names like “Bitchtopia” …

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  26. Patrick says:

    Part of the problem is that people often attack the trappings of a belief rather than the belief itself. They argue process or manners when they really care about the substance. Part of the reason that Westboro gets so much attention in the atheist community is probably because they ARE representative of religion in some offensive ways, but it is difficult to get traction attacking those ways, so they are critiqued for their manners.

    To wit, both Westboro and mainstream Christianity (which here means 700 Club type Christianity) believe that wars and natural disasters are attributable in some way to God’s displeasure at human sexual sin. Pat Robertson believes it is ok to say this in a clinical, boring TV show. Westboro believes it is ok to say this at the specific funerals of individuals, in front of the bereaved. Same belief, different manners. Robertson is powerful and years of effort have not unseated him. Westboro is reviled. So they are attacked as a proxy, targeting the one way in which they are different from your obnoxious religious aunt-in-law.

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    • At least where I hang out, Robertson gets reviled frequently.

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    • Randy M says:

      Actually, a lot of it is about the maners, as well. Theologians debating whether or when natural disasters signify divign displeasure are not violating socail norms in the same way as funeral protesters.

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      • Debating whether disasters could signify divine displeasure in a general sort of way isn’t the same as tying a particular disaster to a particular bunch of people and their behavior. The latter does receive a good bit of disapproval.

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      • Patrick says:

        Exactly. A large group of people believe that an infinitely just God permits terrorists to kill US soldiers because he is angry about gays. A subset believes that it is ok to say that at the individual funerals of soldiers. The larger group is too powerful to marginalize. So the smaller group is attacked for being gauche. But everyone knows the attack on process is a proxy for the substance. So the larger group GETS marginalized, because now they know that if they want to say these things on their TV shows or at Thanksgiving, they will be associated with the ill mannered.

        It is the same way we have poured so much energy into attacking dumb, ignorant racists for being dumb and ignorant. There were plenty of smart racists, but they were powerful. But they got the message.

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        • ozymandias says:

          …I am not sure that “God lets terrorists kill US soldiers because He is angry about gays” is a common opinion. Do you have evidence? Most of the nutpicking/weak man examples I’ve seen have been people blaming tornados, hurricanes, etc. on homosexuality. And my basic model is that most of the anti-homosexuality people are also pro-soldier. Indeed, it seems like part of the performance art genius of WBC is combining sacred cows of the right and the left.

          IME religious homophobia is much more likely to be “we love you and have compassion for you, which is why we’re telling you about the evils of your destructive lifestyle.”

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        • Randy M says:

          @ Ozy: I think you may have identified the only literally accurate application of the term homophobia–fear of divine (did I really spell it with a g before??) judgement due to encouragement of homosexual acts may be akin to a paranoia in a way that the vast majority of objections labeled such are not.

          I myself, in light of this, probably suffer from a mild version of abortionphobia.

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  27. Soren Frederiksen says:

    I thought this was rather good. Very well done.

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  28. Oligopsony says:

    People’s reactions here mostly seem to view this with pessimism, but this seems to be one of those nice agonistic processes that leaves us better off (in this case: with better reference classes) in the long run.

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    • Multiheaded says:

      I’m tempted to agree, but I’m not sure how much of this agonism might be a self-fulfilling prophecy re: reference classes and such.

      Being the special snowflake that I am, I’ve noticed myself becoming increasingly neutral towards monkey politics; nerds’ panicky reaction to them leaves me cold, but I likewise find it harder to sing paeans to them, after the novelty of discovering cool Machiavellian or Nietzschean views has faded somewhat. They can be pretty OK for progress, yeah.

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      • Oligopsony says:

        Look At This Fucking Intellectual Hipster.

        (But that’s pretty sensible, yeah. The real problem is in figuring out where agonism is productive and where it’s a positional goods sink.)

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      How, exactly?

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  29. Vaniver says:

    Welcome to primate politics.

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  30. ADifferentAnonymous says:

    So here’s my steelmanning of Bitchtopia, in rationalist terms, which I don’t necessarily believe:

    Gender relations are largely determined by the relative status of men and women, and this is currently skewed heavily towards men, which leads in sometimes-subtle ways to lots of bad things. It’s a tug of war, and there’s only one rope. Talking about bad things men do pulls the men-women status rope towards women. NAMALT purports to counter-pull on the men-who-don’t-do-bad-things rope, which would be justified if there were such a rope, but there isn’t, so in practice they’re actually pulling the men-women rope back towards men when it direly needs to go further towards women. We further assert that NAMALT-sayers understand on some level what rope they’re pulling on and are being selfish in a destructive and antisocial way.

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    • peterdjones says:

      That almost amounts to saying you have to be unfair to individuals to achieve group goals

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      • Oligopsony says:

        And that’s a pretty weak claim, in itself! Almost all political positions imply sometimes treating individuals unfairly in order to achieve group goals, if only because (though this is far from the only reason) one has to engage in some sort of tradeoff between making Type I and Type II errors.

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        • nydwracu says:

          There was once something with a name along the lines of the First Law of Neoreaction, and the general gist of it was: every political action [or non-action] will screw someone over.

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        • Sniffnoy says:

          Sure, but it would be nice for people to at least explicitly acknowledge that they’re making a tradeoff, rather than pretending that the downside doesn’t exist.

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    • Andy says:

      I feel this may be an accurate assessment of Bitchtopia’s position.

      Question is, how do more liberal feminists counter this position?

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      • blacktrance says:

        Liberal/individualist feminist here.

        Gender relations are skewed towards men in relative terms, but they’re not zero-sum like a game of tug-of-war is. Improving gender relations would benefit both men and women (though women would benefit more) and can and should be done without attacking men as a group. Not all men are sexists, not all sexists are men, and not all sexism is against women. The real fight is not men vs women or even feminists vs anti-feminists (because there are many feminists who have bad ideas), but sexists vs anti-sexists. For historical reasons, much of anti-sexism is under the umbrella labeled “feminism”, and it makes some sense to continue to use that term today, as current social norms hurt women more. Saying “not all men are like that” is entirely valid and true, for the same reasons that saying “not all women are like that” would be an appropriate response to sexist comments that stereotype women.

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        • nydwracu says:

          Off-topic, but what does ‘improving gender relations’ unpack to?

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        • blacktrance says:

          What “improving gender relations” unpacks to depends on whom you ask, but what I mean by it is treating men and women as individuals, with the ultimate goal of abolishing normative gender roles. As it currently stands, women are shamed for openly liking sex, dismissed as emotional, not taken as seriously, expected to want children, etc. At the same time, men are punished for showing some kinds of emotion that are more acceptable for a woman to show, are assumed to want nothing but sex and be uninterested in emotionally fulfilling relationships, etc. Not adhering to the norm for your gender is stigmatized – people say things like “You should be more ladylike” or “That’s not what a real man would do”. This often results in people being treated as representatives of their gender rather than as individuals, as in questions like “Why do women do X?” when the question is about a specific woman.

          In the same way that color-blindness (the abolition of race) is the ideal for race relations, the abolition of normative gender norms is the ideal for gender relations.

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        • nydwracu says:

          Aha, that confirms what I suspected — now I just have to figure out how to express it…

          What follows is me thinking out loud. I will probably edit this and make a blog post out of it later. Here be dragons.

          ——

          What would it look like translated into game theory? (Or is this another instance of what Jim attacks with steelmanning, where I try to translate something that thinks in an actually-different way into something that assumes a pile of unstated suppositions…?)

          Actually I can’t come up with a way to game-theoretically steelman it where it turns out differently than neoreaction — “there are certain internalized rules that pass themselves off as having developed in order to ensure cooperation toward increased payout for everyone but it would actually be better to defect because these rules were actually developed by certain factions with limited membership seeking to enrich itself at any cost” would apply equally to both but that doesn’t capture the deeper distinction where… can I express this?

          So you have iterated massively-multiplayer prisoner’s dilemma with immediate payout but delayed penalty (nothing new, free rider problem, tragedy of the commons etc etc etc) and you have to surrender some amount of possible payout because if enough people decline to do so then delayed penalty kicks in and screws everyone (and this is the part where I realize that Kant is not actually completely ridiculous like I once thought he was), so to ensure this the payout matrix is fucked with (though that language doesn’t quite capture the fact that there is no Platonic payout matrix that pre-exists the fucking-with, but instead it’s always-and-everywhere in play) in order to make the long-term desirable actions actually short-term desirable, but this is vulnerable to coordinated (usually top-down in practice) struggle toward reducing the penalty toward claiming immediate payout premised on ignorance of the fact that there exists a delayed penalty, and if this catches on then the strong-horse effect amplifies the immediate payout [of picking the strong horse, which necessarily implies signaling toward its desired goals and probably implies living out its goals -- that is, defecting toward immediate payout] and also weakens the prior payout matrix and everything associated with it, making it even more likely that more strong-horse defectors will pop up, and so the payout matrix needs to be modified again to very strongly discourage anything that might lead to a defecting strong horse, because one defecting strong horse not only weakens the payout matrix in a manner that threatens runaway collapse effects by itself but also makes substantially more likely the creation of even more defecting strong horses by increasing the penalty of being associated with the old payout matrix and the payout of being associated with something that signals strongly against it and pushes a desire for even more change.

          Good lord, was that a long sentence. Kraut blood, you know? And if it’s unclear what I mean by “strong-horse effect”, since I’m pretty sure I coined that myself, it’s referencing Osama bin Laden’s line about how everyone prefers a strong horse to a weak horse, which IIRC was quoted by Moldbug to make pretty much the point that naming the effect crystallizes: you gain status by associating with a powerful movement. (Something something investment something something Bill Ayers.)

          So to unpack the payout-matrix model: it’s all one payout matrix in the end, but it will clarify things to break it down into its component parts. One is the drive for status/power/acceptance, which is the one that’s most easily played; another is financial; and then there’s natural law (or Gnon, or Carlyle’s justice=order=truth), which could be broken down into ‘human nature’ and ‘technological dynamics’. Status matrix, money matrix, nature matrix, techno-matrix. Now obviously these four are the same thing, but the terms highlight different aspects of the same thing and can be considered separate things for certain purposes. (Is this what the triune God stuff is about?)

          Progressivism seems to have developed in part out of opposition to the old view of “payout matrix = nature matrix”, where all societal results are predetermined by which son of Noah the members of that society are descended from or whatever. Dialectical materialism adds the money- and techno-matrices; social constructivism adds the status matrix. Problem is, it doesn’t accept the existence of the nature matrix at all.

          (No, I’ve never seen any of those damn movies. I think I tried to watch the first one. Got bored ten minutes in and gave up. Also apparently the right term is “payoff matrix” but payoffs are the thing Steve Sailer says Carlos Slim does to keep the media off his ass and backing mass immigration so I don’t like that term as much. Also I’d be interested in finding out what Locke’s tabula rasa doctrine was in response to, but I really don’t know.)

          So I’m guessing it would go something like: “there’s no such thing as a nature matrix and the propagation of the idea that there is one is neither true nor game-theoretically useful-toward-ensuring-whatever-optimal-payout-criterion-it-is-that-we’re-going-for but instead a misguided creation of a specific elite faction designed to provide maximal benefit to themselves without regard for everyone else, but hurting not only everyone else but also them” — but the irony here is that, Born This Way, progressivism has reintroduced the nature matrix and the history of it suggests that it was probably developed as a political mechanism [falsehood becoming truth through acceptance of social construction] to win a particular political battle for a particular faction! (Agree and amplify.)

          And then the differences are that (i.e. differing heuristics for identifying matrix-modifications designed to enrich one faction at the expense of others) and also the seeming belief of progressivism that payout-increase in some part of the matrix (technological? but primitivism, so that can’t be right, can it?) can enter into a near-unstoppable omnibeneficial feedback loop (scarcity mentality vs. abundance mentality) instead of amplifying the short-term benefits of defection with long-term penalty while possibly also shortening time-preference and leading to inevitable-unless-the-pattern-is-identified-and-action-is-successfully-taken-against-it collapse, which is pretty much what Nietzsche thought except I don’t know if he actually thought it was cyclical or if (as the term ‘last man’ would seem to imply) mediocrity would become stable and persist forever.

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        • blacktrance says:

          That comment is harder to follow than Time Cube. :P Say that again, and in English.

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        • nydwracu says:

          Yeah I’m on like my fourth snus and tenth cup of coffee. I’ll try to write it up more clearly on my WordPress. Can’t promise anything about the sentence structure though. Racking up ten commas, five parentheticals, and an em dash in one comment is an achievement.

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        • nydwracu says:

          alright I crashed like hell right after I started but I attempt to unpack that long comment here. hopefully that’ll make it clearer, or at least not worse

          (if I haven’t said this enough yet: I suspect I am reinventing quite a few wheels here, badly)

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      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        I think there’s some truth to this position, but my counterpoints would be that we shouldn’t give up hope of separating the ropes because it would be really nice, and that even if dialog is a messy status game that’s miles from being perfectly rational, it’s extremely valuable to have the norm that contradicting blatant objective falsehoods is automatically acceptable. I also had the initial reaction that a lot of NAMALTers probably don’t understand the tug-of-war theory, but then I realized that this was an instance of NANAMALTALT to which Bitchtopia would raise the same objection.

        (I’m super proud of being the first one on this post to coin ‘NANAMALTALT’)

        Edit: Curse you, philh! Curse your prior art and your ctrl-f defying, clarifying parentheses!

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    • Gender relations are largely determined by the relative status of men and women, and this is currently skewed heavily towards men, which leads in sometimes-subtle ways to lots of bad things. It’s a tug of war

      Oh come on.

      If a man announces he is angry with his boss and/or several co workers – well he does not announce it, because if he did, would not be there any more.

      If a woman announces she is angry with her boss, chances are her boss will not be there any more.

      In California, being in the general vicinity of a woman in bad mood is, for men, a criminal offense. And women in the workplace are frequently in a bad mood, which is to say, frequently bitches, because being nasty has no consequences for them.

      We, with great regularity, see women announce, very publicly, that they are angry with their boss. We never see their boss announce he is angry with a woman.

      Hence the absurdly low reproduction rate among the white urban middle class in California.

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      • Andy says:

        I was going to contest every single assertion in this comment because it’s practically a reflex for me by now, and I’ve seen several anecdotal incidents that directly contradict your statement.
        But anecdote =/ data.
        So how precisely would we produce a study to test these assertions? A survey of employers testing how many had fired men vs. women for cause or unprofessional behavior in the workplace? A survey of workers on unemployment to see how many had been fired for cause and how many had been laid off, and check males vs. females fired for cause?

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        • I’ve seen several anecdotal incidents that directly contradict your statement.

          You are probably thinking of that girl, Adria Richards, who got fired for creating drama because she thought a repository was an ass, hence forking a repository was obscene.

          But she had been creating high drama for years, had been very publicly very angry for years. No man could have gotten away with being angry on the job. She got fired not for being very angry and manufacturing drama, but because one incident of a great many incidents went viral.

          Only the powerful get away with being angry on the job. Therefore, obviously women have more power, at least in California.

          Generally it is OK for a boss to be visibly angry with a male employee, and it is not OK for an employee to be visibly angry with a boss, but women frequently get away with angrily berating their bosses, while bosses are apt to be extremely cautious about angrily berating their female employees.

          Whenever you hear someone announce how angry they are in a job related issue, usually it is a woman.

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        • So how precisely would we produce a study to test these assertions? A survey of employers testing how many had fired men vs. women for cause or unprofessional behavior in the workplace?

          No one regards women creating drama in the workplace as unprofessional behavior, or if they do they cautiously remain silent. Everyone regards men creating drama in the workplace as disturbingly unprofessional behavior.

          Which reflects a substantial power difference.

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      • Anthony says:

        Male employees can express anger towards *some* male bosses, as long as it’s about something where the employee is right. And it’s done in relative private. Because good (male) bosses will understand when they’ve made decisions that have fucked over an employee, even if it was ultimately the right decision to make.

        I’ve done it, plenty of times, without getting fired, or even reprimanded. But I’ve never had a female boss I’d be willing to do that with unless I was also willing to be fired.

        Relatedly, apparently it’s ok to fire a woman boss for being overly emotional or whatever, so long as you promote a black man into her job. Especially when it seems that she was sidelining the black man and setting up a white person to succeed her.

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  31. Ken Arromdee says:

    I see the same thing in atheists’ odd fascination with creationism. Most of the religious people one encounters are not young-earth creationists. But these people have a dramatic hold on the atheist imagination.

    Most religious people are not creationists. But most of the religious people whose religion atheists are affected by are creationists. The creationism crowd is strongly associated with a movement to increase the influence of their religion in society and government, right now, and your average religious person is not.

    If you’re fighting off a knife-wielding assailant, you may end up yelling out a lot of things about knife-wielding assailants, regardless of the proportion of such assailants in the general population

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    • Deiseach says:

      Well, from my religious side of the fence, the kind of atheist who does go “Aha! You believe in literal six days creation of twenty-four hours each and that a woman in India three hundred years ago who never heard of Christ is currently burning in Hell for her lack of faith!” in online arguments, tends to have one of two retorts when I go “No, actually, I don’t because I’m Roman Catholic, not a Calvinist/other Protestant sect”:

      (a) Oh, so you’re saying you don’t really believe all that god stuff after all! Because if you say you’re a Christian, you have to believe all these things or you don’t really believe! Why not come out and be honest that you don’t really believe?

      (b) Oh, you really do believe all these things because my definition of a Christian means someone who believes all these things and if you say you don’t, you’re simply lying because you’re trying to look like one of the nice reasonable religious types.

      I mean, this level of argument would be like me going to one of the “cosmic grandeur mysteries of the universe are enough for me without invoking deities” type atheist with “Phlogiston! Hur hur hur!” because ‘real’ scientific atheists have to accept phogiston, else they’re not really scientific or else they’re lying about they accept it, and since we all know the phlogiston theory has been exploded, then these are silly-billies we needn’t engage with.

      It’s the same thing as Torquemada in Scott’s example above. Yes, Scott, but this is no longer 15th century Spain and I was never a 15th century Spaniard (unless there really is something to re-incarnation) so as a 21st century Irish Catholic, Torquemada really is not a large part of my devotional life.

      (Quite apart from trying to disentangle the historical facts of the Spanish Inquisition from the slavering pop culture depiction of thousands tortured and burned alive, with each succeeding account not neglecting to pile on the imaginative reconstruction so as to live up to the gory possibility of the topic.)

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      • Andy says:

        (a) Oh, so you’re saying you don’t really believe all that god stuff after all! Because if you say you’re a Christian, you have to believe all these things or you don’t really believe! Why not come out and be honest that you don’t really believe?

        (b) Oh, you really do believe all these things because my definition of a Christian means someone who believes all these things and if you say you don’t, you’re simply lying because you’re trying to look like one of the nice reasonable religious types.

        I call this “No True Strawman,” and it’s a pain in the ass in a more political context, whether I introduce myself as a semi-socialist and people go “Oh, you must want to eliminate private property and shoot anyone who disagrees like Joseph Stalin!”
        Or I suppose the religious counterpoint is “Oh, you’re an atheist, you have to believe in total moral relativism where you get to have sex and do drugs all the time!” as mentioned here:
        http://leftoversoup.com/archive.php?num=383

        There is a particular mindset – usually unspoken – that is common among certain Christians, usually especially young or especially old Christians, and always those who have lived their whole lives in the church. It goes as follows: “My religion is the source of my morality, therefore if you do not have a comparable religion, you must not actually have any sort of morality.”

        In many cases, victims of this moral myopia will either accuse atheists of being sociopaths, or accuse them of hypocrisy for not being sociopaths.

        So yes, when you combine these two mindsets, it’s quite common in certain circles (especially among over-sheltered, over-repressed and over-hormoned teen boys) to inadvertently nurture a smoldering resentment along the lines of “Maaaan, if I wasn’t such a good Christ-like person, I could be out there doing drugs and having sex all the time.”

        No matter who it’s deployed by, or on, it’s gotta be one of the more heinous ways to Debate Badly.

        EDIT:

        as a 21st century Irish Catholic, Torquemada really is not a large part of my devotional life.

        Since I’ve been guilty of something like this in the past, I promise not to conflate you with Torquemada, or with the bastards in my own region (Los Angeles) who let pedophiles get away with molesting dozens of young boys for the sake of their institution’s reputation – which might well have been improved by a public display of “Hey! We will investigate and remove pedophiles from our ranks, and turn them over to civil authorities!”

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      • Ken Arromdee says:

        I think the atheist in that example is doing something different. People rationalize away and ignore parts of a religion that don’t make sense..

        He’s saying that ignoring creation is ignoring Christianity because he knows very well that creation is the most straightforward way to interpret it, creation was for a long time the only way to interpret it, and your sect only started saying “creation has spiritual meaning and isn’t literal” after science forced your sect to start ignoring it. So when he claims that Christians are creationists, he’s not just making up a random belief and attributing it to Christians.

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      • hf says:

        OK, I know the internet has jerks on it, but Catholics are the ones who came up with Hell. The Bible has no coherent doctrine on the subject, so the claim “that a woman in India three hundred years ago who never heard of Christ is currently burning in Hell for her lack of faith,” originated with your Church. If the hierarchy has changed its mind, how do they explain their mistake and how do they plan to prevent such problems in the future?

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        • Nornagest says:

          That seems a mite uncharitable when (a) early Christianity was almost completely unrecognizable as Catholic, and (b) depictions of a hellish underworld reserved for sinners appear in religions far removed from, and often older than, Catholicism. Some of them dwell on it more than any fire-and-brimstone preacher I’ve ever heard of; Tibetan Buddhism for example gets almost sadistic in its penchant for enumerating torments.

          On the other hand, reserving places in Hell for disbelief in a specific religion may be an early Christian innovation. Lots of religions condemn atheism, but usually on grounds of impiety/rejection of social norms rather than on grounds of religious faith as a positive requirement.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      Well, that’s what I tried to say in VII. Except I think fewer atheists are affected by creationists than you think.

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      • Ken Arromdee says:

        Are you in the USA? If not, you may not be as familiar with the religious right.

        Fewer affected? A group who exercises political muscle to get religious-based policies in place affects everyone. And they’re not just a group of people with otherwise reasonable beliefs who have creationism as a single flaw–they want the government to be religious in lots of ways, and they exert significant influence in that direction.

        (And don’t be confused by the fact that the current administration is Democratic, and takes its cues from different pressure groups than the religious right, so you haven’t heard of creationists making a fuss lately. That’s a temporary lull; the creationists and their influence are not gone, they’re just tied to a party that happens not to be in the Presidency right now.)

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        • ozymandias says:

          Scott has mostly lived in low-creationist areas of the United States. The bad things creationists do qua creationists mostly seem to affect people in their own ingroups and in the American South AFAICT. Nationally, California is a helpful check on Texas and means we actually do get evolution in science textbooks.

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        • Anthony says:

          Texas Christians don’t do creationism in textbooks, unlike those from further east. Texas makes its money from a correct understanding of geology, which requires disbelief in young-earth creationism. Therefore even when the textbook board is packed with fundamentalist-type Christians, Texas doesn’t go whole-hog creationist or even ID.

          People in Alabama aren’t going to lose money because they don’t believe in geology or evolution, so they’re less constrained in their attempts at proselytizing in their textbooks.

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        • ozymandias says:

          But textbooks aren’t usually written by state, they’re sold nationally, which means that they’re controlled by the Texas and California standards because those are the two largest textbook markets.

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        • Is that still true? I think it would be cheaper to produce multiple versions than it used to be.

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  32. Sam Rosen says:

    The way forward is not: “I need to defend everything my team does because I will be unfairly hurt when my team’s reputation is hurt.”

    The way forward is not: “Don’t criticize unrepresentative members of groups I belong to because it gives the impression that those people are representative.”

    The way forward is: “It is okay to criticize unrepresentative members of groups. In-group members should criticize them way more than they currently do. When out-group members do it, it is decent and good to create an accurate sense of scale.”

    Beth really should have said, “Yes, please continue hating these hypothetical bad people who are not me.”

    Christians really should be okay when people say, “I hate the Westboro Baptist Church.”

    Black people really should be okay when people say, “I hate black thugs who rob people.”

    Atheists really should be okay when people say, “I hate atheist moral nihilists.”

    Jews really should be okay when people say, “I hate israeli atrocities.”

    Muslims really should be okay when people say, “I hate violent Muslim fundamentalists.”

    If out-group members make explicitly false claims about scale, they should be criticized for it harshly. If they merely imply false claims about scale, first agree that the people they are criticizing are bad and only then bring up worries about insinuations about proportions.

    Scott is worried that other people will “Worst Argument In the World Him” so he is going to pre-emptively, unjustifiably defend members of his team that don’t deserve defense?

    WE WANT TO AVOID HOBBESIAN TRAPS, SCOTT.

    We should cooperate in prisoner’s dilemmas and get other people to do so too! Civilization! Trust! Warm Fuzzy Feelings!

    Cooperation in this particular prisoner’s dilemma means not assuming that you will be treated as a non-central member of a category you belong to. It means not treating other people as non-central members of categories they belong to. It means criticizing the shitty, fringe elements of groups you do belong to. It means creating a sense of scale when when criticizing shitty members of groups you don’t belong to.

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    • blacktrance says:

      The way forward is in between these two extremes. The way forward is not defending everything your team does, but at the same time being tarred with the same brush as the bad members of your group is a reasonable concern. So, rather than defending your team, you say “Not All Xs Are Like That”. Except both the SJWs and the redpillers turned it into something to mark on their bingo sheets.

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      • Sam Rosen says:

        “Not All X’s Are Like That” is a perfectly reasonable thing to say as long as it’s not used to dodge a critique.

        If I say “Not All Men Do That,” I should also say, “But It’s a Crappy Thing To Do.”

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        • blacktrance says:

          If you’re male and you say “not all men are like that”, there’s already the assumption that you think it’s a bad thing to do. If you don’t think something is bad, you wouldn’t care so much about being falsely identified with it. For example, I doubt many people would say NAMALT to “Many men like football” or “Men have shorter hair than women”.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      I think that’s around the level of “if your enemy steals your coat, give him your cloak also” morality. Unilateral disarmament has its uses, but I think it’s at least worth being aware of what’s going on and making the choice to unilaterally disarm from a position of knowledge.

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    • ozymandias says:

      I’m not okay with people criticizing nihilists, some of my best friends are nihilists.

      And the problem with Beth saying “yes, continue to hate those hypothetical people” is that the subtextual message of the tumblr post is “if you don’t have a doctor’s diagnosis you don’t count as autistic.” Whether people without doctors’ diagnoses count as autistic is what the entire self-diagnosis debate is about. If Alice actually wished to express concerns about frivolous self-diagnosers without sending the subtextual message, she would explicitly disavow it with “of course, some self-diagnosers have done their research and I support them.”

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    • Sarah says:

      That’s a good point.

      But I notice that the example that actually applies to me (“I hate Israeli atrocities”) still sorta rankles. Because I suspect that most people who are passionate about cataloguing Israeli atrocities tend to exaggerate their severity due to anti-Semitism. I think this might be the kernel of truth behind Scott’s anti-weak-man position.

      One of the first principles you learn when you interact with conspiracy theorists is that the conspiracy theorist always has more data than you. Someone who really wants to prove that 9-11 was an inside job will quickly pile up enough details about combustion and building construction to baffle a non-engineer. The reason you don’t believe him isn’t that you can disprove every point in his argument, because you can’t. You don’t believe him *because he’s a conspiracy theorist.*

      In the same vein, a sufficiently motivated anti-Semite can produce arbitrary amounts of evidence that Israel constantly commits horrific war crimes, a sufficiently motivated racist can produce arbitrary amounts of evidence that black people are overwhelmingly criminal, and so on. There are probably flaws in the evidence, but you don’t have *time* to refute all of them. But if the pile of facts that he throws out tend to be low-quality and don’t match what you know about the world, you can update towards the hypothesis “This guy is biased” over “This guy’s basic contention is right.”

      The “not all men” response really means “you keep talking about rape and misogyny and so on, but dude, you’re a *feminist.* You have known, demonstrable biases. You’re going to see rape where none exists, you’re going to see misogyny where none exists. Sure, to the extent there are men who are that bad, I’m against that and I want to see them punished. But I just don’t *believe* you when you accuse any particular man. So I can’t sit back and agree, I can’t say ‘yeah, I hate rapists too’, because I’m pretty sure you and I *don’t* agree on who belongs in that category.”

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      • Mark says:

        I very strongly agree with your first three paragraphs, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen “not all men” used that way? That is, I don’t see it invoked as an expression of skepticism when feminists accuse specific individuals of misogyny, but when they throw out sweeping stereotypes about the entire gender.

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  33. Erica says:

    I can’t tell if it’s a typo or sarcasm, but if not: how is calling (not all) women “skanks, attention whores, predators… sociopath or gold digger.” MORE POLITE than saying (not all) men “exhibits explicitly harmful behavior [that] allows for oppression to continue”?

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    • Randy M says:

      It is not necessarily more polite in terms of the description used in the criticized behavior, but it is more polite to the hypothetical person claiming to to be included in the that group.

      The first quoted piece makes the claim that saying “NAMALT” is itself perpetuating oppression. It explicitly makes the claim that the white man claming not to be like that nontheless has been brought up to feel entitled to anything and is only objecting because they feel threatened.
      This paragraph:

      “When you say, “not all men are like that!” what you’re really saying is, “I don’t want to have to think about my privilege as a white man, so I’m going to try to defer the blame to other guys because I clearly don’t act like that.”
      Nice try.”

      Claims that the person raising the NAMALT objection is only doing so in a transparent attempt to avoid facing their unmerited advantage, and the “Nice try.” indicates that they should be included in the indicted group despite claims to the contrary.
      In sum, it is saying “Nope, you are too like that.”

      The second quoted passage is harsh on women who exhibit the traits the author sees as negative (and you probably disagree that they are negative, but put that aside) but explicitly calls out the fact that exceptions existing is true. The concluding paragraph:

      “[But the consequence of a] false positive is that a man ends up married to a skank, sociopath or gold digger. The cost of bad wife selection is so high that he is forced to turn away good women for fear of mistakenly choosing a bad one”

      does not say the person saying NAWALT is bad or wrong or even contributing to the problem at all, but rather that the problem is serious enough that a hypothetical man will personally avoid legal entanglement to an genuinely good woman.

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      • I think the underlying premise is different. It’s more like “I want to talk about my problem, and all you can think about is the possibility that you might be blamed. It is *not* my job to make you feel better. Now shut up and listen to my problem and stop caring that it’s caused by people who resemble you.”

        I think, like so much of SJ, that there’s a half truth in there. People do need to be able to talk about how they’ve been mistreated and heard without defensiveness, but on the other hand, I think SJ has the (intentional?) effect of making the worst behaved members of privileged groups into prototypes for those groups.

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        • suntzuanime says:

          When it’s not people’s job to make each other feel better, civilization breaks down.

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        • Andy says:

          When it’s not people’s job to make each other feel better, civilization breaks down.

          Is this sarcasm? Because if not, it’s an interesting assertion, and could you expand on it?

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        • suntzuanime says:

          Civilization requires that we are civil to one another.

          Civilization forces us to deal with many more people than can be modeled as part of our tribe. If we don’t have strong norms in favor of being nice to strangers, we will default to treating them as the enemies of our tribe. Societal trust diminishes, crime and corruption rise. When you act like your problems are more important than making other people feel better, you are undermining this societal trust and these norms for your own personal benefit.

          “Tone policing” is crucial to keep a society of strangers functioning. You can tell it’s good because SJWs use it as a term of abuse.

          Report comment

        • I gather you feel no obligation to help SJs feel good.

          This being said, one of my problems with SJ is that it damages good will by assuming that good intentions are of no value. Good intentions don’t guarantee good results, but good intentions are nonetheless better than active malice.

          Report comment

      • CAE_Jones says:

        When I shared this post, that particular bit received one of the major objections (the discussion quickly devolved into one person posting thought-out objections, and everyone else desperately claiming not to be MRAs for liking the article).

        The other complaint I recall off the top of my head was the “Not all christians are like that” analogy, as compared to namalt. IIRC, the general argument was that masculin culture, not individual men, is the enemy, and masculin culture is fairly pervasive. So a better analogy would not be modern Atheists Vs the WBC, but Atheists in Medieval Europe.
        (The problem I see right off the bat with his version, though, is that Atheists in Medieval Europe seem more vulnerable to early death than feminists in modern Masculinia. I’d buy that women in Masculinia have it worse than Atheists in 21st century America, though. And the point wasn’t to find 1:1 analogies, but examples of the Weakman political dilemma in action.)

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      Yeah. The first person is saying “You are a bad person for asking that, nice try you misogynist”, the second person is saying “I understand why you would think that, and there’s some truth to that, but try to understand why it’s not that simple for us.”

      I’m not saying the second person is more polite in general to all people, but he seems much more polite to his (supposed) interlocutor.

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      • Ialdabaoth says:

        the second person is saying “I understand why you would think that, and there’s some truth to that, but try to understand why it’s not that simple for us.”

        I take it you haven’t been to reddit/r/theredpill then.

        Report comment

        • Crimson Wool says:

          Since the quote is from the Spearhead, not the collective entity called r/theredpill, I feel as if this is a great example of the phenomenon discussed in the blog post.

          Report comment

      • Erica says:

        Hmm, to me the fact that one side is using extremely derogatory language/ naming names, is significantly worse than the fact that the other side has a harsher argument.

        [I typed in an example using completely scientific/rational arguments but with racial slurs, but I couldn't/wouldn't post it, because I wouldn't want to offend anyone or make them feel bad, so I deleted it before posting.]

        So I would guess that there are conversations where both people think they are being SUPER polite in the face of TERRIBLE rudeness without realizing that the other person thinks Thing A is more/less rude than Thing B.

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        • Erica says:

          Further Thought: Certain terminology/ phrases, especially derogatory ones come pre-loaded with all sorts of not-very-nice arguments. For example, just by using the word “skank” you are also saying “Women who have a lot of sex are not worthwhile people and are worthy of our derision”.

          Report comment

        • Scott Alexander says:

          Even if you’re going to ignore the tone of the comment and the stereotyping-level of it and focus on single phrases that might be insulting to someone…how in the world is using the word “skank” without comment or any reference to whether any given women is in this group…

          so much worse than “All white men were brought up to feel entitled to anything they wanted, and [any of them who disagree with me] just see people trying to have opportunities equal to theirs as a threat”.

          One of them says “some women have lots of sex and cheat on their partners”, the other says “every single white man, including you, feels infinitely entitled and was raised terribly and if you disagree with me it’s because you are selfish and trying to keep everyone else in the world down”.

          Report comment

        • Anonymous says:

          content cannot be impolite, only individual bad words

          Report comment

        • Xycho says:

          “content cannot be impolite, only individual bad words”

          Surely that’s not true? I could for example tell someone that I believe them generally prone to fabrication, that despite their partner’s monogamous beliefs I have observed them to be promiscuous, and that by many standards their behaviour would be seen as repugnant.

          No ‘bad words’, but I still just called them a lying, cheating scumbag and they’d probably hit me for it if they had the requisite vocabulary.

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        • Elissa says:

          Scott, I think your argument has some merit with regard to the kindness/charity/fairness of the first passage, but there’s little doubt in my mind that most English speakers would agree with Erica that the second passage is ruder. I’m not sure rudeness is the kind of thing it makes sense to say most people are wrong about.

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        • Randy M says:

          Rudeness is a vector. He is ruder to the subject, polite to the reader who disagrees.

          Report comment

        • Crimson Wool says:

          Rudeness is a vector. He is ruder to the subject, polite to the reader who disagrees.

          Is he, though? “Skank” is rather rude, but the original Bitchtopia article talks about rapists, abusers, oppressors, and murderers. The actual content is weighted the other way; I’d rather be called an adulterer than an abuser or a rapist. To use language that would perhaps hit me harder and more relevantly, I’d rather be called a permavirgin, beta, or other such disdainful term for a chaste male, than an abuser or a rapist.

          I suppose one could argue that the language used to describe female adulterers* (“skanks”) is particularly harsh in comparison to the more common “cheater,” whereas Bitchtopia’s author uses the term “rapist,” which is the normal word people always use. Perhaps the original article should have used the word “cheater” rather than the more extreme term “skank.” But there isn’t really a word harsher than “rapist” for the Bitchtopia author to use – and I’d put fair odds on the fact that if there were some particularly rude word for rapist, feminists would feel absolutely no compunctions about not using it.

          *: In context, I am reasonably certain that the author is referring to adulterers, since he’s discussing a woman’s (un)suitability for marriage.

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        • Randy M says:

          I probably agree with you but was granting the definitions of rude. Perhaps “crude” would be a better fit.

          Report comment

        • Erica says:

          @Scott
          >One of them says “some women have lots of sex and cheat on their partners”,

          Firstly, the terms skank and slut refer ONLY to a woman’s sexuality (having lots of sex, dressing sexy, etc) and do NOT refer to cheating.

          That aside, by using those terms, you are implying “…and those people are not worthwhile/ are worthy of derision, etc”.

          In the same way, if I used the word n****r in a conversation about IQ differences that word is NOT just saying “some people are black”, it is also implying “some people are black, AND I think they are lesser/ worthy of derision/ not worthy of respect.”

          Report comment

        • Scott Alexander says:

          No, Merriam Webster says “a person and especially a woman of low or sleazy character”, and Wiktionary says “A lewdly unattractive and disreputable person, often female, especially one with an air of tawdry promiscuity.”

          The disreputable/low character part is necessary, the promiscuous part is optional.

          I am happy to agree that calling people “skanks” is bad and that it is certainly an implied insult. I don’t think it compares to the very direct and open insult made to all men (rather than just an identified subset) in the earlier passage.

          I have no idea how we have gotten so far astray that any point at all depends on the dictionary definition of the word “skank”, let alone pretending it is important which of two unpleasant passages is more unpleasant. This is at least partly my fault, and I am open to suggestions on how to stop.

          Report comment

      • bem says:

        Honestly, I think Schrodinger’s Rapist is more analogous to the Spearhead post than the Bitchtopia article. Phaedra Starling is pretty explicit that that post that “Obviously, not all men are like that, but the consequences of a false negative are pretty dire, so most women prefer a lot of false positives to one very costly false negative.”

        Likewise, if you go looking for them in the MRA communities, you can find a lot of posts claiming that All Women Are Indeed Very Much Like That.

        (Not All Feminists Are Like That, etc)

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  34. Kibber says:

    > It was because she decided that self-diagnosed autistics were going to stand or fall as a group

    > She saw no point in pretending that boxing in Beth and the other careful self-diagnosers in with the careless ones wasn’t her strategy all along

    I don’t know if you were referring to a real-life example, but IMO this is not really needed to explain Beth’s or Alice’s behavior. Humans can behave perfectly irrationally, yet this behavior may be beneficial to them and/or their group in the end. Does not mean it was what they set out to achieve. A child may cry when not given a toy: this may be rational behavior because the child knows crying can help in getting a toy, but this can also be totally irrational behavior, based solely on emotions. Attacking someone close to a group that you dislike can be emotionally satisfying; witnessing an attack on someone close to your group will provoke an emotional response – in neither of those cases someone is necessarily trying to employ a superweapon to attack or protect a bigger group.

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  35. Patrick Robotham says:

    Wonderful! This gives me precisely the vocabulary I need to criticize the anti-feminism arguments from my fellow rationalists — they all rely on weak men! That is, they take some silly wordpress article and implicitly claim that this is representative of feminism; “I hate all these illogical feminists who hate men and don’t argue in good faith.”

    But the sophisticated claims are not thus refuted, claims such as:
    1. The belief that one can be entitled to sex is an evil notion.
    2. One can create a hostile environment through sexual jokes.
    3. Sexual Harassment laws are a Good Thing.
    4. There is a blase attitude towards consent in media.
    5. There is a current of misogyny in the geek subcultures such as the gaming culture and the open-source community (to the credit of these communities, they are trying to repair this).
    6. Women are held to a different standard than men, especially in matters of appearance.

    Report comment

    • Anonymous says:

      You don’t seem to be using the vocabulary of this post. Couldn’t you write the above comment without it?

      Report comment

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I predict this comment will spark a long and angry comment thread where people argue about object-level things and get really upset with each other. I think writing it was a bad decision and I question your motives.

      Report comment

      • Elissa says:

        It would be crazy if people said this every time it was true.

        Report comment

      • hf says:

        I question your motives for challenging statements like, “There is a current of misogyny in the geek subcultures,” such as Less Wrong. Eugine Nier is actively and thuggishly trying to silence any LW-er who he sees as feminist or outspokenly liberal. You personally appear to be doing nothing about this, preferring to make snide comments about other communities.

        You’re a known dirty-tricks-man with a grudge against feminists. Now, unless you’re also the first straight guy on record to call himself asexual with intent to deceive, I think you have an honest blind spot in this area. (For example, it may manifest when you opine that the outrage and harassment directed at Rebecca Watson chiefly comes from harmless nerds rather than dangerous assholes who take pleasure in hurting women.) But at this point, I feel compelled to tell you that I only cooperated on your survey because I had an argument which made it seem reasonable.

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        • ozymandias says:

          Technically, Scott didn’t say anything about whether or not there was misogyny in the open-source community, he just said it would likely lead to a really long and angry comment thread about whether there is misogyny in open-source communities, a prediction you seem very willing to fulfill.

          Because I enjoy fulfilling prophecies, I will point out that I don’t think that “there exists at least one asshole misogynist in the LW community” is strong evidence that the LW community is deeply misogynist, particularly given that we are deeply tolerant of intellectual diversity including asshole misogynist intellectual diversity. Indeed, most people in that thread seem to disapprove of him and his behavior.

          Also: agree with 1 denotationally but suspect it’s smuggling in connotations I disagree with, agree with 2 and 3, agree with 4 with caveats that some of the things people think are blase attitudes to consent I don’t have a problem with and that I highly doubt fixing portrayals of consent in media will do anything about rape, agree with 5 as a subset of “there is a current of misogyny in every subculture,” agree with 6.

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        • hf says:

          Oh, well, maybe I’m touchy from having lost hundreds of karma paperclips to this bullshit since I argued with Eugine Nier. (I did not write the lined post.) Or maybe Scott wants to shut down discussion of the object-level problem in his own backyard because he agrees with Eugine’s goal.

          I assign low probability to the second option. But I did wonder, just now, if Scott had left discrediting comments in my name.

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        • suntzuanime says:

          Being opposed to feminism and outspoken liberalism is not the same as misogyny.

          Report comment

        • Patrick Robotham says:

          suntzuanime: By misogyny, I do not mean opposition to liberalism or feminism. I’d call that “being reactionary” or “anti-feminism”. I mean behaviour directed towards women which is hateful, such as harassment, threats, abusive language etc.

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        • suntzuanime says:

          I was responding to hf:
          I question your motives for challenging statements like, “There is a current of misogyny in the geek subcultures,” such as Less Wrong. Eugine Nier is actively and thuggishly trying to silence any LW-er who he sees as feminist or outspokenly liberal.

          hf was using Eugine Nier’s downvoting of feminists and outspoken liberals as an example of the current of misogyny in geek subcultures that Scott isn’t doing enough to fight. This isn’t a good example, though, since being opposed to feminism and outspoken liberalism is not the same as misogyny.

          Harassment, threats, abusive language etc. directed toward women is misogyny if they occur on the basis of gender, but let’s make sure to keep that qualifier in there. Not everything mean you do to a woman is misogyny.

          Report comment

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          I don’t know which of Scott’s posts you’ve read, but some of them explain that he has feeling and is actually extremely sensitive to this kind of accusation. If you think he’s decent at heart, as you sort of suggest, you can make your points here without the accusatory tone.

          That is, if you think hosting a meta-only space unfairly favors one side on the object level, say so and explain why. If you think his moderation is generally biased against feminists, acknowledge that he’s trying to be evenhanded and give your advice on how to do it better. But unless you want him to suffer don’t say “You’re a known dirty-tricks-man with a grudge against feminists” and underhandedly question his sexuality.

          Try something like “I think there’s value in discussing these object-level things which exceeds the cost. I suspect that your personal sensitivity on the topic is causing you to overestimate the cost.” Or “I find you’re more often this harsh towards pro-feminist comments.”

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        • Scott Alexander says:

          How am I a “known dirty tricks man”? I feel like I have gone through extraordinary efforts not to use dirty tricks, to signal how much I hate dirty tricks, to call out those who do use them, and to pick them apart so that they become less effective.

          Anyway, you give a perfect example of what I am concerned about. One person out in a thousand may or may not have downvoted a bunch of people, mostly male. You use this to conclude that “there is a subcurrent of misogyny” in Less Wrong. Then you blame me, who has no contact with this person and never saw the affected thread before and has zero power over Less Wrong, for not having stopped it.

          Three or four iterations later, “everyone knows” that rationalists are a misogynist group, anyone who doesn’t immediately assent that rationality is sexist is “an entitled asshole denying his own privilege”, and of course the most misogynist person of all is Yvain, who is totally complicit in all of this. No one knows exactly how he is complicit, but everyone knows if they say he isn’t, they will be called “misogyny deniers”.

          The reason feminism worries me so much is that this kind of horrible thought process would never occur anywhere else. If Eugene was downvoting people for being in favor of Russia’s invasion of Crimea, no one would conclude “Aha, there’s a subcurrent of hatred of ethnic Russians in the rationality movement and geekdom in general! And the most Russian-hating of all must by Yvain, for not having personally stopped this with the power he doesn’t have!”

          Feminism is one of the few movements that has gone that deep into “everyone not with us is against us, everyone who doesn’t loudly signal how with us they are is against us, and everyone who is in a group where even one member is not with us the whole group is against us” territory. I consider those kinds of memes a huge threat and one of the things most worth fighting. In comparison, I think feminism has very little benefit in protecting women beyond what a commitment to gender-neutral morality (for example, “don’t @#$%ing downvote people you disagree with!” or “don’t harass people”) could produce equally well. That makes it a net huge negative.

          It’s like what (I think) Sam Harris said about religion: “You don’t need religion to convince you to be a good person. But you do need religion to convince you to fly planes into buildings.”

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        • Meredith L. Patterson says:

          I was also startled by the “dirty tricks” remark in hf’s reply to my earlier comment, sufficiently so that it did not occur to me until the next day that it was probably in reference to the unfortunate namespace collision between hf’s handle and my choice of abbreviations for hypothetical persons in a dialogue. If that’s the case, I can certainly see how such a namespace collision could be unsettling, but “dirty tricks” implies some sort of nefarious intent which I think it’s a pretty far stretch to impute here. I could actually be the sort of person who deliberately chooses acronym expansions so that they reduce to people’s handles (maybe I read a lot of Dan Savage columns and have developed a knack for it) in subtle knife-twisty ways, but that would mean I’d also have to be the sort of person who 1) keeps track of people’s handles, 2) pays close enough attention to keep track of their buttons, and 3) derives some value from pushing them. That’s a fairly large conjunction to swallow, especially in light of the fact that this is the first comments thread I’ve really participated in here.

          I wouldn’t have to keep thinking about extrema if people didn’t keep recentering prototypes toward them. *headdesk*

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        • Scott Alexander says:

          Wait, what happened with HF’s handle? And how is this my fault?

          Report comment

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Feminism is one of the few movements that has gone that deep into “everyone not with us is against us, everyone who doesn’t loudly signal how with us they are is against us, and everyone who is in a group where even one member is not with us the whole group is against us” territory. I consider those kinds of memes a huge threat and one of the things most worth fighting. In comparison, I think feminism has very little benefit in protecting women beyond what a commitment to gender-neutral morality (for example, “don’t @#$%ing downvote people you disagree with!” or “don’t harass people”) could produce equally well. That makes it a net huge negative.

          Since you bring it up:

          The “Ialdabaoth vs. Eugine Nier” thing bugs me particularly because it ISN’T a feminism/misogyny thing, and I’m kind of frustrated that it got co-opted into being about feminism/misogyny. By all evidence available to me, I’ve been punitively downvoted (and am STILL being punitively downvoted) because I once-upon-a-time argued with him about race, not gender.

          Several other people latched onto the idea that the problem was that they were women, and now suddenly the discussion is about feminism, even though most of the people being treated this way (as you pointed out) are male.

          It’s also frustrating for me to say “I’m pretty certain I’m being mistreated this way, I’m somewhat reasonably certain that this person is doing it, and I am calling them out publicly so we can talk about it because all other attempts to solve the problem have failed”, and then watch it turn into “OMG IT MUST BE THIS PERSON AND THESE MUST BE THE REASONS WHY!!!”

          I mean, I knew that was a risk when I did it, and several people called me to task for not just keeping quiet and weathering the abuse rather than risking smearing an innocent person, but it’s still disappointing to have ZERO recourse – because even having said something about it, I’m STILL being downvoted, and all I managed to achieve was creating yet another political shit-storm, when all I wanted was the ability to not automatically assume that all my posts on LW start at -1 karma. :(

          And to drive the point home: not EVERYONE in the thread took me to task for speaking out. But of the ones who didn’t, a surprising majority of them turned it into something about feminism and the treatment of women by men on lesswrong, rather than focusing on the fact that THE KARMA SYSTEM IS OPEN TO ABUSE.

          I mean, COME ON. Social justice might be great and all, but there are TANGIBLE THINGS WE CAN BE FIXING HERE, and instead it feels like everyone is either telling me to shut up or trying to turn it into some political point-scoring game.

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        • suntzuanime says:

          Solving problems is, in essence, throwing away all the political points you could score by blaming your enemies for them. Why on earth would you want to solve problems?

          Report comment

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Solving problems is, in essence, throwing away all the political points you could score by blaming your enemies for them. Why on earth would you want to solve problems?

          Because GOOD DISCUSSIONS are being blocked and downvoted into oblivion before people can see their worth. Because *I*, Ialdabaoth, may be a low-quality, low-status poster, but if this sort of thing is happening to me, who else could it be happening to? How many Yvain-class posters could we be missing because they never get noticed before all their posts get downvoted into oblivion?

          And because it’s stupid and petty and malicious behavior, and gardens die without proper tending. And once upon a time I LIKED lesswrong.

          See, that’s the thing about politics – politics is for people who don’t want to GET. THINGS. DONE. Some of us actually have tangible changes we want to accomplish in the world, and couldn’t give two shits how we *feel* about them or how other people *feel* about *us*, unless it helps us build better coalitions and resource networks for GETTING. THINGS. DONE.

          Alternate, self-serving hypothesis: because I’m the one being negatively affected by those problems.

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        • I doubt that Yvain-class posters were getting down-voted into oblivion. They may have just not bothered with LW because of the hostility level.

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        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          I just realized this is over Meredith’s Hypothetical Feminist, who got referred to as HF in following discussion. I suspect that hf, rather than accusing Meredith of intentionally concocting a character who would abbreviate to hf, assumed that this HF everyone was talking about was a deliberate impersonator who had posted using that name, and for some reason accused Scott of being this impersonator.

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        • ozymandias says:

          “In comparison, I think feminism has very little benefit in protecting women beyond what a commitment to gender-neutral morality (for example, “don’t @#$%ing downvote people you disagree with!” or “don’t harass people”) could produce equally well.”

          Scott, I think you are factually wrong about this. What about feminist political activism– fundraising and canvassing and phone-banking and letter-writing in favor of reproductive rights, equal pay laws, or voting rights? Feminist sex education like Scarleteen or even tumblrs like Fuck Yeah Sex Education? Clinic escorts for women getting abortions and volunteers for rape crisis centers? Trans support groups? What about Planned Parenthood? I think you may be under the impression that the segments of the feminist movement you don’t interact with don’t exist.

          At the same time, yes, you can get to a lot of (interpersonal, liberal) feminism by systematically applying rules like “do not make fun of people for making choices that aren’t hurting anyone, criticize people who make fun of those choices.” But at the same time, a thoughtful person might eventually notice, hey, a lot of the things people are making fun of others about involve them not conforming to these two sets of rules we have set out for men and women. It is like people have an idea that everyone needs to conform to these two sets of rules. Maybe we should stop having that idea? And once you get there you’re… maybe not a feminist, since there seems to be a lot of controversy these days about who qualifies as a feminist, but you have recognized that oppositional sexism exists and are against it and that is a lot closer to what I would consider feminist than most people, including many people who identify as such.

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        • suntzuanime says:

          I have serious doubts about how possible it is to make choices that don’t hurt anyone. What most people mean when they say “choices that don’t hurt anyone” is “choices that don’t hurt anyone we care about but the chooser in an obvious way”.

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        • hf says:

          That would be the way you explicitly called yourself a professional dirty-tricks man, in a context that seems important to your identity. You don’t help your case by reminding me of that time you made a slightly dishonest political move against the game-show guy, while saying you wouldn’t do that. (As he pointed out, and as you may have intended him to point out, MLK used “dark epistemology” all the time.)

          So this is not about my momentary confusion RE:usernames. This is about you being a teenage Karl Rove and then giving me no reason to trust you.

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        • hf says:

          Then you blame me, who has no contact with this person and never saw the affected thread before and has zero power over Less Wrong

          1. This is some new meaning of the word “zero” I’m not aware of.

          2. Now you’ve seen it.

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        • Meredith L. Patterson says:

          Again I think it’s a stretch to conclude that because someone has developed skills in, say, espionage or subterfuge, whether professionally or through a hobby, that they’re necessarily using those skills all the time, particularly offensively. I started picking up those kinds of skills in live-action roleplaying games; they’re useful in computer security as well because sometimes the job requires fooling people (e.g., if you’re a pentester).

          The context is the important part. It could be foolish of me to leave my laptop unsecured around my pentester friends, but they’re 1) my friends, and 2) not on a paying gig when we hang out (that I know of). Similarly, I am pretty comfortable assuming that on his own blog, a context quite distinct from the geofiction community, Scott has no particularly hidden goals or (much) reason to engage in disruptive psyops.

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        • Scott Alexander says:

          All right.

          hf, you’re falsely accusing me of impersonating you in order to discredit you, when I have no idea who you are.

          You’re calling me universally dishonest because of a game I participated in several years ago.

          And you’re blaming me for a kerfluffle that happened six months ago on a site I don’t even visit very much any more and had no part in.

          This is mentally and emotionally exhausting for me. So I am banning you from this blog so I don’t have to put up with this further.

          Please don’t get the impression that it’s because I disagree with your opinions, because about half the people in the comments have expressed the same opinions or even stronger. You’re getting banned because you keep launching false personal attacks on me.

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        • Multiheaded says:

          Wow, and I thought I was a political troll stirring up drama in Scott’s comments! As le reddit says, this le escalated quickly.

          Report comment

      • I’m keeping an eye on whether your prediction is correct.

        Meanwhile, I’m surprised you made that comment. I think it’s both out of character and ill-advised– I don’t think it improves situations to tell people you expect them to behave badly.

        I don’t trust your motives in making it, but I try to keep a grip by remembering that everyone is feeling defensive because everyone is being attacked.

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        • Misha says:

          This comment is so he can later say he predicted it, not to make the situation better

          Report comment

        • Scott Alexander says:

          I wouldn’t have said that except that I’ve had problems with Patrick before and I think he’s as much as admitted he works this way.

          Report comment

        • Fair enough. I haven’t been tracking Patrick.

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        • Scott Alexander says:

          Misha: Speaking of which, we’re at 35 responses to Patrick’s comment so far, most of which are terrible and some of which personally insult me.

          Report comment

        • Patrick Robotham says:

          What “way” exactly am I meant to work? I really do not have any evil plan. I’m sorry if you think I do.

          Report comment

        • Leo says:

          Patrick, love of my life, apple of my eyes, fire of my loins, you totally have an evil plan and that last comment was made in bad faith. You’re in Trouble, sweetie.

          Report comment

        • Patrick Robotham says:

          Blast it all, why do these sort of conversations always end up with my privacy being violated?

          Anyway, I suppose I should give my self-justifying monologue now. I wanted to say that Not All Feminists Are Like That (NAFALT?) in response to your post. More generally, I’m having a harder time reconciling my identity as a feminist, and my identity as a rationalists, because my fellow rationalists keep dumping on me for defending feminist ideas.

          I think the feminism thing isn’t just a matter of bad behavior, I think there is actual object level disagreement with feminist ideas (such as Sexual Harrasment Laws) in the rationalist community. I happen to think these ideas are wonderful. That they’re true, interesting, and carry moral force. I suspect Scott actually agrees with me on this point, and just doesn’t like it when feminists yell at people.

          So, if I think one thing, and my peers think another, I think the response is to have an object level discussion, rather than play the “who’s side has the most evil people” game.

          And I think this game is totally being played. James Donald’s cartoonish illiberalism aside, there is disagreement at the object level, and dumping on feminists will get people make inferences about the object level (even though this isn’t your intention Scott, as you agree with me on the object level.)

          So there is disagreement, and I don’t feel like defending feminist orthodoxy is socially acceptable. Making fun of internet feminists is socially acceptable. This leads me to believe that the disagreement will be resolved in quite the wrong direction.

          I don’t want to be put on trial for being a feminist, I don’t want people to regard me as hysterical, shrill, or evil. I don’t harbor any real antipathy towards you Scott, whatever my private remarks might suggest.

          Anyway, I care about the object level. I care about who’s right and who’s wrong. Who’s polite is a secondary issue.

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        • nydwracu says:

          The house Marxist-Nixonist hereby signals support for expanding rationalism’s Overton window in all directions.

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        • suntzuanime says:

          You think you’re more likely to get pilloried for arguing “sexual harassment laws are a good thing” than for arguing “sexual harassment laws are a bad thing”? This is substantially different from my perception of how things stand.

          If “feminist orthodoxy” is “all sex is rape”, then it’s not likely to be taken seriously; if it’s “women are more than just men’s property”, the converse is not likely to be taken seriously. I’m not sure which you feel like you’re socially barred from defending.

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    • Jai says:

      One of the greatest dangers in learning of cognitive biases and fallacies is weaponizing them only against the ideas you already disagreed with. Can’t you see that you’re weak-manning the anti-feminist-rationalists? Just say no to Asymmetric Epistemology.

      (disclaimer: I identify as the sort of feminist whose favorite blog is this one and has had the fortune of never hearing of Bitchtopia until today, and I mostly agree with object-level assertions 1-6.)

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    • Creutzer says:

      I don’t think most critics of feminism disagree with the girst of most of those points. At this point, who does disagree with them, anyway?

      Although I don’t get 2. How are sexual jokes, as opposed to sexist jokes, conducive to a hostile environment to either gender?

      The list could go on. Don’t forget, for example,

      7. Men are held to a different standard than women, especially in matters of social behaviour

      which is equally true.

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      • ozymandias says:

        Imagine being one of two men at a workplace. Your female coworkers sometimes crack jokes about that awkward feeling when you get horny during your period and bleed all over your Hitachi. They joke about how men are only good for sex and should be left lying around in harem-boy outfits. They joke about you kissing the other male employee and how hot it would be; when you say you’re straight, they tell you to stop being so sensitive and learn to take a joke. Sometimes you bend down and someone wolf-whistles you and then they all laugh. One day you came in looking sick and they were like “aw, no cute guy to lighten up the office?”

        Wouldn’t you feel uncomfortable even though those are all just jokes?

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        • Creutzer says:

          Ah, thanks. That explains it. There was an availability problem – what came to my mind at the notion of “sexual jokes” was jokes that references sex, but were considerably less… crude.

          A bit doubtful about the “lighten up the office” thing, though. I think it’s quite a different category and, if done once, can actually be a compliment. It does, after all, show both appreciation of the presence of the other person and recognition that something is wrong with them.

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        • Earnest_Peer says:

          “You lighten up the office” can be a nice compliment.
          “You fail to lighten up the office by being ill” shows a lack of concern about you except for your decorative properties.

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        • Sniffnoy says:

          “You fail to lighten up the office by being ill” shows a lack of concern about you except for your decorative properties.

          I’d disagree with this, though it may be dependent on tone/context (and it’s possible that we’re imagining that differently). I suspect people are just going to disagree about this one. As such it seems uncharitable to attribute such a state of mind to anyone saying this.

          EDIT: It’s worth noting that you’ve lost some of what’s in the original here. I agree with you (and disagree with Creutzer) that the particular “lighten up the office” comment is off-putting rather than complimentary. I agree moreover with your description that it’s off-putting because it shows “a lack of concern about you except for your decorative properties.” Where I really disagree is with your abstraction of it. E.g., imagine your name is “Dave”, and we replace “cute guy” with “Dave”; this seems to me like it easily could be complimentary (again, depending on tone and context), despite not differing in the dimensions you highlighted. As such, I disagree with your abstraction. And — though it’s not nice to say it — I am inclined to wonder how long you really spent searching for counterexamples to it.

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        • Earnest_Peer says:

          I spent about 5 seconds thinking about the whole thing, but I still sort of stand behind that comment. I agree that without context, “no Dave to lighten up the office” would probably be a compliment (even though I still might not want to hear it, depending on mood and tone) – but context was given: The female coworkers care mostly for Dave’s looks. I also think the choice of “cute guy” instead of “Dave” was deliberate.

          I agree that my response fails without Ozy’s original comment, and I think your questioning of my motives was appropriate.

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        • Sniffnoy says:

          OK, it seems we basically agree on the substance then.

          In the interest of honesty, let me state my motive here: My experience is that this is a general problem with feminism, and, really, a lot of the problem that I have with it. They start by taking an instance of behavior that really is bad, and pointing out that it’s bad, but then they use an overbroad generalization to explain why it’s bad, without searching for counterexamples; for those of us who actually listen to them, then, this rules out all sorts of ordinary and innocuous social behaviors, often leaving us paralyzed in many situations. I don’t really doubt their concrete examples of problems; I just think they’ve done a terrible job distinguishing with their descriptions those problems from things that aren’t problems.

          And I thought that this example here presented a nice compact illustration of this. :)

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        • Earnest_Peer says:

          That’s a very reasonable worry to have and I get very annoyed by that myself (see farther up my complaint about nobody using Schrödinger’s rapist as it’s presented in the article, or worse, Nice Guys(TM) (Who in their right mind thought that calling a specific set of complainers Nice Guys wasn’t going to lead to massive misunderstandings!?)).
          I didn’t think of that risk because I jotted down two lines of not very memetic clarification. If I had written something that I thought had a higher chance of catching on, I would have written it differently. (I hope. I am not a terribly principled person.)

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        • Nornagest says:

          (Re: Ozy)

          No; yes; maybe; maybe; no.

          I wouldn’t be (and indeed haven’t been, or close enough) able to share in the first joke for anatomical reasons, but I don’t feel like jokes — even crude ones — need be shared among the entire audience. Pretty much every joke you can come up with isn’t going to be funny to a good fraction of people, after all. The worst I can say about it is that it’s unprofessional.

          The second, on the other hand, directly offends my competence. Pretty much no way that isn’t going to make me feel uncomfortable; it likely wasn’t made with me in mind, but when it comes to things like this there’s no such thing as just a joke. If it was instead about a male stereotype, I’d feel a little more ambivalent but might still be uncomfortable.

          The third and fourth depend critically on how often they happen, and probably also on cultural assumptions; for this category in particular I think there’s a pretty wide gap between male and female experience, and maybe even between the experiences of women living in different areas. You know how men often respond to complaints about being wolf-whistled or rudely hit on by saying “I wish that happened to me”? Well, it has happened to me, and I was flattered — but I can see myself feeling a lot more threatened if it happened every week rather than every few months, or if I’d been told in school that it was prima facie evidence of discriminatory gender attitudes.

          The fifth is a lot like 3 or 4, but seems a lot milder on its face.

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        • Zorgon says:

          I’ve worked in majority-female offices before, and variants on almost all of these have happened.

          Not intended as a refutation, btw, I’m aware that your argument against sexually-driven comments in the workplace is gender-neutral. My experience is that almost anyone working in a gender-imbalanced workplace as a member of the minority gender has these stories.

          I’d argue that the primary difference is that one gender are actively encouraged to report and make a fuss about these (and will likely be backed up by senior management and employment tribunals) and the other are generally expected (socially and often legally) to shut up and take it like a… well, you know what.

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      • Patrick Robotham says:

        Scott:

        I’ve been advised by The Prussian to not become involved in discussions of motive (thank you for introducing him to me by the way Scott).

        I’m very tempted to ignore his advice and launch into a self-justifying monologue, but I choose to exercise self-restraint! (The monologues shall be served after the cakes.) I can assure you that I had no malicious plans before posting this comment.

        I will remark that I don’t believe that discussing object level claims is likely to upset people. I think hurt feelings come from attacks on one’s identity, and the hurt feelings in gender discussion come from feeling like one is under attack for one’s beliefs or gender.

        To make a meta-level point, I think the anti-feminist (not misogynist) discourse from my fellow rationalists is built around the “Weak Man”. For example, Slate Star Codex repeatedly attacks feminism with reference to internet memes and sensationalist tabloid fodder.

        Jai:
        I’m that sort of feminist too!

        You never hearing of Bitchtopia is kind of my point: that the magazine is not filled with champions of feminism whose cool-headedness, dry wit and logical rigor makes me swoon. They exist as Weak Men, for Scott to provide an example of how feminists aren’t up to scratch as far as epistemic standards go.

        As for your charge, I don’t believe I am weak manning. At the very least, Scott’s cool-headedness, dry wit and logical rigor does make me swoon. There are much weaker targets I could have picked after all. I genuinely believe that the anti-feminist arguments from rationalists are:

        a) “Look at the unsoundness of the reasoning of this internet feminist.”, and

        b) “Sexism hurts men too, but the feminists don’t care about that!.”

        Of course, it’s entirely possible that there are better arguments than these which I’ve neglected to observe. A gold dragon to whoever can furnish me with one.

        Cruetzer:
        I think 7. is true. For example, I think women suffer less social penalties for affectionate arm touching (not that men can’t touch arms affectionately, only that it’s riskier for them).

        As for 2. I did mean sexual, not sexist, and I am pleasantly surprised by the fact that rationalists disagree with some object level claims, not just that they think Tumblr is the social network of the devil.

        Now to justify why sexual jokes create a hostile environment. EDIT: ozymandias did a much better job at this than I ever could. Justification removed.

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        • Creutzer says:

          As ozy’s response above made clear to me, my disagreement with 2 wasn’t very profound, but merely based on the fact that examples of a problematic kind were not available to me from my personal experience, which includes women laughing at and making jokes involving sexual subject matter plentifully. So I’m afraid you’ll have to search further for someone substantially disagreeing with the object-level statements. (Although I share ozy’s hesitation about some of the formulations. I don’t like the word “evil” particularly.)

          As for 7, your example rings true, but it also strikes me as relatively culture-dependent and contingent. I was trying to get at something more fundamental: that for men, social skills are a determinant of success in various domains in a similar way as beauty is for women. 6 and 7 are certainly regrettable facts about the human condition, but they strike me as pretty much unchangeable. To the extent that that’s true, declaring them huge social problems to be solved doesn’t seem helpful.

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        • Scott Alexander says:

          I am not out to disprove all feminism and I have no quarrel with most of it. Nor have I ever claimed to.

          On the other hand, even from some of the posts above in this thread you can see that there is a strain of feminism which is strong enough to tar almost any action as misogynist/sexist, and then does so on any action by anyone they want to pick on or destroy. I am agnostic as to whether this describes 25%, 50%, or 75% of feminism, but it is more than enough to destroy lots of things, and it tends to set its sights on me and my friends and valuable communities that need to continue to exist undestroyed more often than not.

          I am happy to befriend and acknowledge the correctness of feminists who don’t try to do this.

          The problem is, any time I object to these people a bunch of feminists close rank and defend them.

          So my choices are either “totally surrender to people trying to destroy me and all my friends” or “raise the rationality waterline enough that these people’s arguments aren’t as powerful”. I can’t think of a good term to argue against them with except “feminists”, unless I want to say “bad feminists” or something like that which is nontechnical. It is expected (and the point of this post) that good feminists will close ranks with the bad feminists and try to defend them and I will make enemies of them as well. A lot of them have resisted this and that makes me happy. A lot of others have behaved exactly as predicted and if I have to fend off attacks from them I will.

          I feel like I am in the position of the guy I mentioned above who keeps getting bricks thrown through his window by the Westboro Baptist Church, and you are the guy who is telling him “It’s wrong of you to talk so much about the Westboro Baptist Church, that just unfairly discredits much smarter religious people”.

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        • blacktrance says:

          Scott:

          It’s more analogous to if you were intending to complain about the Westboro Baptist Church throwing bricks through your window, except when you refer to them you’d just call them “Christians”. It would be reasonable for people to tell you that not all Christians are throwing bricks through your windows and your real problem is with the WBC.

          And if you’re looking for a term that gets at what’s wrong with bad feminists – what’s wrong with the term “SJW”?

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        • ozymandias says:

          Creutzer: Could you explain what you mean by social skills being a determinant of success for men in a way they aren’t for women? In the obvious sense I can think of that doesn’t really seem true to me: I see, for example, about as many female autistic and male autistic friends complaining about not being able to get a job because people expect them to make eye contact and be able to talk on the phone and understand secret neurotypical code. Conversely, the female autistics are much IME more likely than the male autistics to complain about fashion and appearance difficulties.

          Scott: I second blacktrance’s recommendation of SJW.

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        • Creutzer says:

          Ozy:

          I don’t think it’s helpful to look at the very end of the scale here. That’s kind of like saying that demands with respect to appearance are not higher on women because short and ugly men face disadvantages, too.

          What I mean is that in general, there is a stronger imperative for men to be confident, entertaining, outgoing, able to network, etc. For women with a reasonable level of prettiness, this kind of thing seems to be basically optional. At the same time, a woman will have a much harder time compensating for bad looks that way.

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        • I actually oppose female emancipation and think that giving women the vote was a huge disaster, and yet no one seems to come after me in the incendiary and vicious way they go after Scott.

          Women have been close to being property for a lot longer than sheep have been property. Sheep cannot get by without a shepherd, and women cannot get by without male authority in their lives.

          A society that fails to control female sexuality and fails to put males in charge of reproduction is not able to reproduce itself biologically or culturally.

          That said, there are some forms of patriarchy that are maladaptive – for example Augustan patriarchy was as bad as female emancipation, perhaps worse. However, the patriarchy prescribed by Saint Paul, legally enforced by England from 1660 to 1820, and socially enforced in the English speaking world, in the face of ever more serious legal opposition, to the 1950s, works.

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        • Sniffnoy says:

          I have to disagree with Ozy and blacktrance that it would be a good idea to complain about “SJWs” rather than “feminists” in this context. The reason is rhetorical. Now ordinarily I endorse making everything clear and precise — when dealing with reasonable people, anyway; dealing with arbitrary people is another matter — but here I’m going to have to break from that policy.

          It’s the same reason, actually, that I think it’s a good idea for feminists to complain about “men” rather than, say, “creepy men” or “asshole men” or what-have-you depending on context. Now I should clarify here — I don’t think it’s a good idea to just say “men do X”, because, well, NAMALT; but I think it’s totally legit to say, e.g., “A disturbingly large fraction of men do X”. (And Scott should perhaps similarly moderate his claims.)

          So why do I say this? Well, suppose Scott were to complain about “SJWs”. SJW is a pejorative term, so who’s going to read it? If you’re actually an SJer, you’ll probably just pass on it. And mentioning SJ at all is probably the wrong thing, since not all the bad feminists will consider themselves SJers.

          So why not say “the bad feminists”? Well, because nobody considers themselves a bad feminist! (Similarly, nobody considers themselves a creep.) If you complain about things the bad feminists do, people will look at it and say, “Well, I’m not a bad feminist, so I have nothing to worry about.”

          It’s important to get the message across that you — yeah, you! You well-intentioned person! You could be doing something harmful! You could be making a mistake! Take a moment to reflect and search your soul and see if you can do better. (Or if you can argue that the claimed mistake is not, in fact, a mistake.)

          This is related to my point 4. below; saying “too many members of group X do bad thing Y”, if taken as the start of an argument as to why group X is bad, is a tin-man fallcy; but if taken as the starting point for a discussion about the merits of Y — opening it up with a claim that Y is bad and you should avoid it — then it makes sense, at least if you want people to actually avoid Y. After all, what’s the relevance of stating that Y is bad if no decent person actually does it?

          So I don’t think Scott or the feminists are making a mistake in casting a wide net. I think the (terrible) feminists are making a mistake in not allowing counterargument and consistently rounding off their opponent’s positions to the nearest cliche, and nearly all feminists I’ve read on the internet (Ozy being a notable exception) are making a mistake in using abstractions that they either haven’t bothered to test against reality or haven’t properly calibrated. But I don’t think the casting a wide net is by itself a mistake.

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        • blacktrance says:

          Sniffnoy:

          If you cast your net too wide and say that your problem is with “feminists” or “men”, people in those categories who aren’t like that will correctly see you as generalizing excessively, and will see themselves as being attacked unjustly. They won’t think “Could this be a problem with me?”, they’ll think “This is definitely not a problem with me, and if he’s wrong about that, what else is he wrong about?”. It’s a “cowpox of doubt”-sort-of-thing.

          But you’re right that “SJW” is a pejorative term, even if it correctly identifies the group that has the problem. Is there a term that identifies the same group that’s not pejorative? “Social justice people” comes to mind, but it’s a bit wordy and non-standard. (But if Scott’s intended audience is non-SJW, then using the term “SJW” to talk about those people is fine.)

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        • Sniffnoy says:

          If you cast your net too wide and say that your problem is with “feminists” or “men”, people in those categories who aren’t like that will correctly see you as generalizing excessively, and will see themselves as being attacked unjustly. They won’t think “Could this be a problem with me?”, they’ll think “This is definitely not a problem with me, and if he’s wrong about that, what else is he wrong about?”. It’s a “cowpox of doubt”-sort-of-thing.

          Well, this is one possible response; but for another, well, look at all the people it’s worked so well on! Since you happen to be in a place where us recovering self-flagellants actually talk rather than just cowering in fear, I don’t think I need to point out our existence to you. (Not that such power should be used to create self-flagellants, of course. (By which of course I don’t mean to imply that the feminists did so deliberately.) Just that this happening demonstrates that people listened.)

          But you’re right, this is another possible response. So… I don’t have a solution here. I still prefer mine to yours, I think, because it seems to me like it has a higher chance of getting through, but I guess that’s an empirical question I don’t have information on. But another way entirely is probably preferable; I just don’t know what that would be.

          But you’re right that “SJW” is a pejorative term, even if it correctly identifies the group that has the problem. Is there a term that identifies the same group that’s not pejorative? “Social justice people” comes to mind, but it’s a bit wordy and non-standard. (But if Scott’s intended audience is non-SJW, then using the term “SJW” to talk about those people is fine.)

          I just say “SJer”.

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      • FWIW, I think that #1 and #4 in the original list are actually false, and I’m iffy on #3. My reaction to #2 and #5 is the same, namely, “True, but I don’t care because it is neither desirable nor necessary for all workplaces and subcultures to be open to women.” Or at the very least, you’re going to have to convince me to care, since I take the proposition “X should be open equally to men and to women” as a proposition to be proved, not a presupposition.

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    • Xycho says:

      “But the sophisticated claims are not thus refuted, claims such as:
      1. The belief that one can be entitled to sex is an evil notion.
      2. One can create a hostile environment through sexual jokes.
      3. Sexual Harassment laws are a Good Thing.
      4. There is a blasé attitude towards consent in media.
      5. There is a current of misogyny in the geek subcultures such as the gaming culture and the open-source community (to the credit of these communities, they are trying to repair this).
      6. Women are held to a different standard than men, especially in matters of appearance.”

      1: False, due to use of ‘one can be’. True if ‘all people are’ is substituted.

      2: True. I can’t really see how that could be disputed. Again the weasel word ‘can’, though; it is possible to have a non-hostile environment which contains sexual jokes.

      3: False. Sexual harassment is very bad, but morally-motivated legal systems are also bad. There are other, less Sovereign-reliant methods of regulating behaviour. Right idea, wrong tool.

      4: Appears true; probably legitimately so since blasé is defined as “having or showing a lack of excitement or interest in something because it is very familiar” – While nonconsensual anything is bad, it is also normal (i.e. common) in our society. It would be weird if mainstream media were not consequently fairly blasé about lack of consent.

      5: No idea. Probably at least partially true.

      6: True, but is that really an issue? People are held to many different sets of standards according to an awful lot of categories. Appearance specifically has a pretty broad range for both men and women. Unless somewhere embedded in this is an objection to the idea that it is nice to be surrounded by human beings one likes the appearance of (whether male or female), I don’t understand this as a point.

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      • Randy M says:

        “Women are held to the same standard as men in appearance”
        Context is needed here; professionally? Socially?

        I’d say in general the reason for different standards is that the genders are trying to appeal to different innate tendencies of the other gender rather than anything objective.

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    • 6. Women are held to a different standard than men, especially in matters of appearance.

      I’d put it more strongly. Women are held to a much more difficult standard than men.

      Acceptable body types for women are a much smaller proportion of the population than they are for men, though I’ll grant that the situation for men is getting worse.

      Men have somewhat more permission to get older.

      Women are expected to have a wider variety of clothing, and to get subtle social codes right in choosing what to wear.

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      • suntzuanime says:

        Isn’t “the situation for men is getting worse” exactly what we’re shooting for? Equality!

        There is a double standard with regards to career and income as well – men are held to a much more difficult standard there. Of course feminism is working on closing that gap too.

        Soon you will be society’s trash if you do not have a beautiful body and a high-powered job, no matter what your gender is! Ahhh, utopia.

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        • Xycho says:

          Isn’t that sort of the point of the stereotypical utopia, that everyone is beautiful, rich, and intelligent as a baseline regardless of individual factors? Preferably without an actual job, though; that sort of thing gets farmed out to nonsentients who don’t mind not having time for hobbies.

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        • ozymandias says:

          Ah, obviously in order to support equality you must be an equality-maximizing paperclipper.

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      • nydwracu says:

        Acceptable body types for women are a much smaller proportion of the population than they are for men. But most of this is because the wall exists. There is an ancient and time-tested solution to the problem of women becoming less attractive as they age; it’s called marriage.

        Does that effect disappear once you correct for age?

        Either way, desirable body types for women (not just acceptable, but actually attractive) require much less effort to develop than desirable body types for men. The media-approved desirable body type for women is “not old, not fat, and not stuck with some obvious skin problem”; the media-approved desirable body type for men is “hits the gym on a regular and frequent basis and has been doing so for years”.

        Now obviously it’s easier for men than women to skate by with only an acceptable body type — but that’s because developing past that is hard fucking work, and not many people do it. (Also because appearance is less of a factor in determining female attraction than male. Why do chicks have a thing for gays? Probably in part because gays have to appear actually desirable, not just acceptable, in order to get laid.) But if you put in the work — if you’re on a lacrosse team, say — you’re instantly in the top 20% at least, and outside long-term monogamy, the male sexual marketplace is not at all egalitarian.

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        • Earnest_Peer says:

          I disagree with your characterization of the standard desirable body type for women.
          It’s not “not fat”, it’s being within a very specific (and for wellnourished people not terribly natural) weight range.
          It’s not “not old”, it’s “looks like 25 or younger” (I say looks like rather than is to counter the claim that lots of actresses are older and still attractive. They are, but they don’t look their age).
          It’s not “has no obvious skin problem”, it’s a requirement for a number of face, hair and skin properties so specific that models have a rather eerie tendency of all looking alike.
          Also, the time men spend in the gym getting fit, women spend in the bathroom putting on make-up – and make-up has a shorter half-life than muscles. (This isn’t an exact replacement effect, but it doesn’t need to be. For one thing, most women trying to be attractive also go to the gym.)

          Women can get past all that and still be considered attractive, but not just so, and men can do the same.

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        • nydwracu says:

          Head hair is not difficult to manage, at least for certain types. (I haven’t had a haircut in… six years, I think it’s been.)

          Makeup takes time and skill, yes, but how does the time compare? How much time do men who are serious about going to the gym spend at the gym per day on average? But asking that question doesn’t take into account the extra effort required for gaining muscle vs. keeping off fat: gaining muscle demands more accurate workout tracking, and also cutting vs. bulking, careful tracking of protein intake in addition to fat and carb intake, etc.

          I wonder if it would be possible to get useful enough estimates to perform a comparison. (While it would probably be better if the data were not popularized, to avoid diminishing returns, it would be useful to gather it if it were restricted somehow, because Rationalism Is About Winning and winning is partially about being attractive, and gathering the data would increase ability to increase attractiveness, both male and female. Being able to perform the comparison would be an interesting, but otherwise pretty much useless, side-effect.)

          Actually, I change my position — variance within each group is probably larger than variance between groups.

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        • ozymandias says:

          Why do chicks have a thing for gays? Probably in part because gays have to appear actually desirable, not just acceptable, in order to get laid.

          I suspect that the majority of the reason chicks have a thing for gays is the same reason straight men have a thing for lesbians: men are hot, therefore two men is DOUBLE HOT.

          Now if someone can explain to me why lesbians have a thing for gay men I am all ears, I have never quite been able to figure that one out.

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        • Matthew says:

          [This is in reply to Ozy on the attraction to gays of the opposite gender; hopefully it lands in the right spot]

          Awesome, finally a unique context for me exclaim NAMALT! — I’m a pure hetero male, and I don’t understand the “lesbians are supposed to turn me on” thing at all.

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        • nydwracu says:

          I’m a pure What, Sexual Orientation Isn’t Even A Thing That Exists male and I don’t get it either.

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    • nydwracu says:

      Actually-existing feminism doesn’t necessarily follow from those six claims, so I don’t see the problem here.

      I will leave it as an exercise to the reader to construct a reactionary position that agrees with all six of those claims. (As far as I can tell, 3 relies on some arcana of legal theory, so I’ll give y’all that one: it is preferable for women to take on domestic duties rather than to work full-time; it is best for societal pressures to exist that encourage preferable outcomes and discourage worse outcomes; sexual harassment laws are trivial to exploit toward giving women dangerous amounts of power in the workplace — threats of sexual harassment accusations can provide a good bit of leverage — and this is easy enough to realize [and will become even easier as more examples accumulate] that it will create new pressures against women in the workplace. But do note that I only put this forward as an example of how such a position could be constructed.)

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  36. Sniffnoy says:

    1. I think, if you want to deal with the general population, the problem is probably not solvable. But I think if you can carve out a garden of “reasonable people”, the problems you discuss here can be much reduced.

    2. It is important to recognize what Alice is doing, but that doesn’t mean Beth has no better option than to take the bait (or to not respond). Beth can respond by agreeing in denotation but disagreeing in connotation: “Indeed, frivolous self-diagnosis is a problem. However, let’s not forget that there is also such a thing as non-frivolous self-diagnosis. I diagnosed myself with autism, but only after a lot of careful research. Moreover, I don’t have the opportunity to go see a doctor. So let’s not forget that there are also people like that.”

    (I suppose this is exactly the “NAxALT” response, but phrased more diplomatically.)

    Obviously, this is not an option if they’re going for the heavy tar, like in the “black thugs” example. But again, you can respond by explicitly pointing out that they seem to be implying that most black people are thugs, and then pointing out that this is false. It is possible to do this politely.

    3. I do think use of quantifiers by the initial speaker can reduce the problem. There are options between the overly strong “All” and the uselessly weak “some”. “Many”, “a large number”, “a large fraction”. (Make that “a disturbingly/unfortunately large number” if you like.) I’d advise against “most”, as while you might mean it as “more of them than not”, it may be read as “an overwhelming majority”, and people will take offense.

    I think, if we’re talking about the initial speaker, it can be further reduced by explicitly stating what you’re not saying, and warding off those misinterpretations. This, really, is quite useful in general when you can anticipate ways that people will misread you. (There will be idiots who ignore your wards, but then you can write them off as idiots.)

    4. Really, though, I think these sorts of “tin man fallacies”, where you say “X is crappy, because of noncentral example Y!” can be useful — not as arguments against X, but as starting points for discussion of Y. The examples with feminism come to mind. Scott isn’t trying to dismantle all of feminism, but there are troublesome parts, however noncentral, that need to be talked about. And so then the second person can respond, “I don’t think Y is really a good example of X,” followed by, as apporpriate, “I agree though that Y is a problem”, “I agree that Y would be a problem if it were more prevalent, but I’m not convinced that it is”, “Furthermore, I don’t even see what’s supposed to be bad about Y”, or etc. If you then discuss the particular issue Y you might actually get somewhere, regardless of whether or not that tells you something about X. Again, I think the cases where X=feminism are examples of this.

    5. Reminder, this is all assuming you have some way of not having to deal with unreasonable people.

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    • Ialdabaoth says:

      Obviously, this is not an option if they’re going for the heavy tar, like in the “black thugs” example. But again, you can respond by explicitly pointing out that they seem to be implying that most black people are thugs, and then pointing out that this is false. It is possible to do this politely.

      But then how do you defend against PRATs?

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      • Sniffnoy says:

        Sorry, what is PRAT?

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          A Point Refuted a Thousand Times.

          I.e., you refute their statement by pointing out that not all black people are thugs, and they don’t respond. Two hours later, they’re talking about all these black thugs and how black culture is terrible for producing them and needs to be eradicated. So you point out that not all black people are thugs, and they don’t respond. Three hours later, someone else is talking about all these black thugs and how black culture is terrible for producing them and needs to be eradicated. So you point out that not all black people are thugs, and they disappear. An hour later, someone else is talking about all these welfare queens spitting out black thugs and how dangerous and violent they are and how you’re too ignorant to see that they’re being bred to destroy white culture. So you point out that not all black people are thugs. And so on and so on, a thousand times.

          When do you stop and say, “I keep refuting this at the object-level, and it keeps coming back up; I think I need to take my counterattack at least one level meta”?

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        • peterdjones says:

          That is, like so many bad things, instrumentally rational. If your goal is to make converts, then you should spam your argument to as many people as possible, not withdraw it as false or defeated. You’re not after truth, you’re after agreement.

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        • Sniffnoy says:

          I wouldn’t defend against it, I’d conclude that this is a terrible place to have a discussion and go elsewhere!

          Admittedly, that’s not much of a solution if your goal is to actually change people’s minds, rather than to find good discussion partners so you can try to get at what’s actually going on. I have no solution for that. See point 1.

          EDIT: For what it’s worth, I think it helps a little to point out explicitly that this has been discussed before. And it’s OK to get a bit ruder each time; I think it’s OK to be a bit rude to people when they have blatantly ignored your point in their response (and more so the longer this goes on). E.g. after a few rounds of this you might end up at “Enough with the ‘black people are thugs’ crap! This keeps on coming up! I’ve pointed out that this is wrong, and not in one case a single person attempted to argue against me, so why is this still happening? Offer a counterargument or cut it out!” But I guess I still have no real solution for what you want.

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      • That does not sound like a point refuted once, let alone a thousand times.

        Bob: Skin color is a better predictor of the propensity to attack a white person for no reason, to lie, cheat, steal, etc, than any other readily observable characteristic. If in the lead up to the financial crisis, the banks had ignored all borrower characteristics other than race, and loaned money or refrained from lending money solely on the basis of race, they would have lost less money.

        Carol: Not all blacks are like that.

        Bob: Hey! Are you not paying a prince’s ransom to live as far from black people as possible?

        Carol: Not all black people are like that.

        Bob: If you are walking down a lonely street, and you hear footsteps behind you, and it is a black man ….

        Carol: Not all black men are like that.

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        • suntzuanime says:

          Yes, “point refuted a thousand times” is a Rational-Wiki level argument. If the refutation wasn’t convincing the first time, sheer thousand-fold repetition isn’t going to make it more convincing.

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          I’ve spent some time parsing through this, and have managed to come several large steps closer to epistemic and moral nihilism.

          That is, I’m realizing that, given the possibility for me to legitimately hold my views, and you to legitimately hold yours, it’s reasonably plausible that having “correct views” is utterly pointless, that no amount of discussion will ever cause human beings to actually arrive at anything approaching “truth”, that all policy is merely a mixture of violence for violence’s sake and the blind thrashing of idiots, and that it really doesn’t matter if we kill all the n****rs, obliterate the white race, engineer all women into sub-sentient breeding chambers and pleasure animals, pave the earth with asphalt, blow up the moon, or deliberately wipe out the human race with the most horrific and painful virus we can engineer. It doesn’t matter, because if there *are* actual facts, and if there *are* actual morals, I’m too dumb to notice them – and if there is anyone who ISN’T too dumb to notice them, then I’m too dumb to distinguish them from a conman.

          So, if someone can point me to a quick refresher – why is rationality important again? And why is it important that rationality is important?

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        • The human world is not completely composed of cruelty and incompetence. Considering the grinding effects of entropy, I conclude that people do more good than ill for themselves and each other, or we wouldn’t exist.

          I can go with nihilism in the sense that there’s probably nothing outside the human race keeping track.

          However, we can somewhat keep track for ourselves, and some ways of living work better than others. The extreme case would be North vs. South Korea.

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        • Alrenous says:

          that no amount of discussion will ever cause human beings to actually arrive at anything approaching “truth”

          Yeah, about that.

          So, if someone can point me to a quick refresher – why is rationality important again?

          Do you want things?

          I dunno, like women’s wellbeing, a spiffy-looking moon, not being a dick to blacks, and tree-lined boulevards?

          Rationality can be back-defined.

          Truth is that which is predictive. The point of prediction is to achieve your goals. Rationality finds truth. Rationality->truth->goals. Ergo, in definition, goals->rationality. It is that which helps you know how to achieve your goals.

          Empirically, as it turns out, Athenian philosophy is correct about what rationality is. That’s handy. No paradigm shift needed here.

          May I suggest a couple areas of inquiry?

          Do you in fact have the power to improve or degrade the experience of women? If the answer is no, then you need to come up with another rational justification for spending cognitive resources on knowing how to do so.

          I answer in the negative, and my replacement is curiosity and a general desire to find the world not-surprising.

          Can you change Donald’s beliefs?

          Empirically, I can.

          Emprically, I cannot change Alexander’s beliefs. So that’s interesting.

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Well, but the problem is that goals are entangled with beliefs, so at this point I’m not sure if I’m justified in having goals – I’m not even sure if I’m justified in having goals about *setting* goals; hell, I’m not even sure if I’m justified in having beliefs about what ‘justification’ and ‘belief’ mean, or what ‘mean’ means.

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        • blacktrance says:

          Why do you think you need to be justified in having goals? If you like ice cream, you need not justify the goal of getting ice cream.

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          If you like ice cream, you need not justify the goal of getting ice cream.

          Can you explain that please?

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        • What do you think would go wrong if you had an unjustified goal?

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        • Alrenous says:

          Ah, you went and touched the logical third rail. I also like the Lovecraftian horror metaphor for this logical snarl; it has descriptively driven you mad.

          To answer those questions you need to understand the principle of existence. Nobody does and so it’s necessary to dissolve the problem.

          Normally we talk about how things are justified. We justify them within some justification framework. But how do you justify a justification framework without begging the question? Without a superior framework, it’s impossible.

          There’s an ultimate justification framework: existence. There is nothing that can justify existence. I back-define this as well. The thing which can’t have a more-superior framework, I call existence. I believe but cannot prove that this means existence is the principle of self-justification.

          Or: justify the law of identity without begging the question. Don’t forget you can’t use anything with an identity to do so. You know, like words or thoughts.

          In the meantime, descriptively you have goals. Goals don’t need any justification other than pure existence. Actions towards those goals need to be justified, but that’s relatively easy. Don’t pursue your goals by attempting to prevent someone else from pursuing theirs, because if that’s justifiable they’re justified in preventing you from preventing them, and so on ad nauseum.

          Or: you can say your goals are justified, but that doesn’t make them go away. You still want to fulfill them. They are regenerating against logical threats. And thus rationality, which depends on them, is also regenerating.

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        • Alrenous says:

          Typo. goals are justified –> aren’t.

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        • blacktrance says:

          “Can you explain that please?”

          Imagine that you’re in any kind of game-theoretic scenario: prisoner’s dilemma, stag hunt, whatever. You need to justify your actions based on the payoffs and the structure of the game. But you need not justify the payoffs being what they are. They’re foundational.

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          You need to justify your actions based on the payoffs and the structure of the game. But you need not justify the payoffs being what they are. They’re foundational.

          But if players can self-modify, AND players can other-modify – such that valid moves of the game are “change other player’s payoff matrix” or “punish other player for having payoff matrix X”, then doesn’t that open payoffs up to justification?

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        • blacktrance says:

          But the choice to self-modify must be justified by the previously existing payoff matrix and your already existing desires. At a certain point, you will reach a desire that’s not justified by any other desires .

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          But the choice to self-modify must be justified by the previously existing payoff matrix and your already existing desires. At a certain point, you will reach a desire that’s not justified by any other desires .

          Well, let’s be a little less abstract then.

          I’m trying to close the inferential distance with James. James seems to be asserting that my desires are not actually my desires, and that my beliefs are not actually my beliefs, and also seems to be inferring that I’m deluding myself about my actual desires and beliefs because my actual desires and beliefs are too terrible to contemplate. Specifically, that I don’t actually care about subhuman mongrels, but pretend to so that I can destroy him and everyone like him.

          In order to accept that analysis, I have to be willing to accept that my beliefs and goals *are* subject to justification, AND that just because I believe I have a goal does not mean that I actually have that goal, AND that just because I believe that I believe that I have a belief does not mean that that belief is believed believably.

          So now what?

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        • Write James off as a habitually malicious person, and one who doesn’t have the mental flexibility to believe that people could actually disagree with him.

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        • Alrenous says:

          AND that just because I believe I have a goal does not mean that I actually have that goal

          Yeah, revealed preferences.

          What I’m talking about is satisfaction qualia. Satisfying real goals leads to satisfaction qualia. Revealed preferences are subject to Ockham’s razor. Your explanation for your pattern of satisfaction can be refuted by proposing a simpler one. Jezebelian feminists are all vulnerable to this criticism.

          However, I don’t see where Donald has implied that you are vulnerable to it. I’m seeing object-level assertions about progressive shibboleths. If you can point it out, please do.

          For now it looks like you’re making a tremendous intuitive leap. Just slightly too tremendous, you didn’t quite stick the landing.

          I assert and I’m sure enough Donald agrees, that your description is true of high church progressives. High church progressive’s souls are indeed to terrible to contemplate except for hardened dark Cthulian sorcerers such as myself.

          I’m pretty impressed that you got that out of what Donald said. Here’s where you tripped during landing: you, Iadoboloth, are not a high church progressive. (Wouldn’t say low either, and not in between. More a la carte.)

          This does, unfortunately, mean I think you’ve been fooled by sophists; high church progressives.

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        • Ialdabaoth says:
          May 16, 2014 at 1:52 pm

          Specifically, that I don’t actually care about subhuman mongrels, but pretend to so that I can destroy him and everyone like him.

          No one cares about far away strangers, still less about far away strangers very different from themselves. Claims to do so are lies or self deception.

          People near one are always the big threat. So if one wants to destroy everyone near one, one justifies it by piously announcing love for those far away.

          Of course there are other possible motives for such pious declarations. If the highest status people want to destroy all the people near them in status, they will announce deep caring for far away strangers, whereupon going through the motions of deep caring for far away strangers becomes high status.

          However, just as the sensible thing to do is to assume every black man is a murderous thug, even though most of them are not, the sensible thing to do is to assume that everyone who piously proclaims deep love of far away strangers is planning the democide of those of his own class and race.

          Empirically, actions taken to benefit far away strangers very different from oneself are usually performed terrifyingly poorly, perhaps always performed terrifying poorly. For example African AIDS turns out not to be heterosexual AIDS, but do gooder AIDS. It is spread by clinics, which have financial incentive to use contaminated needles, in that the more of their clients they make sick, the more money they get.

          Similarly, remember “We are the world, we are the children”. All the good and the great got together to raise money to help the victims of the Ethiopian famine.

          But the primary cause of the Ethiopian famine was not drought, but forced collectivization, government confiscation of crops, government destruction of the crops of rebellious populations, and civil war, in other words socialism. Being good progressives, did not want to admit the role of socialism. So wound up paying for the cattle trucks to take the peasants to death camps.

          And, very recently, just a year or so ago, the Cathedral was funding and arming the Army of the Congo to vaginally impale Tutsi women with very large objects.

          Thus near 100% intent to commit democide fits available data better than near 50% intent to commit democide.

          Observe the total non reaction among do gooders to complicity in crimes against the Tutsi in the Congo, and the total non reaction among do gooders to the ongoing AIDS scandal in Africa. This behavior fits the assumption that all do gooders, as near all of them as makes no difference, are aiming at war against near, and contradicts the assumption that many of them or most of them intend to benefit far.

          If status competition was driving the purported caring about far, we would expect to see more monitoring of each other’s performance “Hey, your caring for far is producing horribly bad outcomes, which I, your holier and more moral superior will now correct.” So, the data compelling fits the theory that concern for far away people of other races is a lie driven primarily by monstrous and horrifying goals, and fails to fit even the relatively innocent explanation of competition to be holier than thou.

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        • Alrenous says:

          Another good example of why I get testy about being exactly correct.

          High church progressives promote AIDS in Africa because that is their real goal.

          Ialdabaoth supports clinics in Africa because he and/or she has been sold a bill of goods. Probably. He and/or she may just be a liar above my paygrade; while I consider it unlikely, that’s exactly what a fool would say too, isn’t it?

          But we can tell the difference in the long term. Ialdabaoth, when told of AIDS caused by clinics, denies it. Is made uncomfortable by evidence that is is true.

          A high church progressive just gets crocodilian. The proggie in charge of clinic foreign aid funds cannot be dissuaded from signing off on them by evidence, no matter how strong.

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        • blacktrance says:

          “So now what?”

          So now… you just don’t accept his analysis.
          If you could destroy him without pretending to care about “subhuman mongrels”, would you still care about them? If you caring about them wouldn’t destroy him, would you still care about them?
          James doesn’t think that you can care about faraway strangers, and that you must have some ulterior motive if you pretend to care about them. But you know if you actually care about them or not – if making them feel better makes you happy, then you actually care about them and aren’t pretending. And if that’s the case, then James is simply wrong.

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          James doesn’t think that you can care about faraway strangers, and that you must have some ulterior motive if you pretend to care about them. But you know if you actually care about them or not – if making them feel better makes you happy, then you actually care about them and aren’t pretending. And if that’s the case, then James is simply wrong.

          But how do I KNOW if James is wrong? And more importantly, how do I know if believing that James is wrong (and hiding my belief that he is wrong insufficiently well) will have horrible social-coalition consequences for me later?

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        • blacktrance says:

          You can check whether he’s wrong thorough introspection. If making faraway strangers better off makes you feel happy, then you really do care about them and aren’t just pretending, and therefore James is wrong.
          I’m not sure what the question about coalitions is about.

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        • Alrenous says:

          Take your entire disposable income for June, and donate it to African charity. How do you feel?

          Take your entire disposable income for July, and spend it on gifts for family. How do you feel?

          Outside the experimental framework, which of these actions do you spontaneously echo?

          Unfortunately you will find that Donald is more correct than not; you don’t much care about faraway strangers. The problem, then, is that pretending to care will have perverse effects, and normalizing pretending to care will reinforce them.

          Unless your self-deception is up to the task of lying to you about what you feel, in which case you can’t know. But you might as well try? Like, if you can’t know, there’s no point in worrying about it. Worrying about it will not cause you to be able to know.

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          I’m not sure what the question about coalitions is about.

          In my experience, one of the biggest dangers I have in disagreeing with people when they tell me what I think or how I believe, is that I will be punished later by the coalition that they have built. My natural reaction is to try REALLY hard to accept whatever anyone tells me about myself, no matter how counter-intuitive. (This often leads to severe mental distress, especially if people hand me Russel paradoxes like “you don’t try to accept what people tell you about yourself”.)

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        • blacktrance says:

          How do they punish you? What mechanism do they use?

          (This may not be good advice depending on your situation, but my preliminary recommendation is that unless they threaten your life or livelihood, ignore them and/or cut off contact with them altogether.)

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Take your entire disposable income for June, and donate it to African charity. How do you feel?

          Take your entire disposable income for July, and spend it on gifts for family. How do you feel?

          I’ve actually performed this experiment!

          Here’s the anomaly for me: I have little to no family ties, and little ability to maintain friendships. In general, gifts for family / friends are just bribes to keep people willing to put up with me for a little while longer, and thus tend to give me very little satisfaction. What satisfaction I DO get is identical to the satisfaction I get from giving to a stranger – I see that someone’s condition is genuinely improved, and I can tell myself that not everyone is selfish, because *I* am helping.

          For me, performing near vs. far charity is less about who I’m helping, and more about the likelihood that I know enough about the situation to understand what will help. Ultimately, I *have* no family, and I don’t trust friendship, so if I’m going to be compassionate to people *at all* it’s not going to be out of kinship.

          My own soul-searching on this over two decades has led to an interesting realization, which you may not believe: I perform acts of compassion and charity out of a Nietzschean desire to see the world bettered. My morality is purely aesthetic; when I have power, I will to use it to see lives improved, because a future forged by my hands is more appealing than a future unforged, and a future forged by my hand where people *enjoy* themselves is preferable on a purely aesthetic level to a future forged by my hand where everything is terrible forever.

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        • Alrenous says:

          Neat.

          Ultimately, I *have* no family, and I don’t trust friendship, so if I’m going to be compassionate to people *at all* it’s not going to be out of kinship.

          It seems to me you already accept that kinship is relevant. IF you had kith or kin, it’s not going to make it less rewarding. One possibility remains.

          Sorry about distrusting friendship, by the way. I would help if I could. (I’m very selfish, so not much care is left over, but…)

          This probably isn’t real care, though. Rather, I want to be able to help people for my own self-aggrandizement. I also don’t want to harm faraway strangers because I like the moral high ground.

          As per LastPsych, that’s good enough. But I shouldn’t pretend it’s something more square-quotes noble.

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Oh, I now have some good specific examples in answer to this:

          Why do you think you need to be justified in having goals? If you like ice cream, you need not justify the goal of getting ice cream.

          Here’s a really good example: I’m an older, low-status, cigendered, heterosexual male, who happens to find younger, “conventially attractive” women attractive, and who happens to enjoy sexually dominant things in the bedroom.

          I cannot express this desire, or indeed even let on that I HAVE this desire, without being shamed and ridiculed for being a “neckbeard” or feeling “entitled” to sex or “expecting women to put out just because I’m horny” or what-have-you.

          Here’s another good example: I frequently find myself in the midst of a panic attack or bout of self-loathing, and need some kind of comforting and positive social bonding. But expressing this – indeed, even allowing it to show through my facade – leads to accusations of being a “drama queen” or being “needy” or “desperate” or “making everything about me” or being an “emotional narcissist”.

          Another good example: I’ve been nearly-homeless, starving, mad, and in desperate need of someone to take physical and mental care of me. But expressing this, or indeed even hinting that I might not be 100% self-sufficient, means that I get constant lectures about self-sufficiency and the wonders of the free market and the horrors of social welfare queens and leeches and vague intimations about how Life Unworthy of Life is costing the good American citizens trillions of tax-dollars.

          So it seems like, on a pragmatic, tactical level, base-level desires *DO* need to be justified – justified by status and power, of course, not by reasons.

          And given that these trends tend to express themselves whenever my barest, most fundamental desires express themselves, I hope I might be forgiven for going ahead and applying the heuristic to *all* my desires, and assuming that if I can’t justify the fact that I want or need something, I better not let on that I care about it at all.

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        • blacktrance says:

          We seem to be talking about different meanings of “justification”. As I understand it, when you say that your desires have to be justified, you mean that you must justify your reasons to others in order for them to treat you well and not punish you. When you say that you’re not justified in having goals, you mean that people don’t respect you for acting on those goals.

          This topic started with Alrenous asking you if you want things. Whether other people respect you is not the question – the question is whether you have desires. While because of your bad social situation you may need to hide your desires or take great efforts to convince people that you should be respected, the answer to Alrenous’s questions seems to be “yes”. You have desires, and therefore have a reason to be rational, because it helps you achieve your goals.

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          This topic started with Alrenous asking you if you want things. Whether other people respect you is not the question – the question is whether you have desires… You have desires, and therefore have a reason to be rational, because it helps you achieve your goals.

          Not if I believe that others are better at detecting my desires than I am at hiding them, and will punish me if they detect desires – and not if I suspect both that Alrenous asking me if I have desires might be part of that process, and that surviving is worth the cost of false positives.

          In many cases the best option appears to be to simply avoid any goals that are unrelated to self-annihilation. Throw in a randomizer to the punishment, caused by Not All People Being Like That, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to seal in a strategy of learned helplessness, which makes it incredibly difficult to acknowledge desires, let alone act on them.

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        • blacktrance says:

          What does rationality have to do with detecting or hiding your desires?

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        • Alrenous says:

          Something like 75% of most people’s desires are socially unacceptable. I find this especially sad when it’s a universal desire, suppressed because apparently the 100 IQ can’t tell the difference between expressing and endorsing it. E.g. men who say they don’t have your desire are lying. (Gays excepted, duh, you know what I mean.)

          It should be possible to use rationality to become better at hiding your desires.

          That said a large part of the problem is just that you are low-status. If they weren’t getting you about your desires, they would get you about something else. It’s just a handy club.

          Have you been diagnosed with autism or something? I mention this because you seem to be missing the brain module that detects who is coalitionally threatening and who isn’t. Most have a specialized circuit for only that, exactly like the face-detecting circuit.

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        • I don’t think attacking people for having the “wrong” desires is a 100 IQ problem, or at least I think it’s quite common in people who are smarter than that. I don’t think believing that people will act on every wrong desire is the only reason for attacking, either.

          Having the wrong desires also means that one will fail to do the right thing with sufficient enthusiasm.

          Also, getting people to give up what they really want is a proof and means of having dominating them.

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        • Ialdabaoth strikes me as suffering from PTSD, though he may be on the spectrum as well.

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        • Multiheaded says:

          Alrenous:

          …except for hardened dark Cthulian sorcerers such as myself

          I’m not sure whether I should submit this to r/badphilosophy, or create a r/dorkentitlement specifically for shit like this.

          E.g. men who say they don’t have your desire are lying.

          Pffft. From what I’ve heard of statistics, if there’s any kind of “rare” sexuality, it’s dominant straight-leaning women. Meanwhile, there would probably be more straight men comfortable with their submissive side if it didn’t run against social stereotypes (although finding a dominant partner would still be a problem for them).

          Something like 75% of most people’s desires are socially unacceptable.

          Many aspects of dominant male heterosexuality are not just “accepted” but outright (or tacitly) encouraged by most cultures, you just aren’t seeing that because they are the default.

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        • Alrenous says:

          Also, getting people to give up what they really want is a proof and means of having dominating them.

          My only saving grace is the word ‘apparently.’

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        • ozymandias says:

          I would say that wanting to have mdom sex with young, conventionally attractive women is a very common desire but far from the only one, unless by “gays” I was meant to read “gays, sexually submissive men, chubby chasers, men who are really just into their partners having lots of orgasms, etc.,” in which case I question the wisdom of saying all men want something when the exceptions make up the majority of the population. (I also disagree with Multi about the prevalence of straight dominant women, but suspect that a discussion about that would be getting wildly off-topic.)

          I think it might be helpful to distinguish multiple senses of the word “care.” For instance, it is perfectly consistent to say that I intellectually care about starving Africans, but my evolved systems have stubbornly Newtonian ethics and will insist on prioritizing people close to me. I think it’s a bit silly to say that either of those is “really” caring and the other one isn’t; they are just different senses of the word “care.”

          I believe that James Donald does not have a remotely accurate model of progressive morality and that, in general, saying your opponents want to murder millions of people is a sufficient principle of charity fail that it is wise to stop taking them seriously. (Exceptions, of course, for people who explicitly admit that they want to murder millions of humans, such as Nazis and the pro-choice.)

          Also Ialdabaoth is in desperate need of, in no particular order, a better social circle, a good therapist, a blowjob, and a hug.

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  37. Sarah says:

    So, this “weak man” problem basically reduces to representativeness heuristic, right?

    Someone who focuses a lot on complaining about frivolous self-diagnosers is painting a picture of the world where that’s a common behavior. “Frivolous self-diagnoser” is the central tendency; most self-diagnosers have *something* in common with the archetypal self-centered, lazy, special snowflake of a self-diagnoser.

    The alternative story is that the archetypal self-diagnoser has done careful research, is marginalized and has trouble getting a doctor’s diagnosis, is basically a sympathetic figure. And so if you self-diagnose, you’ll be associated with *her* and people will like you.

    If you’re asking yourself “so, are people like me basically good guys or basically bad guys?” you’ve already lost. Humans do that all the time, but it just isn’t a meaningful statement.

    It’s just throwing Molotov cocktails made of feelings at each other at this point. Not that this is never a good thing. If your archetypal example of a black person is Leontyne Price, you’re going to be a pleasanter neighbor than someone whose archetypal example of a black person is a gangbanger.

    But the reality is that “black people” are a population of *tens of millions*. Populations of that size are *vast*. Large populations are far more alien than most people appreciate. You cannot hold them in your head. You have a few bits of information about them, but they might be totally non-representative. If you’re smart, you look at aggregate statistics from more-or-less impartial sources and try to get your head around that a little. And you’re aware of narratives and instincts too, but you don’t trust them.

    The parts of feminist discourse that get mad when you say “not all men” are…not incorporating this kind of awareness of vast ignorance. They’re happy to paint *a* picture, and keep painting it, consistently. That’s *why* you can read a political blog and be pretty confident, day in and day out, what kind of content it will serve up to you.

    Somewhere, there might be people asking a *question* without knowing a priori what they’ll answer. “Ok, how common *is* rape?” “Ok, who, statistically, *are* the self-diagnosers? What are they like?” That seems to be the only meaningful approach to these kinds of questions.

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    • Sniffnoy says:

      Well said.

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    • Zorgon says:

      Very well said indeed.

      Is there a selected/unselected demographic element to this, though? That would be my next question.

      Assuming that problems of defining a group by its extremists are inherently intractable due to being basic human nature, is it incumbent on people to self-select groups that do not have well-known extremist elements in order to avoid that phenomenon?

      Obviously this is not an issue for Not All Men, Not All Black People or Not All Jews. You don’t get to choose that (well, you kind of do with the last one, but unfortunately an “ethnic” religion has a way of selecting you rather than the other way around). But it’s certainly an issue for Not All Feminists Are Man-Hating Liars Like Andrea Dworkin And Mary Koss, or Not All Conservatives Are Insane Reactionaries Like Rand Paul And Rush Limbaugh. You have to choose to publicly identify with a group like that; society does not (yet, at least) automatically assign you the classification based on your appearance.

      So how does that affect the broader ethical question of the representative heuristic? It certainly remains the case that people will automatically pattern-match to the worst of those groups, and while that’s obviously an irrational response, couldn’t it be argued that by choosing to become a part of that group you’ve actively chosen to be represented by those extreme individuals?

      Or to put it another way – are the sins of the group your own, if you choose that group? (I suppose that makes unselected groups’ extremists “original sin.”)

      I’m presenting this as an open question (as well as the almost terrifyingly loaded nature of English will let me, anyway) because I’ve noticed that the general reaction to this seems to revolve entirely around people’s existing opinion of the groups in question. The most common answer I’ve gotten to variants of this is “well, Group X are fine, but Group Y are totally tainted by Y Extremists” based entirely on to which particular Halo Effect the respondent is most receptive.

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      • nydwracu says:

        Not All Conservatives Are Insane Reactionaries Like Rand Paul And Rush Limbaugh

        The special type of tin-man where both the group and the individuals would disagree with the association.

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        • ozymandias says:

          That’s also true of the feminist thing. At least my response was “…wait, no, I totally am like a brilliant if batshit feminist theorist and a groundbreaking rape researcher. While I acknowledge the flaws of both women, I am happy to include them in my feminism.”

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        • Zorgon says:

          Argh. Completely mindkilled by that response. Going somewhere else for a bit.

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  38. Ialdabaoth says:

    I find it depressing how many of the thread comments in this thread are first-order examples of what the thread is complaining about.

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  39. ciil says:

    You don’t even need to look for neo-nazi blogs, because there’s this “fun” fact: Hitler used NAJALT in Mein Kampf:

    It seemed to me that not all Jews supported Zionism, that even the majority would disapprove. Of course I soon found out that majority just lies about their disapproval of Zionism.

    His NAJALT counterargument is, well, Hitler-esque.

    (Please don’t ask me why I can approximately quote Mein Kampf from memory. I was a history buff in high school, but I have no memory of most other texts I had to read then.)

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    • maybe a name will help past the filter says:

      If you hadn’t added the parenthetical, none would have known that you can recite it from the heart.

      I can’t recite the jabberwocky by heart, but need to for filter purposes. Twas brillig, and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe: All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe. “Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun The frumious Bandersnatch!” He took his vorpal sword in hand: Long time the manxome foe he sought — So rested he by the Tumtum tree, And stood awhile in thought. And, as in uffish thought he stood, The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame, Came whiffling through the tulgey wood, And burbled as it came! One, two! One, two! And through and through The vorpal blade went snicker-snack! He left it dead, and with its head He went galumphing back. “And, has thou slain the Jabberwock? Come to my arms, my beamish boy! O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!’ He chortled in his joy. `Twas brillig, and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe; All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe.

      The answer to the question posed by my name is: no. It reminds me of the xkcd about good filters making spammers evolve into useful commenters; Scott’s filter is making me evolve into a spammer.

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  40. ADifferentAnonymous says:

    Am I the only one who finds it really hard to keep this post’s actual conclusion in my brain? I feel like I’m balancing on a knife edge between ‘Talking about a weak man is wrong’ or ‘Objecting to weak man discussion is wrong’, in terms of both my own belief and my mental summary of the post. I read a bunch of posts here as slipping one way or the other, including some of my own (and this is as much an artifact of my reading as of anyone’s writing).

    Having concepts that sometimes need to be communicated but cause inevitable epistemic collateral damage sucks.

    (But this is in fact a brilliant, true, important observation, which I am glad to have read. Kudos and thanks)

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    • Andy says:

      I have been having trouble keeping this in my head, but I don’t know how much of that is that it’s finals season and I’m aggressively seeking out procrastination material. After finals are over, I’ll probably read the OP without comments a few more times to try and cement it.

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  41. Alrenous says:

    Dear Alexander,

    In the process of (IMO) correctly and precisely describing a real, important rhetorical evil, you have committed a far graver sin. Since I’m writing to you here on your blog, it should be clear that I think it’s reasonable to assume it was unintentional.

    And the other problem is that victims of nonrepresentative members of a group have the right to complain, even though those complaints will unfairly rebound upon the other members of that group.
    [...]
    even though the Westboro Baptists don’t deserve their support, because otherwise the atheists will have a superweapon against them.
    [...]
    And I’m going to have to join in the fight to keep liberals from being completely discredited, or else the fact that I didn’t share any of the opinions they were discredited for isn’t going to save me. I will be Worst Argument In The World-ed and swiftly dispatched.

    This does not exhaust the possibilities. You do not have to join the liberals because you will be labelled as liberal.

    First, you’ve missed a serious scientific principle that’s being flouted. The inclusion of irrelevant details. Put another way, focusing on non-causal properties in your models. Proof by example.

    Instead of “WBC is horrible!” “Fred Phelps is a vandal. He’s throwing bricks through my windows. Please either jail him or don’t jail me when shoot him in self-defence” Is it relevant that they’re westish or churchian? What matters is Fred Phelps is committing a crime. An already-legally-recognized crime.

    Who brought up religion? Why did they do that? A sophist, and for propaganda.

    You really should have caught this one, since it’s the essence of the rationalist taboo. Can we still condemn WBC after we taboo ‘religion’ and ‘Christ’?

    In case that’s not clear, let’s do a second.

    The next day you hear people complain about the greedy Jewish bankers who are ruining the world economy.

    By including ‘Jew’ the speaker implies, but hopes nobody notices they implied, that “I think Jewishness is relevant.” Heck, we can even taboo ‘bankers.’ “I formally accuse specific individuals (below) of fraud.” Indeed, without this specific information, nothing useful can be done anyway.

    The problem is not ‘unfairly rebounding on group members.’ The problem is unfairly including irrelevant details. This is not difficult to solve. I call people on it all the time; and they hate it. (As opposed to being confused or simply rejiggering their arguments or accusing me of nitpicking or…)

    Second, you’re cow-towing to, bluntly, idiots.

    Again, bluntly, anyone who labels you a liberal simpliciter is an idiot. Their problem is not epistemic hygiene or the limits of human cognition, their problem is that they’re wrong. (At best, can’t handle uncertainty.) Idiots are weak by definition. Your problem cannot be with idiots because they cannot harm you. If, despite accepting these assertions, you still have a problem being labelled ‘liberal’ then your issue is with non-idiots, who can’t be doing the labelling due to incompetence. (Edge cases excluded.)

    Seconding ‘tin man’ as the official name, then tinmanning is not the problem. Crude categories among layhumans is not the problem. Ditto, using the wrong pigeonhole.

    The problem is intentionally including irrelevant details as a deliberate social attack. This problem is far worse than tinmanning. Indeed tinmanning is impossible without it; it is logically impossible for such to be a lesser problem.

    This problem, you validated.

    Please stop.

    It seems it’s worth remembering that every logical fallacy is a special case of non-sequitur.

    “like the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church. [...] But this is horrible. [...] That’s why I’m proud to be an atheist.””

    The virtue of atheism is not entailed by the existence of Fred Phelps.

    I’m sure there’s exceptions but I’ve never seen one. Simply putting a bad argument in clear terms is enough to discredit it.

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    • The problem is not ‘unfairly rebounding on group members.’ The problem is unfairly including irrelevant details.

      Are they irrelevant?

      In the recent financial crisis, Jews were not obviously overrepresented amongst the criminal bankers more than they are overrepresented among bankers, the biggest criminals being Jon Corzine, Angelo Mozillo, and Kerry Killinger. So there is no call to specifically mention the Jewishness of Goldman Sachs, and one should not do so. Goldman Sachs receives improperly disproportionate attention despite being a relatively small part of the criminal overclass. But amongst those who make hateful comments about whites and males, Jews are massively overrepresented.

      Swipples pay very large amounts of money to stay away from those races that they believe that it is improper to make generalizations about.

      When swipples talk about broken windows, they are actually talking about n****rs.

      And then, let us address feminism. Women suffer severe disabilities – for example weak upper body strength. One of the commentators in this thread views this as evidence of sinister male oppression, rather than because natural selection has a more important job for women than for men, and therefore proof of the necessity of laws that privilege women ever more, and punish men ever more severely, until the difference goes away. Which, since the difference will never go away, has no limit.

      If the left was not allowed to include “irrelevant” details it could not exist. The rule that one may not generalize is inevitably to be applied selectively.

      That commentator has no hesitation in making generalizations, and neither do I: Most of the disadvantages suffered by women these days, they suffer for lack of male authority in their lives, which results in self destructive behavior.

      And then, there are sexual deviants … this comment could get quite long.

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      • Alrenous says:

        Overrepresentation is suggestive of causation. If causative, not irrelevant.

        If the left was not allowed to include “irrelevant” details it could not exist.

        If true, my intuition likely grasps it. If grasped, then it would explain my sensitivity to the practice.

        Most of the disadvantages suffered by women these days

        It’s a woman’s right to choose. Unless she wants to choose male authority, then die cis scum.

        I wonder what is the undistorted marriage market demand for authoritative men. That is: I fairly strongly doubt that women are self-destructive as you say. Pretty sure it’s other-destructed via memetics.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      I think you’re right about the examples I gave, but that’s because I was forced to give examples out of context.

      Let’s imagine a context. Let’s imagine that it’s not some hypothetical Alice who is condemning Fred Phelps. It’s Richard Dawkins. He’s doing it on some TV show or podcast or whatever he has. He doesn’t say “noted Christian Fred Phelps” or “noted Westboro Baptist Church member Fred Phelps.” He just describes, in detail, what Fred Phelps does.

      I maintain this is *still* a dangerous weak-manning of religion. Merely from the context, you know it’s supposed to be about religion and you know that it will end up as such.

      When Rush Limbaugh describes *anybody*, merely from the context you know it’s supposed to be taken as an attack on leftism. When Bitchtopia says *anything* about any man doing something wrong, even if they never even say it’s a man but just give his name as “Paul”, you know it is supposed to be treated as evidence for the conclusion “therefore this is a representative sample of all men, therefore we need more feminism.”

      This is harder to fit in a post, but I think it answers your objection.

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      • Alrenous says:

        Examples are great.

        Richard Dawkins, due to the danger of tinmanning, can’t safely talk about Phelps. His sin is upstream, where he allowed himself to become an anti-religion crusader. He has no choice but to include irrelevant information, and therefore epistemically speaking should keep his trap shut about Phelps. He wants to advocate against religion, fine, but there’s costs. He politicizes himself which as we know is inimical to free inquiry.

        Rush Limbaugh, similarly, has politicized himself not only on one axis, but all axes. It makes him look like a cardboard cutout, and it is grounds to discount literally everything he says because he did it to himself. He’s generally inimical to free inquiry as a person.

        Why are we condemning tinmanning again? If we’re condemning Limbaugh with it I think it’s overkill, we have plenty to condemn him with already.

        These are not reasons to accept irrelevant information as inevitable. These are cases where it’s particularly important to condemn it.

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  43. Alrenous wrote:

    It’s a woman’s right to choose.

    But if she decides to get pregnant and have a baby, and wants a man to be a wallet but not a father, then somehow it is not a man’s right to choose.

    Or if she decides to abort her husband’s son, which was the reason he married her in the first place, and bound himself to make big financial commitments, not his right to choose either.

    The problem is that pretty much every area where a woman’s right to choose was traditionally restricted, were areas where her choices are apt to result in children being fatherless. Note that fatherless children have, like gays, markedly lower life expectancy and poorer life outcomes.

    Also, every child separated from his biological father, means a father not attached to society, a father disinclined to get a job, disinclined to worry about the future, disinclined to fight for his people.

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  44. Keratin says:

    Conversations and blog posts like this comment thread are why I wish Ozy’s blog was still around, so I could have something to ground myself on the feminist/social-justice side after reading a bunch of stuff here that stirs up all sorts of awful identity politics issues I didn’t even know I had.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      Amen. I’m trying to get Ozy to guest-post here sometimes, but ze’s very busy. Maybe in a few weeks.

      Alternately, if there is someone else on the social justice side who is willing to hold themselves to very high standards of rationality, I’d be interested in working with them as well. I think a really good model for blogging would be to have people with two different viewpoints sharing a blog so that people who are attracted by one are forced to sit through the other and eventually everyone ends up learning something.

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      • Multiheaded says:

        Wouldn’t that be several blogs in one place?

        Wouldn’t that, in fact, be the NYT blog section? Sorting by Readers’ Picks there, the comments always seem to praise Krugman and bash Brooks and Douhat (to oversimplify the picture slightly).

        Maybe the writers are somehow not symmetrical enough for the readers of one to learn from the others?

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      • ozymandias says:

        I’m less very busy and more very depressed.

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  48. Matthew says:

    [I've gotten completely lost in the threading of comments since the argument exploded, so I'm just putting this at the end. Also the following may may or may not be coherent; I'm getting a headache after reading the explosion.]

    I feel like there is, in fact, a lot object-level agreement between Scott/the liberal-ish rationalists and the liberal-ish self-identified feminists, but at this point there may be a disagreement over whether the term “feminism” itself is salvageable. Instead of arguing about whether to call the illiberal feminists “SJWs” or “bad feminists” (both of which I agree wouldn’t work for reasons others have listed above), I rather wish the “good feminists” would concede they’ve lost the battle to define the term. The coordinated assault between conservatives and reactionaries all too eager to identify feminism with its most unreasonable possible postulates and the “Bitchtopias” of the world undermining the cause from within has basically poisoned the term. I’d rather see the “good feminists” start calling themselves “gender egalitarians,” a term with which, unlike “feminist,” I would still be happy to identify (and I suspect Scott would as well), and which would be harder to pervert to mean illiberal things.

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    • blacktrance says:

      I think gender egalitarianism is a fine term as it identifies the goal of “good feminism”, but “feminism” itself is also a useful label because it’s suggestive of where most of the major improvements should take place. If the “SJW” label is unacceptable, add adjectives to the term “feminist”, such as “left-feminist”, “individualist feminist”, etc.

      Edit: A problem with “gender egalitarianism” is that it’s a label that people will be too willing to attach to themselves. Everyone except reactionaries, some radfems, and some conservatives is a gender egalitarian in name, even if they don’t support genuinely egalitarian social norms and/or policies. “Of course I’m a gender egalitarian! That’s why we have to destroy women’s privilege and lift up men so everyone can be equal!”

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      • suntzuanime says:

        I think the point is that while everyone may want to identify as “gender egalitarian”, making it explicit and salient may help to cast into sharp relief the hypocrisy of those who claim to identify with it while actually seeking to destroy one gender and lift up another.

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    • Oligopsony says:

      Illiberal feminists almost uniformly desire gender equality, so this strikes me as a strawlike distinction. If by gender equality you mean procedural gender-blindness, then that does seem like a useful distinction to emphasize, for which “liberal feminism” may or may not be sufficient.

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    • ozymandias says:

      What is your proposed plan for keeping Bitchtopia from calling themselves gender egalitarians?

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      • Matthew says:

        Well, you can’t literally prevent them from using the term. However, right now, if one disagrees with them, they will accuse one of not being a feminist (which for them is equivalent to being anti-feminist) and one ends up being stuck trying to prove one isn’t a reactionary bigot (if one is a man, thus NAMALT).

        But if one disagrees with them and they must reply with an accusation of not being gender-egalitarian, one can simply call bullshit on them. Will they contest that? Sure. But they don’t have the built-in rhetorical weapon any more.

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  49. Alrenous says:

    @Multiheaded

    Yes, getting a bunch of your buddies together to laugh at me would be a very virtuous thing to do. More people == more correct, naturally. I was of course completely serious.

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  50. John Stanton says:

    I occasionally teach an information literacy class to college students. A point I try to make is that being skeptical can be useful in doing research and that the more points of view you examine the better off you will be understanding the topic. One example I use is to google “martin luther king” and look at what pages are in the top five results. This web page has been in the top five results for close to ten years:

    http://www.martinlutherking.org/

    At the bottom of the webpage is a link to the sponsoring organization named Stormfront:

    http://www.stormfront.org/forum/

    You mentioned you did not know where to find neo-NAZI blogs, there you go.

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  51. Tarah says:

    Fascinating argument about stupid arguments as superweapons. Another reason why stupid people are scary, let alone stupid people with money with stupid arguments who win stupid friends and influence stupid people who turn out to be not so stupid after all. :/ But that’s pessimism. Let me be optimistic.

    Very good points here, a few nit-picks I disagree with but my comment isn’t about those. Excellent explanation of what happened with the Beth & Alice comments, which I see happening all the time (no disclaimer!) in comments sections, tho not in these comments.

    I am adding a comment to point out another factor or two that I think are rather major in the “not all” disclaimers/diverting comments and this defensiveness and the fact that people (not all?) have the need to protect themselves, want to talk about themselves, tend to assert themselves on their own behalf or on the behalf of someone they know and/or care about. So, not all tends to mean “NOT-ME” (not me, Tarah, of course, but me-whoever.)

    And, as a professor of cultural studies oriented courses, I have had female students make proclamations such as “men are pigs” — either as a comment in discussion or in an essay draft they have written and are reading allowed. When I inquire about this comment, there is generally little discussion about it and guys in the class nod their heads and agree, vocally, that, “yeah. Men are pigs.” It was almost… like, ah, what can you do? I explain that claiming to being “pigs” in that way seems like claiming helplessness over poor manners and what-not as opposed to taking responsibility for what they are referring to as “pig-like” behavior, (what the class members were referring to that caused them to agree that men are pigs.) But the discussion, as I said, didn’t go far. There was simply a general consensus and no one volunteered “not all men” even when asked, “all men are pigs?”

    In another example also had a say (one student) say “guys just want your butt” and I tried to protest and the class was laughing and she said to me directly, “Right? Don’t guys just want your butt” And I tried to say, but all I could remember were the guys who wanted exactly that and they did anything they could to… well, the guys who exactly proved her point. And so on the spot I started, “well…” hoping something else would come to me, but nothing did and I blushed. The whole class burst out laughing and she said “See? See!” And I threw up my hands. I was very young and tongue-tied. The class was elated that they “got me.” I moved on.

    But then, 16-21-year-old young men and young women–this does tend to be an age for sexual exploration and hopeful endeavors. And I do think there is something to be said for social conditioning in terms of boys and girls and learned behavior. So, if I had been thinking better on my feet, I might have asked something of the young women, something along the lines of, well, what about girls (what they called themselves)? Don’t (straight) girls want guy butts?

    So I wonder if we are more apt to remember the kinds of interactions that we do not like and that group people into categories by which we remember them — the people and the categories. I really do not want to think that men just want my butt, though attempts to give men the opportunity to prove the opposite have not been effective. However, just wanting my butt is a simplification and an outcome-oriented viewpoint. I can reach that conclusion, even if I have tried not to, and that is what I am left with. Perhaps this is not what the guy was after all along, but it is something that occurred to him after a while to see if I was interested. Who knows? I am left with what I perceive as the outcome and where I call the final shot and say no, if I’m not interested and many more times than not, this is the case.

    I am sure something similar can be said by guys about women, as also pointed out in the insightful post. And women about women and men about men and etc. I am just adding on to your insight the possibility that when we are left with an outcome that we view unfavorably, perhaps we are more apt to remember it–to be on the alert so we can try to prevent it from happening again?

    On the other hand, I can see how saying — but not all — diverts a discussion that may need to happen. I doubt people want to look at that part of themselves that may be capable of doing or imagining doing what the “all” has done, though perhaps hasn’t or wouldn’t do. Or maybe has done or imagined doing. We are all capable of imagining. (Don’t say it!) I think it is useful to go there to understand better. But the nastiness, the judgments, the vitriol and hatred, the lashings back and forth, I can’t see how any of that contributes to a generative “conversation” at all. That’s just people being self-righteous. It is rather funny, tho, when a man interrupts a woman who is saying that men interrupt women all the time to assert, “not all men.” I don’t think it is enough to build an entire case on, but… I’m just sayin’…

    To conclude, though, I think men any interrupt women and women men in the ways you articulate above because we don’t want to be perceived as the men or women being described–whether or not we have done the things described. We perhaps wish not to have, and even more so we wish not to be called on them because it reminds us of who we don’t want to be. Occasionally, however, I do run into men and women who will agree with exactly what is argued about their gender and they are proud to say so. To each his and her own. It would be hard to write an article or argue an argument taking every response into consideration. Then there is the intention behind the response that isn’t often taken into consideration, which is some of what I try to address here.

    Great provocative writing. So glad I found you. I look forward to reading and thinking through your other articles! Bravo!

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  53. TheDave says:

    To a certain extent, I wonder how much NAMALT is like reddit’s r/atheism. I seem to remember that at some point either here or at LW Scott talked about how he was surprised that r/atheism was helpful to people. The theme of the discussion was that sometimes people need vicious attacks pointed at the group you don’t like in order to feel okay about your choices. I frequented r/atheism myself for a few months after I deconverted and I found it tremendously validating. There are some negative themes surrounding NAMALT, just like there are some really unpleasant aspects of r/atheism. I wonder how “needed” the movement feels to some of the people most profoundly affected and if they feel similarly to my thoughts of “oh man, those religious people totally WERE being jerks and boy am I glad I deconverted”.

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  54. blacktrance says:

    A strategy that isn’t always possible but is fruitful when possible is instead of saying “Not All Xs Are Like That”, saying “I Am Not An X, despite sharing this one feature with them”. This works best when the speaker is trying to treat a heterogeneous group (perhaps so heterogeneous that it’s not even a group) as a more homogeneous group than it really is. Examples of this are when neoreactionaries lump SJWs, Scott, and non-Hoppean libertarians into “progressives”, when libertarians lump their opposition together as “statists”, when progressives think libertarianism is just a form of conservatism, etc. Not always possible to do, but when possible, I think “I Am Not An X” beats “Not All Xs”.

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  55. Although your basic argument is strong as usual but I do have a few quibbles.

    You write “I see the same thing in atheists’ odd fascination with creationism. Most of the religious people one encounters are not young-earth creationists. But these people have a dramatic hold on the atheist imagination.” I suspec this depends widely with what group you are normally around. A little over 40-45% of the US consistently answer yes to being some form of YEC. http://www.gallup.com/poll/155003/Hold-Creationist-View-Human-Origins.aspx Similarly, the percentage of the US that self-identifies as Christian is a little under 80% http://b27.cc.trincoll.edu/weblogs/AmericanReligionSurvey-ARIS/reports/ARIS_Report_2008.pdf . So in fact, a majority of Christians in the US are likely YECs. This isn’t a perfect set of stats, about 70% of the US answers yes to questions about whether dinosaurs lived millions of years ago, so there’s some percentage who is just very confused, but the percentage is so close to half, that this does’t seem like a good example of the weak man.

    Also, it is worth noting that there’s a policy basis for focus on the YEC issue- the repeated attempts to get YECism and other anti-evolution beliefs into our public school systems. Even if YECIsm were a strong minority of Christians in the US, this would be a legitimate cause for concern.

    But in this case, there’s also another reason that’s worth looking at in this case, and likely applies to some of the other cases also: beliefs as attire and all that- in this case, acceptance of evolution is likely a predictor for various political and religious affiliations. See http://www.culturalcognition.net/blog/2014/5/24/weekend-update-youd-have-to-be-science-illiterate-to-think-b.html and http://www.culturalcognition.net/blog/2013/6/21/how-religiosity-and-science-literacy-interact-evolution-scie.html

    Also, I think that it may be worth steelmanning the Not All Men issue. The central issue in question seems to be something like saying “X do Y” as a shorthand for “There’s a large percentage of people in group X that do Y and that’s a problem for reasons Z” – responding “Not all X do Y” misses the point (which granted may not have been communicated clearly outside some ingroup). If I say “Mathematicians have a problem where they like taking a small number of axioms about a subject and the running with them and not bothering to see if those statements actually correspond to reality.” asserting that not all mathematicians have this problem, doesn’t change the fact that many do.

    One can construct other examples of this easily. If someone says “Black men are not providing stable home structures” pointing out that that’s not all black men misses the point (whereas for example, discussing how the war on the drugs and the decline in the black churches played a role in this would be actually relevant).

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  56. Benjels says:

    It seems the weak man superweapon has found a special purpose this week. Activists from around the country, from feminists to gun rights advocates have invoked the name of Elliot Rodger. Frustrating.

    http://www.upworthy.com/in-the-last-33-years-70-of-the-71-mass-murderers-in-the-us-all-had-1-thing-in-common

    http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2014/05/28/memo-to-gun-control-advocates-even-elliot-rodger-believed-guns-would-have/

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  57. John Casey says:

    “In Cowpox of Doubt, I mention the inoculation effect. When people see a terrible argument for an idea get defeated, they are more likely to doubt the idea later on, even if much better arguments show up.”

    There’s a name for this sorry move, it’s the fallacy fallacy–the fallacy of thinking a fallacious argument for a view means the view is false. Not to be confused with the fallacy fallacy fallacy: that’s the fallacy of thinking pointing out fallacies is fallacious.

    We have more on the weak man (which I think is appropriately named by my collaborator, btw), the straw man, and the hollow man, over at our place. Perhaps you’ll enjoy.

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