By the author of unsongbook.com

Living By The Sword

[Trigger warnings: sexual abuse, scary Internet mobbing.]
[Try not to link to this everywhere because I feel bad about discussing it and don’t want to spread it to more of the Internet than it has to be or make this the sort of thing people associate this blog with.]

I.

A couple of months ago this blog got into a fight about false rape statistics. There has recently been some amount of – let’s call it “aftermath” – to that incident which I found interesting.

Some context: Mr. Clymer is a man who is (was?) active in the feminist movement. He wrote a popular article saying that false rape accusations were rarer than comet strikes, which the feminist movement dutifully liked and reblogged thirty thousand times. I wrote a blog post pointing out that his statistics were what we in the business sometimes technically refer to as “off by four orders of magnitude”. I may have been slightly cross about this.

A couple of weeks ago, Mr. Clymer was in the news again. More accurately, he was trending on Twitter, where a very popular #StopClymer hashtag apparently indicated he had done something that needed to be stopped. The best description of the whole incident seems to be the one here.

As far as I can tell, Clymer said on Twitter that Jesus would have been pro-feminist and that religion needs to try harder to be pro-choice and pro-feminist. Someone interpreted this as “using a women-centered hashtag to promote religious beliefs” and decided to see what else she could find on him. You may read the page and decide for yourself, but as far as I can tell, what she found was:

– He’s around the 75th percentile for Internet jerkitude and some of the people he was jerks to were women
– He banned people from his Facebook page, reasons unclear, and some of them were women
– He said he was in the feminist movement “80 percent for the cause” but that he also felt good when things he wrote became popular

This was sufficient to paint a big target on his head. We then proceeded to the ritual of Dredge Up Everything He Has Ever Written And Interpret It As Further Evidence He Is Terrible. For example, he once complimented a fan of his and added “just to be clear, I’m not hitting on you” at the bottom:

The response was reasonable and completely proportionate:

Then it was found that he mentioned that because he was a survivor of rape, he tried to be extra careful because he knew rape survivors were more likely to become rapists themselves. Surely no one could have a problem with…

That he had once had some kind of complicated disagreement with a black woman that I have trouble getting a good picture of from her description of such:

Anger is a natural reaction to oppression; anger is useful; anger is the only appropriate reaction to this sort of erasure of racial identity.

The members of the feminist group in which I expressed this anger were, for the most part, combative or unreceptive (I did receive small pockets of support, and for those individuals I am most appreciative). Multiple leaders of the group tried to tone police me, told me that movements becoming inclusive “takes time” and I should just be patient. I was begged by one of the most prominent leaders to educate everyone by writing a “powerful article” rather than express my feelings to the group itself. I was told by this same leader that they would not use the term “white supremacy” because “it was triggering” to some folks.

But failure to call evil by its name only begets more evil.

Another prominent member of the group, and a semi-well known name in the huffpo blogosphere, charles clymer, decided to pipe in to remind me that both white supremacist and anti-racist viewpoints should be valued equally. That’s white supremacy in action, right there.

Anyway, whatever the disagreement was, Charles Clymer tried to talk it out with her, but eventually got really annoyed with her tone and asked her to stop messaging him. Needless to say, she described this incident in a reasonable and completely proportionate way:

Unbeknownst to me, by criticizing charles clymer, I was awakening a psychologically abusive internet monster. And when it dissolved into an abusive mess of white tears and white-man-trying-to-force-a-black-woman-to-do-something-she-won’t-do (“yes, massa!”), that’s when I knew I had to block this fucker.

The above conversation was added to the pile of evidence. Then someone noticed he was a war veteran. I’m sure this will be dealt with reasonably and completely proportionally as well?

Bailiff! Next piece of evidence! Accused once wrote an article saying that the words “c*nt” and “b*tch” could not be “reclaimed” and that people should stop using them. Does the prosecution have a reasonable and completely proportionate response to this?

Let it be added to the record. Prosecution, any reasonable and proportionate closing words?

QUICK! HE’S TAKING OUR CRITIQUE TO HEART! STOP HIM BEFORE HE GETS AWAY!

Annnnnnnyway, before the court could render verdict, the whole affair triggered a massive relapse of Clymer’s PTSD and he posted saying his therapist had told him not to go back on the Internet for a very long time. The idea was floated that he was making this up, but finally it was decided that yeah, rape survivor + military veteran + suddenly everyone in the world hates him, eh, maybe he is having a PTSD relapse. The announcement was greeted in a suitably compassionate manner that, may I add, was reasonable and completely proportionate:

Far be it from me to defend Mr. Clymer. But it is hard for me to see this happen to someone and not feel at least a little bit of sympathy. I’ll just point out that when I talked to him over Facebook, he was a jerk to me. So let this be the defense he gets from me: he is an equal opportunity jerk. I don’t think he’s misogynist. I don’t think he’s racist. I don’t think he’s ‘a predator’. I think he’s just abrasive, unpleasant, and bad with statistics.

In February, I wrote:

[He] should be cast out from the community of people who have reasonable discussions and never trusted by anyone again. It might not totally succeed in making a new norm against this kind of thing. But at least it will prevent other people from seeing Clymer’s success, taking heart, and having the number of lies which are socially acceptable gradually advance.

Nevertheless, I cannot be happy with the current turn of events. Mr. Clymer deserved to lose his podium. But he didn’t deserve to lose it for this reason, and he didn’t deserve to be psychologically traumatized in this particular way. Justice is not quite served.

II.

Drew recently mentioned on Facebook his delight that there was a scandal called “Jacobinghazi”. I share his delight and his hope that -ghazi becomes a scandal suffix similar to “-gate”. Filesghazi! Climateghazi! Let’s do it!

The scandal itself was somewhat less interesting. Jacobin is a leftist magazine. I was recommended it a couple of months ago and have read it inconsistently – they have a good article on drug research I’ll be blogging about sometime. Anyway, as part of a broader point about rape they linked to someone on Twitter talking about receiving rape threats. After a multistep game of Telephone, this turned into “linking to rape threats”, “digging rape jokes”, “mocking rape threats”, “using rape threats to belittle people”, and finally, you know you expected it, “making rape threats”. Anyone who pointed out that this was completely made up and made no sense was accused of “minimizing rape threats” and “silencing voices”. But apparently the first side, the one not involved in the original accusations, was doing some pretty bad things too, even though I can’t get a clear description of exactly what they were. Needless to say, at every step hundreds of people tweeted about it and called for the heads of everybody involved.

(in Soviet Russia, Jacobins’ heads get called for by YOU!)

Finally, everyone agreed that everybody on the other side (whichever that might be) was a dudebro, treated women as things, and was super racist, even though as far as I can tell nothing about the incident seemed to involve race at all. Consensus having been achieved, the incident mostly died down.

There is an executive summary here (warning: two pages, click blue button at bottom to get second), a much less executive and more mocking summary here, and a horrible Twitter hashtag here which now mostly seems to be populated by people who are vaguely embarrassed and can’t remember what they were so angry about and definitely didn’t participate and it’s not their fault. Newsweek also wrote an article, but everyone on both sides seems to agree they got it horribly wrong.

And what I think these kinds of incidents show is that…

III.

Wait! Sorry! There’s one more set of #StopClymer tweets we haven’t gotten to yet!

!!! But didn’t you…?

Oh no I can’t let you get away with that I am SO not letting you get away with that.

More context: my article condemning Clymer got discussed on Facebook. Arthur weighed in saying I was wrong to criticize Clymer’s article, because it was on the side of feminism, and feminism is good, and sometimes people need to use dirty tricks and exaggerated statistics to fight for good things. He said my problem was that I was too focused on abstract virtue, rather than the gritty reality of needing to do whatever it takes to win a battle, in this case the battle of pushing feminist ideas. Mr. Clymer’s ends justified his means, so I should have let him be.

I wrote a blog post disagreeing with that assessment, Arthur replied in the comments, I replied to him in the comments, and then it died down.

Assuming Arthur’s referring to our discussion – and I think he is, it would be very strange if circumstances had made him defend Mr. Clymer twice – then I don’t think I was, as he puts it, SO WRONG. No one disagreed with my debunking of Mr. Clymer’s statistics; there were over two hundred comments on that post and over five hundred on the followup and not one of them claimed he had gotten his math right. All that was left to argue about was my assertion that what he had done, if deliberate, was not remotely okay.

In my final discussion with Arthur, way down in the comment section of my response post, we discussed our different definitions of tolerance and in-groupishness. I said we should tolerate people who are truthful and kind, regardless of their political opinions. Arthur thought, on the contrary, we should tolerate people with the correct political opinions, regardless of whether they are truthful and kind. My exact words were:

Both of us successfully trap [actually bad people like] the KKK and Hitler on the outside of our fence. But I get to have a lot more allies than you do – allies against the actually bad people – and you have to put up with some pretty creepy friends. And if your side of the fence wins, you may find that hate is pretty darned transferable and you can’t always ensure it gets directed against the right people.

He answered:

I am deeply creeped out by many of your friends and while some of my friends might be a little loud and obnoxious, I on the whole admire them.

I don’t know if Arthur was genuinely “wary” of Mr. Clymer four months ago. He sure spent a heck of a long time defending him and being very upset that other people were criticizing him. But even if Arthur is totally telling the truth, even if he was as wary as a dockyard full of consumer goods, exactly one of us sounded the “this is maybe not the best guy to have representing the feminist movement” alarm. And exactly one of us condemned that person for doing so and said that “while some of my friends might be a little loud and obnoxious, I on the whole admire them.”

But I don’t know. Maybe, despite the topic of discussion, he wasn’t referring to Clymer in particular? Maybe you can admire someone and be wary of them at the same time. Still, I think all of this touches on a much more important question: why don’t whales get cancer more often?

I mean, think about it. Cancer results from a series of mutations occurring by chance in a single cell. So over a given time period, the cancer rate of an organism should be proportional to the number of cells in that organism. If a whale is a thousand times bigger than a person, it should have a thousand times more cells and therefore get cancer a thousand times more often. Since humans have maybe a 1% per year cancer risk, whales should get ten cancers a year. But most whales live a long time and don’t die of cancer. Why not? It can’t just be that they’ve evolved more efficient anti-cancer mechanisms, or else other animals (who also experience gains in adaptive fitness from not dying of cancer) would have evolved the same [EDIT: Carl Shulman suggests reasons why this might not be true].

(This problem is called Peto’s Paradox, was first raised in 1975, and is a great example of the rationalist skill of ‘noticing confusion’. Anyone who knows anything about cancer had the tools to notice something was really, really weird here, and other than this Peto fellow nobody did. I feel appropriately ashamed for somehow going through my entire life up to this point without picking up the glaring weirdness here.)

I don’t know which of the various proposed solutions to this puzzle is true but the most hilarious is no doubt Nagy, Victor and Cropper (2007). Whales are very big, so in order to threaten a whale, a cancer must also grow very big. In order to grow very big, a cancer must evolve a complicated internal structure determining which cells expand where and who’s going to secrete the factors necessary for blood vessels to grow and so on. Cancers can do that: even in humans, tumors develop impressive amounts of structure and cooperation among the cancerous cells inside of them. But as tumors grow bigger and more intricate, and cells have to spend more and more time altruistically working for the good of the tumor rather than just reproducing, some cells will inevitably defect from the plan and just divide uncontrollably. This ends up in an unhappy equilibrium. Whenever the balance swings too far toward defectors, the tumor can’t support itself and most of the cells die. Whenever the balance swings too far toward cooperators, the defectors have a big advantage again and start expanding. As a result, the tumor either remains at a fixed size or dies off completely. It might get a chance to metastasize, but the same will happen to its metastatic descendents.

In other words, the theory is that whales survive because they are so big that their cancers get cancer and die.

And if true, this wouldn’t be too surprising. Multicellular organisms have put a lot of evolutionary work into getting their cells to cooperate with each other, and part of that includes very strong safeguards again cancer. Your safeguards against cancer are so good that even though you will experience about 10 quadrillion (= ten million billion) cell divisions during your life time, in most people none of those ever turn into a clinically relevant cancer.

Cancerous cells are those that have lost all of those safeguards. As they grow into a functioning tumor, they need to evolve new mechanisms of cooperation, and so they do. But a couple million cells working for a couple months in your body aren’t going to do as well as all the animals in the world over 3 billion years of evolutionary history. So cancer’s cooperation enforcement mechanisms are much much worse than noncancerous cells’ cooperation mechanisms. Which is why you can live for a hundred years and have ten quadrillion cell divisions and not get cancer, but cancer can’t even take over one lousy section of a whale colon before it gets meta-cancer.

We like to call things we disagree with “social cancers”. People dislike social cancers and often inveigh against them. Here’s someone who thinks inequality is a social cancer. Here’s another guy who thinks gambling is. Here is a person who thinks that communism is, and though we may not agree with his spittle-filled rants, his web design choices, his choice of facial expression in photographs, or his assertion that “medical orgonomist” is a thing, we cannot doubt his sincerity.

I wonder if a good definition for “social cancer” might be any group that breaks the rules of cooperative behavior that bind society together in order to spread more quickly than it could legitimately achieve, and eventually take over the whole social body.

But society, like whales, is very big [citation needed]. Long before a group can take over society, it reaches a size where it needs to develop internal structure and rules about interaction between group members. If you collect a bunch of people and tell them to abandon all the social norms like honesty, politeness, respect, charity, and reason in favor of a cause – then the most likely result is that when your cause tries to develop some internal structure, it will be overrun by a swarm of people who have abandoned honesty, politeness, respect, charity, and reason.

Contrary to what our medical orgonomist friend says, I don’t think the Communists were much of a social cancer. The political communists, the kind we got in the US, mostly stuck to the rules. But look what happened to them. They got all excited about how the governing power structures were evil and needed to be destroyed. They set up various organizations dedicated to destroying the governing power structures. And people proceeded to decide that the governing power structures of those organizations were evil and needed to be destroyed. As a result, Communist parties were rent by constant factional warfare and they never got around to destroying the society they lived in at all.

And look what happened to Mr. Clymer. His whole spiel was about throwing out the virtue of charity – how when people have been accused of things, we should condemn them automatically, no chance it’s wrong, false accusations rarer than comet strikes. And then…

We have a lot of proverbs about this sort of thing. “Hoist with his own petard”. “Taste of your own medicine.” “A trap of your own making.” Jesus said “He who lives by the sword will die by the sword” – and it has been pointed out to me that Jesus himself lived as a carpenter and died by being nailed to a piece of wood, so there’s that.

Or since we’ve gradually meandered back on to the topic of sexism, there’s an ancient Sexist proverb that seems highly apropos: “Bro, if she’ll cheat with you, she’ll cheat on you”.

And in the same way, someone who will be a jerk for you will be a jerk to you. My disagreement with Arthur was about his willingness to tolerate jerks in his movement. He thinks it will help him win. But someone who is a jerk to men will, by and large, also be a jerk to women. Someone who is a jerk to men’s rights activists will, by and large, also be a jerk to feminists. They may not do so immediately, if it doesn’t serve their self-interest to do so. But in private, or as soon as the chance comes up, jerkitude will out. If you defend them as long as they’re only being jerks to outsiders, then a few months later, when – shock! horror! – you realize they’re being jerks to insiders, you end up having to retreat and mumble something about how you were “kinda wary about him” all along.

But more importantly if you elevate jerkishness into a principle, if you try to undermine the rules that keep niceness, community, and civilization going, the defenses against social cancer – then your movement will fracture, it will be hugely embarrassing, the atmosphere will become toxic, unpopular people will be thrown to the mob, everyone but the thickest-skinned will bow out, the people you need to convince will view you with a mixture of terror and loathing, and you’ll spend so much time dealing with internal conflicts that you’ll never get enough blood supply to grow large enough to kill a whale.

You will get things like #StopClymer and #Jacobinghazi.

Thus the Archipelagian Principle: Given infinite freedom of association, most people end will up in more or less the community they deserve.

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220 Responses to Living By The Sword

  1. The section about whales and cancer was a pleasure– I’m unfortunately fascinated by SJ stuff, but it’s claustrophobic. Do you know if anyone’s found a whale cancer with cancer?

    Somehow, communism managed to do a lot of damage in some countries before it wrecked itself. Any theories about why communism was very dangerous in some places but not in others?

    I propose terrorism as the current social cancer. The bad news is that it doesn’t need to grow big enough to take over.

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    • Some whales get cancer.

      The three most salient examples of “successful” communism are probably Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China, and the current North Korea, and the obvious feature these systems have in common is the absolute power and control placed in the hands of an institution that was supposed to wither away. So the obvious hypothesis is that at some point the cancer wakes up, transforms itself, and systematically eradicates the secondary cancer that plagues it.

      Or maybe the cancer that wins was never really a cancer at all but a worse sort of disease composed of the antisocial microagents Scott discussed. They never needed to transform themselves because they were never really cancer to begin with, but they found that as long as they said things like “Down with the bourgeois vital organs that pump the fluid of oppression!” the naive cancerous cells were foolish enough to hand them the reigns of power….

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      • Andy says:

        I’m not actually sure I like the whole “cancer” model. I’d prefer modelling groups trying to overthrow and/or reform a state as businesses trying to compete with a monopoly.
        If you’re competing against the evil monopoly of Time Warner Cable you’d find a whole lot of people willing to accept anyone less evil than Time Warner.
        If we reduce the cost of entry to the “competing against Time Warner” space to the cost of entering the “trying to overthrow the government” space (you need nothing but passion), we’d see a huge number of players entering that space, all competing to be the next Time Warner. You’d have a bunch of groups that are “two guys, a dog, and a subscriber agreement,” just as you have in the “trying to overthrow the government” space, all competing with Time Warner for subscribers. There will be some that go into people’s home, point guns at their head, and go “you’re now subscribed to us, give your money!” There will be some that take over whole blocks, deliver decent cable service, but if you try to switch companies they shoot you.
        The first is Al Qaeda in Iraq. The second is Hezbollah, or the Jamaican garrison districts, or any number of other semi-successful insurgencies that turn into proto-states.
        I think any organization that’s never had power, upon gaining power, would have to alter its ideology to deal with the realities of actually governing, just as a lot of startups’ corporate cultures change when they actually have a large number of customers. Look at Uber’s transition from “disruption 4eva” to having to at least look like they care about their customers and drivers.

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      • anon says:

        While those 3 totalitarian examples might be more salient, and they were certainly communist countries with a lot of absolute power, IIRC small local governments or social groups allow for genuinely successful forms of communism.

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      • I think the point is not that whales never get cancer, but that whales get a lot less cancer than a simple calculation of number of cells vs. risk of cancer would suggest.

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      • Nornagest says:

        For the most part, North Korea doesn’t even pretend to be a communist country anymore, not in the sense of adherence to Marxist principles.

        It does claim to be socialist, but I think that’s best understood in the sense of a claim of legitimacy rather than a description of actual organizing principles. Beyond that, there’s a limit to how accurate I can be — however weird you think juche is, it’s weirder than that, and the more I learn about it the more confused I get.

        Though deeply weird and contradictory ideology seems to be sort of a hallmark of successful totalitarianism, actually. I’ll need to think about this some more.

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      • Oligopsony says:

        I’m not many people who considers NK successful, except at avoiding a certain kind of revisionism, which neither the USSR during the Stalin period nor the PRC during the Mao period were. The Mao era is also a particularly bad example of “absolute power and control placed in the hands of an institution that was supposed to wither away… at some point the cancer wakes up, transforms itself, and systematically eradicates the secondary cancer that plagues it” unless you’re referring to the revision itself.

        Most of us who consider any state socialist regimes success cases consider most of them to be so (although obviously not all,) although the most conspicuous successes (geographically and temporally) are found where there were lots of unexploited modernization arbitrage opportunities. (Paul Krugman of all people explains this sort of well, although I don’t agree with the entirety of his argument.

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    • von Kalifornen says:

      Somehow, communism managed to do a lot of damage in some countries before it wrecked itself. Any theories about why communism was very dangerous in some places but not in others?

      The original model of Bolshevik communism that took over Russia was very authoritarian and I believe managed to coordinate itself by force of unity. It and its imitators and/or branches in pre-WWII Europe were pretty tightly organized — there could be internal intrigue, but not internal war.

      Once Stalin wrecked it as a viable party for people in less desperate circumstances, etc. and it got more of a genuine masses-led appeal, it became a mess.

      Anybody interested in the train-wreck of Communism might want to read the second “book” of Richard Wright’s Black Boy.

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    • Anderkent says:

      >I propose terrorism as the current social cancer. The bad news is that it doesn’t need to grow big enough to take over.

      Not sure whether you mean the actual terrorism, or the meme of terrorism here; if the former, terrorism has *huge* growing pains. There was an article recently, though I cannot locate it right now, about how terrorist organisations need a lot of paperwork and micro-management to stay functional, simply because of the kind of people they recruit. The very paperwork makes it easier for law enforcement to infiltrate and predict terrorist actions, of course.

      Terrorism, fortunately, doesn’t scale in itself. However the meme of terrorism spreads effortlessly, and the effort wasted there will grow to use up all available resource.

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    • MugaSofer says:

      >I propose terrorism as the current social cancer.

      Hmm. I think it’s worth noting that terrorism isn’t new, so we can draw on previous historical examples. For example, I live in the Republic of Ireland, which seems to have gone from “terrorist cells” to “normal first-world country” pretty successfully.

      Said newly-formed country definitely suffered from spin-off groups declaring the new government traitors (meta-cancer), and indeed there are are flare-ups to this day. Yeah, I think terrorism fits the bill as one of those tactics we ban for the good of society, and groups can turn “cancerous” and use them to gain control.

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  2. Anonymous says:

    That analogy fills me with optimism in the special PsuedoD&DAlignment::Evil-Good kind of way.

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  3. Sniffnoy says:

    <applauds>

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  4. gunlord500 says:

    But more importantly if you elevate jerkishness into a principle, if you try to undermine the rules that keep niceness, community, and civilization going, the defenses against social cancer – then your movement will fracture, it will be hugely embarrassing, the atmosphere will become toxic, unpopular people will be thrown to the mob, everyone but the thickest-skinned will bow out, and the people you need to convince will view you with a mixture of terror and loathing.

    Can I quote this to people I meet? Best summary of the problems with jerkishness I’ve seen in a while.

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  5. Matthew says:

    My reaction to reading this post was, “I wonder what MsScribe’s contribution was.”

    I may be spending too much time on this blog.

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  6. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Real soldiers in real wars obey all kinds of informal rules (don’t shoot medics, don’t shoot people who are crossing the lines to trade, etc.) for this very reason.

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    • taelor says:

      Point of order: the rule about not shooting medics is an explicit, formalized rule in the Geneva Conventions.

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      • Andy says:

        But the Geneva Conventions had their rotos in semi-formal codes of conduct that armies sometimes adopted unilaterally. One of the best pre-GC examples I can think of is Abd El-Kader, who adopted a very similar version in the 19th century whlle fighting to rid Algeria of French domination, and the French suppressed any news of it for fear it would damage their soldiers’ willingness to engage the enemy.
        Though the reasons the GCs were adopted in the first place was that not every army could be trusted to fight war in a civilized way.

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  7. Nick T says:

    “Jason Gregory” is an anti-feminist and trolling. See e.g. this or this.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      Thank you, fixed.

      This might be a good time to mention I am having a lot of trouble finding these tweets (except ones someone else has already linked to) because Twitter only gives me the first fifty or so results in a hashtag. Do you know how I can “scroll down” to get more?

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  8. Anonymous says:

    A pleasure to read. I was grinning at the whale part because I could see where it was going. Also it was a point I had never thought about.

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    • pwyll says:

      Huh. I’m seeing a “click to edit” link on your post, and a timer, as if I wrote it myself. I’ve refrained from editing it, but does anyone know the reason why the edit link is being displayed? Is it because you posted as “Anonymous”?

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      • pwyll says:

        …and now the link is gone. Perhaps it was a cookies thing.

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      • Not the same Anonymous says:

        Happens to me all the time. The Anonymous comment just below that starts “Hahaha.” currently has a click to edit link for me though I am not the author.

        I guess we’re on the honour system here.

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      • Douglas Knight says:

        I just tested it and you can’t actually edit other people’s comments. It tells you whose comments you can edit based on name and/or email address, but when you actually click “save” it checks the cookie that is specific to the comment.

        I think it does this because checking the relevant cookie has to be on the server side for security reasons and it doesn’t want to do extra work there. (The comment cookie could be better designed to replace the name/email check.) But I can’t explain why the click to edit button on anonymous comments is inconsistent, so maybe my explanation is wrong.

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  9. JenniferRM says:

    Feminism is boring… but the idea of meta-cancer is so awesome. Thank you!

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  10. Doug S. says:

    Given infinite freedom of association, most people end will up in more or less the community they deserve.

    And then there was 4chan.

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    • Oligopsony says:

      Several Crazy Feminist Twitter things are provably 4chan hoaxes; i.e. “Fourth Wave Feminism,” “freebleeding,” #endfathersday. I’m sure there are others, past and future.

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      • Multiheaded says:

        But, as mentioned below, there don’t seem to be any real feminists at all taken in by this.

        Edit: An example of a painfully obvious /pol/ troll. Too dumb to even make an innocious account a couple months before participating in something like this.

        Edit: An older troll, who previously attacked #StopTheNSA and retweeted #AsianPrivilege, which consisted entirely of “Hurr, blacks r dum n fail”.

        Edit: trolls overdoing the suburban white girl act to the point of absurdity. “Some group called Anonymous”, really?

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        • Desertopa says:

          My impression is that rather than feminists being too canny to be “taken in” by hoaxes intended to discredit feminism, it’s more the case that feminists will so readily jump to accuse anyone who claims to be a feminist whose views they don’t agree with or they think reflect poorly on the movement of being a troll or not representing feminism that it’s difficult for actual trolls to slip through except in communities which are already sympathetic to them. The system’s defenses are jacked up high enough to expel most intruders, at the cost of being so overactive that they’re almost constantly being turned on the system itself as well.

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        • Multiheaded says:
        • Ialdabaoth says:

          The system’s defenses are jacked up high enough to expel most intruders, at the cost of being so overactive that they’re almost constantly being turned on the system itself as well.

          I thought i was never lupus?

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      • von Kalifornen says:

        4th Wave seems to be both real and boring. You know the waves, right?

        I think I’ve heard of freebleeding in a non-Internet context in the Internet, but it seems to be rare and ridiculous.

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      • Multiheaded says:

        “Freebleeding” sounds like a hippie thing from the 60s, or something even older, something a fan of Margaret Mead might’ve come up with in the 30s.

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      • Anonymous says:

        The 4chan “hoax” was inspired by real pictures such as this:

        https://i.imgur.com/HRQPc9E.png (NSFW)

        Feminists in general seem to have an uncanny obsession with menstrual blood.

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        • Andy says:

          Feminists in general seem to have an uncanny obsession with menstrual blood.

          Do you have another citation for this? In contrast, I’d say that traditional systems have far more of an “obsession” – the Abrahamic notions of menstruating women being “unclean,” several folklore systems using menstrual blood as a magical ingredient, etc.

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    • Scott F says:

      As someone who freely associates with some sections of 4chan, I would say by and large most people in the community “deserve” to be there.

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      • Andy says:

        The problem is, they keep escaping and spilling over. 4chan would be soooo much better if it had walls, and the rest of the Internet could just pretend that it didn’t exist.

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        • MugaSofer says:

          This is, I suspect, a problem with Archipelago as well.

          Not least because is has a central democratic government. Although at least that’s better than no central government at all.

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  11. Alexander Stanislaw says:

    When I got to the whale part, I was confused but I knew it was about to get good.

    I don’t know if Arthur was genuinely “wary” of Mr. Clymer four months ago. He sure spent a heck of a long time defending him and being very upset that other people were criticizing him.

    I think that Arthur is being honest here. See one of his Facebook comments from back then.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Yeah, he was wary of promoting that particular post, but so what? He implies now that he was wary that Clymer was going to turn out to be a soldier or a rapist or something.

      Report comment

  12. Anonymous says:

    Hahaha. This is the most sophisticated “I told you so”‘ I’ve ever read, and it’s well deserved.

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  13. Alexander Stanislaw says:

    I going to go ahead and agree with the idea that you shouldn’t be a jerk to nice people no matter what they believe (you should only be a jerk to people on the basis of what they do). However, what about the milder of policy of simply ignoring/ refusing to engage with people on the basis of what they believe? I would defend this on the basis that some beliefs are as Apophemi said “hella fucking dangerous” whether or not the people advancing them are polite or not. Case in point, I’m not anticipating an anti-anti-Semite FAQ from you any time soon, because why the fuck would you take an anti-Semite seriously?

    I’m not advocating ignoring people because you disagree with them strongly, I’m advocating ignoring people if their beliefs are dangerous. I realize that some of my own beliefs are suspect under this criteria, but I’m willing to live with that. I think that in practice everyone applies this criteria to some extent and they are justified in doing so.

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    • Matthew says:

      “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

      We already had the fight over antisemitism, I’d say. Not clear that you want to test this on other beliefs. Also not clear how you’re deciding in advance which beliefs are too dangerous.

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      • Alexander Stanislaw says:

        I don’t understand what you are saying. That anti-semitism already lost so we can ignore it now? I’m not suggesting a cutoff point, I’m merely claiming that there clearly are beliefs that are too dangerous.

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        • Matthew says:

          You can ignore a belief, but unless you have some sort of mechanism to compel others to do so, you have a coordination problem. Ignoring a dangerous belief that other people don’t ignore is the worst of all possible outcomes.

          Antisemitism (which, by the way, should not be hyphenated because there is no such thing as “semitism”) seems like a poor example to generalize from because (outside of the Arab/Muslim world) it carries sufficiently awful historical connotations as to be pre-defeated at this point. And, now that I think about it, an “Anti-antisemitism FAQ” in Arabic would almost certainly be useful.

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        • Alexander Stanislaw says:

          That makes sense. Strategy needs to be figured out on a case by case basis.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      I think ignoring people is an excellent option, especially because you have limited time and resources.

      I’m not sure whether ignoring people is a better or worse strategic option if you think beliefs are dangerous. I ignore anti-Semites because I don’t think they’re a problem at the current time. If they started taking over, I think there would be a much better case for fighting them in some way, and then you might see that FAQ.

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      • Daniel H says:

        I thought you only wrote FAQs with topics you could respect. Is there something to antisemitism which makes it more respectable than the general public imagines, or would that policy change if their movement grew big enough?

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  14. Well-Manicured-Bug says:

    Arthur Chu…when do these people ever learn? If you want to use dirty tricks to win, don’t say that out loud in public. Now everyone is going to be skeptical about everything he says because he might be using a dirty trick.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      I agree people will think that. I’m not sure if it would be true. As you say, if one were really that focused and dirty, one wouldn’t mention it. I think it’s more likely the kind of thing in Fake Selfishness, where people promote antisocial points of view but still try to be nice themselves when they’re not thinking about it.

      Also, in his defense, the original comments were on Facebook where no one should have seen them. I wouldn’t have even seen them myself if Chris Hallquist hadn’t blogged about them first, and I sort of feel bad for it.

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      • Well-Manicured-Bug says:

        I don’t know. Here he seems pretty serious. He has a lot to say about you and the Lesswrong community, and the impression I get is that he really believes what he’s saying, and seems passionate about it.

        http://www.jefftk.com/p/are-feminist-blog-stats-atypically-bad

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      • Daniel H says:

        They’re on Facebook, but they’re publicly visible. I can read them and I’m not even logged in to Facebook. Unless you’re suggesting that he intended to share them more privately but Facebook messed up his privacy settings (totally believable), I’d categorize them as “public and anybody can see them”.

        Actually, in this particular case, many of them appeared on Jeff’s blog directly. He really, to borrow a phrase from the NSA, had no reasonable expectation of privacy for those posts.

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  15. Cyan says:

    Mind expanded by Yvain once again.

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  16. Drake. says:

    hey, loved the article, but the whale-cancer bit jarred a little. it appears trivially true that humans get cancer because it tends to happen after child rearing; i mean, there are tons of dna-copying enzymes that act with higher fidelity than ours, and i’m sure there are actively cancer-suppressing agents that exist somewhere. wouldn’t whales simply have more cancer-blocking tools, because cancer has a direct hold on their reproductive success? not only that, but if meta-cancer was a main cancer preventative then there ought to be a divide between “animals that are small enough for cancer to not be a problem” and “animals that are large enough to prevent cancer via meta-cancer”, whereas in reality the spread of sizes is quite even. meta-cancer, while absolutely hilarious, seems to fail occham’s razor quite spectacularily.

    that said, i agree with the application of the analogy; it just could’ve been stressed a little more how outlandish it is. sorry to nitpick.

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    • Daniel H says:

      He did clarify in the article that it wasn’t necessarily the right explanation. He also says elsewhere in the comments that meta-cancer is a thing that can happen in labs (which I’m sure is a big comfort for everybody suffering from lab cancer).

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  17. Not the same Anonymous says:

    Shamu has just been informed that she has cancer and is discussing her prognosis with her doctor.

    Shamu: So what’s going to happen? How bad is it?
    Doctor: Don’t you worry. My specialty happens to be curing the exact type of cancer that you have. The treatment is [something…something]

    …six months later.

    Doctor: I have great news! Your cancer has been cured!
    Shamu: Thats wonderful! Thank you so much! I’m so relieved that I’m not going to die!
    Doctor: Oh you are going to die. You have six months at most.
    Shamu:But… what… but you just said I was cured.
    Doctor: No I said your cancer was cured. Your cancer had cancer but I managed to kill the cancer that was killing your cancer thus curing your cancer of cancer. Don’t you remember, six months ago I explicitly told you I would cure your cancer?
    Shamu: This joke is in extremely poor taste.
    Doctor: Yeah, I’m kind of an asshole.

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  18. Andy says:

    The important thing first:

    even if he was as wary as a dockyard full of consumer goods,

    I stared at this for over a minute, thinking “that’s very odd phrasing…” before it hit me. You are a terrible, terrible, terrible person.
    (Just to be clear: not serious please don’t ban me.)\

    Okay, now that’s over with, I liked this. I’d rephrase it, given my support of David Kilcullen’s competitive control theory, that people who are excessively jerky lose in the competition for control as soon as many people see a plausible chance to defect to a less-jerky organization that they can support. Al Qaeda in Iraq, a predecessor organization to the ISIS that’s making so much hay in Iraq right now, is an example given in Kilcullen’s book “Out of the Mountains.” Essentially, AQI’s pattern was to set up shop in Sunni communities and enforce a very brutal and coercive set of rules, but not use the other types of tools that states and organizations can use to control subject population – administrative and persuasive tools. AQI didn’t help people in the community, it didn’t do much to persuade people to its point of view, it just set rules and torture/murdered anyone who broke them. Once it had a local Sunni population under control, it would attack Shiite populations, drawing retaliation back onto its host Sunni population. The general level of violence and state collapse around Iraq at the time meant the Sunni population had really no alternative but to live with AQI, though they’d revolted several times only to be trounced. In 2006 the Sunni population revolted against AQI again, violently driving them out of their neighborhoods. This revolt was spurred by the American “surge,” because Sunni leaders finally saw that American troops would be right in their neighborhoods, and they could get help against AQI. AQI was defeated, and many of their members were put to the same treatment they’d subjected the Sunni population to.
    The lesson? AQI was a social cancer, a jerk organization that ruled through fear alone, and was defeated as soon as its subject population saw a better competitor for its loyalty that could actually win.
    ISIS seems to have learned the lessons of AQI, especially the way it seems to be trying to enforce law and order in the areas of Iraq it’s conquered recently. The irony? Maliki’s government seems to be a similar kind of cancer – its being seen as favoring Shiites and oppressing Sunnis too much decreased the Sunni population’s loyalty, to the point where a lot of Arab Sunnis aren’t that unhappy to see ISIS.
    A counterexample would be America circa 1840-1870, which had absorbed an enormous wave of Catholic immigration, into a country where many people had family histories of harsh political or religious repression at the hands of Catholics. The Know-Nothings and their nativist ilk rose mostly from Protestants, and very unpleasant rumors (nuns eating babies, black masses in Catholic churches) really didn’t help. Catholics tended to be be anti-abolition, if not exactly anti-slavery, because the same people who threatened them were sorta allies to the abolitionists. But by the Civil War, there were brigades that were pretty much entirely Catholic – one served with distinction at Gettysburg.
    (source for this whole bit: James MacPherson’s excellent “Battle Cry of Freedom,” especially the chapter “Slavery, Rum, and Romanism.”)
    And now we’re at a point where anti-Catholic prejudice is hardly unheard of, but it’s really really not common, either. What changed?
    Mostly, a wing appeared in the anti-South politics that either fought the Know-Nothings, or used them to get to office but ignored their pet policies when they got there. Lincoln himself had some nativist friends, but mostly saw the whole thing as a distraction when the bigger North/South conflict loomed, and the Republican Party needed immigrants to either vote for them or stay home. So the Republican Party mostly tried to avoid Know-Nothingism. They weren’t entirely successful – the Catholics tended to vote Democrat – but I’d argue that being nice to the Catholic minority helped in the short term – keeping northern Catholics from actively supporting the South in large numbers – but also in the long term – witness the much lower level of Catholic/Protestant antipathy these days. The Catholic Church becoming nicer and less dedicated to total domination probably helped, as well.
    You’ve called it “Niceness, Community, and Civilization.” I’d call it “the government competing for the loyalty of every subject.” Either way, I suspect it works much, much, much better than oppression.

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  19. Ialdabaoth says:

    Personally, I don’t actually think the problem is Feminism / Social Justice.

    I think this is just what happens when the human brain gets handed communication systems it has not evolved to handle maturely.

    SJW crap just happened to be the sort of cancer that metastasized into Tumblr and Twitter and the other ‘instant feedback’ sites, so it’s got the strongest hold there.

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    • Andy says:

      Yep. I would compare to “Yellow journalism” and feuds between different organs of the press before a code of civility developed. One of these actually helped kick off a vigilante takeover of San Francisco in 1856.

      The catalyst for the Committee was a murder, in the guise of a political duel in which James P. Casey shot opposition newspaper editor James King of William.

      Wikipedia
      I suspect another factor is that there isn’t a significant coercive element – a way other than mob intimidation to punish those who fail to abide by community standards. Another possible result of this is the epidemic of rape threats that hit anyone blogging about feminism, and death threats on the internet generally. Which suggests that the Internet needs some kind of coercive element, the way the police would come and have a nice chat with you if you were lobbing bricks with “DIE” on them through somebody’s window.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      I have the extremely optimistic view that society has gradually learned its lesson about this kind of thing. Like, religion, racism, and political ideology are all known failure modes that claim to be doing the right thing and have beautiful lofty goals but inspire a lot of skepticism in most people. Social justice is sufficiently new and sufficiently obviously-good-intentioned that the appropriate memetic antibodies have yet to form, but I think it’s a work in progress.

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      • Ialdabaoth says:

        Social justice is sufficiently new and sufficiently obviously-good-intentioned that the appropriate memetic antibodies have yet to form, but I think it’s a work in progress.

        Indeed – and any system which is obviously-good-intentioned, and which has any kind of ‘good-vs-evil’ narrative, will naturally be exploited by people who enjoy getting away with inflicting harm on others.

        This is ESPECIALLY problematic when people have been legitimately harmed in the past. This is a process I’ve watched happen OVER AND OVER again with humans. With “rape culture”, it goes something like this:

        A woman is coerced by a high-status male into having sex, partially against her will. She feels powerless and frustrated at this, doubly so because she can’t get any validation that it actually happened the way she feels it did. She tries to seek some sense of justice, but discovers that his status protects him.

        Then, she begins seeking out low-status males to inflict harm on, as a proxy for the high-status male that she’ll never be able to get back at. This partially assuages her sense of powerlessness, but she still feels unsatisfied – because the *real* source of her own powerlessness is out of her reach.

        The low-status male she dumped on now feels attacked and powerless. He soon discovers that he can’t get back at the woman who did this to him, so he begins either seeking out low-status women as proxies for his own revenge, OR begins seeking out higher-status/high-profile women to inflict anonymous aggression on (in the form of internet rape threats, etc).

        And the wheels of samsara continue to turn, grinding everyone into a find powder of suffering.

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      • suntzuanime says:

        Why don’t our political-ideology antibodies trigger for social justice? Mine do.

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Because most of us are in some way Progressive, and the social-justice movement tends to wrap itself in Progressive ‘memetic proteins’.

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        • suntzuanime says:

          So instead of “political ideology” we have only developed antibodies to “reactionary political ideology”? Our memetic immune systems need to get better at generalization.

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Heh. No, it’s worse than that. We’ve only developed antibodies to “out-group political ideology”.

          They’re GREAT at generalization; but (Dilbert voice) they’re solving the WRONG PROBLEM.

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        • Matthew says:

          I don’t think I even buy Scott’s original claim. “Most people” do not have memetic antibodies for politics and religion (maybe for racism). This seems like an uncharacteristic case of conflating the typical reader of his blog with the typical person in the general population.

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          I don’t think I even buy Scott’s original claim. “Most people” do not have memetic antibodies for politics and religion (maybe for racism).

          Well, from the “Reactionaries Unfortunately Have a Point” department, most people have memetic antibodies against racist *language*, but regrettably not against racist *behavior*.

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        • Nick T says:

          Maybe a lot more people’s (in whatever reference class we’re talking about) do than is immediately apparent, but the immune response is suppressed by fear of being witch-hunted.

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        • Daniel H says:

          I would think that “most people” have at least some memetic antibodies for politics (you won’t find the average Democrat* calling somebody who votes Republican the worst kind of evil, even if they say that about the Republican candidate) and religion (at least as long as it’s an appropriate religion; most people in the US would say that Jews and Christians aren’t evil (not even Protestants, Catholics, Baptists, Mormons, …), even if they would say that about atheists or Muslims). They might not have a full complement, but there are rarely people getting fired for being Democrat or Republican like there are people getting fired for being gay or homophobic.

          * The direction to choose hear was determined by going to http://www.random.org/coins/?num=1&cur=20-novelty.voting-2004.

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      • Troy says:

        I have the extremely optimistic view that society has gradually learned its lesson about this kind of thing. Like, religion, racism, and political ideology are all known failure modes that claim to be doing the right thing and have beautiful lofty goals but inspire a lot of skepticism in most people.

        Those of us who remain religious in an age in which religion has supposedly been rendered obsolete by electric lights and radios tend to think that social justice and other political ideologies are psychological and social replacements for the religious systems that enlightened folks today reject. Crudely put, people need something to commit their lives to, so when they reject Christianity and other religions as outdated they cling to “social justice” and the like.

        Rene Girard argues — persuasively I think — that the social justice movement (though he talks about in terms of political correctness) is an outgrowth of Christianity that has rejected its Christian foundation. The core of Christianity is a concern for victims; social justice has taken that idea and run with it, but has thrown away Christianity’s moral rules and emphasis on human sin, and in so doing has simply recreated the kind of scapegoating and victimization that it is ostensibly against.

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        • Anonymous says:

          The very phrase “social justice” comes from Christianity in the middle of the 19th century. But I’m not sure whether that point supports or opposes you.

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        • Multiheaded says:

          Doesn’t Girard believe that scapegoating is a good thing?

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        • Troy says:

          Multiheaded: Girard believes that it’s an integral part of human culture, and a means by which violence is contained. So in that sense it has good effects. But he doesn’t think it’s good in itself. On the contrary, Girard identifies the scapegoating mechanism with the demonic, and understands Jesus’ ministry as primarily being about defeating and unmasking the scapegoating mechanism.

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        • anodognosic says:

          Ideologues will always see others’ beliefs and values with which they agree as corruptions of their own.

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      • Slippery Jim says:

        “I fear those big words which make us so unhappy.” – James Joyce

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      • Jaskologist says:

        religion, racism, and political ideology are all known failure modes that claim to be doing the right thing and have beautiful lofty goals but inspire a lot of skepticism in most people. Social justice is sufficiently new and sufficiently obviously-good-intentioned that the appropriate memetic antibodies have yet to form, but I think it’s a work in progress.

        You contradict yourself. In what world is “social justice” not a political ideology? (Indeed, it looks an awful like a religion in most manifestations).

        To continue with biology analogies:

        You’ve recently discovered that bacteria can cause disease, so you’ve carpet-bombed your system with amoxicillin. Now you’re proud of how disease-free you are, albeit a little confused that your clearly healthier body has a bad case of the runs.

        Meanwhile, clostridium difficile is setting up shop…

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  20. Oligopsony says:

    Jacobinghazi wasn’t really an inter-left thing; most of the people reading in conspicuously bad faith were, in a fairly concrete sense, lapdogs for imperialism. Kerendzior has worked for Freedom House, Foust for Northrop Grumman, Shahryar for the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

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    • Tom Hunt says:

      Yes, but wildly bizarre accusations of racism or sexism contra any actual evidence, and shouting down anyone who disagrees as being equally racist/sexist, is very much a tactic of the left. If that is the mode of attack, then one can probably suppose that the attackers are, at least on the race/gender issues, either leftist or pretending to be.

      Of course, it’s possible that some kind of agent provocateur started the first accusations going, and then trusted the ordinary SJ-internet machine to make it stick. I have no idea if this is what actually happened, and I really, really don’t intend to look far enough into the issue to find out.

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      • Matthew says:

        Lack of robustness to agents-provocateurs is just a special case of the “live by the jerk, die by the jerk” fragility.

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      • suntzuanime says:

        Yeah, there’s sort of a cottage industry in trolling the SJs into picking up whatever ridiculous hashtag you can get them to buy. We can hope they will learn to engage their critical thinking a little rather than blindly signal-boosting anything that pattern-matches to their team. At least put a password on the controls to your giant feminist superlaser, guys.

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        • Scott Alexander says:

          Do they ever actually bite on the hashtag trolling? I have seen a lot people trolling outsiders by making them think that certain dumb things are social justice positions, but I haven’t seen any evidence of the social justice people themselves being fooled.

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        • suntzuanime says:

          Yeah, I dunno. I guess it’s plausible that 4chan would have a secondary army of deep cover sockpuppets pretending to pick up the meme from the primary instigator trolls, so that even if someone figures out that it was initially a troll, it still looks like the SJ community was duped.

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        • Douglas Knight says:

          Scott, are you making a distinction from the two examples at hand?

          In the Jacobinghazi example we have something that was definitely picked up, while you deleted a tweet that you originally included in this post. Maybe that tweet shouldn’t count because it wasn’t picked up by insiders.

          One relevant distinction is that those were factual claims, under plausible deniability of telephone, while maybe this thread is about trolling with normative claims where the individual tweets should be too obvious to pick up.

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        • Anthony says:

          Some certainly bit on the #endfathersday trolling from 4chan. When I checked, about half the tweets which weren’t responses attacking the tag were from real sjw-type accounts.

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    • Multiheaded says:

      Whoa, this clears up a few things… in an unpleasant way. It’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you, etc.

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    • > [these people] were, in a fairly concrete sense, lapdogs for imperialism.

      This – with justification and all – is just too good not to highlight.

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    • Harald K says:

      David Graeber vocally sided with the SJWs in Jacobinghazi, and he’s hardly a lapdog for imperialism.

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  21. Sam Rosen says:

    People seem pretty good at maintaining different codes of behavior for in-groups and out-groups. I’m not optimistic that harmful and hostile groups will eventually auto-cannibalize. Then again, Mongol-like societies don’t tend to last that long.

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  22. Alexander Stanislaw says:

    About the whale cancer – tumors don’t usually kill you because they get too big – they kill you because they metastasize to important parts of the body. If a whale got an apple sized tumor then it could still spread elsewhere and kill the whale even if there is a cap on tumor size.

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    • Andy says:

      And I’d argue the same – one anti-social person can destroy or severely damage an entire society if they’re in the wrong place. Like that dictator of Burma mentioned in the Anti-Reactionary FAQ:

      You think that’s a joke, but in 1987 the dictator of Burma made all existing bank notes illegitimate so he could print new ones that were multiples of nine. Because, you see, he liked that number. As Wikipedia helpfully points out, “The many Burmese whose saved money in the old large denominations lost their life savings.”

      Or in a non-government context, Jerry Sandusky caused much more damage to Penn State when he was discovered because everyone else had tried to patch around him rather than removing him when they found out he was raping children.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      They metastasize to important parts of the body, but the metastases still have to cause problems in some particular way to kill you.

      I’ll admit that lack of concern for metastases is the biggest weakness of the article, and they themselves kind of nod to that in their last paragraph. They say that their simulations take metastases into account and the conclusions remain the same, but without knowing more about the details of the simulations I can’t judge.

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  23. Elissa says:

    1) Can I be the first to say woooo to the possibility of more Scott/Arthur drama? That was some solid gold drama last time. #soexcited
    2) Meta-cancer is way cute and it works really well as an analogy here, but in a literal, scientific sense I don’t in the least buy it.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      NO STOP ENCOURAGING ME ENCOURAGING ME IS BAD.

      They seem to have gotten the metatumor thing working in the laboratory, and it makes some intuitive sense. If it’s not the whale explanation, it’ll be because whales use something else, not because there’s no such thing as metatumors. I find that pretty cool.

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      • Ialdabaoth says:

        You know, the last time you went a round with Arthur Chu, I felt like the way the ‘Rationalist-left’ group was explaining itself was a little off.

        In a lot of ways, Arthur Chu is right – winning is really, really important, especially when the alternative is a long tradition of people treating each other awfully.

        From my perspective, the REAL point of engaging with the Opposition’s criticisms, and in critically analyzing “our side”‘s arguments and behaviors, is that someone needs to look *past* the war, and make sure that, when we WIN, we don’t just inevitably turn into the next Evil Empire.

        Because that cycle’s got *old*.

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        • Scott Alexander says:

          Nyan Sandwich recently brought up an important distinction between intellectual-analysis-groups and movements.

          Insofar as you are an intellectual-analysis-group, engage with everyone, cherish those who disagree with you as people you can learn from, and have an extremely open mind.

          Insofar as you are a movement, stick to your message, crush dissent mercilessly, and discourage fraternization with the enemy.

          I’m not sure I agree with this distinction, but it’s an interesting one to think about, especially if you see people doing the other one and you think they’re doing yours wrong.

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        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Problem is everyone on the Internet seems to want to be a little bit of both.

          Personally, I think this is developmental.

          I’m going to wax somewhat poetic here – I apologize for the overly teleological tone of this post, and acknowledge that a lot of what I’m saying is reification / anthropomorphization of ultimately blind processes.

          That said, it feels to me like humanity is passing through a new stage in its embryonic development. Communication, travel, energy, military and social technologies have wired up the ‘global mind’ / ‘collective unconscious’ (again, forgive the bad metaphor) in ways that the species has never experienced before; we’re just now becoming the sort of creatures who actually need to worry about intellectual analysis and coalition politics simultaneously. (Toto, I’ve a feeling we aren’t in the ancestral environment anymore.)

          IF the species can survive this, we might become something far better (in terms of our moral instincts’ fuzzy model of what a “good” being should be) than we are now.

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      • Elissa says:

        It’s certainly true that tumors are terrible at being organisms. Solid tumors have to do angiogenesis to get big, but they do it relatively poorly, with leaky, disorganized vessels, and tumors of any size will almost always have lots of necrosis. It is also well known that there is tons of genetic heterogeneity within tumors. Insofar as this is what “metacancer” means it’s pretty uncontroversial, and I don’t object to it.

        I just don’t think that it actually makes tumors less lethal in the real world. Well-organized tumors are generally more indolent and less likely to metastasize and kill you, while highly dysplastic, heterogeneous tumors with genomes that look like a bomb went off inside them are the nasty aggressive kind. Also, plenty of small metastases are, in practice, at least as bad for you as one big tumor, even if they’re all fighting each other. And that’s ignoring the whole genre of cancers that aren’t solid tumors at all– do whales get lots of leukemia and lymphoma?

        I think the model in the paper has serious problems. They note that their actually isn’t any particular “lethal size” that a tumor has to achieve to kill you in the real world– “Defining tumor lethality presents two main problems. First, it is well known that the distribution of tumor sizes at time of death in humans varies greatly. General host health, tumor secretory products, type and extent of involved tissues, tumor bleeding, infection, infarction, and metastatic burden all affect the size of the most massive tumor at time of death”– but then blithely ignore this and declare that for the purposes of their model a tumor has to get to 1.2 kg to kill a human. What?

        Finally, it actually has been demonstrated that larger humans get more cancers than smaller humans (see for instance http://cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/early/2013/07/25/1055-9965.EPI-13-0305.abstract ), so I think that whatever the mechanism of Peto’s paradox, it had better be something that is different between whales and humans, not some fundamental property of cancer.

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        • Anonymous says:

          This seems like an insightful, knowledgable and useful comment. I don’t have the expertise to judge how accurate it is, but assuming it isn’t wildly misleading, thanks for the reality check.

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        • Scott Alexander says:

          Yes, thank you. Excellent argument.

          (Except that growth hormone level has been implicated in increased cancer risk, which makes me less likely to find the tall vs. short humans comparison relevant)

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      • Elissa says:

        Also, and this may be obvious, but I don’t really identify with my drama-seeking drive or endorse its preferences, and the “oooh moar drama” was at least partly intended as a playful but not-so-subtle form of “look at your life, look at your choices” here.

        PS Oh and bit.ly urls are case sensitive so the one in your small-caps blog tagline doesn’t work

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      • Randy M says:

        I read that as meta-humor at first glance, and wanted to work in that laboratory.

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  24. Carl Shulman says:

    “It can’t just be that they’ve evolved more efficient anti-cancer mechanisms, or else other animals (who also experience gains in adaptive fitness from not dying of cancer) would have evolved the same.”

    What? Anti-cancer mechanisms have physiological costs that scale with body size, and require continuing selection to maintain. The benefits of adding more anti-cancer mechanisms depend on the current loss of reproductive fitness from cancer. Longer-lived and larger organisms will benefit more from anti-cancer mechanisms until cancer mortality is limited compared to other sources like predation or infectious disease.

    Malaria resistance is helpful everywhere malaria is found, but people have more malaria resistance genes, and greater associated physiological costs like sickle-cell, where malaria was a relatively bigger source of reproductive fitness losses.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Quantifying malaria: African-Americans are sickle cell carriers at 1/4 the rate of Africans, suggesting a 10% fitness cost in the absence of falciparum.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      Thank you. I have added a link to your comment in the original article. I am not 100% sure this is the right track, because I’m not sure what the costs might be here and the ability of the mechanism to scale very nicely with body size seems suspicious if we’re thinking in terms of specific individual mutations like sickle cell, but it certainly sounds very plausible, maybe more plausible than the meta-tumor theory.

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      • Carl Shulman says:

        By cost of mechanism, I meant that an impairment of physiological efficiency or disease risk gives a similar fitness cost to a large or small organism, but the cost of a given rate of cancer onset depends on how old and large the organism would be absent cancer.

        Note that there are plenty of other non-cancer causes of death that conveniently kick in at around the same time, and that time varies with the rate of death from things like predation in the wild. “Natural causes” are driven down until you get to a balance with “unnatural causes” and the gains of further longevity fail.

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        • Daniel Speyer says:

          To fill in some specifics with plausible guesswork, I can think of two adaptations that would decrease cancer risk: more careful DNA Polymerase and more sensitive Apoptosis.

          The former prevents mutations, but at the cost of making cell replication slower (or require more copies of the protein to have the same speed). The slowness comes from the way DNA Polymerase double-checks itself, giving the new nucleotide extra time to fall off if it’s the wrong one before moving on. This would also be hard to evolve because intermediate changes might be nonviable (DNA Polymerase is one of the most conserved enzymes).

          Hair-trigger apoptosis would kill tumors at the one-cell stage, at the cost of killing a lot of healthy cells that look sort of tumor-like.

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        • Alrenous says:

          Great white sharks are basically ageless, they accomplish this because their mutation rate is incredibly slow, so cancer is a non-issue. The cost is their evolution rate is also slow. All their adaptive pressure is for stasis rather than metamorphosis. Presumably they have hella efficient polymerase.

          By contrast, humans have recently experienced strong dynamic selection, and probably have a particularly mutation-prone polymerase.

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      • EoT says:

        I heard a claim by Aubrey de Grey that (IIRC) whales actually may have less effective repair mechanisms than humans, but their cell metabolism is so much slower that they still live far longer than humans. I think it had to do with the fact that whales conserve heat more effectively (lower surface area/volume ratio).

        Audio is here: http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/saturday/audio/2596294/aubrey-de-grey-extending-longevity

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    • Eliezer Yudkowsky says:

      This was my own first thought as well (Carl Shulman’s reply, that is).

      Report comment

  25. Oligopsony says:

    I… don’t want to… make this the sort of thing people associate this blog with.

    i have some bad news 4 u dude

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      Well, I try to do 90% responsible things like posting about the legalities of fish oil medication, and only 10% stupid Internet political drama that I am not strong enough to resist, but when people only link to the stupid Internet political drama I feel like all of my hard work resisting it 90% of the time goes unappreciated.

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      • Benedict says:

        This is probably a case of [your readership is not composed mainly of doctors or people who feel like they have some influence on the gargantuan and diseased medical system, but rather mainly of people who feel like they have some influence on stupid internet political drama]. Which is a remarkably specific and tragic problem that’s nonetheless prevalent on just about every website where people go about sharing things.

        Where are all of Tumblr’s Medical Justice Warriors? It seems like between Poorly Incentivized Medical System and Stupid Internet Political Drama, one of the two problems is a much easier fix.

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      • Whateverfor says:

        Not sure if you already know this, but linking behavior and liking behavior are only mildly related.

        http://io9.com/viral-journalism-and-the-valley-of-ambiguity-1463178368

        It’s not really surprising that linking is more about signalling than how much the person enjoyed the article, but it’s worth keeping in mind.

        Personally, I appreciate your efforts in minimizing drama-related posts, and I’m sure most of the readership does as well.

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      • Troy says:

        Well, the four Google suggestions that come up when I type in “Slate Star Codex” are “slate star codex twitter,” “slate star codex feminism,” “slate star codex reactionary,” and “slate star codex vitamin d.”

        1 out of 4 ain’t bad, right?

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      • jast says:

        I feel that if you had a more FAQ-like version of In Favor Of Niceness etc, I could just link to that in 90% of Internet political drama that passes by. Actually I think I already do.

        Meanwhile, this post also provoked some more thoughtful reactions. So I think it’s dandy.

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  26. anon says:

    I was just reading On Being the Right Size the other day. (http://irl.cs.ucla.edu/papers/right-size.html) The last few paragraphs touch on the potential of using biology as a model for understanding social and governmental structures. Whales are a fantastic example of such reasoning. Does anyone know of any other analogies? I’m studying economics right now because I’m interested in predicting group behaviors, and this area seems to have enormous potential.

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    • anon says:

      I’m unsure whether the whale example is true in the case of biology. But what I meant to say is that it provides a good framework for analysis. I think that treating economies as living organisms sounds extremely stupid at first, but that it beats many of the alternatives. Economics modelling needs serious improvement, adapting models from subjects where complex processes are more easily studied is a useful shortcut towards this improvement.

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  27. I’ve tried to figure out whether SJ is unusually awful– there have certainly been eras when it was normal to use strong insults in politics. Also, I contemplated whether SJ was emotionally worse than other divisive movements, especially those which don’t share a communist lineage, but I decided I didn’t know enough to have a well-founded opinion. Objectivists are too boring to me to study, and white supremacists are too revolting.

    This doesn’t stop me from having a theory– I think SJ blows up in an unusually nasty way because it combines a felt right to be insulting with a felt right to not be insulted. Throw in a theory of microaggressions, no sense of scale (everything bad is permitted to be treated as equally bad) and a willingness to assume that any pain caused is a result of bad motivations, and you get a rage machine.

    I’ll note that SJ as I understand it started out with an assumption that motivations don’t matter if you are privileged and hurt a non-privileged person’s feelings. I agree that intention isn’t everything, but I think treating good will as irrelevant is part of what’s going wrong. (I live for the day when at least some SJs realize that their intentions aren’t magic, either.)

    Also, I have a case of “not all SJs”– I certainly know quite a few who wouldn’t try to drive someone into ptsd, nor rejoice if it happened by accident.

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    • The Anonymouse says:

      This is one of the better explanations of all that is wrong with the SJ movement I’ve yet read.

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    • Sniffnoy says:

      This doesn’t stop me from having a theory– I think SJ blows up in an unusually nasty way because it combines a felt right to be insulting with a felt right to not be insulted. Throw in a theory of microaggressions, no sense of scale (everything bad is permitted to be treated as equally bad) and a willingness to assume that any pain caused is a result of bad motivations, and you get a rage machine.

      I’ll note that SJ as I understand it started out with an assumption that motivations don’t matter if you are privileged and hurt a non-privileged person’s feelings. I agree that intention isn’t everything, but I think treating good will as irrelevant is part of what’s going wrong. (I live for the day when at least some SJs realize that their intentions aren’t magic, either.)

      Well said.

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    • > Also, I have a case of “not all SJs”– I certainly know quite a few who wouldn’t try to drive someone into ptsd, nor rejoice if it happened by accident.

      Is this damning by really, really faint praise or did you mean something much more positive?

      (I’m far enough removed from real-life internet (American) SJW’ers that I can hardly rely on my own experiences…)

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      • suntzuanime says:

        I read it as contrastive understatement. Her faint praise of the “good” SJs serves to point up how horrible the “bad” ones are.

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      • It was intended to be a neutral statement– I know SJs who are consistently polite.

        Unfortunately, one area where I’ve come to somewhat agree with SJs is the belief that courtesy in the service of a bad idea is of limited value. It’s still got some value in the sense of not burning the social commons to the ground, but that’s about it.

        In particular, I have had it with people politely explaining that their emotions or the emotions of the people they want to defend are of paramount importance, and mine are irrelevant. It doesn’t matter if they keep saying that they don’t think I’m a bad person if they treat me as though I’m a bad person.

        And I don’t appreciate it (oh, that understatement) if someone keeps answering me while ignoring what I’ve actually said.

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        • Multiheaded says:

          In particular, I have had it with people politely explaining that their emotions or the emotions of the people they want to defend are of paramount importance, and mine are irrelevant. It doesn’t matter if they keep saying that they don’t think I’m a bad person if they treat me as though I’m a bad person.

          It is unfortunate that such things happen to an innocent you, and more unfortunate still that they are the result of a deeply flawed process and not just the vicious disposition of such individuals… but ultimately we need access to this kind of violence. We need to present a credible threat. We need to be able to hurt people. We need to illuminate the everyday experience of humiliation and suppression – by temporarily reversing it if that’s the only way to make people see. The necessity of wielding force, of having some destructive option in the struggle is not overridden by the problem of its abuse and corruption.

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        • suntzuanime says:

          Is that, like, true, though? Do you actually have to become the oppressor to help the oppressed? Is love not a power that can be at least as strong as hate?

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        • Multiheaded says:

          It takes some complicated theology/decision theory to explain the deeper foundations of my view on that, something I’m not going to attempt while sober – but basically, is love just a passive sense of compassion, or is it also a violence aimed at violence itself?

          Oppressing the oppressors is better than inaction, but it legitimizes the Unfriendly strategies as it represses them… but what if you could oppress the meta-strategic convergence that we call “evil” itself, your violent intent negating itself?

          A deeper understanding of how this might be possible is indeed something to strive for as a long term goal, and Christianity at the very least contains lessons for us here.

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        • Anonymous says:

          Joachim’s point is that “not trying for PTSD” is so much less than “consistently polite” that it very strongly implied that you didn’t know any who weren’t trying to destroy their enemies, let alone who were consistently polite.

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        • Douglas Knight says:

          Multiheaded, do you need a credible threat, or do you need to illuminate? You seem to say that they are the same, but they seem like the opposites to me. Maybe you should keep your options open, but that’s very different from claiming that both ingredients are necessary.

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        • suntzuanime says:

          To the extent that “love” is a violence against anything, it is not what I was referring to. The “love” that is violence is what I would tend to classify as “hate”, in the same way that you could argue that white supremacism isn’t about hate at all, perish the thought, we just love our white brothers and sisters so much that we have to protect them from the barbarian hordes.

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        • Alfred F. Jones says:

          ultimately we need access to this kind of violence. We need to present a credible threat. We need to be able to hurt people. We need to illuminate the everyday experience of humiliation and suppression – by temporarily reversing it if that’s the only way to make people see. The necessity of wielding force, of having some destructive option in the struggle is not overridden by the problem of its abuse and corruption.

          In that case, what keeps you from shooting and bombing people? Your standards seem to apply as much to real force as to metaphorical force.

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        • Desertopa says:

          It is unfortunate that such things happen to an innocent you, and more unfortunate still that they are the result of a deeply flawed process and not just the vicious disposition of such individuals… but ultimately we need access to this kind of violence. We need to present a credible threat. We need to be able to hurt people. We need to illuminate the everyday experience of humiliation and suppression – by temporarily reversing it if that’s the only way to make people see. The necessity of wielding force, of having some destructive option in the struggle is not overridden by the problem of its abuse and corruption.

          Having the power to hurt others is one thing, lacking the restraint to use it only when necessary is another thing entirely. My primary reason for leaving the SJ sphere way back was my conclusion that it was full of people who would fight tooth and nail to take away other people’s unconsciously wielded power to hurt others, while denying or justifying their own power to hurt others.

          I’ve found the communities to be very poor places for fostering compassion or restraint, among their members or among their interlocutors, who by their treatment they tend to turn from “interlocutors” into “opposition.”

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        • Oligopsony says:

          In that case, what keeps you from shooting and bombing people? Your standards seem to apply as much to real force as to metaphorical force.

          States have, for obvious existential reasons, set up mechanisms for preventing political violence, and spectacular individual acts of political violence generally aren’t useful except for provocation. It’s the sort of thing that requires either a state of your own or a weak state and lots of popular support.

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    • BenSix says:

      I think the squabbling between themselves has a lot to do with egotism. The desire of many people to be recognised as virtuous manifests itself in contempt for people whose virtues are more widely acknowledged than their own.

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    • Lavendar bubble tea says:

      “I’ll note that SJ as I understand it started out with an assumption that motivations don’t matter if you are privileged and hurt a non-privileged person’s feelings. I agree that intention isn’t everything, but I think treating good will as irrelevant is part of what’s going wrong. (I live for the day when at least some SJs realize that their intentions aren’t magic, either.)

      Also, I have a case of “not all SJs”– I certainly know quite a few who wouldn’t try to drive someone into ptsd, nor rejoice if it happened by accident.”

      The intent doesn’t matter/”isn’t magic” meme/idea is actually more complex than emotions. One of the more popular early writings about it was from “GenderBitch” on wordpress who wrote that if you do something, such as outing a trans women that she is still now in danger from potential harassment and violence despite the fact that you didn’t mean for it to happen. The main idea is that when you have more societal power over a person, you well have more societal power for a person. Meaning that you have a higher chance of hurting them totally accidentally than they do to you. It extents beyond emotions/mental health and into all spheres of life such as leaving someone open to physical violence or causing someone economic ruin. (I’m not linking the original post because I don’t want to be personally responsible for bringing a mob of angry GenderBitch fans into this comment section. In recent years, she’s become one of the least reasonably popular voices in the movement, but it can be googled as “Intent! It’s fucking magic!”)

      The idea ended up being expanded/distorted into a false belief that people who are oppressed CANNOT hurt people who have more power, which is blanantly false since anyone can be an abuser and anyone can hurt someone else in universal ways. It’s just not as easy/through less potential means of harm.

      I think “not all SJs” IS valid, because these are a collection of memes meant to help people who are legitimately disadvantaged. Regardless of my personal feelings, I need to accept that I will be grouped as an SJ activist if I advice the causes I need to live my life. My life has been politicized by outside sources and I can’t fight that association. What I CAN contest/fight is abusive/toxic/harmful tactics, memes and behaviors among over “SJ” activists and argue that a far better community needs to be built.

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    • Viliam Búr says:

      Epistle to the Social Justice Warriors:

      “You hypocrite, first take the “die … scum!” out of your own blog, and then you will see clearly to remove the microaggressions from your brother’s blog.”

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      • Multiheaded says:

        There is nothing hypocritical about us sincerely having two contradictory goals. It’s tragic, if anything. And, of course, some people cannot quite find the strength to face the contradiction with integrity.

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      • Tom Hunt says:

        I comment in order to register my strenuous approval of this formulation.

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    • EoT says:

      Ayn Rand herself certainly fit the SJW mold. She was notorious for attacking and excommunicating friends and allies for minor ideological deviations, or even things like preferring Mozart to Rachmaninoff. I don’t get the impression that present day Objectivists or libertarians are anything like this.

      I can’t think of any group that is as vicious as SJWs, although that might just because I try to avoid those kinds of communities. The closest thing I can think of on the right are some of the more rigid and intellectual religious traditions. As I understand it the Eastern Orthodox web has really bitter feuds between multiple subgroups about minor theological issues.

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  28. Viliam Búr says:

    wow. so drama. very internet.

    I think Arthur Chu was probably never defending Mr. Clymer as a person. Only as an abstract idea of “someone willing to fight dirty for our side”. As a person, Mr. Clymer can be thrown under the bus anytime.

    About Mr. Clymer… I think if you want to become a leader, you should never admit publicly that your goals are less than completely pure. That’s so simple that even I know it, and I never succeeded to be a leader of anything. He has the passion, the time, the money… but he lacks some common sense. (It this another “rationality is the art of non-self-destruction” lesson?)

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  29. Neel says:

    I do not understand any aspect of the #StopClymer stuff. The only legitimate reason may have been his awful rape statistics article, but no one even mentioned that. He made some clearly well meant but religious tweets on a feminist hashtags and then committed the “crime” of being male and disagreeing with some women over feminism. I didn’t even see examples of what they disagreed over. How on earth did this lead to #StopClymer?

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    • suntzuanime says:

      The crime of being male and disagreeing with some women over feminism is taken very seriously in the SJ community. They have an official term for it: “mansplaining”. If you want to be an “ally” you can’t “mansplain”.

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      • Lavendar bubble tea says:

        Hey just briefly commenting, but “manspalining” was/is meant to be a term for people from a privelaged group who try to talk over the lived experiences of people from a disadvantaged group. It’s meant to be a term against silencing practices in interpersonal communication.

        Also as why people were upset, the yesallwomen tag was/is meant to be a place for women to share their experiences of sexism. He posted a tweet about his own progressive religious views, which while none oppressive, were not the purpose of the space/tag. Spaces where people can talk about oppression and violence in an open and free way are very rare, so anti oppression movements put a lot of stock into defending and keeping those spaces on topic. In that case, I agree that he was in fact being a bad ally despite good intentions.

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        • Anonymous says:

          Wow! I’ve never seen someone mansplain “mansplaining” before.

          Edit: I mean that LBT is mansplaining STA, not vice versa.

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        • Scott Alexander says:

          “Hey just briefly commenting, but “manspalining” was/is meant to be a term for people from a privelaged group who try to talk over the lived experiences of people from a disadvantaged group. It’s meant to be a term against silencing practices in interpersonal communication. “

          I feel like every single term in social justice terminology has a totally unobjectionable and obviously important meaning – and then is actually used a completely different way.

          The closest analogy I can think of is those religious people who say “God is just another word for the order and beauty in the Universe” – and then later pray to God to smite their enemies. And if you criticize them for doing the latter, they say “But God just means there is order and beauty in the universe, surely you’re not objecting to that?”

          The result is that people can accuse people of “privilege” or “mansplaining” no matter what they do, and then when people criticize the concept of “privilege” they retreat back to “but ‘privilege’ just means you’re interrupting women in a women-only safe space. Surely no one can object to criticizing people who do that?”

          …even though I get accused of “privilege” for writing things on my blog, even though there’s no possible way that could be “interrupting” or “in a women only safe space”.

          When I bring this up, people just deny they’re doing it and call me paranoid.

          When I record examples of me getting accused of privilege or mansplaining, and show people the list, and point out that exactly zero percent of them are anything remotely related to “interrupting women in a women-only safe space” and one hundred percent are “making a correct argument that someone wants to make you feel bad for mentioning”, then your interlocutor can just say “You’re deliberately only engaging with straw-man feminists who don’t represent the strongest part of the movement, you can’t hold me responsible for what they do” and continue to insist that anyone who criticizes the word “privilege” or “mansplaining” just means “interrupting women in safe spaces”.

          I have yet to find a good way around this tactic.

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        • suntzuanime says:

          A word is defined by how it’s used.

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        • Lavendar bubble tea says:

          suntzuanime- That is a good point. I still think that the term is used in valid ways, but there are many times when it is used wrongly. So you do make a valid point for defining it that based on those circumstances.

          Scott- You also make a good counter point against the use of the term mansplaining and against defining it by the term’s intended use/purpose. (I do think that intended/proper use of the word privilege has different limits/contexts than mansplaining as a term, but I’m currently trying to balance sharing my current views and not trying to horribly derail)

          Also, my second paragraph was meant to refer exclusively to a possibly (I suspect highly likely) reason why people would be so initially mad at Clymer. (That tag is perceived and used as a space to vent against violence/oppression and people who are grouped into “SJ” culture tend to strongly defend those spaces, hence why they were upset) since I thought that some people on the thread were honestly baffled as to why people were even upset. I did not mean it in anyway as an approval for the way people acted upon being upset by that action and again, I don’t think that Clymer meant harm or was a bad person for those tweets.

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        • Sniffnoy says:

          I feel like every single term in social justice terminology has a totally unobjectionable and obviously important meaning – and then is actually used a completely different way.

          The closest analogy I can think of is those religious people who say “God is just another word for the order and beauty in the Universe” – and then later pray to God to smite their enemies. And if you criticize them for doing the latter, they say “But God just means there is order and beauty in the universe, surely you’re not objecting to that?”

          Yup — good old equivocation, sneaking in connotations, and other basic “37 ways words can be wrong” stuff. See in particular 4, 5, 7, 16, 24, 26…

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        • Sniffnoy says:

          then your interlocutor can just say “You’re deliberately only engaging with straw-man feminists who don’t represent the strongest part of the movement, you can’t hold me responsible for what they do” and continue to insist that anyone who criticizes the word “privilege” or “mansplaining” just means “interrupting women in safe spaces”.

          I have yet to find a good way around this tactic.

          So, my own thoughts on the matter, from which a sensible reply might possibly be extracted:

          Firstly, such idea might be a “flesh man” version of good, well-supported feminist ideas; but these nasty/ridiculous feminist ideas are out there causing problems, so it’s important to counter them all the same.

          Secondly, if the use of words is really a point of contention, you can insist you move to alternate, unambiguous, less loaded terminology. Point out that feminist terminology has been unfortunately loaded by their less careful cousins and this can’t be undone. By switching terminology you also reduce the risk of accidentally superweaponing them. If they refuse, then, uh, I’m guessing they’re probably not being very sensible?

          Tangentially related further thoughts: Really, things like this are why I feel like I have to hold a significant chunk of mostly-non-terrible feminists at least partly responsible for the results of the terrible ones. More specifically, the fact that even the better parts of the feminist movement tend to emphasize pushing in a direction, rather than hitting a target means that they’re (inadvertently) encouraging those who don’t know any better (such as, say, men who’ve been taught — not necessarily wrongly! — that their common sense is sexist and thus evil) to become more and more extreme. Hell, you don’t even need to be actively pushed into extremism — becoming less feminst is barred, so if you just walk randomly you’ll eventually end up on the far end. Eventually you end up in full-on SJ pathology as Nancy described above, in which hypocrisy is formalized as principle.

          This doesn’t mean the goals of the non-pathological feminists are bad, and I don’t think that they generally are (in contexts other than this one I’ll say I’m a feminist; it’s a “who’s asking?” type of question). But they’ve evidently failed at being clear about them, and when you wield moral authority, you can’t afford to be unclear.

          I’m going to go ahead and suggest that a good ideology properly exposited should be tamper-evident. Feminism in its current form is not, or else the pathological feminists and the hypocritical feminists wouldn’t be able to make it look like they’re basically of a kind with the sensible and principled ones, which is a large part of how they’re able to do so much damage.

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        • suntzuanime says:

          If someone were both reasonable and willing to abandon words that have been tainted by unreasonable feminists, they would not be a feminist, as the word “feminist” is itself such a word.

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        • I feel like every single term in social justice terminology has a totally unobjectionable and obviously important meaning – and then is actually used a completely different way.

          Well, yeah. This is why, after hanging out at the fringes of SJ for a while, I eventually stormed away in disgust (and the violence of that removal contributed to coming to NRx–but that’s a different topic). Like, the official denotation of “privilege” is an important and useful concept, one which I still try to remember and apply when thinking about social issues. But everybody knows that in practice “privilege” means “shut up, white boy”, and why would I submit to that kind of abuse? And the trap is that there is no way out: once you have been accused of privilege, or mansplaining, or racism, the only possible response is a full confession and accepting whatever penance the community prescribes to you. Attempting to defend against the charges, or, heck, even get back onto the original topic, simply acts as evidence for your guilt.

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        • No one special says:

          I feel like every single term in social justice terminology has a totally unobjectionable and obviously important meaning – and then is actually used a completely different way.

          This is called a “Motte and Bailey Doctrine”, and is explained/vilified (in the context of postmdernism) here:

          http://philpapers.org/archive/SHATVO-2.pdf

          The current version of feminism is heavily influenced by postmodern literary critique.

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        • Desertopa says:

          I have seen people, quite often, accused of “mansplaining” for engaging in actions which meet the original intended definition- attempting to talk over and override the discussion of individuals relating reports of oppression.

          I have, even more frequently (although this probably has a great deal to do with the circles I associate with) seen it applied to people making legitimate points or self reports in conversations where other people are trying to exclude their voices and ascribe evil characteristics to them in their absence.

          One thing that I have not yet seen even once though, is a member of a Social Justice community accusing someone of mansplaining, and any other member saying anything to the effect of “no, he has a right to make his voice heard in this conversation,” whether it’s a case of “contra this person’s dismissal, I think you are making a valid point,” or an “I disagree with what you are saying, but will defend your right to say it.”

          While the term is sometimes, perhaps still frequently, applied according to its intended use, I have never yet observed anyone in SJ communities making any effort to guard against its abuse.

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        • (Note: this comment didn’t come out as well as I’d like. Sorry.)

          @Sniffnoy, @suntzuanime: it’s absolutely true that assuming some SJW’ers working definition of “privilege”, “mansplaining” etc. often basically assumes that they’re correct in the current debate; declaring yourself, essentially, right by definition is logically rude.

          On the other hand, if you insist on using “surprise buttsecks” (rather than, say, “rape”) in the context of a discussion of the effects of ubiquitous porn on society… well, making your opponent relitigate “rape is bad” (for fairly central examples, etc.) before they get to the actual point of contention is not terribly nice. Demanding that the feminist abandon that word pattern-matches many terrible parts of the internet (think reddit, not tumblr), and deprives the feminist of a significant part of the power of the word “rape” (rape-the-word is “worse” than rape-the-deed). The first is a good reason not to engage for those that don’t like unproductive debates; the second is still a pretty defensible reason not to engage.

          (Basically, you need a lot of good faith on both sides before you can even define the discussion in terms that do not basically assume a certain viewpoint – and I’m pretty sure that the people usually demanding that feminists abandon their terminology don’t qualify for “a lot of good faith”. To be fair, neither does the average SJW’er, as Scott repeatedly points out.)

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        • Sniffnoy says:

          Sorry, I think I may have been unclear here — my point was not that feminists should in general abandon their terminology once it’s become loaded; that would be unreasonable. My point was that, in the context of a particular discussion, if someone says, “Sorry, there seems to be a bit of equivocation around the world ‘mansplaining’ here. Can we make two new terms here for disambiguation purposes? They can be mansplaining-A and mansplaining-B if needed, but I’d prefer something more descriptive,” the right response is probably to go along. (If the discussion turns out fruitful and the terms helpful, then perhaps they might propagate them further, but I don’t think that’s something we need to specifically ask of people.)

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        • MugaSofer says:

          “Hey just briefly commenting, but “manspalining” was/is meant to be a term for people from a privelaged group who try to talk over the lived experiences of people from a disadvantaged group.”

          To be clear, “talking over lived experiences” actually means “disagreeing with someone who has (relevant) experiences” in simple English, right?

          It’s a little … jargon-y, so perhaps I’m misreading you.

          “Also as why people were upset, the yesallwomen tag was/is meant to be a place for women to share their experiences of sexism.”

          Actually, it was meant to dismiss and mock the idea that generalizing based on gender is not OK.

          (I believe Scott has some excellent posts on the tactic around here somewhere.) Thankfully, most people actually *used* it to share experiences of sexism.

          And it was actually so effective at this that I feel kind of bad pointing out the literal meaning, and I must admit I was deeply impressed.

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        • Zorgon says:

          I’m aware of the original definition of the term “mansplaining”, but I’ve genuinely never actually seen it used in its original context. Not even once. I’ve seen it used in the “silencing dissent” version mentioned here, I’ve seen it used as pre-emptive virtue signalling from male feminists/allies, and I’ve seen it used as a straight-out insult to men who dare say things that sound non-feminist while simultaneously sounding authoritative. I’ve even seen it used against women who sounded a bit too far from the party line, without irony, because apparently being an SJW means you can misgender people with impunity. But never in the described meaning of “people from an advantaged group talking over the lived experiences of people from a disadvantaged group”.

          I’m gonna check the terminology at the door. First up, “Privileged individual” is shorthand for “man”, “disadvantaged individual” is shorthand for “woman” and more specifically for “SJW woman”. Secondly, the context is almost certainly an SJ-friendly space or “mansplainer” would likely be unacceptable language.

          “SJW woman” is not a “disadvantaged individual” in this context in any reasonable meaningful sense. They probably have a claim to being one outside this context, but this is an space created specifically for the purpose of granting her advantage inside its bounds. In this world, she is privileged, and he is disadvantaged. This is a deliberate choice on the part of the space’s creators. Pretending it is otherwise is deliberate reframing.

          So. Assuming a man enters an SJ space and “talks over” a woman (because that’s what we’re actually talking about here). Either he has information to impart that’s important to the discussion and hasn’t been mentioned yet, or seemed unclear or needed further talking about or comment and so on… or he doesn’t. If it’s the former case, he’s adding to the discussion and not talking over anyone, ESPECIALLY online where “talking over” people is a meaningless concept unless there are thousands of you drowning out all opposing voices (a situation only usually achievable by certain image boards and, er, SJWs). You can’t talk over someone when what they say is just lined up alongside what you say. That’s not how text works. “Talking over” in these cases, therefore, is code for something else. I’ll come back to that in a moment.

          The latter case requires a very specific set of things to happen. It needs for someone to decide to utterly ignore someone else’s expertise or experience. Note that this isn’t the same thing as presenting different information or even disagreeing, as both of those are the basis for normal discussion. This is ignoring that the person you’re talking to is a particle physicist when talking about particle physics. Or just saying “NAAAH IT’S NOT THAT AT ALLLLL!”.

          We already have a word for people who do that. In fact we have numerous words, most of which can’t be spoken on daytime television (at least without being beeped out). This is not a phenomenon specific to sexists, or indeed to the Internet. I’ve met plenty of female-identified SJWs who are more than willing to engage in both of the behaviours mentioned at the end of the last paragraph, and I don’t call it “womansplaining”, and I don’t pretend it’s a unique phenomenon only people like me have to put up with.

          I just call it “being a massive wanker”, because that’s what it is.

          So if the primary thing they mean by “mansplaining” is just “being a massive wanker”, what is the other thing they mean? Well, as I mentioned earlier, “talking over” when you’re referring to an online discussion is a meaningless term unless used as code for something else. I think what they mean is “disagreeing with me while using an authoritative tone”. And this is where the whole SJW feels/facts thing kicks in – if you’ve already deliberately built a culture where feelings are actively granted primacy, even for the best of reasons, then if someone turns up with facts that contradict those feelings then you’re going to feel as if they are speaking over you. In truth, they’re adding things to the discussion, but it feels like being told your feelings are wrong. And when you’re dealing with emotive subjects, that can feel like a personal insult or even become triggering. So since this is a safe space, that behaviour is made unwelcome. Hence it becomes “mansplaining”.

          So it’s code for “bringing facts into a place where facts are not actually welcome”. Or “disagreeing in a place where disagreeing is not actually welcome.” Doesn’t sound nearly as good as “mansplaining”, does it?

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      • Randy M says:

        It was surreal to me seeing the tweet from a man using the term mansplaining, I must say.

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  30. mathew says:

    In the parts of the Internet where I hang out, “-ghazi” has already become the suffix used to denote a fake, made-up scandal.

    https://twitter.com/mathew/status/423143372451102720

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  31. Histocrat says:

    Interesting rhyme between the whale cancer analogy and some recent discussion about Bitcoin. Bitcoin is being sort of taken over by a pool of cooperating miners, which is generally seen as a bad thing, but the monetary incentive is still to join the pool. To prevent this dynamic, the next generation of cryptocurrencies will have built-in ways for anybody in such a pool to defect and steal a greater portion of the profits.

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    • Andy says:

      Because cooperation and not-being-a-jerk are bad things?
      (Sorry if this seems excessively trollish, but the lines “which is generally seen as a bad thing,” and “To prevent this dynamic, the next generation of cryptocurrencies will have built-in ways for anybody in such a pool to defect and steal a greater portion of the profits” don’t help. Are you portraying the cryptocurrency crowd as inherently opposed to cooperation, like Randians?

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      • @JohnWBH says:

        Its not that cooperation is in itself a bad thing, but sufficiently large cooperative groups can damage and destabilise the whole system with things like a 51% attack. (Very loosely explained, if you control the majority of the mining you control the majority of transaction records so you can commit frauds by altering those records).

        But its in your individual interest to join the biggest possible group, so periodically near 50% groups form,then someone points it out and they are reduced in size. I imagine what Histocrat is talking about are systems that disincentive groups getting too big.

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      • Douglas Knight says:

        Andy, would it have made any difference to your reading comprehension if Histocrat had said “cartel” rather than “cooperating group”? Yet cartel is just a dyphemism for cooperation.

        PS – Randians are one of the most pro-cooperation groups I know.

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        • Andy says:

          John, Douglas, it does help, a little. Though I suspect the long-term future for something as social as a currency would be having a state or state-like entity controlling it with some form of coercive force, thus you’d need something like 90% to attack, rather then 51%. A system that keeps transactions no matter how many others endorse or attempt to falsify might help a little. Than again, I’m proudly anti-cryptocurrencies, but welcome experimentation, in the philsoophy of “Well, I bet you’ll have interesting failure modes.”
          Douglas, I’d say you probably know more Randians than I do. The ones I know in meatspace tend to portray cooperation as intrinsically limiting and lessening to all parties, “All things worth doing are done by an individual.” And the various heresies and dramas surrounding Rand’s intellectual legacy helped establish that headcanon, so I admit my own bias and retract the comparison.

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  32. This post, together with the previous one concerning Chu and Clymer has substantially altered my viewpoint about the SJs and makes me much more convinced that there’s a large part of this movement that is deeply not functional and not conducive to rational thinking. Thanks.

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    • @JohnWBH says:

      > there’s a large part of this movement that is deeply not functional and not conducive to rational thinking. Thanks.

      I think it would be a mistake to atribute this to the majority, rather there aare a small number of very vocal people who are rone to this, and are disporportionately visible.

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    • Lavendar bubble tea says:

      I don’t really think there is a singular movement for social justice, but instead that there is a mass wave/drive towards combating various forms of oppression. A lot of groups which work for “social justice” causes are not linked and are extremely varied. More meme prone/friendly variants of feminism(Plus some intersectional issues) are the trends/thoughts that tend to be recognized the most. I think it’s important not to look at SJ as a cohesive movement.

      That said, I don’t just think it’s an issue of the loudest voices causing a mess of issues. I think the topic and the issues “SJ” groups address are inherently hard and hard hitting. We haven’t worked out how to be a non toxic and non abusive person to a science yet, so there are a lot of inner group conflicts as well as unhealthy people getting involved in the related movements. These are emotionally charged subjects by nature and it shows in the obstacles to good organizing.

      A lot of the more popular groups/thought trends are also heavily internet based due to issues of location and the ease of organizing slactivist actions.So add in some issues that arise from using online media. (In my experience, A LOT of data and changes just get thrown at you and in very internet based groups, you are expected to constantly keep up with the ever changing status quo. It is HIGHLY tempted not to fully read things to keep yourself in the “know”/a good person. This is far less of an issue offline, but if you have a collective filled with people all pioneering separate causes…you’re going to get a lot of articles thrown at you by people who care very much about them. In my own personal experience, it is extremely hard to say “You know, I’m not so sure that GMOs are as bad as you are saying. Can I take a minute or talk it out a bit more before I signed off on this protest?” You’d literally be better off declaring yourself a satanist)

      On the flipside, such movements can help rationality since they deal with getting rid of personal prejudice and promoted thinkers who question societal norms. These movements also DO affect change. So, while it’s a real mess at times and there likely will be emotional pressure to not really think. I do think some association with related movements is worth it and can be helpful to even personal pursuits of rationality if studied in a proper way.

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      • Said Achmiz says:

        In my experience, A LOT of data and changes just get thrown at you and in very internet based groups, you are expected to constantly keep up with the ever changing status quo.

        This dynamic — “Y is now true, and if you believe X, you are now insane and/or evil” — which indeed is common in SJ/feminist/etc. circles, is also, famously, common in totalitarian dictatorial societies. “We have always been at war with Eastasia” and so forth, but also “Trotsky is a traitor to the revolutionary cause and his ideas are malicious, which is obvious to any true Party member” (and many other examples).

        Of course even asking for the new idea to be explained to you marks you as evil in the eyes of the consensus, because by so doing, you are implying that a reasonable person might not find the new idea obvious, which undermines the legitimacy of demanding that everyone accept it as The New Dogma.

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      • Desertopa says:

        On the flipside, such movements can help rationality since they deal with getting rid of personal prejudice and promoted thinkers who question societal norms.

        In general, I think that the sort of “getting rid of personal prejudice” and “questioning societal norms” that goes on in the SJ sphere tends to be more destructive than constructive to rationality, because it has strong tendencies to “other” prejudice. That is, women or minorities may be told that they too have internalized misogyny or racism (although less than men or nonminorities, and with more motivation to overcome it,) but they are not told “you too have prejudices which benefit and convenience you socially, which seem like a natural part of your social order, where your instinct will be to justify them as needed or nonharmful.” People in the SJ sphere are taught to think of the kinds of prejudice they engage in as fundamentally different in kind from the sorts that they attack, and so they dehumanize the sorts of people who actually need their messages.

        I think that a community that actually honed social rationality would be one that acknowledged the effects of ingroup/outgroup biases, halo and horns effects, etc., and encouraged constant vigilance in looking through those confounders. The SJ sphere mostly works in opposition to this.

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      • MugaSofer says:

        I’ll be honest, I usually assume “SJWs” are a result of the medium, not the message.

        For example, Tumblr has almost no actual message involved, being composed largely of reblogs in a vacuum. So that-which-is-rebloggable, or good-for-signalling, or up-worthy, becomes prevalent.

        ***

        We call people who engage in this “Social Justice Warriors”, but they are not distinguished by fighting for social justice. The words have no particular relationship and little information value; it was chosen simply because it’s a string of words with positive connotations.

        It’s simply a convenient label, for a phenomenon consisting entirely of labels.

        ETA: Oh! I should probably mention that some people – notably Ozy, who I know comments here and is awesome and I wish they would go back to blogging – find themselves allied with some SJWs. They are actually espousing a particular worldview (one I largely agree with, a lot of the time,) and generally spend large amounts of time exasperated at the inconstancy of their allies.

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    • blacktrance says:

      This is true of most movements unless they make an effort to be functional and rational, or if being rational is what the movement is about.

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    • Anonymous says:

      >there’s a large part of this movement that is deeply not functional and not conducive to rational thinking.

      At least 99% of the feminist movement has held as a core tenet that “evolutionary biology is a lie” for a couple decades. (Yes, feminists who are not atheists included too but that’s just bog standard insane hypocrisy) They both deny both general facts and promote their own sort of mysticism and treat as conspiracy theorists people like Pinker, Tooby, and Cosmides.

      It’s only a concern that this is the sort of thing that colors your view of a subset of the whole movement. If they toned down the witch hunt practices and “being mean to people” the ideology is still bankrupt; there’s almost nothing positive in not just SJWing but all of feminism that, say, the mainstream Democratic party doesn’t offer. If you’re compromising on “evolutionary biology being false” and also compromising on some human rights and then whatever else one has to question what you are really getting out of being political allies with the movement. It is a little upsetting that a movement nominally in favor of human rights and egalitarianism eventually reached this point but then again one can kind of predict that as most mainstream politics and similar movements do not put science, mathematics, and facts on the list of things they have to follow.

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  33. gwern says:

    The political communists, the kind we got in the US, mostly stuck to the rules. But look what happened to them. They got all excited about how the governing power structures were evil and needed to be destroyed. They set up various organizations dedicated to destroying the governing power structures. And people proceeded to decide that the governing power structures of those organizations were evil and needed to be destroyed. As a result, Communist parties were rent by constant factional warfare and they never got around to destroying the society they lived in at all.

    Or more generally, consider the Russian Revolution or the Spanish civil war, and what happened to all the anarchists and non-bolsheviks. La révolution dévore ses enfants

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    • Crimson Wool says:

      Those are actually bad examples. The Bolsheviks turned against other parties. The closest thing to another communist party in revolutionary Russia – the Left-SRs – was the one who cut ties in that particular relationship (over the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk). A similar phenomenon with the communists in Spain. Don’t confuse cutting down your enemies with cutting down your own.

      e: the Bolsheviks in particular started off fairly good about cleaning out their parties of the rubbish (for a certain value of, etc). The term “purge” originally refers simply to removing a chunk of the Party because they were retarded/only joined the Party to be on the winning side/useless/lazy/etc. Not killing them, just quietly saying, “you kind of suck, we don’t want you in our club any more” and kicking them out. Then you got to Stalinism which is a complex historical drama all its own.

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      • gwern says:

        Don’t confuse cutting down your enemies with cutting down your own… Then you got to Stalinism which is a complex historical drama all its own.

        No, they’re good examples and cannot be divided so neatly, you cannot ignore that Bolsheviks and related movements seemed to wind up in ‘complex dramas all their own’ rather often; when the long-term outcomes justify the short-term measures, you no longer get to ignore the long-term outcomes – all the long-term outcomes.

        My point here was more to point to what happens when you legitimize ‘ends justify the means’ like the Bolsheviks did, and to simultaneously point out what happened to their quondam allies: it’s a double-edged critique demonstrating why every group should be wary of this reasoning (see Eliezer’s posts on running-on-corrupted-hardware & the value of ethical rules, and the more recent model of the unilateralist’s curse) and why these groups should not tolerate such reasoning in their allies either, because even if they seem like good allies on the immediate object level they are terrible allies due to their meta level.

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        • Crimson Wool says:

          No, they’re good examples and cannot be divided so neatly, you cannot ignore that Bolsheviks and related movements seemed to wind up in ‘complex dramas all their own’ rather often

          No, they aren’t good examples, and yes, they can be “divided so neatly”.

          You have come up with an explanation for the Great Purge that does not accurately predict history (most Communist states which had revolutions never underwent anything like the Great Purge), and supposes to explain a failure mode of communism yet does not accurately describe the actual reasons why pretty much any communist state, ever, actually failed.

          If we’re going to cite the Holy Men of Rationalism on this subject, I’d say this is a hedgehog/fox problem. Grand theory (revolutionary zeal -> political cannibalism) versus lots of little explanations that add up (Stalin’s own paranoia and power-hungriness, almost total political isolation of the USSR, a completely bumfuck crazy enemy not that far past their border that the WAllies seemed all too willing to use against the Soviets, a powerful internal intelligence service, the assassination of Kirov under suspicious circumstances, etc).

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      • The only way to be safe in Russia was to be lefter than thou. So in due course it came to pass that the only way to be safe was to be allied to the communists. Before long, the only way to be safe was to be a communist. Then to be the right kind of communist.

        And then it came to pass that even communists were no longer safe.

        Then, finally, Stalin purged those lefter than himself, ending the ever leftwards movement. From the reactionary point of view, Stalin was the good guy, Tsar Alexander the liberator and Trotsky were the bad guys. Recall Trotsky on the Kulaks. Compare and contrast with Stalin’s “Dizzy with success”. Seems to me that Stalin was riding the tiger, trying to restrain the party without himself being devoured. Before Stalin, purged party members were not murdered – but before Lenin, enemies of the state like Lenin got sent to country club prisons for bit of hunting, shooting and horseback riding. The ever leftwards movement, being driven by mass murder, could only be halted by mass murder.

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        • Crimson Wool says:

          Who is the Stalin to Charles Lynch’s Lenin, in your view? Does Mao take up a similar role in the history of the PRC, or does somebody else get that “honor”? Post-Stalin, how does the left-right movement of the USSR go? Was Gorbachev mounting a tiger that Yeltsin quickly slew, or what?

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  34. Captainbooshi says:

    Actually, the meta-cancer idea (which I honestly think is quite fantastic) is pretty much why I’m not worried about the Social Justice movement as a whole.

    I figure that the movement is big enough that the worst parts of it will die of meta-cancer, and we’ll be left with the communities and the ideas that are worth keeping. I mean, I personally spend time at pro-Social Justice places on the internet, and I never see the drama and vicious fights you constantly talk about, so it’s not like the entire movement has those same problems.

    To take the analogy even further, the only danger would be that the cancerous communities would metastasize, and spread devotees of the dangerous idealogies into healthy communities before they die themselves. I personally believe, though, that the communities are healthy precisely because they don’t tolerate the problematic tendencies of the ‘cancerous’ communities, and that immune system will continue to protect them.

    I’d just like to mention again that I really love the cancer analogy. It just strikes me as perfectly funny and accurate enough.

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    • No one special says:

      To take the analogy even further, the only danger would be that the cancerous communities would metastasize, and spread devotees of the dangerous idealogies into healthy communities before they die themselves.

      Isn’t this exactly what the detractors claim in the case of “Atheism+”? That (the bad sort of) feminists have crossed over, and brought their anathematize-you-over-using-generic-“he” ways into the atheist movement?

      Has the immune system gotten rid of them yet? It looks more like a schism in the community. (But I don’t follow very closely.)

      (Meta: Good grief! Two responses to a single post! Am I on some crazy posting binge or what?)

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  35. Josh says:

    You really don’t want us linking to this post? Because this is so, so good.

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  36. John Maxwell IV says:

    So where would advertising fit in to all this? Isn’t advertising a way for memes to spread faster than they “naturally” would? Seems that corporations are better at coordinating than social movements?

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  37. Brilliant work. I love your memetic counter-cancer idea! You managed to miss linking the most relevent “X is memetic cancer” article, though: http://blog.jim.com/science/leftism-as-cancer.html

    Off to the bat-cave to discuss this wonderful theory and amend the leftism-as-cancer idea with it!

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  38. Leftism is memes adapted to propagation by state power.

    A state is a tribe. Whites don’t naturally have tribes, so create religions and ideologies to make synthetic tribes. So the (white) state always has an official religion, which these days is propagated through through state education. To a lesser extent this is true of East Asian states.

    You need an archbishop and a grand inquisitor to prevent the official state meme system from mutating to ever greater virulence, which is to say, to prevent it from becoming cancerous, to prevent the state from becoming ever more leftist, which is to say, prevent the state from becoming ever more statist.

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  39. Aaron Brown says:

    In case you didn’t notice, peterdjones’s comment was a pun based on James’s avatar.

    EDIT: This was supposed to be a reply to Oligopsony.

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  40. Anonymous says:

    I wonder if Arthur Chu needed to write that to avoid guilt by association. It’s both an amusing and disturbing thought.

    4chan with its lack of persistent identity/reputation is refreshingly free of that kind of stuff. You get a fair amount of incivility but it’s not such a big deal.

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  41. Pingback: Is “feminist” a useful term? | The whole sky

  42. kev says:

    This is very fine, but it’s really disingenuous to say that people who are jerks to MRAs will be just as often jerks to feminists, considering how blatantly misogynistic most MRAs are compared to the much more varying levels of misandry found in feminism.

    jerks may always be jerks, but without a reason (i.e peer pressure) it’s silly to say that in-group biases are useless.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      This seems really wrong based on the MRAs and feminists I know. Have you met real MRAs as opposed to the weak men of MRAs feminists signal-boost in feminist-controlled media specifically to discredit the entire movement?

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      • Ialdabaoth says:

        I’ve met plenty of real MRAs, and plenty of feminist SJWs.

        And I have to say, the mixture is actually pretty even – by which I mean, there’s roughly an even ratio of Terrible People on each side.

        I think there’s three problems here:

        The first problem is that we tend to be overly sensitized to the kinds of harm that affect us personally.

        The second problem is that progressive values are winning, so the ingrained American tendency to cheer for the supposed underdog makes a certain kind of meta-contrarianism very appealing.

        The third problem is that progressivism is, on the face of it, a “nicer” set of moral claims (or at the very least, a set of claims that people in our culture are conditioned to perceive as “nicer”), so when your arch-SJW violates that niceness, it sticks out far more noticeably to the sort of person for whom hypocrisy is a bigger sin than crassness.

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      • Matthew says:

        See also Tod Kelly’s backgrounder to his Newsweek article on the MRA movement.

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      • asdf says:

        “feminists signal-boost in feminist-controlled media specifically to discredit the entire movement” Hahahahaha

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    • Newbie says:

      Have you followed AVfM’s Detroit Conference at all? It’s finally convinced me that the MRM is a hate movement. I don’t say that lightly. It very easy to dismiss ideological opponents as sick or wrong somehow, because otherwise, obviously they’d think like you do. But after delving into the MRM for several months, it’s clear that the only information they have is misinformation. As a casual observer, I know more abut their purported issues than the movement’s leaders do. That really, really shouldn’t be the case.

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      • Multiheaded says:

        For a decent, non-ignorant person who’s been called a men’s issues activist (although he doesn’t exactly identify as one), try Ally Fogg.

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  43. Newbie says:

    Hi! First time reader and poster. Since we value civility over agreement, I’m going to say this was an interesting article, but I believe the analogies to be very flawed. Thank you for the whale factoids though, I had no idea.

    My first objection is that comparing to cancer to social movements seems off. You have chosen communism and other movements that wanted to destroy fundamental structures. I suppose anarchists might be a good example. But first of course, most social movements don’t have that purpose. The Civil Rights movement didn’t want to destroy its host. It wanted to change certain laws (skeletal structure, perhaps) and fundamentally change people’s beliefs, which would seem more like a virus injecting new DNA into existing cells (individual people). I guess there’s a question here if you consider a cancer that grows so large that it kills its host (thereby killing itself) to be an example of success, or if success is benign tumors that the body can tolerate, which seems more like groups of people doing their own thing while society moves about them unchanged.

    To me, what stood out in your story is signal amplification. I participate in online forums, so I know how those can blow up. Still, by your own description, you had arguments on Facebook that eventually died down. People get overwrought in comments, small issues are blown out of proportion, sometimes people get banned or flounce. But usually, there’s a flame war, and then everyone goes back to what they were doing.

    I’m not a big Twitter user, but it appears to me to have much greater capacity for tempests in tea pots. The connection between your social life and your professional life is blurred; you have extremely limited message size; and the interconnections swell vastly in comparison to how many people see an online post. That’s what struck me about that woman who managed to get the #CancelColbert meme going over one weekend – and then it died abruptly when a longer form media (the next airing of athe Colbert Show) clarified the original misunderstanding. How surprising that a misunderstanding blew up when all comments were 140 characters max.

    I guess I am thinking of other high profile “expulsions” from feminism, like Hugo Schwyzer, or other ones that didn’t occur, like Dworkin or Freidan. Both women were known to demand blind loyalty, and revoked trust of close friends without warning. But feminism carried on, despite interpersonal squabbles. In the case of Hugo Schwyzer, many feminists DID dislike him, and his rather spectacular behavior doomed him, not any excessive demands for loyalty. He deserved the boot and he got it.

    So it would seem to me that the real culprit is social media that can rapidly generate a positive feedback loop of outrage. The medium, not the movement.

    Thank you again for the article, and I will be looking at your archives, as you seem very interesting. For the record, as a feminist, I also can’t stand bad data getting passed along because the facts aren’t considered as important as the message. I think this is endemic to any movement, though. In fact, I’d say people who place a high premium on accuracy over appeal are going to have trouble forming into any organization of their own, as we tend to lack passion. So at best, we’re going to be some quietly self-regulating cells, hopefully in a symbiotic relationship with a larger movement built from people who care a lot more than we do.

    Again, I thought your article was very interesting, and I apologize for being contrarion right out of the gate.

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    • Multiheaded says:

      It’s always nice to have more people who intelligently speak out for the mainstream perspective at a contrarian venue like this one. Thank you for commenting!

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    • Ialdabaoth says:

      Another point about the cancer analogy:

      Did you know that when a caterpillar turns into a butterfly or moth, its entire body basically turns cancerous, liquefies, and then reconstitutes with a whole new cellular structure?

      Most of the organs that served it as a caterpillar no longer do so as a butterfly, and there’s no real way to modify those organs into structures that WILL serve it as a butterfly, so it simply tears them down and re-uses the proteins.

      Implications are left as an exercise to the astute reader.

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